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No, the Treaty of Versailles was not particularly harsh, especially when compared to contemporary treaties

Edit: For those looking for a more indepth look at the economic side of the treaty, check out this post I made
A persistent myth about the rise of Nazism, and consequently WW2, is that the Germans were somehow forced to support a genocidal regime due to a combination of Hitler’s charisma and the harshness of the Treaty of Versailles leaving them no other choices.
Here’s some examples, mostly found by either searching “Treaty of Versailles Harsh” on google or just searching for the treaty on Reddit:
History memes:
Quora:
Misc Reddit:
Thankfully, most of the comments are filled with people pointing out that this view is wrong, but I figured a more in-depth look at the supposed harshness of the treaty would be fun. Plus I’m bored and don’t really feel like unpacking after moving, so here I am.
While the argument that Versailles drove the Germans to Nazism lends to the obvious stripping of agency from the German population during this pivotal period, that particular bad history has been covered before on this subreddit(u/Samuel_Gompers discusses it at length here). Therefore, this post will be focused on the supposed harshness of the treaty itself, rather than a direct rebuttal to the specifics of any of the above bad history.
Part 1: What is a Harsh Treaty? What is a Light Treaty?
In order to figure out if the Treaty of Versailles was unduly cruel to the Germans or not, the first step is to figure out what qualifies a harsh treaty. Therefore, what are some comparative treaties?
  • Treaty of Frankfurt(1871)1: The Treaty of Frankfurt is a decent place to start, despite being over forty years before WW1. Signed after the defeat of the Second French Empire in the Franco-Prussian War, it gave the new German state the mostly German-speaking land of Alsace-Lorraine. While not a massive annexation of territory, the provinces ceded were of great importance to France for two major reasons: Firstly, the forts, mountains, and defences in the area had been a part of French defenses since the 30 Years War, and secondly the area represented a large portion of France’s coal and steel production capabilities, which could have greatly slowed France’s industrialization had new mining areas not been discovered in Picardy. Finally, the treaty forced France to pay 5,000,000,000 francs in gold, and to grant Germany a Most Favored Nation clause for trade.
  • Treaty of Trianon(1920)2: If you’ve met a Hungarian nationalist before, you’ve absolutely heard of this treaty. The Treaty of Trianon, signed between the Entente powers and Hungary, reduced Hungary to around 28% of it’s pre-war size, granting land to Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. Most of the treaty is taken up with defining the new boundaries of the nation, or clauses stating that Hungary agrees to recognize other territorial changes that resulted from WW1. There is also the seizing of certain international properties and funds formerly belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire outside of Hungary itself.
  • Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye(1919)3: In short, this treaty divided and destroyed the Austro-Hungarian empire, forming new nations or giving certain areas to be annexed by neighboring nations. The Austrian lands of Sud-Tirol and Littoral were given to Italy, modern Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Slovenia went to the newly formed state of Yugoslavia, the concession port in Tianjin went to China, and the Imperial province of Galicia-Lodermia was given to Poland. Still, Austria did gain some land from the Hungarians, being given a mostly German-speaking strip of land from the Hungarian provinces of Moson, Sopron, and Vas. There is a clause demanding war reparations, yet an amount is not specified and no war reparations were collected from Austria, despite that clause’s inclusion in the treaty. Finally, the treaty also forced Austria, among the other Central Powers, to accept responsibility for starting the war. Same as the Treaty of Trianon, the land that changed hands was mostly handled by plebiscite, though a discussion can certainly be held on the validity of the votes in those plebiscites, given that they were overseen by Entente officials.
  • Treaty of Sèvres(1920)4: A historically interesting treaty, given that many of its clauses and provisions were not fulfilled or outright ignored. The treaty neutered the Ottoman Empire as an entity, demanding that most of the non-Turkish land be given to other certain polities. The Ionian section of the Adriatic Coast was given to Greece(Mostly focused around Smyrna), along with East Thrace. The straits of the Bosphorous would be held under an international zone. Kurdistan would be granted a referendum on independence. Armenia would be recognized as an independent state, and given a large portion of land that is now in modern-day Turkey. The Levant would be divided between British and French Mandates. The kingdom of the Hejaz would be granted international recognition. Rhodes would go to Italy, along with zones recognized for French and Italian influence. These territorial concessions would strip the Ottoman Empire from its size of 1,589,540 km2 (613,724 mi2) to 453,000 km2 (174,900 mi2). Ultimately, large sections of the treaty would be ignored due to Attaturk’s efforts, but that’s a topic for a different discussion.
What do these various treaties tell us? Firstly, that territorial concessions in Europe in this period were generally based around linguistic and cultural borders, rather than vengeful nations drawing lines on a map for fun(Different arguments could be made for territorial concessions in the Middle East and Africa, but once more, that’s a conversation for a different day). Secondly, that war reparations were a near constant of treaties, whether reparations demanded in name only(As in Austria’s case) or reparations actually paid(As in France’s case). A third bit of information is evident as well - the other major Central Powers, Austro-Hungary and the Ottomans, were completely dismantled, and reduced to small shells of their former selves, with their multi-ethnic empires dismantled and many new nation states carved from them. The lightest treaty on the list above is the Treaty of Frankfurt, which still provided for an important economic and naturally defensive zone to be given over, and large war reparations provided.
Part 2: What were the original plans for Germany?
Discussion of what would happen to Germany after the war had been held between France and Britain, and later the USA, throughout the war. The following are mostly summaries of relevant chapters from the excellent book The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 years.
