The Great War in the Reflection of One Hundred Years 1916-2016 - Film in 25 minutes


Aspektus organized an opening event for our competition on history related educational historical video-clips and we were interested in the thoughts on the subject of our history teaching colleagues.
László Miklósi – President of the Association of Hungarian History Teachers:
While family histories turn up in latter historical periods, here rarely. I was fortunate, however to have held a small carved box which perhaps a great grandfather had made in a Russian prison camp.
Every student who begins their studies in my class brings in, by 5th grade, their treasures. This could be a copper kettle, or an old hundred forint bill, or a photo of a Trabant at Lake Balaton, but in this case it was a small box. With the objects come the stories but on this box there was only an inscription and a date and the child knew only that his ancestor had made this box in Russian imprisonment. The story, however, was not with it. Only the box.

Miklós Száray - Head History teacher at Apáczai Csere János Secondary School, Budapest:
There are a few issues which could be highlighted, for instance the question of Transylvania in 1916: the Romanian offensive which added a new dimension to the World War as the Romanians attacked the borders of Hungary. There were similar battles in 1914 as well, in the Carpathians, but the people of Transylvania felt this to be explicitly a battle of national defence. Also in 1916 was the flight of Hungarians from Transylvania, who were settled in half of the country. The memories of this could be lasting for the students if they look into this question, and this could be another aspect to the First World War.

Balázs Lados – History teacher at Saint Margaret Secondary School, Budapest:
We have a possibility to take the children, specifically within the program of the Rákoczi Association, if not to the Galicia front which now in Ukraine, but at least to the Polish territory. Or in Transylvania the Tömösi pass, the Ojtozi straight, the area of Kerc where there are German military cemeteries, in the framework of complex regional analyses of these battlefields. In the same vein we could go to the territory of the Isonzó battles, and if we are talking about 1916 there is an outstanding personality of this period, General Sándor Szurmay, whose life story would be worth examining. He was on the front for three years from 1914-1916 and was the Monarchy’s last Minister of Defence.
Gábor Ősz – Head History teacher at Péter Pázmány Catholic University, and history teacher at Sándor Petőfi School, Budapest:
Youth today can be reached through technology. Perhaps the goal won’t be particularly important for the students but the technology through which they will create the project will interest them. There will be a few students the competition will bring in for whom the subject is not interesting, but the technology will be.

Géza Gecse:
There are those, however, for whom World War 1 is interesting from additional perspectives.
Péter Reiner:
I am examining the effect of World War 1 looking back from the viewpoint of the Trianon drama. I live that drama even today. For me the reality of the historical events are important only in how the events of World War 1 played a role in Trianon coming about. Because of my own background I was asked to research the series of heroic acts of the Hungarian Jews during First World War.

Géza Gecse:
The World War and the accompanying treaty commonly referred to as the Trianon dictate naturally has a different meaning for us than for our linguistic relations, the Finns or the Estonians. Szilárd Tóth began his career as a Hungarian linguistic instructor at Tartu University, but he now teaches the Estonian language in the Baltic border city of Narva to the Russians living there.

Szilárd Tóth – former linguistic instructor at Tartu University, teacher at the Institute of Narva:

If for us, as Hungarians, we view World War One as something which came with a great loss, then for the Estonians it is just the opposite. In 1920, simultaneously with the signing of the Peace Treaty at Trianon, the Estonian Peace Treaty was signed, the result of which was the formation of the state of Estonia. So World War One brought about a successful period of events for Estonians. 

Géza Gecse:
Even though the events of World War One occurred over a hundred years ago there are many unsettled questions which even today remain unanswered. For instance: Exactly what was the objective of this War? This is a question debated not only by historians but also by political scientists, even today, at the London School of Economics, where György Schöpflin taught for several decades.

György Schöplin - Professor of political science:
The greatest problem was that the power of the weaponry, the efficiency of the artillery was far greater than that of the communication of the time. It was very difficult to bring coordinate the artillery and the communication.
Often many died because they did not know where the artillery should fire. 1916 was the year of the Brusilov offensive, June the 4th, which was considered a great achievement by the Allied powers.  On the one hand they were able to essentially annihilate the Austro-Hungarian army, and on the other hand basically end the advancing force of Verdun.

Ferenc Pollmann - Institute and Museum of Military History, Budapest:
If one looks at a map one can say that the year of 1916 was a year of varying triumphs for the Monarchy such as those achieved categorically in the Balkans with the occupation of Montenegro and Albania.
On the Eastern Front the Brusilov offensive meant a great defeat for the Monarchy, while on the Italian Front the painful event of the loss of Görz forced the Monarchy to surrender the Doberdo plateau leaving it in a far worse position in fighting Italy than previously. In the same year the worst was to come with the Romanian invasion at the end of August which could have easily meant the end of the Monarchy’s role in the War. It's another thing that by the end of the year with German aid that apparent threat was reversed and the Central Power’s army was able to successfully occupy Romania.

