Military Review

"The second tier" of the First World War

"The second tier" of the First World War

To declare their claims to the first roles, or, taking advantage of the situation, to return to the camp of those who decide the destinies of the world, other actors dreamed, so to speak, of the “second echelon”. These include Italy and Japan, as well as Turkey. This list, albeit with a very big stretch, can replenish Belgium, which, despite its small size, had quite a lot of complaints during European disassembly, not least because of its forgotten colonial power.

The causes of the First World War, the desire of the participating countries to seize new territories, divide colonies and eliminate competitors in international trade, to the extent of their complete destruction, are widely known. The intentions of the main characters of the military battles of the beginning of the last century are no less known: Germany, Austria-Hungary, England, France, Russia ... What are, for example, in the modern political context, Kaiser Germany’s plans to recreate the medieval Great German Empire, cut off Ukraine from Russia, to attach it to a new super-clave from the conquered territories of Belarus, the Caucasus and the Baltic States ... And what did they lead to? But there were others ...


On the imperial greatness of this perhaps the youngest of the major European powers, the monarchs began to bake long before the world war. The members of the Savoy dynasty, thrown by the Risorgimento revolutionary wave from the modest Sardinian kingdom to the throne in Rome, relied on the most active support of the elites and did not hide their desire to create an overseas empire in just-reunited Italy that resembled the Great Roman Empire. In principle, the fact that Italy was formally bound by treaty with the German and Austro-Hungarian empires, proudly being called a member of the Triple Alliance, contributed a lot to this. Here are just a few characteristic episodes confirming a similar assessment of the starting positions of Italy. So, back in 1878, a vain attempt was made to get Tunisia and part of Libya, which at that time could not be attributed to the sphere of influence of Germany and Austria. In the 1881 year, when the Suez Canal was opened, Italy, of course, with a long-range view, bought from the Rubattino company a small port of Assabi on the Red Sea and with it a convenient Assaba bay, to which the actual good was given by the British. But a year later, the Italians set their sights on the occupation of the territories by the Red Sea — only unambiguous threats from Republican France tore this adventure. Then the war began with Abyssinia, which ended in collapse. The army of King Menelik, who declared himself the emperor of united Abyssinia, defeated the Bersaliers under Adov, and the Italians, under a peace treaty, received only a narrow strip of the coast, called Eritrea. In the 1889 year, after the new invasion, the Italian colonies in Somalia and Eritrea were still founded, and even a protectorate was established over Ethiopia ... Entrepreneurial Italians made it to China, parachuting into San Moon Bay, but there too were rebuffed. On this aggressive wave, a poor country with a backward economy and a weak army did not retreat from its territorial harassment abroad.

At the beginning of the unexpectedly unfolding world war, Italy sought to maintain neutrality, although de jure remained a member of the Triple Alliance, together with Germany and Austria-Hungary. Italy had territorial claims against Austria, which controlled Trento, South Tyrol and Trieste, and under the terms of the Triple Alliance, it was obliged to transfer these territories to Italy in the event of a successful offensive in the Balkans. It was about this, under the impression of Vienna’s unbridled ultimatum to Serbia, that on July 12 on July 1914, the Italian ambassador, the Duke of Avarn, reminded the chancellor of the dualistic monarchy, Count Berchtold. At the same time, he said that the Italian government does not consider itself obliged to render assistance to Austria-Hungary in the event of its attack on Serbia. 27-28 July, a few days before the declaration of war, with similar statements twice made the head of the Italian Foreign Ministry Marquis di San Giuliano. But Vienna was too eager to "punish" Serbia, and they had already bit the bit - Austria refused all deals, Rome categorically did not like Rome to turn the Adriatic into an "Italian lake".

Italy in no way was going to support the obsessive desire of the northern neighbor to dominate the Balkans, and in Rome, in fact, with the start of hostilities, they were prepared to go over to the Entente.

