Chapter 4 – Present – Alternate Versailles Peace Conference


“Right, Kenji, let’s start with the easy to understand aspects, shall we? First of all, the size of the reparations imposed.”

“The reparations demanded were surely too high. There was no way Germany wouldn’t go broke as a result.”

“Absolutely. Although the United States intervened after the war and improved the situation, everything still went completely pear-shaped.”

“Err… Is this about the hyperinflation crisis1?”

“So you do remember. That’s correct. There were so many restrictions and obligations forced on the Germans, that recovering from the war was nigh-on impossible. Therefore, the English and the French definitely need to think this over.”

While his father was smiling cheerfully, Kenji pondered the matter. Was the objective of setting such a high reparation amount actually just to cripple Germany internally?
Because the treaty was too harsh, Nazi Germany2 was born… And that would lead to World War 2…
I wish to avoid the birth of the Nazis at any cost. Kenji temporarily halted his ruminations and shared his suspicions with his father expecting him to have answers and explanations to his doubts.

“First thing to do is to intervene in the problems around the reparations. If possible, I’d want to adopt the Dawes Plan3 from the outset.”

Having heard those words, Kenji turned visibly curious. ‘Dawes Plan’? What’s that?

“Dad, what was the Dawes Plan?”

“To put it briefly, it was a measure to mitigate the problems that arose from the reparations demanded by the Treaty of Versailles. It aimed to reduce the amount of debt payable and allow payments in German Mark4 instead.”

Oh, I see. But if it was necessary to change the payment currency to the Mark, why insist on the use of foreign currencies before? Was it because they wanted to press payments with a disregard to German economy?
If the installments were to be paid in German currency, the victors would need to pay some attention to the German economy. Because if that economy were to collapse, the debt repayments would amount to worthless paper.

“So if the debt wasn’t valued in German Marks, the amount of money to be paid would be really astronomical…”

“Precisely. There are other various problems of military nature, but the second biggest question to solve is the one of Austria.”

“If I’m not mistaken, Austria was called the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time.”

“Yeah, and I think its dissolution was inevitable.”

“Ehh. Did it just collapse on its own?”

“Austria was already in a state of decline, it lost all its power after being defeated in multiple wars prior to the Great War. Moreover, the Siberian Troops delivered the final blow after World War 1.”5

Kenji’s Dad proceeded to explain his reasoning.
During the Great War, the Entente did not initially intend for the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, then, an army was formed using the Czech prisoners of war in Russia, who were dissatisfied with the Austro-Hungarian Empire rule, the Czech Legion. The Czech and Slovak politicians subsequently established a dialogue with the Entente and held secret talks on the subject of Czech independence. This would be the main force to drive the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s dissolution after the war.
On the other hand, the Austro-Hungarian Empire itself made a string of mistakes when, once Germany signed a treaty with the Russian Revolutionary government (Treaty of Brest-Litovsk), having lost its reason for war, it tried to find peace and reconcile with the Entente.6
Kenji’s father saw those issues as a possible focus of an intervention, either by somehow helping Austria-Hungary to find peace early, or, if that was not possible, by changing the impact of the Czech Legion and attempting to stop the dissolution of the Empire altogether in this way.

“I can see many potential problems with that plan, Dad. Also, is there even any merit in keeping the Austro-Hungarian Empire together in the first place?”

“Its dissolution will be a source of upheaval for years to come. That area is eventually going to turn into a reaping ground for the Nazi Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union.”

“So, it becomes a powder keg that sets off the next war? Would Austro-Hungarian Empire’s continued existence made it possible to avoid the fighting in that area that occurred after Versailles?”

“Honestly, I don’t know how things would play out, but I can’t imagine them becoming much worse. The strength of a major power like them would become outrageous if they pooled their resources together and their economy developed just like it did in our history.”

So the goal for World War 1 is ensuring the survival of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and then reducing the burden of reparations. Won’t the Empire also be pressed for reparations if it survives intact, though? Hmmm… Considering the country’s actions during the war, I don’t think the Entente would seek any redress from them. Russia and Italy on the other hand…

“Well, Dad, either way, the scope of what Japan can do is very limited. It’s very hard to tell how things will turn out.”