Sándor Szakály - Director of the Veritas Institute of Historical Research, Budapest:

The Austro-Hungarian and the German troops had an excellent cooperation in both battle and strategy and plainly, fighting together provided the soldiers with emotions and experiences which formed their relationships for a long time to come, not to a society, not to a political system, but to the other person.
There is another very important point: the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy within it Hungary, and the German empire all end the war on the side of the conquered and both European great powers are forced to sign a peace dictate in which a significant part of their territories are lost, and by which they were not only defeated, but also humiliated.

András Gerő - Head of the Department of Social and Economic History at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest:

1916 was for the Monarchy a political milestone in that a long period ended with the death of Franz Joseph, so that symbolically people knew that they could no longer count on those times which they could count on under Franz Joseph, or that the so-called Golden Years of Peacetime would return following the war.
This was a psychological milestone, but for the lifespan of the Monarchy 1916 was a time of defeat, although there was triumph in 1915, there was defeat in 1916 with the invasion by Romania which was corrected with the aid of the Germans and resulted in the occupation of Bucharest. Also, the restriction of general services was not yet as common as it was to become in 1917-1918. The general public was feeling the consequences of the war but it was far from what it would come to feel later. And finally, the Monarchy’s army in spite of all the predictions by the Monarchy’s radical critics, did not collapse along ethnic lines. Armies more homogeneous than the Monarchy's were showing signs of collapse.

Ferenc Pollmann - Institute and Museum of Military History:
From the beginning of 1915 the reserve officers essentially took over the direction of the Monarchy’s army. Military historical narrative usually emphasizes 1916 because the damage brought about by the Brusilov offensive significantly affected later warfare conducted by the Monarchy and it is not an overstatement to say that the Monarchy’s army had reached the limits of its power as it was only with significant German aid was it able to continue fighting.

Géza Gecse:
It was following the Brusilov offensive that it became clear that an independent Poland would be established following the war, but this made any compromise between the Central Powers and Russia virtually impossible.

Andrzej Nowak – Academic, Jagiellonian University, Krakow:
Poland had been divided from the end of the 18th century between three empires. So when finally, after 123 years these three empires clashed, that is two against one: the Austro-Hungarian and German Empires against the Russian Empire, that was perceived by some groups of Poles as a chance to finally gain independence, because whenever these three empires were in solidarity, there was no chance for Poland to win against all three.
But at the same time, throughout this more than one century, many Poles living in particular parts of former Poland being for more than one century part of Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany, became more and more, so to speak, adopted to this kind of living, and many of them, due to these consequences of more than one century of foreign domination, accepted this as a natural state. Not all, but many Poles. That is why, in the Austro-Hungarian part of the empire of course, most Poles accepted the war against Russia as natural: ‘our war’, to liberate most of Poland which was taken by Russia. But in the Russian part of the former Polish Kingdom, many inhabitants of this part had begun to accept the fact that they were subjects of the tsar. And that is why, in 1914, a large part of Polish society under Russian domination accepted the war also as “ours”. We Poles and Russians would fight not as much against Austro-Hungary, but against Germany, which was treated as another great enemy of Poland. It was either Germany or Russia. So from that perspective for example Poles living in Galicia under Austro-Hungarian rule treated, let us say, the Hungarian Army as allies, as natural helpers in the same course.

Géza Gecse:
In December 1916 in the court of Saint Petersburg a group of aristocrats assassinate the favourite of Alexandra Fyodorovna, Grigory Rasputin. Amongst the assassins was not only the Russian Feliks Yusupov, but also the Romanian, in name as well, Purishkevich of Bessarabia.

Alexander Stykalin – Historian, research associate at the Slavic Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow:

This had nothing to do with the Romanian national movement as Purishkevich and some of those like him in the national, ethnic border regions were radical Russian nationalists.
It makes no difference that Purishkevich or the Member of the Duma who in 1903 organized the Jewish pogroms in Bessarabia: Crusevan, had unquestionably Romanian names, they had absolutely no connection with the Romanian national movements in Bessarabia. They were both pure Russian nationalists who were resolute enemies of any sort of independent or separatist movements.

Zoltán Tefner - Corvinus University of Budapest, Director of the Institute of Sociological Research:
Burian, the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1916 was dismissed and this is clearly due to the death of Franz Joseph and with the departing of the sovereign a new course was taken in the Monarchy's foreign policy with the entrance of Charles IV and his circle. So Burian was replaced in December 1916 by Ottokar Czernin.  