There, in case of victory, Italy had long promised to return the disputed territories, primarily in the Alps, the so-called irredentist (non-liberated) lands, including Trentino, part of Tyrol and Trieste. The Italian elite, in which the titled persons were almost more than in other countries, immediately began to claim that their country should play the role of one of the leading members of this union, although again, there were too few serious reasons for that. However, the bargain was slightly delayed - Britain and France were in no hurry to unequivocally support the claims of Rome, and Russia “kindred” kept silent, although who in those days could have embarrassed the Romanov family ties with Victor Emmanuel III (he and two Russian great princes, including Nikolai Nikolayevich was married to the daughters of the Montenegrin king Nikola I Petrovich).

Only in May 1915, Italy declared war on Austria, cherishing all the same ambitious prospects - to fully control the northern and eastern shores of the Adriatic. At the suggestion of General Cadorno, who seriously expected to receive the unique title of Generalissimo, Italian politicians continually referred to the diplomatic negotiations for the length and vulnerability of their western coast because of the “gentle topography”, allowing any aggressor to easily land. But then there were also references to the need to minimize the number of ports of Serbia on the mountainous east coast of the Adriatic Sea, in order here to fully dictate their conditions for the same Serbia and other Balkan states. It should be noted that these desires were fueled to no small degree by France, England and the USA.

Here is how the English historian V.V. commented on the current situation. Gottlieb: "Benevolence from England and France led to the fact that Italy was given a voice in matters of the Adriatic and the Balkans, which did not correspond to her real strength." As acknowledged by Prime Minister Antonio Salandra, the Italian government set a goal to establish "military superiority in the Adriatic" and claimed "... Trieste and the whole of Istria to Kvarnero, including Voloska, as well as the Istrian Islands, ... the Dalmatia region south of the River Narinte, the peninsula Sabbioncello and all the islands to the north and west of Dalmatia ..., full sovereignty (over) Valona ... and Saseno ... with the territory ... from the river Voyusa in the north and east and approximately to Himara in the south ", combined with the condition that" coast between Himara and Cape Stylos, and between the mouth of Voyusa and Kattaro Bay inclusive, was neutralized, and Durazzo transferred to the new "independent" Muslim state in central Albania (apparently under the control of Rome. "

To have it all, Italy had to get involved in a grueling war. The confrontation with Austria-Hungary was delayed for three and a half years, Italy suffered a series of defeats, and the defeat at Caporetto almost led to the fall of the dynasty and even the early exit of the country from the war.
The country lost 600 of thousands of people, and at the end of World War I received the minimum of what she wanted, namely all the same Trieste, Istria and South Tyrol ... And besides, the independent union state that united Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and clearly gaining strength. Italy did not succeed in expanding its domination in the Balkan Peninsula, and the Allies did not, which was one of the factors shaping a strange mixture of political dissatisfaction and revanchism in the country.

Subsequently, the Italians' attempt to seize the island of Corfu led to a conflict with Greece and ended without result. And when, already during the times of the fascist regime of Mussolini, the idea of ​​creating a “new Roman empire” was revived in a clearly distorted form, it was also not possible to implement its dictator. It all started with the fact that the League of Nations condemned the military campaign in Abyssinia, the Germans helped the Germans cope with Yugoslavia and Greece, and all attempts to become Germany’s equal partner in the new world war ended with the Nazi occupation, and only later with the overthrow and execution of Benito Mussolini.


Before the outbreak of the First World War, the Japanese Empire had a good army, shot at in battles, and good weapons, thanks to the military assistance of Germany. As a result of the successful completion of the Russian-Japanese war 1904-1905, the borders of the empire were significantly expanded: according to the Portsmouth Peace Treaty of August 23, 1905, it received all the Kuril Islands and South Sakhalin with the 50 parallel. When the global confrontation began, Japanese diplomacy, led by conservative Tanaaki Kato from Mitsubishi personnel, was built on the same shaky neutrality that was characteristic of before the war with Russia. This policy implied the choice of the most preferable transition to the camp of one of the opposing sides.

