Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv
Among the most important discussions at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference
was the Russian question, which was addressed in several interconnected aspects.
The most important of them was winning states’ policy choice towards Russian
Bolshevik government. Soviet historians argued that the hostile attitude of Western
nations to Bolsheviks was their only policy possible, aimed at overthrowing
Lenin’s government and destroying Bolshevik’s power. Those arguments have not
been reconsidered by Ukrainian scholars yet.
According to our hypothesis, in early 1919, it was possible to reach an agreement
between the Allied and Associated Powers, on the one hand, and the Russian
Bolshevik government, on the other. Namely, due to Prinkipo proposal, promoted
by British and American governments. Though French and Italian governments
had different views on Bolsheviks, they did not oppose the proposal.
In January-February 1919 they actually sought to elaborate and pursue a joint
policy towards Russia.
This paper explores the Great Powers’ policy towards Russia at the beginning
of the Paris Peace Conference to test our hypothesis. The methodology is
based on a detailed study of historical sources (proceedings of the Council of Ten
and the Supreme War Council, diplomatic correspondence, speeches and works
of Powers’ leaders and diplomats) to describe discussions of Russian question
at the beginning of the Conference, in January-February 1919. The author reconstructs
Entente’s and the U.S. leaders’ point of view, to reveal their motives
and arguments, and to explain their decisions. The paper argues that the agreement
failed not because of Great Powers’ anti-Bolshevik stance and the refusal
of other Russian and national parties to participate in the Prinkipo conference,
but because of the Bolshevik government’s policies. It failed to comply with the
only condition for participating in the conference, namely, ceasefire. Instead, Red
Army led massive attacks at the fronts and expanded the Bolshevik rule to new
territories, including Ukraine. Besides, the Soviet government did not stop the
revolutionary propaganda and used its peaceful proposals addressed to Principal
Powers for the purposes of world revolution.
Keywords: Paris Peace Conference, 1919, Russian issue, policy towards Russia,
Bolsheviks, the Entente nations, the United States.