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Exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I

Woodrow Wilson to Robert Lansing, November 20, 1918. Facsimile of typescript letter. Woodrow Wilson Papers, Library of Congress (169.00.00)
Helen Johns Kirtland. Versailles. Réunion du comité interalliés, January 1919. Photograph. Kirtland Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (168.00.00)

A Seat at the Table

One of the difficult questions at the Paris Peace Conference was whether and in what manner to allow Russian participation. Although Russia had been an Allied combatant for nearly three years, the second stage of the months'-long Russian Revolution took the country out of the war. Four months after the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin obtained power in November 1917 Russia made peace with Germany and forfeited a quarter of its territory. By the summer of 1918, Russia was engulfed in civil war as multiple factions sought to depose Lenin's communist government. In this letter, President Wilson expressed his skepticism that the Russian people could be adequately represented by a single faction. No Russian delegates participated in the Paris peace talks. In this image, photojournalist Helen Johns Kirkland, captured members of a committee of Allied nations intently reading documents related to the proposed treaty. Wilson is shown with head bent at the center of the right side of the table.