On the Important Questions of War and Peace
– On the occasion of the centenary of the end of World War I, we are featuring a series of articles on the war and related matters of concern. This article is from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). It was originally posted on this blog on July 28, 2014 –
World War I (1914–18)
[was] an imperialist war between two coalitions of capitalist powers for a redivision of the already divided world (a repartition of colonies, spheres of influence, and spheres for the investment of capital) and for the enslavement of other peoples. At first, the war involved eight European states: Germany and Austria-Hungary against Great Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Serbia, and Montenegro. Later, most of the countries in the world entered the war. A total of four states fought on the side of the Austro-German bloc; 34 states, including four British dominions and the colony of India, all of which signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, took part on the side of the Entente. On both sides, the war was aggressive and unjust. Only in Belgium, Serbia, and Montenegro did it include elements of a war of national liberation.
Although imperialists from all the principal belligerent powers were involved in unleashing the war, the party chiefly to blame was the German bourgeoisie, who began World War I at the “moment it thought most favourable for war, making use of its latest improvements in military matériel and forestalling the rearmament already planned and decided upon by Russia and France” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26, p. 16).
The immediate cause of World War I was the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by Serbian nationalists on June 15 (28), 1914, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. German imperialists decided to take advantage of this favourable moment to unleash the war. Under German pressure, Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to Serbia on July 10 (23). Although the Serbian government agreed to meet almost all of the demands in the ultimatum, Austria-Hungary broke diplomatic relations with Serbia on July 12 (25) and declared war on Serbia on July 15 (28). Belgrade, the Serbian capital, was shelled. On July 16 (29), Russia began mobilization in the military districts bordering on Austria-Hungary and on July 17 (30) proclaimed a general mobilization. On July 18 (31), Germany demanded that Russia halt its mobilization and, receiving no reply, declared war on Russia on July 19 (Aug. 1). Germany declared war on France and Belgium on July 21 (Aug. 3). On July 22 (Aug. 4), Great Britain declared war on Germany. The British dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa) and Britain’s largest colony, India, entered the war on the same day. On Aug. 10 (23), Japan declared war on Germany. Italy formally remained a member of the Triple Alliance but declared its neutrality on July 20 (Aug. 2), 1914.
Causes of the war
At the turn of the 20th century capitalism was transformed into imperialism. The world had been almost completely divided up among the largest powers. The unevenness of the economic and political development of various countries became more marked. The states that had been late in embarking on the path of capitalist development (the USA, Germany, and Japan) advanced rapidly, competing successfully on the world market with the older capitalist countries (Great Britain and France) and persistently pressing for a repartition of the colonies. The most acute conflicts arose between Germany and Great Britain, whose interests clashed in many parts of the globe, especially in Africa, East Asia, and the Middle East, focal points of German imperialism’s trade and colonial expansion. The construction of the Baghdad Railroad aroused grave alarm in British ruling circles. The railroad would provide Germany with a direct route through the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor to the Persian Gulf and guarantee Germany an important position in the Middle East, thus threatening British land and sea communications with India.
France, rooted in the desire of German capitalists to secure permanent possession of Alsace and Lorraine, which had been taken from France as a result of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, and in the determination of the French to regain these provinces. French and German interests also clashed on the colonial issue. French attempts to seize Morocco met with determined resistance from Germany, which also claimed this territory.
Contradictions between Russia and Germany began to increase in the late 19th century. The expansion of German imperialism in the Middle East and its attempts to establish control over Turkey infringed on Russian economic, political, and strategic interests. Germany used its customs policy to limit the importation of grain from Russia, imposing high duties while simultaneously making sure that German industrial goods could freely penetrate the Russian market.
In the Balkans, there were profound contradictions between Russia and Austria-Hungary, caused primarily by the expansion of the Hapsburg monarchy, with Germany’s support, into the neighbouring South Slav lands (Bosnia, Hercegovina,and Serbia). Austria-Hungary intended to establish its superiority in the Balkans. Russia, which supported the struggle of the Balkan peoples for freedom and national independence, considered the Balkans its own sphere of influence. The tsarist regime and the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie wanted to take over the Bosporus and Dardanelles to strengthen their position in the Balkans.
There were many disputed issues between Great Britain and France, Great Britain and Russia, Austria-Hungary and Italy, and Turkey and Italy, but they were secondary to the principal contradictions, which existed between Germany and its rivals – Great Britain, France, and Russia. The aggravation and deepening of these contradictions impelled the imperialists toward a repartition of the world, but “under capitalism, the repartitioning of ‘world domination’ could only take place at the price of a world war” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 34, p. 370).
The class struggle and the national liberation movement grew stronger during the second decade of the 20th century. The Revolution of 1905–07 in Russia had an enormous influence on the upsurge in the struggle of the toiling people for their social and national liberation. There was considerable growth in the working-class movement in Germany, France, and Great Britain. The class struggle reached its highest level in Russia, where a new revolutionary upsurge began in 1910 and an acute political crisis ripened. National liberation movements grew broader in Ireland and Alsace (the Zabern affair, 1913), and the struggle of the enslaved peoples of Austria-Hungary became more extensive. The imperialists sought to use war to suppress the developing liberation movement of the working class and oppressed peoples in their own countries and to arrest the world revolutionary process.
For many years the imperialists prepared for a world war as a means of resolving foreign and domestic contradictions. The initial step was the formation of a system of military-political blocs, beginning with the Austro-German Agreement of 1879, under which the signatories promised to render assistance to each other in case of war with Russia. Seeking support in its struggle with France for possession of Tunisia, Italy joined Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1882. Thus, the Triple Alliance of 1882, or the alliance of the Central Powers, took shape in central Europe. Initially directed against Russia and France, it later included Great Britain among its main rivals.
To counterbalance the Triple Alliance, another coalition of European powers began to develop. The Franco-Russian Alliance of 1891–93 provided for joint actions by the two countries in case of aggression by Germany or by Italy and Austria-Hungary supported by Germany. The growth of German economic power in the early 20th century forced Great Britain to gradually renounce its traditional policy of splendid isolation and seek rapprochement with France and Russia. The Anglo-French agreement of 1904 settled various colonial disputes between Great Britain and France, and the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907 reinforced the understanding between Russia and Great Britain regarding their policies in Tibet,Afghanistan, and Iran. These documents created the Triple Entente (or agreement), a bloc opposed to the Triple Alliance and made up of Great Britain, France, and Russia. In 1912, Anglo-French and Franco-Russian naval conventions were signed, and in 1913 negotiations were opened for an Anglo-Russian naval convention.
The formation of military-political groupings in Europe, as well as the arms race, further aggravated imperialist contradictions and increased international tensions. A relatively tranquil period of world history was followed by an epoch that was“much more violent, spasmodic, disastrous, and conflicting” (ibid., vol. 27, p. 94). The worsening of imperialist contradictions was evident in the Moroccan crises of 1905–06 and 1911, the Bosnian crisis of 1908–09, the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–12, and the Balkan Wars of 1912–13. In December 1913, Germany provoked a major international conflict by sending a military mission under the command of General O. Liman von Sanders to Turkey to reorganize and train the Turkish Army.
In preparation for a world war the ruling circles of the imperialist states established powerful war industries, based on large state plants: armaments, explosives, and ammunition plants, as well as shipyards. Private enterprises were drawn into the production of military goods: Krupp in Germany, Skoda in Austria-Hungary, Schneider-Creusot and St. Chamond in France, Vickers and Armstrong-Whitworth in Great Britain, and the Putilov Works and other plants in Russia.
The imperialists of the two hostile coalitions put a great deal of effort into building up their armed forces. The achievements of science and technology were placed in the service of war. More sophisticated armaments were developed,including rapid-fire magazine rifles and machine guns, which greatly increased the firepower of the infantry. In the artillery the number of rifled guns of the latest design increased sharply. Of great strategic importance was the development of the railroads, which made it possible to significantly speed up the concentration and deployment of large masses of troops in the theatres of operations and to provide an uninterrupted supply of personnel replacements and matériel to the armies in the field. Motor vehicle transport began to play an increasingly important role, and military aviation began to develop. The use of new means of communication in military affairs, including the telegraph, the telephone, and the radio,facilitated the organization of troop control. The size of armies and trained reserves grew rapidly. (See Table 2 for the composition of the ground forces of the principal warring powers.)
Germany and Great Britain were engaged in a stiff competition in naval armaments. The dreadnought, a new type of ship, was first built in 1905. By 1914 the German Navy was firmly established as the world’s second most powerful navy (after the British). Other countries endeavoured to strengthen their navies, but it was not financially and economically possible for them to carry out the shipbuilding programs they had adopted. (See Table 3 for the composition of the naval forces of the principal warring powers.) The costly arms race demanded enormous financial means and placed a heavy burden on the toiling people.
There was extensive ideological preparation for war. The imperialists attempted to instil in the people the idea that armed conflicts are inevitable, and they tried their hardest to inculcate militarism in the people and incite chauvinism among them. To achieve these aims, all means of propaganda were used – the press, literature, the arts, and the church. Taking advantage of the patriotic feelings of the people, the bourgeoisie in every country justified the arms race and camouflaged aggressive objectives with false arguments on the need to defend the native land against foreign enemies.
