Kaiser Wilhelm-II came out with policy of aggressive imperialism in which his emphasised on Welt Politik i.e. World Politics.
Welt Politik of Kaiser Wilhelm-II
There were three pillars of this policy.
1. Naval Empowerment
Kaiser Wilhelm-II said that the naval power would lead this world. So Kaiser Wilhelm-IIproclaimed that Germany wanted a place in the sun. He said that future of Germany was on the sea. He also came out with the idea that it was Germany’s mission to spread its Kulture or culture, throughout the world.
As for the sea, Britain was the supreme power ever since Napoleon’s defeat at Trafalgar. To the Britain, it seemed highly improper for Germany or any other nation to challenge its position. The Kaiser Wilhelm-II’sproclamation was very irritating for Britain. What was more irritating than this proclamation was that Kaiser Wilhelm-II actually followed it up by increasing his navy.
This was completely unacceptable for the Britain and they also began to increase their navy. Thus a naval race began between the Britain and Germany.
2. Territorial Expansion
Kaiser Wilhelm-IIled his mission to spread German Kulture or culture throughout the world. Britain’s “White Man’s Burden” and France’s “Civilising Mission” more or less were of the same family as Germany’s Kultur. Kaiser Wilhelm-II also said that Germany as a political and economic power also requires a place in the world’s colonialism.
At the end of the 19th century, there were many German colonies existed in African countries. Like: Togo, Cameroon, Tanzania, Namibia etc. Papua New Guinea was also a German colony.
3. Interference in the International Politics
As the economic, political, military and territorial expansion of Germany took place, Kaiser Wilhelm-II started interfering in the international politics. Initially, Britain did not pay any attention to this, but soon Britain realised that it was not a simple theoretical declaration; Kaiser Wilhelm-II was interfering in others causes. Kaiser’s interference in Boer war and Morocco issue most annoyed the Britain and France.
Boer War, 1899
The term Boer meant Dutch farmers. In the last phase of 19th Century, these farmers stood up in South Africa against the exploitation of British Planters. On 11 October 1899, the Boer War broke out when Britain rejected the Transvaal ultimatum. The ultimatum had demanded that all disputes between the two states i.e. Orange Free State and Transvaal or South African State be settled by arbitration.
In this war, the Orange Free State joined the Transvaal according to the alliance of 1897. Here, the British Army was reinforced by volunteer contingents from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Cape Colony and Natal. In this course of war, Kaiser Wilhelm-IIgave moral support to the Dutch farmers and congratulated their chief at Transvaal for his anti-British attitude.
Kaiser Wilhelm-II next interfered in the affairs of Morocco. Morocco is a north African country. It was under the control of France and was strategically important for the Britain. Morocco was the entry gate for the European Nations to enter into their African Colonies.
Britain and France were rivals. Kaiser Wilhelm-II took the advantage of this internal rivalry between Britain and France. In this background, he personally visited Morocco and assured the Sultan of Morocco for all type of help against French imperialism.
This alarmed Britain and Britain immediately stood up in support of France. Kaiser Wilhelm-II was knowing that it was certainly impossible for him to fight the combined forces of Britain and France. So he immediately left the issue of Morocco. He came out with a condition of having the share in National Bank of Morocco.
Both Britain and France agreed to this condition. This condition proved disastrous in future because it increased the enthusiasm of Kaiser Wilhelm-II. Now, he started working on the policy of- “create the pressure and have the economic and political gain”.
In the long run, the behaviour of the Kaiser Wilhelm-IIannoyed most of the European powers. Though the rising Germany was giving a tough competition to the other countries, but certainly the greedy and enthusiastic behaviour of Kaiser Wilhelm-II proved disastrous for the old masters. They did not like such kind of interference in their area of influence. These all issues strengthened the ground for the World War-I.
We have read in one of the earlier posts that the Holy Roman Empire was divided into two parts:
Western Roman Empire
Eastern Roman Empire
Eastern Roman Empire to Ottoman Empire
Constantinople, Eastern Roman Empire
In 326 CE Constantine founded the city of Constantinople, near the seat of old Byzantium. He shifted the capital of his Empire all the way from old Rome. Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) stands on the edge of Europe looking out towards mighty Asia. It is a kind of link between the two continents.
There was a continuous invasion of barbarian tribes, the Goths. The Western Empire with its capital at Rome did not long survive the shock. This led to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. However, Eastern Roman Empire was hard to withstand the attacks of the Huns and others.
