Today is November 11, Armistice Day.
It is the 99th anniversary of the Armistice, which ended the fighting in World War 1. On “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”—a ceasefire came into effect, ending the war.
Over 70 million men, 60 million of them Europeans, were mobilized and fought as soldiers in the war. Over nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a result of the war.
At some point our politicians decided that Armistice Day would become Veterans Day in the USA. While it is excellent that we have a special day for Veterans, it is unfortunate that it was erected upon the memory of the end of WW1, a date held sacred by our ancestors.
Somehow lost in the re-branding and all the “thank you for your services” is the still urgent need to remember that the most significant part of most wars is their end, when men are no longer used as cannon fodder.
99 years is a long time, and WW2 clouds our ability to see past it, to WW1 and understand what a huge effect it had on world.
And to contemplate why “The War to End All Wars” did not.
WW1 is best remembered for setting the stage for WW2 a generation later, but it had many other ramifications that are still with us today.
Perhaps the most far reaching was the fall of the Ottoman Empire, which capitulated on Oct. 30.
WW1’s Armistice marked the end of the Age of Empires, four empires disappeared completely: the Ottoman, Russian, German and the Austro-Hungarian.
This left a lot of space on the map to divide up, many of the countries we know today were a result of the end of WW1, including most of those in the Middle East and North Africa as well as Central Europe.
Austria-Hungary was partitioned into several successor states, including Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, largely but not entirely along ethnic lines. Transylvania was shifted from Hungary to Greater Romania.
The Russian Empire, which had withdrawn from the war in 1917 after the October Revolution, lost much of its western frontier as the independent nations of Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania were created.
Poland was re-created from the German, Russian and Austo-Hungarians who had previously partitioned it. (Armistice Day is Independence Day in Poland.)
Czechoslovakia, combining the Kingdom of Bohemia with parts of the Kingdom of Hungary, was created.
From the Ottoman empire Turkey was created as a new nation centered in it’s capital, Istanbul (Constantinople), while its territory in the Middle East was divided between the victorious French and British, – eventually resulting in the nations of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon.
It redrew the map of the world more than any other war.