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I'm not sure how a 'Peasants' state could actually be functional in the modern era, so I don't see Antonov winning without making compromises...
 
Wow, this update was a perfect representation of how the peasants suffered during this war. Nevertheless I think the Tsarist will win, Antonov will probably feel guilty and revolt again dealing a deathblow to the republic. In the next chapter we will see Antonov form a soviet state in the south of the country figthing the Tsarist after the republic fell.
Ah... Antonov. Always the rebel, never the victor.
 

Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth​


Your TIMELINE is so amazing and I enjoyed it so much with the amount of information it had and I hope it continues
 
Pardon and keep writing this great timeline

I'm excited for the upcoming chapters on Danubia and the UK (which has literally become the Weimar Republic in this world)

And I'm excited about Danubia, will we see it expand and will it survive until 2021?
I hate to disappoint, but I intend to finish the Russian Civil War before looking at Danubia again.
I like the analogy between the UK and Weimar Republic... one hopes it will be less susceptible to a radical take-over than Weimar Germany though.

Spoilers on Danubia!
 
I hate to disappoint, but I intend to finish the Russian Civil War before looking at Danubia again.
I like the analogy between the UK and Weimar Republic... one hopes it will be less susceptible to a radical take-over than Weimar Germany though.

Spoilers on Danubia!
No problem, do as you see fit

I loved those chapters about the Russian Civil War and its dark atmosphere, as I think the fate of Nicholas II here is well deserved, even though I wished for his death, and it seems that Russia in this world will be more like Franco's Spain

Where are Kolchak, Ungren and Wrangel, I can't find any mention of them here, given that they became famous because of the Russian civil war, or will you prepare them for a role?

Literally the situation of the United Kingdom is like the Weimar Republic, although they have gained somewhat the hope that the British have a better future in this world

Looks like Danubia will have a bright future

I'm so excited for the next chapters
 
No problem, do as you see fit

I loved those chapters about the Russian Civil War and its dark atmosphere, as I think the fate of Nicholas II here is well deserved, even though I wished for his death, and it seems that Russia in this world will be more like Franco's Spain

Where are Kolchak, Ungren and Wrangel, I can't find any mention of them here, given that they became famous because of the Russian civil war, or will you prepare them for a role?

Literally the situation of the United Kingdom is like the Weimar Republic, although they have gained somewhat the hope that the British have a better future in this world

Looks like Danubia will have a bright future

I'm so excited for the next chapters
Glad you like the RCW. It's a lot... but I think it's decent.

Kolchak is with the Tsarists. He played a role in extracting the Russian Black Sea Fleet from revolutionaries in Odessa. After a brief stint in Constantinople, they went to the Baltic Sea and played a role in the capture of Petrograd.

I addressed Ungern's fate a few pages back:
Baron Roman von Ungarn-Sternberg was a fierce opponent of Tsar Michael II's liberal reforms. Totally devoted to Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality, he gave his vocal support to the 15 April 1918 attack on the Duma which killed Michael, though he didn't actively participate. This was a serious blunder, as it put him in the new regime's black books. Von Ungarn-Sternberg was one of those arrested in the wake of the attack, though he wasn't executed. Once the Russian Civil War broke out, the inmates in Von Ungarn-Sternberg's prison camp revolted and killed the guards. He refused to have anything to do with his fellow inmates, believing them traitors (even though they'd just freed him). Travelling to Vladivostok, he presented himself to the Tsarist governor in August 1918, and recieved command of a cavalry company (though his title, 'Baron', was not formally restored). As of right now, he's a minor, unimportant, not particularly popular, cavalry officer in the Tsarist army.
Nothing's changed since.

I haven't actually given much thought to Wrangel- thanks for bringing him up.
 
Glad you like the RCW. It's a lot... but I think it's decent.

Kolchak is with the Tsarists. He played a role in extracting the Russian Black Sea Fleet from revolutionaries in Odessa. After a brief stint in Constantinople, they went to the Baltic Sea and played a role in the capture of Petrograd.

I addressed Ungern's fate a few pages back:

Nothing's changed since.

I haven't actually given much thought to Wrangel- thanks for bringing him up.
Oh so beautiful and wonderful


This means that he is no longer that crazy baron famous for trying to revive the Mongol Empire


Wrangel was the commander-in-chief of the White Army and the dictator of southern Russia


And it's strange that you didn't allocate him a role, but even so, the Russian Civil War chapters were very interesting
 
Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth

When will the next chapter be ready?

Will there be a role for the other Romanovs in the coming chapters?

But I was surprised that during the reign of Michael II and Xenia there was no mention of the Empress Dowager Maria Feodorina (Dagmar of Denmark)

Although she was considered a competent political advisor to Nicholas II, most of the good decisions that Nicholas made were owed to the Empress Dowager, so much so that Nicholas II was telling the Duma that he would advise his mother about the decisions that were being discussed and even the Duma members suggested that the tsar should consult his mother

It is strange that she did not have any role during the reign of Mikhail or Xenia

Even the Empress Mother supported the liberal reforms after the death of Alexander III

It is strange that it is not mentioned here and its role does not exist
 
Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth

When will the next chapter be ready?

Will there be a role for the other Romanovs in the coming chapters?

But I was surprised that during the reign of Michael II and Xenia there was no mention of the Empress Dowager Maria Feodorina (Dagmar of Denmark)

Although she was considered a competent political advisor to Nicholas II, most of the good decisions that Nicholas made were owed to the Empress Dowager, so much so that Nicholas II was telling the Duma that he would advise his mother about the decisions that were being discussed and even the Duma members suggested that the tsar should consult his mother

It is strange that she did not have any role during the reign of Mikhail or Xenia

Even the Empress Mother supported the liberal reforms after the death of Alexander III

It is strange that it is not mentioned here and its role does not exist
Maria was killed in the September Revolution (way back in chapter 12)

The timeline updates once a week, on Sundays.
 
Chapter 55: Unwilling Belligerent
Chapter Fifty-Five: Unwilling Belligerent

"Hiding across the border- how dare they? Does Kornilov think he can play me for a fool? And what of Passivuori? If this is neutrality, I would hate to see what war is like..."
-General Yudenich

"I never wanted to fight on your side, Provisonal President. Finland has seen too much war in too little time. But what has happened today has made it all too clear: the survival of the Russian Republic is a prerequisite for the survival of Finland. So, on we will march."
-Matti Paasivuori to Alexander Kerensky

Petrograd was gone.

The surprise was not that the Tsarists had lunged at the capital, but that it took them weeks to conquer it rather than days as in the September Revolution. Hunger and death were the watchwords in the capital. The House of Romanov had betrayed its divine mandate to govern Russia. What sort of imperial father could do this to his people? General Nikolai Yudenich's conduct as military governor only confirmed to the people of Petrograd that revolt had been the right choice.

The Russian Republic was down but not out. Kerensky and Kornilov had drawn up evacuation plans early in the war, and his designated escape cruiser remained on standby throughout the siege. Honour had told Kerensky to remain with his people, but common sense had won out. The Provisional President spent New Years Day 1920 aboard a Baltic Fleet cruiser. Had the Tsarists known his whereabouts, they would've sent every ship in the fleet against him. Seasickness conspired with fear for his life and the Republican project to make Kerensky deathly ill. Along with everyone aboard the ship, he contracted the Kansas flu. Frigid Baltic sea air was the last thing he needed, but he knew too well someone would end up a million rubles richer if he set foot in a neutral country to recuperate. The closest Republican-held port, Murmansk, was frozen over and so the ship was isolated. Kerensky's temperature dropped, patrolling Tsarist craft grew closer every day, and they had nowhere to go. Waking on 16 January, the Provisional President ordered the captain to set course for Rauma, Finland. If there was one man who wouldn't betray him to the Tsarists, it was Matti Passivuori. Finnish soldiers interned the cruiser and crew, but did a double take when they realised who the gaunt man was.

Kerensky rebuilt his health and connections that spring. Many had died in the siege or been trapped by the Okhrana, but many others had fled. Republican officials arrived in their twos and threes, all eager to meet the Provisional President. The gaunt Kerensky was a beacon, a reminder that the Tsarists hadn't won. Russian dreams of liberal democracy were not dead yet.

The most important visitor, though, belonged to the other Republican faction. Grigory Yevseyevich Zinoviev had survived the siege and made it to Helsinki. The ailing Provisional President found the strength to wrap the second-in-command of the Petrograd Soviet in a great Russian bear hug. "Grigory Yevseyvich, you survived!"

"Da." Zinoviev smiled properly for the first time in months. "I have not forgotten the promise we made. Yudenich cannot defeat the people!"

Kerensky and Zinoviev developed an odd relationship. Ostensibly, they were quite different. Zinoviev still viewed Kerensky as an oppressor who'd have to be swept away eventually; the Provisional President was still damned if he was going to let Zinoviev build a worker's paradise over the ashes of his system. Yet, the two had somehow bonded. When Kerensky had summoned the Bolsheviks after the Republican Coup, Zinoviev had gone, not Lenin, suggesting which revolutionary was more reliable. As a career politician, Kerensky wouldn't abandon an ally without good cause. Zinoviev appeared a moderate, reasonable Bolshevik, one who might counteract Lenin's radicalism. The affection was mutual. Zinoviev was still the Provisional President's "class enemy", but the capitalist had impressed him. Fear, not pride, had kept Lenin from visiting the Tauride Palace. Kerensky's lair had pleasantly surprised Zinoviev. The Provisional President wasn't a Black Hundredsman promising to massacre his enemies; he'd been courteous, flexible, and had a productive vision for Russia. "When the time to build comes", Kerensky had told him, "I hope you will set down your gun and help build a republic the workers can be proud to call their own." What was Zinoviev to do? And what was he to do with his comrade-in-arms?

Vladimir Lenin needed to figure out his next move before his enemies did. His position resembled his archrival Julius Martov’s three years ago. In both cases, enemy forces drawing on Petrograd had placed their revolt in mortal danger; Passivuori's Finland offered a safe haven. Finnish Red Guards answering to Kullervo Manner escorted the Petrograd Soviet to Helsinki. There were, however, important differences. Julius Martov had acted alone. All he’d had at his disposal were the Petrograd revolutionaries, and his support died with them. Lenin and Zinoviev, though, sat atop a movement. Even if Tsarist troops destroyed the Petrograd Soviet, its counterparts across the country would still be there. The Moscow Soviet, the Kazan Soviet, the Nizhny Soviet… all these answered to them. And besides, many under Tsarist rule looked to Lenin. The Central Volga People’s Army had proven its worth and would keep fighting even if Petrograd fell. Less stoically, Lenin didn't care about the people of Petrograd and was happy to watch his Tsarist and Republican foes bleed from the Finnish sidelines. Much as he may have hated the bourgeois Kerensky and privately plotted to destroy the Republic, Lenin must’ve been glad about his alliance. Whereas Julius Martov acted alone, the Bolshevik had many of the most powerful men in Russia, however temporarily, on his side.

