The Effects of War on Civilians



During World War I in Russia, soldiers and civilians alike, were fighting a battle that they did not understand. Men were being drafted, leaving families at home with little to no help in their survival. Although Russia entered the war with plans for victory, “the multi-lateral conflict soon developed into a protracted war of attrition exacting enormous economic, political, and human costs” (Digital History Reader). The failures on the part of the Russian Government, lead to distaste and distrust with the Russian leaders.
Families that were at home trying to survive were seeing shortages in food supply. The cost of living had risen since the war started and people were feeling discontent with their living situations. Not only were the peasants dissatisfied with the autocracy’s ability to support its citizens, but the top of society also realized the incompetence of the tsar and his officials to execute war effectively. People had been experiencing long-term deprivation and rationing; this led to distrust of the tsar and eventually strikes across the country.

ev_img19Women were waiting in long lines in hopes of receiving bread for their families to live off of. As seen in the picture to the left, these women were often waiting in lines that took hours and were sometimes turned away because the bread supply ran out. The state’s failure to regulate “the grain market, food distribution, and food pricing emerged as a main issue in the early stages of the war” (Digital History Reader).

In Russia’s scramble to immobilize quickly for World War I, it thought less of the civilians it would be affecting at home. Though the government believed the war would be brief, it turned out to be lengthy and debilitating. This failure of foresight, led civilians and soldiers to protest and seek a better regime. The lack of food resources at home forced families to starve without knowledge of how their husbands were doing in battle. The military drafted almost seven million men in 1914 alone. People all across Russia were feeling unrest with their never-ending situation, and it seemed as though the tsar was unfazed by his lack of success.


The picture to the right depicts Jewish civilians who were fleeing Warsaw in the Summer of 1915. The German military advances and the Russian’s lack of preparedness, led to devastating circumstances like the one shown above. Families were fleeing war zones and moving to places where they hoped to find refuge and resources, such as food. Not only were people without necessities such as bread, but they were also being forced to move by the ever-changing military conflicts across Europe.




“European History: Context,” Digital History Reader, accessed February 11, 2018,

“European History: Introduction,” Digital History Reader, accessed February 11, 2018,

“Evidence 13: Photograph of a Jewish Family Retreating From Warsaw,” Digital History Reader, accessed February 11, 2018,

“Evidence 19: Photograph of a Bread Line,” Digital History Reader, accessed February 11, 2018,

Gregory L. Freeze, ed. Russia. A History, 3rd Edition. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2009.)


A Carpenter Tells All


Carpenter. Samarkand photographed by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

In this photograph, taken by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii in 1905, we see a man working as a carpenter in a town known as Samarkand. Samarkand is located in present day Uzbekistan, and was once part of the Russian Empire. Samarkand was likely founded due to its location along the Silk Road. Due to its location, it made a perfect home for Russian operations. Behind the man pictured is a building speculated to be a Russian compound. Although the Russian’s may have a building dedicated to them, the people of Samarkand are not what one thinks of when imagining a typical Russian population.

Titled, “Carpenter,” this photo shows a man dressed in what appears to be a long robe and a headdress not typical of the Russian population. The people of Samarkand were in fact mostly Tajiks who spoke Persian, while Uzbeks were in the minority. This man pictured, likely Tajik or Uzbek, is not Russian by heritage, but instead is a part of a territory under Russian control. The area of Samarkand during the 20th century was full of individuals that were “working” for Russia, though they were not even Russian. This man, possibly a serf, or at least a worker, is likely working for the Russian compound shown behind him in the photograph.

With the major religion of Imperial Russia being Russian (Eastern) Orthodox, it is interesting to note that the religion of Samarkand was dominantly Islam since the 8th century. The Christian and Jewish populations of the area are considered very small. Samarkand is actually known for its many mosques and mausoleums built during the 14th and 15th centuries. Imperial Russia was drastically different from Samarkand when it came to their religions of the time. This may be a common theme among Russia and its territories.

The carpenter pictured here is one of many individuals that were a part of an empire that differed greatly from their own culture and ways of life. The different aspects of the man in the image, from the way he was dressed to the ethnicity that he was a part of, illustrate just how different Samarkand was from Imperial Russia. The people of the town were asked to participate just like a normal Russian citizen would in duties and battles during World War II, though they were from a completely different world. This image does a great job of showing the dramatic differences in these two cultures all the way from how they dressed, to the languages they spoke, and even the religions they practiced. It also depicts how, even when included in a larger empire such as Russia, the local historical culture of Samarkand continued to thrive and present itself in peoples’ everyday lives.



Photograph URL:

Gregory L. Freeze, ed. Russia. A History, 3rd Edition. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2009.)

“Samarkand- Crossroad of Cultures.” United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization: World Heritage Center. 2001.

“World Digital Library: Carpenter. Samarkand.” Library of Congress. Last updated September 30, 2016.