Click the year or conflict you want to go to and it will send you down to it. Also, click on any blue highlighted words to read more about it.
This is part one of of a series of blogs about the 20th century. This series will cover the events between the years 1914-1993. The start of WWI to the fall of communism.
On June 28, 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated in Sarajevo, the capital of the modern-day country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, by six radicals, who wished Austria out of the Balkans and all Balkan countries to be united into one. Afterwards, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, who probably had something to do with the assassination. Austria never proved this but declared war anyway.
Before the assassination, the European powers had been waiting for an excuse to start a war. They all wanted more power and all hated each other. The powers of Europe were split into two alliances: the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente. The Triple Alliance consisted of the empires of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Italy, while the Triple Entente included Russia, the United Kingdom, and France. After Austria declared war on Serbia, Russia declared war on Austria, who was Serbia’s ally. Russia then asked France if they could join the war, so France agreed. Germany was Austria’s ally so they joined the war as well. Russia and France needed the United Kingdom to join them, but they refused. They were having trouble in their country and didn’t want to have to join the war unless they had to. When Italy was asked by their allies to join with them they also refused. They didn’t feel like joining what looked like a Europe-wide war.
Serbia replaced the UK in the Triple Entente who quickly joined after Austria declared war on them. Austria attempted to invade Serbia, but they were repelled. Germany didn’t want to have to fight a war on two fronts, so they would have to invade and conquer either France before Russia could mobilize their troops. Germany didn’t want to have to invade France directly, so they chose to invade through Belgium. This is known as the Schlieffen Plan. When the UK saw they were invading Belgium, a neutral country, they decided that that was the last straw and declared war on Germany and their allies on August 4, 1914.
At the beginning of WWI, all countries involved noticed that their uniforms were outdated and they needed to change them. Some countries’ soldiers didn’t even have boots. So they changed their uniforms from bright colors to dull colors that would blend in. France’s uniform was particularly bad in this field. They had no helmet and red trousers with a blue coat.
On August 23, Japan sided with the Entente, now known as the Allies, to seize German colonies in the Pacific. On November 14, 1914 the Ottoman Empire joined the war on the side of the Triple Alliance, now known as the Central Powers. The Ottomans were not fond of Russia or Britain, so they joined Germany and invaded the Russian Caucasus and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, which was a British protectorate.
The Ottoman Empire was known as the “Sick man of Europe” because their empire was rapidly deteriorating. During their invasion of Sinai, the Turks were repulsed by British forces. The same thing happened during their invasion of the Russian Caucasus. They blamed their defeat on the Armenians living within Ottoman territory. Up until the end of the war around 1,500,000 Armenians would be killed in an event called the Armenian Genocide or the Armenian Holocaust.
The German advance into France halted at the Battle of the Marne. After this point the war on the Western Front became a war of attrition, which means to crush the enemy morale until the point of their surrender. There were still bloody battles on the Western Front, but they were mostly changed to trench warfare. Trench warfare is a war fought in long holes in the ground called trenches. Between the two opposing trench lines there was no man’s land, which is a area of land shredded by artillery shells and covered with land mines and barbed wire. Battles would last for months on end before a side would overrun the enemies trench.
On April 26, 1915 after being promised land along the Adriatic Sea, Italy joined the war on the side of the Allies, leaving their former allies, Germany and Austria-Hungary. They opened up a front in the Alps against Austria-Hungary.
On 7 May, 1915, a German submarine fired at and sunk a US ship called the RMS Lusitania. The ship carried citizens of the US, but was also carrying military equipment to support the Allies. The US did nothing.
Earlier in 1914, the UK had created a naval blockade across to Denmark and Norway, to stop military equipment and food from being shipped to the Central Powers. This blockade mainly focused on Germany and also disallowed food from entering the country. Subsequently, many German civilians starved to death.
On October 14, 1915 Bulgaria joined WWI on the side of the Central Powers. Bulgaria was still bitter about the recent Balkan Wars and wanted to get revenge on Serbia for the Second Balkan War. They also wanted to expand their empire, so it sounded like a good idea to join. Montenegro joined with Serbia and the Allies. Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary, and Germany invaded and finished off Serbia in December 1915. The Serbian government and military fled to Greece, Albania, Montenegro, and south into Macedonia which was still part of the Serbian Empire. The East of Albania was occupied by France and south by Italy.
In February, 1916 the Germans and the French met and fought for 10 months. This is known as the Battle of Verdun. Then the British along with some French soldiers met the Germans along the Somme River, which is known as the Battle of Somme. In this single battle, around one million French, British, and German were killed. In both Verdun and Somme, the trench lines were practically unmoved.
In March, Portugal joined the war for the Allies. German and Portuguese troops had engaged in skirmishes in Africa. Portuguese Angola and German Southwest Africa (now Namibia) border each other in Southwest Africa. German troops stationed there had fired on Portuguese soldiers. Also German submarines were all around Portuguese waters while Germany had been attempting to blockade Britain. They sent troops to France and fought a naval war against German submarines in their own water.
The British also had to deal with their own problems at home. The Irish were rebelling against the English government. This 1916 rebellion is known as the Easter Rebellion due to the fact that it was in April. In July Turkish troops were again defeated in Russia.
In July, United States Marines landed in Haiti, a Caribbean nation that borders the Dominican Republic. They assisted the Haitian government with putting down a rebellion. The US occupied the country until 1934 when they were forced to withdraw.
In August, Romania entered the war on the side of the Allies, but was overrun by German forces within 5 months and surrendered to the Central Powers. Meanwhile, Italy declared war on Germany. In the Middle East, the British staged a rebellion in the Ottoman Empire. The Turks were, at this point, very close to their defeat.
Germany at this point in the war was desperate, so they sent a telegram to Mexico (Zimmerman Telegram) asking them if they could attack the US. While it was being sent however, the UK intercepted it and showed it to the US. The US had been selling military supplies to the Allies since the war began, therefore they were rich and had a high morale since they had not been involved in three years of bloody fighting.
Meanwhile in Russia on March 15, 1917 the leader of Russia, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated from his throne. There had been a revolution going on in Russia since February of 1917, but in March the Tsar left his throne. This is known as the February Revolution. The new Russian Provisional Government that was in power left Russia in the war, although the majority of the citizens disliked the war and wished Russia out. The communists however promised the Russian people freedom and that the government would be run by the people of Russia instead of a monarchy. They also swore that they would take Russia out of the war. Also the leader of the current government was Tsar Nicholas’ younger brother, Grand Duke Michael, and instead of repealing the monarchy he basically just made himself Tsar. The leader of the communists, also known as the Soviets, was a man named Vladimir Lennin. In October of 1917, the Soviets started another revolution against the Russian Provisional Government. It was quickly overthrown with the support of the people. The new government was called the Russian Soviet Republic. This Red October or the October Revolution would be the start of the Soviet Union. The Soviets moved the capital from Petrograd (St. Petersburg) to Moscow, which is the current capital of the Russian Federation. The Tsar and his family fled to Yekaterinburg, a city east of Moscow. In July 1918, the Royal Romanov Family, including their children, would be murdered by the Soviets for fear that they and their supporters, would take control of the country again. A following civil war between the communist Red Army and the pro-monarch White Army would continue until 1923 when all white forces were completely eradicated.
The US declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917 and began to mobilize troops to send to Europe. This was partly because of the German telegram to Mexico (Zimmerman Telegram) and the sinking of the RMS Lusitania
In Italy, the Austrians were invaded from the north. They launched their offensive at the beginning of 1916. The Austrians had invaded an Italian province called Trentino, which throughout 1916 had remained in a stalemate. From 1915-1917 Italy and Austria-Hungary had engaged in eight battles called the Eight Battles of Isonzo in Italy. By the eighth battle, Austria was repulsed from Trentino and pushed back into Austria. The Italians tried to invade, but were repulsed.
On June 26, 1917 the first United States troops landed on the Western Front in France to assist the western Allies, the United Kingdom and France. In the Balkans Greece entered the war on the side of the Allies.
