Monday, 11 June 2018

The Way to the Great War (Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Hungary)

2018 marks the Centenary of the End of World War I. Since 2014, when the Centenary of the Beginning of the war was commemorated, I built up a collection of postcards, stamps and postmarks related to the war. Now for this important jubilee I will show it again in a new order based on the chronological course of the war. The primary series will consist of six posts, one for each year of the war and one for the background, which will be posted every month from now one. In 2019 I plan to post some more stories about Europe's changed political map after the Great War, but for now enjoy this post about the background and stay tuned for the next five posts. To bridge the time between the single posts you can visit my complete collection on my other blog, as not everything will be included in this post series.

By 1914 the European powers had created an unstable political system, which was still strong enough to survive the previous crises. The last decades had been coined by the Imperialism, when the European countries divided nearly the whole World in European colonies, which were thought to have to match the strength of a country. This for sure meant that some countries were not contended with what they got and demanded more, both overseas and in Europe. Although in this situation the most countries tried to increase their own power with no regard for the others, there were still political and military arrangements between the governments, which in fact divided the five great powers in two parties. On the one side there was the Triple Entente with France, Great Britain and Russia and on the other side an alliance of the Austro-Hungarian with the German Empire, which actually also included Italy. By the year, which was later considered as a historical caesura, no one really thought that a big war would come despite the tense political situation, but as history has shown they were wrong.

On the 28th June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie of Hohenberg visited Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia which was just annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1908. After a first assassination failed, a second attempt carried out by Gavrilo Princip, a member of Mlada Bosna, was successful. Sophie died in the car and the Austro-Hungarian successor to the throne died shortly after. Although Franz Ferdinand was not very popular, the Austro-Hungarian government used the assassination as reason for an intervention in the unpleasant Kingdom of Serbia. 

Latin Bridge in Sarajevo, where the Gavrilo Princip
shot at Franz Ferdinand and Sophie

The car used by Franz Ferdinand and Sophie in Sarajevo is
today in the Museum of Military History in Vienna.

What followed was the July Crisis. In the whole course of the July the behaviour of all actors was inscrutable and often coined by prejudices and accusations against each other.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was sure that an intervention in Serbia would cause a military answer of Russia, its protecting power, so the Austro-Hungarian government sought support in Germany. Although the German government was first sceptical, the German Emperor confirmed the German support, which forced the government to follow its sovereign. But also after this there was the wish to localise the coming war at the Balkans, while there was also the idea that a war against Russia would be now more winnable than in the future. Between the 20th and 23rd July leading members of the French government were in Saint Petersberg and assured the Russian government their support in a war. With the assured support of the German Empire the Austro-Hungarian Empire gave an unacceptable ultimatum to Serbia on 23rd July, but Serbia abandoned some of the points, as it knew of the support of Russia.

The Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I did not want a war,
but wanted to demonstrate power against Serbia. On 28th July
he signed the declaration of the war, whose end he did not survived.

The Hungarian Prime Minister István Tisza played an important
role during the July crisis. He was generally against a war with Serbia.

The German Emperor Wilhelm II offered the Blank Check to
the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

On 28th July 1914 the Austro-Hungarian Empire finally declared war on Serbia. Due to the European alliances this led to what would have become the most extensive war in the human history which will change the World forever. It was the beginning of the Great War.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

The Demise of Napoleon (Belgium, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom)

The French Invasion of Russia started in June 1812. First Napoleon's Grande Armée won various smaller battles and advanced to Moscow. The withdrawing Russian troops did not leave anything in the captured territories and as part of the scorched-earth tactic Cossacks were instructed to burn villages, towns and crops, sothat the French invaders were not able to live off the land. After the bloody Battle of Borodino in September 1812 the French troops entered the evacuated Moscow, which was later set ablaze at the behest of the city's governor. After moving his troops to Kaluga one month later, Napoleon had to withdrew them to the west because of the beginning of the winter. During the withdrawal the French troops were often attacked by smaller Russian forces and a loss of discipline was recorded. During this Patriotic War of 1812 the Grande Armée lost around 380000 men and another 100000 were captured. The campaign was a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars.

