World War I took place from 1914 to 1918. Over 17 million people died. The war is called "world war" because it took place in several parts of the world. Above all, however, countries in Europe were affected.
On one side were Germany, Austria and other countries. Their opponents included Russia, France and Great Britain. Germany, Austria and their friendly states lost the First World War. Germany had no more emperors and became democratic, some German territories became part of other states such as Russia and Poland. Austria-Hungary disintegrated into separate states and no longer had an emperor. Russia no longer had a czar and became communist. 20 new states were formed, including Finland, Yugoslavia, Poland, Czechoslovakia.
Many people suffered from the consequences of the war long after it was over. They did not recover from their severe injuries. Many houses, roads, bridges and the railroad were destroyed. In addition, the Spanish flu swept the Western world. It cost at least three times as many lives as the war itself, 50 million people. This was true for both, defeated and victors.
Moreover, the losers had to pay a lot of money to the winners as compensation for destruction. Some German-speaking areas belonged to countries with a different language after the war. Politicians in German speaking countries used both to get elected and it led to World War II.
Today, there are still people who remember the dead of that time. For this commemoration some states even have their own holidays. It is common to invite guests from other countries, even those who were enemies at the time.
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How the war started?
For years, many states in Europe had already increased their armies. They were afraid that another state might invade them, or at least threaten them. Some states had made alliances with each other and promised mutual aid.
On 28. June 1914 an Austrian prince was shot in Sarajevo. Sarajevo belonged to Austria-Hungary. The people there were very angry. The Prince Killer came from Serbia, and it looked as if the government in Serbia had helped him. Austria-Hungary wanted to send its own policemen to Serbia to investigate the matter. Serbia said it wanted to take care of it itself.
Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. As Russia had a treaty with Serbia it helped him. Germany had a treaty with Austria and helped Austria against Russia. France had a treaty with Russia and therefore Germany declared war on France. Germany then sent its soldiers to France via neutral countries like Belgium and the Netherlands. They had a treaty with Great Britain, which then helped them against Germany. Suddenly, all the great countries of the world were affected.
How the war went?
Germany and Austria-Hungary, and later the Ottoman Empire, were on one side. On the other side were Russia, France and Great Britain, later also the USA and some other countries.
World War I took place mostly on land and sea, but not yet in the air. On the sea, warships were fighting each other, including the first underwater boats, called submarines. For the first time there was radio communication: the ship’s captains could exchange information with the officers ashore.
On land, soldiers dug trenches to protect themselves from the bullets of enemy machine guns. To destroy the enemy there anyway, poison gas and tanks were used. Airplanes existed, but they were small, flew slowly and low. So they could easily be shot down from the ground. They were mainly important to explore how the enemy was doing.
At first, Russia was able to conquer parts of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Meanwhile, Germany wanted to quickly defeat France, and then fight harder against Russia. But this did not work because Great Britain supported France. Here in the West the armies could often conquer only very little land. This is called a war of positions or trench warfare. It was only with the support of the USA that France and its allies managed to regain much of its territory in the summer of 1918.
In the East, however, Germany had more success. Since 1916, its armies moved further and further into Russia. At the beginning of 1918, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia even made peace. Russia had to leave a lot of land and property to the Germans. There were founded some new states, like Finland and Ukraine.
The leadership of the German army had to realize that they could not win the war in the West. In September 1918, it recommended to the German government to offer peace to France and its allies. On 11. November 1918, they concluded an armistice: there was no more fighting.
What were the consequences of the war?
Of the more than seventy million soldiers, one in seven died. In addition, almost seven million people died who were not soldiers at all, that is, civilians. Many never recovered from their injuries. Women had lost their husbands, or children their fathers. They were mostly poor and needed help from the state. At the same time, many states had almost nothing left themselves.
Most of the infrastructure was destroyed, especially in Germany, but also in other countries. This means bridges, roads, houses, railroads and things like that. Shortly after the war, the Spanish flu killed three times as many people as the war itself.
In the years from 1919 to 1922 the states signed peace treaties. They originated near Paris. That is why they are called the Paris Suburban Treaties. Germany, Austria and Hungary were considered the losers, especially here people rejected the treaties.
The new state of Poland was created from large former German territories. As a result, Germany also lost many raw materials such as iron ore and coal. People were resettled from East to West and vice versa. To pay reparations to the victorious powers, Germany printed money. But that lost value as a result, there was terrible inflation. For Germany the time of the Weimar Republic began.
Austria-Hungary was reduced to Austria. Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia were formed for this purpose. The Ottoman Empire was reduced to what is now Turkey. It lost territories mainly in the south and in the east.
In Russia the communists took power in 1917. They promised that the war and hunger would stop. There was a civil war in Russia itself, between the communists and their opponents. Similarly, in other countries the war time was not really over either.
Even the victors were often dissatisfied with the end of the war: Many Italians, for example, believed they had not been given enough new land. Some people in the world were suddenly against all wars, while others were just for new wars to get revenge on. Still others wanted at least that their own country had a strong army to be better protected in the future. Discontent in Germany enabled Nazism and was one of the reasons for World War II.
How do people today think about the war?
There are monuments in many states and places commemorating World War I. On such a monument is written, for example, who from the place died in the war. In Germany, for example, there is the Volkstrauertag (national day of mourning). On a certain Sunday in November, the dead are commemorated. In other countries such as the UK, France and Belgium, Remembrance Day is on 11. November.
The historians know a lot about the war, but some questions they still can not answer completely. For a long time it was thought that probably Germany was most to blame for the war breaking out. Now people are also taking a closer look at what other countries had done wrong. It was also said: People were happy to go to war in 1914. Now we know that for many this was not true. Most people were rather excited than enthusiastic.
In any case, historians agree that the war changed Europe and the world very much. It is even said that the First World War was the original catastrophe of the 20th century. I think that the solar system of the twentieth century would have been. Meant: This war led to other misfortunes in the years after, to tyranny, murder and further wars.