On the eve of the 100 anniversary of the First World War, we have to state with regret that the memory of this most important event for our country occupies an undeservedly modest place in the Russian historical consciousness. What is the reason?
Of course, the role was played by the fact that the First World War was eclipsed by two revolutions in Russia and the Great Patriotic War, the Great Victory of May 1945, obtained by unprecedented in the history of national superpower. However, in terms of the degree of influence on the further course of Russian and world history, the events of the 1914 – 1918 years are of tremendous importance, predetermining the future World War II.
But the main reason for the undeserved oblivion of the First World War in the national consciousness is that it was subjected to distorted ideologized interpretations in Soviet times.
If you look at school and college history textbooks starting from the 1920s, in them this war is characterized as “imperialistic”, “unfair” and “unnecessary to the people”.
The reason is obvious. In line with the revolutionary historical “school of Pokrovsky” and the Institute of Red Professors, which laid down a class approach to history, everything that existed before the revolution was declared an archaic struggle for false and hostile “working people” interests. And most importantly, it was necessary to justify Lenin’s slogan: “The defeat of one’s own government in the war” is a catalyst for the world proletarian revolution. This morally questionable thesis could only be justified by declaring the First World War a "criminal imperialist slaughter."
It is not surprising that, after decades of ideological processing, the memory of World War I was largely erased in Russian historical consciousness. We barely remember and do not honor the heroes who fell in battles for the honor and dignity of the Fatherland. Unless Aleksei Brusilov is occasionally mentioned, and even then, thanks to his transition to the side of the Bolsheviks. We have almost no monuments related to the events of 1914 – 1918. Rare exceptions - a stele erected in 2008 in Tsarskoe Selo near St. Petersburg and a memorial stone in the Kaliningrad region on the miraculously preserved mass graves of the participants of fierce battles for their history.
Today, in connection with the upcoming centenary of the First World War, there was a reason to learn to consider this “second Patriotic” panoramic, while maintaining ownership and not varnishing anything. It is necessary to carefully restore the memory of those events, subjecting revisions to ideologically motivated assessments. And for this, first of all we have to dispel the most stable and destructive myths that make it difficult to appreciate the feat of our ancestors and realize the true meaning of 1914 – 1918 events for the history of Russia.
But what myths are we talking about?
Myth number 1. Russia should not have got involved in this war
Some of the dowry "history experts" like to replicate the thesis: "Russia's participation in the First World War is a folly and a tragic mistake that could have been avoided." Or: "We should not have interfered in this massacre in order to save Serbia." What can you say? Do not get rid of the impression that such assessments are a mixture of naivety and self-confident desire to put forward the antithesis of the dominant point of view.
Being one of the most active participants in the “European Concert of the Powers”, Russia could not stay away from events of such magnitude that unfolded right at its borders and in the region of its responsibility and security - in the Balkans and in the Straits (Bosporus and Dardanelles. - Ed. .). And the matter is not at all in the "imperialistic" desire to get new sales markets and the idea attributed falsely to Russia to seize Constantinople. Russia had its own, not yet mastered domestic market, which promised to become European in scale, and therefore was not able to withstand intense economic rivalry with other states.
And our country had no territorial claims at all. The specific goal of mastering Constantinople was never set. Yes, there was a dream - to set up an Orthodox cross on St. Sophia! (Looking at how the Turks today do not hesitate to celebrate the enslavement of Constantinople with a salute, you unwittingly dream about it ...) But geopolitically it would be necessary only so that the Straits could not be cut off. At the same time, Russia has always realized that mastering Constantinople is almost impossible and would cause such a unanimous rejection of the leading Western European powers, especially England, which no fabulous military power could have overcome.
