Irakli Tsereteli

Irakli Tsereteli

Irakli Tsereteli was born in Georgia, Russia, in 1881. He studied law at Moscow University where he became involved in the reform movement. After taking part in a student demonstration he was sentenced to five years exile in Eastern Siberia.

On his release from prison Tsereteli joined the Social Democratic Labour Party(SDLP). At the party's Second Congress in London in 1903, there was a dispute between Vladimir Lenin and Julius Martov, two of SDLP's leaders. Lenin argued for a small party of professional revolutionaries with a large fringe of non-party sympathizers and supporters. Martov disagreed believing it was better to have a large party of activists.

Julius Martov based his ideas on the socialist parties that existed in other European countries such as the British Labour Party. Lenin argued that the situation was different in Russia as it was illegal to form socialist political parties under the Tsar's autocratic government. At the end of the debate Martov won the vote 28-23 . Vladimir Lenin was unwilling to accept the result and formed a faction known as the Bolsheviks. Those who remained loyal to Martov became known as Mensheviks.

Tsereteli, along with George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod, Lev Deich, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, Leon Trotsky, Vera Zasulich, Irakli Tsereteli, Moisei Uritsky, Noi Zhordania and Fedor Dan joined the M. Whereas Gregory Zinoviev, Anatoli Lunacharsky, Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Lashevich, Nadezhda Krupskaya, Mikhail Frunze, Alexei Rykov, Yakov Sverdlov, Lev Kamenev, Maxim Litvinov, Vladimir Antonov, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Gregory Ordzhonikidze and Alexander Bogdanov supported Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

Tsereteli became editor of the pro-Menshevik Kvali (Track) but after harassment from the local police he decided to move to Germany. He returned to Russia during the 1905 Revolution and in 1907 was elected to the second Duma. A great orator, Tsereteli soon emerged as one of the leaders of the Mensheviks.

In June, 1907, Nicholas II closed the Duma and Tsereteli was arrested and sentenced to five years imprisonment. On his release in 1913 he was exiled to Irkutsk in Siberia.

Tsereteli returned to Petrograd after the February Revolution. He supported the Provisional Government and in May, 1917, was appointed Minister of Posts and Telegraphs. The following month Alexander Kerensky gave him the important post of Minister of the Interior.

Tsereteli was in Georgia during the October Revolution. Vladimir Lenin gave orders for his arrest and so he remained in Georgia during the Civil War. When the area was taken by the Red Army Tsereteli moved to France. Irakli Tsereteli emigrated to the United States where he died in 1960.

Tsereteli had a refined and sympathetic personality. He attracted me by his transparent honesty of purpose and his straightforward manner. He was, like so many other Russian Socialists, an Idealist; but though I do not reproach him with this, he made the mistake of approaching grave problems of practical policies from a purely theoretical standpoint.

In this swan-song apology for the history of the previous eight months, Tsereteli was the same as ever - thoughtful, unemotional, philosophic, calm, like some Zeus from Olympus, contemplating the conflicts of the lesser gods. "The Constituent Assembly," he said, "elected democratically by the whole country, should be the highest authority in the land. If this is so, then why should an ultimatum be sent to it by the Central Soviet Executive? Such an ultimatum can only mean the intensification of civil war. Will this help to realize Socialism?" On the contrary, it will only assist the German militarists to divide the revolutionary front. The break-up of the Constituent Assembly will only serve the interests of the bourgeoisie, whom you (the Bolsheviks) profess to be fighting. The Assembly alone can save the Revolution.

Iraklij Cereteli -->

Iraklij Cereteli se narodil v Kutaisi v rodině spisovatele Georgije Cereteliho, který pocházel ze starobylé rodiny.


Roku 1903, kdy se strana rozdělila, se Cereteli přidal na stranu menᘞviků. Stal se editorem menᘞvick࿜h novin Kvali, brzy vᘚk odjel do Německa z důvodů nedůvěry ke svým kolegům.

Během revoluce roku 1905 se Cereteli vrátil do Ruska a byl zvolen do Dumy jako p𕧭stavitel menᘞviků. Když byla Duma rozpuštěna, byl Cereteli odsouzen k pěti letům vězení a v roce 1913 deportován do Irkutsku. Tam se stal v�m skupinky deportovan࿜h revolucionářů, většinou menᘞviků (objevili se vᘚk také Eseři a bolᘞvici).


