Military Review

The death of the old world

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For a big conflict, the European powers frantically prepared for several decades before 1914. Nevertheless, it can be argued that no one expected and did not want such a war. The general staffs expressed confidence: it will last a year, and a maximum of one and a half. But a common misconception did not concern only its duration. Who could have imagined that commander’s art, faith in victory, military honor would prove to be qualities not only not essential, but sometimes even harmful to success? The First World War demonstrated at the same time both grandeur and senselessness of belief in the ability to calculate the future. Faith, which was so executed optimistic, clumsy and blind-sighted XIX century.

In Russian historiography, this war (“imperialistic,” as the Bolsheviks called it) never enjoyed reverence and was studied very little. Meanwhile, in France and Britain, it is still considered almost more tragic than even World War II. Scientists are still arguing: was it inevitable, and if so, what factors - economic, geopolitical or ideological - most influenced its genesis? Was the war a consequence of the struggle of the powers that entered the stage of "imperialism" for sources of raw materials and markets? Or perhaps it is a by-product of a relatively new phenomenon for Europe - nationalism? Or, remaining “the continuation of politics by other means” (the words of Clausewitz), this war only reflected the eternal confusion of relations between large and small geopolitical players - is it easier to “chop” than to “unravel”?
Each explanation seems logical and ... insufficient.

At the First World, the rationalism familiar to people of the West from the very beginning turned out to be overshadowed by the shadow of a new, terrible and fascinating reality. He tried to ignore it or tame it, he bent his line, completely lost, but in the end - despite the evidence, he tried to convince the world of his own triumph.

“Planning is the basis of success”

The pinnacle of the rational planning system is rightly called the famous "Plan of Shlifen" - the favorite brainchild of the German Big General Staff. It was he who rushed to perform in August 1914-th hundreds of thousands of Kaiser soldiers. General Alfred von Schliefen (by then already deceased) reasonably assumed that Germany would be forced to fight on two fronts - against France in the west and Russia in the east. Success in this unenviable situation can be achieved only by smashing opponents alternately. Since it is impossible to quickly defeat Russia because of its size and, oddly enough, backwardness (the Russian army cannot quickly mobilize and pull itself to the front line, and therefore it cannot be destroyed with a single blow), the first "turn" is for the French. But the frontal attack against them, who had also been preparing for battle for decades, did not promise a blitzkrieg. Hence, the idea of ​​a flanking roundabout through neutral Belgium, encirclement and victory over the enemy in six weeks.

The death of the old worldJuly — August 1915. The second battle of Isonzo between Austro-Hungarians and Italians. Austrian 600 soldiers take part in the transportation of one long-range artillery gun. Photo FOTOBANK / TOPFOTO

The plan was simple and uncontested, as all ingenious. The problem was, as often happens, precisely in its perfection. The slightest deviation from the schedule, the delay (or, on the contrary, excessive success) of one of the flanks of the giant army, which performs a mathematically precise maneuver for hundreds of kilometers and several weeks, threatened not only complete failure, no. The offensive "only" was delayed, the French had a chance to take a breath, organize the front, and ... Germany found itself in a strategically losing situation.

Do I have to say that this is exactly what happened? The Germans were able to advance deep into enemy territory, but they did not succeed in either capturing Paris, or surrounding and defeating the enemy. The counter-offensive organized by the French - “a marne on the Marne” (helped by the Russians, who rushed to Prussia in an unprepared disastrous offensive) clearly showed that the war would not end quickly.

Ultimately, responsibility for the failure was placed on Schlieffen's successor, Helmut von Moltke Jr., - he resigned. But the plan was impossible in principle! Moreover, as the subsequent four and a half years of fighting on the Western Front, which were notable for their fantastic stubbornness and no less fantastic fruitlessness, showed, the more modest designs of both sides were unenforceable ...