Constantinople not only survived these barbarian attacks but also carried on century after century in spite of continuous fighting against the Arabs and Turks. For approximately 1100 years Eastern Roman Empire survived. At last, it fell in 1453 CE when Ottoman Turks captured the Constantinople.
When the Mongols had advanced across Asia, 50,000 Ottoman Turks came before them. They founded an Empire in Asia Minor region, called Ottoman Empire. They looked up to an ancestor named Othman or Osman. Hence they were called Ottoman or Osmani Turks.
Initially, these Ottomans took refuge under Seljuq Turks in western Asia. When the Seljuq Turks weakened, Ottoman Turks had overthrown the Seljuq Turks and founded the Ottoman Empire. They went on spreading. Instead of attacking Constantinople, Ottoman Turks passed it by and crossed over to Europe in 1353.
They spread rapidly and occupied Bulgaria and Serbia and made Adrianople as their capital. Thus the Ottoman Empire was on the either side of Constantinople, both in Asia and Europe.
Fall of Eastern Roman Empire
Till now, the proud Eastern Roman Empire of 1000 years reduced to just the city of Constantinople and had practically nothing more. Although the Turks were rapidly swallowing up the Eastern Empire, but there were friendly relations between the Sultans and the Emperors. They married into each other’s families. Ultimately in 1453 Constantinople fell to the Turks.
Even since then, for nearly 500 years Constantinople or Istanbul as Ottoman Turks called it, has been in the possession of Ottoman Empire. From here they rapidly marched into Europe and came right up to the walls of Vienna.
The Greeks of Constantinople welcomedOttoman Empire. Initially, they preferred the Turks to the Pope and the western Christians. It is said that during the last siege of Constantinople in 1453 a Byzantine nobleman said:
Better the turban of the Prophet than the tiara of the Pope.
The Turks under the reign of Ottoman Empire built up a peculiar corps, called the Janissaries. This corps of Janissaries became a pillar of the Ottoman Empire. Soon, Ottoman Sultans, by taking Constantinople inherited many of the evil habits if luxury and corruption from their predecessors.
Decline of Ottoman Empire
Almost all the Eastern Europe trembled before the sword of the Ottoman Turks. Pious Christians in the west considered the Turks as the “Scourge of God“. Under the Ottoman Empire, the Asia minor region was ruled in a relatively decentralised manner. The trade, commerce, innovation flourished in their reign.
The Ottoman Empire connected three continent- Europe, Asia and Africa. It was located at the heart of the world trade route between East and West. But, when the incompatible Sultans came to the throne they started disturbing this ancient trade route. This was hurting the trade of European World and annoyed European Powers.
In the north-east side of Ottoman Empire, Tsarist Russia was growing bigger and bigger. On the other side i.e. South-Eastern Europe, there was a rising nationalistic feeling spread among the various ethnic groups. The Ottoman Turks refused to adapt themselves to the new surroundings. Soon, the Ottoman Empire’s old glory faded. Partly also this was brought about by racial and religious conflict.
In the last phase of the 19th century, Ottoman Empire was in deep trouble. Taking advantage of this condition, Eastern-European countries started declaring their independence. Montenegro (1799), Greece (1821), Serbia (1830) etc. declared their independence from the Ottoman Empire. This led to the power struggle between the Eastern European states. In which main contenders were Russia, Britain and France.
Economic, political and social developments in Europe prepared the script for the First World War. The shooting took place in Eastern Europe under the Banner of “Eastern-Question”.
From the ancient time, the heart of the trade route i.e. Silk Route was in Asia Minor. All important civilisations were born on this route. Russia wanted to have its share on Silk Route, but its three doors were closed. So, the story of modern Russia started from the Peter the Great in the 17th century.
In 1628 Peter the Great came out with “Warm Water Policy”. Under it, Baltic sea and the Black sea became the target of Russia. Russia tried to turn these regions in its zone of influence. The attention of Russia towards Black sea started tension between Russia and Ottoman Empire.
At last in the 18th century, Catherine defeated the Ottoman Empire and compelled them for the treaty of Küçük Kaynarca in 1774. By this treaty, Russia annexed Crimea and turned Crimea into “Oesophagus of Russia”. In the last of the 18th century when eastern European nations stood up against the Turkey. Russia took advantage of this situation and planned to completely eliminate Ottoman Empire.
Russia immediately sided with eastern European nations on the grounds of race and religion. This step of Russia annoyed Britain and France. Because elimination of Ottoman Empire would be led to the dominance of Russia on the Silk route.
The dominance of Russia was not in the favour of Britain and France. In this scenario, Britain and France sided with Ottoman Empire. This involvement of all powers in the affairs of eastern Europe in totality called as Eastern Question. The next important development was Crimean War of 1854.
