The Russian February Revolution 1917 I THE GREAT WAR Week 137


What do you do when you can’t get food? When you can’t afford to buy even the food
that’s available? When working conditions are intolerable? Well, if you’re the Russians, you hit the
streets. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week French General Robert Nivelle proposed
to take control of the British armies on the Western Front. The British were advancing there as the Germans
fell back to the Hindenburg Line. They also advanced on the Tigris, taking Kut-al-Amara
and setting their sights on Baghdad. The Serbian rebellion in Bulgarian occupied
Balkan territory continued, as did major U-Boat sinkings at sea. The US public found out about a German plot
against them, and Austrian Army Chief of Staff Conrad von Hötzendorf lost his job. That was a busy week. Well, they’re all busy weeks and this is
no exception. There was more turmoil in Russia, for starters. This week, a strike began in the Putilov munitions
works, which was the Russian army’s main provider of ammunition. Also in Petrograd, food riots began that continued
for days, with citizens in the streets demanding bread. By the 8th there were 90,000 factory workers
on strike. There were, in fact, food shortages in all
the major cities; agricultural production was down from so many farm workers being called
to the army and there were colossal distribution problems on the overstretched railway system. Inflation had soared, but wages remained the
same, so the poor were being priced out of the market for any food that was available. The results were hunger, which caused food
riots, and open political dissent that all blamed the Tsar for the suffering. More and more military units began to go over
to the revolutionaries. A decade ago the military had put down a revolution,
but in 1917 the army had no enthusiasm or desire to fire on the people. The 8th was also International Women’s Day
and the strikers were joined by those celebrating that occasion, so by the end of the week,
200,000 protesters were in the streets of Petrograd. The Tsar was completely isolated from all
this and totally out of touch; this week he wrote to his wife that he was going to take
up dominoes again, and in his diary that he was reading a French book about Julius Caesar’s
conquest of Gaul. It was the beginning of the end. A side note here – a while back I talked about
Interior Minister Alexander Protopopov and it was a bit controversial. I will certainly bow to superior knowledge
of the events and circumstances in Russia at this time, particularly about Protopopov
and what he did or did not do. Many of you know far more about the subject
than I do. I will say one thing further about him here,
though. Now, I only have this from one source, “The
Story of the Great War”, make of that what you will. They claim that he deliberately had food trains
to Petrograd halted in the provinces, and when everybody was on strike, the two labor
leaders who supported the Duma made an appeal for the workers to go back to work, but he
had the appeal censored. That source claims Protopopov was deliberately
fomenting revolution so that during the crisis a peace with the Central Powers could be made
and the revolution put down by the army. Many of you have written that Protopopov was
not capable of this kind of machination, and even I have described him as “laughably
incompetent”, I’m just putting this out there. There is one source that claims this is so. I’m curious to hear your thoughts. There was action in the Middle East this week
as well. The British were pursuing the Ottomans up
the Tigris River, heading for Baghdad. On the 6th, British cavalry was 20km from
the goal. On the 8th, the Tigris was bridged and the
Ottomans driven from positions 10km from the city. The British also made a surprise crossing
of the Diyala River. The Ottomans were actually also retreating
en masse from Persia toward Baghdad, with the Russians in pursuit. This week the Russians occupied Kangavar,
South of Hamadan. In the Balkans, the Serbs’ Toplica Rebellion
continued occupations of its own. The rebels took half a dozen small towns and
were threatening the town of Vranje, which would be a big blow to the Central Powers
if it fell. So the alarmed Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian
commands began to organize a counter attack. It would begin soon. And something else that could signal another
beginning was the possibility that the US might join the war. It’s now been a month since diplomatic relations
between the US and Germany were severed. This week, President Woodrow Wilson took the
oath of office to begin his second term as President. His inaugural speech reaffirms his commitment
to armed neutrality. This is primarily in response to Germany’s
