History 104: Western Civilization since 1648

Nationalism, the Great War, and Russian Revolution

British poster

Origins of Modern Nationalism

Nationalism
Feminism
Motives for Empire
Tools of Empire
Symbolic Art
Fin de Siecle Fashion

Great War and Russian Revolution

The Assassination and Alliances
The Technology and Trench Warfare
War Fever, Nationalism and Poster Art
Women and the War
The Peace to end all Peace
Russia Before the Revolutions
Revolutions of 1917

 

Origins of Modern Nationalism

Yes, it was played in Apocalypse Now. This is a section of Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" (1854) from his Ring cycle. The Valkyries were the demi-goddesses of death in Norse legends, determining the outcome of battle and those dead warriors deserving of being carried to Valhalla. An interesting combination of German nationalism and female power.


 

Emmeline Pankhurst
Emmeline Pankhurst
Hardly a Valkyrie, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters endured jail time and hunger strikes in her quest for women's suffrage in England.

Gaughin picture

Paul Gaughin, Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? (1897)

 

Nationalism

Modern nationalism is based on a combination of two trends: the Enlightenment idea of a legitimate government being based on the people, and the romantic vision of culture. Nationalism requires defining where the nation is and who is in it. This can be done by including certain people, and excluding others.

The Revolutions of 1848 that spread throughout Europe were nationalistic revolutions. In France, they established the Second Republic, and a popular movement so vast that Napoleon III had to construct huge boulevards in Paris so people couldn't blockade the streets. In Italy and Germany the 1848 Revolutions spawned the events that led to unification of states that had been made up of smaller kingdoms and principalities.

Music is one of the best ways to understand nationalism, because you can literally hear it. Take this German example:

book Workbook document:
1904 recording of The Watch on the Rhine (1870) (Die Wacht am Rhein)
1900 map of Europe

 

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Or recall this British nationalistic ditty, which those of use in academia hear once a year:

Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance (1902)

Land of Hope and Glory,
Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee,
Who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider
Shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty,
Make thee mightier yet.

The first requirement of nationalism is a cultural identity. In Germany, it was based on a common language, and a romantic vision of unity going back to Charlemagne (the "First Reich"). Otto von Bismarck used this vision to trick most of the nations of Europe into war, using the unity caused by a common enemy to weld a Second Reich. In France, it was based upon citizenship, harking back to the ideals of the French Revolution. In the United States, it took a concept of Union fought out in a bloody Civil War. But in nations like Russia, rulers brutally suppressed reforms, considering their nationalism to be personal territory.

Nationalism today is the guiding force of geo-politics, and the main cause of war.

Feminism

Feminism is, by one definition, the philosophy that women are equal members of humanity to men. Certainly this idea did not emerge in the 19th century, and it can be traced much further back than Mary Wollstonecraft. But Wollstonecraft was one of the first to articulate feminist ideas in writing in the West. By 1848, American women had met at the Seneca Falls convention to demand equality, and soon the movement had focused on two areas: property rights and suffrage (the right to vote). These were based on the desire to apply Locke's (and Jefferson's) liberal ideas to women. These had been expanded in the work of Wollstonecraft, who focused on education of citizens, and Olympe de Gouges, who demanded liberal rights during the French Revolution.

19th century socialism had a profound impact on feminism, because socialists automatically allocated to women the right to be equal members of society.

Pankhurst
Emmeline Pankhurst

Feminists within the socialist camp believed that all of society had to be reformed to obtain equality. Others believed that women's rights could be obtained within a current system, although often it was socialists who pushed the feminist agenda through the liberal system. By 1870, the most forceful liberal feminists were focusing on obtaining suffrage, the right to vote.

One example would be Richard Pankhurst, who drafted laws in England, the first permitting unmarried female heads-of-household to vote, the second a law permitting married women to control their own property. His young wife, Emmeline, became a leader of the feminist movement in England, a role she continued with two of her daughters. She experienced continual frustration trying to get Parliament to vote for suffrage; by 1905 the public had lost interest in the issue. Her solution was to use the same sort of violent protest utilized by liberal revolutionaries and socialist agitators. Willingness to restort to violence marked the difference between a suffragist and a suffragette.

book Workbook document:
Pankhurst's My Own Story (1914)

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Suffrage Cartoon

This American cartoon reflects one popular concern regarding women's suffrage: that women would abandon their domestic responsibilities in favor of political life. Women's suffrage seemed to counter everything that Victorian womanhood stood for.

