The Collapse of Russia, 1917
Russia’s collapse in 1917 was not just a consequence of her involvement in the First World War. Russia’s economy adjusted to the demands of the war and militarily she performed creditably on the battlefield, especially against Austria-Hungary. What she lacked was the cohesive civil society necessary to survive the war. The origins of the malaise stretched back to before 1914, when Russia’s last two Tsars, Alexander III and Nicholas II, opposed a modern constitutional political system with concepts of citizenship, law and property that included rather than excluded ordinary Russians. Deeply reactionary, Russia’s aristocratic-based ruling class refused to concede reform. This pre-1914 political problem, accelerated by the stresses of war, became a revolutionary crisis by 1917. Revolution in 1917 was revenge on a government that lacked legitimacy and that had failed to create a sense of ownership or patriotism for war. In this sense, the First World War was a gigantic test for the brittle pre-war regime.