World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914-1924). World History Chapter 11. The Great War Begins. Alliances Draw Lines
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The great powers, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, U.S., and Japan, all were attempting to best each other, by having better economies, larger and better trained militaries (naval power), better technology, world fairs, sporting events, colonies, etcetera.
Aggressive nationalization also played it’s part, as the virtually all nations could find some justification for dislike of other nations, The French were still angry about the German takeover of the Alsace-Lorraine region. Russia was ready to sponsor Slavic nations in the Balkans, much to the consternation of Austria-Hungary.
Archduke Francis Ferdinand, nephew of Emperor Francis Joseph, and heir to the throne, decided to visit Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia, against the advice of security. In Sarajevo, the Archduke and his wife traveled in an open car, and a Serbian nationalist (and Slavic sympathizer) shot twice into the car, killing the Archduke and his wife.
Austria Strikes Back
Shocked by the assassination, the government in Vienna saw this as an opportunity to crush Serbia, and with their German ally’s approval, demanded stern measures from Serbia to avoid war. Serbia did not meet all of Austria-Hungary’s demands, which gave Austria-Hungary the excuse it needed for war, declared on July 28th, 1914.
With Austria’s declaration of war, Serbia called upon it’s ally Russia for aid. Tsar Nicholas II telegraphed Kaiser William II to ask Austria to soften it’s demands, but this failed. Russia begins to mobilize. In response to this, Germany declares war on Russia, 1 August 1914. Russia then turned to it’s ally France, and France gave it’s support to Russia. Germany followed suit by declaring war on France.
Germany Invades Belgium
Germany had foreseen the possibility of a two front war with France and Russia, and years before developed the von Schlieffen Plan, which called for a quick war with France before the lumbering giant Russia could be ready. For the plan to work, Germany needed to go through neutral Belgium, to get around France’s lines. But Germany’s invasion of Belgium on August 3, 1914, resulted in Britain declaring war on 4 August, on France’s and Russia’s side.
By this time, every nation was mobilizing as quickly as it could, making a political solution impossible.
German plans to quickly defeat France failed for a variety of reasons. The Belgians fought harder than the Germans expected, the British entered the war quickly aiding the French, and the Russians managed to mobilize more quickly than the Germans hoped.
At the First Battle of the Marne, German forces advanced to within 30 miles of Paris, when the French counterattacked, and forced the Germans to retreat, and try to outflank the English and French forces, which then tried to flank the Germans, and this went on until they reached the North Sea. German and French losses amounted to about 250,000 each, and the British lost about 12,500 from it’s expeditionary force.
These lines would remain relatively stable for the next 4 years.
From 1914 to 1918, forces would face each other from deep trenches, often filled with water, hungry rats, little food, and millions of unwashed men. The ground between the lines was pitted with craters made by the tens of thousands of artillery guns, called “no man’s land”. When ordered to attack, soldiers would go “over the top” and rush across over a hundred yards of craters, barbed wire, machine gun fire, and if they reached the enemy lines, fight hand to hand against enemy for a trench very much like the one they left.
In an attempt to break the stalemate created by trench warfare, the Germans attempted a massive offensive, led by an artillery barrage that lasted twenty one hours by 1400 pieces of artillery firing over 1 million shells, including poison gas. Then the Germans went over the top with three army corps (about 140,000 men) using flamethrowers and newly trained Storm Troopers, against about 30,000 French troops.
Reinforcements poured in from both sides, and the battle lasted ten months. By it’s end, the battle lines were virtually unchanged, and the losses were horrendous, about 550,00 French and 434,000 German casualties.
Battle of the Somme (1916)
With German forces tied down in the Verdun assault, French generals thought that an attack on the German flank could succeed. Starting with a two week artillery bombardment, British and French troops marched across the field to the worst single day slaughter of the war, with over 57,000 British casualties. The attacks continued for 6 months, and the casualties were even worse than Verdun, with about 420,000 British casualties and about 650,000 German casualties. By the end of the battle, the British were still 3 miles short of their first day’s objective!
Poor leadership led to a disaster of an attack, about 250,000 casualties for both sides.
