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Default The Sazonov book with introduction by Larry Parr has been published

The Sazonov book with introduction by Larry Parr has been published.

Take a look at:

This book explains, finally at long last, the reasons for World War I.

I am in Denver for the Libertarian Party National Convention. I will
be back in New York Monday or Tuesday.

Sam Sloan
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Default The Sazonov book with introduction by Larry Parr has beenpublished

Introduction to Reissue of World War I Memoir


By Larry Parr

“Woe to the statesman whose reasons
for entering a war do not appear so plausible at its
end as at its beginning.” – Otto von Bismarck, as
quoted in Henry Kissinger’s White House Years

“This war is the greatest crime
ever perpetrated against mankind. Those who
originated it have a terrible responsibility on the
conscience.” – Sergei Sazonov, in a speech to the
Russian Duma on February 22, 1916

In The Fateful Years, Sergei or, in the French
rendering, Serge Sazonov relates his career as a
diplomat, which in its first period was suitably
obscure – Second Secretary of Russia’s London embassy
and Russian Minister to the Vatican. (Even
professional historians in closely related fields
would be sore pressed these days to recollect many
details of late 19th century Russo-Papal politics.)

But also forgotten, though not without irony, are
Sazonov’s efforts as Russian Foreign Minister from
1910 - 1916, when he was one among that small group of
diplomats, generals and, to be sure, crowned heads
that governed European countries and managed their
affairs. Which, a century ago, also meant managing
the affairs of much of the world.

Brilliant men such as Sazonov – who was
knowledgeable in ancient Greek and Latin, fluent in
German and Russian, and versed in French, English and
Italian – determined the fates of nations. Europe,
the Proud Tower of Barbara Tuchman’s eponymous work of
history, had reached the summit of its prestige and
power, thanks to the famous century of peace from 1815
to 1914, during which technological progress,
virtuously alloyed with free-market capitalism,
created widespread economic well-being for the first
time in human history.

Sazonov, like Lord Lansdowne in England, is
among history’s figures that are remembered not for
the thousands of important decisions that they made
during lifetimes spent in high public service in lofty
positions of the greatest importance. Instead, their
names pop to mind for a specific act, a single dotted
“i,” in encyclopedic-length careers.

In the case of Lord Lansdowne – British Viceroy
of India, Governor General of Canada, Secretary of
State for War and, later, Foreign Affairs – the act
was to write a letter to the editor of London’s Daily
Telegraph. That’s all. But what a letter! In late
1917, this pillar of the Tory establishment argued
that “prolongation [of World War I] will spell ruin
for the civilized world and an infinite addition to
the load of human suffering which already weighs upon

Sergei Sazonov is also remembered for a specific
act preceded by a letter, though not to an editor.
Relayed by telegraph on July 29, 1914, the missive was
to the Russian ambassadors in Paris and other Allied
capitals. “The German Ambassador,” Sazonov began,
“has told us to-day that his Government have decided
to mobilize if Russia does not stop her military
preparations.” He continued, “Since we cannot
possibly comply with Germany’s wish, there is nothing
left for us but to hasten our own military
preparations and to reckon upon the war being, in all
probability, inevitable.”

“Inevitable?” Nothing left to do? Why?


Two generally accepted tenets on the eve of World War
I or, as Sazonov and his contemporaries termed it, the
Great War, taught that nations were justified in
fighting for something called “national honor” and
that a European-wide war would be short, swift, and
sweet. A war of movement, a war of weeks.

The story of the assassination in Sarajevo on
June 28, 1914, of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to
the Austro-Hungarian throne, and the ensuing events
that led to World War I has been told in thousands of
books. It goes like this: Austria blamed elements in
the Serbian government for planning the Archduke’s
assassination and then used his death as an
opportunity to snuff out Serbian efforts to raise up
the Southern Slavs in revolt against Austro-Hungarian
imperial rule in the Balkans. On July 5, in an act of
supreme folly, the German government issued its
Austrian ally a “blank check” to work its will. In
effect, Germany placed its foreign policy in the hands
of Austria. So much, then, for Bismarck’s wisdom,
uttered at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, that the
entire Balkans were “not worth the bones of a single
Pomeranian grenadier.” Russia, allied with France and
England, acted as defender of the Serbs and other
Southern Slavs.

Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism faced off.

By late July 1914, as diplomatic efforts to head off
war waned, Sazonov found himself unluckily holding a
box of military-diplomatic matches. He handed the
single most sulphurous of these matches to Tsar
Nicholas II and told the sovereign that he urgently
needed to light a short fuse to what would turn out to
be a long war that blew Sazonov’s country, his Tsar,
his class, his friends and his personal fortune to
smithereens. The German Hohenzollerns and the
Austrian Hapsburgs, along with the court life and
social system that supported them, would also
disappear amid the savagery of trenches, bombardments,
futile military offensives, indigestible turnip bread,
near-universal hunger, and the death of over 20
million men.

Although American historian William Bilderback
has spoken of “the sinister Sazonov,” the self-image
that the author of Fateful Years creates suggests
another picture. By and large, it is a true picture –
a portrait of a 19th century intellectual, a believer
in linear progress, who rather naively speaks in his
“Foreword” of “scientific historical investigation.”

