Who's Who - Sergei Sazonov

Sergei Sazonov Sergei Dmitrievich Sazonov (1860-1927) was Russia's Foreign Minister from 1910-16 until his dismissal was engineered by conservative forces led by Tsarina Alexandra.

Sazonov entered the foreign ministry in 1883 and was thereafter posted to Russian embassies in London, Washington and at the Vatican before receiving an appointment as Deputy Foreign Minister in 1909.

The following year his expertise in international affairs brought him the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a portfolio he retained until his eventual dismissal at Alexandra's hands in 1916.

Determined to foster closer relations with France and Britain, and to improve German relations wherever possible, Sazonov's desire to maintain a relatively neutral posture towards Turkey was frustrated by his (separate) encouragement of the Balkan League, an alliance of Balkan states that was ostensibly intended to act as a buffer against Austria-Hungary but which in the event acted in opposition to Constantinople.

Nevertheless, Russian military weakness led Sazonov to prevent his country's direct participation in the Balkan Wars.  This factor may also have informed his advice to Serbia during the July Crisis of 1914, when he recommended that she accept as many of Austria-Hungary's (deliberately) humiliating demands as possible as a means to avoid war in the wake of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

A realist however Sazonov expected war which duly transpired when Vienna seized upon relatively minor quibbling on the part of the Serbian government in reply to their ultimatum, and promptly declared war with the latter on 28 July 1914.

Sazonov, who had earlier informed Vienna that Russia would stand by Serbia if the need arose, advised Tsar Nicholas II to order mobilisation of Russia's vast army on 30 July 1914.  Having initially prevaricated for a while the Tsar - under intense pressure from his military high command - agreed to mobilisation.

Both Sazonov and the Tsar understood that mobilisation meant war with Germany (as a consequence of the tangled alliance system).  Germany formally declared war with Russia on 1 August 1914.

With war declared Sazonov set about carving out Russia's diplomatic war strategy.  After consultation with France and Britain he secured their agreement in March 1915 to Russia's annexation of Constantinople and the straits area once the war had been concluded.  He also helped secure Romania's benevolent neutrality in October 1914 by promising her control over Hungarian Transylvania after the war.

However when he sought the Tsar's permission to issue a promise granting Poland autonomy after the war he brought upon himself the wrath of the Tsarina and the arch-conservative Minister of the Interior Nikolai Maklakov.  Alexandra urged his dismissal, which duly took effect on 23 July 1916.

Sazonov, deprived of the Foreign Ministry, was despatched to London as his country's ambassador.  Remaining in London following the February Revolution of 1917 - and following his dismissal by the Provisional Government in May 1917 - he attended the Paris Peace Conference as a representative of the anti-Bolshevik government led by Admiral Kolchak.

He died on Christmas Day 1929 in Nice, France at the age of 67.

Flak was a term used to describe anti-aircraft fire.

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