Courtesy Reuters

Transport in the Development of Soviet Policy

THE state of Russia's transport and communications has always been a test of her strength. In 1856 France and England would never have considered attacking the Crimea had Russia been able to reinforce armies on the Black Sea coast by rail from Moscow or St. Petersburg. According to General Kuropatkin, who commanded the Tsar's army in Manchuria in 1904-05, the Japanese would have been defeated had the Russians been able to speed up the arrival of reinforcements and supplies. While logistics certainly were not the only reason for Japan's victory, the fact remains that the Russians would have fought under much more favorable conditions if the single-track Trans-Siberian railroad had had a more solid roadbed, a few more looplines providing for greater train frequency and, last but not least, if communications had not depended upon ice conditions in Lake Baikal, which had to be crossed by ferry when the ice was not thick enough to support the rails and could not be crossed at all until enough ice had melted to make it navigable.[i]

The German archives and the testimony of imprisoned Nazis have given evidence that Hitler's initial war plan against Russia was based less on strategic considerations than on the expectation that the Soviet administration would be technically unable to prevent the country's disintegration under the impact of German military might and propaganda. The poor condition of the Soviet railroads, Berlin then thought, would make it impossible for the Red Army to manœuvre and to receive reinforcements and supplies.[ii] There is no other explanation for the German action in attacking in equal strength along a front extending from Finland to the Black Sea -- an operation unprecedented in the annals of military strategy.[iii]

Insufficient communications and transportation between the capital and the provinces account also for much of the former weakness of the Russian state's internal structure. The Tsarist Government's constant fear of revolutionary peasant movements or national uprisings in regions with non-Russian population were due largely to the

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