  • French War Aims5: The most prominent aim of France during the war and at the peace conference was the regaining of Alsace-Lorraine. The French government successfully negotiated with the other powers to gain back these lands without a plebiscite, and to retain the ability to expel German immigrants from the area, along with liquidating German holdings in mining and industry. The initial goal of the Clemenceau government was also to not only restore the 1870 border, but instead restore the border of 1814-15, which would add the small salients of German lands of in Saarbrucken and Landau, areas that would give France rich coalfields and mines. Outside of regaining the territories of Alsace-Lorraine, early French war aims included the creation of one or more nominally independent states on the left bank of the Rhine, which would be disarmed, given their own bank and bank notes, and included in a Western European Customs Zone. The Rhine Bridges would also remain under Entente occupation. France also desired several other territorial concessions, aimed at weakening Germany as much as possible. Notably, France wished to grant Denmark more of Schleswig than Demark wanted. France argued that Poland should be given land corresponding with the Polish frontiers of 1772, granting it a land corridor to the Baltic, along with the port of Danzig(Though an “internationalization” of Danzig would be seen as acceptable to France). The final territorial changes aimed at by France were the Polish claims to the entirety of Upper Silesia, which held the second largest German coalfield. Upper Silesia had not been part of Poland in 1772, but did have a mixed population of Poles and Germans. Economically, Germany would have to pay reparations for the damage it had done to the occupied provinces of France around Picardy during the war(One of the more important coal and steel producing areas in France at the time). Germany would also have to pay the French government reimbursements for disablement, widows pensions, the entire cost of the war on France, and pay back, with accumulated compound interest, the money France had paid to Germany from the Treaty of Frankfurt. Still, there was disagreements in France over Germany paying pure cash, as the Commerce Ministry feared that such payments would lead to inflation, and instead favoring massive coal deliveries from Germany and German payment for the destruction in occupied regions, and nothing more. While the above war aims were undoubtedly harsh and would have totally crippled Germany as a nation, they were simply aims, and the French government was willing to negotiate on most of them. France also supported, but did not demand, Rhenish and Bavarian separatism, thought it still emphatically did not wish for Germany to be totally broken up to pre-unification states. France did advocate for the German military to be reduced, but not totally crippled, and for Germany to be barred from the League of Nations.
  • British War Aims6: British war aims were much less vengeful than the French, and more ideologically focused. David French states that “Britain was fighting not to crush the German people, but to bring about a change in Germany’s constitutional arrangements. They were engaged in a war to destroy the control of the Prussian military caste over the German state”. In a more real geopolitical manner, Britain wished to crush German ability to challenge Britain in any meaningful way, yet still keep Germany strong enough as to not upset the continental balance of power. If these aims were to be met, Churchill and Kitchener agreed that the German fleet would have to be destroyed, the Kiel Canal would have to be taken from German control, and a large indemnity would have to be placed on Germany in order to prevent the building of a German fleet that could challenge Britain. Still, a moderately powerful Germany in the center of Europe was desired, in order to “prevent Russia becoming too predominant”, as outlined by David Lloyd George. A key part of British, and by extension French, war policy in regards to treaty making and planning, was a belief that the German army still retained enough strength and ability to organize an orderly retreat to the Rhine, and make a strong stand there in the winter of 1918-1919. Therefore, certain calculations were made by British policy makers, who believed that in order to impose unconditional surrender upon Germany, fighting would have to continue into 1919. The cost of continuing the war into 1919 would outweigh the benefits Britain would gain by continuing the fighting and securing a more total victory. In addition, manpower shortages in the British Expeditionary Force in France, as well as fears that French General Ferdinand Foch would sacrifice British soldiers in order to save French manpower, factored into the decision to end the war as quickly as possible. Furthermore, fears were held that if the war continued on, the USA would supplant Britain’s economic place in the world, and have a merchant fleet that could challenge the British one. Because of the above fears and worries, along with other numerous fears, Britain’s War Cabinet decided that an early armistice, even one that did not give them all they wanted, was much more favorable than a late one. Therefore, Britain’s greatest aims were to secure the superiority of the British navy, to prevent Germany from retaining the gains it had secured in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, to keep Germany strong enough to retain a continental balance but not strong enough to challenge British superiority, and to make a quick peace before conditions turned against Britain. However, in reality, British fears that the war would last longer much longer were unfounded, and as Sir Eric Geddes said “Had we known how bad things were in Germany, we might have gotten stiffer terms”
An important take-away from this discussion of peace aims was outlined by Alan Sharp: “...Britain and France did have a grasp of their broad strategic aims, neither had really worked out the details of its peace program before the Armistice”7. The terms and aims outlined above were general ideas that the respective governments had about what they wanted from post-war Europe, rather than definite and organized plans. Still, from the above war aims, it is clear that Britain and France desired a harsh treaty to be forced upon Germany, comparable to the treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Sèvres. A weakened Germany, giving up its non-German land(and debatably non-German land, if France had its way), economically and militarily unable to contend with an Anglo-French hegemony. Had all the original war aims been fulfilled, we would not be having this conversation, as the treaty would be undeniably harsh, though debate could be had over whether it was justified or not. But we’re not here to discuss alternate history, as interesting as it would be.
Part 3: What did the Treaty of Versailles demand, actually?
Here are the terms of the actual treaty, as preserved by the Library of Congress. But we're not here to sit and read through the entire treaty, so here is a brief summation of it’s terms as they pertain to Germany itself:
  • Border Changes to Germany:
