Compte-rendu « La Première Guerre mondiale et le monde moderne » des 26 et 27 mai 2010 à Moscou

International Scientific and Practical Conference

World War I and the modern world.

The Conference “World War I and the modern world” has been organized by the I.I.U.E.P.S. University, a private institution, and it was held in Moscow on 26 and 27 May 2010. The Department on the Great War of the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute of World History granted its scientific cooperation.

The first day there were two plenary sessions at the State Historical Museum (on the Red Square), and the second day was devoted to parallel sessions at the University’s main building (title of the sessions: International relations on the eve and during the First World War; Russia and the First World War; Problems of training and use of armed forces in the First World War; The First World War and the creation of the new world order; Human dimension of the Great War; Demographic and socio-environmental consequences of the First World War).

The scholars that brought in the papers came from twelve different Countries. The main focuses of the Conference were devoted to the change produced by the war in the different societies and States, in the public opinions, and to Russia’s evolution before revolutions.

The speakers studied a lot of different aspects of the human life and activities. On one side health and medical activities (military and civil hospitals, nursing, Red Cross’s activities development); railways; industrial organization and scientific researches; life in the POW’s camps; evolution and changes in the Army’s organization and strategy (especially the Russian one, but not only) were among the subjects of the reports. On the other side, there were a good number of scholars devoting their works to the Russian society’s evolutions and changes during the war, to the fighting Countries’ foreign policy, and to the relationships between some specific Countries. The frame that linked the majority of the papers was the concept that Great War was the great drive of XX century’s change, because it was “the prologue of the XX century” (as titled the opening report of Evgeny Sergeev). The speakers gave obviously different interpretations about these changes. A particular attention received the subject of the consent and of the change in the people’s attitude in front the war. One of the papers was devoted to the (changing) peasants’ notion of justice and sacrifice, and to its obvious relationships with the revolutionary movements. As it happens all over Europe, the reports have shown different approaches between the supporters of the union sacrée and the backers of a more critical analysis of social and politic attitudes inside the societies in war. These different interpretations have a clear significance about the reading of the following events, especially the Russian revolutions. Some speakers and attending people also devoted a lot of attention to the different interpretations of the social, politic and disciplinary conflicts (natural crisis of consent versus subversion), both in the Army and in the society.

On the whole, the Conference has had a very rich program and there was a good participation of scholars, students, and non academic people. Often, there was a very interesting and lively debate. During the two days there were some presentations of books, magazines, and movies. These last were particularly interesting, because they were edited films shot during the war.

This Conference has confirmed the growth of the studies about Great War in Russia. A good number of international conferences had been held in Moscow and in other Russian cities since 1994, with universities and Russian Academy of Science’s sponsorships. In 20 years the studies have reached a very good standard and there is a wide network of scholars all around Russia attending them. Today, many Russian scholars devote their studies both to a comparative analysis, and to the study of foreign countries.

Many Russian speakers have spoken about the needs to establish a museum fully devoted to the history of WWI; one of the reports has explained a project planned in 1926 to create the “Museum of the First World War history” inside the State Historical Museum. Up till now the interested people can visit the rooms devoted to Great War and revolutionary years in the State museum of modern history in Russia (former Museum of the Revolution), and a little Great War Memorial in a public park in the Sokol neighborhood (this place was a military cemetery with graves of Russian and foreign soldiers, before the building of the park).

Marco Pluviano

Université de Gênes

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