This was the introductory document I sent to my players for the 1938 Campaign. In reviewing this today, it appears that some sections may duplicate themselves; if so, I apologise, 1998 was a long time ago.)
[Note: actual historical information is from The Timetables of History, 3rd ed., rev, The World History Factfinder, Microsoft Encarta 97, and various other encyclopedic sources I didn’t bother to write down as I was making notes. Where history diverges it is based on either GURPS: Alternate Earths, or my own twisted fantasy. There is a considerable amount of history on the Great War presented in this document, primarily so that you will all have a basic knowledge of the world situation. I apologize for the lack of organization in it.]
In this world, reality began to diverge from our mainline significantly around 1893, when Nicola Tesla married Anne Morgan, daughter of J.P. Morgan. This incident provided Tesla with a financial stability he did not enjoy in our timeline, and made some of his legal battles of our world non-existent.
Despite the financial backing of Morgan, however, certain events continued apace, albeit with not necessarily the same outcomes. World tensions had been building since the mid-1800’s with the colonial expansion of Britain, Japan and Russia, which resulted in the Great War, which the United States largely avoided. The stock market crash of 1929, while severe in the US, caused economic instability in Europe which lasted most of the next decade, as Europe and Asia attempted to rebuild their war-ravaged economies. (See Russia, below, for a notable exception.)
The Great War
The Great War, military conflict, from 1914 to 1918, that began as a local European war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia on July 28, 1914; was transformed into a general European struggle by declaration of war against Russia on August 1, 1914; and eventually became a global war involving 32 nations. Twenty-eight of these nations, known as the Allies and the Associated Powers, and including Great Britain, France, Russia, and Italy, opposed the coalition known as the Central Powers, consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria. The immediate cause of the war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia was the assassination on June 28, 1914, at Sarajevo in Bosnia (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; now in Bosnia and Herzegovina), of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir-presumptive to the Austrian and Hungarian thrones, by Gavrilo Princip, a Serb nationalist. The fundamental causes of the conflict, however, were rooted deeply in the European history of the previous century, particularly in the political and economic policies that prevailed on the Continent after 1871, the year that marked the emergence of Germany as a great world power.
Causes of the War
The underlying causes of The Great War were the spirit of intense nationalism that permeated Europe throughout the 19th and into the 20th century, the political and economic rivalry among the nations, and the establishment and maintenance in Europe after 1871 of large armaments and of two hostile military alliances.
The French Revolution and the Napoleonic era had spread throughout most of Europe the idea of political democracy, with the resulting idea that people of the same ethnic origin, language, and political ideals had the right to independent states. The principle of national self-determination, however, was largely ignored by the dynastic and reactionary forces that dominated in the settlement of European affairs at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Several peoples who desired national autonomy were made subject to local dynasts or to other nations. Notable examples were the German people, whom the Congress of Vienna left divided into numerous duchies, principalities, and kingdoms; Italy, also left divided into many parts, some of which were under foreign control; and the Flemish- and French-speaking Belgians of the Austrian Netherlands, whom the congress placed under Dutch rule. Revolutions and strong nationalistic movements during the 19th century succeeded in nullifying much of the reactionary and anti-nationalist work of the congress. Belgium won its independence from the Netherlands in 1830, the unification of Italy was accomplished in 1861, and that of Germany in 1871. At the close of the century, however, the problem of nationalism was still unresolved in other areas of Europe, resulting in tensions both within the regions involved and between various European nations. One particularly prominent nationalistic movement, Panslavism, figured heavily in the events preceding the war.
The spirit of nationalism was also manifest in economic conflict. The Industrial Revolution, which took place in Great Britain at the end of the 18th century, followed in France in the early 19th century, and then in Germany after 1870, caused an immense increase in the manufactures of each country and a consequent need for foreign markets. The principal field for the European policies of economic expansion was Africa, and on that continent colonial interests frequently clashed. Several times between 1898 and 1914 the economic rivalry in Africa between France and Great Britain, and between Germany on one side and France and Great Britain on the other, almost precipitated a European war.
As a result of such tensions, between 1871 and 1914 the nations of Europe adopted domestic measures and foreign policies that in turn steadily increased the danger of war. Convinced that their interests were threatened, they maintained large standing armies, which they constantly replenished and augmented by peacetime conscription. At the same time, they increased the size of their navies. The naval expansion was intensely competitive. Great Britain, influenced by the expansion of the German navy begun in 1900 and by the events of the Russo-Japanese War, developed its fleet under the direction of Admiral Sir John Fisher. The war between Russia and Japan had proved the efficacy of long-range naval guns, and the British accordingly developed the widely copied dreadnought battleship, notable for its heavy armament. Developments in other areas of military technology and organization led to the dominance of general staffs with precisely formulated plans for mobilization and attack, often in situations that could not be reversed once begun.
Statesmen everywhere realized that the tremendous and ever-growing expenditures for armament would in time lead either to national bankruptcy or to war, and they made several efforts for worldwide disarmament, notably at the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907. International rivalry was, however, too far advanced to permit any progress toward disarmament at these conferences.
The European nations not only armed themselves for purposes of “self-defense,” but also, in order not to find themselves standing alone if war did break out, sought alliances with other powers. The result was a phenomenon that in itself greatly increased the chances for generalized war: the grouping of the great European powers into two hostile military alliances, the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy and the Triple Entente of Great Britain, France, and Russia. Shifts within these alliances added to the building sense of crisis.
Crises Foreshadowing the War
(1905-14). With Europe divided into two hostile camps, any disturbance of the existing political or military situation in Europe, Africa, or elsewhere provoked an international incident. Between 1905 and 1914 several international crises and two local wars occurred, all of which threatened to bring about a general European War. The first crisis occurred over Morocco, where Germany intervened in 1905-06 to support Moroccan independence against French encroachment. France threatened war against Germany, but the crisis was finally settled by an international conference at Algeciras, Spain, in 1906. Another crisis took place in the Balkans in 1908 over the annexation by Austria-Hungary of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because one form of Panslavism was a Pan-Serbian or Greater Serbia movement in Serbia, which had as one of its objects the acquisition by Serbia of the southern part of Bosnia, the Serbs threatened war against Austria. War was avoided only because Serbia could not fight without Russian support, and Russia at the time was unprepared for another war. A third crisis, again in Morocco, occurred in 1911 when the German government sent a warship to Agadir in protest against French efforts to secure supremacy in Morocco. After threats of war on both sides, the matter was adjusted by a conference at Agadir. Taking advantage of the preoccupation of the Great Powers with the Moroccan question, Italy declared war on Turkey in 1911, hoping to annex the Tripoli region of northern Africa. Because Germany’s policy of Drang nach Osten (“drive toward the East”) obliged it to cultivate friendship with Turkey, the Italian attack had the effect of weakening the triple alliance and encouraging its enemies. The Balkan Wars of 1912-13 resulted in an increased desire on the part of Serbia to obtain the parts of Austria-Hungary inhabited by Slavic peoples, strengthened Austro-Hungarian suspicion of Serbia, and left Bulgaria and Turkey, both defeated in the wars, with a desire for revenge. Germany, disappointed because Turkey had been deprived of its European territory by the Balkan Wars, increased the size of its army. France responded by increasing peacetime military service from two to three years. Following the example of these nations, all the others of Europe in 1913 and 1914 spent huge sums for military preparedness.
On a Europe thus heavily armed and torn by national rivalries, the assassination of the Austrian archduke had a catastrophic effect.
The Austro-Hungarian government, considering the assassination the work of the Greater Serbian movement, concluded that the movement must be suppressed by a military expedition into Serbia. Otherwise it might become powerful enough, particularly if aided by similar movements elsewhere, to cause the disruption of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. On July 23 Austria-Hungary sent an ultimatum to Serbia submitting ten specific demands, most of which had to do with the suppression, with Austrian help, of anti-Austrian propaganda in Serbia. Urged by both Great Britain and Russia, Serbia on July 25 accepted all but two of the demands, but Austria declared the Serbian reply to be unsatisfactory. The Russians then attempted to persuade Austria to modify the terms of the ultimatum, declaring that if Austria marched on Serbia, Russia would mobilize against Austria. A proposal, on July 26, by the British foreign minister, Sir Edward Grey, Viscount Grey of Fallodon, that a conference of Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy settle the Austro-Serbian dispute, was rejected by Germany.
Declarations of War
On July 28 Austria declared war against Serbia, either because it felt Russia would not actually fight for Serbia, or because it was prepared to risk a general European conflict in order to put an end to the Greater Serbia movement. Russia responded by partially mobilizing against Austria. Germany warned Russia that continued mobilization would entail war with Germany, and it made Austria agree to discuss with Russia possible modification of the ultimatum to Serbia. Germany insisted, however, that Russia immediately demobilize. Russia declined to do so, and on August 1 Germany declared war on Russia.
The French began to mobilize on the same day; on August 2 German troops traversed Luxembourg and on August 3 Germany declared war on France. On August 2 the German government informed the government of Belgium of its intention to march on France through Belgium in order, as it claimed, to forestall an attack on Germany by French troops marching through Belgium. The Belgian government refused to permit the passage of German troops and called on the signatories of the Treaty of 1839, which guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium in case of a conflict in which Great Britain, France, and Germany were involved, to observe their guarantee. Great Britain, one of the signatories, on August 4 sent an ultimatum to Germany demanding that Belgian neutrality be respected; when Germany refused, Britain declared war on it the same day. Italy remained neutral until May 23, 1915, when, to satisfy its claims against Austria, it broke with the Triple Alliance and declared war on Austria-Hungary. In September 1914 Allied unity was made stronger by the Pact of London, signed by France, Great Britain, and Russia. As the war progressed, other countries, including Turkey, Japan, and other nations of the western hemisphere, were drawn into the conflict. Japan, which had made an alliance with Great Britain in 1902, declared war on Germany on August 23, 1914.