There is only a note from diplomat Alexander Nelidov to the sovereign of 1896, where he reflects on the chance and possibility of taking Constantinople. This note was “sucked away” by the accusers of the “aggressive policy of tsarism” from the Institute of the Red Professorship. However, the fact is that at the ministerial meeting it caused a purely negative reaction! The sovereign himself left a remark: “IF that would have been possible!” At the meeting, they discussed the danger for Russia of the crisis in Ottoman Turkey, which would immediately cause entry to the Bosphorus of the fleets of Western European powers. The task was set in such a development of events to at least have time with everyone, so as not to be ousted!
According to documents, and not speculation, the question of Constantinople again began to be considered already during the war. In the year 1915, when between England and France, the question arose of dividing the Arabian possessions of Turkey and protecting the Orthodox in the former Turkish territories, England, by the way, had already gained control of oil-bearing Mosul and Kuwait. So, the concern for “democracy in Iraq” has very old and very mercantile motives! Russia then began to probe the possibility of a strong and responsible presence in Constantinople. But the achievable configuration was seen not sole, again, but by international control, “but with Russian cannons on the Bosphorus”. By the way, some historians believe that after agreeing on such an option, England begins to finance the revolution in Russia in order not to fulfill its promise ...
Strategic aspirations to the beginning of the 20th century converged on the European maritime borders of Russia in Eastern and Southeastern Europe and survived until the beginning of the 21st century.
The interests of the formed triangle of Britain, Russia and Germany collided in the Balkans, in the Straits region, as well as in the Baltic, where Germany was attracted by its ambitions in the East and where the interests of Britain and the United States immediately manifested themselves after the First World War.
The inevitability of Russia's involvement in World War I was determined by the critical need to protect the results of its centuries-old history! She was threatened by the loss of the results of three hundred years of work on the north-western and southern borders, strategic exits to the Baltic and Black Seas, and the loss of the right of passage through the straits. It was not for nothing that the outstanding Russian diplomat Alexander Gorchakov once said that the Black Sea straits are light powers, blocking which Russia is easy to suffocate.
The central powers, led by Kaiser Germany, simultaneously sought to "Drang nach Osten" and "nah Süden" - dreaming of a withdrawal to the warm Mediterranean Sea through the Balkans and about ousting Russia from the Baltic and from the Straits region. The success of such a plan would allow the Germans to cut Europe along the strategic meridian from sea to sea, throwing Russia into the tundra, and the French into the Atlantic. Kaiser Wilhelm strenuously built the fleet and railway Berlin-Baghdad, which threatened to devalue the sea routes of England to the oil regions of the Middle East.
Of course, Russia could not be indifferent to observe these events, for such a prospect would mean the end of the status of a great power and the subsequent loss of independence. As for the support of Montenegrin Serbia, we could not abandon it to the mercy of fate, not only for religious, but also for strategic reasons. In the event of its capture, we would have to meet the war that we started not in more unfavorable conditions - the seizure of the Balkans would create a strategic bridgehead, and the Kaiser would create a "Berlin Caliphate", becoming the gatekeeper of the Straits instead of the Turkish Sultan. And do not forget that Germany declared war on Russia, and not vice versa!
Myth number 2. Russia's actions were due only to geopolitics.
However, the movement to the First World War had, besides purely geopolitical goals, ideological motives. A huge number of communist, social democratic, masonic, liberal organizations did not think about national interests, but dreamed of the collapse of political systems and traditions in order to lead the world to a single model on the ruins of the old world. Representatives of these “progressive” circles were distinguished by fierce enmity towards the church, Christianity, traditional values, monarchy, and state sovereignty — all that they considered attributes of a “dark past.”
Moreover, such ideas were equally characteristic of not only the Bolsheviks with their project of the proletarian International. Countless secret societies directly hoped that the bloody clashes would turn Europe into a “clean board” on which, after the collapse of Christian monarchies, it would be possible to draw new ideological postulates of the future world.
Of course, Russia also could not stay away from these processes. As an Orthodox monarchy, it defended the ideals of traditional Europe during the First World War - classical international law, national sovereignty, religious and family values.
Even the formation of a Franco-Russian alliance for Russia — the bastion of Christian statehood — was hampered by the republican status of “godless” France, which had to be made “allied” in the eyes of Russia! For the sake of rapprochement between Paris and St. Petersburg, the Vatican had to work hard, for which the appearance of the Russian-French alliance was a desirable scenario. From his presentation, the cardinals began to sing toasts of the French Republic, which, by the way, plunged many orthodox Catholics into shock.
Russia did not seek war, that is a fact. At the root of the idea of disarmament, international peacekeeping efforts and arbitration stood the Russian emperor Nicholas II, driven by a deep awareness of the coming era, when war became not a continuation of politics by other means, but the greatest global calamity, the death of millions of people, which made senseless even the victory. And unlike US President Woodrow Wilson, who, with his Program of XIV points, concealed the task of dictating his conditions through international mechanisms from the standpoint of his tremendously increased strength, there was nothing like this in the consciousness of a noble sovereign.
Thus, Russia in the First World War fought for its borders, for their security, for their already-found outlets to the sea, for sovereignty, faith and the fate of Christians.
Myth number 3. Russia should not take the side of the Entente, but Germany
Another popular myth is that in the First World War, Nicholas II allegedly chose an ally incorrectly, which ultimately led to the 1917 national tragedy of the year. Russia should have fought on the side of Germany, not the Entente! Some in their fantasies believe that Russia was ready for a separate peace with Germany during the war ... Of course, today it remains only to lament that Russian-German relations in the twentieth century were blown up by two terrible German campaigns to the East. After all, between Russia and Germany over the centuries there has been fruitful cooperation. It is not for nothing that the Germanic culture still maintains a steady, albeit small, Slavophil current.
But speculation can not withstand any criticism. It is impossible to ignore the fact that the main geopolitical ambitions of Germany lay precisely in the East. Yes, the legendary Otto von Bismarck bequeathed in no way with Russia to fight. His words are known: "In the East, we have no enemies." But for some reason, the German militarist circles, these chicks of the Bismarck nest, only looked to the East, forgetting about the wise warnings of the “Iron Chancellor”.
Already twenty years before the First World War, in a secret note by a prominent diplomat, future Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow, it is written: “In a future war, we must push Russia away from Pont Yevksinsky and the Baltic Sea. From the two seas that gave her the position of a great power. We must at least 30 years to destroy its economic position, bombed its coast. "
What does this mean? The war with Russia was considered inevitable in Berlin in the nineties of the XIX century!
Famous views of Kaiser Wilhelm, who hated the Slavs, speeches in the Bundestag, geopolitical doctrine of Friedrich Naumann, testifying to the territorial ambitions of Kaiser Germany in eastern Europe and in relation to the Russian Empire. There is a map of the Pangermanists 1911 of the year (by the way, it is very similar to the NATO expansion map to the East), which includes the Baltic possessions of Russia, Ukraine, all of Eastern Europe, the Balkans to the Black Sea. Finally, it is impossible not to recall the Brest peace concluded by the Bolsheviks: it shows the purpose for which Berlin fought the war.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the exorbitant ambitions of Austria-Hungary and Germany led to the collapse of Kaiser Germany and Austria-Hungary. The lesson was not learned, and Hitler repeated the suicidal rush. In Germany, some minds are still wondering how a gifted and booming nation with a gigantic cultural potential could blind the monstrous ambitions and erroneous geopolitical calculations? In his memoirs, the penultimate imperial foreign minister, SDD. Sazonov believed that if the Germans did not think of themselves as the master of the world at the beginning of the twentieth century, their rapid economic growth, the talent of industrialists and engineers, together with the ability to work effectively by themselves, would put Germany into first roles in Europe in ten years.
However, the rapprochement between Russia and Germany - a factor in the stability of continental Europe - causes a real nightmare in the Anglo-Saxons from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present. The same NATO bloc America created not only against the USSR, which was not at all eager to move to Western Europe, barely coping with the acquired control zone in Eastern Europe. One of the goals of European integration was to dissolve and shackle the historical potential and will of Germany.
Myth number 4. Russia fought badly
Another “class” assessment from Soviet textbooks is widely known: “Russia in 1914 was a stagnant despotism, backward in comparison with other great powers and doomed to failure”. However, experts have proved on documents that the acute difficulties in the economy and finance during the war were not exclusively a Russian phenomenon. The devaluation of the currency, the growth of public debt, the food crisis and the card system - all these phenomena were observed in other countries - participants of the war, including Germany and the UK. Russia's position was by no means worse than others.
A separate conversation is prejudice about the Russian army, which allegedly did not know how to fight and, with rare exceptions, acted unsuccessfully. The most victorious armed forces are not insured against mistakes and defeats. As for the unsuccessful offensive in East Prussia at the very beginning of the war, it was undertaken by Russia in response to the pleas of the French government. The words of Marshal Ferdinand Foch are well known: “If it were not for the sacrificial performance of the Russians on the Eastern Front, then Paris would have been taken already in the very first months of the war.”
Yes, Russia did not want war and met the First World War in far from the best shape, being weakened by the 1905 – 1907 revolution and the Russo-Japanese war. She was just beginning to recover from the crises, and her armed forces were in a state of renewal.
Nevertheless, it was on the Eastern Front that the final victory was ensured! Russia showed the strength of its national character and loyalty to its obligations, our soldiers and officers showed miracles of valor and selfless service to the oath even after the collapse of the Russian Empire (Russian Expeditionary Force in France). And many operations were included in the textbooks as examples of military-strategic art, for example, the famous Brusilovsky breakthrough. But even as a whole, an unsuccessful offensive in East Prussia made the French victory on Marne in September possible and predetermined the strategic configuration in the subsequent years of the war. In general, the victory of the Entente was paid for with Russian blood.
Myth number 5. Russia suffered a defeat
This conclusion is a clear simplification. Yes, it was during World War I that the prerequisites for the February and October revolutions, which became a national tragedy for our country, matured. However, Russia cannot be considered defeated. Another thing is that the country could not take advantage of the fruits of its victory after the Bolsheviks came to power, who removed her from the cohort of winners and gave to the Entente the creation of a drawing of a new world.
It was not for nothing that Winston Churchill wrote in those years: “We can measure the strength of the Russian Empire by the blows that it sustained, by the disasters that it experienced ... Holding the victory in her hands, she fell to the ground alive, devoured by worms”.
In this regard, the question arises: why did the powerful patriotic upsurge at the beginning of the war give way to skepticism, fatigue, defeatism, and revolutionary fever after some time?
Of course, the abrupt change of perception by the Russian society of the First World War is largely related to its protracted nature. During the months away from the motherland, war inevitably dulls the initial impulse. Numerous victims in a foreign land, can not pass without a trace. The justification of the war was the preservation of traditional values, honor and dignity of the state. Such eternal old ideals are able to inspire at the beginning of the war, but then they begin to lose violent, specific slogans. We are talking about anti-monarchical, pacifist and revolutionary ideas. Their propagandists trumpeting the "uselessness of war" and called for revolution.
Internal fierce exposures are always very good for the enemy, who did not stand aside and actively sponsored revolutionary activities. The German leadership was interested in supporting the most radical forces in Russia. I saw with my own eyes a photocopy of a telegram from the German and Austrian archives, which Kaiser Wilhelm read out at breakfast: “The transfer of Lenin to Russia was a success. Starts to the planned activity ". And in the State Archives of the Russian Federation there is a document - a receipt in receipt of five million gold marks for the activities of the Bolsheviks. The German archives also contain orders to “allocate 6, an 10 emergency budget item,” then “15” and “20” for millions of gold marks for revolutionary activities in Russia.
Thanks to generous financial injections, the Bolsheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries and separatists received great opportunities. Their agitators permeated the army, which after the February Revolution "democratized" to such an extent that the officers actually lost control over the soldiers. As a result, one agitator was enough for one regiment to disintegrate spirit and discipline to insubordination.