The Triumphal Arch of Moscow was built between 1829 and 1834. It was dismantled when Josef Stalin reconstructed Moscow's downtown in 1936, but was rebuilt between 1966 and 1968.

After the invasion Prussia and Austria broke their alliance with France and formed a new coalition with Russia. The coalition was later joined by Sweden, the United Kingdom and other countries. The War of the Sixth Coalition and the German Wars of Liberation started.

The Battle of Nations was the decisive battle of this war. Between the 16th and 19th October 1813 soldiers from Austria, Prussia, Russia and Sweden fought against Napoleon's Grand Armée. All together 520000 soldiers took part in the battle, of which 90000 lost their life. The Battle of the Nations was then the largest battle in human history.

The Monument to the Battle of the Nations is the biggest monument in Germany. It was built between 1900 and 1912. It was opened in 1913 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Nations.

After the lost War of the Sixth Coalition Napoleon had to abdicate and was sent to Elba. At the Congress of Vienna in 1815 new borders in Europe were drawn.

On 20th May 1815 Napoleon Bonaparte returned from his exile on Elba and quickly regained the power in France. Napoleon's Hundred Days began. First he was backed by a big part of France's population, but the flare-up of a new war, the War of the Seventh Coalition, soon decreased his popularity. Also the other European powers were not willing to accept a new reign of Napoleon and so they declared him an outlaw and concentrated an army in modern day Belgium. 

The Battle of Quatre Bras was fought on 16 June 1815 near the strategic crossroads of Quatre Bras. It was contested between Wellington's Anglo-Allied army and a part of France's army under Marshal Michel Ney. Although the Allies won the field, the French prevented them from coming to the aid of the Prussians at the Battle of Ligny.

The Battle of Waterloo was fought on 18th June 1815 between France and the armies of the Seventh Coalition. It ended with a decisive defeat of Napoleon and finally ended his reign.

After the lost battle Napoleon went back to Paris, where he had lost all support. The Allies later sent him to a new exile in Saint Helena, where he died in 1821. The battle was followed by almost four decades of international peace in Europe.

31.10.2015, 16.10.2016

Sunday, 22 April 2018

The Western Schism and the Council of Constance (Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy)

The Western Schism was a split within the Roman Catholic Church which lasted from 1378 to 1417. It was driven by a conflict between French and Italian cardinals after the death of Pope Gregory XI in 1378. The new elected Pope, Urban VI, proved to be unsuitable, so an antipope, Clement VII, was elected. Clement VII reestablished the papal court in Avignon, which was just dissolved by Gregory XI in 1377 when he ended the Avignon Papacy (1309-1377) and moved back to Rome to escape the influence of the French Crown. The conflicts quickly escalated from a church problem to a diplomatic crisis that divided Europe, as the secular leaders had to choose which claimant they would recognize. 

A first attempt to end the Schism was the Council of Pisa in 1409, an unrecognized ecumenical council. But it failed and instead of ending the Schism a third Pope, Alexander V, was elected.

Held between 1414 and 1418 the Council of Constance finally ended the Western Schism with the election of Pope Martin V in 1417 and the resignation of the remaining papal claimants. The council was mainly pressed by the later Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund and also saw the condemnation of Jan Hus in 1415 and Jerome of Prague in 1416.


Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Thirty Years' War (Czech Republic, Germany)

