Big Country, Not Enough Guns


When I first looked at this photo, all I saw was a family of Russians from Zlatoust, near the Ural Mountains. After reading the caption next to the picture and seeing the what this family’s job in the Russian society was, it became evident to me that that these three people were much more than just a family. Towns like Zlatoust , which made armaments for the Russian military, were imperative to the Imperial Russian society in the wary 20th Century.

The world of weapons was changing radically in the European world. The Germans recently released the Mauser in 1888 and the British released the Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle in 1889. Revolutionary weapons like the Lee-Enfield and the Mauser tremendously increased the firepower of nations such as Britain and Germany.Russia could not afford to fall behind the other world powers in the industrial race during the dawn of The Great War.

To combat their lack in firepower, Russian Captain, Sergei Mosin developed the Mosin Nagant bolt-action rifle. While not as accurate as the Mauser and the Lee-Enfeild, the Mosin Nagant was very cheap to manufacture and extremely durable in the field.

The family in the picture above comes into importance because there was an extreme lack of people who were skilled manufacturing workers. The land of Russia was tied in the hands of the aristocrats who were making plenty of money selling grain to western countries; therefore, keeping Russia an agrarian state. Ideas of industrialization were often proposed, but rarely were they put into action by the Czar or the wealthy aristocrats. Holding up industrialization had serious negative effects once The Great War started.

The lack of industrial action led to only a small amount of manufactured rifles for the soldiers on the front. Russian soldiers marched into battle with pitchforks to combat the Germans who were armed with the Mauser. Consequently, the Russian death rate was very high. The death of fathers, husbands, brothers, and cousins was frowned upon by the proletariat class of Russians which led to soldiers dropping their weapons to go home and join the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution.

If Imperial Russia would have more readily embraced industrialization and created more towns like Zlatoust, the leaders of Russia could have had better armed their soldiers and prevented communism from ever taking over the country.

Russian industrialisation


Firepower is a defining element in a country’s influence on the globe. How has this lack of firepower trickled into the current Russian military? Is there still a problem with this (to a lesser extent, of course)?

Jimmy Jewett

After reading several post, one theme seems to be appearing in most of them (including my own blog), and that is the effect Russia’s delayed movement into the Industrial Revolution had on the entire country and region in the first two decades of the 20th Century. Whether in the Russo-Japanese War or during the start of WWI, Russia constantly found its population to be the largest yet worst trained and least armed. This lead to them having some military success, but also sustaining the most amount of casualties of the parties involved. This set off another chain reaction, as a shrinking population once again hurt Russia’s chance at modernizing. Overall, Russia being late to the part led to several important events in recent history that have defined the country as it is today.


Keeping the military well equipped had been an issue in Russia since it was industrializing at a slower rate then the rest of Europe. It’s interesting to see how up until perhaps the Cold War, most nations domestically manufactured all weapons for their armies. As you mentioned, the Germans and British were manufacturing state of the art weapons for a changing battlefield, and Russia could absolutely not afford to be using out of date weapons on the eve of World War I. Innovation in weaponry would soon become a staple of Russian technology in the 20th century.


I definately agree that russia was lacking firepower in most every war. However if they had of had the proper firepower there would be know telling what they could have done with it. The US was lacking through the late 1800s in weaponry to a certain extent also. However with the ’03 springfield and the 1911 pistol they werent as far behind to catch up as the russians i suppose. Nice post.


It is beneficial that you added brief context for other weapons and compared them to technology of other nations at that time. Otherwise I would not have been able to judge the quality or usefulness of the Mosin Nagant.


While it’s impossible to tell if industrialization would have prevented the Bolsheviks from taking over, when they did they definitely embraced the industrial movement. The Mosin-Nagant rifle is like another iconic Russian rifle: the AK-47. Both are cheaply made and highly durable but lack the accuracy of their foreign counterparts. I follow Russian hockey, and my favorite team is Металлург Магнитогорск(Metallurg Magnitogorsk or the Magnitogorsk Steelers). Magnitogorsk is like the Russian version of Pittsburgh and the majority of Soviet tanks during WW2 were produced there. There is a statue of a Russian steel worker in the city commemorating their dedication.