Contemporaries find it difficult to assess the events that are taking place. After all, much is hidden and becomes known only after years. And today archives store numerous secret documents that could significantly change a person’s view of history. The first global world war, which swept the greater part of the planet, is still covered with secrets.
Historians who are immersed in the essence of the matter, say that what is happening in 1914-1918 is not quite correctly displayed by modern textbooks. We can safely say that the First World War put military art on a new level. On the one hand, it was easier to fight, thanks to new types of weapons. But the soldiers had to face something unusual and much more terrible than before. And the civilian population suffered much more than in previous conflicts.
The First World War entailed an economic, social, political crisis. That’s why it is worth knowing about it the truth, and not content with myths. After all, the lessons of that global conflict are relevant even now, when the world is blazing in the fire of local hot spots. With the help of English and Russian historians it is worth trying to consider the main misconceptions about that Great War.
This was the most bloody conflict in history at that time.
We often focus on events taking place in the center of civilization in Europe. At the same time, what is going on in the distant and mysterious China is overlooked. But there, even for half a century in the First World War, there was a much more bloody conflict. The Peasants’ War, called the Taiping Rebellion, lasted for 14 years, from 1850 to 1864. According to the most conservative estimates, it cost 20-30 million people. The number of victims of the First World War is estimated at 17 million people, while losses from civilians are included there. If to estimate in absolute figures, the global conflict became the bloodiest for the British in general in history. And in the percentage ratio for residents of the British Isles, civil war, which occurred back in the 17th century, became even more tangible. Then about 4% of the inhabitants of England and Wales died, in Scotland and Ireland the ratio was even higher. And during the First World War, about 2% of the British died.
Most soldiers in the war were dead.
Again, you can refer to the example of Great Britain. About 6 million soldiers were drafted. Of these, about 700 thousand people remained on the battlefields, which is about 11.5%. In fact, even during the Crimean War in the middle of the XIX century the probability of dying was higher. More than five million people served in the Russian army at the beginning of the conflict. The Imperial Army lost 800,000 to 1.3 million people killed. It is also worth taking into account additional mobilization. And although the percentage of losses was clearly higher than that of the British, it is not necessary to talk about the majority of the dead.
The soldiers had to spend several years in the trenches.
Those living conditions that prevailed in the front lines in the trenches did not allow them to stay there for long. It was a damp, cold place, little adapted to being protected from fire. If the command for a long time left in the trenches of soldiers, then they would quickly lose their morale. The same Englishmen constantly replaced soldiers in their trenches. When the big battles rattled, the military units were in the trenches usually about 10 days a month. Directly at the front while the soldiers in general were no more than three days. There have been cases when divisions generally did not reach the front line for a whole month, waiting for their turn. And during the offensive, English units could be in the trenches continuously for a week, but most often they were changed in a couple of days.
Representatives of the upper classes from the war practically did not suffer.
It is quite logical that the majority of those killed in that war belonged to the working class. But even among the political and secular elite there were many victims. In England the sons of aristocrats became junior officers.They led the soldiers into the attack, becoming the enemy’s first and main goal. If for ordinary soldiers the number of soldiers was 12% of the total number of dead, then for officers this ratio is higher – up to 17%. Out of the graduates of the elite Eton College on the battlefields, more than 20% were lost, which amounted to more than a thousand people. English Premier Herbert Asquith lost his son, and future Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Lowe – just two. Another future prime minister lost two brothers, his third brother was seriously wounded, and his uncle – captive.
Donkeys commanded lions.
This phrase, allegedly, was popular with German commanders. It was understood that the brave English soldiers were commanded by old and cowardly aristocrats, who preferred to sit out in castles. In fact, such words were invented by the historian Alan Clark. It turns out that during the war years more than 200 generals died, was taken prisoner or wounded. Most of them were on the front line every day. And during the battles the generals were much closer to the center of events than in the modern army. There were those commanders who could not cope with their duties. But some turned out to be talented commanders, you can remember at least Canadian Artur Kerry. A middle-aged man in ordinary life could not prove himself even as an insurance agent and developer, but in the war he managed to become a brilliant general. It is also necessary to take into account the fact that the military commanders had to learn to confront the hitherto unprecedented types of armaments and the conditions of warfare right during the battles. If before the British commanders were told how to conduct small colonial wars and pacify the natives, then they were dragged into a global conflict using the most modern technology. Previously, the army with such simply did not come across. But at the same time it was the British who invented, in three years, that method of warfare, which today is, on its own, adopted. By the summer of 1918, most countries were exhausted by the war, and the British were at the peak of their strength and inflicted a blow on the Germans after the blow.
