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Russia and the Great War


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Russia and the great war

The minutes of heavy diplomatic tension which preceded the war have already given birth to an abundant literature of comment—for the mostpart interested and partial. But in all this literary inundation there are none the less a few solid islands on which the reader's mind can find refuge from the flood of lies and inventions. As such an island I may especially indicate the remarkable analysis of the events which precededthe war made by the celebrated Italian historian Guglielmo Ferrero (author of the great work on " The Grandeur and; Decadence of Rome ").

Here is what he has written on this subject :

" In the fatal week between the 24th and the 31st of July there were two distinct periods. In the first place it was Austria who endangered the peace of Europe, by her aggressive and bellicose policy, and by taking no notice of the reiterated and extremely plain declarations of Russia. Whatever one might reproach Russia for, she cannot be reproached for a lack of frankness during this crisis, for she declared, from the outset, to all the world, Austria and Germany included, that she would not abandon Serbia to her fate, but would mobilize if Serbia were attacked. Germany, on the other hand, during these first few days, assisted in the development of the crisis, by oscillations whose intention it is not easy to penetrate, and at whose inward motives we can with difficulty guess. She began with veiled threats, then relapsed into a sort of indolent optimism ; finally she tried to induce Russia to capitulate, while exercising pressure in Paris, and effected the miscarriage, one by one, of the British attempts at mediation by a passive resistance. During the last days of July the roles were changed : Austria became more and more conciliatory and Germany more and more aggressive, so that Germany sent her ultimatum to Russia on the very day when Austria was on the point of coming to an understanding with her neighbour. The critical moment of this sudden fatal change was the 29th of July. It was on the 29th that Germany, suddenly reverting to her plan, already dallied with on the 26th, of inducing Russia to capitulate, substituted herself for Austria, protested at Petersburg against the mobilization on the Austrian frontier, and finally threatened mobilization and war if Russia continued to mobilize, thus rendering desperate an already critical situation.

" It seems, then, impossible to maintain, as the Berlin Government has done by all the means at its disposal, that Germany was provoked by Russia, England, and France. In all this terrible business these three Powers had pushed the spirit of conciliation to its extreme limit. They could not have gone farther without being guilty of an act of national renunciation. Their policy, moreover, was throughout the whole of this week perfectly clear and intelligible. Even with the few documents we possess it can readily be comprehended. No enigmas ; on the other hand, the German policy, especially that of the 29th of July, is indecipherable. Why on the 29th, less than twenty-four hours after the Chancellor had made his excellent and pacific proposals to the British Ambassador, did the Imperial Government suddenly summon Russia to cease her mobilization against Austria, when the latter Power did not as yet feel herself sufficiently threatened by the Russian preparations to complain of them ? This seems to be the capital point of the whole affair. Unhappily it is also the point on which all the official and other German publications preserve the profoundest silence. The explanation which Herr Jagow gave to M. Jules Cambon on the 30th—namely, that ' the heads of the Army insisted '—is too concise and insufficiently clear.

So long as we are given no other explanation we are obliged to rely on the only one which at present seems credible. There was a war party in Germany. It was composed for the most part of irresponsibles, belonging to all classes of society.


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