Feeble Constitution - A Red-and-Green Russia 1917

Here is my fourth TL, finally in the finished format. Enjoy!
April 1917: Lvov Resigns
For this timeline, I am borrrowing his primary PoD of a much fuller train of Russian revolutionaries travelling with V. I. Lenin to Finland Station, bringing many more prominent and illustrious left-wing revolutionary personalities into the game earlier.

This TL departs from @GiantMonkeyMan 's with the following events which unfolded in the evening and night from the 20th to the 21st of Russia's old April of 1917, that is, from the 3rd to the 4th of May 1917 in the calendar we are more comfortable with. Like the next couple of updates, they will be pieces from ATL newspapers from different countries.

So, here goes a public announcement on the front pages of: Delo Naroda; Rabotschaja Gazeta, Novaya Zhisn and Trud on April 22nd (May 5th) 1917:

delo naroda etc.jpg

Lvov resigns!

We print the declaration and appeal to all Russians adopted by the Petrograd Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviet last night in reaction to the collective demission of the provisional government:

We, the working people and defenders of the revolution and our Motherland, have received the demission of the provisional government and acknowledged it with deep sorrow and serious concern. Now we must face our common challenges with courage and determination!

Last night, our delegates conferred with Prince Lvov’s cabinet with the goal to achieve the utmost clarity that the sacrifices we continue to bring in the great war have the sole purpose of defending our revolution, that is, ourselves, our sisters and brothers, parents and children, and the democratic republic we strive to build together, and that both Lvov and [foreign minister] Milyukov commit themselves before the eyes and ears of the peoples of Russia and of our worldwide allies to this purely defensive endeavor, and to the relentless struggle for a peace without annexations or indemnities. With this most modest demand the provisional government was not willing to comply. When our delegates remained firm in conveying your, our brave people’s, exigencies, Lvov and all his ministers, with the exception of Alexander Kerensky, have resigned.

Since last night, we have not been able to establish communications with the large factions of the Duma, and no new proposals have come forth in response to our calls. In light of these developments, and to prevent our motherland from stumbling onwards without a government, we have resolved, by 903 votes against 72, to accept the self-dissolution of the provisional government, and to make all preparations required for holding immediate elections to an All-Russian Constituent Assembly on the dates and in the manner laid out by the Duma’s law for municipal and provincial elections of April 15th, to be concluded no later than June 15th. Until then, and to secure the defense, provision, organization and order of our motherland and all its peoples, five committees have been established by democratic vote. We appeal to all citizens, to all soldiers, workers and farmers, to anyone working in the administration of our towns, uezds, volosts, and oblasts, to their Dumas and Zemstvos, to support our effort in protecting and upholding our common lives, and our effort to organize free, fair, secret, universal, and direct elections for all men and women from all of Russia’s peoples.

The Military Committee [1] has elected Pavel Lazimir as their speaker and he has called upon the central command and we call upon all soldiers to hold their positions in the defense of the motherland and to counsel with the military committee about the further course of action. The military committee calls on all regional soviets to form regional military committees in order to guard the people’s safety, and to build up a mighty and united force of the people’s self-defense.

The Committee of Industry, Labour, and Transportation [2] has elected Matvei Skobelev as their speaker. With the committee, we ensure to all workers in every corner of Russia the sacrosanctity of the limitation of the workday to eight hours and not a minute more, and we call upon all workers and their factory councils to counsel with the committee of industry, labour and transporation and to uphold the production of all the goods required to feed and clothe and protect our entire people.

The Committee of Agriculture and Supply [3] has elected Panteleimon Vikhliaev as their speaker. The committee has immediately begun all necessary preparations for thorough and just agrarian reform, and with the committee we call to the farthest reaches of our republic to join in our coordinated effort to restore every obshchina and to ensure the daily bread to every man, woman and child.

The Committee of Communications and Territorial Organization [4] has elected Irakli Tsereteli as their speaker, and with the committee we call on all defenders of the revolution to put their differences aside and stand together in saving our motherland and the republic we will buld in it, whose free people must now rise and take their fate into their own hands.

For the General Committee of the Soviet of the Workers and Soldiers of Petrograd:
Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky, Fyodor Dan, Viktor Chernov, Mikhail Liber

[1] In further updates abbreviated as Voykom

[2] In further updates abbreviated as Transtrudkom

[3] In further updates abbreviated as Selposkom

[4] In further updates abbreviated as Svyazkom
July 1917 - Chernov Elected
London (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland): The Times, July 6th, 1917, p.1:


PETROGRAD, Russia · from our correspondent John Postlethwaite, who enjoyed the privilege of exclusive access to this historical moment ·
In the Taurid Palace, Russia’s Constituant Assembly gathered for its inaugural meeting on Wednesday. The electoral process, which should have been the first free and fair one under a universal franchise, had been overshadowed by electoral irregularities, intimidations, and all manner of fraudulences (our newspaper reported). The first parliamentary session is not likely to dispel growing anxieties in reasonable circles both within the beleaguered empire and among its allies. Mirroring the atmosphere of growing radicalisation on the streets, the assembly has elevated Victor Chernov, a populist from the radical left, to the highest position of power in the emerging republic. The chairman of the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries, a party which openly engaged in terrorism as a political means on several occasions, now bears the unfamiliar title of “Supreme Comissioner”. But the election of a man who has only ever criticised Russia’s engagement in the great war as the supreme commander of the world’s largest army was not even the most worrying development of the evening.

An observer could have been forgiven for gaining the false impression that the solemn halls once designed for Catherine the Great had instilled a sense of duty in the 808 men and women representing Russia’s manifold nations and tribes, when they elected the popular and dignified icon of the revolution, 73-year old Yekaterina K. Breshko-Breshkovskaya, with overwhelming majority as speaker of the assembly, and then proceeded to unanimously consent to the proposal of adapting Russia’s time-keeping to the calendar used by most other civilized nations.

Soon, though, division and strife prevailed. Pavel Milyukov, the leader of the liberal Kadet Party, whose disappointing electoral results surprised many, reiterated his accusations of electoral fraud: thousands of newly conscripted army recruits who had already voted in their home districts voted again in their military units; country houses of moderate candidates assaulted by mobs who, encouraged by extreme socialists, proceeded to divvy up the rightful owners’ property and then mocked their misery by declaring their squatted homes into village polling stations; self-proclaimed authorities of rural districts compiling ballots with Estonian versions of the candidates’ names in Latin letters only; and many more such occurrences. [1] His appeal for a parliamentary inquiry into these irregularities was shouted down by a furious radical majority.

This radical majority is far from coherent, though. Populists and Marxists, agrarian reformers and labour unionists, advocates of so-called “revolutionary defensism” and those who espouse outright defeatism, all appear to detest each other, and to seek triumph over their next of ideological kin more than that over the German, Danubian, and Ottoman aggressors. Legal procedure provided more bones of contention, e.g. concerning the status of the occupied Polish and Lithuanian territories, whose population had not been able to participate in the elections, a circumstance which the Kadets and smaller moderate groups sought to acknowledge by declaring a number of seats corresponding to the missing electoral participants vacant. From the left, this proposal, which would have served to raise the threshold for a candidate’s election, making a broader national consensus inevitable, was vehemently rejected. The national awakenings of the countless nations and tribes of the vast empire, from Cossacks to Mahommedans, further complicate the matter – Chernov, for example, was not even voted into office by the Ukrainian delegates of his own party because in their eyes he did not offer sufficient commitment to the causes of national autonomy and increased defensive measures, and instead he relied on the support of Finnish, Georgian and Armenian social democrats for whose tastes he represented at least a better choice than their own candidate, Julius Martov, who is even more pacifistic and derides national sentiments as bourgeois illusions. Personal ambition only contributes to this state of confusion: Alexander Kerensky and Victor Chernov, two men who share a great degree of political goals and convictions, nonetheless candidated as rivals instead of joining their forces. Kerensky established his own “United Popular Socialist and Labour” faction of only 39 delegates after tumultuous scenes revolving around allegations of a freemasonic conspiracy which degenerated into undignified fisticuffs. And even farther out on the left fringe, the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Ilych Lenin, whom many suspect to be a German agent, denounced all other factions as lackeys of “imperialist capital interests”, indulging in what he labels “revolutionary defeatism” and unnerving the plenary with his rambling addresses to the “international proletariat” which he exhorted to rise up and “shake off their yoke”, alluding that the chaos and destructions of the past few weeks represented, in the eyes of his party, good omens for the coming overturning of all social structures.

It was only in the small hours, when the lights in Starov’s splendid chandeliers competed against the pale dark blue of the “white night”, that Chernov was able to obtain his majority, courting, among others, even the utmost leftist fringes of the political spectrum. In the last round of speeches before his election, a number of experienced statesmen from previous state dumas spoke out with increasing anxiety and warned the assembly against a political course which prolongs and even condones the anarchic situation which grips the country, undermines property rights, and weakens the threatened empire’s ability to stave off the aggressors – but to no avail.

Reliable sources in Russia’s leading social and military circles have confided their acute worries to us and warned us against the consequences of a crisis of leadership in these critical moments, pointing towards the current politically motivated replacements of some of the most capable military officers from Stavka. [2] It remains to be hoped that our own government sees the writing on the wall and steps up mobilisation and equipment efforts so as to ensure the necessary reinforcement of our positions against the possibility of a redoubled German onslaught made possible by a no longer purely theoretical withdrawal of Russia.

[1] Such things are almost inevitable, and IOTL the Kadets used warnings against such developments as an excuse for endlessly postponing the elections for a constituent assembly.

[2] This alludes to conspiratorial plans by leading anti-republican and anti-socialist officers having been unveiled by soldiers loyal to provisional Soviet rule and to the revolution, which forced commander-in-chief Mikhail Alexeyev to arrest Anton Denikin, the conspiratorial web’s spider sitting right below him at Stavka, but then contributed to Alexeyev’s own demission. Voykom replaced Alexeyev with Alexey Brusilov in early June.

I am aware that such a significant leap over months of revolutionary developments and the lopsided presentation from the limited perspective of a conservative British newspaper is bound to leave open quite a few questions. I shall be happy to deliver additional information on your request.
July 1917 - German Demands Rejected
Petrograd: Rech, July 29th, p.1:


by Iosif Gessen [1]

Yesterday, sanity and courage finally prevailed as the Constituent Assembly rejected the insulting German “offer” for an armistice with on overwhelming majority of 664 delegates over only 97 dissenters. Hours before, Supreme Commissioner Victor Chernov himself had recommended to our parliamentarians the rejection of the conditions presented by the Germans in the commission in which he himself had taken a leading role. The German negotiators had demanded the recognition of the puppet kingdoms they are currently propping up in Poland and Lithuania, the cessation of all Russian property in these lands, our acquiescence to the utmost German control over these countries, their governments, their economy and their military, a withdrawal of our troops from the unoccupied parts of the governorates of Riga, Courland, Vilno, Minsk, Zhitomyr, Podolia and Bessarabia, and additional “reparatory” payments. Confronted with such an outrageous “offer”, even Chernov, who had approached the German Empire against better advice from experienced statesmen and military experts and the diplomatic corps with his starry-eyed conception of a “peace without annexations or indemnities”, finally saw the situation for what it was.

While the KD rejected the German demands unanimously, a group within his own SR [2] around radical Natanson joined the Bolshevik opposition in its cowardly cries for immediate peace, regardless of the cost for our motherland. It is unclear if this means Natanson has embraced Lenin’s deluded notion of demobilizing our organized army and converting the entire civilian population into guerilla fighters until, in some uncertain future, Germany’s proletariat shall rise up against its triumphant emperor and his military might, or if he considers the terms dictated by Berlin acceptable indeed.

Facing such internal opposition, Chernov remained surprisingly firm. Now that he has apparently returned to reason, we are, desperately, reaching out to him once again. Given the rifts which are breaking up in our society, this may well be the last chance to come together and join our forces. The KD offer their continued support, and our willingness to join a national coalition to save our motherland. To make this possible, we empathically appeal to the supreme commissioner to refuse to sign the dangerous and divisive Land Reform Act, and we appeal to the more moderate and reasonable among his followers to put an end to the lawlessness which presently terrorizes the countryside, and to postpone the question of agrarian reform until the great war is concluded.

Chernov has committed a dangerous mistake in approaching the Germans – now our enemy is certain to suspect weakness on our side, and he will attack again, with all the might he has assembled along the Western and Northern fronts, striking against the heart of Russia. To fend him off, all those who are brave enough and care for our young republic must stand together, instead of robbing, threatening and defaming each other. The KD is willing to wholeheartedly support the current commission’s attempts to organize our defense. To this end, it cannot be stressed enough how important it is not to alienate those whom we must trust to lead our defensive efforts.

The skills which our experienced statesmen could bring to the joint patriotic effort are direly needed to avoid dangerous gaffes like the one committed by Chernov in the speech in which he rejected the German plans for Poland and Lithuania – which he was right to do –, but then promised to uphold the position that “the Polish and Lithuanian nations will determine their political future themselves, in a truly and authentically democratic process”, without clarifying that, with this process, he meant our common endeavor of drafting a constitution which determines cultural and territorial autonomies, yet leaves the union and integrity of our common republic inviolable. Through his omission, he has undoubtedly and unnecessarily stoked the fires of separatism not only in Poland, but also in Lithuania, where local elites had, only weeks ago, communicated rather clearly to the German military command that their desire to pride themselves with a nation state of their own is not so big as to accept it being a puppet on Berlin’s economic and military strings, and other separatist movements are likely to follow suit. To avoid such blunders, it is high time to establish separate Commissioners for Foreign Affairs and for National and Religious Minorities, and to draw effectively on the experiences of the men in our country’s diplomatic service – our chairman, Pavel Milyukov, being the ideal candidate to achieve just that.

It is not too late yet for the responsible, patriotic democrats to close their ranks and prepare for the enemy’s onslaught, but there is not another hour to be lost, either.

[1] IOTL and ITTL chief editor of the Kadet's newspaper and a leading member of the Constitutional Democratic Party.

[2] To be read: “esery”
August 1917 - Riga Falls to Germans
Sundsvall (Kingdom of Sweden), Dagbladet Nya Samhället, August 21st, 1917, p.1:


by Mauritz Västberg [1]

The latest German offensive in the Baltic has met with its first major success. Over the course of the past three days, the Eighth German Army, which had crossed the Daugava shortly before after massive artillery barrage [2], has stormed Riga, once Latvia’s proudest city, but long since transformed into a ghost town by the war, and is securing its bridgehead which controls the mouth of Latvia’s most important river.

The decisive disadvantage of the Russian defenders has been their internal divisions. Whereas desertions had long been primarily a problem among simple peasant conscripts, the Russian Twelfth Army – much like their equivalents elsewhere – is now, after the beginning of the apparently unsuccessful coup ten days ago [3], being plagued with desertions by high-ranking officers. Their supreme commander, Radko Dimitriev, who had pulled his strings at Stavka for more than a month in order to avoid the strengthening of his forces by the staunchly republican and left-leaning Latvian Riflemen regiments [4], deserted his soldiers in the midst of the defensive organisations, followed by a number of right-wing officers. The Twelfth Army had to restructure itself under Dmitri Parski’s command while in full retreat.

What we are witnessing in Latvia – and elsewhere in Russia, too – is the terrible outcome of the betrayal which Russia’s aristocratic, violently anti-socialist officer class is committing not just against the government which was democratically elected to direct their military endeavours, but also against the entire country which they have sworn to serve and which they so loudly proclaim to love and protect against separatists [5] and unpatriotic internationalists. The amount of Russia’s present military catastrophe is, first and foremost, to be blamed on the former empire’s military gentry, as has been the case throughout the past three years. But now, the tsarist officer class is no longer just running the world’s biggest military force into the ground through incompetent leadership and ill-fated maneuvres which were at least undertaken in good faith – now they are consciously sabotaging the defense of their motherland, aiding the agenda of the German enemy they proclaim to hate so fervently. It appears as if the elites of the old order, confronted with the realization that they cannot stop the revolution of the toiling masses, are now bent on taking down as much of the new order with them as they can. Their calls to Russian patriotism are falsehoods, as everyone must realize now at last. They are sacrificing Russia and thinking about nobody but themselves.