Even before the war, the story “The feeling of harmony” appeared in the military circles and immediately became famous. His hero, a certain general, clearly written off from a well-known theorist of the war, Field Marshal Moltke, prepared such a verified battle plan that, not considering it necessary to follow the battle itself, he went fishing. Detailed development of maneuvers has become a real mania for warlords during the First World War. The task for only one English 13 corps in the Battle of the Somme was 31 page (and, of course, was not completed). Meanwhile, a hundred years earlier, the entire British army, entering the battle of Waterloo, did not have any written disposition at all. Commanding millions of soldiers, the commanders were both physically and psychologically much farther from real battles than in any of the preceding wars. As a result, the “General Staff” level of strategic thinking and the level of execution on the front line existed, as it were, in different universes. Planning of operations in such conditions could not help turning into a self-contained function divorced from reality. The technology of war itself, especially on the Western front, excluded the possibility of a breakthrough, a decisive battle, a deep breakthrough, a selfless feat and, in the end, a somewhat tangible victory.

"On the Western Front without Change"

After the failure of both the "Schliefen Plan" and the French attempts to quickly capture Alsace-Lorraine, the Western Front was tightly stabilized. Opponents have created deeply echeloned defense from many rows of full profile trenches, barbed wire, moats, concreted machine gun and artillery nests. The enormous concentration of human and firepower made the sudden attack unreal from now on. However, it became clear before that the deadly machine-gun fire makes the standard frontal attack tactics loose chains (not to mention the dashing cavalry raids - this once most important branch of the military was absolutely unnecessary).

Many personnel officers who were brought up in the “old” spirit, that is, who considered “bowing to bullets” a disgrace and who put on white gloves before the fight (this is not a metaphor!), Laid down their heads in the first weeks of the war. In the full sense of the word, the former military aesthetics turned out to be murderous, which required elite units to stand out with a bright color of form. Rejected at the beginning of the century by Germany and Britain, it was maintained by the French army by 1914. So it was not by chance that during the First World War, with its psychology of “burying into the ground,” it was the Frenchman, the Cubist artist Lucien Giran de Sevol, who came up with a camouflage netting and coloring as a way to merge military objects with the surrounding space. Mimicry became a condition for survival.

The United States entered the war, and the fighting future is for aviation. Classes at an American flight school. Photo BETTMANN / CORBIS / RPG

But the level of casualties in the army quickly surpassed all imaginable ideas. For the French, the British and the Russians, who immediately threw the most trained, experienced units into the fire, the first year in this sense became fatal: the regular troops actually ceased to exist. But was the opposite decision less tragic? In the fall, the Germans sent 1914 to battle under the Belgian Iprom division, hastily formed from student volunteers. Almost all of them, with the songs that went on the attack under the aimed fire of the British, died senselessly, by virtue of which Germany lost the intellectual future of the nation (this episode received the name “Ipris beatings of babies”, which is not devoid of black humor).

During the first two campaigns, opponents by trial and error developed a certain general combat tactic. Artillery and manpower were concentrated on the sector of the front chosen for the offensive. Attack was inevitably preceded by many hours (sometimes several days) of artillery preparation, designed to destroy all life in the enemy's trenches. Adjustment of the fire was carried out with airplanes and balloons. Then the artillery began to work on more distant targets, moving over the first line of defense of the enemy, in order to cut off the surviving escape routes, and the reserve units, on the contrary, the approach. Against this background, the attack began. As a rule, it was possible to "push through" the front for several kilometers, but later the onslaught (no matter how well prepared it was) exhaled. The defensive side brought up new forces and struck a counterattack, with more or less success, winning back the land.

For example, the so-called “first battle in Champagne” at the beginning of 1915 cost the advancing French army in 240 thousands of soldiers, but led to the capture of only a few villages ... But this was not the most terrible compared to the year 1916, when West turned most large-scale battles. The first half of the year was marked by the German offensive near Verdun. “The Germans,” wrote General Henri Petain, the future head of the collaborationist government during the Nazi occupation, “tried to create a zone of death in which not a single part could resist. Clouds of steel, iron, shrapnel and poisonous gases opened up over our forests, ravines, trenches and shelters, destroying literally everything ... ”At the price of incredible efforts, the attackers managed to achieve some success. However, advancing 5 — 8 kilometers due to the persistent resistance of the French cost the German army such colossal losses that the attack choked. Verdun was never taken, and by the end of the year the initial front was almost completely restored. On both sides, the losses amounted to about a million people.

