The Revolutionary Masses
The war had
effects on society, inducing corrosive demoralization of the
army at the front and a deepening sense of alienation from the
government among various sections of the population in the rear. At the
front, several factors explain the decline in the army’s reliability.
The first was the sheer scale of the war and the
staggering Russian human losses resulting from it. In the course of
the war the Russian army mobilized 15,500,000 men and suffered great
casualties: 1,650,000 killed, 3,850,000 wounded, and 2,410,000
taken prisoner. Yet these enormous human sacrifices seemed to have
been made without avail. For three years the Imperial army went from
defeat to defeat, and by 1917 it had lost a significant portion of
the empire’s western provinces.
heavy losses at the front and enhanced conscription in the rear
meant that the composition of the Russian army itself was changing.
The increasingly unreliable troops were not so much trained and
loyal fighters for tsar and country as hastily drafted and poorly
equipped ‘peasants clad in uniform.’ The traditional officer corps
drawn from the ruling class was also becoming diluted by what
perhaps may be described as the ‘intelligentsia clad in uniform’, in
other words, young professional men, who would never have
contemplated a military career in the time of peace. Many of these
newly recruited officers were not imbued with the automatic loyalty
to the regime typical of the traditional officer corps.
even the general staff at the top of the military command were
becoming alienated from their sovereign, whom they blamed for the
inexperienced military meddling in his role of the
and demoralization at the front inevitably began to effect the rear.
As the initial upsurge of patriotic enthusiasm for the tsar and the
motherland began to wane, the war came under careful scrutiny,
primarily by the Duma politicians and various political factions.