What if the Romanovs had been restored?
Martin Gilbert, writing in the Times, imagines an entirely different end to the First World War:
Imagine: in October 1918, Lloyd Georges Cabinet is planning for a prolonged struggle in 1919. Haigs solution promises to avoid a confrontation even bloodier than the Somme or Passchendaele. The Government agrees. Germanys main condition is to keep the vast swath of Russia that her troops have occupied since the Bolshevik revolution and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March.
With peace made with Germany on Haigs terms by mid-October, the British troops already in Russia have a German ally to help them to crush what Churchill calls the foul baboonery of Bolshevism.
Gilbert goes on to observe that Germany would probably still start a second war at some stage – probably with France, because there would be no Polish and Czechosolvak states for Germany to expand into. And, rather hopefully, he suggests that a newly restored Imperial Russia would repay its war debts to Britain, allowing Britain to build a postwar build a postwar cuontry fit for heroes.
But nothing about how a restored Romanov dynasty would survive in the new-old Russia.
So, I thought I’d throw a few thoughts – questions really – of my own out there.
Let’s imagine that an Immperial Romanov Dynasty has retained control of the Kremlin with the help of a motley alliance of Russian Whites, and British and German troops. How widely would they be accepted by the Russian public, two years after a pair of revolutions, and at the end of a brief civil war?
On the plus side, they’d presumably have physical control of the apparatus of state, and be backed by foreign money and troops if necessary in the short term. If they could bring some measure of stability, they would presumably be able to count of some gratitude from the public at large.
But, on the down side, they’d be trying to re-establish the divine right of the Romanovs to rule over a people that had experienced (albiet not very succesfully) self rule. The Bolsheviks might have been vanquished, but left-leaning opposition groups would presumably still exist and have at least some measure of support among the people. And how many of the middle classes would have been inspired by the prospect of Kerensky’s failed provisional government?
Also – how would the Americans influence the new-old Russia? If the United States had been able to play a significant role, wouldn’t they have insisted on some pretty significant democratic reforms in Russia? Or would they have been marginalised by an Anglo-German axis?
Being so reliant on British and German support would also post real problems for the Russian government. Britain especially would want Russia to repay its debts, which would be a strain on the public finances – not entirely desirable in a country shattered by years of brutal warfare. If political favours are also asked of Russia, would this reduce the government to a puppet in the eyes of its people?
Lots of questions, I know. Anyone want to take a stab at answering some of them in the comments below?