College papers help


The contributions of russia to the outbreak of world war i

Although this varied greatly from country to country and within populations, it was still the case that, for some, the news of war was regarded positively.

This article will explore what the reasons for this were. One simple explanation, of course, was that practically no one, from the ordinary citizen to the heads of government and military generals, imagined or could begin to imagine the reality of the war that would unfold.

There was little awareness of the terrible effects of the contributions of russia to the outbreak of world war i weapons or the fact that they would result in a long war, although books, articles and newspapers did refer to the negative impact a conflict might have. There were exceptions of course — famously Horatio Herbert Kitchener 1850-1916 as well as Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke 1800-1891 and Friedrich Engels 1820-1895 had envisaged a long war; Jan Gotlib Bloch 1836-1902 had predicted that modern war would prove long and an economic catastrophe.

Western military observers, however, largely ignored the lessons of attrition and the difficulty of carrying out speedy offensives that were evident in the Russo-Japanese and Balkan wars.

The "short war illusion" was, in part, a consequence of the lessons being drawn from history: But although this earlier period of warfare lasted cumulatively more than twenty years, it was made up of a series of much shorter individual wars and between them there had also been brief phases of peace.

This was far from being irrational — indeed, had the German army won the battle of the Marnewhich it came very close to doing, this was what might well have happened: It is therefore important to realise that when the threat of war loomed in 1914, the populations of Europe thus did not react in response to what was going to happen — rather, they responded to what they imagined, or what they were capable of imagining, was going to be the likely outcome.

This was the context of the images of enthusiastic soldiers leaving for war in 1914 and the trains of mobilised troops covered in bellicose graffiti — nevertheless it is important not to exaggerate this phenomenon; these cases were only ever a very small minority of overall troops and populations.

At the end of July 1914, the French press was far more focused on a domestic scandal — the trial of Henriette Caillaux 1874-1943the wife of one of the leading politicians of the French Third Republic, which took place from 22 to 29 July.

Her husband was president of the most important political party in the country, the Radical Party.

  • They displayed very similar patriotic reactions to the populations of nation-states in their defensive rallying around the state and the Emperor;
  • Evidence 1 They even continued to prepare their military while they carried diplomatic negotiations for peaceful solutions to the problem.

She was on trial for her actions on 16 March 1914 when she shot and killed Gaston Calmette 1858-1914the editor of Le Figaro, a newspaper that had waged an ongoing campaign against her husband. She feared Calmette would publish "intimate letters" that she had exchanged with her husband Joseph Caillaux 1863-1944 prior to their marriage while she was his mistress and Caillaux was still married to his first wife, whom he divorced in March 1911.

When war suddenly loomed as a threat in the last days of July, French public opinion was far from being unanimous. In Paris and in the larger towns, some relatively significant nationalist demonstrations took place, but pacifist demonstrations organised by the socialist party and the CGT trade union were more numerous.

In contrast, in rural France there was little knowledge of the international developments; the countryside was focused on work in the fields at this time of year and few of its inhabitants had the leisure time to read newspapers, practically the only news medium during this period. When the church bells began to ring on 1 August and it became clear that this was not to warn of fire but to announce mobilisation for war, the first reaction was one of stunned shock and consternation.

  • Nevertheless, the stance of each of these three countries was different;
  • It is therefore important to realise that when the threat of war loomed in 1914, the populations of Europe thus did not react in response to what was going to happen — rather, they responded to what they imagined, or what they were capable of imagining, was going to be the likely outcome;
  • The Swiss economy was majorly disrupted by the war, but none of the belligerents had any interest in violating Swiss neutrality — rather the opposite.

But opinion in the towns and countryside was dramatically changed by the German invasion of Belgium and Luxembourg. Faced with what, to many French, appeared to be a characteristic German act of aggression, the vast majority of the public believed that it was necessary to defend the country. Only in a handful of cases, however, did this situation provoke enthusiasm; the overwhelming attitude was one of resolution and resignation.

Mommsen 1930-2004 has shown, the "idea that a war was inevitable" was relatively widespread in Germany. Another extremely influential idea in German public opinion was the fear of encirclement resulting from the coalition between France, Great Britain and Russia, an idea exacerbated by another largely unfounded fear, which had continued to grow nevertheless, of a Russian threat to Germany: This helps explain why, when the threat of war loomed in July 1914, there was evidence of real enthusiasm for war among the middle classes in Germany, often accompanied by profoundly anti-Russian attitudes.

War enthusiasm was much less evident among the working classes, and, even if, as in France, it proved the contributions of russia to the outbreak of world war i to organise a large anti-war protest strike movement in time to actually stop the conflict, there were a series of major demonstrations across German cities that mobilised hundreds of thousands of workers under the banners of the Social Democratic Party to oppose Germany going to war in the last week of July, as Jeffrey Verhey has shown.

As Gerd Krumeich has emphasised, the response to the threat of war in working class urban areas was often one of depression and desolation, and the SPD leadership only fully rallied to support the war after the Russian invasion of East Prussia. The idea of a fresh and joyful war, following a model that dated back to 1859, dissipated rapidly in 1914; despondency at the news of war continued amongst workers.

