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w 24 | Focus cnrs I international magazine Contact information: IRICE, Paris. Isabelle Davion > Isabelle.Davion@paris-sorbonne.fr LAMOP, Paris. Nicolas Offenstadt > offenstadt@noos.fr Sciences Po, Paris. André Loez > andre.loez@yahoo.fr Nations,3 headquartered in Geneva, considerably undermined the power of this intergovernmental authority, whose “positive role is too often overlooked, for example in the financial salvaging of Austria in 1922,” notes Davion. Mostly, this new European order, further weakened by the global economic crisis of 1929, exacerbated nationalist feelings in the countries that had been defeated (the vast majority of Germans believed that they had been forced into a “shameful” peace) or otherwise frustrated by the outcome of the war (like Italy, whose territorial claims were not all met). The interwar period was marked by the gradual replacement of republican governments by authoritarian regimes, so much so that by 1938, Czechoslovakia was the only republic left in central Europe. Peace failed because “the treaties were not given enough time to fulfill their purpose,” Davion believes. Albeit imperfect, they were extremely flexible, giving Europe’s new rulers the ability to introduce changes if necessary. But the men who drafted these treaties were not those who executed them, as the former had either been ousted by the electoral process—as in the US and France—or had withdrawn to avoid assuming their responsibilities. In Britain for example, Lloyd George disparaged the Treaty of Versailles immediately after signing it. Soon, only opponents were heard. Few were left to defend the peace agreements, which did not fit in the Europe of the 1920s and 1930s. “World War II broke out because the Europe of Versailles no longer existed,” Davion concludes. The advent of modern art What about the cultural legacy of World War I? In the countries at war, many artists from all fields were plunged into the horror of the trenches, only to return wounded—or not return at all. At the same time, the war spawned a multitude of great works of art, often with a pacifist theme, by writers, painters, and filmmakers. These include Aragon, Dufy, and Renoir in France, Chagall in Russia, J.R.R. Tolkien in Britain, George Bernard Shaw in Ireland, Karl Kraus and Stefan Zweig in Austria, and Ernst Jünger, Georg Grosz, and Otto Dix in Germany. Yet did the war redefine artistic norms? “This is the subject of historiographical debate,” says André Loez, a French historian, professor, and WWI specialist. “In short, there are two opposing theories. One states that World War I, the first modern war, marked a turning point in Western cultural history and set the stage for the genesis of modern art. This line of thought links the savagery of the conflict to the birth of Dadaism, and then to the rise of Surrealism in the 1920s. Another theory, which is more widely accepted today, holds that the Great War accelerated the emergence of modern art, but that the movement predated the conflict. After all, the Futurist Manifesto was published in 1909, Kandinsky produced his first abstract paintings in the 1910s, and Apollinaire published Alcools in 1913.” Keeping the memory alive In France, since the 1980s and 1990s, “the children, grandchildren, and now greatgrandchildren of veterans have been tracing the history of their ancestors who fought during World War I,” explains Nicolas Offenstadt of the LAMOP.4 “They publish the veterans’ letters and diaries online, follow the routes taken by their regiments, and even visit the battlefields where they faced enemy fire.” The memory of World War I is still vivid in the victorious countries, especially the old nations like France and Britain. Similarly, the conflict continues to exert a strong symbolic influence in the US, Canada, and Australia, which had then fought for the first time as a federated nation, notably in Gallipoli (Turkey), in April 1915. “In Russia, the accounts of World War I soldiers were largely obscured in the collective memory throughout the communist era,” says Offenstadt. “Today, they serve patriotic purposes.” German memory, on the other hand, “is marked primarily by the 1933-45 period and the challenges of reunification, which leaves little room for 1914-18. In fact, one of the questions raised by this year’s centennial is whether it will help reshape national memories or, given the economic context, be used to add credit to traditional narratives, largely based on patriotic exaltation, sacrifices made, or heroic figures.” 01. T he gold standard was a system whereby central banks, using their gold reserves, guaranteed the redemption of banknotes presented at a bank and whose value was pegged to the precious metal. On the eve of the war, this system was in effect in 59 countries, allowing them to securely exchange their currencies. 02. Identités, relations internationales et civilisations de l’Europe (CNRS / Université de Paris-Sorbonne / Université de Paris-I). 03. In March 1920, the American Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, preventing the US from joining the League of Nations. 04. L aboratoire de médiévistique occidentale de Paris (CNRS / Université de Paris-I). 07 The large triptych The War (1929-1932), by German painter Otto Dix, shows the atrocities of war as he witnessed them in the trenches. 07 © akg-ima ges


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