Interpretations and Perspectives of the Great Conflict
Edited By Jarosław Suchoples and Stephanie James
Marek Kornat - Europe’s ‘Seminal Catastrophe’ or the ‘Great Turning Point in the History of Mankind’? Deliberations on the Centennial of the Outbreak of the Great War from a Polish Perspective
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Institute of History Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland
Europe’s ‘Seminal Catastrophe’ or the ‘Great Turning Point in the History of Mankind’? Deliberations on the Centennial of the Outbreak of the Great War from a Polish Perspective
Abstract: The chapter is devoted to the debates on World War I in historiography. The Great War is recognized as European, the Urkatastrophe, as George F. Kennan argued. From the perspective of one hundred years, both world wars are often perceived in the framework of a great ‘European Civil War’ (1917–1945). In the book Europäische Bürgerkrieg 1917–1941. Nationalsozialismus und Bolschewismus, published in 1989, Ernst Nolte strongly supported this point of view. The negative legacy of the Great War is now at the centre of historiographic debates. But, of course, there is no single point of view on the consequences of the War. In the eyes of Polish historians, the perspective of ‘European Civil War’ is stimulating and requires special attention, because for the oppressed Central European nations (like the Poles), the Great War brought national independence. Obviously, the geopolitical revolution in East-Central Europe (1914–1919) was a catastrophe for empires, but it became a turning point in the existence of several hitherto stateless nations (Poles, Czechs, Baltic peoples etc.). The principal thesis of the essay is the conviction of the author that critics of the Versailles Order (1919–1939) – sometimes very one-sided – played and play the decisive...
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