The Hodgepodge was cancelled today and I felt the urge to write. I flipped over to one of those This Day in History sites and there it was...on this day in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his morganatic wife, Countess Sophie Chotek, were assassinated in Sarajevo.
This little fact led me to dig back through a stack of old school papers, specifically journal entries from a history class I took at Butte Community College in Oroville, California in 1991. Our teacher wanted us to keep a weekly journal in which we were to write our impressions of the topics we were covering in class that week. In the week ending April 19, we were moving into World War I and these were my thoughts. I should note that April 19 was barely two months after the end of the Operation Desert Storm hostilities, the multinational response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait - that plays into the last paragraph of my journal entry.
I want to discuss World War I and the knowledge that I gained while researching my country of choice, Serbia. I wonder how many people in a class of, say, high school seniors, would know where Serbia was? It played such an important role in the prelude to World War I and yet, you're right, people would probably confuse it with Siberia! It's not hard to say that the extreme reaction of the Serbia nationalists (the Sarajevo incident) was one of the causes of World War I and yet I think that the Hapsburgs would have used any excuse for war - they just wanted to crush Serbian nationalism. I think the guilt for the war rests solely with the Austro-Hungarian government and the demands that they knew Serbia would never accept.
Now the responsibility for the war is another matter - there is a lot of controversy on that issue also - should Russia have mobilized fully, or should they have tried a partial mobilization to support Serbia against Austria-Hungary; should England have made known to Germany that they would readily support Russia or should they have tried to talk France and Russia out of eventual hostilities...there are so many ifs and buts and therefores in this situation, so many events that precipitated other events and snowballed into THE GREAT WAR.
I can remember my grandmother and great-aunts talking about people who were "gassed" in the war. No reference to Hitler and the Jews, these men were gassed by poison gas, mustard gas usually. Have you ever watched "Upstairs, Downstairs", the British series that was shown on PBS? In the later episodes of the series, during and after World War I, there is a lot of talk of men who were disabled during the war, disabilities that resulted not from gunshot wounds, but from being gassed in the trenches. A lot of time was devoted to shell shock victims also since Edward (the footman "Downstairs") suffered from terrible headaches and flashbacks on his return from the front and was eventually packed off to an institution to recover. I have a wedding picture of my grandparents and both my grandfather and his best man are in uniform, off to the front shortly after the wedding.
How similar our recent situation was - volatile nationalist and imperialist emotions, trenches became foxholes, mustard gas became chemical weapons, one alliance versus an aggressor. Not too much has changed, has it?
Kudos to you if you read all the way to end. I'll admit my writing was a little vague in places and I seem to have forgotten the "Don't end a sentence with a preposition" rule but these were my random thoughts twenty-six years ago. We were graded not so much on the content on our journal entries, but rather on our reaction to world history past and present as we studied it.
That was quite a walk down memory lane for me. I'm off to read the rest of the twenty-six year old journal entries.