Russia has fallen halfway and started to change its appearance. We saw a ghost instead of our former ally - a ghost very different to anything that had ever existed before. We saw a state without a nation, an army without a country, a religion without a god. The government that's calling itself the new Russia has been born out of the Revolution and feasts on Terror. It backtracked on all commitments that had been made before.
The Central Executive Committee are crocodiles with extraordinary minds. They have a firm policy: "down with the war", "down with private property", "bust all inner opposition." They want to strike an immediate peace treaty with the external enemy and start a merciless war on landlords, capitalists, and reactionists. All the terms have very broad definitions. Quite poor people, who had small savings or owned a house, were considered to be bourgeoisie. Left-wing Socialist Revolutionaries were labeled reactionists. While he waited for more detailed accords, Lenin called the masses to "rob what was robbed." Peasants were encouraged to kill landlords and take their belongings.
At the beginning of the war, France and Britain had counted heavily upon Russia. Certainly, the Russian effort had been enormous. Nothing had been stinted; everything had been risked. The forward mobilisation of the Imperial Armies and their headlong onslaught upon Germany and Austria may be held to have played an indispensable part in saving France from destruction in the first two months of the war. Thereafter in spite of disasters and slaughters on an unimaginable scale Russia had remained a faithful and mighty ally. For nearly three years she had held on her fronts considerably more than half of the total number of enemy divisions, and she had lost in this struggle nearly as many men killed as all the other allies put together. The victory of Brusilov in 1916 had been of important service to France and still more to Italy; and even as late as the summer of 1917, after the fall of the Czar, the Kerensky Government was still attempting offensives in aid of the common cause. The endurance of Russia as a prime factor, until the United States had entered the war, ranked second only to the defeat of the German submarines as a final turning-point of the struggle.
Gone for ever was the Empire of Peter the Great, and the long-dreamed-of liberal Russia, and the Duma, and the already summoned Constituent Assembly. Cast into outer darkness with the Czarist Ministers were the Liberal and Radical politicians and reformers. See more
Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, many smaller groups of Socialists; all, especially the most extreme, those nearest in opinion to the Bolsheviks, were marked for destruction. The doctrinal left flank had been turned, and every gradation of political opinion known to men crumpled up almost simultaneously.
The Provisional Government issued manifestoes in favour of a liberal policy and loyalty to the Allies. So far as words and votes would serve, nothing was left undone. Meanwhile the German hammer broke down the front and Lenin blew up the rear.
Who shall judge these harassed champions of Russian freedom and democracy? Were they not set tasks beyond the compass of mortal men? Could any men or any measures have made head at once against the double assault? Politicians and writers in successful nations should not too readily assume their superiority to beings subjected to such pressures. Caesar, Cromwell, Napoleon, might have been smothered here like Captain Webb in the rapids of Niagara. All broke, all collapsed, all liquefied in universal babble and approaching cannonade, and out of the anarchy emerged the one coherent, frightful entity and fact—the Bolshevik punch.
Lenin and his confederates did not contemplate at the outset a separate peace. They hoped to procure under the lead of Russia and under the impact of the Russian desertion a general cessation of hostilities, and to confront every government, Allied and enemy alike, with revolt in their cities and mutiny in their armies. Many tears and guttural purrings were employed in inditing the decree of peace. See more
An elevated humanitarianism, a horror of violence, a weariness of carnage breathed in their appeal—for instance, the following:— ‘…Labouring peoples of all countries, we are stretching out in brotherly fashion our hands to you over the mountains of corpses of our brothers. Across rivers of innocent blood and tears, over the smoking ruins of cities and villages, over the wreckage of treasures of culture, we appeal to you for the re-establishment and strengthening of international unity.’ But the Petrograd wireless stirred the ether in vain. The Crocodiles listened attentively for the response, but there was only silence. Meanwhile, the new régime was sapiently employed in securing intimate and effectual control of the Czarist police and secret police.