The international working class (more than 150 million persons) was a real force capable of significantly restraining the imperialist governments. At the international level, the working-class movement was headed by the Second International,which united 41 Social Democratic parties from 27 countries, with 3.4 million members. However, the opportunist leaders of the European Social Democratic parties did nothing to implement the anti-war decisions of the prewar congresses of the Second International. When the war began, the leaders of the Social Democratic parties of the Western countries came to the support of their governments and voted for military credits in parliament. The socialist leaders of Great Britain (A. Henderson), France (J. Guesde, M. Sembat, and A. Thomas), and Belgium (E. Vandervelde) joined the bourgeois military governments. Ideologically and politically, the Second International collapsed and ceased to exist, breaking up into social chauvinist parties.
Only the left wing of the Second International, with the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin in the vanguard, continued to fight consistently against militarism, chauvinism, and war. The basic principles defining the attitude of revolutionary Marxists toward war were set forth by Lenin in the Manifesto of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, “War and Russian Social Democracy.” Firmly opposed to the war, the Bolsheviks explained its imperialist character to the popular masses. The Bolshevik faction of the Fourth State Duma refused to support the tsarist government and vote for war credits. The Bolshevik Party called on the toiling people of all countries to work for the defeat of their governments in the war, the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war, and the revolutionary overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and the landlords. A revolutionary, anti-war stance was adopted by the Bulgarian Workers’ Social Democratic Party (Narrow Socialists), headed by D. Blagoev, G. Dimitrov, and V. Kolarov, and by the Serbian and Rumanian Social Democratic parties. Active opposition to the imperialist war was also shown by a small group of left-wing Social Democrats in Germany, led by K. Liebknecht, R. Luxemburg, C. Zetkin, and F. Mehring; by a few socialists in France, led by J. Jaurès; and by some socialists in other countries.
War plans and strategic deployment
Long before the war began, the general staffs had worked out war plans. All strategic calculations were oriented toward a short, fast-moving war. The German strategic plan provided for rapid, decisive actions against France and Russia. It assumed that France would be crushed in six to eight weeks, after which all German forces would descend on Russia and bring the war to a victorious conclusion. The bulk of German troops (four-fifths) were deployed on the western border of Germany and were designated for the invasion of France. It was their mission to deliver the main attack with the right wing through Belgium and Luxembourg, turning the left flank of the French Army west of Paris and, throwing it back toward the German border, forcing it to surrender. A covering force (one army) was stationed in East Prussia to oppose Russia. The German military command figured that it would be able to crush France and transfer troops to the east before the Russian Army went over to the offensive. The main forces of the German Navy (the High Seas Fleet) were to be stationed at bases in the North Sea. Their mission was to weaken the British Navy with actions using light forces and submarines and then destroy the main British naval forces in a decisive battle. A few cruisers were detailed for operations in the British sea-lanes. In the Baltic Sea the German Navy’s mission was to prevent vigorous actions by the Russian Navy.
The Austro-Hungarian command planned military operations on two fronts: against Russia in Galicia and against Serbia and Montenegro in the Balkans. They did not exclude the possibility of forming a front against Italy, an unreliable member of the Triple Alliance that might go over to the Entente. Consequently, the Austro-Hungarian command drew up three variations of a war plan and divided their ground forces into three operational echelons (groups): group A (nine corps), which was designated for actions against Russia; the “minimum Balkan” group (three corps), which was directed against Serbia and Montenegro; and group B (four corps), the reserve of the supreme command, which could be used either to reinforce the other groups or to form a new front if Italy became an enemy.
The general staffs of Austria-Hungary and Germany maintained close contact with each other and coordinated their strategic plans. The Austro-Hungarian plan for the war against Russia provided for delivering the main attack from Galicia between the Vistula and Bug rivers and moving northeast to meet German forces, which were supposed to develop an offensive at the same time moving southeast from East Prussia toward Siedlce, with the objectives of surrounding and destroying the grouping of Russian troops in Poland. The mission of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, which was stationed in the Adriatic Sea, was to defend the coast.
The Russian General Staff worked out two variations of the war plan, both of which were offensive. Under Variation A, the main forces of the Russian Army would be deployed against Austria-Hungary. Variation G was directed against Germany, should it deliver the main attack on the Eastern Front. Variation A, which was actually carried out, planned converging attacks in Galicia and East Prussia, with the aim of destroying the enemy groupings. This phase of the plan would be followed by a general offensive into Germany and Austria-Hungary. Two detached armies were assigned to cover Petrograd and southern Russia. In addition, the Army of the Caucasus was formed in case Turkey entered the war on the side of the Central Powers. It was the mission of the Baltic Fleet to defend the sea approaches to Petrograd and prevent the German fleet from breaking through into the Gulf of Finland. The Black Sea Fleet did not have a ratified plan of action.
The French plan for the war against Germany (Plan XVII) envisioned going over to the offensive with the forces of the right wing of the armies in Lorraine and with the forces of the left wing against Metz. At first, the possibility of an invasion by German forces through Belgium was not taken into account, because Belgian neutrality had been guaranteed by the great powers, including Germany. However, a variation of Plan XVII ratified on Aug. 2, 1914, specified that in case of an offensive by German troops through Belgium, combat operations were to be developed on the left wing up to the line of the Meuse (Maas) River from Namur to Givet. The French plan reflected the lack of confidence of the French command,confronted with a struggle against a more powerful Germany. In fact, the plan made the actions of the French Army dependent on the actions of the German forces. The mission of the French fleet in the Mediterranean Sea was to ensure themovement of colonial troops from North Africa to France by blockading the Austro-Hungarian fleet in the Adriatic Sea. Part of the French fleet was assigned to defend the approaches to the English Channel.
Expecting that military operations on land would be waged by the armies of its allies, Russia and France, Great Britain did not draw up plans for operations by ground forces. It promised only to send an expeditionary corps to the continent to help the French. The navy was assigned active missions: to set up a long-range blockade of Germany on the North Sea, to ensure the security of sea-lanes, and to destroy the German fleet in a decisive battle.
The great powers carried out the strategic deployment of their armed forces in conformity with these plans. Germany moved seven armies (the First through Seventh, consisting of 86 infantry and ten cavalry divisions, with a total of about 1.6 million men and about 5,000 guns) to the border with Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, along a 380-km front from Krefeld to Mulhouse. The main grouping of these forces (five armies) was located north of Metz on a 160-km front. The defence of the northern coast of Germany was assigned to the Northern Army (one reserve corps and four Landwehr brigades). The commander in chief was Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the chief of staff was General H. von Moltke the younger(from Sept. 14, 1914, E. Falkenhayn, and from Aug. 29, 1916, until the end of the war, Field Marshal General P. von Hindenburg).
The French armies (the First through Fifth, consisting of 76 infantry and ten cavalry divisions, with a total of about 1.73 million men and more than 4,000 guns), which were under the command of General J. J. C. Joffre, were deployed on a front of approximately 345 km from Belfort to Hirson. (From December 1916, General R. Nivelle was commander in chief of the French armies, and from May 17, 1917, until the end of the war, General H. Pétain. On May 14, 1918, Marshal F. Foch became supreme commander of Allied forces.) The Belgian Army under the command of King Albert I (six infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 117,000 men and 312 guns) occupied a line east of Brussels. The British Expeditionary Force under the command of Field Marshal J. French (four infantry divisions and 1.5 cavalry divisions, with a total of 87,000 men and 328 guns) was concentrated in the Maubeuge region next to the left flank of the grouping of French armies. (From December 1915 until the end of the war, the British Expeditionary Force was under the command of General D. Haig.) The main grouping of Allied forces was northwest of Verdun.
Against Russia, Germany placed the Eighth Army (14.5 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of more than 200,000 men and 1,044 guns), under the command of General M. von Prittwitz und Gaffron, in East Prussia andGeneral R. von Woyrsch’s Landwehr corps in Silesia (two Landwehr divisions and 72 guns). Austria-Hungary had three armies (the First, Third, and Fourth) on a front from Czernowitz (now Chernovtsy) to Sandomierz. H. Kövess von Kövessháza’s army group (from August 23, the Second Army) was on the right flank, and Kummer’s army group was in the Kraków region (35.5 infantry divisions and 11 cavalry divisions, with about 850,000 men and 1,848 guns). The supreme commander in chief was Archduke Frederick. (Emperor Charles I became supreme commander in chief in November 1916.) The Austro-Hungarian chief of staff was Field Marshal General F. Conrad von Hötzendorf (from Feb. 28,1917, General Arz von Straussenburg).
Russia had six armies on its Western border (52 infantry divisions and 21 cavalry divisions, with a total of more than 1 million men and 3,203 guns). Two fronts were formed: the Northwestern Front (First and Second armies) and the Southwestern Front (Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth armies). The Sixth Army was to defend the Baltic coast and cover Petrograd; the Seventh Army was to defend the northwest coast of the Black Sea and the boundary with Rumania. The divisions of the second strategic echelon and the Siberian divisions arrived at the front later, at the end of August and during September. On July 20 (August 2), Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich was appointed supreme commander in chief.(For a list of his successors, see SUPREME COMMANDER IN CHIEF.) The chiefs of staff of the supreme commander in chief were General N. N. Ianushkevich (July 19 [Aug. 1], 1914, to Aug. 18 , 1915) and General M. V. Alekseev (Aug. 18 ,1915, to Nov. 10 , 1916; Feb. 17 [Mar. 2] to Mar. 11 , 1917; and Aug. 30 [Sept. 12] to Sept. 9 , 1917). At the end of 1916 and during 1917 the duties of chief of staff were temporarily carried out by Generals V. I. Romeiko-Gurko,V. N. Klembovskii, A. I. Denikin, A. S. Lukomskii, and N. N. Dukhonin. From Nov. 20 (Dec. 3), 1917, to Feb. 21, 1918, the chief of staff was M. D. Bonch-Bruevich, whose successors were S I. Kuleshin and M. M. Zagiu.