Indeed, recent historical research by Jeffrey Verhey, Benjamin Ziemann and Wolfgang Kruse has shown that the mood among German workers and peasants was not pro-war; many were fearful but practically none were able to speak out against the war after the SPD Reichstag deputies decided to vote for war credits. The rapid drop in war enthusiasm in Germany was also linked to the tough war conditions that unfolded. For the German military leadership, it was necessary to first fight the French army before then shifting to focus upon fighting the Russians.

The German public viewed the latter contest as much more important and threatening. Responses varied widely from patriotic fervour to anti-war despondency, militancy and disorder.

Patriotic fervour was widespread among the Russian educated classes; war enthusiasm was markedly more moderate amongst the workers. Yet it is noteworthy that in St Petersburg — a name which was immediately deemed too German-sounding and replaced with Petrograd — although the preceding period had been one of social and political unrest in the city, with barricades and strikes, a situation that bordered on the revolutionary, such social protest ceased when faced with the outbreak of international war.

The Russian Duma held a historic session where all the parties affirmed their patriotism, with the exception of the Bolshevik and Menshevik Deputies who refused to vote for war credits; however, they were very few in number, with nine and five Deputies respectively.

It is important to note that the segment of the working class population that supported them and whose views they reflected was underrepresented in the Duma: In contrast to the mass patriotic mobilisation in the cities, there was widespread despondency, open dissent and desertion in the contributions of russia to the outbreak of world war i rural districts where conscripted peasants engaged in drunken riots which were suppressed by the military, with hundreds killed.

The immense majority of the Russian population were peasants who did not understand the reasons for mobilisation or experience patriotic fervour. But their viewpoint counted for little. Also, their discontent did not develop into an organised mass refusal to mobilise, even though those reporting to the mobilisation points were delivering themselves up to the harsh demands of the Russian army.

Austria-Hungary had acted in order to take vengeance on Serbia which it viewed as responsible for the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria-Este 1863-1914a month earlier, on 28 June 1914, in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, territory recently annexed by Austria-Hungary. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was an unusually structured multinational state and it was conceivable that the many different groups among the population, in particular the German and Slav populations, would react to the news of war in different ways.

In reality, although the sudden outbreak of a European war came as a shock, the attitude of the Austro-Hungarian population was even more of a surprise in its relative coherence: They displayed very similar patriotic reactions to the populations of nation-states in their defensive rallying around the state and the Emperor.

Outbreak of World War I

This behaviour was so unexpected and difficult to understand that Leon Trotsky 1879-1940who was in Vienna during this period, believed it was not possible to find a theoretical explanation for it, instead suggesting that those mobilised for war were simply glad to escape the boredom of everyday life. Although he was writing based on his experiences in a German part of the Empire, the situation was more or less similar throughout Austria-Hungary.

The Liberal Party, in government since 1906, wished to continue this state of affairs and avoid entangling Great Britain, which, as a global power, had other overseas concerns in India and Persia to weigh against continental ones. At the outset of the July Crisis in 1914, Britain was focused on the crisis in Ireland rather than on Serbia, with widespread indifference to the outcome of the Austro-Hungarian-Serbian clash amongst the British general public.

In addition, when on Sunday 2 August, Germany issued its ultimatum to Belgium, the British were enjoying a long bank holiday weekend, which meant that while the most unprecedented war in history was being unleashed, the British public was literally "on holiday", enjoying a Monday off work.

Ultimately, it was the German invasion of Belgium that allowed the cabinet figures in favour of assisting France — Edward Grey and Winston Churchill 1874-1965 in particular — to win.

Men from all backgrounds, but particularly from the middle classes, responded in their hundreds of thousands to the call for military volunteers to serve — Britain did not have conscription in the first two years of the war and the 2 million men who volunteered are evidence of a widespread, if not universal, commitment to the national cause.

As the British historian John Keiger has emphasised, in the British case, a country that was extremely divided in 1914 was suddenly united by the war. Faced with the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum, Serbia found itself in a difficult position, already exhausted by the two Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 which had ended just barely a year earlier, on 10 August 1913, with the Treaty of Bucharest. Serbia had no real means of effectively resisting the much more powerful forces of Austria-Hungary; however, this did not prevent the Serbian press from aggravating the situation with patriotic and belligerent articles.

There was, however, virtual national unanimity within Serbia around the decision to refuse to capitulate, with the exception of two socialist deputies. It should be noted that these two men represented rural regions given that Serbia almost completely lacked any industry.

Belgium had no stake in the unfolding war and was only brought into the conflict because the German Schlieffen Plan set out that the German army would cross Belgium as part of its invasion of France. Germany offered to pay the costs that would arise from this military invasion of Belgium, presenting it as merely a process of military transit into France, and was convinced that the Belgians would permit the passage of the powerful German army.