This conservative view ignored the fact that despite Victorian protections, many women had been participating in politics for years. They had been active in all the liberal revolutions, and in socialist and radical groups. They had influenced their husbands' votes, sometimes through their perspective as charity workers and volunteers for the poor. Emmeline Pankhurst herself had worked as a Guardian in the workhouses; in fact it was her horror at conditions there for women that turned her toward feminism.

 

Please keep in mind that suffrage does not mean equality; it only means the right to vote. National suffrage would be given to American women, for example, in 1919. But any efforts to obtain social or economic equality could put feminism in the radical, rather than the liberal, camp. The suffrage movement undoubtedly benefitted from having its goals seen as liberal, compared to the radical goals of the socialists. And whenever the ideal of total equality came up at the meetings of suffrage society, the goal was set aside in the interest of achieving the vote. Some radical feminists thus saw the suffrage movement as not going far enough.

So how is feminism related to modern nationalism? In many cases, the goals of liberal feminists mirrored those of liberal nationalists, desirous of making their nation one with a legitimate government reliant on its people and their political participation. Feminists frequently pointed out women's role in making the nation great, although not all supported expansionistic or imperial goals.

 

Motives for Empire

Europe had been influencing global trade, and dominating much of it, since the 17th century. But in the 19th century, some European nations began setting concrete goals for the management of empire. These goals could go beyond the exploitation of natural resources, although they usually emphasized political control for the sake of economic gain.

Rhodes cartoon


Cecil Rhodes' moderate ambitions for Africa: the Cape-to-Cairo Railway

This "new" imperialism was based on several motives.

Social Darwinism was certainly prominent among them. Each nation believed that they represented the finest of European civilization, and imperialists felt that the expansion of European culture would be of benefit to all mankind. Cecil Rhodes, who was English, believed that the Anglo-Saxon people had a particular responsibility to take over nations of "lesser" peoples.

bookWorkbook document: Rhodes: Confession of Faith (1877)

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Countering the argument that imperialism brought peace and prosperity, others like Hobson noted the continual war and exploitation inherent in imperialism.

bookWorkbook document: Hobson on Imperialism (1902)

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I confess that I'm having some problem writing this section, as I see the United States heading toward the same type of empire achieved by Britain and France by the end of the 19th century. I hear the same arguments Rhodes made over 100 years ago (now in "politically correct" language) being made by those who support a "safer" world through the domination of other nations and the denial of their right to self-determination. I am not the only one noticing the parallel, if current sales of books on British imperialism are any indication.

Please see this map of territories to explore the world of empire as of 1914.

Brighton Pavilion
Brighton Pavilion, in Britain,
looks like an Indian palace

Is imperialism simply an extension of nationalism? Can a nation become so proud that it simply expands internationally as its "manifest destiny"? The causes are rather more complex than that. The imperialist adventure began with economics, the desire to obtain certain resources, and then control them. Governments which refused to cooperate, or which created instability in the region, were replaced with local rulers friendly to the imperialist power. In some cases, European governments directly ruled (as the British did in India) after conditions went beyond the ability of companies to control. In many cases, the imperialist power had to put down local insurgencies against its domination, as the U.S. did in the Philippines in 1899 after "liberating" them from the Spanish. In most cases, locals who could benefit took the side of the conquering power. Culturally, what resulted in these places was a fusion of European and local traditions, each having an impact.

Recently, historians have also noted a sexual aspect to imperialism. In this construct, the conquered country represents the Victorian woman. She is weak, exotic, compliant, natural. The imperialistic nation is the man, dominating, strong, confident. This motif was seen often in art and music of the 19th and early 20th centuries, because imperialism brought images of exotic worlds to the attention of Europeans and Americans. It influenced opera, Madama Butterfly being a prime example as the story of a U.S. naval officer who marries a Japanese geisha and then abandons her.

book

Workbook document: Puccini, Giacosta, Illica -- Madama Butterfly (1902)

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Daniel Headrick: Tools of Empire

With economic motivations so strong as early as the 16th and 17th century, the question is why Europe did not create imperialism earlier. The answer is because Europe did not have the ability to enter the continents of Asia, South America, and Africa until the 19th century, a subject explored by historian Daniel Headrick.

