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What was the effect of the Russian Revolution on World War I?

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Phillip Holland eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Russian Revolution had a major effect on the final result of WWI. The overthrow of the czar and the implementation of the Provisional Government under Kerensky led Wilson to feel much better about supporting the Allied cause since the Kerensky government promised to be progressive in its reforms.

The Allies pressured the Kerensky government to stay in the war; this led to dissatisfaction with the soldiers fighting the war, and many of them turned to support Lenin and Trotsky's promise of getting out of the war at all costs. By early 1918, the Bolsheviks had taken power under the promise of getting Russia out of the war. This led to the treaty of Brest-Litovsk which allowed Germany to shift all of its forces on the Eastern Front to take on the French, British, and Americans in the West in the summer of 1918. The promise of a reinforced German army in the West led the Allies to pressure the Americans to put more forces in the field. The winner-take-all offensive led by the Germans in the summer and early fall of 1918 ultimately led to the collapse of the German army and the armistice in November 1918.

The Russian Revolution allowed the Germans to focus on the Western Front, and it also pressured the Americans to send more military and economic aid to the Allies. German soldiers who were in Russian POW camps were also infected with ideas of socialism and they pressured the German government to sign the armistice. The abdication of the Kaiser which led to the armistice in November 1918 was caused not so much by the failure of the German army in the field; rather, it was caused by the threat of another Bolshevik revolution happening in Germany. This unrest at home ultimately led to Germany's surrender.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As the other answer indicates, after the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks drew Russia out of World War I. This freed up German resources to concentrate on the Western front but, as the other answer aptly states, didn't directly have a great influence on the war.

The Germans had started the war expecting a quick victory. They, therefore, had not prepared for the long war that ensued. Because of this, they made few provisions for securing the food supply, which dropped by 1916 to starvation levels due to fewer crops being harvested (the men were off fighting the war) and due to the effective English blockade of German ports. In addition, casualties were very high, and the German populace increasingly restive about the poor progress of the war and the suffering it was causing.

The communists in Germany were very much inspired and aroused by the stunning Bolshevik victory in Russia and thought this was the moment when, in similar circumstances of great unrest over an unpopular and mismanaged war, they could bring revolution to Germany. They almost did. It was this fear by the German government of falling into the hands of the communists that led to what was later characterized as the "backstab" of the surrender.

The communist contribution to the end of the war was indirect, but it went, in summary, as follows: the revolution was successful in Russia, ending the war there. This had the twofold effect of inspiring the German communists to capitalize on the moment and push for a revolution and the German elites to panic in terror that the communists would succeed, as they just had in Russia. This led to their surrender so that they could stabilize the situation at home. Unfortunately, the Versailles Treaty was so harsh and humiliating that the German situation never did stabilize completely, Hitler eventually took over, and World War II followed.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Russian Revolution had the effect of putting an end to the major arena of fighting on the Eastern Front in World War I.  It temporarily helped the Germans by freeing up troops, but this advantage did not do the Germans much good.  Therefore, the revolution did not really end up making much of a difference in the outcome of the war.

Throughout WWI, the Germans were fighting a two-front war.  They were fighting against France and England in the west and against Russia in the east.  This meant, of course, that they had to divide their military strength between the two fronts.  In 1918, the Bolsheviks concluded the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Germans.  Now, the Eastern Front no longer existed for the Germans.  They could take their troops from that front and throw them into the Spring Offensive that started a few weeks later on the Western Front.  This helped the Germans to some degree.  However, the help that came from bringing the troops from the Eastern Front was negated by the influx of American troops since the US had finally started to get its military fully involved in the war by that time.  Even with the movement of troops from the Eastern Front, the German offensive failed and the Germans lost the war.

Thus, the Russian Revolution did not change the outcome of the war.  It changed some of the details of how the war played out, but it did not change the ultimate outcome.

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alejandrogalarce | Student

Russia's horrific losses on the Eastern Front were a significant factor in precipitating the Revolution. After the Revolution, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk brought Russia's conflict with Germany to an end. Germany was able to re-commit troops and resources from the Eastern Front to France and Belgium. By this time however, the United States had entered the war on the side of Britain and France, more than compensating for the loss of Russia

 

It can also be concluded that the Russian Revolution helped end the war because had Russia not had the Revolution Germany would not have focused all of its powers on France which then would not have led an end even had the Americans joined because there would still be soldiers on the Eastern Front.

 

The Russian Revolution had another effect in the medium term, From 1918 onwards all European countries, the U.S. and Japan were 'haunted by the spectre of Bolshevism'. In some countries it even became a complete obsession ...