The fall of Czarist Russia is often considered the most lasting legacy of the Second Atlantic War, and rightly so. The collapse and (long term) retardation of one of the Great Powers is always a grave matter, and one in Russia's geopolitical location is even more central. The elimination of Russia from the Great Power system changed concepts that had lasted for generations and had been based off of the strong Czar in Moscow.
Before discussion of the world after the fall of Russia, we must go back to before its collapse.
The Asian BearEdit
Before the Second Atlantic War, Russia was considered (along with the United States) as the future “Super Power”. All other nations, Germany, Britain, France among others, were only contenders. All people who thought about such things assumed Russia would soon be dominate over all others. And this idea was used in all diplomacy. For Great Britain Russia was the 'Asian Bear' whose grip from the Balkans to Persia to India bothered the Empire. The Great Game had scared London for decades, and though treaties had greatly reduced this fear, the Czar was still felt around Asia. For Turkey Russia was the immortal foe, contending all around the Black Sea and the Middle East. This fear of Russian influence often lead to closer ties with Germany. For Germany, Russia was also a long standing enemy and the main pivot to their plans.
The German-Russian border was immense and even though commerce was immense, anger and hate often resonated across it. Tied up in the two separate treaty systems, both nations were preparing for a war they might not start. Both Russia and Germany assumed any war would bring them to blows. Tied up in this delicate balance was France. For France, Russia was the great diplomatic assent and valuable in the extreme. The entire French system was based that Russia would help outweigh Germany's massive potential. Event he war plans tied directly to this idea. If a war broke out, France would assume the defense while the Russian steamroller would pour out of Poland and crush Germany with waves of Russian men. French loans and grants always stipulated that work on the Polish railroad system. This flow of funds, while directed to Russian improvements, were crucial to French plans.
It is clear from this web of treaties and deals that Russia was a crucial member of the European power system. The elimination of this 'leg' from the power system is important to understanding the post war trauma and turmoil. The fallout from this disaster in Eastern Europe is still being felt today, in a myriad of ways. The exact details are important, as small events can lead to massive changes.
Planning for WarEdit
The German war plans for a coalition war were simple, but sound. A massive strike at France, then quickly turn and face the slowly awakening Russian army. This firm fact becomes blurred when viewed through the lens of history. Russia mobilized slower and weaker then anyone had guessed. Its ineptness stunned the world as guns, soldiers and uniforms showed up late and out of place. Stocks of material piled up miles from the lines. In contrast German war movements were swift and sure. It should come as no surprise that these characteristics describe the entire Eastern Front of the Second Atlantic War.
The Failed March to BerlinEdit
While often ignored and written off, as compared to the Western front, the Eastern front was vast and varied, from the plains of the Ukraine, to the dense forests of Latvia, to the frozen tundra of Finland, all these areas had empire turn on them. In retrospect, it is easy to write the Russians off this would be inaccurate, as the Czar had plenty of reasons to be positive about his chances. He ruled a vast kingdom, with plenty of loyal citizens. Factories were booming and foreign trade was increasing. His army was huge, and a large recipient of state monies. With Germany distracted by France and naval warfare, why was it so impossible to imagine a simple (if violent) march to Berlin?
The real war turned out quite different. The German army proved large (in total, Germany actually feiled more men then Russia), well trained, one of the best armed and provided, and easily the best led. These factors lead to victory after victory in the East. Slashing German attacks quickly negated the Russian advantage of numbers. Lack of machine guns, artillery and over dependence on cavalry, also hurt the Russians at every turn. A fine example is the battle of XX.
The Russian troops lumbered into a well built German trap. With few machine guns, nearly no artillery and out of place cavalry, it was a disaster in the making. Cautious , understaffed headquarters made the problem worse with small constantly countermanded orders. The prisoners and causalities were in the thousands.