According to Headrick, there were two problems:"Picture of Ships" the first was topography, and the second was disease. Sailing ships required a deep draught in the water for their pointed hulls, and wind for sails. They were also made of wood. In the tropics, the rivers were shallow, there was no wind, and the wood rotted. Diseases included killers like malaria and fever, to which many local people had developed immunity. Several expeditions into Africa, like the Mungo Park expedition in 1805, had ended with everyone dead. This was why trade with Africa, South America and Asia (including India) had meant trade with coastal peoples, who obtained the goods (including slaves) from the interior of the continents.

In South America, Jesuits had discovered a palliative for malaria in the 18th century when they noted that the natives chewed on the bark of the cinchona tree. French chemists distilled the substance quinine from the cinchona bark, and it Gin and tonicwas tried as a cure for malaria, with mixed results. It took a while to realize that quinine was a prophylactic rather than a treatment; it worked if taken in advance and continually while in the tropics. In other words, it was a tonic rather than a cure.

In India, the British created quinine "tonic water", and mixed it with gin, creating the gin and tonic. This is the classic drink of the British Raj.

Industrialization took care of the other problem, as metal steamboats were created with flat bottoms that could go up tropical rivers.

 

Symbolic Art

From about 1865 until the Great War began in 1914, artistic endeavor experienced something of a metamorphosis, the heart of which was an argument over what constituted art.

Bouguereau exhibit
A typical Academy painting by Adolphe-William Bouguerau, who said, "In painting, I'm an idealist. I see only the beautiful in art and, for me, art is the beautiful. Why reproduce what is ugly in nature?"
In the first half of the 19th century, schools of painting had certain standards and particular subjects that were considered acceptable by the "Academy". For example, classical subjects and settings were appropriate, as were Biblical subjects, so long as they were handled in an accepted manner. Mild eroticism was appreciated by those in the know. But the post-Napoleonic revolutionary spirit, a desire for newness, compounded by new forms of nationalism, the experiences of empire, and wars for unification, created an experimental era for art.

Influences of Imperialism

Contact with other cultures influenced many artists, especially the flat perspectives of Japanese painting and the tribal arts of Africa.

Gauguin, Paul
The Vision After the Sermon
(Jacob Wrestling with the Angel)

(1888)

Gaughin and other painters used the traditional life of Brittany, in northern France, to create exotic landscapes. In this picture, women are seeing a vision after hearing a sermon. Notice the flat perspective.

Brittany painting

Impressionism

Manet painting
Edouard Manet, Dejeuner sur l'herbe
(Luncheon on the Grass) 1863
Manet painting
Edouard Manet, Olympia (1863)

These pictures by Manet represent a break with the traditions of 19th century painting, though Manet did not intend this. Although other painters had used realism to depict the plight of the poor or the elegance of the natural world, Manet's Luncheon on the Grass shockingly showed two clothed men with a naked woman (some called it "Who's For Lunch?") and Olympia looked like a Parisian prostitute, looking right into the "camera". His background of Dejeuner is impressionistic; the trees look like vague impressions of trees and don't have much detail.

Monet's Water Lilies

Claude Monet was another French painter, but in a very different mode. Monet's Water Lilies (1902) shows the ultimate extent of impressionism, as he painted the same subjects over and over in different light, examining the impressions of light, shadow and subject in a controlled environment.

Impressionism was, like romanticism and realism, a response to the industrial world. Now considered typical art, the impressionists were trying to do something very different.

Vienna Succession

Not everywhere did artistic norms change so radically; in Eastern Europe the painterly tradition was suffocating other artists. The response was the Viennese Succession movement.

One of the great works of the succession was Klimt's Beethoven Frieze(1902).

Art of the Western World:
Episode 8: Into the Twentieth Century

Beethoven frieze kiss

Now you can play Beethoven's 9th for yourself and look at this.

Expressionism

Edward Munch, The Scream (1893)

Munch was a Norwegian painter who specialized in images of psychological angst. He led the movement called German Expressionism, which focused on expressing the inner life of the mind. This paralleled efforts in psychology, particularly by Sigmund Freud, to access the subconscious.

Munch's The Scream

Egon Schiele
Self-Portrait Standing
(1910)

Egon Schiele, was, by some accounts, paranoid, narcissistic, and possessed of an abberant sexuality which defied the norms of the day. Psychological profiles of him as an artist are rich with prurient references. Yet his genius drawings were recognized by artists like Klimt, to whom he wished to be a successor.

His pictures are seen, like Munch's, to represent internal torment. But many of his drawings of young girls were sold as pornography, making him a unique expressor of particular values.

Schiele self-portrait

Modern Art

Art was clearly becoming more modern. Between these years and the Great War in 1914, the symbolism of art became more abstract. Some samples:

Picasso

Pablo Picasso. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. (1907)

Picasso developed the modern style of cubism, which was meant to represent looking at an image from several perspectives simultaneously. In this picture, a den of prostitution becomes a place of fear and mystery. Notice in the models on the right how cubism can distort the features, and begin to abstract them.

Mondrian painting

Mondrian, Piet
Composition No. II; Composition in Line and Color
(1913)

This is a picture of an object abstracted into lines and color. Mondrian believed in divine order, in society as well as in art. Some have said his work is impressionistic, an effort to distill the experience with an object to keep its energy while rejecting it as an object with which one must relate. We head more and more toward geometric abstraction.

Fin de Siecle: Fashion

1894 fashion plate Recall that this is the style at the end of the 19th century and that, though it looks conservative to today's taste, it began modern fashions.
1903 fashion plate The long corset turned into an S-curve corset, said to be better for health because it took the pressure off the abdomen. Notice that the style is also slimming, and the waist, though tight, is moving below the natural waist. The Victorian habits of hair and hat are still there.
1899 fashion plate I show you this just as evidence of some underground nightlife; these clothes were worn in the gay 1890s by only the most sophisticated or most exotic. (You may recognize the style if you watch old Western movies; the siren in the saloon wears clothes like this.) Some Victorian standards were rejected by the elite upper class as well as the lower class who couldn't afford it.
1912 fashion plate By 1912, feminism had played a role in fashion. The hour-glass fertility symbol is gone, and in some cases the jacket was tailored like a man's. There is modesty, but a slimmer, more boyish line that will continue for some years. The man has become slightly more casual with his necktie, but in other ways is similar to before.

The Great War and Russian Revolution

Available in many languages since its original French, The Internationale is the international song opposing repression. It was used in the Russian Revolution, and was Bolshevik Russia's national anthem until 1944. See Lyrics for this section in Russian and English

Bolshevik preparing to pull down a statue of Tsar Alexander III --->

 

War is a most uneconomical, foolish, poor arrangement, a bloody enrichment of that soil which bears the sweet flower of peace ...

-- M. E. W. Sherwood (1897)

 

 

 

Bolshevik pulling down statue of Alexander II

British helping German soldiers
British soldiers helping wounded German prisoners on the Western Front


Textual description

The Assassination and Alliances

Franz Ferdinand and Sophie
When Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, went on vacation to Sarajevo in Bosnia, it was no simple vacation. To Austria-Hungary, Sarajevo was in a portion of their empire, and thus the heir was entitled to a royal welcome. Instead, he and his wife Sophie were assassinated shortly after getting into their car (the picture at left was the last one of them alive). The assassin was a teenager from a group of Bosnian revolutionaries, those who believed that Bosnian nationalism was superior to Austria's claims.

Austria-Hungary insisted that the nation of Serbia was harboring Bosnian terrorists and assisted them in assassinating the Archduke. There had been two previous Balkan Wars since 1900, and Serbian support of their fellow Bosnian Serbs was well-known. As Serbia hesitated to accept responsibility, Austria-Hungary attacked.

What followed should have been a short war. Austria-Hungary had the second-best army in Europe, and Serbia had only some mountain fighting units which had been rivals for years.

1914 Map

But what followed was the Great War. Why? Because the Balkan Wars and uncertainties of the new century had sent most European nations into secret alliances to protect themselves. Thus Serbia had a secret treaty with Russia, which declared war on Austria-Hungary. Austria-Hungary had a secret treaty with Germany saying if anyone declared war on Austria-Hungary, Germany would come in on her side. Since Germany had the best army in Europe, and the second-best navy, it still should have been a short war. But when Germany declared war on Russia, a secret treaty between Russia and France went into effect, and France had to declare war on Germany.

