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Did Russia declare war on Germany before its invasion of that country on August 7, 1914?

Did Russia declare war on Germany before its invasion of that country on August 7, 1914?

I was looking through some lists of war declarations from the first World War and I did not see any declaration of war by Russia on Germany or Prussia. The Russian army did invade Prussia on August 7, 1914. Was there no declaration of war by Russia on Prussia before this invasion?


These are previously mentioned Russian manifestos.

Against Germany (02.08.1914):

Translation:

By the Grace of God,
We, Nicholas the Second,
the Emperor and Autocrat of All Russia,
the King of Poland, the Grand Duke of Finland, etc. etc. etc.
Proclaim to all Our loyals:
Abiding by her historical testaments, Russia, unified by faith and blood with Slavic nations, never stared at their fate blankly. With a full consentience and particular strength the brother feelings of Russian people to Slavs aroused in the last days, when Austria-Hungary imposed to Serbia wittingly unacceptable for a sovereign state conditions.
Despising compliant and peaceable answer of the Serbian government, denying benevolent mediation of Russia, Austria hastily moved to an armed attack by opening the bombardment of defenceless Belgrade.
Being forced under these circumstances to take necessary precautions, We have ordered to bring army and navy on a war footing, but, caring for Our loyals' blood and property, made every effort to reach a peaceful outcome of the started negotiations.
In the midst of friendly relationships, Germany, being allied with Austria, despite of Our hopes for age-old good-neighbourhood, and heeding not Our reassurance that the taken measures by no means have any intent hostile to it, started to seek for an immediate cancellation of them, and having met a refusal for this requirement, suddenly declared a war on Russia.
Now is not only to stand up for the unjustly offended cognate country, but to guard honour, dignity and unity of Russia, and its position among the Great Countries. We unfalteringly believe that all Our loyals will stand up selflessly and in concert for the defense of Russian Land.
In the terrible hour of trial, be any internal discord forgotten. Let the union of Tsar and His people become even more stronger, and Russia, rising like a single man, repel the bold enemy onslaught.
With a deep faith in the righteousness of Our deed, and with a humble hope for the Almighty Providence, We prayerfully call for a God's blessing on Holy Rus and Our valiant troops.
Given in Saint-Petersburg, on the twentieth day of July, Anno Domini one thousand nine hundred and fourteen, the twentieth year of Our Reign.
On the original by His Imperial Majesty's own hand signed: "NICHOLAS".

Against Austria (08.08.1914):

Translation:

By the Grace of God,
We, Nicholas the Second,
the Emperor and Autocrat of All Russia,
the King of Poland, the Grand Duke of Finland, etc. etc. etc.
Proclaim to all Our loyals.
A few days ago by Our Manifesto We have notified Russian people about the war Germany declared on Us.
Now Austria-Hungary, the first ringleader of the world unrest, who in the midst of deep peace unsheathed sword against weaker Serbia, has thrown off the mask and has declared a war on Russia, who had saved her more than once.
The enemy forces increase: both mighty German states have risen up in arms against Russia and all the Slavdom. But with a double strength the righteous anger of peaceful nations grows against them, and with an unbreakable firmness Russia, being called for the battle, rises up against the foe, and keeps faithful to the glorious legends of the past.
God knows, neither for the sake of belligerent plans, nor for the vain glory of the world We have taken up arms, but, protecting dignity and safety of Our God-guarded Empire, strive for a just cause. We are not alone in the forthcoming war of the nations: Our valiant allies stand up with Us, likewise being obliged to resort to force of arms, in order to eliminate finally the standing menace of German states for a world peace and quiet.
May God Almighty bless Our and allied arms, and the whole Russia rise up for a feat of arms, with iron in hands, with cross in heart.
Given in Saint-Petersburg, on the twenty-sixth day of July, Anno Domini one thousand nine hundred and fourteen, the twentieth year of Our Reign.
On the original by His Imperial Majesty's own hand signed: "NICHOLAS".

P.S. Both translations are mine. Any possible mistakes are due to my poor English.


Yes. Tsar Nicholas II issued a manifesto on 19 July (i.e. 1 August, New Style) which is considered Russia's declaration of war against Germany. Made in response to the German notice, it was read to a crowd from the balcony of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg at 3 p.m. the next day.

I can't locate the original text, but here's a translated excerpt:

In the manifesto declaring war on Germany on July 19, 1914, Tsar Nicholas II declared: "In the terrible hour of trial, all internal differences will be forgotten and the union of tsar and people will be made even stronger, and Russia, rising like a single person, will boldly strike the enemy."

- Lohr, Eric. Nationalizing the Russian Empire: the Campaign Against Enemy Aliens During World War I. Harvard University Press, 2003.


Germany had declared war on Russia on 1 August, in response to Russian mobilisation; Austria followed on 6 August. (timeline; text). There was presumably no need for Russia to make their own declaration after this point.


