1 University College London, UK
DiscussionGerman war aims in World War I were expansionist. Already by spring 1915, influential right-wing opposition groups had formulated a programme of ‘victory peace’ (Siegfrieden), which included territorial annexations and German economic and political hegemony in Europe. A substantial share of these gains was expected to come on the expense of Russia, Germany’s main enemy in the East. While opinions differed on how exactly Russia should be undermined, the strategic aim was certainly to weaken it in one way or another, securing Germany against the possibility of another two-front war in the future.
The Russian Empire, vast and insufficiently modernised, was also thought to be the most vulnerable link in the Entente, as it was threatened not only by external enemies, but also by the domestic perils of national separatism and revolutionary socialism. The experience of the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese war had shown that military failure could unleash very destructive forces at home, which had quickly become a threat to the survival of the state itself. Now, Germany could hope to do something similar: by exploiting the separatist and revolutionary tendencies in Russia it could force Russia to exit the war, allowing Germany to focus on the Western Front, where could win the war.
In my presentation, I will consider the German attempts to revolutionise Russia in the first two years of the war.