Germany's plan was to crush France quickly in the west (as she had in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871). That meant she could then turn all her energy toward Russia, who would take longer to mobilize. But France had spent the intervening years building defenses on the border with Germany, so the only possibility for easy victory was to go through Belgium. When Belgium refused Germany access, Germany marched through anyway. And Belgium had a secret treaty with Britain, which had the best navy in the world.

The Great War became a World War because the main players (Britain, Belgium, Germany and France) had global colonies, all of which fought each other. Victorious parties could gain valuable colonies through their participation, but only if those lands had been conquered. In addition, the Ottoman Empire joined the side of the Central Powers (Germany/Austria-Hungary), guarding the Bosphorus against assistance between western Allied Powers France/Britain and eastern Ally Russia.

Africa 1914 <- This map gives you an idea of the stakes in Africa, where Germany held 3 colonies in ideal locations: Cameroon, Southwest Africa, and German East Africa. Britain longed in particular for German East Africa, which would make a continuous British path from north to south. A German victory could similarly mean German colonial expansion.

 

The technology and trench warfare

The technology of this war put an end to gentlemanly warfare and the "don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes" mentality. Maxim gun

The machine gun had first been used effectively in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Both sides had thought it a secret weapon, but they had used it differently. The French had thought it a piece of artillery, and thus gave it to the artillery gunners at the back of the troops. The Prussians (Germans) recognized it as a new type of weapon and gave it to a special machine gun corps at the front, which mowed down the French before they could fire their guns. The machine guns made short work of the war, which is why the Germans were confident they could take Paris quickly in 1914.

barbed wireBut by then everyone knew how to use the gun effectively, and both sides used it at the front. Both sides immediately had difficulty taking ground against the overlapping fire of machine guns. Both sides had to dig trenches to prevent having their heads blown off, and had to develop new strategies to take enemy trenches.Trench soldiers
Poison gas, such as mustard gas and chlorine gas, was lobbed inside shells, fired into enemy trenches to poison the men and clear the trench, thus preventing the manning of machine guns. One man at a machine gun in the enemy trench could prevent an entire group from getting across the "no man's land" that separated the trenches.

Airplanes were used to drop bombs into the enemy trenches, and early tanks emerged to try to over-run them. But the reality of trench warfare on the Western Front was a stalemate and ultimately a war of attrition, where both sides tried to wear down the enemy's ability to wage war. Thousands died in a single battle. On the Eastern Front, there was much death but not as many trenches, since the Russians were often retreating. Even so, on the Eastern Front and at the Bosphorus it was quickly discovered that old styles of fighting (battlefields and cavalry attacks) were obsolete.

Culturally, most saw the war as a waste of millions of lives. But others saw it as a trial by fire that made life more precious:

bookWorkbook document: Jünger -- Storm of Steel (1919)

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Hard to stomach when you look at the number of dead. Each flag below represents a loss of 100,000 lives.

Map of dead

 

War fever and nationalism

War fever gripped many young men in 1914, and many enlisted not only in Europe but throughout the colonies. Nationalism fueled the fires, and made it easier to see other nationalities as enemies instead of fellow human beings.

But after the war began, and the horrors were realized to a certain extent, enlistments declined. National governments issued propaganda posters to encourage volunteers, and throughout the war to encourage the purchase of bonds to finance the war. Poster art helped "sell" the war.

British poster
British poster showing a mother sending her son dutifully off to war
Remember Belgium
A reminder of what happened when the Germans invaded neutral Belgium, to sell war bonds
Save the Wheat
Conserving food, metal and power were a goal
On Her Their Lives Depend
Women were encouraged to enter factory work
German poster
This poster from Germany shows a female Viking-esque nationalist figure, like a Valkyrie
Russian war bonds
Russian poster selling war bonds

I don't want to leave the impression that all war art was pro-war. Here's a drawing from George Grosz showing the grotesque enthusiasm engendered by war fever:

War Fever

 

 

Women and the War

Women played a major role in the peace movement both before and during the war. The American women in WILPFWomen's Peace Party, formed in response to the war, is now the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (they have a website). They met in April 1915 in the Hague (Netherlands) and set forth resolutions to end the war, to get neutral nations to pressure the belligerents into negotiation, and to send delegations to all the nations involved. They did all this, and also presented petitions to Woodrow Wilson, who used some of their ideas in his peace plan.