Similar in scale and results, the Entente attack on the Somme began on July 1 on 1916. Already his first day became "black" for the British army: almost 20 thousands of dead, about 30 thousands of wounded in the "mouth" of the attack, the width of the entire 20 kilometers. "Somme" has become a household name for horror and despair.

Machine gun - weapon new century. The French are scribbling right from the headquarters of one of the infantry regiments. June 1918. Photo ULLSTEIN BIDL / VOSTOCK PHOTO

The list of fantastic, incredible in terms of the “effort-result” operations can be continued for a long time. Both historians and the ordinary reader find it difficult to fully understand the reasons for the blind persistence with which the headquarters, each time hoping for a decisive victory, carefully planned another “meat grinder”. Yes, the already mentioned gap between the headquarters and the front and the stalemate strategic situation played a role, when two huge armies came up against each other and the commanders had no choice but to try to go forward again and again. But in what was happening on the Western Front, it was easy to catch the mystical meaning: the familiar and familiar world methodically destroyed itself.

The stamina of soldiers is amazing, which allowed the opponents, almost without moving from the spot, to exhaust each other for four and a half years. But is it any wonder that the combination of external rationality and deep meaninglessness of what happened has undermined people's faith in the very foundations of their life? On the Western Front, the centuries of European civilization were compressed and crushed - this thought was expressed by the hero of an essay written by a representative of that same “military” generation, which Gertrude Stein called “lost”: “Do you see a small river - no more than two minutes from here? So, the British then needed a month to get to it. The whole empire went forward, moving a few inches in a day: those who were in the front ranks fell, their backs were taking their place. And the other empire also slowly retreated, and only those killed remained to lie in countless heaps of bloody rags. This will not happen again in the life of our generation, not a single European nation will dare to do it ... ”

It is worth noting that these lines from Francis Scott Fitzgerald's novel A Night is Tender saw the light of the 1934 year, just five years before the start of the new, grandiose carnage. True, civilization “learned a lot”, and World War II developed much more dynamically.

Saving madness?

The terrible confrontation was a challenge not only to the whole staff strategy and tactics of past times, which turned out to be mechanistic and inflexible. It has become a catastrophic existential and mental test for millions of people, most of whom grew up in a relatively comfortable, cozy and “humane” world. In an interesting study of frontal neurosis, the English psychiatrist William Rivers found out that of all the branches of the military, the pilots experienced the least stress in this sense, and the greatest - observers who corrected fire from fixed balloons over the front line. The latter, forced to passively wait for a bullet or projectile to hit, had bouts of madness more often than physical injuries. But after all, all the infantrymen of the First World War, according to Henri Barbusse, involuntarily turned into “waiting cars”! At the same time they waited for not returning home, which seemed distant and unreal, but, in fact, death.

April 1918. Bethune, France. Thousands of English soldiers blinded by German gases under Fox are sent to the hospital. Photo ULLSTEIN BIDL / VOSTOCK PHOTO

They drove insane - in the literal sense - not bayonet attacks and martial arts (they often seemed to be deliverance), but hours of artillery shelling for several hours, during which several tons of shells were sometimes sent to the running meter of the front line. “First of all, it puts pressure on the consciousness ... the weight of the falling shell. A monstrous creature rushes at us, so heavy that its flight itself presses us into the dirt, ”wrote one of the participants in the events. And here is another episode relating to the last desperate effort of the Germans to break the resistance of the Entente - to their spring offensive of 1918. The 7 Battalion was in reserve as part of one of the defensive British brigades. The official chronicle of this brigade narrates dryly: “Around the morning, 4.40 began an enemy shelling ... He had logging positions that had not been shot at before. From that moment nothing was known about the 7 Battalion. ” It was completely destroyed, as was the 8 on the front line.

A normal reaction to danger, say psychiatrists, is aggression. Unable to show it, people passively waiting, waiting and waiting for death, people broke down and lost all interest in reality. In addition, opponents introduced new, increasingly sophisticated methods of deterrence. Say martial gases. The German command resorted to the large-scale use of toxic substances in the spring of 1915. On April 22 17 tons of chlorine were released in a few minutes at the 5 position of the British Corps 180. Following the yellowish cloud spreading over the ground, German infantrymen moved cautiously. Another eyewitness testifies to what was happening in the trenches of their enemy: “First, surprise, then horror, and, finally, panic swept the troops when the first clouds of smoke enveloped the whole terrain and forced people, panting, to fight in agony. Those who could move, ran, trying, mostly in vain, to overtake the cloud of chlorine, which inexorably pursued them. The positions of the British fell without a single shot - a rare case for the First World War.

However, by and large, nothing could disrupt the current pattern of hostilities. It turned out that the German command was simply not ready to develop the success gained in such an inhuman way. There was not even a serious attempt to introduce large forces into the “window” formed and to turn the chemical “experiment” into a victory. And the allies to the place of the destroyed divisions quickly, as soon as the chlorine was dispersed, moved new ones, and everything remained the same. However, later both sides used chemical weapons more than once or twice.

"Brave New World"

November 20, 1917 at 6 o’clock in the morning German soldiers, "bored" in the trenches near Cambrai, saw a fantastic picture. Dozens of terrifying cars slowly crawled into their position. So for the first time the entire then British mechanized corps went on the attack: 378 combat and 98 auxiliary tanks - 30-ton diamond-shaped monsters. After 10 hours, the battle was over. The success, according to current ideas about tank raids, is simply insignificant, by the standards of the First World War it turned out to be amazing: the British, under the guise of "weapons of the future", managed to advance 10 kilometers, losing "only" one and a half thousand soldiers. True, during the battle, 280 vehicles failed, including 220 - for technical reasons.

It seemed that a way to win a positional war was finally found. However, the events under Cambrai have become, rather, the proclamation of the future than a breakthrough in the present. Sluggish, slow, unreliable and vulnerable, the first armored vehicles nevertheless seemed to denote the traditional technical superiority of the Entente. The Germans, they appeared in service only in the 1918 year, and their account went on units.

This is what remains of the city of Verdun, for which so many lives have been paid that would be enough to settle a small country. Photo FOTOBANK.COM/TOPFOTO

The contemporaries were equally impressed by the bombing of cities from airplanes and dirigibles. During the war, several thousand civilians suffered from air raids. In terms of firepower, the aviation of the time was no match for artillery, but psychologically the emergence of German aircraft, for example, over London meant that the previous division into a “warring front” and a “safe rear” was a thing of the past.

Finally, a truly significant role in the First World was played by the third technical novelty - submarines. Back in 1912 — 1913, naval strategists of all powers converged that the main role in the future confrontation on the ocean was to be played by huge linear ships, the battleships of Dreadnoughts. Moreover, in the arms race, which had depleted the leaders of the world economy for several decades, the lion’s share was precisely naval expenses. Dreadnoughts and heavy cruisers symbolized imperial power: it was believed that a state claiming a place “on Olympus” was obliged to show the world a string of colossal floating fortresses.

Meanwhile, already the first months of the war showed that the real significance of these giants is limited to the sphere of propaganda. And they buried the pre-war concept of inconspicuous "water striders", whom the admiralty for a long time refused to take seriously. Already on September 22, the German submarine U-1914, launched into the North Sea with a mission to prevent ships from moving from England to Belgium, to 9, found several large enemy ships on the horizon. Having approached them for an hour, she easily launched the cruisers “Crecy”, “Abukir” and “Hog” to the bottom. The submarine with the 28 crew destroyed three “giants” with 1 459 sailors on board - almost as many Britons died in the famous Battle of Trafalgar!

