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Centennial of WWI; "The Great War"
Topic Started: Jun 27 2014, 09:10 PM (496 Views)
The Chronicler
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Bionicle fan of GoF
This year marks the centennial of the first year of World War 1, which was fought in the years 1914 to 1918. The event that is widely said to have started it was the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 (so I figured today would be a good time to start this discussion topic).

This may be considered another one of America's "forgotten wars", but according to some articles I've read recently, it's still very well remembered in Europe. After all, this is the war that brought an end to many empires and changed the world in ways that still affect it to this day.
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Kor
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I guess many do forget the first world war, and schools in the us may not talk about it much. I remember when I went to school they largely glossed over the first world war and talked a lot more about the 2nd one.
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rhombus
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The Friendly Parallelogram

I remember that the regular US History course that I took in High School pretty much ignored World War I and only discussed World War II. However, my Advanced Placement US History course went into a lot more detail on the conflict. I think that is unfortunate that many history teachers seem to overlook this particular conflict, because I think that it serves as an important lesson in how strategic miscalculations and alliance obligations can quickly lead to a conflict that nobody wants. That lesson is especially important with the current situation in Ukraine and the ongoing China-Japanese island conflict, either of which could become something far more severe if the major powers miscalculate the moves and intentions of the others.
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Malte279
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I'm a historian. I MUST be like that!

In Germany too memory of WW1 is somewhat overshadowed by memory of WW2 (and a really sinister shadow it takes to overshadow such a worst case manmade disaster as WW1 :unsure:). It appears that memory of WW1 is somewhat more prominent in France, England and the other nations of the British Commonwealth (losses to these countries were higher in WW1 than in WW2). It is a common misunderstanding that whenever a German hears someone talk of "the Great War" Germans will usually think that the reference was to WW2.
I do hope that the commemorations and the many documentaries and exhibitions that come along with it will contribute to make WW1 more prominent in the minds of people over here. Over here WW1 is sometimes refered to as "Weltenbrand" (roughly translated as burning of the world) or more often as the "Urkatastrophe des 20. Jahrhunderts" (roughly translated as "the seminal disaster of the 20th century".
The term is quite fitting since almost everything that happened in the 20th century after the collective self destruction of Europe in the 20th century (including WW2) can be traced back to it. Some historians even refer to the time from 1914 to 1945 as "the second thirty years war".
What sets WW1 apart even from WW2 is the sheer lack of "sense" in it all. War is hardly ever an endeavor based on much sense, but while in WW2 it is quite clear that the war in Europe was launched by a criminal regime with a criminal "Führer" who benefitted from the bitterness held by many Germans about the outcome of WW1 and who were therefore all to ready to become willing followers of these awful warmongers. In case of WW1 matters are so much less clear. Hardly anyone could ever give any real answer what all the hardly precedented (there had been earlier wars of an even higher number of victims (e.g. the Taiping Rebellion which got little attention outside China)) slaughter was all about. It takes very long winded explanations to lay out the causes of WW1 and hardly a Tommy, Doughboy, Poilu or Landser in the trenches back then could have given such explanations.
These men were killing each other by the thousands for the gain of a few meters of muddy, devastated land without knowin what the fighting was basically all about. WW1 errupted into a time when most people had been extremely optimistic about the future. There was an extreme confidence in the possibilities technology would give to the world; a faith in technology which not even disasters like that of the Titanic could shake. WW1 revealed in the harshest way possible the sinister side of technological advance and also put an end to the hopes that the sheer degree of devastation that could be expected would make all large scale future wars impossible through deterrence.
Certain paralells to our time are glaring. I am a very positive and optimistic person in general; but we must never take peace for granted or consider a war "somewhere else" a means to keep war away from our homes. Gandhi ones said: "The only thing we learn from history is that we do not learn from history."
With regard to WW1 I sure do hope that however slow we may learn after all.
WW1 changed the world like hardly any other war (including even WW2) did. In the summer of 1914 the world was still basically the same as in late 19th century (and historians often refer to the "long 19th century" as lasting from 1789 to 1914), it never was the same afterwards in ways that go way beyond military matters or the mere shifting of national borders.
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jansenov
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The reason I believe WW1 was so strange is because it was the very first industrial total war. It was a time of great experimentation, where many technologies reached maturity at roughly the same time, and where newly industrialised nations, having the attitudes of rambunctious youths, tested many old concepts and many completely new ones side by side. Nobody at the time had any real idea how such a war should be fought.