“I wonder too, Kenji. I’m actually looking forward to hearing what happened from the people in the notebook. But, for them, the Russian Revolution and the Siberian troops are probably going to be the bigger problems than World War 1.”

“Err… So the Siberian troops… Did they try to challenge the Russian Revolutionary Government?”

Kenji’s father again provided an easy to understand explanation to his son, who lacked knowledge of the subject.
The Romanov dynasty of the Russian Empire fell as a result of a revolution in February 1917, during the World War 1. The provisional government that was established at that time was subsequently overthrown in the October Revolution, resulting in the Communist Party seizing the real power. The success of the October Revolution brought about the birth of a socialist country, but, naturally, there was internal opposition to the new ruling class. That eventually led to an armed internal conflict between the communist Red Army of the Soviet Union and the White Army of the sympathizers of the old order.7
This conflict began in 1917 and lasted until 1922. World War 1 had been concluded while Russian civil war was at its peak.

“Did you understand the gist of it?”

“Yup. Thanks, Dad.”

“Oh, one more important thing – the revolutionary government was more powerful than the Major Powers thought it was.”

“Okay. And eventually, after Russia became the Soviet Union, the Communist Party attempted to expand outside its borders, right?”

“Yup. And Japan, too, focused its attention on the Russian Far East. But in this new timeline, since the United States are present in Manchuria… When the influential figures of the former Russian Empire and the White Army start fleeing to the east after the October Revolution, wouldn’t it be plausible for them to be defended by the Japan-US alliance?”

Kenji started to speak while keeping father’s explanations in mind.

“That’s a rather bold strategy. If I’m not mistaken, the February Revolution of 1917 concluded with the toppling of the Tzar, and the October Revolution resulted in a single-party dictatorship of the Soviet Union, right?”

“If forces other than the Communist Party survive October, they can also serve as a breakwater against the future Soviet Union.”

“With them as a buffer, the Soviet Union would not be immediately able to deal with Karafuto.”

“Oh yeah. And we could negotiate exchanging the north of the island for offering those forces protection.”

“Well, if they get cornered to that extent, we most likely won’t lose out, and the possibility of occupying the whole of Karafuto becomes pretty high.”

“Ah, Kenji, I almost forgot. In fact, a number of provisional governments had been set up by the counterrevolutionary White Army.”

“Huh? Is that so? Were some of them based in the Far East?”

“Yeah, there were. The Siberian Republic for example. The thing is… It collapsed almost as soon as it was established.”

Though the Siberian Republic8 was internationally recognized in the Far East after the Revolution in 1918, it seemed that it almost immediately fell victim to internal strife. In Kenji’s father’s plan, once the civil war started, the White Army would be rallied in the Far East and allowed to gather as much power as possible there.
The historical White Army lacked unity and interest in the fighting, mainly because of geographic dispersal and ethnic incoherence, while being seemingly crushed by the Red Army everywhere. The Red Army also held the centers of population and industry.
Could Siberian Republic be successfully established as a proper country with Japanese and American support before the Red Army managed to dominate the Far East? Could it not defend itself? Would that change how the Siberian Intervention was run? And what if only half of that region was defended?

“Okay, Dad. I got the gist of it.”

After they have finished conversing, Kenji began writing in his notebook while his father was watching over.

<Thanks for waiting. I just had a conversation with the Sage.>

<Oh. Is the esteemed sage well?>

<Yeah. He is very well, thank you for asking. Shall we start with the prophecies?>

<…Let me prepare myself. Please wait a while…>

While the person in the notebook was preparing to learn from history, Kenji rummaged through his thoughts.
What if we’re really connected with the people from the past? … These people’s reactions are way too real…
While Kenji was having these useless thoughts, the person from the notebook was done preparing.

<Alright, we can start, O Prophet.>

<First of all, in 1914, a war will erupt and engulf the whole of Europe. It will last until 1918.>

<Oh, it’s the affair you mentioned last week. Will it really happen? Such a great war…>

<Franz of the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary9 will be assassinated in Sarajevo.10 That event sets off the war.>

<Please continue.>

<Although every country was unwilling, there were military alliances in place. It was difficult to call off hostilities once general mobilizations were under way.>

World War 1 became a total war in which each of the Major Powers mobilized the entirety of its nation’s capability. Nations shifted to war footings, imposed total mobilization orders, and gathered troops. All their country’s economies would be directed to further the war effort.
Japan during the Russo-Japanese War was operating exactly under the paradigm of a total war… And now the same approach would be employed by the Major Powers. The scale of the war and the number of victims would both be enormous.

