One hundred years of loneliness: remember all
When World War I began in 1914, none of the participants thought that it would last for so long, lead to such sacrifices and that a number of great empires would not survive it. This war was a turning point in stories, she turned all the previously existing reality. And although then there was also the Second World War with its colossal number of victims, but the former history of Europe and Eurocentrism ended precisely during the First World War.
It is characteristic that the Second World War, with its scale and its horrors, to a certain extent concealed the First World War from subsequent generations. Today, the latter seems to be very far away, almost like the Hundred Years War of the French and the British or the War of the Spanish Succession. While the Second World War is still near us, the last veterans are still alive, ideological battles are still continuing as to who was right or not quite right in this terrible war. World War II still lives in modern politics and in people's lives, which cannot be said about the events of a century ago. Therefore, it is natural that it was almost completely forgotten. But in August 2014, there is a good reason to remember everything about the First World War. One hundred years have passed since the time when the European armies, relying on an unprecedented patriotic upsurge, made their first shots.
On the eve
The main feature of the world order in 1914 was that Europe absolutely dominated the rest of the planet. It was a golden time for “Eurocentrism”. The European powers divided practically the whole world among themselves. They controlled all the processes in their colonies, including pursuing a policy of modernization. Successes in colonial policy gave reason to talk about the mission of Europeans in the cultural development of the rest of the world. British imperialist singer Redyard Kipling called it the “white man’s burden.” In addition, the military and technological power of Europe was absolute. Enormous changes took place in the technical industry, electricity, telephone, telegraph, radio, aircraft, airship and many other things were invented and actively implemented.
The successes of Europe and Europeans made an indelible impression on everyone outside the Old Continent and led to changes in traditional values in Asian and African societies. For example, it was the European power that brought about the ideology of modernism in Islam. Its supporters called for a change in traditions in order to better perceive the Muslim peoples of everything new and their ability to resist and compete with Europeans. This ideology was shared by the Jadids in the Russian Empire, the Young Afghans, the Young Turks, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
The power of Europe, in addition to technology and military superiority, was also based on relevant institutions. Even in the main monarchies that emerged from former feudal times, there was self-government everywhere, at least in the cities, trade unions, political parties represented in parliaments were organized. European monarchs learned from the 1848 series of revolutions of the year.
And finally, it is worth noting the power of thought of European society. Encyclopedic educated mighty minds gushing ideas, their political discussions were a battle of giants. A narrow scientific specialization has not yet been spread, and the same lawyer, Vladimir Lenin, could write a high-quality work on the economics of contemporary Russia. It was a glorious time for intellectual thought. Technical progress developed in parallel with the public, but there was still no radicalism in the actions, because order was personified by the old states that served as a hoop for the old barrel. Just this barrel is bursting with thoughts, contradictions and everything else. Because all the basic ideas have already been formulated - about social equality, and about national self-determination, and about the possibilities of economic regulation. The question was only in their implementation. The First World War gave the necessary impetus and the old overcoat in the form of previous empires cracked at the seams.
It is difficult to say how the First World War was inevitable, but everything went towards this. At the same time, the authorities of the mighty European states, which had accumulated colossal military power, did not think that they could let the genie out of the bottle. They believed that they completely controlled the situation, and a small victorious war still did not bother anyone. Moreover, the geopolitical contradictions remained relevant.
For example, France dreamed of revenge for defeat in the 1870 year and the loss of Alsace and Lorraine. Germany needed colonies as a market for products and a source of raw materials, and the growing German economy everywhere in the world was faced with British rivals, for example, in Iraq, Afghanistan and other important territories on the outskirts of India. In turn, England wanted to protect its monopoly on the exploitation of the colonies, and therefore, in fact, a monopoly on world trade. Because the British controlled the lion's share of the resources of the entire planet.
At the same time, Russia dreamed of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, and also traditionally supported the Balkan Slavs. But the main thing is that it critically depended on England and France in ensuring economic development, their loans ensured the Russian economic growth at the beginning of the 20th century. In many ways, therefore, Russia followed in the wake of the Anglo-French policy. In addition, Germany supported Turkey, which means it hampered the implementation of the main Russian idea - to acquire the Black Sea straits. At the same time, the main German ally, Austria-Hungary, put pressure on the Serbs, who, in turn, were in favor of uniting all the Balkan Slavs in one state.
As a result, two blocks of states were formed, which were suspiciously watching each other and were ready to clarify the relationship. Needed only a reason. This motive provided the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo by the Serb radical Gavril Princip of Austrian Archduke. In August 1914, the war began. The Austrians were the first to fire, then a chain reaction followed. Russia announced mobilization, Germany also acted. The Germans, implementing the Schlieffen plan to defeat France, crossed the borders of Belgium, the inviolability of which was guaranteed by Great Britain. As a result, London entered the war. One country after another was drawn into the war. In 1917, Russia actually emerged from the war because of the revolution. In 1918, the Bolsheviks signed the Brest Peace. At the same time, the USA entered the war with their enormous resources. In 1918, Germany and its allies were defeated. As a result of the war, four huge continental empires — the Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian — ceased to exist. Began a new era of national states.
Naturally, for us in Kazakhstan, the fate of the Russian empire, which included the territories inhabited by the Kazakhs, is of greater interest. And we must immediately say that the First World War had a great influence not only on the fate of the empire itself, but also of all the nations that included it, including the Russians themselves.
