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.

Photograph of a Bread Line

Women 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.

Photograph of a Jewish Family Retreating From Warsaw

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.


This post earned a “red star” award from the editorial team.

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This post was chosen for a “Comrade’s Corner” award by the editorial team.

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4 thoughts on “The Effects of War on Civilians

  1. I like how you illustrated how the war affected every person in the Russian society in some way. The displeasure of the Russian people with the war is what allowed revolutionary groups such as the Bolsheviks to gain larger followings. This begs the mysterious question that if the war had never happened, would the revolution ever have occurred?


  2. Great Post! I really enjoyed reading about the civilian side of things as i did my post on Tsar Nicholas II so i focused more on the government and how they were treating its people. This was a refreshing perspective that really showed to me the effect the wars were having on its people!


  3. Thanks for highlighting the challenges civilians faced during World War I. Your post raises an important issue about when and how “civilians” become politically engaged and radical — women standing in line for (no) bread trigger the demonstrations that bring down the autocracy in February 1917.


  4. War is always hard on the home front, World War I especially so. You did a great job pointing out how the stresses of war create an atmosphere ready for change, in whatever form that may take. I like the analysis of the photo as well.


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