In the interest of workers worldwide, and of a fair and lasting democratic peace, we can only hope that Germany’s strong-willed proletariat will ultimately realize that they are not fighting for their own interests, and draw the necessary conclusions, while Russia’s awakening agricultural and industrial workers are putting their differences [6] aside in order to defeat both the treacherous enemy within and the insatiable oppressor who stomps across their fields and hoists his flag atop their factories.

[1] This is a Social-Democratic newspaper from Northern Sweden.

[2] (Durch-)Bruchmüller is leaving his imprint just like IOTL. In fact, the whole battle goes on fairly similar to OTL, only two weeks earlier – and without being preceded by a failed Kerensky offensive.

[3] I wouldn’t put it that way. This is much broader than OTL's Kornilov coup. This coup has failed to control Petrograd and take out the CA-backed government and overall hasn’t managed to stop the revolution in its tracks, but it also hasn’t ended, as the following descriptions reveal. Rather, these were the opening salvoes in TTL’s Russian Civil War…. Well, not quite yet, the resistance isn't as massive as the "White" forces were IOTL, either. To give a very short sketch of what has happened in the ten days since the coup commenced: a conspiracy of military leaders has attempted to usurp military control from the CA, and they had/have quite a number of people both within the former tsarist administrative apparatus and among the economic elites on their side. But Lavr Kornilov ultimately messes things up in Petrograd himself, the bulk of the military units which he attempts to utilize for his plan turn against him in defense of the republic, and they manage to disperse (and kill some of) the forces unwaveringly loyal to the former commander of Petrograd. For now, the centre of revolutionary political power is safe. Radko Dimitriev has moved too slow and doesn’t have much to contribute after his demise from the retreating Twelfth Army’s leadership, while Mikhail Drozdovsky, the leader of the conspirators on the South-Western front, had the carpet pulled from under him by forces loyal to the CA under the command of Pyotr Baluyev. The only place where anti-CA forces have managed to prevail is along the Don, where Alexey Kaledin had had ample time to lay the groundwork for such a move among the region’s military-social Cossack elites. But the conflict is certainly not over yet.

4] This is no longer similar to OTL: here, the Latvian Rifles are not in full insubordination and supporting the Bolsheviks; instead, they were instrumental in upholding intermediary soviet rule in Latvia in May and have since been supporting the Social-Democracy of the Latvian Territory’s alliance with the SRs in the CA, they have supported Chernov’s peace offer, but the German answer has convinced a majority among them, including Andrejs Auzāns and Jukums Vācietis, that there is no alternative to defending their Latvian home country alongside the rest of Russia’s army.

[5] Avowed opposition against Chernov’s vague stance towards far-reaching national autonomies was one rallying cry of the junta which attempted to overthrow him. What is probably far more important is that Chernov and the central committee of the SRs decided to carry on with the land distribution scheme, which is taking away many an officer’s country estates.

[6] More on those soon.
August 1917 - Lenin's List of Demands
Petrograd, Pravda, August 31st, 1917, p. 1:


Dear readers, we are printing the following speech, held yesterday by our central committee’s chairman and speaker of our faction in the Constituent Assembly, in full, for we consider it highly instructive for the pressing information and agitation work at hand:

“The Commission has demanded from us to press into the politically conscious proletariat. We are expected to throw revolutionary workers, who look to us for guidance, to the wolves. Factory defense groups, proletarian militia – the majority in this house has threatened them and us with indictments of treason if we do not manage to coax anyone who has gained experience in defending themselves to enroll into their military units. They want to liquidate the free defensive forces of the proletariat, and feed them into the imperialist war machine. Elected leadership is to be replaced with officers appointed by the commissars. The suppression of the counter-revolutionary coup demands it, they say. The German threat demands it, they shout. In the name of the revolution, of democracy, of socialism, everyone must close ranks now, they scream at us.

This is a trick, and we will not fall for it. Their words are hollow. Yes, we do exhort the workers to ready themselves. The new Black Hundreds are coming for us [1], and we will lead the fight against them, we will not be enslaved and broken again. But this commission has no legitimacy, no mandate and no right to command us. The thieves of the revolution cannot demand loyalty. The most acutely politically aware segments of the proletariat must not abandon their initiative and their autonomy, they must not give themselves in in order to be sacrificed on the imperialist battlefield by a government which is only socialist in name, but not in deed.

This commission is starving millions of workers at the behest of bourgeois speculators [2]. The repeal of the cereal price laws cannot yet benefit an empowered peasantry, as Vikhlianov has claimed, because what is sold now for much higher prices cannot yet be their harvests – it has only revealed how much grain had been hoarded by the rural petty bourgeoisie – the very same types who now sit in oblast voykoms, waving the SR flag and threatening the hungry masses with repression if they do not bow to their leadership.

This commission is drafting a constitution which denies the inalienability of the right to strike, by placing the “conditions of its practical realization” under the grace of the territorial soviets – on the same level as “private property” [3]. But these territorial soviets have ceased to be an instrument of the revolutionary working class [4]. By the role which Vikhliaev’s distributist chimera of a “land reform” allots to them, the territorial soviets have become instruments of embezzlement and corruption. Vikhliaev calls his agrarian law and his constitutional plans for the territorial soviets “socialist”, but they are as remote from socialism as the moon is from the sun. Vikhliaev and Chernov evidently do not understand the concept of socialism; they are not only wasting a historical moment, they are also laying the groundwork for a particularly pernicious type of capitalism arising from the Russian countryside, which molds itself corresponding institution of statehood, in which kulaks and village strongmen play democracy – until they shall find that they no longer like the tune, and switch to singing the great litany which prays for their new S. R. tsar.

Under these conditions, we cannot advise the workers to surrender their arms and sacrifice the momentum of their fight, and throw themselves into the meatgrinder of the imperialist war. Neither the capture of Riga, nor indeed the capture of Petrograd can make us defencists. We will only become defencists when the grain and the factories are in the hands of the workers and managed and distributed democratically, when the secret deals with the private banks and international trusts are broken, when the defenders are allowed to follow the leaders they themselves have elected and the corrupted, treasonous military aristocracy is unfrocked, and their collaborators over there among the KDs are arrested and investigations begun against them.”

[1] Lenin is being only half-metaphorical here. Some armed anti-socialist groups hostile to the new government/commission are indeed openly referencing the tradition of the Black Hundreds, while others aren’t. Their ideological spectrum is diverse.

[2] Actually, the commission has removed a number of price ceilings for agricultural products – a step which has sent bread prices skyrocketing at first, after which a lot of grain suddenly appeared out of nowhere… Malnutrition hasn’t got worse than it already was in the past few months actually, but rising food prices have indeed induced a wave of strikes for wages which match the rising costs of living.

[3] The first constitutional draft does confer quite far-reaching economic powers to territorial soviets to be formally elected by “a uezd’s, volost’s, or oblast’s entire toiling population”.

[4] Quite clearly, this is no longer our “All power to the soviets!” Lenin.
Divergences among Russian Political Parties March-August 1917
A quick overview and authorial commentary on the dynamics of the most influential political groups ITTL and their divergence from OTL, beginning in March 1917:

When considerably more Western exiles return with Lenin on the allegedly sealed train to Finland Station, this means that not only the Bolsheviks, but also the Socialist Revolutionaries and the non-Bolshevik fission products of the RSDLP are infused earlier with a lot of people who clearly do not espouse defensist positions.

The resignation of the Provisional Government is an effect of a less overcautious Petrograd Soviet. The preceding April Days had rallied the Bolsheviks behind Lenin’s positions like IOTL, and it had caused pains for the SRs as well as the non-Bolshevik Social Democrats, also much like IOTL. Defensism vs. defeatism, “hiding behind the bourgeois liberals” vs. “assuming full socialist-only power” were major dividing lines in the left (primarily at the centre of power in Petrograd) IOTL, and while this is how things start ITTL, too, the latter controversy is somewhat resolved when a still-reluctant soviet more or less stumbles into the position of sole political authority. Or rather, it becomes transformed into the controversy about the interpretation of soviet power: quite a number of those who had previously argued against “all power to the soviets” are now arguing against quick radical measures which would alienate the functioning remnants of an administrative apparatus in the territory and the zemstwos and for postponing questions like agrarian reform, nationalization of industries etc. for a month until the Constituent Assembly is elected, which would have much greater legitimacy to implement them. And many of those who called for “all power to the soviets”, with Lenin at their front, now advocated for using this power to the fullest in May. But this isn’t exactly the same configuration, for while underlying preferences for playing it safe and taking baby steps vs. going all in with one’s attempts to overthrow, well, everything, do come into play, the Marxist “stage theory” interpretation of events lends itself less as a guide and argument for moderate Mensheviks. Let’s call the former camp “Legalists” and the latter “Actionists”. Among the Mensheviks – even among the much more left-leaning Internationalist Mensheviks – Legalism is absolutely dominant at this point, while the Bolsheviks are mostly actionists. This plays into the Bolsheviks’ cards, but they control only very few soviets, so they can’t implement anything in May, but their radicalism gains them more than 10 % of CA seats Russia-wide and a lot of new followers. The Socialist Revolutionaries feature both Legalists and Actionists, but in contrast to the Bolsheviks, their left wing is in a position to push forward land distribution through their dominance of peasant soviets and of the revolutionary movement in the countryside in general. Where local SR groups have participated in illegal Actionist land distributions, they have managed to secure an almost invincible powerbase for the time being. The power balance within the SRs is shifted considerably to the left earlier when compared to OTL.

The KD and other bourgeois parties are shocked by all this; there is a lot of discontent with a leadership which has overplayed their cards and handed over the reigns of the country to the socialists on a platter when their bluff was called. Yet, for all this dissatisfaction, the democratic bourgeois parties are torn between two directions, too: should they admonish their base of support in the lower ranks of the administration and among urban professionals to play nice and stress a reformist agenda in order to save as much of their parliamentary power as possible under the conditions of the electoral process being controlled by workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ soviets? Or should they capitalize on the fears of the well-to-do and participate in schemes aimed at removing the socialists from power? In this conflict, Guchkov and Rodzianko and most other Octobrists, but also an increasing number of Kadets opt for “anything against the socialists”, whereas the left wing of the Kadets (Nekrasaov, Oldenburg etc.) opts for renewed cooperation, while the KD leadership around Milyukov wavers between both positions, warning the socialists against antagonizing the elites and extending offers of cooperation which are, at the same time, simply not going far enough to even become worth considering by parties standing to their left in the CA.

Once the CA convenes, the controversy between moderates and radicals on the Left transforms again: a very sizable faction of left-leaning Legalists are supportive of far-reaching socialist reforms now that they can be based on a parliamentary legitimacy, and the policy agenda of the new Chernov commission actually legalizes various Actionist measures, leaving more or less only the Bolsheviks and the Anarchists in defense of illegal “direct” worker action. The dynamics of the opening session, which The Times has reported on, must have been overwhelming. The KD lamenting, protesting, with its back against the wall. The Mensheviks breaking apart into two factions – the internationalists nominating the party’s official chairman, highly respected Julius Martov, while staunch defensists from the moderate wing do not nominate a (chanceless) candidate and decide to support Chernov. (The defensists are especially strong in Georgia, hence the comment in The Times, which also lumps together the Georgian Mensheviks with the Armenian Dashnaks, who also vote for Chernov as the lesser evil among various doves, hoping that by joining the coalition, they can reach the most with regards to a continued commitment to holding the front in Armenia against the Ottomans.) The SRs divided between a centrist wing, who seeks a broad coalition at least for the times of war and proposes to remain vague about land reform, a left wing, who seeks immediate abolition of private property of land and an end to war whatever the cost, and a left centre where chairman Chernov stands, too. Some from the centrist wing would have preferred Kerensky as Supreme Commissioner, but ultimately they’re too insignificant to sway the faction’s opinion away from its prominent and well-respected party chairman. Kerensky, no doubt a man of ambition, decides to end his flirt with the SR as a consequence and sets up his own Popular Socialist and Labour faction, defensist through and through, opposed to further revolutionary upheaval and to expropriations without compensation; their relative insignificance renders Kerensky’s strategy of bridging the gap between KD and moderate socialists futile. The Bolsheviks appear like a monolithic block of unity by comparison, but although none of them questions the point of nominating Lenin as a candidate with no chance of winning, the faction is still rather diverse. And then there are a few leftist splinters – a lot, actually, not even counting the various national subdivisions of the greater parties into the picture: a dozen anarchists of different flavours, a few Mezhraiontsy, many of whom join Martov’s Internationalist Menshevik faction while some become Bolsheviks like IOTL, Plekhanov’s Edinstwo, whose two representatives voted for Chernov, too… and more.

By beginning the distribution of larger estates among the peasantry and by reaching out to the Central Powers with an offer for peace, Chernov pursues a policy at the left-most edge of those who had voted for him, which brings him closer to the Internationalist Mensheviks, too, many of whom ultimately agree to reject the German counter-offer. Credibly pursuing peace was Chernov’s best decision, even though he objectively failed, because it increased the acceptance of continuing the war effort afterwards – and Chernov’s war efforts are of a purely defensive nature, too, merely attempting to hold positions which are deep on former imperial territory. But the way I conceive of this, Chernov hasn’t acted that way out of some sort of conviction or strategic genius (he really wasn’t, he was a political thinker and a revered authority, but he had nowhere near the kind of instincts Lenin or Trotsky had), but because he actually listened to people who knew a lot more about things he had no clue of – like Russia’s military situation. Throughout July and August, Brusilov is still Commander in Chief. The man knew how shambolic the situation at the front looked, even without the attempted counter-revolutionary coup, and he advised Kerensky IOTL accordingly, too, but Kerensky desperately wanted a military success to stabilize the PG’s situation. Chernov has more power and less serious threats to his left, and he wasn’t a gambler. Brusilov is going to advise him to restore discipline through draconic punishments, like he advised Kerensky, but like Kerensky Chernov knows he can’t pull that off and probably also really doesn’t want to. Having been convinced that most of the army isn’t much to brag with, he’s drawing logical conclusions: opening peace talks with the Central Powers (although that’s going to cost him both political and financial capital with the rest of the Entente and especially Britain), ordering an absolute priority on defensive tactics, and setting about to reshape the military. Since he doesn’t have a lot of time before the counter-revolutionary coup begins, the best thing he achieves is probably to strengthen and field highly motivated ethnic divisions like the Czechoslovak Legion, a Romanian Legion, maybe even more. When the Germans make unacceptable demands – basically what they demanded from the Bolsheviks in December 1917, which sent Trotsky into nausea –, Chernov must reject, for he wouldn’t be able to muster a majority in the CA for such a deal.

On the home front, Chernov is faced with dwindling industrial production and the continuation of the food crisis, as well as with massive pressure from the militant SR networks in “the territory”, who will have grown into quite an important factor at this point, to legalize the land distributions and universalize them across Russia with a land reform law. Also, he doesn’t need much pushing; Chernov submitted Land Reform Law after Land Reform Law to Lwow and later Kerensky IOTL, all of which were sent to the dustbin. In his conception – and in that of his “man for the details”, Panteleimon Vikhliaev –, “socialist revolution” in Russia primarily meant empowering the peasantry through political and agrarian reform and aid in modernization, and empowering the industrial proletariat through political reform, means of co-management in the factories, protective labour laws, and social security. Land reform had been the no. 1 political goal on any SR electoral platform, and on that of its Narodnik predecessors as well. It’s basically to the SRs what the eight-hour workday was for social democrats and trade unionists.

By signing the Land Reform Act which a coalition of SRs and various national minority groups had drafted and passed in record time, and shortly thereafter by removing the fixed prices on various kinds of foodstuff which had been set by the tsarist government during the war, the SRs are delivering to their clientele. At the same time, as we can read from Lenin’s furious invectives, they’re driving industrial workers into panic and into action, causing a wave of strikes for higher wages to meet the rising costs of living, accompanied by the by-now-usual illegal occupation of a factory or five by Bolshevik- and Anarchist-aligned groups of workers.