  1. Benelux Region: the Kries of Eupen, Malmedy, and Montjoie were to be ceded to Belgium, a small concession of an insignificant area. Luxembourg would be independent, and its border would follow the 1870 border with France.
  2. France: The 1870 border would be restored(Giving Alsace-Lorraine back to France), with the Saar Basin being under French economic control though not outright annexed. The Saar Basin would be under a local Saar government, and after 15 years would be able to vote between joining Germany, joining France, or remaining independent.
  3. Eastern borders: This is a long one, as it is a complete redefinition of Germany’s eastern borders. I won’t bore you all with laying out the incremental changes, but in short, the Polish dominated province of Posen would go to Poland, along with most of West Prussia, and a sliver of Silesia, though Poland would ship to Germany the products of the newly gained mines in Silesia for 15 years. The Free City of Danzig would be established. Another sliver of Silesia would go to Czechoslovakia. The port of Memel would go to Lithuania.
  4. Denmark: “The frontier between Germany and Denmark shall be fixed in conformity with the wishes of the population.” Further outlined, this meant that the areas of Slesvig would be able to vote on whether to join Denmark or remain part of Germany, after being placed under an international government in order to ensure that the vote was not influenced by Germany or other local powers. All people 20 or older would be able to vote, regardless of sex or any other qualification, so long as they had been born in the area.
  5. Colonies: All of them are given up. We could go into more detail here, but this post that is a rebuttal to Quora questions, Reddit comments, and memes is getting a bit long, so suffice to say that German overseas areas were given to France, Britain, China, and Japan, with German possessions in such areas seized by the local governments who would answer to one of the above-mentioned powers.
  • Economic demands of the Treaty:
  1. Germany would be forced to pay reparations to China, France, and Britain for the destruction and looting done by German soldiers in WW1 and the German expedition into China in 1900-1901.
  2. Germany would pay certain amounts to the citizens of Alsace-Lorraine, paying the pensions of soldiers from there, along with a few other more minor costs.
  3. France would have control over which certain products produced in the Rhineland would be exempt from customs tax.
  • Other demands of the Treaty:
  1. “Germany is forbidden to maintain or construct any fortifications either on the left bank of the Rhine or on the right bank to the west of a line drawn 50 kilometres to the East of the Rhine.”
  2. “In the area defined above the maintenance and the assembly of armed forces, either permanently or temporarily, and military manoeuvres of any kind, as well as the upkeep of all permanent works for mobilization, are in the same way forbidden.”
  3. Violation of the above demands would constitute a hostile act against world peace.
  4. Germany wasn’t allowed to annex Austria in order to create a Pan-German state, unless maybe the League of Nations said it was okay.
  • Military restrictions:
  1. Germany would be restricted to a 200,000 man army, and a 15,000 man navy.
  2. The police force restricted to pre-war size
  3. Germany wasn’t allowed to have an air force.
There are many, many other demands and provisos of the treaty, but the above are the most relevant to the discussion and most notable.
Part 4: So, was the Treaty that bad?
Economically, the treaty itself was not unduly harsh. The economic demands placed upon Germany because of it were not anything new in the policies of peace-making, and the annexations or occupations of certain areas of economic importance were not particularly different from the annexations or occupations put in place against other nations on the losing side of wars, as can be seen in the treaties of Sèvres and Frankfurt. This is not to say that the treaty did not strain Germany’s collapsing economy(As the war itself and the British blockade had already basically destroyed it), but rather that the economic terms outlined by the Treaty of Versailles were not particularly rough when compared to other treaties of the time.
The border changes enforced by the treaty reduced the German population by 7 million, and 65,000 km2 (25,000 mi2). This might seem like a lot, when compared to the 1.6 million citizens and 14,470 km2 (5,587 mi2) lost by France in the Treaty of Frankfurt. However, when compared to the treaties of Trianon, Sèvres, and Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the population and land lost by Germany is not nearly as significant as the land and population lost by the Austrian Empire, Hungary, and the planned losses for the Ottoman Empire.
Because the loss of land and economic demands of the treaty would not cripple Germany, the demands upon the German military were strong, as the treaty demands upon the Hungarian, Ottoman, and Austrian militaries did not need to be as heavy, given that the total crippling of their states would theoretically prevent a strong military regardless. Still, those other powers did endure strong demands against their militaries, despite the division of their nations.
What does all this mean? Was the Treaty of Versailles a horribly rough treaty drawn up by powers lusting for revenge and the destruction of Germany? No. In comparison to the treaties of its day, the Treaty of Versailles was a pretty standard one, though the requirements for the restriction of the German military were a bit stronger than most. The Treaty could have been much worse for Germany, and indeed, Britain and France had aims of making the treaty harsher. But due to incorrect beliefs that Germany was in a stronger position than it actually was and could continue the war well into 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was lighter upon Germany than original war aims conceived.
TL;DR: The Treaty of Versailles wasn’t as bad as people think.
1: Treaty of Frankfurt: http://gander.chez.com/traite-de-francfort.htm (Sorry the treaty is in French, I was unable to find an English translation easily)
2: Treaty of Trianon: https://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/Treaty_of_Trianon
3: Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/othedfat/treaties/1920/3.html
4: The Treaty of Sèvres: Section 1: https://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/Section_I,_Articles_1_-_260, Section 2: https://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/Section_II,_Annex_II,_and_Articles_261_-_433
5:The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years edited by Boemeke, Feldman, and Glaser, Cambridge University Press, 1998. Pages 90-93
6: The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years. Pages 69-86
7: The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years. Page 132
8: Treaty of Versailles: https://www.loc.gov/law/help/us-treaties/bevans/m-ust000002-0043.pdf
submitted by Belisares to badhistory

