Feeble Constitution - A Red-and-Green Russia 1917 Timeline

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Salvador79, Jan 8, 2019.

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  1. Threadmarks: Twenty-Nine: Finnish Civil War, fourth and final part

    Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    Finnish Civil War, part four and end:

    Kirkkonummi was an easy victory for the Vaasa army – but it would prove to be a misleading one. What the Vaasa army encountered – and quickly dispersed – at Kirkkonummi was but more of an armed reconnaissance troop. Its retreating members reported about the location, size and weaponry of the attackers to the units which manned the massive fortifications of the Krepost Sveaborg.

    The size of the Vaasa army exceeded the worst expectations of Helsinki’s defenders. Apparently, this was the last, desperate, all-or-nothing attack aiming at the heart of socialist Finland. Immediately, a sharp dispute broke out among the leadership of the Järjestyskunta stationed in and around Helsinki: while Oskar Rantala and Aksel Aarre insisted on mobilizing yet more volunteers from the country’s main city to stem the tide of such a massive Vaasa attack, Adolf Aminoff and other experienced but more conservative high-ranking officers taken over from the old Imperial Russian Army opposed this because they feared that such ad hoc militia could only be recruited in Helsinki from among those who had until very recently been Red Revolutionary fighters. As a consequence, reinforcements were being demanded from other parts of the Kuopio territory, but no immediate recruitment was ordered in Helsinki itself.

    This would quickly turn out to be a mistake. The fortifications were strong and well-endowed with all sorts of artillery pieces, and by flexibly shifting and rotating militia units from MG nest to MG nest depending on where the onslaught was most intense, the defenders of Helsinki were able to inflict staggering losses on the Vaasa troops – so many dead and wounded indeed that, as night fell after the second day of the offensive, Jääkäri officers reported about a growing mutinous mood among their rank and file and openly questioned the chances of a breakthrough.

    They were convinced to continue when the last secret weapon which the Germans had bestowed upon them reached the front section around Leppävaara. On the third day of the Vaasa assault on the Krepost Sveaborg, the attack was initiated with a bombardment of poison gas shells which immediately killed hundreds of defenders and incapacitated hundreds more - none of them had anticipated this, so nobody had worn masks of any kind. The attackers seized the opportunity and broke through the defenders front, with unit after unit streaming through the breeched defenses even when they came under heavy fire again by fresh defending militia drawn from other sections of the fortification line. Thousands upon thousands of Vaasa troops poured in through the gap, and now only a last line of fortifications, those built already in 1914 in the vicinity of Huopalahti, stood between them and the country’s largest city.

    In this situation, Aksel Aarre decided to ignore all orders and decisions and began immediately to organize the distribution of arms to (indeed mostly formerly Red Revolutionary) volunteer units who, in many places, had already assembled at their own initiative. It was only their courageous, somewhat disorganized but desperately motivated counter-attack which ultimately prevented the attacking Vaasa army from breaking through the last line of defenses, too.

    Now it was the attackers who were bottled up between the two defensive perimeters, with no escape in sight. They took refuge in civilian buildings across Helsinki’s outskirts, dug in and prepared for a street fight.

    But this last stand did not happen. Armas Kohonen, commander of the Vöyri Battalion, initiated negotiations with Helsinki’s defenders – a very controversial decision taken against the will of a number of die-hard officers who preferred to “die standing rather than live on their knees” – and so, on July 20th, 1918, over 15,000 surviving Vaasa troops (almost as many men had already been lost in the attack so far, with the usual ratio of killed vs. wounded and the wounded being captured already) surrendered themselves at once to the Kuopio Senate’s Järjestyskunta. Helsinki’s defenders had suffered over 4,000 dead and twice as many wounded men – a high toll which is probably also attributable to the poor training which many defenders had enjoyed, and the maximum effect of the poison gas due to the absence of protective masks. But they had stood firmly, in spite of internal divisions and dangerous hesitations.

    In Vaasa, the message of this failure was clear. Their army had lost more than half of their men – and the chaotic situation in Petrograd and the imminent collapse of German control over Ingria could only mean that, in the very near future, both reinforcements and supplies sent by Moscow would roll without impediment towards the Kuopio territory again. On July 24th, 1918, Pehr Evind Svinhufvud shot himself in the head and was found dead by his personal attendant. Over the course of the next week, several thousand people fled Finland across the Gulf of Bothnia to Sweden, among them the rest of Svinhufvud’s cabinet and some members of the Vaasa counter-Eduskunta. They were not exactly welcome in Sweden, where their arrival and the asylum granted to them proved a controversial issue between the partners supporting Prime Minister Nils Edén’s coalition government, but their fear of socialist retribution was great.

    As the fate of those bourgeois politicians who had remained in Finland would prove, these fears were generally unfounded. Paasivuori and his Minister for Interior Affairs, Samuli Häkkinen, sought at least not to create new obstacles for the slow and painful process of reconciliation and healing which would begin in Finland’s villages and neighborhoods, and while the terrorists of Vihan Veljet and similar organizations, which continued to rock Finland throughout the next few years, too, were pursued with the full force of the law and its organs of public order, most members of the Vaasa Jääkäri and the Suojeluskunta were pardoned and the prisoners captured during the hostilities were released before 1918 ended.

