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CalBear

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I mean if Kornilov goes strongman Russia will be fine, but no the monarchists in Russia kept the people as serfs and sure they abolished it but that is unforgiveable and they should have been shot long before Nicholas II.

So lets go Kornilov, authoritarian democracyyyy.

Also whats Sternberg up to?
Really think a 13 year old boy with a terminal (in the era) disease deserves to be shot? Or a teenage girl? Or their older siblings, who as best as I can tell only crimes was a poor selection in parents?

Really?

No. REALLY?
 
Guys: Stepping in here after Cal to make something official.

I don't know what I'm going to do with the Romanov kids, so let's get that out of the way first. But this is the second time now the Bear has had to come in over this same exact topic. Since I don't want to see anyone banned or kicked, I'm going to ask all commentors to leave the subject alone. I'll detail their fates in due time, but I think it's best to leave the subject alone for the time being.
 
Guys: Stepping in here after Cal to make something official.

I don't know what I'm going to do with the Romanov kids, so let's get that out of the way first. But this is the second time now the Bear has had to come in over this same exact topic. Since I don't want to see anyone banned or kicked, I'm going to ask all commentors to leave the subject alone. I'll detail their fates in due time, but I think it's best to leave the subject alone for the time being.
Didn't you already detail their fates in a past chapter? IIRC, Olga marries a German nobleman, Maria marries a Bulgarian nobleman, Tatiana becomes a nun, and Anastasia becomes an actress. And again IIRC, didn't Alexei die after he cut himself with a medal or something?
 
Didn't you already detail their fates in a past chapter? IIRC, Olga marries a German nobleman, Maria marries a Bulgarian nobleman, Tatiana becomes a nun, and Anastasia becomes an actress. And again IIRC, didn't Alexei die after he cut himself with a medal or something?
I actually forgot about that. This isn't the first time you've proven you know the TL better than its author! ;)
Thus, there should be even less need for Mod-attracting-discussion.
 

AlexG

Banned
I’m glad we’ve moved away from that disturbing topic.

I’m not a monarchist nor am I (idk what to put here... “beliefs-wise”) a particular fan of the whole chosen by God to do the lords work, although I have to face the facts that countries today with a constitutional monarchy tend to perform better in most meaningful ways to the average human than those which do not.

That’s why I’m hoping for a constitutional monarchy Russia and additionally why I’m hoping we get sort of a Henry II of England type situation where whoever becomes Czar sacrifices something meaningful (whether it be their desire to avenge themselves upon those who have murdered their family members, acknowledging the superiority of the Duma and calling for open elections, giving the people a choice on whether or not they would keep the monarchy, etc.) in exchange for sitting on a throne made of wood and gold instead of upon one made of swords and bayonets, or in fact not sitting on any throne at all.

Russia has proven to be the most exciting part of this TL for me, and it didn’t even start out that way! I believe being surprised in a positive way like this and one which makes me ask “what will happen next?” Is the mark of a well written fictional work! So thanks again for the TL @Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth
 
I’m glad we’ve moved away from that disturbing topic.

I’m not a monarchist nor am I (idk what to put here... “beliefs-wise”) a particular fan of the whole chosen by God to do the lords work, although I have to face the facts that countries today with a constitutional monarchy tend to perform better in most meaningful ways to the average human than those which do not.

That’s why I’m hoping for a constitutional monarchy Russia and additionally why I’m hoping we get sort of a Henry II of England type situation where whoever becomes Czar sacrifices something meaningful (whether it be their desire to avenge themselves upon those who have murdered their family members, acknowledging the superiority of the Duma and calling for open elections, giving the people a choice on whether or not they would keep the monarchy, etc.) in exchange for sitting on a throne made of wood and gold instead of upon one made of swords and bayonets, or in fact not sitting on any throne at all.

Russia has proven to be the most exciting part of this TL for me, and it didn’t even start out that way! I believe being surprised in a positive way like this and one which makes me ask “what will happen next?” Is the mark of a well written fictional work! So thanks again for the TL @Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth
Thanks so much-- this is the sort of comment which makes a writer's day!

I'm glad we agree on the merits of constitutional monarchy.

That said, I have made a very deliberate (if behind-the-scenes) effort to bend a knee to realism and not make this a wish-fulfillment TL. A British-style monarchy is, I agree, exactly what Russia needs right now, but I have a hard time seeing it work in practice. Part of this, of course, is the fault of the IDIOTS behind 15 April 1918. The one man Russia needs most right now is the late Tsar Michael II. Based off of his OTL career and what I've ascribed to him here, he was the most intelligent of Alexander III's children. Had he been around to confront the May Day General Strike, I can tell you right now that the rifles and bayonets would've come out and the affair would have been suppressed... but then, he would have addressed the root causes. Whereas in TTL, Xenia and Lvov just sat around and let things get dreadful for a year, and then dilly-dallied when the strike broke out until they forced Kerensky's hand.

Unfortunately, I don't see Xenia's widower the Grand Duke Mikhailovich being that far-sighted. Though as the author, I take 100% responsibility for everything I have him do, (and as such could well be mischaracterising him), I don't think he's the best person to be at the reins right now. For a start, he was a close mate of Nicholas II, and advised him on many of his poor policy decisions (in OTL and post-POD ITTL). That's a black mark right there. Second... his wife has just been killed by a mob who call for the overthrow of his entire way of life. In that sort of situation, grieving for one's spouse while being very afraid for one's life and the lives of one's kids, it must be hard to make a clear-headed decision. Like I said, Michael would have been a much better man for all this.

I'm really glad you've enjoyed the Russia arc. It has probably been the hardest part of the TL thus far for me to write, largely because we're moving into such uncharted territory and getting past the POD. I often second-guess myself while drawing up notes or- even worse- stare at a Google Doc or test thread post and think bloody hell, I can't do this! So it's a real relief to know you're enjoying this! Hope I can keep it up....
 
I’d argue that Russia’s too big for a toothless monarchy. Too little sovereignty is going to cause just as many problems as too much.
Well, ITTL German-style constitutional monarchy remains a viable alternative to British-style constitutional monarchy. The latter only really became mainstream because of Germany's defeat in WWI.
 

AlexG

Banned
I 100% agree with that take @Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth

the reality is that Russia just passed the point of no return towards civil war. The shortsighted stupidity of Kerensky and the rest in thinking that by cutting off the head of the government and murdering the Czarina will somehow usher in restraint and moderation and calm tensions would be risible if it wasn’t so tragically nearsighted.


The fact is that killing Lvov alone would probably have been enough to at least present the Czarina with the (titan sized air quotes) “option” of appointing Kerensky or some other reformer and giving an air of legality to the whole nasty business and that right there would have ended the threat of civil war for the next 20 years assuming at least some reforms with teeth were enacted and the invisible hand continued to grow Russia’s economy as it did before the war.

With the Civil War, I don’t see any good outcomes for Russia. If the reds win, well. We know how that story starts, muddles, and ends.

With anyone else (except an ultra-nationalist win) Russia will exist in a state of perpetual illegitimacy because I’m going to assume a ton of foreign support (both material and ‘volunteers’) will arrive from Germany, USA, Britain, and other non-socialist nations and the stain of winning a civil war through indebting the nation to foreign powers who supplied the bullets, the shells and the hands that won it...that is an image that will never be shaken off. Especially for a country like Russia which (imo) tends to be particularly sensitive about foreign encroachment and feeling like they have enemies on all sides.
 
I 100% agree with that take @Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth

the reality is that Russia just passed the point of no return towards civil war. The shortsighted stupidity of Kerensky and the rest in thinking that by cutting off the head of the government and murdering the Czarina will somehow usher in restraint and moderation and calm tensions would be risible if it wasn’t so tragically nearsighted.


The fact is that killing Lvov alone would probably have been enough to at least present the Czarina with the (titan sized air quotes) “option” of appointing Kerensky or some other reformer and giving an air of legality to the whole nasty business and that right there would have ended the threat of civil war for the next 20 years assuming at least some reforms with teeth were enacted and the invisible hand continued to grow Russia’s economy as it did before the war.

With the Civil War, I don’t see any good outcomes for Russia. If the reds win, well. We know how that story starts, muddles, and ends.

With anyone else (except an ultra-nationalist win) Russia will exist in a state of perpetual illegitimacy because I’m going to assume a ton of foreign support (both material and ‘volunteers’) will arrive from Germany, USA, Britain, and other non-socialist nations and the stain of winning a civil war through indebting the nation to foreign powers who supplied the bullets, the shells and the hands that won it...that is an image that will never be shaken off. Especially for a country like Russia which (imo) tends to be particularly sensitive about foreign encroachment and feeling like they have enemies on all sides.
A first-class analysis! I can't really add anything more.
 
I’m glad we’ve moved away from that disturbing topic.

I’m not a monarchist nor am I (idk what to put here... “beliefs-wise”) a particular fan of the whole chosen by God to do the lords work, although I have to face the facts that countries today with a constitutional monarchy tend to perform better in most meaningful ways to the average human than those which do not.

That’s why I’m hoping for a constitutional monarchy Russia and additionally why I’m hoping we get sort of a Henry II of England type situation where whoever becomes Czar sacrifices something meaningful (whether it be their desire to avenge themselves upon those who have murdered their family members, acknowledging the superiority of the Duma and calling for open elections, giving the people a choice on whether or not they would keep the monarchy, etc.) in exchange for sitting on a throne made of wood and gold instead of upon one made of swords and bayonets, or in fact not sitting on any throne at all.

Russia has proven to be the most exciting part of this TL for me, and it didn’t even start out that way! I believe being surprised in a positive way like this and one which makes me ask “what will happen next?” Is the mark of a well written fictional work! So thanks again for the TL @Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth

I'm going to put a split here between the European (based) Monarchies and the non-European ones (I guess at this point that means only Asia).

For the European monarchies, I believe the ones that have survived (other than Spain) had already seen the Monarchs power *significantly* curtailed by a legislature that at least had voting by the upper middle class or better by the middle of the 18th century. Belgium& Norway started out that way, I think the UK, Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden had gotten to that point by 1850.

Russia was at *least* 50 years behind them and arguably a good chunk of a Millennium behind the UK. (with a few UK diversion like Cromwell)
 
For the European monarchies, I believe the ones that have survived (other than Spain) had already seen the Monarchs power *significantly* curtailed by a legislature that at least had voting by the upper middle class or better by the middle of the 18th century. Belgium& Norway started out that way, I think the UK, Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden had gotten to that point by 1850.
and the Netherlands is where the ruler tried to expand powers but pretty much got stopped in his tracks within a few decades. The Stadholder in the United Provinces was fairly restricted, only when the kingdom of the netherlands was established in 1815 the monarch got a little more power, only to be curtailed again due to the 1850s revolutions.
Of course the ittl current dutch queen wilhelmina was an absolutist (and admired how much power wilhelm had), which is illustrated by her coup attempt post ww2 iotl (which miserably failed).
ittl she will have even less chances for it, because no post ww1 revolutions to inspire the dutch socialist Troelstra to call for revolution (which was a huge failure), and kept the SDAP (socialists) sidelined until the late 30s. i expect ittl that they will end up as part of a government much sooner than that.
 
and the Netherlands is where the ruler tried to expand powers but pretty much got stopped in his tracks within a few decades. The Stadholder in the United Provinces was fairly restricted, only when the kingdom of the netherlands was established in 1815 the monarch got a little more power, only to be curtailed again due to the 1850s revolutions.
Of course the ittl current dutch queen wilhelmina was an absolutist (and admired how much power wilhelm had), which is illustrated by her coup attempt post ww2 iotl (which miserably failed).
ittl she will have even less chances for it, because no post ww1 revolutions to inspire the dutch socialist Troelstra to call for revolution (which was a huge failure), and kept the SDAP (socialists) sidelined until the late 30s. i expect ittl that they will end up as part of a government much sooner than that.
Unless they get discredited by events in France and elsewhere, of course. In Germany ITTL, the SDP lost a number of votes due to the public seeing socialism as an anarchist or similar ideology after revolution broke out in France. Together with the split between Ebert and Hasse, it led to the conservative plurality in the Reichstag and their coalition with Zentrum.
 
Chapter 52: Of Emperors And Presidents
Chapter Fifty-Two: Of Emperors And Presidents

"Just as the Republicans were divided in the Civil War, so too were the Tsarists. Just as Alexander Kerensky vied for power with Lenin, so too were the Tsarists beset. Andrei, the so-called Tsar, had no more say over events than a common private soldier. It was his father, the Grand Duke Mikhailovich, who pulled the strings, yet his leadership left something to be desired..."
-Excerpt from Robert FitzGerald's The Great War for Civilisation (1998)

"Peace, peace? I'll tell that so-and-so what peace means. Peace under my banner, with the traitors who murdered my wife under my boot. That, boy, is the only definition of peace in Russia!"
-Grand Duke Mikhailovich to Tsar Andrei after learning of Kiril Vladimirovich's peace offer

"If my sole remembered accomplishment a century from now is that I made Russia in my own image, as a liberal democracy of Christian values, of decency, and of tolerance... it will not be what I set out to do, but nonetheless an honour I shall accept. I only hope the current leadership in Petrograd heeds my message."
-Woodrow Wilson, shortly before his death.

"This is a unique moment of destiny for Germany, greater even than when the Archduke Ferdinand went to his death. We now have the chance not just to push back the Russian bear but to destroy it forever!"
-Kaiser Wilhelm II

The past few years had not been kind to the Romanov Dynasty. War and turmoil had whittled down the ranks over the quarter century since Nicholas II took power. Out of Alexander III's six children, only two were alive and one was disgraced in exile. Alexander had died in infancy; his brother George had fallen off a motorcycle in 1899. Nicholas had ceded the throne to his brother Michael after losing the Great War, and lived under his cousin Wilhelm's auspices. The former Tsar's son Alexei had fallen from a window, his wife was dead, and he was estranged from his daughters. Reactionaries had murdered Michael in revenge for implementing a liberal constitution, leaving his illegitimate schoolboy son Georgi behind. The throne passed to his sister Xenia, who failed to prevent the May Day General Strike. Alexander Kerensky's Republican Coup grabbed power over her dead body. Nicholas had no desire to retake power (and was constitutionally forbidden from trying), and his surviving sister Olga didn't fancy risking her neck. This presented a slight problem: all of Alexander III's children were either dead or disbarred.

At its darkest moment, the House of Romanov was left vacant.

Xenia's husband, the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, seemed the obvious successor. Being a close confidante of Nicholas II before the Great War had taught him much about statecraft, while being the Tsarina's husband for the past year had ingratiated him with Russia's elites. Besides, this war was personal for Mikhailovich. His failure to defend the woman he loved left him all the more determined not to let the revolutionaries get away with it. "I say this to the Judas Iscariots who murdered their God-given empress. You have not just committed a grave sin against God and against Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality, but against my own person. Perhaps the Heavenly Father will find it in His heart to forgive you; I will not." Accompanied by his youngest son Vassili, with whom he and Xenia had fled to Pskov days before the Republican Coup, the Grand Duke made for Veliky Novgorod on 9 May. Accompanied by bodyguards, the two Romanovs loaded into an armoured car and blazed up the dirt road, not stopping once and firing warning shots at cars and horse-carts moving too slowly. As soon as he arrived, Mikhailovich addressed the Russian people. The Republican Coup, he said, was

"a sham attempt to forge an illegitimate regime, one bereft of the goodwill of the Russian people. Those men who, yesterday, raised the banner against the House of Romanov, crossed the Rubicon. Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky, Pavel Nikolayevich Milyukov, Lavr Georgevich Kornilov, and all those who have affiliated themselves with this are outside the law. As per the Constitution of 1918, the punishment for treason is death. All the subjects of the Russian state, in the name of God, are entrusted with a duty to punish these traitors should the opportunity arise. The simplest means of this, subjects, is to declare your fealty to and take up arms in the name of the House of Romanov. God stands on the side of the state which has served Him loyally since my illustrious ancestor Peter the Great two centuries previous. All Russians are under a moral obligation to oppose these Godless usurpers. To do otherwise is to betray your late Imperial mother, Xenia, who for a year nurtured and protected this nation." (At this point, Mikhailovich began crying; his tears made good propaganda but were quite genuine.)

"Now, many will object. Perhaps, one will say, the people had a right to rebel! After all, conditions for the average workingman remain poor! We work long hours in the factories and fields, one might say, while you noblemen live on the high hog. This, surely, is a vile injustice! To this, I reply: Your conditions are doubtless harsh. I do not deny this, nor that great disparities exist in this nation. But that does not excuse treason and regicide! A son does not murder his father because he is not fed properly; he takes to the streets and works. It would be fallacious to pretend that the Rodina was a perfect place before the war, but it would be equally so to place the blame at the feet of the Imperial Family. Though the Constitution most certainly legitimises protests and labour action- even on so broad a scale as to interfere with economic activity- looting and rioting can not be condoned, much less treason. To those who have tarred themselves over the past ten days by affiliating with this criminality, I say this: Repent. Denounce the Martovist rabble-rousing of Lenin and of the so-called Soviets and soldier's councils. Let the Petrograd criminals know that their days are numbered, and return to the streets in defence of something greater than your economic position: all that is good and true in the Motherland. Do this and this nation will have peace and glory for a century.

I now call upon all loyal soldiers. Raise the banner of this dynasty, reject the illegitimate 'councils', and join the swift crushing of these treasonous cells. Let every officer for whom his oath to the Tsar and Constitution means a pact not just with the above but with the God Who made him prove his loyalty. Ignore all treasonous directives from the former War Minister, who by his conduct has forefitted his office, and let him obey all orders from his superiors, whose authority derives ultimately from the crown worn by my late wife. As of this moment, then, the Motherland finds herself embroiled in a civil war against anarchy and treason. The question I posit is: will you fight on the side of treason, socialist atheism, and modernism, or on that of Truth and Tradition, divine justice, Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality? God Save the Tsar!"

People rallied to Mikhailovich's banner. Vladivostok, seven hours ahead of the capital, had operated in its own world since the General Strike began. Fishermen and dockworkers kept plying their trades there, as oblivious to the state of martial law as to the Nine-Point Programme. The garrison was too busy counting its blessings at being deployed to a quiet zone to rise up against the revolt, while the time lag prevented keeping the Pacific city properly in touch with events. The same held true in Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, and Krasnoyarsk. Siberian peasants were too busy trying to eke out a living from the barren landscape to pick up their guns, while the soldiers running the Trans-Siberian Railway remained loyal. A swathe of steppe from Voronezh through the North Caucasus also declared for the regime, as did Arkhangelsk.

Ukraine, Central Asia, and the southern Caucasus remained nominally under imperial control, but that was only because nationalist protests had yet to escalate to full revolution. The empire’s monarchies loathed the Tsar because he was Russian, not because he was an autocrat. Independence, not equality under Kerensky, was the end goal.

Meanwhile, the Tsarists had been clumsily coalescing. Their clumsiness in doing so, however, illustrates how out-of-touch they could be with the common people.

As the late Tsarina’s husband and a confidante of Nicholas II, Mikhailovich considered himself entitled to the crown. Xenia’s sister Olga had zero interest in ruling (she sat out the civil war in Sweden), leaving the Grand Duke the closest male Romanov to the throne. Being the first to raise the banner in Veliky Novgorod enhanced his legitimacy. Mikhailovich’s daughter, trapped in Republican-held Petrograd, was unable to interfere, as were his four sons in the military. His twelve-year-old son Vassily was too busy grieving for his mother to care. That left Prince Andrei Alexandrovich. Mikhailovich’s twenty-two-year-old son was a handsome cavalry captain who’d been stationed in Smolensk when revolution broke out. After the Republican Coup, War Minister Guchkov had issued orders for Andrei’s arrest and execution, but the prince had saved himself with a gallant address to his men. He shamed them for their lack of loyalty not just to the Romanov Dynasty but him personally. “If you wish to side with traitors against your commanding officer, the man who fought by your side and shared your hardships in the Polish trenches, so be it.” He threw his sidearm at the men’s feet and smiled. Ashamed, his men begged his forgiveness and pledged to follow him. Historians credit the prince with winning Smolensk for the Tsarists- he claimed the achievement for the rest of his life.

When the Smolensk garrison hailed him as Tsar on 12 May, Prince Andrei gratefully accepted.

Tsar Andrei: a joke of an emperor
tsar andrei.jpeg


* * *

Mikhailovich wasn’t having this. He loved his son and knew what the Constitution said, but the throne was his. Part of this was a desire to have the empire in good hands- twenty-two was a bit young to command a faction in a nationwide civil war- but more had to do with a simple desire for power. Summoning his son to Veliky Novgorod on the eighteenth, Mikahlovich lectured Andrei like he had when the boy was five. This was no time, he said, for division. “The Romanov crown must not be contested in this hour, son. I know it must pain you, but the throne cannot be yours. Allies both domestic and foreign know me and will respect me; this is no time for a novice.” Andrei retorted that the Constitution gave him the throne as the oldest son of the preceding monarch. His father leapt to his feet, ready to holler at Andrei like a misbehaving child, but the prince stopped him. “You claim, Father, to defend the Constitution against the Kerenskyites. Surely the people might take it amiss if you betrayed it?”

“Explain what you mean”, Mikhailovich growled.

“Well, father, this could serve as a propaganda victory for us if we play it right. We can tell the people that although you desire the throne and would like to avenge Moth...the late Empress Xenia, you place your fealty to the Constitution first, since the Constitution is what keeps Russia stable.”

“Cobblers!” Mikhailovich pounded the desk. “I remember when my flaming brother in law- the foolish one, that is, not Nicky- promulgated that thing. Good God, what a waste of an emperor- and look what a mess it’s gotten us into now, eh? I do not base my right to rule on a constitution worth nothing but empty words- I base it on the right of my ancestors derived from God for the past two centuries!”

Andrei gulped. His father could be a volcano at times. But what had he to lose? “When I say that I ought to have the throne, father, that isn’t to say I would shut you out. Far from it in fact. All I mean is that I might serve as a better face on the regime. The Prime Minister and I could negotiate and speak; you could advise and direct. And of course, father, I would be… filial as I listened to your advice.” He’d won. Mikhailovich stroked his beard, a faraway look in his eye.

“What about your brothers and sister?” That was a damn good question and Andrei didn’t hesitate to say so. “If I had to guess, father, I would say…” A lump formed in Andrei’s throat. He’d never been that close to any of them- they’d been raised in different bedrooms by different nannies- but the idea of the revolutionaries getting their hands on them sickened him. “Irinia is the one I worry about.” His older sister had been in Petrograd with her husband when it all began. Odds were she was dead. “And of course, Vassily is here with us.” Andrei made a mental note to talk to the kid, whom he still loved despite the ten-year gap. “That leaves Fyodor, Nikita, Dimitri, and Rostislav.” All were in the military, whereabouts unknown.

“Nothing we can do about that now”. Mikhailovich pounded Andrei’s back. “Come. If you are to assume the title of power, you must meet the right people.” Tsar and ruler walked off.

* * *

The dispute between father and son was so peaceful precisely because nothing major was at stake. Andrei got the crown; Mikhailovich the power. When Tsar Andrei addressed the Russian people on 6 June, glorifying God and the Constitution, Mikhailovich stood beside him. He issued an open letter supporting his son’s position on the throne and got Xenia’s sister Olga to follow suit. In exchange for all this, Andrei followed his father’s directives. However, a new and far more hostile threat to the throne emerged that summer. His bid for the throne, however comical it seems in retrospect, threatened Romanov unity and boosted Republican propaganda.
Grand Duke Kiril Vladimirovich had been born in 1878 and was a cousin of the Tsar. Like Mikhailovich, he’d enjoyed Nicholas’ favour and attained the rank of admiral in 1916, but his rank was merely honourary- severe burns from the Russo-Japanese War left him physically weak. Instead, he became Captain of the Imperial Naval Guard; not a position bestowed lightly. Men answering to the Grand Duke fought against both the September Revolutionaries and 15 April plotters. The May Day General Strike saw Kiril on holiday with his German in-laws. Leaving the wife and kids in Hesse, he rushed back to the Motherland, reaching Petrograd the day before the Republican Coup. Recognising the danger in a revolutionary city, Kiril didn't even bother staying the night. He disguised himself as an Orthodox priest and, escorted by several Okhrana men, made for Arkhangelsk. (His disguise was apparently excellent; his diary records not one but two instances of having to refuse to hear someone's confession). Kiril supported Andrei's regime hoping he could control the boy, but Mikhailovich elbowed him aside. The Grand Duke slipped into a depression that summer. His family was safe in Hesse (he'd sent word not to return home) but he missed them terribly. His cousin's husband was thwarting his bid for power, and his homeland was ablaze. Kiril was a loyal Romanov and a Russian patriot, but he saw how much the civil war was damaging his homeland and like everyone- possibly excepting Vladimir Lenin- wanted peace. However, Kiril was unique in one key respect. Whereas Kerensky, Lenin, or Mikhailovich defined ‘peace’ as the surrender or conquest of the enemy, he believed in compromise. He was acutely aware that the only reason Kerensky had launched the Republican Coup was to forestall Lenin’s proclamation of a socialist republic and believed the Republican leader might be willing to submit to the monarchy- provided his own power was respected, of course- to fight the real enemy, the Marxists. Since Mikhailovich would never legitimise his wife’s murder by negotiating with the enemy, Kiril believed only one man could prevent civil war without end.

As July 1919 dragged on, Kiril laid plans which seem shockingly naive to modern eyes. Ideally, his diary records, he could “persuade Mikhailovich to step down of his own accord.” Provided the Grand Duke agreed not to interfere with his son’s “free running of the war”, he wouldn’t even need to die. Andrei was to be left on the throne as Kiril’s puppet rather than Mikhailovich’s. Once he’d made peace with Kerensky in the emperor’s name, Kiril told himself, he could retire peacefully. The Grand Duke’s attempt to emulate the Republican Coup ignored the fact that plotting was a nasty business. The plotters had not persuaded Xenia to step down; they’d lured her away from her bodyguards, pumped her full of lead, and burned the body with a lighter and timber.

Grand Duke Kiril was about to throw his life and reputation away on a last-ditch attempt to halt the cataclysm.

As a naval town, Arkhangelsk was brimming with Imperial Naval Guardsmen who were loyal to their commander’s person. Few thought it amiss when, in a repeat of Lavr Kornilov’s “changing of the guard” outside the Tauride Palace, they were moved to the city centre outside the town hall-turned-Imperial Palace.

* * *

Grand Duke Kiril Vladimirovich (1876-1919) threw his life away to stop the war
kirilvladimirovich.jpeg


Heart in mouth, Grand Duke Kiril Vladimirovich stepped into Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich’s office. It wasn’t much to boast about; everything in Arkhangelsk was smaller and shabbier than its counterpart in the capital. If this goes well, I will be back before the leaves fall from the trees. Best not to dwell on what could happen if he failed. Kiril’s bodyguards followed him in. If he wanted to, he could scream “Open fire!”. That would kill one Grand Duke but would guarantee the other a slow and painful execution. If I die, it will be all for nothing. Only I can save the Motherland. The thought didn’t do much for his nerves. “Your Excellency! Thank you for granting me the pleasure of this audience.”

“My pleasure. Though the war has me swamped with work, I can take time easily enough for you. You aren’t just a patriot, Kiril Vladimirovich, but a friend. And within these four walls, I am Alexander Mikhailovich. One grand duke to another.” Kiril stared at the man. Silver bags hung under Mikhailovich’s bloodshot eyes. Fresh creases were etched into his skin and grey streaks coursed through his hair.

“The war has aged you, hasn’t it?”

Mikhailovich frowned. “Of course it has aged me. Only four months ago we were at peace across the whole empire and… and the late Empress Xenia was alive.” His voice wobbled. “Damn that Guchkov to hell and back!”

As Mikhailovich pounded the desk, the words died on Kiril’s tongue. “Well, sir…” He would have to do this the hard way. “I do not claim to understand your frustration, sir. My wife and children are, praise God, safe in Hesse. I can only imagine the strain this must take on both yourself and Tsar Andrei.” That’s right. Keep him talking. Make him think you’re no threat.

Mikhailovich’s chuckle was as cold as Arkhangelsk. “Andrei is just a boy, really. By God, I remember when he was only so high!” He set his hand to his thigh. “And now, that boy is Tsar of all the Russias! I cannot say I ever imagined that.” Mikhailovich licked his lips. “He isn’t ready, either, which is why I need to be on hand. It was me who had to light a fire under General Denikin to see results outside Moscow (1) and me who had to get the ambassadors under one roof. Everybody knows it without admitting as much, but the real ruler is sitting in this office. And God, it is a lot.”

“One can imagine.” Sympathy dripped from Kiril’s silver tongue. “You might not like the notion, but have you considered, ah, spreading the burden? You are a valuable asset to the House of Romanov, Alexander Mikhailovich, but you’re not invincible. He who defends everything defends nothing.”
“I’ll thank you not to quote Frederick the Great! Don’t need any damned Germans offering their wise advice. And what do you mean, ‘spreading the burden’?”
Kiril’s stomach twisted. “As it stands, as you said yourself, you have to put up with the diplomats and get the general’s hides in gear. Tsar Andrei is too young, and so it all falls on you. No one- especially not a grieving man- should have to do all that. Let me talk to the Tsar and perhaps he’d be willing to take me on as an adviser.”
Mikhailovich stared at Kiril like a scientist examining a specimen. Seconds became hours. Oh God, he thought, I’ve failed. Any moment now, the guards would rush in and that would be it. The bullet had already been fired. “Perhaps… perhaps I should go.”

“No, wait”, Mikhailovich said. “If my son wishes to talk to a fellow Romanov, that is his right. I shall fetch him.”

* * *

“What have you there, sire?”

Tsar Andrei I dried his eyes. It wasn’t regal to be caught crying but he couldn’t help it. “Letter from the front, sir. My brother Fyodor has…” He gulped. “Some damned Bolshevik. I- the Goddamned Tsar of all the Russias- could not protect my brother and now he is gone!” Andrei stared at a map. Somewhere, on one of those red pins outside Volgodonsk, his brother had given his life. A rogue artillery shell, Intelligence had reported, not even aimed at his tent. (2) And just like that, his brother Fyodor was dead. “This war has taken so much from me. Irinia is a captive, Fyodor is dead, my father a recluse, and the others are so flaming lonely.” Andrei’s youngest brother remained in Arkhangelsk but the others all had cushy jobs well behind the front. Only Fyodor had wanted to fight… and look where that had got him. Andrei stared with bloodshot eyes. The Great War had been a game to him, as a dashing eighteen-year-old cavalry officer. He’d smelled cordite a few times but had never been in real danger. Now… now he felt the sting his people had suffered for years. Five months after the revolutionaries murdered Mother, there was no end in sight. Petrograd remained under siege, Brusilov held out in the Central Volga, and the Republican drive into the North Caucasus had cost him his brother. Xenia’s face came floating back. Despite being raised by nurses, Andrei had always loved her. She’d only been forty-four when she died but had looked younger. When, on that last Easter Sunday in the Winter Palace, they’d parted ways for the last time, had either of them known what was about to happen? Had he known that a month later, her body would be nothing but ashes in a forest and he’d be fighting to save the empire? Of course not. And now, Fyodor is in heaven with you, one hopes. Andrei crossed himself. Fyodor had gone to the grave for the same reason Andrei wore the crown; to avenge their mother. But would she want all her sons dead? Millions of Fyodors would survive if the war ended tomorrow; millions of families would be spared weeping their eyes out over a lost loved one. And even if Kerensky and Lenin hung tomorrow, it wouldn’t bring Mother back from the dead. You are Tsar of all the Russias, Andrei reminded himself. The Constitution gave him and him alone the power to make war and peace. Do it for Fyodor, he told himself. Do it for Mother. It wasn’t a betrayal but a safeguard.

“Kiril Vladimirovich”, he said, “I have an enormous request to ask of you, in my late brother’s memory.”

* * *

“He fucking did what?” Grand Duke Mikhailovich leapt from his chair, terrifying the messenger, who repeated the bad news. “Of course he did! Of course he fucking did!” Mikhailovich called Kiril Vladimirovich every name imaginable, hands shaking. “I let that man into my confidence! I let him come to Arkhangelsk and talk to my son- my living son, that is! What a damned fool I was.” It would have been so easy to plug him, too. Send the guards in and it would all be over. Well, it will all be over soon. Enough is enough. Breathing heavily, Mikhailovich dismissed the messenger and picked up the telephone. It was a secure line to the new Minister of the Interior, whose tasks including running the rump Okhrana.

“Grand Duke Mikhailovich!” Pyotr Krasnov left every syllable crisp and polished. The Grand Duke explained the situation to him.

“Are you… certain, sir?”, Krasnov asked five minutes later. “This is an… irreversible step, nyet? And doing it publicly might well…”

“Of course I am bloody sure! Wherever he is, have your Okhrana take him out! Treason is treason, nyet? Now will you do it, or shall I find someone who can handle the post while you take up the governorate-general of Siberian prison camp number twenty-two?” Krasnov’s doubts vanished remarkably quickly, and Mikhailovich threw down the telephone. “The things I must do to get people to listen!” His blood raced and his teeth were clenched. As he sipped vodka, he reflected that perhaps he’d been a bit harsh. He had to take his frustrations out somehow, though. Xenia’s image floated before him. I am sorry, my love, Mikhailovich thought. I did not intend for it to be this way! Memory tore at Mikhailovich’s heart. The woman he loved was dead, his daughter, grandchildren, and son-in-law (the last one was no great loss) were in enemy captivity, and his second son was gone. And now, Kiril Vladimirovich, the man he’d trusted as an adviser to Andrei, had betrayed not just him, but Xenia’s legacy and the whole Romanov Dynasty. What was I thinking, trusting him with my son? My son…

Mikhailovich rose abruptly and made for Andrei’s quarters. The Tsar of all the Russias was in more trouble than he would know what to do with...

* * *

Assassinating Grand Duke Kiril Vladimirovich was the easy part. The quixotic Romanov had been “discussing a mutually agreeable end to hostilities” while “on holiday” in Lucerne with a low-ranking Republican diplomat (the less important the man sent, the greater Kerensky’s plausible deniability). Though Switzerland, like the entire world, recognised the Tsarists, Kiril avoided the Russian embassy- the last thing he needed was for one of his fellow countrymen to spot him chatting with a traitor abroad and report home. The Okhrana hit team thus caught him eating steak in a restaurant and conversing in Russian with another gentleman. Unlike the clientele, they were actually able to follow the conversation, and it was every bit as bad as Mikhailovich had feared. Phrases like “further liberalisation of the Monarchy”, “general election”, and “Prime Minister Kerensky” made them want to spit their filet mignonnes out. All three men waited till Kiril was done and shadowed his taxi back to the hotel. It was close to midnight and there were few streetlights. Kiril was less than a hundred yards away when a bullet lodged in his back. Still disguised as posh restaurant-goers, the three Okhrana men stepped out from the shadows and cut his throat before dashing to avoid the police. Kiril Vladimirovich was forty-three years old. He’d managed to talk his way into power for a few months but had still paid the ultimate price for his foolishness. The assassins slipped across the Italian border three days later and were able to spend Christmas 1919 in Petrograd.

He couldn't conceal the diplomatic fallout forever.

Filling Kiril's niche would be harder than emptying it. Ignoring Kiril’s absence would confirm that he’d been bumped off. Mikhailovich had to acknowledge he’d killed Kiril but present the story his way, else the Republican propagandists would have a field day. He looked forward to making the speech as much as he looked forward to a root canal, but letting the people think for themselves was worse. Thus, the Grand Duke swallowed his pride and a stiff drink before ascending the podium.

“People of the Russian Empire! I do wish most sincerely that this step was not necessary. Yet, I am forced to admit that our house is not as pure as had been hoped. For His Excellency the Tsar and I are guilty of error. Ever since this war began, we included amongst our confidantes a man who harboured no love nor fealty for the Russian cause. Kiril Vladimirovich Romanov, formerly a Grand Duke, has betrayed this house and his noble standing by engaging with the enemy! While in Switzerland, ostensibly for personal reasons, Kiril Vladimirovich initiated contacts on his own initiative with representatives of Alexander Kerensky and his treasonous bloc! Fortunately, the Ministry of the Interior was attuned to this threat. Operatives of the state police apprehended him in Lucerne, attempting to deliver him to Arkhangelsk for trial as per the Constitution. However, Kiril Vladimirovich attempted to fight back and was, consequently, killed.” How many murders were hidden behind that simple phrase, ‘shot while resisting arrest’? One more to add to the pile.