ав In the operation on the Dardanelles, Australians and New Zealanders participated.
On the Gallipoli peninsula, truly representatives of the British colonies exotic for Europe fought. But the British were still there more than the Australians and New Zealanders combined. During that bloody operation, Britain lost four to five times more people than its distant overseas southern allies. Even the French killed more than New Zealanders. In Australia and New Zealand, they especially honor the memory of the dead in that operation, but also naturally, considering, first, the percentage ratio of the fallen to the total number of troops, and secondly, the scarcity of the population of these colonies.
On the Western Front, the troops in spite of everything adhered to constant tactics.
During four years of war tactics and technologies have changed so much more than ever before. The world war was a period of great technical innovations, called, unfortunately, massively to kill. In 1914, the generals appeared on the battlefield on horses, the soldiers went on the attack without any kind of fire cover. Both sides had rifles in their hands. And after four years the troops attacked in steel helmets, covered with fire artillery. In addition to rifles and grenades, soldiers also had machine guns with flamethrowers. If by early 1914 the airplanes were a curiosity, by the end of the war the planes were already at war with each other. Aircraft appeared with experimental, but already wireless radio transmitters, which could carry out reconnaissance in real time. With the help of mathematical calculations and aerial photographs, even heavy artillery guns could act with high accuracy. In just a couple of years, the process of creating tanks has moved from drawings to real samples on the battlefields. Thanks to armored vehicles, the course of hostilities changed forever.
не In the First World War, there were no winners.
During the war, most of Europe’s territory was covered with ruins, and millions of people either died or were wounded. Those who survived, remained with a deep emotional trauma. The economy of the belligerent countries has been undermined, Britain has gone bankrupt. The revolutions in Russia and Germany have changed these countries. Is it possible to talk about winners in such a situation? But from a military point of view, Britain and the Entente countries won a convincing victory. The German fleet was blocked by British forces, which led to riots among German sailors. The German army was defeated by the concerted actions of the Allies, who managed to overcome the invulnerable, as it seemed, defense. By August 1918, the German Kaiser, along with his chief military adviser, Erich von Ludendorff, realized that there was no hope of victory. Germany realized that it was time to conclude a peace. His offensive on November 11, 1918, in fact, became the surrender of Germany. The German government, unlike Hitler in 1945, simply did not wait for the allied forces to enter Berlin. And this truce saved thousands of lives, in Germany itself there was a myth that the war was not lost.
The Treaty of Versailles was too humiliating for Germany.
The peace agreement provided for the transfer of one tenth of the territory of Germany to the victorious countries. But at the same time the Germans remained the richest and largest country in Europe. And the territory of Germany was practically not occupied. Repatriations, which were assigned to Germany, were associated with its solvency and were practically not implemented. Those peace conditions that Germany concluded were much easier than those concluded earlier after the Franco-Prussian war in 1870-1871 or the Second World War. The first of them entailed the transfer to Germany of Alsace and Lorraine, where virtually all of the French mining industry was concentrated. From France they demanded a considerable indemnity, obliging her to pay immediately. And after the Second World War, Germany was generally occupied and divided into parts. The industry was either destroyed or exported. Millions of Germans were captured and by their own efforts restored the victorious countries. All that Germany received between world wars was selected, in addition to its original territories. So do not think the Versailles world is so heavy. This myth was invented in essence by Hitler, who created a special revanchist mood, coming on their wave to power.
все Everyone hated the war.
It is customary to imagine the war as a cataclysm that overturns the psychology of people, inflicts moral trauma on them. But there were also those to whom the war was for good. You can recall at least the industrialists, enriched due to the army supplies. For many soldiers who have not received a scratch, this period in general has become one of the best in life. With a lucky coincidence, they did not throw them into the furnace of battles, but they lived much better in the war than at home. The same British soldiers were fed with meat, which was impossible in a peaceful life. They received tea, cigarettes and even rum. Soldiers were supposed to consume 4,000 calories per day. Those who were absent by illness were not much more than in peacetime. This indicates that the morale of the soldiers was at the proper level, and they did not shy away from the service. Many young soldiers, in addition to guaranteed wages, got new friends, got accustomed to responsibility and got also sexual freedom, which was unthinkable in their native Britain.
The war was immediately called the First World War.
The term itself appeared on September 10, 1918. Then a note about it in his diary was made by the Times correspondent, Col. Charles Repington. And a couple of years later he published a book, which he prophetically called the “First World War”. The very term “World War” appeared in 1904, when German writers dreamed of conquering Great Britain. In Germany itself, the war was always called the World War.In France, England and Russia, the conflict was originally called the Great War, in America – the European War. When in 1915 the Austrians and Germans entered the territory of Russia, then we began to call the Second World War. In the people it was called the German one. Lenin announced a new name – the Imperialist. And in the 1930s, with the approach of a new world war, the modern name “First World War” took root in the West.
