Category Archives: Russian/Soviet history

This is a history of the Russian Empire and its successor state, the Soviet Union. It begins in earnest in 1894 and continues to date until 1917. It shall go on in time and I may extend it to 1953 or perhaps even until the dissolution of the USSR at the stroke of midnight 1991. It focuses on high politics and the chiefs of state. However, this amateurish work tries to provide an impressionistic history of the daily life of the lower orders. This history is chiefly made up from secondary sources. It is broad brush stroke and is not mired in statistics overmuch. Statistics, especially in the Soviet era, are fiendishly unreliable.

The October Revolution 1917.

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THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION.

In 1917 the First World War had already been raging for three years. The world was divided into two hostile camps. They were the Central Powers and the Allies. The Central Powers were Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. The Allies included the Russian Empire, France, the United Kingdom, Serbia, Japan, Italy and then the United States joined the Allies. Because most of Africa and Asia were colonies of European countries this meant that these continents were also in the war.

Russia was a virtual dictatorship under the Tsar. The Duma (parliament) was elected but it could only express an opinion. The voting system was openly weighted towards the affluent.

The Russian Empire had suffered enormously. Over two million Russian soldiers had been killed. Russian industry was producing enough weapons but the transport system was not bringing sufficient weapons and food to the front. In the cities there were grave shortages of food and fuel. People queued for hours to get bread and coal. They grumbled about their problems.

In the non-Russian parts of the empire there were separatist rebellions. In 1916 there was a nationalist rebellion in Kazakhstan. Many Kazakhs wanted independence. They resented the government’s bid to conscript them into the Russian Army. Some Kazakhs viewed the Russian Army as an army of occupation. Russia stressed that Christianity was central to its identity. It was therefore very hard for a Muslim to feel Russian. Not many Kazakhs spoke Russian back then. One of Russia’s foes was the Ottoman Empire. WHy should Kazakhs fight against their co-religionists in the Ottoman Empire? The Turks had some linguistic and cultural similarity with the Kazakhs. Most of the Russian troops were fighting in Europe. This meant that Russia lost control of most of Kazakhstan.

Lenin was a Marxist theorist. He was the leader of the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks were a faction of the Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party. This party had been banned under the Tsar. He had been exiled to Siberia in his youth. Since 1900 he had lived outside Russia. He briefly lived in London and then he moved to Switzerland. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (known as Lenin) wrote in little known Marxist newspapers. Lenin was virtually unheard of in Russia. Lenin believed that national identity was nonsense. He said he wanted to liberate the working class in all nations. He wanted workers to unite and fight against the boss class which exploited them. Lenin thought that the First World War was totally immoral. He claimed that both sides were evil. It was an imperialist war – prideful empires fought for more territory and more markets. The wealthy grew even richer while proletarians were slaughtered in their millions just to increase the profits of a few capitalists.

In February 1917 there had been a revolution in Russia. Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown. He had never been popular but his mismanagement of the war had led to him being widely reviled. The Tsar and his family were held prisoner and transferred to Yekaterinaburg. The monarchy was abolished. A republic was established and many political parties were allowed. Every adult was allowed to vote and there was free speech. The Provisional maintained the capitalist system but said they planned to share wealth more equally in future. The Prime Minister was Prince Lvov – no relation to the Romanovs. Prince Lvov led the Constitutional Democrats Party. After a few months Prince Lvov was replaced as Prime Minister by Alexander Kerensky. He was a member of the Social Revolutionary Party. The Provisional Government declared that it would continue to fight the war. This was ”revolutionary defence”. Germany had occupied a lot of Russian land. The Provisional Government simply wanted its land back. Once the lost land was recovered Russia would stop fighting – if Germany was willing to make peace on those terms.

The war was extremely costly in terms of lives and money. Russia could hardly sustain the war. The Western Allies were very keen to keep Russia in the war. They feared that if Russia pulled out of the war then Germany would defeat them (the Western Allies).

Lenin detested the German Government. Germany was more or less a military dictatorship under the Kaiser. Lenin believed that Germany’s system was wicked to the German working class who were mistreated by the bosses. Lenin was determined to withdraw Russia from the war which he believed was idiotic and morally repugnant. The German Government knew that Lenin was adamant that Russia should stop fighting. They also knew that Lenin hated them as much as he did his own government but nevertheless they saw how Lenin could be useful to him. Lenin and the German Government agreed that he would return to Russia and be funded by them. He was put in a sealed train and allowed to cross German territory to go home. Lenin returned to Russia in March 1917.

Lenin was met by some Bolsheviks at Finland Station in Petrograd (now called St Petersburg). Lenin immediately gave a rousing speech about how Russia was immediately cease fighting. His slogan was ”Peace, Bread, Land!” Most people were utterly sick of the war. It had cause untold suffering and appeared to be unwinnable.

The Provisional Government believed in free speech. However, they grew anxious about the Bolsheviks’ anti-war agitation. The Bolsheviks had been a tiny party at the time of the February Revolution. The Bolshevik Party grew very rapidly especially in cities among factory workers, soldiers, sailors, transport workers and servants. Soldiers started to desert because they were convinced by Bolshevik anti-war rhetoric.

In April 1917 Lenin published the April Theses. These were his thoughts about why Russia ought to make peace. His opinions were very attractive. Lenin suddenly became famous. He published a newspaper called Pravda.

The Bolsheviks attempted a revolution in the summer of 1917. They did not have enough support. The Provisional Government defeated them and Lenin fled to Finland.

In October 1917 the situation had deteriorated for the Provisional Government. Russian offensives had been beaten back by the Central Powers. Desertions in the army had made the military situation untenable. The paucity of food and firewood in the cities was severe. The war was killing civilians in huge numbers. The Provisional Government had become very unpopular. Tsarists were even plotting a comeback. The Bolsheviks decided it was the moment to strike.

