Fateful Years, 1909-1916: The Reminiscences of Serge Sazonov

Fateful Years, 1909-1916: The Reminiscences of Serge Sazonov

Fateful Years, 1909-1916: The Reminiscences of Serge Sazonov

Fateful Years, 1909-1916: The Reminiscences of Serge Sazonov

Excerpt

The catastrophe which overwhelmed Europe in July, 1914, the effects of which made themselves felt more or less over the whole world, cannot yet be made the subject of scientific historical investigation. So immense a task is beyond the powers of those who witnessed and still more of those who were directly concerned in it. It must be left to the rising generation, in the hope that their remoteness from these events will ensure for their labours the necessary freedom from prejudice and that they will have access to historical material more complete than that already available, important as that is.

It is inevitable that the work of eye-witnesses and participators should be of a more modest kind, taking the form of personal contributions to the general mass of information concerning events unparalleled in the history of humanity, from the dawn of the Middle Ages to our own time. A general appreciation of the historical documents now at our disposal, the indispensable scrutiny of each followed by a final judgment, are still impossible, for the world struggle which began in 1914 did not end with the defeat of Germany and her Allies in October, 1918; it still continues, although in another form and on other soil. The Peace of Versailles gave no peace to humanity, a fact of which I imagine even its authors now entertain no doubt, although they are responsible for its decisions, some of which contain the germ of inevitable conflicts between various peoples in the near future.

What does Europe expect from that institution, the League of Nations, devised by the Peace Conference of 1919? Its spirit is nearer to the political Utopias of the eighteenth century than to our iron age: will it save her from fresh convulsions? No one can give a confident answer to this question. All that is clear to every one is that humanity is suffering from a fearful sickness, and that the hour of convalescence is not yet near.

After a long period of hesitation, due to the unfavourable situation in which I find myself for undertaking a task of this kind, I have nevertheless decided to publish my recollections of the manner in which the catastrophe was gradually pre-

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