Tartaria: The Supposed Mega-Empire of Inner Eurasia

Introduction

For those not in the know, the Tartaria conspiracy theory is one of the most bizarre pieces of pseudo history out there. Its core notion is that the region known as ‘Tartaria’ or ‘Grand Tartary’ in Early Modern European maps was not simply a vague geographical designate, but in fact a vast, centralised empire. Said empire emerged… at some point, and it disappeared… at some point, but for… some reason, its existence has been covered up to suit… some narrative or another. As you can tell, there’s a lot of diverse ideas here, and the fact that there hasn’t been the equivalent of a Christological schism every time a controversial thread goes up is really quite impressive. While this post will primarily address one particular piece of writing that is at the core of Tartaria conspiracy theorising, I’ll include a few tidbits to show you just how much madness its adherents have come up with. But first, some background.

State of Play, and why I’m doing this

The Tartaria theory has a small but active following on subreddits such as Tartaria, tartarianarchitecture, and CulturalLayer, which as of writing have around 5,300, 2,400 and 23,000 subscribers, respectively, but it’s clear from the 8 questions on the topic asked at AskHistorians since January 2019 and this debunk request from June that it’s a theory that has somewhat broad appeal and can reach beyond its core niche. This is unsurprising given how little education most people in the West receive about basically anything east of Greece: simply put, the reality of Eurasian history is just not something most of us are taught. And if we don’t know the reality of Eurasian history to begin with, or if we do then it's all in bits and pieces where we might not even know a basic set of dates and names, then what seems to be a pretty developed narrative about a lost empire actually turns out rather plausible.
Unfortunately, many debunks of the Tartaria narrative come from people pushing competing conspiracy theories, like this guy claiming that there’s a global Jewish Phoenecian conspiracy and that Tartaria is simply rehashing the notion that Khazars were Jews in order to distract from the real Phoenecian threat at the heart of global society or some nonsense like that. (I don’t really care, I died of laughter after page 3.) Now, there are those coming from serious perspectives, but they focus largely on the problems with Tartaria as a concept rather than addressing the more specific claims being made. This is of course valuable in its own right (shoutout to Kochevnik81 for their responses to the AskHistorians threads), but we can go deeper by really striking at the roots of this ‘theory’ – what is the ‘evidence’ they’re presenting? But to do that, we need to find out what the origins of the ‘theory' are, and thus what its linchpins are. Incidentally, it is because of some recent events regarding those origins that I’ve been finally prompted to write this post.

Where does it come from?

My attempts to find the exact origins of the Tartaria conspiracy have been not entirely fruitful, as the connections I’ve found have been relatively circumstantial at best. But as far as I can tell, it at least partially originates with that Russian pseudohistorian we all know and love, Anatoly Fomenko. Fomenko is perhaps best known in the English-speaking world for his 7-volume ‘epic’ from 2002, History: Fiction or Science?, but in fact he’s been pushing a complete ‘New Chronology’ since the publication of Novaia khronologia in Russian in 1995. While the New Chronology is best known for its attempt to explain away most of the Middle Ages as a hoax created by the Papacy on the basis of bad astronomy, it also asserts a number of things about Russian history from the Kievan Rus’ to the Romanovs. Key to the Tartaria theory is its claim that there was a vast Slavo-Turkic ‘Russian Horde’ based out of ‘Tartaria’ which dominated Eurasia until the last ‘Horde’ ruler, Boris Godunov, was overthrown by the European Mikhail Romanov. This, of course, is a clear attempt at countering the notion of a ‘Tatar Yoke’ over Russia, as you can’t have a ‘Tatar Yoke’ if the Tatars were Russians all along. Much as I’d like to explain that in more detail here, I don’t have to: in 2004, Konstantin Sheiko at the University of Wollongong wrote an entire PhD thesis looking at the claims of Fomenko’s New Chronology and contextualising them within currents of Russian nationalism, which can be accessed online.
But I personally suspect that if there are Fomenko connections as far as Tartaria specifically is concerned, they are limited. For one, at one stage users on the Tartaria subreddit seemed unfamiliar with Fomenko, and there are those arguing that Fomenko had ‘rewritten’ Tartarian history to be pro-Russian. This is why I said that the evidence was circumstantial. The only other link to Fomenko is indirect: the CulturalLayer sidebar lists the ‘New Chronology Resource Collection’ and the audiobook of History: Fiction or Science? under ‘Essential Resources’, and Tartaria in its ‘Related Subs’.
As far as I can tell, the ultimate origin of its developed form on the Anglophone web traces back to this post on the StolenHistory forums, posted on 17 April 2018. This makes some chronological sense: only one top-level post on CulturalLayer that mentions Tartaria predates this. Moreover, KorbenDallas, the OP of the thread, was also the forum’s chief admin, and given that StolenHistory is still (as of writing) the top resource on CulturalLayer’s sidebar, that suggests significant influence. However, using the search function on camas.github.io, it was mentioned in comments at least 9 times before then, with the first mention, on 10 January 2018, mentioning that the ‘theory’ had been doing the rounds on the Russian web for at least 5 years. Nevertheless, as the detail in these early comments is sparse and generally refers only to speculation about maps, it is probably fair to say that the first in-depth English-language formulation of the Tartaria ‘theory’ was thus the April 2018 forum post. Funnily enough, it is not cited often on Tartaria, but that subreddit was created on 27 December, long after discussion had been taking place on places like CulturalLayer, and combined with the ‘mudflood’ ‘theory’ and the notion of giant humans, which are not significant features of the StolenHistory thread. This more convoluted and multifaceted version of the Tartaria theory doesn’t really have a single-document articulation, hence me not covering it here.
It is this StolenHistory thread which I will be looking at here today. Not just because it seems to be at the heart of it all, but also because it got shut down around 36 hours ago as of writing this post, based on the timestamps of panicked ‘what happened to StolenHistory’ posts on CulturalLayer and Tartaria. So what better occasion to go back to the Wayback Machine’s version, seeing as it’s now quite literally impossible to brigade the source? Now as I’ve said, this is not the most batshit insane it gets for the Tartaria crowd, in fact it’s incredibly tame. But by the end of it, I bet you’ll be thinking ‘if this is mild, how much more worse is the modern stuff!?’ And the best part is, I can debunk most of it without recourse to any other sources at all, because so much of it involves them posting sources out of context or expecting them to be read tendentiously.
But that’s enough background. Let us begin.

