With apologies to conventional history, the predicted short war that began 100 years ago next week arguably lasted 77 years. And in some ways it is still going on.
Nothing like World War I’s enormous political upheaval and incomprehensible death toll ever happened so swiftly before. Within four years, four empires collapsed and two others were mortally wounded. World War II and the Soviet Union were the Great War’s natural children, and the Cold War everywhere its grandchild. War went from conflict between soldiers that left thousands dead, to total wars that wiped out tens of millions of soldiers and civilians, and then on to the prospect of Nuclear Winter that could destroy thousands of whole life forms, including our own.
So, it’s a centennial not to celebrate but certainly one to observe. The end of the Soviet Union in 1991 might be seen as the final resolution of what started in 1914, but current events argue otherwise. The wars in Gaza and Iraq are outgrowths of the fall of the Turkish empire at the end of World War I, and while a U.S.-Russia showdown seems unlikely, the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine reminds us that the nuclear shadow never completely goes away.
If you want to learn more about the war that didn’t end wars, here are lists of “bests” from leading websites:
Five books recommended by Smithsonian.com (and we have them at ACPL).
A longer list from BookBrowse (and we have all but the last).
Prefer movies? Here is IMDB’s Top 10 (and we have nine).
And if you are a traveler, check out this list from Lonely Planet.