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The Decline and Fall of the Romanov Dynasty - Impacts of WW1 on the Tsarist Regime

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Adam Booth

on 25 October 2010

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Transcript of The Decline and Fall of the Romanov Dynasty - Impacts of WW1 on the Tsarist Regime

Letter to Nicholas from the War Committee of the Duma, 4th September 1915, to which they received no reply.

We have learned that our valiant army, after losing more than four million men killed, wounded or taken prisoner, is not only retreating but will perhaps have to withdraw even further. We have also learned the reasons for this retreat...that our army does not possess armaments of equal effectiveness as the enemy...We have barely enough machine-guns to replace the ones we have lost or have had to scrap...Furthermore though the enemy has plenty of rifles, hundreds of thousands of our men are without weapons, and have to wait until they can pick up the rifles dropped by their fallen comrades.

We have learned that appointments to important military posts have been made in accordance with seniority or rank; it is thus neither bravery, nor talent, nor competence, that is decisive in the promotion of candidates...really able persons, true leaders of men who could lead our troops to victory, attain only rarely the highest positions in the army. All these woes and muddles have begun to affect the morale of the army and of the people.

Your Imperial Majesty! We make bold to say...that it is impossible to conduct national defence successfully without a supreme authority that unites everything. The Tsar can order the civil and military leaders to work out in advance a plan of action and so put an end to these disordered moves that look only a few days ahead and lack any underlying general idea.

Source: quoted in Ferro, pp. 164-7

THE SOURCE: The Decline and Fall of the Romanov dynasty The QUESTION:

1. Assess how useful your chosen Source would be for a historian studying the impact of World War One on the Tsar's regime. In your answer, consider the perspectives provided by the source and its reliability. So... Where do we start? Is the Source
RELIABLE? Time and Place Rule:
The closer in time and place a source and its author is to an event the more reliable it is.

1. A letter written on 4th September 1915
2. Created by the war committee of the duma
3. They were based in Russia
4. As the period being studied is WW1 in Russia (1914-1918), this makes the source Primary.

These factors increase the reliability of the source:

The duma would have been in direct contact with Russian internal affairs, and,
witnessed firsthand the problems the Russian people faced.
The Danger of War

Was war likely to weaken or strengthen the government? Immediately, the war rescued the government from a dangerous political crisis. However, it also created new strains. These help explain why the final collapse of Tsarism proved so spectacular.

The Context, Facts and Figures:

When war began there was patriotic enthusiasm in Russia.
• If war had concluded quickly, the Tsarist Regime could have been temporarily strengthened.
• However war was long and exposed the regime's major weaknesses:
- Economy was behind its enemy, Germany.
- obsolete political system incapable of change.

The War Committee:

Set up in May 1915 by representatives of industry and trade to coordinate war production.

Led by Alexander Guchkov, the Octobrist leader, as chairman.

Despite the lack of government cooperation, this organisation did much to coordinate Russia's war effort. Who is the Audience?

1. The source is private
2. The letter was aimed at the Tsar primarily. Witting or unwitting source?

The source is a witting source because the war committee directly wanted to advise the Tsar of the problems Russia was facing concerning the war and also what was
causing discontent amongst the people. BIAS

The war committee is providing the Tsar with reasons for their discontent.
They express feelings of frustration towards the incompetent way the army is run from the perspective of a representative of the people. (ZOOM)

They are also critical towards the organisation of Russia's national defence due to the Tsar's inability to instigate a plan of action.

Emotive language in the source supports this view and the tone of the duma towards the Tsar and the army is despondent and despairing

'valiant army' 'woes and muddles' 'your imperial majesty!' 'disordered moves' The perspective of the source:
The War committee of the duma are experienced in war affairs.
They had a good understanding of what was going on in Russia at the time
They were also involved in the problematic situation unfolding at the time.
This makes their information more reliable.
Cross Referencing the Source:

- There are several Primary and Secondary sources that agree with the source particularly first hand accounts of the war from soldiers who fought at the front.

An extract from a soldier's letter: 'They still haven't given out overcoats. We run around in thin topcoats. There is not much to eat and what we get is foul. Perhaps we'd be better off dead!' Speech by Paul Milukov, the Kadet leader, to the Duma, November 1916:

'...We have many different reasons for being discontented with this government. But all these reasons boil down to one general one: the incompetence and evil intentions of the present government. This is Russia's chief evil, and victory over it will be equal to winning an entire campaign. And therefore in the name of millions of victims and of their spilled blood... we shall fight until we get a responsible government which is in agreement with the general principles of our programme.' - Therefore if content in every source is recurrent then it can be deemed a reliable source of information.
Is the source useful for the historian? So this leaves us to our final question... It is Useful to show that the Duma understood Russia's problems concerning the war effort. It is Useful to show how this understanding led to large scale discontent amongst the people of Russia which eventually led to revolution and the undermining of the Tsarist Rule. It is Useful to show how the Tsar was an incompetent ruler. It is Useful to show how the promotion system in the army was corrupt. So... What can we make of all this?

The ideas conveyed in the source help the historian to understand the extent to which World War 1 impacted upon the Tsar's regime. It promotes the idea of the Tsar being an incompetent leader who was running an unorganised and corrupt government and also how discontent among the people can bring about great change to the ruling system of a nation.
Firstly... The Declaration of War (3)
By 1917 1.7 million soldiers had died.
8 million were wounded or incapacitated
2.5 million were prisoners of war (2)
• Russia, isolated from its allies, relied on its own industry and raw materials.
• This meant an undersupplied army.
• In 1914, only 4.5 million rifles were available for 6.5 million men.
• Although Russia was suffering at the front, the strains at home were the most obvious:
- Increasing shortages of food, fuel and goods
- transport in chaos
- High inflation
- enormous casualties - affecting most families

• This contributed to public discontent and undermined the Tsarist regime.
• Russia's backwardness was not in its economic power but in the way it used that power.
• The Tsar did not address these problems and as a consequence, lost his people's confidence and more importantly
his position in society. By ADAM BOOTH
Copyright 2010

Was war likely to weaken or strengthen the government?
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