Military operations began on three major European fronts: the western, or Franco-Belgian; the eastern, or Russian; and the southern, or Serbian. In November 1914 Turkey entered the war on the side of the Central Powers, and fighting also took place between Turkey and Great Britain at the Dardanelles and in Turkish-held Mesopotamia. In late 1915 two more fronts had been established: the Austro-Italian, after Italy joined the Allies in May 1915; and one on the Greek border north of Salonika (Thessaloníki), after Bulgaria joined the Central Powers in October 1915.
The Western Front
The initial German plan of the campaign was to defeat France quickly in the west, while a small part of the German army and the entire Austro-Hungarian army held in check an expected Russian invasion in the east. The speedy defeat of France was to be accomplished by a strategic plan known as the Schlieffen plan, which had been drawn up by Count Alfred von Schlieffen, German chief of staff from 1891 to 1907. The Schlieffen plan called for powerful German forces to sweep through Belgium, outflank the French by their rapid movement, then wheel about, surround, and destroy them. As executed with certain modifications in the fall of 1914, the plan at first seemed likely to succeed. The swift German incursion into Belgium at the beginning of August routed the Belgian army, which abandoned the strongholds of Liège and Namur and took safety in the fortress of Antwerp. The Germans, rushing onward, then defeated the French at Charleroi and the British Expeditionary Force of 90,000 men at Mons, causing the entire Allied line in Belgium to retreat. At the same time the Germans drove the French out of Lorraine, which they had briefly invaded, and back from the borders of Luxembourg. The British and French hastily fell back to the Marne River, but three German armies advanced steadily to the Marne, which they then crossed. The fall of the French capital seemed so imminent that the French government moved to Bordeaux. After the Germans had crossed the Marne, however, the French under General Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre wheeled around Paris and attacked the First German army, commanded by General Alexander von Kluck, on the right of the three German armies moving on Paris.
In the First Battle of the Marne, which took place on September 6-9, the French halted the advance of Kluck’s army, which had outdistanced the other two German armies and could not obtain their support. In addition, the German forces had been weakened on August 25 when, believing the victory had already been won in the west, the German chief of staff, General Helmuth von Moltke, dispatched six corps to the eastern front. The French pressure on the German right flank caused the retreat of Kluck’s army and then a general retreat of all the German forces to the Aisne River. The French advanced and, in an endeavor to force the Germans from the Aisne, engaged them in three battles: the Battle of the Aisne; a battle on the Somme River; and the First Battle of Arras. The Germans, however, could not be dislodged, and even extended their line eastward to the Meuse north of Verdun. A race to the North Sea ensued between the two belligerents, the objective being the channel ports. The Germans were prevented from advancing to the French channel ports chiefly by the flooding of the region of the Yser River by the Belgians. The western part of the Allied line was held by the British who, in the race for the channel, had advanced to Ypres, the southwest corner of Belgium. After taking Antwerp on October 10, the Germans endeavored to break through the British positions in Belgium, but were checked in a series of engagements known collectively as the Battle of Flanders. In December the Allies attacked along the entire front, from Nieuport in the west to Verdun in the east, but failed to make any appreciable gains.
By the end of 1914 both sides had established lines extending about 800 km (about 500 mi) from Switzerland to the North Sea and had entrenched; these lines were destined to remain almost stationary for the next three years.
The Battle of Flanders marked the conclusion of the war of movement or fighting in the open on the western front. From the end of 1914 until nearly the end of the war in 1918, the fighting consisted largely of trench warfare, in which each side laid siege to the other’s system of trenches, consisting of numerous parallel lines of intercommunicating trenches protected by lines of barbed wire, and endeavored from time to time to break through the lines. In this type of fighting during 1915 in the west, the Allies were on the offensive; the Germans, who were engaged in a heavy offensive on the eastern front (see below), made only a single attack in the west during the year. The principal attempts in 1915 to force a breakthrough included a British attack at Neuve Chapelle in March, which took only the German advance line. The Germans unsuccessfully attacked Ypres in April, using clouds of chlorine gas, the first time in history that gas was used in this manner on a large scale. A combined attack by the British and French along the front between Neuve Chapelle and Arras, in May and June, advanced troops 4 km (2.5 mi) into the German trench system, but did not secure a breakthrough. Unsuccessful simultaneous attacks were made in September by the British in the town of Lens and French at Vimy Ridge overlooking the town. A large-scale French attack in September on a front of about 25 km (about 15 mi) between Reims and the Argonne Forest, took the Germans’ first line of trenches, but was stopped at the second. On the whole the lines that had been established in the west at the close of 1914 remained practically unchanged during 1915.
The Eastern Front
On the eastern front, in accordance with the plans of the Allies, the Russians assumed the offensive at the very beginning of the war. In August 1914 two Russian armies advanced into East Prussia, and four Russian armies invaded the Austrian province of Galicia. In East Prussia a series of Russian victories against numerically inferior German forces had made the evacuation of that region by the Germans imminent, when a reinforced German army commanded by General Paul von Hindenburg decisively defeated the Russians in the Battle of Tannenberg, fought on August 26-30, 1914. The four Russian armies invading Austria advanced steadily through Galicia; they took Przemysl and Bukovina, and by the end of March 1915 were in a position to move into Hungary. In April, however, a combined German and Austrian army drove the Russians back from the Carpathians. In May the Austro-German armies began a great offensive in central Poland, and by September 1915 had driven the Russians out of Poland, Lithuania, and Courland, and had also taken possession of all the frontier fortresses of Russia. To meet this offensive the Russians withdrew their forces from Galicia. The Russian lines, when the German drive had ceased, lay behind the Dvina River between Riga and Dvinsk (Daugavpils), and then ran south to the Dnestr River. Although the Central Powers did not force a decision on the eastern front in 1914-15, the Russians lost so many men and such large quantities of supplies that they were subsequently unable to play any decisive role in the war. In addition to the Battle of Tannenberg, notable battles on this front during 1914-15 were the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes (September 7-14, 1914), and the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes (February 7-21, 1915), both German victories.
The War in Serbia
On the Serbian front considerable activity took place in 1914-15. In 1914 the Austrians undertook three invasions of Serbia, all of which were repulsed; the Serbs, however, made no attempt to invade Austria-Hungary. The front remained inactive until October 1915. Early that month, in anticipation of Bulgarian entrance into the war on the side of the Central Powers, and in order to aid Serbia, which would be the target of a Bulgarian attack, British and French troops were landed at Salonika, the gateway into the Balkans, by arrangement with the neutral Greek government. After Bulgaria declared war on Serbia on October 14, 1915, the Allied troops advanced into Serbia. The Bulgarian troops defeated Serbian forces in Serbia and also the British and French troops that had come up from Salonika. Also in anticipation of the Bulgarian declaration of war, on October 6 a strong Austro-German drive, commanded by General August von Mackensen, was launched from Austria-Hungary into Serbia. By the end of 1915 the Central Powers had conquered all of Serbia and eliminated the Serbian army as a fighting force. The surviving Serbian troops took refuge in Montenegro, Albania, and the Greek island of Corfu (Kérkira), which the French occupied in January 1916 in order to provide a place of safety for the routed Serbians. The British and French troops in Serbia retreated to Salonika, which they fortified and where they were held in readiness for later action.
The Turkish Front
Turkey entered the war on October 29, 1914, when Turkish warships cooperated with German warships in a naval bombardment of Russian Black Sea ports; Russia formally declared war on Turkey on November 2, and Great Britain and France followed suit on November 5. In December the Turks began an invasion of the Russian Caucasus region. The invasion was successful at its inception, but by August 1915 the hold that Turkish forces had gained had been considerably reduced. Turkish pressure in the area, however, impelled the Russian government early in 1915 to demand a diversionary attack by Great Britain on Turkey. In response, British naval forces under the command of General Sir Ian Hamilton bombarded the Turkish forts at the Dardanelles in February 1915, and between April and August, two landings of Allied troops took place on the Gallipoli Peninsula, one of British, Australian, and French troops in April, and one of several additional British divisions in August. The Allied purpose was to take the Dardanelles; however, strong resistance by Turkish troops and bad generalship on the part of the Allied command resulted in complete failure. The Allied troops were withdrawn in December 1915 and January 1916 (see Gallipoli Campaign).
In the Mesopotamian Valley, meanwhile, British forces from India defeated the Turks in several battles during 1914-15, particularly that of Al Kut; but in the Battle of Ctesiphon, November 1915, the Turks checked the advance of the British toward Baghdad and forced them to retreat to Al Kut. On December 7 the Turks laid siege to this town.
The Italian Front
Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary on May 23, 1915. The chief military events on the Austro-Italian Front in 1915 were four indecisive battles between Austro-Hungarian and Italian armies on the Isonzo River (June 29-July 7, July 18-August 10, October 18-November 3, and November 10-December 10). The purpose of the Italian attack was to break through the Austrian lines and capture Trieste.
1916: Continued Stalemate
German success in 1915 in thrusting the Russians back from East Prussia, Galicia, and Poland enabled Germany to transfer some 500,000 men from the eastern to the western front for an attempt to force a decision in the west during 1916.
