Saturday, May 13, 2017

You Say You Wanted Revolution

At this point in 1917, it was dawning on the rest of the world that all was not blinis and Faberge eggs in suddenly democratic Russia. So Steppeback Saturday presents a series of cartoons about the souring situation there—and not a single nesting doll in the bunch!
Nebelspalter, Zurich, May, 1917
Competing factions in Russia were the liberal provisional government, the Socialist Petrograd Soviet, and the Bolshevik Communists. The provisional government lost public support in April with the revelation of a letter from its Foreign Minister Milyukov pledging Russia's participation in World War I until "its glorious end"; as a result, Milyukov and War Minister Guchkov resigned and six members of the Petrograd Soviet, among them Alexander Kerensky, joined an unstable coalition government.

The Swiss satirical magazine Nebelspalter had pro-German sympathies during the First World War, so one might expect them to sit back and enjoy the Russian political infighting. That is not at all the attitude of Russia's allies, as expressed by American cartoonists:
"A Bad Time to Be Taken with a Stomachache" by John "Ding" Darling in New York Herald, May 9, 1917

"When Two Heads Are Not Better Than One" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May, 1917
Naturally, there was suspicion that Germany was doing more than just taking advantage of the political situation in Russia. In particular, that Germany and Russia would settle a separate peace agreement. The Milyukov letter had been an attempt to assuage those fears, but Lenin's Bolsheviks and the more radical of the Petrograd Soviet argued in favor of withdrawal from the war.
"Poison" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 7, 1917
As the war on the Western Front ground on and on and on with little progress made by either side, the U.S. and other Entente powers were counting on Russia to keep German forces occupied on the Eastern Front.
"Working for Wilhelm" by Rollin Kirby for New York World, May, 1917
The first two hanged figures in the following German cartoon might be King Nikola I Petrović-Njegoš of Montenegro (who had fled to France in January), and Peter I Karađorđević of Serbia, then the nominal head of the Serbian government in exile on Corfu. The hat of the third should be a giveaway, but I'm afraid I haven't figured out which of the Allied leaders that might be. (The face bears little resemblance to the precariously crowned heads of state of Romania, Greece or Spain. France had replaced General Robert Nivelle as Commander-in-Chief of its armies after 55 divisions mutinied in May, so perhaps it's him.)
"The European Punch and Judy Show" in Der Brummer, Berlin, May or June, 1917
On May 15, President Wilson named Elihu Root, a former Senator, Secretary of State and Secretary of War, to head a delegation to Russia to offer American aid provided that the new coalition government remain committed to the war effort, in spite of that commitment having led to the collapse of its immediate predecessor.
"Our Russian Mission" by Wm. Sykes in Philadelphia Evening Ledger,  1917
Anticipating Led Zeppelin by half a century, Root assessed the Russians he met as "sincerely, kindly, good people, but confused and dazed."

"After Elihu Root Gets Through with Russia" by E. Gminska in The Masses,  July, 1917
American Socialists were none too impressed with the New York Republican, as shown by these two cartoons. Ryan Walker's "Adventures of Henry Dubb" was a daily feature of the Socialist New York Evening Call, in which the title character, representing subservient, easily duped American laborers (ancestors of our Trump voters), gratuitously announced his name in every final panel.
"Adventures of Henry Dubb" by Ryan Walker in New York Evening Call, May 17, 1917
(Find some other cartoons of Senator Root in previous Saturday posts here and here.)

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