A Century On from the Great War

We, nations of Central Europe would not be there, sovereign in our own states, without that war.
The long 19th century held no encouraging prediction for any auspicious turn of history. Since the Napoleonic revolution was suppressed, despite attempts repeated hither and thither, there have been no major disturbances in the peace and stability between the great powers of the Holy Alliance; even though there were constant disturbances, and temperaments were heating up; even though civilisational progress, and national and class emancipation gained incredible momentum. Until everything erupted in 1914.
A comparison of the map of Europe in 1815 and a hundred years later, after the end of “The Great War” leaves no doubt that the “Central European mosaic” is the consequence of the shockwave that accompanied the 20th century entering the arena of history; which happened precisely in 1914.
Delayed and – as it was to prove – short, the new century brought enough to overshadow the war that it opened with, and which was the first to be called a world war. The spectacle of the second global war exceeded all and any conceptions both in the scope and the gravity of the massacre. The post‑war order decided in Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam affected the world system of powers and the everyday life of Central Europeans to a far greater extent than the decisions made 25 years earlier in Versailles, Saint‑Germain, Neuilly, Trianon, and Sèvres.
We parted with the 20th century without compassion. The Warsaw Round Table, the Velvet Revolution in Prague, and the Wall peacefully brought down in Berlin were reasons for considerable pride. The lesson in history seemed learnt… if not for the shots fired again in the Sarajevo in the 1990s.
Which is why we return to “the Great War”. Not as much to examine its reasons and course, but rather to ask about its remembrance, about its significance for us today. And the picture that emerges from such a reconnaissance is far from unequivocal.
Translated from the Polish by Piotr Krasnowolski

    • 1
      Editorial
      Jacek Purchla

      We, nations of Central Europe would not be there, sovereign in our own states, without that war.
      The long 19th century held no encouraging prediction for any auspicious turn of history. Since the Napoleonic revolution was suppressed, despite attempts repeated hither and thither, there have been no major disturbances in the peace and stability between the great powers of the Holy Alliance; even though there were constant disturbances, and temperaments were heating up; even though civilisational progress, and national and class emancipation gained incredible momentum. Until everything erupted in 1914.
      A comparison of the map of Europe in 1815 and a hundred years later, after the end of “The Great War” leaves no doubt that the “Central European mosaic” is the consequence of the shockwave that accompanied the 20th century entering the arena of history; which happened precisely in 1914.
      Delayed and – as it was to prove – short, the new century brought enough to overshadow the war that it opened with, and which was the first to be called a world war. The spectacle of the second global war exceeded all and any conceptions both in the scope and the gravity of the massacre. The post‑war order decided in Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam affected the world system of powers and the everyday life of Central Europeans to a far greater extent than the decisions made 25 years earlier in Versailles, Saint‑Germain, Neuilly, Trianon, and Sèvres.
      We parted with the 20th century without compassion. The Warsaw Round Table, the Velvet Revolution in Prague, and the Wall peacefully brought down in Berlin were reasons for considerable pride. The lesson in history seemed learnt… if not for the shots fired again in the Sarajevo in the 1990s.
      Which is why we return to “the Great War”. Not as much to examine its reasons and course, but rather to ask about its remembrance, about its significance for us today. And the picture that emerges from such a reconnaissance is far from unequivocal.
      Translated from the Polish by Piotr Krasnowolski

    • 4
      Worth a Look

  • Interviev
    • 10
      War and Memory
      Jacek Purchla, Robert Traba, Andrzej Chwalba

      Andrzej Chwalba, Jacek Purchla and Robert Traba talk to Łukasz Galusek

  • A Century On from the Great War
    • 22
      To Face
      Paola De Pietri

      The eye is caught by details: a ribbon-like hollow in the ground, a chipped rock, a depression overgrown with vegetation under tangled branches. Mists and delicately scattered light make the silence nearly tangible.
      Amid this landscape of the Alps and the Karst, so peaceful today, ruthless fighting took place during the First World War. This is where the line of the Isonzo front, one of the bloodiest, ran. The chipped rocks are the aftermath of bomb explosions. The hollows are remnants of the trenches. Awareness of this changes the way we look. Paola De Pietri confronts us with history that, as she says, “leaves evidence that can be understood or ignored”.

    • 30
      The New Adam’s Bloody Dream
      Claudio Magris

      Much of the great literature engendered by the experience of war, both Italian and wider European, is a splendid political and moral testimony, capable of combining a sense of duty, a love of homeland, and the loyal brotherhood of arms with an accusation of the senseless horrors of war, the appalling ineptitude with which a war was conducted.

    • 36
      A Rather Small War
      Maciej Górny

      When the war was over, that is to say, when the history of its memory and commemoration had begun, some events occurred that downgraded the previous four years almost completely. The emergence of new nation‑states was a result not of the war, but of the defeat of empires.

    • 44
      The Assassination at Sarajevo and the Kosovo Myth
      Ivan Čolović

      Why was Dedijer so obstinate in his claim that one cannot really understand the assassination in Sarajevo without referring to rural folklore and the Kosovo myth, although he did not present any documents and testimonies to prove his point? And why, unable to provide arguments for his theory, did he fail to look for them in the only source in which to find at least some information?