“Let me, speaking on behalf of the Russian Empire, make something unequivocally clear. The so-called ‘peace proposals’ which Kiril Vladimirovich attempted to initiate were never legitimate. Tsar Andrei in no way considers himself bound by them, nor will this government consider negotiations with an illegitimate rebel force in occupation of the Central Volga. The only circumstances in which we would so much as consider a dialogue with the foe would be to negotiate humanitarian surrender terms for men consigned to defeat. Alexander Kerensky’s clique began this war; we shall finish it. Clemency will be shown to those who repent of their treason before the battle ends; after our victory will be too late. I advise all the Russian people, in the name of God and of Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality, to make a wiser decision than Kiril Vladimirovich. Good day.”

* * *

Honesty did Mikhailovich few favours. Russians read his admission that he'd killed Kiril not as punishment for treason but jostling for power. Part of this was because they viewed the war the same way as Tsar Andrei. Regardless of whether they lived in Tsarist or Republican territory, the war had been a catastrophe for nearly everyone. Millions of 'Fyodors' had stopped shells or bullets; millions more had died of the Kansas flu. (3) Seven months after walking out on May Day, people had lost their revolutionary fervour. Many were sympathetic to the Republicans because they didn't want to see the secret police back and investigating what they'd been up to during the general strike. The Romanov Dynasty was no longer halfway between heaven and earth; its claim on the average Russian's loyalty was no better than Kerensky's. Andrei couldn't claim to be the "imperial father" when Mikhailovich did all the talking. Michael II had enjoyed the benefit of the doubt as he promised liberal reforms, but Xenia's reign had brought only cosmetic changes. They'd mocked her as "Auntie Xenia" when the Okhrana wasn't looking; they had even less respect for her son, who couldn't even make a speech without his father by his side. The one thing this Andrei chap had going for him, it seemed, was that he wanted peace. Yet at the same time, few truly hated the Tsarists. Russia without the Romanovs was like Catholicism without the Pope- the two went hand in hand. The people knew they'd face fresh challenges regardless of who won, but at least they wouldn't face war and hunger. Mikhailovich thus appeared not as a noble defender of the state against treason but as a warmonger denying the people what they most wanted.

Like any good politician, Kerensky was willing to tell the people the opposite of whatever his foe said. The scene in the half-deserted capital made May Day look calm, but Kerensky's courage in mounting a podium only boosted his stature. Spreading his arms out at the city's defences, the Provisional President acknowledged Tsarist power but declared that "the Russian people have not yet begun to fight!" He then issued a peace offer of his own. Andrei would cede power to the Republic and end the monarchy, after which he would hold a general election and release all political prisoners- even those who'd tried to kill Michael on 15 April! Kerensky also promised to respect the Russian Orthodox Church and hinted that he'd protect the economic stature of the nobility (even if their titles had to go). Most intriguing of all, "upon our victory the borders of Russia shall be subject to review by the populations concerned, with due process provided for national self-determination." Taking this as a guarantee of independence upon victory, the empire's minorities tilted towards the Republicans. Tsar Andrei's father certainly wasn't promising that. "Russia," Kerensky declared, "must be made safe for democracy."

This phrase persuaded a certain American to open a crucial lifeline for the Republicans.

* * *

My English is perfectly fine, Alexander Kerensky told himself. "Nothing at fault with it, nothing." He spoke aloud to prove it to himself. "It is... oh. razvaluha!" (4) His English teacher wagged his finger in his mind's eye. "Points deducted for accent, boy!" The Russian Provisional President laughed. He'd feared the schoolmaster's rod then and dreamt of release in adulthood; now he feared the Tsarist noose and dreamt of childish innocence. One couldn't win. "I think we'd best have a translator on hand just in case." Kerensky barked into the phone, and moments later, there came a knock at the door. "Come!"

Natasha, his secretary and English translator-cum-tutor, led the distinguished guest in. "Sir, may I introduce the Provisional President of the Russian Republic?"

"Spasibo." Southern American accented-Russian was as far from Kerensky's mother tongue as his English was from New York. Natasha translated, "It is an honour to meet with you, Mr. President."

"The honour, sir, is all mine. I say, cigar?"

The American shook his head. "No, no. It's bad for the lungs, and I'm already just this close to looking my Maker in the eye. No need to push myself over the edge." Kerensky nodded sympathetically. His esteemed guest looked like a skeleton in a suit. His yellow flesh clung to his skull like it was painted on; his suit seemed about to fall off. In other circumstances, Kerensky would've given the man a few rubles and sent him to the nearest Orthodox charity kitchen. Now, he was pleading for his life with him. The American began hacking his lungs out, and Natasha fetched a drink. Hands shaking, he took a sip and closed his eyes. "That's... better", he rasped. "I... I want to say thank you, Provisional President, for this. I... I will not be around much longer. Politically, I am a cooked goose." Natasha frowned, before telling Kerensky that politically, his guest was mertvetsky- a dead man. The American mustered a smile. "Not a saying you Russians know, eh? Never mind." Both men chuckled apologetically. "That is as may be. After I have gone, how will they remember me? I want them to be remembered as a man who helped, as you said, make Russia safe for democracy." A laugh became a coughing fit. "First Russia, then the world!" A light cut through the infirmity in the American's eyes as Kerensky laughed heartily.

"And for that, my good sir, I am most thankful! Now then, to business. What help can you provide beyond words?" Kerensky hoped his desperation wasn't too obvious. Without American arms and supplies his force would get nowhere. The Tsarist guns rattling miles off reminded him of the consequences of that.

"Well, officially none. The damned Constitution forbids me, as a private citizen, from negotiating with a foreign power. Since the United States lacks diplomatic relations with the United States, you could not even set up a purchasing commission in Washington or New York. Of course, I'd be a damned fool if I let that happen. Both the United States Government and I personally, we have a... a history with such groups." If Kerensky's English had been better, he might've noticed what his guest snuck into his second coughing fit.

"But can you help us?" Eyes wide, Kerensky leaned forward. "I understand your predicament, sir, but you told us you could be of assistance. If that's not so, sir... I will always negotiate, but I will never abandon the best interests of the Russian Republic. If our dealings cease to be in the Republic's interest..." He hoped he'd gotten the message across without offending his guest.

"Not to worry, Provisional President, I understand what you are saying. Believe me, my policy towards the United States is the exact same even with that damnfool greybeard Santa Claus (5) running things. The truth is that a liberal, democratic Russia remains in the best interest of my country. Europe continues to be a land of emperors on one hand and frothing radicals on the other. A sliver of sanity would go a long way indeed. And fortunately, indeed I can help. Having been at war less than two years ago, my country has plenty of military equipment floating about. You understand how these things go. One moment, the armies in Mexico (6) required everything imaginable- guns, ammunition, supplies- and the American people had to tolerate taxes and intrusions to give them that. The next, we are allegedly at peace. The Army has demobilised fully and sent those supposedly essential supplies to rust. Rather than let that happen, I will put those supplies to good cause." The American paused to hack his lungs out. "I'm a wealthy man, even if I cannot buy my power or my health back. All I can do is purchase these surplus arms and sell them, not to the Russian Republic, but to its Provisional President. This is, at least nominally, a private transaction. It's no different from as though we were neighbours and your house caught fire. The Constitution doesn't prevent my selling you my garden hose to quench the flames!" Both men laughed, but Kerensky quickly sobered.