Many soldiers and sailors – even those still serving in the military – had become Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks formed a secret Revolutionary Military Committee. The Bolsheviks carefully planned their revolution. Then they struck..

The Battleship Aurora was under Bolshevik control. In the dead of night the Aurora fired on the Winter Palace. That was the signal for Bolshevik troops to storm the Winter Palace. In fact the Winter Palace was very lightly defended. It was held by some cadets and some women soldiers. Not a single person was killed in the storming of the Winter Palace.

The Bolsheviks seized several key installations around St Petersburg. These included the telephone exchange, banks, railway stations and ammunition dumps. They encountered some resistance. Dozens of people were killed. Bearing in mind this was the capital city the fighting was very small scale. Almost every pro-government soldier was at the front facing the Germans.

Alexander Kerensky fled in a vehicle provided by the US Embassy. SOme other government ministers were arrested.

The Bolsheviks set up their headquarters in the SMolny Institute. This was formerly a finishing school.

We call this event the October Revolution. According the the New Style Calendar it began on 5 November. Russia used the Old Style Calendar until 1918. So by the Russian calendar of that time this revolution occurred in October. It is always known as the October Revolution.

Bolsheviks also seized control of Moscow. There they faced serious opposition. It took weeks of heavy fighting before the Bolsheviks won there. The Bolsheviks also took over several other major cities.

The Bolsheviks said that Russia would be a socialist state. They did not ban other political parties at that time. Elections scheduled for November 1918 went ahead. These were rather disrupted owing to the fighting. The Bolsheviks scored 25% of the vote but the Social Revolutionaries won 40% of the vote. The Duma met in Petrograd. The Bolsheviks closed the Duma after one day.

The Bolsheviks established a soviet of people’s commissars. The chairman of the soviet of people’s commissars was Lenin. This was equivalent of being Prime Minister.  Other countries would say ”government minister”/ Bolsheviks said that was a bourgeois term so they used the words ”people’s commissar” as in ”people’s commissar for foreign affairs, people’s commissar for health, people’s commissar for war”’. Other countries talked about the cabinet – as in group of the top government minister. In Bolshevik Russia this was called the soviet of people’s commissars.

Lenin said he wanted the non Russian sections of the Russian Empire to remain united with Russia but if these countries wished to declared independence then they would be allowed to separate. Most non-Russian nations declared independence. A couple of years later Lenin changed his mind and conquered them.

The October Revolution was a very significant moment. It established the first communist government.

In the USSR this event was called ‘The Great Socialist October Revolution.’

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Rudolf Hess – Рудольф Гесс

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Загадочный поступок Гесса очаровывает меня. Я не буду пересказывать подробности этого поступка, потому как о них было написано ранее в этом блоге.
Вопросы таковы:
Почему Гесс полетел в Великобританию?
Была ли фракция в британском правительстве, которая искренне хотела заключить мир с Третьим Рейхом в 1941 году?
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Почему Гесс полетел в Великобританию? Этиология его миссии до сих пор является предметом многочисленных догадок.
Возможные объяснения:
1. Гитлер приказал ему сделать это.
2. Он был введен в заблуждение, другими нацистскими деятелями, которые хотели избавиться от него. Может быть, это были Геринг и Геббельс. Они убедили Гесса, что Гитлер приказал ему сделать это. Геринг стал приемником Фюрера, так что cui bono указывает на него.
3. Он сошел с ума.
4. Он сделал это по собственной инициативе.
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1. Это объяснение является довольно вероятным. Предполагается, гнев Гитлера из-за отъезда Гесса, как полагают, был наигранным.
2. Существует небольшая вероятность этого, но Гесс был 3 часа на встрече tete a tete с Гитлером, накануне своего отъезда. Конечно же, Гесс, спросил бы своего Фюрера, должен он лететь или нет.
3. Это маловероятно. Он не был сумасшедшим остаток жизни. Британские психиатры обследовали его, и сказали, что он был странным, но не сумасшедшим. Он сделал попытку парасуицида, но это было почти рациональным в его ситуации. Он оставался в ясном уме до конца своей жизни. Он был в состоянии поддерживать длинные и рациональные разговоры.
4. Это очень маловероятно. Он был человеком, без инициативы. Он не был абсолютно глуп. Он знал, что он нуждается в дружественно настроенных переговорщиках с другой стороны. Он утверждал, что у него амнезия на суде. Позже он признался, что это было уловкой, таким образом, он пытался избежать петли.

