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WI: Jean Louis Barthou survives?


Well-known member
Jean Louis Barthou was a French politician of the Third Republic, who served as Prime Minister of France for eight months in 1913. Barthou's brief time as Prime Minister saw the introduction of laws to safeguard female workers before and after childbirth, as well as the provision of social allowances to families with children. As a national World War I hero and a recognized author, Barthou was elected to the Académie Française at the end of that war. He also held ministerial office thirteen other times- most notably, when he served as Foreign Minister in 1934. He was the primary figure behind the Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance of 1935- though it was signed by his reluctant successor, Pierre Laval, who greatly compromised its terms and provisions.

Originally, this was intended as an anti-Nazi front, which would have united Italy, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union- though the British were purportedly opposed to signing such a treaty, and had a bit of a diplomatic falling-out over it. In 1934, he tried to create an Eastern Pact that would have included Germany, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Baltic states, on the basis of a guarantee by France of the European borders of the Soviet Union and the eastern borders of the then Nazi Germany by the Soviet Union. He also succeeded in obtaining entry of the Soviet Union into the League of Nations in September 1934.

But as Foreign Minister, Barthou was meeting King Alexander I of Yugoslavia during his state visit to Marseille in October 1934, when King Alexander I was assassinated by Velicko Kerin, a Bulgarian revolutionary wielding a handgun. In the chaos which followed the attack on the Yugoslav king, Barthou was shot by a French policeman severely lacking in trigger discipline; with one of the bullets striking Barthou in the arm, passing though and fatally severing an artery, with Barthou dying of excessive blood loss within the hour. The assassination had been planned in Rome by Ante Pavelić, head of the Croatian Ustaše, in August 1934, who was assisted by Georg Percevic, a former Austro-Hungarian military officer.

France unsuccessfully requested the extradition of Percevic and Pavelić, and the assassination of Barthou and Alexander I led to the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Terrorism, concluded at Geneva by the League of Nations on 16 November 1937 (albeit only signed by 25 nations, and ratified only by India). So then, what might have happened if that bullet had missed, and Jean Louis Barthou had escaped the Ustaše assassination attempt largely unscathed? How much of a impact might Barthou's survival, and his continued diplomatic efforts (in particular, a fully realized, far closer Franco-Soviet Pact), have had upon the course of history?