In the last post, we have read that Ottoman Empire started declining at the end of the 19th century. The declining Ottoman Empire was a good opportunity for Russia to dominate the Silk Route. In 1774 by the treaty of Küçük Kaynarca Russia got the Crimea from Turkey and thus reached the Black Sea.
The real interest of Russia was in Constantinople. The Tsar of Russia considered himself as a successor of the Byzantine emperors. A series of wars took place between Tsarist Russia and Ottoman Empire. In 1792 and 1802 the Tsarist Russia kept on expanding towards Istanbul and the Ottoman Empire was receding.
Tsarist Russia and Britain
There was an intense rivalry between the Tsarist Russia and Britain. The possession of Indian Subcontinent brought the British right up to the Russian frontier. Britishers were continually having nightmares as to what Tsarist Russia might do to India.
Declining Ottoman Empire was alarming for the Britain, As the Russia was on its way to take advantage of this decline. Britain was on suspicion that possession of Constantinople to Tsarist Russia would have given a fine port in the Mediterranean. This would enable Russia to keep a naval contingent near the route to India. So, Britain instead of making an alliance with Tsarist Russiasupported the Ottoman Empire or Turkey.
Tsarist Russia and Austria
Austria too helped Turkey against its war with Tsarist Russia. Austria too was interested in keeping Russia away. In the 18th century, Austria was one of the old masters of Europe. At the end of the 18th century Germany, Hungary and the many Balkan States were the part of Austro-Hungarian Empire.
But after the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 and unification of Germany, there was an intense rise of nationalism in these states. They all were struggling with Ottoman Empire for independence. As the Ottoman Empire started declining and breaking into pieces, It proved to be a golden chance for the Austria to have a good share in the Balkan States.
Crimean War of 1854-1856
The Ottoman Empire was in great trouble because of its powerful neighbours. Tsarist Russia referring to Turkey said to the British Ambassador in 1853:
We have on our hands a sick man, a very sick man… He may die suddenly upon our hands…
This phrase became very popular and Turkey was henceforth the “Sick Man of Europe”. Russia ruler Tsar Nicholas-I made a proposal to Britain and other European powers. In his proposal, he invited the all Christian Powers to unite and eliminate the Muslim Power i.e. Ottoman Empire.
Britain rejected this proposal because it did not want to see Tsarist Russia in its pathways to Asia. Tsarist Russia took personal initiative and entered into the Eastern Europe. It occupied the territory around the river Danube. The war started between Russia and Turkey. Britain and Austria stood in the support of Turkey. This alliance defeated Russia into this war.
Paris Peace Conference of 1856
After defeating Russia, Paris Peace Conference of 1856 was conducted. In which the Sultan of Ottoman Empire promised to give equal status to the people of eastern Europe. But Sultan failed to fulfil his promises. Soon, the eastern Europe became the victim of the Famine in which the most affected states were Bosnia-Herzegovina. After few years in 1877, Bulgaria attacked Turkey. Tsarist Russia immediately gave the assistance to the Bulgaria. Bulgaria with the help of Russia defeated the Turkey.
Treaty of San-Stefano
Turkey was compelled to accept the treaty of San-Stefano in 1877. The terms of this treaty were,
Turkey accepted the independence of Serbia and Montenegro.
Bulgaria became an autonomous state and Russia became the protector of Bulgaria.
The Black Sea became the zone of Russia influence.
This treaty of San-Stefano became the pain for Britain. British Prime Minister Disraeli gave warning to the Tsarist Russiato revise the treaty otherwise be ready for the consequences. The delegates of all European Powers met in Berlin in 1878 to decide the fate of Turkey.
In this conference, Bismarck stood as a messenger of peace. The Berlin Congress of 1878 decided the fate of Turkey and also watered the seed of the World War- I.
The treaty of San-Stefano caused tension for the Britain and other western European Powers. So, the rising tension led to an another event in the world history. It was led by the great leader Bismarckfrom Germany, British Prime Minister Disraeli, and other delegates from the Austria and Russia.
Britain initially asked Tsarist Russiato amend the provisions of the treaty of San-Stefano but Russia refused to do so. The circumstance led to the Berlin Congress of 1878. The conference also prepared the ground for the two Balkan War.
Berlin Congress of 1878
Till now the centre of activities was Vienna, London and Paris. For the first time, Berlin got the chance to host an international event. So, this was enough to show that Germany was rising. The important decisions of Berlin Congress of 1878were:
Bulgaria was divided and kept under the protection of Turkey.