Russia had declared war on Germany on 20 July 1914 (Old style) Russia had declared war on Austria on 26 July 1914 (Old Style)


German entry into World War I

Germany entered into World War I on August 1, 1914, when it declared war on Russia. In accordance with its war plan, it ignored Russia and moved first against France–declaring war on August 3 and sending its main armies through Belgium to attack Paris from the north. The German invasion of Belgium caused Britain to declare war on Germany on August 4. Most of the main parties were now at war. In October 1914, Turkey joined the war on Germany's side, becoming part of the Central Powers. Italy, which was allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary before World War I, was neutral in 1914 before switching to the Allied side in May 1915.

Historians have vigorously debated Germany's role. One line of interpretation, promoted by German historian Fritz Fischer in the 1960s, argues that Germany had long desired to dominate Europe politically and economically, and seized the opportunity that unexpectedly opened in July 1914, making her guilty of starting the war. At the opposite end of the moral spectrum, many historians have argued that the war was inadvertent, caused by a series of complex accidents that overburdened the long-standing alliance system with its lock-step mobilization system that no–one could control. A third approach, especially important in recent years, is that Germany saw itself surrounded by increasingly powerful enemies–Russia, France and Britain–who would eventually crush it unless Germany acted defensively with a preemptive strike. [1]


Article content

There were two very different editions of the Aug. 1, 1914 Vancouver World.

The early edition featured a giant headline, in red ink, “PEACE POSSIBLE.”

This Week in History: 1914: Germany declares war on Russia, igniting the First World War Back to video

The late edition had the headline nobody wanted to read: “GERMANY DECLARES WAR.”

It was also in red ink, which was fitting, giving the announcement set off the bloodiest conflict the world had yet known.

According to a World dispatch out of St. Petersburg, Russia, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm sent a declaration of war to Russia at “7:50 o’clock.” He also signed an order mobilizing the German army.

The Province didn’t publish late enough to get in Germany’s declaration of war. But it carried a “Summary of War Situation at 5 p.m. London Time” that showed how quickly the situation was deteriorating.

“Ultimatums were sent today by Germany to France and Russia,” read the lead item. “Russia was ordered by Emperor William (Kaiser Wilhelm) to stop mobilization within 12 hours, expiring at noon.


Date Conflict Combatant 1 Combatant 2 Result
907 Rus'–Byzantine War (907) Kievan Rus' Byzantine Empire Victory [1]
920–1036 Rus'-Pechenegs' campaigns Kievan Rus' Pechenegs Different results. Eventually victory.
941 Rus'–Byzantine War (941) Kievan Rus' Byzantine Empire Defeat
944/945 Rus'–Byzantine War (944/945) Kievan Rus' Byzantine Empire Victory [2]
964–965 Sviatoslav's campaign against Khazars Kievan Rus' Khazar Khaganate Victory. Destruction of the Khazar Khaganate.
967/968–971 Sviatoslav's invasion of Bulgaria Kievan Rus' Byzantine Empire Defeat
981 Vladimir the Great's campaign on Cherven Cities Kievan Rus' Duchy of Poland Victory
985 Vladimir the Great's campaign against Volga Bulgaria Kievan Rus' Volga Bulgaria Military victory, then agreement.
987 Rus'–Byzantine War (987) Kievan Rus' Byzantine Empire Military victory. Agreement. Baptism of Vladimir and further Christianization of Kievan Rus'.
1022 Yaroslav the Wise's attack on Brest Kievan Rus' Duchy of Poland Defeat
1024 Rus'–Byzantine War (1024) Kievan Rus' Byzantine Empire Defeat
1030 Yaroslav the Wise's campaign against Chud Kievan Rus' Chud Victory. Estonian tribes start pay tribute to Rus.
1030–1031 Yaroslav the Wise's campaign on Cherven Cities Kievan Rus' Duchy of Poland Victory
1043 Rus'–Byzantine War (1043) Kievan Rus' Byzantine Empire Defeat
1055–1223 Rus'-Cumans' campaigns Kievan Rus' Cumans Different results. Mostly victories.
1061 Sosols raid against Pskov Kievan Rus' Sosols Defeat. Yaroslav the Wise's conquests in Estonia are lost.
1147 Bolesław IV the Curly's raid on Old Prussians Bolesław IV the Curly
  • Capture of the Grand Prince
  • Creation of a buffer state
  • Kazan releases all ethnic Christian Russians enslaved in the past four decades
  • Novgorod is integrated into the Grand Principality in 1478
  • End of Mongol rule
  • End of the Principality of Tver
  • The Kazan Khan is imprisoned and replaced by his half-brother
  • Treaty of Constantinople (1570)
  • The burning of Moscow by the Crimean Tatars in 1571
  • The defeat of the Crimean Tatars by the Russians at the Battle of Molodi in 1572
  • Preservation of independence of Russia and its conquests in the Volga region
  • Russia preserve independence
  • Russia lost Smolensk
  • Vladislav Zhigimondovich remained a contender for the Russian throne
  • Russian government forced to accept some Bashkir demands
  • Crushing of the rebellion
  • Russian invasion of Khanate of Khiva repelled
  • Crimea
    victory defeat
  • pro-Russian Bashkirs
  • Crushing of the rebellion
  • Establishment of Orenburg
  • Russian annexation of Central Asia
  • Crushing of the rebellion
  • Crushing of the rebellion

Polish legions
German legion
Viennese legion
Italian legion


Turnaround

The central question of the German-Soviet war is why, after two years of defeats, and the loss of more than five million men and two-thirds of the industrial capacity of the country, the Red Army was able to blunt, then drive back, the German attack.

