Volume 31

ahuk-31Empires and Nationalisms in the Great War: Interactions in East-Central Europe

Acta Historica Universitatis Klaipedensis, Vol. XXXI

Editors: Vasilijus Safronovas, Česlovas Laurinavičius

Klaipėda, 2015

One hundred years after the First World War, this volume of the series Acta Historica Universitatis Klaipedensis seeks to draw readers’ attention to the fundamental clash between imperial ambitions and the principle of nationalities which broke out in East-Central Europe during the Great War. The clash opened the way for newly formed states in the region after the war; however, even in the last years of the war, the outcome of the interaction between the imperial and national aspirations was not perceived as the only one, or taken for granted. In this collection of papers, Russian, German, French, British, Lithuanian and American historians examine thoroughly the wartime plans and strategies of the regimes that supported the imperial system, and the role of the principle of nationalities in these plans and strategies. The volume also reveals the diversity of roles played by the expression of the principle of nationalities in East-Central Europe during the war, and touches on some of the mental and social changes formed in the region by the clash of imperial and national orders during the war.

Editors’ Note


Imperial Plans and Strategies

Военные планы и стратегия России накануне Первой мировой войны
EN title: Russia’s Military Plans and Strategy on the Eve of the First World War

Abstract and Full Text
The author examines the main stages in Russia’s preparations for war in the strategic field in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The article focuses on three factors of key importance for the front in the west: space, time and numbers of troops. The inability of the higher administration of the Empire, and the Emperor Nicholas II in particular, to integrate the efforts of various departments to outline a compromised version of the general strategic plan of war against the Triple Alliance may be considered one of the foremost reasons for the premature withdrawal of the Russian Empire, which had become the Soviet Republic, from the First World War in the spring of 1918.

Key words: First World War, the Entente, the Triple Alliance, Russian general staff, Russian strategic plans, mobilisation schedule.


Isabelle DAVION
Balance of Power or Principle of Nationality? The Evolution of French Plans towards East-Central Europe during the War

Abstract and Full Text
In August 1914, France had already defined a pattern of war aims which would be shaped and amended during the next four years. Regarding East-Central Europe, two approaches present themselves to the French policy-makers: the classic system of alliances to maintain the balance of power, and the new internationalist doctrine implying the priority application of the principle of nationality. Both these concepts reacted to the geopolitical evolutions which occurred during the Great War. The article analyses these evolutions of the French concept of a ‘world order’ in East-Central Europe between 1914 and 1918 primarily through an examination of the case of Poland.

Key words: First World War, security policy, alliances, self-determination, war aims, successor states.


Александра БАХТУРИНА
Воззвание великого князя Николая Николаевича к полякам 1 (14) августа 1914 г.: значение и политические последствия
EN title: The Proclamation to the Polish Nation on 14 (1) August 1914 of Nikolai Nikolaevich: Significance and Political Consequences

Abstract and Full Text
The proclamation to the Polish nation on 14 (1) August 1914 signed by Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich has interested more than one researcher. Researchers from Russia and other countries routinely refer to the document in their analysis of the Polish question. However, the proclamation itself has not been an object of research for a long time, although the circumstances of its appearance, its content, and its multiple political consequences might contribute not only to an analysis of the Polish question, but also, in a more general sense, to studies of the national question in the Russian Empire. The paper deals with the history of the proclamation to the Polish nation, the reasons for its appearance, and the characteristics of the text. It analyses the issue of its authorship, and the impact of the proclamation on general public feeling, and also discusses the consideration of the Polish question in the Council of Ministers of the Russian Empire during the First World War.

Key words: Polish question, Russian Empire, First World War, nationalities question.


Цели Германии в Первой мировой войне на Востоке: крутые повороты истории и историографии
EN title: The Goals of Germany in the East during the First World War: Sharp Turns in History and Historiography

Abstract and Full Text
In the evaluation of the goals of the countries that fought in the First World War, one of the most persistent stereotypes testifies to the particular aggressiveness of the Kaiser’s Germany, and its exclusive role in the outbreak of the war. This opinion is directly related to Lithuania, when it comes to the expansionist approach of Germany with respect to the western border zones of the Russian Empire. The paper looks for the origins of these historiographic stereotypes, by analysing how the goals of Germany in the First World War were presented in Soviet historiography, and, in a broader sense, in socialist bloc historiography; and how Lithuanian historiography in the period of restored independence has been impacted by the approaches of foreign researchers. After looking at studies of recent resonant historiographic trends with respect to the military aims of the Kaiser’s Germany, and their traces in the Lithuanian study of history, the author makes an attempt to verify the validity of the statement about ‘German expansionism’ as regards Lithuania and the neighbouring region in the initial period of the war, which has been little explored in Lithuania.

Key words: First World War, German war aims, Soviet historiography, Lithuanian historiography.


Nationality Principles: Subordinated to Imperial Ambitions and Detonating Empires

Alfred Erich SENN
Nationalities Factor in the Activities of Intelligence Agencies in Switzerland during World War I

Abstract and Full Text
In the course of the First World War, ‘the nationalities question’ exploded in Eastern Europe. By the fall of 1918, the Eastern Europe of the three empires had collapsed, and national states were rising. During the war, the nationalities question as perceived in Switzerland, a neutral country, had developed from an initial concern about the loyalty of the minorities in the borderlands of the three East European empires into a battle royal for recognition as individual states. The article focuses on the activities of the German ambassador in Bern who was the most active force in the development, and he gave special support for the nationalities on Russia’s western border. Poland’s future quickly became the major issue but this threatened Germany’s own ambitions in Eastern Europe. The Lithuanians and the Ukrainians particularly opposed Polish dreams of establishing a large state. The Germans, however, considered the future of Ukraine to lie mostly in the hands of the Austrian Empire, and therefore Lithuania appeared to be the more promising force to limit any new Polish state.

Key words: First World War, intelligence, Switzerland, Polish Question, national minorities.


Александр ШУБИН
Национальный фактор в революции (1917 год)
EN title: The National Factor in the 1917 Revolution

Abstract and Full Text
When examining the causes of the revolution of 1917 in the Russian Empire, and the course it took, we always face not only social but also national factors. The resolution of national aspirations was intertwined with the social aspirations of the revolution, and we have to admit that national mobilisation would often lose to social mobilisation. This paper shows the interaction between those factors, mainly on the basis of the Ukrainian and Transcaucasian cases, and reveals how the development of events on national peripheries directly affected events at the centre, and vice versa. The social explosion of 1917 that broke out in Imperial Petrograd was echoed by a national mobilisation that forced the centre to make concessions to the peripheries. The subsequent success of the Bolsheviks, and the national disintegration on the peripheries, was affected by the balance created between the unique social project and national factors, as well as the readiness not to block the way to national sovereignty and cultures, provided governance in the national area was arranged in compliance with the Soviet model.

Key words: social revolution, nationalities question, national mobilisation, Russian Empire, Bolshevism.


О литовской политике во время Первой мировой войны: территориально-геополитический аспект
EN title: On Lithuanian Policy in the Years of the First World War: a Territorial-Geopolitical Aspect

Abstract and Full Text
The paper discusses the territorial-geopolitical aspect of the Lithuanian policy during the First World War, which is still not sufficiently studied or properly understood. It concerns the strategic line proposed by members of Lithuania’s conservative elite. The visible side of the line was a game of orientations: first pro-Russian, then pro-German. However, these orientations were based on an ethnographic principle, which created preconditions for the practical development of the Lithuanian nation. On the other hand, the ethnographic principle was related to the idea of national self-determination, raised by the democratic thought, which paved the way for Lithuanian national statehood. Therefore, the strategic line offered by some of the Lithuanian elite went beyond party ideology and became national.

Key words: ethnographic territory, the Nemunas basin, Suwałki Gubernia, Vilnius, geopolitical ally.


Across the Lines: National Self-Determination in the Baltic between the Russian, German and Allied Conceptions

Abstract and Full Text
This article offers a comparative analysis of how the First World War affected emerging Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian nationalisms. There has been a clear tendency to treat the three states declared by these national movements in 1918 as a single ‘Baltic’ grouping created as a result of common factors and processes. Yet, such a characterisation downplays differences which arise due to the position of the region at the very frontline of the war in the East, which brought a variety of jurisdictions and political contexts. A further tendency has been to retrospectively portray the nationstate framework ultimately created in all three cases as the realisation of the long-cherished goal of the pre-1918 national movements. Such an understanding of national self-determination, however, only emerged much later, and federalist thinking continued to shape both external and internal conceptions of sovereignty during and immediately after the war. How statehood was conceived, moreover, had a lot to do with which side of the line a region was located during the conflict, with key points of difference being discernible between the Estonian and Lithuanian cases in particular.

Key words: Baltic States, federalism, statehood, autonomy, self-determination, national minorities.


Case Studies of Interaction between Imperial and National Orders

Joachim TAUBER
Wild East: German Impressions on Lithuania, 1915–1918

Abstract and Full Text
The German army entered the Russian Empire in the spring of 1915, and by the autumn it had occupied most of the territory on which later the independent state of Lithuania was founded. For almost three years, from the autumn of 1915, the area was governed by the Supreme Commander in the East (Oberbefehlshaber Ost), i.e. military administration. Mainly on the basis of the newspapers published in the Ober Ost area in the years of the First World War, as well as other sources, the author seeks to show how German soldiers, and Germans in a broader sense, saw the area of the prospective Lithuania and its population that it occupied in 1915. The paper analyses the impression the land and its inhabitants made on German soldiers and commentators, and examines how those impressions combined with previous ideas about Eastern Europe.

Key words: First World War, Ober Ost, Eastern Europe, Lithuanians, images, stereotypes.


Displacement and Education: Some Observations on the Situation in Ober Ost, between 1914 and 1918

Abstract and Full Text
The German occupation of Ober Ost during the First World War represented an undeniable incentive for further nation and state-building in the occupied lands. Although in the early 20th century education societies had already spread their networks, it was during the years of the German occupation that the centralisation and consolidation of the education network could take place. Regardless of the fact that some ideological divisions between education societies endured, both the limitations imposed by the occupying regime and the existence of a relief committee, the Lithuanian War Relief Committee, with the task to coordinate virtually all Lithuanian activities, functioned as means of rationalising the whole education system. Not only did the Lithuanian War Relief Committee try to overcome ideological divisions in the field of education, but its quasi-state structure also helped to create, finance and effectively direct the whole official network of Lithuanian educational institutions.

Key words: First World War, education, Lithuania, Ober Ost, war relief.



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