The Battle of Cambrai (1917)
Tanks used in mass for the first time, 467 tanks closely massed, with infantry support, gained more than 5 miles in the attack, almost unprecedented for any attack in the war.
First used by the Germans in 1915, then followed quickly by the French and British forces. The Chlorine gas, or Mustard Gas, attacked the eyes and lungs, and caused blisters and burns on the skin. Gas was tricky though, because the winds could change and bring the gas back on the attackers.
First introduced by the British in 1915, they were armored vehicles armed with machine guns that could cross no mans land. They were, however, prone to breakdown and were unreliable. Later in the war, they proved decisive in overrunning enemy trenches.
At the start of the war, planes were used for reconnaissance, but their role quickly expanded and soon hundreds of planes on both sides were vying for air superiority.
German U-Boats were used extensively to attack enemy shipping, and almost brought Britain to it’s knees for lack of supplies. Use of convoys by Britain and America helped reduce u-boat attacks significantly.
Initial Russian attack were successful, especially in the Austrian-Hungarian front, but the Germans pushed the Russians out of Prussia. Russian losses soon created discontent in the ranks, and Russian soldiers began to refuse to go into combat.
New Combatants in the Balkans and Southern Europe
1915 Bulgaria joins Central powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary) to fight it’s rival Serbia.
1915 Italy joins Allies(France, Britain, Russia) and declares war on Austria-Hungary
1916 Romania joins Allies to attack Hungary (crushed by the Central powers)
The Ottoman Empire joined the Central power in 1914, by secret treaty signed months before the war started. This put Russia at risk in the south and cut off Allied supplies through the Dardanelles (waterway between the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea) and threatened English transport through the Suez Canal.
Russians and Ottomans fought across the Caucasus Mountains, and the Armenians helped the Russians, for which the Ottomans “deported” Armenians south to Syria. Somewhere between 600,000 to 1.5 million Armenians died during the deportations.
Gallipoli – 200,000 Allied casualties
War in the Colonies
Troops from the colonies fought in all areas of the war, and the war spread to Africa and the far east.
Modern mechanized warfare required the focus of a nations entire industrial and economic output, and required more control by the states government to move those resources it needed to the war effort.
Universal conscription became the norm (the draft), forced civilian labor, price controls, rationing, forbidding strikes, and borrowing huge sums of money were required of virtually all the great powers.
With Britain’s declaration of war, the British Navy set up blockades of the Central Powers, Germany in particular. Though blockades of warring powers was considered legal under international law, this extended only to war materials, and not humanitarian goods such as food, clothing and medical supplies. Britain ignored this as blockaded all shipping, slowly starving Germany and Austria-Hungary.
In response to Britain’s blockade, Germany resorted to unrestricted u-boat warfare (sinking all ships without warning, including civilian ships), which caused international protest. The sinking of the Lusitania off the coast of Ireland in 1915 (1200 civilians killed) brought condemnation even though Germany declared it was carrying weapons. This almost caused America to enter the war at that time, and by threat of being diplomatically isolated, Germany suspended unrestricted u-boat warfare for a time.
Propaganda, the control of information and ideas to promote ideas for or against a cause. Propaganda became a major tool to raise morale, encourage patriotism and participation in war, or to discourage your enemy. Usually propaganda is simplistic, black and white portrayals and exaggerations of events to manipulate people into a desired behavior, but it looses it’s effectiveness over time.
Women and the War Effort
Women also contributed to the war in many ways, including working in factories, and in field hospitals close enough to the front to be shelled. Women were seen to work in ways that belied the stereotypes, and gave women the confidence to press for suffrage.
By 1917, the morale of soldiers and civilians had plunged. The news of deaths in the hundreds of thousands, stalemate, hunger, and continuing rationing made many question the war, the Generals, and their leaders.
In France, soldiers mutinied, in Italy soldiers deserted, and in Russia, soldiers joined in the revolution.
Revolution in Russia
After three years of war, Russians were tired of corruption, incompetent generals, bread riots, led to revolution, and the toppling of the Russian government. The Allies hoped that this would lead to a more democratic government that would be a more committed to the war, but the government under Lenin signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany. This allowed the Germans to reposition their troops on the western front.
