The consequences of the First World War of 1914–18 linger today. The military’s role in European politics is far less important than a century ago. This is possibly the largest shift. The desire to use force to further political objectives is little or nonexistent. The defense budget and the size of Europe’s armed forces have significantly decreased. In terms of material, this will be more rapid-fire, so hold on tight. Germany was compelled to give up many territories to comply with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. Mostly on the eastern and western boundaries, they were. Probably the most significant concession was giving France Alsace-Lorraine. France and Germany have been at odds over this territory for a long time. Germany received this region separating the two nations after winning the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 (Cebula 2020). Thus, the paper aims to analyze the political consequences of the First World War.
France yearned for it for many years after that. After winning the First World War, France, and Great Britain shared authority of Saarland for fifteen years. Other portions of Germany were ceded to Denmark and Poland, both of which had just gained independence. In Germany, a socialist revolution started right after World War I ended. The left-leaning Weimar Republic was established due to the German Revolution of 1918–1919, and it ruled till Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party took over in the early 1930s (Cebula 2020). Many historians think that Hitler rose directly from Germany’s loss in World War I and the severe conditions due to the Treaty of Versailles.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire was defeated and disintegrated into several separate entities. Poland, Hungary, and Austria were some of the most notable. Additionally, the Ottoman Empire broke up. Most of the previous empire became the Republic of Turkey, while areas like Syria and Palestine were given up to France and Great Britain. Dissatisfaction with World War I ultimately contributed to the 1917 Russian Revolution (Cebula 2020). The Russian Empire was overthrown during this revolution, and Vladimir Lenin’s socialist regime was installed in its stead. New states that were originally a part of the Russian Empire arose in northern Europe, and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were among them.
It is necessary to recognize that mandates, territorial cessions, and struggles for independence did not just occur in Europe. For instance, the colony of German East Africa was required to be divided among Belgium, France, and Portugal by the League of Nations. The crucial thing to remember is that the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian Empires broke apart into multiple separate nations after World War I. However, the mechanics of how post-World War I nation-states evolved are rather complex. One might make a strong case that the United States became the planet’s superpower after World War I. The U.S. joining the conflict influenced how it turned out. After World War I, the US gained much confidence.
One of the deadliest military battles in human history occurred during 1914–1918, whose centennial was solemnly commemorated a few years ago (Cebula 2020). It began four years ago as an unparalleled worldwide hecatomb, claiming millions of lives—both military and civilians—after an ostensibly significant but very local act of political violence. To a large extent, the collective remembrances of the war, which are pervasive and deeply anchored to the present in most Western societies, were shaped by the virtually unknown scale of death and destruction, vividly epitomized by the number of deaths on a solitary day of the Battle of the Somme (more than 57,000 British casualty rates on July 1, 1916) (Cebula 2020). The depressing number of non-combatants who died and suffered throughout the war, their deaths and suffering are linked to the unrestrained spreading of the military operations, which had a significant impact on how the public remembers the events of 1914–1918 (Cebula 2020).
The ambiguous assessments of the historic clash of the post-Viennese world powers make it even more challenging to explain: it is frequently claimed that the end of armed conflict in 1918 was sullied by the emergence of the global order that was destined to trigger the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of the 20th century: World War II. Jurgen Habermas, a German philosopher, most likely expressed this sentiment when he warned of the dire repercussions of a potential failure of the post-World War II European project, saying, “When the German failed, it took100 years to regain the same level of democracy as before” (Cebula 2020). Despite these reservations, it cannot be disputed that the fall of 1918 marked the start of a twenty-year phase of a mostly unrestricted exercise of democracy and freedom for a group of people living in Central Europe (Cebula 2020). Inside the particular instance of some of them, the newly managed to regain independence was the result of several generations-long struggles against the somewhat authoritarian supremacy of their political superintendents (or, at least in certain cases, most unmistakably, their countries’ illegitimate occupiers; the re-emerging Republic of Poland is but one of the examples).
For these countries or political groups, the start of the second world war in the 20th century was the biggest catastrophe of the time, which unquestionably went well beyond the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, notwithstanding Habermas’s assertion to the contrary. More than a century after the Armistice of Compiègne, the rising tensions are roiling the international community and renewed grave worries about the durability of the current world order. One cannot escape facing a wide range of moral, legal, and political questions about the first great war of the 20th century, which today appear to have universal application while remembering the bravery of regular troops and the sadness of the countless innocent people of World War I.