Camouflage, surprise and misinformation were brilliantly exploited to keep the German army in the dark .

The idea that the USSR had limitless manpower, despite its heavy losses, is inadequate as an answer. Germany and her allies also possessed a large population, and added to it the peoples of the captured Soviet areas - men and women who were forced to work for the German army or were shipped back to work in the Reich. Soviet armies were always desperately short of men.

Above all, Soviet tactics in 1941-2 were extremely wasteful of manpower. If the Red Army had continued to fight the same way, it would simply have sustained escalating losses for little gain.

Nor did the USSR enjoy an advantage in economic resources. After the German attack, Soviet steel production fell to eight million tons in 1942, while German production was 28 million tons. In the same year, Soviet coal output was 75 million tons, while German output was 317 million. The USSR nevertheless out-produced Germany in the quantity (though seldom in the quality) of most major weapons, from this much smaller industrial base.

The impressive production of weapons was achieved by turning the whole of the remaining Soviet area into what Stalin called 'a single armed camp', focusing all efforts on military production and extorting maximum labour from a workforce whose only guarantee of food was to turn up at the factory and work the arduous 12-hour shifts. Without Lend-Lease aid, however, from the United States and Britain, both of whom supplied a high proportion of food and raw materials for the Soviet war effort, the high output of weapons would still not have been possible.

The chief explanation lies not in resources, which Germany was more generously supplied with than the Soviet Union, during the two central years of the war before American and British economic power was fully exerted. It lies instead in the remarkable reform of the Red Army and the Russian air force, undertaken slowly in 1942.

Every area of Soviet military life was examined and changes introduced. The army established the equivalent of the heavily armoured German Panzer divisions, and tank units were better organised - thanks to the introduction of radios. Soviet army tactics and intelligence-gathering were also overhauled.

Camouflage, surprise and misinformation were brilliantly exploited to keep the German army in the dark about major Soviet intentions. The air force was subjected to effective central control and improved communications, so that it could support the Soviet army in the same way as the Luftwaffe backed up German forces.


Twentieth Century's First Decade

  • 1902: The Franco-Italian Agreement of 1902 was a secret pact in which France agree to support Italy's claims to Tripoli (modern Libya)
  • 1904: The Entente Cordial, agreed between France and Britain. This was not a binding agreement to fight together but moved in that direction.
  • 1904–1905: The Russo-Japanese War, which Russia lost, an important nail in the coffin of the tsarist regime.
  • 1905–1906: The First Moroccan Crisis, also known as the Tangier crisis, over who controlled Morocco: France or the Sultanate, supported by the Kaiser
  • 1907: The Anglo-Russian Convention, a pact between England and Russia relating to Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet, another pact which encircled Germany. Many in the country believed they should fight the inevitable war now before Russia became stronger and Britain was moved to act.
  • 1908: Austria-Hungary annexes Bosnia and Herzegovina, a significant rise in tensions in the Balkans.
  • 1909: The Russo-Italian Agreement: Russia now controlled the Bosporus, and Italy retained Tripoli and Cyrenaica

The Most Horrific War of All Time: Russia vs. Germany

The war between Germany and the Soviet Union officially began in late June 1941, although the threat of conflict had loomed since the early 1930s. Germany and the USSR launched a joint war against Poland in September of 1939, which the Soviets followed up with invasions of Finland, Romania, and the Baltic states across the following year.

After Germany crushed France, and determined that it could not easily drive Great Britain from the war, the Wehrmacht turned its attention back to the East. Following the conquests of Greece and Yugolavia in the spring of 1941, Berlin prepared its most ambitious campaign the destruction of Soviet Russia. The ensuing war would result in a staggering loss of human life, and in the final destruction of the Nazi regime.

The Fight on Land

On June 22, 1941, the German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe struck Soviet forces across a wide front along the German-Soviet frontier. Romanian forces attacked into Soviet-occupied Bessarabia on the same day. The Finnish armed forces joined the fight later that week, with Hungarian troops and aircraft entering combat at the beginning of July. By that time, a significant contribution of Italian troops was on its way to the Eastern Front. A Spanish volunteer division would eventually join the fight, along with large formations recruited from Soviet prisoners of war and from the local civilian population of occupied Soviet territories.

The course of the war is far too complicated to detail in this article. Suffice to say that the German enjoyed overwhelming success for the first five months of the war, before weather and stiffening Red Army resistance led to a Soviet victory in the Battle of Moscow. Germany resumed the offensive in 1942, only to suffer a major defeat at Stalingrad. The Battle of Kursk, in 1943, ended the Wehrmacht’s offensive ambitions. 1943, 1944, and 1945 saw the pace of Soviet conquest gradually accelerate, with the monumental offensives of late 1944 shattering the German armed forces. The war turned the Wehrmacht and the Red Army into finely honed fighting machines, while also draining both of equipment and manpower. The Soviets enjoyed the support of Western industry, while the Germans relied on the resources of occupied Europe.