Strong enough military-political ties of the governments of Japan and Germany made this choice seem obvious, but it was so only at first glance. Even in the case of a quick victory of the Tripartite Alliance (the German General Staff devoted only two or three months to achieve it), Japan would hardly have achieved significant acquisitions on land — in China and Russia, limiting itself to preserving the pre-war status quo. Moreover, aggressive Germany, on the wave of victory, could have annexed the island possessions of the empire in the Pacific Ocean. In addition, in the case of an assault on Russian territory, the Japanese would immediately face military support from the naval and land forces of England and France, stationed in India, Australia and New Zealand. Military historians rightly called such a step "suicide."

But the alliance with the Entente completely untied the hands of the Japanese military forces to advance deep into the coveted territory of China and the new seizure of the Pacific Islands.

Moreover, the Anglo-Japanese agreement 1902 of the year, which had a rather frank anti-Russian orientation, served as a diplomatic basis for such cooperation. However, it was possible not to look at Russia — it was clearly not wanted in Petersburg in St. Petersburg, and practically nothing prevented the continuation of economic expansion in the northern part of Manchuria in peace with the Japanese. The policy of the First Lord of the English Admiralty Winston Churchill pushed Japan toward an alliance with the Entente, suggesting a concentration of British naval forces in the Mediterranean, and the sea control in the Pacific Ocean at the same time fully pinned on the Japanese fleet.

In the end, a shaky neutrality smoothly turned into a promise of England to help repel the attacks of the German units on Hong Kong and the Weihai-va concession on the Chinese Shandong Peninsula, if any. Soon the promise had to be fulfilled: 7 August 1914, London “ordered” Tokyo to destroy the German ships in the waters of China. And the next day, Japan made the final decision to join the war - the German eastern possessions turned out to be such a tasty morsel that in Tokyo they could not refuse it. Germany was given an ultimatum, which she ignored, and then 23 August 1914, the emperor Mutsuhito, who took the name of Meiji, has officially declared war on Germany.

The Japanese armed forces were quite active - in August and September their landing forces captured the Marshall Islands, the Mariana Islands, the Caroline Islands, which were under German control, in addition, the Australian naval forces and the New Zealand expeditionary detachment occupied German military bases in New Guinea, New Britain, on the islands Samoa and Solomon. By early November, the only port in the Pacific Ocean, where the German armed forces were located, remained the port-fortress of Qingdao, which, after a long siege, also fell.

The British ambassador in St. Petersburg, George Buchanan, quite seriously nurtured the idea of ​​replenishing the ranks of the Russian army on the Austro-German or Caucasian front with Japanese units. But in reality, the allies even invited the Japanese fleet to fight in the Mediterranean Sea, and there he showed himself from the best side. In March 1917, the Akashi cruiser, accompanied by 8 destroyers, sailed through Aden and Port Said to the Mediterranean Sea and arrived in Malta. The fact that the help of Japanese ships is capable of making a decisive turning point in the situation on the Mediterranean Sea has not been discussed yet, but the new allies took an active part in covering up transports with reinforcements going to the Western Front. Soon, from the Japanese sailors, although temporarily, the crews of two English gunboats and two destroyers were formed, and the number of ships from the country of the rising sun in the Mediterranean reached 17. It is no accident that when it was already approaching peaceful detente, Japan loudly demanded its share of the booty - seven captured submarines received from the liquidated German fleetSamurai was clearly not enough. At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, Japan achieved the official transfer to its jurisdiction of all the Pacific territories belonging to Germany north of the equator - the same Marian, Marshall, Caroline Islands. This was followed by ground operations, aimed at establishing Japanese dominance not only in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, but throughout China.

It is significant that as soon as one of the allies, Russia, broke away from the Entente, Japan was among the first among the interventionists who invaded the territory of the Soviet Republic in 1920 year ...

The United States, Great Britain, and France in every way fueled the aggressive sentiments of Japanese militarism in relation to “communist Russia”. For example, even 2 in November 1917 of the year in Washington was concluded the American-Japanese agreement Lansing-Ishii, whose secret articles stipulated joint actions in the Far East and in Siberia - up to Irkutsk. Sakhalin Island remained the desired territory for the Japanese. To get it in full, they tried not only by military actions, but also by bribing. In December, 1920, the mayor of Tokyo, former Japanese Foreign Minister Simpaye Goto, invited a high-ranking Soviet diplomat, Adolf Ioffe, who signed the Brest Peace Treaty, to Tokyo and offered him to negotiate selling his country northern Sakhalin island for ... 100 million dollars. The attempt, of course, failed, although the possibilities of the young Soviet Republic, not only in mastering the Sakhalin wealth, but simply in maintaining the normal existence of the few inhabitants of the island, were very, very limited.

Later история put everything in its place. According to the results of the Second World War, the USSR returned the Kuriles and the island of Sakhalin to its borders. But, as you know, until now the militarist-minded circles of Japan are not appeasing, considering these territories to be controversial.


With regard to Turkey during the period of world war, it is more likely to speak about the loss of global imperial ambitions, but at the same time, and about the thirst for revenge, moreover not in the Balkans, but in the Middle East and the Caucasus. By 1914, Turkey was in an extremely difficult position, both from an economic and financial point of view, when debts were many times larger than the budget, and from a political point of view. The old partners - German politicians after the Balkan wars, to a large extent, feared further rapprochement with Turkey, considering it almost useless as an ally - "Turkey is still in such a state that it will take years until you can count on it", wrote shortly before the Sarajevo assassination the German ambassador to Constantinople, Baron Wangenheim. This position of Germany allowed to be widely introduced into the economy of the Ottoman ports, only beginning to revive with the Young Turks, first of all, French capital. But only one of the “triumvirate of pasha” who accomplished yet another coup d'état in January 1913, the maritime minister and the military governor of Istanbul, Ahmed Jemal, thought about a real alliance with the Entente in Istanbul. He openly admired the traditions of French democracy, but at the talks in Paris he suffered a complete fiasco - the French in the Balkan region made their choice in favor of Serbia and Greece long ago.

The result of short diplomatic games with the Young Turks was a “traditional” alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, although in Istanbul, constantly looking back at Rome, trying to bargain for something “more Austrian Tyrol”, they also managed to pull time.

But the Young Turks, it seems, “played neutrality” only in order to strike across Russia in the Caucasus at a time when most of the Russian troops would be transferred from there to the Austro-German front. It was the Caucasus that became, in fact, the main object of attraction for the Turkish imperialists in the outbreak of the war. The most difficult, and as the war showed, in reality, impossible, was the task to bring together the restless and uncontrollable Armenia under the Ottoman crescent - in the form of some kind of Christian autonomy. But the ideas of capturing Nakhichnevan and the whole of modern Azerbaijan, the return of Kars and its environs, along with the Black Sea coast inhabited by Ajarians, seemed to be literally in the air. And at the final stage of the world war, the situation in connection with the collapse of the Russian empire was such that one of the unexpected outcomes of the global confrontation could be precisely the full Turkish priority in Transcaucasia. But it did not work out - the calculation for the alliance with Kaiser Wilhelm and the Emperor Franz turned out to be very tough and cruel for Ottoman Turkey. Turkey was threatened not only with the loss of Istanbul / Constantinople and coastal Asia Minor, it was a question of the final division of the remnants of the former empire into small countries or, at best, into zones of influence. It was possible to defend the unity of the country through large-scale transformations, above all - the elimination of the Ottoman Empire, and in fact only through victory in the Greek-Turkish war, when Soviet Russia, which had just emerged from the Civil War, provided considerable assistance to the Young Turks. The peculiar long-term partnership relations that the USSR then established with Turkey, which was renewed under the leadership of Kemal Ataturk, played a significant role in the fact that the country, even if at the cost of losing a significant share of independence, participated in the Second World War, yet managed to evade.

It remains to be recalled that in its Arab outskirts, Turkey during the world war was limited to defense and, basically, the suppression of Arab separatism.

The European appetites of the renewed Turkey, in principle, were very moderate at all: it was impossible to forget about Bosnia or Macedonia forever and further to push the borders away from Istanbul, it did not go. However, such a desire immediately came up against serious difficulties due to the fact that in the sphere of German influence, and actually under the potential protection of German bayonets, already in 1914, both Bulgaria and Greece appeared. Bulgaria traded for a long time, but in 1915, it still acted on the side of the Triple Alliance, in which Italy was replaced by Turkey, but in Greece, the allies had to even turn the coup d'état and achieve the king’s abdication in Greece.


As is known, the London Treaty of 1839 of the year guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium in the event of the outbreak of hostilities in the European theater. But the plan, developed by the Chief of Staff of Germany, Field Marshal von Schlieffen, already in 1905 in the year assumed to use the territory of this country to bypass the main defensive lines of France. As you know, in August 1914, the way it happened. The Germans simply ignored the Treaty of London - the German Chancellor Bettman-Golweg called it an unnecessary “piece of paper”.

The word was followed by a deal - 2 August 1914, the German ambassador to Belgium, von Belov-Zaleske, presented an ultimatum to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Belgium, Julien Davignon, demanding that the German troops pass through Belgium. In response, one of the guarantors of the Belgian neutrality - the UK declared August 4 war on Germany. Belgium officially entered the war on August 3. The Germans, having broken the resistance of the small Belgian army, soon almost completely occupied the country, creating occupation administrations in it and carried out a number of punitive measures against the civilian population. Belgian troops fought on the side of the Entente on the Western European front, during all the years of the war, clinging to a tiny area not in the occupied Belgian territory, but the colonial units took part in hostilities against the German troops in Congo and East Africa. In 1916, it was the Belgian units that captured Rwanda and Burundi.

The great losses of this small state —10 of thousands of civilians and up to 59 of thousands of military personnel — as well as all possible assistance to the allies were taken into account when sectioning “German pie”.

Under the Versailles Treaty, Belgium received Malmedy and Eupen counties, as well as the neutral and German part of Moresnet, more specifically, 990 square kilometers of German lands with a population of 65 thousand people. A little later - in 1922 - Rwanda and Burundi, which were part of German East Africa, promptly “liberated” by Belgian soldiers — acquired the status of the mandate territories of Belgium. Financial compensation followed. In 1920, at a conference in Cie, it was decided that 8 percent of the amount of German payments to the winning countries would go to Belgium.

The independence of this state has always been a painful topic in the international field of diplomacy. Great Britain was particularly concerned about this, where since the times of Waterloo and the Congress of Vienna, the former Spanish provinces of the Netherlands were regarded as a kind of continental springboard in contrast to both Germany and France. In the autumn of 1916, when the peaceful resolution of the bloody battle was not even close, the British Foreign Office, on behalf of the Prime Minister, prepared a memorandum on the supposed fundamentals of the future territorial reorganization of Europe. With regards to Belgium, in particular, it was said: “After the war, as it was before the war, the vital interests of England would be to block Germany’s access to the Belgian coast. Recent events have convincingly shown that these interests are not sufficiently effectively secured by treaties providing for international guarantees of the neutrality of Belgium. We believe that the independence of Belgium will be better ensured if, in exchange for the current guarantees, a permanent alliance agreement is concluded between Belgium, France and us. It is known that Belgium itself will welcome such a union. It may be objected that such an alliance involves us in continental agreements and will cause a likely increase in our military commitments. In our opinion, however, there is no other choice, since the vital interests of our country require that the possibility of a German invasion of Belgium be averted, and since Belgium itself cannot provide its defense. ” In the same memorandum, a wish was expressed to annex Luxembourg to Luxembourg, which it lost in the 1839 year.

Completing this only superficial review, we note that in the “diplomatic solitaire” of the First World War, the “second echelon” did not manage to play a worthy game. But if Belgium survived at least something, in Turkey, the new leaders of the country headed by Kemal Ataturk were very pleased to have managed to at least maintain state independence, then the new attempt to take the first roles taken by Rome and Tokyo is already in World War II the war turned out to be just a failure.
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  1. The comment was deleted.
  2. igordok
    igordok April 5 2014 09: 37
    For those who do not know the story wassat
    A series of drawings tells the story of the Japanese liberation of the Russian Far East from Germans and Austro-Hungarians.
  3. radio operator
    radio operator April 5 2014 10: 19
    Completing this only superficial review, we note that in the “diplomatic solitaire” of the First World War, the “second echelon” did not manage to play a worthy game. But if Belgium survived at least something, in Turkey, the new leaders of the country headed by Kemal Ataturk were very pleased to have managed to at least maintain state independence, then the new attempt to take the first roles taken by Rome and Tokyo is already in World War II the war turned out to be just a failure.

    Of course, Turkey was glad to maintain the independence and territorial integrity of the country.
    If the revolution in Russia had not happened, Turkey would have lost Constantinople and the Bosphorus, and Russia would have grown in these territories.
  4. Moore
    Moore April 5 2014 14: 33
    Monarchs began to bake about the imperial greatness of this perhaps the youngest of the major European powers long before the World War.

    Why do Italians exist? So that the Austrians also had someone to beat ... (European wisdom of past centuries)
    1. cdrt
      cdrt April 6 2014 21: 28
      Thanks to the author for an interesting article.
    2. cdrt
      cdrt April 6 2014 21: 28
      Quote: Moore
      Monarchs began to bake about the imperial greatness of this perhaps the youngest of the major European powers long before the World War.

      Why do Italians exist? So that the Austrians also had someone to beat ... (European wisdom of past centuries)

      This is in my time Radetzky still a joke
  5. barbiturate
    barbiturate April 6 2014 12: 32
    It would be interesting if Nicholas and the leadership of the Russian Empire attracted (hired) the Japanese army to act against the Germans, realizing that their army could not oppose anything sensible. General Kuropatkin directly invited Alekseev to attract the Japanese. Kuropatkin (repeatedly beaten by the Japanese) treated the Japanese troops with great respect, describing them as "strong and stubborn units."

    And here the British ambassador to Russia during the years of WWI Buchanan George Williams testifies. On October 18, 1916 he had another meeting with the tsar.
    "Japan has already supplied the Russian army with weapons and ammunition," the ambassador said, "and at the moment it is just possible that it could be encouraged to send a contingent of troops to the Russian front if substantial compensation were offered." Having approved this idea in principle, the king asked what compensation was meant. It turned out that, according to the Japanese ambassador Motono, we are talking about the rest of Sakhalin, its northern part. The deal did not take place (BUCKENAN J. Memoirs of a diplomat. M. B., p. 158) ...

    SIMPLY SUCH conversations are not conducted, as you might guess. The Ambassador of the Entente’s leading power is discussing with the Russian tsar the question of sending a contingent of Japanese troops to the Russian front, certainly AFTER he received the relevant permissions from his government and the consent of the Japanese side.
    This topic did not come as a surprise to the king. He was ready for a conversation, and the whole thing was only the QUESTION QUESTION.
    In principle, the Tsar approved the IDEA, but did not agree to compensation (transfer of northern Sakhalin to Japan) for such assistance. The deal fell through.
    But even the fact that this question was seriously considered at the BEST level.