Cereteli se po únorové revoluci roku 1917 vrátil do Petrohradu a stal se členem Petrohradského sovětu. Byl také pro pokračování války proti Německu. Cereteli se brzy stal členem Prozatímní vlฝy jako ministr pošty a telegrafů, a jako ministr vnitra.

Cereteli zůstal zjevným internacionalistou a nepřijal myšlenky nacionalismu jako mnoho jeho spolupracovníků. Zůstal sice bojovníkem za nezávislost Gruzie, ale odmítl slova Noe Žordaniji, ៮ "bolᘞvická nadvl je totožná s nadvlฝou carského Ruska". Ačkoli byla v Paříži vytvoᖞna exilová gruzínská vl, Cereteli v ní žฝnou roli nesehrál.

Debate at the Tauride Palace

I pick up our story where we left off: With the big joint Menshevik-Bolshevik meeting at Tauride Palace. Presiding over the meeting was the man who possessed probably the most authority there at that particular time: Irakli Tsereteli, a Menshevik who served as the Executive Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. Tsereteli, hailing from Gruzia, was a long-time member of the Russian Social-Democratic Party. To the end of his long life, Tsereteli remained an internationalist and a socialist, he never gave in to the wiles of the Gruzian nationalists, despite his disagreements with the Bolsheviks. In his role in the Petrograd Soviet, Tsereteli was in charge of the Post and Telegraph services and also served as Minister of the Interior in the Provisional Government.

Irakli Tsereteli, 1881-1959

Tsereteli decided to confront Lenin at the Tauride Palace meeting. The Mensheviks felt upset and resentful: Here they had been holding down the fort in Petrograd, keeping the Soviet going helping the Provisional Government doing all the hard work. Then Lenin arrives out of the blue, in a sealed train, from Germany and right out of the gate starts issuing commands and making crazy statements about transferring all governmental powers to the soviets. And add on to this, all the past grievances between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. Tsereteli reminded Lenin, how once upon a time, Mensheviks and Bolsheviks were all part of the same unified Socialist party, the Russian Social-Democratic Party. Once upon a time it was Lenin and the Bolsheviks who had split the party into Mensheviks vs. Bolsheviks. And now Lenin was playing that same, divisive role upon again. After victory had already been achieved!

The Tauride Palace: scene of the big debate

A significant majority of delegates at the meeting applauded and supported Tsereteli’s words. One by one delegates stood up and denounced Lenin’s “April Theses” as unadulterated “anarchism”. Even the Bolshevik delegate Yuri Steklov, Editor of the official Petrograd Soviet newspaper Izvestia, took the floor and criticized Lenin thusly: “Lenin’s speech consists of purely abstract concepts, proving only that the Russian Revolution has passed him by. After Lenin has had time to acquaint himself with the state of affairs in Russia, he will change his mind all by himself.” Just like Tsereteli and the others, Steklov clearly felt that Lenin was out of touch that living in emigration as he had, Lenin did not know the situation on the ground, in the same way as those who had lived through those thrilling weeks and months of Revolution. And perhaps there was the same feeling of resentment at the arriving interloper.

Ovsei Moiseevich: Izvestia Editor

And just for the record, because others will be sure to point this out:

Yes, Steklov was Jewish, his real name was Ovsei Moiseyevich Nakhamkis. Like many Russian Jewish intellectuals engaged in underground revolutionary activity, Nakhamkis adopted a Russianized alias as part of his disguise. His biography goes on to note that, after the Bolshevik Revolution, Steklov was elected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party. (Take-away #1: Lenin did not hold a grudge.) Only to be arrested in 1938, during the Stalin purges. (Take-away #2: Unlike Lenin, Stalin apparently did hold grudges). Steklov died in prison in 1941 (amazing that he lasted in that torture chamber for 3 years — he must have been made of stronger stuff) only to be posthumously rehabilitated during the Khrushchev era.

And Steklov wasn’t alone in criticizing the leader of his own faction. In his memoirs, the Menshevik Nikolai Sukhanov wrote:

Menshevik Nikolai Sukhanov

“Even the Bolshevik faction were not shy, especially in the ‘corridor conversations’ about criticizing their leader’s supposed ‘abstractness’. One Bolshevik even told me in private, that Lenin’s speech not only did not deepen the factional disagreements, but on the contrary, healed over the split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. By uniting them all against his position!”

So, what was so cryingly insane about Lenin’s position, Lyskov goes on to ask, in the VZGLIAD piece which I am summarizing?

Lenin insisted that in no way, no shape, no form, could socialists give even the mildest amount of political support to the bourgeois Provisional Government. Basing himself on Marxist theory, and upon his own theory of Imperialism, as he had worked it out while in exile, Lenin deduced from the postulates, that any bourgeois government, any government based on the capitalist system, must remain imperialistic. It could not NOT be imperialistic. QED.

It flowed from this, logically, that the soviet of Workers Deputies was the only possible form of non-imperialistic and revolutionary government possible in Russia. And that this fact must be explained to the masses. “Not a parliamentary republic,” Lenin explained in the debate. “That would be a step backwards. But rather a republic consisting of the soviets of workers, farm laborers (“batraki”), and peasants delegates from across the country. From the bottom up.”

Forgotten Men of History- Julius Martov

Article by Rob Russell. Edited by Claire Stratton. Additional Research by Lauren Puckey.

In this issue of Forgotten Men of History, the character who I believe deserves more time in the spotlight is Julius Martov. He was a political revolutionary in Russia, who was hugely influential during the period of political unrest in Russia stemming from the 1905 revolution and culminating with the 1917 October Revolution. Despite the annals of communist history being filled by the infamous Lenin and Stalin, it could all have turned out far differently.

Martov, born in Istanbul in November 1873, was a committed political activist and communist revolutionary until his death in April 1923, aged just 49. Originally, he had a close relationship with Lenin helping to form the, ‘St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class’, in 1895. Clearly, two such brilliant individuals had more pressing matters to attend to than creating catchy slogans for their organisations. Whether it was the chunky, rather noticeable name, or the revolutionary activities of such an organisation, the Tsarist authorities forced both Martov and Lenin into exile. From here, Martov joined and soon became influential in the RSDLP, the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. This led to him establishing and becoming an editor in the party newspaper, Iskra, in 1900.

Martov’s importance to the history of communism is perhaps most significant in 1903, at the second party congress of the RSDLP. Here he came to intellectual blows with Lenin, as they disagreed on the membership of the party, with Martov advocating a wide open party, and Lenin a restricted party for enthusiasts only. Such a disagreement caused the infamous split of the RSDLP into two factions Martov’s Mensheviks and Lenin’s Bolsheviks. Despite attempts to heal such a fractious relationship, the spilt was formalised in 1907.

A key difference between the two factions was their interpretation of Karl Marx’s earlier work. For those of you unaware of Karl Marx, he was the founder of Marxism, the father of communism if you will. The bearded wonder wrote his influential works, The Communist Manifesto, in 1848 (with the often neglected Friedrich Engels) and, Das Kapital, in 1867. The focal point of Marxism, and also a hugely decisive issue was his critical stages of history. Beginning with primitive communism in tribe culture, Marx believed history moved through further stages, next came feudalism, which is soon followed by capitalism. At this point Marx crucially believed that the proletariat gained political consciousness and via a revolution would overthrow the bourgeois this ultimately led to Marx’s idealistic communist society. It was the interpretation of Marx’s work which is so crucial to the differences between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. Lenin, being a little bit power hungry, impatient and a bit of a cheat decided to ignore Marx’s critical stages of history, and proclaimed Russia ready for a revolution, and the rest as they say is history. Martov however, despite claims of indecisiveness was merely following Marx’s textbook instructions: waiting until Russia had fulfilled her capitalist political phase, before implementing the revolution.

The rest of the story is well known, under the leadership of Lenin, the Bolshevik party grew stronger and stronger, and eventually lead to a coup d’etat in October 1917. Meanwhile the Menshevik faction continued to wait for what they believed to be the right time to act upon their revolutionary intent. The consequences of which was seventy years of Bolshevik rule in Russia and the Soviet Union as a whole, in tandem with the international spread of communist ideology. Such a history of communism is largely met with negative connotations, yet had Martov’s Menshevik faction gone on to control Russia this may have been completely different.

Thus, although it was Lenin and his Bolshevik party who gained most of the historical headlines, much attention should be given to Julius Martov. A hugely influential figure in Russian communist politics and a man who could well have been leader of the country. Admittedly it is somewhat of a cliché to say history is full of ‘what ifs’ yet, had Martov and his Menshevik faction come to power, who knows how the history of communism may have panned out?

Martov was one of the key Menshevik leaders, along with George Plekhanov, Fedor Dan and Irakli Tsereteli.

Leon Trotsky was also a member of the Menshevik faction but broke away from them after a short period of time.

After the February Revolution in 1917, Martov was unable to prevent some Mensheviks joining the Provisional Government. He strongly criticized figures such as Irakli Tsereteli and Fedor Dan who, now part of Russia’s government, supported the war effort.

During the Russian Civil War, the Mensheviks were banned along with other political parties by the Soviet government.

Martov based many of his ideas on the socialist parties that existed in other European countries, such as the British Labour Party.

As the leader of the Mensheviks, Martov edited the journal Iskra from November, 1903 to its end in October, 1905. He used the journal to attack Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks.


Hasierako urteak

1903ean errusiar marxistei batuko zitzaien, segituan mentxebikeen alde egin zuelarik. 1905eko Errusiako Iraultzaren ostean “likidatzaileen” ildoan (boltxebikeengandik erabat urrundu eta alderdiaren aparailu klandestinoa “likidatu” eta alderdi legal bihurtu nahi zuten aldean) kokatu zen. 1907ean Dumako diputatu aukeratua, baina urte horretan atxilotu zuten [1] .

Lehen Mundu Gerran

1914ean Errusiak Lehen Mundu Gerran parte hartzearen kontrakoa izan zen, baina 1917ean Gobernu liberal-demokratikoa ezarrita, guda onetsi zuen, �mokraziaren aldeko guda” bezala, eta postura horretara lotu zituen mentxebike gehienak. 1917eko otsailean Petrogradeko Sobietaren zuzendaritzaren parte izan zen, eta praktikoki, Sobiet honen gehiengoa kontziliatzailea zen artean (otsailetik irailera), Sobietaren bozeramaile gisa jardun zuen (1917eko ekainean, Errusia Osoko Sobieten Lehen Biltzar Nagusian, Errusiako Sobieten Komite Exekutiboko kide aukeratu zuten) [1] .

Otsaileko Iraultza ondoren

Ekainean, Petrogradeko Sobietak Kronstadteko Sobieta aintzatespenik gabe uzteko adierazpenaren bultzatzailea izan zen, eta are boltxebikeak legez kanpo uztea proposatu zuen, arrakastarik gabe (uztailean antzeko neurri batzuk hartu zituen Gobernutik). Otsailetik aurrera, praktikoki Alderdi Mentxebikearen alderdiburu izan zen. Maiatzean, Posta eta Telegrafo Ministro bezala gobernuan sartu zen, eta Uztaileko Egunak igaro ostean Barne ministroa izan zen, beraz hilabete horretan boltxebikeen kontrako errepresioa zuzendu zuen, “konplot” eta 𠇊ltxamendu” akusaziopean hainbat boltxebike atxilotuz (Lenin ere atxilotzen saiatu zen, baina hau ihes eginda zegoen) eta salbuespen lege bat onartuz. Abuztuan Gobernua utzi zuen. Urriko Iraultzaren erabat aurkakoa zen Georgiako gobernu mentxebike kontrairaultzailean parte hartuko zuen. Iraultza Georgiara zabaldu zenean, Frantziara ihes egin zuen [1] .

Reconsidering Russia Podcast: An Interview with Zhores Medvedev

The thirteenth installment of the Reconsidering Russia podcast series features prominent Russian biologist and writer Dr. Zhores Medvedev.

In this exhaustive interview, Dr. Medvedev discusses his life and career. It encompasses his scientific research, his youth in 1920s-1930s Leningrad, his father’s arrest during Stalin’s Terror in the 1930s, his military service in the Red Army during World War II, his dissent, and the dissent of his twin brother Roy Medvedev. He also recounts how he met his wife, Margarita, to whom he has been married for 66 years. In addition, this interview includes lengthy discussions of Dr. Medvedev’s relationship with his birthplace Georgia, his experience of Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, the Gorbachev years, contemporary Russia, and US-Russian relations today.


