What can you learn from Source A about the reactions in Russia to the outbreak of war in 1914

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Last updated: November 4, 2019

Source A is a description of events in August 1914 in Russia, written by the daughter of the British ambassador to Russia.

She is an independent witness and means that we are able to take her information as reliable. She speaks of the huge enthusiasm that the people on the streets displayed in 1914. She talks of how the procession carried the Tsar’s portrait with them while singing their national anthem. This suggests that the people of Russia were very patriotic and fully behind the Tsar and his actions.

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We are also shown a view of the soldiers going into battle. With many described we can suggest how many men must have volunteered to join the war, probably dreaming of victory and showing their patriotism. They are described as singing and cheering “…with honest open eyes”. They too have faith in the Tsar, appearing innocently optimistic to be going into war.

Another quote that “the saints would protect them” shows how they are also still in trust of the heavens to protect them and that religion, as well as the Tsar, is a large hope to them.The author also mentions the beginning of the war and the Russian’s huge enthusiasm. She explains it by talking of the great armies and the Russian steamroller. This is referring to their army that they thought able to flatten opposition. The optimism of Russia and her allies meant that they expected triumph by Christmas. Russian reactions to the outbreak of war were so fully supportive of the Tsar and their army that they expected their opposition to be pathetic in comparison.Study Sources A, B and C.Sources A and B were written by the same person.

Use source C, and your own knowledge, to explain the change in attitudes to the war shown in source B.Sources A and B are both descriptions of events in Russia 1914, written by the daughter of the British ambassador to Russia. They are written four months apart and yet are drastically different. Source A, written at the very start of the war in August, shows optimism, enthusiasm and patriotism towards the war. Source A talks of victory by Christmas and yet Source B, set in December, tells of how this no longer is the case. “There was no cheering crowds about the streets”.

The quote shows how the people were no longer rejoicing in the war. The change in attitude is easy explained as she speaks in this source of telegraphs posted, listing dead and wounded and women in morning.In the space of a few months feelings had changed from the immediate reaction of optimism at the start, to a much gloomier picture. The war was going badly by this time.

The Russian army was being forced to retreat and the ‘Russian steamroller’ was repeatedly losing against the opposition. The people were shocked by this as they began to realise that victory was not guaranteed and especially not as quickly as they had supposed.Source C, a photo taken in 1914 of a Russian field hospital, demonstrates just how ill-equipped and under prepared they were.

We can see in the source the vast amount of wounded and dying soldiers the hospitals had to cope with. The numbers, resulting in a drastic shortage in medical staff completely overwhelmed them. In the photo, we can see two or three nursing staff in a room full of patients with no beds and forced to lie injured on the floor. What we can also see centred in the room is a priest, giving his blessings to the soldiers, yet again demonstrating religion to be an important part of the war.

The country had now changed its opinions to a pessimistic view. Their patriotism and faith in leadership also began to fade as promises of victory and triumph were not true.Study Sources D, E, F and G.

Use these sources to explain why Tsar Nicholas II became more unpopular in Russia during the war.The sources help illustrate how the Tsar became increasingly unpopular as the war progressed. Source D shows us the negative points of Russia’s war effort. The source is a report by the Russian War Minister written in July 1915, a year into the war. He talks of how they are being so easily defeated by the Germans, as they themselves do not even get a chance to fire. They had no ammunition and even a severe shortage of guns.”It is difficult to expect selflessness and enthusiasm from men sent into battle without weapons and ordered to take weapons from their dead colleagues.” This is a quote that sums up the message of the source well.

It describes how reactions to ill-equipped soldiers and repeated defeats could only result in negative attitudes. The Tsar was becoming increasingly unpopular as it was seen to be his responsibility.Source E is taken from letters written by the Tsar while at war to the Tsarina in March 1916. It is therefore a private letter giving a personal account and shows us how even the Tsar was concerned. The letter supports many aspects of Source D. The Tsar says how they have not even enough ammunition for three days of serious fighting. He mentions to his wife that she should not tell anyone of the information and so we see how he wants to hide the information from the people.

However, it is not only ammunition that is written about in the letter. Maps eighteen years out of date were being used which meant that some of the forests had disappeared, while new woods and villages had appeared. If this had been public information then it would show complete incompetence of planning on the part of the Tsar. He had taken personal command and was therefore to be blamed if anything went wrong.In Source F we learn more about the Tsar at the time.

