17/5/1918 Sinn Féin leaders arrested as Britain strikes against “German plot” #1918Live

Ireland is in a tumult thanks to British plans to introduce conscription. Nationalist parties Sinn Féin and the Irish Parliamentary Party have joined forces with the Catholic Church and organised labour to oppose the measure.

Despite the opposition and warnings from senior figures in the local administration, London is determined to bring conscription to Ireland; such is the desperate need of new recruits to make good the losses suffered in the German spring offensives. Lord French (previously the British commander on the Western Front) has been appointed Lord Lieutenant in Ireland. A member of the Anglo-Irish gentry, French is convinced that firm measures will bring the lower orders to heel.

Some of the British suspect a German hand in the unrest in Ireland. Joseph Dowling, captured after a U-boat landed him in the west of Ireland, has spun a tall tale about Sinn Féin leaders being in league with Berlin and preparing for a German invasion of the Emerald Isle. Lord French himself is sceptical, as are others, but Dowling’s story finds a receptive audience in London. The British decide to nip this plot in the bud by rounding up the Sinn Féin leaders before they can get up to any further mischief.

Now the British strike. Ireland wakes up this morning to learn that more than 70 leading members of Sinn Féin have been arrested, including Éamon de Valera, Constance Markievicz and Arthur Griffith. The British hope that this bold step will decapitate the troublesome party and bring an end to the unrest in Ireland.

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Some of the arrested Sinn Féin leaders (Ireland’s Own: The German Plot)

12/5/1918 Alienated Cossacks revolt against the Bolsheviks #1918Live

Kornilov and his ilk had tried to recruit the Cossacks of the Don region in southern Russia to their anti-Bolshevik crusade, but the Cossacks had not shown any great enthusiasm for the White cause. Many of the younger Cossacks actively sympathised with the revolution. However since the capture of Rostov, the Reds have managed to alienate the Cossacks through forced extractions of grain and other harsh measures. Before the revolution the Cossacks were one of the Tsar’s main tools of repression, so the Bolsheviks easily slip into thinking of them as inveterate enemies of the people.

The Bolsheviks’ repression of the Cossacks is causing their fears to become a reality. The Don Cossacks are increasingly in revolt and now, after recapturing Novocherkassk, a Cossack assembly elects Pyotr Krasnov, a former Tsarist general, as their Ataman. Krasnov seeks to restore the glories of the Cossack people, asserting their freedoms and their rights over the non-Cossacks of the region. In concert with Denikin and his army Krasnov now seeks to consolidate White power in southern Russia and work towards the overthrow of the Soviet government.

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Pyotr Krasnov (Wikipedia)

11/5/1918 Emperor Karl takes his punishment #1918Live

The revelation that Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary had been carrying out secret negotiations with the Allies has created a rift between the Emperor and his German allies. Karl’s position is an extremely awkward one, given Austria-Hungary’s dependency on Germany. Today he meets Kaiser Wilhelm at the German army’s headquarters at Spa in Belgium. Wilhelm is willing to put the Sixtus Affair behind him, but he extracts a price: Austria-Hungary will have to sign up to Germany’s Mitteleuropa plan, so binding the empire to Germany that it will become little more than a vassal state, akin in some ways to the status now enjoyed by defeated Romania. Germany also demands that Austria-Hungary prepare and launch a new offensive against the Italians, to draw Allied forces away from the Western Front.

Karl has no option but to accept his country’s complete subordination to its northern neighbour. He prepares to return home to tell his generals to start planning an attack across the Piave.

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Austrian magazine report on Karl’s visit to Spa (The World of the Habsburgs – The Sixtus Affair: A major diplomatic débacle)

7/5/1918 Romania agrees to harsh peace terms with Germany #1918Live

Once Russia signed a peace treaty with the Central Powers it was inevitable that Romania would follow suit. Most of Romania was overrun in 1916 after its leaders joined the Allies, with only Bessarabia in the east remaining unoccupied. Without Russian help it was no longer possible for the Romanians to fight on. After agreeing an armistice last December, today the Romanians sign a peace treaty with the Central Powers near Bucharest.

The terms are harsh. Romania is obliged to cede territory to Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. The remainder of the country becomes little more than a German client state, its oil industry and railways placed under German control and the country obliged to supply its agricultural surplus to the Central Powers. Romanian trade is now tied to Germany through its forced membership of a customs union.