Verdun and Somme
The German plan, as worked out by Erich von Falkenhayn, chief of the general staff of the German army, was to attack the French fortress at Verdun in great strength in an effort to weaken the French irretrievably by causing the maximum possible number of casualties. The Allied plan for 1916, as laid out by commanders in chief, Marshal Joffre of the French army and General Sir Douglas Haig of the British, was to attempt to break through the German lines in the west by a massive offensive during the summer in the region of the Somme River. The Germans began the attack on Verdun, on February 21 (see Verdun, Battle of).After bitter fighting the Germans took Fort Douaumont (February 25), Fort Vaux (June 2), and the fortifications of Thiaumont (June 23), but did not succeed in capturing Verdun. (It was here that General Henri Philippe Pétain gained prominence as the “hero of Verdun.”) Because of the severe losses in the battle, the French were able to contribute to the Allied offensive on the Somme only 16 divisions of the 40 originally planned; the offensive, which began on July 1 and continued until the middle of November, consequently was largely in the hands of the British. They succeeded in winning about 325 sq km (about 125 sq mi) of territory, but the drive did not bring about a breakthrough. The First Battle of the Somme marked the earliest use of the modern tank, deployed by the British on September 15 in an attack near Courcelette. From October to December the French staged a counterattack at Verdun and succeeded in recapturing Forts Douaumont and Vaux (November 2), restoring the situation that had prevailed before February. In August Hindenburg replaced Falkenhayn as German chief of staff with General Erich Ludendorff. In December General Robert Georges Nivelle succeeded Joffre as commander in chief of the French armies in the north and northeast.
Russian Losses—Romanian Defeat
On the eastern front in 1916 the Russians staged an offensive in the Lake Narocz region about 95 km (about 60 mi) northeast of Vilna. Their attack, designed to force the Germans to move troops from Verdun to the Lake Narocz region, was a complete failure. Not only did it fail to divert the Germans in any degree from their attack on Verdun, but also the Russians lost more than 100,000 men. In June the Russians carried out a more successful offensive. In response to an Italian request for action to relieve the pressure of an Austrian offensive in the Trentino (see below), the Russians moved against the Austrians on a front extending from Pinsk south to Czernowitz. By September, when strong German reinforcements from the western front stopped the Russian advance, the Russians had driven some 65 km (40 mi) into the Austro-German position along the entire front and had taken about 500,000 prisoners. They did not succeed, however, in capturing either of their objectives, the cities of Kovel and Lemberg; and their losses of approximately 1 million men left the army in a demoralized and discouraged state. The Russian drive had nonetheless given sufficient evidence of strength to play a large part in inducing Romania to enter the war on the side of the Allies (August 27, 1916). After its entrance into the war, Romania at once began an invasion of the Austro-Hungarian province of Transylvania (August-September), but Austro-German forces speedily drove the Romanians out of that region. In conjunction with Bulgarian and Turkish troops, the Austro-German forces invaded Romania (November-December). By the middle of January 1917 Romania had been completely conquered, and the Central Powers had gained a valuable source of wheat and oil.
Italy and the Balkans
On the Italian front 1916 was marked by another inconclusive battle on the Isonzo River, the fifth of a series in that region, and by an Austrian offensive in the Trentino designed to break through the Italian lines and reach the rear of the Italian position on the Isonzo. The Austrians gained considerable territory in the Trentino, but lacked the strength to accomplish a breakthrough, and an Italian counteroffensive (June-July) succeeded in regaining most of the captured terrain. From August to November four additional inconclusive battles took place on the Isonzo; the principal gain on either side was the capture of Gorizia by the Italians on August 9.
In the Balkans during 1916 the Allied powers interfered in Greek affairs on the grounds that the Greek government under King Constantine I was, in spite of its declared neutrality, unduly favoring the Central Powers. Allied intervention brought about the establishment (September 29) of a provisional Greek government under the statesman Eleutherios Venizelos, who had consistently favored the Allied cause. At Salonika the provisional government declared war on Germany and Bulgaria on November 3. The government of King Constantine was still in power in Athens and large parts of Greece, and friction took place between that government and the Allies, who resorted to a naval blockade of Greece and other action in order to enforce their demands that the Greeks cease aiding the Central Powers. On December 19 Great Britain officially recognized the provisional Greek government.
Two periods of fighting took place in the Balkans during 1916. In August a Serbian army, brought to Salonika after having been reconstituted at Corfu, advanced together with Russian and Italian troops against the Bulgarians and Germans on the Salonika front. After they had gained some initial successes, a strong counterattack thrust them back. Beginning in early October Allied forces began a large-scale offensive in Macedonia. On November 19 the Allied troops captured Monastir, and by the middle of December had reached Lake Ohrid, on the border of Albania and Macedonia.
The Turkish Dominions
Considerable military activity took place in 1916 in three parts of the Turkish Ottoman Empire: Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Palestine. In Mesopotamia, the besieged town of Kut-al-Imara fell to the Turks on April 29, 1916. In December of that year the British began a drive toward the town, which they recaptured two months later. In Arabia in June 1916 Husein ibn Ali, grand sharif of Mecca, continued the traditional conflict between Arabs and Turks by leading, with his son Abdullah ibn Husein, a revolt of Al Hijz (the Hejaz, now in Saudi Arabia) against Turkish rule. Husein had the help of the British, who recognized him as king of Al Hijz in December 1916. As a diversionary move to aid the Arabian revolt, the British in November began an advance from Egypt, which they had garrisoned since early in the war, into the Sinai Peninsula and Palestine, and by the early days of January 1917 had taken several fortifications.
In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson of the U.S., at that time a neutral nation, attempted to bring about negotiations between the belligerent groups of powers that would in his own words bring “peace without victory.” As a result of his efforts, and particularly of the conferences held in Europe during the year by Wilson’s confidential adviser, Colonel Edward M. House, with leading European statesmen, some progress was at first apparently made toward bringing an end to the war. In December the German government informed the U.S. that the Central Powers were prepared to undertake peace negotiations. When the U.S. informed the Allies, Great Britain rejected the German advances for two reasons: Germany had not laid down any specific terms for peace; and the military situation at the time (Romania had just been conquered by the Central Powers) was so favorable to the Central Powers that no acceptable terms could reasonably be expected from them. Wilson continued his mediatory efforts, calling on the belligerents to specify the terms on which they would make peace. He finally succeeded in eliciting concrete terms from each group, but they proved irreconcilable.
1917: U.S. Entrance—Russian Withdrawal
Wilson still attempted to find some basis of agreement between the two belligerent groups until a change in German war policy in January 1917 completely altered his point of view toward the war. In that month Germany announced that, beginning on February 1, it would resort to unrestricted submarine warfare against the shipping of Great Britain and all shipping to Great Britain. German military and civil experts had calculated that such warfare would bring about the defeat of Great Britain in six months. Because the U.S. had already expressed its strong opposition to unrestricted submarine warfare, which, it claimed, violated its rights as a neutral, and had even threatened to break relations with Germany over the issue, Wilson dropped his peacemaking efforts. On February 3, the U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Germany and at Wilson’s request a number of Latin American nations, including Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil, also did so. On April 6 the United States declared war on Germany.
Arras and Ypres
In 1917 the Allies made two large-scale attempts to break the German lines on the western front. The first Allied attempt took place near Arras between April 9 and May 21. While it was being planned by the British and the French high commands, the Germans withdrew from their original line along the Aisne to a new position, previously prepared somewhat to the north, and known as the Hindenburg line, against which the Allies directed their attack. Their offensive included the Third Battle of Arras, in which Canadian troops captured the heavily fortified and stubbornly defended Vimy Ridge, and the British forces made an advance of 6 km (4 mi); and a battle on the Aisne, and one in the Champagne district, both of which resulted in a slight French gain at a cost in casualties so great as to cause a mutiny among the troops. Because of the failure of his reckless attack, General Nivelle on May 15 was replaced by General Henri Philippe Pétain; the new commander’s policy was to remain on the defensive until U.S. troops arrived.
The second great Allied offensive took place in June, when the British under Haig made an attempt in Flanders to break through the right wing of the German position. A preliminary battle at Messines set the stage for the main attacks (July 31-November 10) at Ypres. Desperate fighting, in which each side suffered approximately 250,000 casualties, did not result in a breakthrough.
Use of Tanks
Other attacks of Allied forces on the western front in 1917 included a battle at Verdun, in which the French succeeded in regaining an additional section of the area they had lost the previous year; and (November 20-December 3) the Battle of Cambrai, during which the British opened the attack with a raid by nearly 400 tanks. This was the first tank raid on such a scale in military history, and, but for lack of reserves, the British might have achieved a breakthrough. As it was, the British drove an 8-km (5-mi) salient into the German lines. German counterattacks, however, compelled the British to yield most of the newly won ground.
After the U.S. entered the war in April 1917, it moved rapidly to raise and transport overseas a strong military force, known as the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), under the command of General John J. Pershing. By June 1917 more than 175,000 American troops were training in France, and one division was actually in the lines of the Allied sector near Belfort; by November 1918 the strength of the AEF was nearly 2 million. From the spring of 1918 U.S. troops played an important part in the fighting.
In 1917 not only did the U.S. enter the war, but also the Germans failed in their attempt to drive Great Britain to surrender through the destruction by submarine of the British and Allied shipping on which it depended for food and other supplies. At the outset the German submarine campaign seemed likely to succeed. Toward the end of 1916 German submarines were destroying monthly about 300,000 tons of British and Allied shipping in the North Atlantic; in April 1917 the figure was 875,000 tons. Because the Germans had calculated that the destruction of 600,000 tons monthly for six consecutive months would be sufficient to force Great Britain to capitulate, they were doubly certain of victory after April. Great Britain, however, roused itself to unprecedented efforts to fight the submarine menace. By the adoption of a system of convoying fleets of merchant vessels with warships, especially destroyers and submarine chasers, and by the use of hydroplanes for spotting submarines and depth bombs or charges for destroying them, Great Britain, as the summer advanced, rendered the German submarine campaign less and less effective. By the fall, although large numbers of Allied ships were still being sunk, the Germans were sustaining heavy losses in submarines. At the same time the Allied nations, especially the U.S., were rapidly building new shipping. By the outset of 1918 the Allies were turning out more new ships than the Germans were destroying, and the German effort to end the war by submarine warfare had clearly failed.
