World War I (abbrivated WWI), also called the First World War and formerly the Great War, was a major military conflict taking place primarily in Europe with secondary fronts forming in Africa, Middle East and East Asia. It was fought by all major imperialist powers of Europe and later also the USA.
The powers centered themselves into two major powerblocs: The Allies, who were centered around the Triple Entente and the Central Powers, who rallied themselves around Germany and Austria-Hungaria. Statistically speaking, the Allies (who numbered 42,959,850 troops) outnumbered the Central Powers (who in turn numbered 25,248,321) nearly two to one.
The First World War indirectly hepled spark the Russian Revolution, the first Socialist Revolution in the world, as under the increasingly deteriorating and opressive conditions the people rebeled against the absolutist Tsar firstly in the February Revolution and later against the Provisional Government in the October Revolution.
WWI was the bloodiest conflict up until that point in history, only superseded by the Second World War. It lasted from 1914 until 1918.
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The Boiling Point
Throughout the 19th Century, the major European imperialist powers constantly tried to maintain the cotemporary balance of power. This resulted in countless treaties and alliances being formed, like the Holy Alliance, the Triple Entente and the Triple Entente, creating a true treaty web. Even before the actual Casus Belli was given, Europe was considered to be a ticking bomb.
On 28th of June 1914, the Casus Belli finally came; And it came in form of an assassination. A Yugoslav Nationalist called Gavrilo Princip killed the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Austria-Hungary linked this assassination to the Kingdom of Serbia, and issued an Ultimatum to its government, which Serbia in turn refused. Austria-Hungary responded to this by declaring war on said nation. The Russian Empire, unwilling to loose its long-standing influence exerted on the Balkans through its Serbian protégé, ordered a partial mobilisation.
German Empire, too, ordered a mobilization. France, seeing this mobilization in turn ordered mobilization of its own forces. On the same day, Germany declared war on Russia. After a failure to reach an agreement with Germany over keeping Belgium neutral, the United Kingdom declared war on Germany.
The War Begins
With several treaties of the treaty web being pulled, most of the Europe soon found itself at war. Initially, even after agreeing on a common strategy, there was a wave of confusion among the Central Powers on who was taking on whom. Apparently, Germany promised its ally in Austria-Hungary assitance in the Serbian Campaign, but there were various interpetations on what this was supposed to mean. German Leadership assumed that Austria-Hungary was going to focus on Russia, while they handeled Serbia. Austria-Hungary on the other hand thought that Germany was going to protect its left flank while they concentrated their forces on Serbia. This disagreement forced Austria-Hungary to divide its army between the Russian and Serbian fronts, allowing Serbians to win first several engagements, like the Battle of Cer.
The African Front
As Germany, Britain and France all possessed colonies in Africa, this was among the first theaters to appear outside of Europe. On 7th of August, French and British troops invaded the German protectorate of Togoland. On 10th of August, German forces in South-West Africa attacked South Africa; sporadic and fierce fighting continued for the remainder of the war. The German Imperial colonial forces in German East Africa, led by Colonel Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck, fought a guerrilla warfare campaign for the duration of World War I, only surrendering two weeks after the armistice took effect in Europe
The Serbian Campaign
As Serbia was the first nation to get war declared on during the WWI, it is only natural that it was among the first nations to come under attack by the Central Powers. The Serbian army fought against the Austro-Hungarians in the Battle of Cer which began on 12th of August, and over the course of two weeks constantly fought off wave after wave of Austro-Hungarian forces resulting the Battle to become one of the first Allied victories and a bloody defeat for the Central Powers. Austria-Hungary, expecting a swift victory, instead had keep a sizable army on the Serbian front, keeping it from reinforcing its position in Russia and therefore weakining the Central Powers' war efforts on that front.
Central Powers Open the Western Front
At the outbreak of the WWI, German Empire executed a plan whose design was to quickly attack France through the neutral Belgium (hence the reason UK and Germany couldn't agree on keeping Belgium neutral) and then moving southwards in hopes of encircling the French army.
Initially, this strategy worked quite well, allowing Germans to score several major victories against the French in what is collectively known as the Battle of the Frontiers. However, by the early September, French troops with assistence of their British counterparts managed to stop the German offensive after scoring a decisive victory in the First Battle of the Marne. The French Counteroffensive into Germany, launched in August that year, had however limited success.
Situation of the Eastern Front
Initially, only one Field Army defended the East Prussia when the Russian Empire attacked it. This caused the German High Command to divert some of the troops originally intended for the Western Front. Ultimately, Germany managed to defeat the Russian offensive in what became known as the First Battle of Tannenberg. This Russian offensive, however, exacerbated problems of insufficient speed of advance from rail-heads not foreseen by the German General Staff. The Central Powers were thereby denied a quick victory and forced to fight a war on two fronts.