<A t-t-total war between the Major Powers…>

<Precisely. I shall now briefly narrate the events of the war.>

<Very well.>

Kenji proceeded to note down a simple outline of World War 1 with more attention to Japan’s combat involvement.
Then he added a brief outline of the Treaty of Versailles and the history of the post-war period of each of the countries.

<Japan’s Imperial Navy should be deployed to Western Europe. German colonies in the South Islands11 as well as those in mainland China, and Qingdao12 should be gained in exchange for our involvement in the main theater of war.>

<So Japan is to fight as per the old Anglo-Japanese alliance. What about the Korean Peninsula?>

This reminded Kenji that Korea in that timeline had been actually divided between the United Kingdom and Germany…

<Since the Peninsula is half-British already and has Japan on its doorstep, won’t it just surrender without a fight?>

<Presented like this, it certainly looks like a needless worry. One more question, what is to be done with Qingdao?>

<There is no need to occupy it outright. I wonder if dismantling the military installations there wouldn’t do?>

<It is part of the mainland after all. But we do occupy the South Islands, yes?>

<Yes, that should prove uncontroversial.>

<I understood the other changes too. Is there anything we should do in Europe?>

<There is. The goal is to settle the matter of Austria during the war.>

Kenji started to write down what he had just discussed with his father on the subject. The person from the notebook seemed very surprised by the potential dissolution of Austria, but when the reasoning behind ensuring Austro-Hungarian Empire’s continued existence was being outlined, they interjected with the phrases of acknowledgment many times.

<The guidance was understood. My deepest gratitude, O Prophet. Is there any in regards to post-war settlement?>

Since everything seemed clear thus far for the other party, Kenji wrote down his father’s thoughts regarding the Treaty of Versailles so that the people in the notebook understood the matter better.

<There is one more issue. In our discussions up to now, the subject of Russian Revolution surfaced many times. There is a plan to describe regarding this matter as well.>

<I understand, O Prophet.>

Keji outlined the changes brought about by the Revolution stressing the Red Army’s strength and explained what approach should Japan take. The notebook person appeared to be very interested in the subject.

<For the revolutionary army to be that powerful… Nevertheless, the esteemed Sage’s strategy is divine, did he see this coming when he had Americans be drawn into Manchuria?>

<Absolutely. All this is as he has expected.>

<In that case, we will try to live up to his expectations and report the outcome as soon as possible.>

<Do not neglect the matters of economy, though. In 1914, a period of extraordinary demand will start, but that will wane after 1918. Be sure to skillfully exploit that moment.>

<I understand. I, too, comprehend the extreme importance of economy very well…>

The words of the notebook person carried a heavily gloomy air around them, they made one think matters related to economy were a cause of serious hurt over there at the moment.
But since Kenji’s arms were sore from all the writing and neither party added any more words, no particulars were to be known about the subject.

Author’s note:

For reference: An ethnic map of Austro-Hungarian possessions.
https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%82%AA%E3%83%BC%E3%82%B9%E3%83%88%E3%83%AA%E3%82%A2#/media/File:Austria_Hungary_ethnic.svg


Footnote

Just to reiterate, I feel like the descriptions for the endnotes are a little redundant as the chapter itself and the articles in these links efficiently explains the references in the first few paragraphs so I’ll just throw these out there. Let me know if you want the brief descriptions back in the footnotes.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperinflation_in_the_Weimar_Republic
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_Germany
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawes_Plan
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Papiermark
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czechoslovak_Legion
6. https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/war_aims_and_war_aims_discussions_austria-hungary
7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Civil_War
8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provisional_All-Russian_Government
9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archduke_Franz_Ferdinand_of_Austria
10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archduke_Franz_Ferdinand_of_Austria#Assassination
11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_former_German_colonies#Pacific
12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qingdao#German_colonial_period_and_Japanese_occupations


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