Andrzej Nowak- Academic, Jagiellonian University, Krakow:

This was a very important year. One could call it even a breaking point in the diplomatic history of Polish efforts to gain acknowledgement of independence After two years of war the German general staff decided that they needed new manpower. German and Austro-Hungarian Armies had already occupied large territories of the former Russian part of Poland, with many millions of inhabitants, but these inhabitants could not be recruited to the German Army on a legal basis. But after Germany and Austro-Hungary had declared that they would form a new independent, or at least autonomous Polish state from territories taken from the tsarist part of Poland, the German general staff believed they would be able to recruit many volunteers: thousands, or maybe hundreds of thousands of Polish volunteers. Wilhelm the Second and Franz Josef declared on November the 5th that there would be an independent Poland.  They declared this not just as a war goal, but also as the beginning of a new political reality. Following that declaration the first institutions came to be formed under German and Austro-Hungarian tutelage: institutions of Polish government, the Polish police, the Polish legal system, Polish administration. Within these two years: between the end of 1916 and 1918, an outlet was opened through which other national projects were able to enter, so to speak. The political imagination of Western statesmen was that if (the independent state of) Poland could be created, then maybe some other nations have also the right to organize either a new, or for the first time, statehood. And this was used effectively by Czech politicians, especially by the very adroit diplomat as Edvard Beneš and even more so by the influential and intellectual Masaryk.

Alexander Stykalin - Historian, research associate of the Slavic Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow:

If we examine István Tisza’s conduct preceding the breakout of the First World War, and particularly if we look at what was worrying him in 1912 and 1913, it turns out that early on he was aware of the presence of Romanians in Transylvania which I think meant a definite threat to the territorial integrity of Transylvania. Tisza made certain endeavours to integrate the Romanian politicians in Transylvania into Hungarian political life and for that reason offered various positions to them. He was willing to give up even a ministerial post.

Zoltán Tefner - Director of the Institute of Sociological Research at Corvinus University, Budapest:

Following a long period of hesitation, the Germans they reject the proposal of an Austro-Polish solution, which would have annexed the Kingdom of Poland to Austria-Hungary and in April of 1916 Germany announces unequivocally her demand for an independent Poland. Tisza now pleads for the Polish question be abandoned and instead to concentrate on the Romanians. The Belvedere Group working in the spirit of Franz Ferdinand now takes control. Although Ottokar Czernin’s national identity is debated, he was ethnically Czech (as was Clam Martinic, and his vision for the future of the Monarchy was completely different to Tisza’s or Burián’s. The Belvedere Group's idea was to convert the Monarchy into a republic with a Slavic character. This was unacceptable to Hungarian foreign policy, and Czernin was the Monarchy’s dual foreign minister up until April 1918.

György Schöpflin - Professor of political science:
When empires collapse or are exhausted other players enter to fill the void. In this respect we have the revival of Poland, the formation of Great Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Albania a bit earlier in 1913, these are all new nations. At the same time the Ottoman Empire collapses and a new Turkey is built on its ruins, at the price of a great war, which we often forget.

András Gerő - Head of the Department of Social and Economic History at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest:

People do not always recognize their own interests, this is so even in their private lives.
György Schöpflin- Professor of political science:

The Monarchy was ours only in part. Many Hungarians thought of the Austrian army which was enlisting them to fight in 1914 as the same one which defeated them in 1848. Can K.u.K Army be trusted? The Legitimists (the Royalists loyal to the Habsburgs) amongst the Hungarians probably thought differently, but there were many in Hungary who didn’t trust Vienna. Then there is the question of Tisza. At the beginning Tisza opposed the war, he felt Hungary had no need to wage war with Serbia and he acquiesced only when he received the guarantee that Germany would support the Monarchy in the war. What would have happened had Tisza continued to oppose the war I don’t know.

András Gerő –  Head of the Department of Social and Economic History at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest:

I feel that the dissolution of a Central European power which we call the Habsburg Monarchy came from the recognition of the interests. This was mainly on the part of the British who felt the Monarchy unnecessary for the continental balance of power. The French certainly took this course, and they thought that with the dissolution of the Monarchy the various resulting nation-states could be drawn under a sphere of French influence. Basically they were mistaken.

Géza Gecse:

How does Gábor Dombovári, president of the association organizing this event view this videoclip history project compared to the one organized two years ago?

Gábor Dombovári – President of Assosiation KÉK:

Our first documentary videoclip competition and accompanying evening of debate were definitely successes.
I think we can add to this by taking the competition to even more places producing even better submissions. We are participating in the hope that more and better projects will be submitted to this competition.

The whole 25 minutes film by clicking on this:

The same film in Hungarian by clicking on this:

The text of this same film in Hungarian published in the summer of 2016 with former deadline - by clicking on this: