Saturday, March 22, 2014

Guest Post: 21st April, 1920 - Independent Ukraine

From Today in Alternate History

21st April, 1920 - Ukraine fights for its independence

In exchange for the acceptance of a national border on the Zbrucz river, Polish Chief of State and First Marshal Józef Piłsudski promised the Ukrainian People's Republic military help in the Kiev Offensive against the Red Army. The Ukrainians gained more much needed help in the unlikely shape of a people's army led by their very own White Military Leader, a so-called "knight in rusty armour", Archduke Wilhelm von Hapsburg.

The odds were long because Kievan Rus was the origin of the Russian Civilization, and so the Ukrainians desperately needed to establish their hard-fought independence in this contested territory long before the Soviet State could win (let alone fully recover from) the bloody Russian Civil War. However this simple fact was not fully accepted by the All-Ukrainian Governing Council known as the Central Rada. They conspicuously failed to properly organize the three hundred thousand men that had spontaneously organized themselves into all-Ukrainian unit under the command of General Pavlo Skoropadsky.

When Skoropadsky failed to overthrow the Rada, he turned in desperation to the Colonel of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen, Archduke Wilhelm von Hapsburg. Despite the ruthlessly expedient logic of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" he was after all an aristocratic throwback to the pre-Great War Royal Houses of Central Europe that had brutally suppressed Slav nationalism for centuries. Yet against the odds, together with their Polish allies, they launched an unlikely bid to save Independent Ukraine from Russian chauvinism in its latest guise, Communism. In achieving this goal, they changed the future of Europe by establishing a cordon sanitaire between the totalitarian rogue states of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.
Addendum by Jeff Provine:
Hapsburg had initially determined the Polish treaty to be a betrayal by Western Ukraine, the revolution ousting the Rada proved to quell his feelings. The treaty stood with the new government, and Hapsburg climbed the military ladder by leading multinational forces to eventually drive out Russian threats. Many called for Wilhelm to become king, but "Vasyl Vyshyvani" as he dubbed himself refused out of his respect for commoners, although his overwhelming popularity gave him king-like powers in politics in the east.

In 1938, another European leader, Adolf Hitler, approached Ukraine about breaking off its treaty with Poland and retaking territory lost in the 1920 agreement. The Ukrainians came into agreement, but only on the condition of a new alliance that forced Germany into an anti-Soviet stance. Poland fell, bringing Western Europe to war with Germany at an inopportune time as alliances demanded German forces aid Finland in its own war with the Soviets alongside Ukrainian troops.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Guest Post: Tehuantepec Canal

From Today in Alternate History:

30th December, 1853 - The Canal Franchise Provision in the Gadsden Purchase

On this day the American ambassador to Mexico James Gadsden purchased a thirty thousand square-mile area of land south of the Gila River and west of the Rio Grande. It was then ratified, with changes, by the US Senate on April 25, 1854, and signed by President Franklin Pierce, with final approval action taken by Mexico on June 8, 1854. The "Gadsen Purchase" was the last major territorial acquisition in the contiguous United States.
The treaty also included a significant provision which allowed the U.S. to build a transoceanic canal across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. This narrow strip of land was of strategic interest being the shortest distance between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean but also an area excluded from the Gadsden Purchase (it comprised the part of Mexico lying between the ninety-fourth and ninety-sixth meridians west longitude).
However a survey of the interior found two hundred kilometres of valleys and hills requiring massive and extremely expensive excavations. It took an incredible feat of engineering to complete the Canal, but a positive side effect was the creation of a zone of employment that vastly upgraded the Mexican economy. As the Confederacy extended its influence into South America, the Union was forced to look to the South-West for expansion. Ironically, the biggest advocate of the canal franchise had been Secretary of War Jefferson Davis who would later serve as the inaugural President of the Confederate States.
Addendum by Jeff Provine:
Because of the international importance of the canal, the Confederacy fortified the supporting harbors against Union assault. Upon the European expedition to reclaim owed money led by France that resulted in the seizure of Mexico, the Confederacy and France became diplomatically entangled, leading to the recognition of the rebel states by France. The British and Spanish, who had given up the expedition after France showed its imperialistic ideals, remained neutral in the American Civil War. The combined French and Confederate fleets prevented a total blockade by the Union, but France found its armies eventually outweighed in Mexico. In 1868, France's empire ended in Mexico, and the Confederacy finally capitulated to an ailing Abraham Lincoln, who was relieved of the presidency in the Republican-won election.
Confederate holdouts fled to Tehuantepec, where they mingled with Mexicans sympathetic to France. Soon a new revolution began with the declaration of independence of Tehuantepec upon the completion of the canal, but an international force quickly occupied the canal and contributed to reestablishing Mexican control with heavy influence from the United States and Britain.

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