The Black Sea became the neutral zone.
To maintain the balance of power, Britain took Cyprus and Austria took Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Berlin Congress of 1878 succeeded in maintaining peace for some time. In long run, Berlin Congress of 1878created the ground for thefirst World War because of the following reasons:
The decisions of Berlin Congress of 1878 annoyed the Russia. Russia felt humiliations and moved closer to the France. They came out with the Franco-Russia Military Convention in 1892.
According to Berlin Congress of 1878, Bosnia-Herzegovina was given to Austria. This was unacceptable to Serbia because Serbia considered Bosnia-Herzegovina as its own territory.
By hosting this congress at Berlin, Germany indirectly entered intoEastern Question.
In this way, Berlin Congress of 1878 made the peace but created the ground for big upheaval. After the Berlin Congress of 1878 Britain, France, Germany, Austria and Italy were on the one side. So, while Russia was alone.
In this scenario, it was not possible for Russia to directly fought for its interest. So, Tsarist Russiaopted for the indirect path which gave birth to new development in Eastern Europei.e. Pan-Slavism.
The Balkan Region
The countries which are located nearby the Balkan Range are known as Balkan Countries. Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Slovenia, Greece, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania, Kosovo etc. are the Balkan Countries. The powerful states of the surrounding areas were having their eye on these states.
The Balkan Region was the powder keg of Europe. On its north-western frontier, there was Austro-Hungarian Empire and on its south-east frontier, there was declining Ottoman Empire. Russia was on the eastern side of these states. Due to its geostrategic location, major European powers were interested in the Balkan Region.
So, gradually there developed a feeling of nationalism. The inhabitants of these countries were Slav people. Slowly and gradually they started their nationalistic movements. So, this was the Pan-Slavism movement. Russia gave its support to these Slav nations.
Pan-Slavism and Young Turk Movement
Under Pan-Slavism, the objective of Serbia was to unite all the areas dominated by the Slav people. Actually, Serbia wanted to establish a greater Serbia. The young Ottoman Turks also started a Young Turk Movement in 1910. Its objective was to counter the Pan-Slavism.
The intelligent and military officials of Turkey started the Young Turk Movement. Their core objective was political and cultural reforms. So, under the political reforms, they demanded civil rights, freedom of expression etc. In cultural reforms, the objective was to promote Turkish culture especially the Turkish language in the entire Ottoman Empire.
The Pan-Slavism and Young Turk Movement created the ground for the cultural clash between eastern Europe and Turkey. So, it was clear that there was going to be the war in future. As a precautionary step Greece, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Serbia united and from Balkan League in 1911. So, this prepared the ground for the two Balkan Wars.
First Balkan War
After the long war of 300 years, in eastern Europe, Turkey was completely exhausted. Taking the advantage of the situation, Austria purchased Bosnia-Herzegovina from Turkey in 1911. In this irritation, Montenegro attacked Turkey in 1912. So, it immediately got the backing of Balkan League, leading to first Balkan War of 1912.
In this war, Montenegro defeated Turkey. Turkey was economically and politically exhausted. So, by the London Agreement of 1913, Turkey left its claim oneastern Europe. So, this fulfilled the dream of independence for eastern Europen nations. From here, started the story of Second Balkan War.
Second Balkan War
In 1913, Balkan nations got independence.But after this, they started fighting among themselves for territories. In 1913, Montenegro attacked Serbia. So, this saw the involvement of entire eastern European nations leading to Second Balkan War.
So, the situation was tensed in eastern Europe. In this on 28th June 1914, an incident took place in the Serbia which became the immediate cause of the First World War.
On the surface, the immediate cause of the First World War was something about Archduke Francis Ferdinand episode. June 28, 1914, was the date on which the spark took place which culminated in the First World War. Archduke Francis Ferdinand was the crown prince of the Austrian throne. He visited Sarajevo, a city of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Balkan region. Serbia considered Bosnia-Herzegovina as its territory.
As we have read that the nationalism was at its peak after the Balkan Wars. There was a widespread Pan-Slavism movement. Every Balkan State was starving for its freedom. This led to the formation of the Balkan league in 1911. In this scenario, when the Austrian crown prince with his wife went to visit Sarajevo, a city in Bosnia. A bomb was thrown at the Archduke Francis Ferdinand’s car. The bomb missed the intended target. Then, a young man, holding a gun stepped from the crowd lining the streets. Finally, Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife were shot.