As with Brest-Litovsk, the Treaty of Bucharest serves to remind the western Allies of the kind of terms they can expect if they are forced to make peace with Germany.

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Prime Minister Alexandru Marghiloman of Romania signs the treaty (Wikipedia: Alexandru Marghiloman)

French cartoon depiction of Germany forcing Romania to sign the treaty (Wikipedia: Treaty of Bucharest)

territory lost by Romania (Wikipedia: Treaty of Bucharest)

30/4/1918 The former Tsar arrives in the House of Special Designation #1918Live

Before the revolution the Tsar wielded absolute power in Russia, at least in theory. His life and that of his family was one of gilded luxury. After his abdication the imperial family were held in conditions of genteel house arrest, continuing to enjoy privileges undreamt of by their former subjects. However the Tsar remained deeply unpopular with the revolutionary public and there were fears for his life if he remained in Russia. During his premiership, Kerensky tried unsuccessfully to arrange for the Tsar to go abroad into exile. However a tentative offer of asylum in Britain was withdrawn following objections by King George V, who feared that his cousin’s arrival would ignite revolutionary sentiment. Other countries declined to take the Tsar for their own reasons.

To protect them from the Petrograd workers, Kerensky moved the imperial family to Tobolsk in Siberia, where they continued to live in comfortable conditions. However, since the October Revolution the situation of the imperial family has deteriorated. They have been denied luxuries and put on more basic rations. Their guards have become more surly. There is increased talk of putting the Tsar on trial.

In truth, the Bolsheviks are not sure what to do with the Tsar. Trotsky favours a show trial in Moscow, with himself as the prosecutor; others are not so sure. In the meantime the Tsar and Tsarina are transferred to a new place of incarceration in Ekaterinburg. They arrive today and are greeted by an angry mob before being taken to the House of Special Designation, the commandeered home of a local businessman. Their son and daughters will join them later.

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Tsar Nicholas II in the early stages of his captivity (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

The House of Special Designation (Wikipedia)

23/4/1918 Ireland strikes against conscription as London prepares a crackdown #1918Live

Ireland is in a tumult over British plans to extend conscription there. After rallies were held across the country two days ago, today the country is engulfed in a general strike against conscription called by the Irish Trade Union Congress. The strike is hugely successful with shops, factories, railways and even pubs closing across the country. The one area that remains largely immune from the strike is the north-east, where pro-British sentiment remains strong among the Protestant and Unionist community.

The strike is disconcerting to the British authorities, who note the involvement of the subversive Sinn Féin party in the anti-conscription campaign. Meanwhile in London Joseph Dowling, who was arrested in Galway in mysterious circumstances, is under interrogation by British intelligence officers. The British promise to spare Dowling’s life if he co-operates; in return he confesses that he is a former British soldier who joined Roger Casement‘s Irish Brigade after being captured by the Germans. He further reveals that he was transported to Ireland by German U-boat and tells his interrogators that he was sent to liaise with Sinn Féin leaders in advance of a forthcoming German invasion of Ireland.

Dowling’s fanciful tale of a Sinn Féin plot to assist a German invasion finds a receptive audience in London. British leaders now make plans to decapitate Sinn Féin by rounding up its troublesome leaders. Perhaps in so doing they will also break the back of the anti-conscription movement.

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First Irish Conscript (National Library of Ireland, @NLIreland on Twitter)

22/4/1918 The Transcaucasian Democratic Federal Republic joins the family of nations #1918Live

Today a new country emerges from the ruins of the Russian Empire: the Transcaucasian Democratic Federal Republic. The new nation seeks to unite Armenians, Georgians, Azeris and other ethnic groups of the region into one federal state. The new state’s leader is Prime Minister Akaki Chkhenkeli, a socialist Georgian from the anti-Bolshevik Menshevik party.

The new Transcaucasian Republic faces desperate problems. Aside from internal tensions between its different peoples, it also faces the external threat of Turkey, whose forces are expanding into Transcaucasia in an effort to maximise Turkish power there. In the future the wayward region may also need to worry about efforts by Soviet Russia to bring it to heel.

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Akaki Chkhenkeli & 1903 map of Transcaucasia (Wikipedia: Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic)