Monday, April 22, 2013

Why Russia Started WWI

A couple of weeks ago, my history teacher announced that we were going to have a debate in class, and the topic we were debating was "which country started WWI?" Now, obviously, there's not one single country that did start a world war, but we were supposed to find one country and blame it for everything. We could discuss anything from the 1880's to August 4th, 1914.
My group got stuck trying to defend Germany.
So, as you might imagine, Germany has a lot of dirt on it (which I might discuss another time). So we decided to blame Russia.
But before we got to the research, we started to form alliances with other countries, and by the end of the week or so, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Serbia, Britain, and France were all in an alliance against Russia. At this point, I basically predicted that France and Britain would bail on us and join Russia, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
So we started to do research. We researched Germany through books like Germany's Aims in the First World War by Fritz Fischer and The Guns of August and The Proud Tower by Barbara Tuchman. Then, I went to my local library and checked out practically every single book about WWI and the events leading up to the war so that nobody else from the other groups could get them.
We were paranoid, a little (sort of like Germany in the late 19th century!) that everyone was going to backstab us, so we had to research everyone.
And now, here is why Russia started the war.
Russia had a lot of motive. It wanted to start a war so that it could acquire the straights. The straights were important to Russia because it was one of the only ways to get out into the ocean that didn't freeze for half of the year.
Also, there's the question of Russia's military. Now we all know that Russia is a gigantic land mass full of tons of people, but it's military in 1914 consisted of 1,284,000 men (according to Fritz Fischer) sitting on the Austro-Hungarian boarder. That seems pretty threatening to me.
Then, there's mobilization. During this time, mobilization of an army meant war. Nobody mobilized if they didn't want war. Russia was the first country to mobilize it's army. It was even warned by the British and French foreign ambassadors Buchanan and Cambon that if the Tsar mobilized, that would push the Germans to declare war. And yet, Russia still did it, and look what happened. Germany invaded Belgium.
Russia started encouraging the Serbian plotters in 1912 and in 1914, the Tsar promised the Serbians arms and ammunition. Since there was a cultural tie between Russia and Serbia, Apis believed that when the assassination of the Archduke would cause war, that Russia would support Serbia.
Then, there's the secret diplomacy with France. People get suspicious with a secret diplomacy, and that's never good.
Of corse there's more than this, and we elaborated more on this stuff. But the debate went well. Russia got kicked out first, and then Serbia, and then France was trying to get us out of the debate, but we stalled them and then the debate ended, so we didn't get kicked out. What I thought was particularly amusing was when someone on the Russian team said something like "mobilization doesn't mean war," and Serbia, Austria-Hungary and Germany all said at the same time "YES IT DOES!!" Eventually, the debate ended up just being a shouting match between the countries. But at least Germany didn't get kicked out.

On a completely different note, by Laughing at Dragons got picked as one of the best personal blogs of 2013 by TYWKIDBI, which is very exciting. YAY!

1 comment:

  1. NPR has a piece about WWI you might appreciate.