Brill’s Digital Library of World War I

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Balkan Wars

(957 words)

Author(s): Kröger, Martin
Balkan Wars Two wars in the Balkans region (1912–1913) that caused the Ottoman Empire to lose most of its European territories. During this period of conflict there were differences between the Great Powers concerning the consequences of the Balkan Wars. Against the backdrop of the Italo-Turkish war (1911–1912), the ethnically diverse and unstable Southeastern European States led by Serbia attempted to secure for themselves a share of the disintegrating Ottoman Empire. A direct consequence of the Turkish weakness wa…

Brusilov, Aleksei Alekseevich

(338 words)

Author(s): Kochanek, Hildegard
Brusilov, Aleksei Alekseevich (August 31, 1853, Tiflis, modern Tbilisi – March 17, 1926, Moscow), Russian general and commander in chief of the Russian Army. Brusilov was born into an ancient Russian noble family with a long military tradition. After completing his preparatory military training with the Imperial Corps of Pages he joined the Dragoons of the Tver Regiment in the Caucasus. He fought in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 and was decorated multiple times. At the élite Cavalry Officer Sc…

Judaism

(604 words)

Author(s): Sieg, Ulrich
Judaism In all the belligerent states, Jews strove to give evidence of national loyalty. It would be well, however, to take care before singling out a particular Jewish patriotism. Western European Jewry was already largely integrated before 1914. Its national engagement was self-evident, and by no means a form of “total assimilation.” Statements by Jewish organizations that are usually interpreted as an expression of Jewish “hyper-patriotism” can be understood against the background of the press…

Scorched Earth Tactics

(1,283 words)

Author(s): Geyer, Michael
Scorched Earth Tactics Systematically laying waste to enemy territory as a battle tactic, rendering the area militarily useless for a time, sometimes lastingly. Scorched earth as a combat strategy was described by Carl von Clausewitz in his work Vom Kriege, as follows: First, all that the country has to offer will be taken for the benefit of the retreating army, and mostly consumed. Nothing will remain but wasted villages and towns; fields emptied of their crops and then trampled; wells run dry; and contaminated brooks. Thus right from …

Flex, Walter

(544 words)

Author(s): Schneider, Thomas F.
Flex, Walter (July 6, 1887, Eisenach – October 16, 1917 [killed in action], Ösel, Estonia), German author. Flex was the son of a teacher. After studying and earning a doctorate (1910), he worked as a private tutor, among others, for the Bismarck family. Having volunteered for the war in 1914, he initially served in the Argonne before being trained as an officer in the vicinity of Posen (1915). He was subsequently deployed in Lithuania, but returned to the Western Front in 1917. From July 1917 onward, Flex spent a short time in Berlin revising the book The Russian Spring Offensive of 1916 ( Die ru…

Occupation (East)

(1,730 words)

Author(s): Liulevicius, Vejas Gabriel
Occupation (East) In 1915, the German Reich and Austria-Hungary conquered enormous areas of Eastern Europe, and subjected them to an occupation regime. Among the areas in question were Russian Poland and Lithuania, and parts of the Baltic provinces (now Estonia and Latvia), Belarus (White Russia), the Ukraine, Russia, and Serbia. These conquests were joined by Romania in 1916. As there was no detailed prewar planning for such an event, the occupation was initially characterized by improvisation and ad hoc policies with various different plans being proposed for the future…

Parliamentarization

(630 words)

Author(s): Mai, Günther
Parliamentarization From 1871 the German Reich was a constitutional monarchy. The Kaiser appointed and dismissed the chancellor, who was the only member of the imperial government responsible to the Reichstag (the lower house of parliament), and without whose agreement the Kaiser could not take political action. The chancellor could not rule for long against a majority of the Reichstag, since the Reichstag had the right to adopt the budget. Even before 1914, constitutional reality had changed in …

July Crisis

(720 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
July Crisis Few topics from the history of the First World War have been discussed more intensively by historians and in the public arena than the July Crisis of 1914. Into the 1930s in Germany, the foremost question was that of the justice of the accusation of “war guilt” as expressed in Article 231 of the Versailles Treaty. In this case the predominant opinion initially, and even after the Second World War, was that all the powers “stumbled” into war. In the 1960s, Fritz Fischer brought to the c…

Fraternizing

(470 words)

Author(s): Jahr, Christoph
Fraternizing Spontaneous and unauthorized ending of fighting and leaving one’s own position with a view to making direct contact with enemy soldiers. Precise details of the extent of fraternizing are, of course, not available. The available sources, however, show clearly that the center of these events is to be found in those sectors of the Western Front in which German and British soldiers faced one another. Individual acts of camaraderie at Christmas, and informal truces, were also reported from German-French sectors and from the Eastern Front. The most spectacular case of frat…

Antisemitism

(880 words)

Author(s): Sieg, Ulrich
Antisemitism The First World War constituted a sharp turning point in the history of Antisemitism. It brought the radicalization of anti-Jewish stereotypes and gave rise to ideologies demanding the exclusion of Jews from what was perceived to be a völkisch (i.e. racially homogenous) German nation. The Burgfrieden (literally Fortress Truce: an agreement among political parties not to criticize the government or the war effort) declared by the Kaiser on August 4, 1914, was soon revealed to be no more than a “fair-weather” concept. In the very…

