Domestic Policy
February Revolution

World War I : the Homefront

A.) Government and Population

The Russian government continued to believe in AUTOCRACY, keen not to permit the DUMA, even in its present, engineered, rather conservative composition, or any other political group to participate in the administration of the country. For instance, WAR INDUSTRY COMMITTEEs, formed by representatives of industry, zemstvo, the cities and workers' organizations with the purpose of improving the supply situation at the front, were forbidden.
At the beginning of the war there was patriotic enthusiasm (in Russia proper; many ethnic minorities, such as the Finns, Poles, Lithuanians, Ukrainians etc. had been alienated by a policy of RUSSIFICATION) in Russia like in other belligerent countries. However, those who voluntarily offered their cooperation often were rebuked, and enthusiasm quickly cooled down.
St. Petersburg was renamed into PETROGRAD; the earlier spelling sounded too German.

B.) The Economic Situation

Russia undertook a number of steps to assure that its population would receive an adequate supply of food and consumer goods, which became increasingly scarce as the industry focussed on war articles and imports decreased because of Russia's isolated location. The production of VODKA was forbidden in order to save potatos.
Well into the war, FOOD RATIONING was introduced and a PRICE FIXING policy adopted. Ration coupons were of little help, if, as frequently the case, food store shelves were empty. Agricultural production decreased for a number of reasons - many farmhands had been conscripted into the army, even many horses from the villages had been confiscated by the military forces. The fixed prices made it unattractive for farmers to grow grain. Of the potato harvest some was used to clandestinely produce vodka. When large regions in the west were occupied by the enemy, the population was evacuated into Russia's hinterland - and had thus also to be fed, proving an additional burden on the faltering economy.
At the outbreak of the war the government had called for an interruption of labour conflicts until the end of the war. This call was welcomed, but in 1915 the situation, both of morale and supplies, had deteriorated so much that strikes and demonstrations were resumed. It was a demonstration of women demanding bread in February 1917 in Petrograd that started the chain of events which lead to the FEBRUARY REVOLUTION.
The war cost the Russian Empire c.1,700,000 dead, 4,950,000 wounded, 2,500,000 M.i.A. (total losses 9,150,000 out of a population of 158,000,000) and c. 40,000,000,000 roubles (for comparison : Russia's state revenue in 1913 amounted to 3,417,000,000 roubles). The war had been financed by both foreign and domestic credits as well as by printing additional money.

Andrey Ivanov, The Making of a Conspiracy : Russian Evangelicals During the First World War
WW I - Russia, from Encyclopedia of Marxism; scroll down for Kulaks
DOCUMENTS Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Czar Nicholas II., early in 1917
Sir John Hanbury, Fiary in Russia 1914-1917, from Alexander Palace
Pierre Gilliard, Thirteen Years at the Russian Court, from Alexander Palace
Russian casualties in World War I, from World War I Factbook
Images from AustroDir 2000 : Russian P.O.W.s in Hallein, Austria, between 1915 and 1918
La Grande Guerre 1914-1918 a travers les Revues d'Epoque, posted by
Olivier, in French; click "Les Revues Russes"
REFERENCE Irene Neander, Grundzüge der Russischen Geschichte (An Outline of Russian History) , Darmstadt 1970, in German [G]
Article : Russia, in : New International Year Book 1914 pp.614-622, 1916 pp.608-617, 1918 pp.557-571 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on September 27th 2009

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