Mládí Editovat

Iraklij Cereteli se narodil v Kutaisi v rodině spisovatele Georgije Cereteliho, který pocházel ze starobylé rodiny.

Cereteli studoval na Lomonosovově univerzitě, kde se účastnil studentských protestů. Po jedné z podobných demonstraci v roce 1902 byl zatčen a deportován na Sibiř. Po propuštění se Cereteli připojil k Ruské sociálně demokratické dělnické straně.

Menševik Editovat

Roku 1903, kdy se strana rozdělila, se Cereteli přidal na stranu menševiků. Stal se editorem menševických novin Kvali, brzy však odjel do Německa z důvodů nedůvěry ke svým kolegům.

Během revoluce roku 1905 se Cereteli vrátil do Ruska a byl zvolen do Dumy jako představitel menševiků. Když byla Duma rozpuštěna, byl Cereteli odsouzen k pěti letům vězení a v roce 1913 deportován do Irkutsku. Tam se stal vůdcem skupinky deportovaných revolucionářů, většinou menševiků (objevili se však také Eseři a bolševici).

Politik Editovat

Cereteli se po únorové revoluci roku 1917 vrátil do Petrohradu a stal se členem Petrohradského sovětu. Byl také pro pokračování války proti Německu. Cereteli se brzy stal členem Prozatímní vlády jako ministr pošty a telegrafů, a jako ministr vnitra.

Po říjnové revoluci byl na Cereteliho vydán zatykač. Ten se mezitím vrátil do Gruzie, která se roku 1918 stala Gruzínskou demokratickou republikou. Nebyl významným členem vlády, ale získal křeslo v ústavodárném shromáždění a reprezentoval zemi na Pařížské mírové konferenci. Když roku 1921 převzala Rudá armáda kontrolu nad Gruzií, Cereteli zůstal v zemi, ale emigroval v roce 1923 do Paříže.

Exil Editovat

Cereteli zůstal zjevným internacionalistou a nepřijal myšlenky nacionalismu jako mnoho jeho spolupracovníků. Zůstal sice bojovníkem za nezávislost Gruzie, ale odmítl slova Noe Žordaniji, že "bolševická nadvláda je totožná s nadvládou carského Ruska". Ačkoli byla v Paříži vytvořena exilová gruzínská vláda, Cereteli v ní žádnou roli nesehrál.

V roce 1940 odešel Cereteli do Spojených států, kde psal o ruské historii a kde také roku 1959 zemřel.

V tomto článku byl použit překlad textu z článku Irakli Tsereteli na anglické Wikipedii.

From St. Petersburg to Notre Dame: The Miraculous Journey of the Polievktov-Nikoladze Family Archive through a Century of War and Revolution

On display at the Hesburgh Library Special Collections September 20 through mid-December.

The Polievktov-Nikoladze Family Papers, acquired by the Hesburgh Libraries in 2006-2009, derive from three generations of a prominent and historically significant Georgian family. The collection also includes the papers of Mikhail Polievktov, a leading historian of the St. Petersburg school of Russian history, notable among which are the transcriptions of interviews with leaders of the February Revolution, conducted in May 1917 by a commission he himself organized. The collection includes previously unexamined personal and professional correspondence, diaries, memoirs, photographs, and other manuscript formats.

Irakli Tsereteli - History

Europe 1914-1945:
Attempts at Peace

World War I, which took place from 1914 -1918, was known as the Great War because it was considered the largest, bloodiest, most costly, and most all-encompassing war up to that point in history. Involving almost all of the countries of Europe, it is no wonder that numerous attempts were made at reaching a negotiated peace to end the destruction. As this paper will deal with the major public peace proposals during the war, it is important that these terms first be defined. They were "major" in that they were widely known and encompassed all of the belligerents, and "public" in that they were widely publicized in the press and among governments they were not just secret peace "feelers" between governments. The proposals sought to permanently end the war, but, with the exception of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, had little effect on the eventual armistice and peace treaty. Therefore, following a brief summary of the war, five major public peace proposals will be examined: Pope Benedict XV's peace note, initiatives by the Soviets and the International Socialists, the efforts of British moderates, the German Reichstag resolution, and Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points.