unrestricted submarine warfare policy, which had sunk 500,000 tons of food for Britain
in February alone. We’ve talked a lot about stuff dealing with
the US over the past few weeks and I’d like to talk about something I haven’t had time
for yet, the Great Call Up. In June 1916 there had been a real possibility
of war between the USA and Mexico. The US army had put together around 12,000
troops for its cross-border campaign, but they’d need a lot more to show how serious
the US was about protecting the border. So they mobilized the entire National Guard. There was a plan for orderly mobilization,
but rushing as many guardsmen to the border as quickly as possible was the order of the
day, and by the end of July there were 110,957 national guardsmen at the border. There was a lot of confusion and a lot of
problems, and I’ll just briefly mention some of them here. Reluctance to serve was a big problem and
the physical condition of the men another. The Surgeon General said, “The large percentage
of rejections at the muster-in physical examination… appears to the department surgeon as the most
disappointing… feature of the mobilization, indicating that the enlistment examinations
had been nominal and superficial.” And the army’s logistical system was overwhelmed. There weren’t enough supplies for the guardsmen,
and since there had been no prearranged plans for border mobilization, 100,000 inexperienced
men suddenly there needed to be trained, so the regular army was stripped of officers
to do so. The red tape was colossal, and I love this
quote about the staggering problems with requisition forms just to get basic equipment, “There
was not only a shortage of blank forms, but a shortage of the forms needed to requisition
the blank forms.” The National Guard blamed the army for all
the shortages, and the army blamed Congress. Let’s not even get into the overload issues
for the railways that had to move all the men, and the economic issues at the border
once 100,000 men arrived in border towns. Still, by Christmas, 156,414 guardsmen had
been transported to the border, even though three quarters of them were untrained men
led by officers of limited experience. And reports, like one in the excellent book
“The Great Call-Up”, read like this, “Under most favorable conditions… the regiment
might be made available for field service against an inferior enemy in six months, against
trained troops it will require two years.” You can see why the Central Powers were not
especially worried about American intervention if they could bring the war to a conclusion
in 1917. Thing is, America learned a lot from the Great
Call up; the mobilization problems were all highlighted on display, including things like
the army’s reliance on animals instead of cars and trucks, and steps were made to correct
all of this mess. So the period from June 1916 to now was one
of intense training and troubleshooting. Why it’s important here is that it really
served as a dress rehearsal for American mobilization. “The Great Call up transformed the National
Guard into a much more effective fighting force, for it was as close as the United States
came to the large scale military maneuvers in which European armies traditionally engaged.” The idea that the US would join the war was,
for Germany, offset by the news from Russia, where things looked bad militarily as well
as politically. British Military Attaché Colonel Knox had
sent London a note saying that a million men had been killed, two million were either missing
– dead – or prisoners, half a million were in hospital, a million and a half more were
on leave or had been excused from more service, and another million had deserted. Knox said that the number of the troops at
the front was not enough to continue the war as it was. But that’s how things stood at the end of
the week. The British on the move in Mesopotamia, the
Russians in Persia, rebel success in the Balkans, Chaos in Petrograd, and the US saying yet
again that it would remain neutral. Armed neutrality. So ships could defend themselves from the
U-boat menace. But that’s not neutral, is it? The Germans sinking ships with American civilians
aboard is an act of war. American civilians firing on German subs is
an act of war. You can get as technical with the terminology
as you liked but that is war. And how long do you think the American public
would put up with reading about drowned American civilians. And how long would the Russians put up with
starvation and intolerable working conditions? I’m gonna guess not very long. If you want to learn more about the defenses
against submarines, check out our special about that right here. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Kitsuka
– help us out on Patreon so we can improve this show as the war gets even bigger. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next
time.