WW2 and later wars don't appear as strange because by then people in charge were more experienced and already had some idea of how to wage such a war and what they want to achieve with it (however nefarious that goal might be).

Until a new batch of technologies reaches maturity all at once (3D printing, directed energy weapons, compact nuclear fusion) and a new experimental war is fought.
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Pterano
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I share my birthday with the assassination of the Archduke. :p I'm going to be following the events of WWI year by year to commemorate its centennial and I'm currently on assassination +2, right before the start of the July Crisis.

One thing I found very interesting regarding the First World War is the impact Social Darwinism had on it in the early stages. Social Darwinism ironically has little to do with Darwin's research and more to do with Herbert Spencer, who claimed the "survival of the fittest." This had really caught on in the 1870s and was fairly prevalent in the early 20th Century. There was this mentality that "war is scientific" because it weeded out the "weak" and let the "superior" race survive. And even after the conclusion of its horrors, eugenics and Social Darwinism continued to be applied to the theory of war in the lead up to WWII, with tragic results.

Anyway, I may as well post my readings here for those who wish to follow along. :yes

Today, the German Foreign Secretary, Gottlieb von Jagow, is informed by his ambassador in Vienna that Austria-Hungary's foreign minister, Count Leopold von Berchtold, is insisting on Serbia's complicity and guilt in the assassination of the Archduke.

It's interesting how ready Austria-Hungary was to blame Serbia for the assassination as opposed to ruling it a terror attack by a Serbian terrorist cell. The Black Hand was only nominally supported by a Serbian colonel in their military, and weren't officially sanctioned by King Peter, but Serbia and Austria-Hungary's rivalry was very strong by this point, and both sides were looking to antagonize the other.
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The Chronicler
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According to what I've recently read, 100 years ago today (August 4) was when Britain officially declared war on Germany.

I've been reading a little bit about WWI lately, but not enough for me to know exactly how that assassination just over a month earlier ultimately led to two of the greatest powers in Europe to go to war against each other.
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Malte279
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I'm a historian. I MUST be like that!

Which is similar to what most of the soldiers back then thought. The assassination itself had somewhat ceased to be the focus of attention by the time the war brought out and an American observer of the first days of the war wrote something along the lines of "Nobody seems to remember that just recently this was all about Serbia".
The (very short version) of the way from the assassination to the outbreak of the war is this.
> June 28th 1914 The archduke is assassinated.
> Austria accuses the Serbian government of being the master mind behind the assassination (an involvement of the Serbian government as an institution rather than individual participation has never been proven). Austria was looking to take control over Serbia to strengthen Austrian influence on the Balkan. Serbia however was allied with Russia while Serbia was allied with Germany.
> July 5th / 6th Germany send the so called "Blank cheque" to the Austrian government telling them that no matter what they do Germany will support them (even if it means a war with Russia). This was one of the major sins of Germany at the time. Not only did this unconditional support for Austria help to escallate the war, but it effectively bound Germany's politics to the Austrian with no way to get out of it without "loosing faith" by breaking the "Blank cheque".
> July 23th Austria sends and ultimatum with unrealistically high demands to Serbia.
> July 25th Parts of the Russian army are mobilized (the Russian army is supposed to take longer to be assembled and prepared for war than the armies of other countries. So the mobilization of the Russian army is not as much a sign of near inevitable war as the mobilization of the armies of some other countries). Surprisingly enough Serbia does accept most of the demands with the exception of those which would pretty much end Serbia's state as a souvereign nation. Many leaders see the far reaching acceptance of the Austrian demands as the guarantee for peace (German Emperor Willhelm II. actually opens up a bottle of Champagne to give a toast to the success in maintaining the peace). Austria however insists on the unconditional fullfilment of all demands. Both the Austrian and the Serbian army are mobilized.
> July 28th Austria declares war on Serbia (first declaration of war) and starts shelling Belgrad.
> July 30th All of the Russian army is mobilized. Czar Nikolaus had at one point tried to stop it after having received a telegram from his cousin, Wilhelm II.
> July 31st Germany sends ultimatums to Russia and France to stop the mobilization and remain neutral in the war between Austria and Russia (Russia is allied with both Serbia and France).
> August 1st Germany mobilizes its army. After the ultimatum to Russia runs out Germany declares war on Russia (first declaration of war between two major powers).
> August 2nd German ultimatum to Belgium requiring free passage.
> August 3rd Germany declares war on France (expecting that France will join the war on Russias side) and invades neutral Belgium to march to Paris there rather than through the fortified French-German border.
> August 4th after Germany refuses to respect the neutrality of Belgium Great Britain declares war on Germany.

