The great war: world war I

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McKenna: World History

Directions: Read each section independently and answer the questions that follow. You will turn this in for classwork credit at the end of each class period. If you don’t finish the assigned section during class, you will be responsible for completing it for homework.
Essential Understanding

World War I (1914-1918) was caused by competition among industrial nations in Europe and a failure of diplomacy. The war transformed European and American life, wrecked the economies of Europe, and planted the seeds for a second world war.

Key Terms:

  • Conscription: a military draft

  • Mobilization: the process of assembling troops & supplies & making them ready for war


After 1900, the size of armies throughout Europe grew at an alarming rate. Conscription, a military draft, was used by most Western nations before 1914. Militarism (preparation for war) was growing. Military leaders became more powerful. They began to draw up plans that could be used if their countries went to war.

1. What caused the size of European armies to double between 1890 and 1914?


Although powerful forces were pushing Europe towards war, the great powers made non-binding agreements, called alliances, to try to keep the peace. The Triple Alliance (later known as the Central Powers) was made up of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. Russia, France, and Great Britain made up the Triple Entente (later known as the Allies).

2. Complete the chart of the alliances made in Europe prior to WWI.

Triple Alliance

Triple Entente


Economic competition led to tension and rivalries. In the period before the war, European powers competed for overseas colonies. Industrialization created a need for resources and new trade markets, which led to imperialism. Overseas rivalries divided the European powers as they fought for new colonies in Africa and elsewhere. Motives for European imperialism included: political, economic, exploratory, religious, and ideological.

3. What created a need for resources and new trade markets?


Nationalism also caused tensions to grow. Germans were proud of their military and economic power. The French wanted land in Alsace and Lorraine back from Germany. Pan-Slavism led Russia to support fellow Slavs in Serbia. Austria and Ottoman Turkey were afraid that they would lose territory, especially in the Balkans. Soon, ethnic and territorial conflicts made that region a “powder keg.” The crises in the Balkans between 1908 and 1913 made many European nations angry with each other. They were willing to go to war to preserve the power of their national states. Then, a Serbian nationalist shot to death the heir to the Austrian throne at Sarajevo, Bosnia.

  1. How did nationalism cause tensions to grow? Identify at least two effects of nationalism.

  1. What region became known as the “powder keg”? What do you think this nickname means?

The Outbreak of War: Summer 1914

Militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism all played a role in the starting of World War 1. But it was a crisis in the Balkans in the summer of 1914 that led directly to war. States in southeastern Europe had struggled for years to free themselves from Ottoman rule. Austria-Hungary and Russia both wanted to control these new nations. By 1914, Serbia, supported by Russia, was determined to create a large Slavic state in the Balkans. Austria-Hungary was determined that this would not happen.

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, visited the Bosnian city of Sarajevo. Members of the Black Hand made plans to kill him. The Black Hand was a Serbian terrorist organization that wanted Bosnia to be free of Austria-Hungary. An attempt to kill the archduke with a bomb was unsuccessful. Later in the day, however, Gavrilo Princep, a 19-year-old Bosnian Serb, shot and killed both the archduke and his wife. This event sparked a chain reaction of events that had disastrous consequences.

The Austro-Hungarian government did not know whether the Serbian government was involved in the assassination of the archduke, but it did not care. It saw this as an opportunity to crush Serbia. Austrian leaders wanted to attack Serbia, but they feared that Russia would intervene to help Serbia. The Austrians asked their German allies for help. Emperor William (Wilhelm) II of Germany agreed to give Austria-Hungary his full support. Austrian leaders sent an ultimatum, or set of demands, to Serbia on July 23. Many of the demands were so extreme that Serbia had no choice by to reject some of them. With Germany’s support, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.

Soon, the network of alliances drew other great powers into the fight. Russia began to mobilize its army to support Serbia. Germany then declared war on Russia. France said it would keep to its treaty with Russia, so Germany declared war on France, too. When Germany invaded Belgium to get to France, it ended Belgium’s neutrality. This caused Britain to declare war on Germany.

  1. Which two countries wanted control of the new nations that were trying to free themselves from Ottoman rule?

  1. Who was Gavrilo Princep?

  1. What event gave Austria-Hungary an excuse to attack Serbia (and thus SPARK World War I)?

  1. Which country was allied with Serbia?

  1. Which country was allied with Austria-Hungary?

  1. Why did Great Britain enter the war?

  1. Describe the political cartoon below. Which MAIN cause of World War I does this cartoon represent?

13. Describe the political cartoon below.

Key Terms:

  • Propaganda: ideas spread to influence public opinion for or against a cause

  • Trench warfare: warfare fought in trenches (ditches protected by barbed wire)

  • War of attrition: a war based on wearing the other side down by constant attacks and heavy losses

  • Total war: a war involving a complete mobilization of resources and people in the warring countries

  • Planned economies: economic systems directed by government agencies

1914 to 1915: Illusions and Stalemate

There had been relative peace in Europe since the Age of Napoleon (nearly 100 years). Before 1914, many leaders believed that war was so full of risks that it would not be worth fighting. Others believed that diplomats could control any situation and avoid war. In August 1914, these ideas were shown to be wrong.

Prior to the war, government propaganda (ideas spread to influence/manipulate public opinion for or against a cause) had been used to stir up hatred towards other nations. When the war broke out, European governments had no trouble getting their citizens’ support for the war effort. Most people were truly convinced that their nation’s cause was just. Most people also believed that the war would end in a few weeks.

World War I was the largest conflict in history up to that time. Millions of French, British, Russian, and German soldiers went to battle. The German hopes for a quick end to the war rested on a military gamble. The Schlieffen Plan, which created the strategy of a two-front war for Germany (fighting France on the Western Front and defeating them quickly and then turning to fight Russia on the Eastern Front), called for German troops to make a wide arc through Belgium into northern France. The German army would then sweep around Paris and surround most of the French army, which they believed would lead to a quick victory. However, the German advance was halted a short distance from Paris at the First Battle of the Marne (September 6-10).

On this Western Front (the western border of Germany), both sides dug deep trenches on the battlefront to protect their armies from enemy fire. Trenches were ditches protected by barbed wire. Eventually, these trenches stretched from the English Channel to the border of Switzerland. The war quickly turned into a stalemate, or deadlock, that neither side could break. This system of trench warfare kept both sides in virtually the same positions for four years. Harsh characteristics of life in the trenches included: rats, lice, boredom, trench foot, and shell shock.

The war on the Eastern Front (the eastern border of Germany) was fought much differently. There was a great deal of movement by the various armies on this front and war deaths were much higher than on the Western Front. Russia was not ready to fight a modern war. When pushing into East Germany, Russian armies were badly defeated. These defeats ended the Russian threat to Germany. Germany’s ally, Austria-Hungary, fared less well at first. The Austrians were defeated by the Russians in Galicia and were thrown out of Serbia. Then Italy, their other ally, betrayed the Central Powers by attacking Austria in May 1915. Italy joined France, Great Britain, and Russia.

Germany came to the aid of their Austrian friends. A German-Austrian army defeated the Russians in Galicia and pushed them back into their own territory. The Russians had been almost knocked out of the war. The success of the Central Powers in the east allowed them to focus their attention back on the Western Front

  1. Why were citizens willing to support the war?

  1. What was the Schlieffen Plan?

  1. As part of the Schieffen Plan, which country would German troops pass through to get to France?

  1. The Germans believed that the Schlieffen Plan would lead to a _________________________.

  1. How did the war on the Western Front turn into a stalemate (why wasn’t there a quick German victory)?

  1. How long were the French and Germans in a stalemate on the Western Front?

  1. How did fighting on the Eastern Front differ from the war on the Western Front?

  1. Which country betrayed the Central Powers and joined the Allies in 1915?

Trench Foot
Many soldiers fighting in the First World War suffered from trench foot. This was an infection of the feet caused by cold, wet and unsanitary conditions. In the trenches, men stood for hours on end in waterlogged trenches without being able to remove wet socks or boots. The feet would gradually go numb and the skin would turn red or blue. If untreated, trench foot could turn gangrenous and result in amputation. Trench foot was a particular problem in the early stages of the war. For example, during the winter of 1914-15 over 20,000 men in the British Army were treated for trench foot.