"Sir, you must not think me ungrateful. You are providing a lifeline for the Russian Republic. Yet... we are a poor country. The Tsarist sovlochi managed to squander most of our financial reserves in the years before the war. We pay our men in scrip and promises, and inflation is rife. The only saving grace is that the enemy is even worse off. How can we-"

The American cut him off. "You needn't worry, Provisional President Kerensky. It is not the United States Government, nor the banks of the United States, which you are paying. They are as merciless to their debtors as possible... which does not, regrettably, mean those debtors always pay in full!" His face clouded, and he said something in English Natasha didn't bother translating. "But regardless, you are paying me personally. While we can arrange a price later on, suffice it to say that the Russian Republic may extend its payment for as long as needed. And besides, it will not be long before I am gone. If the contents of the Russian Republic's treasury cannot reach me in the next life, what use are they?" He winked, and Kerensky's shoulders sagged.

"Your generosity is commendable, sir." The Provisional President had never been terribly devout, but he realised now that God did, in fact, move in mysterious ways. He barely knew this American, didn't- if he was being honest- speak his language, and had next to nothing in common with him. His guest could've remained at home in Virginia to die in bed, but had risked a journey to imperilled Petrograd to save him, asking only for nominal payment. If that wasn't the hand of God, what was? Natasha helped his visitor up. "We will be in touch then, sir?"

"Da." That was a Russian word not even the strongest Virginia tongue could botch. Woodrow Wilson smiled gauntly.

* * *

Germany spent the first week of May 1919 basking in schadenfreude. The Great War had made them mortal enemies of the Romanovs and their satellites existed at Russian expense; watching their foe struggle was both gratifying and relieving. German ambassador Wilhelm von Mirbach remained in Petrograd, where he processed refugee applications but refrained from comment. Germany refrained from publicly gloating because it didn't want to encourage the socialists. Though the economy was nowhere near as bad as in Russia, inflation born of the national debt was eating into paycheques. If the price of fanning the flames in Petrograd was seeing them spread to Berlin, Germany wanted no part of it. Chancellor Ernst von Heydebrand's Conservative government, in any case, wasn't sympathetic to the labour movement.

Hugo Haase's Social Democratic Party didn't consider itself bound by the Chancellor's example. (7) On 4 May 1919, he issued a statement that "the Social Democratic Party of the German Empire, in accordance with the principles of worker's democracy and of socialism, wholeheartedly supports the struggle of the Russian proletariat against Romanov reaction..." Kaiser Wilhelm II's initial reaction was heartfelt and unprintable. A German party leader advocating socialist revolution against a monarchy, he raged, verged on treason! After the Kaiserina calmed him down, Wilhelm telephoned the Chancellor. Von Heydebrand agreed that the SPD statement was unacceptable and proposed dismissing Haase. He obviously had an ulterior motive- sacking one of his political rivals would do the Conservative Party wonders- which the Kaiser was quick to point out. Nonetheless, the next day Foreign Secretary Arthur von Zimmerman issued a statement to the press contradicting Haase. The German Empire, he said, "while not blind to the legitimate grievances faced by the Russian people, fully supported the efforts by the Russian authorities to maintain order in their urban areas, and to keep the fabric of state properly intact." Frederich Ebert, who'd broken away from the SPD after the disastrous 1917 election (8), voiced his support for the official line on the seventh. Since his National Labour Party (NA) controlled only a handful of seats, his words had little hard power, but many approved nonetheless.

Things were turned upside down the next day.

The Republican Coup changed the entire equation. Alexander Kerensky, though he wore a socialist aesthetic, was a career politician and liberal. He believed the question was not whether the Romanovs would fall but who would replace him. Murdering Tsarina Xenia and Prime Minister Georgi Lvov was meant to ensure that a liberal republic, not a Marxist one, succeeded the dynasty. On the surface, the new Russian Republic didn't seem like much of a threat. Though the Central Volga rapidly declared for Kerensky, Petrograd remained isolated and Kerensky seemed the weaker of the two bears in the ring. A division of Sturmtruppen could've conquered the city and strangled the Republicans in their grave.

The arguments for intervening were strong. Both parts of the new regime appeared revolutionary. A former self-proclaimed Socialist Revolutionary chaired Kerensky's faction, considered in Berlin to be the least bad. One of the most conservative men in the Republic, War Minister Alexander Guchkov, had committed regicide against Tsarina Xenia. The further to the left one went, the worse it got. The one saving grace was that Julius Martov- who'd masterminded the September Revolution (9)- didn't appear involved, but Lenin and Zinoviev seemed radical enough. Lenin's Nine-Point Programme sent a chill down every conservative's spine. The Kaiser saw no way to compromise with such a regime. Germany already faced a revolutionary regime to its west- another one would be a strategic nightmare. Groups such as the Pan-German Association called for intervention, and small militia units privately crossed the border. Up to twenty thousand Germans fought in the Zaristisches Freikorps (Tsarist Free Corps), a unit of German far-right volunteers under the Romanov banner.. As the Brusilov Offensive unfolded, the Kaiser and Chief of the General Staff von Falkenhayn (10) pushed for intervention. Germany, they pointed out, already had troops in the Belarusian People's Republic and United Baltic Duchy. With the exception of Republican Petrograd, these units bordered Tsarist territory, not Republican. Having them cross the border as an expeditionary force would be simple, cheap, and- judging by the ineptness outside Moscow- efficient. They'd done it in Danubia; why couldn't they do it here? Von Falkenhayn began drawing up a contingency for intervention. Case Konstantin called for German troops in Lithuania, Livonia (the Baltic Duchy), and Belarus, operating with Tsarist consent, to proceed to Smolensk and use it as a base of operations.