    As far as Finland’s relations with the rest of the UoE were concerned, Paasivuori took a decidedly more self-confident stance than Tokoi. The Concordance, he insisted in a lengthy communication with Kamkov, would have to be modified. Finland would not demobilize its Järjestyskunta, whose size stood at almost 80,000 by the end of July 1918, and instead transform it into a Territorial Defensive Force like the one Ukraine had. The country’s military ports would be controlled by a joint organization composed of Finnish Defense and the UoE’s Baltic fleet. Kamkov harbored no desire to keep Finland under the Russian thumb as long as it did not join a hostile camp and actually felt that the entire chain of events following the fall of Petrograd had been most unfortunate consequences of the German onslaught and the adventurousness of Trotsky, a man he increasingly saw as the greatest danger for a stable development of the UoE but whose popularity had skyrocketed after leftist SD newspapers credited him with the “liberation of Petrograd”, and so the renegotiations went rather smoothly. In the CA, which still operated as a kind of interim parliament until regular elections would be held, the revision of the Concordance was controversial primarily for procedural and technical reasons and not so much for its content, but it ultimately passed with a solid majority.

    And as the long, dark, and cold nights of the winter of 1918/19 descended upon Finland, accompanied by the second and more deadly wave of the influenza which struck especially the heavily populated areas in the South, a badly-shaken but finally politically restabilised Finnish Federative Republic participated in the Union-wide Presidential elections and elected a new Eduskunta, too, which would have to lead the traumatized country into a common future. The landscape of its political parties had been deeply transformed by the Civil War. But more on that in a later update.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2019
  2. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    Once again, thanks @Karelian for providing valuable input (this time in the form of militia commanders' and ministers' names - I would never have been able to delve deep enough to come up with anything but random guesswork)!

    And so Finland's civil war has ended. ITTL, without much of a civil war in Russia or Ukraine, it is going to have the status of a model / a warning example and will acquire some degree of symbolic value this way, as we shall soon see - all sorts of people draw different conclusions from it, of course, but they are going to point at what has happened in Finland (thereby ascribing it significance beyond the country's borders) and draw lessons from it. We have already seen that SR leaders (both Avksentiev and Kamkov) have interpreted the Finnish Civil War as a warning against "adventurism" and a sign that Trotsky is not to be trusted. How Trotsky himself views it we shall probably find out after my summer break (I will be away for most of August and not post any update during that month). Other people in other countries are seeing Finland as the writing on the wall, too: for conservatives, it is a disheartening tale of failed resistance against socialism (and probably another source of legends of martyrdom?) and a reason for disquietude. By centrist bourgeois liberals, it can be interpreted in many ways: as an (ex negativo) encouragement of legalist co-operation over putschist resistance, or as a warning not to let hardship and social dissense escalate to such extents, or... For the wide family of agrarian parties, a precedent has been created of their alignment with social democracy and against conservative counter-revolution, and a second model of successful land reform, different from Russia's experiments, has been established. For moderate social democrats, this is a tale of costly and hard-fought victory, which could deter or encourage, depending on one's stomach, and which could become another core of an emerging identity delineated sharply both against conservative opponents and over-zealous revolutionaries. Radical revolutionaries will certainly draw different conclusions: either Finland was too rural for a socialist revolution, or the military nature of the Red Revolution marred it, or the moderate traitors ruined it, or internal divisions in the absence of clear structures and hierarchies wrecked it, or the absence of any reaction from Moscow doomed it, or ...

    Also, and I'm somewhat sorry to have to say this: Finland will not remain an exception over the next few months. Comparable situations will be encountered in a number of countries, and they will lead to analogous clashes - in each case slightly different in nature, but I won't be able to portray them in as much detail as in Finland's case, unless there are people on the board who are willing to help me out as @Karelian has done for Finland.
     
  3. generalurist Map Staring Expert

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    Dec 21, 2013
    Could you please outline the main differences between Finnish and Russian land reform?
     
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  4. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    1) The main legal difference is that in Finland, private property in land remains a Principle, and there is just a one-time Distributive measure taking place whose criteria are all clearly delineated by law, while in Russia, Vikhliaev's Land Act has declared land to be commons, which means the regional and local soviets set the rules for usufructuary / possession rights as they See fit.
    2) This means there is a great variety of regional Reforms in Russia, while in Finland it's Uniform. Also, in Finland the Reform Happens within existing judicial Frameworks, while in Russia, it certainly draws on obshchina traditions, but it creates an entitely new Framework for arbitration etc.
    3) In Finland, only a portion of all land is affected by the repartition, while in Russia, the game has changed for everyone.
    4) More specifically, in Finland former tenants will have to pay a (much-below-market) commission to acquire their own Land (for which public Funds will provide them with low-interest loans), and expropriated landlords will be (meekly) compensated. They can go through all courts if they think local administration has wronged them. In Russia, the peasants don't have to acquire this debt, and former owners don't get aught.
    5) As a result, in Finland you'll have smallish Family farms mixed with slightly larger farms who'll modernise more easily than the former If the Senate doesn't subsidise smallholders' co-ops and Credit Unions, which it Well might. In Russia, you'll have a variety of rural socio-economic structures, both old and new, which is puzzlingly complicated (some aspects I have described in a post from (June 17th).
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2019
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  5. Threadmarks: Thirty: Trotsky's Candidacy (September 1918)

    Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    hello everyone,

    this is the last update before my 25 days-long summer break. I had intended it to focus on a different topic, namely the goings on in one (or two, depending on the perspective) of the newly emerging states in Central Eastern Europe, but I found that it shall need more in-depth historical research on my part first. Therefore, here is another quick glance at how the presidential electoral campaign is going in the UoE, this time looking at the other big party after we've already focused on the SRs last time. A big thanks to @Betelgeuse for his great editing work under the insane time pressure with which I confronted him (sorry for that...)!

    Petrograd, September 16th, 1918: Rabochy [1], p. 1:

    FORWARD THE REVOLUTION!

    by Leon Trotsky

    This is a pivotal moment in history. The course of years and decades to come hinges upon our actions. Not a single man’s actions or the actions of a select few – if an age where such individuals mattered above all else has ever existed, it definitely ended long ago. It is the actions of the masses, of millions of men and women, which shape our future now. And here, at this moment, millions are standing at the crossroads: onwards with the revolution, or a slide into New Feudalism?

    There is only one choice if we seek to escape the barbarity of counter-revolution and self-cannibalising terminal capitalism. A majority of the Narodniks appear to be unaware of this; they rally behind Avksentiev [2], who has coined the phrase that the "revolution must pause, catch its breath, and compose itself", who promises “stability” and the resolution of all global problems by international diplomacy among the ultra-imperialist power cartel. Either they are bourgeois enemies of the revolution at heart, or they are deluding themselves.

    There can be no “stability” for the present economic conditions in Russia. In agriculture, we either leap forward towards productive collectives which alone are up to the challenge of full industrial mechanization required to lift the living conditions of our working classes, or fall back into landlordism and servitude under different names. The new kulaks are already preparing for the latter course, profiteering from their speculative hoarding, building up corrupt networks of patronage, and usurping control over otherwise disorganized peasant militia. With regards to our industries, there is no faith healing for the present anarchy and standstill. We will either finally take all the industries into our own hands and begin to organize them again, together, in democratic ways, or the capitalists will rear their ugly heads and reassert themselves over us, annihilating what we have paid for with our blood. There is no “centrist” third way out of the general industrial disorientation and decay. No constitutional provisions will protect us from the wrath of the expropriated expropriators – for constitutions are not safe walls of stone or concrete behind which impartial justice can reign, protected against the onslaught of the forces of class warfare; they are, at best, workable methods which the ruling class routinely and reliably applies in its exercise of absolute power. Do not misunderstand me – I am the most avid defender of our constitution, and I believe it can be a very practical instrument of the dictatorship of the proletariat – but the constitution will not defend itself, and no class will defend it, either, if it no longer sees its value. And this is exactly the danger of Avksentiev’s platform: his industrial conservatism perpetuates our shortages, our hunger, our lack of everything, and the veto he has announced against decisions which belong in the exclusive domain of the volost, oblast and republican soviets shows that he is inclined to exorcise the socialism from our constitution as well as our country, leaving it as a meaningless hull of quasi-bourgeois republicanism. Nobody will defend that, for the new kulak strongmen in the territory on whose support he bases himself do not care for democratic procedures and rights. They will acclaim an SR Bonaparte or an SR Tsar at any time if he shows promise in protecting what they have grabbed and refuse to share.

    And the same applies to international politics: you cannot protect the revolution through cunning diplomacy. Of course it is wise not to immediately antagonize without necessity those whose aid you need to free yourself from the yoke of present expansionist imperial tyranny. But from there to the plots which Avksentiev’s right hand Gots seeks to impose on the Inokom of the unsuspecting Axelrod, and the covert Panslavic imperialist overtones which have accompanied Holubovich’s gathering of so-called “popular socialists” from Central and Eastern Europe, there is a long and hideous way. Neither our revolution nor our republic will be protected by meddlesome midwifery in the creation of new states, or by blindly trusting the providential plans of Wilson, that nemesis of American socialists. The ultra-capitalist powers may not be inclined to participate in another world-encompassing conflagration, yes, but that will not stop them from short and easy expeditions against weak and unprotected victims, as the entire history of colonial imperialism has shown. The only thing which can save the revolution is if it spreads – if we spread it, and if it takes root in country after country, so that the international proletariat can finally join their hands together in peace. The only way for our revolution to survive is for it to move forward – both within our republic and beyond its not yet clearly defined borders.

