• Anna Darelli-Anderson

Consequences of World War I: the Paris Peace Conference & the Russian Revolutions of 1917


In what ways did the failures of both the treaties and the League aggravate the unresolved problems of the war? What were the primary internal causes of the Russian Revolutions (March and November), and what role did the war play in these two revolutions? Following the end of World War I in 1918, 70 delegates from the 27 victorious nations gathered in Paris at Louis XIV's palace in January 1919. The Paris Peace Conference, chiefly controlled by the five major powers of the world (Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and the United States), resulted in the Treaty of Versailles. While this treaty, along with others signed with Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey, was primarily concerned with establishing conditions for peace, it seemingly did everything but. Russia could not participate as it was involved with civil war and Germany was prohibited from doing so. The latter's colonies were allocated to France, Great Britain, and Japan, the long-disputed Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France, and Poland was recreated as a separate state from parts of the Old German empire. (1) Most notably, Germany was forced to sign a "war guilt clause" which stipulated that the country accepted full responsibility for the war. Furthermore, Germany was to pay 132 billion marks in war reparations. Because of this, the country's treasury was emptied of all precious metals, leading to the complete devaluation of Germany's currency. In turn, the government printed large amounts of money, which then caused a state of hyperinflation. Economic conditions worsened with the Great Depression, with six million Germans facing unemployment in the 1930s. (2) Another consequence of the Paris Peace Conference was the formation of the League of Nations. This intergovernmental organization lasted from 1919 until 1946 and was the precursor to the modern-day United Nations. Its 26 covenants included articles regarding multilateral disarmament, the prevention of war through collective security, the resolution of disputes between countries through negotiation, diplomacy, and the improvement of global welfare. However, in addition to exacting the ordained heavy war reparations on Germany, the league's structure reflected the conservative views of the victors, reinforced the artificial division of new territories, and "failed to offer lesser nations equal status in diplomatic proceedings," which led to extreme nationalism and world war. (3) Moreover, conflict in Western and Eastern Europe and the Near East, worldwide economic crisis and depression, and the insubordination of the Allied Powers contributed to the ultimate failure of the syndicate. At the same time that the Great War was coming to a close, Russia experienced not one, but two, major revolutions in March and November of 1917. In the former the Russian monarchy was overthrown, and in the latter a group of communists known as Bolsheviks seized the power. This ongoing civil war was a culmination of internal causes and effects of the world war. While 80 percent of the population were peasants, the aristocracy (representing only 1.5 percent of the population) ran the country. Even more, industrialization, especially as necessitated by the war, “rested on the achievements of urban workers who toiled for long hours in terrible conditions.” (4) The situation was made worse by the fact that trade unions and strikes were completely prohibited, and that most Russians lived in fairly oppressive conditions. The Tsar’s impotence in dealing with the officers responsible for the earlier January 9th, 1905 “Bloody Sunday” and the shame of being defeated by the Japanese in 1904-05 also contributed to the mounting tension and belief that the Tsar needed to be removed. Furthermore, the Russian economy was not strong enough to handle three major enemies (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire) and a modern war. Finally, low morale, disloyal recruits, incredible casualties at the hands of the Germans, delayed food deliveries, and a food shortage bred hostility and dissidence in the country. References: (1) Larry E. Gates, Jr., ed., "The Peace Settlement," in Advanced Placement European History, www.historydoctor.net/Advanced%20Placement%20European%20History/Notes/world_war_one_peace_settlement.htm (2) “The European Economy in the Interwar Period,” in 7.1.1: Social and Political Impact of World War I, 7.1: The Interwar Years, 1918-1938, Unit 7: The Rise of Totalitarian States in the 20th Century, HIST 103: World History in the Early Modern and Modern Eras (1600-Present) (Washington, D.C.: Saylor Foundation, 2014), https://learn.saylor.org/course/view.php?id=31&sectionid=8816#section-86 (3) Danelle Moon, “League of Nations,” in Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice, edited by Gary L. Anderson and Kathryn G. Herr, 834-836 (Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2007), doi: 10.4135/9781412956215.n492 (4) “The Russian Revolution,” in 7.2.1: The Russian Revolution, 1917, 7.2: Russia, Unit 7: The Rise of Totalitarian States in the 20th Century, HIST 103: World History in the Early Modern and Modern Eras (1600-Present) (Washington, D.C.: Saylor Foundation, 2014), https://learn.saylor.org/course/view.php?id=31&sectionid=8831#section-90

Anna Darelli-Anderson

University of Utah

Department of Surgery

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