On the eastern front the dominating influence on the fighting during 1917 was the outbreak in March of the Russian popular uprising against the imperial government, which resulted in turn in the establishment of a provisional government and the death, in March, of Czar Nicholas II. The provisional government continued the prosecution of the war, in July, under General Aleksey Alekeseyevich Brusilov, the Russians staged a moderately successful 2-week drive on the Galician front, but then lost much of the territory they had gained. In September the Germans took Riga, defended by Russian forces under General Lavr Georgiyevich Kornilov, and in October occupied the greater part of Latvia and a number of Russian-held islands in the Baltic Sea. Faced with growing strife at home, the new Czar offered the German government an armistice. On December 15 an armistice was signed between the Russian and Austro-German negotiators, and fighting ceased on the eastern front.
The Allies suffered disaster on the Italian front in 1917. During the first eight months of the year, despite deficiencies in troop strength, artillery, and ammunition, the Italian forces under General Luigi Cadorna continued efforts to break through the Austrian lines on the Isonzo River and to attain Trieste. The Italian drives of 1917, which resulted in the 10th and 11th battles of the Isonzo, did not attain their objective. The latter part of the year (October-December) was marked by a determined Austro-German offensive carried on by nine Austrian and six newly arrived German divisions. Attacking on the upper Isonzo near the town of Caporetto, they succeeded in breaking the line of the Italians, who fell back in confusion from the Isonzo to positions on the Piave River. In the disastrous Caporetto campaign the Italian forces lost 300,000 men as prisoners alone and, the morale of the army broken, approximately the same number as deserters. In November British and French troops arrived to reinforce the Italians on the Piave, and a new Italian commander in chief, General Armando Díaz, was appointed in place of General Cadorna.
Greece Enters the War
On the Balkan front in 1917, after the Allied troops had fought several inconclusive engagements at Monastir, at Lake Presba, and on the Vardar River, the Allies initiated an effort to oust the Greek king, Constantine, claiming that his pro-German sympathies and his aid to the Central Powers made it impossible for the Allies to conduct successful operations in the Balkan region. In June the Allies began an invasion of Greece, and at the same time exerted diplomatic pressure on Constantine to abdicate. He did so on June 12; Venizelos became premier of the government formed under Alexander, the son of Constantine; and on June 27 the Greek government declared war on all four Central Powers.
The Middle East
In Palestine during 1917 the British made two unsuccessful attempts (March and April) to take the city of Gaza. Under a new commander, General (later Field Marshal) Sir Edmund Allenby, the British broke through the Turkish lines at Beersheba (November), compelling the evacuation of Gaza; and on December 9, Allenby’s troops took Jerusalem. The year also witnessed the beginning of the brilliant leadership of British Colonel T. E. Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia, in the Arab revolt against Turkey. Arab troops led by Lawrence took the Turkish-held port of Al ‘Aqabah in July, and during the remainder of the year executed many forays against the Turkish-held Al Hijz (the Hejaz) Railway. The year 1917 was also marked by British successes in Mesopotamia; they took Baghdad in March and by September had advanced to Ramadi on the Euphrates River and Tikrt on the Tigris.
1918: The Final Year
The early part of 1918 did not look propitious for the Allied nations. On March 3 Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which put a formal end to the war between that nation and the Central Powers on terms more favorable to the latter; and on May 7 Romania made peace with the Central Powers, signing the Treaty of Bucharest, by the terms of which it ceded the Dobruja region to Bulgaria and the passes in the Carpathian Mountains to Austria-Hungary, and gave Germany a long-term lease on the Romanian oil wells.
Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary Withdraw
On the Balkan front, however, the result of the fighting of 1918 was disastrous to the Central Powers. In September a force of about 700,000 Allied troops, consisting of French, British, Greeks, Serbs, and Italians, began a large-scale offensive against the German, Austrian, and Bulgarian troops in Serbia. The Allied offensive was so successful that by the end of the month the Bulgarians were thoroughly beaten and concluded an armistice with the Allies. The German success in Romania was nullified in November when, with the support of Allied troops who had advanced into Romania after the Bulgarian capitulation, Romania reentered the war on the Allied side. After the conclusion of the Bulgarian armistice, the Serbian part of the Allied army continued to advance, occupying Belgrade on November 1, while the Italian army invaded and occupied Albania.
On the Italian-Austro-Hungarian front, the Austrians, in June, attacked on the Piave and succeeded in crossing the river, only to be driven back with the loss of about 100,000 men. In October-November the Allies definitely gained the victory in Italy, routing the Austrians in an offensive that culminated in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto (October 24-November 4). The Allies completely shattered the Austrian army in this campaign; they took several hundred thousand prisoners and the remainder of the Austrian army fled into Austria. On November 3 the Italians at last took Trieste, and on November 5 they occupied Fiume. The shock of the defeat precipitated revolutionary events in Austria-Hungary. The Czechs and the Slovaks had already set up a separate state; in October the South Slavs proclaimed their independence, and in December set up an independent kingdom, later part of Yugoslavia (now Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia). In November the Hungarians established an independent government. The Austro-Hungarian government at Vienna concluded an armistice with the Allies on November 3 and nine days later the last Habsburg emperor, Charles I, abdicated; on the following day the Austrian Republic was proclaimed.
During 1918 the Allies also brought the campaigning in Palestine to a successful conclusion. In September the British forces broke through the Turkish lines at Megiddo and routed the Turkish army and the German corps that was assisting it; after being joined by Arab forces under Lawrence, the British took Lebanon and Syria. In October they captured Damascus, Halab (Aleppo), and other key points, while French naval forces occupied Bayrt, and the Turkish government asked for an armistice. An armistice was concluded on October 30, and by its terms the Turks were obliged to demobilize, break relations with the Central Powers, and permit Allied warships to pass through the Dardanelles.
Last German Efforts
Despite the German victories over Russia and Romania in 1917, at the outset of 1918 the Allies, principally through their spokesperson Woodrow Wilson, formulated war aims drastically opposed to those already stated by the Central Powers; Wilson’s peace policy was enunciated in an address to the U.S. Congress and comprised 14 points designed to bring about a just peace, which were of considerable influence in inducing the Central Powers to cease hostilities later in the year. At the beginning of 1918 the Germans, realizing that victory by means of submarine warfare was impossible, and that they must force a decision on the western front before American troops might take up positions there in force, planned for the spring of the year an all-out effort to break through the Allied lines and reach Paris. The opening drive of their powerful offensive, which began on March 21, was directed at the British front south of Arras. The drive hurled the British lines back 65 km (40 mi) before it was halted, on April 5, principally by hastily summoned French reserves. The fear of a German breakthrough aroused among the Allies by the German success in the first week of the offensive caused the Allies to appoint General (later Marshal) Ferdinand Foch in charge of assuring coordination of Allied operations; in the following month he was made commander in chief of the Allied armies—French, Belgian, British, and American—in France. During April a second German thrust took Messines Ridge and Armentières from the British, and in June a powerful German surprise attack against the French on the Aisne drove a salient 65 km (40 mi) deep into the French position and enabled the Germans to reach a point of the Marne only 60 km (37 mi) from Paris. During this battle American troops first went into action in force; together with French troops, the U.S. Second Division halted (June 4) the German advance at Château-Thierry. The Germans made additional gains of terrain in June, but by the middle of July the force of their offensive had largely been spent. In the Second Battle of the Marne, they succeeded in crossing the river, but once they were across their progress was halted by French and American troops. Sensing that the German drive had lost its power, General Foch on July 18 ordered a counterattack. The attack drove the Germans back over the Marne, and the Allies took the initiative on the western front that they retained to the end of the war.
End of the War in Europe
Beginning with a British drive (August 8-11) into the German lines around Amiens, the Allies began the offensive that three months later resulted in German capitulation. During the last week of August and the first three days of September, British and French forces won the Second Battle of the Somme and the Fifth Battle of Arras, and drove the Germans back to the Hindenburg line. A particularly strong German salient at Saint-Mihiel was then reduced by American troops (September 12-13), who took more than 14,000 prisoners. In October and early November the British moved toward Cambrai and the Americans advanced partly through the Argonne Forest. The latter thrust broke the German lines between Metz and Sedan. As a result of these offensives, Ludendorff requested his government to seek an armistice with the Allies. The German government initiated armistice talks (October) with the Allies, but they failed when President Wilson insisted on negotiating only with democratic governments. The British advance meanwhile made rapid progress in northern France and along the Belgian coast, and on November 10, U.S. and French troops reached Sedan. By the beginning of November the Hindenburg line had been completely broken, and Germans were in rapid retreat on the entire western front. The defeat of the German army had domestic political repercussions that were catastrophic to the established German government. The German fleet mutinied; an uprising dethroned the king of Bavaria; and in November Emperor William II abdicated and fled to the Netherlands. The German republic was proclaimed on November 9. An armistice commission had already been dispatched to negotiate with the Allies. At 5 AM on November 11, an armistice was signed at Compiègne between Germany and the Allies on terms laid down by the Allies; at 11 the same morning hostilities ended on the western front.
The forces in the German colonies of Africa and the Pacific, with the chief exception of those in German East Africa in late 1917 and 1918, generally fought on the defensive. They were in some cases swiftly overcome, and in others gradually, but by the end of the war in 1918 practically all had capitulated to the Allies.