All Quiet on the Western Front

  • Author Erich Maria Remarque fought for Germany during WWI (he was badly wounded)

  • Tens years after the war ended, he published an antiwar novel about the (realistic) experiences of ordinary German soldiers during the war

  • Other war novels weren’t as realistic; they often romanticized ideals such as glory, adventure, and honor

  • In 1933, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party banned Remarque’s books and held a bonfire to burn copies of the books

1916 to 1917: New Technology and The Great Slaughter

New technology made WWI different from earlier wars. Modern weapons were able to kill more soldiers than ever before. In 1915, first Germany and then the Allies began using poison gas. New machines like tanks, airplanes, and submarines were also used in this war.

By 1916, the trenches on the Western Front had become elaborate systems of defense. Barbed wire, machine-gun nests, and heavy artillery protected the trenches on both sides. The troops lived in holes in the ground. A strip of land, known as no-man’s-land, separated the opposing forces. Trench warfare baffled the military leaders on both sides. Never before in the history of war had armies fought each other in this way. The leaders believed that if they could break through the enemy lines, they could return to the type of fighting that they understood. These attempts to break through the lines would begin with a heavy artillery barrage that was intended to flatten the other side’s barbed wire and leave them in a state of shock. Troops would then be ordered to leave their trenches and attack the other side with fixed bayonets. These attacks seldom worked, however, because the troops were fired at by the enemy’s machine guns. In 1916 and 1917, millions of young men were killed in their attempts to achieve these breakthroughs. World War I had turned into a war of attrition, a war based on wearing the other side down by constant attacks and heavy losses.

For the first time in history, warfare was waged in the sky. Airplanes appeared over battlefields for the first time in 1915. At first, planes were only used to spot the enemy’s position, but they soon began to attack ground targets. Battles began to be waged in the skies between the opposing pilots, known as “flying aces.” At first, they used pistols. Later, machine guns were added to the noses of the planes.

The Germans also used their giant airships, the zeppelins, to bomb London and eastern England. The zeppelins were filled with hydrogen gas, and Germany’s enemies soon found that these airships could be turned into raging infernos when hit by antiaircraft guns.

  1. What separated the opposing forces on the Western Front?

  1. Why did attempts to break through enemy lines rarely work under trench warfare?

  1. What two functions did airplanes serve in battle?

  1. What were zeppelins? What were zeppelins used for?



Rapid fire machine-guns

Waves of soldiers were mowed down

Long-range artillery guns

Flying debris killed or wounded many

Poison Gas

Blinding and choking caused many fatalities


Moved above and through trenches past enemy fire


Large gas-filled balloons that were used to bomb the English coast


Used to observe enemy movements and to fight other planes in the sky; took war to the air



Sank ships carrying vital supplies; took war to the sea

A Global Conflict

Although most of the fighting took place in Europe, WWI was a global conflict. Japan used the war to seize German outposts in China and islands in the Pacific. The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers and created a third front to the war: the Balkan Front. The Ottoman Empire’s strategic location enabled it to cut off Allied supplies to Russia through the Dardanelles, a vital strait connecting the Mediterranean and Black Seas. The Ottoman Turks were hit hard in the Middle East as Arab nationalists rebelled against their rule. The British sent T.E. Lawrence, or Lawrence of Arabia, to aid the Arab princes against their Ottoman rulers. European colonies in Africa and Asia were also drawn into the war.

  1. What did Japan seize from Germany during WWI?

  1. What was the third front of WWI?

  1. How did the Ottoman Empire’s location benefit the Central Powers?

  1. Why did the British send T.E. Lawrence to Arabia?

Entry of the United States

At first, the United States tried to remain neutral as President Woodrow Wilson believed there was no reason for the United States to get involved in European affairs. However, as the war dragged on, this became increasingly difficult. The United States finally entered the war as a result of the naval war between Great Britain and Germany. As part of its war strategy, Britain used its navy to block war materials and other goods from reaching Germany by sea. Germany retaliated by setting up its own blockade of Britain. German strategy included the use of U-boats (submarines). The submarines engaged in unrestricted submarine warfare, or naval warfare focused on attacking both military ships and merchant ships (such as civilian passenger liners).

