|Russian Empire pre World War 1|
The primitive feudal economy of the Russian Empire, in place since its creation in 1721, began to change in the 1860s with the abolition of serfdom and tentative moves to respond to the industrial modernisation sweeping Western Europe. Urbanisation and industrialisation developed but brought with them social unrest and a weakening of the autocracy. By the early 20th century industrial unrest and crippling strikes were frequent. The war with Japan in 1904, alongside tensions with Germany, the Balkans and the Ottomans, contributed to nearly twelve months of revolutionary turmoil through 1905. This was eventually suppressed, but at the cost of the Tsar agreeing to an elected parliament – the Duma – plus certain civil and trade union rights.
|Alexandra Fyodorovna. |
German born grand-daughter
of Queen Victoria.
As we have seen, Russia’s war to date had been a dismal one (Posts 18/1/15; 23/1/15; 7/6/15 and 28/6/15). Pervading gloom was lifted only right at the start – with Lemberg and the crushing victories over the Austrians in Galicia (Post14/1/15) – and in mid 1916 with Brusilov’s counterstroke (Post 15/5/15). They also clutched at the perennial hope that Allied victory against the Ottomans would hand them Constantinople. After the disastrous defeats of 1915, Tsar Nicholas had appointed himself as supreme commander of the army, replacing his own uncle, the Grand Duke. He was now directly accountable for for failures and by late 1916 his reputation had hit rock bottom. In the battlefields, Brusilov’s surge had degenerated into costly attritional warfare. At home the Tsarina Alexandra’s court was rumoured to be full of bad influences (foremost amongst them Rasputin) and German agents. The Tsarina was hated by the common people, while the Tsar had lost all trace of respect.
|Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin|