Extract from the Speech of Nicolas Pokrovsky, Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, in the Duma, December 15, 1916

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WWI Document Archive > 1916 Documents > Official Communications and Speeches Relating to Peace Proposals 1916-1917 > Extract from the Speech of Nicolas Pokrovsky, Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, in the Duma, December 15, 1916


Extract from the Speech of Nicolas Pokrovsky, Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, in the Duma, December 15, 19161

     I am addressing you immediately on having been appointed to
the post of Minister for Foreign Affairs, and am, naturally, not in a
position to give you a detailed statement on the political situation
of the day. But I feel constrained to inform you without delay
and with the supreme authorization of his Imperial Majesty of the
attitude of the Russian Government with regard to the application
of our enemies, of which you heard yesterday through the telegrams
of the news agencies.
     Words of peace coming from the side which bears the whole bur-
den of responsibility for the world conflagration, which it started.
and which is unparalleled in the annals of history, however far
back one may go, were no surprise to the Allies. In the course of
the two and a half years that the war has lasted Germany has more
than once mentioned peace. She spoke of it to her armies and to
her people each time she entered upon a military operation which
was to prove "decisive." After each military success, calculated with
a view to creating an impression, she put out feelers for a separate
peace on one side and, another and conducted an active propaganda
in the neutral Press. All these German efforts met with the calm
and determined resistance of the Allied Powers.
     Now, seeing that she is powerless to make a breach in our un-
shakable alliance, Germany makes an official proposal to open peace
negotiations. In order properly to appreciate the meaning of this
proposal one must consider its intrinsic worth and the circumstances
in which it was made. In substance the German proposal contains
no tangible indications regarding the nature of the peace which is
desired. It repeats the antiquated legend that the war was forced
upon the Central Powers, it speaks of the victorious Austro-German
armies, and the irresistibility of their defence, and then, proposing
the opening of peace negotiations, the Central Powers express the
conviction that the offers which they have to make will guarantee
the existence, honour, and free development of their own peoples,
and are calculated to establish a lasting peace. That is all the com-
munication contains, except a threat to continue the war to a victor-
ious end, and, in the case of refusal, to throw the responsibility for
the further spilling of blood on our Allies.
     What are the circumstances in which the German proposal was
made? The enemy armies devastated and occupy Belgium, Serbia
and Montenegro, and a part of France, Russia and Roumania. The
Austro-Germans have just proclaimed the illusory independence of
a part of Poland, and are by this trying to lay hands on the entire
Polish nation. Who, then, with the exception of Germany, could
derive any advantage under such conditions by the opening of peace
negotiations?
     But the motives of the German step will be shown more clearly
in relief if one takes into consideration the domestic conditions of
our enemies. Without speaking of the unlawful attempts of the
Germans to horse the population of Russian Poland to take arms
against its own country, it will suffice to mention the introduction
of general forced labour in Germany to understand how hard is the
situation of our enemies. To attempt at the last moment to profit
by their fleeting territorial conquests before their domestic weakness
was revealed — that was the real meaning of the German proposal.
In the event of failure they will exploit at home the refusal of the
Allies to accept peace in order to rehabilitate the tottering morale of
their populations.
     But there is another senseless motive for the step they have taken.
Failing to understand the true spirit which animates Russia, our
enemies deceive themselves with the vain hope that they will find
among us men cowardly enough to allow themselves to be deceived
if even for a moment by lying proposals. That will not be. No
Russian heart will yield. On the contrary, the whole of Russia will
rally all the more closely round its august Sovereign, who declared
at the very beginning of the war that he "would not make peace
until the last enemy soldier had left our country."
     Russia will apply herself with more energy than ever to the realiza-
tion of the aims proclaimed before you on the clay when you reassem-
bled, especially to the positive and general collaboration which con-
stitutes the only sure means of arriving at the end which we all
have at heart — namely, the crushing of the enemy. The Russian
Government repudiates with indignation the mere idea of suspending
the struggle and thereby permitting Germany to take advantage of
the last chance she will have of subjecting Europe to her hegemony.
All the innumerable sacrifices already made would be in vain if a
premature peace were concluded with an enemy whose horses have
been shaken, but not broken, an enemy who is seeking a breathing
space by making deceitful offers of a permanent peace. In this in-
flexible decision, Russia is in complete agreement with all her valiant
Allies. We are all equally convinced of the vital necessity of carry-
ing on the war to a victorious end, and no subterfuge by our enemies
will prevent us from following this path.


1 The Times, London, December 16, 1916.