Of course, Kerensky was a partner of convenience, not a true ally. Lenin had no doubt that the war was won, they would be at each other's throats. Thus, it was essential to win as many allies in exile as possible, to strengthen his hand for the return to the Rodina. Grigory Zinoviev was an immediate worry. Lenin didn't know what he'd discussed with Kerensky after the Republican Coup but had his suspicions. The Provisional President had been far too friendly with Zinoviev, embracing him in Turku while ignoring Lenin. Zinoviev hadn't been like this before the civil war- something had to have changed. Though moving against his comrade would've alienated all his allies- and could have ended with him at the bottom of the Baltic- Lenin was most definitely watching Grigory Yevseyevich Zinoviev.

All this took place against the backdrop of a foreign country. The young Finnish Worker's Republic was beset by divisions. Though leftists and conservatives had united to expel the Russians, their visions of what their country should be were wildly different. Matti Passivuori led the ruling Finnish Social Democratic Party. His strength was that, as a moderate socialist, he was acceptable in principle to everyone. Passivuori's leftist economics didn't prevent him from admiring liberal democracy and he hoped to forge a modern, Western, Finland. Passivuori was to Finland what Kerensky was to Russia. Circumstances had forced both men to abandon political careers for revolution. Both saw themselves as liberators and modernists. Both wanted to abolish the nobility (even if neither could yet), broaden the electorate, and bring their nations into the twentieth century.


President Paasivuori, founder of modern Finland
maati paasivuori.jpeg

Intervention was actually quite popular in Finland. Passivuori's moderate socialists considered it a matter of national security: Alexander Kerensky was the closest Russia came to sharing their political views. A liberal democratic Russia would hopefully be far more willing to respect Finland than a Tsarist autocracy. Collaborating with Lenin's radicals was an acceptable price. Kullervo Manner's hardliners advocated intervention for different reasons. As an ally of Lenin and believer in world revolution, Manner wanted to see the Soviets turn Russia into the world's second communist state, which could then bring the revolution to Finland. Collaborating with Kerensky's capitalism was an acceptable price. Even the conservatives- many of whom, as monarchists, abhorred the Republican Coup- slowly came round. Being Finnish superseded politics, and Grand Duke Mikhailovich would punish them all the same regardless of their fancy title. Of course, many pointed out that intervention might be the worst choice: if the Finns declared for Kerensky and lost, they'd face the Tsarist bear's claws. Nonetheless, as the leaders of the conservative Finnish Party fell in line, most of the country's nobility acquiesced. If it would save their homeland, collaborating with men guilty of regicide was an acceptable price.

Having watched his countrymen pay in blood for independence, Matti Passivuori was determined never to let the Russians reconquer Finland. He understood that, wedged between Berlin and Petrograd as he was, he'd always have to appease the Great Powers at the expense of his own agenda, but no foreigner was ever going to rule the country again. Unfortunately, for all his liberalism, Alexander Kerensky was a Russian nationalist. Very few in Russia, regardless of which side of the civil war they were on, didn't dream of undoing the hated Treaty of Konigsberg. Being remembered as the man who brought democracy to Russia would be glorious; being remembered as the man who expanded Russia west would be even greater. Passivuori realised that having Kerensky in his country gave him a fleeting opportunity.

If he played it right, he could unite the fractured political scene and have his independence confirmed.

On 1 March 1920, with the Finnish army and exiled Republican units moving towards the border, Kerensky awoke to find his house surrounded. He was just about to telephone Passivuori when the Finnish president walked in. Passivuori calmly explained that he had to "negotiate an arrangement between the Finnish Worker's Republic and the Russian Republic for the conduct of the war", and handed Kerensky a list of demands in Finnish and Russian. Amongst them was a promise to recognise Finland's independence, to cede an ethnically Finnish chunk of western Karelia, and establish a demilitarised zone twenty miles from the border after the war. In exchange for this, Passivuori would join the war... and Kerensky would walk free. The Provisional President reluctantly signed.

Political goals shaped the counteroffensive. Though Kerensky had promised Finland western Karelia, Passivuori knew what promises were worth. Having boots on the ground would make it much harder for the Republicans to renege after victory. Thus, he graciously volunteered to man the more than four hundred miles between Lake Ladoga and the Murmansk pocket. This suited Kerensky- not only because he was willing to cede "a few hundred square miles of tundra"- but because it enabled him to concentrate on Petrograd. Though Passivuori had never claimed the city, Kerensky saw no reason Finland wouldn't grab it: holding a metropolis on the border would give him tremendous leverage against the giant to his south. Thanking the Finns for undertaking so much of the fighting, the Provisional President directed Kornilov to concentrate on the capital. (Ironically enough, Passivuori didn't care about Petrograd, considering it too damaged to be worth occupying). The one contribution Kerensky asked for was use of the Finnish Navy. A Tsarist flotilla had left its Ottoman exile and passed through the Danish Straits (Denmark, like the rest of the world, recognised the Romanovs), to Petrograd via the Baltic coast. Eliminating them was essential if the Republicans wanted to retake the capital. Passivuori was hesitant- he didn't want to risk losing his nascent navy- but agreed after Kerensky promised to compensate him for losses and let the Finnish ships operate under a Finnish admiral.

It was all moot.

The Tsarists were waiting for their foe. Espionage was effortless when both sides spoke the same language, and the Republican bases in Finland were crawling with double agents. These men helped the House of Romanov in small ways ('accidentally' dropping a lit cigarette in a division's worth of horse feed and watching the smoke rise) and large (informing Petrograd where the Republican sector stopped and where the Finnish one began). Nikolai Yudenich, who'd strangled Petrograd in December, prepared accordingly. He didn't care about "those few acres of snow" in Karelia; it was the capital that mattered. On the tenth, he issued a proclamation containing four words which sent a chill down everyone's spine- "a state of siege." People panicked at the thought of reliving the horrors of winter. However, Yudenich had no intention of playing the siege out in reverse. Not bothering to get clearance from his superior (War Minister Grand Duke Nicholas), Grand Duke Mikhailovich, or even Tsar Andrei, for fear that enemy Intelligence would pick up on it, he decided to pre-empt an enemy attack on the capital.


Finnish troops photographed the day before the Russians attacked.
finnish civil war.jpeg


The invasion of Finland commenced at dawn on 17 March 1920. With the border less than twenty miles north of Petrograd, Tsarist troops had watched the Finns like hawks for months. The northern suburbs of Petrograd had been the first to be rebuilt, with pillboxes and watchtowers replacing butchers and church steeples. Artillery which had pounded the Republican defenders in the winter moved north, ready to blast the Finns if need be. Yudenich had always believed the Finns would enter eventually, and only strict orders from Mikhailovich had kept him from crossing the border in December. As he explained later, Yudenich believed that "military necessity: the need to preserve the lives of Russian soldiers and integrity of Russian positions to eliminate the possibility of enemy assault on the above" allowed him to break that order. Besides, the Finns were abusing their neutrality by harbouring Republican leaders and soldiers. It wasn't even Finns who took the first blows. With Petrograd a Republican sector, Yudenich's shells crashed down on Russians, and it fell to Lavr Kornilov to respond. Republican troops, augmented by Finnish border guards, ceded substantial border towns which, properly fortified, could've held the foe up for days. Bewildered civilians found themselves under Tsarist occupation... it proved just as harsh as they'd feared.

These triumphs were spectacular but isolated.

Finland rapidly pulled itself together. President Passivuori was furious at the Tsarist attack, though he understood that his highly un-neutral policies had caused it. Nonetheless, by striking first Yudenich had given his foe a propaganda advantage. At noon on the seventeenth, Passivuori issued a "National Declaration of Resistance" extending diplomatic recognition to the Russian Republic. Its promise to "assist the government of Russia in its struggle against illegitimate warlordism under the so-called House of Romanov" seems amusing when one considers the disparity between the two. Just as the President had hoped, the war put politics on hold. Yudenich had shelled conservative sympathies for the Tsarist monarchy to oblivion as his men crossed the border. Liberals and socialists found it easier to rally around a war of national defence than a foreign intervention. Kullervo Manner put a radical spin on things, declaring that the "war against Tsarist aggression" marked the first stage in a global revolution. International opinion condemned the Tsarists. When the average Westerner thought of Finland, he imagined a peaceful, pro-German republic; when he thought of the Tsarists, he imagined the Okhrana, divine-right monarchy, and instability. The violation of an innocent country's rights outraged Americans and Britons; the idea of the Russian bear starting a revanchist march west horrified Germans. Sweden and Norway were far too close to the action for comfort. Though both were monarchies with little sympathy for Alexander Kerensky, they happily gave the Finns guns and loans. None of this would've been possible had Passivuori struck first as per the plan.

Popularity couldn't shore up the fighting front. Even as Finnish and Republican troops reached prepared defences, supplies, and reinforcements, the Tsarists kept attacking. There were numerous cases of Finnish units mistaking Republicans for Tsarists, as well as Republican commanders deciding the war was lost and defecting, bringing their units over en masse. However, the defence remained mostly coherent. With national subjugation the price for defeat, this was a battle the Finns couldn't afford to lose. They took few prisoners and fought to the last man and bullet. Republican troops lacked the national incentive but still fought hard- a quick death in Lapland was better than a lingering one in Siberia. One fortunate product of the Finns living in fear was the fixed defences along the border. General Haapalainen hadn't expected Russian troops to man them, but wasn't complaining. Tsarist troops paid a steep price for every step they took up the Karelian Isthmus. By the end of March, they'd only advanced thirty miles at a cost of fifteen thousand lives. The tightly-packed defences and Tsarist infantry charges recalled the Great War and the worst of the Danubian Civil War more than the other fighting in Russia. Nonetheless, despite a heavy cost in blood, the Republicans and Finns were winning. Day by day, Finnish reinforcements slowed the Russian tide until Yudenich stopped. The Tsarist general privately conceded defeat. He'd forestalled an attack on Petrograd, but only at the cost of creating a new fighting front, one which couldn't be resolved any time soon.

