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Alienation from the Government

The Revolutionary Masses

The war had far-reaching psychological 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.

Secondly, 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.

Finally, 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 commander-in-chief.

The defeats 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.

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