World War I (1914–1919)

by: History SparkNotes

Russia Exits the War

The Fallout from Russia’s Exit

Russia’s departure from the war posed a serious danger to the Allied forces, for it effectively closed the eastern front and thus meant that the Allies would soon face some 900,000 additional German troops on the western front. In addition, the large quantities of Russian equipment that the Germans captured would also now be used on the Allies. The United States provided the only possible hope to counter this sudden turning of the tables, but U.S. forces were not expected to begin major combat operations until the summer of 1918. On the whole, one might argue that Russia’s pullout, rather than bring the world closer to peace, likely extended the conflict by enabling Germany and Austria-Hungary to focus their entire attention on the west and south.

For Russia itself, the exit from the war cost most of the territorial gains the country had made since the reign of Peter the Great in the early 1700s. Although the Bolsheviks pronounced themselves Russia’s new leaders, their practical control extended little beyond Petrograd and Moscow. The war had drained Russia: 1.7 million of its soldiers had died in battle, and 3 million Russian civilians had perished as well. Moreover, the country was left in chaos, as there were still large groups of people remaining in Russia who opposed the Bolsheviks’ rule. Some sought to bring back the tsar; others favored a democratic government akin to the one promised by the provisional government that the Bolsheviks had overthrown. In the end, though Russia got out of World War I, the civil war that soon started within the country turned out to be even more costly for its people than World War I had been.