Page 3763

3763 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.

familiar by the German operations against

Verdun and by Allied efforts along the

Somme. More will be said of this battle

in later pages.

Meanwhile, considerable fighting had

taken place on the Balkan Front, and the

Italians launched a new drive against

Trieste. In the second half of May, the

Italians, aided by some British artillery,

made considerable progress, but their

offensive then slowed down. Owing to

Russian demoralization, the Austrians were

able to transfer many troops and guns

from the Eastern Front to fight against the

Italians. Thus Russia's faltering was imperiling Allied success everywhere, and

her weakness made American aid more

than ever imperative.

Meanwhile, great events had transpired

in Russia. Back in February, 1916, Boris

Sturmer, a man of German ancestry, had

become Prime Minister. He was a strong

reactionary, and the people also began

to doubt whether he was earnest in efforts

to win the war. German influences had

long been strong in western Russia, the

Czarina herself was a German princess,

and in devious, treacherous ways Germany

was constantly trying to hamper Russian

war efforts, to detach Russia from the

Entente, and to bring about a separate

peace. In the Seven Years' War Frederick

the Great had been saved from destruction

by a sudden change of Russian rulers

and Russian foreign policy, and his

descendant, Wilhelm, searching eagerly to

save his dynasty, no doubt thought often

of creating a similar loophole for himself.

Czar Nicholas wished to keep faith with

his allies, but he was not a strong man

and could not escape the influence of the

reactionaries and the corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy. A mysterious monk

named Rasputin exercised a malign influence over the Czar and Czarina, and

ultimately Rasputin was assassinated, in

January, 1917, by a number of young

noblemen.

The army, many of the people, and a

majority of the Duma wished to continue

the war, as did also the All-Russian

Zemstvo Union and various other popular

bodies that were assisting in the work

of equipping and supplying the army.

Stiirmer and his associates showed themselves not only strongly reactionary, but

they were blamed for having failed to

furnish sufficient aid to Roumania, and

it was thought that they were endeavoring

to bring about a separate peace that would

leave Russia's allies in the lurch. In the

middle of November, 1916, the Stiirmer

ministry was bitterly attacked in the Duma,

the most effective speech being made by

Paul Miliukoff, leader of the Constitutional Democrats. Miliukoff, a man of

wide learning and much force, denounced

Stiirmer for pro-Germanism. Part of the

ministry sided with the Duma, and

Stiirmer was forced to resign. A more

popular Prime Minister, in the person of

Alexander Feodorovitch Trepoff, assumed

power, but conservative influences soon

triumphed again, and Prince Golitzin succeeded Trepoff.

Russia continued officially to announce

her determination to continue the war,

but "dark forces" were at work, patriots

feared German intrigues, and there was

general indignation at the incompetence

of the bureaucracy in managing the war

and in distributing the food supply.

During the first half of March, little

news came out of Russia, but the situation

there gave great uneasiness in Allied

capitals. Then the world was suddenly

stunned with the news that a revolution

had taken place, that there had been a

conflict between the autocracy and the

Duma, that the soldiers and people had

sided with the Duma, that many reactionaries and pro-Germans had been killed

or imprisoned, that the Czar himself had

been forced to abdicate, that he had

designated as his successor the Grand

Duke Michael. Soon it was announced that

Duke Michael had stated that he would

accept the throne only in case the people

voted that he should be crowned. Ultimately, the question of the form of government was left open for future decision.

Management of the Government was

undertaken by a Committee of Safety

which proceeded to form a Provisional