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Messages - Sergei Witte

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16
Me, too, Serge Witte. I'm not a physician. The diagnosis was from Charlotte Zeepvat's Romanov Autumn, and I was going from memory, but I don't rememember a tubercular component. Oh, well, it's a small matter now, no?

You seem to be right: Wikipedia mentions cerebro-spinal meningitis as the death cause. So no tuberculosis involved. Just extreme bad luck for him.

Well, I checked another source which says it was Tuberculous Meningitis. So maybe it was a sensitivity that existed in the family after all. His mother had it, and several other Romanovs died from one or another form of Tuberculosis.

17
Imperial Russian History / Re: Signs of war in the Pre WW1 period
« on: November 13, 2010, 06:50:27 AM »
There were very little actual signs of an upcoming war before the assasiation of Franz Ferdinand.  With a hindsight we can now say that there were many but that is easy.

Actually, what land grabbing do you refer to, Tim? IMO it was more rhetoric of Wilhelm and the Ober Heeresleitung that were perceived as a threat to the British politicians that could be a sign of increasing tensions. Of course Wilhem was deaf to these developments. Before the assasination of Franz Ferdinand there were very little direct signs. Long term causes were of course there but they go back to 1880 or so.

The secrecy which surrounded agreements between countries was another tricker.

This changed after the assasination. Then it became obvious that Austria wanted war against Serbia and is was known that this would set a chain of reactions which would lead to a big European war.

18
Dear Sergei: Bear had quoted from my Uncle's book about the state of the Army on the eve of WWI and it was clear that as a peacetime army it was unprepared for war (and by the way this was realized and there were reforms under way). Yes all governments had contingency plans but since Bismarck the German government (really the Prussian State which was driving the bus) was much better prepared because the Army held such great sway within the Government. After all it was in their genes since Frederick the Great and it wasn't just the Kaiser.  The Junkers were basically military men.  As I posted earlier there is evidence (cf. Tuchman's Guns of August) that the Kaiser tried to put the brakes on but I think when push came to shove the General Staff probably had the final persuasive voice over the civilians in the Government.  I've read snippets of the German plans for mobilization. In many ways its a masterpiece because of the logistical efficiencies particularly in the use of the railroads.  Look at how fast Hindenburg and Ludendorff were able to move their troops to the Western Front after Brest-Litovsk. As you pointed out, Russia did not have anywhere near the same level of internal transportation infrastructure that Germany did (by the way this was a deliberate defensive strategy going back a long time and, for example, is the reason why Russia uses a different track gauge than the rest of Europe but that strategy comes at a price).   


Dear Petr

First of all, I agree with you on the things you mention here.

But I think there is more to say about the origins of WWI. Lately I have been reading about the ABC Memorandum of 1901. http://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/The_Genesis_of_the_%22A.B.C.%22_Memorandum_of_1901

It explains that the Germans were not the sole cause of WWI. British foreign politics underwent a change after 1901. It became more anti-German and more pro-Russia.
This sounds fine, but the result was that the tensions between the alliances were increasing. So I have objections to the image that WWI was inevitable because Germany was steering directly into war. There were more players to the game. The Germans may have been a militaristic people (what you said stemming from Frederick the Great) but this didn't immediately lead to war. They just wanted to become a co-player in the land grabbing game of the other powers.

So maybe in july 1914 a train was set in motion that could not be stopped anymore, but the origins come from much earlier and all the countries - at least the countries with imperialistic goals - were to blame for this. It is an old opinion (imo it is a myth) that Germany was the sole country to blame for WWI. Therefore the conditions of the Versailles Treaty were so unjust to Germany. And this was soil for Nazism to grap the power.

19
  The Soviet Union had no culture, it was just one big gray blah.  Everywhere you went, everything was exactly the same.  People had to think alike and act alike, there were more like robots than human beings.


That is what they wanted: everybody should think the same, that is a property of a totaltarian government.