British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey in anticipation of what was to come said:
"The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time"
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jansenov
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Back in the 19th century Europe witnessed the rise of two influental ideologies: pan-Germanism, and, as a response to it, pan-Slavism.

Pan-Germanism was about the unification of German lands, was the result of the shock the German states experienced in their rapid subjugation by Napoleon's force, where the cultural similarity between German states and the cultural difference from the French occupier became very pronounced. Then in the 1820s and 1830s pan-Germanism, buoyed by the development of Indo-European lingustics where ancient Germanic texts (the Edda, Beowulf, the Nibelungslied) were widely disseminated and analysed and when the considerable antiquity of underlying traditions and their similarity to the more prestigious Greek and Sanskrit texts became obvious, started including other Germanic peoples (English, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic etc.) as possible members of a future Germanic community or state.

The only people among which pan-Germanism, in both the narrower and wider sense, became very popular were Germans. It was also received with some enthusiasm among Norwegians. In the other Germanic countries it failed to gain almost any following, in some cases becauses the people more readily identified with Celtic than Germanic heritage (the English), or were suspicious of German intentions (the Dutch, the Danish), or were simply indifferent (the Swedish, the Icelandic).

As an alternative Denmark began promoting pan-Scandinavism, to strengthen her own position vis a vis the Germans' demographic, military and economic superiority.

Pan-Slavism developed as a response to Germanization, a policy Prussia and Austria followed when they became more aware of their "Germanness" in order to assimilate the subjected Slavic peoples and make their own societies more cohesive.

Pan-Slavism was originally about liberation of Slavs (Poles, Ukrainians, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes and Croats) from Austrian and Prussian rule with the help of the only Slavic great power, Russia.

The idea gained a large following among Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes and Croats. The Croats were particularly enthusiastic about a common state for all South Slavs (Slovenes, Croats, Serbs and Bulgarians). Ukrainians showed less enthusiasm, while Poles, part of which was already living under Russian rule, showed hardly any interest at all. Serbs and Bulgarians, then still under Ottoman rule, showed very little interest for Croatian ideas, instead being more focused on a common Orthodox cause with Russia, Romania and Greece.

However, after 1848 and Russia's role as a counter-revolutionary power which crushed, among others, Slavic uprisings as well, pan-Slavism started losing its appeal to Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes and Croats, who, while they were Slavs, were also Catholics and deeply connected with Western culture and politics. In its place a new ideology rose, Austro-Slavism, which advocated autonomy for Slavic people while remaining a part of Austria. By the end of the 19th century, Austro-Slavism almost completely replaced pan-Slavism among Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes and Croats.

After 1878 and the independence of Serbia and Bulgaria from the Ottomans, pan-Slavic sentiments began rising in these coutries, in Serbia in particular. The old Croatian idea of a united South Slavic state started gaining currency in Serbia, and by 1914 a modification of the idea, the creation of the South Slav (Yugoslav) state, but without Bulgaria (since the Bulgarians were more than strong enough to never allow the Serbs to dominate Yugoslavia), became official Serbian policy.

So, as much as Austria had designs on Serbian territory, so did Serbia have designs on Austrian territory. This was a normal state of affairs in Europe at the time.

The idea of Yugoslavia was met with the greatest fervor among Serbs living under Austrian rule, in Croatia, Bosnia and Vojvodina. This is why most of the members of the Young Bosnia and Black Hand organizations were Serbs.

As far as I'm concerned, occupying Bosnia and Herzegovina was Austria's strategic mistake. It was an economic black hole, by far the poorest part of Austria-Hungary, and it had a Serbian majority at the time, which understandably antagonized Serbia which was bitterly opposed to such a string of events.

It should have simply handed Bosnia over to Serbia and demanded Serbian loyalty in return. As a bonus, the Croats, when facing Serbian (relative to Croatia) economic and political backwardness on their very borders, would completely lose any desire to wreck Austria to join Serbia.