To understand the various peace proposals that were issued during the course of World War I, it is first necessary to review the war itself: the course of fighting, who the belligerents were, and the outcome of the war. Following the Moroccan crises in North Africa which pitted German and French interests in the region against one another, the situation in Europe reached a crisis point when a Serbian nationalist assassinated the crown prince of Austria-Hungary, Arch duke Francis Ferdinand. <1> Following Serbian rejection of a German backed Austrian ultimatum, Austria declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914. Russia mobilized in defense of Serbia Germany declared war on Russia and France, and invaded Belgium, thereby drawing in the British, who had guaranteed Belgian neutrality. Thus, through a complicated system of alliances, Great Britain, France, and Russia (the Allies or Triple Entente) were pitted against Germany, Austria- Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers). <2> Also to blame for the war was the von Schlieffen plan of Germany which required the defeat of France before Russia had completely mobilized. However, early Russian mobilization and underestimated French resistance coupled with a British declaration of war helped cause the German plan to fail. <3> In the west this resulted in a virtual stalemate characterized by trench warfare, especially in the months following the Battle of the Marne. "It was to be four years before the deadlock thus created was broken and the mobility of operations restored. In the meantime, the youth of England, France, and Germany was squandered on futile assaults on each other's fixed positions." <4> The eastern front, however, "was marked with great mobility and with considerable gain and loss of territory." <5> Russian armies battled German and Austrian forces in Galicia and at Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes. <6>

The situation on both fronts remained the same until 1917 when two events changed the course of the war: the overthrow of the Tsar in Russia and the entrance of the United States into the war on the side of the Allies. In Russia, the provisional government established after the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown by the Bolsheviks, whose leader, V.I. Lenin, concluded the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Germans on March 3, 1918. <7> On the western front American forces joined British and French armies in breaking the stalemate and driving the Germans back to Sedan the German government, now in chaos following the abdication of Emperor William II, sued for peace. The leaders of the new German Republic signed an armistice on November 11, 1918 the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. <8>

The peace treaty that was finally signed was not, though, the first attempt at securing a negotiated peace settlement. Governments on both sides engaged in internal debate regarding a diplomatic solution while the international press also published suggestions on ending the hostilities. More often than not they failed due to internal disagreement among government authorities within the belligerent nations. Five peace efforts, however, stand out as brave attempts at halting the seemingly endless war: the work of Pope Benedict XV, Soviet and International Socialist efforts, British attempts, the peace resolution of the German Reichstag, and Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points.

Pope Benedict XV, elected September 3, 1914, following the death of Pius X, became involved in seeking peace during World War I from almost its very beginning. <9> With the war having started in the summer of 1914, Benedict, in November of that year, issued his first encyclical, "Ad Beatissimi," in which he outlined the plans for his papacy and issued the first of several calls for the warring nations to lay down their arms.

In his evaluation of the situation, the "murderous struggle" as he brands the war, came about because of four prominent disorders: (1) the lack of mutual love among men (2) disregard for authority (3) unjust quarrels between various classes (4) unbridled cupidity for perishable things, as though there were no better goals for human effort. <10>

The Pope followed this appeal with a letter dated July 28, 1915, and entitled "Allorche fummo chiamati," or "Apostolic Exhortation to the Peoples Now at War and to their Rulers." <11> In it Benedict pleaded "In holy name of God . . . We conjure you, whom Divine Providence has placed over the nations at war, to put an end at last to this horrible slaughter . . . " <12> With no change in the course of the war forthcoming, Benedict XV, on August 1, 1917, issued a specific peace plan which came to be known as the Papal peace note. Addressed again "To the Belligerent Peoples and to Their Leaders," Benedict XV detailed a seven point peace plan. <13> The note was received by Great Britain (which forwarded copies to France and the United States) as well as by the Central Powers. This formal plan for peace stated that (1) "the moral force of right . . . be substituted for the material force of arms," (2) there must be "simultaneous and reciprocal diminution of armaments," (3) a mechanism for "international arbitration" must be established," (4) "true liberty and common rights over the sea" should exist, (5) there should be a "renunciation of war indemnities," (6) occupied territories should be evacuated, and (7) there should be "an examination . . . of rival claims." <14>