The war-torn nations of Serbia, Italy, and Belgium had been destroyed. The east and north of France, where the battlefront had raged for four years, were particularly hard to hit. Some towns were wiped from the face of the earth, notably Courcelette, where the 22nd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force won a notable battle in 1916. Exploding shells rendered agricultural land unusable. Livelihood in the rural civilizations that relied on these places was influenced by the requirement of repairing them for commercial use.
For production during peacetime, factories needed to be renovated or (re)converted. Currency depreciation, inflation, and debt were all factors present when reconstruction first started. After the moral and economic ordeal of the First World War, people’s desire to raise their standard of living was reflected in global economic growth; this marked the emergence of the consumption society, which started in North America in the 1920s and expanded to Europe in the second half of the twentieth century.
Nations had to supply for themselves during the years when the war was being waged, and the attitude of self-sufficiency persisted into the postwar period, leading to industries that were focused inward. Additionally, a large portion of the goods exported before the war were consumed due to the great internal demand during the reconstruction period. Devaluation measures in the United Kingdom and the United States were accompanied by currency volatility that hampered the growth of international markets. Reorganizing commercial networks was necessary.
Although momentarily weakened, Europe was still a strong economic force, but it was now up against the USA and Japan. The European countries enlisted their territories in the conflict and used them as a supply of military troops and supplies. The nationalist and independent organizations of the 20th century would use this as one of their reasons. With the biggest colonial empire in history, Great Britain acknowledged the Dominions’ sovereignty in the Statute of Westminster in 1931. These nations were given equal standing with Britain inside the Empire, and their sole connection to the “mother country” was as British Commonwealth members. Except for the constitution, whereby the British Crown retained control over it until it was “repatriated” in 1982, Canada became the first Dominion to be given complete judicial authority. Great Britain developed priority commercial links with its erstwhile “white” colonies, especially Canada. India declared independence from Britain in 1947 after clamoring for the same privileges since the 1920s.
The conflict accelerated the political transformation in Russia. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk created an agreement between Russia and Germany on March 3, 1918. The Bolshevik Revolution overthrew the Russian Empire, causing a civil war that resulted in a Communist government. Up to the danger of the Nazis, there were no diplomatic ties with Western Europe or the United States (Papuashvili 2017). There was no longer a Central Power.
The criteria required by the peace agreement provisions were challenging for the German Weimar Republic to fulfill. It initially had to protect democratic institutions from Communist upheaval. Still, it was helpless to stop the growth of the Nazi ideology, which would once more upset the balance of the globe. The Union Sacrée coalition government in France came to an end in 1917. France was a prominent player in the peace talks in Paris in January 1919, thanks to Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau. The new international order from the 1914–1918 conflict was negotiated at the Paris Peace Conference. The idea that these peace negotiations took place in Paris reaffirmed the notion that, despite the catastrophic war, Europe remained the hub of international diplomacy.
The Paris Peace Conference, where a new Europe must emerge and maybe from which a new spirit in the globe of nations will be consecrated, is now open. Delegates from 32 countries assembled in Paris on January 18, 1919, making it the center of the world’s government. Hundreds of individuals had also gathered, drawn by the occasion, including international business people, authors, and journalists. After the Armistice was signed in Rethondes, France, on November 11, 1918, ending armed hostilities, it was the responsibility of the belligerent nations to determine the conditions of the war’s conclusion. They had a large task in front of them. The discussions took place in a setting of pain, heightened feelings, simmering resentment, and ambition. (citation 2).
France, headed by Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, adopted a tough posture toward Germany and demanded restitution from the country it held accountable for the war’s effects on its territory and the lives it lost. The demilitarization of Germany and the excision of some of its land were other demands made by Clemenceau. Clemenceau desired a toothless Germany to safeguard France. The British also requested compensation, partly to prevent France from receiving the whole amount. Their claim focused on lives lost, as material damage claims were insufficient in Great Britain’s case.
Delegates from Canada contributed to drafting papers for the International Labour Organization, the Commission on Ports, Waterways, and Railways, and the rules regulating international air travel. The goal of adopting this logical, scientific strategy was to produce a fair settlement that would result in a durable peace while also studying the effects of the conflict and assigning responsibility. All of the participants in the battle sent representatives to the Conference in January 1919, each with their requests.
Paris served as the center of global diplomacy, where tensions would develop, and future foreign politics would be shaped. Following Germany’s defeat in World War One, the Kaiser fled, and in the sleepy town of Weimar in February 1919, a new democratically elected government of Germany was proclaimed. The Weimar Republic was a sincere attempt to establish the ideal democratic state. People who lean left seek to distribute the nation’s riches fairly and give workers greater power. On the far left side was the Communist (KPD). People on the right want to give more power to the traditional elite, the wealthy, and the army. The far right wing included the Nazis (NSDAP).