The Fight in the Air

Mercifully, the nature of the war did not offer many opportunities for strategic bombing. Russia launched a few sorties against German cities in the first days of the war, usually suffering catastrophic casualties. For their part, the German Luftwaffe concentrated on tactical support of the Wehrmacht. Germany did launch a few large air raids against Russian cities, but did not maintain anything approaching a strategic campaign.

Notwithstanding the improvement of the Soviet Air Force across the war, and the effectiveness in particular of attack aircraft, in general the Luftwaffe mauled its Soviet foe. This remained the case even as the Soviet aviation industry far outstripped the German, and as the Combined Bomber Offensive drew the attention of the Luftwaffe to the west.

The Fight at Sea

Naval combat does not normally loom large in histories of the War in the East. Nevertheless, Soviet and Axis forces fought in the Arctic, the Baltic, and the Black Sea for most of the conflict. In the north, Soviet air and naval forces supported convoys from the Western allies to Murmansk, and harassed German positions in Norway. In the Black Sea, German and Romanian ships struggled against the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, winning important victories until the tide of the land battle turned. In the Baltic, Russian submarines and small craft fought a guerilla conflict against Germany and Finland for the first three years, although the Germans successfully leveraged their surface naval superiority in support of retreats in the final year of the war.

The Fight Against Civilians

The Holocaust is perhaps the most remembered legacy of the War in the East. The invasions of Poland and the Soviet Union brought the bulk of Eastern Europe’s Jewish population under Nazi control, facilitating a German policy of extermination. For non-Jews, German occupation policies were nearly as brutal, although populations sympathetic to the anti-Soviet crusade were sometimes spared.

Towards the end of the war, the Soviets did their best to return the favor. Soviet depredations against the German civilian population of East and Central Europe do not generally received the same degree of attention as German actions, in no small part because of an enduring (if problematic) sense that the German deserved what they got. Other Eastern European populations were caught in the crossfire, suffering starvation and other depredations from both sides. Nevertheless, there is no question that the Soviets (and the peoples of Eastern Europe) suffered far more deeply from the war than the Germans.

The raw statistics of the war are nothing short of stunning. On the Soviet side, some seven million soldiers died in action, with another 3.6 million dying in German POW camps. The Germans lost four million soldiers in action, and another 370000 to the Soviet camp system. Some 600000 soldiers from other participants (mostly Eastern European) died as well. These numbers do not include soldiers lost on either side of the German-Polish War, or the Russo-Finnish War.

The civilian population of the territory in conflict suffered terribly from the war, in part because of the horrific occupation policies of the German (and the Soviets), and in part because of a lack of food and other necessities of life. Around 15 million Soviet civilians are thought to have been killed. Some three million ethnic Poles died (some before the German invasion of the Soviet Union, but many after) along with around three million Jews of Polish and another two million of Soviet citizenship (included in the Soviet statistics). Somewhere between 500000 and 2 million German civilians died in the expulsions that followed the war.

Statistics of this magnitude are inevitably imprecise, and scholars on all sides of the war continue to debate the size of military and civilian losses. There is little question, however, that the War in the East was the most brutal conflict ever endured by humankind. There is also little question that the Red Army provided the most decisive blows against Nazi Germany, causing the vast majority of German casualties during World War II as a whole.

The end of the War in the East left the Soviet Union in control of a vast portion of the Eurasian continent. Red Army forces occupied Germany, Poland, Czechosolvakia, parts of the Balkans, the Baltic states, and parts of Finland. The Western allies remained in control of Greece and much of western Germany, while Joseph Tito established an independent communist regime in Yugoslavia. The Soviet Union redrew the map of Eastern Europe, annexing large chunks of Poland, Germany, and the Baltics, and ceding much of Germany to Polish control. Russian domination over the region would last into the early 1990s, when the layers of the Soviet Empire began to peel away.

The scars of the war remain, not least in the absence of the populations exterminated during the conflict. The states occupied by the Soviet Union at the end of the war (including Poland, the Baltics, and Ukraine) remain deeply suspicious of Russian intentions. For its part, memory of the war in Russia continues to condition Russian foreign policy, and Russia’s broader response to Europe.

Robert Farley is a frequent contributor to TNI, is author of The Battleship Book. He serves as an Senior Lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. His work includes military doctrine, national security, and maritime affairs. He blogs atLawyers, Guns and Money and Information Dissemination and The Diplomat.


The German surrender

The German surrender came in November 1918 followed the failed Spring Offensive, launched in March that year.

Facing economic exhaustion and starvation, along with the imminent arrival of two million American troops, Berlin launched a last-ditch attempt to break through the Western Front – but after some initial successes, the Spring Offensive was eventually turned back.

An uncertain outcome

By the end of 1917, an Allied victory in Europe seemed far from certain. The Western Front continued to hold firm. The United States had entered the war but Russia, overtaken by socialist revolutionaries, had pulled out.