Была ли партия мира в Великобритании?
Это вполне вероятно. Военная ситуация была мрачной, с британской точки зрения, не было никаких ярких пятен на горизонте.
СССР, был доброжелательно-нейтральным, по отношению к Германии. Блокада Королевского флота была неэффективной, так как вся Европа была либо под немецкой пятой, либо дружественной, по отношению к рейху. Была большая вероятность немецкого вторжения в Советский Союз, тем не менее, британское командование пришло к выводу, что качество советского офицерского корпуса ужасное, учитывая плачевные результаты действий Красной Армии против Финляндии. Таким образом, Британский Генеральный штаб предполагал, что вермахт сметет все на своем пути. Третий Рейх завоюет Советы перед Рождеством, и у него будут неограниченные ресурсы. Имейте в виду, что вермахт вошел в пригороды Москвы в декабре 1941 года, поэтому этот печальный прогноз был достаточно разумным.
Было бы удивительно, если бы не было фракции среди британского правительства, желающей, по крайней мере, изучить возможность достижения мира с Германией.
Шансы победы англичан были весьма малы. Помните, что сказал Черчилль? Перед Эль-Аламейна, ни одной победы; после Эль-Аламейна ни одного поражения. В конце 1940 года британские имперские войска освободили Эфиопию от итальянцев. Тем не менее, это было второстепенной и, возможно, пустой тратой ресурсов. Это было сделано отчасти для того, что империя обеспечила себе, по крайней мере, одну победу, но это средство для поднятия морального духа было незначительным.
Люди говорили, что граф Галифакс был бы лучшим премьер-министром, многие думали, что он, а не Черчилль должен был стать премьер- министром в 1940 году. Этот бывший вице-король Индии (где он правил как лорд Ирвин) был надежным партнером. Он был прагматиком. Лорд Галифакс – бывший министр иностранных дел, был истинным консерватором. Он не был воинственным и агрессивным, подобно Черчиллю. Черчилль был известен как оппортунист – растяпа и автор трагедии в Галлиполи. Черчилль был эгоистичной «горячей головой.» Молодой офицер в Индии, он сказал, что был либералом. Он присоединился к консерваторам для продвижения, так как он происходил из династии тори. Он был тогда либералом, потом не принадлежал ни к одной из партий и называл себя конституционалистом, прежде чем снова стать консерватором. Граф Галифакс был направлен в Вашингтон, округ Колумбия, в качестве посла. Святой Лис (так называл его Черчилль) мог работать в качестве посредника в Германии с декабря 1941 года. В Вашингтоне находилось посольство Третьего рейха, и он имел дружественные отношения с Соединенными Штатами.
Такие доминионы как Австралия и Канада, доблестно оказывали помощь метрополии, но было вполне вероятно, что скоро им надоест, страдать без шанса на победу.
Становилось возможным, что все больше стран, таких, как Испания могут связать свою судьбу с Осью.
Соединенные Штаты были нейтральными. Американская программа Ленд Лиз, была единственной помощью союзникам. Американский посол Джозеф Кеннеди старший не считал, что у Британии есть перспективы в войне. Глядя на ситуацию объективно его выводы не могут считаться совсем уж ошибочными.
Все указывает на то, что было чрезвычайно опрометчиво объявлять войну Германии в 1939 году, потому что западные союзники (Франция и Великобритания) не могли победить ее и не сделали этого, а СССР и США в конце концов победили. Не было никаких моральных оснований, для объявления войны Германии, но не в случае СССР и Польши. СССР был более жестоким к своим людям, чем рейх и, безусловно, убил гораздо больше гражданских лиц на этом этапе. Нюрнбергские законы были отвратительны. Расовая дискриминация, в соответствии с законом была широко распространена в то время. В Родезии были расистские законы. Британская империя имела бы моральное право объявить войну себе по этому поводу, если бы были применены соответствующие законы. Во многие южных штатах Америки, действовали законы Джима Кроу, которые позволяли плохое обращение с афро-американцами. Линчевания чернокожих мужчин почти всегда оставались там безнаказанными, но это не делает расизм приемлемым. Это значит, что лицемерно обвинять в расизме только Германию, когда многие страны совершали тот же грех.
Герцог Гамильтон поклялся, что он никогда не встречался с Гессом. Герцог был, вероятно, обеспокоен тем, что его репутации будет нанесен непоправимый ущерб. В лучшем случае, он будет считаться трусом, а в худшем случае предателем. Он должен был оправдывать себя тем, что он был не совсем честным. Он был на званом обеде с Гессом в 1937 году в Берлине. Он утверждал, что не говорил с Рудольфом Гессом. В переполненном обеденном зале, возможно, но очень трудно представить себе, что Гесс выбрал именно герцога из всех людей в Великобритании, чтобы поговорить. Они имели общее увлечение самолетами, и это могла быть тема для их разговора. Герцог Гамильтон был первым человеком, пролетевшим над горой Эверест. Они могли иметь взаимный интерес друг к другу. “Как один летчик к другому …” Эта дружбы могла бы привести к доверию – так, должно быть представлял себе Гесс. Гамильтон, перед тем, как он стал преемником своего отца, как герцог Гамильтон и Брэндон в 1940 году, он был титулован как маркиз Дуглас и Клайдсдейл’. Как маркиз Клайдсдейл ( сокращение его полного имени), он был членом парламента от консервативной партии. Это были дни, когда было много депутатов Тори в Северной Англии. Были опубликованы его суждения о том, что Великобритания должна достичь компромисса с Рейхом, так как британская военная ситуация была безнадежной. Это многое говорит о свободе слова, в Великобритании, даже во время этого кровопролития в 1940, газете Таймс было разрешено опубликовать такое письмо. В 1940 году, после падения Франции, не было ничего, что могла бы сделать Великобритания. Она могла отразить немецкие атаки – сейчас, но не было никакой возможности освободить континент. Во время первой мировой войны, Британской империи понадобилось четыре года, чтобы победить Германию и это удалось только, потому, что, на ее стороне было несколько других могущественных стран и французы взяли на себя ведения боев. В июне 1940 года не было никаких других стран на стороне Великобритании, поэтому она не имела ресурсов для вторжения в континентальную Европу. В 1944 это было бы тоже очень трудной задачей, даже в том случае, если Соединенные Штаты вели большую часть боевых действий. Королевский флот и Военно-воздушные силы могли бы предотвратить операцию Морской лев в 1940 году. Рейх правил большей частью Европы, и он мог использовать все верфи в Европе для строительства кораблей для германского флота. Немцы могли превзойти в этом Соединенное Королевство. Британская военно-морская мощь, вскоре могла быть преодолена ими. Операции немецких подводных лодок U были опасны для торгового судоходства. Было логично, что британцы, по крайней мере, рассматривали возможность принятия соглашения с Германией. Если бы мир не был достигнут, то, в конце концов, Германия победила бы Великобританию. Много людей были бы убиты, а оккупация Соединенного Королевства принесла бы ужасные страдания британскому народу на долгие годы. Гораздо лучше, было бы избежать всего этого ужаса. Сопротивление было бы бесполезно.
Герцог Гамильтон был знатным шотландским дворянином. Его внук 16 герцог Гамильтон играл ключевую роль в открытии шотландского парламента.
Гамильтонам также принадлежали обширные поместья в Кении, и они не хотели бы их потерять так что, завершение заведомо проигрышной войны было бы для них самым лучшим исходом.
14 Герцог Гамильтон был признан великим в Северной Британии после войны. Он занимал должность Лорда Верховного комиссара Генеральной Ассамблеи Церкви Шотландии. Он открыл мемориал жертвам Ковенанта в Грассмаркет Эдинбурга после войны, также он был покровителем протестантской организации бойскаутов.
Возможно, также был вовлечен герцог Кентский. Он был в той части Великобритании во время приземления Гесса. Присутствие члена королевской семьи могло придать предложению британцев вступить в переговоры больший вес.
Конечно, возможно, британцы обманули Гесса. Они не имели ни малейшего намерения заключить сделку. Они хотели, захватить заместитель фюрера. Это расстроило бы немцев и привело к снижению боевого духа противника. Это означало бы, что Гесс обязан был раскрыть тайны, такие, как подтверждение того, что подготовка операции Барбаросса продолжалась. Советы могли услышать это прямо из первых уст, так сказать.
Существуют небольшие сомнения насчет добрых намерений немцев. Отправить самого Гитлера было бы слишком. Отправив нациста номер два, они продемонстрировали, свои искренние намерения заключить мир. В Великобритании уже была прозондирована почва, о возможности заключить соглашение. Шведский министр в Лондоне действовал в качестве посредника между ними.
В этой войне погибли миллионы людей. Было бы правильно, по крайней мере, изучить возможность ее прекращения. Холокост еще не начался. Тысячи еврейских гражданских лиц были убиты в Польше. Это, конечно, чудовищно, но мало чем отличается от того, что рейхсвер сделал в Бельгии в 1940 году.
Соединенное Королевство не было обязано СССР ничем. СССР был открыто враждебным по отношению к Великобритании на протяжении 1930-х годов. Советский Союз активно помогал Третьему рейху. СССР напал на Польшу совместно с нацистской Германией, представил Кригсмарине гавань Базис Норд немцам в районе Мурманска. Немцы были благодарны за эту базу. Это оказалось полезным для нападения на британские конвои. Советы также захватили земли нейтральных стран, таких как Румыния. Балтийские демократии были присоединены к СССР и подвержены жестокому гнету. Их лидеры и интеллигенция были отправлены на каторгу в Сибирь и большинство из них не выжило.
Нельзя говорить о том, что советские люди в целом, или немцы, или британцы или, любой другой народ не был бесчеловечен или полностью заслуживает сочувствия. Некоторые притворяются, что была огромное моральное различие между Третьим рейхом и Советским Союзом в 1939 году. Не было. Советские люди в целом не были плохие, как любой другой народ не бывает весь плохой. Коммунистическая клика, которая управляла СССР с такой жестокостью, конечно, была злом. Смертей следует избегать везде, где это возможно. Миллионы людей были убиты во имя благого дела, но совершенно бесполезно, как оказалось. Пытаться, как можно скорее закончить эту бессмысленную бойню, было мудро и сострадательно.