Part 1: The Existence

Exhibit 1: The Encylcopædia Britannica, 1771

”Tartary, a vast country in the northern parts of Asia, bounded by Siberia on the north and west: this is called Great Tartary. The Tartars who lie south of Muscovy and Siberia, are those of Astracan, Circassia, and Dagistan, situated north-west of the Caspian-sea; the Calmuc Tartars, who lie between Siberia and the Caspian-sea; the Usbec Tartars and Moguls, who lie north of Persia and India; and lastly, those of Tibet, who lie north-west of China.” - Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol. III, Edinburgh, 1771, p. 887.
Starting a post about the ‘hidden’ history of Central Asia with an encyclopædia entry from Scotland is really getting off to a good start, isn’t it? Anyone with a sense of basic geography can tell you that Tibet lies due west of China, not northwest. But more importantly, this shows you how single-minded the Tartaria advocates are and how tendentiously they read things. ‘Country’ need not actually refer to a state entity, it can just be a geographical space, especially in more archaic contexts such as this. Moreover, the ethnographic division of the ‘Tartars’ into Astrakhanis, Circassians, Dagestanis, Kalmuks, Uzbeks, and, for whatever reason, Tibetans, pretty clearly goes against the notion of a unified Tartary.
Now compare to the description given by Wikipedia, ”Tartary (Latin: Tartaria) or Great Tartary (Latin: Tartaria Magna) was a name used from the Middle Ages until the twentieth century to designate the great tract of northern and central Asia stretching from the Caspian Sea and the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, settled mostly by Turko-Mongol peoples after the Mongol invasion and the subsequent Turkic migrations.”
Obviously, Wikipedia is not a good source for… anything, really, but the fact that they’re giving a 349-year-old encyclopaedia primacy over the summary sentence of a wiki article is demonstrative of how much dishonesty is behind this. And it only gets worse from here.

Exhibit 2: Hermann Moll’s A System of Geography, 1701

THE Country of Tartary, call'd Great Tartary, to distinguish it from the Lesser, in Europe, has for its Boundaries, on the West, the Caspian Sea, and Moscovitick Tartary; on the North, the Scythian, or Tartarian Sea; on the East, the Sea of the Kalmachites, and the Straight of Jesso; and on the South, China, India, or the Dominions of the great Mogul and Persia : So that it is apparently the largest Region of the whole Continent of Asia, extending it self [sic] farthest, both towards the North and East: In the modern Maps, it is plac'd within the 70th and 170th Degree of Longitude, excluding Muscovitick Tartary; as also between the 40 and 72 Degree of Northern Latitude.
Immediately underneath the scan of this text is the statement, clearly highlighted, that
Tartary was not a tract. It was a country.
Hmm, very emphatic there. Except wait no, the same semantic problem recurs. ‘Country’ need not mean ‘state’. Moreover, in the very same paragraph, Moll (or rather his translator) refers to Tartary as a ‘Region’, which very much disambiguates the idea. Aside from that, it is telling that Moll refers to three distinct ‘Tartaries’: ’Great Tartary’ in Asia, ‘Lesser Tartary’ in Europe, and ‘Muscovite Tartary’ – that is, the eastern territories of the Russian Tsardom. If, as they are saying, ‘Great Tartary’ was a coherent entity, whatever happened to ‘Lesser Tartary’?

Exhibit 3: A 1957 report by the CIA on ‘National Cultural Development Under Communism’

Is a conspiracy theorist… actually believing a CIA document? Yep. I’ll add some context later that further complicates the issue.
Or let us take the matter of history, which, along with religion, language and literature, constitute the core of a people’s cultural heritage. Here again the Communists have interfered in a shameless manner. For example, on 9 August 1944, the Central Committee of the Communist Party, sitting in Moscow, issued a directive ordering the party’s Tartar Provincial Committee “to proceed to a scientific revolution of the history of Tartaria, to liquidate serious shortcomings and mistakes of a nationalistic character committed by individual writers and historians in dealing with Tartar history.” In other words, Tartar history was to be rewritten—let its be frank, was to be falsified—in order to eliminate references to Great Russian aggressions and to hide the facts of the real course of Tartar-Russian relations.
[similar judgement on Soviet rewriting of histories of Muslim areas to suit a pro-Russian agenda]
What’s fascinating about the inclusion of this document is that it is apparently often invoked as a piece of anti-Fomenko evidence, by tying New Chronology in with older Russian-nationalist Soviet revisionism. So not only is it ironic that they’re citing a CIA document, of all things, but a CIA document often used to undermine the spiritual founder of the whole Tartaria ‘theory’ in the first place! But to return to the point, the fundamental issue is that it’s tendentious. This document from 1957 obviously is not going to be that informed on the dynamics of Central Asian ethnicity and history in the way that a modern scholar would be.
In a broader sense, what this document is supposed to prove is that Soviet coverups are why we don’t know about Tartaria. But if most of the evidence came from Western Europe to begin with, why would a Soviet coverup matter? Why wasn’t Tartarian history deployed as a counter-narrative during the Cold War?

Exhibit 4: ‘An 1855 Source’

This is from a footnote in Sir George Cornwalle Lewis’ An Inquiry into the Credibility of the Early Roman History, citing a travelogue by Evariste Huc that had been published in French in 1850 and was soon translated into English. From the digitised version of of Huc’s book on Project Gutenberg (emphasis copied over from the thread):
Such remains of ancient cities are of no unfrequent occurrence in the deserts of Mongolia; but everything connected with their origin and history is buried in darkness. Oh, with what sadness does such a spectacle fill the soul! The ruins of Greece, the superb remains of Egypt,—all these, it is true, tell of death; all belong to the past; yet when you gaze upon them, you know what they are; you can retrace, in memory, the revolutions which have occasioned the ruins and the decay of the country around them. Descend into the tomb, wherein was buried alive the city of Herculaneum,—you find there, it is true, a gigantic skeleton, but you have within you historical associations wherewith to galvanize it. But of these old abandoned cities of Tartary, not a tradition remains; they are tombs without an epitaph, amid solitude and silence, uninterrupted except when the wandering Tartars halt, for a while, within the ruined enclosures, because there the pastures are richer and more abundant.
There’s a paraphrase from Lewis as well, but you can just read it on the thread. The key thing here is that yes, there were abandoned settlements in the steppe. Why must this be indicative of a lost sedentary civilisation, and not instead the remnants of political capitals of steppe federations which were abandoned following those federations’ collapse? Places like Karakorum, Kubak Zar, Almaliq and Sarai were principally built around political functions, being centres for concentration of religious and ritual authority (especially monasteries) and stores of non-movable (or difficult to move) wealth. But individual examples of abandoned settlements are not evidence of broad patterns of settlement that came to be abandoned en masse. Indeed, the very fact that the cited shepherd calls the abandoned location ‘The Old Town’ in the singular implies just how uncommon such sites were – for any given region, there might really only be one of note.

Exhibit 5: Ethnic characteristics in artistic depictions of Chinggis and Timur

I… don’t quite know what to make of these.
Today, we have certain appearance related stereotypes. I think we are very much off there. It looks like Tartary was multi-religious, and multi-cultural. One of the reasons I think so is the tremendous disparity between what leaders like Genghis Khan, Batu Khan, Timur aka Tamerlane looked like to the contemporary artists vs. the appearance attributed to them today.
Ummm, what?
These are apparently what they look like today. These are ‘contemporary’ depictions of Chinggis:
Except, as the guy posting the thread says, these are 15th-18th century depictions… so NOT CONTEMPORARY.
As for Timur, we have:
In what bizzaro world are these contemporary?
We’ll get to Batur Khan in a moment because that’s its own kettle of worms. But can this user not recognise that artists tend to depict things in ways that are familiar? Of course white European depictions of Chinggis and Timur will tend to make them look like white Europeans, while East Asian depictions of Chinggis will tend to make him look Asian, and Middle Eastern depictions of Chinggis and Timur will make them look Middle Eastern. This doesn’t prove that ‘Tartaria’ was multicultural, in fact it you’d have an easier time using this ‘evidence’ to argue that Chinggis and Timur were shapeshifters who could change ethnicities at will!

Exhibit 6: Turkish sculptures

Why this person thinks modern Turkish sculptures are of any use to anyone baffles me. The seven sculptures shown are of Batu Khan (founder of the ‘Golden Horde’/Jochid khanates), Timur, Bumin (founder of the First Turkic Khaganate), Ertugrul (father of Osman, the founder of the Ottoman empire), Babur (founder of the Mughal Empire), Attila the Hun, and Kutlug Bilge Khagan (founder of the Uyghur Khaganate). They are accompanied (except in the case of Ertugrul) by the dates of the empires/confederations that they founded – hence, for instance, Babur’s dates being 1526 to 1858, the lifespan of the Mughal Empire, or Timur’s being 1368 (which seems arbitrary) to 1507 (the fall of Herat to the Shaybanids). To quote the thread:
A few of them I do not know, but the ones I do look nothing like what I was taught at school. Also dates are super bizarre on those plaques.
Again, Turkish sculptors make Turkic people look like Turks. Big surprise. And the dates are comprehensible if you just take a moment to think.
Do Turks know something we don't?
Turkish, evidently.

Exhibit 7: A map from 1652 that the user can’t even read

The other reason why I think Tartary had to be multi-religious, and multi-cultural is its vastness during various moments in time. For example in 1652 Tartary appears to have control over the North America.
https://web.archive.org/web/20200701065421im_/https://www.stolenhistory.org/attachments/1652-nova-totius-terrarum-orbis-geographica-ac-hydrographica-tabula_1-1-jpg.37277/
This speaks for itself.
The thread was later edited to include a link to a post on ‘Tartarians’ in North America made on 7 August 2018, but that’s beside the point here, read at your own leisure (if you can call it ‘leisure’). Except for the part where at one point he admits he can’t read Latin, and so his entire theory in that post is based on the appearance of the word ‘Tartarorum’ in an unspecified context on a map of North America.

Part 2: The Coverup

The official history is hiding a major world power which existed as late as the 19th century. Tartary was a country with its own flag, its own government and its own place on the map. Its territory was huge, but somehow quietly incorporated into Russia, and some other countries. This country you can find on the maps predating the second half of the 19th century.
…Okay then.

Exhibit 8: Google Ngrams

https://web.archive.org/web/20200701065421im_/https://www.stolenhistory.org/attachments/tartary_ngram-jpg.37276/
This screenshot shows that the use of ‘Tartary’ and ‘Tartaria’ declined significantly over time. This is apparently supposed to surprise us. Or maybe it shows that we actually understand the region better…

Part 1a: Back to the existence

You know, a common theme with historical conspiracy theories is how badly they’re laid out, in the literal sense of the layout of their documents and video content. Don’t make a header called ‘The Coverup’ and then only have one thing before jumping back to the evidence for the existence again.

Exhibit 9: A Table

Yet, some time in the 18th century Tartary Muskovite was the biggest country in the world: 3,050,000 square miles.
https://web.archive.org/web/20200701065421im_/https://www.stolenhistory.org/attachments/tartary_huge-13-jpg.37329/
I do not have enough palms to slap into my face. Do they not understand that this is saying how much of Tartary was owned… by foreign powers?