In 1914 the German colonies in Africa consisted of Togoland, the Cameroons (German. Kamerun), German Southwest Africa, and German East Africa. An Anglo-French force took possession of Togoland in August 1914. In September of that year a British force invaded the Cameroons from Nigeria, and a French force invaded from French Equatorial Africa to the east and south of the Cameroons. After many campaigns in which the Germans several times defeated the Allied Forces, German resistance was finally overcome in February 1916. German Southwest Africa was conquered, between September 1914 and July 1915, by troops from the Union of South Africa. The most important of the German possessions, German East Africa, displayed the strongest resistance to the attacks of the Allies. Early assaults by British and Indian troops (November 1914) were repulsed by the Germans under General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck. In November 1915, British naval units gained control of Lake Tanganyika, and the following year the Allied forces (British, South Africans, and Portuguese) intended for the invasion of German East Africa were placed under the command of General Jan Christiaan Smuts. In 1916 the Allies captured the principal towns of German East Africa, including Tanga, Bagamoyo, Dar es-Salaam, and Tabora, and Lettow-Vorbeck’s troops then retreated into the southeast section of the colony. Late in 1917, however, the German forces took the offensive, invading Portuguese East Africa; and in November 1918 they began an invasion of Rhodesia. When the armistice was signed in Europe in 1918, the troops in German East Africa were still fighting, even though most of the colony was in the hands of the Allies. Lettow-Vorbeck surrendered three days after the European armistice was declared.
In the Pacific a force from New Zealand captured the German-held portions of Samoa in August 1914 and in September, Australian forces occupied German possessions in the Bismarck Archipelago and New Guinea. Japanese forces took the fortress of Qingdao (Tsingtao), a German-held port in Shandong (Shan-tung) Province, China, in November 1914, and between August and November of that year took possession of the German-held Marshall Islands, the Mariana Islands, the Palau group of islands, and the Carolines. After the war ended, Japan retained Qingdao until 1922, and received a mandate over the Marshall Islands, many of the Marianas (including Saipan), and over the Palau group and the Carolines.
The War at Sea
At the outset of war the main British fleet, the Grand Fleet, consisted of 20 dreadnoughts and numerous other ships, including battle cruisers, cruisers, and destroyers; and Grand Fleet was based principally on Scapa Flow, in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland. A second British fleet, consisting of older ships, was used to guard the English Channel. The German fleet, the High Seas Fleet, consisting of 13 dreadnoughts, was based on the North Sea ports of Germany.
During 1914 no major naval engagements between the belligerents took place in the Atlantic. The British raided the German naval base at Helgoland Bight, an island off Germany in the North Sea, sinking three German ships. German submarines sunk several British naval units, including the superdreadnought Audacious (October 27); and a daring attempt by German submarines to raid Scapa Flow caused the British naval units stationed there to withdraw to bases on the west coast of Scotland.
In the South Pacific a squadron of German cruisers under the command of Admiral Maximilian von Spee did considerable damage to installations at the French island of Papeete and the British-held Fanning Island (September and October 1914); defeated a British squadron off the headland of Coronel, Chile (November 1); and on December 8 was defeated with the loss of four out of its five ships in the Battle of Falkland Islands by a British squadron under Admiral Sir Frederick Sturdee. During 1914 and the early part of 1915 German cruisers did considerable damage to British shipping in the Indian Ocean and elsewhere until captured or otherwise put out of commission.
The year 1915 was notable for the submarine blockade Germany instituted around Great Britain. The sinking by German submarine action of the British passenger liner Lusitania on May 7 caused the loss of many American lives, leading to a controversy between the United States and Germany that almost precipitated war between the two nations. The firm stand taken by the U.S. forced Germany to modify its method of submarine warfare to the satisfaction of the American government. In March 1916, however, the German sinking in the English Channel by submarine of the French steamer Sussex, with the loss of American lives, led to another controversy between Germany and the U.S., a virtual U.S. ultimatum compelling Germany temporarily to cease its unrestricted submarine warfare.
1916 and After
The most important naval engagement of the war was the Battle of Jutland, waged on May 31 and June 1, 1916, between the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet. Although the British losses, both in ships and human lives, were greater than Germany’s, the German fleet, having returned to home ports, did not venture to give battle again during the war, and the British retained their supremacy at sea. Nevertheless, during the remainder of the war, German cruisers managed to run the blockade of Germany, which the British had established from the outset of the war. The Germans sank considerable tonnage of Allied shipping in the North Atlantic and then returned to their bases. In 1917 the Germans again resorted to unrestricted submarine warfare, convinced that this method was the only one that would defeat Great Britain. The plan not only failed to force the capitulation of Great Britain, but also caused the U.S. to declare war against Germany. The attacks of German submarines on British convoys in the Atlantic and in the North Sea caused much loss of shipping. As a result, in April 1918 the British attempted to block the German submarine bases at Ostend (Oostende) and Zeebrugge in Belgium; they succeeded in partially blocking Zeebrugge by sinking three overage British cruisers in the harbor, but failed at Ostend. In October, however, British land forces, advancing through Belgium, took the two submarine bases and other Belgian ports.
German Fleet Scuttled
By the terms of the armistice the Germans surrendered to the Allies most of their fleet, consisting of 10 battleships, 17 cruisers, 50 torpedo boats, and more than 100 submarines. All of the fleet with the exception of the submarines was interned at Scapa Flow in November 1918, with German captains and crews aboard. The Treaty of Versailles (1919), which ended the war, provided that all the interned ships become the permanent property of the Allies; that other warships still in German possession also be surrendered; and that the size of any future German navy be drastically limited. In reprisal against these terms, the Germans on June 21, 1919, scuttled their ships interned at Scapa Flow. See Versailles, Treaty of.
The total tonnage of Allied ships sunk by German submarines, surface craft, and mines was nearly 13 million; the largest tonnage sunk in any one year was about 6 million, in 1917.
The War in the Air
The Great War provided a great stimulus to the production and military use of aircraft, including the airplane and airship, or dirigible balloon, and the tethered balloon. Aircraft were used for two principal purposes: observation and bombing. For observation of stationary battlefronts extensive use was made by both belligerents of small tethered balloons; for scouting at sea, dirigible balloons were extensively used, and airplanes were used for scouting coastal waters. In connection with military operations on land, airplanes were used to observe the disposition of the troops and defenses of the enemy and for bombing the enemy’s lines or troops in action. A special feature of the war was the raids conducted by means of dirigibles or airplanes on important enemy centers far removed from the battlefront.
The first German airplane raid on Paris took place on August 30, 1914; and the first German air raid on England was on Dover on December 21, 1914. During 1915 and 1916 the German type of dirigible known as the zeppelin raided eastern England and London 60 times. The first German airplane raid on London took place on November 28, 1916, and such raids were frequent during the remainder of the war. The object of the German raids on England was to bring about withdrawal of British planes from the western front for the defense of the homeland; to handicap British industry; and to destroy the morale of the civilian population. The raids caused much loss of life and damage to property but accomplished little of military value.
From the middle of 1915 aerial combats between planes or groups of planes of the belligerents were common. The Germans had superiority in the air on the western front from about October 1915 to July 1916, when the supremacy passed to the British. Allied supremacy gradually increased thereafter and with the entrance of the U.S. into the war became overwhelming. In April 1918 the U.S. had three air squadrons at the front; by November 1918 it had 45 squadrons comprising nearly 800 planes and more than 1200 officers. The total personnel of the American air service increased from about 1200 at the outbreak of the war to nearly 200,000 at the end. Among the noted airplane fighters, or aces, were the American Eddie Rickenbacker, the Canadian William Avery Bishop, and the German Baron Manfred von Richthofen.
The World After The Great War
Despite worldwide hopes that the settlements arrived at after the war would restore world peace on a permanent basis, The Great War actually provided the basis for an even more devastating conflict. The defeated Central Powers declared their acceptance of President Wilson’s 14 points as the basis for the armistice and expected the Allies to utilize the principles of the 14 points as the foundation for the peace treaties. On the whole, however, the Allies came to the conference at Versailles and to the subsequent peace conferences with the determination to exact from the Central Powers the entire cost of the war, and to distribute among themselves territories and possessions of the defeated nations according to formulas arrived at secretly during the years 1915 to 1917, before the entry of the U.S. into the war. President Wilson, in the peace negotiations, at first insisted that the Paris Peace Conference accept the full program laid out in the 14 points, but finally, in order to secure the support of the Allies for the all-important 14th point, which called for the creation of an association of nations, he abandoned his insistence on some of the other points. See League of Nations.
The peace treaties that emerged from the conferences at Versailles, Saint-Germain, Trianon, Neuilly, and Sèvres were on the whole inadequately enforced by the victorious powers, leading to the resurgence of militarism and aggressive nationalism in Germany and to social disorder throughout much of Europe.
Three major powers had been dissatisfied with the outcome of The Great War. Germany, the principal defeated nation, bitterly resented the territorial losses and reparations payments imposed on it by the Treaty of Versailles. Italy, one of the victors, found its territorial gains far from enough either to offset the cost of the war or to satisfy its ambitions. Japan, also a victor, was unhappy about its failure to gain control of China.
France, Great Britain, and the U.S. had attained their wartime objectives. They had reduced Germany to a military cipher and had reorganized Europe and the world as they saw fit. The French and the British frequently disagreed on policy in the postwar period, however, and were unsure of their ability to defend the peace settlement. The U.S., disillusioned by the Europeans’ failure to repay their war debts, retreated into isolationism.