This move cost Yudenich his career. Grand Duke Mikhailovich was furious when he heard about the invasion. His standing order to respect Finnish neutrality had existed for a reason: to prevent the Tsarists from being seen as aggressors. Now that Yudenich had deliberately disobeyed, the world saw Mikhailovich not just as someone willing to murder a fellow Grand Duke for an innocent peace proposal, but as someone happy to trample on innocent bystanders. Nonetheless, after discussing it with his military supremo, the Grand Duke Nicholas, Mikhailovich decided on clemency. Defeating the new enemy took precedence over everything, and assigning a new man to the front would impede that. Quick results could still redeem Yudenich. A month of slaughter in the Karelian Isthmus persuaded Mikhailovich to pull the plug. Yudenich obviously couldn't win and so needed to face punishment for the mess he'd made. The disgraced Tsarist travelled to Vladivostok and settled in the Netherlands after the civil war. Mikhailovich chose his replacement on the basis of loyalty: his younger brother. Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich had disgraced himself during a Great War shell shortage, and Tsar Michael had 'encouraged' him to resign in November 1916. Once his nephew Andrei mounted the throne, Sergei had petitioned him for a command. The petition had sat on his brother's desk for months until now. It didn't matter that Sergei hadn't had a field command in fifteen years or that his staff work was a bad joke: nothing could go wrong with the Tsar's uncle in power!


The Grand Duke: a man who never should have been let near power
grand duke sergei.jpeg

Sergei had much to do, and soon discovered that Yudenich had provoked a sleeping giant. Finnish participation provided the spark the Republicans needed in the north. The winter of 1919-1920 hadn't been easy on Tsarist forces in the north- frostbite had claimed many lives while sleet and snow had closed badly needed roads. A month of intense combat in Karelia did no one any favours. By contrast, the Finnish Army, though it was small, was fresh. Fear of a Russian attack had led Passivuori to reach out to Germany and Sweden, who'd happily given him old arms for a suitable price. Many Finnish nobles had been Russian officers before the Great War and, once they realised they weren't going to be persecuted, served their new country. General Kornilov had collaborated with Eero Haapalainen, chief of Finland's nascent General Staff, to rebuild the Republican units which had crossed the border. Several months of rest and retraining had produced revitalised units that were ready for action. The generals had scrapped the initial plan to attack north of Lake Lagoda, placing everything into the Karelian Isthmus. Passivuori had called up conscripts and reservists back in December, and had been husbanding them during the past month of fighting. Now, it was time to put that piece on the board.

The name given to this offensive after the war- the "Petrovskoe Piercing"- says much about its effectiveness. The conscripts and reservists were organised into a new formation, the Finnish Second Army. As Passivuori said of them after the battle, "that the Finnish nation entrusted this vital counterstroke to young boys and greybeards can be attributed to two things. Either we were truly at the end of our tether, or the Finnish national spirit is undefeatable wherever it appears!" Both were likely true, but had the Tsarists not been so exhausted, the Second Army would've got nowhere. After a brief bombardment, the Second Army went into action on 20 April 1920. Much of the heaviest fighting was to the west, as the Tsarists pushed towards the key town of Vyborg. The eastern town of Petrovskoe was an easier target. This was where the decision to sack Yudenich hurt the Tsarists. Whereas the conqueror of Petrograd would've sent enough force to hold the Second Army without depriving the rest of the line, Sergei panicked and ordered one-quarter of the entire Tsarist strength in the isthmus sent to stem the tide. Poor logistics forced these units to spend two days marching... which the Finns and Republicans put to good use. By the time the reinforcements arrived, Petrovskoe flew the Finnish flag. Sergei's reinforcements got to work containing the breakthrough, but the damage was already done. Worse still, while the reinforcements were ambling to the breakthrough, the Finns and Republicans they'd opposed attacked. By the end of April, the entire Tsarist line in the Karelian Isthmus was coming apart. Surrounded Tsarist units tried to surrender to the Republicans; their comrades who'd tried surrendering to the Finns didn't have long to ponder what a mistake they'd made. Kornilov gave these men a choice between joining the Republican army or going to a Finnish prison camp in the far north. Thus reinforced, the Republicans swept on. Grand Duke Sergei could make the walls shake with his curses but not stop the enemy tide south. As the towns captured in Yudenich's first offensive fell, Sergei realised how much danger he was in. Yudenich's strike north- designed to prevent an attack on Petrograd- had failed.


Republican troops advance south towards Petrograd, May 1920
marching on petrograd.jpeg


The capital now faced another siege.

Alexander Kerensky would've been happy if the Finns halted at the prewar border. Initially, of course, the plan had been for Republican troops to take Petrograd while the Finns occupied Karelia. However, Yudenich's unprovoked attack had required maximum force to stop it. Once the Finns had committed their whole army to the Karelian Isthmus, they weren't going to transfer them east just because the initial plan said so. This posed the risk that General Haapalainen's men might occupy the capital and deny it to him. A telegram from the Provisional President to Kornilov ordered him to reach Petrograd before the Finns, giving rise to the "race to Petrograd". Republican and Finnish units vied to be the first in the capital. It made the men more aggressive but strained supply columns. As April turned to May, Kerensky and Passivuori had one question on their minds: whose flag would fly above the Winter Palace?

May 4 saw the Tsarists pushed back to the prewar border. As the rumble of gunfire drew closer, everyone prepared for another ordeal. Many must have cursed fate, asking why they had to relieve the horrors of the siege all over again. Unlike before, there were no more emergency stocks to call upon, no more will to stand and fight. Survival trumped patriotism. Every shell which overshot the Tsarists and crashed into the northern suburbs reminded Petrograd of what lay ahead.

Grand Duke Sergei was a cowardly political appointee. A glance outside his office told him all he needed to know about the siege. If it returned, his titles and honours would do him no good; his guards would happily spill all that noble Romanov blood on the floor if it meant peace. Sergei fled to Veliky Novgorod, instructing his deputy to "resist". His convoy drew much attention, and people soon realised he'd fled. Realising that their cause was hopeless and their commander had deserted them, tsarists crossed to the Republican lines in droves. A delighted Kornilov ordered that these men be well-treated before being enrolled in the Republican army, but few were in any shape to fight. Shocked nurses found clammy-skinned skeletons wrapped in Romanov colours, their eyes dull, frostbite gnawing at infected wounds- and these were the best-supplied men in Petrograd.

Those who remained in the capital had given up hope. Their choices were subjugation or experiencing the pain they'd inflicted on the defenders throughout the winter. Shooting oneself, or letting an enemy do it for you, was an easy way out. Yet others clung on for one reason: the damage done by the war paled in comparison to what the Finns would do. Being subjugated for centuries, barely achieving independence, and then facing an unprovoked attack had enraged the Finns, and what better way to extract revenge than by torching Petrograd? The defenders fought, in their mind, not for the House of Romanov but the Russian race.

It was clear what had to be done.

A messenger crossed the lines under flag of truce three days after Grand Duke Sergei fled, asking to speak with Lavr Kornilov. What exactly the two men agreed on is still not known, but their bargain became an enormous sticking point in Russo-Finnish relations. What is known is that at dusk on 7 May 1920, a year after the Tsarina's regime collapsed, Republicans and Tsarists stopped shooting. The weary men of the House of Romanov stood aside as the Republicans marched into Petrograd. Grand Duke Sergei's wet-faced deputy presented himself to Kornilov, who took pity on him and placed him under house arrest. For the people of the capital, this was the best possible outcome. There would be no second siege, no more privations and suffering, and best of all, they were under the rule of fellow Russians. Lavr Kornilov went from being the dreaded storm on the horizon to the shield against vengeful Finns. This was most definitely a liberation, not a conquest. Petrograd was the birthplace of the Republic. Kerensky had looked after his people; the Tsarists had given them six months of hell. The people rewarded him with their loyalty. As Republican troops handed out rations and bandages, the people were quite content to stay under Alexander Kerensky's banner.

After a year of chaos, Petrograd was ready for peace.

The people of the capital were the only ones happy with the agreement. Grand Duke Mikhailovich and the puppet Tsar were livid. Six months of fighting and the loss of thousands of rubles and lives had been wasted! "For God's sake", Mikhailovich thundered to his nephew, "how will we win the fucking war if these imbeciles carry on?" Barging into Sergei's office a week after the surrender, the Grand Duke heaped verbal abuse on his subordinate until the guards restrained him. After simmering down, Mikhailovich dismissed Sergei; Tsar Andrei stripped him of his nobility several days later. The disgraced Sergei committed suicide three months later. Mikhailovich was fighting not just for his son's throne or to preserve the system; he was fighting to avenge his wife. Failure was not just dangerous; it was a personal insult. Deciding the only man he could trust was himself, Mikhailovich assumed temporary command of the Petrograd sector. Reserves stabilised the front around Volkhov, Gatchina, and Kingisepp- in short, where it was before the campaign, minus tens of thousands of good men gone.

Matti Paasivuori was dejected. Though he could never have admitted it, he'd wanted Petrograd. Privately, he was furious at Kornilov. How much did the Republican general trust his Finnish ally, if he was more willing to fraternise with the enemy than see the Finns enter Petrograd? Was this the thanks Finland received for sheltering the Republicans? Kornilov's retort that the Tsarists had requested a ceasefire, not him, fell on deaf ears. To this day, Finnish nationalists believe they were cheated out of Petrograd in summer 1920; Russians decry Finnish "revanchism". Nonetheless, he played it off as a victory. Ignoring the way he'd abused his neutrality, Passivuori lauded his countrymen for resisting the Tsarist invasion and pledged continued support to "stabilise the internal situation of Russia and secure our own national interests." Since being left alone was too much to ask, Finland would fight on.

The greatest loser of the Petrograd campaign was not the Tsarists, but the Bolsheviks. Vladimir Lenin had stoked the fires of revolution from Petrograd. The capital had been home to the leading Soviet. And now, it was in Kerensky's pocket. As Lenin paced his room in Helsinki, he fumed. Was he any better off than Julius Martov had been in his Norwegian exile? Would he be remembered, after more than a quarter century's exertion, as nothing more than a bit part, a failed would-be revolutionary, a stepping stone on the way to Alexander Kerensky's bourgeois regime? Being sidelined was bad enough, but what came next was an insult. On the first of June, Grigory Zinoviev recieved an invitation from the Provisional President to come to the capital- but Lenin did not. Paranoia took over. Was he being set up for a hit? Would Zinoviev take over the Soviets scattered throughout the country? That would be to Kerensky's liking, after all. Zinoviev was affable and diplomatic- but, Lenin realised, he did not have the spirit of a revolutionary. In his hands, the Soviets would wither. Only one man, Lenin realised, could save Russia from itself, and he sported a newsboy cap and goatee.

