SARAJEVO, Serbia, Franz Ferdinand, Pan-Slavic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Gavrillo Prinzip, Montenegro: strange names, strange places for many today, but more than half a century ago they acquired a fatal familiarity for people around the world, like nations. annihilated the worst war in the world so far.
If you lived in the spring of 1914, you would hardly suspect that the world you knew so well would soon be destroyed and disfigured.For all intents and purposes, the world was at peace and would remain so in the near future.
So what are the events and circumstances, attitudes and policies that triggered this conflagration, a holocaust that has burned and charred most of the nations of the world?
The immediate cause was the murder of Archduke Francesco-Ferdinando. But how can murder have such profound consequences? Well, the victim was a sufficient heir to the thrones of Austria and Hungary. His assassin, Gavrillo Prinzip, a young Serbian student, shot and killed him while passing through Sarajevo. The reason? Even at this late date, demand is largely undetermined. But from this incident, a series of events emerged that involved everyone in the war in a few weeks.
The Austro-Hungarian government made requests to the Serbian government. The major powers, Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain, have been unable or unwilling to act to prevent a general war in Europe. Instead, all the latent forces that had been gathering for decades and even centuries seemed to have found a way out. The result: WAR! So what were the forces that produced the horrors of war? Let us examine the four most important and influential: intertwined alliances, nationalism, imperialism, militarism, and evaluate the role of each.
Dangerously, a series of alliances had aligned nations into two rival power groups. France suffered defeat in the Franco-Prussian war that ended in 1871. Germany began some of these alliances to isolate France and prevent it from taking revenge. First there was a double alliance with Austria-Hungary, followed by a triple alliance to include Italy. These, associated with an agreement with Russia, seemed to leave France calm, defenseless. Although largely reserved in terms of terms, these treaties were known to provide mutual assistance in the event of war.
The accession of new leaders to Germany also quickly changed the stage. William II is now emperor and Bismarck is abandoned chancellor. The new emperor was unable to maintain his friendship with Russia and frightened Britain with his "saber cuts". Its naval expansion program and the demand for a "place in the sun" forced England to reevaluate its old rivalry with France. Events in the Far East, including the Russo-Japanese war, have eased British concern about Russia. Thus the second power group took shape: Russia, France, Great Britain.
Thus, in 1914, the powers of Europe were balanced, three against three. This balance of power was believed by many to be the best guarantee of peace. Events had to prove them wrong.
If we look at a map of the world as it was in the spring of 1914 and compare it with a modern map, we would discover that it has undergone radical changes in terms of political boundaries. How then to ask if the position of the borders in 1914 contributed to the beginning of the war?
First, note that the Austro-Hungarian empire existing at the time included many submissive nationalities who did not like its lack of national sovereignty. This was especially true in the Balkans, where Serbia wanted all the Slavic peoples in the region to be under its jurisdiction. But Austria-Hungary recently annexed the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite its Slavic population. Russia's dream of a pan-Slavic union in a sense also suffered a setback. Therefore, Russia felt compelled to support the Serbs.
Meanwhile, in Western Europe, there was another point of discussion. At the end of the Franco-Prussian War, the victorious Germans had conquered two provinces, previously in the hands of France: Alsace and Lorraine. French resentment burned with the loss of these precious territories, strategically and commercially. In addition, Poland had lost part of its Slavic territory to Germany (Prussia), thus creating a sensitive point for Russia. And Russia's goal of expanding to hot water ports in the Aegean and Adriatic has been blocked.
If we add to the above the national aspirations of other states such as Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, we can see that nationalism, as a worrying factor, became great at the beginning of the XXth century. Each ethnic group felt justified in trying to achieve the liberation and unity of all those close to them.
The creation of the new nation states of Germany and Italy during the latter part of the 19th century cannot be overlooked in the events leading up to the disaster of 1914. Previously, small associations of state were brought together freely. Now united and therefore stronger, they irritated the oldest and most established states of France and Great Britain. The old powers had already taken large areas of the world as colonies to obtain raw materials for the expansion of industries. Its early start left only the remains of the new states.
