A History of the Great War, 1914-1918

By C. R. M. F. Cruttwell | Go to book overview

XXIV THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

THERE is a saying of Aristotle in the Politics, often and deservedly quoted, that revolutions have small occasions but not small causes.

Russia by the end of 1916 was in such a condition that the smallest incident might light an unquenchable flame. The Imperial tyranny had now no friends (except those whose safety or interest was directly bound up with its continuance) and a multitude of enemies. Even with a popular government in power the situation would have been dark. An interminable prospect of war was ahead. The Russian armies were everywhere pinned down. Rumania had become an impotent and detested liability. The national pride had been cruelly wounded by the establishment of a puppet independence of Poland ( November 5, 1916) under the direction of the two Germanic Powers. Yet from a purely military standpoint the coming year offered greater promise, for the stocks of munitions from the West transported over the Murmansk railway were calculated to suffice for all the needs of at least one more campaign.

The Tsar, however, was now even more than before in the hands of an obscure and corrupt camarilla, which typified what were known as 'the dark forces'1 of reaction and superstition. Sazonov, the last minister whose name inspired any confidence either at home or abroad, had been dismissed from the Foreign Secretaryship in August.

The first blow was struck not by revolutionaries but by Conservatives from within the Imperial circle, including in their number a cousin of the Tsar, the Grand Duke Dmitri. These men killed the monk Rasputin in circum

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1
This phrase comes from the secret manifesto of the Union of Towns and Zemstvo which said 'the government, now become the instrument of the dark forces, is driving Russia to her ruin and is shattering the Imperial throne. In this grave hour the country requires a government worthy of a great people. . . . There is not a day to lose.'

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