Raw Materials, Rationing, and Procurement

(2,348 words)

Author(s): Zilch, Reinhold
Raw Materials, Rationing, and Procurement The war had scarcely begun before the mass armies ran short of vital raw materials and replacement supplies. State intervention in the procurement and distribution of raw materials followed in the warring nations’ economies with the goal of making maximum use of the raw materials available for the war effort. This effort was linked with intense efforts to depress private consumption. To this end, the state intervened in the economy to requisition and distribu…

Kerensky Offensive

(725 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Kerensky Offensive Contrary to the expectations and hopes of the Central Powers, the Russian February Revolution initially brought a considerable improvement of Russia’s political and military fighting morale. Alexander Kerensky, minister of war from May 19, 1917, onward, followed the motto that Russia was by and large in favor of a “peace without annexations and contributions,” but under certain circumstances also ready to fight for a “peace without defeat.” In July 1917, Kerensky toured the fron…

Djemal Pasha, Ahmed

(387 words)

Author(s): Cem Oguz, C.
Djemal Pasha, Ahmed (May 6, 1872, Constantinople – July 21, 1922, Tiflis [assassinated]), Ottoman general and politician. Djemal Pasha was educated in military schools. He concluded his training at the general staff academy in 1895. He was a member of the Committee for Unity and Progress, and used his position as inspector of railways to expand the railway network. After the Constitutional Revolution of 1908, as a member of the Central Committee Djemal Pasha was seen as one of the most influential …

Kessler, Harry Graf

(817 words)

Author(s): Riederer, Günter
Kessler, Harry Graf (May 5, 1868, Paris – November 30, 1937, Lyon), German author, journalist, politician and diplomat. Kessler spent his childhood and youth in France, Germany and England. After studying law in Bonn and Leipzig, he fulfilled his one-year military obligation serving with the 3rd Guard Uhlan Regiment in Potsdam. Kessler did not enter the diplomatic service as originally planned, owing to his developing talents and interests. He served instead as a patron of the arts, supporting arti…

Conscientious Objection

(630 words)

Author(s): Jahr, Christoph
Conscientious Objection The rejection of the legal obligation to fulfill one’s military duty in times of war. A distinction must be drawn between conscientious objection in the narrow sense and other ways of evading wartime military service. Conscientious objection, which was also an important motive for emigrating from Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, was traditionally practiced by a number of religious communities, for instance by the Quakers and Mennonites. In 1914, however, no country with a conscript army had made provis…

Merrheim, Alphonse

(302 words)

Author(s): Mollenhauer, Daniel
Merrheim, Alphonse (May 7, 1871, La Madeleine [Département Nord] – October 22, 1925 [unknown]), French trade union leader. Merrheim was born into a working class family in the industrial region of Northern France. In the 1890s he joined the Syndicalist movement aimed at the takeover of the means of production by autonomous trade unions, as advocated by the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), in which he himself took on a leading role after the turn of the century. At the outbreak of the First World War, Merrheim differed from the leadership of the CGT under Léon Jouhaux in rejecting the U…

Goremykin, Ivan Legginovitch

(170 words)

Author(s): Dahlmann, Dittmar
Goremykin, Ivan Legginovitch (August 11, 1839, Novgorod – December 24, 1917, Caucasus [murdered]), Russian politician. Goremykin was descended from a noble family of the Novgorod Gouvernement. A jurist, he was minister of the interior from 1895–1899. After 1899, he was a member of the Imperial Council. From May to July 1906, then again from January 1914 to January 1916, he served as prime minister. He is remembered as a politically weak figure, a typical reactionary, and especially as the marionett…

Grigorovich, Ivan Konstantinovich

(349 words)

Author(s): Herwig, Holger H.
Grigorovich, Ivan Konstantinovich (February 7, 1853, Saint Petersburg – March 3, 1930, Menton, France), Russian admiral and minister of the navy. Grigorovich graduated from the Naval Academy in 1874, served in the war against Turkey 1877–1878, and was posted to London as naval attaché from 1896 to 1898. Having commanded the battleship Zarevich in 1903, he was the officer in charge of the port at Port Arthur during the war with Japan in 1904. Following service as chief of staff for the Black Sea Fleet (1905), he was appointed chief of the Baltic p…

Trotsky, Leon

(372 words)

Author(s): Kochanek, Hildegard
Trotsky, Leon (October 28, 1879, Yanovka [Kherson Province] – August 21, 1940, Coyoacán [near Mexico City – assassinated]; born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein), Russian politician. Already toward the end of his school years in Kherson Province, Trotsky became involved in revolutionary Marxist circles. Banished for the first time in 1899, in 1902 he succeeded in fleeing to Western Europe. In 1903, at the second congress of the Russian Social Democratic Party, he led a fierce attack against Vladimir Ilyi…

Military Courts

(861 words)

Author(s): Jahr, Christoph
Military Courts This special law jurisdiction is limited to military personnel. It provides for a host of criminal offense categories that are not included in civilian criminal law. It is noteworthy that, as in civilian jurisprudence, criminal law is handled separately from procedural law. A comprehensive modernization of the military legal system was undertaken in numerous countries in the closing years of the 19th century. During the World War, the following regulations applied in the specified warring states: in Germany, the Militärstrafgesetzbuch of 1872; in France, the Code d…
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