Willy and Nicky

Willy And Nicky Correspondence: Last Attempts to Stop WWI

WWI is often attributed largely to the actions of Imperial Germany and the Russian Empire, with Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicholas II being blamed for their weak leadership and imperialist policies. While this is true to a certain extent, they were also ironically among the last people who attempted to stop the war. A correspondence between the two showed their final attempts to stop a war and help paint them in a more sympathetic light.

The Road to War

Although often seen as the first industrial war, WWI can also be seen in another light, as a massive family dispute. This is because the European leaders at the time like Wilhem, Nicholas, and Geoge V of Great Britain were all related to Queen Victoria, making them cousins.

This is why many leaders didn’t just know each other, they were family and had personal relationships with it. In some ways, this adds a level of tragedy to the war as many of these cousins turned against one another.

This is no more true than with Germany and Russia. Although once allies, both empires distrusted each other’s growing power and would turn into rivals. They would later join rival factions, with Germany joining the Triple Alliance with Italy and Austria-Hungary, and Russia joining forces with Great Britain and France in the Triple Entente.

As distrust and jealousy grew, it was only a matter of time before something happened that would bring Europe into war. That thing came in July 1914 when a Bosnian nationalist shot and killed the heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franze Ferdinand.

As a Russian ally, Serbia pleaded for their help while Austria-Hungary requested German aid. Meanwhile, France also offered their aid against the Germans. As the lines were drawn, it seemed as if war was inevitable. But there were some dissenting voices.

Throughout this crisis, individual voices from officials and ambassadors all called for peace, trying to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. The last of these came from the least likely source Wilhelm II and Nicholas II. Though both their nations spoke of war, the two leaders had their misgivings and as conflict drew nearer, they reached out to one another in a series of telegrams.

In these telegrams, both men shared their fears and doubts about the conflict, feeling forced into it and hoping to find a solution. In a rather touching family moment, as these two men desperately tried to avoid the tragedy about to unfold, they did away with all formalities and simply spoke to them as people.

Instead of referring to each other as Kaiser and Tsar or even as Wilhemn and Nicholas, the two used the nicknames, Willy and Nicky.

And their efforts came so close. For a moment, the Russians had halted mobilization and it seemed like a peaceful resolution could be reached. But the forces of war were too powerful and after a few weeks of these letters, the Germans and Russians would shed each other’s blood.

“I foresee that very soon I shall be overwhelmed by the pressure forced upon me and be forced to take extreme measures which will lead to war. To try and avoid such a calamity as a European war I beg you in the name of our old friendship to do what you can to stop your allies from going too far. Nicky.”

– Nicholas II, Former Tsar of Russia.

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