Across the world, a disease called the Spanish Flu was spreading. Despite being called the Spanish Flu, this sickness did not originate in Spain. Since Spain was a neutral country during WWI, Spanish journalists were free to write about pretty much anything they pleased. In other countries like Germany or Britain, journalists were suppressed for fear that they would spread anti-war propaganda. Therefore, it was known as the Spanish Flu because the media recognized the flu and wrote freely about it. Historians say it killed 17 to 50 million people from 1918 to 1919.
Meanwhile in France, the Germans mounted the Spring Offensive, an offensive to push the Allies back before they could reach mainland Germany. The US triumphed at the Battle of Cantigny and captured the southern part of Belleau Wood. The Central Powers were being pushed back on all fronts. In Austria, the Italians prevailed at the Battle of Piave. The Allies directed a successful start for the Amiens Offensive and forced the German army back. The Battle of the Vardar Pits was won by Czech, Serbian, French, and British forces against the Bulgarians in September. Shortly after, Bulgaria surrendered.
On October 3, Germany and Austria-Hungary sent a note to US President Woodrow Wilson requesting an armistice. On October 30, the Ottoman Empire surrendered to the Allies. The Austro-Hungarian Empire did the same on November 3 and on November 9 the Kaiser of Germany, Whilhelm II abdicated and on the 10 he fled to Holland. The same day the German Republic was founded. On November 11, 1918 at 11am Germany officially surrendered the Allies and the Central Powers were no more.
On January 18, 1919 the Allied Powers of the Australia, Bolivia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Ecuador, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hejaz, Honduras, India, Italy, Japan, Liberia, Lithuania, Montenegro, New Zealand, Newfoundland, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, which was the anti-communist Russian White Movement, San Mario, South Africa, Siam, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, and the Kingdom of Croats, Serbs, and Slovens gathered together to discuss peace agreements for the end WWI.
Some of the Allies, like the United Kingdom and France, desired Germany to suffer badly for WWI. Other powers, like the United States, wanted the treaty to be like the Vienna Conference after the Napoleonic Wars. Where the loser would not be badly punished, but allowed to function normally. France especially wanted Germany and her Allies to have to pay for everything that the war caused.
The new government in Germany was called the German Weimar Republic. It was very unstable and the government was corrupt. Also a new country had been formed in Germany’s east called Poland, dividing Germany into two parts because of the Polish Corridor. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved and it became the countries of Czechoslovakia, the Kingdom of Croats, Serbs, and Slovenes, Austria, Hungary, and Transilvania was gifted to Romania. The Ottoman Empire was also dissolved and it became the countries of Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Armenia, Kuwait, Iran, Yemen, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain. Israel and Jordan were given to the UK and named Transjordan. Also, Syria and Lebanon were given to France.
The naval blockade that the British implemented in 1914 was still in place against the German civilian population. During when it was implemented in 1914 and when the war ended in 1918 around 763,000 German civilians died from starvation and after the war ended another 100,000 might have died. After the Treaty of Versailles concluded, the blockade was lifted.
Most of the countries at the peace conference wanted Germany to pay for all the destruction the war caused. So that’s exactly what they made Germany do. Germany owed the Allies 132 billion gold marks or $269,000,000,000 modern US dollars. They also made Germany demilitarize the Rhineland, which was on the German-French border. This was to prevent Germany from attacking France. France also constructed a line of trenches and forts along their German border called the Maginot Line. They thought that if a second world war occurred it would be fought with trench warfare like the first. The French, however, didn’t think to extend the line to their Belgian border, so the Germans, if they wanted to invade, could just invade France through Belgium and completely avoid the Maginot Line.
Germany also wasn’t allowed to have an air force, had to reduce their military to 100,000 men, and had a limit on the number of machine guns they soldiers could have.
On June 28, 1919 the Central Powers and the Allied Powers signed the Treaty of Versailles, making an official end to WWI.
The League of Nations was founded on January 10, 1920 and was founded to prevent a second world war. It was actually the League that decided to redraw the maps of the world. Even though the US President Woodrow Wilson came up with the idea for the league, the US did not join. Many Americans were concerned about the League of Nations being an international governing body.