Princip, the Bosnian student who shot Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo, was a member of the one nationalistic secret society. He explained,
…The main motive which guided me in my deed was the avenging of the Serbian people… I am a nationalist. I aimed to free the Yugoslavs, for I am a Yugoslav…
Reaction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
At the royal court of the Vienna, the centre of the Austro-Hungarian Empire interpreted the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife as a threat to the very existence of the Empire. The Austrian Empire was in shock. The delegates at the Vienna court thought if one group rebelled the rest would quickly follow.
The Austrian people and government accused Serbia, which was the neighbour of Bosnia, for this incident. Afterwards, the investigation took place for this episode. Austria found out that Serbian Government was not completely responsible for the assassination, but was not fully unaware of the preparations made for it.
According to the report, Austria found that Serbia was the centre of all the nationalist agitation. Finally, on July 23, 1914, Austria responded to this assassination by sending its troops to attack the independent state of Serbia. When Austria attacked Serbia, after 5days on 28 July 1914, the all allied powers stood with their allies. Eventually, this led to the whole world into the fire of the First World War.
Beginning of First World War
We have read about the alliance politics, that European powers made during the previous years of the First World War. Because of the alliance formation among the European powers, this attack on the Serbia by the Austria took the violent and the disastrous form of First World War.
Major events of the First World War
Alliance between Germany and Austria
According to the terms of the Dual Alliance treaty, 1879, between the Germany and Austro-Hungarian Empire, it became necessary for the Germany to jump into the First World Warto support Austria. Though this was the declared reason of the Germany to jump into the First World War, the real reason was, Germany wanted to dominate the entire Europe. At the end of the 19th century, Germany was the industrial power. Soon, it became the fantasy of Germany to go for the territorial expansion. This war proved an opportunity for Germany to show its military power.
Russia sided with Serbia
In Russia, the Tsar government, jumped into the First World War against Austria to help their fellow Slavs in Serbia. Tsar was also seeking for the opportunity to attack Austria and other European powers as he was not happy with the terms of Treaty of San-Stefano and defeat inCrimean war. Tsarist Russia was keen to have it’s authority on the Black Sea as it was very near to the heart of the world trade route. So, Tsarist Russia sided with the Serbia, declaring that it was his moral duty to fight for the cause of fellow Slavs.
Germany’s Extravagant Expedition in Europe and response from European Powers
On the 1st August 1914, Germany declared war on Russia because the military power of Russia was seemed invincible at that time. So, Germany sent its armed forces in the First World War to establish what it believed to be its rightful place as a major world power.
On 3rd of August 1914, Germany attacked France via Belgium. Germany attacked France because it was the ally of Russia (Franco-Russian military convention, 1892). When Germany attacked France via Belgium, Britain as a friend of Belgium came forward to save sovereignty of the Belgium (Treaty of London, 1839). Britain declared the war against Germany.
On 4th of August 1914, Germany invaded Belgium. Though Britain attacked Germany with the declared agenda of saving the sovereignty of the Belgium, the real motive was to suppress the rise of Germany as the industrialised and economic power. Britain wanted to ascertain its supremacy in the world. But at the same time, Germany also jumped into the First World Warwith lots of aspiration. This never dying spirit for the supremacy led this war for approximately four years.
German and French troops used the Trench Warfare technique in the First World War. Trench warfare, in which opposing armed forces attacked, counterattacked and defended from relatively permanent systems of trenches dug into the ground. The opposing systems of trenches are usually close to one another. Trench warfare resorted to fighting with superior firepower. In which, the opposing forces dig in the trenches so extensively as to sacrifice their mobility in order to gain protection.
First World War moves on
Soon, German forces reached to the Paris. Battles of Ypres (western front of Belgium) was fought. Finally, the German army marched towards the coastal region of the western Europe. Germany also defeated Russian armies on the Eastern European front.
Ottoman Empire also attacked Russia. But Ottoman Empire was not in the condition to give a tough fight to Russia. Because it was continuously fighting in the eastern Europe.
In the above description, we have learnt that the most of the European powers were fighting among themselves in the early time of the 20th century. So, what happened as such that this fighting among the major European powers became the First World War?? Was it a really a First World War or was it a war that impacted all countries over the world??
As we know in the 20th century the most of the European powers had their colonies all around the world. It was certainly a multipolar world, in which the imperialismwas at its peak. So, it was pretty much natural that this war can not be fought among the European powers only. Indirectly the all colonial possession of different European powers were involved in the First World War.
