The three great empires which dominated eastern Europe and its hinterlands in 1914 were brutally exposed by the realities of modern industrial warfare; each had been overthrown or dismembered by the war’s end. At the outset, Imperial Russia seemed better placed than its rivals; on paper its armed forces were impressive, but the leadership was still quasi-feudal with a Grand Duke in command and no professional officer class. Problems were compounded by a stunted civilian arm of government. War ministers were changed regularly and, though in nominal charge of provisioning and equipping the army, had little real power to improve the moribund industrial production and transport links which starved the military of supplies. The longest front of any combatant, from the Baltic to the Caucasus, exacerbated these inadequacies. In September 1915, Tsar Nicholas took personal command of the army in response to the loss of Poland and Lithuania.
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