Emperor Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm II
Events of milestone significance - not only for Europe, but for the whole world. We will try to evaluate the results and consequences of these events by seeing the contribution of each of the Entente countries and the Allies of the Entente, which they made to the altar of the common Victory. Victories - for which Imperial Russia has done so much.
We are starting a series of articles devoted to key aspects of the Great War - first of all, the contribution of each of the Entente powers and the allies of the Entente to the common victory over the German bloc, and we will try to see if the Entente’s victory was also a victory of Russia as a state that made more than substantial a contribution to its achievement. And they called it "Entente Victory - the victory of Russia."
But let's start with the fundamental question: who is directly responsible for unleashing the First World War, who was the aggressor? Dates (for better synchronization with events in the West) - are given in the text of the article in a new style.
We wrote about the relationship between Russia and the Entente and the place of our state in this military-political bloc, about the goals and objectives of Russia in the First World War (see Entente did not forget about the contribution of Russia; A or G ?; Chantilly. Part. Xnumx; Chantilly. Part of 2; 8 Facts About Drang Nach Osten 1914 of the Year; For which the Russian soldier fought in the First World War)
Events related to the July crisis and the outbreak of the First World War were associated with the actions of two emperors - Nicholas II and William II. Earlier on Military Review, an article was published on the nature and specifics of the relationship between the monarchs of Russia and Germany. Interesting assessments of their personalities by contemporaries were also given. So, the German diplomat A. von Rex noted that, based on personal impressions, he considers Nicholas II a spiritually gifted person of a noble way of thinking, tactful and prudent; moreover, modesty and a small manifestation of external determination made it possible to conclude that he allegedly lacked a strong will - while he had a very definite will, which he calmly carried out firmly. The British diplomat J. Buchanan described the Russian Sovereign as a frank, intelligent and very attentive person, requiring directness from the interlocutor and answering the same. And the French president, E. F. Loubet, characterized the Russian emperor as an intelligent, insightful and devoted leader to his ideas. The Frenchman noted that the Russian emperor had predetermined plans, which he gradually implemented; and under visible timidity, the king possessed a courageous and faithful heart, as well as a strong soul, and knew what he wanted and where he was going.
The opposite was the German Kaiser Wilhelm II - a man of posture, external surroundings and a big word, a collector of uniforms and ranks. Reich Chancellor O. von Bismarck noted for William craving for splendor, court ceremonial and sensitivity to flattery. By the way, the court of the Russian emperor after the revolutionary events that followed the Russo-Japanese War lost its former meaning, and the family of Nicholas II began to live in isolation, and even the magnificent balls that the Winter Palace was once famous for, retreated to the past. Another Reich Chancellor, von Bülow, wrote that William loved cheap fame and was vain. Kaiser was rude and ill-bred - again, being in this sense the complete opposite of Nicholas II. It is worth noting that William II was confident that the monarch could conduct his own, personal, politics - without consulting the government and diplomats, and neglecting the established procedures.
The differences between Nicholas II and William II in approaches to world politics were also significant.
If the Russian emperor was almost the only European and world leader who strove (not in words but in action) to prevent a great military conflict, then the Kaiser strove for such a war with all his heart - as an opportunity to reconsider the question of the situation of Germany in Europe and the world. Nicholas II was the initiator of the convening of a peace conference in The Hague - designed not only to prevent an impending war, but also to minimize military conflicts on Earth as a whole. The Hague Peace Conferences were prepared and opened only thanks to his perseverance. Moreover, the Russian emperor took this important step long before the start of the Great War. As far back as 1898, he turned to the governments of European countries with a proposal to sign agreements on maintaining global peace and limiting the growth of armaments. The Hague Peace Conferences took place in 1899 and 1907.
The Russian emperor was faithful to the principles of compliance with international law after the outbreak of war. The document, published in Niva and placed just below, is an illustration of these words.
At the same time, Wilhelm was only worried about saving face - he did not want to be accused of inciting a world war, successfully masking his true motives behind the guise of a “peacemaker”.
The French historian of the era of J. de Lapradel noted that the world was struck by the fact that the head of a great power, the powerful monarch Nicholas II, was a champion of peace and disarmament - and thanks to his perseverance, the Hague Conference was prepared and opened. At the same time, Wilhelm II wrote on the report of O. von Bülow about the outcome of the Hague Conference that he agreed "to this stupidity" only so as not to "disgrace himself before Europe." But in practice, as the German emperor wrote, he will rely only on his sword.
The Russian Empire did not provoke other countries to unleash the Great War. The rearmament program of the Russian army was to be completed only by 1917, therefore, in 1914, Russia was in no way ready for military operations. In accordance with this program, the army of peacetime increased to 1 million 700 thousand people, and in artillery terms Russia was compared with Germany and even superior to the latter (with more battalions, the Russian corps surpassed the German one and in the number of artillery barrels instead of the ratio of 108 to 160 turned 200 to 160). To win a victory over such a Russian army became even more problematic - and this circumstance became an important factor in the outbreak of war by the German bloc precisely in 1914.
By the way, the differences between the monarchs manifested themselves in a critical situation - the situation of the beginning of revolutions in their states. And on the issue of responsibility for what was happening, their approach was diametrically opposed. Nicholas II an alternative to fill the country with blood, taking on his conscience the massacres, preferred otherwise. He recalled the troops called up from the front and sent to Petrograd (unconditionally loyal to the emperor at that time), sending a telegram to the Chairman of the State Duma saying that there was no sacrifice he would not bring for Russia. And - he sacrificed personal power, allowing the people to determine their own destiny. Wilhelm II, learning about the revolutionary events in Berlin, said that he would gather troops and "smash the city to smithereens." When the army refused to obey, the Kaiser called the German people “a herd of pigs” and, leaving his spouse, rushed off to the Dutch border (again, comparable to the behavior of Nicholas II).