Rudolf Hess

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The Hess mystery perennially fascinates me. I shall not recount the particulars which are elsewhere set forth on this blog.

The questions are these:

Why did Hess fly to the United Kingdom?

Was there a faction in the British Government that earnestly wish to conclude peace with the Third Reich in 1941?

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Why did Hess fly to the UK? The aetiology of his mission is the subject of much conjecture.

Possible explanations”

1. He was ordered to do so by Hitler.

2. He was fooled into doing so by other Nazi luminaries who wanted to remove him. Probably Goring and Gobbels. They persuaded Hess that A. Hitler had commaded it. Goring took over as Deputy Fuhere so cui bono points to him.

3. He went insane.

4. He did so on his own initiative.

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1. Is fairly likely. Hitler’s supposed anger over Hess’ departure is thought to have been put on.

2. There is some likelihood of this. But Hess had a 3 hour tete a tete with Hitler the day before he flew. Surely a deux Hess would have inquired of his Fuhrer whether he was to fly or not.

3. This is improbable. He was not insane the rest of his life. British psychiatrists examined him and said that he was odd but not mental. He had made a parasuicidal gesture but that was almost rational in his situation. He remained lucid until the end of his life. He was able to sustain long and rational conversations.

4. This is highly improbable. He was a man devoid of initiative. He was not totally stupid. He would know he needed some friendly negotiators on the other side. He claimed amnesia at his trial. He later admitted at this trial that it was a ruse. He must have been trying to avoid the noose.

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WAS THERE A PEACE PARTY IN BRITAIN?

This is quite likely. The war situation was dismal from a British perspective. There were no bright spots on the horizon.

The USSR was a benevolent neutral towards Germany. The Royal Navy”s blockade was very ineffectual bearing in mind that all of Europe was either under the German heel or else friendly towards the Reich. There was a strong chance of a German invasion of the Soviet Union. However, the British high command gloomily concluded that the quality of the Soviet officer corps was abysmal given the woeful performance of the Red Army against Finland. Thus the British Imperial General Staff surmised that the Wehrmacht would sweep all before them. The Third Reich would conquer the Soviets before Christmas and then have unlimited resources. Bear in mind that the Wehrmacht entered the suburbs of Moscow in December 1941. This dismal prognosis was therefore reasonable.

It would have been astonishing if there had not been a faction among the British Government that wished to at least explore the possibility of reaching a settlement with Germany.

The chances of British victory were very remote. Remember what Churchill said? Before El Alamein never a victory; after El Alamein never a defeat. in late 1940 British Imperial forces had liberated Abyssinia from the Italians. However, that was a sideshow and perhaps a waste of resources. It was done partly so that the Empire has secured at least ONE victory. The morale booster was minor.

People said that the Earl of Halifax would be a better Prime Minister, Many had thought that he rather than Churchill would be and should be PM in 1940. This former Viceroy of India (where he ruled as Lord Irwin) was a safe pair of hands. (In fact he only had one hand). He was a fixer and a pragmatist. Lord Halifax was a former Foreign Secretary and he was a true Conservative. He was not a bellicose and passionate sort like Churchill. Churchill was seen as an opportunistic bungler – the author of the Gallipoli calamity. Churchill was an egotistical hothead – he ratted and re-ratted in his own words. As a young officer in India he said he was a Liberal. He jointed the Conservatives for advancement since he hailed from a Tory dynasty. He was then a Liberal and then without a party he called himself a Constitutionalist before becoming a Conservative once more. The Earl of Halifax was packed off to Washington DC as ambassador. The Holy Fox (as Churchill called him) could still function as an intermediary with Germany since until December 1941 the Third Reich was at peace with the United States and had an embassy in Washington.

The dominions like Australia and Canada were valiant in assisting the Mother Country. However, it was likely that they would soon tire of suffering with no prospect of victory.

There was a strong chance that more countries such as Spain would throw in their lot with the Axis. Japan was neutral at that stage. Japanese saber rattling had led the British authorities to close the Burma Road. This was the only way China had of importing arms to fight the Japanese invaders. The entire coastline of China was under a particularly brutal occupation. As we now know the Japanese Empire attacked the British Empire in December 1941. The Empire had enough trouble fending off the Third Reich. There seemed no way she could also hold off the Nipponese should they choose to attack.

The United States was neutral. Despite Lend Lease American trade helped only so much. American Ambassador Joseph Kennedy Senior was despondent about Britain’s chances in the war. LOOKIng at the situation objectively his conclusions cannot be quibbled with. The America First Committee was very popular and unswervingly advocated the strictest neutrality.  The USA could possibly act as an honest broker between the Reich and the Empire.

It all underlines that it was exceedingly rash to declare war on Germany in 1939. The western Allies (France and the United Kingdom) could not defeat her and did not. The USSR and the USA eventually did. There was no moral reason to declare war on Germany but not the USSR over Poland. The USSR was even crueler to its people than the Reich and had certainly killed far more civilians at that stage. The Nuremberg Laws were loathsome. Lugubriously racial discrimination by law was widespread at the time. Rhodesia had racist laws. The British Empire would have had to declare war on itself over this if a consistent standard were to be applied. In the United States many southern states had Jim Crow laws mistreating African-Americans. Lynchings of black men went almost always unpunished there. This does not make racism acceptable. It does mean that it was hypocritical to single Germany out when many countries were committing the same sin.

The Duke of Hamilton swore he had never met Hess. The duke was probably worried that his reputation would be irreparably damaged. At best he would appear a faint heart. At worst he was a traitor. He must have been so keen to exonerate himself that he was not quite veracious. He had been at a dinner party with Hess in 1937 in Berlin. He claimed not to have spoken to R Hess there. At a crowded dinner party this is possible. Nonetheless this makes it  very hard to imagine which Hess picked the duke out of all the people in Britain to talk to. As they had a common fascination with aeroplanes this may have given them something to talk about. The Duke of Hamilton had been the first man to fly over Mount Everest. They could have an affinity for each other. ”As one aviator to another…” This bond of enthusiasm would lead to trust – so Hess must have imagined. The Duke of Hamilton and Brandon only inherited that title in 1940. Previously he had held the junior title of Marquess of Douglas and Clydesdale. As Marquess of Clydesdale (an acceptable contraction of his full title) he had been a Conservative MP. Those were the days when there were plenty of Tory MPs in North Britain. He was published his belief that the United Kingdom ought to reach an accommodation with the Reich since the British military situation was hopeless. It says much about how free the United Kingdom was that even during this mortal struggle in 1940 the Times newspaper were permitted to publish such a letter. In 1940, after the fall of France, there was nothing the United Kingdom could do. She could repel German attacks – for now. There was no way she could liberate the Continent. In the First World War the British Empire has taken four years to defeat Germany and had only managed it because there were several other mighty countries on the British side and the French bore the brunt of the fighting. By June 1940 there were no other countries besides empire ones on the British side. There was no way that the British Empire had the resources to invade mainland Europe. Even in 1944 this was a very tall order even with the United States doing most of the fighting. The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force could prevent Operation Sealion going ahead in 1940. As the Reich ruled most of Europe they could have every shipyard in Europe building ships for the German Navy. The Germans could outbuild the United Kingdom. British naval might could soon be overcome by the Germans. The U boat campaign was taking its toll on merchant shipping. It was very logical for Britishers to at least examine the possibility of making a settlement with Germany. If peace were not made then in the end Germany would conquer Britain. An awful lot more people would be killed and the occupation of the United Kingdom would cause horrendous sufferings for the British people for years to come. Far better to avoid all this needless horror. Resistance was futile.

The DUke of Hamilton was the premier nobleman in Scotland. Indeed this grandson the current 16th DUke of Hamilton plays a key role in opening the Scottish Parliament.

The Hamiltons also owned extensive estates in Kenya. They would not have wished to lose the colonies. Ending an unwinnable war would strike them as sagicious.

The Duke of Hamilton seems to have been cleared. The 14th Duke of Hamilton was numbered among the great and the good in North Britain after the war. He was a Lord Commissioner of the Church of Scotland. He opened a memorial to Covenanter Martyrs in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh after the war. He was also patron of the Boys’ Brigade – a Protestant boy scout organisation.

The Duke of Kent may well have been involved. He was in that part of the United Kingdom at the time. By having a member of the royal family there this made the British offer to parley more credible. The King himself could not be sent since that level of involvement would be too much and too  hard to deny should the negotiations prove  fruitless.

It is of course possible that the British tricked Hess into coming. They had not the faintest intention of striking a deal. They wanted to capture the Deputy Fuhrer. This would unsettle the Germans. It would lower enemy morale. It would mean Hess could be obliged to reveal secrets such as confirming that Operation Barbarossa was due to go ahead. The Soviets could hear it straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

There is little doubt about German good faith. Sending Hitler was too much. By sending the number two Nazi they demonstrated that they were sincere about concluding peace. There had already been peace feelers put out. The Swedish minister in London had acted as a go between.

Alan Clark, once a Conservative MP, was brave and almost unique in advocating the view in the 1990s that the United Kingdom ought to have come to terms in 1941. He was asked if he thought Hitler was trustworthy. He said that trust was a bogus concept with Hitler. One could reply on him to behave in a certain way out of self-interest not due to honesty or honour.

There is a self-flattering myth abroad in the United Kingdom. That is that the British were all brave and never considered making peace with the Third Reich. Some people certainly were valiant but the bulldog spirit was by no means as widespread as people like to imagine. Most leaders besides Churchill at least thought about making peace when the military situation appeared dire. It would be strange if it were otherwise.

This was a war that had already killed millions of people. It was right to at least explore the possibility of ending it. The Holocaust had not even begun. Thousands of Jewish civilians had been murdered in Poland. This is of course monstrous but no different to what the Reichswehr did in Belgium in 1940. No army is completely innocent by the German Army even in 1941 was exceptionally guilty.

The United Kingdom owed nothing to the USSR. The USSR had been openly hostile to the UK all through the 1930s. The Soviet Union was actively assisting the Third Reich. She had attacked Poland in concert with Nazi Germany. She had granted the Kriegsmarine a harbour called Basis Nord by the Germans in a fjord near Murmansk. The Germans were warmly appreciative of this base. They wrote in thanks. It proved useful for attacking British convoys. The Soviets had also seized land from neutral countries such as Romania. The Baltic democracies were annexed by the USSR and subjected to especially brutal oppression. Their leaders and intellectuals were sent into slave labour in Siberia. Most did not survive.

This is not to say that the Soviet people as a whole or the Germans or the British or any other nationality are not fully human and fully deserving of sympathy. Some people pretend that there was an immense moral difference between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union in 1939. There was not. The Soviet people as a whole were not bad as no nationality is bad. The communist clique that ruled the Soviets with such cruelty certainly was evil. Deaths should be avoided wherever possible. Millions of people were being killed in a good cause but an utterly futile one – so it seemed. It was wise and compassionate to attempt to bring such senseless slaughter to a close.

Why was the West so ineffective at spying on the USSR?

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There were plenty of Americans and Britishers who spied for the Soviet Union. We know about them. When they were caught they had public trials and this was all announced to the media. None of them was ever executed except the Rosenbergs.

There were precious few Soviets who spied for the United States. Oleg Gordievesky was one of the few to have got away with it. A few were caught and executed.

The United Kingdom had some terrible security lapses in the 1950s and 1960s. This was why Maclean, Burgess, Philby, Blunt and so on were able to get away with it for so long. SOme of them were alcoholics and when in their cups blurted out what they were doing. Suspicion fell on them and they were questioned in too genial a manner. This is why they were able to get away with it. The fact that they had been communists as undergraduates was not picked up. The British Government did not want the negative publicity which was why it did not pursue them. It let them escape or in Blunt’s case chose not to prosecute him in return for his admission of guilt. In the case of the others it was feared by Macmillan that if some of them returned from exile in the USSR a case could not be brought against them. It is good to have a presumption of innocence and fair trials but they can be TOO fair in this situation. The USSR had no such difficulties. They were not constrained by law or ethics. In fairness the CIA was often involved in torture abroad but not against Americans. The CIA, US military and FBI had fair trials for those of its members whom it suspected of being double agents.

I doubt any Russians now spy for the West. Russia has no embarrassing whistle blowers like Annie Machon, Edward Snowden. Bradley Manning, Richard Tomlinon and David Shayler. ANy Russian who did that would be promptly assassinated. The one Russian secret serviceman who went to the West in the past 20 years ended up dying of polonium poisoning. The USSR was a police state. It was hard for foreigners to get in there. The state was fixated with security. The current situation is not entirely different. This made it very tricky for foreigners to conduct espionage there and I imagine it still does. No one has ever said that the USSR and now Russia is incompetent at spying.

Kim Philby was one such British spy who worked for the Soviet Union. He was interviewed in the 1950s when he had successfully hoodwinked people into thinking he was innocent. ”The last time I met a communist knowing he was a communust was 1934.” He turned his eyes away abruptly to his left as he said that. That is a surefire sign of lying.

Первая мировая война. Русский театр военных действий — Восточный фронт. Текст для детей.- The First World War breaks out in the East. A text for children

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Первая мировая война. Русский театр военных действий — Восточный фронт. Текст для детей.- The First World War breaks out in the East. A text for children.

В июле 1914 года Австро-Венгрия произвела бомбардировки Белграда. Белград – столица Сербии, находящаяся на  границе с Австро-Венгрией. Австро-венгерская армия пересекла Дунай в Сербии. Они поняли, что борьба  с Сербией будет намного сложнее, чем они ожидали. Сербы хотели, чтобы Босния стала частью их земли. Почти половина населения Боснии  были  сербы.