In the Balkans, Austria-Hungary set two armies against Serbia: the Fifth and Sixth armies, under the command of General O. Potiorek (13 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 140,000 men and 546 guns). Serbia deployed four armies under the command of Voevoda R. Putnik (the First, Second, Third, and Fourth armies, consisting of 11 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 250,000 men and 550 guns). Montenegro had six infantry divisions (35,000 men and 60 guns).
The strategic deployment of the armed forces of both sides was basically completed by August 4–6 (17–19). Military operations took place in Europe, Asia, and Africa, on all the oceans, and on many seas. The principal operations took place in five theatres of ground operations: Western Europe (from 1914), Eastern Europe (from 1914), Italy (from 1915), the Balkans (from 1914), and the Middle East (from 1914).
In addition, military operations were carried out in East Asia (Tsingtao, 1914), on the Pacific islands (Oceania), and in the German colonies in Africa, including German East Africa (until the end of the war), German Southwest Africa (until 1915), Togo (1914), and the Cameroons (until 1916).
Throughout the war the chief theatres of ground operations were the Western European (French) and the Eastern European (Russian). Particularly important theatres of naval operations were the North, Mediterranean, Baltic, and Black seas and the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.
Campaign of 1914
In the Western European theatre, military operations began with the invasion by German troops of Luxembourg (August 2) and Belgium (August 4), the latter having rejected a German ultimatum regarding the passage of German troops through its territory. Relying on the fortified areas of Liège and Namur, the Belgian Army offered the enemy stubborn resistance on the Meuse River line. Abandoning Liège after bitter fighting (August 16), the Belgian Army retreated toward Antwerp. Dispatching about two corps (80,000 men and 300 guns) against the Belgian Army, the German command directed the main grouping of its armies to the southwest, toward the Franco-Belgian border. The French armies of the left flank (the Third, Fourth, and Fifth armies) and the British Army were moved forward to meet the German forces. The Battle of the Frontiers took place on Aug. 21–25, 1914.
In view of the danger of the enemy turning the left flank of the Allied forces, the French command withdrew its armies deeper into the country to gain time to regroup its forces and prepare a counter-offensive. From August 7 to 14 the French armies of the right flank (the First and Second armies) conducted an offensive in Alsace and Lorraine. But with the invasion by German forces of France through Belgium, the French offensive was brought to a halt, and both armies were drawn back to their initial positions. The main grouping of German armies continued its offensive along a southwest axis of advance toward Paris and, winning a series of local victories over the Entente armies at Le Cateau (August 26), Nesle and Proyart (August 28–29), and St. Quentin and Guise (August 29–30), reached the Marne River between Paris and Verdun by September 5. The French command completed the regrouping of its forces and, having formed two new armies (the Sixth and the Ninth) from reserves, created a superiority of forces in this axis. In the battle of the Marne (Sept. 5–12, 1914), the German troops were defeated and forced to withdraw to the Aisne and Oise rivers, where they dug in and stopped the allied counter-offensive by September 16.
From September 16 to October 15, three operations by maneuver known as the Race to the Sea developed out of the attempts of each side to seize the “free space” west of the Oise and extending to the Pas-de-Calais, by enveloping the enemy’s open flanks on the north. The forces of both sides reached the coast west of Ostend. The Belgian Army, which had been forced to withdraw from Antwerp on October 8, occupied a sector on the left flank of the Allied armies. The battle in Flanders on the Yser and Ypres river (October 15 to November 20) did not change the overall situation. Attempts by the Germans to break through the Allied defence and take the ports on the Pas-de-Calais were unsuccessful. Having suffered considerable losses, both sides stopped active combat actions and dug in on the established lines. A static front was established from the Swiss border to the North Sea. In December 1914 it was 720 km long, with 650 km assigned to the French Army, 50 km to the British, and 20 km to the Belgians.
Military operations in the Eastern European theatre began on August 4–7 (17–20), with the invasion of East Prussia by the inadequately prepared troops of the Russian Northwestern Front (commanded by General la. G. Zhilinskii; chief of staff, General V. A. Oranovskii). During the East Prussian Operation of 1914 the First Russian Army (General P. K. Rennenkampf, commander), advancing from the east, smashed units of the German I Corps near Stallüponen on August 4(17) and inflicted a defeat on the main forces of the German Eighth Army on August 7 (20) in the battle of Gumbinnen-Goldap. On August 7 (20) the Russian Second Army (commanded by General A. V. Samsonov) invaded East Prussia, delivering an attack on the flank and rear of the German Eighth Army. The commander of the Eighth Army decided to begin a withdrawal of forces from East Prussia beyond the Vistula, but the German supreme command, dissatisfied with this decision, ordered a change in command on August 10 (23), appointing General P. von Hindenburg commander and General E. Ludendorff chief of staff.
The offensive by Russian troops in East Prussia forced the German command to take two corps and one cavalry division from the Western Front and send them to the Eastern Front on August 13 (26). This was one of the causes of the defeat of German forces in the battle of the Marne. Taking advantage of the lack of cooperation between the First and Second armies and the mistakes of the Russian command, the enemy was able to inflict a heavy defeat on the Russian Second Army and then on the First Army and drive them out of East Prussia.
In the battle of Galicia (1914), which took place at the same time as the East Prussian Operation, the troops of the Russian Southwestern Front (commander in chief, General N. I. Ivanov; chief of staff, General M. V. Alekseev) inflicted a major defeat on the Austro-Hungarian forces. They took L’vov on August 21 (September 3), laid seige to the Przemyśl fortress on September 8 (21), and, pursuing the enemy, reached the Wisłoka River and the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains by September 13 (26). A danger arose that Russian forces would invade the German province of Silesia. The German supreme command hurriedly transferred major forces from East Prussia to the region of Częstochowa and Kraków and formed a new army (the Ninth). The objective was to deliver a counter strike against Ivangorod (Dęblin) in the flank and rear of the troops of the Southwestern Front and thus to thwart the attack on Silesia that the Russian forces were preparing. Owing to a timely regrouping of forces carried out by Russian General Headquarters, in the Warsaw-Ivangorod Operation of 1914 the Russian armies stopped the advance of the German Ninth Army and the Austro-Hungarian First Army on Ivangorod by September 26 (October 9) and then repulsed the German attack on Warsaw. On October 5 (18), Russian forces went over to the counter-offensive and threw the enemy back to the initial line.
The Russian armies resumed preparations for an invasion of Germany. The German command moved the Ninth Army from the Częstochowa region to the north, having decided to deliver a blow at the right flank and rear of the Russian offensive grouping. In the Łódź Operation of 1914, which began on October 29 (November 11), the enemy succeeded in thwarting the Russian plan, but an attempt to surround the Russian Second and Fifth armies in the Łódź region failed, and German troops were forced to withdraw, suffering heavy losses. At the same time, Russian troops of the Southwestern Front inflicted a defeat on Austro-Hungarian forces in the Częstochowa-Kraków Operation and reached the approaches to Kraków and Częstochowa. Having exhausted their capabilities, both sides went over to the defensive. The Russian armies, which had experienced a critical shortage of ammunition, dug in on the line of the Bzura, Rawka, and Nida rivers.
In the Balkan theatre of operations, Austro-Hungarian forces invaded Serbia on August 12. Defeated in a meeting engagement that began on August 16 in the region of Cer Mountain, by August 24 the Austro-Hungarian forces had been thrown back to their initial position beyond the Drina and Sava rivers. On September 7 they renewed the offensive. A shortage of artillery and ammunition forced the Serbs to withdraw on November 7 to the east of the Kolubara River, but after receiving supplies from Russia and France, they went over to the counter-offensive on December 3. By mid-December they had liberated their country from enemy forces. The two sides took up defensive positions on the river boundary lines.
At the end of 1914 hostilities began in the Middle Eastern theatre of operations. On July 21 (August 3), Turkey declared its neutrality, waiting and preparing for a convenient moment to come out on the side of the Central Powers. Encouraging Turkey’s aggressive aspirations in the Caucasus, Germany sent the battle cruiser Göben and the light cruiser Breslau to the Black Sea at the war’s beginning (August 10), to support the Turkish Navy. On October 16 (29),Turkish and German ships unexpectedly shelled Odessa, Sevastopol’, Feodosia, and Novorossiisk. On October 20 (November 2), Russia declared war on Turkey, followed by Great Britain (November 5) and France (November 6). Turkey declared a “holy war” against the Entente powers on November 12.
Turkish ground forces consisted of about 800,000 men. The Turkish First, Second, and Fifth armies were deployed in the Straits region; the Third Army, in Turkish Armenia; the Fourth Army, in Syria and Palestine; and the Sixth Army, in Mesopotamia. Sultan Mehmed V was nominally the supreme commander in chief, but in fact the duties of this position were carried out by Enver Pasha, the minister of war. The chief of staff was a German general, W. Bronsart von Schellendorf.