A look at the world map of 1914 will show that countries like Italy and Germany had territories abroad. However, the best and the greatest were in the hands of the British and the French. In 1900, in Africa alone, these two powers controlled more than half a million square kilometers of territory, with a population of more than sixty-seven million inhabitants. Germany and Italy, on the other hand, could only demand a million and a half square kilometers with around twelve million people.
Such a disparity led the Germans to ask for a "place in the sun" to reap the supposed benefits of a great empire abroad: raw materials, monopolistic markets, zones of controlled investment and additional works. In the absence of these advantages, nations "did not think" that they were severely handicapped by competition from an increasingly industrialized world.
The ambitions of imperialism are not limited to the colonial field. They also included the desire to build spheres of influence in the regions adjacent to the homeland. For example, Russia's desire to dominate the Balkans coincided with Austria's ambitions in the same area. Germany promoted the Berlin-Baghdad railway to exploit the riches of the Middle East and therefore threatened the British position there. Russia was also pressuring Turkey to participate in the control of the Dardanelles, so that it could have an outlet for its shipment.
Italy had objectives, not only in Africa, but also on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, which one day hoped to become an "Italian lake". This put Italy in competition with Russia, Serbia, Montenegro and Austria. France, in its efforts to improve its position in North Africa, has offended Germany and Italy, which were waiting in Libya, Algeria and Morocco. Imperialism thus produces a labyrinth of conflicting aspirations and creates an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust.
Another powerful factor which inexorably led to war was the development of military machinery in all the countries of Europe. After the Franco-Prussian War, all European nations adopted the German plan for universal military recruitment. Thus, in 1914, there were approximately three and a half million men in the standing armies and another million in the trained reserves.
Naturally, each nation argued that its preparations were simply for defensive purposes. Statesmen were also less willing to negotiate in good faith, as long as they believed they had military power behind them. But perhaps the most dangerous effect was the mood created by this accumulation of weapons. In his book The Roots and Causes of Wars, J. S. Ewart said: "Militarism is an attitude of approving war as a noble and ennobling occupation". The objective in each country was to prepare the population carefully, physically and mentally, for the possibility of war.
So when Serbia angered Austria, Austria decided to punish Serbia, but Russia later supported Serbia, apparently threatening Austria. Austria asked for German support, while Russia in turn asked for French help and finally Britain came to support France. The wheels turned and the world slipped without thinking about the war, regardless of the dire consequences.
And what were the results? The total cost of the war was established at $ 337,980,579,657. The death toll reached an incredible 13,000,000, with 28,000,000 more victims. But has this vast expenditure of blood and treasures produced good and permanent results? There was a basis for bragging about an author in 1918 who wrote, "Even the most practical money changer." . . I have to accept that the blood was spilled well, the treasure well spent. . . . Millions of brave and impatient young people have learned to die fearlessly and gloriously. They died to teach the Vandal nations that humanity will never again allow the exploitation of peoples for militaristic purposes. . . [this brought about] the spread of enlightened freedom and the destruction of autocracy. "
Since then, world events have shown how wrong this 1918 assessment was. The war did not make the world safe for democracy. The war to end the war had not been fought. On the contrary, it only led to an intensification and multiplication of problems. The 1920s saw the collapse of most of the world's economies, followed by slumps and the rise of dictatorships in the 1930s, followed by World War II, which was actually just an extension of World War I. . And this war was as sterile as its predecessor. This war also ended on a note of hope, but disappointment soon came.
The decades that followed only saw the continuation of wars, depressions, international tensions and anarchy on an ever-increasing scale. Despite all efforts to create a stable global society through international agencies such as the League of Nations after World War I or the United Nations after World War II, global conditions continued to deteriorate.
In his book In Flanders Fields, Leon Wolff said the following about World War I and its results: “It didn't mean anything, it hadn't solved anything and it hadn't shown anything. . . . The moral and mental flaws of the leaders of the human race have been demonstrated with some precision.” PW Hausman, writing in The Encyclopedia Americana (1941 edition), said: "The world could not avoid war as long as it remained at the level of war. Ours was not a Christian world. And while the national pulpits preached Christianity [ of his brand], the nations looked at each other, ready for blood.
Today many countries have enjoyed peace to some large extent,but the question remains is the future still better?Will there be World War III?