On May 7, 1915, German forces sank the British ship Lusitania. 1,100 civilians were killed, including over 100 Americans. As a result of American protests, the United States forced the German government to stop its use of unrestricted submarine warfare or risk United States. involvement in the war. The Germans complied, though only temporarily.

The German and British navies fought only one direct battle, the Battle of Jutland. This battle took place on May 31, 1916, and neither side won a conclusive victory. By January 1917, the Germans were desperate to win the war. German naval officers convinced Emperor William II that the use of unrestricted submarine warfare would starve the British into submission. They convinced the emperor that the British would starve before the United States could act.

The German naval officers were wrong. The British did not surrender. The return to unrestricted submarine warfare caused the United States to enter the war in 1917 on the side of the Allies. By 1918, large numbers of American troops had arrived in Europe. The entry of the United States in the war boosted the Allies psychologically and gave them a new source of money and supplies.

  1. German naval strategy included the use of what?

  1. What is “unrestricted submarine warfare”?

  1. Why did Germany return to the use of unrestricted submarine warfare after telling the United States it would stop?

  1. What was the immediate cause of U.S. entry into World War I?

Another reason for United States involvement in World War I was the Zimmerman Telegram. In early 1917, the British intercepted a message from the German foreign minister, Arthur Zimmerman, to his ambassador in Mexico. In the note, Zimmerman proposed that Germany would help Mexico “to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona” in return for Mexican support against the United States. Britain revealed the Zimmerman note to the American government. When the note became public, anti-German feeling intensified in the United States.

In April 1917, Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany. “We have no selfish ends to serve,” he stated. Instead, he painted the conflict idealistically as a war “to make the world safe for democracy” and later as a “war to end all wars.”

  1. What was the Zimmerman Telegram?

  1. Why do you think that the Zimmerman Telegram was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” – why did it force President Wilson to declare war on Germany?

  1. Look at the political cartoon below. What country does the character on the left with the helmet represent? What country does the character on the right with the sombrero represent? What message does the character on the left want to send? Make a Prediction: Based on the phrase, “Some Promise!” at the bottom of the cartoon, what do you think the result of the Zimmerman Telegram was?

The Home Front: The Impact of Total War

World War I was the first total war, a war involving a complete mobilization of resources and people (nations put all of their resources into the war effort). The war affected all of the citizens in the warring countries. Once it became clear that the war would last far longer than expected, it became clear that many more men and supplies would be needed. Governments expanded their powers to meet these needs. Countries drafted tens of millions of young men to serve in their militaries. Wartime governments also expanded their power over their economies. Capitalism, with its free market system, was temporarily set aside. In order to mobilize all the resources of their nations for the war efforts, European nations set up planned economies—systems directed by government agencies. Governments set up price, wage, and rent controls. They also rationed food supplies and materials, regulated imports and exports, and took over transportation systems and industries.

As the war dragged on and the casualties mounted, patriotic enthusiasm decreased. War governments fought back against the growing opposition to the war. Authoritarian governments, like those of Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary, used force to control their people. Soon, even democratic states expanded their police powers in order to stop opposition to the war. In Great Britain, a law was passed that allowed the government to arrest protestors as traitors. Newspapers were censored or even suspended. Governments continued to use propaganda to create enthusiasm for the war.

Because so many of the world’s men were involved in fighting the war, new opportunities came about for women. Women were asked to take over jobs that had not been available to them before. Many of the new jobs for women proved to be only temporary when men returned to the job market. There were some lasting results, however. In Great Britain, Germany, Austria, and the United States, women were given the right to vote soon after the war ended.

  1. How did government powers increase during WWI?

  1. Identify two things that governments used/did to create enthusiasm for the war?

  1. How did World War I affect the lives of women in Western countries?

  1. What was one of the lasting results of World War I for women?


Key Terms:

  • Armistice: a truce or an agreement to end the fighting in a war

  • Reparation: a payment by a nation defeated in a war to other nations to cover the costs of the war

  • Mandate: a commission from the League of Nations to a nation that allowed it to officially govern another nation or region without actually owning that territory

The Last Year of the War

1917 had been a very difficult year for the Allied forces as their offensives on the Western Front had been defeated. However, the entry of the United States into the war gave the Allies a much-needed psychological boost. In 1918, fresh American troops would be crucial.

With Russia out of the war (refer to next lesson: the Russian Revolution), Germany was free to concentrate entirely on the Western Front. Erich von Ludendorff, who guided Germany military operations, decided to make a grand offensive to break the stalemate and win the war for the Central Powers. The German attack began in March 1918; however, it would prove to be unsuccessful. The Germans were stopped at the Second Battle of the Marne on July 18. French, Moroccan, and American forces, supported by hundreds of tanks, threw the Germans back over the Marne. The German offensive had failed.

With the arrival of two million more American troops, the Allies began to advance toward Germany. On September 29, 1918, Ludendorff informed the German leaders, including Kaiser Wilhelm II, that the war was lost. He demanded that the government ask for peace. The Allies were unwilling to make peace with the present German government, so reforms were begun to create a more liberal government. However, the exhausted German people were unwilling to wait for this process to take place. On November 3, sailors in the town of Kiel mutinied and the Kaiser was forced to leave the country. The Social Democrats under Friedrich Ebert announced the creation of a democratic republic. On November 11, 1918, at 11:00am (11/11/11), the new government signed an armistice (a truce/agreement to end the fighting in a war) and WWI came to an end.

The war was over, but revolutionary forces had been set in motion in Germany. A group of radical socialists formed the German Communist Party in December 1918. The Communists tried to seize power in both Berlin and Munich. The new Social Democratic government used army troops to crush the rebels and murdered two of the Communist party leaders. The attempt at revolution left the German middle class with a deep fear of communism.

Austria-Hungary also experienced revolution. Ethnic groups tried harder and harder to gain their independence. By the end of the war, the Austro-Hungarian Empire no longer existed. The independent republics of Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, along with the monarchical state called Yugoslavia, replaced it.

  1. By 1918, why was Germany able to concentrate entirely on the Western Front?

  1. Why was Kaiser Wilhelm II forced to leave Germany?

  1. What was the result of the attempted revolution by the Communists in Germany?

  1. What happened to Austria-Hungary after the war?

The Peace Settlements

Before the end of the war, United States president, Woodrow Wilson, presented his “Fourteen Points” to the U.S. Congress. The Fourteen Points were his basis for a peace settlement. His proposals included reaching the peace agreements openly rather than through secret diplomacy, reducing armaments (military forces or weapons), and ensuring self-determination (the right of each people to have its own nation). He also pushed for a general association of nations that would guarantee independence for large and small nations alike and would use collective security (a system in which a group of nations acts as one to preserve the peace of all) to keep the peace in the future. This association would be called the “League of Nations.”

In January 1919, representatives of 27 victorious Allied nations met in Paris to make a final settlement of the war. Geographically close to Germany, Georges Clemenceau, the premier of France, was mainly concerned about national security. Clemenceau wanted Germany to be stripped of all weapons. He also wanted German reparations (payments to cover the costs of the war) and a separate Rhineland as a buffer zone between France and Germany.

Wilson, Lloyd George of Great Britain, and Clemenceau made up the “Big Three” and were responsible for the most important decisions at the Paris Peace Conference. Germany was not even invited to attend, and Russia could not be present because of civil war. On January 25, 1919, the conference accepted Wilson’s idea of a League of Nations and Great Britain and the United States pledged to help France if Germany attacked it.

Unfortunately, the League of Nations would prove to be weak because the U.S. Congress refused to join. Many U.S. government officials feared that the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations would force U.S. involvement in future European conflicts.

  1. What was President Wilson’s “Fourteen Points”?

  1. What proposals were included in Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points”?

  1. What is “collective security”?

  1. The premier of France, Georges Clemenceau, was mainly concerned about what? What were the three things he wanted?

  1. Why would the League of Nations prove to be weak?

  1. Looking at the picture above, answer the following questions:

    1. What do the five figures in this cartoon represent?

    1. What is happening to the figure in the middle?

    1. Based on this cartoon, why do you think the U.S. Congress refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and join the League of Nations (even though President Wilson supported the plan)?

The final peace settlement consisted of five separate treaties with the defeated nations (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey). The most important treaty was the Treaty of Versailles with Germany. It was signed on June 28, 1919 and required the following:

  1. War Guilt Clause: Germany had to accept responsibility for starting the war

  2. Reparations: Germany had to pay reparations for the damage done to the Allied nations

  3. Disarmament: Germany had to reduce its army and navy and eliminate its air force

  4. Territorial Clauses:

  • Germany had to return Alsace and Lorraine to France

  • Parts of eastern Germany were given to a new Polish state

  • German land on both sides of the Rhine was made a demilitarized zone and stripped of all weapons and fortifications in hope of preventing Germany from making advances toward France in the future

The Germans signed the Treaty of Versailles because they had no other choice; however, German resentment would last for 20 years. The seeds of WWII were sown at the Paris Peace Conference because Adolf Hitler would remind Germans of the harsh conditions of the treaty and use its terms in his rise to power.

As a result of the war and the peace treaties, the map of Europe was redrawn. Both the German and Russian empires lost much territory. The Austro-Hungarian Empire disappeared. New nations emerged: Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Hungary. Romania acquired additional lands from Russia, Hungary, and Bulgaria. Serbia became part of a new nation, called Yugoslavia. The Paris Peace Conference was supposedly guided by the principle of self-determination, but the mixtures of peoples in Eastern Europe made it impossible to draw boundaries totally along ethnic lines. As a result, almost every eastern European country still had ethnic minorities. The problem of ethnic minorities would lead to later conflicts.

The Ottoman Empire was also broken up by the peace settlement. To gain Arab support during the war, the Allies had promised to recognize the independence of Arab states in the Ottoman Empire. After the war, however, the Europeans broke their promise: France took control of Lebanon and Syria, and Britain took control of Iraq and Palestine. These arrangements were called mandates. Under the mandate system, a nation officially governed another nation as a mandate on behalf of the League of Nations but did not own the territory.

The costs of WWI were huge in several ways. There was a great loss of life, which undermined the idea of progress. In addition, raising the money to cover war debts and to rebuild homes, farms, factories, and roads would create new economic problems. WWI had other results as well. The turmoil created by the war led to even more insecurity. Revolutions broke up old empires and new states were created, which lead to new problems.

The results of WWI in Germany were severe. The German people were very unhappy about the Treaty of Versailles and thought that it was too harsh. Germany could not afford to pay reparations – during the 1920s, people in Germany were very poor. In addition, there were not many jobs and the price of food and basic goods was high. Eventually, the German people would become so dissatisfied with their government that they would vote into power a man who promised to rip up the Treaty…his name was Adolf Hitler.

  1. Who was blamed for World War I?

  1. What were the terms of the Treaty of Versailles? Identify at least three of the six terms.

  1. What new nations emerged as a result of the war and the peace treaties?

  1. What two empires disappeared/were broken up as a result of the peace settlement?

  1. What was the result of the mandate system?

  1. What were some of the results of World War I (identify at least three)?

Main Idea: Russia entered World War I as an absolute monarchy with a great divide between classes. The grievances of workers and peasants were not resolved by the Czar. This led to revolution…
Key Terms:

  • Soviets: councils in Russia composed of representatives from the workers and soldiers

  • War communism: a Communist policy that was used to ensure regular supplies for the Red Army through government control of banks and industries, the seizing of grain from peasants, and the centralization of state administration under Communist control

Causes of the Russian Revolution

  • Nationalism

  • Social Injustice

  • Unpopular Method of Rule

  • Economic Distress

J.A.I.L.: Remember these important facts about the situation in Russia before and during WWI and think about why they would cause frustration among the Russian people.

  1. Prior to World War I, Russia faced a humiliating defeat in the Russo-Japanese War. Which causes would make the Russian people want to revolt after being defeated by Japan? Why?

  1. During WWI, Russia suffered a lot of military losses. Which causes would make the Russian people want to revolt after large military defeats? Why?