Reactions to Benedict XV's proposal came from all sides. Great Britain reacted favorably but was overruled by her ally, the United States. Robert Lansing, U.S. Secretary of State, rejected the proposal on the grounds that a sudden armistice would leave the same people in charge of Germany who started the war in the first place. With the Allies looking disfavorably the Pope's note, the Central Powers also sent replies. Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary were the most favorable while Germany sent an inconclusive answer which cited the refusal of the Allies to halt the war and the preference that there be no third party involvement in negotiations. "The debacle of this peace effort was perhaps the greatest disappointment Benedict XV suffered during his pontificate." <15> Following these efforts the Pope did not issue any more pleas for peace for the remainder of the war.

Given that a revered figure such as the Roman Pontiff had no success in peace efforts during the war, it is a wonder that others tried, but try they did. In 1917, a series of peace proposals were issued by various (and sometimes conflicting) authorities in Russia. The first of these was proclaimed on March 27, 1917, by the Petrograd Soviet. Addressed "To the peoples of the entire world," the proclamation "appealed to the peoples of the world to join in common action for peace and for a decisive struggle against the territorial ambitions of all governments." <16> Following the proposal, the Soviet, through Menshevik leader Irakli Tsereteli, expanded upon the original peace plan by reexamining the Soviet's desire for a peace with no land transfers or reparation payments. The infighting that characterized relations within the Petrograd Soviet and between it and the Russian provisional government delayed an effective pursuit of the peace proposal, though. Also, the resolution was denounced by two Russian leaders: Milyukov of the provisional government and Lenin of the Bolsheviks Milyukov believed in pursuing the war till victory while Lenin believed that the Soviet's action signaled compliance with the anti-Bolshevik provisional governrnent. This failure gave way to a second Russian peace initiative, this time by Lenin and the Bolsheviks. <17>

In November 1917, the post-Tsarist provisional government of Russia was overthrown by Lenin's Bolsheviks. The new government issued Lenin's decree on peace, a proposal that came to be known as the Bolshevik peace plan. It outlined an end to secret treaties and negotiations, an immediate and total armistice, and an openness to consider all other proposals. <18> As Lenin himself said at the Soviet Congress in Moscow:

Measures must be taken for the realization of peace . . . We shall offer to all peoples of the warring nations peace on the basis of Soviet conditions: No annexations, no reparations, self-determination of the peoples. At the time we shall make all secret pacts known and declare them invalid . . . The government asks all governments and peoples of belligerent countries to conclude an armistice immediately. <19>

If the appeal had ended there the Allies and the Central Powers might have paid attention to the noble ideals expressed in the proposal. However, the Soviet Congress also included a call to the proletariats to make their voices heard in their respective countries. They also emphasized self-determination, an idea which greatly disturbed the warring monarchs and led to their almost complete rejection of the Bolshevik overture for peace. <20> As the Russian-sponsored initiatives collapsed, hopes of a Socialist-led peace plan dimmed when the Stockholm peace project, a conference designed to initiate a peace process by the socialist elements of all nations, failed amidst infighting among the various nationalities. The resolution calling for peace that they did manage to pass was severely weakened by the absence of an endorsement from American, British, and French socialist groups. <21>

Even as the Vatican and the Soviet Congress maneuvered for peace, other belligerent nations issued plans designed to bring about a negotiated settlement to the bloody conflict. In Great Britain this attempt was embodied in the November 29,1917, letter of moderate Lord Lansdowne to the Daily Telegraph. "It represented the culmination of the efforts of the moderates in England for a negotiated peace . . . he suggested some system of arbitration . . . for the settlement of international disputes." <22> Such a noble effort met the same fate as appeals of the Socialists, the Pope, and Lenin. The government, in the House of Commons, denied endorsing the letter even when the British Foreign Office confirmed its technical oversight of the content. Lansdowne's effort collapsed in the face of such confusion and opposition. <23>

In Germany the situation was similarly characterized as in Russia and Britain by intragovernmental policy feuds. In December of 1916, Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg's government published a peace note that appealed for an end to hostilities. As G.R. Crosby has noted:

