Unknown Fronts

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The "Eastern Turn" in First World War History

One hundred years ago Europe unleashed a storm of violence upon the world: The First World War had an enormous impact on the lives of Europeans, European history and culture. To this day, the iconic images of trench warfare in Belgium and France are burned onto our retinas, the names of its major battles, such as The Somme, Verdun and Ypres, are etched in our consciousness, as are the stories of modern warfare’s greatest horrors: the usage of poison gas and new technical means such as aerial warfare and the tank.

In recent years it has become clear that this is only a small part of the Great War’s history. In many senses there were other fronts: both geographically, as well as thematically the war was fought on fronts that have remained relatively ‘unknown’ to date. From a geographical perspective there were many other fronts on the European continent alone, there was fighting in the Balkans, in Romania and in the borderlands of the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires (an area that is today part of Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic States). Outside of Europe there was also warfare in European colonies in Africa and in the Middle East. Seen from a thematic angle, these ‘unknown fronts’ relate to the life and conduct of civilians and diplomats who lived and worked in the war. Civilians might serve as (para)medical professionals or might have fallen victim to one of the war’s many violent episodes. Diplomats might have served the interests of their countries of origin in one of the many belligerents, yet, their documents can also shed light on different aspects of the war. Then there are soldiers themselves, whose voices have not always been heard. Yet another unknown front, is the life and work of intellectuals, who did not partake in violent actions, but often took up the weapon of the pen to wage their war.

Since the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Iron Curtain, many aspects of the Eastern fronts of the First World War have come to light and new sources have been uncovered. So to speak, there has been an ‘Eastern turn’ in First World War historiography. The scholars who contributed to this volume, all historians or literary scholars, have researched new sources on those Eastern fronts and have given new valuable insights in several ‘unknown fronts’ of the Great War, but also had to conclude that there are still many unanswered questions that need further inquiry. A revision of historiographical insights on the First World War is however warranted.


  • Introduction: The “Eastern Turn” in history, historiography and memory
    Guido van Hengel
  • I Cultures, Images of the Self and the Other
    • 1. War of Spirits in the East: East Central and Southeast European Intellectuals and the First World War
      Maciej Górny
    • 2 "The Real Enemy" – The Eastern Front in Austrian Jewish Periodicals
      Lukas Waltl
    • 3 Visual Representations of World War One: Discovering the Salonica Front
      Nicole Immig
  • II Diplomats
    • 4 Diplomacy in the Apogee of Nationalism: Nation and State in Allied and American Public Statements on the Polish Question, 1917-18
      Denis Clark
    • 5 Perspectives from a Neutral State: Dutch Sources on the Question of the Armenian Genocide
      Nicolaas A. Kraft van Ermel
  • III Soldiers
    • 6 The War Diary of Capt. D. Bakŭrdzhiev. World War I seen “from below”
      Raymond Detrez
    • 7 From Struma to Cherna: The Literary Memoirs of Sotir Yanev, a Bulgarian Officer at the Salonika Front (1917)
      Elka Agoston-Nikolova
    • 8 Changing fortunes: The frontline-experience of the Royal Bavarian Army on the Eastern Front 1915-1918
      Jeremias Schmidt
  • IV Civilians
    • ​9 “Women Like That”: Women’s poetry and private writings as a source for women’s Great War history
      Vivienne Newman
    • 10 Both Doctor and Etnographer: Arius van Tienhoven and the image of Serbia during the First World War
      Pelle van Dijk
    • 11 The Great War and the Jewish Refugees in Russia. Research in the documents of the Joint Distribution Committee
      Guiseppe Motta
    Guido van Hengel en Thijs van Nimwegen
  • Sources and Bibliography
  • About the Authors


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245 pagina's