Extremists opposed to the Weimar Republic were found on both sides. The Weimar Republic had bloody uprisings from diverse factions and grave economic issues. There was upheaval and violence all the time. Some communists in Germany desired to install a communist regime like that in Russia. Numerous communist uprisings occurred. For instance, 50,000 Spartacists revolted in Berlin in January 1919 under the leadership of communists Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Leibknecht. In a bloody street battle, the military and the right-wing Freikorps ended the uprising. Both sides sustained significant losses.
The Kapp Putsch, an insurrection, took place in March 1920. The rebels were furious with them for ratifying the Treaty of Versailles, so right-wing nationalist Dr. Wolfgang Kapp took control of Berlin, intending to establish a new government (The Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles, n.d). He was only vanquished after Berlin’s workers staged a strike under the direction of left-wing activists because the army hesitated to confront him. After the Kapp Putsch failed in 1920, a Communist paramilitary force known as the Red Army was an insurrection in the Ruhr. 356 members of the administration were killed by nationalist terrorists, including the former finance minister Matthias Erzberger and the foreign minister Walter Rathenau (Impact of the First World War. n.d.) These terrorists were repeatedly given lenient sentences or were allowed to walk free by the judges, most of whom favored the administration of the Kaiser.
The greatest difficulty with the Weimar administration was the Germans’ tardiness in making a reparation payment in 1923, which touched off a chain of events (Impact of the First World War n.d.). To extort products, the French invaded the Ruhr. Workers were told to engage in “passive resistance,” which meant stopping work and not producing anything the French could seize. The Ruhr region stopped manufacturing commodities due to the workers’ obedience, but the employees still needed pay. The government issued more currency for the employees, but it quickly lost all of its value due to inflation. An abrupt influx of paper currency hit the market, and a widespread strike prevented any production of products. Due to these variables, more money was spent on buying fewer products. Buying led to hyperinflation, brought on by a fragile economy destroyed by the war. A slice of bread cost 250 points in January 1923 but increased to 200,000,000,000 pieces in November 1923 as prices spiraled out of control (Impact of the First World War. n.d.). German money lost all of its value. Savings-happy middle-class individuals were particularly hard impacted.
On the day that the Treaty of Versailles was signed, Germany started making preparations for war. Throughout the Weimar Republic, the general staff maintained its position as the dominating power, with Hitler boosting its stature and reputation. In addition to the German Social Democrats, the right-wing Junker class also endured. The birth rate continued to plummet in France following the war, and the country’s administrations were brief, fractured, and unstable as they had been in the ten years before the war. France’s mistrust of Germany persisted. Britain’s financial recovery following the First World War was never complete. The 1920s and 1930s saw her economy deteriorate from before the war (Impact of the First World War. n.d.). She lost her ability to maintain “the Balance of Power” in Europe.
Italy and Japan continued to be unhappy with the Versailles Agreement, which is why Italy pursued imperialist tactics in Ethiopia and Libya (The Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles n.d). At the same time, Japan engaged in aggressive behavior toward China and Malaysia. Numerous ethnically fragmented areas were established in Eastern Europe due to the collapse of the Hapsburg monarchy. The United States soon adopted her long-standing isolationist position, mistrusting the imperial aspirations of “the old world” and refusing t back the League of Nations.
The Middle East served as the last stage for European imperialism, with the French and British establishing states with fictitious borders like Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon. Together, they pledged autonomous sovereignty for Jews and Arabs in Palestine, whose repercussions are being felt today. The past was broken only in Russia. A brutal, efficient, ideological dictatorship that killed the nobility and middle classes and established a messianic, false ideology as a government replaced the inefficient, bureaucratic tyranny under the Romanovs.
Overall, the 1914–18 First World War repercussions are still felt today. The military plays far less influence in European politics now than it did a century ago. This change may be the biggest. There is little to no motivation to employ force to accomplish political goals. Europe’s military force numbers and defense spending have both considerably shrunk. Hold on tight because the stuff will come at you more quickly this time. To comply with the requirements of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forced to cede a large number of regions. They were primarily located on the eastern and western borders. Giving France Alsace-Lorraine was arguably the biggest surrender. For a very long period, this area has been the source of conflict between France and Germany.
Cebula, A. 2020. “The Legacy and Consequences of World War I”. Journal of Military Ethics, 19 (2): 118-120.
Papuashvili, G. 2017. “Post-World War I comparative constitutional developments in Central and Eastern Europe”. International Journal of Constitutional Law, 15 (1): 137-172.