100 thoughts on “The Russian February Revolution 1917 I THE GREAT WAR Week 137

  1. Excellent show, "Week 137". Fantastically woven together, with great facts and figures. Great job, writers and production crew, with Indy again doing a "totally awesome" job spelling out the story!
    Youse guys is so…polished and professional!

  2. 1) What do you do when you got no food? If you're Jamaican, you "Pass the Dutchie 'pon the left hand side."

    2) My v/ knowledgable wife asked why the US Army went to the border. I told her "Pancho Villa". I know, that's not really Great War-specific, but might be worth explaining.

  3. You should do a special on Dragutin Dimitrijevic "Apis", the head of Serbian Military intelligence and the leader of the "Unification or Death" secret society (better known by its informal name "The Black Hand") that was implicated in the Assassination of Franz Ferdinand and start of the war, who was arrested, trialed by a kangaroo court at Salonika and shot soon after the February Revolution in Russia…

  4. The eighth was actually "International Working Women's Day", a holiday created by the Socialist Party of America. The name was later sterilized by the UN in 1975.

  5. Here's a question for Out of the Trenches. While Mexico obviously never did take Germany up on the offer of financial and military aid in exchange for war with the US, did they ever consider it? As many issues as the 1916 border crisis had, I find it hard to believe that Mexico (a country in absolutely dismal shape) could have ever realistically invaded and occupied such a huge swath of the Southwest; especially with the Second Amendment being what it is and the local populace fairly well armed.

  6. Indy there was a major cold spell in Russia in Feb 1917 which caused the rail lines to be covered with snow and were impassable for traffic. Add to this the cold caused the boilers of 1200 locomotives to burst which left 57,000 to 60,000 rails car full of supplies unable to move . Adding to the Russians problems pre-WW I coal was transported to St Petersburg by sea from England now it had to come from south Russia which further overloaded the Russian rail system. Meanwhile the rations of the army nation wide were cut during 1916 which hurt morale.

  7. Kardaş Mustafa Kemal Atatürk 10 yıl daha yaşasaydı biz daha güçlü bir devlet haline gelmiş olurduk

  8. Actually Eastern European and Russian hardened communist are nothing like the hipstery sjw like "communist" in the western 1st world.

  9. hey im doing a school project on plastic surgery can you please please please with sugar on top do a special episode on Harold Gillies??? i would love it!!!

  10. What did the various revolutionary factions document about their views of Protopopov? If none of them considered him a viable alternative to the Tzar, then the source stating Protopopov was behind the shortages and media portrayal is just a conspiracy theorist.

  11. Our North Dakota National Guard were part of the Great Call-up and spent a challenging time on the Mexican Border. While many were combat veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection, the Call-up led to a mixed-value experience. Clearly a lesson of "fighting the last war."

  12. I love the fact that you guys admit when there is a mistake or controversy over a subject, given the fact that it is really complicated to have a 100% true source over the matter. But without a doubt the best part is that both The Great War, and all the people who share their comments, help on the episodes, suscribe and more, make these one of the GREATEST CHANNELS ON YOUTUBE!!!
    SO THANK YOU TO EVERYONE FOR MAKING THIS 4 YEAR JOURNEY INTO THE GREATEST!!!!

  13. Big thumbs up on Reddit today for this channel. The question was

    "What Youtuber is worth days of binge-watching?"

  14. you know Indy… when i hear you say numbers like 10 000 dead 30 000 dead, all that goes through my mind is… well they definitely weren't done even after millions dead in that war… they had a go at it again 20 years later

  15. what u gonna do when your people run of food, your army lost everywhere and u so dumb ?

    Nicholas II answer read french book about Julia Caesar conquest of Gaul

  16. Re: Protopopov – It's disappointing that you guys would rely on one source. Especially one that makes such outlandish claims, and then effectively double down on it by repeating it in this programme. I would have expected you to apply an approach to important matters where multiple sources are used. This is a standard approach to history, even when using secondary sources.

    While we don't need "alternative facts" to creep into historical accounts, its not the end of the world. I assume you will you change your approach for the future?

  17. I wonder how the war would have gone had the Zimmerman telegraph reached Mexico and they took up Germany's proposal

  18. @7:47 case and point that the National Guardsmen needed a lot more training. Put that gun butt in your shoulder, trooper!

  19. It sounds like Germany is going to lose regardless of whether or not America joins the war. They can't end the war in 1917 and as war weariness increases their only hope is the imminent Russian Collapse will free up enough resources to match their enemies on the Western Front.

  20. well I have another theory, how about protopopov deliberately did this for revenge for the death of Rasputin and to fullfill his prophecies. Now Protopopov is mentally unstable due to him having advanced syphilis and he was a close friend to Rasputin. So protopopov fullfilled Rasputins prophecy that when he died , the Romanovs would go with him. Also just to show you he was mentaly unstable , he was suffering from hallucinations just before he was executed by the Cheka in 1918.

  21. This was the Revolution my great great great grandfather served in…he was a white (Against Communists) and he had to escape Russia after the murder of the Romanovs. If this Revolution never happened, I wouldn't be here today. The strange ting is, Rasputin died on my Birthday which is Dec.30 and 12 years later, the USSR was established on my Birthday as well.

  22. Hey Indy. Great show!! Could you possibly do a special or a segment on the Lost Battalion. Can't believe that close to 600 americans of the US 77th division held out against the entire German 5th army for a week without relief, support, or ample supplies of food water, and ammunition. This story is inspiring. Thanks Great War team and looking forward to watching your episodes for the next year and a half!

  23. Just finished binge-watching the entire main episodes. I love this project! I am just sorry that I didn't start watching it when it started. and we are now in the Russian revolution! One of my favourite periods. I know this channel focuses on the war itself, so Russian coverage will stop with the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, but will there be some episodes covering the issues and wars that broke out as an immediate reaction to the end of the war, specifically the Russian Civil war and the Turkish war of independence? will we cover the issues surrounding the negotiations of the treaty of versailles as well? cause that seriers of negotiations went well into 1919, and that was what officially ended the war as a whole.

    Any ways, i just wanted to thank you for all the enjoyment I have gotten, and please keep up the good work 🙂

  24. Is it still an act of war if the Germans sink a British ship with American civilians on it? Leading to this point you always make a point to say how many Americans were on the ships sunk.

  25. Hey Indy and gang, can you provide any sources for someone trying to read up a bit more on the "Great Call Up" and that era of the U.S. Army before the war?

  26. I would just like to point out that the right side of my screen has suggested all Great War videos from your channel, except for a single cat video compilation.

  27. Would it have been possible for Mexico to overwhelm the US whilst they were in disorder? Not to win a war of destruction but one of limited aims, such as reconquest of areas of Texas?

  28. I am half Russian half Hungarian, because my great-grandfather on my father's side was Russian. He fought in the great war and injured and became a P.O.W in Hungary.
    He worked in a manor, where he met her Hungarian wife, later he settled down and found a family. I know that he was a gentleman's tailor, but I don't know that in Russia or in Hungary…

  29. 2:32 Alexander Protopopoff was the granddad of Sergey Protopopoff who was a waffen ss soldier in the french charlemagne division, he died in the battle of berlin and became a postthumus soldier because he shot down a soviet reconnoisant plane which is lead the soviets artilerry fire and he also destroyed 5 t34 tank.

  30. Was that William Howard Taft swearing in President Wilson? Anyways we need to keep in mind that Protopopov was suffering from advanced tertiary syphilis. When he was arrested by the Bolsheviks they originally wanted to use him for propaganda purposes but very soon they recognized that he was insane and took him out back and shot him. As I said before Rasputin and Protopopov were creatures of the empress. Anything they did was ultimately what she wanted or at least what they thought she wanted. That means ultimately the empress was a part of a plot to sabotage the war effort and sign a separate peace. There is absolutely no evidence of this and to use the crazed machinations of Protopopov as evidence for anything is problematic to say the least. There is not now nor has there ever been any reliable evidence that the empress was a traitor. I think that you underestimate the influence of the empress during this whole period. In order to really understand what is really happening. In my humble opinion. Thank you.