By the end of a fortnight, the Bolsheviks abandoned the plan of ‘peace over the heads of the government with the nations revolting against them.’ On November 20, the Russian High Command was ordered to ‘propose to the enemy military authorities immediately to cease hostilities and enter into negotiations for peace,’ and on November 22 Trotsky served the Allied Ambassadors in Petrograd with a note proposing an ‘immediate armistice on all fronts and the immediate opening of peace negotiations.’ Neither the Ambassadors nor their governments attempted any reply. The Russian Commander-in-Chief, the aged General Dukhonin, refused to enter into communication with the enemy. He was instantly superseded at the head of the Russian armies by a subaltern officer, Ensign Krilenko, who delivered the arrested general to be torn to pieces by a mutinous mob. The request for an armistice was then made to the Central Powers. These Powers also remained for a time plunged in silence. The promise of ‘an immediate peace’ had however to be made good at all costs by the Bolshevik Government, and orders were issued to the army at the front for ‘compulsory fraternisation and peace with the Germans by squads and companies.’ All military resistance to the conqueror thenceforward became impossible. On November 28 the Central Powers announced that they were ready to consider armistice proposals. On December 2 firing ceased on the long Russian fronts and the vast effort of the Russian peoples sank at last into silence and shame.
We ought to endeavour to gain and keep the control of the war to which our strength entitles us, using that strength to sustain our Allies without allowing them to lose their self-reliance. We should be careful not to dissipate our strength or melt it down to the average level of exhausted nations. See more
It will be better used with design by us than weakly dispersed. Resolute to expend everything for the common cause, we ought not to shrink from being taskmasters. I deprecate most strongly our making any general agreement in regard to Munitions and raw materials similar to that which has been made about food. On the contrary, I would continue to make ad hoc allocations when particular emergencies are shown, always exacting where possible some other services or accommodation in return. There must at any rate be one strong power to face Germany in 1918. To strike an average in these matters, to bind oneself in advance to some system of ‘share and share alike,’ and thus to deprive ourselves of all our power of giving when the need arises, maybe logic—it may even be equity—but it is not the way to win the war.
The Council of Soldiers and Workmen’s deputies at Petrograd so prominent in the revolution, the parent and exemplar of all the soviets which were sprouting throughout Russia, maintained a separate existence and policy. It appealed to the world in favour of peace without annexations or indemnities; it developed its own strength and connections and debated and harangued on first principles almost continuously. From the outset a divergence of aim was apparent between this body and the Provisional Government. The object of the Petrograd Council was to undermine all authority and discipline; the object of the Provisional Government was to preserve both in new and agreeable forms. On a deadlock being reached between the rivals, Kerensky, a moderate member of the Council, sided with the Provisional Government and became Minister of Justice. Meanwhile the extremists lay in the midst of the Petrograd Council, but did not at first dominate it. All this was in accordance with the regular and conventional Communist plan of fostering all disruptive movements, especially of the Left.
The Provisional Ministers strutted about the Offices and Palaces and discharged in an atmosphere of flowery sentiments their administrative duties. These were serious. All authority had been shaken from its foundation; the armies melted rapidly to the rear; the railway carriages were crowded to the roofs and upon the roofs with mutinous soldiers seeking fresh centres of revolt and with deserters trying to get home. The soldiers’ and sailors’ Councils argued interminably over every order. See more
The whole vast country was in confusion and agitation. The processes of supply, whether for the armies or for the cities, were increasingly disjointed. Nothing functioned effectively and everything, whether munitions or food, was either lacking or scarce. Meanwhile the Germans, and farther south the Austrians and the Turks, were battering upon the creaking and quivering fronts by every known resource of scientific war. The statesmen of the Allied nations affected to believe that all was for the best and that the Russian revolution constituted a notable advantage for the common cause.