I find it interesting that the WILPF was international from its inception. They eschewed the idea of being a national organization with foreign affiliates, and instead women joined from the many nations and were willing to approach any government with their demands. The American delegation is shown in this picture, and includes representatives of the Women's Peace Party, the National Federal Suffrage Association, and various trade unions including the American Federation of Labor.

Mata HariBut I don't want to give the impression that all women were either suffering mothers or peace activists. Some were active war participants, and this one on the left was the most fascinating spy of her day.

Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (known as Mata Hari) was a Dutch dancer who came to Paris and became a nude dancer and the toast of elite circles. The French Army asked her to spy on the Germans by mingling with them. She was arrested by the British, who had to let her go without evidence. In spending time with the Germans, it became evident that some paid her, presumably for favors in bed. But the French became suspicious that she was a double agent. She admitted as much when they arrested her, had a showcase trial, and was executed.Edith Cavell

British nurse Edith Cavell (right) was executed by the Germans for helping British soldiers escape from behind enemy lines. She ran an escape network from a Red Cross hospital in German-occupied Belgium, and helped at least 200 soldiers to escape. She is remembered at her grave in Norfolk Cathedral.

 

The Peace to End All Peace

This title comes from the book by David Fromkin, a historian who has set out a convincing argument that the peace arrangements following the Great War paved the way for greater violence and disaster, including World War II. While we can't study these arrangements in detail, we can examine the difference between the goals of Woodrow Wilson, the American president, and the final results.

bookWorkbook document: Wilson's Fourteen Points

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You'll notice that Wilson starts with "open covenenants": no more secret treaties. You'll notice also a provision that lets colonial peoples participate in their destinies. Both of these deny the practice

Big Four
The Big Four: David Lloyd George (Britain), Vittorio Orlando (Italy), Georges Clemenceau (France) and Woodrow Wilson (United States)

of European countries in dealing with their own power. Britain and France had no intention of giving their empires any form of self-determination. At the peace conference in Versailles, the representative of Britain, France, the U.S. and Italy determined the peace. Although Wilson's Fourteen Points represented the American goal, Britain and France had their own ideas. France wanted Germany destroyed, and Britain wanted to gain colonies and not be involved in more wars. Italy was ignored, having offered Allied support only late in the war, hoping to gain territory. The Treaty of Versailles (there were many treaties, but this one dealt with Germany) left Germany with minimal military, responsibility for the war ("war guilt") and the requirement to pay reparations.
bookWorkbook document: The Treaty of Versailles (Excerpts)

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This Treaty humiliated Germany; if you look again at the Fourteen Points, that was the opposite of what Wilson wanted to happen. The Treaty and its aftermath paved the way for the rise of the Nazi party in Germany.

MapIn the Ottoman Empire during the Great War, the British had promoted a unification of Arab tribes to overthrow the Turks, promising an Arab state in the Middle East after the war. The tribes had succeeded in destroying the Ottoman Turks in 1916, but at the Treaty conference their wishes for a pan-Arab state were ignored. Britain and France divided the Middle East, creating mandated colonies for each of them: Palestine and Iraq for Britain, Syria and Lebanon for France. Moving swiftly, Turkish nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal prevented the same happening to Turkey (the small core of the old Ottoman Empire), and removed it from European influence.

Similarly, the empires continued as before, but instead of colonies, they were administered as mandated territories controlled by the new entity for peace: the League of Nations. The League permitted the original conquering power to supervise the mandate, thus leaving the imperial map intact.

Eastern Europe 1919

In Eastern Europe, they didn't do any better. The empire of Austria-Hungary had imploded during the war, torn apart by the competing nationalisms of Austrians, Magyars, and Slavs. The Treaty victors attempted Wilson's self-determination, but in some cases just created new states. The perfect example was Yugoslavia ("land of all Slavs"). Cobbled together from the old Serbia and other Balkan nations, what happened in the Balkans has provided such a poor example of divvying up things that we call such debacles "Balkanization". Czechslovakia was similarly created by artificially fusing the Czechs with the Slovaks. All of this will dissolve after three generations of creating new nationalisms.

Fromkin's title is a play on the term "the war to end all wars". The organ for international peace was the League of Nations, the only point of Wilson's that came to pass. The U.S. Senate, however, refused to ratify the Treaty and thus the U.S. wasn't a member of the League, weakening its power. Women's international peace groups and many around the world counted on the League to prevent future wars, but it would prove unable to do that.

 

 

Russia before the revolutions

Unlike states which experienced revolutions in 1848, Russia remained relatively untouched by western liberalism. The Tsar ruled absolutely, and considered Russia his personal territory and responsibility.

The 1860s saw two interesting developments: the abolishment of feudalism and the rise of nihilism. Serfdom had been abolished after the Crimean War, the loss of which convinced Tsar Alexander II that modernization was needed. Nihilism was a philosophy of the young, who were rejecting traditional norms and traditional authority. ChernyshevskyThey didn't respect social conventions, promoting equality for women and living together in "common law" marriages. Women joined nihilist groups because it gave them far more freedom than conventional society.

One of the most outspoken of the nihilists was Nikolai Chernyshevsky, a socialist along the lines of Fourier. He wrote Alexander II that "liberal landowners, liberal writers, liberal professors lull you with hopes in the progressive aims of our government", believing the end of serfdom should be the beginning of socialist equality rather than liberal property ownership. His book What is to be Done? led to his arrest and prison in Siberia.

By the 1890s, Russia was becoming more industrialized, and a small proletarian class existed, though most were still peasants. Industrialization caused urbanization, and worker's parties began to form. All political parties were illegal in Russia, but strikes and demonstrations occurred that opposed the Tsar's rule. Marxist groups began to form, including the Mensheviks (majority) and Bolsheviks (minority). Mensheviks believed that Marxist revolution would come, with time. As the proletariat increased, pressure would build. They thus permitted anyone to join their party. The Bolsheviks restricted membership, believing that a socialist revolution would have to be led by "professional" revolutionaries who understood the intellectual concepts of Marxism. Lenin was one of these.
bookWorkbook document: Lenin on What is to be Done? (1902)

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The title of his work was a deliberate reflection of Chernyshevsky's, though his approach was different. Lenin was exiled for his activities.

The RomanovsThe Romanovs

Tsar Nicholas II was a cousin of Queen Victoria of England, as were many of Europe's rulers (that made the Great War a huge family feud). His tsarina was Alexandra, a German princess who was raised a devout Lutheran Protestant and was a grandchild of Queen Victoria. When Nicholas fell in love with her, she was afraid because it meant converting to Russian orthodoxy. She was convinced by Victoria herself, her cousin Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Nicholas' aunt Ella, who was herself a convert.

1904-05 were pivotal years for the Romanovs. Their first son was born, after four daughters. Only males could inherit the throne. But the son had hemophilia (the blood fails to clot properly), an inherited disorder of the Saxe-Coburgs (Victoria's family). This had to be kept secret. The same year, the Russo-Japanese War occurred, and Japan had risen out of nowhere to destroy the Russian Pacific Fleet. This led to a wave of protest against the government, and Nicholas had to agree to allow a liberal assembly, the Duma, to meet. This has been called the Revolution of 1905.

Web document: Tsar's Manifesto of 1905

Tsar Nicholas dismissed them, though, when they criticized his rule. The same year, Siberian former-monk Gregory Rasputin arrived in St. Petersburg.

Rasputin and puppetsRasputin was quite a character. He seduced everyone's wives among the elite set, because he smelled like a man instead of like the perfumes everyone was wearing (my theory, anyway). He also had a reputation as a miracle worker; his eyes were hypnotic and some called him a Holy Man. He worked his way into the royal family, and got the Tsarina to permit him to see her son and heir, Alexi. Rasputin spent time alone with the boy, and when he left the child was cured of hemophilia. No one knows how he did it, but it earned him the Tsarina's profound devotion. When Nicholas left to lead the troops in the Great War (they were underequipped and had to take guns and boots off the dead on the Eastern Front), Rasputin was effectively in charge of the government. The cartoon at left shows him as the puppeteer controlling the Tsar and Tsarina.

A group of young aristocrats killed Rasputin. They had to get him drunk, shoot him, stab him, strangle him, and drown him to do it. Pretty spooky.