В Сербии было лишь несколько заводов, поэтому она не могла  производить большое количество оружия, также она не имела много  артиллерии. Сербы были оттеснены в горы и леса. Там они эффективно сражались против австро-венгров. Австро-венгерской  армией в порыве отчаяния, было убито много мирных жителей.

Германия была уверена в том, что у  России займет много времени, для того чтобы начать движение. Германия отправила только 12% своей армии для  охраны восточной границы.  Большая часть германской армии было  отправлено на запад, для  нападения на Францию ​​и Бельгию.

Кайзер Германии Вильгельм  был потрясен, узнав, что русская армия начала атаковать его восточную границу в течение нескольких дней после  начала войны. Русские  взяли несколько городов в Восточной Пруссии. Немцы были обеспокоены. Некоторые немецкие войска были отозваны из Франции и отправлены на восток, чтобы попытаться блокировать продвижение русских.

В Восточной Пруссии  2-ой русской армией командовал генерал Самсонов, а  1-ой русской армией командовал  генерал-летейнант  Ренненкампф – русский, немецкого происхождения. Существовала версия о том, что Ренненкампф был двойным агентом. Ренненкампф в переводе с немецкого,  значит “бой в движении”. Он должен был по природе своей постоянно сражаться.

Русские военные общались открыто  по телефону, не используя секретные коды – это было глупо. Немцы подслушивали их разговоры. Они не могли поверить своим ушам. Русские офицеры отдавали приказы о маневрах открыто. Был ли это трюк? Немцы, понаблюдав за движением российских войск,  поняли, что эти движения совпадали с отданными по телефону приказами, которые они подслушали.

Генерал фон Гинденбург командовал немецкими войсками на Восточном фронте. Он узнал от своего секретного агента, что русская армия разделилась, чтобы обойти группу озер. Это позволило немцам победить русских по частям. Фон Гинденбург воспользовался  разветвленной системой немецких  железных дорог, чтобы быстро, за одну ночь передислоцировать своих солдат, таким образом, он был в состоянии обойти и окружить русскую армию. Русские потерпели поражение. Более 100 000 из них сдались. Немцы одержали свою самую громкую победу  в войне, потеряв лишь нескольких тысяч своих солдат. В немецкой традиции эти события называются битвой при Танненберге.  С немецкого языка Tannenberg переводится как ” гора рождественских елок”.

Когда армия генерала Самсонова попала в  окружение, он обратился к  офицеру со словами: «Император верил мне. Как же я смогу посмотреть ему в лицо после такого несчастья?».  Самсонов отошел  в лес и застрелился.

Немцы не наращивали свое преимущество, они хотели удержать русских на востоке и тем временем, разбить Францию. Немцы не хотели нападать на Россию на этом этапе. У них не было достаточно людей, чтобы сделать это. Они не хотели,  растягивать свои линии связи. Они хорошо помнили,  что сражаться с русскими зимой очень трудно.

Русская армия воевала с  австро-венграми с переменным успехом.  Русская армия была многонациональной, в ее рядах сражались не только коренные русские, но и  украинцы, азербайджанцы, грузины и латыши.  Мусульмане были освобождены от службы в армии. Некоторые из них добровольно пошли воевать, но не много.

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  1. Какой % германской армии,  был изначально  направлен  на восточный фронт?
  2. Какой город является  столицей Сербии?
  3. Какая  империя начала воевать с Сербией?
  4. Кто командовал 2-ой русской армией  в Восточной Пруссии?
  5. Что означает  Ренненкампф?
  6. Почему некоторые люди не доверяли Ренненкампфу?
  7. Кто был освобожден от службы в русской армии?
  8. Кто командовал  немецкой армией на Восточном фронте?
  9. С какой страной  Германия  воевала более агрессивно  в 1914 году?
  10. Почему Россия потерпела поражение в  битве при Танненберге?

The First World War breaks out in the East. A text for children.

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In July 1914 Austria-Hungary bombarded Belgrade. Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, was right on the border with Austria-Hungary. The Austro-Hungarian Army crossed the River Danube into Serbia. They found fighting Serbia a lot harder than they had expected. The Serbs wanted Bosnia to be part of their land. Almost half the people of Bosnia were Serbs.

Serbia had few factories and could not produce many weapons. They did not have much artillery. The Serbs were pushed back into the hills and forests. There they fought very effectively against the Austro-Hungarians. The Austro-Hungarian Army killed a lot of civilians in frustration.

Germany had been sure that Russia would take a long time to get moving. Germany left only 12% of its army to guard its eastern frontier. Germany sent most of its men west to attack France and Belgium.

Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany was shocked to see the Russian Army attack his eastern border within days of the war being declared. The Russians took some towns in East Prussia. The Germans became quite worried. Some German troops were recalled from France and sent east to try to block the Russian advance.

The Russian commander in East Prussia was General Samsonov. His second-in-command was Rennenkampf – a Russian of German descent. There was a little suspicion that Rennenkampf had divided loyalties. Rennenkampf means ”running fight” in German. He was about to become ”running fight” by name and nature.

The Russian military foolishly communicated by telephone in ordinary language. They did not use secret codes. The Germans tapped into the wires and listened to the conversations. They could not believe their ears. The Russian officers were giving their orders for manoeuvres openly. Was this a trick? The Germans observed the Russian troop movements and saw that these movements were as described in the orders the Germans had been listening to.