20
What I was saying is that the consequences of Imperial Russian events like the pogroms, Blooody Sunday, the attempt to suppress the Duma meant that the media in democratic countries like the US and Britain painted the Russian Tsarist regime in an extremely negative light and this had an effect on the governments of the day.  For example, the Brritish Japanese alliance that led to Britain supporting Japan in the Russo Japanese war and both America and Britain not extending credit for arms to Russia during World War 1.  This in turn led to Russia having a massive army that was not equipped properly.  If the Russians had been sold more arms on credit and had ample equipment like mortars and machineguns, the Germans would have been less successful and probably their allies, Austro Hungary would have been evicerated by the Russians.  Instead, when weapons broke down, there often was no replacement, when regiments ran out of ammunition, they often had to do things like bayonet charges against machine gun nests.  As well this also affected aspects of training where the Russians did not have access to American or British training for their soldiers.

I totally agree with you.

But, there is more: One more reason for the British to give a negative portrayal of the Russian Empire was that they were opponents on world power. They were both big imperialistic countries who had an interest in portraying the other one in a negative way to ignite public indignation. Some time ago I read here on the forum that the British press wrote negatively about the Romanovs after the revolution (more specifically on Marie Feodorovna as the mother of Nicholas). Then I remembered the words of Reagan when he called the Soviet Union "The Evil Empire". What I am trying to say is that countries, especially Imperialistic countries have an interest in propaganda in which they give a negative picture of their opponent. When there is a difference in government type, this also helps to arouse the public opinion, because that is what it is all about.

21
Me, too, Serge Witte. I'm not a physician. The diagnosis was from Charlotte Zeepvat's Romanov Autumn, and I was going from memory, but I don't rememember a tubercular component. Oh, well, it's a small matter now, no?

You seem to be right: Wikipedia mentions cerebro-spinal meningitis as the death cause. So no tuberculosis involved. Just extreme bad luck for him.

22
I don't know what TBC is, but Nixa was misdiagnosed when he first became ill, and by the time he was correctly diagnosed with cerebro-spinal meningitis, it was too late to safe him.

TBC is tuberculosis. He died from tuberculosis on the spinal cord. I believe this was uncurable that time.

I read that too, that he was first misdiagnosed. Because he suffered from pain in his back, they thought it was rheumatism.

But it wasn't tb, it was meningitis.

The limits of my medical knowlegde are reached here, but I have read that it was http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuberculous_meningitis
This is a form of tuberculosis isn't it? I may be wrong...


23
And why weren't the soldiers equipped? because of the fallout of Bloody Sunday and a number of pogroms, the Jewish lobbies and mass media had a field day with Nicholas

Constantinople, what do you mean with this? I don't understand what you are saying.

You also said the Duma was refusing credit for the army? Where did you read this?
I never heard the Duma had the power to do that.

Constantinople, I repeat my question for you:

What do you mean by this sentence?

24
I don't know what TBC is, but Nixa was misdiagnosed when he first became ill, and by the time he was correctly diagnosed with cerebro-spinal meningitis, it was too late to safe him.

TBC is tuberculosis. He died from tuberculosis on the spinal cord. I believe this was uncurable that time.

I read that too, that he was first misdiagnosed. Because he suffered from pain in his back, they thought it was rheumatism.

25
I think it is fair to say that the Russian Army was unprepared for WWI, however, I think to ascribe this totally to the regime is somewhat unfair. Obviously, to use Harry's maxim the "buck stops here" so the blame for any unpreparedness always falls on the government in power. But the same could be said of France and England as well (which were equally unprepared for what followed). Undoubtedly at the commencement of the war Russia was undersupplied with weapons, but unlike Germany which had been preparing for war for a number of years and was fundamentally a militaristic regime, Russia's army was a peacetime army so just like the US (both in WWI and WWII) it took time to ramp up. By 1917, however, wartime production was supplying the front lines with adequate supplies of machine guns, artillery, planes and tanks. Should Nicholas' government have recognized the German threat earlier and begin rearmament sooner, probably. Then again Russia's defensive strategy was always to be based on shear numbers of its army (which is the strategy followed by the soviets in WWII) and, in any case, the general popular wisdom was that it was going to be a short war. Up until WWI all wars were relatively local affairs which did not deploy the massive forces over lengthy front lines and did not involve the enormous logistical problems and total national mobilization which characterized WWI (the first real modern war). Up until WWI Russia's wartime experience involved regional skirmishes like the Russo-Turkish war and before that the Crimean War so there really was no experience on which to fall back on (frankly I believe that at the outset the German generals probably outmatched the Russian general staff)  and unlike the Germans the Russian general staff had not developed elaborate wartime plans in advance.     