America joining the Allies was not a foregone conclusion, as there were many German, Austrian, Irish, and Russian immigrants in the U.S., but it was German use of unrestricted u-boat warfare and the Zimmerman note that moved the U.S. to support the Allies.
Woodrow Wilson was re-elected president in 1916, on the platform that he kept America out of war. But in 1917, Wilson urged Congress to declare war to “make the world safe for democracy.”
America’s entry in the war did not much help with actual troop numbers right away, but morale for the Allies went up dramatically, and German morale suffered accordingly.
The Fourteen Points
Wilson, though he failed to keep America out of war, hoped to be a peacemaker. Wilson believed that fourteen points ranging from freedom of the seas to free trade, to reduction in armies, along with a League of Nations would help to prevent future wars.
With the United States entering the war in increasing numbers, the Germans grew desperate, and launched a last ditch offensive in March 1918, which pushed back the Allies 40 miles, but exhausted their troops in doing this.
With no more reserves, the Germans were pushed back to Belgium, and advisors told the Kaiser the war could not be won. Austria-Hungary was falling apart, as various nations within the empire revolted, and Bulgaria and the Ottomans sued for peace.
Negotiations with the Allies led to an Armistice on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month o 1918 (November 11, 1918 at 11:00). This was done to ensure that everyone would stop fighting at the same time.
After the war ended, President Wilson went to France to be a part of the Paris Peace Conference. He believed that he had the answers to Europe’s age old problems, but European leaders had their own agenda.
The Costs of War
Of the 60 Million men mobilized for war in Europe, 8 million were killed, 7 million were crippled, 15 million were seriously injured. Millions more civilians died from starvation and disease. After the war, a very nasty form of Spanish Flu broke out, and spread around the world, killing 50 million
The Financial Toll
Across Europe, people started to rebuild, and governments had to deal with the costs of rebuilding, as well as paying back the loans made during the war.
The Allies blamed the Central Powers for the war, and wanted to make them pay for it, but the only major power left standing after the war was Germany.
In the aftermath of the war, The Austrian –Hungarian and Ottoman governments collapsed, and the Russian government was overthrown by Bolshevik Communists. Europeans feared the spread of communism, and sought to contain the new Russian state.
The British and French leaders had different goals than did Wilson. Britain wanted to build a stronger nation, and France wanted to punish Germany, and cripple it so that it could not rise again.
Problems with the Peace
Nations that were a part of the Austrian-Hungarian and Ottoman empires wanted self determination, but often territories overlapped, so it was impossible to satisfy everyone.
Italy wanted territories guaranteed to it by secret treaty, which violated the principles of self determination.
Wilson compromised on many of his Fourteen Points, but he remained firm on the idea of a League of Nations, which would be based on the idea of collective security, and would correct any mistakes made in the Paris Peace Conference.
In June 1919, the Allies ordered the representatives of the new German republic to sign the treaty of Versailles. The Germans were horrified by the terms of the treaty, in which the Germans were to assume all responsibility for causing the war, and Germany would be forced to pay enormous reparations for the destruction caused by the war, and pay the pensions for the millions of Allied soldiers or their widows and families. The amount of these reparations would be calculated at $30 billion (in today’s dollars, that would be a staggering $2.7 trillion).
Germany would return Alsace-Lorraine to France
Germany would be reduced in size, it’s territory to be given to create a new Polish state.
Germany would lose all of it’s colonies.
The size of the German army would be limited, and parts of Germany would be de-militarized.
Forced repatriation of German citizens to the smaller Germany or Austria.
Outcome of the Peace Settlements
Self Determination in Eastern Europe
New states were created from the bones of the old empires
Poland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia
The Mandate System
Colonies of the great powers hoped that this new trend towards self determination would benefit them as well, but self determination ended in Europe, and the Allies greedily took these territories as a part of their empires. In theory, the mandates would end when these territories could administer themselves, but in reality, they were treated like all of the other possessions of the victorious countries.
The League of Nations Offers Hope
While more than 40 nations joined the new League of Nations, the United States did not, weakening the prospects for all. Also, the League proved to be unable to bring peace, even among it’s member nations.
