Historian Sean McMeekin offers a different perspective on Armistice Day in an L.A. Times op-ed:
It was never quiet on the Eastern Front. Still isn’t
By SEAN MCMEEKIN
NOV 11, 2018 | 3:05 AM
… Something has always been missing from our popular understanding of World War I, however. The armistice signed at Compiègne, France, on Nov. 11, 1918, may have put an end to hostilities between the Great Powers fighting on the Western Front, but it did nothing of the kind on the war’s eastern fronts, where the fighting went on and in many areas intensified. In Western Europe, the post-armistice lesson was that nationalism, taken to its extreme, was deadly. In the East, 1918 brought instead the downfall of empires, the dissolution of borders, and a desperate scramble by fragile emergent nations to survive. …
Ukraine, in particular, suffered horribly. Control of Kiev changed hands 16 times between 1918 and 1921. Charts of mortality rates among Ukrainians show World War I as a period of relative calm; the human wages of war, famine, pestilence and anti-Semitic pogroms then soar upward in 1918-1922, with still greater horrors to come in 1930s and 1940s.
… The radically different experiences of Western and Eastern Europe in the years after 1918 explain much about the continent’s political landscape a century later. In the West, the First World War is well and truly over. Its lesson, even if fully absorbed only after 1945, was Robert Graves’ “Goodbye to All That”: No more nationalism or arms races. Down with borders, tariffs and currency controls. Hello, European Union.
… The dissolution of borders appears, to most Eastern Europeans, not a dream but a reminder of past nightmares.
The tragic, pessimistic view of the world propagated by Eastern European nationalists, and their thus-far less successful counterparts in Western Europe and the United States, may not be as inspiring as the “goodbye to all that” post-nationalist cosmopolitanism favored by elites in Brussels and Washington. It is, however, a worldview rooted in hard historical lessons that we would be wise to heed.
Sean McMeekin, a professor of European history at Bard College, is the author of “The Russian Revolution: A New History” and “The Ottoman Endgame.”