Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fall 1902 Daily Dissembler: Your Trusted Source For News Of An Imaginary Europe


The Daily Dissembler, Special European Gazette Issue, October 15, 1902

We make sense of a complicated, far-off world so you, dear reader, can enjoy the Gilded Age.


Shocking news has reached us of the collapse of civil order in Austria.    Following the Siege of Budapest by the Russian Armies of General Samsonov, secret documents were captured confirming the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne and commander of the Austrian army.   The Archduke was killed this spring during fighting in Galicia and his death was kept secret by the Hapsburg regime.   However, as the Emperor brooded on his son’s death, his interest in affairs of state grew less, and his seclusion increased, leaving his generals and diplomats without direction.   Reports from Vienna indicate that the city is divided, with some neighbourhoods under control of workers' committees while others are still controlled by loyal army regiments.   The acting mayor of Vienna, Dr. Sigmund Freud, has appealed to the various European powers to treat Vienna as an Open City.  “To violate this innocent city,” Mayor Freud told the press, “would be an act showing primal aggression and unresolved conflicts from childhood.”  When asked if Count de Graspi, the Lion of Trieste, was being asked to come to the rescue of the Viennese, Acting Mayor Freud merely said, “De Graspi is indeed a fascinating case."


Austrian naval units moored in Athens and other Greek harbours have run up the red flag of revolt.   Some captains and more detested officers have reportedly been thrown overboard and have had to swim for it.   When the Turkish flagship Mejidye anchored off Athens last week, there was no resistance.   When news of the mutiny first broke, the Greek government of national liberation assumed control of the Austrian ships , but shortly relinquished them to the Turkish Governor, along with everything else, and then were escorted to prison after the Governor’s swearing-in ceremony.  If anyone in Greece saw anything positive about the arrival of the new masters, it was the head of the Greek Olympic Committee, who said “Well, at least now we don’t have to worry about the bills for Franz Joseph Stadplatz (since renamed Sultan And-al-Hamid II Stadium - eds) we’ve just completed.  You can send the bills to the Sultan."


The Austrian fleet at anchor off Athens, just before the mutiny.


General Samsonov is Russia’s hero of the hour after Austria’s Army of the Vistula surrendered to his forces after a one month siege of Budapest.   Here we see a photograph of Austrian prisoners of war beginning their long journey to Siberia.   General Rennenkampf, commander of Army Group Warsaw, complained publicly that his soldiers deserve credit for the victory.   “That dolt Samsonov couldn’t encircle a chamberpot with his fat arse without his staff to help him.   I should receive the Order of St. Michael, not him.”  Possibly General Rennenkampf will have the good fotune to secure Vienna, if the Italians do not beat him to it, but will the Turks let this be merely a two-man race or do they harbour their ancient memories of once besieging Vienna?




For the last month, rumours have been circulating in Berlin about the Kaiser.  The German government has vigorously denied the “scurrilous lies in the socialist press that His Excellency was recently seen wandering through Austria in his undergarments”.  

  Our Berlin correspondent, Maxwell von Haus, sends this report, which we consider trustworthy.  "On hearing of the collapse of Austria, Kaiser Wilhelm was heard to shout "Nein, nein, nein, nein, nein!"  Later that morning he was photographed on the steps of Marienburg Castle dressed in full medieval plate  with the surcoat of the Teutonic Order.  He mounted a white charger and rode off in an easterly direction. Shortly thereafter he was followed by a long supply train loaded with the finest food wine and beer as well as luxury field accommodations."

This news may explain something that has baffled military commentators, namely the sudden eastward turn of the Germany armies.


Our staff cartoonist’s view of the Kaiser’s “pivot to the east”.


Troops of the Royal Marines were the first to land in Copenhagen earlier this month.    In a complex operation supported by overwhelming firepower from the Royal Navy, the Marines led the way, taking the major points of the city without a shot being fired.   Expected resistance from the German High Seas Fleet melted away as Admiral Tirpitz had raised steam and sailed eastwards into the Baltic the week before.  Martin Munk, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, breathed a sigh of relief.   “I’ve been assured that they’re just here for the football.   German, English, it’s all the same to us, they’re all good for business.  Not as good as the French navy is to the Dutch, I hear, but pretty good.”  In the weeks since, the rest of the British Expeditionary Force landed and moved south, taking up positions on the border of Schleswig-Holstein.  Will that mean a fight with Germany?


Danish crowds cheer the arrival of the Royal Marines in Copenhagen. 

In other news from London, the British Foreign Office cabled today that it announces the end of the Boer War and acknowledges the role and support given by the Dutch in achieving this settlement and wishes them well for the future.  Shelling commences in five minutes.  (Ed - are you sure about that last bit?)


 By Our Man in Rome – Ernest Harrington

With the situation in Central Europe deteriorating it seems certain that di Rossi, the current Foreign Minister, will accede to the premiership.  What then of de Graspi, his father-in-law, who for many has come to personalise the War Party?  Many are calling for him to be appointed Minister for War.  My sources, however [Note to ed – send more cigars, tinned pineapples and maple syrup], tell me that di Rossi is likely to bow to de Graspi’s own desire for a field command -possibly as Commando .  How this will affect policy or not, is uncertain, but what is clear is that we are headed for a Great Northern War.



 Count De Graspi

De Graspi himself has refused to comment on the likely change of government.  Currently on a ‘popular lecture tour’ of the Eastern United States he recently gave the following statement to the Boston Women’s Weekly – “Whatever position I adopt, I assure you my resolve will be stiff.  Italy calls and I shall return!”

There is wind in the old warhorse yet, it seems...


A Journey to St. Petersburg and a Meeting With The Tsar



Story filed by the Daily Dissember’s own Miss Amelia Roosevelt, Intrepid Girl Reporter and niece of the Vice President.

It proved very difficult for me to leave the Hotel Trieste this spring.   While my charming host, Count di Graspi, did not tell me in so many words that I was a prisoner, I came to feel that I was under a kind of house arrest.  It was with thanks to the Maitre d’Hotel, Monsieur Gustave, that I was able to “check out” by means of being hidden in a laundry van, thus eluding the charming (and rather familiar) officer appointed by the Count as “my minder”.  Thanks to M. Gustave, I was able to travel in the company of a cheese importer, Herr Finkel (by appointment to the House of Hapsburg), who had received permission to travel through the lines to Vienna, and was able to disguise myself as a young land in his employ.  From there, after some choice words with the assistant to the US ambassador in Vienna, who did not perceive my true identity, I was able to secure assistance, new clothes, and a visa to Germany and from there a train to St. Petersburg.    Most Russian trains, and there are relatively few of them, are employed on the Galician Front, and so my car was crowded with soldiers, old women, chickens in crates, sacks of onions and clouds of mahorka tobacco.  Two Cossack officers appointed themselves as my bodyguards and were very gallant.   One told me he has a cousin in Chicago, but sad to say, I had to inform him that I did not have the honour of this gentleman’s appearance.

After several months of repeated visits to various Ministries, Equerries, Aides de Camp, and other dignitaries, I finally secured an appointment for an audience with Tsar Nicholas.   I prepared a list of questions, and submitted them to somebody (a Grand Chamberlain, perhaps?) to have them checked for “protocol”.  The day came and I presented myself at the Alexander Palace, passing through a series of ornate rooms, and waited in a type of salon for at least an hour before I was shown into the Tsar’s study.   Tsar Nicholas is a slight man, not tall by the standards of American men, but possessed of large and piercing blue eyes, which stared at me for some time and blinked, owlishly, as he stroke his luxuriant moustache, somewhat nervously, I thought.   I stammered through my questions, which were I believe translated to the Tsar, who remained silent.   Finally, he said something which was translated as a question, “Had I seen any American red Indians?”  A few, I mentioned, while travelling in the West with my uncle.  The Tsar nodded, then stood, bowed, and left the room.  I confess I know nothing more about Russian policy and ambitions than I did before, but after speaking to several military attaches in the city, I gather that I am no more ignorant on this subject than anyone else.  Russia’s ambitions will continue to be a mystery until they are revealed.