However, I am not one of those who believe that it is possible to bring a revolution from the outside. However, when the country staggered, the external impact is of great importance for what kind of forces will prevail ...
Two Russian revolutions 1917 of the year were the result of those deep-seated processes that began to disrupt Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. The revolutionary intelligentsia of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries demanded tracing paper from Western European institutions born of the philosophy of progress, which was poorly combined with the religious foundation of the Russian state idea and the Russian autocracy, which, without the support of the elite and separated from the people, lost its creative potential. Extreme nihilism of the Russian intelligentsia encouraged her to mercilessly trample everything that Russia defended in World War I - the Orthodox faith, the monarchy, the tradition of law-abiding, ideals of service to the Fatherland.
The first crisis, aggravated by economic realities and the Russian-Japanese war, ended with the first Russian revolution, the October 17 Manifesto and constitutional reforms. Why did the ten-year activity of the State Duma of the Russian Empire fail to prevent the February revolution and the October revolution? But did the deputies and parties of those convocations of the Duma want to prevent this? They, not only left radicals - Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, but also Cadets, liberals of all stripes - wanted to destroy, not create. In the last years before the First World War, Russia developed by leaps and bounds. In steel production, railway construction, printing and the number of students per capita, Russia was already catching up with Germany. But the tumultuous modernization of the social fabric, it burst out of tension, and the conservative peasantry that fell out of their own world did not find new social connections. There was a massive lumpenization of the population, and the lumpen were easy prey for revolutionary propaganda. To a considerable extent, the revolutionary explosion was prepared for too rapid changes. It is impossible to pour in young wine in old furs!
But the former (only?) Tribune needed the Duma members to aggravate social antagonisms, and not to protect the state - they learned to appreciate it only in emigration. The great reformer Stolypin threw it to them: “You need great upheavals, and we need a great Russia!”
While the Russian army shed blood for the territorial integrity of the Fatherland, from the stands of the clique against the "incomprehensible war" and the "decomposed" army in favor of separatists of all stripes (familiar?) Were often paid for by the oligarch and the first political strategist of the revolution Parvus at the expense of General Headquarters Kaiser Germany.
All signs of a crisis epoch were evident, when people in the ecstasy of change begin to break the pivot on which everything rests. And this passion for self-destruction befell the Russian Empire at the height of the First World War, when Russia was actually holding the victory in her hands.
The memory of the First World War is important for Russian society because it allows us to understand very important and fundamental things: “Why did we have to fight in the 20th century? What goals and values of national existence do we need to defend in order to continue ourselves in history? ”After all, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Russia faced such domestic political and geopolitical challenges that miraculously repeated at the turn of the 21st century. The restoration of the historical memory of the 1914 – 1918 war can awaken the lost sense of continuity in our history and save us from repeating mistakes.
Perhaps one of the main lessons of the First World War is in one obvious, but bitter truth: it is impossible to unleash disputes about the organization of the state in the rear of the national war with an external enemy.
A nation that is able to postpone such disputes for the sake of preserving the Fatherland, wins and continues itself in history, retains the ability to argue further.
If a nation breaks up at a crucial moment, then this inevitably leads to the collapse of statehood, huge losses and fratricidal civil clashes.
The outcome of our sacrifice in the First World War teaches us that external challenges should unite the nation. It is a sin to use difficulties for domestic political purposes.
In addition, many of today's painful processes for us (NATO expansion) are easier to understand, knowing the geopolitical and ideological background of the First World War, especially since the power arrows of pressure on Russia during that war miraculously repeated in the 1990s.
We still can not find unity on many issues of the past, present and future, which is very dangerous for the nation. But if, holding on to the thread of history, to return to 1914 a year, then we again become one people without a tragic split. Therefore, we must learn a new way the First World War, which will give us a vision of the geopolitics of the twentieth century, and examples of boundless valor, courage and self-sacrifice of the Russian people. Only those who know the history are able to adequately meet the challenges of the future.