Tag Archives: Germany

The February Revolution: The End of the Russian Monarchy

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 19 December 2021

Skobelev Square during the February Revolution, painting by Aleksandr Gerasimov, 1917

The “February Revolution” is so-called because Russia at the time was on the Julian (Old Style (O.S.)) calendar. By the Gregorian (New Style (N.S.)) calendar, which Russia adopted in February 1918, these events take place in March 1917. And momentous events they were, leading to the abdication of the last Tsar, the end of a monarchy and an entire system of power and authority that dated back more than 350 years. For eight months in 1917, Russia struggled to extend the constitutionalist reforms that had begun under the Tsardom within a more liberal framework. The liberals never did gain the upper hand over the radicals, not even after the September 1917 de facto return to autocracy. In November 1917, a coup by the most extreme Leftist faction, the Bolsheviks, terminated the experiment, burying for seven decades even the aspirations in Russia for liberalism and democracy. Continue reading

Russia and the Outbreak of the Great War

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 15 December 2021

Tsar Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm II aboard a ship in the Gulf of Finland, 1905

In the early historiography of the Great War, it was accepted that Germany was chiefly responsible, with debates on the margins about the degree of intentionality and premeditation. Of late, however, “It has become fashionable to spread the guilt of the First World War liberally around Europe”, as one prominent historian noted.[1] Some revisionists go even further and try to find another state that is not only equally as culpable as Germany but more so. In this post, I want to, without in any way pretending to be comprehensive, deal with the argument that blames Russia for the 1914-18 War. Continue reading

Rasputin and the Empress

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 13 December 2021

Grigori Rasputin

Grigori Rasputin, a Siberian peasant holy man, was a presence at the Russian Court between 1908 and his murder in 1916. Even so, Rasputin would only have been one figure among many and not be so notable in history, except for the fact that he gained significant political influence in his last couple of years due to his friendship with the Tsar’s wife. The degree of influence Rasputin exerted and the stories of his debauched behaviour have often been wildly exaggerated—at the time and since. But the stories did have a basis in fact—the Tsarina had fused together her personal forays in mysticism with her political role—and the stories themselves, lurid and defamatory as many of them were, had a concrete effect in damaging the monarchy as Revolution loomed. Continue reading

Unravelling the “Kornilov Affair”: The Last Stop Before the Bolshevik Takeover of Russia

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 December 2021

General Lavr Kornilov, 27 August 1917

The final key event on the road to the Bolshevik takeover of Russia in November 1917 was the “Kornilov Affair” that took place about two months earlier. Alexander Kerensky had become Prime Minister of the Provisional Government in July 1917 and around the same time General Lavr Kornilov had become Commander-in-Chief. A lot of accounts portray the “Kornilov Affair” as a “reactionary” coup attempt by Kornilov against Kerensky. The reality is very nearly the exact opposite. As historian Robert Pipes summarises: “All the available evidence, rather, points to a ‘Kerensky plot’ engineered to discredit the general as the ringleader of an imaginary but widely anticipated counterrevolution, the suppression of which would elevate the Prime Minister to a position of unrivaled popularity and power, enabling him to meet the growing threat from the Bolsheviks.”[1] Continue reading

The Leaders of the Islamic State in Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 3 September 2021

The Islamic State’s “Khorasan Province” (ISKP) was announced in January 2015 and swiftly given formal, public recognition by IS-Centre, which had sent a high-level delegation to Afghanistan in November 2014 to oversee the final stages before they announced their project. ISKP has had seven leaders. Continue reading

Franco and Hitler: A Meeting and its Consequences

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 17 June 2021

By the autumn of 1940, the entirety of Western Europe except Spain and Portugal lay under Nazi control, as did much of the Centre and parts of the East: Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France had all fallen without serious resistance, and Britain’s refusal to take the German offer of leaving the Continent to the Nazis and the Nazis would leave the British with India had incurred the wrath of the Luftwaffe with night after night of air-raids.

It was in this context that a meeting was held, on 23 October 1940, between Adolf Hitler and Spain’s ruler, Francisco Franco. The meeting, taking place at the railway station in Hendaye, within conquered France, on the western-most point of the Franco-Spanish border, was also attended by the foreign ministers, Ramón Serrano Súñer (Spain) and Joachim von Ribbentrop (Germany). The Germans arranged the meeting to try to get Spain into the war, and General Franco attended the meeting intent on refusing—politely. Continue reading

The History of “Central Europe”

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 7 June 2021

The Idea of Central Europe: Geopolitics, Culture and Regional Identity (2018), by Otilia Dhand, is an engaging and rather ambitious book, a work of intellectual history. Dhand’s core argument is that from the introduction of the term “Central Europe” in the nineteenth century, it did not describe a set geographical zone and the definition was always contested since the term was an attempt to construct local identities, a self separate from some other, as an instrument in the pursuit of geopolitical interests, always revisionist: these were attempts to will something into existence by influencing political behaviour. Continue reading

The Munster Millenarians: Anabaptism and the Radical Reformation

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 21 February 2021

Execution of Jan Beuckelszoon // Illustration in a book by Lambertus Hortensius

In 1534, shortly after the onset of the Protestant Reformation, a radical sect from this new movement, the Anabaptists, seized the city of Munster in Germany and governed it for sixteen months as a millenarian cult in a manner so alarming it managed to bring together Catholic and Lutheran forces to put it down. The experience had a profound influence not only on the development of Anabaptism thereafter, but on the manner in which the Reformation more generally unfolded. Continue reading

The Confrontation that Began the Protestant Reformation

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 28 January 2021

“Luther at the Diet at Worms”, by Anton von Werner, 1877

The Diet of Worms convened 500 years ago today.[1] Four years earlier, Martin Luther had sent his Ninety-five Theses as part of a letter to the Archbishop of Mainz, Albert of Brandenburg. The date on which Luther sent this letter, 31 October 1517, is now celebrated as “Reformation Day”, but the Reformation in a serious sense did not begin until after Luther was summoned before the 1521 Diet of Worms. Continue reading

Europe Tries to Re-engage in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 October 2018

Istanbul summit, 27 October 2018 (image source)

At Saturday’s summit in Istanbul between Turkey, Russia, France and Germany, the focus was on extending the September 17 Turkey-Russia ceasefire agreement reached in Sochi that spared Idlib a full-scale offensive by Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his supporters, and to “progress” on the political track. Continue reading