Mediation and Intervention in the Back of Beyond: France and the Eastern Baltic in 1917-1920


Louis Clerc (University of Turku)

Un pari sur les évolutions futures…  a bet on future evolutions—this is the way the French Foreign Ministry justified the January 1918 decision to recognize Finland’s independence in front of an incredulous French diplomatic corps.  Why would France recognize Finland, and by doing so acknowledge the scattering of her ally Russia?  Why would the French accept Finnish independence when the country was obviously under German influence?

Discussions around the recognition of Finnish independence clearly outline France’s problems in reacting to events that quickly unfolded in the eastern Baltic between the October 1917 Revolution and the 1920 conflict between the Bolsheviks and Poland.  In these years, French views evolved, moving between long term and short term concerns, and considering the war with Germany and intervention plans against Lenin’s forces, support for White Russian forces and recognition of small nationalities.

This paper traces the main trends of French reactions to eastern Baltic events and seeks to explain the reasons behind these reactions.  Such an understanding will give us a unique vision on the post-World War I Baltic Sea region.

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