Monday, September 18, 2017

Reflex Movements

Reflex movements have been reported to occur in up to 75% of brain-dead patients…

McMeekin offers his analysis of events in Russia during 1917 and how these effected Russia’s involvement in the war.  The connection of this to the title should become apparent shortly, if you haven’t already figured it out.
[It would be] absurd and criminal to renounce the biggest prize of the war…in the name of some humanitarian and cosmopolitan idea of international socialism.

-        Pavel Miliukov, Foreign Minister, Russian Provisional Government; March, 1917

Miliukov was an advocate of continuing the war after the February Revolution; needless to say, this did not garner him much support from the supporters of Lenin.  On 20 April, 1917, he sent a telegram to Britain and France, stating that Russia would continue to support its allies and wage the war to the end.

In the first week of May he resigned his post.  But I am getting ahead of myself….


The war was not going terribly well for the western allies during this year – not much ground lost, but not much ground gained.  The same could not be said for Russia and her advances in Anatolia and the Middle East.  While Congress Poland and the oilfields of Ploesti were lost to them…

…the Russians, after an initial disaster at Lake Narotch in March, had won victory after victory in the East, from Brusilov’s numerous (albeit tactical) breakthroughs in Galicia to northeastern Turkey, where the Caucasian army was carrying all before it.

A year earlier, in 1915, Russia suffered from regular shell shortages.  No longer:

Russia produced four times as much shell as Austria-Hungary in 1916 and nearly as much as Germany, which was sending most of it is own output to the western front.

Foreign capital flowed into the country; the economy was “thriving,” according to McMeekin.

In the meantime, the war on Russia’s south was going well.  Advances were made in Persia and Mesopotamia.  Things were even better in Turkey; the northwestern portions of Turkey were secured during the Anatolian campaign of 1916.  The winter of 1916 – 1917 was harsh, but there was every reason to believe that with the spring, Russia could continue consolidating further gains at Turkey’s expense.

One of Russia’s long-time objectives, the one that would secure the warm-water access that was so coveted, was within sight.  When this was stated openly in the Duma by the new chairman of the Council of Ministers, the announcement was met by “the usual mob of hecklers” – led by Alexander Kerensky.


February saw, with today’s knowledge of what was to come within days, a surreal event in Petrograd.  A conference of the Allies was held: France, Britain, and Italy, along with Russia.  Maurice Paléologue, the French ambassador to Russia offers extensive notes regarding the internal situation in Petrograd.  For those interested, I offer some passages here.

It was in this environment where Pavel Miliukov made the statement regarding Constantinople, cited above.

The picture was surreal in the war offices as well – war planning for 1917 continued unaltered, unaffected by events in Petrograd.  Planning was moving forward for more aggressive amphibious assaults along Turkey’s Black Sea coast, to even include the Straits. 

March 14 saw the issuing of “Order No. 1” by the new provisional government, abolishing most elements of officer control in the armed forces and mandating the election of “soldier soviets.”  The order was received by Baratov in Persia, as one example, as if it came from “outer space.”  He was not forced to withdraw until June 1918 – fourteen months after the order was issued.

On the European front, however, morale was breaking down – then again, on the European front there were no military advances that might offer a boost to morale.  McMeekin offers this picture as an image of the Russian morale on the European front during 1917; it depicts Russian soldiers fleeing the Germans on the Galician front, July 1917.


The Bolsheviks seized power on the night of 7-8 November, 1917.  They immediately petitioned for and were granted an armistice by the Central Powers, culminating with the Brest-Litovsk negotiations; they repudiated all obligations to their former Allies; Trotsky leaked the “secret treaties” – of which the most important, perhaps, was the Sykes-Picot Agreement – to the Manchester Guardian.

Russia was thrown into Civil War – primarily the Red Army against what is referred to as the White Army.  The most significant fighting occurred within the first three years and the war ended by 1923.  Perhaps 300,000 were killed in the fighting.

The Red Terror, the White Terror, summary executions, Cossacks killed and deported, the economy devastated.

You know the rest.

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