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LettuceBacon&Tomato
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Most of my friends only know there was a World War I because they can extrapolate from the name "World War II". Same with video games; how many WWI video games are there? Other than a few Flight Simulators and that new romance one I can't think of any that decided the Great War deserved the spotlight. It really was the last of the traditional wars and the first of the "modern" wars, based on its outdated tactics which were painfully thrown to the forefront of attention.
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Kor
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I guess schools still gloss over WW1. I remember when I went to school in the 70's and 80's the most they would say was WW1 was caused when a terrorist shot the arduke . The us entered the war when <>. Then it was ok, on to WW2, where they'd spend a chunk of the year on. Funny considering they'd mainly go from war to war, but would gloss over some wars and pay a lot of attention to certain wars.

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The Chronicler
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I honestly don't know a lot of the major events of WWI, but I have heard of the Christmas Truce of 1914, when troops on both sides of the Western Front stopped fighting on Christmas Day and actually had friendly relations in many ways. I'm afraid I don't remember the whole story, but with this upcoming Christmas marking the 100th anniversary of that remarkable event, I though it would be a good idea to bring it up.
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Malte279
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I'm a historian. I MUST be like that!

Aye, in this context I can recommend the 2005 movie Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas) which thematizes the Christmas truce of 1914. The movie isn't totally historically accurate and in parts a little kitschy, but a very beautiful kind of kitsch it is.
Very recently a memorial was build commemorating a soccer / football game between the English and the German soldiers that took place during that truce.
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Kor
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One of the wars that many forgot or is not mentioned, though it did end some empires and the middle east was changed as a result of it, countrywise at least.

When I went to school ages ago while neanderthals were still roaming the world, they vaguely mentioned it. At most they may give part of a lesson for that. Unlike the civil war, WW2.
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The Chronicler
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Looks like this topic hasn't seen much discussion for a while, so I might as well mention that today, April 6, marks the centennial of when the United States officially entered WWI. I haven't seen much on the subject lately, but I do know there were a lot of factors that ultimately led to America's involvement in the war.

There was the sinking of the Lusitania in 1916, torpedoed by a German U-boat and with American civilians being among the lives lost on that ship. There was also the interception of the so-called Zimmerman telegram in early 1917, in which Germany tried to convince Mexico to declare war on the US with the offer that they could help Mexico regain the territory lost in the 1848 Mexican-American war (including the states of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California). One other thing I read somewhere recently (though I might be mistaken) is that President Woodrow Wilson understood that, regardless of who won the war, the global political landscape was going to completely change forever, so he wanted to make sure that America would at least have a voice on the world stage by the time the war would eventually end.

I don't read news articles as often as I used to a few years ago, so if there was anything in the news lately on this subject, it hasn't been significant enough for me to come across.
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The Chronicler
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Today marks a significant 100th anniversary not just in WWI but perhaps for much of world history. The revolution in Russia took place, marking the end of the empire ruled by czars, and the beginning of the Soviet Union, the world's very first communist nation.
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Sovereign
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Ducky
Actually, the Russian Monarchy met its end in the earlier February Revolution. The October Revolution overthrew the "democratic" Provisional Government led by Alexander Kerensky.

In any case, it was a really dark day that marked the beginning of one of the greatest scourges of the last century. One has to wonder what would have happened if Kerensky's government had survived or if the White Army had won Russian Civil War but that's all fiction. This event 100 years ago was a disaster to everyone, not least of all to Russia and it continues to suffer of this date even today.
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rhombus
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The Friendly Parallelogram

99 years ago today this was the headline of the New York Times:

Posted Image

I hope that everyone has a peaceful and contemplative Armistice Day. Ultimately it is up to those of us who live in the present to ensure that our generation does not repeat the mistakes of the past. We must be mindful of our history otherwise we are doomed to repeat it.
Edited by rhombus, Nov 12 2017, 12:06 AM.
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The Chronicler
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Actually, that's 99 years ago when that happened. You'll have to wait until next year to celebrate that 100th anniversary.
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rhombus
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The Friendly Parallelogram

The Chronicler
Nov 11 2017, 09:40 PM
Actually, that's 99 years ago when that happened. You'll have to wait until next year to celebrate that 100th anniversary.
Correct, Chronicler. It looks like I had some trouble adding today. :p Though my sentiments about learning from the past still stands. I have corrected my post to reflect the correct date.
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