Legacy of the Treaty of Versailles
The unevenness of the treatment of nations in the Treaty left a bitterness for all but Britain and France.
Russia, though a member of the Allies had been reduce in size.
Germany believed it’s treatment had been cruel and unfair, and many Germans refused to believe that they had lost the war at all.
Colonies resented that they were not allowed self determination
Russia’s move to industrialize was hampered by huge distances, a conservative landowning nobility, and high levels of poverty.
Though there was evidence of growing unrest, the Romanov Dynasty had endured 300 years, and they didn’t believe a revolution would really occur.
Reforms that had occurred as a result of the 1905 revolution did little to address the underlying economic and social problems. The Tsar refused to relinquish power, and was quick to use brutal repression and secret police to enforce his rule.
Marxist rhetoric spread among the growing “middle class”, the proletariat.
The Impact of WWI
Though the war brought about some unity among Russians, soon casualties mounted, and lack of supplies and very poor leadership led to more than 2 million Russian casualties by 1915. Tsar Nicholas believed he could turn things around at the front, but he was no better than his generals.
With Nicholas at eh front, he left his wife, Tsarina Alexandra in charge, and she was influenced by the peasant born “holy” man Rasputin. Fearing Rasputin’s influence, the Russian nobility killed Rasputin on Dec29, 1916.
The Tsar Steps Down
By March 1917, because of disasters on the battlefield, riots, strikes, and food and fuel shortages, the Tsar stepped down. The Duma (legislature) set up a provisional government , and middle class liberals started to set up a constitution.
Outside of the government, revolutionary socialists set up soviets (workers councils) . At first, the soviets worked with the provisional government, but as the provisional government failed to solve problems, more radical soviets, the Bolsheviks, agitated for another revolution led by Lenin.
Born Vladimir IlyichUlyanov, to a middle class family in a little town on the Volga river, his older brother was executed for attempting to kill the Tsar. He took the name Lenin when he became a revolutionary.
A Brilliant Revolutionary
Lenin read the works of Karl Marx, and spread the message to other students, factory workers, and other socialists. He participated in student demonstrations and eventually was arrested and sent to Siberia. After Siberia, he was exiled to Switzerland.
Lenin’s View of Marx
Lenin believed that the overthrow of capitalism by socialism that Marx predicted would not work with Russia, because there were few industrial workers in Russia, so Lenin called for a dictatorship of the Proletariat(workers). He would call them Bolsheviks.
Lenin’s view of Marx was not shared by all, and many believed that gradual change would be enough, these were called the Mensheviks.
In 1917, Germany saw a chance to destabilize Russia, and helped Lenin return to Russia by special train. In St. Petersburg (Petrograd) Lenin was greeted by a large crowd, and called for revolution to bring about his vision of socialism.
Lenin, and fellow revolutionary Trotsky, promised “Peace, Land, Bread”
The Provisional Government’s Mistakes
Kerensky, leader of the provisional government, continued the war, and failed to produce land reform. Russians were tired of war, and soldiers deserted in droves.
The Bolshevik Takeover
In November 1917, unrest had reached a peak again, as Russian discontent with the provisional government brought the Bolshevik political party to the forefront, and within a few days, Lenin and the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government.
Bolsheviks ended private ownership of land and distributed it to the peasants, gave control of the factories to the workers, moved the capital to Moscow.
By 1922, much of the old Russian Empire had been restructured into a Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), or Soviet Union.
On the surface, the government was very egalitarian, democratic, and socialist. Under the surface, the Communist Party dominated all political activity.
Lenin’s New Economic Policy
Lenin moves away from war communism. Mine and factory outputs had fallen, and peasants stop growing crops that would just be taken from them.
Lenin started a New Economic Policy, which incorporated elements of capitalism, allowing peasants to sell excess grain, small businesses were allowed to make profits. Banks and foreign trade were still controlled by the state though. The NEP was seen as a temporary measure though.
Stalin Takes Over
Lenin died in 1924, and party leadership was split between Trotsky and Stalin. Stalin managed to isolate Trotsky and force him to flee Russia. “Iron Man” Stalin takes dictatorial control.