Corresponding was the behavior of the monarchs at the time of the crisis preceding the outbreak of the First World War.
As you know, on 28 on June 1914, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife in Sarajevo were killed by Serbian terrorists. The reaction to this event was restrained. But events developed - and on the 23 of July, Austria-Hungary presents an ultimatum to Serbia. Despite the difficult conditions of the latter, Serbia agreed with all its requirements except one - the admission of Austrian officials and investigators to its territory. And on the 26 of July, Austria-Hungary begins the mobilization and concentration of its troops on the borders of Russia and Serbia. On July 28, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia and invades the territory of the latter.
What does Nicholas II do? Understanding perfectly that the Austrians would not have risked the above actions without the direct support of the senior partner of the Triple Alliance - Germany - sends a telegram to William II with a proposal: to refer the Austro-Serbian issue to the international arbitration court in The Hague.
Here it is.
We see that Nicholas II did everything to prevent conflict. Here it is - a way out of this situation, a way to localize and freeze the conflict that has flared up, to prevent it from spreading across Europe.
However, William II left the peace proposal unanswered.
He answered as follows (see below), ignoring the proposal to consider the conflict in the international arbitration court and shifting responsibility to the partner. Germany and Austria-Hungary, longing for a border revision, needed a war.
But even in the field of discussion proposed by William, the Russian emperor tried to prevent a slide into armed conflict (see document below).
Unprotected by the threat of the Austrian forces concentrated in Galicia, Russia also announces the mobilization on July 31.
And then Wilhelm presents Russia with an ultimatum: stop mobilization. Demanding that Russia cease mobilization, Germany starts its own on the same day.
Gesture master William II is trying to shift the responsibility for a possible conflict to the opponent - by informing Nicholas II about this. Moreover, this document was received by Russia after Germany declared war on it (see below).
And finally, after the German ultimatum is rejected, on the 1 of August Germany declares war on Russia. Russia declares war on Germany in response - the next day.
Now let's see what aggression is. According to the provisions of the III Hague Convention 1907, the state of war must be preceded by a warning about this - in the form of a reasonable declaration of war or an ultimatum with a conditional declaration of war. UN General Assembly Resolution No. 3314 of 14. 12. 1974 G. defines the following actions as acts of aggression:
the invasion of the armed forces of the aggressor into the territory of another state, the annexation or occupation (even temporary) of this territory;
application weapons (e.g. bombing) against the territory of another state;
blockade of the coast or ports of another state;
a blow to the armed forces of another state;
the use of armed forces located in the territory of another state on the basis of an agreement with the latter, in violation of the terms of such an agreement, as well as their stay in such territory after the expiration of the agreement;
provision of territory for aggression by the 3 state against another state;
sending gangs, mercenaries, etc. on behalf of the aggressor state; these groups must carry out acts of armed struggle against another state, comparable in seriousness to the previous paragraphs.
It was Germany that prompted Austria-Hungary to invade Serbia, knowing full well what this conflict could escalate into. Germany and Austria-Hungary began fighting in Europe, declaring war on Russia and France. Finally, they violated international treaties by invading Luxembourg and Belgium and thereby drawing Britain into conflict.
Speaking about the aggression of the German bloc, we want to draw the reader's attention to the following crucial fact. The fact is that already on the night of August 1 (that is, BEFORE Germany declared the war of Russia), German troops attacked and without a fight captured the cities of Bendin and Kalisz. That is, they committed a clear act of aggression against the territory of the Russian Empire - chronologically preceding the declaration of war. On August 2, the Germans bombarded Libau and capture the defenseless Czestochowa.
Here is the chronology of these events, as recorded in the Annals of the 1914 War of the year. Vol. 1. C. 24. (dates - in the old style).
We emphasize this fact, because at that time the Russian troops did not take any active action and did not cross the border - the cavalry commanders closest to this line were "informed that there is no war, but you must be extremely careful, because the Germans can attack without declaring war" . Already on the 30 of July on the line of Volkovishki, Kalvariya, Suvalki, 20 - 30 km from the border of East Prussia there were 7 Russian cavalry regiments with 24 guns and 16 machine guns, but orders were received in the units early in the morning of the 31 July that forbid receiving special telegram the opening of hostilities. General Khan Nakhichevan gave order No. 1 to the army cavalry of the Vilnius Army, which indicated that even individual shots on the border from the Germans were not considered a declaration of war, and only the transfer of armed units was considered the opening of hostilities.
Only at 18 hours of 2 on August, that is, after Russia’s return declaration of war on Germany, the decision is made to move the cavalry of the North-Western Front to the German border (Rogvold V. The cavalry of the 1 Army in East Prussia. 1926. C. 20.).
As you know, Germany intended to defeat France before the "slow" Russia could mobilize and push its army to the borders. The essence of the plan for a blitzkrieg was summarized by Kaiser Wilhelm II in the following sentence: "We will have lunch in Paris and dinner in St. Petersburg."
However, starting military operations unexpectedly quickly, without completing general mobilization, Emperor Nicholas II upset the far-reaching plans of the leadership of the German bloc. He did not allow to defeat France, which was weak at that time, and only then send all his forces to Russia, and forced the Kaiser to wage war on two fronts - which ultimately predetermined the whole further course and outcome of the First World War.
Emperor of Russia Nicholas II