And of everything that followed
- “The team today feels that after a century marked by wars and catastrophes, pursuing utopian and unattainable revolutionary dreams, Russia is back on the right path—the path Stolypin charted when he declared, ‘You want great upheavals; we want a great Russia.’”
On November 11, the world will acknowledge the 100 th anniversary of the armistice that ended the carnage that was the First World War. That date, however, doesn’t resonate in Russia. A far more significant moment on the calendar that just passed—the anniversary of the Bolshevik seizure of power—was similarly marginalized last year when the centennial of the October Revolution was largely ignored by the Russian government and Russian society as a whole. Current Russia sees little to celebrate or reminisce about the events of a century ago. After all, by the time the guns fell silent on the Western front, a Russia gripped in the frenzy of the revolution had already been knocked out of the war, losing more than one-third of the territory of the former Russian Empire in the process. What was left of the country was plunged into a bloody, destructive civil war that would not end for three more years. What followed was a series of famines, purges and the immense human costs wrought by rapid industrialization and the Second World War.
This does not mean that the current Russian political and strategic establishment ignores the lessons of World War I and the Revolution—but it sees in those events a cautionary tale of what the Russian leadership at the beginning of this century must do to avoid repeating those disasters. The Kremlin today is well aware of the dangers of ignoring how and why Russia so catastrophically failed the last time. In 2018, as in 1918, the leadership remains concerns with the possibility of Russian state collapse brought about either by internal factors or through the machinations of external enemies.
Russia had entered World War I still recovering from the damage done by the Russo-Japanese war and the subsequent “Revolution of 1905” that the economic and military reforms which had begun in 1906 were designed to ameliorate. Nevertheless, Russia’s industrial base and infrastructure were insufficient to bear the weight of a sustained global conflict.