2014 marked the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War – a catastrophe that casts a shadow over us until the present day. It’s only now that we finally grasp the full impact it had on Europe and the rest of the world. However, old and newly established European countries had to start dealing with the aftermath of the war as soon as the thunder of cannons ceased.
The aim of the 2015 military history conference of the Estonian War Museum – General Laidoner Museum is to study the fundamentally changed security situation in Europe, which formed as a result of the war, the kind of which had never been seen before. In a way the conference also draws a connection between the Estonian War Museum's 2014 First World War Conference and the 2013 conference on the reestablishment of national defence on the ruins of the communist empire at the end of the 20th century.
Europe as it was known disappeared in the First World War. In the age of empires and the colonial system five large countries dominated: the British Empire, Germany and Russia, and the weakening Austro-Hungarian Empire and Ottoman Empire. Together with France and Italy, they were the major players of ‘the world of yesterday’. A balance of powers, the system of alliance treaties and the deterrence of mass armies were the traditional means of guaranteeing peace. The First World War created a new political system on the hideously scarred soil of Europe. Empires collapsed and the idea of the nation state that was awakened by the French Revolution and the birth of the United States of America and influenced by the nationalist ideologies of the 19th century, led to the establishment of independent states in Eastern Europe for ethnic minorities of former empires. This was the first time that small countries sat as the equals of large countries at the table of the League of Nations.
Both new and already existing countries had something in common – they all found themselves in a ruined and pillaged Europe, where the security situation had changed beyond recognition.
In order to take a closer look at the different aspects of this situation, we’re looking forward to papers about the following topics:
1. Post-war conflicts: civil wars, freedom wars and paramilitary violence
2. New armies on the ruins of empires
3. Conditions of the Paris Peace Treaties in respect of the armies of the defeated countries of the First World War: Germany, Bulgaria, Austria, Hungary and Turkey
4. International law: the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, the Geneva Conventions of 1928–1929
5. The arms race and the development of technology and weaponry: the Geneva Disarmament Conference of 1932–1934
6. Military planning: defence and offensive plans, new and ongoing conflicts between states and nations
7. The peace movement and the idea of world revolution
8. Political debates about armed forces and armament: training, general mandatory military service and patriotic/ideological upbringing
9. Paramilitary extremist movements: riots, revolutions, red and iron guards, etc.
10. The topic of war and peace in culture and art
The four years of war were exhausting, but stopping a rolling war machine is not easy. Armed conflicts continued in many parts of Europe long after the official end of the First World War. For some nations, this was a war of independence; others suffered the turmoil of civil war. There was a whole generation of men for whom combat had become the only meaning of life. Alongside the disappointment in the outcome of the war, this laid the foundation for paramilitary movements.
The armies of nation states in Eastern Europe were born in post-war armed conflicts. The new states largely built their armed forces on the military organisation and experience of the former empires they had belonged to. Neither the winners nor the defeated could avoid making significant changes and trying to reflect upon and implement the experience of the First World War. It is said that generals are always fighting the previous war, and this is why the First World War determined the direction of military planning for the next two decades.
Si vis pacem, para bellum. However, Europe and the world were tired of war and this exhaustion was expressed in peace movements and attempts to prevent future wars with international law and disarmament. The chaos created by the brutal force of the world war was also reflected in art and culture, where new trends and paradigms appeared. Yet, the approach of a new storm could already be felt in the second half of the inter-war period. Militarist moods grew stronger again. Neither the winners nor the defeated were satisfied with the difficult peace that ended the First World War. The Second World War was already on the horizon like a painful obligation to pay an old debt, and nobody greeted it with the enthusiasm of those who went to fight in the First World War in August 1914.
The Estonian War Museum awaits your conference paper proposals (length up to 4,000 characters) in English or Estonian by 16th March 2015 at the latest. Please forward the proposals to email@example.com. We also kindly ask you to send a short CV with an overview of your research work so far. The length of presentations is 20 minutes. The working languages of the conference are English and Estonian. All the presentations in Estonian will be translated into English and vice versa. The articles based on the presentations will be published in the Estonian Yearbook of Military History of 2016. The Estonian War Museum—General Laidoner Museum will cover the travel and accommodation costs of speakers.