  31. This was about the time that the SMS Wien was shelling French and Montenegrin artillery on the Salonika Front.

  32. I wonder if many Americans of recent German descent were turned away from enlistment since their loyalty might be called into question?

  33. I studied the Russian Revolution for most of my life and I can't see Alexander Protopopov coming up with any original idea.This is the first I heard of him stopping trains and censoring the papers..Thanks for the source.

  34. Seems like Germany is about to win. Things seem setup for the Eastern Front to end. Meanwhile the Western Front may finally bleed France and Britain to a surrender.

    I don't see any other possible outcome. I guess I better start learning German. The age of Victoria might finally be surpassed by her grandson…

  35. Царь Николашка безмозглый или бракованный император № 2. =)

    Stupid Nicky II

  36. Grant it, Tsar Nicholas II was incompetent however I feel like he should of been spared death at least the rest of his family.

  37. Nicholas should have red Caesar's book about the Civil War instead if he had to read an ancient text…

  38. No way! Everything is lies. The reasons of the Russian revolution are different from what he said. The story about the absence of the food is a myth, made by bolshevicks. The real reason was the growing power of the Tsar and his success in the war, which caused problems with generals, democrats, socialists and "allies" – France and Britain, becsuse the WWI was set to destroy Russia, Germany, Austria and Turkey by making them fighting. The British secret service has admitted, that they took part in Russian revolution of March 1917 on the rebell side. Fake facts, Indy!

  39. It's always amazing that such a corrupt, autocratic regime could last for so long. Ken Follett in his Millennium Trilogy shows the conditions and confusion in Russia pretty well. Great series of books; i recommend them.

  40. The German plan was clearly to get Konrad Hotzendorf to beef up his resume and apply for the job as US Secretary of War.

  41. According to the book titled" The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion &The Fall of Russia" written by Candace Fleming.The author asserts that there were right wing, moderates, and left wing deputies in the Duma or provisional government that could not agree on anything or were willing to compromise.

  42. This might be the first The Great War video to receive a thumbs down from me. How long would the Americans endure drowned Americans? This question and Woodrow Wilson's reaction seem to imply some human right to travel through the middle of a war zone without being harmed. That is ridiculous. Americans were on ships carrying or likely carrying war supplies to Germany's enemies. They had every right to sink those ships.

  43. I thank you for all this. I'm sittin in the bunker waiting for last show. Kiddin with you Indy. Can't stop watchin. Finland is 100 years old,everybody. Anyone hear me out there?

  44. the thing is, America was never truly neutral throughout the war. American banks loaned much more to the British and French then they did to the Germans, and so they had an interest in an Entente victory. Public opinion swiftly turned against Germany after German PR blunders and aggressive activities, but mostly because the British controlled the flow of information to America after cutting the Central power's undersea cables. This contributed to the US tolerating the British blockade seizing US trade bound for Germany, even though that is technically an act of war. Eventually the US became a major supplier of food arms and ammunition, all bound for war against Germany. So the US was never truly neutral and was always interested in a British victory. When things looked bleak for the Entente, the bankers successfully lobbied for war with Germany to get their money back.

  45. In North Korea, if you are starving, cannot avoid food and working condition are intolerable, you focus on making nuclear weapons still.

  46. I think laughably incompetent people can still be capable of doing some devious things. I've had a couple of sister-in-laws like this. So I have no reason to doubt the claim about Protopopov.

  47. Does Story of the Great War have footnotes or inline citations? If so, it would be useful to figure out what their source was.

  48. Something came to my mind as I watched the video:
    I'm not a native English speaker and I was wondering if "12 troops" meant either "12 units" or "12 soldiers" 🤔

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