Across Europe, the threat of strikes or even a workers’ revolution plagued the governments of all major powers. Support for the war slipped to its lowest level among a public weary of casualty lists, food shortages and unfulfilled promises of victory.

Italy, a relative newcomer to the Allies, suffered a costly defeat at the Battle of Caporetto. Sections of the French army, devastated by the butchery at Verdun, were largely useless because of widespread mutiny and desertions.

Allied plans

Despite these problems, both the Allies and the Central Powers remained confident that victory could be secured with one last bold offensive that would penetrate the Western Front.

Allied military commanders tentatively planned theirs for 1919, by which time there would be two million American troops at their disposal.

Allied plans

German generals wanted to act sooner. The German economy was under considerable strain and unlikely to survive the entirety of 1918 without a major breakthrough and acquisition of land or resources.

In November 1917, a meeting of the German high command drew up plans for this offensive the following spring. The mission was to penetrate the Western Front at its weakest points.

German forces would then pursue two objectives. One branch of the German army would threaten Paris and force an armistice with the French. Meanwhile, a larger section would outflank British forces, push them north and hem them in along the North Sea coast.

‘Stormtroopers’

To achieve the speed and penetration required for this offensive, German commanders decided on the organisation and mobilisation of a specialised group of soldiers.

Every division along the Western Front was ordered to release its most capable battle-hardened soldiers. These men were organised into battalions of shock troops called Sturmmann (meaning ‘stormtroopers’).

The Sturmmann were given training in how to infiltrate enemy lines through pre-determined weak points.

The offensive begins

When the Spring Offensive began in March 1918, these Sturmmann led the German advance. Their initial advances were successful.

In some areas, the Western Front was pushed back 60 kilometres, its most significant movement since 1914. German troops advanced close enough to Paris that the French capital could be shelled with a massive artillery piece.

The attack stalls

Like the Schlieffen Plan, however, the Spring Offensive was tactically flawed. The forward wave of stormtroopers moved more quickly than their supply lines and constantly found themselves short of food, ammunition and reinforcements.

The use of Germany’s best troops in an advance capacity meant they also suffered a higher rate of casualties, while the quality of rear defensive positions was weakened.

By July 1918, the assault had lost momentum. The Spring Offensive gained significant ground but at a significant cost. Germany had lost almost one million men in a six month period.

The Allied counter-attack

German military planners calculated that 1.1 million new soldiers would be needed to sustain the war effort into 1919. They also predicted that conscription would barely fill one-quarter of this quota.

By mid-1918, Americans were arriving in much greater numbers, around 10,000 each day. The Allies were also bolstered by fresh divisions of Australian and Canadian troops. These reinforcements would play a leading role in the Allied counter-offensive.

Allied forces broke through the German lines at Amiens and the Somme, with considerable loss on both sides. This sparked German retreats up and down the Western Front, with more than two dozen significant battles between August and October.

The Germans were pushed back to the Hindenburg Line, a series of defences and fortifications well behind the front. Allied troops even managed to penetrate this line at a couple of points.

Germany starves

Germany’s situation was further imperilled by her domestic conditions. By the winter of 1917-18, the availability of food in German cities was critically low. The British naval blockade of German ports had halted food imports and Berlin’s reallocation of agricultural labour to industry affected domestic production.

The German harvests of 1917 produced only 12 million tons, down from 21 million tons in 1913. A disproportionate share of this was set aside for the military: civilians comprised 67 per cent of the population but received only 33 per cent of the grain.

By 1918, most Germans were consuming pitifully low amounts of meat (12 per cent of pre-war levels) fish (five per cent) and eggs (13 per cent). German farmers, who grew their own produce, were coping – but the situation in the cities had become drastic.

There were reports of malnourished factory workers collapsing at their machinery, of widespread outbreaks of dysentery and of skin-and-bones children begging in groups on major streets.

Civilian deaths in 1918 increased by more than 200,000 from the previous year, chiefly because of starvation. Ten per cent of hospital patients, including many women in childbirth, were reported to have died because of food shortages.

This suffering spanned the entirety of 1918 and continued through much of 1919, as the Allies continued their food blockade of Germany during the peace negotiations in Paris.

The Central Powers collapse

Germany’s position was also weakened by the steady loss of her Central Powers allies in the autumn of 1918. Berlin’s largest ally in the Balkans, Bulgaria, was the first to sign an armistice with the Allies (September 29th 1918).

The Ottoman Empire had endured a series of defeats in Egypt, Palestine, Syria and the Caucasus. Pushed back to the area now held by Turkey, the Ottomans signed an armistice on October 30th.

The most critical loss was the submission of the Austro-Hungarians. Through 1917-18, the Dual Monarchy had been beset with its own internal political and economic problems.

The 86-year-old emperor Franz Joseph had died in November 1916, and his successor, Charles I, had little interest in continuing the war. Through an intermediary, the young emperor secretly attempted to negotiate a peace with the Allies, without the involvement or knowledge of Germany.