Like all the players in this endless war, Vladimir Lenin could only guess who his true enemies were, and what the future of Russia would ultimately be.


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Chapter Fifty-Five: Unwilling Belligerent

"Hiding across the border- how dare they? Does Kornilov think he can play me for a fool? And what of Passivuori? If this is neutrality, I would hate to see what war is like..."
-General Yudenich

"I never wanted to fight on your side, Provisonal President. Finland has seen too much war in too little time. But what has happened today has made it all too clear: the survival of the Russian Republic is a prerequisite for the survival of Finland. So, on we will march."
-Matti Paasivuori to Alexander Kerensky

Petrograd was gone.

The surprise was not that the Tsarists had lunged at the capital, but that it took them weeks to conquer it rather than days as in the September Revolution. Hunger and death were the watchwords in the capital. The House of Romanov had betrayed its divine mandate to govern Russia. What sort of imperial father could do this to his people? General Nikolai Yudenich's conduct as military governor only confirmed to the people of Petrograd that revolt had been the right choice.

The Russian Republic was down but not out. Kerensky and Kornilov had drawn up evacuation plans early in the war, and his designated escape cruiser remained on standby throughout the siege. Honour had told Kerensky to remain with his people, but common sense had won out. The Provisional President spent New Years Day 1920 aboard a Baltic Fleet cruiser. Had the Tsarists known his whereabouts, they would've sent every ship in the fleet against him. Seasickness conspired with fear for his life and the Republican project to make Kerensky deathly ill. Along with everyone aboard the ship, he contracted the Kansas flu. Frigid Baltic sea air was the last thing he needed, but he knew too well someone would end up a million rubles richer if he set foot in a neutral country to recuperate. The closest Republican-held port, Murmansk, was frozen over and so the ship was isolated. Kerensky's temperature dropped, patrolling Tsarist craft grew closer every day, and they had nowhere to go. Waking on 16 January, the Provisional President ordered the captain to set course for Rauma, Finland. If there was one man who wouldn't betray him to the Tsarists, it was Matti Passivuori. Finnish soldiers interned the cruiser and crew, but did a double take when they realised who the gaunt man was.

Kerensky rebuilt his health and connections that spring. Many had died in the siege or been trapped by the Okhrana, but many others had fled. Republican officials arrived in their twos and threes, all eager to meet the Provisional President. The gaunt Kerensky was a beacon, a reminder that the Tsarists hadn't won. Russian dreams of liberal democracy were not dead yet.

The most important visitor, though, belonged to the other Republican faction. Grigory Yevseyevich Zinoviev had survived the siege and made it to Helsinki. The ailing Provisional President found the strength to wrap the second-in-command of the Petrograd Soviet in a great Russian bear hug. "Grigory Yevseyvich, you survived!"

"Da." Zinoviev smiled properly for the first time in months. "I have not forgotten the promise we made. Yudenich cannot defeat the people!"

Kerensky and Zinoviev developed an odd relationship. Ostensibly, they were quite different. Zinoviev still viewed Kerensky as an oppressor who'd have to be swept away eventually; the Provisional President was still damned if he was going to let Zinoviev build a worker's paradise over the ashes of his system. Yet, the two had somehow bonded. When Kerensky had summoned the Bolsheviks after the Republican Coup, Zinoviev had gone, not Lenin, suggesting which revolutionary was more reliable. As a career politician, Kerensky wouldn't abandon an ally without good cause. Zinoviev appeared a moderate, reasonable Bolshevik, one who might counteract Lenin's radicalism. The affection was mutual. Zinoviev was still the Provisional President's "class enemy", but the capitalist had impressed him. Fear, not pride, had kept Lenin from visiting the Tauride Palace. Kerensky's lair had pleasantly surprised Zinoviev. The Provisional President wasn't a Black Hundredsman promising to massacre his enemies; he'd been courteous, flexible, and had a productive vision for Russia. "When the time to build comes", Kerensky had told him, "I hope you will set down your gun and help build a republic the workers can be proud to call their own." What was Zinoviev to do? And what was he to do with his comrade-in-arms?

Vladimir Lenin needed to figure out his next move before his enemies did. His position resembled his archrival Julius Martov’s three years ago. In both cases, enemy forces drawing on Petrograd had placed their revolt in mortal danger; Passivuori's Finland offered a safe haven. Finnish Red Guards answering to Kullervo Manner escorted the Petrograd Soviet to Helsinki. There were, however, important differences. Julius Martov had acted alone. All he’d had at his disposal were the Petrograd revolutionaries, and his support died with them. Lenin and Zinoviev, though, sat atop a movement. Even if Tsarist troops destroyed the Petrograd Soviet, its counterparts across the country would still be there. The Moscow Soviet, the Kazan Soviet, the Nizhny Soviet… all these answered to them. And besides, many under Tsarist rule looked to Lenin. The Central Volga People’s Army had proven its worth and would keep fighting even if Petrograd fell. Less stoically, Lenin didn't care about the people of Petrograd and was happy to watch his Tsarist and Republican foes bleed from the Finnish sidelines. Much as he may have hated the bourgeois Kerensky and privately plotted to destroy the Republic, Lenin must’ve been glad about his alliance. Whereas Julius Martov acted alone, the Bolshevik had many of the most powerful men in Russia, however temporarily, on his side.

Of course, Kerensky was a partner of convenience, not a true ally. Lenin had no doubt that the war was won, they would be at each other's throats. Thus, it was essential to win as many allies in exile as possible, to strengthen his hand for the return to the Rodina. Grigory Zinoviev was an immediate worry. Lenin didn't know what he'd discussed with Kerensky after the Republican Coup but had his suspicions. The Provisional President had been far too friendly with Zinoviev, embracing him in Turku while ignoring Lenin. Zinoviev hadn't been like this before the civil war- something had to have changed. Though moving against his comrade would've alienated all his allies- and could have ended with him at the bottom of the Baltic- Lenin was most definitely watching Grigory Yevseyevich Zinoviev.

All this took place against the backdrop of a foreign country. The young Finnish Worker's Republic was beset by divisions. Though leftists and conservatives had united to expel the Russians, their visions of what their country should be were wildly different. Matti Passivuori led the ruling Finnish Social Democratic Party. His strength was that, as a moderate socialist, he was acceptable in principle to everyone. Passivuori's leftist economics didn't prevent him from admiring liberal democracy and he hoped to forge a modern, Western, Finland. Passivuori was to Finland what Kerensky was to Russia. Circumstances had forced both men to abandon political careers for revolution. Both saw themselves as liberators and modernists. Both wanted to abolish the nobility (even if neither could yet), broaden the electorate, and bring their nations into the twentieth century.


President Paasivuori, founder of modern Finland
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Intervention was actually quite popular in Finland. Passivuori's moderate socialists considered it a matter of national security: Alexander Kerensky was the closest Russia came to sharing their political views. A liberal democratic Russia would hopefully be far more willing to respect Finland than a Tsarist autocracy. Collaborating with Lenin's radicals was an acceptable price. Kullervo Manner's hardliners advocated intervention for different reasons. As an ally of Lenin and believer in world revolution, Manner wanted to see the Soviets turn Russia into the world's second communist state, which could then bring the revolution to Finland. Collaborating with Kerensky's capitalism was an acceptable price. Even the conservatives- many of whom, as monarchists, abhorred the Republican Coup- slowly came round. Being Finnish superseded politics, and Grand Duke Mikhailovich would punish them all the same regardless of their fancy title. Of course, many pointed out that intervention might be the worst choice: if the Finns declared for Kerensky and lost, they'd face the Tsarist bear's claws. Nonetheless, as the leaders of the conservative Finnish Party fell in line, most of the country's nobility acquiesced. If it would save their homeland, collaborating with men guilty of regicide was an acceptable price.

Having watched his countrymen pay in blood for independence, Matti Passivuori was determined never to let the Russians reconquer Finland. He understood that, wedged between Berlin and Petrograd as he was, he'd always have to appease the Great Powers at the expense of his own agenda, but no foreigner was ever going to rule the country again. Unfortunately, for all his liberalism, Alexander Kerensky was a Russian nationalist. Very few in Russia, regardless of which side of the civil war they were on, didn't dream of undoing the hated Treaty of Konigsberg. Being remembered as the man who brought democracy to Russia would be glorious; being remembered as the man who expanded Russia west would be even greater. Passivuori realised that having Kerensky in his country gave him a fleeting opportunity.

If he played it right, he could unite the fractured political scene and have his independence confirmed.

On 1 March 1920, with the Finnish army and exiled Republican units moving towards the border, Kerensky awoke to find his house surrounded. He was just about to telephone Passivuori when the Finnish president walked in. Passivuori calmly explained that he had to "negotiate an arrangement between the Finnish Worker's Republic and the Russian Republic for the conduct of the war", and handed Kerensky a list of demands in Finnish and Russian. Amongst them was a promise to recognise Finland's independence, to cede an ethnically Finnish chunk of western Karelia, and establish a demilitarised zone twenty miles from the border after the war. In exchange for this, Passivuori would join the war... and Kerensky would walk free. The Provisional President reluctantly signed.

Political goals shaped the counteroffensive. Though Kerensky had promised Finland western Karelia, Passivuori knew what promises were worth. Having boots on the ground would make it much harder for the Republicans to renege after victory. Thus, he graciously volunteered to man the more than four hundred miles between Lake Ladoga and the Murmansk pocket. This suited Kerensky- not only because he was willing to cede "a few hundred square miles of tundra"- but because it enabled him to concentrate on Petrograd. Though Passivuori had never claimed the city, Kerensky saw no reason Finland wouldn't grab it: holding a metropolis on the border would give him tremendous leverage against the giant to his south. Thanking the Finns for undertaking so much of the fighting, the Provisional President directed Kornilov to concentrate on the capital. (Ironically enough, Passivuori didn't care about Petrograd, considering it too damaged to be worth occupying). The one contribution Kerensky asked for was use of the Finnish Navy. A Tsarist flotilla had left its Ottoman exile and passed through the Danish Straits (Denmark, like the rest of the world, recognised the Romanovs), to Petrograd via the Baltic coast. Eliminating them was essential if the Republicans wanted to retake the capital. Passivuori was hesitant- he didn't want to risk losing his nascent navy- but agreed after Kerensky promised to compensate him for losses and let the Finnish ships operate under a Finnish admiral.

It was all moot.

The Tsarists were waiting for their foe. Espionage was effortless when both sides spoke the same language, and the Republican bases in Finland were crawling with double agents. These men helped the House of Romanov in small ways ('accidentally' dropping a lit cigarette in a division's worth of horse feed and watching the smoke rise) and large (informing Petrograd where the Republican sector stopped and where the Finnish one began). Nikolai Yudenich, who'd strangled Petrograd in December, prepared accordingly. He didn't care about "those few acres of snow" in Karelia; it was the capital that mattered. On the tenth, he issued a proclamation containing four words which sent a chill down everyone's spine- "a state of siege." People panicked at the thought of reliving the horrors of winter. However, Yudenich had no intention of playing the siege out in reverse. Not bothering to get clearance from his superior (War Minister Grand Duke Nicholas), Grand Duke Mikhailovich, or even Tsar Andrei, for fear that enemy Intelligence would pick up on it, he decided to pre-empt an enemy attack on the capital.


Finnish troops photographed the day before the Russians attacked.
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The invasion of Finland commenced at dawn on 17 March 1920. With the border less than twenty miles north of Petrograd, Tsarist troops had watched the Finns like hawks for months. The northern suburbs of Petrograd had been the first to be rebuilt, with pillboxes and watchtowers replacing butchers and church steeples. Artillery which had pounded the Republican defenders in the winter moved north, ready to blast the Finns if need be. Yudenich had always believed the Finns would enter eventually, and only strict orders from Mikhailovich had kept him from crossing the border in December. As he explained later, Yudenich believed that "military necessity: the need to preserve the lives of Russian soldiers and integrity of Russian positions to eliminate the possibility of enemy assault on the above" allowed him to break that order. Besides, the Finns were abusing their neutrality by harbouring Republican leaders and soldiers. It wasn't even Finns who took the first blows. With Petrograd a Republican sector, Yudenich's shells crashed down on Russians, and it fell to Lavr Kornilov to respond. Republican troops, augmented by Finnish border guards, ceded substantial border towns which, properly fortified, could've held the foe up for days. Bewildered civilians found themselves under Tsarist occupation... it proved just as harsh as they'd feared.

These triumphs were spectacular but isolated.

Finland rapidly pulled itself together. President Passivuori was furious at the Tsarist attack, though he understood that his highly un-neutral policies had caused it. Nonetheless, by striking first Yudenich had given his foe a propaganda advantage. At noon on the seventeenth, Passivuori issued a "National Declaration of Resistance" extending diplomatic recognition to the Russian Republic. Its promise to "assist the government of Russia in its struggle against illegitimate warlordism under the so-called House of Romanov" seems amusing when one considers the disparity between the two. Just as the President had hoped, the war put politics on hold. Yudenich had shelled conservative sympathies for the Tsarist monarchy to oblivion as his men crossed the border. Liberals and socialists found it easier to rally around a war of national defence than a foreign intervention. Kullervo Manner put a radical spin on things, declaring that the "war against Tsarist aggression" marked the first stage in a global revolution. International opinion condemned the Tsarists. When the average Westerner thought of Finland, he imagined a peaceful, pro-German republic; when he thought of the Tsarists, he imagined the Okhrana, divine-right monarchy, and instability. The violation of an innocent country's rights outraged Americans and Britons; the idea of the Russian bear starting a revanchist march west horrified Germans. Sweden and Norway were far too close to the action for comfort. Though both were monarchies with little sympathy for Alexander Kerensky, they happily gave the Finns guns and loans. None of this would've been possible had Passivuori struck first as per the plan.

Popularity couldn't shore up the fighting front. Even as Finnish and Republican troops reached prepared defences, supplies, and reinforcements, the Tsarists kept attacking. There were numerous cases of Finnish units mistaking Republicans for Tsarists, as well as Republican commanders deciding the war was lost and defecting, bringing their units over en masse. However, the defence remained mostly coherent. With national subjugation the price for defeat, this was a battle the Finns couldn't afford to lose. They took few prisoners and fought to the last man and bullet. Republican troops lacked the national incentive but still fought hard- a quick death in Lapland was better than a lingering one in Siberia. One fortunate product of the Finns living in fear was the fixed defences along the border. General Haapalainen hadn't expected Russian troops to man them, but wasn't complaining. Tsarist troops paid a steep price for every step they took up the Karelian Isthmus. By the end of March, they'd only advanced thirty miles at a cost of fifteen thousand lives. The tightly-packed defences and Tsarist infantry charges recalled the Great War and the worst of the Danubian Civil War more than the other fighting in Russia. Nonetheless, despite a heavy cost in blood, the Republicans and Finns were winning. Day by day, Finnish reinforcements slowed the Russian tide until Yudenich stopped. The Tsarist general privately conceded defeat. He'd forestalled an attack on Petrograd, but only at the cost of creating a new fighting front, one which couldn't be resolved any time soon.

This move cost Yudenich his career. Grand Duke Mikhailovich was furious when he heard about the invasion. His standing order to respect Finnish neutrality had existed for a reason: to prevent the Tsarists from being seen as aggressors. Now that Yudenich had deliberately disobeyed, the world saw Mikhailovich not just as someone willing to murder a fellow Grand Duke for an innocent peace proposal, but as someone happy to trample on innocent bystanders. Nonetheless, after discussing it with his military supremo, the Grand Duke Nicholas, Mikhailovich decided on clemency. Defeating the new enemy took precedence over everything, and assigning a new man to the front would impede that. Quick results could still redeem Yudenich. A month of slaughter in the Karelian Isthmus persuaded Mikhailovich to pull the plug. Yudenich obviously couldn't win and so needed to face punishment for the mess he'd made. The disgraced Tsarist travelled to Vladivostok and settled in the Netherlands after the civil war. Mikhailovich chose his replacement on the basis of loyalty: his younger brother. Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich had disgraced himself during a Great War shell shortage, and Tsar Michael had 'encouraged' him to resign in November 1916. Once his nephew Andrei mounted the throne, Sergei had petitioned him for a command. The petition had sat on his brother's desk for months until now. It didn't matter that Sergei hadn't had a field command in fifteen years or that his staff work was a bad joke: nothing could go wrong with the Tsar's uncle in power!


The Grand Duke: a man who never should have been let near power
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Sergei had much to do, and soon discovered that Yudenich had provoked a sleeping giant. Finnish participation provided the spark the Republicans needed in the north. The winter of 1919-1920 hadn't been easy on Tsarist forces in the north- frostbite had claimed many lives while sleet and snow had closed badly needed roads. A month of intense combat in Karelia did no one any favours. By contrast, the Finnish Army, though it was small, was fresh. Fear of a Russian attack had led Passivuori to reach out to Germany and Sweden, who'd happily given him old arms for a suitable price. Many Finnish nobles had been Russian officers before the Great War and, once they realised they weren't going to be persecuted, served their new country. General Kornilov had collaborated with Eero Haapalainen, chief of Finland's nascent General Staff, to rebuild the Republican units which had crossed the border. Several months of rest and retraining had produced revitalised units that were ready for action. The generals had scrapped the initial plan to attack north of Lake Lagoda, placing everything into the Karelian Isthmus. Passivuori had called up conscripts and reservists back in December, and had been husbanding them during the past month of fighting. Now, it was time to put that piece on the board.

The name given to this offensive after the war- the "Petrovskoe Piercing"- says much about its effectiveness. The conscripts and reservists were organised into a new formation, the Finnish Second Army. As Passivuori said of them after the battle, "that the Finnish nation entrusted this vital counterstroke to young boys and greybeards can be attributed to two things. Either we were truly at the end of our tether, or the Finnish national spirit is undefeatable wherever it appears!" Both were likely true, but had the Tsarists not been so exhausted, the Second Army would've got nowhere. After a brief bombardment, the Second Army went into action on 20 April 1920. Much of the heaviest fighting was to the west, as the Tsarists pushed towards the key town of Vyborg. The eastern town of Petrovskoe was an easier target. This was where the decision to sack Yudenich hurt the Tsarists. Whereas the conqueror of Petrograd would've sent enough force to hold the Second Army without depriving the rest of the line, Sergei panicked and ordered one-quarter of the entire Tsarist strength in the isthmus sent to stem the tide. Poor logistics forced these units to spend two days marching... which the Finns and Republicans put to good use. By the time the reinforcements arrived, Petrovskoe flew the Finnish flag. Sergei's reinforcements got to work containing the breakthrough, but the damage was already done. Worse still, while the reinforcements were ambling to the breakthrough, the Finns and Republicans they'd opposed attacked. By the end of April, the entire Tsarist line in the Karelian Isthmus was coming apart. Surrounded Tsarist units tried to surrender to the Republicans; their comrades who'd tried surrendering to the Finns didn't have long to ponder what a mistake they'd made. Kornilov gave these men a choice between joining the Republican army or going to a Finnish prison camp in the far north. Thus reinforced, the Republicans swept on. Grand Duke Sergei could make the walls shake with his curses but not stop the enemy tide south. As the towns captured in Yudenich's first offensive fell, Sergei realised how much danger he was in. Yudenich's strike north- designed to prevent an attack on Petrograd- had failed.


Republican troops advance south towards Petrograd, May 1920
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The capital now faced another siege.

Alexander Kerensky would've been happy if the Finns halted at the prewar border. Initially, of course, the plan had been for Republican troops to take Petrograd while the Finns occupied Karelia. However, Yudenich's unprovoked attack had required maximum force to stop it. Once the Finns had committed their whole army to the Karelian Isthmus, they weren't going to transfer them east just because the initial plan said so. This posed the risk that General Haapalainen's men might occupy the capital and deny it to him. A telegram from the Provisional President to Kornilov ordered him to reach Petrograd before the Finns, giving rise to the "race to Petrograd". Republican and Finnish units vied to be the first in the capital. It made the men more aggressive but strained supply columns. As April turned to May, Kerensky and Passivuori had one question on their minds: whose flag would fly above the Winter Palace?

May 4 saw the Tsarists pushed back to the prewar border. As the rumble of gunfire drew closer, everyone prepared for another ordeal. Many must have cursed fate, asking why they had to relieve the horrors of the siege all over again. Unlike before, there were no more emergency stocks to call upon, no more will to stand and fight. Survival trumped patriotism. Every shell which overshot the Tsarists and crashed into the northern suburbs reminded Petrograd of what lay ahead.