    • 58
      The Croatian God Mars and the Serbian Golgotha
      Maciej Czerwiński

      The Serbs celebrate every anniversary of the outbreak and the ending of the war, comment on it, and debate it. The Croats, on the other hand, write rather little about the war. The same applies to historiography. The reason for this is obvious.

    • 68
      “No, No, Never!” or on a National Catastrophe
      Krisztián Ungváry

      Hungarian memory of the First World War is diametrically different from the memory of other nations which took part in the conflict. Nothing has changed for the last hundred years – the most important historic event remains the 1920 peace treaty, which obscures everything else. The treaty signed at the Grand Trianon Palace near Versailles is the source of trauma and neurosis for Hungarians.

    • 75
      The Czechs and Czechoslovkia. The State and its Democracy Thanks to the Great War
      Pavel Kosatík

      Masaryk defined war as a decisive opportunity for world democracy, as a struggle between the old and the new, the conservative and the progressive. Granted, he told the British, instead of one enormous state, numerous small states will be created in Central Europe, but this would be advantageous for Great Britain, for one simple reason: the new partners will be free people.

    • 80
      Romania – “So Much Luck!”
      Lucian Boia

      The Romanian interpretation of the First World War is perfectly inscribed into a complete mythology; it is the cornerstone of modern Romania, as the country in its present shape is a product of that war, even if parts of the territory of the interwar Great Romania were later lost. The fact that the decisions of History proved to be completely of benefit to the Romanians received a comment from the Conservative leader, Petre P. Carp, that Romania is so lucky that it no longer needs competent politicians who would take the fate of the country into the hands.

    • 92
      Małgorzata Radkiewicz

      The predominantly amateur, spontaneous and candid, photography records various moments in soldiers’ lives – both trivial and of historic importance.

    • 104
      United by Death. Galician Military Cemeteries
      Beata K. Nykiel

      After years of oblivion, the First World War finally seems to be coming out of the shadow of the Second World War, which has dominated the collective memory of the last generations in Central and South Eastern Europe, pushing its almost equally vicious and destructive predecessor into oblivion.

  • Reflections, impressions, opinions
    • 114
      Art in the Face of War
      Galina Pavlova

      "The First World War. 1914–1918"
      Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg
      June 4 – August 13, 2014
      www.rusmuseum.ru

    • 126
      How Austria Remembers the First World War
      Béla Rásky

      "Trotzdem Kunst! Österreich 1914–1918"
      (And yet there was art! Austria 1914–1918)
      Leopold Museum, Vienna
      9 May – 15 September 2014
      www.leopoldmuseum.org

    • 132
      The Avant-garde Marches Out
      Szymon Piotr Kubiak

      "Avantgarde!"
      Kulturforum, Staatliche Museen, Berlin
      6 June – 12 October 2014
      www.smb.museum

    • 140
      The Metamorphoses of Landscape
      Peter Michalík

      Two landscapes. The image of Slovakia: the 19th century × the present
      (Dve Krajiny. Obraz Slovenska: 19. storočie × súčasnosť)
      Slovak National Gallery
      27 June – 19 October 2014
      www.sng.sk

    • 146
      Magdalena Link-Lenczowska

  • Worth a Look
    • 146
      Worth a Thought
      Mykola Riabchuk, Andrij Lubka, Magdalena Link-Lenczowska

  • The Myth of Galicia
    • 156
      The Myth of Galicia
      Jacek Purchla

      Today the phenomenon of Galicia is the living memory of a world that is gone forever. It is rather a “vanished kingdom” where memories meet: memories of Poles, Ukrainians, Austrians, Jews, but also Czechs, Hungarians, and Armenians. That memory is today exterritorial. We find it not only on both sides of the San River, in Lviv and Kraków, but also, for example, in Wrocław and Vienna, in Jerusalem and Haifa, and in Brooklyn and California. Galicia is also an important fragment of the cultural landscape of the Kakania; its myth as a paradise lost was first developed laboriously by Joseph Roth after 1918. Thus “Galicia after Galicia” denotes polyphony of memory dominated by myths.

    • 160
      Reinventing Galicia
      Mykola Riabchuk

      A simple glance at the Google references to the word Galicia reveals nearly 700,000 entries for “Galicja” in Polish and Галичина in Ukrainian, and three times fewer for Galizien in German – even despite the fact that the German web is generally richer than the Polish, let alone the Ukrainian. These findings roughly reflect the topicality of the term in different national discourses – relatively high, if asymmetrical, in the Ukrainian and Polish, and rather low, though still significant, in the German / Austrian.

    • 176
      Scenes from Galicia – Terrifying and Gorgeous
      Martin Pollack

      My first impressions of Galicia were, without exception, depressing. Out of them, there emerged a sombre landscape of vast flatlands and forested knolls, frozen in an icy snowy aura, poor villages with burnt cottages, strangers that you would better be on your guard with, wars, miserable‑looking wounded people and charred, swollen corpses, dead horses circled by hideously screeching ravens up above. These are remembrances of my childhood days, my family’s home in Linz on the Danube.

    • 190
      Galicia. Family Mythologies
      Janusz Sepioł

      For a long time Galicia was not conceived of in multinational or multidenominational terms. This area was simply the Austrian partition, the result of the partitions of Poland; and the resurrected fatherland was to be reborn within its historic borders. It would never have occurred to us that the experience of Galicia could be an important part of the identity of yet another nation, since for a long time we simply did not see that this nation existed at all.