However, this turned out not to be the case — both the Walloon and the Flemish populations of the country were indignant at the prospect of what was effectively an invasion of their sovereign territory and a breach of Belgian neutrality. According to Belgian historians, such as Jean Stengers 1922-2002and in particular, war contemporary Henri Pirenne 1862-1935it was a sense of national honour which motivated the majority of Belgians, who were angered by the way in which Germany, one of the signatories of the treaty that had pledged to guarantee Belgian neutrality, had broken its obligations.

France was the only state to use black African troops on the European battlefield. It also employed troops from the Maghreb, mobilised from its North African territories. Britain used Indian soldiers on the Western Front. The case of Switzerland was special. The 69 percent of the population that was German-speaking favoured Germany, while the 22 percent of the population who were Francophone were largely pro-French in their attitudes to the conflict.

However, the army, which was mobilised from 1 August 1914, remained neutral and helped to maintain the neutrality of the country, even if its commander General Ulrich Wille 1848-1925 was openly pro-German.

The Swiss economy was majorly disrupted by the war, but none of the belligerents had any interest in violating Swiss neutrality — rather the opposite.

They sought to benefit from the communication and transport channels between the belligerents that a neutral Switzerland sustained at the centre of Europe. The Netherlands was also economically disrupted, particularly by the temporary influx of 1 million Belgian refugees.

The Scandinavian countries were also affected economically and politically by the war: Portugal had little real stake in this war beyond being an old ally of the United Kingdom. Yet since the 1910 revolutionwhich had established the Portuguese Republic, the Democratic Party, the most radical of the Republican factions, believed it would be in the interests of the Republic to unite the country behind a great national cause, and that the war offered this opportunity.

There was scarcely a Portuguese church that did not erect a memorial to the dead of the conflict. The majority of the Italian population — the peasantry — were indifferent to the European conflict and largely illiterate and focused on local issues; however, in the towns, a pro-Entente movement which called for Italy to intervene on the side of the Entente developed.

This was a predominantly middle class movement, which saw the war as a chance for Italy to take those coveted Austro-Hungarian territories known as the " irredente " lands — the largely Italian-speaking areas of the Trentino and Trieste in particular. In contrast, the Italian urban working classes were largely pacifist.

Major demonstrations took place in Rome and Milan in favour of intervention. The Italian right, which had originally been more favourable towards the Central Powers, now the contributions of russia to the outbreak of world war i to the pro-Entente interventionist national movement. The interventionist demonstrations ultimately gave rise to what became known as "radiant May" which ended with Italian entry into the war on the side of the Entente Powers in May 1915.

However, as the conflict continued, the belligerents multiplied their efforts and pressure to draw the Balkan states into the war on their side. In spite of its defeat in the first Balkan War, the Ottoman Empire was no longer the "sick man of Europe".

It had been bolstered by the rise of the pre-war Young Turk movement, which had become resolutely nationalist following its successful coup, and which envisaged reconstructing the Empire along the lines of a Turkish national state in order to strengthen it. The Young Turk leadership also aspired to extend the borders of the state to encompass the Turkic populations of the Caucasus and Turkestan who were under Russian rule, and some members saw the outbreak of war as a potential chance to take this territory from Russia while Russia was distracted on other fronts.

The Ottoman Empire declared its entry to the war on the side of the Central Powers on 2 November 1914. With regard to the Balkan states of RomaniaBulgaria and Greeceall three had monarchs who were of German origin and whose sympathies lay with Germany. Nevertheless, the stance of each of these three countries was different.

Public opinion was determined by the middle classes in urban centres — a small segment of the overall population.

Ultimately, Germany and Austria-Hungary bought Bulgarian intervention by offering the country an enormous financial subvention, and Bulgaria declared war on Serbia on 14 October 1915. In 1916, Romania believed that this would be the Entente side, following a series of Russian successes, and declared war on Austria-Hungary on 27 August 1916. As for Greece, its leading political figure Eleutherios Venizelos 1864-1936 hoped that by supporting the Allies that he could realise his "great idea" of reconstituting a modern version of the Byzantine Empire; however, he faced the strong opposition of the pro-German Greek court which wanted Greece to remain neutral.

The American population was divided in its attitude towards the conflict. Certain groups supported Britain or Germany, while the mass of the immigrant population was largely indifferent — having left Europe to start a new life in America, many were uninterested in European affairs.

Wilson had formally declared American neutrality at the outbreak of the conflict. What led to Wilson changing his views towards American entry into the conflict, as well as to a shift in attitude among the American public to favouring intervention on the side of the Entente, with the obvious exception of German-Americans?

One answer is the contested wartime issue of " freedom of the seas ". In the early phase of the war, Wilson had protested strongly against the Allied maritime blockade of Germany ; however, the President was more vociferous in his condemnation of the German response, which was unrestricted submarine warfare.

Following the torpedoing the contributions of russia to the outbreak of world war i the British liner the Lusitania on 7 May 1915, with the loss of almost 1,200 lives, including 128 American victims, there was such an outcry in the United States that Germany was forced to moderate its submarine warfare practices. However, the contributions of russia to the outbreak of world war i the conflict continued and the blockade tightened, Germany believed that adopting a form of restricted submarine warfare was far less efficient and so on 31 January 1917, it once more declared unrestricted submarine warfare, which posed a major threat to U.