All of this sets off the explosion among the upper classes. Chernov and the entire revolution is faced, from August 11th onwards, with an attempted coup in Petrograd by Kornilov, which fails, and by military clashes between putschist and CA-loyalist military units – as soon as German military intelligence hears of that, they’re starting the offensive to finally kick Russia out of the war which they had been preparing at least from the moment in which Chernov offered peace. While the Germans advance in the Baltic, the A-H advance against Romanian positions at Mārāşeşti gets bogged down about as much as IOTL. In the Ukraine, the Germans are advancing a few kilometers, too, but their main thrust there is stopped, like in OTL’s Kerensky Offensive, by the Czechoslovak Legion, who is loyal because it doesn’t give a rat about who is in charge in Petrograd as long as they get to liberate their home country from Habsburg rule.

Apart from the dangerous situation at the front, Chernov’s commission has also lost control over some territory and to some degree generally across the former empire due to the attempted coup. As has been mentioned, Kaledin has brought territory along the Don under the control of insurgent Cossacks (more on that in the next regular update), and more and more officers are deserting. Even though Milyukov, who had been absent during the first pivotal days of the coup, has returned, when it became clear that Kornilov's coup had failed, with a public condemnation of military insubordination in the name of the KD faction,there is protest, strike, and sabotage from members and groups within the public administration, too, and even in CA-controlled territory, anti-socialist paramilitary units are roaming freely. (Given the nature of TTL’s predominant class conflict at this juncture, clashes are most likely to occur across the countryside.)

Lenin’s speech from the last update takes place in a CA debate about a motion which would expel the small Octobrist faction accused of collaboration with the putschists from the CA and apprehend their leaders Guchkov and Rodzianko (ironically something Lenin demanded in this OTL letter) and give the commission far-reaching powers to reorganize provincial and local administration, to recruit and officialise loyal militia groups, and contain, apprehend and, if necessary, kill any members of insurgent militant groups. Chernov’s motion, which will pass the CA with Menshevik consent after special rights and privileges of trade unions are not merely left untouched but also constitutionally enshrined and protected, is not really aimed against the Bolsheviks or the Anarchists, who are viewed as the lesser threat when compared to the right-wing putschists by late August ITTL, but it could be used against them. With certainty, there will have been prior talks with Bolsheviks in which options for their inclusion in the anti-putschist alliance were explored (and more or less overt threats may have been uttered in the case of their non-cooperation), and the offer has been officially made by Chernov. Had the Bolsheviks accepted, they could have gotten hold of quite a bit of power. Within Lenin, in this dilemma, the Vanguardist, the Maximalist, and the Perspicacious Analyst of the Errors of Others must have struggled against the Power-Centralist and the Pragmatical Strategist (while IOTL all these impulses pushed him consistently in the same direction), but then the former prevailed. He has seen a few weeks of socialist reforms done by others with a different conception of socialism, and he’s among the first to see its imbroglios and the underlying reasons for them quite clearly. With his rejection of extradordinary powers for mostly SR-controlled territorial soviets (in order to keep the country running in spite of widespread desertion and sabotage by anti-socialist officials of all ranks), he almost sounds like an Anarchist now. (A criticism which many Mensheviks had levelled against him from the moment he left the train at Finland Station.) Of course, he isn’t one, he’s a vanguardist and a centralist, but he and the forceful militant network he has helped to build up are in a difficult situation now, and, as I’ve hinted at in the past authorial comment, there are Bolsheviks who begin to question Lenin’s wisdom and who see great benefits in joining the coalition even if they do not lead it themselves…

And I haven’t even begun to mention the National Questions which @GiantMonkeyMan has so rightly brought up, but that is because they are going to feature prominently in the next regular update on the situation in the Ukraine by September 1917.
October 1917 - Ukraine
Paris (French Republic): Le Petit Journal, October 5th, 1917, pp. 4-5:


by Albert Londres [1]

Taking in the atmosphere of the tea room of the Socerov manor, roughly four hundred kilometers from Kiev, and the emotional state of my hosts, I am reminded of a sentence I have heard three days ago in the capital of this new country at Europe’s edge: “Everything is crashing down all around us”, Olexandra Grimberg had said to me in the coffee house. “I have never been so afraid.” The same sentences could have been taken right out of my current hosts’ mouths.

In Kiev, these words had felt oddly misplaced to me. The city was busy, there had been parades celebrating the Russian Constituent Assembly’s consent to the establishment of a Ukrainian Federative Republic, and the transfer of important prerogatives to the Centralna Rada: not just the establishment of Ukrainian as official and educational language and complete sovereignty over religious and cultural questions, but also full control over the soil and its treasures by whatever economic council the Ukrainians chose to institutionalise, and even a territorial defense force of 100,000 men [2]. I had sensed mixed feelings in the streets of Kiev, but enthusiasm was a strong part of the mixture. Olexandra Grimberg had sat across the table from me, not looking frightened at all, which only heightened my sense of incongruity. But as she continued to speak with trembling voice, I slowly came to see her fears.

“The Germans and Austrians are rolling in, and our miners are striking. Our politicians are celebrating themselves, but they’re not building a state, at least not a real one, one that functions, like your Republique.” Her tales about thefts, robberies and worse on the streets of Kiev were as numerous as they were gruesome, but three days ago, I was not sure of their veracity. “It was bad under the Tsar, you know, even after the end of the pogroms there were all sorts of harassments against us. And even for the others a single uncautious word could land you in Siberia.

“But now there is no real police at all any more, and those who play policemen are often the worst of all. What with the famine and shortages everywhere, it’s really no wonder that our streets aren’t safe.” She sipped her Viennese-style mélange.

“I have always liked Vinnychenko, he is a good man, at heart. But you know, he is a much better writer than a politician. Too weak. He is not a good leader, but anyone among those hyenas who are fighting to replace him is certain to be worse.” She refers to the chairman of the General Secretariat, the person who comes closest to being the prime minister of the new state of Ukraine. [3] When I alluded to the enthusiasm and the show of national unity in the streets, all those soldiers marching behind trident banners, she scoffed. “A big stupidity! Vinnychenko had never wanted a separate Ukrainian army. His hands were forced – this Concordance has Petlyura’s paws all over it, and all that while Mikhnovsky had been whispering from behind. How dumb can you be to rejoice about our military “self-determination” when the Austrians and the Germans are attacking, and Kaledin is stabbing you from behind? Don’t we need all the help we can get from Petrograd?”

I asked her about whom she suspects of playing for Vinnychenko’s chair. “Hrushevsky?” She rolls her eyes before she shakes her head. “No, he’s overstepped his zenith, too. He has always been romanticisng the Ukrainian peasantry, in his history books just like in his party. The whole lot of their leadership is just as frightened about their rank and file as he is now. They wanted to see the Ukrainian peasants bear the banners of freedom, and democracy, and socialism, and whatnot. Now the peasants are stirring, and Hrushevsky and Holubovich and Hristyuk [4] all recoil at the ghosts they conjured. The peasants over here are utterly uneducated, little better than beasts. You tell them that it’s their turn to rule the country, they don’t believe you, but if you insist long enough until they do believe you, they’ll make a riot, drink themselves silly, steal and rob, butcher someone like they do with their pigs, and fall over their feet, until someone arises and plays otaman to them, and leads them to their death, like lemmings. The future belongs to the ilk of Hrihorienko and Terpylo [5]. They’ll come out on top, that’ll be a grim future.”

According to my new hosts, here, in the countryside, this future has already become the present.

The journey hither was adventurous. While there are still trains running, even in Kiev there is hardly a chance to obtain a ticket and regularly board a passenger train to any destination. The big black engines, hastily but proudly decorated with yellow tridents, pull mostly freight wagons and cars packed with young men in ragged uniforms. I smuggled and bribed my way in. We did not depart. Some representatives of the railroad workers and some men in uniform shouted at each other. More people coming and shouting, a real crowd. Pressed among the motley band of soldiers and urged to keep my down, I was unable to leave the wagon in order to hear what those who climbed on a bench shouted, or what others from the crowd shouted back. Ultimately, the crowd dispersed, the engine whistled, the train rolled out of the station and the city. The boys – only some, I realized at second glance, wore real uniforms, while others were clad in peasant gymnastiorkas – were dispatched not to the front, but to quell some unrest. Their opinions on the matter were mixed. While some were encouraging each other and bringing themselves in the mood to “show these traitorous bastards what’s what”, others suggested that uniting forces with “the Bolsheviks” against “Kaledin’s bloodsuckers” and the “burzhooi counter-revolutionaries” would make a lot more sense. The first replied that “those damn red Russians” had been offered just that, but “we” – whoever that was became less and less clear to me – had been refused, and now they would not even produce coal anymore, in the middle of the war and what with the factories struggling and the people starving anyway. When both factions in this squabble reconciled and agreed that they knew “good honest Bolsheviks”, who were only led astray by their Jewish leadership, I remembered my conversation with Olexandra Grimberg and shivered. They broke out in a song which I thought was Cossack, and drank. When they offered me some, I asked them why they sang Cossack songs and yet despised Kaledin. “He’s a traitor! An oppressor!” several of them assured me. “All free Ukrainians are the real heirs of the Cossacks! Fighting for our own soil. Neither Kaledin nor the Hapsburgs nor anyone else is going to take it away from us again. Kaledin wants to force us back under the tsar’s whip and the boyars’ yoke. His Cossacks don’t belong in our modern times, they’re water under the bridge.”

As we continue to ride together, the boys began to speak more openly. Their unit has been pieced together only recently. Some of them are from different divisions of the Imperial Russian Army – Yennady tells me about how the revolution had caught him near Tarnopol, and how his unit had elected one from among their rank to a soldiers’ council… - while Niky reports of how he was sent by his group, who had attempted to maintain peace and order and protect their village when the administration had begun to unravel, to contribute to the defense of the motherland at the call of their Rada’s military committee.

Some hours into our ride, the train suddenly stopped with screeching brakes in the middle of the steppe. My companions were not surprised. Somebody had cut the lines. We continued on foot in different directions – my feet had carried me to the nearest settlement, where the good lady of the house had offered me water and a bed and, on the next day, yet more stories from a confusing land. Of threats and aggression, arrogation and blackmail, of the fabric of rural society feazing. She is somewhat apologetic of “her own peasants”, as she referred to them, with whom she claims she had never had any trouble. She blames “those rowdies” from another village for inciting trespassings and outrages here, and she full of spite and indignation when she tells of their leader informing the local peasantry of the “common decisions” which meant that the peasants should no longer pay the Socerovs their rent, and squat their land, “and then he had the brazenness to come to me and assure me that he would make sure things remained calm here, and that we were not to worry for our lives or our personal belongings, that was, if we agreed to pay the tax which his ‘soviet’ had invented!” Madame Socerova has shown me the rooms in which her servants and farmhands had lived – they had all left when she had no money left to pay them. [6] “This was a well-kept, productive farm! Now, there is nothing but chaos. If they think this is the way to ensure the towns receive bread, they have no clue whatsoever of agriculture!”

I am no longer sure who her criticism should be addressed to – but I cannot fail to witness that her assessment of the situation appears to be not too far off the mark. The youngest member in the club of European republics is still very much in teething troubles. Will it acquire its maturity and strength in time before its inner and outer enemies strangle it?

[1] This one is going to be a “réportage”, probably best translated into English as a feature story. While Le Petit Journal was certainly a centre-right newspaper and Londres was clearly full of bourgeois “habitus” (as Bourdieu would put it), his feature stories were not only in-depth, but also presenting both or even all sides of the story.

[2] More or less what the more nationalist Ukrainian currents in the Rada wanted IOTL. As I hinted at, Chernov’s gaffe about Polish and Lithuanian self-determination has escalated a dynamic which is at least as strong as OTL’s, but in contrast to OTL, there is a solidly legitimized body in Petrograd to negotiate with, and negotiations are also undertaken within the CA between Ukrainian and other Russian groups, so I thought some compromise could be hammered out ITTL. Granting Ukraine its own military forces – certainly not enough to hold the front along its border, so federal support is still vital, nevertheless a big step – is radical, but on the other hand, Chernov has much less illusions about the shape of the army than Kerensky had had, and this is a few months after the Czechoslovak Legion has been more or less the only force which stood its ground against the Central Power onslaught (like OTL). So one Russian rationale behind Ukrainianising military forces is the hope that these will be more motivated to defend their own land.

[3] Volodymyr Vinnichenko, centrist leader of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Labour Party, had this position IOTL, too.

[4] Mikhailo Khrushchevsky, president of the Centralna Rada, and Vsevolod Holubovych as well as Pavlo Khrystiuk are all to the centre-right of the Ukrainian Socialist Revolutionaries.

[5] Nikifor Hrihorienko and Danilo Ilkovych Terpylo were infamous rural Ukrainian warlords (who often changed sides IOTL’s Civil War). Here, they’re otamans at the forefront of loosely SR-aligned peasant militia containing Kaledin’s host, and as such have both the Rada’s and the CA’s blessings, and especially the latter really depends on forces like these for its survival.

[6] This is an alteration of a description of the fate of a landowning family in the Ukraine before and after the October Revolution in: Jörn Höppel: “Die Revolution an der Peripherie.” In: Heiko Haumann (ed.): Die Russische Revolution 1917, pp. 94ff.
October 1917 - Panic in Petrograd after Estonian Islands Fell
Zürich (Switzerland), Neue Zürcher Zeitung, October 18th, 1917, p. 1:


by Hans Wägli [1]

The advance of von Hutier’s Eighth German Army Eastwards across Estonia is sending shockwaves straight at the heart of the Russian leadership. [2] Panic has broken out in Petrograd – not only in the streets, but also among the young republic’s political elites gathered in the capital. In this turbulent atmosphere, rumours about the recent defeats which have cost Russia its control over the Estonian islands and the Central Baltic are catching on: the railroad disaster and explosions in Rogekül– an act of counter-revolutionary sabotage! [3] The disorganized retreat with which the fort at the Sworbe peninsula had been given up [4] – the work of disloyal defeatists who would like to see the Germans stab the revolution in the heart at Petrograd! [5]

We have been able to locate, at least within Petrograd, the newspaper Znamya Truda as their source. It is the mouthpiece of a coterie of young militia leaders and politicians from the most extreme left wing of Russia’s governing party, the Socialist Revolutionaries. This is not the first time that they have attempted to influence the government in clandestine ways and impose their agenda on them – but this time, as large crowds on the streets of Petrograd show, their maneuver appears likely to succeed. While unbiased sources have assured us that the explosions were in all likelihood an accident, the chaotic retreat a result of plummeting morale, confused chains of command, and general cowardice, and the 107th Russian Infantry Division had not shown any signs of counter-revolutionary infiltrations in the past, the accusations and the fiery rhetoric have nevertheless caught on. Protesters demand “death to the bourgeois traitors” and to “clean up in the Army”. The soldiers’ soviet of Petrograd is discussing the matter, and so are the sailors of Kronstadt.

Over the past two months since the attempted coup, the Commission headed by Victor Chernov has already granted extraordinary powers to new officers tasked with investigating acts of sabotage and counter-revolution, it has legally sanctioned expropriations, and it has begun a major restructuring among the armed forces – but it has not yet resorted to outright political terror, and the Commissar of Justice, Alexander Zarudny, has been a steadfast defender of established legal procedures and of the abolition of the death penalty, which had been one of the first acts in the revolution against the Tsar. Looking at the frightened and ever more polarized atmosphere in the Russian capital, one wonders how long these dams of civility will hold. Established party leaderships are coming under pressure. Already, a first Socialist Revolutionary member of the Constituent Assembly, the Armenian Prosh Proshian, has pronounced himself in favour of a “dictatorship of the toiling masses in defense of the republic and the revolution”.

