18/2/1918 Germany pushes into Russia #1918Live

At Brest-Litovsk Trotsky shocked the Germans by rejecting their harsh peace terms but then informing them that Russia will fight them no more. The Bolsheviks hope that this ‘No War, No Peace‘ strategy will expose the Germans as naked aggressors if their army resumes its advance in the east, triggering revolution from Germany’s war weary working class.

Ludendorff is Germany’s Quartermaster General and the effective dictator of his country. He does not care about being seen as a naked aggressor; he wants the war in the East brought to an end as soon as possible so that he can concentrate his efforts on the Western Front offensive he is planning. Today German and Austro-Hungarian troops launch Operation Faustschlag, an offensive intended to force the Russians to sign the peace treaty. They encounter no meaningful resistance; by now the old Tsarist army has been disbanded and the recently established Red Army is in no position to take the field against the Kaiser‘s juggernaut. The Germans and their allies advance at a speed that would be unimaginable on the Western Front.

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Austro-Hungarian troops advance into Kamianets-Podilskyi (Wikipedia: Operation Faustschlag)

16/2/1918 Lithuania declares independence #1918Live

Last year the German occupiers of Lithuania allowed a national council to convene, thinking that this body could be used to assist in the administration of the region and prevent the spread of revolutionary ideas from Russia. Unfortunately this council, the Taryba, has proved more obstreperous than expected and has not cooperated with the Germans. Today it goes further and declares Lithuania to be an independent state. This independence is ineffective for now, as the country remains under German occupation, but it does indicate that the Germans will have problems if they try to permanently annex Lithuania to their empire. It also exposes the limits of German power there, as they seem curiously unable to simply shut down the Taryba.

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The declaration of independence (Wikipedia: Act of Independence of Lithuania)

The Taryba (Wikipedia: Council of Lithuania)

16/2/1918 “The Cult of the Clitoris”: a sinister plot revealed #1918Live

Independent MP Noel Pemberton Billing shocked Britain when he revealed that the war effort was being sabotaged by 47,000 sexual deviants who were being blackmailed by the Kaiser. Today his renamed newspaper, The Vigilante, publishes further sensational revelations. In an article entitled ‘The Cult of the Clitoris’, Pemberton Billing reports on private performances of Oscar Wilde’s banned play Salome scheduled for April, in which the Canadian actress Maud Allan will play the title role. It is stated that the audience for this production will comprise leading members of the sinister 47,000. Furthermore he suggests that a clique of lesbians are conspiring to secure German victory and implies that Maud Allan is herself the lover of Margot Asquith, wife of the former prime minister.

The article causes a sensation, particularly as many readers were previously unaware of the existence of this mysterious clitoris. Miss Allan however prepares to sue Pemberton Billing for his libellous and unsupported allegation against her.

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Noel Pemberton Billing (Spartacus Educational)

Maud Allan as Salome (Wikipedia)

15/2/1918 Polish anger over Germany and Austria’s treaty with Ukraine #1918Live

Germany and Austria-Hungary have concluded a peace treaty with Ukraine. The terms of the treaty have largely been written for Germany’s benefit and oblige the Ukrainians to supply Germany with much-needed foodstuffs. However a few bones have been thrown to Ukraine. Some territorial adjustments in the east have been made in its favour, with some Austro-Hungarian territories in eastern Galicia being transferred to Ukraine.

This territorial adjustment causes considerable disquiet in Poland. The Poles had hoped that the Central Powers’ victory in the east would restore Poland to some kind of independence. Germany and Austria-Hungary had made promises in that regard, indicating a willingness to create a new Polish kingdom under a German or Austrian prince out of territory that formerly belonged to Russia and Austria-Hungary. But the territory now being given to Ukraine is seen by Poles as integral to this planned new kingdom. They regard its gift to Ukraine as a betrayal and a sign that Berlin and Vienna are not to be trusted.

Cracow, in Austro-Hungarian Galicia, is a centre of Polish national feeling. There has already been some disquiet there over food shortages and the general hardships of the war. Now anger over the Ukrainian treaty brings large numbers out onto the streets. Symbols of the Habsburg Empire are defaced and the German consulate is attacked. The police find themselves unable to maintain order.

