Great Speeches of the War/Sazonoff


[Speech of the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs at the opening of the Duma on September 9, 1914.]

Now that a successful issue of the war is becoming ever more apparent, the profound confidence of the Russian people in the final triumph is becoming absolute conviction, [Cheers.] Our heroic Army, the pride of Russia, is, notwithstanding all losses, stronger than ever, and its might is growing day by day. The exploits of our troops and the valuable services rendered by our Allies, who are making great efforts to defeat the weakening enemy, bring us ever nearer to the desired goal.

The brave Russian troops standing shoulder to shoulder with their Allies have secured fresh laurels for their crown of glory.

The Russian arms are marching steadfastly toward their goal, assured of final victory against an enemy who, blinded by the hope of an easy victory, is making desperate efforts, having recourse to all kinds of subterfuges, even the distortion of the truth. The Austrians and Germans have sought to show that the conflagration was started because they had been forced into war. It was useless to repeat the old cry that King Edward, England's illustrious ruler, sought to surround Germany with enemies, because the whole world was aware of the love of peace of that wise Monarch, who was aware of the wild ambitions of the politicians of Berlin, and who knew that only a rapprochement of Powers having common interests could assure to Europe stable political equilibrium. Moreover, the agreements entered into or projected by King Edward were fundamentally defensive.

Quite different has been the attitude of the Germans in recent years, particularly with regard to Russia, which has remained faithful to her policy of centuries. To the relations of good neighbourliness faithfully maintained by Russia, Germany has everywhere opposed resistance, seeking to embroil Russia with neighbouring countries, especially those to which Russia was bound by important interests, such as the Scandinavian countries, where Germany sowed distrust of Russia; such as Galicia, where German gold created a Ukraine movement; such as Roumania, where the Germans tried to blunt the consciousness of the community of interests between Roumanians and Russians; and such as Turkey, where German intrigues flourished, in Europe and Asia. In Persia German agents, violating the Potsdam agreement and the promises given to Russia, had sought to compromise Anglo-Russian interests. The same intrigues had been carried on in China and Japan, but they have luckily been sterile.

So too have the German attempts to sow discord among the Allies by spreading reports that one or other of them was inclined to conclude a separate peace proved futile. Fortunately all these efforts have ended in pitiful failure. The world knows that the union of the Allies is immutable, that it is becoming daily closer and stronger, and that its sole purpose is to destroy the military power of the enemy in order to create a state of things which will permit Europe to live and enjoy an enduring peace. In this common task each Ally is doing its share and they are vigorously helping each other. Our Allies have expressed their admiration of the efforts of Russia, who has sent her battalions to innumerable battle-fields and who is successfully fighting three Empires on an enormous front. For our part, we value most highly the unexampled valour of our Allies. We have a perfect appreciation of their co-operation on land and sea.

I shall mention once more heroic Belgium, whose deeds and sufferings have won for her imperishable glory. I also take this opportunity in the midst of our national representatives to express to our Allies our cordial gratitude for their active assistance.

Our close union is valuable in another and equally important direction, and its scope was enlarged the other day by the new financial and economic entente, the part to be played by which in the solution of our future complicated problems will not escape you. It arises from this entente that Russia and her Allies have organized their struggle against Germany in conformity with their definite decision to conduct it to a successful end.

The Orange Book recently published proved that the events on the Bosphorus which preceded the war with Turkey were the result of German treachery towards the Ottoman Empire, which invited German instructors and the mission of General Liman von Sanders, hoping to perfect its Army with the object of assuring its independence against the Russian danger insinuated by Berlin. Germany, however, took advantage of this penetration into the Turkish Army to make that Army a weapon in realizing her political plans.

All the acts of the Turks since the appearance of the Goeben in the Dardanelles had been committed under the pressure of Germany, but the efforts of the Turks to evade responsibility for these acts could not prevent them from falling into the abyss into which they were rolling. The events on the Russo-Turkish frontier, while covering Russian arms with fresh glory, will bring Russia nearer to the realization of the political and economic problems bound up with the question of Russia's access to the open sea.

The Russian Government disinterestedly endeavoured to alleviate the lot of the Armenians, and the Russo-Turkish agreement of January 26, 1914, is a historical document, in which Turkey recognizes the privileged position of Russia in the Armenian question. When the war ends this exclusive position of Russia will be employed by the Imperial Government in a direction favourable to the Armenian population. Having drawn the sword in the defence of Servia, Russia is acting under the influence of her sentiments towards a sister nation, whose grandeur of soul in the present war has riveted the two countries as by bonds of steel.

The Russian nation looks with satisfaction on the gallantry of Montenegro in fighting as she is doing in the common cause. The relations of Russia with Greece, the tried friend of Servia, are perfectly cordial, and the tendency of the Hellenic people to put an end to the sufferings of their co-religionists groaning under the Ottoman yoke has the entire sympathy of the Imperial Government.

So, too, the relations between Russia and Roumania retain the friendly character which they acquired on the occasion of the visit of the Emperor to Constanza. The constant Russophile demonstrations in Bucharest and throughout the whole country during the autumn has brought into relief the hostile feelings of the Roumanians towards Austria-Hungary.

You are probably waiting, gentlemen, for a reply to a question which interests the whole world, viz., the attitude of those non-combatant countries whose interests counsel them to embrace the cause of Russia and that of her Allies. In effect, public opinion in these countries, responsive to all that is meant by the national ideal, has long since pronounced itself in this sense, but you will understand that I cannot go into this question very profoundly, seeing that the Governments of these countries with which we enjoy friendly relations have not yet taken a definitive decision.

Now, it is for them to arrive at this decision, for they alone will be responsible to their respective nations if they miss a favourable opportunity to realize their national aspirations. I am constrained to mention with sincere gratitude the services rendered to us by Italy and Spain in protecting our comparatriots in enemy countries. I must also emphasize the care lavished by Sweden on Russian travellers who were the victims of German brutality. I hope that this fact will strengthen the relations of good neighbourliness between Russia and Sweden, which we desire to see still more cordial than they are.

Before the war with Turkey we succeeded in putting an end to the secular Turco-Prussian quarrel by means of the delimitation of the Persian Gulf and Mount Ararat region, thanks to which we preserved for Persia a disputed territory with an area of almost twenty thousand square versts, part of which the Turks had invaded. Since the war the Persian Government has declared its neutrality, but this has not prevented Germany, Austria, and Turkey from carrying on a propaganda with the object of gaining Persian sympathies. These intrigues have been particularly intense in Azerbaijan, where the Turks succeeded in attracting to their side some of the Kurds in that country. Afterwards Ottoman troops, violating Persian neutrality, crossed the Persian frontier, and, supported by Kurdish bands, penetrated the districts where our detachments were in cantonments, and transformed Azerbaijan into a part of the Russo-Turkish theatre of war.

In passing let me say that the presence of our troops in Persia is in no way a violation of neutrality, for they were sent there some years ago with the object of maintaining order in our frontier territory and preventing its invasion by the Turks, who wished to establish there an advantageous base of action against the Caucasus. The Persian Government, powerless to take effective action against this aggression, protested, but without success. I am glad to say that Anglo-Russian relations in regard to Persian affairs are more than ever based on mutual and sincere confidence and co-operation, which are a guarantee of the pacific settlement of any eventual conflict.

Turning our eyes to the Far East, the agreements signed in 1907 and 1910 with Japan have borne fruit during the present war, for Japan is with us. She has driven the Germans from the Pacific Ocean and has seized the German base of Kiao-chau. Although Japan did not sign the Agreement of August 23, yet, since the Anglo-Japanese Alliance contains an understanding that a separate peace shall not be concluded, therefore the German Government cannot hope for peace with Japan before she has concluded peace with Great Britain, Russia, and France. Consequently our relations with Japan give us a firm friend.

The demands addressed by Japan to China contain nothing contrary to our interests. As for Russo-Chinese interests, I can state their constant improvement. The pourparlers in regard to Mongolia, though slow, are friendly, and I hope to be able to announce to you shortly their happy conclusion and the signature of a triple Russo-Chinese-Mongolian treaty which, while safeguarding the interests of Russia, will not injure those of China.