All the while, von Hutier’s Eighth German Army is advancing fast towards the East. Apparently, the Germans have learned their lessons from their costly, but ultimately futile breakthroughs in Latvia and Galicia, where combined local and loyal defending units have stopped German and Austro-Hungarian advances, cut supply lines, and forced them to withdraw behind defensible lines often only few kilometers to the East of the front lines established last year. Estonia, which has not yet built up a significant local army and where various unreliable Russian divisions are stationed, is not only the weakest link in the chain – it is also the straight path to Petograd. The current offensive, which has succeeded in taking over Kegel [6] against very sparse resistance yesterday and is standing less than 30 km away from Reval [7], undoubtedly aims at knocking Russia out of the war by threatening or even taking over Petrograd. Judging from the atmosphere in the capital, it may well be that Russia will knock itself out even before that.

[1] Don’t look for him, he’s my fictitious creation with his stereotypically Swiss name.

[2] So did the mere loss of the Estonian islands IOTL, even when von Hutier’s army was not advancing much further on the mainland; indeed, it may have been an influential factor in OTL’s October Revolution, both when we think of the sense of fatalism it has induced in Kerensky’s government, and also, perhaps more importantly, because it has probably spurred Lenin on to hurry up his putschist plans, lest the Germans roll into Petrograd and either bring the Kronstadt sailors and Petrograd garrisons back at the PG’s side to defend themselves together, or else the Germans triumph and establish a puppet government like in Poland and Lithuania which would attempt to suppress the soviets – a unique window of opportunity for the Bolsheviks would have closed, then, and they’d be forced to conduct a guerilla war, which would also, as far as one could have anticipated it in late 1917, have meant a much broader alliance than just the Bolshevik-Left SR one of OTL “October”.

[3] They occurred IOTL, too, most likely an accident, but the hypothesis of an act of sabotage was formulated IOTL, too, by General Mikhail Bakhirev.

[4] Just like OTL. Much as I would have liked my young Russian Republic to have stood its ground better than IOTL here, I fear that war-weariness and internal divisions among the army cannot be talked away, and neither can the naval superiority of the Germans, unless a lot more ships whose crews were staunchly anti-war and mostly on these grounds either anarchist or Bolshevik and rejected the PG from July onwards already, are sent out ITTL, which I briefly considered as an option but then dismissed because, while Centrobalt may be getting along better with Chernov’s Commission ITTL than they did with Kerensky’s PG IOTL, I still don’t see Centrobalt agreeing to a massive sortie, and I don’t see Chernov’s commission eliminating or restructuring Centrobalt, either, at least not without causing leftist mutinies, which they wouldn’t have survived given the right-wing counter-revolutionary events and the Central Powers attacks at the same time. So, Centrobalt throws wrenches into the marine defense of the Estonian islands like OTL, maybe a few more ships are sent out, but I fear it isn’t going to be enough to make Operation Albion [the German wikipedia version really is much more detailed] a failure.

[5] Actually pretty much what Lenin argued IOTL upon his return in an inner circle Bolshevik meeting, only he argued the Provisional Government was the one who was willing to let the Germans clean up Petrograd – an entirely ludicrous statement, of course, given not only what that would have meant for Kerensky’s power, but also given the precarious control the PG had over its army.

[6] Keila

[7] Tallinn
November 1917 - Realignment
London (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland): The Herald [1], November 13th, 1917:


by George Lansbury

An eery silence has returned to the streets of the Russian capital Petrograd, and even along the long frontline between the Central Powers and their Russian enemies, most cannons have fallen silent after the events of last week in Petrograd. Russia, and with it the entire world, seems to hold its breath. Will there be peace in the East? Will the hopes of the millions for a new social order in Russia come true?

Political change had been overdue in Petrograd. The fall of Reval to the German Eighth Army last Monday was the straw that broke the camel’s back. On Wednesday, everything went so fast that, doubtlessly, good organization has stood at the back of the precipitous course of events. Supreme Commissioner Victor Chernov handed in his resignation, expressing his regret as to his inability to stop the German advance. In the Constituent Assembly, revolutionary icon Maria Spiridonova spoke, to great applause not only from her fellow SR members, of the chance to build a “truly revolutionary coalition” based on the will of the revolutionary workers and soldiers, who would push all those aside who were attached to the old order. The Bolshevik Pavel Dybenko, an envoy from the sailor’s supreme soviet Centrobalt, spoke to the Constituent Assembly at the invitation of Military Commissioner Pavel Lazimir, and expressed the sailors’ support for a new attempt at a truce and for purging the armed forces of counter-revolutionary officers and bourgeois saboteurs. Alleged back-benchers in the SR faction presented their suggestion of Boris Kamkov as candidate for Supreme Commissioner.


As all parties withdrew into faction meetings and news filtered out from the Taurid Palace, the streets of Petrograd filled with people with and without uniforms, armed and unarmed, for or against what they thought was going on. Some people got hurt and some windows were broken. But as Thursday dawned at the Taurid Palace and the delegates returned to the plenum, it would slowly become clear just how many certainties of Russia’s revolutionary political scene had been shattered. The Mezhraiontsy Adolf Joffe, Anatoly Lunacharsky, David Ryazanov, Moisei Uritsky and Lev Karakhan announced their support for Kamkov’s candidacy – and for the reunification of Russia’s Social Democracy. Then they were joined by a large group of Internationalist Mensheviks led by Yuri Larin, who had abandoned their spokesman Julius Martov and formed a common “Constituent Assembly faction for the unification of an International Revolutionary Social Democratic Labour Party” with the Mezhraionka. Fyodor Dan invited Martov, who denounced Kamkov as a “second-rate Russian Robespierre”, back into the Menshevik faction, which had been almost halved as the so-called “Bread faction” under Matvei Skobelev walked out to join the IRSDLP-unification faction, expressing their hope that Kamkov would commit himself to policies which would finally ensure the workers across Russia’s industrial branches sufficient wages to really meet all vital needs of their families. And the split went even right through the Bolshevik faction, this most organized and disciplined of all Russian parties, as a group of 32 Bolshevik delegates including Lev Kamenev, Grigory Zinoniev and Joseph Stalin, announced their support for Kamkov, and deserted the Bolshevik faction for the IRSDLP-unification faction and demanded the chairmanship of the committee for industry, labour and transportation (Transtrudkom) for one of them, while the leader of the remaining Bolshevik rump faction, Vladimir Lenin, announced the party’s continued opposition to “a repression which does not differentiate between revolutionary socialist soldiers, who refuse to kill and die in the imperialists’ war, and bourgeois counter-revolutionaries; a repression which aims not to secure the socialist revolution, but the continuation of the war”.

In the speech with which he accepted his candidacy, Boris Kamkov announced a policy platform which can be rightly appraised as the most progressive in the world: He promised to offer an unconditional armistice to all Central Powers, to provide relief to city-dwellers by legally abolishing all forms of rent, to respect all negotiated autonomy statutes, and to radically reform the Russian military, security, and justice systems through more popular participation, the replacement of unreliable officers and army units with voluntary forces who are really defending the revolution, and a determined fight against sabotage and counter-revolution, helped by a new special sub-commission which would receive extraordinary competencies for the duration of one year.

Only Alexander Kerensky of the Popular Socialist Labour faction stood against Kamkov in the election, which the latter won with 339 votes against Kerensky’s 167. [2] Since then, Kamkov has begun to restructure the Commission, replacing Menshevik commissars with men from the new IRSDLP-unification faction, whose new spokesman is Anatoly Lunacharsky, the new commissar for education. More important, at least beyond Russia’s borders, was that Kamkov has indeed sent an offer for a truce without conditions to the governments of the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires and the Kingdom of Bulgaria. The world holds its breath as the answers from Berlin, Vienna, Constantinople and Sofia are awaited. Is this the beginning of the end of the war which hundreds of millions across the world have waited for? On the streets of Russia’s capital, where riots had broken out and the realignment of the government has been greeted with plunderings and even firefights, an irregular force of over a thousand men and even women under arms, whose exact composition we could not yet make out but which is evidently loyal to the new regime, has restored peace and order for the moment. Within Russia, people are holding their breath, too, waiting not only for an answer to the vital question of war and peace, but also if the promises of the new government are going to hold. The eyes of the world are upon Russia and its bold political vanguard, and the hearts of workers across the world are filled today with the hope for peace and for justice and a new society rising from the ashes of the crumbling imperialist capitalist order, today in Russia, maybe tomorrow in other countries whose population is fed up with their war-mongering elites, too?

[1] During the war, the Daily Herald was not appearing daily. Thus, some degree of summary of what has happened in the past few days, too, is in order, I believe. Also, this is a newspaper from the pacifistic left wing of Labour at the time, and Lansbury has embraced even OTL’s October Revolution at first.

[2] Note how many votes are missing here. Around a dozen CA members from the right wing have been arrested under charges of participating in the counter-revolutionary coup, while almost the entire KD faction has temporarily walked out of the CA in protest against these arrests. Beyond that, over 150 delegates are abstaining – not only Lenin’s remaining Bolsheviks and anarchists, but also, and more numerous, the delegates of various national minorities who had been left out of the conspiratorial talks and who thus view Kamkov’s new coalition as potentially hostile vis-à-vis further autonomy statutes, e.g. for Armenia, Georgia, Latvia, Estonia, and the various Muslim minorities.
December 1917 - No Brest-Litowsk
New York City (USA): New York World, Christmas edition 1917


by Arno Dosch-Fleurot

Five weeks have gone past since the peace negotiations between Russia and the Central Powers have begun in Brest-Litowsk [1], and the highest hopes have been disappointed. Worldwide peace will not be among the modest presents under this year’s Christmas trees. The negotiations “without secret diplomacy”, as Russia’s leading diplomat Tobias Axelrod put it, have revealed a lot. Most sadly, they have also revealed that there is probably no agreement over an end to the terrible carnage in Europe in sight between those who conversed in Brest-Litowsk under the eyes and ears of the global public [2] – and when new delegations shall return on New Year’s, the chances for a peace agreement will be even slimmer.

I have been honored by the Russian people and their Commissar for Foreign Affairs to be included among the men and women who aid their representatives at these negotiations. My aid, it was made clear to me, was to consist in relating to a global audience faithfully what is being discussed. Like many Russian and international colleagues, I have endeavored to do my best – but I have begun to ask myself if our work has really helped the Russian cause at all. The case of Janos Forgách contacting Moyshe Zilberfarb to sound out the possibilities of a separate Austro-Russian peace [3] illustrates this. The proposal was promptly forwarded by the latter, in his good faith in open diplomacy, and appeared in newspapers from Manchester to Petrograd on the next day, compelling Czernin [4] to publicly deny any such initiative and reassure his German allies that Austria-Hungary would only accept a peace involving all parties present to the negotiations. [5]

Such a peace appears less likely with every day of negotiations. Kühlmann [6] has countered Russia’s pledge that lasting peace cannot be built on imperialist territorial annexations by upholding that lasting peace required the national self-determination of the Poles, Lithuanians and other Balts, but this nod to national self-determination has since back-fired spectacularly after the Steinberg proposal [7] and German general Hoffmann’s reply that perhaps peace would be easiest to achieve if every party took to looking after national self-determination in the territories their armed forces presently controlled [8] – in this case, the German “might makes right” approach was not even palatable to their Turkish allies [9] Whichever topic the negotiations touch upon, common ground appears to evaporate with every day of discussions. Even prolonging the armistice over the holidays until new participants could join on New Year’s was an agreement which threatened to fall through several times.

Now, we can be sure that each side is going to bring their Poles, their Balts and probably even their Finns to the negotiation table – and that is going to impede any agreement just as much as the diplomatic trial balloon of the proposed Jewish Autonomy [10] and the inclusion of a Rumanian delegation. [11]

By all means, talking to each other is better than shooting each other. The paradox of Brest-Litowsk, though, is that the longer both sides continue to talk, the more likely they become to start shooting at each other afterwards again. It was Russian weakness which created the occasion of the talks in Brest-Litowsk. With every week which passes without a single shot being fired on the Eastern European front, though, Russia regains its strength: Military commissioner Lazimir is replacing war-weary unit by war-weary unit with highly motivated political batallions and ethnic defense corps or liberation legions and ordering less warlike men into urgent works on multiple rows of deep defensive fortifications and restoration of the rail roads. The consolidation of a broad coalition and the dreaded Temporary Special Commission [12] have managed to quell both anti-revolutionary and anarchist [13] resistance within Russia, and with the reconquest of Lugansk from Kaledin’s Cossack host, the last pocket of resistance against the revolution has begun to fall. In contrast to these developments, the recent wave of wild strikes across Austria and Germany has intensified [14]. Russia still cannot muster sufficient forces to stop a renewed German advance on their capital and industrial centers, but the cost of a renewed German attack increases with every day, and Ober Ost is aware of this as much as it is aware of the desire for peace on the “home front” and the heavy toll which this autumn’s fierce carnages in Flanders and the Alps have exacted on the German army. The German delegation in the first round of talks has shown reserve with regards to recommencing hostilities – but the German supreme army command may well send envoys into the next round with the clear mission to either reach a quick and satisfactory agreement, or end the truce.

It is – and I believe more and more people in Russia as well as in our country are losing their doubts about this – the fault of the German military leadership that the opportunity to establish a lasting peace through open diplomacy will probably be wasted. My Christmas wish for this year is that this fear of mine is unfounded, and that I can be of a greater service still to the Russian people who has put its trust in me and to my American readership who likewise wishes for an end to this terrible war and a just and lasting peace.

[1] I thought about having it take someplace else, but the Russians are in the same impotent position as IOTL to successfully demand a relocation to any place other than such a Ober Ost military HQ at a railroad hub.

[2] The thrust against secret diplomacy is something the Bolsheviks and Left SRs could easily agree on IOTL (and which had some appeal way beyond these groups). IOTL, the October regime published various secret international pacts, and in Brest-Litowsk, their delegation brought a stenotypist to protocol all conversations. ITTL, where the rupture in the way state authority is perceived and exercised is at no point anywhere near as drastic as OTL’s October Revolution, the secret pacts are not leaked yet, but the rejection of secret diplomacy is still consensus among the Russian delegates. Instead of stenotypists, they have brought journalists from all over the world and from the various Russian newspapers to the negotiations as members of the Russian delegation – among them Rosch-Fleurot and one John Reed…

[3] There were several covert Austro-Hungarian attempts at sounding out the possibility of a separate peace with various members of the Entente IOTL. Emperor Charles was clearly aware of the desperate situation the dual monarchy was in.

[4] Count Ottokar Czernin, Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister IOTL and ITTL.

[5] Czernin had been attempting separate peace talks, albeit with Britain and/or France, when he took office. By late 1917, though, he was convinced that Russia could be pushed to surrender at almost any terms, and frequent German contributions both on the Alpine and on the Romanian fronts have clearly demonstrated to the Austro-Hungarians that parting with Germany would doom the k.u.k., even if the Russian arch-enemy should be neutralized for the time being.

[6] Germany’s foreign minister IOTL and ITTL.

[7] In TTL’s Brest-Litowsk, Isaac Steinberg, who as a Socialist Revolutionary accompanies the Social Democratic Foreign Commissar / Inokom Tobias Akselrod – all important civil as well as military positions in the Russain delegation being bi-partisan to reflect the interests of both coalition partners –, proposes in the second week of December, in response to the German insistence on Polish and Lithuanian independence, a map for where plebiscites under the supervision of all present parties should be held with regards to the adherence of the territory to a neutral and independent Poland and Lithuania. The potentially Polish territories notably included, besides the Russian partition, also the Prussian Posen province and the Austrian Partition, too; an idea which was immediately laughed at by both Kühlmann and Czernin, of course.

[8] When he got angry with Bolshevik stalling and balcony speeches, Hoffmann made a similar remark IOTL.

[9] Like IOTL, Russian forces (and increasingly ethnic Armenian forces) are still holding a front line in Western Armenia, considerably West of the pre-war border between the Ottoman and Russian Empires.

[10] On the Russian side, there is quite a number of Jewish Territorialists in TTL’s delegation as they were influential both in OTL’s Bundists and Fareynikte and thus both within non-Leninist social democracy and among the SRs, not the least among them Steinberg himself, so the German side brought the idea up mainly as a diversion to increase the disorientation in the Russian delegation and make them more susceptible to a later, more “pragmatic” German proposal.

[11] IOTL, the Romanians concluded a separate peace negotiation when they saw that Bolshevik Russia would abandon them. ITTL, things are less clear, and there has been no devastating Kerensky Offensive, but Romania still knows they can't stay in the war if the Russians drop out, so I thought at least THEY would WANT to be included, and I thought a politically broader Russian delegation might view this favourably and even push for it when provoked on the matter of "lasting peace" and "national self-determination".

[12]Acronymically, and not only in this regard, the VreChreKom (or Vecheka) has a lot in common with OTL’s Cheka. The less ruptural transformation of the justice system ITTL and the generally more legalist outlook of TTL’s CA-backed revolutionaries mean, though, that while Vrechrekom / Vecheka are still going to use bad old Okhrana traditions in “interrogation” and have the right to shoot militant “counter-revolutionaries” and “anarchists” as if they were military combattants, they at least cannot infinitely detain people in concentration camps without a trial.

[13] Where those Bolsheviks who follow Lenin into opposition against Kamkov's coalition regime put up organised resistance against the inclusion of Red Guards into the new regime's military and paramilitary structures, they are lumped in with the anarchists. Lenin and his CA faction are still spared from this fate so far, though.

[14] IOTL, these strikes – not entirely unrelated to the peace discussions in Brest-Litowsk and the example of the Russian Revolution, but primarily caused by hunger and combustible shortages – only reached an acute level in January 1918. ITTL, peace talks begin a month earlier, and so do the solidary peace strikes.
January 1918 - Before the Constitutional Plebiscite
Petrograd, Narodnoe Slovo, January 12th, 1918:


by Venedikt Miakotin, for the CA faction of the Popular Socialist Labour Party [1]

The Constitutional Assembly has set February 16th as the date for the republic-wide plebiscite on the constitution drafted by the majority factions. We are encouraging all citizens to participate in the plebiscite – and to vote “No!” Below, we present to our readers eight reasons why we should reject the current constitutional draft. Before we present these arguments, it must be clarified that a vote for “No!” has nothing to do with rejecting the Revolution, opposing the Republic, or desiring the rule of the Tsar, like Zinoniev has insinuated. [2] Also, rejecting the constitutional draft presented to us by the Marxist factions [3] does not leave our Motherland rudderless in this moment of peril. On the contrary, if the “No!” vote prevails, the Constitutional Assembly must continue its work and listen to the legitimate objections of the people, and rewrite the constitution accordingly so that it can find a national consensus. The People’s Commission continues its governmental duties anyway until new institutions provided by a new constitution have been elected and formed and taken up their work. A renewed war effort, which German aggression can force on us at any moment, is not at all obstructed by a triumph of the “No!” vote, and neither are the full restoration of our national infrastructure or the relief campaigns for our sick and hungry brothers and sisters. The Popular Socialist Labour Party and its faction in the Constitutional Assembly has supported all these necessary measures, and it will continue to support them regardless of the outcome of the constitutional plebiscite. Citizens! Workers, peasants, artisans and thinkers! Do not let the Marxist coalition factions scare you! Saying “No!” to this constitution is not an act of treason, it is your democratic right, and it brings no harm to our Motherland.

On the contrary, it saves Her from adopting an unsuited and dysfunctional political corset, with which Russia would stray from the stream of general development present in all modern states, but without adapting concepts to the specific needs of our country and its traditions, either. Here are eight reasons why the constitution drafted by the Marxist factions is unfeasible – and eight suggestions by the Popular Socialist Labour Party for alternative solutions:

1. We need a constitution for Russia and its allied peoples – No to the absurd “Union of Equals”!

The Marxist factions have decided to name our new Republic a “Union of Equals”. Natanson has defended this faceless term as a commitment to equal relations between Russians and all other groups in the Republic. Is he really blind to the reaction such a term must cause among our neighbors and our allies across the world? A “Union of Equals” could extend to any place, it could encompass the entire world. Indeed, this is exactly why the term has found such wholehearted support among the ardent internationalists, who seek to leave behind the traditions of nations and cultures altogether and to be proletarian citizens of a new world. Our neighbors and allies, though, would see such a denomination as a threat. This is not what the Russian people want, and it is not what the other nations of our Republic want, either: We are not after conquering and absorbing others into a Leviathan of a world state. We seek to give ourselves, those who have shaken off the yoke of the Tsar, a new constitution – and not everyone else in the world, too. Say “No!” to a constitution for a “Union of Equals” – we need a constitution for our Federal Republic of Russia!

2. We need a functioning government – not only a “Council of the Federation”!

In their belated attempt to calm the spirits of the various nations of our Republic, whose desires for cultural independence Kamkov’s internationalist commission has never understood, the majority factions have sacrificed the idea of a strong federal government capable of acting in times of common challenges, be they military or industrial. They have designed a Federal President, who is elected in an over-complicated mockery of the American system, but who has no real powers. Instead, supreme military command over common defensive endeavours, administration of the federal budget and many similar duties are to be vested in a Council of the Federation, a collective body wherein all Republics are represented, but which is hardly apt to fulfill the function of a federal executive properly. If you do not want our Republic to become ungovernable, say “No!” to this constitution! We demand a President of the Federation who is more than just a figurehead!

3. Federalism Is Not a Bazaar – For Clear and Fair Rules!

We support the principle of national and cultural self-determination, and the organization of our new Republic as a federal state. But while the draft of Kamkov’s coalition embraces these two principles in abstract words, it provides very few concrete clarifications with regards to the responsibilities of the federative republics and of the common federal institutions respectively, and it establishes no procedural framework for the formation of a federative republic, for its dissolution, or its secession from the Union. Instead, it merely includes by confirmation the already concluded Agreements on the establishment and autonomy of the Ukrainian, Finnish, Latvian, Estonian, Armenian, and Georgian Federative Republics [4], while at the same time it declares that the right to national and cultural self-determination applies to all peoples in equal manner – an assertion which is not only undermined by the fact that the five existing Federative Republics already all have greatly diverging forms of autonomy and self-rule, but also by the fact that the option of secession from the Union through plebiscite is mentioned only in the cases of Poland and Lithuania. We are not opposed to the existing Autonomy Agreements, and neither do we reject the possibility of secession completely. But our constitution should provide a clear procedural framework: all federative entities should be people’s republics; their autonomy should either be predefined in the constitution, or at least the constitution should stipulate that individual agreements be negotiated with democratically elected parliaments only, and it must provide clear requirements as to the threshold of agreement both among the potential Federative Republic and among the rest of the Union for the cases of establishment, merging, dissolution or secession of a Federative Republic. These are not pedantic demands – they are of vital importance for peace and stability within our Republic. One need only look at the unresolved Central Asian question and the riots in Tashkent, Kokand, and Bukhara [5], to see how dangerous the practice of unstructured ad hoc negotiations with spontaneous movements demanding their autonomy is.

4. Democracy Needs a Strong, Independent Parliament!

The constitution proposed by the Marxists awards so many responsibilities to the Territorial Soviets that the new Duma is only left with proverbial bread crumbs. [6] To make matters worse, the immunity of any parliamentarian can be lifted by the decision of a simple majority of his colleagues. These stipulations will perpetuate the power of clientelist networks between the corrupt gang leaders which the militant nature of our Revolution has whirled into positions of power, and their followers, be they organized in parties, trade unions, or militia. To clean our Russian house and to create a system based on fairness and justice, we need parliamentarians who are protected in their positions and who can stand above the quarrels of particularist groups. Therefore, say “No!” to a constitution with a weak, pliable Duma of party puppets, and intransparent power for Soviet delegates who serve at the whim of local strongmen who can strongarm their clients into recalling any delegate who dares to threaten their privileges! [7] We demand all legislative power for the Duma, and real immunity for its members, the only ones who are elected by the entire Russian people!

5. Guarantees and Reliable Social Security for all Workers Instead of Blind Trust in the Socialism of the Soviets!

The Marxist factions say that the welfare of the workers is their absolute priority – but the new constitution contains no guarantee whatsoever, which could make sure that Russia’s workers can rely on hard-fought achievements in times of sickness, old age, unemployment or other calamities! Looking after all these tasks is relegated to the territorial Soviets, whom the Marxist factions view as the pre-destined eternal torch-bearers of socialist justice. This is a fatally dangerous decision because it rests on an ideological delusion. Nothing guarantees that territorial soviets will look after the interests of the toiling masses, just because they are elected and recallable by workplace, village, and occupational assemblies. We are already witnessing that delegates are only recalled in cases where powerful groups and individuals feel threatened by how a soviet delegate voted and spoke out. We are not opposed to soviets as an instrument of local arbitration in the workplace, where they can be truly held responsible by those who have instituted them. But we are certain that the interests of Russia’s working class are much better served through constitutional guarantees of social security and public welfare, which would bind any Duma regardless of the doctrinal inclination of its majority, than by the questionable hope which this constitutional draft places in the soviets.

6. Guaranteed Support for Rural Co-Operatives!

Just like Russia’s workers, Her peasantry is not served well by the constitution drafted by a faction who has betrayed the wisdoms of Narodnichestvo for the fashionable dogmas of Marxism. Nowhere does the text mention in a single word the purpose of supporting the productivity of our agriculture and the well-being of the people who create it through financial and institutional frameworks which have been proven to be beneficial to rural development and broad participation of the peasantry, for example the voluntary co-operatives which have sprung up even under the Tsarist yoke. Instead, the constitution is imbued, again, with the dream that everything shall be well for the peasantry if all these matters are only left to the soviets. The countless irregularities which have occurred under the aegis of the peasants’ soviets throughout the process of Vikhliaev’s agrarian reform are not destined to confirm the hope that general territorial soviets are going to be immaculate and impartial advocates of the welfare of all peasants.

7. Judicial Recourse for the Expropriated – Against Soviet Absolutism!

The Popular Socialist Labour Party has been among the first to call for and formulate concrete proposals for agrarian reform. We have always supported a just redistribution of the land, and we are principally in favour of reorganizations in the towns and cities aimed at creating broad participation in self-owned immobile property. But even Chernov has conceded that the peasant soviet execution of Vikhliaev’s land reform has had undesirable, unjust, and unfounded consequences in various places: smallholders being expropriated or forced into co-operatives against their will, large landlords not only suffering the parceling of their land without any compensation whatsoever, but also the plundering of their mobile property. The extension of the immobile property reform to encompass urban housing, too, which Kamkov then undertook to entice his new far-left socialist allies and appease their hard-pressed urban voters, and its indiscriminate application can only be called outright criminal. And the constitutional draft provides for no judicial recourse for those wronged in these processes whatsoever! All matters of economic organization and arbitration are placed exclusively in the responsibility of the territorial soviets, which thus unite legislative, executive, and judicial powers over matters of property and occupation in themselves. This is nothing but economic tyranny! Say “No!” to the unfettered power of the soviets! We demand compensation for the expropriation of private property up to reasonable limits, and the possibility to appeal against any act related to the expropriations in ordinary courts and courts of appeal and cassation.

8. End the Special Powers now!

The new constitution declares the life and corporal integrity, the freedom of movement and occupation, of expression and coalition, and many more fundamental rights inviolable. It states that the death penalty remains abolished in perpetuity. We wholeheartedly agree with these paragraphs. But as long as the Temporary Special Commission can trample all these rights under their feet unpunished, the constitution is not worth the paper it is written on. The threats of counter-reaction and anarchy are no longer imminent, and while they have never been a justification for the violation of civil rights perpetrated by the Vrechreka, now there is not even a remnant of a doubt left in any of us that the Special Powers Act must be repealed now. Its repeal, along with the guarantee that no such measure may ever be taken again, must be included in the constitutional text. As long as this is not the case, the constitution is nothing but a cynical document designed to veil a new form of tyranny. Say “No!” to this tyranny, and save the liberty of our Motherland which we have fought for together in February and for which we have paid dearly with our blood!

[1] This party, while still mostly left of the Cadets, stands right of centre within the broader Narodnik ideology. In the current situation, it is part of the “right-wing” parliamentary opposition against the SR-IRSDLP (the “left-wing” opposition being anarchists and Leninists), although in general early 20th century terms, they would have to be considered “centre-left”.

[2] Being quite the black-or-white thinker that he was IOTL, too, Zinoniev has jumped aboard the government’s ship in November and is shooting his verbal venom against the right-wing opposition now, including defending a constitutional draft in whose phrasing the renegate Bolsheviks had only very limited say, given that they came extremely late to the process because Lenin had steered the party on a course of fundamental opposition.

[3] Well, the SRs are not all Marxists really, but they are much too Marxist for Miakotin’s taste anyway.

[4] The latter four having been established throughout October, November, and December.

[5] You will have already noticed that three kinds of potential federative republics are still missing in the group mentioned before footnote 4: (a) Belarus or something like it, (b) all the predominantly Muslim ethnicities, from the Caucasus over various Tatar pockets to the vast Central Asian underbelly of the former Empire, and (c) other, mostly smaller “indigenous” groups of Uralic, Samoyedic, Paleosiberian etc. speakers. While (a) can be explained by the partial occupation of its territory by Central Powers troops and unclear delineations with a potentially independent Lithuania, and (c) is probably rather low on the list of the CA’s priorities as long as these groups are not making any fuss, (b) is really a burning problem. Central Asia has seen a major revolt in the last year of Tsarist rule, which has been bloodily oppressed. It is ethnically rather heterogeneous, its pre-revolutionary colonial political structures are manifold and quite as unsystematic as the PSLP deplores about the new constitution, its predominantly Muslim confession does little to unite the region given the rift between conservatives and Jadid reformers… There are currently, as 1917 has turned into 1918, territorially rivalling claims for federative subjects from various confederacies in the Northern Caucasus, from Azerbaijan (whose Western borders are a mess and the new Armenian Federative Republic is rather assertive there), from the Alash Orda, from a would-be Federative Republic of Turkestan based in Kokand, from the Emirate of Bukhara and the Khanate of Khiva… while the Workers’ Soviet of Tashkent has pronounced itself in favour of remaining within Russia proper… The only OTL group which is not messing around ITTL much are the Orenburg Cossacks, because they’re still entrenched at the front lines, except for a few fierce anti-Republicans who have either fled to Kaledin’s shrinking Don pocket, or been apprehended or shot.

[6] Actually, the Duma does have the sole competency to decree penal legislation in Russia and those territories who have not negotiated a full autonomy in this domain, to appoint and oversee Russian judges, police officers, prison management and other institutions of governmental inspection, to define educational curricula for Russia and appoint and oversee the administration of schools, universities, and other institutions of learning within Russia, to propose the levying of customs and the regulation of foreign trade to the Council of the Federation, and to levy general taxes except those which are explicitly stated as falling into the Federative Republics’ or the Soviets’ sphere of decision, as well as fees and duties earmarked for the above-mentioned state duties and for the upholding of Russian and Federal armed forces. Not that little – but the special role reserved for the soviets in the new constitution does make the Duma less powerful when compared to, say, the House of Commons in Westminster, or the Congress of the United States, or the National Assembly of the French Republic.

[7] The imperative mandate is something unique about the soviet system, so I thought I’d have to leave it in the constitution. Transferring all power from the soviets onto the Dumas, as the PSLP demands, is an illusory demand in a situation as militant and conflict-ridden as that of Russia 1917/18, especially since the government has been relying on ever more leftist majorities in the CA, which is in turn caused by the radicalization of the SRs in a situation where continuing the war effort needed more and more concessions and something to show, and their grassroots organizations have achieved something they are fighting teeth and claws not to let go again, but to have it condoned and legalized. One could have changed the Soviets, in the formalized written constitution, into permanent organs without the imperative mandate, but then the division of political spheres between the “classical democracy” (Duma) and the “economic democracy” (Soviets) really no longer makes much sense.
January 1918 - German Ultimatum
Berlin (German Empire): Deutsche Tageszeitung, January 29th, 1918:


by Alexander Freiherr von Wangenehim [1]

Enough with the palaver! Our German delegation has left the fruitless negotiations in Brest-Litowsk yesterday, warning the Russian side that, unless official agreement to the terms laid out by General Max Hoffmann is signaled and withdrawal from the front lines is begun before 23:59 the day after tomorrow, the armistice shall expire, and our armed forces are forced to resume hostilities.

