In 1917 the war continued to consume lives at an alarming rate. The United States finally entered the war, following Germany's unrestricted submarine campaign. Meanwhile, in Russia, the Bolsheviks had finally had enough of the Tsar, Nicholas II, and sparked the Russian Revolution. Events in the Middle East saw Britain issue support for an Israeli state. The British gained victory in Gaza and captured Jerusalem.
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- Strikes in Russia
Munition factories in Petrograd have gone on strike, as workers protest widespread food shortages and terrible Russian losses in the war. The government remains unstable: Alexander Trepov lasted only two months as prime minister, from November to January, before resigning after failing to get the Tsar to give more power to the Duma (the Russian parliament).
- US ships to be armed to meet sub threat
Today the US Congress voted to allow American ships to be fitted with weapons after Woodrow Wilson asked it to support his idea of "armed neutrality" against the threat of unrestricted German submarine warfare. Relations with Germany and Austria have been broken off since February 3, after Germany's declaration of its submarine policy. US ambassadors have been called home and the US Navy has siezed two interned German cruisers, as America fights to avoid entering the war.
- Tsar abdicates and Russia revolts
The Tsar has abdicated and a provisional government has been set up. The transition of power has been fairly peaceful, and the Tsar intends to bid farewell to his troops. Russian casualties in the war have been truly staggering, with over two million dying in 1915 alone. Starvation has haunted the population, leading to looting of bakeries. Strikes have proliferated, and protests have called for an end to the war, and have denounced Nicholas' German wife.
Cossacks sent in to restore order instead bantered with the crowds. Ordered again to crush the rebellion, they killed some 200, but then began to defect in large numbers. Nicholas suspended the Duma on March 12, a move largely ignored as a Soviet representing soldiers and workers joined them instead. The Winter Palace fell after a general commanding 1500 loyal troops was told to withdraw or face bombardment. The centre of power at the moment revolves around Alexander Kerensky, member of the Duma and socialist revolutionary. The Bolshevik leaders are mostly abroad or in hiding, and have had little impact so far.
- British victory at Gaza
The British have soundly defeated the demoralised Turks near Gaza after advancing from Sinai. The Turkish force numbered 20,000 troops under German command, and the British victory follows on from the recent news in Mesopotamia, where they captured Baghdad. The way is now clear for a British advance into Palestine.
- America enters the war
Woodrow Wilson today declared war, endorsing the Congress vote earlier in the week. The House of Representatives had passed the resolution 373-50, and the Senate by 90-6, following an intense 17-hour debate. The decision reverses the country's long tradition of neutrality in foreign wars. The US's powerful industry will now be put on a war footing.
- Lenin returns to Russia in sealed German train
In a strange arrangement with German high command, Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia today, and was met with general acclaim. He soon called for an end to the war, the provisional government, the police, the army, and bureaucracy. He plans to meet his allies Leon Trotsky and Josef Stalin soon.
- London is bombed by aircraft
For the first time ever, London has been bombed by a German aircraft. Previous attacks had been made by easily visible Zeppelin airships. About 15 aircraft were met by anti-aircraft fire from the ground, but over 100 people were killed and 400 injured in a 15-minute attack on the East End of the city.
- Lenin flees to Finland
The provisional government in Petrograd has crushed a Bolshevik uprising, but failed to capture their leader, Vladimir Lenin. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets demanding an end to the war and the overthrow of the government, but soldiers remained loyal after anti-Lenin propaganda leaflets were circulated. Leon Trotsky has surrendered to police.
- Battle of Passchendaele begins
The Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, has begun with a huge artillery bombardment which has turned the Flanders fields into a terrible quagmire which sucks men down into the treacherous mud. High above the mud, aeroplanes will also play a part, with many being lost in dogfights.German machine guns are hidden in concrete pillboxes impervious to shelling. Once again neither side makes major gains in territory.
- Germans rout Russians at Riga
The Germans have captured the Baltic port of Riga, putting them within 350 miles of the Russian capital, Petrograd. Russian troops are reported to have been demoralised by the abdication of the Tsar. A heavy artillery barrage was followed by an infantry attack and a Russian counter-atttack, which was in turn driven off.
- Germans gain victory in Italy
The Italian Second Army has been defeated by the Germans in mountains near Caporetto. The Germans used gas and artillery, and the Italians broke and ran, withdrawing to the Piave River near Venice. The Germans and Austrians are now pouring down from the mountains - many Italian troops have deserted; some 10,000 were killed and 30,000 wounded.
- Finland declares its independence from Russia
- Bolsheviks overthrow Kerensky government
The provisional government in Russia under recently-appointed prime minister Alexander Kerensky has fallen to
Bolshevik forces, bringing Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky to power. Armed revolutionaries occupied railway stations, post offices, telephone exchanges and banks, and the cruiseship Aurora, which was moored opposite the Winter Palace. One blank shell from Aurora, and two from another battery struck the Palace, forcing ministers meeting there to flee, and allowing revolutionary Red Guards to occupy the building. Life in the rest of the city remains largely unaffected. The Allies now fear Russia may withdraw from the war.
- Balfour declaration for Jewish homeland
Arthur Balfour, British foreign secretary and former PM, has declared his support for a Jewish state in Palestine, in the hope of getting Zionists to support the Allied war effort and a British protectorate in the area.
- Jerusalem surrenders to Britain
Jerusalem today surrendered to British Empire forces under General Edmund Allenby, leading to celebrations in London. Allenby's forces had surrounded Jerusalem, marking the end of an offensive against the Turks. Christian and Moslem holy sites are under guard, and martial law has been declared.
- Peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk
Russia's new Bolshevik government today opened peace talks with the central powers led by Germany
at Brest-Litovsk. While Lenin is keen to fulfil his promise of peace to the Russian people, his colleague Trotsky is less positive. The lack of morale in Russian troops, however, means that the war is almost certainly over for the great nation. The Allies fear this will lead to increased activity on the Western Front, as German troops are released from eastern duties.
20th Century Day by Day, Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, 2000