Grand Duke Sergei was a cowardly political appointee. A glance outside his office told him all he needed to know about the siege. If it returned, his titles and honours would do him no good; his guards would happily spill all that noble Romanov blood on the floor if it meant peace. Sergei fled to Veliky Novgorod, instructing his deputy to "resist". His convoy drew much attention, and people soon realised he'd fled. Realising that their cause was hopeless and their commander had deserted them, tsarists crossed to the Republican lines in droves. A delighted Kornilov ordered that these men be well-treated before being enrolled in the Republican army, but few were in any shape to fight. Shocked nurses found clammy-skinned skeletons wrapped in Romanov colours, their eyes dull, frostbite gnawing at infected wounds- and these were the best-supplied men in Petrograd.

Those who remained in the capital had given up hope. Their choices were subjugation or experiencing the pain they'd inflicted on the defenders throughout the winter. Shooting oneself, or letting an enemy do it for you, was an easy way out. Yet others clung on for one reason: the damage done by the war paled in comparison to what the Finns would do. Being subjugated for centuries, barely achieving independence, and then facing an unprovoked attack had enraged the Finns, and what better way to extract revenge than by torching Petrograd? The defenders fought, in their mind, not for the House of Romanov but the Russian race.

It was clear what had to be done.

A messenger crossed the lines under flag of truce three days after Grand Duke Sergei fled, asking to speak with Lavr Kornilov. What exactly the two men agreed on is still not known, but their bargain became an enormous sticking point in Russo-Finnish relations. What is known is that at dusk on 7 May 1920, a year after the Tsarina's regime collapsed, Republicans and Tsarists stopped shooting. The weary men of the House of Romanov stood aside as the Republicans marched into Petrograd. Grand Duke Sergei's wet-faced deputy presented himself to Kornilov, who took pity on him and placed him under house arrest. For the people of the capital, this was the best possible outcome. There would be no second siege, no more privations and suffering, and best of all, they were under the rule of fellow Russians. Lavr Kornilov went from being the dreaded storm on the horizon to the shield against vengeful Finns. This was most definitely a liberation, not a conquest. Petrograd was the birthplace of the Republic. Kerensky had looked after his people; the Tsarists had given them six months of hell. The people rewarded him with their loyalty. As Republican troops handed out rations and bandages, the people were quite content to stay under Alexander Kerensky's banner.

After a year of chaos, Petrograd was ready for peace.

The people of the capital were the only ones happy with the agreement. Grand Duke Mikhailovich and the puppet Tsar were livid. Six months of fighting and the loss of thousands of rubles and lives had been wasted! "For God's sake", Mikhailovich thundered to his nephew, "how will we win the fucking war if these imbeciles carry on?" Barging into Sergei's office a week after the surrender, the Grand Duke heaped verbal abuse on his subordinate until the guards restrained him. After simmering down, Mikhailovich dismissed Sergei; Tsar Andrei stripped him of his nobility several days later. The disgraced Sergei committed suicide three months later. Mikhailovich was fighting not just for his son's throne or to preserve the system; he was fighting to avenge his wife. Failure was not just dangerous; it was a personal insult. Deciding the only man he could trust was himself, Mikhailovich assumed temporary command of the Petrograd sector. Reserves stabilised the front around Volkhov, Gatchina, and Kingisepp- in short, where it was before the campaign, minus tens of thousands of good men gone.

Matti Paasivuori was dejected. Though he could never have admitted it, he'd wanted Petrograd. Privately, he was furious at Kornilov. How much did the Republican general trust his Finnish ally, if he was more willing to fraternise with the enemy than see the Finns enter Petrograd? Was this the thanks Finland received for sheltering the Republicans? Kornilov's retort that the Tsarists had requested a ceasefire, not him, fell on deaf ears. To this day, Finnish nationalists believe they were cheated out of Petrograd in summer 1920; Russians decry Finnish "revanchism". Nonetheless, he played it off as a victory. Ignoring the way he'd abused his neutrality, Passivuori lauded his countrymen for resisting the Tsarist invasion and pledged continued support to "stabilise the internal situation of Russia and secure our own national interests." Since being left alone was too much to ask, Finland would fight on.

The greatest loser of the Petrograd campaign was not the Tsarists, but the Bolsheviks. Vladimir Lenin had stoked the fires of revolution from Petrograd. The capital had been home to the leading Soviet. And now, it was in Kerensky's pocket. As Lenin paced his room in Helsinki, he fumed. Was he any better off than Julius Martov had been in his Norwegian exile? Would he be remembered, after more than a quarter century's exertion, as nothing more than a bit part, a failed would-be revolutionary, a stepping stone on the way to Alexander Kerensky's bourgeois regime? Being sidelined was bad enough, but what came next was an insult. On the first of June, Grigory Zinoviev recieved an invitation from the Provisional President to come to the capital- but Lenin did not. Paranoia took over. Was he being set up for a hit? Would Zinoviev take over the Soviets scattered throughout the country? That would be to Kerensky's liking, after all. Zinoviev was affable and diplomatic- but, Lenin realised, he did not have the spirit of a revolutionary. In his hands, the Soviets would wither. Only one man, Lenin realised, could save Russia from itself, and he sported a newsboy cap and goatee.

Like all the players in this endless war, Vladimir Lenin could only guess who his true enemies were, and what the future of Russia would ultimately be.


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as always great chapter
 
Chapter Fifty-Five: Unwilling Belligerent

"Hiding across the border- how dare they? Does Kornilov think he can play me for a fool? And what of Passivuori? If this is neutrality, I would hate to see what war is like..."
-General Yudenich

"I never wanted to fight on your side, Provisonal President. Finland has seen too much war in too little time. But what has happened today has made it all too clear: the survival of the Russian Republic is a prerequisite for the survival of Finland. So, on we will march."
-Matti Paasivuori to Alexander Kerensky

Petrograd was gone.

The surprise was not that the Tsarists had lunged at the capital, but that it took them weeks to conquer it rather than days as in the September Revolution. Hunger and death were the watchwords in the capital. The House of Romanov had betrayed its divine mandate to govern Russia. What sort of imperial father could do this to his people? General Nikolai Yudenich's conduct as military governor only confirmed to the people of Petrograd that revolt had been the right choice.

The Russian Republic was down but not out. Kerensky and Kornilov had drawn up evacuation plans early in the war, and his designated escape cruiser remained on standby throughout the siege. Honour had told Kerensky to remain with his people, but common sense had won out. The Provisional President spent New Years Day 1920 aboard a Baltic Fleet cruiser. Had the Tsarists known his whereabouts, they would've sent every ship in the fleet against him. Seasickness conspired with fear for his life and the Republican project to make Kerensky deathly ill. Along with everyone aboard the ship, he contracted the Kansas flu. Frigid Baltic sea air was the last thing he needed, but he knew too well someone would end up a million rubles richer if he set foot in a neutral country to recuperate. The closest Republican-held port, Murmansk, was frozen over and so the ship was isolated. Kerensky's temperature dropped, patrolling Tsarist craft grew closer every day, and they had nowhere to go. Waking on 16 January, the Provisional President ordered the captain to set course for Rauma, Finland. If there was one man who wouldn't betray him to the Tsarists, it was Matti Passivuori. Finnish soldiers interned the cruiser and crew, but did a double take when they realised who the gaunt man was.

Kerensky rebuilt his health and connections that spring. Many had died in the siege or been trapped by the Okhrana, but many others had fled. Republican officials arrived in their twos and threes, all eager to meet the Provisional President. The gaunt Kerensky was a beacon, a reminder that the Tsarists hadn't won. Russian dreams of liberal democracy were not dead yet.

The most important visitor, though, belonged to the other Republican faction. Grigory Yevseyevich Zinoviev had survived the siege and made it to Helsinki. The ailing Provisional President found the strength to wrap the second-in-command of the Petrograd Soviet in a great Russian bear hug. "Grigory Yevseyvich, you survived!"

"Da." Zinoviev smiled properly for the first time in months. "I have not forgotten the promise we made. Yudenich cannot defeat the people!"

Kerensky and Zinoviev developed an odd relationship. Ostensibly, they were quite different. Zinoviev still viewed Kerensky as an oppressor who'd have to be swept away eventually; the Provisional President was still damned if he was going to let Zinoviev build a worker's paradise over the ashes of his system. Yet, the two had somehow bonded. When Kerensky had summoned the Bolsheviks after the Republican Coup, Zinoviev had gone, not Lenin, suggesting which revolutionary was more reliable. As a career politician, Kerensky wouldn't abandon an ally without good cause. Zinoviev appeared a moderate, reasonable Bolshevik, one who might counteract Lenin's radicalism. The affection was mutual. Zinoviev was still the Provisional President's "class enemy", but the capitalist had impressed him. Fear, not pride, had kept Lenin from visiting the Tauride Palace. Kerensky's lair had pleasantly surprised Zinoviev. The Provisional President wasn't a Black Hundredsman promising to massacre his enemies; he'd been courteous, flexible, and had a productive vision for Russia. "When the time to build comes", Kerensky had told him, "I hope you will set down your gun and help build a republic the workers can be proud to call their own." What was Zinoviev to do? And what was he to do with his comrade-in-arms?

Vladimir Lenin needed to figure out his next move before his enemies did. His position resembled his archrival Julius Martov’s three years ago. In both cases, enemy forces drawing on Petrograd had placed their revolt in mortal danger; Passivuori's Finland offered a safe haven. Finnish Red Guards answering to Kullervo Manner escorted the Petrograd Soviet to Helsinki. There were, however, important differences. Julius Martov had acted alone. All he’d had at his disposal were the Petrograd revolutionaries, and his support died with them. Lenin and Zinoviev, though, sat atop a movement. Even if Tsarist troops destroyed the Petrograd Soviet, its counterparts across the country would still be there. The Moscow Soviet, the Kazan Soviet, the Nizhny Soviet… all these answered to them. And besides, many under Tsarist rule looked to Lenin. The Central Volga People’s Army had proven its worth and would keep fighting even if Petrograd fell. Less stoically, Lenin didn't care about the people of Petrograd and was happy to watch his Tsarist and Republican foes bleed from the Finnish sidelines. Much as he may have hated the bourgeois Kerensky and privately plotted to destroy the Republic, Lenin must’ve been glad about his alliance. Whereas Julius Martov acted alone, the Bolshevik had many of the most powerful men in Russia, however temporarily, on his side.