I hope to file again after I take ship for England and speak, I hope, to the King about the British view of things.



nsightful commentary on the European situation by General Sir Erasmus Blatt (ret), geo-political and military correspondent for the Rioters News Agency, on contract to the Daily Dissembler..


The Demise of the House of Hapsburg.

A commentary by General Sir Erasmus Blatt, geo-political and military correspondent for the Rioters News Agency.

It was not long in coming: the last of the Hapsburg Emperors, his Imperium reduced to the environs of Vienna itself; his fleet scuttled, captured or interned; his armies reduced to little more than a personal bodyguard; is no longer Emperor. A rump government remains in Vienna barely retaining any governance over the street mobs.

The main beneficiaries have been Russia and Italy, who have carved up the Empire between them. Which of the two will take Vienna? One thing is certain: the Kaiser will not be sharing the spoils. And how is Turkey placed?

The crumbs at the feast have certainly been plentiful and sustaining, for the Sultan is now master of the Balkans, barring Romania, and has a very considerable naval presence in the eastern half of the Mediterranean Sea into the bargain. But it is becoming clear to your correspondent that as the Hapsburg provinces are to be shared between Victor-Emmanuel and Nikolai II, Abdul Hamid will find himself with no further expansion possible without he attacks one or other of his erstwhile allies. That is supposing, of course, that there was an alliance between Italy, Turkey and Russia.

So expect a "falling out among thieves" by at least the Fall of 1903, as Turkey joins with Italy against Russia, or with Russia against Italy. At that, I should not be astonished if in the coming months the Grand Vizier of the Porte were to pay court to the Queen in London, with the view to securing a long-term deal with the United Kingdom.

In the West the Anglo-French detente has reaped rich rewards for both partners, and this looks likely to continue. As Spain will fall like ripe fruit into its own lap, the Republic can afford to see England capture the German main naval base at Kiel. At the end of 1903, the 13 units the Detente can command between them will be poised to sweep past Switzerland into eastern Europe. The Kaiser is on borrowed time - borrowed at a heavy rate of interest, at that.

Such a prospect - caught between an eastward expanding Detente, and the Porte seeking to expand westward, must give the King of Italy and the Tsar some pause (The Kaiser must know already that the game is up for him - if he can swing any kind of lasting deal at all, it would be would be a master-stroke of diplomacy. Some fast talking with Russia and Italy might yet give him hope to survive a little longer, though even then it would be as Uriah the Hittite, in the forefront of the battle). Powerful in the south, the Russian Empire is looking decidedly vulnerable in the north. Placed as it is, Italy has for the moment little to fear from France (though the recent commissioning of the Mediterranean Fleet in Marseille must surely be making Victor-Emmanuel feel a little bit thoughtful), but the powerful Turkish Navy might well be very concerning.

Quite what the future holds, this writer hesitates to state with absolute certainty. But if it transpires that a Triple Alliance of Britain, France and Turkey develops against Russia and Italy together, this should surprise no one. Germany will be dismembered 'en passant.' But an alternative, if much less likely, scenario is possible: South against North. That would be an alliance of France, Italy and Turkey, possibly with Germany as hostage, against Russia and England. As I say: unlikely, for such an alliance would necessarily be a fragile one. For one thing, the Anglo-Gallican Detente is so obviously in the interests of both partners, for the coming year or two at least, that it would be more than a bold decision to forego it in pursuit of more tenuous accords.

31 December 1902.


  1. Classic stuff - thanks!

    But what of Sir Erasmus Blatt? A loyal readership awaits his insight with baited breath.

    1. We do hope to hear from Sir Erasmus soon. Rumour has it that he took an advance from Sir Rupert Mudrake and disappeared with his friend Mr. H.G. Wells. Something about a short trip to the future?

  2. Great reporting as usual from the Dissembler.


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