The Failure of Peace Efforts
During the 1920s, attempts were made to achieve a stable peace. The first was the establishment (1920) of the League of Nations as a forum in which nations could settle their disputes. The league’s powers were limited to persuasion and various levels of moral and economic sanctions that the members were free to carry out as they saw fit. At the Washington Conference of 1921-22, the principal naval powers agreed to limit their navies according to a fixed ratio. The Locarno Conference (1925) produced a treaty guarantee of the German-French boundary and an arbitration agreement between Germany and Poland. In the Paris Peace Pact (1928), 63 countries, including all the great powers except the Russian Empire, renounced war as an instrument of national policy and pledged to resolve all disputes among them “by pacific means.” The signatories had agreed beforehand to exempt wars of “self-defense.”
The Rise of Fascism
One of the victors’ stated aims in The Great War had been “to make the world safe for democracy,” and postwar Germany adopted a democratic constitution, as did most of the other states restored or created after the war. In the 1920s, however, the wave of the future appeared to be a form of nationalistic, militaristic totalitarianism known by its Italian name, fascism. It promised to minister to peoples’ wants more effectively than democracy and presented itself as the one sure defense against communism. Benito Mussolini established the first Fascist dictatorship in Italy in 1922.
Formation of the Axis Coalition
Adolf Hitler, the Führer (“leader”) of the German National Socialist (Nazi) party, preached a racist brand of fascism. Hitler promised to overturn the Versailles Treaty and secure additional Lebensraum (“living space”) for the German people, who he contended deserved more as members of a superior race. In the early 1930s, the depression hit Germany. The moderate parties could not agree on what to do about it, and large numbers of voters turned to the Nazis and Communists. In 1933 Hitler became the German chancellor, and in a series of subsequent moves established himself as dictator.
Japan did not formally adopt fascism, but the armed forces’ powerful position in the government enabled them to impose a similar type of totalitarianism. As dismantlers of the world status quo, the Japanese military were well ahead of Hitler. They used a minor clash with Chinese troops near Mukden in 1931 as a pretext for taking over all of Manchuria, where they proclaimed the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932. In 1937-38 they occupied the main Chinese ports.
Having denounced the disarmament clauses of the Versailles Treaty, created a new air force, and reintroduced conscription, Hitler tried out his new weapons on the side of right-wing military rebels in the Spanish Civil War (1936-). The venture brought him into collaboration with Mussolini, who was also supporting the Spanish revolt after having seized (1935-36) Ethiopia in a small war. Treaties between Germany, Italy, and Japan in 1936-37 brought into being the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. The Axis thereafter became the collective term for those countries and their allies.
The Twentieth Century
For most Europeans, the years 1871-1914 constituted La Belle Époque (“the beautiful times”). Science had made life more comfortable and secure, representative government had achieved wide acceptance in principle, and continued progress was confidently expected. Proud of their accomplishments and convinced that history had assigned them a civilizing mission, Europe’s powers laid colonial claim to vast territories in Africa and Asia. Some believed, however, that Europe was dancing on a volcano. The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and the German sociologist Max Weber cautioned against a facile optimism and dismissed the liberal conception of rational humanity, while artists such as the Dutch Vincent van Gogh and the Norwegian Edvard Munch explored the darker regions of the human heart. Such forebodings began to seem less eccentric in the light of contemporary challenges to the liberal consensus. A new and virulent strain of anti-Semitism infected the political life of Austria-Hungary, Russia, and France; in the home of the revolution, the Dreyfus affair threatened to bring down the Third Republic. National rivalries were exacerbated by imperial competition, and the nationality problem in the Hungarian half of the Habsburg monarchy intensified as a result of the government’s Magyarization policies and the example German and Italian unifications set for the Slavic peoples.
As the industrial working class grew in number and organized strength, Marxist social-democratic parties pressured European governments to equalize conditions as well as opportunities. In the midst of an increasingly unsettled atmosphere, Emperor William II of Germany dismissed Bismarck in 1890. For two decades the Iron Chancellor had served as Europe’s “honest broker,” juggling with great dexterity a bewildering array of alliances and alignments and thereby maintaining the peace. None of his successors possessed the skill needed to preserve Bismarck’s system, and when the incompetent emperor jettisoned realpolitik in favor of Weltpolitik (imperial politics), England, France, and Russia formed the Triple Entente.
The Great War
The German danger, coupled with Russian-Austrian rivalry in the Balkans, created a diplomatic configuration that presented difficulties far too great for the mediocre men who headed European foreign offices on the eve of 1914. When the Serbian terrorist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, he ignited the diplomatic powder keg.
The enthusiasm with which the European peoples greeted the outbreak of hostilities quickly turned to horror as casualty lists lengthened and limited aims became irrelevant. What had been projected as a brief war between states became a four-year struggle between peoples. When the guns finally did fall silent in the last weeks of 1918, the greater part of a generation of young men lay dead. Turning a deaf ear to both prophets of a world transformed, France and England insisted upon a punitive peace, and Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey were obliged to sign treaties that had nothing to do with messianic dreams.
The Post-war Period
In the wake of the catastrophic war and an influenza epidemic that claimed 20 million lives worldwide, many Europeans believed, with the German philosopher Oswald Spengler, that they were witnessing the decline of the West. Signs of hope, to be sure, could still be found; the League of Nations had been created, and the principle of self-determination was said to have triumphed in east-central Europe. The League of Nations exerted little influence, however, and nationalism continued to be a double-edged sword. The creation of nation-states in Central Europe necessarily entailed national minorities, because ethnicity could not be the sole criterion for the construction of defensible frontiers. Most important, perhaps, the Treaty of Versailles, with its war-guilt clause, had wounded German national pride, and Italians were convinced that they had been denied their rightful share of the postwar spoils.
Exploiting national discontent, Benito Mussolini established a Fascist dictatorship in 1922 (see Fascism). Although his political doctrine was vague and contradictory, he recognized that in an age of mass politics, a blend of nationalism and socialism possessed the greatest revolutionary potential. In Germany, inflation and depression provided Adolf Hitler with an opportunity to combine the same two revolutionary ideologies. For all his nihilism, Hitler never doubted that the National Socialist German Workers’ party was the promising vehicle for his ambition.
1871 to 1914
In the decades after the Franco-Prussian War national security was a constant concern. A united Germany was outstripping France in heavy industry and in population, and France after 1871 was without allies. Encouraged by Bismarck, the French government turned to colonial expansion and established a new colonial empire in Africa and Asia, larger than the empire lost in the 18th century and second in extent only to the British Empire. In the 1890s a cooling in relations between Russia and Germany gave the French a long-awaited opportunity to win an ally on Germany’s eastern frontier. In 1894 France and Russia concluded a defensive alliance providing for mutual military assistance against attacks by Germany or Austria-Hungary. A decade later a common fear of Germany moved France and Britain to settle their colonial differences and to begin consultations on joint military and naval operations in Europe. In 1907 Britain and Russia resolved their differences, and France, Russia, and Britain were then joined in the Triple Entente, facing the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. The threat of war hung ominously over the decade before 1914, and recurring crises brought its outbreak near in 1905, 1908 and 1909, 1911, and 1913.
The assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne by Serbian nationalists in June 1914 precipitated a new crisis. France’s interests were not directly involved in a Balkan quarrel between Austria-Hungary and Russia, but the government backed its Russian ally, fearing that anything less would weaken the alliance on which French security depended. Germany, supporting its ally, Austria-Hungary, declared war on Russia on August 1, and two days later, after France had refused to promise to remain neutral, declared war on France.
The Great War
When France went to war in August 1914, the French people almost without exception rallied to the defense of their country, setting aside the bitter class and political conflicts of the preceding decades. The German armies marched across Belgium and into northern France and advanced to within a few kilometers of Paris before being turned back in the Battle of the Marne in early September. They withdrew some 50 to 100 km (30 to 60 mi) and entrenched themselves on a line running from the English Channel to the Swiss frontier, deep within French territory.
During the next four years military operations on this line, known as the Western Front, were essentially efforts to break through the opposing trench lines and resume a war of movement. The machine gun and heavy artillery favored the defense, and attacks usually gained only a few square kilometers at a frightful human cost. By the end of 1914 France had lost 300,000 dead and another 600,000 wounded, captured, or missing. The defense of Verdun alone cost 270,000 French lives in 1916. After the bloody failure of the spring offensive in 1917, some French units refused to move into front-line positions, and the disobedience spread to more than half the French divisions. At the same time the security of the home front was threatened by war-weariness, strikes, and growing demands for a negotiated peace. General Philippe Pétain took command of the army and by a wise combination of punishment and concession restored discipline and morale. At home a new ministry headed by Georges Clemenceau silenced defeatists and renewed the will to continue the war.
In July 1918 a unified Allied command, the entry of large numbers of American troops into combat, and the attrition of the German war machine enabled the Allies to mount an offensive that forced the German government to ask for peace. On November 11, 1918, the newly established German Republic accepted an armistice and on June 28, 1919, signed for a formal peace treaty. France recovered Alsace and Lorraine. The German army was limited to 100,000 troops, a strip 50 km (30 mi) wide on the east bank of the Rhine River was demilitarized, and Germany agreed to pay reparations for damage done to French civilian property. France was the great Continental victor in the war, but at a staggering cost. About 1,394,000 men, a quarter of all Frenchmen between the ages of 18 and 30, had been killed, and the northeastern departments were devastated.
The most pressing domestic problem after the war was the stabilization of the franc. When price controls were lifted at the war’s end, the value of the franc plummeted from 20 U.S. cents to 6 and eventually to 2. In 1926 it was stabilized at one-fifth its prewar value. The bourgeoisie, who had been the core of the Republic’s support and who depended on their savings, were especially hard hit by the devaluation. The late 1920s and early 1930s was a brief interlude of prosperity and calm. It was ended by the Great Depression, which, beginning in 1932 in France, brought new threats to the Republic, as did the resurgence after 1933 of a militant, aggressive Germany. In 1934 the threat of fascism at home and abroad moved the Radical-Socialist, Socialist, and Communist parties to join in the Popular Front to defend the Republic and to press for overdue social legislation. Winning control of the Chamber of Deputies in 1936, the Popular Front government led by Léon Blum dissolved Fascist organizations and won enactment of laws establishing vacations with pay, the 40-hour week, and compulsory collective bargaining. It had not completed its program when it foundered in 1938 in party quarrels and the growing threat of war.
The Search for Security
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s national security continued to be a primary preoccupation of the government. Britain and the United States failed to give the expected guarantees of military support against Germany. France sought security, therefore, in armaments and in alliances with Belgium and eastern European states that could, like Russia before 1914, threaten Germany with a two-front war should it attack France. France’s army, however, lacked the mobility and offensive power to come to the aid of its eastern allies if they were attacked. Adolf Hitler won power in Germany in 1933 and began to rearm. When France failed to react against his aggressive moves, the eastern alliance system disintegrated. Britain again became France’s one dependable ally, and France’s policy was increasingly tied to Britain’s.
The Modern City
The Great War (1914-1918) marked the beginning of a period of urban decay for Paris. A burgeoning population depleted city services. Housing never kept pace with demand, and the political strikes of the 1930s weakened the Third Republic’s pledge to improve conditions. As Germany threatens occupation, the future of Paris looks bleak.
In pursuing its interests in Korea, Japan inevitably came into conflict with Russia. Resentment against Russia was already high, because that country had been the principal agent in depriving Japan of the Liaodong Peninsula after the Chinese war. The two countries signed a treaty pledging the independence of Korea in 1898, but allowing Japanese commercial interest to predominate. In 1900, following the Boxer Rebellion in China, Russia occupied Manchuria and, from bases there, began to penetrate northern Korea.
In 1904, after repeated attempts to negotiate the matter had failed, Japan broke off diplomatic relations with Russia and attacked Russian-leased Port Arthur (now part of Dalian) in southern Manchuria, beginning the Russo-Japanese War. Japan won its second modern war in less than 18 months. The peace treaty, mediated by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, was signed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on September 5, 1905. Japan was awarded the lease (to 1923, later extended to 1997) of the Liaodong Peninsula, including the Guangdong (Kwangtung) territory, and the southern half of Sakhalin, thereafter known as Karafuto. Moreover, Russia acknowledged the paramount interest of Japan in Korea. Five years later (1910) Korea was formally annexed to Japan and named Chosen.
Japanese-American relations had for some years been strained by difficulties over Japanese immigration to the United States. Thousands of Japanese had settled in the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, and the American residents of these states demanded the exclusion of the Japanese by legislation similar to the Chinese Exclusion Acts of 1882, 1892, and 1902. This agitation was led by American labor unions, resenting the fact that Japanese laborers were willing to work for lower wages and longer hours than those called for by American labor policies. Formal protests against the treatment of Japanese in Pacific Coast states were delivered by the Japanese ambassador in Washington in 1906, and, after a series of negotiations, Japan and the United States concluded a so-called gentleman’s agreement in 1908. By this extralegal agreement, confirmed in 1911, Japan consented to withhold passports from laborers, and the U.S. Department of State promised to disapprove anti-Japanese legislation. The problem, however, was never fully resolved, and it contributed to anti-American feeling in Japan, which increased in the following three decades.
The Great War (1914-1918)
In August 1914, following the outbreak of The Great War, Japan sent an ultimatum to Germany, demanding the evacuation of the German-leased territory of Jiaozhou (Kiaochow) in northeastern China. When Germany refused to comply, Japan entered the war on the side of the Allies. Japanese troops occupied the German-held Marshall, Caroline, and Mariana islands in the Pacific Ocean. In 1915 the empire submitted the Twenty-One Demands to China, calling for industrial, railroad, and mining privileges and a promise that China would not lease or give any coastal territory opposite Taiwan to a nation other than Japan. These demands, some of which were quickly granted, were the first statement of the Japanese policy of domination over China and East Asia. A year later, in 1916, China ceded commercial rights in Inner Mongolia and southern Manchuria to Japan.
As a result of the The Great War peace settlement, Japan received the Pacific Islands, which it had occupied as mandates from the League of Nations, the empire having become a charter member of that organization. The leased territory of Jiaozhou was also awarded to Japan, but the empire restored it to China in 1922 as a result of an agreement, the Shandong (Shantung) Treaty, made during the Washington Conference in 1922. This conference also resulted in the replacement of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance by the Four-Power Treaty, by which Japan, France, Great Britain, and the United States pledged themselves to respect one another’s territories in the Pacific Ocean and to consult if their territorial rights were threatened. The Nine-Power Treaty (Belgium, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Japan, France, Italy, China, and the United States) bound the signatories to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of China. An additional treaty between Great Britain, the United States, Japan, France, and Italy dealt with naval disarmament on a 5-5-3-1.67-to-1.67 ratio, respectively, with the Japanese navy being limited to 315,000 tons of capital ships.
With the adoption of the Shandong and Nine-Power treaties, Japan demonstrated a conciliatory attitude toward China. Nevertheless, Japanese commercial interests in China were still regarded as paramount over Chinese interests. Russo-Japanese relations, which had become strained after the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the subsequent invasion of Siberia and northern Sakhalin by the Japanese in 1918, became more amicable after Japan recognized the Soviet regime in 1925. This less aggressive attitude on the part of Japan was due partly to a surge of political liberalism stimulated by the victory of the democratic nations in The Great War. Beginning in 1919 the government was assailed with increasing demands for universal male suffrage, an issue that occasioned rioting in the cities. In answer to these demands the government passed in 1919 a reform act doubling the electorate (to 3 million). The protests became even more intense, however, and universal male suffrage was granted in 1925. The electorate increased sharply, to 14 million. Reflecting the rising interest in popular government, the political trend during the 1920s was toward party cabinets and away from oligarchic rule by the nobility, the military leaders, and the so-called elder statesmen. This movement was short-lived, however.
Ascendancy of the Militarists
In 1926 Hirohito, the unassuming grandson of Emperor Meiji, succeeded to the throne. He adopted Showa (“enlightened peace”) as the official designation for his reign, but when General Baron Tanaka Giichi became prime minister in 1927, he declared the resumption of an aggressive policy toward China. The impelling force in this change of policy lay in the expansion of Japanese industry, which had begun with the start of The Great War in 1914 and was still continuing at a rapid pace, requiring new markets for the increased output.
Occupation of Manchuria
In the late 1920s Japan, in effect, gained domination of the administrative and economic affairs of Manchuria. The Chinese, however, increasingly resented Japanese interference in what was, technically, part of China. On September 18, 1931, the Japanese army in Guangdong, claiming that an explosion on the Japanese-owned South Manchuria Railroad had been caused by Chinese saboteurs, seized the arsenals of Shenyang (Mukden) and of several neighboring cities. Chinese troops were forced to withdraw from the area. Entirely without official sanction by the Japanese government, the Guangdong army extended its operations into all Manchuria and, in about five months, was in possession of the entire region. Manchuria was then established as the puppet state of Manchukuo; Henry Pu-Yi (Hsüan T’ung as last emperor of China) was crowned emperor of Manchukuo in 1934 as K’ang Te.
All pretense of party government in Japan was abandoned as a result of the occupation of Manchuria. Viscount Saito Makoto formed a so-called national cabinet composed chiefly of men who belonged to no party. The international repercussions of the Manchurian incident resulted in an inquiry by a League of Nations commission, acting by authority of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. In 1933, when the League Assembly requested that Japan cease hostilities in China, Japan instead announced its withdrawal from the league, to take effect in 1935. To consolidate its gains in China, Japan landed troops in Shanghai to quell an effective Chinese boycott of Japanese goods. In the north the Japanese Manchurian army occupied and annexed the province of Chengde (Jehol) and threatened to occupy the cities of Beijing and Tientsin. Unable to resist the superior Japanese forces, China, in May 1933, recognized the Japanese conquest by signing a truce.
The independent action of the army indicated the power of the military leaders in Japanese politics. In 1936 the empire signed an anti-Communist agreement with Germany and, one year later, a similar pact with Italy. The establishment of almost complete military rule, with the cooperation of the Zaibatzu, or family trusts, made aggression and expansion the avowed policy of the empire.
War with China
On July 7, 1937, a Chinese patrol clashed with Japanese troops on the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing. Using the incident as a pretext to begin hostilities, the Japanese army in Manchuria moved troops into the area, precipitating another Sino-Japanese war, although it was never actually declared. A Japanese force quickly overran northern China. By the end of 1937 the Japanese navy had completed a blockade of almost the entire Chinese coast. The army advanced into eastern and southern China throughout 1937 and 1938, capturing, successively, Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Guangzhou (Canton), and Hankou, and forcing the Chinese army into the west. A Japanese force occupied the island of Hainan. Protests by foreign governments concerning property owned by their nationals and mistreatment by Japanese troops of foreigners resident in China, were, in effect, ignored by the empire. By the end of 1938 the war had reached a virtual stalemate. The Japanese army was checked by the mountains of central China, behind which the Chinese waged guerrilla warfare against the invaders.
Japan, meanwhile, was subjected to a controlled war economy. In 1937 a cabinet headed by Prince Konoye Fumimaro relegated the entire conduct of the war, without government interference, to military and naval leaders.
Black Dragon Society (Japanese Kokuryukai), secret organization of Japanese ultranationalists, active from the early 20th century through present. Named for the Amur (Black Dragon) River, it was founded by Ryohei Uchida in 1901 to agitate for a war with Russia and a Japanese advance to the Amur River. The society was active in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 and subsequently supported Japanese expansionism. It played a major role in the annexation of Korea (1910) and the seizure of Manchuria (1931), thus realizing its expansionist ambition.
