Different figures for the amount of Russian soldiers killed in the First World War

Leon Trotsky wrote source A for his book ‘The history of the Russian Revolution’ in 1932. It is a short paragraph from the book explaining how the Russian army lost more men than any other country in the war.

Source B was written by John Traynor for his book ‘Europe 1890-1990’ in 1991. The source is a simple table displaying Russian casualties and total mobilised units in the First World War. When comparing the two sources you notice there is a difference of 800,000 casualties.

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Possible reasons for this is during the war the Russian army was badly organised. They may not have kept accurate figures of casualties rates, so Leon Trotsky’s book’s figures may have been completely wrong in the first place, but to be fair he did use the word ‘approximately’ and so admitting uncertainty over the number of casualties. Other reasons include another form of mis-recording which was the number of deserters and men taken prisoner were recorded as deaths and so obviously these men could not really be counted as casualties. Unknown to some, Trotsky was a Bolsheviks and may have decided to over estimate the figures written in his book, to try and justify why the Bolsheviks took over and also to show how badly the Tsar did in commanding his armies.

To uncover Trotsky further, he was commissar for war in Lenin’s government in 1918. Basically he could have seen the figures of Russian casualties and decided that if the Russian people were to see that the figures were drastically lower than first expected they might not think that the Tsar had done as badly as first thought.

John Traynor’s Figures are more extensive, and although it is not mentioned where he got them, they look more accurate than Trotsky’s. Some might argue that eighty-two years later, Traynor’s figures could not be nearly as accurate as Trotky’s. I agree with this to a certain extent but eighty-two years is plenty of time for new, more accurate figures to be uncovered and proven to be accurate.

Over all, any figure can not be proven correct, as proper recordings were not taken. You can’t really blame anyone for it because in a battle the last thing you need to do is to stick your head over the top of a trench and see who’s been killed or injured. But the government should have tried to collect data in a more organised fashion.

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