A large part of the August number of Diplomaatia is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I.
The opening article of the issue is Margaret MacMillan’s “World War I: The War That Changed Everything”, which was initially published in the June number of the Wall Street Journal’s Life & Culture section.
Many of the now-familiar political boundaries in Europe and the Middle East still reflect the peace settlements that followed the war, writes MacMillan. These resulted in a smaller Russia and Germany and wound up the great multinational empires of Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans. New countries appeared on our maps, with names such as Yugoslavia and Iraq.
“What is harder to pin down and assess are the war’s long-term consequences—political, social and moral. The conflict changed all the countries that took part in it. Governments assumed greater control over society and have never entirely relinquished it. Old regimes collapsed, to be replaced by new political orders. In Russia, czarist autocracy was succeeded by a communist one, with huge consequences for the rest of the century.”
Sandra Niinepuu, a historian at the Estonian War Museum, explores the conjunctions of World War I and Estonia. According to Niinepuu, approximately 100,000 men were mobilized in Estonia to the establishment of the imperial Russian army, while 10,000 of them fell or went missing in action. Niinepuu writes that: “In a sense, we cannot pinpoint the original cause of an event in the field of history, but, in the given context, Estonian independence is the result of a chain reaction triggered by World War I. […] The Estonian War for Independence may be viewed as one of the multitude of continuation wars that followed the official end of hostilities on 11 November 1918.”
The writer and literary critic Peeter Helme discusses the interconnections between World War I, literature and culture. Helme writes: “Although daylight saving time, universal suffrage or functionalism in architecture can be viewed as the immediate influences of World War I on our culture, it can be said that none of the people who participated in the war and tried to put their experiences into words were able to formulate any kind of a lesson to future generations, some guidelines for life, or a new type of sensibility, which could have been helpful. […] This war with its absolute and absurd essence became a legend already in the lifetime of those, who participated in it.”
The orientalist Vladimir Sazonov’s article is on contemporary developments in Syria and Iraq, where the extremist Islamic movement ISIS has taken large areas under its control.
The author considers that the victories the movement has claimed so far in northern and western Iraq are bad news, and if ISIS is not stopped, Baghdad may also fall into their hands. Nevertheless, there is still hope that they will be stopped. “In case this endeavour will fail, the situation will become critical; then we can already talk of a new caliphate of Baghdad created by religious fanatics, which will start to export religious fanaticism across the Middle East, and, it may be feared, also to Europe and Africa.”
This article was published in ICDS Diplomaatia magazine.