First World War in Africa and Japan
The European powers were fighting in Africa for the possession over the Togo, Tanzania and Cameroon which were the German colonies in Africa. Japan also wanted to become a superpower. So, Japan attacked the Micronesian and Chinese colonies of Germany.
First World War: Battle of Gallipoli
Gallipoli peninsula was under the Ottoman Empire and Australia was in the possession of Britain. Britain wanted this Gallipoli peninsula under its authority because of its geostrategic location. So, Australian and Newzealand’s combined army attacked the Gallipoli.
Soon, the Ottoman Turks defeated the combined army of Australia and Newzealand. This was the only victorious campaign of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.
First World War: Role of United States of America
The United States of America entered into the war three years after the fighting had begun. Though it was not willing to enter into the First World War the Germany’s U-boat episode compelled the United States of America to jump into the First World War.
In May 1915 Germany discovered the U-boats. These U-boat were used to attack other civilian boats. In June 1917 Germany used one of its U-boat in the war against Royal British Navy. RMS Lusitania was a British ship carrying American passengers to the United States of America.
The German U-boat attacked this RMS Lusitania. The 1200 civilians died, they all were Americans. This incident aroused the anger in the American masses. It became inevitable for American President Woodrow Wilson to abstain from the war. This incident brought the United States of America into the First World War.
First World War: Battle of Jutland
This was the biggest naval war fought between Britain and Germany. It involved some 250 ships and 100,000 men, fought on Denmark’s North Sea coast was the only major naval war of First World War. The battle began on the afternoon of May 31, 1916, with gunfire between the German and British armies.
British losses amounted to 6,784 men and German losses to 3,058 men. Though the Kaiser Wilhelm-II was pretty much happy with the performance of the German Naval forces. But the German warring ships after this battle were too not in the condition of fighting more wars. So, this war proved a decisive war just like the Battle of Trafalgar, which certainly gave the peace for sometimes in Europe.
Wars, always conclude with a huge economic, political, military crisis and vice-versa is also true. But the most devastating feature of any war is the loss of human resources. Many families lose their near and dear ones in the wars. So, the aftermath of any war is always a weary condition.
This was also true in the case of First World War. There was a huge human casualty. Many soldiers died and many children became orphan. Though the allied powers (Russia, Britain, France, Italy and United States) were victorious in the First World War they too suffered losses from which they never fully recovered. Not only were millions of their soldiers and countrymen died but also their economies shattered. In Russia, Russian Revolution of 1917 started before the ending of the First World War.
So the end of First World Warconcluded with a kind of peace conference, Paris Peace Conference, 1919. Here allied powers came with the Treaty of Versailles. We will read about the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 and terms of thetreaty of Versailles in next coming post.
As we have read in the last post that the Battle of Jutland proved to be the decisive battle. By the middle of 1918, the allied powers (The United States of America, Russia, Britain and France) pushed the Germans back. Though Germans represented extraordinary military power in the First World War. But allied powers with the fullest cooperation and unity effort successfully pushed back the Germans. It is said for the Germans that,
They had come in with the roar of a tiger, to disappear like the tail of a snake.
On November 11, 1918, the allied and axis powers signed an armistice and First World War came to an end. US president Woodrow Wilson formulated “Fourteen Points” for the armistice. In his fourteen points, he talked about the principles of self-determination, disarmament, no secret diplomacy, League of Nations etc.
Surrender of Germany
Germany was convinced with the fourteen points of US President Woodrow Wilson, as they were keen designed to have peace, cooperation etc. Germany surrendered in 1918. The war was over. But Britain blocked the food supply to the Germany.
Britain was showing its ultimate hatred to the Germans, and by blocking the food supply to Germany, it wanted to punish Germany. Indeed the British Prime MinisterLloyd George, which was a liberal, too supported this blockade. For more than seven years after the war, Britain continued with this blockade. Bethmann Hollweg, the old Chancellor of Germany said:
Our children and our children’s children, will bear traces of the blockade that Britain enforced against us, a refinement of cruelty nothing less than diabolic.
On the other side, the France too was not in a mood to forgive Germany. It seems France wanted to take revenge of Battle of Sedan of 1871. In which Germany defeated France and took its Alsace and Lorraine territories. Victor Hugo, one of the France’s most renowned writer said during the First World War,
France will have but one thought, to… raise her young generation to form an army of the whole people… to become against a Great France and the France of 1792, the France of an ideal with a sword… then she will take back Alsace-Lorraine.
So, France wanted to subdue Germany to such a level that France could exploit the resources of the Germany for a long time.
Actually, the long years of war had brutalised the warring countries. They lost their moral sense of humanity. Though no one knows the exact number of the people who had been died in the First World War. But there are some figures that surely could give the severity of this war.
