For a young Russian man at the age of 20 the political scene in Russia as of June 1917 presents a wide array of options. The aggressive Bolsheviks, the passive Mensheviks, the disorganized Anarchists and the scholarly Kadets among many other political parties all present their own and widely varying opinions on how Russia should be ruled. But for a young man, like me, who was taken from a peasant village and cast into military service of The Empire none of these parties really matter. As an enlisted man in the crude and poorly led Russian army I have only one true concern and that is survival. Between inept officers and suicidal charges against the Hun army political parties hold little place in my mind. But I do ask myself, “Why are we fighting this war? Let us retreat into our own lands and be done with this terrible fight!” Tsar Nicholas II thought that he could lead the Russian army to victory with the power of God on our side, but he was no military general. It is laughable to think that the Tsar was away fighting while his German wife, Alexandria, undermined the very war her husband sought to win. Alas, the Tsar is removed and the war continues on under the Provisional Government. Russia looks for a new direction and even I, a lowly soldier with a peasant background, must weigh the aspirations of the many political parties and support one that matches my own dreams.
Before the war, and my forced participation in it, my family and I lived in a small village near the Urals. We had meager aspirations as peasants and we barely scraped by in the fields. I thought to myself that perhaps I could someday head East, across the Urals, into Siberia. I have heard that things are different there for peasants. The land is plentiful as are resources and forests. There would be no more living under the debt of nobles. But alas, this is a far away fantasy that cannot be attained by a mere soldier. After the war began I was conscripted into the service of The Empire in 1915. This left many families like my own shorthanded in the fields. I was shipped away to the west where I have been ever since.
Military life is miserable at best. If you are not an officer you are less than dirt. We cannot even share the same sidewalks that civilians use. (Von Hagen Notes) Among my new army companions there are some that come from universities in the cities. They are educated and forward thinking men with grand ideas. But they were removed from the universities for agitating and speaking against the Tsar. The war is now their punishment. Along with them are factory workers who were thoughtlessly drafted to fight which left factories understaffed. This contributed to our great equipment shortages in the beginning of the war. (A Vision Unfulfilled, Thompson p.110-111) We were sent to the front near Tarnopol after a short period of basic training. Here we fight the German army, a ferocious machine, which wields devastating artillery and machine guns capable of cutting down hundreds of men. We are demoralized and constantly retreating. Our rations have even been cut once again to a mere one pound of bread a day! (A Vision Unfulfilled, Thompson p.110-112) The men cannot go on this way. Many young officers were killed by their men after Alexander Kerensky’s June offensive failed. (Von Hagen Notes) All of the soldiers are looking towards a life without war and simply want to be with their families again. Now that the Tsar is gone we may finally get our wish.
I was overjoyed when I heard that the Tsar had been removed from power. The will of the Russian people accomplished a truly amazing feat. The war and ineptitude of the Tsar has hurt Russia so badly that the people had to act. Millions of Russia’s sons needlessly being killed abroad while the civilian population went hungry caused the bubbling waters of revolution to boil over. Working class protesters in Petrograd flooded the streets with