In the summer of 1914, a military conflict centered in Europe occurred. It was called the World War I. All the world’s great powers were involved grouped into two opposing alliances: the Allies (Triple Entente) and the Central Powers. It was a time of mobilization which resulted to unfortunate occurrences. People lost their lives and property was destroyed which led to economic downfall in many states. Technological advances during this time were inevitable as it was a great war where both groups wanted to emerge winners. By the end of the war four great powers were defeated- Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Empires. The League of Nations was afterwards formed so as to prevent the occurrence of another war.
Before the war began, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Tsar Nicholas I of Russia used to send each other telegrams. These two were cousins and in writing these telegrams, they did not use their real names. Tsar used the name Nicky while Kaiser used the name Willy hence the name Willy-Nicky telegram. These telegrams had the purpose of fostering communication between the two as technology had not advanced yet. Furthermore they were to stop the serious developments which led to the First World War. A telegram is a primary document among others like photos, letters and journals. A primary document is the original source of information. On the other hand a secondary document is one which analyzes the primary document for example encyclopedias, books, dictionaries etcetera. For example, in June 31st, 1914, Tsar sent a telegram to Kaiser. This excerpt mainly focuses on the trial to prevent the occurrence of the First World War. A message of gratitude is sent across by Tsar who acknowledges Kaiser’s mediation between Austria and Serbia. It is somewhat an assurance that there is hope and peace would prevail. A promise is made by Tsar who assures Kaiser that military advances will not occur as long as the negotiations are taking place.
1b. How do the motives of the Tsar reveal themselves through this telegram?
During this time that Kaiser was tabling mediation talks between Austria and Serbia, military preparations by Tsar had already been done. This was due to Austria’s mobilization. However Tsar’s motives of engaging in war end following the negotiations which Kaiser mediated. His quest for peace clearly shows that he has good motives and does not wish for any war. He hopes that the mediation between Austria and Serbia will lead to a peaceful ending. This therefore is more than enough evidence to show that Tsar’s motives are not malicious but of peace. He backs up the sole purpose of the telegrams which was to prevent the war from occurring. In his view he seeks harmony following from his call upon God’s mercy. This is a further more evidence that Tsar’s motives are for the best and not the worst.
1c. What does this suggest about the relationship the Tsar had with the Kaiser?
Tsar according to the telegram has a political relationship with Kaiser. He shows gratitude to Kaiser for the ongoing mediation between Austria and Serbia. He holds a high position in the government as he talks of his military. This in some way builds up their relationship with Kaiser as he too has a high position in the government. This in turn proves that their relationship is concrete as they can offer each other support when need arises. These two emperors used to communicate using these telegrams. They used fake names except when they were angry. Being that this was just between them means that the kind of bond which was between them was a rather tight one. It appears that there relationship was linked by blood as no other emperors had such a tight bond compared to these two.
1d. What does this telegram imply about the understanding of government by the Tsar (and the Kaiser)?
The government as taken by Tsar is a body which although powerful should be on the forefront to foster peace. Kaiser also has the same idea as he leads by example in the mediation between Austria and Serbia. It is the government’s obligation to ensure peaceful coexistence ranging from Tsar’s perspective. In general both view the government as a peace fostering body. The power that is vested in the government should be used not to provoke war but to ensure in all lengths that it does not occur. According to Tsar the government is capable of preventing such occurrences.
1e. How significant were the exchanges by telegram between Kaiser William and Tsar Nicholas to the outbreak of the First World War?
Although the war broke out in the long run, both Tsar and Kaiser had tried to prevent it. Their telegrams were of great significance in that they tried to foster peace among states. Tsar was not of the idea of going to war and neither was Kaiser. In relation to the First World War, the telegrams act as proof that it was not the wish of everyone that the war broke out. At least that is not what Tsar and Kaiser had in mind. In this exchange of telegrams there was an anticipation of the war by Tsar. They in turn tried to stop it from happening but due to factors out of their own control, the inevitable happened. They did not have in mind that the said mobilization would in any way be a cause for the war.
The world war is one of the occurrences which will never be forgotten. Efforts to prevent it by Tsar and Kaiser were worth trying as things could have changed. The telegrams in some kind of a way had some effect in that they somewhat delayed the break out of the war. All in all the war broke out in the end and serious consequences followed.
Sidney B. (1918) "The Kaiser's Secret Negotiations with the Tsar, 19041905." American Historical Review 24:1, pp. 48-72.
Duffy, Michael, (April 16, 2010) "The Willy-Nicky Telegrams,"
Robert K. (1967) Nicholas and Alexandra, (New York: Dell Publishing Company),