Russia should not have got involved in the war at all.
At that time, Russia was an active participant in European politics. She could not stay away from the events that unfolded both at her borders and in the zone of her responsibility. And it’s not a matter of territorial claims, the Allies simply would not have given us the power to seize Constantinople. Russia was forced to join the war in order to protect the results of its conquests in the north-west and south. Germany actively sought to reach the Mediterranean through the Balkans and drive out our country from the Baltic. Such prospects would mean depriving the status of a great power. Support for Serbia had strategic reasons – otherwise the Germans would have gained a foothold in the Balkans. And we did not declare war on Germany, but it’s for us.
Russia acted exclusively from geopolitical interests.
Do not throw away the ideological underpinnings. The Orthodox monarchy fought for traditional European ideals – classical law, national sovereignty, religious and family values. Nicholas II generally stood at the origins of disarmament, calling for peace. Russia fought not only for its borders, but also for sovereignty, religion, the fate of Christians.
Russia was to take the side of Germany.
There is a fairly popular myth that sees the roots of the 1917 tragedy in the wrong choice of Nicholas II’s allies. However, the Germans themselves did not see Russia as an ally. Their strategic task back in the 1890s was the ousting of our country from the Baltic and Black seas, the destruction of its economy. And the Kaiser himself, William, hated the Slavs. In such circumstances it was impossible to talk about alignment and common goals.
Russia fought badly.
In Soviet textbooks, Russia in 1914 appears as a country with a weak economy, doomed to failure. But all the participants in the war experienced difficulties, including the mighty Great Britain. The unsuccessful offensive in East Prussia at the very beginning of the war was a response to the plea of the French government. The defeat of the unprepared Russian troops saved the Allies from the defeat in the first months of the war. It was on the Eastern Front that the fate of the war was decided. The unsuccessful offensive in Prussia added a further strategic picture, making it possible to win on the Marne. Russia not only showed loyalty to its obligations, having paid blood for the victory of the Entente, but also showed a lot of brilliant military operations to the military world. Brusilovsky breakthrough is considered a classic example of strategic art.
In World War I, Russia was defeated.
Such a conclusion is a simplified view of events. Russia can not be considered defeated, simply because of the revolutionary changes that have begun, the country has not been able to take advantage of the fruits of victory. The Bolsheviks withdrew Russia from the Entente, giving former allies the opportunity to remake the world.
The East Prussian operation was carried out only to save France from a crushing defeat.
A careful reading of the documents of that time allows you to look a little differently at events. The Russian troops began the offensive only after intelligence confirmed the transfer of the main parts of the regular German army from East Prussia. In the region as a matter of fact, only border guards and militiamen remained. Russia could not resist the temptation to take advantage of this situation.
The defeat of the Russian army in East Prussia was due to an incompetent command.
Careful study of memoirs disproves this myth.The tragedy of the army of General Samsonov occurred after the revolutionary pacifist insurrection broke out in the units. The soldiers began to break their weapons and refused to continue the offensive.
Russia’s failure at the front in 1915 was due to poor supply.
This reason was called in Soviet history textbooks. However, numerous eyewitnesses of those events say that the success of the Germans in Gorlitsky breakthrough was made possible by concentrating on the narrow sector of the front the enemy’s many times superior forces. Even the shelling of enemy columns by direct fire from artillery guns did not have any effect. In other words, the causes of defeats lie in tactical miscalculations.
Nicholas II blindly served the Entente.
The Communists declared tsarist foreign policy in those years insignificant. In fact, in 1914-1917, domestic diplomats forced England to recognize Russia’s right to the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. France signed the Convention, which limited the influence of Britain on the continent. An agreement was also signed with Japan. Thus it is obvious that Nicholas led an independent policy aimed at protecting the interests of Russia.
On the lands taken from Austria-Hungary, the tsarist troops behaved cruelly.
We are talking about Galicia, Bukovina and Transcarpathia, where, allegedly, the Russian troops behaved like the invaders. But from the archives of the Provisional Governor General of Galicia, it follows that the army treated the local population fairly humanely. But the Austrians and the Hungarians here openly brutalized, trying to intimidate pro-Russian minded residents of these lands.
During the First World War, cultural life in Russia fell into decay.
Even modern Russian scientists are forced to admit that by the beginning of 1917 in Moscow (and this taking into account the difference in population!), There were more cinemas than today. Many peasant women had fashionable boots in their wardrobe, and even shoes with stilettos.