It is from the memoirs of General Brusilov describing a meeting with the Tsar in 1916 and talks of how the Tsar is increasingly absentminded, suggesting a loss of enthusiasm. Brusilov mentions how it was the continuous change in ministers that resulted in the lack of organisation, again, if traced back, a fault of the Tsar.Source G supports the other sources by again showing that Tsar was carrying out a very poor effort with the war. Meat in Siberia was not even reaching troops who were undernourished, not because of a shortage, but because the transport systems were hopeless. All these sources demonstrate how the Tsar became increasingly unpopular as the war became increasingly worse.Study Sources H, I and J.How far do Sources I and J support Radzianko’s statement that the influence of Rasputin affected “the entire policy of the government”?Mikhail Rodzianko was the President of the Duma. Source H is from his memoirs in 1916 where he is discussing the influence of Rasputin.

He explains the statement by saying that it is through the Tsarina that he influences the government. He proves that from the autumn of 1915 to the autumn of 1916 when the Tsarina and therefore Rasputin were in charge, there was confusion, contradictory orders, no firm will, decisiveness or any definite policy for victory. Radzianko is therefore unhappy with the situation.

We can begin to see the Tsarinas perspective of Rasputin in Source I, a letter from the Tsarina to the Tsar that was written in 1916. On the subject of the influence of Rasputin, it suggests that the Tsarina placed great trust in him. The letter is telling the Tsar of what Rasputin has suggested the Tsar do militarily. The Tsarina tells it as if it is unquestionable, as she does not make any comment about the decision but talks of it as an overriding command. She writes “Guided by him we shall get through this heavy time.” She has placed all her faith in him and truly believes in his power. By this, we can understand that she also will make actions under his guidance, and so it can be concluded and that as a result, her decisions with the government would be largely influenced by Rasputin.In the Tsarinas letter, we are also shown an example of the areas Rasputin is influencing.

“He begs you to advance near Riga” is a quote from the source. This shows us Rasputin’s command over the decisions of the war, and demonstrates one direction of his power and influence. The source largely supports Radzankio’s statement by showing that through the Tsarina Rasputin largely influences the government and its decisions. However, we also see that the Tsar is also influenced but it would be hard to conclude that he would necessarily take Rasputin’s and the Tsarina’s advice.Source J is from the report of a commission investigating aspects of the Tsars regime, including Rasputin. We can suggest, just from this, that they were already unhappy with the way the Tsar was handling things, and that they were suspicious about Rasputin. However, this source suggests that Rasputin’s influence was less extensive.

It talks of petitions carried by Rasputin to Court but goes on to say ” all of these referred merely to applications of positions, favours, railway concessions the like.” The word ‘merely’ is used as if these matters were not really important and not crucial aspects of government.The source does discuss other aspects of Rasputin, giving an unfavourable image. It talks of his parties, with ‘curiously mixed’, or in other words disreputable or unrespectable guests. It was things like this that made people dislike Rasputin that is seen by the negativity towards him in the source. This may suggest a reason for Radzianko’s statement, if he also disliked Rasputin and wanted exaggerate the situation, as this source does not otherwise support it. It shows, unlike source I that Rasputin did not hold drastic influence over the government as he ‘merely’ brought about slight, uncrucial matters of change.

Study Sources K, L and M.How useful are these sources for explaining how Rasputin’s influence made the Tsar and Tsarina unpopular?The Tsar and Tsarina were becoming increasingly unpopular. Source K has Rasputin as the focus but begins to add evidence for the Tsar and Tsarina’s unpopularity. The source is a cartoon published in a Russian newspaper in 1916 making it current to the time. It shows the Tsar and Tsarina sitting on the lap of a very large, in comparison, Rasputin. This is perhaps symbolic of various feelings and attitudes at the time towards the characters. The size of Rasputin may be suggesting that he had ‘enormous’ power, over both the country and over the royal family. He had great influence over their actions and so it is likely that this is being portrayed in the cartoon.

The fact that the Tsar and Tsarina are on his knee, is perhaps showing how they are just like puppets, under his control. As puppets, they not longer control of their own lives or make their own decisions, as it is Rasputin who governs over them.This cartoon, being in the newspapers, would be the general view of many of the public and if this were the case would give a negative view. It may show the Tsar to be incapable of being able to rule his country by himself, or may show them as feeble or even pathetic. This image of Rasputin’s influence was not popular.

Source L is a report written by the Okhrana (secret police) early 1916. This means that it is an official, but secret document. It talks of the Tsar’s family, particularly focussing on the Tsarina. It notes “extreme feelings of disrespect for the person of Her Majesty” talking of the Tsarina, about how she was German. They were very much against this as they were at war with Germany, which brought unpopularity.