It is the shallow fashion of these times to dismiss the Czarist régime as a purblind, corrupt, incompetent tyranny. But a survey of its thirty months’ war with Germany and Austria should correct these loose impressions and expose the dominant facts. We may measure the strength of the Russian Empire by the battering it had endured, by the disasters it had survived, by the inexhaustible forces it had developed, and by the recovery it had made. See more
In the Government of States, when great events are afoot, the leader of the nation, whoever he be, is held accountable for failure and vindicated by success. No matter who wrought the toil, who planned the struggle, to the supreme responsible authority belongs the blame or credit for the result. Why should this stern test be denied to Nicholas II? He had made many mistakes, what ruler had not? He was neither a great captain nor a great prince. He was only a true, simple man of average ability, of merciful disposition, upheld in all his daily life by his faith in God. But the brunt of supreme decisions centred upon him. At the summit where all problems are reduced to Yea or Nay, where events transcend the faculties of men and where all is inscrutable, he had to give the answers.
His was the function of the compass-needle. War or no war? Advance or retreat? Right or left? Democratize or hold firm? Quit or persevere? These were the battle-fields of Nicholas II. Why should he reap no honour from them? The devoted onset of the Russian armies which saved Paris in 1914; the mastered agony of the munition-less retreat; the slowly regathered forces; the victories of Brusilov; the Russian entry upon the campaign of 1917, unconquered, stronger than ever; has he no share in these? In spite of errors vast and terrible, the régime he personified, over which he presided, to which his personal character gave the vital spark, had at this moment won the war for Russia. He is about to be struck down. A dark hand, gloved at first in folly, now intervenes. Exit Czar. Deliver him and all he loved to wounds and death. Belittle his efforts, asperse his conduct, insult his memory; but pause then to tell us who else was found capable. Who or what could guide the Russian State? Men gifted and daring; men ambitious and fierce; spirits audacious and commanding—of these there was no lack. But none could answer the few plain questions on which the life and fame of Russia turned. With victory in her grasp she fell upon the earth, devoured alive, like Herod of old, by worms. But not in vain her valiant deeds. The giant mortally stricken had just time, with dying strength, to pass the torch eastward across the ocean to a new Titan long sunk in doubt who now arose and began ponderously to arm. The Russian Empire fell on March 16; on April 6 the United States entered the war.
Surely to no nation has Fate been more malignant than to Russia. Her ship went down in sight of port. She had actually weathered the storm when all was cast away. Every sacrifice had been made; the toil was achieved. Despair and Treachery usurped command at the very moment when the task was done. The long retreats were ended; the munition famine was broken; arms were pouring in; stronger, larger, better equipped armies guarded the immense front; the depots overflowed with sturdy men. Alexeieff directed the Army and Koltchak the Fleet. Moreover, no difficult action was now required: to remain in presence: to lean with heavy weight upon the far-stretched Teutonic line: to hold without exceptional activity the weakened hostile forces on her front: in a word, to endure—that was all that stood between Russia and the fruits of general victory.
The Czar had abdicated on March 15, 1917. The Provisional Government of Liberal and Radical statesmen was almost immediately recognised by the principal Allied Powers. The Czar placed under arrest; the independence of Poland was acknowledged; and a proclamation issued to the Allies in favour of the self-determination of peoples and a durable peace. The discipline of the fleets and armies was destroyed by the notorious Order which abolished alike the saluting of officers and the death penalty for military offences.
There are only two ways of winning the war, and they both begin with A. One is aeroplanes and the other is America.… Everything else is swept away.
[Churchill’s testimony to the Dardanelles Commission]
It will always be incredible to future ages that every man in this country did not rally to an enterprise which carried with it such immense possibilities, and which required such limited resources to carry it into effect. It will always be incredible that for the sake of a dozen old ships and half a dozen extra divisions, more or less, and a few hundred thousand rounds of high explosive shells, we failed to gain a prize specially adapted to our Oriental interests and our amphibious power, and which, by cutting Turkey out of the War, and uniting in one federation the States of the Balkan Peninsula, would have brought us within measurable distance of lasting success…. Your Commission may condemn the men who tried to force the Dardanelles, but your children will keep their condemnation for all who did not rally to their aid.