Ten long weeks, we were almost certain that Hoffmann and Horn [2] would never find the manhood within them to tell the coward Kühlmann and his Jewish friends from the Wilhelmstraße [3] that we have heard enough of the socialist Russian propaganda, enough lies about the conduct of the war in the East. We almost thought Kühlmann and Rosenberg took a perverse pleasure in having some Rumanians or so-called Czechoslovaks or other Easterly people lecture them on how to run a state and keep the continent in order [4]. We almost feared they would cave to the pressure of agitated defeatists and saboteurs on the home front [5], and buy peace at any price, throwing away what brave soldiers have bought with their German blood.

Now that Hertling has resigned [6] and the defeatist seditionists have been vigorously dealt with at last [7], the betrayal of the fatherland and the granting of utterly unnecessary concessions has become much less probable. It would not come as a surprise if a telegram from St. Petersburg would reach Berlin over the course of the next sixty hours. Horn’s rebuttal of the impertinencies of the mutineer Raskolnikov [8], and Hoffmann’s clear ultimatum have shown firmness instead of weakness from our side for the first time, and such firm language is the only one which the Russian understands. But even if not, we must not let the defeatists make us dispirited. The Russian armies are on the verge of collapse. A few more weeks, and we shall stand at the gates of Petrograd, and force them open, and the cowardly Jewish leadership of socialist Russia is going to shit itself [9] and finally sign anything we put on the table. And when the Russians are knocked out for good, we shall be able to concentrate all our might against the Brits [10] and their little allies in the West, and force them to come to the table, too, and end the carnage once and for all, with which they have reduced the great nations of Europe for three and a half long years now.

[1] One of the leading figures of the radically right-wing, anti-Semitic, all-German, expansionist and East Elbian Junker-dominated “Deutsche Vaterlandspartei”. OTL, in the Weimar Republic, he was a founding member of the “Völkischer Beobachter” newspaper in 1921 and staunch early Nazi.

[2] The German military’s representatives in Brest-Litowsk.

[3] The seat of the German Foreign Ministery. While still considerably more annexationistically minded than the Reichstag majority factions (SPD, Zentrum, FVP), the civil government was somewhat more open to offer the Soviets an acceptable deal IOTL in order to end the war in the East, and with even stronger signs of disintegration of the home front ITTL (see below) and more concrete Russian offers, they are even more likely to at least consider a solution without a German-ruled Eastern Europe as necessary outcome. But much like IOTL, the military leadership (OHL) isn’t going to let that happen; IOTL they began to really cement their sole rule in January 1918 during the Brest-Litowsk negotiations (e.g. with Valentini’s sacking), and TTL is no different – if anything, things are even more clear-cut (see footnotes 6 and 7).

[4] From the moment the Russians bring the Romanians and even a Czechoslovak delegation to the table (and a less gambling government than the Bolsheviks of OTL cannot negotiate over their heads, for if you need to return from the negotiation table and take up arms again to defend your motherland, you won’t want to have to do it without the Czechoslovak Legion, who performed admirably even under OTL’S 1917 conditions, or without the dogged Romanian defense of their front line like at Marasesti), they are going to make a peace with Austria-Hungary impossible. Thus, these delegations can only pursue strategies aimed at garnering international support for their causes and at exhorting their unsure and war-weary Russian fellows that there is no alternative to going back into the trenches.

[5] Even though censorship is certain to prevent most of the German public from finding out the whole truth about what is being discussed in brest-Litowsk, even a mere trickle of information is still bound to inspire longer-lasting and wider strikes in Germany ITTL, more akin to those of A-H IOTL: the Russian side, though often utterly unprofessional, stages a somewhat less absurd balcony performance and comes up with more concrete peace proposals, more nations are involved, so the German side in the negotiations looks a lot worse than IOTL. Even with only a fraction of this information trickling into the country, it's an utter PR disaster and resistance is strengthened by this.

[6] Another unlucky and towards the end virtually powerless chancellor. OTL, he stayed longer. His resignation is caused by the much harsher repression of more widespread protests and the much greater polarization in the Reichstag (see next footnote), and also because the OHL must overstep its theoretical boundaries even more in order to prevent a peace without annexations or indemnities.

[7] Code for a military crackdown against striking workers in which hundreds are shot and thousands are either imprisoned or sent to the front. While the latter occurred IOTL as well, and there was a number of casualties, too, this time the movement is broader because the behavior of the German delegation in Brest-Litowsk is even more of a PR disaster and there is even less doubt among the working population in Germany that the war is not a defensive one at all and not at all without alternative. This must create much more panic among the leadership, thus a more brutal crackdown. This, of course, has political implications, among them the resignation of chancellor Hertling and much more serious discord and distrust between the OHL and the SPD.

[8] The Russian side has civilian and military plenipotentiaries, too, and Fyodor Raskolnikov, as the speaker for the Kronstadt sailor’s, is ITTL the most important Bolshevik in the delegation. While he was certainly on the utmost pro-peace flank of TTL’s delegation from the start, prolonged contact with the Central Powers envoys and especially with thinly veiled German threats and demands to let them reshape Eastern Europe into their back yard would, I thought, be likely to draw his ire. Given his, well, limited respect for imperialist officers, I’d imagine he’d have unrefined things to say to some of his German dialogue partners towards the end…

[9] I was somewhat surprised to see how low already the Wilhelmine radical right stooped verbally, too; there is a great deal of continuity here with later Nazi “journalism” and propaganda.

[10] For reasons which are slightly beyond me, the DVLP was often extremely fixated on Britain as their main nemesis.
January 1918 - Debt not Repudiated
Paris (French Republic): L`Agence économique et financière, end of January 1918 [1]:


by Yves Guyot

In a complete political about-face, Russia’s new governing socialist coalition has barely scratched together a thin majority to strike down the Bolshevik motion that the “Union of Equals” repudiate the debt incurred by the Tsar’s governments and by the subsequent governments which have alternated in office since the revolution of last March. Minutes before the vote, Victor Nogin, the Commissar for Transportation, Industry and Labour, appeared before the assembly and pleaded personally with the delegates not to support the motion which, he argued, would endanger “vital imports required to alleviate our people’s suffering and to push away the German hand that is groping for our throat”.

Few people would have expected such a far-sighted, responsible and moderate decision from Nogin. The commissar who stood by impassively as one financial institution after another buckled under the strains of wartime economics and unhealthy political measures, including widespread expropriations, and closed their doors for ever [2]. Nogin, the break-away-Bolshevik, who thought it wise for Petrograd’s stock exchange to remain closed indefinitely. Nogin, who mocked the skilled experts leaving his country for fear of forceful expropriation, imprisonment and poverty as belonging in the “dustbin of history” [3] and who incited illiterate workers to pose as managers. Nogin, the commissar who has begun to build up a parallel pseudo-banking institution in the shape of the Inter-Soviet Office of Mutual Aid [4], which many in Russia and abroad have predicted prepares the ground for a monetary reform or the abolition of monetary currency as we know it altogether. Nogin, who has argued at various occasions that the debt incurred by the Tsarist regime was illegitimate, and that anyone investing in Russian state bonds were warned by the revolutionaries of 1905 already that a government “of the people” would not recognize the tsar’s debts [5].

Maybe his colleague Lazimir, the Military Commissar, has explained to him the danger of a renewed German assault on Estonia and Petrograd and the dependency of the military on technology and raw materiel which Russia currently cannot produce in sufficient quantities? Maybe the Finnish Senate has explained to him how badly their countrymen are awaiting the arrival of American grain shipments, which must not be thrown into political question by decisions endangering the Union’s future trade with foreign governments? Or maybe the new government, faced with a reality which defies their ideological tenets, slowly comes around to realizing that banking and credit, open markets and free trade are not tools to enslave the proletariat and they are not the causes for the horrible conflagration which engulfs the world presently – but, no, let us not get carried away. That would be a naïve hope. The socialist experiment, we are afraid, is likely to commit many more mistakes before reason is probable to return. But at least a first step away from the brink of disaster has been taken in Petrograd.

[1] This was a monthly newspaper on economic and financial matters.

[2] Russia’s banks were under duress anyway even before the February revolution, but the expropriation of so much land and immovable property – the most popular collateral for loans – must have fatal implications for the country’s financial system. Combined with bourgeois panic, there’s bound to be bank runs, and of course any bank must shut down then if it isn’t helped out by the government or anyone else. In the new coalition, quite a few people share the view that the collapse of so many banks is just another symptom of the general, final collapse of capitalism in this inferno of capitalist-imperialist conflagration, so while there might not be a Lenin-like nationalization of banks yet, there is also nobody to save a failing bank.

[3] Somebody had to use these words.

[4] Already under Tsarist rule, the ruble suffered from terrible wartime inflation, and under OTL’s Provisional Government, things only got worse. There is no reason to believe things are any different ITTL. IOTL, on a local level, there were some quasi-syndicalist answers to this challenge undertaken, wherein worker-controlled factories and farmers began to start exchange in a kind of pre-negotiated barter. The next logical system is a closed system of “labour notes”, to expand the network and tap more resources, and from there, as the French pro-capitalist newspaper rightly observes, the road could well lead to a universal system which replaces other kinds of currency. Here, Nogin jumps on the train and speeds it up from the top down. It’s probably going on in a rather improvised and haphazard manner, and will in all likelihood undergo various considerable crises and transformations, but if it survives in any form, it could become the nucleus of a system of what in OTL’s early 20th century terminology we’d probably call “social credit”. Either way, the Ruble is still there, and it is still devaluating fast.

[5] So they were.
February 1918 - Battle at Narva, Petrograd Evacuated
Copenhagen (Kingdom of Denmark): Politiken, February 26th, 1918:


by Henrik Cavling [1]

Intense fighting continued yesterday throughout Eastern Estonia. “Operation Peter”, the German offensive of General Oskar von Hutier’s Eighth Army, which has progressed so incredibly quickly along the Estonian coast over the past four weeks [2], has finally encountered stiff resistance from the First Union Army under Russian General Vladislav Klembovsky; newly assembled Republican Guards successfully attacked a bridgehead yesterday and, though suffering great numbers of casualties, pushed the German troops back against the frozen Narowa River [3]. Meanwhile, General Hermann von Eichhorn has redirected “Operation Paul”, leaving only four divisions to continue the (presumably diversionary) attack on Nikolai Dukhonin’s Second Union Army West of Pskow, while the remaining divisions advance against Dorpat, where only encircled Estonian territorial defense forces can prevent their breakthrough and joining with von Hutier’s forces at the Narowa. [4]

In sight of the danger of a German breakthrough at Narva, only 150 km from Petrograd, Russian authorities have begun the evacuation of their capital. The evacuation of women and children and all men not required for vital industrial or military tasks by train, by carriage, and by foot is overseen by a joint committee of the Petrograd Workers’ and Soldiers’ Soviet and the city’s municipal administration, headed by the Social Democrat Leon Trotsky [5]. Meanwhile, the Constituent Assembly [6] and the People’s Commission have begun relocating to Moscow. With the winter not yet giving in across Russia this year, the exodus from Petrograd, whose sheer proportions are bound to create chaos, is certain to cost yet more human lives.

[1] He’s the long-time editor-in-chief of this (then) centre-left Danish newspaper.

[2] Well, not fast when compared to OTL’s Operation Faustschlag, where CP troops could basically progress almost unimpeded by train. But ITTL Operations Peter and Paul are not comparable. In the context of the Great War so far an advance at a medium rate of 8 km per day continuing over 24 days is breathtakingly fast. With the Tallinn-Narva railroad destroyed by the retreating defenders, it is certain to exhaust the Eighth Army, which must pull all its heavy equipment across the frozen ground while Estonian snipers shoot at them from the treetops whenever they must cross wooded areas, stretching the safety of their supply lines to the utmost. Therefore, even though the Russians only put up delaying fights until Narva against a massively superior opponent, the advance simply could not have progressed any faster.

[3] The “First Union Army” as well as the “Republican Guards” are indicators of just how radically the military forces in the Baltic theatre have been restructured. Well, again not quite as radical as IOTL where the old army had been dissolving in an uncontrolled manner and the Red Army had not yet really formed. But still, things have been diverging long before Brest-Litowsk ITTL, with Brusilov first overseeing strategic restructurings between spring and November, which included a first wave of officer replacements and both a downsizing and adaptations in training, and then another major restructuring during the quiet months of winter, in which whole army groups were dissolved and reassembled in the Baltic and Ukrainian theatres. (There weren’t quite as many changes in the Balkans and in the Caucasus, both of which saw less action and disintegrated to a much smaller degree IOTL over the course of 1917, so I thought a pragmatic and by now well-established political commander like Pavel Lazimir, who has been Voykom from the interim phase of Soviet rule in May and all through both the Chernov and the Kamkov commissions, would leave them comparatively unmolested.) The “Union Armies” are assembled from among the experienced soldiers who have weathered years of war already, and Klembovsky had already been commanding Russian armies in the Baltic for a while. IOTL, he was supposed to have succeeded Kornilov after the latter’s coup. ITTL, Brusilov remains commander-in-chief all through the weeks and months of the faltering attempts by Kornilov et al. at overthrowing the revolutionary government, so Klembovsky, in whom Brusilov trusted after their experiences of 1916 and whose OTL enlistment in the Red Army in 1918 and 1919 hints at some degree of political flexibility or openness towards a leftist revolution and who thus may get along with TTL’s political leadership, too, continues to command the Northern Front. The Republican Guards, on the other hand, are built from volunteers from the revolutionary militia. They are politically reliable, zealous supporters of the revolution – often peasants who have just received their share of good land and tasted on a local level how power feels – but they have no front-line experience so far. On the German side, the “assault troops” are Stoßtrupps operating under von Bruchmüller’s operational doctrine and personal command.

[4] Being so vastly outnumbered as they are, the Estonian territorial defense forces are going to adopt guerilla tactics, seeking to avoid encirclement and confrontation and instead sabotaging supply lines and the like. That won’t keep Eichhorn from relieving Hutier at Narva, though.

[5] Here he is! Being too late to be elected to the CA, he had to find another way to clamber to the top of the revolutionary heap. Joining the Petrograd Soviet and waiting until you can replace its speakers, who have assumed new roles in the People’s Commission with the shift from Chernov to Kamkov in November, is not quite as powerful, dangerous, exciting or glamorous a position as it was at times IOTL. But now, his big moment has come. And of course he is called a “Social Democrat” ITTL - with only small Bolshevik and Menshevik dissenting factions left to the right and left, the big “unification faction” IS Russia’s social democracy, a term which doesn’t have revisionist and reformist connotations yet (and may, at least in Russia, never acquire them). Uniting the factions had been a supreme goal for Mezhraiontsy like Trotsky, so expect him to have pulled strings for the November realignment.

[6] The People's Commission has decided in the very last minute, and the Constituent Assembly has consented, to postpone the plebiscite over the adoption of the new constitution for three months, given the immediate threat of Petrograd. In the meantime, the Constituent Assembly remains the entire country's supreme legislative body, and the People's Commission remains its supreme executive, elected and recallable by the CA, so the institutional status quo continues at least until May 1918.
March 1918 - Poison Gas on Petrograd
New York City (USA), The New York Times, March 21st, 1918, p.1:



Special cable to the NEW YORK TIMES

Leon Trotsky, head of Petrograd’s Emergency Committee, has confirmed that more than five thousand men, women, and children [2] have died due to the mustard gas bombs [3] dropped on the Russian capital since March 18th by German “Riesenflugzeuge”. German artillery positions more than ten miles outside Petrograd [4] have fired hundreds of thousands of mixed gas and explosive grenades, with the German Eighth Army also closing the encirclement of a capital under siege. According to Trotsky, hundreds of sailors, soldiers, and workers are already cleaning up the contaminated areas in Kronstadt as well as in the Vyborg, Nevsky, Narvsky and Petergofsky districts. Gas masks are being distributed, and more such deliveries are underway. In the meantime, voluntary servicemen [5] are spreading information to the civilian populace on how to protect themselves from the dangerous substance and its cruel effects. In spite of these sacrifices, Trotsky affirms: “We shall not let them tear out the beating heart of our Republic so that its industrial forces might fall into the hands of the imperialist foe. Next time, be it tonight or next month, we shall be prepared, and we shall no longer suffer the German aggression like sheep encircled by wolves. All hands together, we shall protect ourselves, and we shall strike back!” [6] MORE ON PAGE SIX.


