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11-08-2015, 17:10


Russia's entry into the war placed unmanageable strains on this rickety system. Military catastrophe came within the first weeks of fighting, with one army annihilated and a second badly mauled at the Battle of Tannenberg (August 1914). Starting in May 1915, the sweeping German-led offensive at Gorlice-Tamow allowed the Central Powers to occupy the western portion of imperial Russia. Apart from the military debacle, the economic consequences were grave: Germany now held some of the most important of Russia's agricultural and industrial regions, and had captured much of the rolling stock of Russia's barely adequate prewar railroad system. A measure of the foolishness of Russia's military leadership was the policy of devastating and forcibly evacuating areas the Germans were about to occupy. This produced hundreds of thousands of refugees from these western regions who poured into the major cities of Moscow and Petrograd. Even government officials were appalled at the sight. "People were torn away from their homes with but a few hours in which to settle their affairs. Their stores of food and at times even their houses were burned before their very eyes," recorded one observer,