Date of Award

Fall 1998

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Austin Jursild

Committee Member

Carl Boyd

Committee Member

Craig M. Cameron

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H47 R545


The Russian government entered the First World War unprepared for the strains that modern warfare would impose on its industrial resources. As a result, Russia turned to foreign suppliers, most significantly the United States, and made extensive purchases largely financed by British loans. These foreign supply efforts involved both the Tsarist government and representatives of the newly emerging civil elements in Russian society.

Central to the experience of Russian purchasing in the United States was the Russian Supply Commission in America. Established in October 1915 as a coordinating body, the Supply Commission was noteworthy in that it included representatives of not only various government agencies, but also the Union of Zemstvos and Towns and War Industries Committees, two of the major non-governmental organizations that filled quasigovernmental roles in the waning days of the Russian Empire.

Both the government bureaucrats and civil society were poorly prepared to deal with the difficulties of foreign purchasing. The nature of power in the autocratic state prevented the bureaucracy from creating a coordinated effort, while the non-governmental organs proved no more able to administer foreign orders than their government counterparts. The failure of the supply effort strongly supports the view that neither group could have successfully addressed the needs of a modern industrial society.


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