    This is what my application for the IRSDLP(u) candidacy for the office of President of the Union means: it means a reminder and an encouragement for all of us to move forward, to stir again, to continue our revolution. We are struggling to overcome the bourgeois farce of parliamentary democracy and fill democracy with real, proletarian life. Our elections, therefore, are not the exhaustion of our political will, to be dominated by rulers of our own choosing thereafter, no, they are a mobilizing call to industrial action, a mobilizing call to repoliticise our militia and our republican guards by joining them or by broadening the debates within them, a mobilizing call to defiantly gather in the streets! When we gather by the hundreds of thousands to support this person or that person, this party or that party, to debate and decide this question or that, we are demonstrating to all those who want to roll back the socialism we have struggled to build so far and who want to prevent us from continuing to build it up that we are not weak and passive, that we shall not lend our voices to others and become mute, no! The working classes have arisen, and they shall not let the reins of power slip through their hands.

    Gather to support me and my candidacy – or gather and support those who will stand against me at the congress – for if you do so, you shall rediscover the spirit of last spring, the spirit of free deliberation and courageous action, of class solidarity and consciousness. And to those who favour other candidates because they stand for the union you belong to – let me assure you that, even if your first preference would be for a different Social Democrat, you will find the most avid supporter of the causes of the workers’ unions in me [3]. There must not be any extra-constitutional restrictions on industrial union activities in the soviets and on the decisions these soviets are taking. If soviets are deciding to socialise the means of production - and I explicitly encourage them to take this decision! - then it is not the president's place to stop them. And there is nothing socialist at all about the protection which the Narodniks are offering to the speculators and hoarders who make profits at the expense of the starving workers of our towns. Whether your fight is for wages or for taking over your company, whether it is against extortionate food prices or against restrictions on the freedom of coalition - I am fighting at your side.

    And let me address in one short final comment what some voices are using to sow dissension and doubt among our movement – the question of Finland. Is it not paradoxical how they criticize me for “meddling in the business of an autonomous national republic", when all I did was to organize the survival of hundreds of thousands, who, by their own initiative, freely conversed and cooperated with our Finnish comrades (I am sure many of those who read this paper in Petrograd today have been among this number!)? And then they also criticize me for “abandoning” that revolution, too, when I merely organized, at the request of the supreme council of Centrobalt, the evacuation of tens of thousands threatened by starvation in beleaguered Southern Finland? If whatever contribution my actions have made to the emergence of the Finnish revolution is reprimandable, how is it also reprimandable to desist in these actions? There is nothing but sly bourgeois ambiguity in all these narratives. But what must we learn from the experiences we have made in Finland, you may rightly ask of anyone, let alone of someone who seeks a high political office? Here is the lesson I have drawn: the Finnish peasantry had been, until this year, affected by the war but indirectly. This is why, when we arrived as refugees and as conscious revolutionaries, they did not realize that we are the side which seeks to end the war, and instead perceived us to be the ones carrying on the war and bringing it to them. We should have made much greater efforts to explain the entire situation not only to those in our immediate surroundings, but also to those who, at a greater distance from us, were prepared to stand up and defend their republic – so that we could have joined our efforts instead of confusing ourselves and aiming at each other. This lesson is informing my actions – in whatever position I shall be – and the first examples to which this lesson, the realization of the utmost necessity to communicate and propagate the nature, aims, circumstances and plans of the revolutionaries, shall be applied are, without any doubt, the uprisings which have begun, over the course of the past few days, in the Latvian and Polish lands.

    Only by learning from the experience of our struggles shall we be able to carry the revolution into its next stage. Trust me, this is the demand of the hour, posed to millions here and elsewhere: carry on the revolution! Vpered revolutsiony! [Onward/Forward the revolution!]



    [1] This is the first newspaper I am making up out of whole cloth – the background being all established (pro-revolutionary) newspapers having left Petrograd before the Germans occupied it and Markov erected his short reign of reactionary terror. Imagine it as being centre-left within the International Revolutionary Social Democratic Party unification faction, with editors stemming both from a Mezhraionka background and from the left wing of the trade union movement, and overall it being a fairly new institution full of Trotsky fanboys (and -girls).

    [2] This is not entirely accurate, again, for the race between Avksentiev and Kamkov within the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries is not yet decided at all: Avksentiev is doing well in the South and East, and the Ukrainian SRs have endorsed his candidacy, too, but regional SR assemblies in Minsk, Petrograd and Nishny Novgorod have endorsed Kamkov. It’s an open race – but Trotsky chooses to portray it as if the SRs had already decided for the more centrist and less SD-friendly candidate, which makes his aggressive stance look like the only feasible answer.

    [3] Someone with solid backing by the trade unions and with great credibility in the domain of industrial struggle could indeed have the best chance at competing against Trotsky for the Social Democratic presidential candidacy. In TTL's 1918 Social Democratic electoral camapign, this someone is David Ryazanov. When I come back to this TL after my summer break, there will certainly also be an update featuring the entire electoral campaign and its outcomes in greater detail.


    Other updates I'm planning for after the summer break will cover, in two portions, an authorial overview over the last phase of the Great War and its conclusion, and a newspaper article focusing on Germany, where someone whom I'm sure some of you are already missing is going to make his reappearance :)

    Have a nice summer everyone! (I'll be watching this every once in a while, as we're hiking through the Scottish highlands, and commenting from my phone every once in a while, but I won't be able to write any in-depth replies...)
     