Of course, Kerensky was a partner of convenience, not a true ally. Lenin had no doubt that the war was won, they would be at each other's throats. Thus, it was essential to win as many allies in exile as possible, to strengthen his hand for the return to the Rodina. Grigory Zinoviev was an immediate worry. Lenin didn't know what he'd discussed with Kerensky after the Republican Coup but had his suspicions. The Provisional President had been far too friendly with Zinoviev, embracing him in Turku while ignoring Lenin. Zinoviev hadn't been like this before the civil war- something had to have changed. Though moving against his comrade would've alienated all his allies- and could have ended with him at the bottom of the Baltic- Lenin was most definitely watching Grigory Yevseyevich Zinoviev.

All this took place against the backdrop of a foreign country. The young Finnish Worker's Republic was beset by divisions. Though leftists and conservatives had united to expel the Russians, their visions of what their country should be were wildly different. Matti Passivuori led the ruling Finnish Social Democratic Party. His strength was that, as a moderate socialist, he was acceptable in principle to everyone. Passivuori's leftist economics didn't prevent him from admiring liberal democracy and he hoped to forge a modern, Western, Finland. Passivuori was to Finland what Kerensky was to Russia. Circumstances had forced both men to abandon political careers for revolution. Both saw themselves as liberators and modernists. Both wanted to abolish the nobility (even if neither could yet), broaden the electorate, and bring their nations into the twentieth century.


President Paasivuori, founder of modern Finland
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Intervention was actually quite popular in Finland. Passivuori's moderate socialists considered it a matter of national security: Alexander Kerensky was the closest Russia came to sharing their political views. A liberal democratic Russia would hopefully be far more willing to respect Finland than a Tsarist autocracy. Collaborating with Lenin's radicals was an acceptable price. Kullervo Manner's hardliners advocated intervention for different reasons. As an ally of Lenin and believer in world revolution, Manner wanted to see the Soviets turn Russia into the world's second communist state, which could then bring the revolution to Finland. Collaborating with Kerensky's capitalism was an acceptable price. Even the conservatives- many of whom, as monarchists, abhorred the Republican Coup- slowly came round. Being Finnish superseded politics, and Grand Duke Mikhailovich would punish them all the same regardless of their fancy title. Of course, many pointed out that intervention might be the worst choice: if the Finns declared for Kerensky and lost, they'd face the Tsarist bear's claws. Nonetheless, as the leaders of the conservative Finnish Party fell in line, most of the country's nobility acquiesced. If it would save their homeland, collaborating with men guilty of regicide was an acceptable price.

Having watched his countrymen pay in blood for independence, Matti Passivuori was determined never to let the Russians reconquer Finland. He understood that, wedged between Berlin and Petrograd as he was, he'd always have to appease the Great Powers at the expense of his own agenda, but no foreigner was ever going to rule the country again. Unfortunately, for all his liberalism, Alexander Kerensky was a Russian nationalist. Very few in Russia, regardless of which side of the civil war they were on, didn't dream of undoing the hated Treaty of Konigsberg. Being remembered as the man who brought democracy to Russia would be glorious; being remembered as the man who expanded Russia west would be even greater. Passivuori realised that having Kerensky in his country gave him a fleeting opportunity.

If he played it right, he could unite the fractured political scene and have his independence confirmed.

On 1 March 1920, with the Finnish army and exiled Republican units moving towards the border, Kerensky awoke to find his house surrounded. He was just about to telephone Passivuori when the Finnish president walked in. Passivuori calmly explained that he had to "negotiate an arrangement between the Finnish Worker's Republic and the Russian Republic for the conduct of the war", and handed Kerensky a list of demands in Finnish and Russian. Amongst them was a promise to recognise Finland's independence, to cede an ethnically Finnish chunk of western Karelia, and establish a demilitarised zone twenty miles from the border after the war. In exchange for this, Passivuori would join the war... and Kerensky would walk free. The Provisional President reluctantly signed.

Political goals shaped the counteroffensive. Though Kerensky had promised Finland western Karelia, Passivuori knew what promises were worth. Having boots on the ground would make it much harder for the Republicans to renege after victory. Thus, he graciously volunteered to man the more than four hundred miles between Lake Ladoga and the Murmansk pocket. This suited Kerensky- not only because he was willing to cede "a few hundred square miles of tundra"- but because it enabled him to concentrate on Petrograd. Though Passivuori had never claimed the city, Kerensky saw no reason Finland wouldn't grab it: holding a metropolis on the border would give him tremendous leverage against the giant to his south. Thanking the Finns for undertaking so much of the fighting, the Provisional President directed Kornilov to concentrate on the capital. (Ironically enough, Passivuori didn't care about Petrograd, considering it too damaged to be worth occupying). The one contribution Kerensky asked for was use of the Finnish Navy. A Tsarist flotilla had left its Ottoman exile and passed through the Danish Straits (Denmark, like the rest of the world, recognised the Romanovs), to Petrograd via the Baltic coast. Eliminating them was essential if the Republicans wanted to retake the capital. Passivuori was hesitant- he didn't want to risk losing his nascent navy- but agreed after Kerensky promised to compensate him for losses and let the Finnish ships operate under a Finnish admiral.

It was all moot.

The Tsarists were waiting for their foe. Espionage was effortless when both sides spoke the same language, and the Republican bases in Finland were crawling with double agents. These men helped the House of Romanov in small ways ('accidentally' dropping a lit cigarette in a division's worth of horse feed and watching the smoke rise) and large (informing Petrograd where the Republican sector stopped and where the Finnish one began). Nikolai Yudenich, who'd strangled Petrograd in December, prepared accordingly. He didn't care about "those few acres of snow" in Karelia; it was the capital that mattered. On the tenth, he issued a proclamation containing four words which sent a chill down everyone's spine- "a state of siege." People panicked at the thought of reliving the horrors of winter. However, Yudenich had no intention of playing the siege out in reverse. Not bothering to get clearance from his superior (War Minister Grand Duke Nicholas), Grand Duke Mikhailovich, or even Tsar Andrei, for fear that enemy Intelligence would pick up on it, he decided to pre-empt an enemy attack on the capital.


Finnish troops photographed the day before the Russians attacked.
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The invasion of Finland commenced at dawn on 17 March 1920. With the border less than twenty miles north of Petrograd, Tsarist troops had watched the Finns like hawks for months. The northern suburbs of Petrograd had been the first to be rebuilt, with pillboxes and watchtowers replacing butchers and church steeples. Artillery which had pounded the Republican defenders in the winter moved north, ready to blast the Finns if need be. Yudenich had always believed the Finns would enter eventually, and only strict orders from Mikhailovich had kept him from crossing the border in December. As he explained later, Yudenich believed that "military necessity: the need to preserve the lives of Russian soldiers and integrity of Russian positions to eliminate the possibility of enemy assault on the above" allowed him to break that order. Besides, the Finns were abusing their neutrality by harbouring Republican leaders and soldiers. It wasn't even Finns who took the first blows. With Petrograd a Republican sector, Yudenich's shells crashed down on Russians, and it fell to Lavr Kornilov to respond. Republican troops, augmented by Finnish border guards, ceded substantial border towns which, properly fortified, could've held the foe up for days. Bewildered civilians found themselves under Tsarist occupation... it proved just as harsh as they'd feared.

These triumphs were spectacular but isolated.

Finland rapidly pulled itself together. President Passivuori was furious at the Tsarist attack, though he understood that his highly un-neutral policies had caused it. Nonetheless, by striking first Yudenich had given his foe a propaganda advantage. At noon on the seventeenth, Passivuori issued a "National Declaration of Resistance" extending diplomatic recognition to the Russian Republic. Its promise to "assist the government of Russia in its struggle against illegitimate warlordism under the so-called House of Romanov" seems amusing when one considers the disparity between the two. Just as the President had hoped, the war put politics on hold. Yudenich had shelled conservative sympathies for the Tsarist monarchy to oblivion as his men crossed the border. Liberals and socialists found it easier to rally around a war of national defence than a foreign intervention. Kullervo Manner put a radical spin on things, declaring that the "war against Tsarist aggression" marked the first stage in a global revolution. International opinion condemned the Tsarists. When the average Westerner thought of Finland, he imagined a peaceful, pro-German republic; when he thought of the Tsarists, he imagined the Okhrana, divine-right monarchy, and instability. The violation of an innocent country's rights outraged Americans and Britons; the idea of the Russian bear starting a revanchist march west horrified Germans. Sweden and Norway were far too close to the action for comfort. Though both were monarchies with little sympathy for Alexander Kerensky, they happily gave the Finns guns and loans. None of this would've been possible had Passivuori struck first as per the plan.

Popularity couldn't shore up the fighting front. Even as Finnish and Republican troops reached prepared defences, supplies, and reinforcements, the Tsarists kept attacking. There were numerous cases of Finnish units mistaking Republicans for Tsarists, as well as Republican commanders deciding the war was lost and defecting, bringing their units over en masse. However, the defence remained mostly coherent. With national subjugation the price for defeat, this was a battle the Finns couldn't afford to lose. They took few prisoners and fought to the last man and bullet. Republican troops lacked the national incentive but still fought hard- a quick death in Lapland was better than a lingering one in Siberia. One fortunate product of the Finns living in fear was the fixed defences along the border. General Haapalainen hadn't expected Russian troops to man them, but wasn't complaining. Tsarist troops paid a steep price for every step they took up the Karelian Isthmus. By the end of March, they'd only advanced thirty miles at a cost of fifteen thousand lives. The tightly-packed defences and Tsarist infantry charges recalled the Great War and the worst of the Danubian Civil War more than the other fighting in Russia. Nonetheless, despite a heavy cost in blood, the Republicans and Finns were winning. Day by day, Finnish reinforcements slowed the Russian tide until Yudenich stopped. The Tsarist general privately conceded defeat. He'd forestalled an attack on Petrograd, but only at the cost of creating a new fighting front, one which couldn't be resolved any time soon.