This was well known to everybody as is written in the report. However, the report suggests that most anti-feeling was directed at the Tsarina, and little at the Tsar.This source hints at the scandal surrounding the Royal family’s association with Rasputin – referring to the “filthy gossip” with was commonly known on the street.Source M is a photograph of Rasputin surrounded by supporters, the majority of which were ‘ladies of the aristocracy’. It is suggested in the source that the photograph was of Rasputin’s aristocratic harem. Some people disliked this idea which may have brought disgrace on the Royal family for having him as such a close companion. It is also important to note how the picture was published in newspapers in Europe and the USA.

This shows how it was known both in and out of Europe and the scandal had even reached America.The scandal of Rasputin seen in sources K and M resulted in a large increase of unpopularity for the Tsar and Tsarina. His influence, reputation and way of living meant that people disapproved of how much faith and trust the Royal family gave him. Source L however, shows how other aspects of their lives and the situation also contributed and so does not completely give all blame to Rasputin.In 1996 a historian wrote, “Rasputin’s death changed little. He was not the main cause of unrest in Russia 1917.” Use the sources, and your own knowledge, to explain whether you agree with this view of events in Russia.

Over the war period, the Tsar and Tsarina noticeably became increasingly unpopular. Events during the war added to an already partly sceptical nation. Source A shows us how patriotic and fully behind the Tsar his people were at the time at the start of the war. The people showed faith and love for the Tsar, but this had not always been the case.In 1905, a revolution had taken place and by October Tsar Nicholas II’s government had lost control. There was a national strike involving 2.5 million workers. The people were revolting over appalling factory conditions and a lack of land for peasants.

The Liberals demanded an end to autocracy and an elected government as at the time the Tsar had complete power to make laws and govern as he wished. The Liberals believed in freedom of speech and that the government should be elected by the people. All these factors already showed much opposition to the Tsar.The Revolution of 1905 was also triggered by two other factors. 1904-5 the Tsar’s government hoped to divert attention away from problems at home by embarking on a short and victorious war with Japan.

It turned out to be a disastrous humiliation with both their Pacific and Baltic fleet sunk by the Japanese. Instead regaining his popularity as intended, the Tsar suffered yet more resentment and lack of respect.The brutality of the Tsar’s regime had also been displayed on Bloody Sunday, 22nd January 1905. Protesters had gathered in St. Petersburg to present a petition to the Winter Palace, telling the Tsar of their terrible suffering. Troops opened fire. Official figures suggested that 96 people were killed, with 333 injured.

This is very likely to be an underestimation. There was huge public dismay at the event and the Tsar unpopularity rose further.When the war began in August 1914, the people of Russia appeared to put this to one side. They had huge enthusiasm and were optimistic that their great ‘Russian Steamroller’ would win them victory by the end of the year. By December that year, as seen in Source B, their optimism had faded.

War and the deaths and casualties that accompanied it had now become reality and no longer gave excitement to the people. The war was not going well. Russia was being forced to retreat. They had a lack of supplies and weapons. Their maps were out of date and many men were being killed and injured. It showed poor leadership and exposed the weaknesses of the Tsar’s regime and his unpopularity again increases.It was during the war that Rasputin entered the picture more forcefully. He was a monk and the son of a Siberian peasant.

The Tsarina believed that he was a miracle worker, as he seemed to be able to cure her son’s haemophilia. However, Rasputin lived a shameful life with many parties of disreputable people as written in Source J. He was also reported to be sleeping with many of the leading women of the court. Source M shows him with his ‘aristocratic harem’.

This source also illustrates how the scandal was known in both Europe and the USA. This brought shame to the Russian Royal Family. The scandal surrounding his life did nothing to promote the royal family but resulted in discrediting it.The situation became critical after August 1915, once the Tsar had taken control of the army. The Tsarina was left in charge of the government and totally under the influence of Rasputin. Men were given posts in government not because they were good at their job but simply because they knew how to please Rasputin. He highlighted the weaknesses of the autocratic regime.

We see in Source I, how especially the Tsarina takes and follows every message and command that Rasputin gives. Source K shows us how this was portrayed to the public. This gave a feeble image of the Royal Family to the public. They saw that it was no longer the Tsar running the country but Rasputin.In December 1916, a group of nobles killed Rasputin. They believed that they were saving Russia.

However, after Rasputin’s death there was little change in Russia. The country and the Tsars problems continued after his murder. This suggests that Rasputin may not have been the real cause. Because of this, I agree with the historian’s statement that “Rasputin’s death changed little.

He was not the main cause of unrest in Russia 1917″. I think it is true to say that he was a symptom, not a cause of the problem.

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