  6. lukedalton Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2009
    Location:
    North Italy
    Oh Leon, you sure know how to win friend and influence people; really i want him in the UoE delegation at the Peace Conference, i think that he and Wilson will become fast friend for life as Woodrow is know to not keep score or being petty or be a very reasonable man when someone had a different opinion of him and not approve his idea.

    Honestly Trosky look like one that will do a 'March on Petrograd' immediately
     
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  7. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    Yes, Trotsky was an abysmal "diplomat" in Brest-Litowsk, and if he's going to be in Paris, that's going to be one hell of a ride.
    Will he be? That depends entirely on who's going to win the elections...
    or not, if we go with your suggestion of a "March on Rome" equivalent. In which case the entire former Russian Empire would be engulfed in the flames of civil war between Trotskyte Reds and loyalists (they'd probably rather be called "Green" instead of "White", considering the utter SR and peasant militia dominance in such a scenario).

    I think Trotsky is aware at least of this danger...
     
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  8. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    Also, about "influencing people", he does kind of ride on a wave of enthusiasm and support, him being the "liberator of Petrograd", and his "socialize the industries!" and "end the food price speculations!" calls do resound with hungry urban industrial workers. He is very vague on almost all topics, putting his entire emphasis on his popular image of being the steamroller of the revolution, but that need not be a disadvantage.

    Now, of course, electoral demagoguery is a different game than diplomacy...
     
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  9. lukedalton Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2009
    Location:
    North Italy
    I also think so and much depend on his character, a topic that i'm not really an expert; Benny was also aware of the risk of his March, but at the core he was a gambler and tryed his bluff.


    While there is a lot of demaguery and playing the crowd, this is also a critical moment on how the UoE is seen by the rest of the world; at the moment she is an ally and someone that you can work with it and want work within the system but many are still on the fence see how that develop but Trosky with his rethoric will be considered the worst case scenario and in case of his victory the general attitude towards the UoE and the socialist will become worse quickly...not considering that some of the constituent of the UoE will probably quietly step up the internal military readyness just in case


    Also IMVHO depend on how the elections are won, if Trosky give a good show the winner can try to bring him on the fold, try to include it on the delegation...at least if they go for the OTL B-L were the Soviet delegation was a veeery original and eterogenous bunch

    PS: Have a nice time
     
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  10. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    Trotsky was proud and full of himself, and a true zealot, and a cold-blooded dictator, and sometimes fairly short-sighted, too, but I wouldn't say he was a gambler. He really believes that Russian socialism needs to be led onto a new path, and he thinks that he can do a lot to bring this about - but he's neither an adrenaline junkie, nor mad.

    Actually, there is an inevitability to the popularity of his view (although it need not have been linked to his person, this was coincide created by me): there were incredibly high hopes invested in socialism, and when socialism falls short of fulfilling them, it's an almost logical conclusion to say that something about what one has tried has not been the real, the right socialism, and that one must move towards that.

    I absolutely agree. Which is, by the way, why I don't think the Union Army leadership, nor the Republican Guards would follow Trotsky in greater numbers, if he really went for a coup, unless he played his cards perfectly in the perfect moment (which IOTL he rarely did, and perhaps I shouldn't overdo his series of flukes ITTL).

    Thank you! :)
     
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  11. aap5454 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2015
    Let's hope Trotsky doesn't try to coup the government should he fail; I'm finding this development of Socialist/Narodnik democracy very interesting, and a great take on an alternate Great War Russia. Very curious as well to see how the end of the Great War will turn out. A harsher Versailles? Russian Armenia? Or the other way around? (More likely IMO, with the "no annexations" policy of the Russian left.) Too bad we'll have to wait till next month for it! :p
     
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  12. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    I am glad you find it interesting!
    Though what I'll deliver next month will be the end of the war, alt-Compiegne If you will. Alt-Versailles et al. will be quite another piece of work.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2019
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  13. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    Hello dear readers,
    I am back, and I have finished two updates which are currently being edited. Soon, the Great War will be over...
    after which quite a lot of destabilised or new countries will find themselves in interesting turmoil, while others will hold long-postponed elections. The latter is going to be the focus of the updates I'm currently planning. In this context, I could use some help: is there anyone among you who is good with wikiboxes and willing to lend a hand or advise me? Much appreciated!
     
  14. Threadmarks: Thirty-One: Which Yugoslavia? (September 1918)

    Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    Zagreb (formally still Austria-Hungary): Novi List [1], September 23rd, 1918, p. 1:

    YUGOSLAVISM IS REVOLUTIONARY! WHY I LEFT THE YUGOSLAV COMMITTEE


    by Ivan Meštrović [2]

    Why did you resign from the Yugoslav Committee? I have been asked repeatedly by companions and fellow citizens. What happened to the great herald of South Slavic unity, that he has deserted his struggle, I have been asked. To all the querists I reply: I have not, and I never will! I am a South Slav, and I shall render my voice to the common liberation of all the tribes of our nation for as long as it has sound left in it! But I could not legitimize the unlawful, selfish and regressive actions of a clique of short-sighted relics of a perishing world.