  1. The reigning Czar of Russia was Nicholas II, who was seen as an incompetent ruler. With food and fuel shortages causing distress in Russia, the Czar could not help. Which causes would make people want to revolt because of an incompetent Czar and food shortages? Why?

  1. During WWI, Russia was still a feudal society, meaning that peasants worked on the land of wealthy aristocrats and didn’t have the means or the ability to own their own land. Which causes would make landless peasants want to revolt? Why?

Background and Revolution
Russia was not prepared for WWI. There were no competent military leaders in Russia. Czar Nicholas II was in charge of the armed forces, but he had no training or ability for this. Russian industry was not able to produce the weapons needed for the army. It is said that many officers told their troops to simply pick up weapons from dead Allied forces. Because of these problems, the Russian army suffered heavy losses. Between 1914 and 1916, two million soldiers were killed.

Czar Nicholas II & his family

With such poor leadership, the Russian people suffered through a series of military and economic disasters. Due to food shortages, the government began rationing bread. Women, who were working 12-hour days in the factories, were now forced to wait in long lines to get bread to feed their children. As a result, about 10,000 women marched through the city of Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg) calling for a general strike, which would shut down all the factories in the city. Other workers soon joined them. Czar Nicholas ordered troops to break up the crowds by shooting them if necessary but large numbers of soldiers soon joined the demonstrators and refused to fire on the crowds.

The people became more and more upset with the rule of the czar. Even the conservative aristocrats, who supported the czar, felt that something must be done.

  1. How did World War I contribute to the start of the Russian Revolution?

  1. Why did people become so upset with the czar?

  1. Why did women lead a series of strikes in Petrograd?

The Duma, or legislative body, which the czar had tried to dissolve, met anyway. On March 12, it set up a provisional government. This government asked the czar to step down. Because Nicholas II had no support from the army or even from the wealthy aristocrats, he stepped down on March 15. The provisional government, led by Alexander Kerensky, decided to carry on with WWI to preserve Russia’s honor. This was a major blunder. Workers and peasants no longer supported the war. The provisional government was also faced with a challenge to its authority—the soviets. The soviets were councils in Russia composed of representatives from the workers and soldiers. They were largely made up of socialists. One group, the Bolsheviks, began to play a crucial role.

  1. Why did Czar Nicholas II agree to step down?

  1. Why was Russia remaining in World War I a major blunder?

  1. Who were the soviets, and which group of soviets began to play a crucial role in Russian politics?

The Rise of Lenin
Vladimir Lenin

  • Lenin’s Political Party: Bolsheviks/Communists

  • Lenin’s Economic Views: Socialism

  • Lenin’s Promises to the People: Peace, Land, Bread

The Bolsheviks, a Socialist group who favored communism, were led by Vladimir Lenin. Lenin believed that violent revolution was the only way to destroy the capitalist system. He believed that a small group of well-disciplined revolutionaries could accomplish this. From 1900 to 1917, Lenin spent most of his time in Switzerland. When the provisional government was formed and the Czar was forced to step down, Lenin saw this as an opportunity for the Bolsheviks to seize power. In April 1917, German military leaders shipped Lenin back to Russia. They hoped that he would create disorder in Russia.

The Bolsheviks told the people of Russia what they wanted to hear. They promised an end to the war (peace), the redistribution of land to the peasants (land), the transfer of factories from capitalists to the workers (bread), and the transfer of government power to the soviets. During the night of November 6, 1917, the Bolsheviks seized the Winter Palace and overthrew the provisional government.

The Bolsheviks changed their name to the Communists. Now that they were in power, they faced the difficult task of removing Russia from WWI. This would mean the loss of much Russian territory, but there was no real choice. On March 3, 1918, Lenin signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and gave up eastern Poland, Ukraine, Finland, and the Baltic provinces. Even with this treaty, real peace did not come, because the country soon sank into civil war.

