World War I (WWI) was a global war concentrated in Europe that began in July 1914 and lasted until November 1918. It was also termed the World War or the Great War until WWII. The war was comprised of all the world's great powers, which were collected in two contrary alliances: the Allies (based on the Triple Entente of the United Kingdom, France and Russia) and the Central Powers (originally the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy). The appearance of the Triple Entente as a counterbalance to the Triple Alliance clearly shaped a conceivably dangerous component in European power politics. The Great War is branded a war of alliances, but the presence of the two competing groups, and the assortment of alliances did not make war unavoidable. The more immediate cause for the war were the tensions over terrain in the Balkans – Austria-Hungary’s tension and competition with Serbia and Russia for land and power in the region, in addition to the numerous alliances and treaties that drew the rest of the Great Powers into the battle. Tensions had escalated until they finally reached their boiling points, and eventually as expected they boiled over between countries resulting in a global war. Specifically, the tensions between Austria-Hungary and Russia were in fact most critical to the outbreak of war in 1914 because of their desires to prove their Great Power status in the Balkans, and their divergent relationships with Serbia. “…It came not as a result of imperialistic bickering over Africa and Asia but because of continuing animosity between Austria-Hungary and Russia in the Balkans. Their old rivalry became dangerously intertwined with the ambitions of the small state of Serbia, which seemed to threaten the very existence of the Dual Monarchy. It was this lethal combination that ultimately led to the outbreak of World War I” (Lyons 31). Ongoing hostility between Austria-Hungary, and Russia in the Balkans was one of the chief causes of the war. Competition for dominance of the Balkans furthered the pressures that exploded into World War I. Serbia commanded a measure to bond the area's Slavs. In 1908, Austria-Hungary significantly infuriated Serbia by accumulating the Balkan terrain of Bosnia-Herzegovina to its empire. Serbia sought jurisdiction over this area since numerous Serbs subsisted there. When Austria formally seized Bosnia, it provoked indignation in Serbia and Russia. Russia, a Great Power and a Slavic country, supported Serbia, and was Serbia’s lone ally. Connected by their Slavic ethnicity, the two nations wanted to thwart Austrian extension. Their labors were trounced, and the Bosnian crisis enduringly damaged the previously tense relations between the Russia and Austria-Hungary. Confronted with cumulative complications inside its already assorted populace, Austria-Hungary observed Serbia as a danger. This was mainly a consequence of Serbia's longing to connect all the Slavic people, as well as those existing in the southern parts of the empire. “Russia had long acted irresponsibly by encouraging Serbian hostility toward Austria-Hungary” (Lyons 57). This pan-Slavic emotion was supported Russia who had signed an arrangement to assist Serbia if the nation was attacked by the Austrians. The Russians acted recklessly by fostering Serbian aggression toward Austria-Hungary. Nicholas Hartwig, Russia’s ambassador to Belgrade, continually stimulated Serbia to pursue its labors to make a better Serbia and a south Slav state at the expense of the Dual Monarchy. Austria-Hungary was frantic to launch more of its influence into the Balkans, where a power vacuum shaped by the weakening of the Ottoman Empire, had permitted nationalist activities to stir and contest. “But within Europe itself, rivalry between Austria-Hungary and Russia, the only Great Powers that were not involved in overseas imperialism, proved less amenable to solution. Their rivalry focused on the Balkans, where Russia had pursued ambitious...
Cited: Lyons, Michael J. World War I: A Short History. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000. Print.
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