Russia 1917 - 1924: World War One, Impact and Defeat
Part of the series of material looking at Russia and the Soviet Union 1917 to 1924, this chart maps the main reasons for the heavy defeats on the Russian side of World War 1. Keep this handy guide close by when studying as it is a great quick reference on the topic.
Russian army advances in Austria. Two Russian armies advance into the German province of East Prussia.
August 26-29, 1914
German army surrounded and trapped the Russians at Tannenberg. 70,000 soldiers died or were wounded and 50,000 were taken as prisoners.
Russia made a counter-attack and drove into Austria to regain territory lost in 1915. However, reinforcements soon came from the Germans and forced the Russians to retreat again. One million Russians died.
4 May 1915
Austro-German offensive forced Russia to retreat back into Russia from Germany. The extreme winter prevented another terrible Russian defeat.
September 5-9, 1914
German army advances north by rail and defeated a second Russian army at the Battle of Masurian Lakes. 100,000 Russians killed or wounded.
Key Events on the Eastern Front, 1914-1916
Russia entered the First World War with much optimism and expectation. The size of the army itself was huge and many believed Germany and Austria-Hungary did not stand a chance. Yet, at the end of 1914 one million casualties had occurred for the Russians and by 1916 the Russians had been defeated numerous times. Discontent began to grow with the leadership of the Tsar and his government.
Reasons for Defeat
Most of the army was made up of the peasant population who were ill-prepared and inexperienced
Poor leadership from generals and officers
Germans intercepted wireless messages and were prepared for the Russians
Poor leadership from the Tsar when he took over in September 1915
Lack of infrastructure, supplies and equipment
Poor roads and railway system - supplies could not reach the frontline
Poor tactics and communication
Inexperienced and overconfident officers
Social and Economic
Russia's transport system could not cope with increased demands of war
Industry was hit hard; a shortage of workers and lack of fuel
14 million men served in the army (1914-1917)
Peasants were conscripted, so there was less men to work the land
Food production reduced due to labour shortages and fewer horses
Inflation - seven prices rises between 1913 and 1917
Factories closed resulting in unemployment and greater poverty after the war
Reduced food production led to an increase in food prices