The position of the Russian Empire on the eve of the war is assessed differently. Some claim that 1913 was the best year in Russian history. The country showed good economic results. For example, from 1887 to 1913 a year, industrial output grew 4,5 times. The national product grew annually by 3,3 percent, which was higher than in Europe. According to the main economic indicators, the Russian Empire ranked fourth and fifth in the world. The state budget for the first time in the history of Russia after 1910, became surplus.
Moreover, she entered the war on the side of the future winners, played a significant role in the fight against Germany, Turkey and Austria-Hungary. According to secret agreements between the allies, Russia was to receive after the war the Black Sea straits and access to the Mediterranean Sea through Cilicia. That is, if it were not for the 1917 revolution of the year, the Russian Empire would have emerged from the First World War with excellent results.
Others say that, despite all the indicators, Russia remained a backward country, mainly peasant. Its main export products in 1913 were wheat, butter, eggs, and wood. Moreover, every year millions of people died of hunger. In 1901, 2,8 million people died of starvation, in 1913, 1,2 million died. The grain yield was two and a half times lower than that of European countries. The salary of a worker was two to three times lower than that of Western European workers. National income per capita was 9 times less than in the United States.
The efficiency of the Russian industry was low. As a result, the Russian army was lower than the German and Austro-Hungarian armaments, especially in the area of heavy artillery and machine guns. The army could not even restore the stocks of shells that were spent during the unsuccessful Russian-Japanese war. On the eve of the war, the Russian military factories could produce 600 thousand shells for three-inch guns a year. While the annual need for 1916 was 42 million shells, that is, more than 70 times. In the course of the war itself, the Russian industry was never able to launch the production of sophisticated equipment, such as airplanes. While the European powers produced tens of thousands of cars, in Russia during the whole war only a thousand aircraft and some of the French components were produced.
Russia's technological backwardness caused severe defeats in the early years of the war. The Germans won thanks to the advantage in heavy artillery. In the country, 15,5 million were called up for military service. Of these, 1,65 million died or died from injuries, 2,5 million were captured, 4 million were injured. This led to the growth of decadent attitudes in the empire and was one of the reasons for the revolution.
All this in aggregate did not allow Russia to hold out until victory over Germany and its allies and receive a prize in the form of the Black Sea straits. Then we might see a very different reality. But the 1917 revolution of the year completed the long history of the Russian Empire. Although none of his contemporaries expected such a result from unrest in the capital in February.
We can talk a lot about Russia before World War I, but in any case it was a solid country. It was still economically backward, it depended on western loans for its development, it was peasant (only 15 percent of the population lived in cities). But Russia was a whole country. Most of the population lived in peasant communities. With low efficiency of agriculture, high birth rates in peasant families and a lack of land, peasant communities and individual farms actively spread throughout the territory of the empire.
In particular, this process directly affected the interests of the Kazakh nomads, because the state confiscated their land for the needs of numerous peasant migrants. Naturally, this created tension in the relations between the Kazakh population and peasant migrants, which later manifested itself during the 1916 uprising of the year. It was thanks to these peasants that the Russian Empire was able so quickly at the beginning of the 20th century to seize the lands of Eastern Siberia and the Far East.
That is, the still patriarchal peasant country possessed colossal inertia. Her energy was partially freed by the reforms of Russian Prime Minister Peter Stolypin, who encouraged withdrawal from the communities. The active part of the peasants began to play an increasing role in the economy of the country, crowding the old landowner farms and the land-poor poor. For example, in the Russian Empire in 1913, with a population of 167 million people (including part of Poland, Finland) there were 56 million cattle, which was mainly concentrated in peasant farms. For comparison, in modern Russia with 142 million people only 8 million cattle and 60 percent of beef consumption is imported.
But the First World War broke down the inertial system of the peasant economy. Millions of people were cut off from their usual way of life. Huge sacrifices caused displeasure and made possible the fall of the empire. The revolution led the peasantry into a state of chaos, the Bolsheviks then completely eliminated the peasant community. Millions of former peasants ensured modernization in the USSR, replenished the urban population. The village in Russia today looks very sad, it seems impossible to restore community life here, and a large Western-style commodity economy requires labor, which the village has nowhere else to take.
It is possible that this is the saddest result for the Russian Empire and its fans for the outbreak of World War I that began on 100 years ago. But for many others, these consequences led to different results. For example, to the creation of national states. This was true for Poland, Finland, the Baltic States, now it seems for Ukraine.
For modern Kazakhstan, the 1917 revolution of the year halted the peasant resettlement process in previous volumes. Under the Bolsheviks, we all together participated in the modernization of the Soviet type, which was accompanied by many sacrifices and deprivations. But this modernization has changed the face of the country and the people who inhabit it. Good or bad, depends on the emotional assessment of what happened. Naturally, for all interested parties it is different. Some nostalgic for the great empire and regret that it failed to maintain its former greatness. Others, on the contrary, are happy for her fall and welcome the chances that they have opened.
But the story does not know the subjunctive mood. It happened exactly as it happened. We still do not know today how history will turn tomorrow. We can only believe in the best, as all those millions from Paris, Berlin, Vienna and St. Petersburg, who a hundred years ago in a wave of unprecedented enthusiasm went into their first bayonet attacks, most certainly believed. It is human nature to believe.
- Arman Zhandarbekov
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