The total casualties of the war have been calculated as follows:
17 million deaths, including 11 million combatants and 6 million civilians.
20 million wounded
1.3 million Indians serving in British army died.
9 million War orphans.
5 million War widows.
Paris Peace Conference and Treaty of Versailles
Paris Peace Conference
Finally, the victorious allies held a Peace Conference in Paris in 1919. In this conference, the victorious allies redrew the map of Europe. People hoped that after the devastating and horrible experience of the First World War, this peace conference would come with the certain relief.
The victorious powers headed the Paris Peace Conference. The “Big Three” were France, Britain and America. President Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau represented America, Britain and France respectively.
President Woodrow Wilson came with a huge popularity and gave fourteen points. He used many beautiful and idealistic phrases in his speech in Conference. He was keen to establish a League of Nations.Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Britain came in this conference as an opportunist.
Now, the third one, Clemenceau, the “Tiger” as he was called, was in full mood of to take revenge from its old rival Germany. So, he drafted a treaty, popularly known as the treaty of Versailles.
Treaty of Versailles
Under this treaty of Versailles, victorious powers summoned the German representatives to hear their commands. Germany signed the enormous treaty of Versailles containing approximately 440 articles. The victorious allies did not give the German representative a chance to argue with them. Provisions of the treaty of Versailles were,
Germany lost his territories in Europe. Example- France took the Saar (coal producing area of Germany) for 15 years. Germany lost its control over the Alsace and Lorraine provinces. The parts of East Germany became the French corridor to the Poland.
Germany lost its African colonies too. The allies divided these colonies among themselves.
Allies imposed the war compensation of 66 hundred million pounds on Germany. Actually, they blamed Germany for the First World War.
Demilitarisation of Germany, with the ban on Navy and Air Force. Germany was allowed to maintain infantry of one lakh.
The treaty of Versailles laid down that Germany was the guilty party in causing the war. Though Germany was the main party in the First World War. But it was not completely responsible for the huge devastation after the war.
Germany was facing critical economic, political and social crisis after the war. The terms of the treaty of Versailles led to the exploitation and humiliation of the German race, who have only learnt that they were superior. The treaty of Versailles was a humiliating treaty. The representatives of the Germany protested against it.
Treaty of Versailles was going to give a dictated peace, which was not good for the long term. Though Germany signed the treaty of Versailles but treaty sown the seeds of bitterness among the Germans. Though President Woodrow Wilson established the League of Nations, with the purpose,
to prevent future wars by establishing relations on the basis of justice and honour and to promote co-operation, material and intellectual, between the nations of the world.
But, Germany was not feeling good with the provisions of the treaty of Versailles. The treaty of Versaillescontained the original constitution of the League of Nations. The great powers dominated the League of Nations this was the pain for the Germany.
The treaty of Versailles, which put an end to “the war which was to end a war”. So, Philip Snowden who later became Viscount Snowden, a Cabinet Minister in Britain, made the following comment on the treaty of Versailles:
The Treaty of Versailles should satisfy brigands, imperialists amd militarists. Treaty of Versailles is the death-blow to the hopes of those who expected the end of the war to bring peace. It is not a peace treaty, but a declaration of another war. It is the betrayal of democracy and of the fallen in the war. The Treaty of Versailles exposes the true aims of the allies.
The most important incident during the First World War was the out break of Russian Revolution of 1917. Russian Revolution was in itself a tremendous event, unique in world history. Russian Revolution was one of the biggest outcome of the First World War.
We have read that the Russia under Tsar Nicholas-II was facing the economic, political and social crisis. The long sessions of fighting with the Ottoman Empire and in the quest of Eastern Europe emptied the treasury of the Russian Empire. So, Russian Revolutionwas a child of economic, political and social conditions prevailing in the Russia. There were really two revolutions in the year of 1917 in Russia. One was in March and another one was in November.
As we know, there are so many reasons behind any revolution. Though revolution outbreak suddenly but there is a long period of suffering and struggle of the common masses beneath its outbreak.
Reasons for Russian Revolution
Russian Revolution of 1905
Russian Parliament Duma
Though in the most of the western European countries the democracy was developing gradually but there was autocracy in the Russia. There was no room for the Parliamentary action in Russia. The continuous tyranny of Tsarism was prevailing in the Russia.
In 1903, there were numerous spontaneous political strikes in the Russia. A political strike was not only the symbol of the economic exploitation but it was to protest against the existing political order in the Russia. In the subsequent year, Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905.