Russia moved its Army of the Caucasus to the Turkish border (commander in chief, General I. I. Vorontsov-Dashkov; deputy commander in chief, General A. Z. Myshlaevskii; 170,000 men and 350 guns). In the second half of October (early November) clashes took place in the Erzurum axis. On October 25 (November 7) the Russians seized fortified positions near Köprüköy (50 km north of Erzurum). However, under pressure from the superior forces of the enemy, the Russians withdrew to their initial positions by November 26 (December 9). The Turkish Third Army went over to the offensive on December 9 (22), but during the Sankamuş Operation of 1914–15 it was routed. On November 10 a British expeditionary corps landed at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, forming the Mesopotamian Front. On November 22 the British took Basra, which had been abandoned by the Turks. The British captured al-Qurnah on December 9 and established a firm position in southern Mesopotamia.
Germany was unsuccessful in combat operations in Africa, the Far East, and the Pacific Ocean, losing most of its colonies during a single military campaign. In 1914, Japan seized the Caroline, Mariana, and Marshall islands in the Pacific Ocean as well as Tsingtao, a German naval base in China. The Australians seized the German part of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and New Zealand captured the Samoan Islands. Anglo-French forces occupied the German colonies in Africa: Togo in August 1914, the Cameroons in January 1916, Southwest Africa by July 1915, and East Africa by late 1917. (Until the end of the war, German forces continued to conduct partisan actions in the Portuguese colony of Mozambique and the British colony of Southern Rhodesia.)
Naval operations were of a limited character in 1914. On August 28 there was a battle between light forces of the British and German fleets in the North Sea near the island of Helgoland. On November 5 (18) a Russian squadron waged a battle against the German ships Göben and Breslau near Cape Sarych in the Black Sea (50 km southeast of Sevastopol’). Damaged, the German ships retreated. The German command attempted to step up the actions of its fleet in British sea-lanes in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. In the battle of Coronel (Nov. 1, 1914), Admiral M. von Spee’s German squadron (five cruisers) defeated Rear Admiral C. Cradock’s British squadron, but on December 8, Admiral von Spee’s squadron was destroyed by Admiral F. Sturdee’s British squadron near the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands. By the beginning of November, three additional German cruisers operating in the Atlantic and Pacific had been sunk.
The campaign of 1914 did not produce decisive results for either side. In France both sides went over to a static defence. Elements of trench warfare also emerged in the Eastern European theatre of operations. Military operations demonstrated that the general staffs had been mistaken in their prewar predictions that the war would be short. Stockpiles of armaments and ammunition were used up during the very first operations. At the same time, it became clear that the war would be long and that emergency measures must be taken to mobilize industry and to develop the production of arms and ammunition.
Campaign of 1915
The Anglo-French command decided to go over to a strategic defensive in the Western European theatre of operations, in order to gain time to stockpile matériel and train reserves. In the campaign of 1915 the main burden of armed struggle was shifted onto Russia. At the demand of the Allies the Russian command planned simultaneous offensives against Germany (in East Prussia) and Austria-Hungary (in the Carpathian Mountains). The prospect of a protracted war did not please the German high command, which knew that Germany and its allies could not withstand a lengthy struggle with the Entente powers, who possessed superiority in manpower reserves and material resources.Therefore, the German plan for the campaign of 1915 was an offensive plan that counted on rapidly achieving victory. Lacking sufficient forces to conduct offensives simultaneously in the East and the West, the German command decided to concentrate its main efforts on the Eastern Front, with the objectives of crushing Russia and forcing it to leave the war. A defensive posture was planned for the Western Front.
Russia had 104 divisions against the 74 divisions of the Central Powers (36 German and 38 Austro-Hungarian divisions). Attempting to forestall the offensive prepared by the Russians, between January 25 (February 7) and February 13 (26) the German command undertook the Augustów Operation of 1915 in East Prussia. However, they did not attain their objective of surrounding the Tenth Army of the Russian Northwestern Front. In February and March Russian command used the forces of the Tenth, Twelfth, and First armies to carry out the Przasnysz Operation, during which the enemy was thrown back to the borders of East Prussia. On the southern wing of the Eastern Front, the command of the Russian Southwestern Front carried out the Carpathian Operation of 1915. Beseiged by Russian troops, the 120,000-strong Przemyśl garrison surrendered on March 9 (22). Heavy but indecisive fighting continued in the Carpathians until April 20. Experiencing a critical shortage of weapons and ammunition, the Russian forces brought a halt to their active operations in April 1915.
By the summer of 1915 the German command had formed the Eleventh Army with troops transferred from the Western Front to Galicia. The German Eleventh Army and the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army, under the overall command of the German general A. von Mackensen, went over to the offensive on April 19 (May 2). With an enormous superiority in forces and means (especially in artillery), the enemy broke through the defence of the Russian Third Army near Görlitz. The Görlitz breakthrough of 1915 led to a deep withdrawal of the forces of the Southwestern Front, which left Galicia in May and June.
At the same time, German troops were advancing in the Baltic region. On April 24 (May 7) they took Libau (Liepāja) and reached Shavli (Ŝiauliai) and Kovno (Kaunas). In July the German command attempted to break through the defence of the Russian First Army with an attack of the newly formed Twelfth Army in the Przasnysz region. The Twelfth Army, in cooperation with the Austro-Hungarian Fourth and German Eleventh armies, which were advancing from Galicia toward the northeast, was to surround the main groupings of the Russian forces, which were in Poland. The German plan was unsuccessful, but the Russian troops were forced to withdraw from Poland.
In the Vil’na Operation of August 1915 the Germans attempted to surround the Russian Tenth Army in the Vil’na (Vilnius) region. On August 27 (September 9) the enemy managed to break through the Russian defence and gain the rear of the Tenth Army. However, the Russian command stopped the enemy breakthrough. In October 1915 the front stabilized on the line of Riga, the Zapadnaia Dvina River, Dvinsk, Smorgon’, Baranovichi, Dubno, and the Strypa River. The German command had failed in its plan to force Russia to leave the war in 1915.
At the beginning of 1915 there were 75 French, 11 British, and six Belgian divisions opposing 82 German divisions in the Western European theatre of operations. The number of British divisions increased to 31 in September and 37 in December. Planning no major operations, both sides conducted only local battles in this theatre of military operations during the campaign of 1915. On April 22 at Ypres the German command became the first to use chemical weapons (chlorine gas) on the Western Front: 15,000 persons were poisoned. The German troops advanced 6 km. In May and June the Allies launched an offensive in Artois. Carried out with insufficient forces, it did not influence the course of combat operations on the Russian Front.
On July 7 the Inter-Allied War Council was formed in Chantilly, to coordinate the strategic efforts of the Entente powers. To assist Russia, the council decided to undertake an offensive on the Western Front, with the objective of drawing considerable German forces away from the Eastern Front. However, offensive operations were carried out only from September 25 to October 6 in Champagne and Artois. At this time active military operations had in fact ceased on the Russian Front. Moreover, the Allied forces were unable to break through the strong enemy defence.
In the Middle Eastern theatre of operations Russian forces conducted the most active military operations. In the Alashgerd Operation they cleared the enemy from the area around Lakes Van and Urmia. The increasing activity of German and Turkish agents in Iran forced the Russian command to send troops into the northern part of that country. General N. N. Baratov’s Caucasus Expeditionary Corps (about 8,000 men and 20 guns) was transferred from Tiflis to Baku and transported over the Caspian Sea to the Iranian port of Enzeli (Bandar-e Pahlavi), where it landed on October 17 (30). In November the corps occupied the city of Qazvin, and on December 3 (16) it took the city of Hamadan. Attempts by Germany and Turkey to strengthen their influence in Iran and draw it into the war against Russia were thwarted. The Caucasian Front (commander in chief, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich), which united all the Russian forces operating in the Middle Eastern theatre, was formed in October 1915.
On the Mesopotamian Front, British troops under the command of General C. Townshend moved slowly toward Baghdad in September 1915, but on November 22 they were attacked and routed by the Turks, 35 km from the city, and on December 7 they were besieged in Kut al-Amarah. The Russian command offered to organize coordinated actions between the British forces and the forces of the Caucasian Front, but the British command refused the offer, because it did not want Russian forces to enter the oil-rich Mosul region. At the end of 1915 the British corps in Mesopotamia was replenished and converted into an expeditionary army.
On the Syrian Front the Turkish Fourth Army attempted to take the Suez Canal, by attacking Egypt from Palestine, but the Turks were driven back by two Anglo-Indian divisions. The Turks took up a defensive position in the al-Arish region.
In 1915 the Entente succeeded in drawing Italy into the war on its side. The vacillation of the Italian government was ended by the promises of the Entente powers to give greater satisfaction to Italy’s territorial claims than had been offered by Germany. On Apr. 26, 1915, the Treaty of London was signed. On May 23, 1915, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary, but it did not declare war against Germany until Aug. 28, 1916. The Italian Army (commander in chief, King Victor Emmanuel III; chief of staff, General L. Cadorna) had 35 divisions, with a total of about 870,000 men and 1,700 guns. On May 24, Italian forces began military operations on two axes: against Trent and simultaneously toward the Isonzo River with the mission of reaching Trieste. The Italians failed on both axes. By June 1915 military operations in the Italian theatre had already assumed a static character. Four attacks by Italian forces on the Isonzo River ended in collapse.
In the Balkan theatre of operations the position of the Allies became more complicated in October 1915, when Bulgaria entered the war on the side of the Central Powers (the Bulgarian-German Treaty of 1915 and the Bulgarian-TurkishTreaty of 1915). On September 8 (21), Bulgaria proclaimed a mobilization of its army (12 divisions, about 500,000 men). In late September (early October), 14 German and Austro-Hungarian divisions and six Bulgarian divisions under the overall command of Field Marshal General von Mackensen were deployed against Serbia. The Serbs had 12 divisions. To assist Serbia, Great Britain and France, under an agreement with Greece, began on September 22 (October 5) to land an expeditionary corps at Salonika (Thessaloniki) and move it toward the border between Greece and Serbia. On September 24 (October 7) the Austro-German and Bulgarian forces launched a converging offensive against Serbia from the north, west, and east. For two months the Serbian Army courageously repulsed the onslaught of the superior forces of the enemy, but it was compelled to withdraw through the mountains to Albania. Approximately 140,000 men were transported by the Entente fleet from Durrës (Durazzo) to the Greek island of Corfu (Kerkira). The Anglo-French expeditionary corps retreated to the Salonika region, where the Salonika Front was formed in late 1915. The occupation of Serbia secured for the Central Powers the opportunity to establish direct rail communication with Turkey, making it possible to provide Turkey with military assistance.
During 1915 the German Navy continued its attempts to weaken the fleets of its enemies and to undermine the supply of Great Britain by sea. On January 24 a battle took place between British and German squadrons at Dogger Bank (North Sea). Neither side attained success. On Feb. 18, 1915, Germany declared that it was initiating “unrestricted submarine warfare.” The sinking of the passenger steamers Lusitania (May 7) and Arabic (August 19) evoked protests from the USA and other neutral countries, forcing the German government to limit its submarine warfare to actions against warships.
In February 1915 the Anglo-French command began to carry out a naval operation, the Gallipoli Expedition (the Dardanelles Operation of 1915), attempting to use naval forces to cross the Dardanelles, break through to Constantinople, and put Turkey out of the war. The breakthrough failed. In April 1915 a major landing party was set down on the Gallipoli Peninsula, but Turkish forces offered stiff resistance. In December 1915 and January 1916 the Allied command was forced to evacuate the landing forces, which were transferred to the Salonika Front. During the preparation for and execution of the Gallipoli Expedition, there was a bitter diplomatic struggle among the Allies. The expedition was undertaken under the pretext of assisting Russia. In March-April 1915, Great Britain and France had reached an agreement with Russia, under which Constantinople and the Straits would be handed over to Russia after the war, on the condition that the latter did not interfere in the partitioning of Asiatic Turkey. In reality, the Allies intended to capture the Straits and deny Russia access to them. Anglo-French talks on the partitioning of Asiatic Turkey concluded with the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. In August the German Navy undertook the Moonsund Operation of 1915, which was a failure. The Russian Black Sea Fleet continued to operate in Turkish sea-lanes. On April 21 (May 2), during the Gallipoli Expedition, it shelled the fortifications on the Bosporus.
The campaign of 1915 did not fulfill the hopes of either of the hostile coalitions, but its outcome was more favourable for the Entente. The German command, again failing to solve the problem of crushing its enemies one by one, faced the necessity of continuing a long war on two fronts. The chief burden of the struggle in 1915 was borne by Russia, giving France and Great Britain time to mobilize their economies to meet war needs. Russia also began to mobilize its industry. In 1915 the Russian Front grew more important: in the summer, 107 Austro-German divisions, or 54 per cent of all the forces of the Central Powers, were stationed there, as compared to 52 divisions (33 per cent) at the beginning of the war.
The war placed a heavy burden on the toiling people. Gradually freeing themselves of the chauvinistic attitudes that had been widespread at the beginning of the war, the popular masses became more and more resolutely opposed to the imperialist slaughter. Anti-war demonstrations took place in 1915, and the strike movement in the warring countries began to grow. This process developed with particular speed and violence in Russia, where conditions were greatly exacerbated by military defeats, and a revolutionary situation developed in the autumn of 1915. At the fronts, there were cases of fraternization among soldiers from hostile armies.
The propaganda of the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, and the left groups of European socialists and Social Democratic parties helped arouse the masses to revolutionary activity. In Germany the International Group was formed in the spring of 1915 under the leadership of K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg. (From 1916 the group was known as the Spartacus League.) The Zimmerwald Conference (Sept. 5–8, 1915), an international socialist conference of great importance for the consolidation of revolutionary anti-war forces, adopted a manifesto that signified “a step toward an ideological and practical break with opportunism and social chauvinism” (Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27, p. 38).
Campaign of 1916
By the beginning of 1916 the Central Powers, having expended enormous efforts in the first two campaigns, had considerably depleted their resources but had been unable to force France or Russia to leave the war. The Entente raised the number of its divisions to 365, as against the 286 divisions of the German bloc.
The 1916 operations by the armies of the Central Powers were based on General von Falkenhayn’s plan, according to which the main efforts were again to be directed against France. The main attack was to be delivered in the Verdun region, which was of great operational importance. A breakthrough on this axis would threaten the entire northern wing of the Allied armies. The German plan called for active operations at the same time in the Italian theatre, using the forces of the Austro-Hungarian armies. In the Eastern European theatr of operations, the Germans decided to limit operations to a strategic defensive. The fundamentals of the Entente’s plan for the 1916 campaign were adopted at a conference in Chantilly (France) on Dec. 6–9, 1915. Offensives were planned for the Eastern European, Western European, and Italian theatres of operations. The Russian Army was to be the first to launch offensive operations, followed by the Anglo-French and Italian forces. The Allies’ strategic plan was the first attempt to coordinate troop operations on different fronts.
The Entente plan did not provide for going over to a general offensive until the summer of 1916. This ensured that the German command would keep the strategic initiative, a factor which it decided to use to its advantage. The Germans had 105 divisions on a front 680 km long in the Western European theatre of operations. They were opposed by 139 Allied divisions (95 French, 38 British, and six Belgian divisions). On February 21 the German command began the Verdun Operation of 1916, without an overall superiority in forces. Bitter combat, during which both sides suffered heavy losses, continued until December. The Germans expended enormous efforts but were unable to break through the defence.
In the Italian theatre of operations the command of the Italian Army launched its fifth unsuccessful offensive on the Isonzo River in March 1916. On May 15, Austro-Hungarian forces (18 divisions and 2,000 guns) delivered a counter blow in the Trentino region. The Italian First Army (16 divisions and 623 guns), unable to hold back the enemy onslaught, began to withdraw to the south. Italy requested emergency assistance from its allies.
Operations in the Eastern European theatre, where 128 Russian divisions were deployed against 87 Austro-German divisions along a front 1,200 km long, were particularly important in the campaign of 1916. The Naroch (Narocz) Operation,which was carried out on March 5–17 (18–30), forced the Germans temporarily to weaken their attacks on Verdun. The Russian offensive on the Southwestern Front (commander in chief, General A. A. Brusilov), which began on May 22 (June 4), was of great importance. The Russians broke through the defence of the Austro-German forces to a depth of 80–120 km. The enemy suffered heavy losses (more than 1 million killed and wounded and more than 400,000 taken prisoner). The command of the Central Powers were forced to move 11 German divisions from France and six Austro-Hungarian divisions from Italy to the Russian Front.
The Russian offensive saved the Italian Army from destruction, eased the situation of the French at Verdun, and hastened Rumania’s entry into the war on the side of the Entente. Rumania declared war on Austria-Hungary on August 14(27), on Germany on August 15 (28), on Turkey on August 17 (30), and on Bulgaria on August 19 (September 1). The Rumanian armed forces consisted of four armies (23 infantry and two cavalry divisions; 250,000 men). The Russian 47th Army Corps was moved across the Danube to the Dobruja region to assist the Rumanian forces. With Russian support, Rumanian forces launched an offensive in Transylvania on August 20 (September 2) and later in the Dobruja region, but they did not attain success. The Austro-German command concentrated General von Falkenhayn’s army group in Transylvania (the German Ninth Army and the Austro-Hungarian First Army, with a total of 26 infantry and seven cavalry divisions) and Field Marshal General von Mackensen’s German Danube Army in Bulgaria (nine infantry and two cavalry divisions). On September 13 (26) both groups, under the overall command of General von Falkenhayn, went over to the offensive at the same time. The Rumanian Army was routed.
On November 22 (December 6), German forces entered Bucharest, which the Rumanians abandoned without a fight. The Russian command moved in 35 infantry and 13 cavalry divisions to assist Rumania. Russia had to form a new Rumanian front. By the end of 1916, its forces had stopped the advance of the Austro-German armies on the line between Focşani and the mouth of the Danube. The formation of the Rumanian Front increased the total length of the front line by 500 km and diverted about a fourth of Russia’s armed forces, thereby worsening the strategic position of the Russian Army.
After lengthy preparation, Anglo-French forces opened a major offensive on the Somme River on July 1, but it developed very slowly. Tanks were used for the first time on September 15 by the British. The Allies continued the offensive until mid-November, but despite enormous losses, they advanced only 5–15 km and failed to break through the German static front.
In the Middle Eastern theatre of operations the forces of the Russian Caucasian Front successfully carried out the Erzurum Operation of 1916, the Trabzon Operation of 1916, and the Erzincan and Oğnut operations, taking the cities of Erzurum, Trabzon, and Erzincan. General N. N. Baratov’s I Caucasus Cavalry Corps launched an offensive on the Mosul and Baghdad axes, with the objective of assisting the British, who were besieged at Kut al-Amarah. In February the corps took Kermanshah, and in May it reached the Turkish-Iranian border. With the surrender of the garrison at Kut al-Amarah on Apr. 28, 1916, the Russian corps brought a halt to its advance and took up a defensive position east of Kermanshah.
