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.