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11 Nov, 2008 04:22

WW I victims remembered on Armistice Day

At exactly 11am on 11-11-1918 the guns fell silent – bringing an end to the First World War. But 90 years later, the conflict hasn’t been forgotten. Millions of people around the globe will hold a minute’s silence on Remembrance Day.

It was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Instead, it redrew the map of Europe and cost the continent 20 million lives – half servicemen, half civilians.

The war brought rapid technological change and laid the seeds of authoritarianism, which dominated Europe for decades to come.

It also set the tone for the 20th century, transforming the balance of power, and heralding the collapse of empires.

Four empires disappeared: the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and the Russian dynasties were no more – dramatically altering the shape of Europe.

Notably, Poland re-emerged as an independent country as did Finland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

Vyacheslav Shatsillo, a historian at the Russian Academy of Science, said conflict resulted in “a wholesale re-drawing of the map of Europe”.

“All of the Central Powers lost territory, and several new nations were created,” he said.

Historians believe the war brought battle into the modern era. New military equipment was invented and modern armies were born. Aircraft were used in war for the first time.

But more sophisticated military methods merely swelled the huge numbers who died.

Around 10 million soldiers were killed in battle, twice that number were injured. Russia lost 1.7 million people, France 1.4 and Germany almost 2 million.

The war continues to have considerable significance for Russia. Some say that because of it, the course of the country's history altered entirely.

Back then, discontent among the population grew as the war went on, leading to the Russian Revolution. The monarchy fell, and the Soviet Union was born.

The era is of intense historical interest in Russia, and remains the subject of many books and films.
Film director Andrey Kravtsov says the war ‘was one of the most dramatic periods in Russian history so even now it's a popular topic for discussion among many people."

He added that “it’s important to remember what happened to your native country”.

Meanwhile remembrance ceremonies will be held across the world, countries from America to New Zealand are paying tribute to their fallen soldiers.