We can say that the Germans began a deep-sea war as an act of despair: to come up with a different tactic to combat the powerful fleet His Majesty, who completely blocked the sea routes, did not work. Already on February 4, 1915, William II announced his intention to destroy not only the military, but also the merchant ships and even passenger ships of the Entente countries. This decision turned out to be fatal for Germany, since one of its immediate consequences was the entry into the US war. The loudest victim of this kind was the famous Lusitania, a huge steamboat flying from New York to Liverpool and sunk off the coast of Ireland on May 7 of the same year. 1 people were killed, including 198 neutral US citizens, which caused an uproar in America. A weak excuse for Germany was the fact that the ship was also carrying military cargo. (It is worth noting that there is a version in the spirit of “conspiracy theory”: the British, they say, themselves “framed” “Lusitania” in order to drag the United States into the war.)

In a neutral world, a scandal broke out, and for the time being, Berlin “reversed”, abandoned cruel forms of struggle at sea. But this question was again on the agenda when the leadership of the armed forces passed to Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff - “the hawks of total war”. Hoping with the help of submarines, whose production was growing at a gigantic pace, to completely interrupt England and France with America and the colonies, they convinced their emperor to again proclaim February 1 1917 of the year - he no longer intends to restrain his sailors on the ocean.

This fact played a role: perhaps because of him — from a purely military point of view, in any case — she suffered a defeat. The Americans did enter the war, finally changing the balance of forces in favor of the Entente. Nor did the Germans receive the expected dividends. At first, the losses of the Allied merchant fleet were really enormous, but gradually they were significantly reduced by developing measures to combat submarines - for example, the naval system "convoy", so effective already in World War II.

War in numbers
During the war, more than 73 million people joined the armed forces of the countries that participated in it, including:
4 million - fought in the personnel armies and fleets
5 million - volunteered
50 million - were in stock
14 million - recruits and untrained in parts on the fronts
The number of submarines for the period from 1914 to 1918 year in the world has grown from 163 to 669 units; aircraft - from 1,5 thousands to 182 thousands of units
During the same period, 150 thousand tons of toxic substances were produced; consumed in a combat situation - 110 thousand tons
More than 1 200 thousand people suffered from chemical weapons; one of them died 91 one thousand
The total trench line during the hostilities amounted to 40 thousand km
6 destroyed thousands of ships with a total tonnage of 13,3 million tons; including 1,6 thousands of combat and auxiliary ships
Combat shells and bullets respectively: 1 billion and 50 billion pieces
By the end of the war, the remaining army left: 10 376 thousand people - from the Entente countries (excluding Russia) 6 801 thousand - from the Central bloc countries


“Weak Link”

By strange irony stories, the erroneous step that caused the US intervention, was made literally on the eve of the February Revolution in Russia, which led to the rapid disintegration of the Russian army and in the end - the fall of the Eastern Front, which again returned to Germany the hope of success. What role did WWI play in national history, did the country have a chance to avoid a revolution if not for her? Mathematically accurately answer this question, of course, impossible. But in general, it is obvious: it was this conflict that became the test that broke the three-hundred-year monarchy of the Romanovs, like a little later - the monarchies of the Hohenzollerns and the Austro-Hungarian Habsburgs. But why were we first on this list?

"Production of death" becomes on the conveyor. Workers in the rear (mostly women) deliver hundreds of combat-ready shells at the Shell factory in Chilwell, England. Photo ALAMY / PHOTAS

“Fate was not as cruel to any country as it was to Russia. Her ship went to the bottom when the harbor was already in sight. She had already endured a storm when everything collapsed. All the sacrifices have already been made, all the work has been completed ... According to the superficial fashion of our time, the royal order is usually interpreted as a blind, rotten, incapable of tyranny. But the analysis of the thirty months of the war with Germany and Austria had to correct these lightweight ideas. We can measure the strength of the Russian Empire by the blows that it sustained, by the disasters it endured, by the inexhaustible forces it developed, and by the recovery that it was capable of ... Holding the victory in her hands, she fell on the earth is alive, like ancient Herod, devoured by worms, "- these words belong to a man who has never been a fan of Russia - Sir Winston Churchill. The future prime minister had already caught it - the Russian catastrophe was not directly caused by military defeats. "Worms" really undermined the state from the inside. But after all, internal weakness and exhaustion after two and a half years of the hardest fights for which it turned out to be much worse than others, were obvious to any unbiased observer. Meanwhile, Britain and France tried hard not to notice the difficulties of their ally. In their opinion, the eastern front should only divert as much as possible of the enemy’s forces, while the fate of the war was decided in the west. Perhaps this was the case, but this approach could not be inspired by the millions of Russians who had fought. It is not surprising that in Russia they began to say bitterly that “the allies are ready to fight to the last drop of the Russian soldier’s blood”.

The 1915 campaign of the year was the worst for the country, when the Germans decided that since the blitzkrieg in the west had failed, all forces should be thrown to the east. Just at that time, the Russian army experienced a catastrophic shortage of ammunition (pre-war calculations were hundreds of times lower than real needs), and had to defend and retreat, counting each cartridge and paying blood for failures in planning and supply. In defeats (and especially hard it was necessary in battles with a well-organized and trained German army, not with the Turks or Austrians) blamed not only allies, but also incompetent command, mythical traitors “at the very top” - the opposition constantly played on this topic; "Unlucky" king. By 1917, in many respects, under the influence of socialist propaganda, there was a widespread idea among the troops that the slaughter was beneficial to the possessing classes, the “bourgeois,” and they were especially for it. Many observers noted a paradoxical phenomenon: frustration and pessimism grew with distance from the front line, particularly affecting the rear parts.

Economic and social weakness immeasurably increased the inevitable burden that lay on the shoulders of ordinary people. Hope for victory, they lost earlier than many other warring nations. And the terrible stress required a level of civic unity, which was hopelessly absent in Russia of that time. The powerful patriotic impulse that swept the country in the 1914 year turned out to be superficial and short-lived, and the “educated” classes of much less elites of the Western countries sought to sacrifice their lives and even their well-being for the sake of victory. For the people, the goals of the war, in general, remained far and incomprehensible ...

Churchill's later estimates should not be misleading: the Allies took the February 1917 events of the year with great enthusiasm. To many in liberal countries, it seemed that, “throwing off the yoke of autocracy,” the Russians would begin to defend their new freedom even more zealously. In fact, the Provisional Government, as we know, could not establish even a similarity of control over the state of affairs. The "democratization" of the army turned into collapse under conditions of general fatigue. To “hold the front,” as Churchill advised, would only accelerate decomposition. Tangible success could have stopped this process. However, 1917’s desperate summer offensive of the year failed, and from that time it became clear to many: the Eastern Front is doomed. He finally collapsed after the October Revolution. The new Bolshevik government could remain in power only by ending the war at any cost — and it paid this incredibly high price. According to the terms of the Brest Peace 3 March 1918, Russia lost Poland, Finland, the Baltic States, Ukraine and part of Belarus - near the 1 / 4 population, 1 / 4 arable land and 3 / 4 of the coal and metallurgical industries. However, less than a year, as after the defeat of Germany, these conditions ceased to operate, and the nightmare of world war was surpassed by the civilian nightmare. But it is also true that without the first there would not have been the second.

Victory. November 18 1918 of the year. Downed by the French during the entire war, the aircraft were displayed on Place de la Concorde in Paris. Photo by ROGER VIOLLET / EAST NEWS

Break between the wars?

Having the opportunity to strengthen the Western Front at the expense of the units transferred from the east, the Germans prepared and conducted in the spring and summer of 1918 a whole series of powerful operations: in Picardy, in Flanders, on the rivers Ain and Oise. In fact, this was the last chance of the Central Bloc (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey): its resources were completely exhausted. However, this time, the success achieved did not lead to a change. “The enemy resistance turned out to be above the level of our forces,” stated Ludendorff. The last of the desperate blows - on the Marne, as in 1914, completely failed. And on August 8, the Allies began a decisive counteroffensive with the active participation of fresh American units. At the end of September, the German front finally "fell down." Then Bulgaria capitulated. The Austrians and Turks have long been on the verge of disaster and were prevented from concluding a separate peace only under the pressure of their stronger ally.

They waited for this victory for a long time (and it is worth noting that the Entente, out of habit exaggerating the forces of the enemy, did not plan to achieve it so quickly). On October 5, the German government turned to US President Woodrow Wilson, who had repeatedly spoken in a peacekeeping spirit, asking for a truce. However, the Entente did not need peace, but complete surrender. And only 8 in November, after the revolution broke out in Germany and Wilhelm rejected, the German delegation was allowed to the headquarters of the Entente commander - French Marshal Ferdinand Foch.

- What do you want, gentlemen? - Without giving up his hands, asked Foch.
- We want to receive your proposals for a truce.
- Oh, we have no proposals for a truce. We like to continue the war.
“But we need your conditions.” We can not continue to fight.
“Ah, so you came to ask for a truce?” This is another matter.

World War I officially ended 3 the day after that, November 11 1918. At 11 clock, GMT, in the capitals of all the countries of the Entente, an 101 shot of a gun salute sounded. For millions of people, these volleys meant a long-awaited victory, but many were already ready to recognize them as a mournful commemoration of the lost Old World.

Chronology of war
All dates are given in Gregorian ("new") style.
28 June 1914 Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip kills in Sarajevo the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. Austria presents an ultimatum to Serbia
1 August 1914. Germany declares war on Russia, interceding for Serbia. Beginning of world war
4 August 1914 d. German troops invade Belgium
5-10 September 1914. Battle of the Marne. By the end of the battle, the parties moved to a position war
6 — 15 September 1914. Battle of the Mazury marshes (East Prussia). Severe defeat of the Russian troops
8 — September 12 1914 town. Russian troops occupy Lviv, the fourth largest city in Austria-Hungary
September 17 - October 18 1914 “Run to the Sea” - Allied and German troops are trying to get around each other from the flank. As a result, the Western Front stretches from the North Sea through Belgium and France to Switzerland.
October 12 - November 11 1914 d. The Germans are trying to break through the defenses of the Allies from Ypres (Belgium)
4 February 1915. Germany announces the establishment of an underwater blockade of England and Ireland
22 April 1915 g. At the town of Langemark on Ypres, German troops use poison gases for the first time: the second battle begins at Ypres
2 May 1915 d. Austro-German troops break through the Russian front in Galicia ("Gorlitsky breakthrough")
23 May 1915. Italy enters the war on the side of the Entente
23 June 1915 g. Russian troops leave Lviv
5 August 1915 g. The Germans take Warsaw
6 September 1915 g. On the Eastern Front, Russian troops stop the German offensive near Ternopil. The parties are moving to a positional war.
21 February 1916 d. The battle of Verdun begins
31 May - 1 June 1916, the Jutland battle in the North Sea - the main battle of the fleets of Germany and England
4 June - 10 August 1916 Brusil Breakthrough
July 1 - November 19 1916 g. Somme Battle
August 30 The Hindenburg 1916 is appointed Chief of General Staff of the German Army. The beginning of the "total war"
September 15 1916. During the offensive on the Somme, Great Britain for the first time uses tanks
20 December 1916 d. US President Woodrow Wilson sends a note to war participants proposing peace negotiations
1 February 1917. Germany announces the start of a total submarine war.
14 March 1917. In Russia, during the outbreak of the revolution, the Petrograd Soviet issues Order No. 1, which marked the beginning of the "democratization" of the army.
6 April 1917 d. United States declare war on Germany
June 16 - July 15 1917 d. Unsuccessful Russian offensive in Galicia, launched by order of A.F. Kerensky, under the command of A.A. Brusilova
November 7 1917, the Bolshevik coup in Petrograd
8 November 1917 Decree on Peace in Russia
3 March 1918 Brest Peace Treaty
9-13 June 1918 d. Offensive of the German army under Compiegne
8 August 1918 d. Allies are launching a decisive offensive on the Western Front
3 November 1918. Beginning of the revolution in Germany
11 November 1918 town of Compiegne Truce
9 November 1918 Propulsion In Germany, proclaimed republic
12 November 1918 g. Emperor of Austria-Hungary Charles I abdicates
28 June 1919 The German representatives sign a peace treaty (Peace of Versailles) in the Mirror Hall of the Palace of Versailles near Paris


Peace or truce

“This is not the world. This is a truce for twenty years, ”Foch prophetically characterized the Versailles Treaty concluded in 1919 in June, which reinforced the military triumph of the Entente and settled in the souls of millions of Germans a feeling of humiliation and thirst for revenge. In many ways, Versailles was a tribute to the diplomacy of a bygone era, when there were still undoubted winners and losers in wars, and the end justified the means. Many European politicians stubbornly refused to fully realize: in 4 of the year, 3 of the month and 10 of the days of the great war, the world has changed beyond recognition.

Meanwhile, even before the signing of the world, the ended massacre caused a chain reaction of cataclysms of different scale and power. The fall of the autocracy in Russia, instead of becoming the triumph of democracy over "despotism", led it to chaos, civil war and the emergence of a new, socialist despotism that frightened the Western bourgeoisie with "world revolution" and the "destruction of the exploiting classes." The Russian example turned out to be contagious: against the background of the deep shock of people by the past nightmare, rebellions broke out in Germany and Hungary, communist sentiments engulfed millions of people in quite liberal "respectable" powers. In turn, in an effort to prevent the spread of "barbarism", Western politicians rushed to rely on nationalist movements that seemed to them more manageable. The collapse of the Russian, and then the Austro-Hungarian empires caused a real “parade of sovereignties”, and the leaders of the young nation states showed the same dislike of both the pre-war “oppressors” and the communists. However, the idea of ​​such absolute self-determination, in turn, turned out to be a time bomb.

Of course, many in the West recognized the need for a serious revision of the world order, taking into account the lessons of war and the new reality. However, good wishes too often only covered selfishness and short-sighted hope for power. Immediately after Versailles, Colonel House, the closest advisor to President Wilson, said: "I think this is not in the spirit of the new era that we vowed to create." However, Wilson himself, one of the main “architects” of the League of Nations and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was held hostage by the former political mentality. Like the other gray-haired old men - the leaders of the victorious countries - he was inclined to simply ignore much that did not fit into his usual picture of the world. As a result, the attempt to comfortably equip the post-war world, having given everyone their due and reaffirming the hegemony of "civilized countries" over the "backward and barbaric", completely failed. Of course, in the camp of the winners there were also supporters of an even tougher line against the losers. Their point of view did not prevail, and thank God. It is safe to say that any attempts to establish an occupation regime in Germany would be fraught with major political complications for the Allies. Not only would they not prevent the growth of revanchism, but, on the contrary, they would sharply accelerate it. By the way, one of the consequences of this approach was the temporary rapprochement between Germany and Russia, which the Allies had deleted from the system of international relations. And in the long run, the triumph of aggressive isolationism in both countries, the aggravation in Europe as a whole of numerous social and national conflicts and brought the world to a new, even more terrible war.

Of course, other consequences of the First World War were colossal: demographic, economic, cultural. The direct losses of nations that directly participated in hostilities amounted, according to various estimates, from 8 to 15,7 to a million people, indirect (taking into account the sharp drop in the birth rate and the increase in mortality from hunger and disease) reached 27 millions. If you add on to them the losses from the Civil War in Russia and the famines and epidemics caused by it, this number will almost double. Europe was able to reach the prewar level of the economy only by 1926 — 1928 years, and not for long: the global crisis of 1929 threw it overhauled. Only for the USA the war became a profitable enterprise. As for Russia (USSR), its economic development has become so abnormal that it is simply impossible to adequately judge how to overcome the consequences of war.

Well, millions of “happily” returning from the front could not fully rehabilitate themselves morally and socially. For many years, the “Lost Generation” has been trying in vain to restore the broken link of the times and find the meaning of life in the new world. And in despair of this, a new generation was sent to a new slaughter - in 1939.
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  1. Gunslinger
    Gunslinger 8 May 2013 15: 34
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    Incorrect caption to the photo: "A machine gun is a weapon of the new century. The French are scribbling right from the headquarters of one of the infantry regiments. June 1918. Photo ULLSTEIN BIDL / VOSTOCK PHOTO". These are American soldiers.