Hapsburg Empire in the Half Century before World War I
At the outbreak of World War I, The Hapsburg Empire was one of the last vestiges of Holy Roman Empire to be found in Europe. The eventual defeat of the Austrian Haspburgs culminated a demise that began in the half century before the war started.
The reason for the longevity of the Hapsburg Empire rested in its ability to form advantageous political alliances whether they be through marriage- Maria Theresa and Joseph II, religion- acceptance of Protestants ending discrimination against Jews or militaristic- alliance w / Germany, in nature. During the half century before the World War, The Haspburgs created some allegiances that would prove to be faulty.
During the Crimean War (1853-1856) the Haspburgs flirted with siding with the France and England against Russia if Russia did not leave Romania. Russia withdrew but not without hard feelings towards the Hapsburg Empire, ending a centuries old alliance. Shortly thereafter, The Hapsburgs began to loose their foothold within Europe. The Austrians lost their position in the Italian peninsula and Italy was created. The Prussians (under Bismark) expelled the Austrian Hapsburgs from Germany and created a unified state.
To make matters worse the Hungarians pressed for a dual monarchy, the Empire was now known as the Austria-Hungary with the Hungarians having their own constitution. This encouraged the other ethnic groups within the Hapsburg Empire to seek autonomy, including the Serbs, who became one of the harshest critics of the Empire. This shifting of power created a general sense of unrest within the Hapsburg Empire long before it collapsed following the end of the First World War.
An over-inflated view of territorialism, poor judgment in choosing alliances, underestimation of internal dissension, and weak leadership eventually brought the once great Hapsburg Empire to its knees. Creating a path for a new Europe to emerge.
Were the Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles Failures?
The Treaty of Versailles was a multi-country agreement that ultimately proved to be anything but internationally harmonious. In short, the terms of the treaty did little to fully appease the wishes of England, the United States, and France but instead did much to bolster the resentment and tension among the Nazi and Fascist movements which came to power in the years before WWII.
According to the treaty, the control of Alsace-Lorraine (which had been under German control since 1870) was returned to France. In addition, control of the Saar was taken from Germany and turned over to French rule for 15 years. While France viewed these as just territorial reparations, Germany, which had no say in the terms of the treaty, failed to view them in the same light.
They felt they were unjustly robbed of land and economic opportunity as the Saar was the site of a coal field. Coupled with the large monetary reparations, and the forced reductions in the size of the German army, the general sentiment of the Nazi party was one of bitterness and rage. Ironically many French expressed the same sentiment as they felt the reparations weren't harsh enough since certain aspects in the rough-draft, such as the dismantling of Germany into smaller nations, did not come to fruition.
The tempered judgment in the final draft was due in part to attempts made to appease conflicting wishes that the punishment not be too severe so as not to incite another German lead war.
An additional reason cited as a failure of the treaty was America's failure to ultimately join the League of Nations, an organization who's foundation was laid with the treaty of Versailles and who's purpose was to has been the staving off of future international disagreements. Ironically although President Woodrow Wilson designed the league, the U.S. never joined the League of Nations nor did they ratify the treaty of Versailles. The senate felt that the terms of the treaty did little to ensure the moral and welfare of Americans. The lack of American involvement in both the treaty as well as the League is also seen as one of the major contributing factors of the Second World War.
Why and How The Bolsheviks Won the Russian Revolution
The Russian people existed in a state of economic, political, and social distress for the first two decades of the twentieth century. The Russian Revolution of 1917 was the natural consequence of many years of oppression. The victory of the Bolsheviks instituted a new era of socialism and communist ideals, which carried forth well beyond the end of the insurrection.
Before the Revolution, the Russian people already lived in a state of discontentment. World War I was draining Russia's resources and public support for Russia's involvement was waning. Alternative political groups such as the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks comprised a large part of the duma (a type of legislature). These unconventional political parties were often in opposition to that of the mainstream Czar headed political system. Many, including the recently exiled leader, Vladimir Lenin of the Bolshevik political party, were opposed to the war because it was deemed an "imperialist/capitalist conflict."
The duma, primarily the Bolshevik party, began to lobby for radical change via revolution. The common man was encouraged to rise up and begin a "socialist revolution." The ruling Czar of Russia, Nicholas II was not amused with the Duma's dogma and ordered them shut down. The Duma then demanded that the Czar abdicate. "When the Czar did not reply, a Provisional Government was formed." Once the Czar was out of picture, Lenin felt it was time to return to Russia and purport the Bolsheviks as the primary political party for the people.
Lenin was not satisfied with the Provisional Government and called the Bolsheviks who did support it traitors. He once again urged the people to take matters into their own hands. When the Provisional ruler (Alexander Kerensky) was forced to call upon the Bolsheviks amassed troops (25,000) to help defend Petrograd from a rogue military general (Kornilov), he severely undercut his authority.
Kerensky tried to backpedal by forming a new coalition with more sympathetic political sects (Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries). He also outlawed the Bolshevik party. In response, the Bolsheviks and their soviets, (sympathetic satellites) began to occupy the major commerce and communication centers. They also surrounded the Winter Palace housing the Provisional Government's cabinet. The outnumbered troops guarding the Winter Palace surrendered and the cabinet members were arrested.
The new congress of Soviets then took control and elected Vladimir Lenin of the Bolshevik Party as the new chairman. The Bolsheviks had successfully managed a Revolution.
The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Weimar Republic
Germany was a defeated nation at the conclusion of World War I. A new form of government, accommodating to the victors' demands, needed to be formed. The Weimar Republic was instituted to try and cope with Germany's imposed post war political structure. It both succeeded and failed.
From 1919-1933 the Weimar Republic governed Germany. From the outset, the Republic was a dichotomy. How could the Republic maintain a balance between the political ideals of Germany and the position of the Allies? The leaders of the Republic were forced to sign the Versailles treaty to avoid a resurgence of war. The treaty was harsh, demanding various disarmament and reparation accordances. The general public felt as if the Weimar had sold out to the Allies and became extremely agitated with their government, but in actuality the Weimar was attempting to save the Republic. This agitation led to communist uprisings, which were quickly squelched by the Freikorps (state run police)
The Weimar Republic was also faced with post war inflation, poverty, and unemployment; definitely not the best of circumstances to begin an infantile government in. The Weimar Republic was able to adapt to the threats these circumstances posed by assimilating with the German People's Party. This coalition of sorts was able to occupy a place of balance between the extremism found in the communist viewpoint and other radical parties such as the Nazis.
In addition, the political structure of the Weimar itself was an attempt to be fair that backfired. This eventually caused the collapse of the Republic with Hitler's election to chancellor under the majority Nazi party in 1933.
Overall, the Weimar Republic was a capable government unfortunately destined for disaster. Balancing the will of the people vs. The will of the world is a complicated situation.
World War I
The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 was rooted in nationalism and imperialism. Strained relations between European countries, armament, and rigid alliances created a very tense political situation, ripe for war. The incident in Sarejevo was the "spark that ignited powder keg" setting off a war on a global scale.
The established European empires (Austria-Hungary under the Haspsburgs and Turkey) were deteriorating. Austria was desperate to maintain control of her Empire and began to oppress the Balkans (Serbia), who voiced discontentment with the Empire. Germany agreed with the Serbian subjugation because they needed an unopposed trade…