World War 1, one of the greatest wars in the history, broke out in 1914, being more of a break in the history of the world, than the Second World War, which had exceptional mass obliteration. In essence, the First World War marked the spectacular commencing of the end of the European preponderance over the entire world, which had apparently lasted for almost five hundred years. Apparently, Germany is said to be responsible for causing the war.
By and large, around this point in time, the military leaders in Europe were looking forward to and setting up plans for a war. In essence, they played a key role in influencing their administrations to go to war. Towards the breakout of the war, jingoism played a major role. Jingoism is just an intense form of too much nationalism. The public was prepared to the war. As a result, they wanted to demonstrate how great and magnificent their nations were. By the year 1914, there were almost two hundred books that had been written on the subject of a major war in different national languages. In many ways, these books played a big role in preparing the public for the fears and anticipation of war.
Subsequently, the unjust treatment of the minorities by Austria caused the increase of Balkan jingoism. Serbia had also been compelled to hand over Bosnia and Herzegovina to Austria for the purpose of gaining her autonomy. Additionally, as a result of Serbia thriving as a nation, there was a lot of restlessness among the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina under the Austrian rule. As a result, Serbia encouraged anti-Austrian sentiments which led to Austria being provoked. As a result, Austria took control of Bosnia in 1908, thus, breaking an accord it had with Russia. This in turn led to the Bosnian catastrophe.
Russia’s policy of Pan-Slavism created some kind of friction with Austria. According to Pan-Slavism, the Slavic people were supposed to be taken out of control of the Hapsburg and go to Ottoman rules. These animosities led to a pact between Russia and Serbia, thus, playing a major role in the way in which the war was fought. In the wake of the war, a number of European nations had locked horns in a vicious struggle. On the other hand, other nations in the America, Asia, Africa, and the Australian continent were busy trying to make up for the European absence.
The Unfolding Events
The heir apparent to the Austrian leadership, Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated on 28th June, 1914 in Sarajevo, the capital of the province of Bosnia-Hercegovina, which had been occupied by Austria since 1878 and by Austria-Hungary in 1908. At that point in time, it was not unusual to have princes and princesses, or even heads of states being murdered. However, the murder of Franz Ferdinand elicited some special kind of anger in many parts of Europe. This was due to the fact that there were suspicions that the Serbian government was connectedto a radical group that was wholly accountable for the murder.
In spite of the fact that the Serbian government was aware of the plans, it did not disregard them. As a matter of fact, it sent messages to warn Vienna, though in a clouded language. Unfortunately, the messages were misunderstood, thereby resulting in the embarrassment of ties of the Serbian government with the terrorists.
Consequently, the Austro-Hungarian government decided to respond to the assassination by crushing Serbia after being infuriated by the Pan-Slavic protest within its borders. In this regard, the German government gave Vienna the go ahead to initiate a retaliatory action against Serbia and went ahead to support it. As a matter of fact, the government of Kaiser Wilhelm II, in conjunction with Bethmann Hollweg, his chancellor, clarified that the government of Germany would support Austria-Hungary in case it was attacked by Serbia, on provocation by Russia, Serbia’s ally.
In many ways, a retaliatory strike of Austro-Hungary would have been stomached by other European governments were it to happen right after the assassination. This is because most of the European governments were clearly annoyed at the murder. However, Austro-Hungary’s military preparations were infamously disorganized and protracted. This was as a result of the disagreements that clouded the Hungarian and Austrian governments.
As a matter of fact, the military of the Habsburg monarchy was feebly prearranged and coordinated. The Austro-Hungarian government spent almost four weeks before sending a provocation to Belgrade. In the ultimatum, they demanded comprehensive powers in the investigation of the murder and the implication of the Serbian government.
Though the Serbian government acknowledged most of the clauses, it ended up discarding some since it knew too well that anything less would mean a declaration of war. On the other hand, Russia encouraged Serbia not to give in absolutely. In the meantime, the Austro-Hungarian government was not willing to consider a finding the middle ground, thus, declaring war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.
At first, Russia mobilized on its borders with Austria, however, it soon ordered a general mobilization. As a result, this made the German generals very nervous since they had planned a two-front war with France and Russia, with the assumption that there would be a slow mobilization on the Russian side.
After a lot of pressure from the generals, Germany decided to send an ultimatum to St. Petersburg demanding an end to mobilization. However, the Russian government ignored the ultimatum. Consequently, the German government declared war on Russia on August 1st, 1914. The following day, it also declared war on France, knowing very well that France would not stand by as a spectator in a German-Russian war.
According to the German war plan, they were to first knockout the French army before turning to the Eastern front. However, to ensure a quick victory, the German armies needed to encircle the French, which could only happen by marching through Belgium. Though they tried to ask for permission from Belgium, the Belgians refused. Consequently, the German government sent an ultimate to Belgium, and went ahead to invade Belgium after Belgium rejected the ultimatum.
After invading Belgium, which was a neutral country, Britain demanded theGerman withdrawal and went ahead to declare war on Germany on 4 August 1914, since Germany did not meet the conditions that had been set by Britain. As a result, the declarations of war between Russia, France, and Britain on one side with Austria-Hungary being on the other side.
Over and above, fatalism had been on the rise among the European peoples and leaders. Most people were of the view that war had become inevitable, due to the fact that they had become worn-out of inveterate diplomatic crises. As a mater of fact, the diplomatic crises in most cases worked against Germany, Russia and Austria-Germany. Consequently, in the light of the developing crisis in 1914, the governments involved were less enthusiastic than before to find an exasperating middle ground.