  1. What did Lenin believe was the only way to destroy the capitalist system?

  1. Why did German military leaders ship Lenin back to Russia?

  1. What promises did the Bolsheviks make to the Russian people?

  1. What did the Bolsheviks change their name to?

  1. Why did Lenin sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk?

Civil War in Russia

Many people were opposed to the new Communist government. These people included groups loyal to the czar, liberals, anti-Lenin socialists, and the Allies. The Allies sent troops to various parts of Russia in the hope of bringing Russia back into WWI. The troops rarely fought on Russian soil, but they gave aid to anti-Communist forces. From 1918 to 1921, the Communist (Red) Army was forced to fight on many fronts against the anti-Communist (White) forces. In the early part of the civil war, the White Army had several successes but by 1920, the major White forces had been defeated. The royal family was a victim of the civil war. On July 16, 1918, members of the local soviet in Ekaterinburg murdered Nicholas II and his family, where they were being held captive.

  1. Why did the Allies send troops to Russia?

  1. The Russian civil war was fought between what two groups?

  1. What happened to the royal family?

Triumph of the Communists

The Communists had won the civil war against seemingly insurmountable odds. There were several reasons for their success:

  • The Red Army was well disciplined

  • The Whites were not unified: they had no common goal and the different groups did not trust each other. The Communists, on the other hand, had a clear vision of a new socialist order.

  • The Communists formed a new secret police, known as the Cheka, which began a Red Terror aimed at destroying those who opposed the new regime

  • The presence of foreign armies on Russian soil was used to stir up Russian patriotism. The Communists were able to call on patriotic Russians to fight foreign attempts to control the country.

By 1921, the Communists had total control of Russia. Russia was now a centralized state dominated by a single party. The state was also hostile to the Allies because the Allies had helped the Communists’ enemies during the civil war.

  1. Why did the Communists win the civil war in Russia? Identify at least two reasons.

  1. What was the Red Terror?

  1. Why didn’t the Communists like the Allies?

Lenin’s New Economic Policy

On the economic front, Lenin retreated from his policy of “war communism,” which had brought the economy to near collapse. Under government control, factory and mine output had fallen. Peasants stopped producing grain, knowing the government would only seize it.

In 1921, Lenin adopted the New Economic Policy, or NEP. It allowed some capitalist ventures. Although the government kept control of banks, foreign trade, and large industries, small businesses were allowed to reopen for private profit. The government also stopped squeezing peasants for grain. Under the NEP, peasants held on to small plots of land and freely sold their surplus crops.

Lenin’s compromise with capitalism helped the Soviet economy recover and ended armed resistance to the new government. By 1928, food and industrial production climbed back to prewar levels. The standard of living improved too. But Lenin always saw the NEP as just a temporary retreat from communism. His successor would soon return the Soviet Union to “pure” communism.

  1. Lenin’s New Economic Policy was a compromise between communism and ________________________.

  1. What was the result of the NEP?

Stalin Takes Over

Lenin died in 1924 at the age of 54. His death set off a power struggle among Communist leaders. The chief contenders were Leon Trotsky, the commissioner of war, and Joseph Stalin. Trotsky was a brilliant Marxist thinker, a skillful speaker, and an architect of the Bolshevik Revolution. Stalin, by contrast, was neither a scholar nor an orator. He was, however, a shrewd political operator and behind-the-scenes organizer. Trotsky and Stalin differed on the future of communism. Trotsky urged support for a world-wide revolution against capitalism. Stalin, more cautious, wanted to concentrate on building socialism at home first.

Eventually, Stalin isolated Trotsky with the party and stripped him of party membership. Trotsky fled the country in 1929, but continued to criticize Stalin. In 1940, a Stalinist agent murdered Trotsky in Mexico.

In 1922, Lenin had expressed grave doubts about Stalin’s ambitious nature: “Comrade Stalin…has concentrated an enormous power in his hands; and I am not sure that he always knows how to use that power with sufficient caution.” Just as Lenin had warned, in the years that followed, Stalin used ruthless measures to win dictatorial power.

24. What were Lenin’s feelings about Stalin?

Consequences of the Russian Revolution: RISE OF COMMUNISM!

  • Bolshevik Revolution and the Russian Civil War

  • Vladimir Lenin’s New Economic Policy

  • Joseph Stalin, Lenin’s successor

25. What was the major consequence/result of the Russian Revolution?

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