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Among the events which gave so brilliant a promise to the spring of 1917, not the least was the revolution in Russia. From the first, indeed, there was anxiety about the effect which so great a change in the midst of war would have upon the military efficiency of our ally. But that had suffered under the old regime, and the failure to capture Lemberg in the summer of 1916, distracted as the Central Empires were by the Somme and Italian campaigns, followed by the more discreditable failure to protect Rumania in the autumn, raised serious doubts of the competence of the imperial bureaucracy. Its honesty also fell under grave suspicion. Sazonov, the Foreign Minister, had been dismissed in August, and Stuermer became Prime Minister. A fierce indictment of his conduct by Miliukov in the Duma led to his retirement in November, and an honest Conservative, Trepov, succeeded. But Stuermer retained his power at Court as Imperial Chamberlain, and a renegade from the Liberal party, Protopopov, was introduced into the Ministry and exercised therein a growing and sinister influence. Winter saw the Russian Government turning its back on its Liberal professions, proroguing the Duma, prohibiting the meetings of town councils and Zemstvos, provoking a revolution in order to suppress it and re-establish the old despotism on its ruins, and apparently casting wistful glances back at its old alliance with the German champions of autocracy. The Tsar himself was a firm friend of the Entente, but the same could not be said of the Tsaritsa nor of the reactionary and disreputable influences to which she extended her patronage. If therefore there were risks to the Entente cause in a Russian revolution, there were also perils in its postponement; and it might well be thought that a Liberal Russia would be bound more closely and logically to the Western Powers than autocracy ever could be. A revolution would at least clarify the issue between the combatants and give a more solid basis of political principle to the Entente.
The overture was a strange and squalid tragedy. Noxious weeds grew in the shadow of the Oriental despotism of the Russian Court, and for years the Government had been at the mercy of a religious impostor and libertine called Rasputin. The trouble, remarked a Russian General, was not that Rasputin was a wizard, but that the Court laboured under the superstitions of a Russian peasant; and Rasputin, who had some mesmeric power, used it to gratify his avarice, immorality, and taste for intrigue at the expense of Russian politics and society. At last, on 29 December, he was doomed by a conclave of Grand Dukes, Princes, and politicians who informed the police of what had been done. The deed was enthusiastically celebrated next evening by the audience at the Imperial Theatre singing the national anthem; but the body was buried at Tsarkoe Selo in a silver coffin, while the Metropolitan said mass, the Tsar and Protopopov acted as pall-bearers, and the Tsaritsa as one of the chief mourners. The last days of the old regime in France, with their Cagliostro and the Diamond Necklace, produced nothing so redolent of corruption or so suggestive of impending dissolution.
Rasputin was a symptom, not a cause, and the dark forces in Russia were not eradicated by his removal. Rather they were roused to further action, and on 8 January Trepov gave place to Prince Golitzin, a mere agent of obstruction, while Protopopov proceeded with his measures to provoke disorder. The Duma was prorogued and machine guns made in England were diverted from the front to dominate the capital. The Russian revolution was, in fact, as much forced upon the Russian people as war was forced upon ourselves and America. Le peuple, wrote Sully three centuries ago, ne se soulève jamais par envie d'attaquer, mais par impatience de souffrir; and in Russia even hunger and Protopopov barely provoked the people to action. The revolution occurred not so much because they rose, as because the bureaucracy fell, and it was not so much a change from one government to another as a general cessation of all government through comprehensive inaction. The Petrograd mob did not storm a Bastille like that of Paris in 1789; it merely paraded the streets and declined to disperse or work, and the act of revolution was simply the refusal of the soldiers to fire. It was not the new wine of liberty, but the opium of lethargy that possessed the popular mind, and relaxation loosened all the fibres of the Russian State. Action came later with the Bolshevik reconstruction, but for the time dissolution was the order of the day--a dissolution that was due less to the activity of destroyers than to the decay of the body politic; and the over-government of Russia by bureaucracy and police precipitated a violent reaction towards no government at all.
The Russian revolution was not therefore planned, and its origin and progress can hardly be seen in acts. The Rasputin affair was a vendetta of society which revealed its moral disintegration, but more than two months passed before the Government collapsed. The first disorder took the form of the looting of bakers' shops on 8 March by disappointed food-queues, but a more ominous and comprehensive symptom was the abstention from work. Characteristically it was not an organized strike; the idle throng seemed to have no definite objects, and the question was not whether it would achieve them, but whether the soldiers would obey orders and fire upon the mob. On the 9th the chief newspapers ceased to appear; on the 10th the trams stopped running; on the 11th a company of the Pavlovsk regiment mutinied when told to fire, and the President of the Duma, Rodzianko, telegraphed to the Tsar that anarchy reigned in the capital, the Government was paralysed, and the transport, food, and fuel supplies were utterly disorganized. Golitzin thereupon again prorogued the Duma; but, like the French National Assembly in 1789, it refused to disperse, and declared itself the sole repository of constitutional authority. On the 12th Household troops improved upon the example of the Pavlovsk regiment, and shot their more unpopular officers when ordered to fire on the people. Other regiments sent to suppress the mutiny joined it and seized the arsenal. Then the fortress of SS. Peter and Paul surrendered, and the police were hunted down. The Duma now appointed an executive committee of its members to act as a provisional government, while, outside, an unauthorized committee of soldiers and workmen was created, for the original Duma had been purged by imperial rescript and represented chiefly the upper and middle classes. On the 13th news came that Moscow had accepted the revolution, and it was clear that the Army would offer no resistance, although the Tsar had appointed Ivanov commander-in-chief in order to suppress the insurrection. Ruszky and Brussilov signified their adhesion to the popular cause, and Ivanov failed to reach the capital. The Tsar followed him, but was stopped at Pskov on the 14th. There on the 15th--the modern Ides of March--the modern Russian Tsar or Caesar was constrained to abdicate.
On that day the Duma Coalition Ministry was announced; the Premier was Prince Lvov, Miliukov took charge of Foreign Affairs, Gutchkov of War and the Marine, and Kerensky, a Socialist, of Justice. Ministers were in favour of a regency, but the Soviet--a Russian word which originally meant no more than Council--of Soldiers' and Workmen's Delegates demanded a republic. Kerensky, however, persuaded it to support the Provisional Government by an enormous majority and the revolution appeared to have produced a government. But even in orderly countries enormous majorities secured in moments of emotion are apt to be evanescent, and the Provisional Government had an uneasy lease of life for just two months. The Duma had not made the revolution, and the middle classes for which it stood were weak in numbers and prestige. The vast mass of the Russian people consisted of peasants who were illiterate and unorganized, and cared for little but the land. The urban proletariat, not having been educated by the Government, had partially educated itself in the abstract socialism of Karl Marx, Lavrov, and Tolstoy. The Extremists followed Marx and were called Social Democrats; but they had themselves split into two sections, the Bolsheviks or Maximalists and the Mensheviks or Minimalists; the former wanted a dictatorship of the proletariat, a complete inversion of the Tsardom consisting in the substitution of the tyranny of the bottom for the tyranny of the top, while the Mensheviks were willing to recognize the claims of other classes than the proletariat. More moderate, though still socialists, were the followers of Lavrov, who called themselves Social Revolutionaries and found a leader in Kerensky. The middle classes and intelligentsia formed the bulk of the Cadet party led by Miliukov and were predominant in the Duma and the Provisional Government. In the Soviet power gradually passed farther and farther to the left, from Social Revolutionaries to Mensheviks and from Mensheviks to Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin, whose return from exile in Switzerland was facilitated for its own purposes by the German Government.
All parties in the Soviet were, however, agreed in their anxiety for peace, the destruction of imperialism and bureaucracy, and the reconstruction of Russia on a socialistic basis; and they concurred with the peasants in their demand for the extirpation of landlordism. The emancipation of the serfs by Alexander II in 1861 had done little more than substitute economic for legal slavery; for the emancipated peasants were only given as proprietors the refuse of the land they had tilled as serfs, and for it they had to pay tribute calculated upon the value of their labour when applied to the richer soil of their lords. Freedom therefore meant unavoidable penury, but the demand of the peasants was not so much to evade their dues to the State as to secure the richer land which would enable them to meet their obligations. It was here that they sought their indemnities and their annexations, not in the acquisition of foreign territory hundreds of miles beyond their ken. Of Belgium and Serbia they knew nothing, and all they knew of the war was that it meant ghastly losses, fighting with pitchforks against poison gas and machine guns for them, and for their masters the fruits of victory. What domestic progress Russia had made in the past had been the outcome of her defeats; success in war had always been followed by reaction. Constantinople--Tsargrad as it was called by the Russians--had no charms for the proletariat. They wanted peace, some of them because national wars divided the forces of international Socialism and postponed the war of classes, but most in order that they might consolidate their revolution and garner its ripe and refreshing fruit. They did not, however, desire a separate peace with the enemy, and Austria's offer of 15 April was declined, because a separate peace would be disadvantageous to them. What they wanted was a general peace which would give each nation what it possessed before and each proletariat a good deal more; and the design took form in the Congress of Stockholm in June.
Meanwhile discipline disappeared in Russia, and even in her armies the Soviet insisted that there should be no death-penalty, and that military orders, except on the field of battle, should proceed from a democratic committee. They knew that Russian autocracy had rested on bayonets and only fell with the failure of that support: whosoever controlled the Army would be master of Russia, and with a correct instinct the Bolsheviks set to work to convert the soldiers and seamen. It was easy work preaching peace, plenty, and indolence to the peasants at the front; and the relaxation which reduced the production of Russian industries by 40 per cent diminished still more the efficiency of the Russian Army. The Provisional Government struggled in vain against the disintegration, but its efforts were frustrated by the Congress of Soviets which began to sit in April, fell more and more under Lenin's influence, and resisted on principle all measures to retain or re-establish authority. On 13 May, Gutchkov, the Minister for War, resigned, and Miliukov followed. On the 16th the Provisional Government was succeeded by another Coalition more socialist in its complexion. Lvov remained its nominal head, but Tchernov, a social revolutionary, and two Mensheviks became Ministers, and Kerensky took Gutchkov's place at the Ministry of War. He did his best by his fervour and eloquence to reanimate the army, for he believed that only the success of Russian arms could guarantee the orderly progress of the revolution. But Alexeiev retired in June, the Congress of Soviets resolved that the Duma should be disbanded, and the view was sedulously propagated that it was wrong to fight fellow Socialists in the German Army and that the approaching Stockholm Conference would compel the bourgeois and imperialist governments to make peace without any further bloodshed.
Still Kerensky achieved some success with his impassioned appeals, and Brussilov, who had become commander-in-chief, reported that the army was recovering its moral. The Government determined to gamble on the chance of a successful offensive. It had, indeed, no other means of checking the growth of disorder, and an attack on the front was not entirely hopeless. Both the Germans and Austrians had depleted their Eastern forces to provide against dangers elsewhere, and there were still sound elements like the Cossacks in the Russian Army. It was skimmed for the purpose of all the cream of its regiments, and the scene of action was laid where Brussilov's advance had pressed farthest forward in 1916. Lemberg was to be outflanked on the south by a movement from a line reaching from Zborow across the Dniester to the foothills of the Carpathians. Three armies were employed, Erdelli's Eleventh to the north, then Tcheremisov's Seventh reaching to the Dniester, and south of it Kornilov's Eighth. Kerensky orated in khaki, and Gutchkov served as an officer in the field. The artillery preparation began on 29 June, and on 1 July the troops advanced from their trenches. For a time they carried all before them, and revolutionary Russia bade fair to repeat the success of Brussilov's offensive in 1916. Tcheremisov's Seventh Army took Koniuchy on the 1st and Potutory on the 2nd, and captured 18,000 prisoners. Erdelli's Eleventh was more successful in attracting the bulk of the enemy reserves than in making progress; but the diversion gave Kornilov's Eighth a chance of which it made brilliant use. It attacked on the 8th and took half a dozen villages south of the Dniester, driving the Austrians back across its tributaries, the Lukwa and the Lomnica. On the 10th Halicz fell before a combined advance of Tcheremisov north and Kornilov south of the Dniester, and on the morrow Kalusz was captured well on the way to Lemberg's vital connexions at Stryj. Then the weather broke and the strength of the Russian armies turned into water. There were no reserves with the spirit of those who fell in this rapid advance, and Erdelli had failed to inspire the Eleventh Army with Kornilov's dash. On the 16th Lenin brought off his Bolshevik insurrection at Petrograd, but more fatal was the infection which spread through Erdelli's troops. It was on them that the weight of the German counter-attack fell on the 19th, and they simply wilted before it. There was no great force in the German blow, which was merely designed to relieve the pressure of Kornilov's advance; but Russian troops refused to fight, and ran away trampling underfoot and killing officers who strove to stem the rout. By the 20th German patrols were in Tarnopol, which the Russians had held since August 1914, and in a fortnight they were across the Russian frontier as far south as the borders of Bukovina (see Map, p. 146). The Seventh and Eighth Armies had to conform to this retreat, but they offered some stubborn resistance and were brought off in good order. Czernowitz fell on 3 August, and the only solid obstacle to the enemy advance in the East was the little Rumanian Army which had looked to this summer for its revenge on the invader and the recovery of its capital and Wallachia.
The Rumanian Army had during the winter been refitted and equipped with a considerable store of munitions, and its offensive was planned to follow closely on the heels of the Russian in Galicia, But the Russians were out of Tarnopol before, in the last week of July, Averescu began his advance from south of the Oitoz Pass towards Kezdi Vasarhely; and the Russian Fourth Army under Scherbachev, which was to co-operate on Averescu's right, was deeply infected with revolutionary disorder. Nevertheless Averescu broke the enemy front, took 2000 prisoners on the first day, and on 28 July was ten miles ahead of his original line. Then Mackensen counter-attacked farther south at Focsani, while Scherbachev's regiments began to desert and the Russians in the Bukovina were being steadily driven back. On 6 and 7 August Mackensen forced the Russo-Rumanian line back from the Putna to the Susitza, taking over 3000 prisoners in three days and also pushing on towards Okna and Marasesti. In three days more the number of prisoners increased to 7000, the key to the defence of the Moldavian mountains was threatened at Adjudul, and the Court prepared to leave Jassy and take refuge in Russian territory. On the 14th Rumanian troops replaced the Russians in front of Okna in the Trotus valley and counterattacked with vigour. But the decisive battle was fought farther south, where Mackensen, advancing from Focsani, was seeking to cross the Sereth in the direction of Marasesti and Tecuciu. It was the most heroic of Rumania's struggles. Deprived of all but a fragment of her territory and her manhood, and abandoned by the only ally within reach, she had to face perhaps the ablest of German generals and over a dozen fresh divisions thrown into the battle; and almost hourly during the three days' fighting a fresh detachment of Russians deserted. Yet Rumania triumphed at the battle of Marasesti, and by the 19th the crisis had passed. The attack then shifted to Okna, where the Second Rumanian Army emulated the achievements of the First at Marasesti. Sporadic fighting went on into September, but Rumania had defended herself and saved South Russia for the time. On the 18th the Germans even withdrew from Husiatyn, an Austrian town on the Galician frontier: they had already abandoned the south for a safer adventure against the unaided Russians at Riga (see Map, p. 229).
This northern campaign resembled autumn manoeuvres, and was mainly intended to test the value of the new tactics which Germany proposed to use next spring against a more serious foe. It was more realistic to experiment upon Russians than among themselves, and Von Hutier was selected to make the demonstration. The advance began in the last days of August, and on 1 September Von Hutier forced the passage of the Dvina at Uexküll, eighteen miles above Riga, which the Russians abandoned on the following day. Friedrichstadt fell next, and the Russians retired from Jacobstadt on the 21st. The Germans were now across the Dvina on a front of seventy miles, and pushed on towards Wenden, meeting with occasional resistance. But their next experiment was at the expense of the Russian Navy, which was even more demoralized than the Army, and had murdered its officers wholesale. On 12 October the Germans landed a force on the island of Oesel, and within a week had overrun that and the other islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Riga. On the 21st they crossed to the mainland, disembarking a force at Verder opposite Moen Island. There was little to hinder a march on Petrograd, had there been any sufficient inducement. But Petrograd in the hands of the Bolsheviks was worth more to the Germans than in their own; for a German occupation of the capital would have sterilized its miasmic influence over the rest of Russia, and the Germans had only advanced so far in order to get into touch with Finland and establish pro-German governments among the little nationalities of the Baltic littoral. They had, moreover, to economize their shrinking manpower, and their reserves were being called off from all the Eastern fronts to more urgent tasks elsewhere, leaving Russia to stew in its own disintegration.
Disaster had done nothing to check the distraction of Russian domestic politics. The Cadets had most of them resigned in July owing to the Government's complaisance towards the Ukrainian demand for independence; and Kerensky succeeded Lvov as Premier on the 22nd, while Kornilov took Brussilov's place as commander-in-chief on 1 August. But while Kerensky shed his right wing, he gained no support from the left. The Bolsheviks would not forgive him his offensive in July, nor the success with which he had suppressed the Leninite rising; and a great conference at Moscow on 25 August representing every shade of Russian disorganization produced some agreement on formulas but none on action. Early in September Kerensky came to the conclusion that a dictatorship was the only cure, and gave Kornilov the impression that the latter should fill the part. Another Bolshevik insurrection was brewing in Petrograd, and on the 7th Kornilov prepared to crush it, sending Krymov forward to Gatchina within twenty miles of the capital. Kerensky now took fright at the bugbear of a military restoration, denounced Kornilov as a traitor, and threw himself on the support of the Soviets. The cry that the revolution was in danger ruined Kornilov's chances; his surrender was arranged by Alexeiev's mediation, while Krymov committed suicide.
Such were Russian politics during the week in which the Germans overran the Dvina. A republic was proclaimed on the 15th, and the government entrusted to a council of five with Kerensky at its head. It lived no longer than its numerous predecessors in the revolution. Kerensky was rash enough to renew his breach with the Bolsheviks who had helped him to ruin Kornilov, and in November they rent the man of words. Trotzky organized the blow. There was little that was Russian about this Jew, whose real name was Leo Braunstein, although he was born in Odessa; but he possessed some practical capacity. Having secured election as president of the Petrograd Soviet, he had created a military revolutionary committee and a body of Red Guards, and on 5 November summoned the Petrograd garrison to place itself under its direction. Kerensky sought to defend his Government, but most of his forces went over to the Bolsheviks, and on the 7th he fled from the city. He attempted to return at the head of some dubious troops, but they were scattered by the Red Guards at Tsarskoe Selo on the 13th and Kerensky disappeared. What there was left of government in Russia passed into the hands of a self-constituted council of People's Commissioners with Lenin as its president and Trotzky its Foreign Minister; and on the 21st the council found a commander-in-chief in one Ensign Krilenko. His business was to offer an armistice to the Germans as a preliminary to suing for peace.
Russia had gone out of the war much faster than America came in. Early in May a flotilla of destroyers joined the British Fleet, and on 26 June the first division landed in France. But it needed six months' training, and a year would pass before the weight of American reinforcements would make much material difference to the Western front. That year was bound to try the Western Allies to the utmost, and the interval between the disappearance of Russia and the arrival of the United States as an effective combatant, gave the Germans the chance of reversing the decision which they felt had gone against them before the end of 1916. They regarded the Russian revolution as a miracle wrought in their favour; but it was only by degrees that they realized the extent of their apparent good fortune and proceeded both to use and to abuse it. From the first, however, the revolution changed for the worse the situation on every front, and enemy troops, released from fear of Russia, began to appear in the West, on the Isonzo, in Mesopotamia, in Palestine, and in the Balkans. The middle of treacherous April saw the tide checked that had been flowing so strongly since the year began.
The disappointment was not, however, entirely due to the gradual elimination of Russia, for that misfortune did not fall with much weight on the Western front until many months had passed, and depression there had its causes nearer home. Commenting on the British success at the battle of Arras, an Italian journal optimistically asked its readers what would be the plight of the Central Empires when real military Powers got to work, since so much had been achieved by the semi-civilians of the British Empire. Hopes also ran high in France. Nivelle, the new commander-in-chief, had conceived an ambitious plan of crushing the Germans on a front of fifty miles between the plateau north-east of Soissons and the river Suippe in Champagne; and this offensive, coupled with the British pressure in front of Arras, was to clear the Germans out of the greater part of occupied France. Nivelle proposed to repeat on a vastly extended scale his triumphs of the previous autumn at Verdun, and he made no secret to his Government of his confidence that Laon would fall as a result of the first day's fighting. Neither Haig nor Pétain had much faith in the possibility of the plan, but Nivelle had persuaded Ribot's Ministry, which had succeeded Briand's in March, and French expectations were raised to a giddy height. There were three main objectives: to clear the Chemin des Dames, to master the Moronvillers massif and other heights north and east of Reims, and to thrust between these two great bastions along the road to Laon. Each was an objective greater than that achieved in the battle of Arras, and all were attempted at once (*see Map, p. 67*).
The artillery preparation began on 6 April and the infantry attack on Monday the 16th, a week after that on the Vimy Ridge. The battle was not easy to follow, because the French were very reserved about their reverses, and the maps gave an erroneous impression of the line from which the attack started and that on which it ended. The French were commonly thought to be holding both banks of the Aisne all the way from Soissons to Berry-au-Bac, whereas in reality they had never recovered from their retreat in January 1915 to the south bank between Missy and Chavotine. Nor, except at Troyon, were they near the Chemin des Dames; and not only had the river to be crossed, but the formidable slopes, which the Germans had beeen meticulously fortifying for two and a half years, to be surmounted. The results of the first day's onslaught fell lamentably short of the extravagant anticipations. The banks of the Aisne were cleared, some progress was made up the slopes, and from Troyon, where the original line was nearly on the ridge, an advance was made along it. But on the whole the Germans maintained their grip on the Chemin des Dames. Nor was fortune much kinder in the gap between it and the heights east of Reims. The French Tanks, here first employed, were disappointing, and Loivre was the only gain. The 17th was spent in beating off counter-attacks west of Reims, while the French offensive spread east to Moronvillers. Here the same tale had to be told; gallantry carried various points of importance, but a month's fighting failed to give the French complete control of their first day's objectives. West of Reims on the 18th and following days Nanteuil, Vailly, Laffaux, Aizy, Jouy, Ostel, and Bray were captured by Mangin, but they were all below the Chemin des Dames, and April came to an end with the road to Laon as impassable as ever. Fresh attempts were made in May; Craonne was taken on the 4th, and the California plateau to the north of it and Chevreux in the plain to the east were seized on the 6th and held against counter-attacks, while east of Reims Auberive had fallen, and by the 20th the whole summit of the Moronvillers massif was said to have been secured.
The impression that the Chemin des Dames had been conquered was not removed until it really was gained by Pétain five months later; but there was contrast enough between the promises and the achievement to produce the deepest depression in France. On 28 April Pétain was appointed chief of staff and on 15 May commander-in-chief in succession to Nivelle, while Foch became chief of staff. Little was wisely revealed abroad of French despondency or the effect of the disappointment on the moral of the army. But French journals began to clamour for unity of command of all the forces in France under a French generalissimo, pour épargner du sang Français, as one of them expressed it; and prudence constrained the higher command to revert to those limited objectives which Nivelle had abandoned. Joffre was sent to the United States to place the situation before the sister-republic; and but for American intervention France would have been nearer a peace of compromise in May 1917 than at any previous date in the war. The second battle of the Aisne gave rise to that miasma of défaitisme, associated with the names of Bolo and Caillaux, which enfeebled the spirit and effort of France until they were revived by Clémenceau's vigorous stimulants.
Haig was also laid under an obligation to relieve the pressure and gloom by prolonging his Arras offensive and seeking to extract more from his victory than it would yield; and the second phase of that battle was fought under a shadow and under constraint. But if it resulted in serious losses, it brought some additions to our gains of ground. On 23 April Gavrelle and Guémappe were captured after desperate fighting; and on the 28th an advance was made at Arleux and Oppy. On 3 May the Canadians took Fresnoy, and the Australians trenches at Bullecourt, but the Germans kept up a series of stubborn counter-attacks, especially at Fresnoy, Roeulx, and Bullecourt, and Fresnoy was lost on the 8th. On the 14th we completed our capture of Roeulx, and on the 17th that of Bullecourt. The fighting died down, towards the end of May, and the scene was shifted farther north in June to the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge. During the month of the battle of Arras we had taken over 20,000 prisoners, and the French claimed more on the Aisne. We had also bitten into the Hindenburg "line." But that line had not been broken, mainly because it was not a line, having instead of none a breadth of several miles; and, apart from the important Vimy Ridge, the German position had not been greatly shaken. The warfare was one of attrition, and the true test was that of wastage, which can only be used when the losses on both sides are exactly known. There was evidence that the Germans were feeling the strain, but so was the Entente, and the influx of troops from the Eastern front, which began in April and was felt in the Arras battle, would more than compensate for the excess (if any) in German losses. It was also clear by this time that the Germans had gained another great advantage. They might lose the war, but they would lose it in France, and the Fatherland would not suffer the destruction and desolation which it had inflicted on all its foes except the British Empire and the United States. The Germans were wisely bent on fighting to a finish where Hindenburg had fixed his lines; they were beaten there, but snatched immunity from ruin for German soil out of their defeat. Nivelle's failure in April 1917 combined with the Russian collapse to preclude an Entente repetition of the German invasion of August 1914; and Lord Curzon's mental vision of Gurkhas encamping in Berlin was destined to remain a dream.
The breakdown of Russia and of the French campaign paralysed other offensives than those on the Western front, and a sympathetic inertia spread to the Balkans. At the end of February Sarrail had told his commanders that he intended attacking all along the line at Salonika in the first week of April as his contribution to the comprehensive Allied advance. But local operations in March, which succeeded in linking up the Italians east of Avlona with Sarrail's left, did not lead up to the expected climax. The offensive was postponed until 24 April, and then it was only British troops that were sent into serious action. The desired economy of French blood was effected by a French commander-in-chief at the cost of general failure. A frontal attack by General Milne's forces was ordered on the central position at Doiran; considerable losses were incurred, and gains were secured that made no essential difference to the situation. West of the Vardar and in front of Monastir no advance was attempted; but on 8 May Milne was told to repeat his effort, which had similar results to those of his first; and Sarrail was presently superseded by Franchet d'Esperey.
Nevertheless the Russian revolution had one beneficial effect upon the Balkan situation. It removed one of the two influences which had protected Constantine and enabled him to counterwork Entente policy and strategy in the Near East. The other was neutralized by connivance in Italy's proclamation of a protectorate over Albania on 3 June; and with this compensation she was induced to remove her ban on Venizelos and to risk that greater Greece, which with a free hand that statesman bade fair to achieve. France was whole-hearted in supporting him. The chief islands had one by one rallied to his cause in the spring, and by the end of May he had 60,000 troops at his disposal. On 11 June M. Jonnart arrived at Athens as plenipotentiary for the Entente to insist on Constantine's abdication. Troops were moved down into Thessaly; the Isthmus of Corinth was seized, and warships anchored off the Piraeus. Constantine had no choice, and under compulsion nominated his second son Alexander as his successor. On the 13th he left Athens for Lugano, and on the 21st Venizelos arrived from Salonika and formed a government. The German agents were expelled, and the Greek people were reconciled to the violence of the proceedings by the substantial consolation of the raising of the blockade. Less happy was the effect of the Russian revolution in Asia Minor. All idea of an advance from Trebizond and Erzingian came to an end, and the projected campaign which was to have given the Russians Mosul while Maude advanced to Baghdad was abandoned. On 30 April the Turks announced that the enemy had evacuated Mush. In May they left the Dialah, and in July retreated from Khanikin into Persia, leaving the British right wing in the air. Gradually they abandoned Persia to the principle of self-determination and to the Turks, and Armenia to fresh experiments in massacre. Even on the Salonika front Sarrail suffered from the retiring habits of his Russian troops, and at Gaza Murray felt the force of Turkish divisions released from Russian fronts. There were at least six divisions to oppose him when he renewed his attack after three weeks' interval on 17th April. His communications had been greatly improved and the railway brought up to Deir-el-Belah, but so too had the Turkish defences, and there was little to say for a frontal attack by inferior forces without the chance of surprise. The political demand for an Egyptian contribution to the combined Allied offensive seems, however, to have been inexorable, and Sir Charles Dobell was committed to an enterprise not unlike our attacks in Gallipoli. Some initial success was won on the 17th, and the ground gained was prepared on the 18th for a final effort on the following day. Samson Ridge near the coast was taken, but Ali Muntar defied all our efforts, and counter-attacks deprived us of much of the ground that was won. Seven thousand men had been lost, and Turkish reinforcements were still arriving. Gaza could not be taken by frontal attack without greatly superior forces; and the British had to look for success to another general and a different strategy, and to postpone from Easter to Christmas their Christian celebrations in Jerusalem. The brightness of dawn in the East was clouded, and the flowers of hope that bloomed in the spring drooped in the Syrian summer and in the furnace of war in the West.
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