In the early 17th century the confessional map of Europe was quite stabilised, but there were still many political, dynastic, internal and still confessional problems. In this tense situation the Bohemian estates started to revolt against the Habsburg rule after Matthias, the King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, repealed a law of religious freedom. In the following war the Bohemian estates were supported by various Protestant states, most notably the Electorate of the Palatinate, against the Habsburg Emperor, but were finally defeated in the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. The most Protestant states were defeated by Catholic states in the following time. In 1621 the Eighty Years' War or Dutch War of Independence restarted after a 12-year truce. Starting in 1624 France renewed its anti-Habsburg politics and initiated a union between Denmark, England and the Netherlands. In 1625 Albrecht von Wallenstein started to raise a large army to further the Imperial cause. By 1629 the Protestantism in the Empire seemed to be lost, but when Emperor Ferdinand II was at the peak of power, he provoked again the Protestant resistance and Sweden under Gustav II Adolf joined the war in 1630. The Swedish marched in the following time through the Empire until they were forced to retreat in 1632. In the Battle of Lützen in November 1632 Gustav II Adolf lost his life and a time of Swedish defeats followed. In 1635 the Protestant states and the Emperor signed the Peace of Prague and decided to join forces against France and Sweden, which subsequently formed an alliance. French and Swedish attacks on German soil continued until 1648 when the Peace of Westphalia was proclaimed. 

This Thirty Years' War, which was accompanied by famines and epidemics, had horrible consequences for the civilian population and some areas were completely depopulated and devastated, but did not have a big impact on the political map of Empire. The Peace of Westphalia is widely considered to be the end of the Reformation.

This is the last post in the series about the Reformation. Thanks to everyone for reading! The next big themes on this blog will be World War I, Modern Art and the Federal Chancellors of Germany. So stay tuned!

1618: The Thirty Years' War begins with the Second Defenestration of Prague.

1631: The Protestant city of Magdeburg is destroyed during the Sack of Magdeburg.

1632-1634: Regensburg is considered to have a key role in the war.

1648: The Thirty Years' War ends with the Peace of Westphalia.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Reformation in Franconia (Germany)

Franconia was a centre of the Reformation in Bavaria. Martin Luther visited the region several times and Nuremberg became a centre for the spread of the Lutheran ideas. During the Counter-Reformation big parts of the region were recatholicized and during the Thirty Years' War the region suffered from heavy devastations.

Lazarus Spengler became a member of Nuremberg's city council in 1516. He was an early supporter of Martin Luther and became the leader of the Reformation in Nuremberg. In 1526 Spengler and Philipp Melanchthon opened a Lutheran gymnasium in Nuremberg. In 1530 he attended the Diet of Augsburg. He also helped to design the Luther rose and wrote some popular hymns. Lazarus Spengler died in 1534. 

Georg Spalatin was born in Franconia in 1484 and got his early education in Nuremberg. He later studied in Erfurt and became a member of a little band of German humanists. In 1509 he started to work for Frederick the Wise. First he was the tutor for his nephews, his librarian and secretary, but later he became his confidential adviser in all the troubled diplomacy of the earlier years of the Reformation and there is scarcely any fact in the opening history of the Reformation which is not connected in some way with Spalatin's name. He also remained an adviser for Frederick's successors. Georg Spalatin died in 1545. 

Friday, 12 January 2018

The Counter-Reformation (Germany, Vatican)

The Counter-Reformation was the response of the Catholic Church to the Protestant Reformation. It began with the Council of Trent between 1545 and 1563 and led to reforms such as the foundation of seminaries for the proper training of priests and the foundation of new spiritual movements. Its main aims were the repression of the Protestantism and the Recatholisation of Protestant territories. The Counter-Reformation was one of the factors that led to the Thirty Years' War. 

Pope Leo X (1475-1521) had not taken seriously
the demands for church reform that would quickly
grow into the Protestant Reformation

Art played an important role for the propaganda
of the Counter-Reformation

Ingolstadt - a bastion for the traditional Catholic faith
in southern Germany and place of activity for Johann Eck

Monday, 1 January 2018

European History in a Small Village (Luxembourg)

Schengen is a small village near the meeting place of the French, German and Luxembourgian border. In 1985 representatives from Belgium, France, West Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands came together in Schengen to sign the Schengen Agreement, which led to the creation of Europe's borderless Schengen Area. 

The European Museum in Schengen was opened in 2010 and shows exhibitions about the Schengen Agreement. In 2017 the Village of Schengen got the European Heritage Label. 

Maxicard with a Personalised Stamp about the 30th anniversary
of the Schengen Agreement

Thanks to the Schengen Agreement there are today no borders anymore between

Czech Republic