At sea, it was even worse. The Russian navy was old, obsolescent, and ill run. Admirals were not well trained, and lacked the funding to do much training or exercises. Moscow had long favored the Army (and even the crude air forces) over the decrepit navy. This was in stark contrast to the modern, well built and supervised High Seas Fleet. While heavy uses of mines dominated the Baltic, the German fleet (when not doing its main duty of trying to cut French ports from American aid) was saddled with ferrying troops to Finland, to help that nation win its freedom. Many battles were fought along this troop transport line, but gradually dwindled as it became clear that any Russian ship was fair game.
It was unfortunate the war came when it did. The Russian fleet was in the mid point of major upgrade, but the results were years away. These new dreadnoughts and submarines would never seen service as the Russian fleet and ports were destroyed by German action or by simply losing the port. The promising Gangut class was never more then half finished ships in dry dock, while the the Kaiman class of submarines were full of problems and technical errors. A new class, the Krab class, was being designed but was years from completion. Again,t he High Seas Fleet had caught the Russian's in mid change, and reaped the profits.
As the naval war dragged on, the German fleet got more bold and more active in a combined arms sense. Soon landings or men and material were happening all over the Baltic coast, supplying the newly formed nationalistic forces, determined to free themselves from the Czar's grip. These fleet landings soon became nothing more then simple transport as the Russian fleet ceased to exist or merely hid in St. Petersburg. In a few cases, the Germans (or their rebels allies) used captured Russian ships for themselves, such as the famous half complete Andrei Pervozvanny .
Still, Russia had taken massive tactical defeats before. Why was it different this time? Why did the entire system of Empire crumble in such a short time, to never rise again. The answer is the realtion between the Russian Imperial system and the German war plan.
A Prison of Nations Edit
The Russian Empire, like all empires, was base don subjected diverse ethnic peoples. What made the Russian Empire so unstable was the careful balancing act of some many European ethnic groups on the edge of the Empire (to say nothing of the vast amount of people elsewhere in the Empire like the Kazakhs and Turkmen). This careful balance only worked when the subjects had no better options and when force was always a present threat. This system had never collapsed even under the great stress from previous wars like the Napoleonic invasion or the Crimean War. However, two factors made the Second Atlantic War so different.
One was the fact that a new type of unrest was sweeping Russia. Labor unrest, fueled by Marxism and other socialist rhetoric. This new and dangerous type of unrest was hard to quash and was also concentrated in areas most vital for Russia, its factories. Again, the Czar was heavy handed with these demands, often fanning the flames of riot and rebellion. The case example was the 'Great Revolt' of 1908. Thousands of industrial workers rose up to in the areas near Moscow. Lack of organization and harsh reprisal led to it quickly being crushed. But its legacy lived on, worrying Moscow at every turn. This new unbalance made the already delicate system in Russia that much more dangerous. This would be tricky for any government, let alone the autocratic, heavy handed, ill trained Czarist administration.
In additon to this, was the plan of German forces. Germany was focused on defeating France, and any other gains were merely useful additions. Crushing Russia was merely one step to re-setting the Europoean balance. Instead of simply conquering Russia, the idea was formed that they would use Russia's weaknesses against it self. German policy would be to set up small satellite states formed out of former Imperial ethnic groups. They would channel the unrest and revolting spirit to do to Russia what mere armies couldn't. While this plan was greatly challenged, eventually it won out in Berlin. A series of German dominated states carved out of the former Russian Empire would be the new face of Eatern Europe.
An example of this plan in action was the conquest and subsequent ruling of 'Russian' Poland. Conquered early in the war, Poland was planned to be the smallest, most German dominated satellite state. (It only existed as a buffer state, and some plans had it as merely a Imperial Possession) Even so, when the Germans took over, they found pliable Poles to take over some positions. Władysław Eugeniusz Sikorski first gained fame here, helping set up a “Polish” army. While nothing more then a puppet state for the Germans the idea caught on all across Russia. The flames were fanned when Polish troops were used in actions against Czar forces. German propaganda made it clear that any ethnic group would be treated better then it currently was.