The Darkest hour of the Russian Empire
Chapter Zero: Introduction
Part I: Two months before...
Two words about history
Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias
For three hundreds of years mighty Russian Empire was one of the most powerful states in the World. In XVIII century Russians defeated three European superpowers - Sweden of Karl XII, Ottoman Turkey and Prussia of Friedrich II, in XIX century Imperial army destroyed forces of Napoleon and liberated Europe. Russia had brilliant victories, but she had bitter defeats too - for example, the Crimean war. Anyway, by 1900's the Russian Empire conquered 1/6 of the planet - she started her journey with little amounts of land in Central Russia and entered the XX century with Siberia, Far East, Central Asia, Caucasus, Ukraine, Poland, Finland and Baltic area. XX century wasn't successful for Russia - Russian economy grew rapidly, her infrastructural system was the biggest in the world, her industry developed gradually and Russian ruble became #2 currency after the British pound. But developing and modernizing Empire was in great danger - it was too close to the revolution, Russian Tsarist regime was popular only amongst peasants and clericals - all other social groups (including the Army command) were opposite. Russia had talented ministers to save the situation - Stolypin's and Vitte's reforms helped her to continue industrial growth, but Russian government wasn't able to solve all financial and economical problems. Russian army - the biggest in Europe - was outdated and didn't have enough talented commanders. Russo-Japanese war showed, that Russian military of XX century isn't equal to the glorious times of Suvorov, Kutuzov and Skobelev. Emperor Nicholas II had a chance to win the war, but revolts of 1905 forced him to accept peace and lose territories in Manchuria and Korea. Emperor Nicholas wasn't a talented leader, but he helped Russia to modernize. Russian empire was getting prepared for the World War together with other European superpowers, but in summer of 1914 she wasn't ready - all her dreadnought battleships weren't completed, industry wasn't prepared for military orders, army wasn't rearmed.
Russia. Two months before the Great war.
The Russian Empire had a great potential in 1914, but she had a lot of problems too.
Russian government in 1914:
Head of State: Emperor Nicholas II
Head of Government: Ivan Goremykin
Foreign minister: Sergey Sazonov
Armaments minister: Petr Bark
Minister of security: Nikolay Maklakov
Head of intelligence: Okhrannoe otdelenie (Okhranka)
Chief of staff: Nikolay Yanushkevich
Chief of the army: Grand Duke Nicholas
Chief of the navy: Alexander Rusin
Chief of the air force: Grand Duke Michael
Russia had some territorial claims before the war - she wanted to take back southern Sakhalin (Toyohara) from Japan, to take control of Constantinople and Kars from the Ottoman Empire and to gain Galizia (Western Ukraine and Eastern Poland) from Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy.
Russian economy was in difficult situation - it was large enough to produce some war goods and even create new divisions and ships, but it wasn't able to upgrade all Russian giant army, and it wasn't good at all. Russia had 7 dreadnought battleships to complete - Sevastopol, Petropavlovsk, Poltava, Gangut, Imperatritsa Maria, Imperatritsa Ekaterina Velikaya and Imperator Alexander III. These ships had to be built during the war. Another problem of the Russian industry was the placement of all her factories - they were situated in the Western part of the Empire, Polish and Baltic governorates had about 50% of all Russian industrial capacity. Germans had a chance to collapse the Russian industry with taking these lands.
Situation with technologies wasn't simple too - in some cases Russia was very progressive (agriculture, cavalry, and even strategic bombers!), but she had obsolete war doctrines, outdated infantry and artillery equipment. 70% of army divisions were outdated. Naval technologies were modern enough, but the naval doctrines weren't. Industrial techs level was normal. Russia had 5 tech teams working on different projects.
Russian Imperial army was the biggest in the world, but had a lot of troubles. Dislocation of the troops was one of them - Russian armies were too far away from their borders, and General Staff ordered to move closer to the frontiers. Also, quite high dissent level (12,5%) wasn't a good thing.
National military comparison
Russia had #1 army - 155 divisions. Together with France and Britain the Entente Powers had 313 divisions (155 Russian + 114 French + 44 British). Germany had #2 army with 115 divisions. Her allies - Autria-Hungary and the Ottoman empire had 68 and 41 divisions. Together the Central Powers had 224 divisions, but Russia and France were huge countries, and a lot of their soldiers were far away from the war theater - French had troops in Africa, while Russia - in Siberia and the Far East. So, forces of two blocs before the mobilization were quite equal.
After catastrophic naval disasters in the Russo-Japanese war Russia lost her position as #3 naval superpower and had the 8th navy by 1914. Britain, Germany and the USA were naval leaders.
However, situation with the Air Forces was better - Russia had #3 Air Force.
Author's note: It's a mistake, by 1914 the Russian empire had the largest Air Force in the world.
The war would start soon...
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Next update: October, 21