On February 24, 1920 the German Nazi party was founded. Meanwhile in Eastern Europe the Soviet Union went to war with Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, and Latvia. They desired a larger empire, so they occupied Azerbaijan and Armenia. There was a failed coup in Georgia and they signed a peace treaty with Lithuania. During this war, called the Russo-Polish War, the Soviet Union wanted to take land as far west as possible and the Polls wanted to expand as far east as possible. The two sides in the war were, on one side, Poland along with Latvia and Belarus against the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian Communist Party. Ukraine had been split in a western and eastern part. The eastern half was Russian and western was called Western Ukraine. The Soviets also controlled many parts of modern-day Belarus and wanted to conquer Latvia, so a war broke out.
In the end of 1919 Poland conquered Western Ukraine. The Soviet Union then attacked Poland as they saw them a gateway to other European nations. Quickly, the Soviets had pushed Poland back to their capital city, Warsaw. The western European nations became nervous and were afraid that the Soviets would reach the German border. Once the fall of Warsaw seemed certain the tide was turned and Polish troops won a decisive victory at the Battle of Warsaw. Not long after, the Polls captured Kiev. Two months after the Battle of Warsaw the Soviet Union sued for peace and a cease-fire was called on October 18, 1920. The Treaty of Riga was signed on March 18, 1921. In the treaty Poland gained some Ukrainian land from the Soviets, but the borders remained relatively the same.
In the United States the 19th Amendment was signed that stated that women now had the right to vote.
On January 21, 1919 Ireland declared its independence. The IRA (Irish Repuclican Army) was formed and on the same day Ireland declared independence members of the IRA killed two members of the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) which were the Irish police. Then the main political party in Ireland, Sinn Fein, was outlawed and the conflict intensified. On November 21, 1920 during an event called Bloody Sunday, British intelligence operatives were assassinated in the morning. Later in the day, angry RIC members opened fire on a crowd of Irish at a Gaelic football match. They killed 14 civilians and wounded around 65. A week later the British government declared martial law after 17 Auxiliaries were killed by the IRA. Cork City, where the event took place, was afterwards burnt to the ground by British forces.
Over the next seven months, 1,000 people were killed and over 4,500 interned.
Back in Ireland in May 1921, the British government agreed to give Ireland independence from Britain. Northern Ireland remained part of the British Empire. The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed on December 6, 1921 and officially ended the Irish War for Independence.
On May 14 Bentino Mussolini’s fascists obtained 29 seats in the Italian parliament. Mussolini was an Italian fascist, who was angered that Italy did not gain more land along the Adriatic Sea after WWI. When WWI first broke out Mussolini was against Italy joining the war, but after Britain and France promising Italy land Mussolini and his followers strongly supported the war. Around 400,000 Italians, both civilians and soldiers, were killed during the war. During the Treaty of Versailles, Italy was given only a small portion of land. The Italian people were displeased and Mussolini and his followers were as well.
In the German Weimar Republic, a man named Adolf Hitler was made the head of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers’ Party). Also referred to as the Nazi party, the party was socialist or national socialist and claimed it wanted to restore glory to Germany and the German people.
Adolf Hitler had been a soldier for Germany during WWI. He was awarded the German Iron Cross for bravery during the war. When the war started in 1914, he had left Austria and moved to Germany. The Barvarian police sent him back to Austria because they thought he left Austria to avoid conscription, but he failed his physical exam and returned to Germany. He was able to join the Barvarian army in Germany, so that’s what he did. During the war he was wounded twice: once by an artillery shell that exploded close to him and the second time he was temporarily blinded by British poison gas. When he was in the hospital he learned of Germany’s defeat. Like Mussolini, Hitler was angered by the Treaty of Versailles and in 1920 the Nazi party was formed. In 1921, Hitler became the leader of the party. In November, Hitler formed the Sturmabteilung, Storm Detachment (SA) which was a group soldiers who protected Hitler and Nazi party meetings.