This offer was rejected but news of it was passed to Berlin the revelation caused friction between the two Central Powers. Charles I was also confronted by rising nationalist movements in the empire, as ethnic groups – Czechs, Slovaks, Slavs and others – demanded independence.

Vienna eventually signed an armistice on November 3rd 1918, ending its participation in the war. A week later, Charles I abdicated his sovereign power over both kingdoms, effectively abolishing the empire.

The Kaiser loses power

At the start of November 1918, a sailors’ mutiny in Kiel lit the fuse of revolution in Germany. Within a week more than a dozen major cities were effectively controlled by mutinous soldiers, sailors and left-wing revolutionary groups.

Pressured to abdicate, Kaiser Wilhelm stalled for a couple of days while attempting to organise military units to crush the rebels. This was rebuffed by his generals, who told the Kaiser he no longer enjoyed the loyalty of the military.

Wilhelm came under pressure to abdicate the throne but dithered. The decision was ultimately made for him. Wilhelm’s abdication was announced by the German chancellor, Prince Max von Baden, on November 9th, without the Kaiser’s approval or endorsement.

The armistice

At this time, German politician Matthias Erzberger was in Picardie, northern France, commencing armistice negotiations with French generals. The ceasefire was signed in a French rail car just before dawn two days later.

Six hours later, as per the terms of the armistice, the guns of World War I fell silent. By sheer coincidence, it was 11.00am on the 11th day of the 11th month.

The chant which had echoed through the streets of London in August 1914, ‘It’ll be over by Christmas!’, had come to fruition but it had taken four more Christmases – and millions more lives – than anyone had anticipated.

“By a combination of a superior weapons system or by a sheer volume of munitions available to Britain because of the efficiency of its munitions industry (staffed in 1918 largely by women), the British army had the means to defeat any defensive combination thrown against them by the Germans. This meant that whatever stratagems the Germans now applied in the field, the British could outdo them. The German military machine had been battered and bludgeoned and harried and hammered and crushed by the British. Whatever events were being played out on the German home front, there should have been no disguising the fact that it was the army in the field that had lost the war. It had been stabbed – not in the back, but in the front.”
Robin Prior, historian

1. Germany’s generals staked their war fortunes on a major offensive in 1918, while the Allies planned for 1919.

2. The German Spring Offensive was led by specialist stormtroopers, who pushed back the Allies as much as 60 miles.

3. A number of factors, including shortages of men and munitions, saw the German advance in western Europe slow and stall.

4. The domestic situation in Germany was also deteriorating, due largely to food shortages caused by the Allied blockade.

5. The failure of the Spring Offensive and the loss of her allies in mid- to late-1918 eventually resulted in a German surrender and the signing of a ceasefire on November 11th 1918.


2008 October - Germany agrees a $68bn plan to save one of the country's largest banks, Hypo Real Estate, from collapse.

Germany says it will make as much as 500bn euros available in loan guarantees and capital to bolster the European banking system.

2008 November - Germany is declared to be officially in recession.

2009 February - Parliament approves $63bn stimulus package aimed at shoring up recession-hit economy.

2009 August - Figures are released showing that economy grew by 0.3% in last quarter, bringing country out of recession.

2009 October - Mrs Merkel's CDU seals coalition deal with pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) after parties reach agreement on major tax cut proposals following September general election.

2010 - Official data shows the German economy shrank by 5% in 2009, hit by a slump in exports and investment.


Did Russia declare war on Germany before its invasion of that country on August 7, 1914? - History

1916 : The Blood Letting

January 1916 - President Woodrow Wilson begins an effort to organize a peace conference in Europe.

February 18, 1916 - In West Africa, the German colony of Cameroon falls to the French and British following 17 months of fighting. This leaves only one German colony remaining in Africa, known as German East Africa. There, 10,000 troops skillfully commanded by General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck prove to be an elusive but deadly target, as they are pursued by a British-led force ten times larger.

Battle of Verdun
February 21-December 18, 1916

February 21, 1916 - On the Western Front, the German 5th Army attacks the French 2nd Army north of the historic city of Verdun, following a nine-hour artillery bombardment. The Germans under Chief of the General Staff, Erich Falkenhayn, seek to "bleed" the French Army to death by targeting the cherished city. At first, the Germans make rapid gains along the east bank of the Meuse River, overrunning bombed out French trenches, and capture lightly defended Fort Douaumont four days later without firing a shot. However, the German offensive soon stalls as the French rush in massive reinforcements and strengthen their defenses, under the new command of Henri Petain, who is determined to save Verdun. An early spring thaw also turns the entire battlefield into mud, hampering offensive maneuvers.

March 6, 1916 - Germans renew their Verdun offensive, this time attacking along the west bank of the Meuse River, targeting two strategic hills northwest of Verdun that form the main French position. However, by the end of March, the heavily defended hills are only partially in German hands.

March 18, 1916 - On the Eastern Front, the Russians oblige a French request to wage an offensive to divert German resources from Verdun. Although the Russians greatly outnumber the Germans in the northern sector of the Eastern Front, their poorly coordinated offensive around Vilna and at Lake Naroch is swiftly defeated by the Germans with 70,000 Russian casualties.