    The old empire is crumbling, and the freedom of the South Slavic nations has never been so close at hand. Yet, even before it comes into existence, our Yugoslav polity is beset on all sides by forces which seek to oppress its freedom. In this moment of need, it is an understandable impulse to throw yourself into the arms of a strong saviour. Which is, some will argue, what the Yugoslav Committee has done: they have set all their hopes on Serbia and its army, which alone, they argue, can liberate and save all Yugoslav peoples from foreign oppression.

    But that is a mistake, and I believe that the partisans of the Croat-Serb Coalition have other, more obscure reasons for the blood sacrifice they force on their own conationals. They are afraid that the protest marches in the towns, the strikes in the factories, and the fraternisation of the Green Cadres with an unruly peasantry will cost them personal advantages. Instead of trusting the democratic judgment of their Croatian and Yugoslav brethren, and looking out for the best possible foundation upon which to build an entirely new state of all Yugoslavs, they cowardly grab their money bags and throw themselves into the arms of Pašić’s Radicals [3], who are gleefully pocketing territorial gains for a Greater Serbia left and right.

    Yes, I, too, was once enthusiastic about Serbia’s development and potential. But I had to learn a bitter truth about the fickleness of history. King Peter is – no, we must say: was – a pioneer of Yugoslav freedom, but his son, Prince Regent Alexander, does not just slap little girls in the face. He has also sent his army into Bulgaria, where he has ordered his soldiers to fire on their South Slavic brethren who are trying to break free from the tyranny of a dynasty which has betrayed the common Yugoslav cause. The Radicals prefer to crush a revolution which is the expression of the most authentic Yugoslav sentiments of liberty and humanity, and ensure the survival of the tsardom which had so recently invaded Serbia – instead of reaching out to Stambolinsky [4], this Bulgarian Prince Marko [5] who genuinely desires to overcome the fratricidal strife of the recent past and unite his and the other South Slavic tribes in a greater union! And the girl-slapping Regent follows his lead because, unlike his father, he is not a Yugoslavist, he is a Serbian chauvinist who prefers to annex and conquer. This is why he and his government will not protect the Slovenes and Croats from Italian expansionism – I would not be surprised in the slightest if he and his government had already allied with the Italians and agreed to sacrifice Rijeka, Prekmurje and possibly even more of the Yugoslav coast. [6] It would only aid their plans for a new imperialist kingdom which calls itself Yugoslav, but which is nothing but Greater Serbia in disguise.

    This is why I have left the Yugoslav Committee, whose members have voted with the most narrow majority [7] to seek, without any prior conditions, the unification with the Kingdom of Serbia, and to invite the Serbian Army to, as they have put it, “restore order” – which can only mean to strangle the rebellion of true Yugoslavists here as they are trying to do in Bulgaria as well.

    Those who know me have no doubt that I am not a socialist. I have never been a socialist and I will never become one. But I cannot fail to see that the Union of Equals, in which the Lutheran Finns, the Catholic Litvins, the Uniate Ukrainians, the Moslem Tatars, the Jews, the Orthodox Russians and countless other nations and tribes are building a strong and democratic bulwark of peace together, on the basis of the self-determination of every nation, small or large, the principle of popular sovereignty, and the bitter lesson which this horrible carnage of a Great War has taught us, is the best model we can hope to emulate in our pursuit of a common Yugoslav realm of peace, freedom, justice, and prosperity.

    Real Yugoslavism is federalist. Real Yugoslavism is republican. Real Yugoslavism does not stop at the Stara Planina. Real Yugoslavism is at the vanguard of the political endeavour to build a new and peaceful world order from the ruins of the Great War. Let us not fly like drunken geese into the fog [8], but reach out to all those who subscribe to these goals, and only to such goals. Let us build the real Yugoslavia together, instead of kissing the feet of someone whose only merit has been his birth as the great-grandson of Black George.



    [1] Novi List was perhaps the leading Yugoslavist newspaper at the time, at least in Croatia. It is based in Rijeka / Fiume. ITTL, the Italian Army has taken Fiume two weeks before, and the leading voice of Yugoslavism has relocated, for fear of Italian censorship, to the largest Croatian city.

    [2] The renowned Croatian artist / sculptor was one of the most ardent Yugoslavists. The anti-Djordjevic stance he is taking in his article is a divergence from OTL, but his preference for a great, inclusive Yugoslavia which encompasses Bulgaria, too, he exhibited IOTL, already at a time when such a position was very minoritarian in Croatia outside of the staunch left.

    [3] This party.

    [4] The leader of the agrarian BANU, which in turn leads the revolution in Bulgaria aimed at removing the tsar, achieving universal equal franchise, and repartitioning the land. He was a mild supporter of Yugoslavism IOTL, too, but when his party won the elections a year later, the ship for Bulgaria’s inclusion in a greater Yugoslav federation had sailed, and he never actively pursued it. ITTL, everything is still in the balance, and his fellow Narodnik Russian SRs are strongly supporting the idea of a greater Yugoslav Federation, ideally governed by a coalition of the Croatian Peasant Party, the Bulgarian BANU, Serbian and Slovenian agrarians, and the various socialist parties in the region, most of which also support the ideal of a peaceful Balkan Federation or the like to ensure peace in the region and overcome nationalist divisions. Thus, Stambolinsky, the BANU and most of the Bulgarian revolutionaries are indeed openly proclaiming adherence to the Yugoslavist idea ITTL – some of them probably in the hope that it is better to unite with the Serbian victors – if there are enough others to keep them in check – than to be threatened or squeezed out for reparations by them.

    [5] IOTL, he liked to refer to this hero from Serbian / Yugoslavian mythology a lot.

    [6] Probably not, but there is little anyone can do right now to stop the Italians, except maybe for popular revolt.

    [7] IOTL, only Stjepan Radić voted against the merger plan. ITTL, with a Russian-backed and ideologically (Narodnik) underpinned alternative being widely discussed, there are more votes against, and Radić’s Croatian Peasant Party also doesn’t favour a separate Croatian state and actively subscribes to the idea of a greater and more federal Yugoslavia, too.

    [8] OK, this one is shamelessly stolen from Radić.
     
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  15. lukedalton Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2009
    Location:
    North Italy
    Oh well, seem that the Adriatic question will be even more complicated than in OTL...a feat extremely hard to achieve IMVHO, so kudos to the author.

    As a quick recap, well for Adriatic question we talk of the disputes on many and many point between Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Jugoslavia) after the Great War, is composed by many factor:

    - the A-H fleet (both military and merchant): in OTL the Hapsburg goverment tried to stop the italians from taking possession of the ships, giving them officially to the Kingdom of SCS (even having in mind the possibility to get them back if the Empire survived in a federal form) but after a lot of heated debate, at Versailles a more equitable division was agreed. ITTL, well with Italy already in possession of the ports in Istria and the risk to let the ships sortie from their base, the option are just two: sink them or surreder it, for the second a lot will depend on how quick the italian advance has been and how compromised was the Hapsburg chain of command. In any case a surviving fleet mean that the OTL still exist just reversed.
    - Montenegro: in OTL there was a contested referendum about the nation becoming part of Serbia, while the general popular desire was for that (or at least a confederation with Serbia), it was more on Montenegro terms than the OTL annexation; still the fact was popular enough. Say that, there was many that protested and the italians initially supported the King in his attempt to remain independent; a move that they know was destinated to fail but was mean to get more leverage for other objective (at some point the italian delegation, proposed their agreement to the union in exchange of control of Kotor bay). With the situation in still to be created jugoslavia more 'problematic', Rome can think that a continued support to the Greens (who wanted Montenegro independece).
    - Istria (with Trieste and Rejka/Fiume) and Dalmatia: well, many remember that italians greed but also better point that initially the KSCS delegation initially demaned not only all the former A-H territory for her, but even part of Veneto and later relented and conceded to Italy a little triangle of territory with the city of Monfalcone; so we have two groups that really want the max out of this situation, even because both side had suffered a lot in this conflict and need to show result.
    During this period the battle was not only diplomatic but there were riot and fight in the occupied territory between military and civilians on both sides and the italian goverment decided to support everyone that had some beef with the newly created Kingdom as a mean to put pressure on it.
    The difference here are many:
    - Italy already occupied Istria and Fiume, thanks to her own offensive and with little help from the rest of the entente (in term of soldiers presence) and this mean a stronger position at Versailles but also a greater control of the zone, a probable exodus of the slav population when the italian troops advanced and the return of the refugee can quickly become another point of contention even because right now nobody in Rome want more Slavs there.
    - The Union of Equal can become a supporter/patron for Jugoslavia as Mestrovic hope, but she has her own problem with minority aka Poland in any case the diplomatic situation is now more complicated
    - unrest and opposition to the OTL version of Jugoslavia aka MegaSerbia, more or less Mestrovic problems with this union are spot on, Serbia think of the entire adventure as an enlargement and not an union of equal. The increased tension with the Green Croats can weaken her; OTL part of reason for the hardline stance at Versailles was to keep the Croats and Slovens happy and the Treaty of Rapallo was signed once that was much less necessary (said that not even Belgrade want Italy get too much out of the peace conference) but a continued fight can make her think to end the situation quickly and concentrate on internal situation...or be even more hardline and keep asking more/stonewalling any agreement but this move will not made her new friends in the big guys
    - Albania: everybody want a piece of it.
    - Jugoslavia: itself it's considered a very potential menace for the Kingdom of Italy, basically the Hapsburg Empire Mk.2 and if Bulgaria become a member this line of though will become prevalent and i doubt things will become very quiet between the two nations; even if with hindsight the presence of the Bulgarians mean that the nations will be even more unstable than OTL...honestly at the moment the only thing that the italian goverment need to do is sit, take a glass of Passito di Pantelleria and eat a Cannolo
     
  16. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    ;-) Thank you!

    There'll be a very short comment on the fleet in the final Great War update. The Italian advance has been rather quick, and the Habsburg chain of command is seriously disupted in September already ITTL, given how everything is breaking apart from the East roughly a month earlier than OTL.