Anger over the treaty also sees many Polish officials resign their positions. And a Polish military unit recruited by the Austro-Hungarians mutinies. The Habsburgs manage to suppress the revolt, but with their commander, Józef Haller, some 1,600 of the Poles successfully escape to Russian controlled territory. They hope to fight on the Allies’s side and thereby advance the cause of their homeland.

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Demonstrations in Kraków against the treaty with Ukraine (Poland, the Centenary of Regaining Independence: Polish Roads to Independence)

14/2/1918 Russia adopts the Gregorian calendar #1918Live

In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII promulgated a new calendar, updating that of Julius Caesar. The reform changed how leap years are calculated. In the Julian calendar, every fourth year has an extra date. Pope Gregory’s calendar refines this by making years divisible by 100 no longer leap years, unless they are divisible by 400. The adjustment reflects the fact the true solar year is shorter than the 365.25 days envisaged by the Julian calendar. Adoption of the Gregorian calendar saw countries jump a number of days to correct the previous slide from the “true” date.

Over time western Europe adopted the Gregorian calendar. However, countries where the Eastern Orthodox Church was strong clung to the Julian. As a result, Russia is by now 13 days behind western Europe, which explains such oddities as the February and October revolutions taking place in March and November respectively.

But now, as part of its transformation of Russia, Sovnarkom orders the adoption of the Gregorian calendar. The change takes effect today. Whereas yesterday in Russia was the 31st of January, today is the 14th of February, as it is throughout almost all of Europe.

In 100 years time this change will be greeted with great relief by persons live-blogging and tweeting the First World War and Russian Revolution.

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The decree announcing the switch to the Gregorian calendar (Wikipedia: Soviet calendar)

11/2/1918 Wilson’s Four Principles #1918Live

President Wilson has already outlined the Fourteen Points that he sees the United States as having entered the war to achieve. Now in another speech to Congress he clarifies them by the addition of four principles that must govern any peace settlement. They are firstly that each part of a final settlement must be based justice, secondly that people and provinces are not to be transferred between states in pursuit of great power interests, thirdly that territorial adjustments must be made in the interests of the people of those territories and finally that national aspirations must be “accorded the utmost satisfaction that can be accorded them without introducing new or perpetuating old elements of discord and antagonism”.

Wilson is effectively saying that the principle of national self-determination must be paramount in any future peace settlement. This is bad news for multi-national empires like Turkey and Austria-Hungary, though it may also cause some disquiet to France and Britain, with their vast overseas empires. For now though Wilson’s principles are expected only to apply to the Central Powers.

In a time of realpolitik, Wilson’s aspirations may seem hopelessly naive, and certainly this is how some of his allies see them. However the US President is convinced that only a settlement on these lines will lay the basis for a permanent peace that will prevent the world from facing another catastrophic war.

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Woodrow Wilson (Wikipedia)

10/2/1918 “No War, No Peace”: Trotsky’s bizarre coup de theatre #1918Live

The peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk are finally beginning to pay dividends for the Germans. Yesterday representatives of the Ukrainian Rada agree a separate peace with Germany and its allies, agreeing to supply Germany with large quantities of grain in return for an end to hostilities and recognition of its independence from Russia. However the Soviet delegation of Leon Trotsky continue to play for time, hoping that revolution will spread to central and western Europe before painful concessions have to be agreed.

But now Ludendorff has had enough of Trotsky’s delaying tactics. He instructs the German delegation to present the Russians with a harsh set of peace terms on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. If the Russians do not agree then the German army will resume its advance.

In Petrograd the Soviet government is divided by the German ultimatum. Lenin favours acceptance, on the grounds that if the German terms are not accepted now, worse will have to be accepted in the future. But others favour rejection, hoping that a militia war against the Germans will inspire the Russian people and spread the revolution westwards. Lenin thinks such ideas are hopelessly over-optimistic but is unable to railroad his comrades.

From this internal division emerges a strange compromise. Trotsky informs the Germans that Russia is unilaterally leaving the war, without accepting the German peace terms. If the Germans want to keep the war going they can do so on their own.

Trotsky’s rhetorical flourish stuns the Germans. “Unerhört!“, exclaims Hoffmann, one of the generals present. Unconscionable. But as Trotsky and his delegation depart Brest-Litovsk, the German army on the Eastern Front prepares for action.

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Trotsky at Brest-Litovsk (Wikipedia)