Washington * In a speech before Congress yesterday, President Woodrow Wilson has condemned the German use of poisonous gas against civilians in the clearest terms: “Gentlemen, this barbarous atrocity shall not go unpunished. If anyone required another argument for why we must concentrate all our efforts to the struggle against the aggressive tyranny of Germany’s military dictatorship, the cowardly attacks on unarmed factory employees and their families should finally suffice. The Department of State has contacted Russia’s democratically elected leadership and assured them of our continued solidarity and assistance.” CONT. ON PAGE THREE.


Exclusively from THE NEW YORK TIMES military expert:

The German gas attacks are a clear sign of desperation. They are a last-ditch effort at subduing the Russians, who are so far holding out far better than the German military leadership had expected them to, and forcing them to submit to German dictates. Hindenburg and Ludendorff need the Eastern theater quiet once and for all. On all other fronts, Germany and her allies are on the verge of being overwhelmed [7]: the Ottomans are in full retreat across Palestine, the Germans are outnumbered along the Western front from Flanders to the Alps, the Greeks are finally entering the Macedonian theatre in full force [8], Austria-Hungary is almost unable to even maintain its present forces, and starvation, disease, and even military shortages haunt both blockaded Germany and Austria-Hungary. [9] The February Offensive has failed to produce any significant advances in Belarus, Ukraine, or Rumania, and the Rumanian army has been refitted thoroughly [10] and is ready to take back its territories presently occupied by Austria-Hungary and Germany’s Army Group Mackensen. The Baltic Front is the only place where Germany has achieved a breakthrough. It is where they have concentrated all their might. Clearly, they have hoped that an unstable new Russian leadership would surrender as the first artillery shots landed in Petrograd. But their calculations have gone sour. Petrograd is holding out admirably; it is hard to besiege and break into. The Germans have already lost over 30,000 men at Narva [11]; if they must shoot their way into Petrograd, they are bound to lose twice that number. The navy detachment in charge of protecting the Russian capital has not yet really engaged in combat, but after its bombardment with mustard gas, this could change. Overall, it seems German brutality has not only not produced the desired effect: It may even have strengthened the resolve of the country’s defenders. Hoffmann should have learned the Napoleonic lesson: deep inside Russia, there are only Pyrrhic victories to be won.


Forty-eight Austro-Hungarian sailors of Czech nationality who had participated in mutinies aboard ships across the Adriatic Sea have been sentenced to death by military tribunal and executed in Marburg. And yet there is no end in sight to the disorganization of the Austro-Hungarian military. [12] MORE ON PAGE FOUR.


Nicholas Romanov, together with his family and entourage, have boarded the SS Siberia in Vladivostok for San Francisco last Friday. Russia's former czar and his imperial household, who were among the first to be evacuated as German troops advanced towards Petrograd [13], are planning a prolonged visit through our country before continuing their journey towards the British Isles, where they have been offered a refuge by their relative, King George V. MORE ON THE TRAVELLING SCHEDULE OF THE FORMER TSAR ON PAGE ELEVEN.

[1] The NYT did not specify individual authorship of articles in this period, except in rare cases. Following its style in this period, which can be seen, for example, here, I have put various beginnings of articles side by side, with lots of sub-headlines. Each of these articles would be continued on later pages of the newspaper, as is still customary in the NYT. Also, the font chaos is close to authentic.

[2] Yes, the latter two ought to have been evacuated by now, but as always, evacuation never goes according to plan and is almost never complete. Also, innocent women and children among the victims make for greater sympathy.

[3] Sulfur mustard, or “yellow cross”, as the Germans marked such grenades, without combination with other gases may not be deadly to soldiers wearing gas masks. To the unmasked it is quite lethal, and in comparison to other contemporarily available gases it has the lethality advantage of lingering as a film which covers all surfaces, thus not requiring the “saturation” of a specific area which would be impossible to achieve in urban-industrial environments except in geographically extreme cases. Sulfur mustard is a strong blistering agent, whose agonising effects on the body have been documented by many shocked nurses and doctors from WW1.

[4] That is not quite as far as the Paris Gun could fire, but with railroad connections sabotaged and still under repair, I figured the Germans wouldn’t go for transporting such massive monsters all the way to Petrograd and so would opt for slightly smaller artillery.

[5] Actually they’re part of the divisional, factory, and district/rayon soviet system, but the NYT would neither grasp nor print that.

[6] As politically divisive as he was IOTL, this is Trotsky’s moment to sound patriotic and above party divisions, and all the while his committee has finally taken over the entire economic and social life of the besieged capital while it is under emergency rule. Trotsky's position is a weird one. In contrast to OTL, there is a democratically elected mayor of Petrograd: Vasily Anisimov, a Menshevik elected in the summer of 1917. But various of the above-mentioned districts, and yet more industrial districts, lie outside of Petrograd's nominal city limits. The rayonny soviets are cooperating across these obsolete administrative demarcation lines, which is only one reason why the emergency regime cannot be run without them. A second reason is that they are much better suited to draft and "field" yet more factory guards etc. to minimise chaos and keep up some semblance of resistance as long as possible until hopefully the Second Union Army comes and relieves the capital. And a third reason is that, quite generally, revolutionary Russia is not the only country which, during the war, had some sort of "dual power": everywhere, military leaderships wield a lot of political and economic decision-making powers, although things are perhaps most radical in Germany. Running and defending a besieged Petrograd requires both lots of typically civilian tasks as well as making use of the city garrison and the Kronstadt sailors. Here, the revolutionary experience with over a year of dual power structures comes as a boon: all sorts of soviets (both of the soldiers and of the civilian populace) as well as the general administration are represented in the Emergency Committee, and together they have elected Trotsky as their temporary, well, for lack of a better term let's call him "city dictator".

[7] That is a bit optimistic at this moment, but hey, it’s wartime journalism.

[8] No Russian retreat from the front against Bulgaria also means that an attack here earlier than IOTL is conceivable. It has not begun yet, though. So far, Bulgaria is still holding out, and the Greeks have their own problems with internal divisions.

[9] All OTL, only ITTL there isn’t even OTL’s March hopes for grain and other imports from the Ukraine, which, on the other hand, never amounted to much IOTL.

[10] Slightly faster than OTL because it has never actually left the war. That also means Ion C. Bratianu is still prime minister. On the other hand, political divisions in Romania are plentiful. More on that a few updates later down the line. And Romanian armies have only ever conducted successful offensives in WW1 against either a surprised Austro-Hungarian force (in 1916) or a collapsing one (in late 1918). So, let's not get carried away...

[11] Plus a large number of wounded. Whether the "expert” estimations about storming the fortress city of Petrograd with its encircled armies is really true or not, we may or may not find out soon. Either way, since I realized I never described the Battle of Narva's outcome, here it is: Ultimately, it was the lack of coordination and disciplined organisation between the reshuffled Union Army on the one hand and the Republican Guards on the other within the Russian camp which facilitated a German breakthrough after days of utter carnage and an ensuing encirclement of the outflanked retreating Russians. Only the smaller part of the First Union Army and very few of the involved Republican Guards managed to escape. While the German losses of the Eighth and Tenth Armies are considerable (their wounded need recovering, where at all possible, and over 25,000 Germans are "missing" after Narva), the Russians have suffered similar numbers of casualties, but their wounded plus their encircled men have become PoWs, so their losses altogether exceed 150,000 men. These were some of the most reliable troops among the ethnically Russian ones, so the defense of the heartland needs creativity and mobility now, and not only on the part of the Second Union Army, as the combined Eighth and Tenth German Armies with reserves which the Army Group Hoffmann thinks they can spare still have over 250,000 men in the Northern Baltic.

[12] There were mutinies IOTL, too. This is a greater number than any of OTL, though, indicating that the phenomenon is even worse ITTL.

[13] The fate of the Romanovs has been up in the air so far ITTL. I thought the interim Soviet government as well as Chernov's and Kamkov's CA-backed commissions would probably not come to any final internal agreement as to what to do with them throughout the months when things were not urgent, until they became so. As the Germans advance, Kamkov may want to eliminate the risk of the former tsar and his whole dynasty falling into the hands of German occupiers and then signing a surrender-style peace deal, which most people in Russia would probably laugh at, but which would still be more than nothing and a potential focus for a German-backed counter-revolutionary government. If I am not misinformed, it was mostly Trotsky who IOTL wanted a show trial to be made of them, but 1) Trotsky's position ITTL is entirely different and his voice has no bearing on the matter ITTL, and 2) even though others may have had similar ideas, this (i.e. Germans laying siege to Petrograd) is not a suitable moment for such proceedings. Better get rid of them, put them all into their private carriage on the Trans-Siberian and from Vladivostok off to basically anywhere else.
March 1918 - Russian-American Agreements
New York City (USA), The New York Times, March 26th, 1918, p. 1:



Washington * The Department of State has confirmed that full and unambiguous agreement has been established between our government and the People’s Commission of Russia, represented by Foreign Commissar Tobias Axelrod, on the framework for the conclusion of the Great War and the construction of a just and lasting worldwide peace. Mr. Axelrod has conveyed Russia’s full support for the Fourteen Points expressed by President Wilson on January 8th. Elaborating on them, both governments also share the following goals:

- To emphasize that the use of poisonous gas has been forbidden by the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907, and to work towards a more explicit formulation in this regard [2]

- To conclude broad international covenants establishing a court which judges violations of the Conventions, determines punishment of those responsible for such violations, as well as compensations for those suffering harm resulting from violations of the Conventions [3]

- To bring before such an international court those responsible for the murderous atrocities committed in Armenia, Belgium, France, and Russia

- To recognize unambiguously the free and democratic decisions of the Estonian, Latvian, Finnish, Ukrainian, Georgian, and Armenian nations to give themselves republican constitutions and join their free states in federation within the Union of Equals

- To ensure that the Polish, Lithuanian, Czecho-Slovak, Yugo-Slav, Albanian, and Kurdish nations will enjoy a fully free and unimpeded process of democratic constitution as well, and that they are entirely free in their pursuit and conclusion of international treaties and treaties of federation [4]

- To apply the goal of a readjustment of frontiers in accordance with clearly discernible lines of nationality to a Rumania liberated from occupation

- To support the development of democracy in the central empires currently oppressed by military dictatorships, and to remove any barrier against the free circulation of democratic ideas and associations whose aims are the fostering of a global order of peace, justice, and legal resolution of international conflicts, without and within these countries. [5]


BY THE NEW YORK TIMES MILITARY EXPERT * The Russian Second Army, commanded by General Nikolai Dukhonin, continues to relieve the defenders of Petrograd by drawing German fire on themselves. After raids on German units controlling the railroad links into Petrograd on March 23rd and 24th, two German divisions have begun to engage in fighting against them. But Dukhonin apparently does not seek to frontally assault the besieging army. Instead, his forces have retreated Eastward along the railroad line towards the Wolchow River, drawing the two divisions who pursue them away from the capital. CONT. ON PAGE TWO.


FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT IN PETROGRAD * As bombs and grenades continue to kill, and German regiments are entering one district of Petrograd after the other, thousands of civilians are fleeing every night from Petrograd’s Southern districts across the Neva river, to the North, where it is still possible to leave the capital for the wide, unoccupied Karelian hinterland, or board a train for Vyborg and the Finnish Federative Republic. Last night, I was among them. A crowd of several dozen had assembled on Liteyny Prospekt; mostly men, but also a few families with sleeping or crying infants. We were held up by armed guards, who control all traffic over the bridges and receive information about plane sightings, for over a quarter of an hour. Among the Russians residential licenses or other papers were apparently checked before the gates were finally opened and we poured through. The electric lighting, a special feature of this modern bridge, has been switched off, and while Petrograd has been less lit than usual over the past weeks, here, above the black waters of the Neva, it is eerily dark. The bridge has been damaged in part, and we must tread carefully. CONT. ON PAGE SIX.


The 60th London Infantry Division, the ANZAC Mounted Division and the Imperial Camel Corps have continued their advance on Amman with the capture of Es Salt. The town was taken from its minimal contingent of Ottoman defenders. The steep way ahead to Amman is open now, and an attack is expected over the course of the next week. [6]


In Baku, Russian secret police [7] has unveiled and dismantled a conspiratorial group of several dozen persons, aided and abetted by the Ottoman War Minister Ismail Enver [8] to incite revolts among the Mohammedan native populations of Southern Russia. Thirty-seven conspirators are awaiting their trials now, while the situation on the streets of the city on the shores of the Caspian Sea is calming down. [9]

[1] Would Wilson utter the Fourteen Points ITTL, too? I was not sure; but ultimately, many of the things often ascribed as conducive to their formulation (the Bolshevik publication of the secret treaties) appeared merely circumstantial to me or present ITTL too (the Papal peace message, the negotiations in Brest-Litowsk), whereas the primary development from which they derived, the so-called “Inquiry”, has begun in September 1917 IOTL under circumstances which did not yet radically diverge from OTL and TTL. So I thought Wilson would still outline his vision in January 1918, while the Russians and the Central Powers negotiated in Brest-Litowsk.

But would the Fourteen Points look similar to OTL’s? I checked every single one of them, and I’d be glad to discuss them in detail if anyone is interested, but I thought neither of them would have been sufficiently affected by the divergences of TTL except for no. VI (concerning the future of Russia). Even here, though, the divergences of TTL should strengthen the core message of Point No. 6 (evacuate Russia, let the Russians sort out where they want to go, they’re welcome in the international community). If Wilson uttered such comparatively Russian-friendly words after OTL’s Bolshevik takeover, I don’t see why he would be more hostile to a Russia which is a few degrees more moderate and digresses less from politico-institutional traditions of the Western world. So, while Point No. 6 would certainly be phrased differently, with less references to political uncertainty and a power vacuum, its core message would be, I reckoned, the same.

[2] The US and Russia were not among the big players in the poison gas game in WW1, so this doesn’t cost them much, and of course Russia is capitalizing on the sympathy bonus now.

[3] Ah, compensations! With the about-face concerning tsarist state debts, the demand of “no indemnities” looks a lot less appealing to Kamkov’s Commission now. To the US, ensuring that war debts are paid off is a pragmatic priority, too, which had not been included in Wilson’s well-meaning wishlist.

The establishment of a court which would give the Hague Conventions teeth and muscle is probably utopian in 1918 or any of the following years.

[4] That is more radical than Wilson’s Point No. X, but the Russians depend on the Czechoslovak and the Romanian Legion to fight on their side.

[5] That basically means the U.S. officially condones propaganda by Russia’s leftist forces, both social democratic and neo-Narodnik, in the Ottoman Empire, in Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary, and Germany, and explicit interference by the former to bring about revolutions etc. in these countries. Too big a success for a Russian foreign commissar who only months ago had negotiated for a separate peace, whose army is again being beaten by the Germans, and whose ideology is pretty much of the kind against which IOTL US institutions instigated a witch-hunt in the so-called First Red Scare? On the other hand, at this point in time, the Sedition Act of 1918 has not yet been passed, and neither has the Immigration Act. I see little reason why US domestic policies against far left anti-war activists should be much different ITTL as American war casualties will begin to rise, but then again, foreign policy will certainly look different, and that might have an effect here, too. Russia’s government, for one, has not sent Axelrod to Washington without a reason – Kamkov and Axelrod have evidently identified the U.S. as the Entente partner with the greatest potential for aid and shared goals.

[6] All OTL in Palestine. What looms big here is what is missing from TTL’s newspaper and what was in OTL’s. There is, of course, no big German Spring Offensive on the Western Front. No Michael, no Georgette, and none of the other offensive operations. Static trench warfare continues, and more and more American troops are inserted. German OHL knows the clock is ticking against them, and OTL’s plans have been made throughout TTL’s winter, too, only they’re being delayed so far, in the hope of resolving the Russian problem first. This has implications for the British campaign in Palestine, of course.