I would like to make a few comments on your post:
No country was prepared for a all pervasive, year lasting war. Indeed they expected to "be home before christmas". But the Russian army was especially quick in being out of munition. I believe after a few months of war. This was partly due to the fact that transportation was especially difficult in Russia. The harbours were blocked with mines but also a reason was lack of infrastructure.

I am not so convinced that German politics was the main cause of WWI. Although Wilhelm II no doubt was an irresponsible, and very vain man, he is not solely to blame for all the war threat that was present at the time. All countries had battleplans, all countries were eager to humiliate the enemy, some countries were eager to overcome an internal crisis with a quick victory and, most of all, all countries were suffering from delusions on how romantic war was. Indeed, previously, wars had been fought with  armies into the ten thousands and who could have foreseen that this one would be with armies in the millions.
Although there were people with especially future-casting gifts, like this one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Gotlib_Bloch

But, since you have a very famous grandfather, you may know much more on this subject than me. So please enlight me!

26
And why weren't the soldiers equipped? because of the fallout of Bloody Sunday and a number of pogroms, the Jewish lobbies and mass media had a field day with Nicholas

Constantinople, what do you mean with this? I don't understand what you are saying.

You also said the Duma was refusing credit for the army? Where did you read this?
I never heard the Duma had the power to do that.

27
One thing the tsarist regime never did, but which the Soviet Union excelled at, was punishing entire families for the political "sins" of one person.

Indeed. And they also held whole families as hostage for a member of that family from which they wanted a service or to guarantee his loyalty etc. Those family members were executed if the person in question didn't obey. It fits in a totalitarian ideology in which everuthing is justified to reach your goals.

But the Tsarist regime also burned down complete villages if some inhabitants rebelled against the government.

The regime of Lenin (and also the Nazi government) were especially efficient in oppressing public opinion - through these acts of terror. Much more efficient than Tsarist Russia.

28
The tragic thing is that the meningitis of which Nixa died, seems to be caused by an accident. He fell on his back during a game with his cousins. An open wound made it possible for the TBC to enter his body and nest in his brain. He seemed to have had good health before this. But on the other hand there are so many Romanovs who suffered from TBC, maybe he would have fallen victim anyway. He may have inherited this vulnerability from his mother.


29
Well, why can't we argue about the underlying motives of the participants? We'd still be more or less on topic, as compared to the "What Nicholas Could Have Done..." thread, which has been every which-where and back.


Elisabeth, you are absolutely right. I misinterpreted your post.

And I think that the motives of the workers who became drawn into the hands of the Bolsheviks were different goals than the Bolsheviks had. Their motives were not so workers-friendly. They saw the workers as a class on their own, with no individuality and no individual rights. Many of the workers must have felt betrayed by the Bolsheviks after the seizure of power and violence against workers during the Bolshevik regime.




30
What is the use of determining (if this would be possible at all) whether the Communists or the Tsars were worse? I think we all agree that they were both unkind to millions of people.

Of more interest would be the question whether Communism power take over was inevitable in the last days of the Provisional Government when there was already a state of anarchy, this anarchy being the direct result of the mistakes made by the Tsarist regime and other regimes to go into WWI. IMO it was inevitable that one or another would seize power by then. It could have been ultra right as well. And after the power seizure Civil War was just on step away.

It is not important to know who were worse, it is interesting to know why there is an endless stream of violence and undemocratic politcal movement in Russia. What were the underlying causes of this?

Another problem with this discussion is that the Communists, how brutal they were, had the belief that their actions would improve the conditions of the worker class. They believed that a communist revolution would in the end lead to "peoples democracy". We know now that this is pure utopia but you can't blame the revolutionaries for having those convictions at that time.

A pure discussion of who was worse for it's subjects leads to nothing if you don't take into account the underlying motives of the participants.

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