Unfortunately for the Romanovs, the case against intervention was strong too. For a start, there was no guarantee that the Russian Republic's first move would be to invade Germany in concert with revolutionary France. Russia, the doves pointed out, was weak and war-torn. Poor harvests had produced food shortages, the armies were woefully under-equipped, and the people had just proven themselves deeply unhappy with their lot in life. Frederich Ebert pointed out that, like the French revolutionaries, the Russians wouldn't be able to fulfill their promises. Georges Sorel had spoken of remaking France; Requisition revolutionnaire had made a hash of the economy. Even as Paris spoke of liberation for the working classes, the communist French had yet to invade. The same thing would inevitably happen in Russia, as the new Republic realised its place in the world. Besides, Ebert pointed out, were Brusilov's clumsy armies that great a threat anyhow? Chancellor Heydebrand wanted to intervene but his advisers said otherwise. Germany, they pointed out, still owed tens of millions in Great War debt. Losing French reparations threw salt on the financial wound. That was before one factored in disability payments to veterans, garrisoning the Eastern satellites and subsidising their governments when need be (these puppets were not run efficiently by any stretch of the imagination), running its patchwork empire in Mittelafrika, occupying half of Belgium and much of France, trying and failing to build a railroad across the Sahara, modernising the High Seas Fleet, and fighting a war in Danubia. Inflation was up and support for the government down. If von Heydebrand added millions more in debt and people started receiving telegrams regretting to inform them they were now widows and orphans, his government would fall. The General Staff had issues with intervention too. In their haste to construct Case Konstantin, the General Staff had overlooked a few things. For a start, how would the German expeditionary force supply itself? The Tsarist armies weren't up to it, and in any case, Germany and Russia used different equipment. Whereas in Danubia, supplies had travelled a few hundred miles from Berlin over Austrian and Bohemian railroads, here the men would have to spend days on dirt roads and narrow-track rail. Furthermore, would the Tsarists even let them in? A mutual enemy in the Republicans didn't eradicate a Great War's worth of bad blood. Accepting German help would make the Tsar look like Berlin's stooge, which would destabilise his regime, which could create a quagmire where he sat atop the throne thanks only to his patrons in Berlin. Neither side wanted that. A war in Russia, the General Staff pointed out, would not be as quick and easy as the Danubian intervention because Hungary was a fraction of the size of Russia. Perhaps the Germans could occupy Petrograd with their existing Eastern divisions, but they could neither conquer the Central Volga nor win hearts and minds. Germany's commitment would inevitably increase, as the men at the front called for just one more batch of reinforcements. Before too long, the doves predicted, the country would end up remobilising and focussing all its energy on crushing the Republicans. No one wanted a second Great War. Lastly, there was a humanitarian issue at stake. A quick end to the civil war- regardless of who won- meant that the Russian people could get on with their lives after five tumultuous years. Cynics turned the argument on its head- that by prolonging the fighting they could keep Russia down.

Ultimately, the Chancellor proposed a compromise. Though he wanted to intervene, he recognised his government couldn't afford it. That said, there were opportunities to be had. Prolonging the fighting and weakening the two bears would help secure Germany's eastern flank. Von Heydebrand presented a "Preventative Plan for the East" to the Reichstag on 20 June. The conscript class of 1919 would be sent to northern France, freeing up the experienced soldiers there to strengthen the Eastern defences. Oskar von Hutier's Sturmtruppen would be sent to Belarus and the Baltic Duchy for 'security' and placed on high alert, while Foreign Office would condemn the "chaos and sedition in Russia". Meanwhile, surplus Great War equipment would start mysteriously appearing in Smolensk and Pskov. However, there would be no invasion of Russia. Kaiser Wilhelm grudgingly approved, and the first arms shipment left Kongisberg on 1 July, as the Russian ambassador shook Foreign Minister Zimmermann's hand.

For a moment, it looked as though Germany had settled on a Russia policy... but only for a moment.

The assassination of Kiril Vladimirovich in Switzerland was deeply embarassing for Germany because Kiril had done nothing amoral. Ending the civil war would be a blessing for the Russian people and would lessen the danger to Germany's east. With the Tsarists having proven themselves determined to fight to the last drop of blood, many began pondering why Germany was supporting them. Hugo Haase, of course, had always wanted to see the Bolsheviks on top, but even those within Overton's Window became more sympathetic to the Republicans. A "moderate, American-style" Russian Republic, Frederich Ebert commented, "would at the very least be a breath of fresh air. Perhaps it could provide the stability the region is in such desparate need of."

Ebert's comment was somewhat premature because he conflated Mikhailovich's political blunder with a military setback. In fact, despite being pushed back in the North Caucasus and facing severe unrest amongst the empire's minorities, the Tsarists were growing stronger. With Brusilov having given up on offensives out of the Central Volga, the Petrograd-Moscow corridor seemed to offer fresh opportunities.

Regardless of what Woodrow Wilson or Kaiser Wilhelm II wanted, it would be the Russians themselves who decided the outcome. One thing was certain: the country was going to be a lot emptier once 'peace' came...

Comments?

  1. See chapter 51
  2. That's how Lavr Kornilov died IOTL
  3. Nothing Spanish about it ITTL
  4. Google says that's a Russian swear word-- I'll take its word for it.
  5. Charles Evans Hughes had a flowing white beard
  6. For new readers: TTL has a Second Mexican War
  7. Chapter 26 explains in full, but ITTL the Social Democrats are Haase's party not Ebert's.
  8. Again, see chapter 26
  9. TTL has an odd fixation with Martov because of this...
  10. Since Verdun actually worked ITTL, Falkenhayn remains Chief of the General Staff. Hindenburg and Ludendorff aren't as prominent.
 
Unless they get discredited by events in France and elsewhere, of course. In Germany ITTL, the SDP lost a number of votes due to the public seeing socialism as an anarchist or similar ideology after revolution broke out in France. Together with the split between Ebert and Hasse, it led to the conservative plurality in the Reichstag and their coalition with Zentrum.
the SDAP was created as a non-revolutionary party, within the framework of existing parliamentary politics. there was a small revolutionary faction in it (Troelstra being the most famous). What those events will do is strengthen the main faction, and discredit the revolutionary faction within the SDAP
United States lacks diplomatic relations with the United States
so true lol, but i assume it was a typo?
Damn Wilson...that man's a plague.
well there is a bright spot....
I only hope the current leadership in Petrograd heeds my message."
-Woodrow Wilson, shortly before his death.
 
And now it's time for 'So You Think It Can't Get Worse For Russia', the grandest game show filmed in what is currently the burning remains of the Grand Palace!

Fucking Wilson. FUCKING WOODROW WILSON. It's no particular fault of Kerensky, that the statement was made in favour of him, but it's almost enough to make me root from the Grand Duke or Lenin out of spite.

Although:

A son does not murder his father because he is not fed properly; he takes to the streets and works. It would be fallacious to pretend that the Rodina was a perfect place before the war, but it would be equally so to place the blame at the feet of the Imperial Family.
Ehhhhhhh. I mean, you can definitely lay the blame? Also, "Get a job, hippie!" is the essence of that quote and, uh, not to put to fine a point on it, that really doesn't answer the problems the people have? To be clear here, not having a go at you, and I also understand that the Grand Duke is too personally involved at this point to be wholly objective, but I mean let's not go lionizing the Imperial Family here. Xenia's murder is a tragedy and it was done very cruelly too, and I'm not even really going to defend the assassin, but in this scenario it assumes that the Royal Family was starving just as much as the average citizen which is wilfully false.

Silly as it is of me, I actually did start wondering if Kirill might be a way forward at least. And let me just say that as much as it is hopefully naive and unrealistic, Kiril's attempt is noble enough that you can't help but wish it would work out that way. Tsar Michael's compromise bough the Romanov's time to recuperate and reconstruct the armies and the beliefs that they are using in the present conflict, had he been savvier Kiril might have done something. Alas, not so. Maybe that's too optimistic a reading of his character and the situation he was in, but there it is.

Having got to the point where Wilson made his deal I have to say "Ohhhhhhh god" because if that ever gets out, that a former US president took an actual side in the war, behind his country and his party's back, that is going to be a rather nasty pill to swallow. I mean, imagine the Republican running perpetual interference against the Democrats on the matter!

Honestly, you keep mentioning Martov so much that I'm not entirely convinced this section isn't going to end with him sailing back over the ocean with a new army ready to take the country back for himself! Germany having no actual idea who to support in the matter is pretty much me at this point. And I am most concerned by Lenin's lack of involvement in events thus far, that could mean anything. Once again, a grand chapter, full of enough intrigue to keep the plot moving and me much to think about.
 
Shit he back, shouldn't Wilson be half paralyzed and rotting away in his bed by now. Can't the dude just stay and kick the bucket for everyone's sake.
 
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