World War I
|“||The Great War differed from all ancient wars in the immense power of the combatants and their fearful agencies of destruction, and from all modern wars in the utter ruthlessness with which it was fought. … Europe and large parts of Asia and Africa became one vast battlefield on which after years of struggle not armies but nations broke and ran. When all was over, Torture and Cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilized, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny themselves: and they were of doubtful utility.||„|
|~ Winston Churchill, The World Crisis, 1911-1918.|
World War I was a global conflict that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. It was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until the start of World War II in 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter. It involved all the world's great powers, which were assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (based on the Triple Entente of the United Kingdom, France and Russia) and the Central Powers (originally the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy; Italy did not enter into the war, as Austria–Hungary had taken the offensive against the terms of the alliance). These alliances were both reorganized and expanded as more nations entered the war: Italy, Japan and the United States joined the Allies, and the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria the Central Powers. Ultimately, more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilized in one of the largest wars in history. More than 9 million combatants were killed, largely because of technological advancements that led to enormous increases in the lethality of weapons without corresponding improvements in protection or mobility, causing both sides to resort to large-scale human wave attacks, which proved extremely costly in terms of casualties. It was the fifth-deadliest conflict in world history, subsequently paving the way for various political changes, such as revolutions in many of the nations involved.
One of the long-term causes of the war was the resurgence of imperialism in the foreign policies of the great powers of Europe. More immediately, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, on 28 June 1914 by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo triggered a diplomatic crisis when Austria-Hungary subsequently delivered an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia. Several alliances formed over the previous decades were invoked. Within weeks, the major powers were at war and, via their colonies, the conflict soon spread around the world. On 28 July, the Austro-Hungarians fired the first shots of the war as preparation for the invasion of Serbia. While the Russians mobilized, the Germans invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg on the way to France, providing a casus belli for Britain's declaration of war against Germany.
After the German march on Paris was brought to a halt—the so-called Miracle of the Marne—the Western Front settled into a static battle of attrition with a trench line that changed little until 1917. On the Eastern Front, the Russian army was successful against the Austro-Hungarians, but was stopped in its invasion of East Prussia by the Germans. In November the Ottoman Empire joined the war, opening up fronts in the Caucasus, Mesopotamia and the Sinai. Italy and Bulgaria went to war in 1915 and Romania in 1916. In Russia, Tsar Nicholas II's government collapsed in March 1917 and a subsequent revolution instigated by Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik faction in November brought the Russians to terms with the Central Powers. After a 1918 German offensive along the western front, the Allies drove back the Germans in a series of successful offensives and American forces began entering the trenches. Germany, which had its own trouble with revolutionaries, agreed to an armistice on 11 November 1918.
The war ended in victory for the Allies. Events on the home fronts were as tumultuous as on the battle fronts, as the participants tried to mobilize their manpower and economic resources to fight a total war. By the end of the war, four major imperial powers—the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires—ceased to exist. The successor states of the former two lost a great amount of territory, while the latter two were dismantled entirely. The map of central Europe was redrawn into several smaller states. The League of Nations was formed in the hope of preventing another such conflict. The European nationalism spawned by the war, weak new nations, and the humiliation of Germany's defeat were factors contributing to the rise of the Nazis and the start of World War II.