July 30, 1914

“Let Papa plan not war, for with the war will come the end of Russia and yourselves, and you will lose to the last man.”

Grigory Rasputin; telegram to Anna Vyrubova, July 30, 1914.

Batiushka. I write you while in pain and stretched out in a hospital bed. Dear friend, I will say again a menacing cloud is over Russia. Lots of sorrow and grief. It is dark and there is no light to be seen. A sea of tears, immeasurable, and as to blood? What can I say? There are no words. The horror of it is indescribable. I know they keep wanting war from you evidently not knowing that this is destruction. Heavy is God’s punishment. When he takes away reason that is the beginning of the end. Thou art the Tsar Father of the People, don’t allow the madmen to triumph and destroy themselves and the people. They will conquer Germany, and what about Russia? If one then thinks very hard, there has not been a greater sufferer since the beginning of time. She is all drowned in blood. Terrible is the destruction and without end will be the grief.”

Grigory Rasputin; telegram to Tsar Nicholas, July 30, 1914.

To present as precise a picture as possible of the territorial division of the world and of the changes which have occurred during the last decades in this respect, we will utilize the data furnished by Supan in the work already quoted on the colonial possessions of all the powers of the world. Supan takes the years 1876 and 1900; we will take the year 1876 – a year very aptly selected, for it is precisely by that time that the premonopolist stage of development of West-European capitalism can be said to have been completed, in the main–and the year 1914, and instead of Supan’s figures we will quote the more recent statistics of Hübner’s Geographical and Statistical Tables. Supan gives figures only for colonies; we think it useful, in order to present a complete picture of the division of the world, to add brief figures on non-colonial and semicolonial countries, in which category we place Persia, China and Turkey: the first of these countries is already almost completely a colony, the second and third are becoming such.

We thus get the following summary:


(Million square kilometers and million inhabitants)

Colonies Metropolitan countries Total
1876 1914 1914 1914
Area Pop. Area Pop. Area Pop. Area Pop.
Great Britain 22.5 251.9 33.5 393.5 0.3 46.5 33.8 440.0
Russia 17.0 15.9 17.4 33.2 5.4 136.2 22.8 169.4
France 0.9 6.0 10.6 55.5 0.5 39.6 11.1 95.1
Germany 2.9 12.3 0.5 64.9 3.4 77.2
U.S.A. 0.3 9.7 9.4 97.0 9.7 106.7
Japan 0.3 19.2 0.4 53.0 0.7 72.2
Total for 6 Great Powers 40.4 273.8 65.0 523.4 16.5 437.2 81.5 960.6
Colonies of other powers (Belgium, Holland, etc.) 9.9 45.3
Semi-colonial countries (Persia, China, Turkey) 14.5 361.2
Other countries 28.0 289.9
Total for whole world 133.9 1,657.0

V. I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism


Thursday, July 30, 1914.

… Excited groups argued in the streets and below my window, on the Neva quay, four moujiks who were unloading wood stopped their work to listen to their employer who read the paper to them. Then all five made long speeches with solemn gestures and indignation writ large all over their faces. They crossed themselves when the discussion came to an end.

At two o’clock this afternoon Pourtalès went to the Foreign Office. Sazonov received him at once and from his first words I guessed that Germany would refuse to put in the restraining word at Vienna which could save peace.

The very attitude of Pourtalès was only too eloquent. He seemed a lost man, for he realizes now the consequences of the uncompromising policy of which he has been the instrument, if not actually the author. He sees the inevitable catastrophe and is collapsing under the weight of his responsibility.

"For Heaven’s sake," he said to Sazonov, "make me some proposal I can recommend to my government. It’s my last hope!"

Sazonov at once put forward the following ingenious formula:

If Austria will recognize that the Austro-Serbian question has assumed the character of a European question and declare her readiness to delete from her ultimatum the points which encroach upon the sovereign rights of Serbia, Russia undertakes to stop her military preparations.

Still in a state of collapse Pourtalès staggered from the room, stammering feebly and his eyes staring.

An hour later Sazonov was ushered into Peterhof Palace to make his report to the Tsar. He found his sovereign sorely moved by a telegram the Emperor William had sent him during the night. Its tone was almost menacing.

If Russia mobilizes against Austria-Hungary the rôle of mediator which I have undertaken at your urgent request will be compromised, if not made impossible. The whole weight of the decision to be taken now rests on your shoulders and you will have to bear the responsibility for war or peace.

Sazonov read and re-read this telegram and shrugged his shoulders in despair.

"We shall not escape war now! Germany is obviously evading the mediatorial intervention for which we asked her and all she is after is to gain time to complete her military preparations in secret. In these circumstances I don’t think Your Majesty can postpone the order for general mobilization any longer."

The Tsar was deadly pale and replied in a choking voice

"Just think of the responsibility you’re advising me to assume! Remember it’s a question of sending thousands and thousands of men to their death!"

Sazonov replied:

" Neither your Majesty’s conscience nor mine will have anything to be reproached with if war breaks out. Your Majesty and the Government will have done everything to spare the world this terrible visitation. But now I feel certain that diplomacy has finished its work. We must henceforth think of the safety of the empire. If Your Majesty stops our preliminary mobilization all you will do is to dislocate our military organization and disconcert our allies. The war will break out just the same at Germany’s appointed time – and will catch us in hopeless confusion. "

After a moment’s reflection the Tsar said in a firm voice:

"Sergei Dimitrievitch, ring up the Chief of Staff and tell him I order general mobilization."

Sazonov went down to the hall of the palace where the telephone cabinet was and transmitted the imperial order to General Janushkevitch.

It was exactly four o’clock.

Maurice Paléologue- An Ambassador’s Memoirs


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