[7] Yes, the VeCheKa is still around, and it's not just terrorising bourgeois and aristocratic anti-socialists as well as anarchist pacifists, it has also taken to suppress separatist movements deemed dangerous and uncontrollable by the People's Commission, of which the former Empire's Southern Muslim underbelly has a particularly large number.

[8] IOTL, Enver Pasha and his Third Army under General Wehib Pasha were advancing through Armenian territory around this time. ITTL, they are not: the front has been stagnant for over a year now, with Russian/Union and Armenian troops not collapsing like IOTL, but also neither side having any spare forces to start a large offensive. So, instead of pressing Eastward and coming closer to implementing his Young Turkish dreams of uniting Greater Turan, from Istanbul to the Tarim Basin, through the formation of an Army of Islam, he must choose more subtle means to subvert Russian/Union control over the Muslim groups in the Caucasus and Central Asia. He begins in Azerbaijan, whose oil fields are of course of vital importance to Russia, too.

[9] Maybe it is, but in the long run, Kamkov is heading for trouble if he doesn't find a satisfactory solution for the Islamic South. The tragedy of OTL, which is even more tragical and ironical ITTL, where the respective worldviews (Jadidism and neo-Narodnichestvo) are even closer than OTL's (Jadidism vs Bolshevism), is that both SRs and Marxist socialists are in great part simply too culturally blind (or, to put it more bluntly: Eurocentrist and of a mindset inherited from colonialist racism) to see that forces like Musavat and the various Jadidist reformers among the Tatars, the Kazakhs, the Young Bukharians, Young Khivans etc. could be their allies in a big, socially-transformational, modernising, anti-imperialist family. Sure, there are socio-economical conflicts and dilemmas to be solved, and the Russian and Cossack settlers throughout Southern Russia, the former of which make up the greatest portion of the new regime's local face while the latter are still a backbone of the Union Armies, often do not espouse internationalist, universalist and national-self-determinationist views (they rather look down on the native Muslims as backward). Will Kamkov's Commission and the CA wake up in time and find a satisfactory solution (autonomy etc.) for the Muslim South, too? Because if not, there's trouble brewing there, with or without Ottoman interference.
April 1918 - New Bolshevik Leadership
Moscow: Nowaya Zhizn, April 14th, 1918:


By Vladimir Bazarov [1]

The conditions of the emergency situation we find ourselves in shaped the extraordinary party convention of the RSDLP(b), which assembled for the first time in Moscow last weekend. The man who is, more than anyone else, responsible for the extraordinarily unfortunate position in which the Bolsheviks find themselves has finally assumed responsibility for his past mistakes. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, reverently called “Lenin” by friend and foe alike, has stepped down from all offices he held in the party and in the Constituent Assembly. It was high time: the failed course of action has landed hundreds of Bolsheviks in prison, among them brilliant minds like Kollontai. After last November’s desertions, an entire wing of the Muscovite party section has followed their chairman Alexei Rykov in jumping off the sinking ship and joining the RSDLP unification bloc. Even to the loyal remainder, whose left fringe is crumbling off into spontaneous anarchist activism, the rumours about Lenin’s conversations with Hoffmann were the straw that broke the camel’s back [2].

High hopes for a Bolshevik return to the path of sanity will likely be dampened, however. The election of Nikolai Bukharin as the new Bolshevik leader does not bode well. Many inside the party consider him to be Lenin’s hand-picked successor (and many voted for him for this very reason), while Bukharin has criticised Lenin, so far, only from an even more extremely leftist perspective [3]. Now, in his first speech as chairman, Bukharin has spoken many lofty words about the imminent collapse of imperialist capitalism and about joining in a hypothetical worldwide revolution, but he still opposes joining the other revolutionaries in the forums and institutions which our real revolution of the Russian peoples has created. He has denounced the organs of our revolutionary state and does not want Bolshevik Red Guards to join the Republican Guards – but he has called for all efforts of his party to be concentrated on inciting and participating in revolts and uprisings against the German occupation forces and the institutions of Markov’s puppet state, as well as to “support the German proletariat in revolting against its oppressors”. This author is not sure how beneficial Bolshevik aid would be to comrade Karl Liebknecht and the USPD. It would certainly be an improvement if the presently clandestine Red Guards focused their acts of sabotage against the enemy for a change, but they would also stand a better chance if they decided to join the ranks of their other comrades and compatriots. Indeed, if they had not opposed and hampered the defensive efforts so much over the past months, perhaps they would not be faced with the task of driving out Markov’s reactionary terror clique from Petrograd now. Bukharin should have no illusions, however: Regardless of how many Bolsheviks are taking up arms against the foe as irregulars now, and regardless of who reaches the balcony of a liberated municipal duma hall first, the elected and legitimate institutions of the state will not tolerate any “Bolshevik Soviet republics”. The rules we have negotiated must be binding for all.Truly revolutionary power does not come from rifles alone, but from popular will and consent. Let us hope against all hope that the new Bolshevik leadership will understand this principle better than their predecessors.

[1] In the extremely prolific newspaper scene of revolutionary Russia, there is quite a number of Social-Democratic newspapers. This one is from the left wing of the Menshevik portion of what constitutes now the “RSDLP unification bloc” – as opposed to, for example, the “Rabochaya Gazeta”, which is the mouthpiece of those Mensheviks around Fyodor Dan who have remained outside of the Kamkov coalition realignment and the RSDLP unification bloc. Novaya Zhizn caters to a variety of positions from the centre-left to the centre-right of the new RSDLP unification bloc.

[2] What is that about conversations between von Hoffmann and Lenin?! Well, here is what has happened since the last update:

The Germans have confronted and defeated the Second Union Army, too, and then proceeded to fight their way into Petrograd, which was not quite as costly as the NYT military expert had anticipated since the city’s defenders organized the demontage, transportation, or, where impossible, demolition of the most relevant industrial machinery, and then withdrew with another wave of civilian refugees across the Neva and North-Westwards, away from where the Germans were.

Von Hoffmann has entered an almost empty Petrograd triumphantly, and after a few days, recruited a “Provisional Government of the Russian Empire” from among pro-German right-wingers whom his forces have released from prisons inside the city and from internment camps in its environs. The Provisional Government, headed by extreme right-winger, philo-German and anti-Semite Nikolai Evgenyevich Markov, is clearly just a puppet on the strings of the Germans, who have installed similar “governments” in Lithuania, Poland and the “United Baltic Duchy”, without really removing many of their troops. There is some relocation of troops Westward, where OHL has other plans for them, but altogether, less than 25 divisions are being moved from the Eastern theatre to the West, in contrast to the 50 of OTL. Germans still need to hold a front line, even if there is no new Russian offensive for the time being, and they need a full military occupation in place because without it their Baltic and Russian puppet governments would collapse within the week of their complete withdrawal.

The allegation in this newspaper about a conversation between Lenin and Hoffmann is based on the rumour that Hoffmann had a “Plan B(olshevik)” for his Russian puppet, should Markov not prove to be a viable option: release the Bolshevik prisoners instead of the right-wingers, and install Lenin as Russian dictator by Germany’s grace instead of Markov. Lenin has denied to have held any such preliminary sounding-out conversations with von Hoffmann or anyone else from Ober Ost. But allegations about him as a German agent have, of course, abounded in revolutionary Russia from the moment he arrived at Finland Station, and the utterly unpatriotic refusal of the Bolsheviks to partake in the defense of Petrograd and the Russian heartland against the Germans has drawn a lot of ire against them and makes allegations of such treacherous conspiratorial schemings plausible among much of the Russian populace – to the dismay of the remaining loyal Bolsheviks, of course, who are very much on the defensive on all fronts by now and show clear signs of disintegration. A change of leadership – Lenin is the first to acknowledge this – at least provides a slight chance for a reversal.

[3] It was only in my research for this TL that I realized that Bukharin was actually still a left-leaning communist by 1917, and in 1918. Don’t be confused by what you know about his later stances of OTL regarding the NEP etc. – the Bukharin of the immediate revolutionary years was convinced that imperialist capitalism could only be overthrown by a worldwide revolution, and he diverged from Lenin’s views both with regards to trade unions (which Bukharin saw as incurably revisionist and thus rejected) and national liberation movements (which in Bukharin’s view only detracted the proletariat from overthrowing capitalism globally).

Here is a short overview of the ideological wings of TTL’s Bolshevik Party in early 1918 (divergences from OTL are already heavy):

The Bolshevik Centre revolves around Lenin’s agenda of 1917 and his April Theses. Lenin’s position within the party was so influential and central that I was really not sure if it was plausible to unseat him ITTL – I hope you can follow my decision making and the reasons given above, especially in footnote 2; if not (and even if yes), I’ll gladly discuss this with you in greater detail. Anyway, the Centre of the Bolshevik Party ITTL stands for Vanguardism but is also open for a coalition in which the Bolsheviks would lead; it approves of national self-determination (and thus autonomy) while being internationalistically-minded and hoping for worldwide revolution; it sees the proletariat as destined to lead the revolution, but seeks an alliance with the poor peasantry, too. It is not opposed to parliamentary participation, but considers the revolution on the way of making such bourgeois institutions superfluous; it has held the soviets in high esteem when they were spontaneous outbursts of proletarian revolutionary action and/or controlled or controllable by Bolsheviks, but now that most territorial soviets are in the hands of parties which they deem either “revisionist” or populist, and pursuing policies not in accordance with how they envision socialism, they are looking to new forms of organization again, with most in the Centre still hoping to be able, in the near future, to gain hold of the soviets and change their agenda, but this hope is fading as much as the Centre’s strength is.

The Bolshevik Right wing (which is of course, in the entire political spectrum, still on the radical left) principally accepts parliamentarianism and the current soviet model as well as trade unionism and seeks collaboration with the other socialist and revolutionary parties even if the Bolsheviks are not able to lead such a coalition. On the question of national self-determination of minorities, there is a variety of positions, ranging from enthusiastic supporters like Sultan Majid Afandiev or Mykola Skrypnyk to quite a handful of Great Russian chauvinists. Currently, the Right Wing has been greatly weakened because most of its members have left the party of Lenin and joined the RSDLP Unification bloc.

The Bolshevik Left wing rejects parliamentarianism wholesale (there’s an Otzovist tradition at work here), rejects collaboration in “revisionist” trade unions, enthusiastically supports worldwide revolution and espouses unwavering internationalism, thus rejecting national liberation movements as backwardl (people like Yury Pyatakov come to mind) . A lot of theoretically inclined people are assembled here, who strive for a purer Marxism than Lenin’s policies. But at the same time, the Bolshevik Left has also been strengthened by the building up of the Red Guards and Bolshevik engagement in fabzavkomy/factory committees in the spring and summer of 1917. It is on the verge of splintering, as the Marxist theoreticians are denouncing the equally leftist radical “Actionists” as anarchists, while the Actionists are laughing at such “ivory tower” criticism. The Actionists are indeed leaning somewhat towards anarchism and have often collaborated on a local level with anarchists, but anarchism is a mixed bag, too, and Left Bolshevik Marxist Vanguardism is not facilitating that cooperation much.

The election of Bukharin means that the Bolshevik Centre should move a little to the Left, following the new membership structure. But that’s pure theory – Bukharin turned out to be a pragmatist of power, just like Lenin, so let’s see how things turn out ITTL…
This is a map of how the front line has moved from 1917 to 1918 (blue is before the Revolution, purple is advances in later 1917, red is the advances of the Operations Peter and Paul (and a botched A-H offensive which has just about gained Lutsk). Created on the basis of a military map available under CC on Wikimedia Commons.

May 1918 - Armistice with the Ottomans?
Thessaloniki (Kingdom of Greece): Makedonia [1], May 13th, 1918:


Alexandros I has invited the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire and his pashas to Lemnos Island to hold the negotiations with the governments of Great Britain, France, and Italy over an armistice which the Ottomans have recently offered to these three powers. Mehmet Talaat Pasha has taken a desperate step to save what he can after British and Arab forces have crushed two of his armies in Palestine and occupied the Levante up to Beirut and Daraa [2], and our young monarch has fallen into his political trap.

Alexandros’ offer of hospitality was extremely unwise and will prove detrimental to Greek national interests. By signaling Greece’s acceptance of Ottoman-Entente negotiations without even having been approached, he continues his father’s fatal policies, which have given the British and the French the impression that our country is afraid of the war and is ruled by cowards. He has done a disservice to our elected government, which has so far managed our contribution to the war effort alongside our international allies to the best of its abilities. Alexandros has communicated that Greece makes no demands. This, while Prime Minister Venizelos is desperately attempting to save the lives of our two million compatriots threatened by continuing massacres at the hands of Ottoman authorities and groups of bandits encouraged by the former. Whatever Alexandros thought his offer would earn - our country would have been served better had it presented an impression of firmness, courage, and resolution to the Great Powers.

Even more so because neither the British, nor the French, nor the Italians have responded to the Ottoman overtures as of yet [3], and there are good reasons for this. Mehmet Talaat Pasha has not included Russia among the addressees of his armistice offer. While there may be factions in the British, French, and Italian governments inclined to play tit-for-tat with the Russians for their Eastern truce and separate negotiations of the past winter, and enticed by the prospect of dividing the spoils of the conquests in the Levante among themselves, it is in the vital interest of our country not to strengthen these tendencies, and instead to bolster the position of the Treaty of Paris and insist on an armistice which includes Russia as well. Half a million Pontic Greeks are living in areas currently protected only by the Russian military and by the self-defense forces of its Armenian Federative Republic. If the Ottomans sacrifice their holdings in the Levante and make peace with Britain and France, they can throw their still significant might into the Caucasus front, where Enver Pasha dreams of erecting his Greater Turanian Empire of All Turks – a tyranny in which the lives of our co-nationals and other Christian minorities would be threatened by mass murder and annihilation. Should the British and French truly agree to armistice talks even without Russian participation, then our government will be coerced into throwing its entire weight behind our vital demands of security for the Greeks of Ionia and Pontos, and for open and unfettered passage through the Straits for our ships. The young king’s unconditional invitation to Mehmet Talaat has pulled the carpet from under our government’s feet, and all of this perhaps only because the boy fancies showing off to and with foreign diplomats more than he holds the lives and livelihoods of his subjects in any regard. [4]

[1] This is a newspaper which supports the anti-royalist Liberal Party of Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos, who has brought about Greece’s entry into the Great War on the side of the Entente in 1917.

[2] This is an important consequence of the German Operations Peter and Paul being directed against Russia, instead of a German Spring Offensive commencing in March like IOTL, or even in April. The Germans have only now, by mid-May, assembled their slight numerical overweight along the Western Front, and no major offensive operation has begun yet. While the blow may come any day now, the absence of a Spring Offensive for six weeks now compared to OTL means the British do not have to pull back so many troops from the Levante to strengthen their divisions in Flanders and prevent the Germans from capturing important strategic points in Flanders or even pushing the BEF back to the Channel ports. My conclusion: The British and their Arab allies are continuing their offensive in Palestine unabated, which might very well lead to an alt-Battle of Megiddo already taking place in late April or early May: an encirclement and full collapse of two entire Ottoman armies in what is today Northern Israel and Lebanon, making any Ottoman defense of the remaining Levantine territories a rather hopeless endeavor. The British and their allies have not yet taken Damascus, so the situation is not yet quite as desperate as it was IOTL when the Ottomans called for the Armistice which would be concluded at Moudros. On the other hand, the Ottomans must also defend their Armenian Front ITTL, too. Therefore, I thought it would be plausible for them to ask for an armistice. Observe, though, who they have asked (and who they haven’t).

[3] On the other hand, King Alexandros of Greece was practically in military custody, with British and French agents abounding in his “court” – without at least covert toleration by some of them, Alexandros’ message would never have left the Tatoi Palace.

[4] Yes, the Venizelists were staunch anti-monarchists, and by 1918 they could insult and ridicule the king without any fear.