Exhibit 10: Book covers

You can look at the images on the thread itself but here’s a few highlights:
  • 1654: Bellum Tartaricum, or the Conquest of China By the Invasion of the Tartars, who in the last seven years, have wholly subdued that empire
  • 1670: Historia de la Conquista de la China por el Tartaro
Histories of the Qing conquest of China, because as far as Europeans were concerned the Manchus were Tartars. Proof of Tartaria because…?
  • 1662: The Voyages and Travels of the Ambassadors of the Duke of Holstein, to the Great Duke of Muscovy, and the King of Persia… Containing a compleat History of Muscovy, Tartary, Persia, and Other Adjacent Countries…
An ambassador who never set foot in ‘Tartary’ itself, cool cool, very good evidence there.
There’s also three screenshots from books that aren’t even specifically named, so impossible to follow up. Clearly this is all we need.

Exhibit 11: Maps

The maps are the key think the Tartaria pushers use. All these maps showing ‘Grand Tartary’ or ‘Tartaria’ or what have you. There’s 20 of these here and you can look for yourselves, but the key thing is: why do these people assume that this referred to a single state entity? Because any of these maps that include the world more generally will also present large parts of Africa in generic terms, irrespective of actual political organisation in these regions. And many of the later maps clearly show the tripartite division of the region into ‘Chinese Tartary’, ‘Russian Tartary’, and ‘Independent Tartary’, which you think would be clear evidence that most of this region was controlled by, well, the Chinese (really, the Manchus) and the Russians. And many of these maps aren’t even maps of political organisation, but geographical space. See how many lump all of mainland Southeast Asia into ‘India’. Moreover, the poor quality of the mapping should give things away. This one for instance is very clear on the Black Sea coast, but the Caspian is a blob, and moreover, a blob that’s elongated along the wrong axis! They’re using Western European maps as an indicator of Central Asian realities in the most inept way possible, and it would be sad if it weren’t so hilarious. The fact that the depictions of the size of Tartaria are incredibly inconsistent also seems not to matter.

Exhibit 12: The Tartarian Language

There’s an 1849 American newspaper article referring to the ‘Tartarian’ language, which is very useful thank you, and definitely not more reflective of American ignorance than actual linguistic reality.
The next one is more interesting, because it’s from a translation of some writing by a French Jesuit, referring to the writing of Manchu, and who asserted (with very little clear evidence) that it could be read in any direction. In April last year, Tartaria users [claimed to have stumbled on a dictionary of Tartarian and French](np.reddit.com/Tartaria/comments/bi3aph/tartarian_language_dictionary/) called the Dictionnaire Tartare-Mantchou-François. What they failed to realise is that the French generally called the Manchus ‘Tartare-Mantchou’, and this was in fact a Manchu-French dictionary. In other words, a [Tartare-Mantchou]-[François] dictionary, not a [Tartare]-[Mantchou]-[François] dictionary. It is quite plausible, in fact probable, that the ‘Tartarian’ referred to in the newspaper article was Manchu.

Exhibit 13: Genealogies of Tartarian Kings

Descended From Genghiscan
Reads the comment above this French chart. How the actual hell did OP not recognise that ‘Genghiscan’ is, erm, Genghis Khan? Is it that hard to understand that maybe, just maybe, ‘Tartars’ was what they called Mongols back in the day, and ‘Tartaria’ the Mongol empire and its remnants?

Exhibit 14: Ethnographic drawings

These prove that there were people called Tartars, not that there was a state of Tartaria. NEXT

Exhibit 15: Tartaria’s alleged flag

Images they provide include
https://web.archive.org/web/20200701065421im_/https://www.stolenhistory.org/attachments/tartary_flags-11-jpg.37367/
https://web.archive.org/web/20200701065421im_/https://www.stolenhistory.org/attachments/tartary_flag_6-jpg.37307/
Except there’s one problem. As any EU4 player will tell you, that’s the flag of the Khanate of Kazan. And while they can trot out a few 18th and 19th century charts showing the apparent existence of a Tartarian naval flag, the inconvenient fact that Tartaria would have been landlocked seems not to get in the way. To be sure, their consistent inclusion is odd, given the non-existence of Tartary as a country, and moreover its landlocked status. It seems plausible that the consistent similarity of the designs is just a result of constant copying and poor checking, but on its own it means relatively little.

Exhibit 16: 19th-century racism

https://web.archive.org/web/20200701065421im_/https://www.stolenhistory.org/attachments/flags_of_all_nations_1865-mongolian-1-jpg.37369/
That I think speaks for itself.

Exhibit 17: Flags of Moscow on one particular chart

It is also worth mentioning that in the British Flag Table of 1783, there are three different flags listed as a flag of the Tsar of Moscow. There is also an Imperial Flag of Russia as well as multiple naval flags. And all of them are proceeded by a flag of the Viceroy of Russia.
By that logic, the Royal Navy ran Britain because the Royal Navy ensigns precede the Union Jack. It’s simply a conscious decision to show the flags of individuals before the flags of states. The ‘Viceroy’ (unsure what the original Russian title would be) and ‘Czar’ of Muscovy would presumably be, well, the Emperor of Russia anyway, so as with the British section where the Royal Standard and the flags of naval officers came first, the same seems true of Russia. Also, as a side note, the placement of the USA at the end, after the Persians, the Mughals and ‘Tartarians’, is a fun touch.
Significance of the Viceroy is in the definition of the term. A viceroy is a regal official who runs a country, colony, city, province, or sub-national state, in the name of and as the representative of the monarch of the territory. Our official history will probably say that it was the Tsar of Russia who would appoint a viceroy of Moscow. I have reasons to doubt that.
Why is the flag of the Viceroy of Moscow positioned prior to any other Russian flag? Could it be that the Viceroy of Moscow was superior to its Czar, and was "supervising" how this Tartarian possession was being run?
No.

Part 3: 1812

This, this is where it gets really bonkers. A key part of this post is arguing that Napoleon’s invasion of Russia was a cover story for a joint invasion against Tartaria gone horrendously wrong. All the stops are being pulled out here.
There is a growing opinion in Russia that French invasion of Russia played out according to a different scenario. The one where Tsar Alexander I, and Napoleon were on the same side. Together they fought against Tartary. Essentially France and Saint Petersburg against Moscow (Tartary). And there is a strong circumstantial evidence to support such a theory.
Oh yes, we’re going there.
Questions to Answer:
1. Saint Petersburg was the capitol of Russia. Yet Napoleon chose to attack Moscow. Why?
He didn’t, he was trying to attack the Russian army. (credit to dandan_noodles).
2. It appears that in 1912 there was a totally different recollection of the events of 1812. How else could you explain commemorative 1912 medals honoring Napoleon?
Because it’s a bit of an in-your-face to Napoleon for losing so badly?
And specifically the one with Alexander I, and Napoleon on the same medal. The below medal says something similar to, "Strength is in the unity: will of God, firmness of royalty, love for homeland and people"
Yeah, it’s showing Alexander I beating Napoleon, and a triumphant double-headed Russian eagle above captured French standards. Also, notice how Alexander is in full regalia, while Napoleon’s is covered up by his greatcoat?
3. Similarity between Russian and French uniforms. There are more different uniforms involved, but the idea remains, they were ridiculously similar.
Ah yes, because fashions in different countries always develop separately, and never get influenced by each other.
How did they fight each other in the dark?
With difficulty, presumably.
Basically, he’s saying that this: https://web.archive.org/web/20200701065421im_/https://www.stolenhistory.org/attachments/1_rus-jpg.37322/
Is too similar to this: https://web.archive.org/web/20200701065421im_/https://www.stolenhistory.org/attachments/1_rus-jpg.37322/
To be coincidental.
OK, whatever. Here’s where it gets interesting:
There was one additional combat asset officially available to Russians in the war of 1812. And that was the Militia. It does appear that this so-called Militia, was in reality the army of Tartary fighting against Napoleon and Alexander I.
Russian VolunteeMilitia Units... Tartarians?
Clearly this man has never encountered the concept of a cossack, an opelchenie, or, erm, a GREATCOAT.
4. Russian nobility in Saint Petersburg spoke French well into the second half of the 19th century. The general explanation was, that it was the trend of time and fashion. Google contains multiple opinions on the matter. * Following the same logic, USA, Britain and Russia should've picked up German after the victory in WW2.
Clearly never heard of the term lingua franca then.
5. This one I just ran into: 19th-century fans were totally into a Napoleon/Alexander romance
https://web.archive.org/web/20200701065421im_/https://www.stolenhistory.org/attachments/treaties_of_tilsit_miniature_-france-_1810s-_side_a-jpg.37314/
https://web.archive.org/web/20200701065421im_/https://www.stolenhistory.org/attachments/napoleonxalexander2-jpg.37310/
https://web.archive.org/web/20200701065421im_/https://www.stolenhistory.org/attachments/napoleon-alexander-jpg.37312/
It is true that after the Treaty of Tilsit, Napoleon wrote to his wife, Josephine, that
I am pleased with [Emperor] Alexander; he ought to be with me. If he were a woman, I think I should make him my mistress.
But Napoleon’s ‘honeymoon period’ with Russia following the Treaty of Tilsit should not be seen as indicative of a permanent Napoleonic affection for Russia. Notably, Napoleon’s war with Russia didn’t just end in 1812. How are the Tartaria conspiracists going to explain the War of the Sixth Coalition, when Russian, Prussian and Austrian troops drove the French out of Germany? Did the bromance suddenly stop because of 1812? Or, is it more reasonable to see 1812 as the end result of the bromance falling apart?

Conclusions

So there you have it, Tartaria in all its glorious nonsensicalness. Words cannot capture how massively bonkers this entire thing is. And best of all, I hardly needed my own sources because so much of it is just a demonstration of terrible reading comprehension. Still, if you want to actually learn about some of the history of Inner Eurasia, see below:

Bibliography

  • The Cambridge History of Inner Asia – 2 volumes so far, covering up to 1886. Not really a single contiguous narrative, as each chapter has its own individual author, but a good general coverage.
  • Scott C. Levi, The Bukharan Crisis: A Connected History of 18th Century Central Asia (2020) – A book about actual Central Asian history, focussing on the global and local factors that led to the weakening and collapse of the Chinggisid state in Bukhara and the rise of the Uzbek-led Emirate. Also a very good historiographical examination of lay understandings of the period.
  • Mark C. Elliott, ‘The Limits of Tartary: Manchuria in Imperial and National Geographies’, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 59, No. 3 (2000) – A discussion of conceptions of Manchuria by Manchu, Chinese, Japanese and European cartographers and geographers, with the section on European geographers being important for getting at the ‘Tartary’ aspect.
  • David Christian, ‘Inner Eurasia as a Unit of World History’, Journal of World History, Vol. 5, No. 2 (1994) – A somewhat older view, presenting Inner Eurasia as a distinct unit in world history, but largely in terms of effects on the rest of Eurasia.
  • Nicola di Cosmo, ‘State Formation and Periodization in Inner Asian History’, Journal of World History, Vol.10, No.1 (1999) – A partial response to Christian, offering an alternate periodisation based more on the internal dynamics of nomadic state formations and stressing viewing Inner Asian history in terms of those internal dynamics, rather than relegating it to a subordinate place in the histories of ‘Outer Eurasian’, sedentary states.
  • Konstantin Sheiko, ‘Lomonosov’s Bastards: Anatolii Fomenko, Pseudo-History and Russia’s Search for a Post-Communist Identity’ [PhD Thesis] (2004) – Specifically deconstructs Fomenko’s version of Tartaria.
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