World History 1917 Part 2

About the history of the world in 1917, the Trans-Siberian railroad is completed, rationing in England and Germany, Charlie Chaplin get the first Hollywood contract.



* Crews drove the last spikes in the Trans-Siberian Railroad--5,973 mi. of track connecting St. Petersburg (now Leningrad) with the Russian Pacific seaport of Vladivostok. The brainchild of Russia's Minister of Finance, Commerce, and Industry Sergei Witte, the $172 million project began in 1891, largely to provide access to foreign markets for the country's growing mineralogical, metallurgical, and textile industries. The engineering problems facing the crews were enormous. Not only did they have to traverse the entire width of remote Siberia with its vast swampy forests, but also they had to negotiate Lake Baikal north of the Mongolian border. Before tracks circumvented the lake through the mountains and deserts of its southern shore, railroad cars had to be ferried across in icecutters. Mongolia, too, was an obstacle, because it was Chinese territory. This problem the diplomats ironed out with Chinese leaders, who granted Russia an easement across Mongolia to Vladivostok on track laid by the Chinese State Railway. As early as 1892, the farsighted Witte, a railroad engineer himself, had predicted the eventual impact of his pet project. "The Trans-Siberian Railroad," he wrote, "opens a new avenue and new horizons to world commerce; in this regard its construction takes its place in the rank of events of universal import that mark the beginnings of new eras in the history of peoples and that often lead to radical changes in the economic relationships established among states." Indeed, the railroad opened up the vast Siberian interior to industrial exploitation and triggered extensive colonization of the territory. Like the Americans who moved westward in the last century, Russian pioneers pulled up stakes in Moscow, Leningrad, and other cities and headed east to Siberia. The railroad linked East and West in Russia and, more than anything else, was responsible for the country's ability to emerge from revolution and civil war in one piece.

* Bread joined meat, sugar, and butter on the list of rationed food in Great Britain.

* In Germany, government food rations were cut to levels of 1,000 calories per person per day. Unable to subsist on the turnip-based diet, an estimated 750,000 Germans starved to death.

* Actor Charlie Chaplin, 28, signed Hollywood's first $1 million contract with the First National Exhibitors' Circuit to star in eight films.

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