    More Italian involvement in Montenegro against its unification with Serbia is one option - coming to terms with the Serbian government, as Mestrovic fears, is another and could involve Italy's abstention from meddling in Montenegro in exchange for Serbian, ahem, Yugoslavian recognition of Italian gains farther North along the coast.

    I'm not sure how great the exodus of the Slavic population is going to be in Istria and Fiume. Novy List, the newspaper in which Mestrovic published his opinion ITTL, was a leading voice of Yugoslavism and thus politically very unwelcome to the Italian occupiers, so its relocation to Zagreb may not be that representative for the population at large.

    Yes, it is very complicated, and it also depends on who takes the reigns after the elections in the UoE. Avksentiev has clearly positioned himself as a supporter of a certain brand of Yugoslavism: a republican, agrarian-reformist, confederal or at the very least federal Yugoslav Republic - an idea of Yugoslavia which is popular among Bulgaria's strong BANU revolutionaries, and also among Stjepan Radic's Croatian Peasant Party, and among the peasantry of Bosnia-Hercegovina, too. These republican and revolutionary Yugoslavists have just been shot at by the Serbian military, so while Serbia is an old ally of Russia and both are clearly still Entente allies, relations between certain influential elements both in the political and in the military leadership of the UoE on the one hand, and the Serbian government on the other hand are probably not quite perfect.

    The problem of the Narodnik plan for the kind of Yugoslav ally they would love to have is that it is not quite popular in Serbia beyond strictly leftist parties, and enjoys no popularity at all among Serbia's army. But the Serbian army is by far the largest, best-organised and most disciplined autochtonous military force in the region. Without Serbia, the idea is still-born, at least in 1918. Which doesn't mean it's going to go gentle into that good night.

    Now I want a holiday in Sicily...
     
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  17. lukedalton Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2009
    Location:
    North Italy
    Well i take as reference the italian civilian exodus after Caporetto, with approximately 300.000 civilian escaped from the soon to be occupied zone; so with the general italian advance i expect that also the A-H civilian will try to leave the zone with whatever possession they have, plus there is the one like Mestrovic that fear that the italians will be against him for political reason (not an unresonable though IMHO).

    About the Serbian-Italian agreement, well it's a reasonable assumption and more or less the line of though of the italian goverment at the time; naturally this can create further trouble with the Croats, giving ammunitions the Mestrovic and co. Honestly it's a situation were nobody will come out of the negotiation table happy or with everything he wanted/was promised. The most probable outcome is something out of OTL in territorial terms, with the Kingdom of Italy gaining something more but nothing of lifechanging (an enlarged Zara or the city of Split, a couple of Island more than OTL); what will be different is an earlier agreement that will stop the situation to become an albatross attached to the italian political life and will probably avoid the departure of the italian delegation and her humiliating return.


    Well, there is also some realpolitick factor as Serbia is an old russian ally and can also mean access to a meditterean port and general influence in the region...but as you said much depend on who win the election and how much 'old fashioned' in political term he is, even because continuing shooting people will not make them look very good to the UoE pubblic opinion an almost non factor in the 'good old' URSS
     
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  18. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    I didn't know it was so many! How many, would you say, were ordered to retreat (like administration, police etc.?)
    If there is a massive Slavic exodus from Istria, then that's another destabilising factor (and a recruitment ground for all sorts of anti-Italian movements).

    Shooting communists didn't get you on Moscow's good side in OTL, OTOH. Yes, seeking good relations with Serbia would be logical and traditional. From among the field of prospective candidates, Avksentiev is already the most moderate and traditionalist, and even he has his problems with Serbia. The Serbian Army has stopped shooting Bulgarian revolutionaries by the time Mestrovic publishes his piece of opinion (and trying not to let relations with the Russians go too sour was one factor here, aside from the fact that they didn't care for the Bulgarian tsar really, just saw him as the better warrant of the armistice terms), but no doubt the situation in the former Habsburg lands is nearing a state of civil war, where the Serbs attempt to put down what they see as sedition against the new Slovene-Croat-Serbian state which seeks unification with them..

    There are bourgeois, traditional candidates in the race, but they don't stand much of a chance in 1918's UoE. Aside from Avksentiev, the other possible Presidents of the Union are our "incumbent" SR, Boris Kamkov, or a Social Democratic candidate from the unification bloc (the other RSDLP splinters are without any chances), where the internal race is between Trotsky, Ryazanov, and Zinoniev. Neither of these is very traditionalist. I'll cover the parties' choices of candidates in one of the next updates, where I'll also outline their platforms, but a return to a foreign policy aimed at maintaining and expanding traditional alliances is probably not among any of them.
     
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  19. lukedalton Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2009
    Location:
    North Italy
    Not a big part of them, this numbers refers principally the displaced relocated in the south of Italy; much of them was also due to the propaganda that depicted the A-H as the new coming of the huns (but to be honest, due to the shortage of supply of the A-H army, they basically razed the place by taking everything left) and i doubt that the Hapbsurg had treated the italians differently
     
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  20. Hnau free radical

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2007
    Location:
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Wow Salvador!!! Things are looking good in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Very interesting to see more from these pan-Slavists. Nice work! :cool:
     
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