General von Hindenburg was in command of German forces in the east. He learnt from intelligence that the Russian Army was divided to bypass a group of lakes. This allowed the Germans to defeat the Russians piecemeal. Von Hindenburg took advantage of Germany;s superb railway network to move soldiers very fast overnight. He was able to outflank and surround the Russian Army. The Russians were defeated in detail. Over 100 000 of them surrendered. The Germans scored their most resounding victory of the war for only a few thousand casualties on their side.  This was the Battle of Tannenberg. In German Tannenberg means ”Christmas trees mountain.”

As Samsonov’s men went to capitulate he remarked to a brother officer, ”The emperor trusted me. How can I now face him?” Samsonov went into the woods and shot himself.

The Germans did not press their advantage. Their strategem was to hold off the Russians in the east and to smash France. The Germans did not wish to invade Russia at that stage. They did not have enough men to do so. They did not wish to stretch their lines of communication. They were mindful of the fact that the Russians would be very hard to fight during winter.

The Russian Army was also engage din fighting the Austro-Hungarians with mixed success. The Russian Army consisted of all ethnicities of the Russian Army. That meant it was not just made up of those who were native Russians. There were Ukrainians, Azerbaijanis, Georgians and Latvians in that army. However, Muslims were exempt from conscription. Some chose to volunteer for the army but not many.

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1. WHat % of the German Army was in the east to begin with?

2. What was the capital of Serbia?

3. Which empire mainly fought Serbia to begin with?

4. Who was the Russian commander in east Prussia?

5. What does Rennenkampf mean?

6. Why did some people not trust Rennenkampf?

7. Which religion did not have to serve in the Russian Army?

8. Who was German commander in the east?

9. Which country did Germany concentrate on fighting in 1914?

10. Why did Russia lose the Battle of Tannenberg?

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Kazakhstan in 1914.

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In 1914 Kazakhstan was part of the Russian Empire. Russia had gradually conquered Kazakhstan over the previous 200 years. The very north-west of Kazakhstan had been united with Russia since the early 18th century. This region was heavily Russified. Russian control had not reached the very south-east of Kazakhstan until the late 19th century.

About 80% of the people in Kazakhstan were ethnic Kazakhs. The countryside was almost totally Kazakh. The Russians had advanced building railway lines. Russian labourers often settled at large railway station towns. The cities were mainly Russian. People from the Ukraine and Belarus also came too. In those days people seldom distinguished between Ukrainian and Russian or indeed between Belarussian and Russian.

The indigenous Kazakh people were mainly nomads. They wandered the steppe with their many horses, camels and flocks. They were in search of pasture. They would sleep in yurts. The Kazakhs did not always think of themselves as being Kazakhs first and foremost. People often said they belonged to the Great Horde, the Middle Horde or the Little Horde. In the 19th century Russians decided, more or less at random, that the Kazakhs were one nation. The Russians picked a certain dialect as the official version of Kazakh. This was the version of the language which was closest to Kyrgyz. For most Kazakhs being a Muslim was the most important feature of their identity. This mattered more than being Kazakh.

Islam had come to Kazakhstan a few centuries before. Some itinerant tribes had only converted to the Islamic faith only in the early 19th century. This was just a few decades before the arrival of the Russians.

There has been a Kazakh state in the 16th century which was roughly the same territory as the modern Republic of Kazakhstan.

SOme Kazakhs had adopted a sedentary lifestyle. Kazakhs had generally not written their language prior to the 19th century. Since they were Muslims they did much of their education in Arabic. In Kazakhstan as in most countries most people could not read and write in the 19th century. The education that the Russians brought was of course in the Russian language.

Some Kazakhs in the cities became Russified. That is to say they spoke the Russian language, wore Russian clothes and adopted other facest of Russian culture. They appended Russian-type suffixes to their surnames such as ”-ov” for the masculine or ”ova” for the feminine. In fact many Kazakhs did not have surnames until this time. They also tended to take Russian-style patronymics.

In the late 19th century a nationalist movement began. Some Kazakhs wanted independence. They felt there was little commonality between them and the Russians. The Russian Empire emphasised the Orthodox faith as the core of its identity. Since Kazakhs were, to a man, Muslims they could feel little loyalty to a state that excluded them. Russian was the sole official language of the Russian Empire. In 1914 most Kazakhs could not converse in Russian. Kazakhs were naturally at a disadvantage in seeking employment since they were usually unable to speak the state language.

Kazakh is related to Turkish and other Turkic languages.  Indeed Kazakh is related to the word for ”free” in both languages. The Ottoman Empire was based around Turkey. The Turks were Sunni Muslims like the Kazakhs. The Ottoman Empire was the sworn enemy of Russia. Many Kazakhs recognised that there was more to link them to the Ottomans than to the Russians. They asked why should we Muslims fight against other Muslims who have done us no harm.

When the First World War broke out there was remarkably little wish to fight amongst the Kazakhs. This seemed to be a European conflict which had nothing to do with Kazakhstan. Separatists noted that it might be an opportunity for an uprising. The Tsar was compelled with withdrew some troops from his garrisons in Kazakhstan so he could dispatch them to the European battlefront. The Russian Army in Kazakhstan was thus depleted. Russian rule in Kazakhstan was feebler than before. Some Kazakhs wished to make common cause with the Ottomans whom they saw as their Islamic brothers.

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1. Which corner of Kazakhstan first became part of the Russian Empire?

2. ABout what % of the people of Kazakhstan were ethnic Kazakhs in 1914?

3. What means of transport did Russians build in Kazakhstan in the 19th century?

4. What was the official language in Kazakhstan at this time?

5. What branch of Islam did most Kazakhs belong to at this time/

6.  When had the first Kazakh state existed?

7. What were the names of the three hordes? (3)

8. What is a nomad?

9. What did the Kazakhs have in common with the Turks?

10. Why were Kazakhs reluctant to fight in 1914? (2)