April 9, 1916 - The Germans attack again at Verdun, now along a 20-mile-wide front on both the east and west banks of the Meuse River. Once again the attack only yields partial gains in the face of stiff French resistance.

April 18, 1916 - President Woodrow Wilson threatens to sever diplomatic ties between the United States and Germany following the sinking of the passenger ferry Sussex by a U-Boat in the English Channel. The attack marked the beginning of a new U-Boat campaign around the British Isles. But in response to Wilson, the Germans call off the U-Boats.

April 29, 1916 - In the Middle East, the five-month siege at Kut-al-Amara in Mesopotamia ends as 13,000 British and Indian soldiers, now on the verge of starvation, surrender to the Turks. The largest-ever surrender by the British Army comes after four failed attempts by British relief troops to break through to the surrounded garrison.

May 3, 1916 - At Verdun, the Germans begin another attack on the west bank of the Meuse. This time they gain the advantage and within three days capture the two French hills they had been striving for since early March, thus achieving a solid position northwest of Verdun.

May 15, 1916 - Austrian troops attack Italian mountain positions in the Trentino. The Italians withdraw southward, forcing the Austrians to stretch their supply lines over the difficult terrain. The arrival of Italian reinforcements and a successful counter-attack then halts the Austrian offensive completely.

May 25, 1916 - The era of the all-volunteer British Army ends as universal conscription takes effect requiring all eligible British men between the ages of 19 and 40 to report , excluding men working in agriculture, mining or the railroads.

Battle of Jutland

May 31, 1916 - The main German and British naval fleets clash in the Battle of Jutland in the North Sea, as both sides try, but fail, to score a decisive victory. Forward battle cruisers from the British Grand Fleet are initially lured southward toward the German High Seas Fleet, but then turn completely around, luring the entire German fleet northward. As they get near, the British blast away at the German forward ships. The Germans return fire and the two fleets fire furiously at each other. However, the Germans, aware they are outgunned by the larger British fleet, disengage by abruptly turning away. In the dead of the night the Germans withdraw entirely. The British do not risk a pursuit and instead head home. Both sides claim victory. Although the Germans sink 14 of the 151 British ships while losing 11 of 99 ships, the British Navy retains its dominance of the North Sea and the naval blockade of Germany will remain intact for the war's duration.

June 1, 1916 - Germans at Verdun try to continue their offensive success along the Meuse River and now attack the French on the east bank, targeting Fort Vaux and the fortification at Thiaumont. Eight days later, both objectives are taken as the French suffer heavy casualties. The Germans now push onward toward a ridge that overlooks Verdun and edge toward the Meuse bridges. The entire nation of France now rallies behind their troops in the defense of Verdun as French generals vow it will not be taken.

June 4, 1916 - Four Russian armies on the Eastern Front, under their innovative new commander, General Alexei Brusilov, begin a general offensive in the southwest along a 300-mile front. Brusilov avoids the style of predictable narrow frontline attacks used previously, in favor of a sweeping offensive over hundreds of miles that is harder to pin down. Thinly stretched Austro-Hungarian troops defending this portion of the Front are taken by surprise. Realizing their distress, the Germans pull four divisions from Verdun and send them east. By the end of summer, the Germans will send 20 more divisions and merge the surviving Austro-Hungarian troops into the Germany Army.

June 22, 1916 - Germans resume their offensive near Verdun, targeting Fort Souville which overlooks the city and the Meuse bridges. Using poisonous phosgene gas at the start of the attack, they initially take the village of Fleury just two miles north of Verdun, but further advance southward is halted by a strong French counter-attack. Verdun has now become a battle of attrition for both sides with a death toll already approaching 500,000 men.

Battle of the Somme
July 1-November 18, 1916

June 24, 1916 - The Allies begin a week-long artillery bombardment of German defensive positions on the Somme River in northern France, in preparation for a major British-led offensive. Over 1.5 million shells are fired along a 15-mile front to pulverize the intricate German trench system and to blow apart rows of barbed wire protecting the trenches. British Commander Douglas Haig believes this will allow an unhindered infantry advance and a rapid breakthrough of the German Front on the first day of battle.

July 1, 1916 - The British Army suffers the worst single-day death toll in its history as 18,800 soldiers are killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The losses come as 13 attacking divisions encounter German defenses that are still intact despite the seven-day bombardment designed to knock them out. The British also attack in broad daylight, advancing in lines shoulder-to-shoulder only to be systematically mowed down by German machine-gunners. The Somme offensive quickly becomes a battle of attrition as British and French troops make marginal gains against the Germans but repeatedly fail to break through the entire Front as planned.

July 10, 1916 - The Germans attack again at Verdun, using poison gas, and advance toward Fort Souville. Four days later, the French counter-attack and halt the Germans.

July 13, 1916 - The British launch a night attack against German positions along a 3.5-mile portion of the Somme Front. After advancing nearly 1,000 yards, the advance is halted as the Germans regroup their defenses. Two days later, the British once again penetrate the German line and advance to High Wood but are then pushed back.