Until the mortal month of July 1914, Sazonov had
built a diplomatic career based on, as he rightly
claims, “no … exaggerated idea of patriotic
fetishism.” During a series of Balkan crises not long
before World War I, Sazonov labored to contain demands
made by Russia’s Slavic allies in that region. He
favored friendly relations with Germany. But as did
all Russian foreign ministers, he sought at the
expense of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, unhindered
Russian access from the Black Sea through the
Bosphorus and Dardanelles into the Aegean and, by
corollary, the power to deny access to those who would
attack Russia via the same route.

Sazonov was, then, a peaceable diplomat, gussied
up with a few paint splashes of 19th century
liberalism, thrust into the warlike July Crisis of
1914. German and Austrian names such as
Bethmann-Hollweg, Conrad von Hoetzendorff, Prince von
Bulow, Herr von Jagow and so many others summon
visions of toy soldiers in brightly colored, tasseled
uniforms with fur capes and plumed helmets. They were
his antagonists, and his shortcoming was not in his
intentions but in his incapacity to ease, let alone
solve, the crisis that their irresponsible diplomacy created.


The exchanges of diplomatic letters and telegrams, the
holding of telephone calls and high-level meetings –
they all resulted by July 30, 1914 in this fact: if
the Tsar ordered general military mobilization, then
Germany would be forced to declare war on Russia, lest
the slow Russian process of preparing for war advance
to the point that Germany would face a prepared France
in the West and a mobilized Russia in the East.

An order for general mobilization – that was the
earlier mentioned “specific act” or sulphurous match.
It was the truculent torch that the Tsar himself, in
spite of exhortations from his generals, refused to
light. On July 29, he ordered only a partial
mobilization to balance Austrian military preparations
against Serbia.

Such, then, was the situation on July 30.

Shortly after 2 p.m., on the afternoon of that
fateful, fatal day, following a conference with two
generals, Sazonov telephoned the Tsar at Peterhof
Palace. The phone rang without answer as if the party
at the other end did not care to answer.

Finally, a halting voice came onto the phone.
“What is it you wish?” asked the Tsar.

“I answered,” writes Sazonov on page 201 of this
memoir, “that I begged him earnestly to see me in the
afternoon on urgent business. This time I had to wait
still longer for a reply.”

“I will receive you at three o’clock,” the Tsar
finally said.

Sazonov told the Tsar that he had no choice but
to issue an order for general military mobilization. Why?

As Sazonov tells the story: “The Tsar was
silent. Then he said to me, in a voice full of deep
feeling: ‘This would mean sending hundreds of
thousands of Russian people to their death. How can
one help hesitating to take such a step?’ I answered
that the responsibility for the precious lives carried
away by the war would not fall upon him. Neither he
nor his government desired the war thrust upon Russia
and Europe by the ill-will of the enemy, determined to
increase their power by enslaving our natural Allies
in the Balkans, destroying our influence there and
reducing Russia to a pitiful dependence upon the
arbitrary will of the Central Powers.”

The most disastrous war in human history – what
Sazonov in his “Foreward” calls “[t]he catastrophe
which overwhelmed Europe” and which poisoned social,
political and intellectual life for most of the
remainder of the 20th century – was “thrust upon
Russia,” because that vast continental power, which
was developing economically at a breakneck pace and
enjoying rapid population growth, would lose influence
in an impoverished corner of Europe called the Balkans.

Elsewhere in Fateful Years, Sazonov argues that
the alternative to mobilization and war was to
“capitulate before the Central Powers – a thing that
Russia would never forgive the Tsar, for it would
cover with shame the good name of the Russian people.”
But by 1917, the year of the Tsar’s abdication, the
Russian people were evidently more concerned about
mass death and massive immiseration than their “good name.”

“National honor” and “the good name of the
Russian people” or, for that matter, the fate of tiny
Serbia – these were worth the disasters at Verdun in
the West and Galicia in the East? And communism to come?

This writer noticed only one instance in the
memoir when Sazonov argues that Russia’s reputation
and geopolitical position among the Southern Slavs
were vital national interests. The overwhelming
weight of emphasis holds war to be “inevitable”
because of Russian honor, reputation and, as he also
claims, status as a Great Power.

As was said of the Bourbons, Sazonov in his
detailed memoir, writing from the perspective of the
Great War already 10 years gone, appears to have
forgotten nothing and learned nothing.

Yet one wonders. Would he have argued for
general mobilization had he not believed that the war
would be short and, from the point of view of Russian
territorial aggrandizement, sweet? Is Sazonov’s dirty
big secret that he was morally reduced and politically
seduced by what politicians these days call “leaving a
legacy?” In his case, it was the vision beguiling and
splendid of going down in history as the Russian
foreign minister who fulfilled his country’s
centuries-sought dream of unhindered access to the
Aegean and Mediterranean. Was he not well aware,
while writing this memoir, that he had flunked
Bismarck’s litmus test for war: his reasons for
entering World War I were not so plausible at its end
as at its beginning.

Would Sazonov have thrust the match of
mobilization into the Tsar’s hesitant hand if he had
known of Russia’s nightmare in Red to follow?
Whatever the answer to this question, Sazonov
evidently forgot the insight of his brother-in-law,
Pyotr Stolypin, Russian prime minister from 1906 to 1911.

“For the success of the Russian Revolution,” said
Stolypin, “war is essential. Without war the
revolutionists can do nothing.”

samsloan wrote:
The Sazonov book with introduction by Larry Parr has been published.

Take a look at:

This book explains, finally at long last, the reasons for World War I.

I am in Denver for the Libertarian Party National Convention. I will
be back in New York Monday or Tuesday.

Sam Sloan

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