No terms were stated, but the Central Powers felt "sure that the propositions which they would bring forward, and which would aim to assure the existence, honour, and free development of their peoples, would be such as to serve as a basis for the restoration of a lasting peace. <24>

However, due to the absence of specific terms, the peace note was rejected almost unanimously by the Allies. <25> The war, therefore, continued in its destruction. Once the United States forces had reached Europe the chance of a victory by the exhausted German army lessened greatly. With leftist groups in Germany clamoring for peace, the remaining moderates in the government began to plan for a peace initiative independent of the Kaiser and the Supreme Command. Their efforts culminated in the Reichstag Peace Resolution of July 19,1917. Over the objections of Chancellor Michaelis, Kaiser William II, and the Supreme Command, the Social Democrats, the Catholic Center Party, and the Progressives passed a resolution which called for no annexations, no indemnities, freedom of the seas, and international arbitration. (All of these were points endorsed by the pope, the Soviets, and Wilson.) Unfortunately, this effort also failed when the army command and the chancellor simply ignored the resolution and continued the war with their goals of total victory with annexations. <26>

The final major public peace proposal is significant because it is the one which eventually led to an armistice in November of 1918: the Fourteen Points of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Announced on January 8, 1918, the Fourteen Points embodied Wilson's ideals for world peace. He called for: "open covenants of peace, openly arrived at," "freedom of the seas," "removal of all economic barriers," reduction of armaments, "adjustment of all colonial claims," "evacuation of all Russian territory," evacuation of Belgium, restoration of all French territory, "readjustment of the frontiers of Italy," autonomous development of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, evacuation of the Balkans, break-up of the Ottoman Empire, an independent Poland, and the formation of "a general association of nations . . . for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence . " <27> The Central Powers did not react immediately to Wilson's far-reaching proposal. However, in October of 1918, Germany's new chancellor, Prince Max von Baden, appealed for an armistice based on the Fourteen Points hostilities ceased on November 11, 1918. <28>

The Versailles conference and its incorporation of Wilson's Fourteen Points into the Treaty of Versailles is beyond the scope of this paper. It is sufficient to say that, as was the case with the other peace proposals, the story was one of failure. The European Allies dictated the terms of peace to the defeated Central Powers, terms which included much in the way of annexations and reparations. The significance of the pope's proposal, Soviet and Socialist efforts, the British letter, the Reichstag resolution, and the Fourteen Points lay in their desire for a conciliatory and lasting peace. Versailles, as history was to show, failed in those respects.

1 Kirchberger Joe H., The First World War: An Eyewitness History (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1992) 21- 23.

4 Craig, Gordon A., Europe Since 1914 (Hinsdale: Dryden Press, 1972) 463-464.

9 "Benedict XV, Pope." The New Catholic Encyclopedia (Washington, D.C.: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1967) 279.

10 Peters, Walter H., The Life of Benedict XV (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1959). 279.

12 "Benedict XV." The Papal Encyclicals in their Historical Context ed. Anne Fremantle (New York: Mentor Books, 1956) 215-216.

16 Kirby, David. War, Peace, Revolution: International Socialism at the Crossroads 1914-1918 (New York: St. Martin' s Press, 1986), 204-205.

21 Nation, R. Craig. War on War: Lenin, The Zimmerwald Left and the Origins of Communist Internationalism. (Durham: Duke University Press, 1989). 198-200.

22 Crosby, G.R. Disarmament and Peace in British Politics, 1914-1919. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957). 52-53.

24 Mowat, R.B. A History of European Diplomacy, 1914-1925. (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1927). 68-70

26 Halperin, S. William. Germany Tried Democracy: A Political History of the Reich from 1918-1933. (New York: Norton, 1974) 30-32.


  1. ^ (in Georgian) იოანე ბატონიშვილი (Ioane Bagrationi 1768-1830). "წერეთელი (იმერეთის თავადნი)" (Tsereteli [Princes of Imereti]) . შემოკლებით აღწერა საქართველოსა შინა მცხოვრებთა თავადთა და აზნაურთა გვარებისა (The Brief Description of the Georgian Noble Houses). Retrieved on April 12, 2007.
  2. ^ ab (in Russian) Церетели . Russian Biographic Lexicon. Retrieved on April 12, 2007.

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