August 27, 1916 - Romania declares war on the Central Powers and begins an invasion of Austria-Hungary through the Carpathian Mountains. The Romanians face little opposition initially and advance 50 miles into Transylvania.

August 28, 1916 - Kaiser Wilhelm appoints Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg as Germany's new Chief of the General Staff, replacing Erich Falkenhayn following the disappointment at Verdun and recent setbacks on the Eastern Front.

August 28, 1916 - Italy declares war on Germany, thus expanding the scope of its military activities beyond the Italian-Austrian Front.

August 29, 1916 - Germany's entire economy is placed under the Hindenburg Plan allowing the military to exercise dictatorial-style powers to control the labor force, munitions production, food distribution and most aspects of daily life.

September 1, 1916 - Romania is invaded by the newly formed Danube Army, consisting of Germans, Turks and Bulgarians under the command of German General August von Mackensen. This marks the start of a multi-pronged invasion of Romania in response to its aggression against Austria-Hungary.

September 15, 1916 - The first-ever appearance of tanks on a battlefield occurs as British troops renew the Somme offensive and attack German positions along a five-mile front, advancing 2,000 yards with tank support. The British-developed tanks feature two small side-cannons and four machine-guns, operated by an eight-man crew. As the infantry advances, individual tanks provide support by blasting and rolling over the German barbed wire, piercing the frontline defense, and then roll along the length of the trench, raking the German soldiers with machine-gun fire.

September 20, 1916 - On the Eastern Front, the Brusilov Offensive grinds to a halt. Since its launch in early June, four Russian armies under the command of General Alexei Brusilov had swept eastward up to 60 miles deep along a 300-mile front while capturing 350,000 Austro-Hungarian troops. But by the end of summer, the Germans brought in 24 divisions from the Western Front and placed the surviving Austro-Hungarian troops under German command. The Russian attack withered after the loss of nearly a million men amid insufficient reserves. The humiliating withdrawal from the hard-won areas wrecks Russian troop morale, fueling political and social unrest in Russia.

September 25, 1916 - British and French troops renew their attacks in the Somme, capturing several villages north of the Somme River, including Thiepval, where the British successfully use tanks again. Following these successes, however, heavy rain turns the entire battlefield to mud, preventing effective maneuvers.

October 8, 1916 - The German Air Force (Luftstreikrafte) is founded as various aerial fighting groups are merged.

October 10, 1916 - Romanian troops return home after being pushed out of Hungary by two Austro-German armies. The Austro-German 9th Army then invades Romania and heads toward Bucharest.

October 24, 1916 - At Verdun, the French under General Robert Nivelle, begin an ambitious offensive designed to end the German threat there by targeting Fort Douaumont and other German-occupied sites on the east bank of the Meuse River. The attack is preceded by the heaviest artillery bombardment to-date by the French. Additionally, French infantry use an effective new tactic in which they slowly advance in stages, step-by-step behind encroaching waves of artillery fire. Using this creeping barrage tactic, they seize Fort Douaumont, then take Fort Vaux further east, nine days later.

November 7, 1916 - American voters re-elect President Woodrow Wilson who had campaigned on the slogan, "He kept us out of war."

November 13, 1916 - British troops stage a surprise attack and capture the towns of Beaumont Hamel and Beaucourt at the northern end of the Somme Front.

November 18, 1916 - The Battle of the Somme ends upon the first snowfall as the British and French decide to cease the offensive. By now, the Germans have been pushed back just a few miles along the entire 15-mile front, but the major breakthrough the Allies had planned never occurred. Both sides each suffered over 600,000 casualties during the five-month battle. Among the injured German soldiers is Corporal Adolf Hitler, wounded by shrapnel.

November 20, 1916 - Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary dies at age 86. He is succeeded by Archduke Charles who wants to take Austria-Hungary out of the war.

December 6, 1916 - Bucharest, capital of Romania, falls to the Austro-Germans. This effectively ends Romanian resistance to the Austro-German invasion and places the country's entire agricultural and industrial resources, including the Ploesti oil fields, in German hands.

December 7, 1916 - LLoyd George becomes Britain's new Prime Minister. His new War Cabinet immediately begins to organize the country for "total war."

December 12, 1916 - Joseph Joffre resigns under pressure from his position as Commander-in-Chief of the French Army, replaced by General Robert Nivelle.

December 15, 1916 - The last offensive in the Battle of Verdun begins as the French push the Germans out of Louvemont and Bezonvaux on the east bank of the Meuse River. Combined with other ground losses, the German withdrawal ends the immediate threat to Verdun and both sides now focus their efforts on battles elsewhere along the Western Front. Overall, the French and Germans suffered nearly a million casualties combined during the ten month battle in which the Germans failed to capture the city of Verdun.

December 18, 1916 - President Woodrow Wilson caps off a year-long effort to organize a peace conference in Europe by asking the combatants to outline their peace terms.


British in a Destroyed Village


Massive German Supply Line


Battle of Jutland Illustration


Wounded British in a Trench

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