 

Revolutions of 1917

March: Provisional Government

In March of 1917, the Tsar was overthrown in what Marx would have considered a liberal or beourgeois revolution. At the time, most Russian men were at the front, and the cold and hungry women of Petrograd (St. Petersburg renamed to sound Russian instead of German) rebelled. When troops were sent to control the riots, the troops were persuaded to join the rebellion. Thus the Romanovs were placed under house arrest, and a new government was established.

The Provisional Government (until an election could take place) was Kerenskyunder the control of socialist Alexander Kerensky, who had emphasized unity with the liberal cause. He lifted decades of political oppression by freeing political prisoners and instituting freedom of speech and the press. In doing so, he sowed his own destruction, because Lenin came back from exile and the Bolsheviks were free to plot socialist revolution. In fact, Lenin was escorted through enemy territory by Germany, because they knew he'd cause trouble in Russia.

You see, Kerensky had made another fatal mistake, in insisting that Russia should continue in the war. Millions had died, and morale was terrible, but Kerensky wanted Russia to be a full participant in European affairs. If they did not hold up their end in the war, Kerensky feared rejection by the international community when the war was over. Russians tired of war and poverty were, however, prepared to support the Bolshevik cause if it meant an end to the war.

November: Bolshevik Revolution

The elections took place on November 6. 62% voted for moderate socialists like Kerensky. But it didn't matter, because on November 22 the Bolsheviks quietly took over the seats of government throughout the country.

Lenin
The charismatic Lenin

They were excellent organizers, and had spent their time talking persuasively to factory workers and winning support with the slogan "Peace, Bread and Land". Having taken over power, they created a new political structure with the Communist Party at the top. The Bolshevik "vanguard" pledged to lead Russia to communism, a term at first synonymous with Marxist socialism. They created the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR or Soviet Union), the Soviets having been the workers' councils in the cities. The first task was Civil War, as the Reds (communists) fought against the Whites (tsarists, anti-communists, liberals) from 1918-1920. The peasants were crucial in this war, because the Whites expected peasant support but the Reds didn't, and neither side got any. The Romanovs were executed. Lenin organized the economy with his New Economic Program of 1921. This included some private ownership, a gradual path toward communal ownership which was quite successful. But Lenin died in 1923, and the power struggle that ensued led to Stalin becoming a communist dictator.

Women's status

Since socialists had been promising women's equality, it is instructive to look at the early years of the Soviet Union. Lenin was committed to the educational, economic, legal and political liberation of women. He even was against the enslavement of women to housework, which he called "barbarously unproductive, petty, nerve-wracking, stultifying and crushing drudgery" (I love this guy). New laws allowed women into all Russian universities. They could keep their name and their status even if married, could divorce and inherit property. He legalized abortion, and outlawed prostitution. Women's groups tried to set up communes to share childrearing, and some, like Alexandra KollontaiAlexandra Kollontai, promoted sexual liberation. See one of her essays -- here's a quotation about the exclusivity of beourgeois marriage:

The claims we make on our “contracted partner” are absolute and undivided. We are unable to follow the simplest rule of love — that another person should be treated with great consideration. New concepts of the relationships between the sexes are already being outlined. They will teach us to achieve relationships based on the unfamiliar ideas of complete freedom, equality and genuine friendship.

It wasn't perfect and didn't last. Many of the advances ended with Stalin, whose superindustrialization program of the 1930s used women as workers, but accorded them higher status as mothers of children (they even got "maternity medals" for having lots of kids).

Art of the Revolution

Futurism, from Italy, came to Russia before World War I. It was a literary and artistic movement that tried to break with the past. Futurism celebrated modern technology, dynamism and power. The work tended to be abstract in form, but became public art in the early years of the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks rejected "idle picture painting". They sanctioned art which glorifed the proletariat, the peasants and the revolution. Murals on railroad cars spread the message of the revolution. Art forms created a vision of an egalitarian future, which the Soviet Union represented to the world.

Art of the Western World:
Russian Revolution

The new art form, rather than distancing Russia from the rest of the world, actually brought it closer to the rest of Europe. The Bolshevik capital at Moscow became as much of a cultural center as Paris. Once Russia was culturally and industrially "caught up" with Western Europe, it became impossible to keep Russia out of European affairs.

 

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The text by Lisa M. Lane is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.
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