On the 22nd January 1906, Tsar’s troops shot down a peaceful demonstration led by a priest, which had gone to the Tsar to beg for bread. After this incidence, a thrill of horror was prevailing in the Russia. This incidence actually gave the fuel to the general strikes against the prevailing political order.
The workers of the big cities united and formed the “Soviet”. The Tsar’s government surrendered to some extent. The Tsar promised his subjects for political reforms. The constitutional assembly Duma (thinking-place) came into existence. This promise cooled the most of the liberals in Russia.
Different demand of Workers, Peasants and Revolutionaries
In 1906 Tsar’s government came out with the Duma. But the different sections of the Russian society were having their different demands. On the one side, the starving worker class was more interested in the bread and higher wages, while on the other side, peasants came out with the slogans of “Give us land”.
Though the revolutionaries chiefly concerned with political reforms got the parliament Duma, but the most of the masses were not concerning with the political reforms. Tsar’s government took the advantage of this situation and played up to it. The workers, peasants and revolutionaries instead of fighting together against the Tsarist government, started fighting among themselves.
Suppression of the Russian Revolution of 1905
As it was visible to the Tsarist government that the groups were fighting among themselves. The government attacked the two hypocentres of these activities- Petersburg and Moscow. The Petersburg Soviet was crushed completely. In Moscow, the government put to death approximately thousands of people without trial and imprisoned 70,000. The Tsar’s government brutally suppressed the Russian Revolution of 1905.
Re-emergence of Revolutionary Activities
In 1914, the urban working class in Russia was waking up and becoming revolutionary. Though the Russian Revolution of 1905 failed but the failure of Russian Revolution of 1905 helped the masses to identify their loopholes. So, Lenin and his colleagues utilised the dark years of repression after 1905 in training themselves for the future actions.
Though Duma came into existence after the Russian Revolutionof 1905, but the Tsar was still the leading authority in the Russia. There was not check on the powers of Tsar. So, the continuous period of the Tsar’s regime annoyed the common masses and once again there was a huge cry for the political changes.
Bastard Feudalism in Russian Revolution
The Russian peasants were in trouble because of the Bastard Feudalism. Serfdom i.e. slavery was a pain for the Russian peasants. In the early 19th century the Tsar Alexandar-II abolished the serfdom system. But his most annoying successor Tsar Nicholas-II, to get the support of the feudal lords once again established serfdom in Russia.
He appointed the royal officials in the villages. These royal officials were called Land Captain. The Land Captains were given judicial and executive rights. So, they started exploiting farmers in the interest of the feudal lords. This was called as Bastard Feudalism.
The Role of Intellectual Class
When all sections of any society face trouble, then the only section which provides the best leadership to these people is the intellectual class. The same was true the case of Russian Revolution. “Gunpowder” was already present in the Russia. They intellectual class gave the ignition to this “Gunpowder”.
Intellectuals like Maxim Gorky, through his novel “Mother” and “War and Peace” provided actual reasons for the trouble of the masses. He also provided the solution to the troubles. But the large mass of people was illiterate and suffering from poverty. So, it became very difficult for the masses to understand the solution provided in the books.
Revolutionary Movement Nihilism
In this scenario, the revolutionary movements like Nihilism played an important role in the mass awakening. Nihilist means destroyers. The objective of this Nihilist group was the assassination of the maligned officers to awaken the Empire and self-sacrifice to awaken the masses. Nihilists failed to get the support of masses and Tsar’s government crushed this movement. The final task to awaken the people was done by the Nordanik Movement i.e. People’s Movement.
Role of Tsar Nicholas in Russian Revolution
Tsar Nicholas-II along with his wife Tsarina just like the Louis-XVI and Marie Antoinette of France failed to understand the demand of their subjects. As the situation started deteriorating in the Russia Tsar Nicholas-II also started behaving in the more foolish way.
Tsar and Tsarina surrounded themselves with knaves and fools, and nobody dared to criticise them. So, matters became critical when a person, known as Gregory Rasputin became the most favourite of the Tsar and Tsarina.
Lenin and his group opposed the entry of Russia into the First World War from the very beginning. Lenin called the First World War as the capitalist’s war. As Russia was a developing nation, so Lenin suggested that Russia should refrain from theFirst World War.
But the advisor of Tsar Nicholas-II proposed that Russia had always played the key role in European crisis so Russia should interfere in theWorld War-I. The participation of Russia in the World War proved disastrous for the Tsar and his dynasty.
From here the Phases of Russian Revolution started. We will discuss these phases in next coming post.