Sergey Sazonov
Sergei Dmitrievich Sazonov GCB (Russian: Сергей Дмитриевич Сазонов, 10 August 1860 25 December 1927) was a Russian statesman who served as Foreign Minister
Foreign minister
A Minister of Foreign Affairs, or foreign minister, is a cabinet minister who helps form the foreign policy of a sovereign state. The foreign minister is often regarded as the most senior ministerial position below that of the head of government . It is often granted to the deputy prime minister in...

 from September 1910 to June 1916. The degree of his involvement in the events leading up to the outbreak of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 is a matter of keen debate, with some historians putting the blame for an early and provocative mobilization
Mobilization is the act of assembling and making both troops and supplies ready for war. The word mobilization was first used, in a military context, in order to describe the preparation of the Prussian army during the 1850s and 1860s. Mobilization theories and techniques have continuously changed...

 squarely on Sazonov's shoulders, and others maintaining that his chief preoccupation was "to reduce the temperature of international relations, especially in the Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...


Early career

Of lesser noble background, Sazonov was the brother-in-law of Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin
Pyotr Stolypin
Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin served as the leader of the 3rd DUMA—from 1906 to 1911. His tenure was marked by efforts to repress revolutionary groups, as well as for the institution of noteworthy agrarian reforms. Stolypin hoped, through his reforms, to stem peasant unrest by creating a class of...

 who did his best to further Sazonov's career. Having graduated from the Alexander Lyceum
Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum
The Imperial Lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo near Saint Petersburg also known historically as the Imperial Alexander Lyceum after its founder the Emperor Alexander I with the object of educating youths of the best families, who should afterwards occupy important posts in the Imperial service.Its...

, Sazonov served in the London embassy, and the diplomatic mission to the Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

, of which he became the chief in March 1906. On 26 June 1909 Sazonov was recalled to St. Petersburg and appointed Assistant Foreign Minister. Before long he replaced Alexander Izvolsky as Foreign Minister and continued along the lines laid down by his predecessor.

Potsdam Agreement

Just before he was officially appointed foreign minister, Sazonov attended a meeting between Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Prince of Finland, and titular King of Poland. His official short title was Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias and he is known as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church.Nicholas II ruled from 1894 until...

 and Wilhelm II of Germany in Potsdam
Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg and part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel, southwest of Berlin city centre....

 on 4-6 November 1910. This move was intended to chastise the British for their perceived betrayal of Russia's interests during the Bosnian crisis
Bosnian crisis
The Bosnian Crisis of 1908–1909, also known as the Annexation crisis, or the First Balkan Crisis, erupted into public view when on 6 October 1908, Austria-Hungary announced the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Russia, the Ottoman Empire, Britain, Italy, Serbia, Montenegro, Germany and France...

. Indeed, Britain's Foreign Secretary
Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon
Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon KG, PC, FZL, DL , better known as Sir Edward Grey, Bt, was a British Liberal statesman. He served as Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916, the longest continuous tenure of any person in that office...

 was seriously alarmed by this token of a "German-Russian Détente
Détente is the easing of strained relations, especially in a political situation. The term is often used in reference to the general easing of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1970s, a thawing at a period roughly in the middle of the Cold War...


The two monarchs discussed the ambitious German project of the Baghdad Railway
Baghdad Railway
The Baghdad Railway , was built from 1903 to 1940 to connect Berlin with the Ottoman Empire city of Baghdad with a line through modern-day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq....

, widely expected to give Berlin considerable geopolitical clout in the Fertile Crescent
Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent, nicknamed "The Cradle of Civilization" for the fact the first civilizations started there, is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia. The term was first used by University of Chicago...

. Against the background of the Persian Constitutional Revolution, Russia was anxious to control the prospective Khanaqin
Khanaqin is a city in Iraq. It is located at 34.3°N, 45.4°E in the Diyala Governorate, near the Iranian border on a tributary of the Diyala River...

Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

 branch of the railway. The two powers settled their differences in the Potsdam Agreement, signed on 19 August 1911 and giving Russia a free hand in Northern Iran. As Sazonov hoped, the first railway connecting Persia to Europe would provide Russia with a lever of influence over its southern neighbour.

Notwithstanding the promising beginning, the Russian-German relations disintegrated in 1913, when the Kaiser sent one of his generals to reorganize the Turkish army and to supervise the garrison in Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, remarking that "the German flag will soon fly over the fortifications of the Bosphorus", a vital trade artery which accounted for two fifths of Russia's exports.

Alliance with Japan

Despite his fixation on Russian-German affairs, Sazonov was also mindful of Russian interests in the Far East
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

. In the wake of the disastrous Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

, he steadily made friendly overtures toward Japan. As a result, a secret convention was signed in St. Petersburg on 8 July 1912 concerning the delimitation of spheres of interest in Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China, located in the northern region of the country. Inner Mongolia shares an international border with the countries of Mongolia and the Russian Federation...

. Both powers determined to keep Inner Mongolia politically separate from Outer Mongolia. Four years later, Sazonov congratulated himself on concluding a Russian-Japanese defensive alliance
Relations between the Empire of Japan and the Russian Empire
The Relations between the Empire of Japan and the Russian Empire were mostly hostile due to the conflicting territorial expansions of both empires. Diplomatic and commercial relations between the two empires were established from 1855 onwards...

 (3 July 1916) aimed at securing the interests of both powers in China.

World War I

In the run-up to a major military conflict in Europe, another concern of the Russian minister was to isolate Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

, mainly by playing the Balkan card against the dwindling power of the Habsburgs. Since Sazonov was moderate in his Balkan politics, his ministry "came under frequent nationalist fire for failing to conform to a rigid pan-Slav line".

While the extremist agents like Nicholas Hartwig
Nicholas Hartwig
Baron Nicholas Genrikhovich Hartwig was a Russian ambassador to Persia and Serbia . An ardent Pan-Slavist, he was said to be "more Serbian than the Serbs" and in the period prior to World War I was thought by many to practically control the policy of the Serbian government...

 aspired to solidify the conflicting South Slavic states into a confederacy under the aegis of the Tsar, there is no indication that Sazonov personally shared or encouraged these views. Regardless, both Austria and Germany were persuaded that Russia fomented Pan-Slavism
Pan-Slavism was a movement in the mid-19th century aimed at unity of all the Slavic peoples. The main focus was in the Balkans where the South Slavs had been ruled for centuries by other empires, Byzantine Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Venice...

 in Belgrade
Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

 and other Slavic capitals, a belligerent attitude in some measure responsible for the Assassination in Sarajevo and the outbreak of the Great War.

As the World War unwound, Sazonov worked to prevent Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 from joining the Central Powers
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

 and wrested in March 1915 an acquiescence from Russia's allies to the post-war occupation of the Bosphorus, Constantinople, and the European side of the Dardanelles
The Dardanelles , formerly known as the Hellespont, is a narrow strait in northwestern Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara. It is one of the Turkish Straits, along with its counterpart the Bosphorus. It is located at approximately...

. On 1 October 1914 Sazonov gave a written guarantee to Romania that, if the country sided with the Entente, it would be enlarged at the expense of the Austrian dominions in Transylvania
Transylvania is a historical region in the central part of Romania. Bounded on the east and south by the Carpathian mountain range, historical Transylvania extended in the west to the Apuseni Mountains; however, the term sometimes encompasses not only Transylvania proper, but also the historical...

, Bukovina
Bukovina is a historical region on the northern slopes of the northeastern Carpathian Mountains and the adjoining plains.-Name:The name Bukovina came into official use in 1775 with the region's annexation from the Principality of Moldavia to the possessions of the Habsburg Monarchy, which became...

, and the Banat
The Banat is a geographical and historical region in Central Europe currently divided between three countries: the eastern part lies in western Romania , the western part in northeastern Serbia , and a small...

. In general, "his calm and courteous manner did much to maintain fruitful Allied relations".

Sazonov was viewed favourably in London, but the Germanophile faction of Tsarina Alexandra fiercely urged his dismissal, which did materialize only after the minister had aired a proposal to grant autonomy to Poland.

Later life

Early in 1917, Sazonov was appointed ambassador in Great Britain, but found it necessary to remain in Russia, where he witnessed the February Revolution
February Revolution
The February Revolution of 1917 was the first of two revolutions in Russia in 1917. Centered around the then capital Petrograd in March . Its immediate result was the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire...

. He was opposed to Bolshevism, advised Anton Denikin on international affairs, and was foreign minister in the anti-Bolshevik government of Admiral Kolchak. In 1919 he represented the White movement
White movement
The White movement and its military arm the White Army - known as the White Guard or the Whites - was a loose confederation of Anti-Communist forces.The movement comprised one of the politico-military Russian forces who fought...

 at the Paris Peace Conference
Paris Peace Conference, 1919
The Paris Peace Conference was the meeting of the Allied victors following the end of World War I to set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers following the armistices of 1918. It took place in Paris in 1919 and involved diplomats from more than 32 countries and nationalities...

. Sazonov spent his last years in France writing a book of memoirs. He died in Nice where he is buried
Burial is the act of placing a person or object into the ground. This is accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing an object in it, and covering it over.-History:...

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