Saturday, December 17, 2005

International impact

The direct impact of the war on men and women, at home and in the trenches, is explored elsewhere on this site, but what were the repercussions and consequences of the war on an international level? Here we look at the complicated history of what happened, both politically and socially, when the storm of warfare over Europe subsided.Revolution
The greatest political repercussion of the war was undoubtedly the Russian Revolution and following civil war. Though unrest had stirred for a long time in Russia, the full force of the First World War, which caused over 9 million Russian casualties, was a colossal burden on the working classes. Genuine hatred of the ruling Tsars bubbled under the surface of society, and eventually revolution was guaranteed.
The February Revolution, which came to a crescendo in 1917, drove forward with liberal ideals and forced Tsar Nicolas II to submit. The new government, however – with its tsarist sympathisers and a penchant to continue with the war – could not last. The harder-lined Bolsheviks and Mensheviks of the Soviet movement, led by Lenin and Trotsky, crashed through the new government with their communist regime in the October Revolution of the same year. As peasants all over Russia rebelled against their masters, a civil war that was to cost countless lives gripped the nation.
On 3 March 1918, Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers and withdrew from the war. This had far-reaching effects, as the Central Powers now controlled vast areas of the east and could concentrate fully on the Western Front. Only the timely appearance of the Americans would now counterbalance the war and eventually tip the scales in the Allies' favour.
The signing of treaties and the dividing up of worldwide concerns had effects that still resonate today. For example, the general collapse of the Ottoman Empire left Britain and France in control of much of the Middle East, whilst the Balfour Declaration of 1917, issued by Arthur Balfour (ex-Prime Minister and then Foreign Secretary), stated that Britain would allow a Jewish nation in Palestine. The treaties of Saint-Germain and Trianon, which dissolved the Austro-Hungarian Empire, sculpted the European landscape. States were reborn and created, and others, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Hungary, gained their independence. The Treaty of Versailles is infamous for its strict punishment of Germany – an action drawn on to great effect by the emerging Nazi regime of the 1930s, with obvious repercussions.


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