In naval operations, the British fleet continued its long-range blockade of Germany. German submarines were active on the sea-lanes. The system of minefields was improved. The battle of Jutland (1916) was the war’s only major naval battle between the main forces of the British Navy (Admiral J. Jellicoe) and the German Navy (Admiral R. Scheer). The battle involved 250 surface ships, including 58 capital ships (battleships and battle cruisers). As a result of its superiority in forces, the British fleet was victorious, even though it suffered greater losses than the German fleet. The defeat shattered the German command’s belief that it was possible to break through the British blockade. The Russian Black Sea Fleet continued its actions on enemy sea-lanes, blockading the Bosporus from August 1916.
The campaign of 1916 did not result in the achievement of the objectives set at the beginning by either coalition, but the superiority of the Entente over the Central Powers became evident. The strategic initiative passed fully to the Entente, and Germany was forced to go over to the defensive on all fronts.
The bloody battles of 1916, which involved enormous human sacrifices and great expenditures of matériel, were depleting the resources of the belligerent powers. The situation of the working people continued to worsen, but the revolutionary movement also continued to grow stronger in 1916. The Kienthal Conference of internationalists (Apr. 24–30, 1916) played an important role in increasing solidarity among revolutionary forces. The revolutionary movement developed with particular speed and turbulence in Russia, where the war had finally revealed to the popular masses the complete decadence of tsarism. A powerful wave of strikes swept over the country, led by the Bolsheviks under the slogans of struggle against the war and the autocracy. The Middle Asian Uprising, a national liberation movement, took place from July to October 1916. In the autumn a revolutionary situation took shape in Russia. The inability of tsarism to win the war aroused discontent among the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie, who began to prepare a palace revolution.
The revolutionary movement grew stronger in other countries. The Irish Rebellion, or Easter Rising (Apr. 24–30, 1916), was harshly suppressed by British troops. On May 1, K. Liebknecht led a massive anti-war demonstration in Berlin. The growing revolutionary crisis forced the imperialists to direct their efforts toward quickly ending the war. In 1916, Germany and tsarist Russia attempted to open separate peace negotiations.
Campaign of 1917
As the campaign of 1917 was prepared and carried out, the revolutionary movement grew considerably stronger in every country. Protest against the war with its enormous losses, against the sharp decline in the standard of living, and against the increasing exploitation of the working people became stronger among the popular masses at the front and in the rear. The revolutionary events in Russia had a tremendous effect on the subsequent course of the war.
By the beginning of the campaign of 1917, the Entente had 425 divisions (21 million men), and the Central Powers, 331 divisions (10 million men). In April 1917 the USA entered the war on the side of the Entente. The fundamental principles of the plan for the campaign of 1917 were adopted by the Allies at the third conference in Chantilly on Nov. 15–16, 1916, and were made more specific in February 1917 at a conference in Petrograd. The plan provided for limited operations on all fronts early in the year, to hold the strategic initiative. In the summer the Allies were to go over to a general offensive in the Western European and Eastern European theatres of operations, with the objective of finally crushing Germany and Austria-Hungary. The German command rejected offensive operations on land and decided to focus its attention on waging “unrestricted submarine warfare,” believing that it could disrupt the British economy in six months and force Great Britain out of the war. On Feb. 1, 1917, Germany declared “unrestricted submarine warfare” on Great Britain for the second time. Between February and April 1917, German submarines destroyed more than 1,000 merchant ships of the Allied and neutral countries (a total of 1,752,000 tons). By mid-1917, Great Britain, which had lost merchant ships amounting to approximately 3 million tons, found itself in a difficult situation. It could only make up for 15 per cent of the losses, and this was not enough to sustain the export and import traffic essential to the country. By the end of 1917, however, after the organization of a reinforced defence of the sea-lanes and the development of various means of anti-submarine defence, the Entente managed to reduce its merchant ship losses. “Unrestricted submarine warfare” did not fulfill the hopes of the German command. Meanwhile, the continuing British blockade was starving Germany.
In executing the general plan for the campaign, the Russian command carried out the Mitau Operation on Dec. 23–29, 1916 (Jan. 5–11, 1917), with the objective of diverting part of the enemy forces from the Western European theatre of operations. On February 27 (March 12) a bourgeois democratic revolution took place in Russia (the February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution of 1917). Under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, the proletariat, demanding peace, bread, and freedom, led the majority of the army, which was made up of workers and peasants, in the overthrow of the autocracy. However, the bourgeois Provisional Government came to power. Expressing the interests of Russian imperialism, it continued the war. Deceiving the masses of soldiers with false promises of peace, it opened an offensive operation with the troops of the Southwestern Front. The operation ended in failure (the June Operation of 1917).
By the summer of 1917 the combat capability of the Rumanian Army had been restored with Russian assistance, and in the battle of Mărăşeşti (July-August) Russian and Rumanian forces repulsed the German forces, which were attempting to break through to the Ukraine. On August 19–24 (September 1–6), during the Riga defensive operation, Russian troops surrendered Riga. The revolutionary sailors of the Baltic Fleet heroically defended the Moonsund Archipelago in the Moonsund Operation of Sept. 29 (Oct. 12)-Oct. 6 (19), 1917. These were the last operations on the Russian Front.
The Great October Socialist Revolution took place on Oct. 25 (Nov. 7), 1917. The proletariat, in alliance with the poorest peasants and under the leadership of the Communist Party, overthrew the power of the bourgeoisie and the landlords and opened the era of socialism. Carrying out the will of the people, the Soviet government addressed a proposal to all the warring powers, calling for the conclusion of a just democratic peace without annexations and reparations (the decree on peace). When the Entente powers and the USA refused to accept the proposal, the Soviet government was forced to conclude an armistice with the German coalition on December 2(15) and begin peace negotiations without the participation of Russia’s former allies. On November 26 (December 9), Rumania concluded the Focşani armistice with Germany and Austria-Hungary.
In the Italian theatre of operations there were 57 Italian divisions opposing 27 Austro-Hungarian divisions in April 1917. Despite the numerical superiority of the Italian forces, the Italian command was unable to attain success. Three more offensives against the Isonzo River failed. On October 24, Austro-Hungarian troops went over to the offensive in the Caporetto region, broke through the Italians’ defence, and inflicted a major defeat on them. Without the assistance of 11 British and French divisions transferred to the Italian theatre of operations, it would not have been possible to stop the advance of the Austro-Hungarian forces at the Piave River in late November.
In the Middle Eastern theatre of operations British troops advanced successfully in Mesopotamia and Syria. They took Baghdad on March 11 and Be’er Sheva’ (Beersheba), Gaza, Jaffa, and Jerusalem in late 1917.
The Entente plan of operations in France, which was developed by General Nivelle, called for delivering the main attack on the Aisne River between Reims and Soissons, in order to break through the enemy defence and surround the German forces in the Noyon salient. Learning of the French plan, by March 17 the German command withdrew its forces 30 km to a previously prepared line known as the Siegfried Line. Subsequently, the French command decided to begin the offensive on a broad front, committing to action major forces and means: six French and three British armies (90 infantry and ten cavalry divisions), more than 11,000 guns and mortars, 200 tanks, and about 1,000 airplanes.
The Allied offensive began on April 9 in the Arras region, on April 12 near St. Quentin, and on April 16 in the Reims region and continued until April 20–28 and May 5 on some axes. The April offensive (the “Nivelle slaughter”) ended incomplete failure. Although about 200,000 men had been lost, the Allied forces had not been able to break through the front. Mutinies broke out in the French Army, but they were cruelly suppressed. A Russian brigade that had been in France since 1916 took part in the offensive on the Aisne River. In the second half of 1917, Anglo-French forces carried out a number of local operations: Messines (June 7-August 30), Ypres (July 31-November 6), Verdun (August 20–27),and Malmaison (October 23–26). At Cambrai (November 20-December 6) massed tanks were used for the first time.
The campaign of 1917 did not produce the results anticipated by either side. The revolution in Russia and the lack of coordinated action by the Allies thwarted the Entente’s strategic plan, which had been intended to crush the Austro-Hungarian bloc. Germany succeeded in repulsing the enemy attacks, but its hope of attaining victory by means of “unrestricted submarine warfare” proved vain, and the troops of the coalition of Central Powers were forced to go over to the defensive.
Campaign of 1918
By early 1918 the military and political situation had changed fundamentally. After the October Revolution Soviet Russia quit the war. Under the influence of the Russian Revolution, a revolutionary crisis was ripening in the other warring powers. The Entente countries (excluding Russia) had 274 divisions at the beginning of 1918 – that is, forces approximately equal to those of the German bloc, which had 275 divisions (not counting 86 divisions in the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic region and nine divisions in the Caucasus). The military and economic situation of the Entente was stronger than that of the German bloc. However, the Allied command believed that even more powerful human and material resources would have to be prepared, with the assistance of the USA, in order to finally crush Germany.
Strategic defensives were planned for all theatres of military operations in the campaign of 1918. The decisive offensive against Germany was postponed until 1919. Their resources running out, the Central Powers were eager to end the war as quickly as possible. Having concluded the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Soviet Russia on Mar. 3, 1918, the German command decided in March to go over to the offensive on the Western Front to crush the Entente armies. At the same time, German and Austro-Hungarian forces, in violation of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, began occupying the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic region. Rumania was drawn into the anti-Soviet intervention after May 7, when it signed the Bucharest Peace Treaty of 1918, the terms of which were dictated by the Central Powers.
On March 21 the German command began a major offensive operation on the Western Front (the March Offensive in Picardy). Their intention was to cut off the British forces from the French forces by means of an attack on Amiens, then crush them and reach the sea. The Germans made sure that they would have superiority in forces and means (62 divisions, 6,824 guns, and about 1,000 airplanes against 32 divisions, about 3,000 guns, and about 500 airplanes for the British). The German forces broke through the Allied defence to a depth of 60 km. The Allied command eliminated the breakthrough by bringing reserves into the battle. The German forces suffered heavy losses (about 230,000 men) but did not achieve their assigned objective. Going over to the offensive again on April 9 in Flanders on the Lys River, the German forces advanced 18 km, but by April 14 the Allies stopped them.
On May 27 the German armies delivered an attack north of Reims (the battle of the Chemin des Dames). They managed to cross the Aisne River and penetrate the Allied defence to a depth of about 60 km, reaching the Marne in the Château-Thierry region by May 30. Having arrived within 70 km of Paris, the German forces were unable to overcome French resistance, and on June 4 they went over to the defensive. The attempt of German troops from June 9 to 13 to advance between Montdidier and Noyon was equally unsuccessful.
On July 15 the German command made a final attempt to defeat the Allied armies by opening a major offensive on the Marne. The battle of the Marne of 1918 (the second battle of the Marne) did not fulfill the Germans’ hopes. After crossing the Marne, they were unable to advance more than 6 km. On July 18, Allied forces delivered a counter-attack; by August 4 they had driven the enemy back to the Aisne and the Vesle. In four months of offensive operations the German command had completely exhausted its reserves but had been unable to crush the Entente armies.
The Allies took firm control of the strategic initiative. On August 8–13 the Anglo-French armies inflicted a major defeat on the German forces in the Amiens Operation of 1918, making them withdraw to the line from which their March offensive had begun. Ludendorff referred to August 8 as “the black day of the German Army.” On September 12–15 the American First Army, commanded by General J. Pershing, won a victory over German forces at St. Mihiel (the St. Mihiel Operation). On September 26, Allied forces (202 divisions against 187 weakened German divisions) began a general offensive along the entire 420-km front from Verdun to the sea and broke through the German defence.
In the other theatres of military operations the campaign of 1918 ended with the defeat of Germany’s allies. The Entente had 56 divisions, including 50 Italian divisions, in the Italian theatre of operations, as well as more than 7,040 guns and more than 670 airplanes. Austria-Hungary had 60 divisions, 7,500 guns, and 580 airplanes. On June 15 the Austro-Hungarian forces, going over to the offensive south of Trent, broke through the enemy defence and advanced 3–4 km, but on June 20–26 they were thrown back to the starting line by counter-attack by Allied forces. On October 24 the Italian Army went over to the offensive against the Piave River, but it made only an insignificant advance. On October 28 units of the Austro-Hungarian Fifth and Sixth armies, refusing to fight, began to abandon their positions. They were soon joined by troops of other armies, and a disorderly retreat of all the Austro-Hungarian forces began on November 2. On November 3, Austria-Hungary signed an armistice with the Entente at Villa Giusti (near Padua).
In the Balkan theatre of operations, the Allied forces consisted of 29 infantry divisions (eight French, four British, six Serbian, one Italian, and ten Greek divisions and one French cavalry group, a total of about 670,000 men; and 2,070 guns). Facing them along a 350-km front from the Aegean to the Adriatic were the forces of the Central Powers – the German Eleventh Army; the Bulgarian First, Second, and Fourth armies; an Austro-Hungarian corps (a total of about 400,000 men); and 1,138 guns. On September 15 the Allies began an offensive; by September 29 they had advanced to a depth of 150 km along a front of 250 km. Surrounded, the German Eleventh Army surrendered on September 30. The Bulgarian armies were smashed. On September 29, Bulgaria signed an armistice with the Entente in Salonika.
The British army of General E. H. Allenby and the Arab army commanded by Emir Faisal and the British intelligence officer Colonel T. E. Lawrence (a total of 105,000 men and 546 guns) were operating on the Syrian Front, where Turkey had three armies – the Fourth, the Seventh, and the Eighth (a total of 34,000 men and about 330 guns). The Allied offensive began on September 19. Breaking through the enemy defence and pushing forward cavalry units to the enemy rear, Allied troops forced the Turkish Eighth and Seventh armies to surrender; the Turkish Fourth Army retreated. Between September 28 and October 27 the Allies captured Akko (Acre), Damascus, Tripoli, and Aleppo. A French landing party went ashore at Beirut on October 7.
On the Mesopotamian Front the British expeditionary army of General W. Marshall (five divisions) went on the offensive against the Turkish Sixth Army (four divisions). The British captured Kirkuk on October 24 and Mosul on October 31.The Entente powers and Turkey signed the Moudhros Armistice on Oct. 30, 1918, aboard the British battleship Agamemnon in Moudhros Bay (the island of Limnos).
In early October, Germany’s position became hopeless. On October 5 the German government asked the US government for an armistice. The Allies demanded the withdrawal of German forces from all occupied territory in the west.
The military defeats and economic exhaustion of Germany had accelerated the development of a revolutionary crisis. The victory and progress of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia strongly influenced the growth of the revolutionary movement of the German people. On Oct. 30, 1918, an uprising broke out among the sailors in Wilhelmshaven. The Kiel Mutiny of sailors in the German fleet took place on Nov. 3, 1918; on November 6 the uprising spread to Hamburg, Lübeck, and other cities. On November 9 the revolutionary German workers and soldiers overthrew the monarchy. Fearing further development of the revolution in Germany, the Entente hurried to conclude the Armistice of Compiègne with Germany on Nov. 11, 1918. Germany, admitting that it had been defeated, obligated itself to remove its forces immediately from all occupied territories and turn over to the Allies a large quantity of armaments and military equipment.
Results of the war
World War I ended in the defeat of Germany and its allies. After the conclusion of the Armistice of Compiègne the victorious powers began developing plans for a postwar “settlement.” Treaties with the defeated countries were prepared at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919–20. A number of separate treaties were signed: the Peace Treaty of Versailles with Germany (June 28, 1919), the Treaty of St.-Germain with Austria (Sept. 10, 1919), the Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria (Nov. 27, 1919), the Treaty of Trianon with Hungary (June 4, 1920), and the Treaty of Sèvres with Turkey (Aug. 10, 1920). The Paris Peace Conference also adopted a resolution regarding the establishment of the League of Nations and approved its Covenant, which became part of the peace treaties. Germany and its former allies were deprived of considerable territories and compelled to pay heavy reparations and greatly reduce their armed forces.
The postwar peace “settlement” in the interests of the victorious imperialist powers was completed by the Washington Conference on Naval Limitations (1921–22). The treaties with Germany and its former allies and the agreements signed at the Washington Conference constituted the Versailles-Washington system of peace. The result of compromises and deals, it failed to eliminate the contradictions among the imperialist powers and in fact considerably exacerbated them. Lenin wrote:
“Today, after this ‘peaceful’ period, we see a monstrous intensification of oppression, the reversion to a colonial and military oppression that is far worse than before” (ibid., 5th ed., vol. 41, p. 217).
The imperialist powers began to struggle for a repartition of the world, preparing for another world war.
In its scope and consequences World War I was unprecedented in the history of the human race. It lasted four years, three months, and ten days (from Aug. 1, 1914, to Nov. 11, 1918), engulfing 38 countries with a combined population of more than 1.5 billion. The Entente countries mobilized about 45 million men, and the coalition of the Central Powers, 25 million – a total of 70 million men. The most able-bodied men on both sides were removed from material production and sent to exterminate each other, fighting for the interests of the imperialists. By the end of the war, the ground forces exceeded their peacetime counterparts by a factor of 8.5 in Russia, five in France, nine in Germany, and eight in Austria-Hungary. As much as 50 and even 59.4 per cent (in France) of the able-bodied male population was mobilized. The Central Powers mobilized almost twice the percentage of the total population as the Entente (19.1 per cent, as compared to 10.3 per cent). About 16 million men – more than one-third of all those mobilized by the Entente and its allies – were mobilized for the Russian armed forces. In June 1917, 288 (55.3 per cent) of the Entente’s 521 divisions were Russian. In Germany, 13.25 million men were mobilized, or more than half of all the soldiers mobilized by the Central Powers. In June 1918, 236 (63.4 per cent) of the Central Powers’ 361 divisions were German. The large size of the armies resulted in the formation of vast fronts up to 3,000–4,000 km long.
The war demanded the mobilization of all material resources, demonstrating the decisive role of the economy in an armed struggle. World War I was characterized by the massive use of many types of matériel. “It is the first time in history that the most powerful achievements of technology have been applied on such a scale, so destructively and with such energy, for the annihilation of millions of human lives” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 36, p. 396). Industry in the warring countries supplied the fronts with millions of rifles, more than 1 million light and heavy machine guns, more than 150,000 artillery pieces, 47.7 billion cartridges, more than 1 billion shells, 9,200 tanks, and about 182,000 airplanes (see Table 4). During the war the number of heavy artillery pieces increased by a factor of eight, the number of machine guns by a factor of 20, and the number of airplanes by a factor of 24. The war created a demand for large quantities of various materials, such as lumber and cement. About 4 million tons of barbed wire were used. Armies of millions of men demanded an uninterrupted supply of food, clothing, and forage. For example, from 1914 to 1917 the Russian Army consumed (in round figures) 9.64 million tons of flour, 1.4 million tons of cereal, 8.74 million tons of meat, 510,000 tons of fats, 11.27 million tons of forage oats and barley, and 19.6 million tons of hay, with a total value of 2,473,700,000 rubles (at 1913 prices). The front was supplied with 5 million sheepskin coats and pea jackets, 38.4 million sweaters and padded vests, more than 75 million pairs of underwear, 86.1 million pairs of high boots and shoes, 6.6 million pairs of felt boots, and other clothing.
Military enterprises alone could not produce such enormous quantities of armaments and other supplies. Industry was mobilized by means of a large-scale conversion of consumer-goods plants and factories to the production of war goods. In Russia in 1917, 76 per cent of the workers were engaged in meeting war needs; in France, 57 per cent; in Great Britain, 46 per cent; in Italy, 64 per cent; in the USA, 31.6 per cent; and in Germany, 58 per cent. In most of the warring countries, however, industry was unable to supply the needs of the armies for armaments and equipment. Russia, for example, was forced to order armaments, ammunition, clothing, industrial equipment, steam locomotives, coal, and certain other types of strategic raw materials from the USA, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Japan, and other countries. During the war, however, these countries provided the Russian Army with only a small proportion of its total requirements for armaments and ammunition: 30 per cent of the rifles, less than 1 per cent of the rifle cartridges, 23 per cent of the guns of different calibers, and 20 per cent of the shells for these guns.
In all the major countries special state bodies were established to manage the war economies: in Germany the Department of War Raw Materials, in Great Britain the Ministry of Munitions, and in Russia the Special Conferences (for state defence, fuel, shipping, and food). These state bodies planned war production; distributed orders, equipment, and raw and processed materials; rationed food and consumer goods; and exercised control over foreign trade. The capitalists formed their own representative organizations to assist the state bodies: in Germany the Central War Industries Council and war industries committees for each sector, in Great Britain the supervisory committees, and in Russia the war industries committees and the Zemstvo and Municipal unions. As a result, an interlocking relationship developed between the state administrative apparatus and the monopolies. “The imperialist war has immensely accelerated and intensified the process of transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 33, p. 3). Although the state bodies managing the war economy had strong assistance from the representative organizations of the capitalists, the very nature of the capitalist economy prevented them from achieving complete success.
The war made intensive demands on all types of transportation. Up to half of all railroad rolling stock was loaded with military shipments. Most motor vehicles were used for military needs. A large number of the merchant vessels of the warring and neutral countries were engaged in shipping cargoes for war industries and armies. During the war 6,700 vessels (excluding sailing ships) were sunk (total displacement, about 15 million tons, or 28 per cent of the prewar world tonnage).
The increase in military production, which was achieved primarily at the expense of nonmilitary sectors, placed excessive strains on the national economies, resulting in the disruption of the proportion between different sectors of production and, ultimately, in economic disorder. In Russia, for example, two-thirds of all industrial output went for war needs and only one-third for consumer needs, giving rise to a scarcity of goods, as well as to high prices and speculation. As early as 1915 there were shortages of many types of industrial raw materials and fuel, and by 1916 there was a severe raw materials and fuel crisis in Russia. As a result of the war, the production of many types of industrial output declined in other countries. There was a significant decline in the smelting of pig iron, steel, and nonferrous metals; the extraction of coal and petroleum; and output from all branches of light industry. The war damaged society’s productive forces and undermined the economic life of the people of the world.
In agriculture the effects of the war were especially grave. Mobilization deprived the countryside of its most productive workers and draft animals. Sown areas were cut back, yields dropped, and the number of livestock decreased and their productivity declined. Severe shortages of food developed in the cities of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, which later experienced famine. The shortages spread to the army, resulting in cuts in food rations.
World War I demanded colossal financial expenditures, many times greater than the expenditures in all previous wars. There is no scientifically substantiated estimate of the total cost of World War I, but the one most commonly cited in the literature was calculated by the American economist E. Bogart, who set the total cost of the war at $359.9 billion in gold (699.4 billion rubles), including $208.3 billion (405 billion rubles) of direct (budgeted) expenditures and $151.6 billion (294.4 billion rubles) of indirect expenditures. Direct war expenditures included the cost of maintaining the army (40 per cent) and the cost of the material and technological means for waging war (60 per cent). The national income provided the economic base for covering war expenditures. Additional sources of financing the war were increases in existing (direct and indirect) taxes and the institution of new taxes, the sale of domestic and foreign bonds, and the issuing of paper money. The full weight of the financial burden of the war fell on the toiling classes of the population.
World War I was an important stage in the history of the art of war and in the building of armed forces. There were major changes in the organization and relationships of the various combat arms. The great length of the fronts and the deployment on them of vast armies of millions of soldiers led to the creation of new organizational units: fronts and army groups. The firepower of the infantry increased, but its proportionate role decreased somewhat as the result of the development of other combat arms: engineers, signal troops, and especially, the artillery. The number of artillery pieces rose sharply, technology improved, and new types of artillery were developed (anti-aircraft, infantry support, and anti-tank artillery). The range of fire, destructive force of fire, and mobility of the artillery increased. The density of artillery reached 100 or more guns per kilometre of front. Infantry attacks were accompanied by rolling barrages.
Tanks, a powerful striking and mobile force, were used for the first time. Tank forces developed rapidly. By the war’s end there were 8,000 tanks in the Entente armies. In aviation, which also developed rapidly, several different branches emerged: fighter, reconnaissance, bombardment, and ground attack aviation. By the end of the war the belligerent powers had more than 10,000 combat aircraft. Anti-aircraft defence developed in the air war. Chemical warfare troops appeared. The significance of the cavalry among the combat arms declined, and by the war’s end the number of cavalry troops had dropped sharply.
The war revealed the growing dependence of the art of war on economics and politics. The scale of operations, the extent of the front of attack, and the depth and rate of advance increased. With the establishment of continuous fronts, combat operations became static. The frontal blow, the success of which determined the outcome of an operation, became very important. During World War I the problem of the tactical breakthrough of a front was solved, but the problem of developing a breakthrough into an operational success remained unsolved. New means of fighting complicated the tactics of the combat arms. At the beginning of the war the infantry conducted offensives in skirmish lines and later, in waves of lines and combat teams (squads). Combined arms combat was based on cooperation between old and new combat arms – the infantry, the artillery, tanks, and aviation. Control of troops became more complex. The role of logistics and supplies increased significantly. Rail and motor-vehicle transport became very important.
The types and classes of naval ships were refined, and there was an increase in the proportion of light forces (cruisers, destroyers, patrol vessels and patrol boats, and submarines). Shipboard artillery, mines, torpedoes, and naval aviation were used extensively. The chief forms of military operations at sea were the blockade; cruiser, submarine, and mine warfare; landings and raids; and engagements and battles between line forces and light forces. The experience of World War I greatly influenced the development of military thinking and the organization and combat training of all combat arms (forces) until World War II (1939–45).
The war brought unprecedented deprivation and human suffering and widespread hunger and devastation. It brought mankind “to the brink of a precipice, to the brink of the destruction of civilization, of brutalization” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 31, p.182). Valuables worth 58 billion rubles were destroyed during the war. Entire regions, especially in northern France, were turned into wastelands.
Casualties amounted to 9.5 million killed and dead of wounds and 20 million wounded, of whom 3.5 million were permanently crippled. The heaviest losses (66.6 per cent of the total) were suffered by Germany, Russia, France, and Austria-Hungary. The USA sustained only 1.2 per cent of the total losses. Many civilians were killed by the various means of combat. (There are no overall figures for combat-related civilian casualties.) Hunger and other privations caused by the war led to a rise in the mortality rate and a drop in the birthrate. The population loss from these factors was more than 20 million in the 12 belligerent states alone, including 5 million in Russia, 4.4 million in Austria-Hungary, and 4.2 million in Germany. Unemployment, inflation, tax increases, and rising prices worsened the poverty and extreme deprivation of the large majority of the population of the capitalist countries.
Only the capitalists gained any advantages from the war. By the beginning of 1918, the war profits of the German monopolies totalled at least 10 billion gold marks. The capital of the German finance magnate Stinnes increased by a factor of ten, and the net profits of the “cannon king” Krupp, by a factor of almost six. Monopolies in France, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan made large profits, but the American monopolies made the most on the war – between 1914 and 1918, $3 billion in profits. “The American multimillionaires … profited more than all the rest. They have converted all, even the richest, countries into their tributaries. … And every dollar is stained with blood – from that ocean of blood that has been shed by the 10 million killed and 20 million maimed” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 37, p. 50). The profits of the monopolies continued to grow after the war.
The ruling classes placed the entire burden of the economic consequences of the war on the toiling people. World War I led to an aggravation of the class struggle and accelerated the ripening of the objective prerequisites for the Great October Socialist Revolution, which opened a new epoch in world history – the epoch of the transition from capitalism to socialism. The example of Russia’s toiling people, who threw off the oppression of the capitalists and landlords, showed other peoples the way to liberation. A wave of revolutionary actions swept over many countries, shaking the foundations of the world capitalist system. The national liberation movement became active in the colonial and dependent countries. “World War I and the October Revolution marked the beginning of the general crisis of capitalism” (Programma KPSS, 1974, p. 25). Politically, this was the chief result of the war.
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I. I. ROSTUNOV
Source: The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.