The underlying causes of the Russian Revolution are rooted deep in Russia’s history. For centuries, autocratic and repressive czarist regimes ruled the country and most of the population lived under severe economic and social conditions. During the 19th century and early 20th century various movements aimed at overthrowing the oppressive government were staged at different times by students, workers, peasants, and members of the nobility. Two of these unsuccessful movements were the 1825 revolt against Nicholas I and the revolution of 1905, both of which were attempts to establish a constitutional monarchy. Russia’s badly organized and unsuccessful involvement in The Great War (1914-1918) added to popular discontent with the government’s corruption and inefficiency. In 1917 another attempt at overthrowing the government took place, which had wider success.
The February Coup
The immediate cause of the February Coup of 1917 was the collapse of the czarist regime under the gigantic strain of The Great War. The underlying cause was the backward economic condition of the country, which made it unable to sustain the war effort against powerful, industrialized Germany. Russian manpower was virtually inexhaustible. Russian industry, however, lacked the capacity to arm, equip, and supply the some 15 million men who were sent into the war. Factories were few and insufficiently productive, and the railroad network was inadequate. Repeated mobilizations, moreover, disrupted industrial and agricultural production. The food supply decreased, and the transportation system became disorganized. In the trenches, the soldiers went hungry and frequently lacked shoes or munitions, sometimes even weapons. Russian casualties were greater than those sustained by any army in any previous war. Behind the front, goods became scarce, prices skyrocketed, and by 1917 famine threatened the larger cities. Discontent became rife, and the morale of the army suffered, finally to be undermined by a succession of military defeats. These reverses were attributed by many to the alleged treachery of Empress Alexandra and her circle, in which the peasant monk Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin was the dominant influence. When the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, protested against the inefficient conduct of the war and the arbitrary policies of the imperial government, the czar—Emperor Nicholas II—and his ministers simply brushed it aside.
At first all parties except a small group within the Social Democratic party supported the war. The government received much aid in the war effort from voluntary committees, including representatives of business and labor. The growing breakdown of supply, made worse by the almost complete isolation of Russia from its prewar markets, was felt especially in the major cities, which were flooded with refugees from the front. Despite an outward calm, many Duma leaders felt that Russia would soon be confronted with a new revolutionary crisis. By 1915 the liberal parties had formed a progressive bloc that gained a majority in the Duma.
As the tide of discontent mounted, the Duma warned Nicholas II in November 1916 that disaster would overtake the country unless the “dark” (treasonable) elements were removed from the court and a constitutional form of government was instituted. The emperor ignored the warning. Late in December a group of aristocrats, led by Prince Feliks Yusupov, assassinated Rasputin (supposedly) in the hope that the emperor would then change his course. The emperor responded by showing favor to Rasputin’s followers at court. Talk of a palace revolution in order to avert a greater impending upheaval became widespread, especially among the upper ranks.
Strikes and Demonstrations
The Coup of 1917 grew out of a mounting wave of food and wage strikes in Petrograd during February. On February 23 meetings and demonstrations in which the principal slogan was a demand for bread were held, supported by the 90,000 men and women on strike in the national capital. Encounters with the police were numerous, but the workers refused to disperse and continued to occupy the streets. Tension steadily increased but no casualties resulted.
Agitation grew the following day, February 24, until it involved about half the workers of Petrograd. The slogans now were bolder: “Down with the war!” “Down with autocracy!” On February 25 the strike became general throughout the capital. During these two days violent encounters took place with the police, with casualties on both sides. The dreaded cossack troops, however, which had been called out to support the police, showed little enthusiasm for breaking up the demonstrations (see Cossacks). The workers captured several police stations, seized the small arms inside, and then burned the stations to the ground; the police went into hiding. The first elections to the Petrograd Soviet (council) of Workers’ Deputies were held in several factories, on the model of the Soviet of 1905, which had been formed during a revolution at the end of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).
Confrontation with Troops
On February 26 the troops of the Petrograd garrison were called out to suppress the uprising. When the workers and soldiers came face to face in the streets, the workers tried to fraternize with the soldiers. In some of these encounters the troops were hostile and fired on order, killing a number of workers. The workers fled, but did not abandon the streets. As soon as the firing ceased they returned to confront the soldiers. In subsequent encounters the troops wavered when ordered to fire, allowing the workers to pass through their lines. Nicholas dissolved the Duma; the deputies accepted the decree but reassembled privately and elected a provisional committee of the state duma to act in its place. On February 27 the revolution triumphed. Regiment after regiment of the Petrograd garrison went over to the people. Within 24 hours the entire garrison, approximately 150,000 men, joined the revolution, and the united workers and soldiers took control of the capital. The uprising claimed about 1500 victims.
The Petrograd Soviet
The imperial government was quickly dispersed. Effective political power subsequently was exercised by two new bodies, the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and a provisional government formed by the provisional committee of the Duma. The Soviet, a representative body of elected deputies, immediately appointed a commission to cope with the problem of ensuring a food supply for the capital, placed detachments of revolutionary soldiers in the government offices, and ordered the release of thousands of political prisoners. On February 28 the Soviet ordered the arrest of Nicholas’s ministers and began publishing an official organ, Izvestia (Russian for “news”). On March 1 it issued its famous Order No. 1. By the terms of this order, the soldiers of the army and the sailors of the fleet were to submit to the authority of the Soviet and its committees in all political matters; they were to obey only those orders that did not conflict with the directives of the Soviet; they were to elect committees that would exercise exclusive control over all weapons; on duty, they were to observe strict military discipline, but harsh and contemptuous treatment by the officers was forbidden; disputes between soldiers’ committees and officers were to be referred to the Soviet for disposition; off-duty soldiers and sailors were to enjoy full civil and political rights; and saluting of officers was abolished. Subsequent efforts by the Soviet to limit and nullify its own Order No. 1 were unavailing, and it continued in force.
The Petrograd Soviet easily could have assumed complete power in the capital, but it failed to do so. The great majority of its members, believing that revolutionary Russia must wage a war of defense against German imperialism, did not want to risk disorganizing the war effort. Taken by surprise, as were all the political parties, by the outbreak of the revolution, the working-class parties were unable to give the workers and soldiers in the Soviet strong political leadership. Even the Bolsheviks, who, in a sense, had been preparing for the revolution since at least the early 1900s, had been unaware of its imminence and had no program to take advantage of the situation. It was not until April 16, with the return from Switzerland of their exiled leader, Vladimir Ilich Lenin, that the Bolsheviks put forward a demand for immediate seizure of land by the peasantry, establishment of workers’ control in industry, an end to the war, and transfer of “all power to the Soviets.” In the Petrograd Soviet, however, the Bolsheviks were then a small minority. As the Soviet could not achieve the military backing, the coup ultimately failed. However, Czar Nicholas II and his immediate family were killed, although rumors persist that at least two of his children may have survived and gone into hiding. The current Czar is his brother, Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich. Aleksandrovich has stated that he wishes the government to reform as a constitutional monarchy and ultimately a republic; however, factions in the government and military have made this increasingly unlikely to occur.
Under the guidance of Vladimir Ilich Lenin, the Bolshevik movement has gained strength in the Empire, and spread throughout Europe as the Socialist, or Communist movement. By the end of 1917, however, forceful methods were employed against the Bolsheviks. Lenin was denounced as a paid agent of German imperialism and went into hiding in Finland; Trotsky and others were arrested, and the Czar began to consolidate central power and authority again.
With the Czar firmly in control, the new government ended Russia’s involvement in The Great War by signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on March 3, 1918. Under the treaty Russia had to give up the Baltic states, Finland, Poland, and Ukraine. Indignation at losing this territory sprang up in Russia, and opposition to the Bolshevik party, who had lobbied hardest for the treaty, erupted into a purge that lasted from 1918 until late 1920. The Czar’s government, operating out of the new capital in Moscow, began a policy of crushing all opposition. The Cossacks began the “White Supremacy” campaign in which suspected anti-Czarists, known as Reds, were arrested, tried, and executed. Poorly organized and without widespread support, the Bolsheviks were defeated by the Czar’s Army in 1920.
Following this, the Czar took strict control of the country. Workers’ strikes, peasant uprisings, and a sailors’ revolt known as the Kronstadt Rebellion were quickly crushed. In 1921, Aleksandrovich established the New Economic Policy to strengthen the country, which had been drained by two decades years of turmoil and economic decline. As a result of these new policies, the economic crisis suffered by most of the rest of the world was not as severely felt in Russia.
Aleksandrovich was quick to notice the industrial changes taking place in the United States, and began a lengthy correspondence with Tesla. The modern Russia is a technological marvel, full of the “new technology” created by Morgan industries using Tesla’s patents.
German Aggression in Europe
Hitler launched his own expansionist drive with the annexation of Austria in March 1938. The way was clear: Mussolini supported him; and the British and French, overawed by German rearmament, accepted Hitler’s claim that the status of Austria was an internal German affair. The U.S. has severely impaired its ability to act against aggression by passing a neutrality law that prohibited material assistance to all parties in foreign conflicts.
The United States has adopted a policy of neutrality regarding European affairs, concentrating on the development of the Tesla Technologies, of which Morgan Industries holds the majority of the patents. In 1933, President Herbert Hoover created the Cabinet-level Department of Science; Harold C. Urey was named the first Secretary of Science.
On the Brink…
In the face of the growing belligerence of these totalitarian states and the confirmed isolationism of the United States, the European democracies found themselves on the defensive. Under the leadership of Neville Chamberlain, England and France have adopted a policy of appeasement…