This move cost Yudenich his career. Grand Duke Mikhailovich was furious when he heard about the invasion. His standing order to respect Finnish neutrality had existed for a reason: to prevent the Tsarists from being seen as aggressors. Now that Yudenich had deliberately disobeyed, the world saw Mikhailovich not just as someone willing to murder a fellow Grand Duke for an innocent peace proposal, but as someone happy to trample on innocent bystanders. Nonetheless, after discussing it with his military supremo, the Grand Duke Nicholas, Mikhailovich decided on clemency. Defeating the new enemy took precedence over everything, and assigning a new man to the front would impede that. Quick results could still redeem Yudenich. A month of slaughter in the Karelian Isthmus persuaded Mikhailovich to pull the plug. Yudenich obviously couldn't win and so needed to face punishment for the mess he'd made. The disgraced Tsarist travelled to Vladivostok and settled in the Netherlands after the civil war. Mikhailovich chose his replacement on the basis of loyalty: his younger brother. Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich had disgraced himself during a Great War shell shortage, and Tsar Michael had 'encouraged' him to resign in November 1916. Once his nephew Andrei mounted the throne, Sergei had petitioned him for a command. The petition had sat on his brother's desk for months until now. It didn't matter that Sergei hadn't had a field command in fifteen years or that his staff work was a bad joke: nothing could go wrong with the Tsar's uncle in power!


The Grand Duke: a man who never should have been let near power
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Sergei had much to do, and soon discovered that Yudenich had provoked a sleeping giant. Finnish participation provided the spark the Republicans needed in the north. The winter of 1919-1920 hadn't been easy on Tsarist forces in the north- frostbite had claimed many lives while sleet and snow had closed badly needed roads. A month of intense combat in Karelia did no one any favours. By contrast, the Finnish Army, though it was small, was fresh. Fear of a Russian attack had led Passivuori to reach out to Germany and Sweden, who'd happily given him old arms for a suitable price. Many Finnish nobles had been Russian officers before the Great War and, once they realised they weren't going to be persecuted, served their new country. General Kornilov had collaborated with Eero Haapalainen, chief of Finland's nascent General Staff, to rebuild the Republican units which had crossed the border. Several months of rest and retraining had produced revitalised units that were ready for action. The generals had scrapped the initial plan to attack north of Lake Lagoda, placing everything into the Karelian Isthmus. Passivuori had called up conscripts and reservists back in December, and had been husbanding them during the past month of fighting. Now, it was time to put that piece on the board.

The name given to this offensive after the war- the "Petrovskoe Piercing"- says much about its effectiveness. The conscripts and reservists were organised into a new formation, the Finnish Second Army. As Passivuori said of them after the battle, "that the Finnish nation entrusted this vital counterstroke to young boys and greybeards can be attributed to two things. Either we were truly at the end of our tether, or the Finnish national spirit is undefeatable wherever it appears!" Both were likely true, but had the Tsarists not been so exhausted, the Second Army would've got nowhere. After a brief bombardment, the Second Army went into action on 20 April 1920. Much of the heaviest fighting was to the west, as the Tsarists pushed towards the key town of Vyborg. The eastern town of Petrovskoe was an easier target. This was where the decision to sack Yudenich hurt the Tsarists. Whereas the conqueror of Petrograd would've sent enough force to hold the Second Army without depriving the rest of the line, Sergei panicked and ordered one-quarter of the entire Tsarist strength in the isthmus sent to stem the tide. Poor logistics forced these units to spend two days marching... which the Finns and Republicans put to good use. By the time the reinforcements arrived, Petrovskoe flew the Finnish flag. Sergei's reinforcements got to work containing the breakthrough, but the damage was already done. Worse still, while the reinforcements were ambling to the breakthrough, the Finns and Republicans they'd opposed attacked. By the end of April, the entire Tsarist line in the Karelian Isthmus was coming apart. Surrounded Tsarist units tried to surrender to the Republicans; their comrades who'd tried surrendering to the Finns didn't have long to ponder what a mistake they'd made. Kornilov gave these men a choice between joining the Republican army or going to a Finnish prison camp in the far north. Thus reinforced, the Republicans swept on. Grand Duke Sergei could make the walls shake with his curses but not stop the enemy tide south. As the towns captured in Yudenich's first offensive fell, Sergei realised how much danger he was in. Yudenich's strike north- designed to prevent an attack on Petrograd- had failed.


Republican troops advance south towards Petrograd, May 1920
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The capital now faced another siege.

Alexander Kerensky would've been happy if the Finns halted at the prewar border. Initially, of course, the plan had been for Republican troops to take Petrograd while the Finns occupied Karelia. However, Yudenich's unprovoked attack had required maximum force to stop it. Once the Finns had committed their whole army to the Karelian Isthmus, they weren't going to transfer them east just because the initial plan said so. This posed the risk that General Haapalainen's men might occupy the capital and deny it to him. A telegram from the Provisional President to Kornilov ordered him to reach Petrograd before the Finns, giving rise to the "race to Petrograd". Republican and Finnish units vied to be the first in the capital. It made the men more aggressive but strained supply columns. As April turned to May, Kerensky and Passivuori had one question on their minds: whose flag would fly above the Winter Palace?

May 4 saw the Tsarists pushed back to the prewar border. As the rumble of gunfire drew closer, everyone prepared for another ordeal. Many must have cursed fate, asking why they had to relieve the horrors of the siege all over again. Unlike before, there were no more emergency stocks to call upon, no more will to stand and fight. Survival trumped patriotism. Every shell which overshot the Tsarists and crashed into the northern suburbs reminded Petrograd of what lay ahead.

Grand Duke Sergei was a cowardly political appointee. A glance outside his office told him all he needed to know about the siege. If it returned, his titles and honours would do him no good; his guards would happily spill all that noble Romanov blood on the floor if it meant peace. Sergei fled to Veliky Novgorod, instructing his deputy to "resist". His convoy drew much attention, and people soon realised he'd fled. Realising that their cause was hopeless and their commander had deserted them, tsarists crossed to the Republican lines in droves. A delighted Kornilov ordered that these men be well-treated before being enrolled in the Republican army, but few were in any shape to fight. Shocked nurses found clammy-skinned skeletons wrapped in Romanov colours, their eyes dull, frostbite gnawing at infected wounds- and these were the best-supplied men in Petrograd.

Those who remained in the capital had given up hope. Their choices were subjugation or experiencing the pain they'd inflicted on the defenders throughout the winter. Shooting oneself, or letting an enemy do it for you, was an easy way out. Yet others clung on for one reason: the damage done by the war paled in comparison to what the Finns would do. Being subjugated for centuries, barely achieving independence, and then facing an unprovoked attack had enraged the Finns, and what better way to extract revenge than by torching Petrograd? The defenders fought, in their mind, not for the House of Romanov but the Russian race.

It was clear what had to be done.

A messenger crossed the lines under flag of truce three days after Grand Duke Sergei fled, asking to speak with Lavr Kornilov. What exactly the two men agreed on is still not known, but their bargain became an enormous sticking point in Russo-Finnish relations. What is known is that at dusk on 7 May 1920, a year after the Tsarina's regime collapsed, Republicans and Tsarists stopped shooting. The weary men of the House of Romanov stood aside as the Republicans marched into Petrograd. Grand Duke Sergei's wet-faced deputy presented himself to Kornilov, who took pity on him and placed him under house arrest. For the people of the capital, this was the best possible outcome. There would be no second siege, no more privations and suffering, and best of all, they were under the rule of fellow Russians. Lavr Kornilov went from being the dreaded storm on the horizon to the shield against vengeful Finns. This was most definitely a liberation, not a conquest. Petrograd was the birthplace of the Republic. Kerensky had looked after his people; the Tsarists had given them six months of hell. The people rewarded him with their loyalty. As Republican troops handed out rations and bandages, the people were quite content to stay under Alexander Kerensky's banner.

After a year of chaos, Petrograd was ready for peace.

The people of the capital were the only ones happy with the agreement. Grand Duke Mikhailovich and the puppet Tsar were livid. Six months of fighting and the loss of thousands of rubles and lives had been wasted! "For God's sake", Mikhailovich thundered to his nephew, "how will we win the fucking war if these imbeciles carry on?" Barging into Sergei's office a week after the surrender, the Grand Duke heaped verbal abuse on his subordinate until the guards restrained him. After simmering down, Mikhailovich dismissed Sergei; Tsar Andrei stripped him of his nobility several days later. The disgraced Sergei committed suicide three months later. Mikhailovich was fighting not just for his son's throne or to preserve the system; he was fighting to avenge his wife. Failure was not just dangerous; it was a personal insult. Deciding the only man he could trust was himself, Mikhailovich assumed temporary command of the Petrograd sector. Reserves stabilised the front around Volkhov, Gatchina, and Kingisepp- in short, where it was before the campaign, minus tens of thousands of good men gone.

Matti Paasivuori was dejected. Though he could never have admitted it, he'd wanted Petrograd. Privately, he was furious at Kornilov. How much did the Republican general trust his Finnish ally, if he was more willing to fraternise with the enemy than see the Finns enter Petrograd? Was this the thanks Finland received for sheltering the Republicans? Kornilov's retort that the Tsarists had requested a ceasefire, not him, fell on deaf ears. To this day, Finnish nationalists believe they were cheated out of Petrograd in summer 1920; Russians decry Finnish "revanchism". Nonetheless, he played it off as a victory. Ignoring the way he'd abused his neutrality, Passivuori lauded his countrymen for resisting the Tsarist invasion and pledged continued support to "stabilise the internal situation of Russia and secure our own national interests." Since being left alone was too much to ask, Finland would fight on.

The greatest loser of the Petrograd campaign was not the Tsarists, but the Bolsheviks. Vladimir Lenin had stoked the fires of revolution from Petrograd. The capital had been home to the leading Soviet. And now, it was in Kerensky's pocket. As Lenin paced his room in Helsinki, he fumed. Was he any better off than Julius Martov had been in his Norwegian exile? Would he be remembered, after more than a quarter century's exertion, as nothing more than a bit part, a failed would-be revolutionary, a stepping stone on the way to Alexander Kerensky's bourgeois regime? Being sidelined was bad enough, but what came next was an insult. On the first of June, Grigory Zinoviev recieved an invitation from the Provisional President to come to the capital- but Lenin did not. Paranoia took over. Was he being set up for a hit? Would Zinoviev take over the Soviets scattered throughout the country? That would be to Kerensky's liking, after all. Zinoviev was affable and diplomatic- but, Lenin realised, he did not have the spirit of a revolutionary. In his hands, the Soviets would wither. Only one man, Lenin realised, could save Russia from itself, and he sported a newsboy cap and goatee.

Like all the players in this endless war, Vladimir Lenin could only guess who his true enemies were, and what the future of Russia would ultimately be.


Comments?
It looks like the only group that seems to be winning definitively are the Finns, who have effectively played the Republicans and Tsarists into giving them international sympathy, territory, and internal cohesion where previously there was little.
 
hmmm since finland will fight on, maybe they will end up with the whole of the Kola peninsula and a border as far east as the white sea?
 
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