Sunday, January 24, 2016

WWI Centennial: “The End Looks Farther Off” - January 1, 1916 / "Mental Floss" January 1, 2016

Mental Floss
Erik Sass
January 1, 2016

Military postcard for Christmas and New Year on the theme "yearning of the Swiss border soldier for Christmas with his family", Zurich, 1916.
Image credit: Swiss Info.

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that shaped our modern world. Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 217th installment in the series.

January 1, 1916: “The End Looks Farther Off”

Signing off in a letter to a friend, Mildred Aldrich, an American woman living in France, struck a gloomy note which doubtless echoed the feelings of many as they contemplated another New Year in a world at war: “I cannot even send a hopeful message for 1916. The end looks farther off for me than it did at the beginning of the year. It seems to me that the world is only now beginning to realize what it is up against.”

Shortly afterwards, Muhammad Hussein Khan, an Indian soldier serving in the British Army on the Western Front, struck a similar note in a letter home written January 10, 1916:

"There is no news about my return. It is not the work of days or months; it is becoming the work of years. May God be gracious and protect those of us in the fighting line, because hundreds of thousands of God’s servants are being ruthlessly slain. The enemy has commenced such atrocities as to murder without pity defenseless villagers, old men and young children, and to sink hospital ships. God bring him into a proper way of thinking."

Indeed the last year and a half had been an education for humanity in inhumanity as Europe, the center of the “civilized” world, suddenly tore itself to shreds for reasons that most people found (and still find) extraordinarily obscure.

Into the Whirlwind

In June 1914 the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the twin thrones of Austria-Hungary, provided the Austrians with the excuse they had long been seeking to crush the neighboring kingdom of Serbia, ending the threat of Slavic nationalism to the multiethnic empire once and for all (or so they hoped). Supported by Germany, which feared the demise of its only ally, Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia with demands so extreme no independent country could possibly accept them—all part of an attempt to shift the blame to Serbia in order to keep the conflict from spreading.

Rare German 1916 postcard.
However, Austria-Hungary and Germany underestimated the commitment of Serbia’s great Slavic patron, Russia, in protecting its sole remaining client state in the Balkans (after incompetent Russian diplomacy alienated Bulgaria). For its part, Russia could call on support from its ally France, which in turn had a defensive agreement with Britain, known as the Entente Cordiale. 

Operating in a fatal cloud of suspicion, deceit, miscommunication, and sheer negligence, in July 1914 Europe’s diplomats blundered and bluffed themselves into a war no one wanted. Their ambition and naiveté were abetted by mechanistic mobilization plans drawn up by their general staffs, including Germany’s Schlieffen Plan, calling for the invasion of France via neutral Belgium in violation of repeated promises—a move sure to infuriate Britain. In a few short weeks, a series of events no one could comprehend unleashed forces beyond anyone’s control.

The War in 1914

The first months of fighting shattered expectations, forcing the generals to tear up intricate plans years in the making and grapple with a new form of warfare. On the Western Front, French chief of the general staff Joseph Joffre’s Plan XVII, which envisioned a lunge into Germany powered by French fighting spirit, was resoundingly defeated in the Battle of the Frontiers. However, through masterful use of the French rail network and with assistance from the scrappy British Expeditionary Force, Joffre managed to fight off the surprise German invasion of northern France during the “Miracle on the Marne.”

French postcard / Pinterest

The Schlieffen Plan unraveled partly because of last-minute tinkering by German chief of the general staff Helmuth von Moltke the Younger, and partly because he was dealing with a surprise of his own 1000 miles to the east, where Russia was ready for action sooner than expected, thanks to a more aggressive mobilization schedule enabled by new railroads. The new commanders of the German Eighth Army, Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff, turned the tables on the Russians at the Battle of Tannenberg, encircling and destroying the Russian Second Army in one of the greatest victories of the war—but the reinforcements Moltke rushed to the east may have fatally weakened the German invasion of France.

Meanwhile, back on the Western Front (and following their withdrawal from the Marne), the Germans dug in north of Paris along the River Aisne, giving rise to trench warfare—a novel type of static combat, which had some precedents in medieval siege warfare as well as the Crimean War, the U.S. Civil War, the Boer War and the Russo-Japanese War, among others. Above all, trench warfare exploited the enormous tactical advantage conferred on defenders by new weapons including machine guns, quick-firing rifles, and barbed wire, which allowed a small number of determined troops in protected positions to simply mow down row after row of attackers advancing across open fields.

Malta 1916 postcard
With hundreds of thousands of soldiers frantically digging into soil soaked by autumn rains, the last chance of a quick victory lay in outflanking the enemy, resulting in the misleadingly named “Race to the Sea” in September to October 1914—when both sides tried to outmaneuver each other all the way north to the Belgian coast, but to no avail, unfolding two parallel lines of trenches behind them. It culminated in the apocalyptic First Battle of Ypres from October to November 1914, where the Germans sent overwhelming numbers of infantry against outnumbered British and French positions in a series of human wave attacks, but ultimately failed to break through to the English Channel.

The rest of the war was essentially one long experiment (using tens of millions of live human subjects) in which commanders tried to discover the secret formula that would restore the initiative to the attackers.

1915: The Central Powers Ascendant

Ypres (and the French experience in the First Battle of Champagne in December 1914) left little doubt of the need for extensive artillery bombardment before infantry attacks, in order to break up barbed wire entanglements, take out machine gun nests and destroy the enemy’s trenches—but putting this theory into practice was another matter. For one thing, all the belligerents suffered severe ammunition shortages, which could only be remedied by political reform and major, long-term efforts at industrial reorganization, including the mass employment of women in war factories and agriculture.

French WWI postcard Bonne Année 1916 Happy New Year.
In the meantime, however, the war went on—which in practice meant new offensives, even if shells were lacking. The predictable result was more grisly defeats for the British and French in 1915 at Neuve Chapelle, Aubers and Festubert, and Loos. Elsewhere the entry of the Ottoman Empire into the war on the side of the Central Powers in November 1914, followed by Italy’s entry on the side of Allies in May 1915, massively expanded the theater of war and probably extended its duration, but did little to yield a decisive result—as did Germany’s declaration of unrestricted U-boat warfare in February 1915 (later rescinded in September 1915, under American diplomatic pressure following the sinking of the Lusitania).

Searching for ways to break the deadlock on the Western Front, the Germans initiated a horrific new form of warfare with the introduction of poison gas at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915—a shocking new low that was condemned and then swiftly imitated by the Allies. Stubborn resistance by Canadian troops saved the day at Ypres, and the advantage of surprise was lost, as both sides now rushed to produce gas masks and invent ever-more toxic forms of gas; soon gas warfare was just another commonplace terror at the front, which did little to alter the strategic balance.

German WWI Christmas card for New Years.
National Education Network.
Meanwhile the Allies made another bid for a strategic breakthrough with an attempt to capture the Turkish straits, which would open the supply route to Russia through the Black Sea and probably knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war. However the first phase of the campaign, in which the Royal Navy tried to “force” the straits with sea power alone, ended in total failure—setting the stage for an even bigger disaster when the Allies escalated to an amphibious operation to capture the Gallipoli peninsula and destroy the Turkish forts defending the straits from the land side in April. A further attempt to outflank the Turkish defenders with new landings at Suvla Bay in August also ended in resounding failure, and in December 1915 the Allies began withdrawing their troops.

In addition to their defensive victories on the Western Front, Italian Front, and at Gallipoli, the Central Powers scored major offensive victories on the Eastern Front and in the Balkans—in both cases thanks to massive superiority in artillery. In May 1915 the German-led breakthrough at Gorlice-Tarnow in Austrian Galicia punched a massive hole in the Russian defensive line, clearing the way for a series of advances that the Russians were powerless to stop because of their continuing shortage of artillery shells.

By September 1915, when the Russians were finally able to reestablish a strong defensive position stabilizing the Eastern Front, the Central Powers had conquered all of Russian (Congress) Poland and large swathes of Ukraine, Belorussia, and the Baltic provinces, totaling about 65,000 square miles in area, while inflicting 1.2 million Russian casualties and taking 900,000 prisoners. Unsurprisingly these losses sparked furious criticism of the Tsarist regime, compounded by growing food shortages and the hypnotic hold of the malign holy man Rasputin on the Tsarina Alexandra.

The Central Powers scored another important victory with the conquest of Serbia—ostensibly the reason for the whole war in the first place—from October to December 1915, aided by the entry of Bulgaria on their side. Faced with overwhelming artillery firepower and numerical superiority, the Serbian Army crumpled in a few short weeks, resulting in one of the war’s worst humanitarian disasters as hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers perished during the Serbian Great Retreat over the Albanian mountains. Those survivors lucky enough to arrive at the Albanian coast were eventually rescued from the pursuing Central Powers armies by Allied ships, which evacuated them to the Greek island of Corfu.

1916: Planning Horror
The conquest of Serbia opened up a line of direct communication with the Ottoman Empire, allowing Germany and Austria-Hungary to supply their beleaguered ally with ammunition, supplies, and reinforcements. But like the Central Powers’ multiple victories on the Eastern Front, it was ultimately a limited, local success, which improved the strategic situation but failed to yield a decisive result (below, a cartoon from Punch mocks the Kaiser’s ambition at yearend).
Punch cartoon 1915.
Thus in the New Year German chief of the general staff Erich von Falkenhayn once again turned his attention to the Western Front, planning a massive battle of attrition targeting the fortress town of Verdun, with the goal of “bleeding France white” and knocking her out of the war. Unbeknownst to Falkenhayn the Allies were also planning a climactic battle to wear Germany down and maybe even end the war, at the Somme. Either of these two cataclysms would qualify, by itself, as the biggest battle in history; incredibly they would overlap, making 1916 a year of horror exceeding 1914 or 1915.

Indeed historians discussing the human cost of the First World War often settle on one word: “appalling.” While estimates vary, on the Central Powers side, by the end of 1915 Germany had suffered around 2.5 million casualties, including 628,445 dead, 320,154 prisoners of war, and 1,595,406 wounded (many of whom returned to the fight). Germany’s ally Austria-Hungary had suffered even more losses: as 1916 dawned, she tallied around 2.8 million casualties, including 700,000 dead, 650,000 prisoners, and 1.5 million wounded. Firm figures for Turkey are harder to find, but between Gallipoli, Sarikamish, the Suez Canal, Mesopotamia, and rampant disease it seems certain the decaying Ottoman Empire had suffered at least half a million casualties, of which at least a third were dead. Thus by the end of 1915 the Central Powers had probably lost around 1.46 million dead (not counting Bulgaria’s losses in the Serbian campaign).

Allied losses were even greater. By December 1915 France has suffered around two million total casualties, including roughly one million wounded, 300,000 taken prisoner, and 730,000 dead. Meanwhile Britain tallied over half a million casualties, including 109,620 killed on the Western Front alone, as well as 60,000 prisoners of war, and 338,758 wounded. Russia, reeling from the Central Powers onslaught in the middle of the year, had suffered roughly 4.5 million casualties, including two million prisoners of war, 1.5 million wounded, and one million dead. Italy, a late entry to the war, had already sustained 135,000 casualties, including 31,000 killed and 95,000 wounded. Last but not least, the Serbian Army lost 187,157 men killed in the second half of 1915 alone, for a total of around 2.1 million dead on the Allied side.

Putting these figures together, by the end of 1915 the nations of Europe had sacrificed over 3.5 million men to the god of war. It should be noted that this number doesn’t even include civilian casualties caused by the war, for example through disruptions to the food supply or basic public hygiene.

On that note a typhus epidemic killed several hundred thousand Serbian civilians in the early part of 1915, and 140,000 Serbian civilians died in the Great Retreat. But the most civilian deaths by far resulted from the Armenian Genocide, in which the Young Turks triumvirate who ruled the Ottoman Empire ordered the massacre and “deportation” (a euphemism for death marches into the desert) of the empire’s entire Armenian population. Although estimates once again vary, up to 1.5 million Armenians died as a result of these genocidal policies from 1915 to 1917.

The Ottoman Empire’s own allies provided evidence that the genocide was ordered and carried out by the government, in the form of records left by German diplomats. On January 3, 1916, the German consul in Aleppo, Rossler, sent a report to the ambassador Wolff-Metternich in Constantinople, with an enclosed report from the consul in Alexandretta stating:

"It can be regarded as an established fact that in the actual Armenian Vilayets—quite apart from the war zone near Van—the deportation has been accompanied by the massacre of the adult male Armenians, but also partly of the whole population of Armenian towns and villages … According to Vice-Consul Holstein’s personal knowledge, gained during his journey from Mosul to Aleppo, the people have been exhorted by gendarme patrols from Diyarbekir and Mardin to “finish off” the Armenians … The deportations from the actual Armenian vilayets were usually carried out in such a brutal manner that only the wretched remains of a mountain people … actually arrived at the collection camps … … In six places between Tell-Ebiad and Kueltepe I saw dead naked women lying near to the railway lines, also a dead naked woman with mutilated feet, then two dead children, another dead older girl, next to hear a dead child, then the still clothed body of a dead woman and another dead woman who had been gagged. Also I twice saw two dead children, making a total of 18 bodies in all.”

Changing the World

Amidst the spreading catastrophe, it’s no surprise that growing numbers of people expected and perceived a fundamental change in the world around them, affecting everything from social structures and gender relations to art and literature. Also unsurprisingly, men in the frontline trenches were the most psychologically impacted by the fighting, and therefore among the most eager for instituting sweeping changes “after the war.”

But like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, different people saw different things in the effects of war, and hoped for very different outcomes. Predictably many expressed hopes for a pacifist revolution after the war, making it a “war to end all wars,” in a phrase adapted from H.G. Wells. On December 23, 1915 a British officer, Frederic Keeling, wrote home:

"I can’t think that human nature ever had to stand in any kind of warfare in history what the modern infantryman has to stand. The strange thing in a way is that there doesn’t seem to be any limit to what you can make human nature stand. But I do think that after the war there will be a wave of practical pacifism from the ex-infantrymen of Western Europe that will sweep many barriers to progress away."

Similarly Robert Pellissier, a French chasseur-a-pied, wrote on April 22, 1915:

"The one decent thing that may come out of this horrible mess may be the final discrediting of war in Europe, and perhaps elsewhere. It’s an idea which keeps up us French soldiers at present. One often hears them say, 'Well, whatever happens to us, our children at least will be freed from the curse of militarism and all allied curses!' ”

For many, these hopes went beyond simple pacifism to embrace thoroughgoing social reform—or even revolution—to bring about a more equitable society, reflecting the rise of socialist political movements before the war. On January 29, 1916 a German soldier, Johannes Haas, struck an ominous (if ambiguous) note in a letter home, hinting at impending upheaval on the home front: “I don’t agree with the popular saying ‘that there will only be peace when the bullets are aimed in the opposite direction,' but, all the same, there will be a fearful awakening some day! It will be well then for those who can pass away into eternity still believing in the Fatherland, for that time will be worse than the war.”

Of course not everyone welcomed the idea, as reflected in the musings of Evelyn, Princess Blücher, an Englishwoman married to a German aristocrat living in Berlin. On November 15, 1915, Blücher confided her fears of unstoppable social change to her diary:

"Germany will be a very difficult country to live in after the war, as, whether she wins or loses, the Socialists are going to revolt—I feel quite sure of that. It is the German custom to nip everything in the bud, and to use such drastic measures that whatever goes on in the soul of a man or party never rises to the surface, but is left fermenting in suppressed silence. It seems now, though, that the war is going to alter this state of affairs … The long lists of casualties have developed into great thick volumes; more and more men are being called up; women are realizing the enormous burden imposed upon them."

Another relatively conservative observer, John Ayscough, a Catholic chaplain with the British Expeditionary Force, reluctantly dismissed the idea that the old order could continue after the war, writing his mother: “But I am convinced that it is all a dream: that the time for making new Kings in Europe is gone by, and that there is far more probability of existing monarchies collapsing.” And Edouard Drumont, a conservative and anti-Semitic French politician, also looked nervously to the future, according to his wife, who recorded his thoughts on the death of chivalry: “Look you, it is only the plebeians now who are so sturdy and so brave. The dispute between the men on foot and the cavaliers continues; but it is the man on foot who is now in the first rank … The old order changeth … Another which as yet we do not see will rise out of this present jumble. Let us wait in hope and faith.”

At the same time, there was also a widespread sense among advocates of change that it was yet to unfold, often with an accompanying feeling of resentment toward civilians at home, who didn’t seem to realize the nature of the war or the extent of the transformation it required. Alfred Vaeth, a philosophy student from Heidelberg, wrote in a letter home on July 12, 1915:

"I did not get the impression the German people have grown, nor did I get the impression that they have grasped the seriousness of the war, and I did get the impression that it will be just at I expected while at the Front: things will go on just in the same bad old way as ever … The fine thing about it is at last one has acquaintances who really take a lively interest in the needs of the times … Thus we have at last a chance of getting an accurate general view of this gigantic war and learning how it affects the souls of our warriors."

The logical corollary was that it would fall to the “men from the trenches” to create the new society. In another letter dated September 12, 1915, Vaeth wrote: “If there is to be a New Germany, the troops will have to take it home with them—it is not to be found there.”

But the hoped-for social change could take many forms—and the leftist goal of a pacifist, egalitarian world was just one of several competing utopian visions, reflecting the diversity of political opinions existing before the war. Men holding conservative or reactionary ideologies were also radicalized by their experiences, and reached very different conclusions about what changes were needed. Thus Adolf Hitler, a messenger in the German (Bavarian) Army, hoped for a Germany cleansed of “un-German” contamination:

"… those of us who are lucky enough to return to the fatherland will find it a purer place, less riddled with foreign influences, so that the daily sacrifices and sufferings of hundreds of thousands of us and the torrent of blood that keeps flowing here day after day against an international world of enemies will help not only to smash Germany’s foes but that our inner internationalism, too, will collapse."

Changing Men

These rumblings of political upheaval were accompanied by profound changes in men themselves, resulting from physical privation, pain, and mass psychological trauma. At the most basic level, many soldiers remarked on the fact that they could no longer recognize their own appearance. Vasily Mishnin, a Russian soldier, confided his worries about the effect this would have on his relationship in his diary on April 11, 1915:

"Dear God, I look like an old man in the photo. I don’t recognize myself at all. How quickly war can ruin a man. In five months I have completely changed. I look haggard, a young man no more. I don’t want to look like this. I worry that I shouldn’t send this photo to Nyura. It is bound to upset my sweet lady. She is still young, she still likes the look of a healthy young man, she wants to still fancy me. But there again, she loves me and knows that I belong to her alone, and we’ve been so happy together. Slowly my doubts begin to dissolve. A man’s heart is much more important than any photo. You see, I didn’t want to change, it’s the war, and I’m not the only one. But the thought of Nyura looking at this and saying 'Vasyusha, what’s happened to you!' keeps troubling me."

Mehmed Fasih, a Turkish officer at Gallipoli, struck a similar note in his diary in November 1915:

“I’m 21 years old. My hair and beard are already grey. My moustache is white. My face is wrinkled and my body is rotting. I can’t bear these hardships and privations any more… Daydream about a happy family and nice kids. Will I live to see the day when I have some?”

Physical changes were mirrored by psychological effects, ranging from extreme reactions like shell shock to more subtle, but still significant, changes in attitude and outlook. Shell shock was undoubtedly the most visible such reaction, sometimes described as a form of hysteria or madness. One British soldier, Private James Beatson, recorded in his diary on August 11, 1915: “What wonder if, in such a hellish hurly-burly, the higher nerve centres are disintegrated and men revert to a primitive somnambulistic subconsciousness, deaf, dumb, and blind. The stoutest soldiers break in madness, paralysis, convulsions, aphasia and delirium.”

At a time when psychological trauma was still looked down on as a sign of cowardice, many attributed shell shock to spiritual “weakness.” Joseph Vassal, a French doctor serving at Gallipoli, wrote to his English wife in May 1915:

"One’s imagination can suggest nothing like the reality. I could wish that there was no remembrance in my brain of these hours of blood and of death. Weak minds were upset. Few were able to keep a real and immediate notion of things. There is a physical exaltation which deforms and obscures everything and makes one incapable of reasoning."

Other participants readily admitted observing changes in themselves. Frederic Keeling, already quoted above, wrote on September 1, 1915: “My nerves are not what they were before I was wounded; every one seems to be the same. One gets steadily less cool out here. Every bombardment uses one up a bit more, I think…”

The British novelist Robert Graves claimed to be able to chart the psychological decline of officers in the trenches:

"At six months he was still more or less all right; but by nine or 10 months, unless he had been given a few weeks’ rest on a technical course, or in hospital, he usually became a drag on the other company officers. After a year or fifteen months he was often worse than useless … The unfortunates were officers who had endured two years or more of continuous trench service … I knew three or four who had worked up to the point of two bottles of whiskey a day before being lucky enough to get wounded or sent home in some other way."

Some men were able to use psychological coping mechanisms, although their effects could be equally disturbing, including a curious detachment that would inevitably follow them back to civilian life once discharged. Alfred Pollard, a British soldier, remarked on a strange incident at Loos in a diary entry written September 30, 1915: “It was just as though my spirit were detached from my body. My physical body became a machine doing the bidding, coolly and accurately, which my spirit dictated. Something outside myself seemed to tell me what to do, so that I was never quite at a loss.”

Another soldier in the British Army, James Hall, recalled what might be termed a divided self:

"I had the curious feeling that my body and brain were functioning quite apart from me. I was only a slow-witted, incredulous spectator looking on with a stupid animal wonder. I have learned that this feeling is quite common among men in the trenches. A part of the mind works normally, and another part, which seems to be one's essential self, refuses to assimilate and classify experiences so unusual, so different from anything in the catalogue of memory."


If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

On this Day [January 19] in 1916, the first units of the Serbian army began arriving on the Greek island of Corfu in the Ionian Sea, after the withdrawal through Albania in the First World War / На данашњи дан [19. Јануар] 1916. године, на грчко острво Крф у Јонском мору почеле да стижу прве јединице српске војске после повлачења преко Албаније у Првом светском рату.

on Facebook:

"On this day [January 19] in 1916, the first units of the Serbian army began arriving on the Greek island of Corfu in the Ionian Sea, after the withdrawal through Albania in the First World War. Due to the breakthrough of the Bulgarian army, broken communication lines and lack of help from the allies who were supposed to meet the Serbian army in Thessaloniki, the Serbian Supreme Command made the decision on 24 November 1915 to withdraw the troops through Montenegro and Albania to the Adriatic coast. After more than a month of heavy marches through snow and wilderness, Serbian army finally gathered at Shkodra, Durres and Valona from where they withdrew to Corfu. Until April, 151,828 Serbian soldiers arrived to Corfu, about 13,000 soldiers arrived to Bizerte, and about 5,000 of them to Corsica and France. That was one of the most tragic periods in the recent Serbian national history. It was a time of great suffering of civilians and members of the armed forces who, exhausted by long marches through Kosovo and Metohia and Albania, sought refuge on Greek Ionian islands of Corfu and Vido."


"На данашњи дан [19. Јануар] 1916. године, на грчко острво Крф у Јонском мору почеле да стижу прве јединице српске војске после повлачења преко Албаније у Првом светском рату. Због продора бугарске армије, пресецања комуникација и изостанка планираног продора савезника из Солуна у сусрет српској војсци, српска Врховна команда је 24. новембра 1915. године одлучила да се трупе повуку преко Црне Горе и Албаније на Јадранско приморје. После више од месец дана тешких маршева по најтежем времену и беспућу, српска војска се прикупила код Скадра, Драча и Валоне одакле се повукла на Крф на којем се до априла нашло 151 828 војника, у Бизерти око 13 000 војника, а на Корзици и у Француској њих око 5000. Крфска епопеја представља један од најтрагичнијих и најсудбоноснијих периода новије српске националне историје. У питању је раздобље великог страдања цивилног становништва и припадника оружаних снага који су, исцрпљени дуготрајним маршевима кроз Косово и Метохију и Албанију, спас потражили на грчким јонским острвима Крф и Видо."


If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at


Svečanom akademijom u Sava Centru obeležena stogodišnjica Mojkovačke bitke / "Telegraf" January 19, 2016
January 19, 2016

Uz blagoslov Njegove Svetosti Patrijarha srpskog gospodina Irineja, Odbor za proslavu Stogodišnjice Mojkovačke bitke organizovao je Svečanu akademiju povodom obeležavanja jednog veka od slavne pobede crnogorske vojske koja je od izuzetnog značaja za srpsku istoriju.

Svečanost u Sava Centru upotpunili su uvaženi gosti koji su svojim prisustvom i obraćanjem još jednom obnovili sećanje i uputili večnu zahvalnost herojskim podvizima koja su nam u nasleđe ostavili junaci Mojkovačke bitke.

Predsednik Republike Srbije gospodin Tomislav Nikolić prisutnima se obratio putem video poruke i tom prilikom izjavio – Srbija će večno pamtiti i biti zahvalna svima onima koji su učestvovali u Mojkovačkoj bitki, jednoj od najslavnijih bitaka čijim je završetkom odbranjena srpska vojska. Mojkovačka bitka je epopeja srpskog naroda iz Crne Gore koji je svestan toga da žrtvujući sebe spašava Srbiju i srpstvo odlučio da omogući nesmetan prolaz vojsci koja je krenula na put neizvesnosti. Kako bismo sa punim pravo nasledili svoje pretke, moramo ostati povezani i ne smemo dozvoliti da nas bilo ko u bilo kojim uslovima rastavi.

Njegova Svetost Patrijarh srpski gospodin Irinej blagoslovom ukazao je na značaj Mojkovačke bitke i pozvao na mir i očuvanje jedinstva naroda, vere i crkve.

Patrijarh srpski Irinej rekao je da su se hrabri vojnici svojom slogom izborili za slobodu srpskog naroda na najveći pravoslavni praznik, Božić i time pokazali kako moramo misliti na bližnjega i da ne smemo dozvoliti da nas dele po bilo kom osnovu.

Iskazivanju zahvalnosti priključio se i mitropolit crnogorsko-primorski gospodin Amfilohije koji je istakao značaj svenarodnog pomirenja i da je Božić na Mojkovcu označio nastavak odbrane časti i obraza, dostojanstva i slobode našeg naroda.

Premijernim emitovanjem devet igranih scena koje su posebno snimane za ovu svečanost po scenariju Radoslava Pavlovića u režiji Marka Marinkovića i prikazivanjem dokumentarnog filma po tekstu Prof. dr. Mileta Bjelajca na simboličan način napravljen je osvrt na slavan završetak Mojkovačke bitke.

Program Svečane akademije obogatili su i naš najčuveniji guslar Boško Vujačić i glumica Jelena Ivanišević koja je izvela deo monodrame „Junak đevojka“. Obeležavanje jubileja uokvireno je nastupom proslavljenog ansambla narodnih igara „KOLO“ .

Tog davnog januara 1916. godine, svojim herojskim činom vojska Kraljevine Crne Gore predvođena serdarom Jankom Vukotićem uspešno je zaustavila austrougarsku ofanzivu, čime je omogućeno povlačenje vojske Kraljevine Srbije ka Jadranskom moru, a samim tim i njenu kasniju bezbednu evakuaciju na Krf.



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Sunday, January 17, 2016

СВЕТЛИ ПРИМЕРИ / Свечану академију "100 година од Мојковачке битке" / 18. јануар 2016.године са почетком у 20 часова у Сава Центру у Београду.

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Стогодишњица Мојковачке битке [Мојковачка битка била је наставак Косовске битке.] / Stogodišnjica Mojkovačke bitke [Mojkovačka bitka bila je nastavak Kosovske bitke.] / "Politika" January 17, 2016

Аутор: Бојан Билбија

Мојковачка битка била је наставак Косовске битке. Ту су погинули последњи косовски јунаци и она је, као и Косовска, више у надлежности поезије, него историје, каже Матија Бећковић.

Црногорска војска на положају код Мојковачких врата (Фото Матица црногорска)
Тачно век после Мојковачке битке, када су полуголоруки црногорски војници 6. и 7. јануара 1916. разјурили вишеструко надмоћнију аустријску силу – као да се барутни дим и прашина још нису слегли. Сутра, када ћемо свечаном академијом у „Сава центру” обележити велики јубилеј, све је много другачије него пре сто година када су Сердар Јанко, Крсто Поповић и њихови јунаци своја дела златним словима исписивали у историјским читанкама. Они су веровали у Српство, у један народ и братство без граница, али у новим токовима црногорске историографије, њихово завојевање слободе жели се представити као пад у српско ропство. Иако их је, заправо, тада окупирао Беч, а не Београд. Београд их је само ослободио.
Мило Ђукановић говорио је пре две недеље у Мојковцу на Свечаној академији поводом стогодишњице битке. Црногорски премијер који жели у НАТО био је на овом славном месту српске историје ипак умеренији, нагласивши да обележавањем јубилеја Мојковачке битке савремена Црна Гора показује да не заборавља и поштује своју славну прошлост. „Са осећањем изузетног поштовања, клањамо се сенима њених жртава и јунака и потврђујемо верност слободарској и моралној традицији Црне Горе. Као што су црногорски јунаци на Мојковцу остали верни Црној Гори и њеној слободи”, рекао је Ђукановић и подсетио да је тиме омогућена несметана евакуација српске војске с простора Црне Горе и Албаније.

Ово замагљивање суштине не може сакрити чињеницу да је Јанко Вукотић у битку повео и своју ћерку Василију, која је потом рекла: „Да није било крвавог Божића на Мојковцу, не би било ни Васкрса на Кајмакчалану”. Према њеним речима, Црногорци су тада говорили: „Важно је да је братска српска војска измакла, ако ми изгинемо имаће ко да нас освети и сатре швапску силу!” То је била прича о Србима – Србијанцима и Црногорцима. Мојковачки јунаци су говорили да „нема веће љубави од те, да ко положи живот свој за ближње своје”.

Мојковачка битка била је епилог тромесечних крвавих борби Црногорске санџачке војске под командом сердара Јанка Вукотића на фронту од Вишеграда до Новог Пазара, бранећи одступницу српској војсци која се повлачила према Скадру.

Поједини данашњи црногорски историчари о томе говоре као о „узалудном жртвовању”, али тадашњи црногорски официри и војници, као ни сам краљ Никола, никада своју одлуку о помоћи нису довели у питање. Без обзира на то што су сигурно били свесни да ће Мојковачка битка бити последњи бој Краљевине Црне Горе.

У децембру 1915. године, престолонаследник Александар, Никола Пашић и Радомир Путник траже помоћ од краља Николе да заустави Аустроугаре и омогући одступницу српској војсци, која се већ приближавала Скадру. Црногорци су остали укопани на Мојковцу, иако су и они могли да крену у повлачење према Скадру. Али, нису. Дали су реч. Она им је била вреднија од злата, од живота. Победа је извојевана, Бојина Њива је одбрањена. Није помогло ни што је аустријски генерал Рајнер лично с исуканом сабљом предводио последње јурише своје војске. Није могао проћи. Прошла је само српска војска. Краљ Никола је после тога напустио земљу и онда је црногорска влада донела одлуку да престане да се бори. Сердару Јанку наређено је да положи оружје.

Краљ Александар је касније, одликујући сердар Јанка Карађорђевом звездом с мачевима, њему и његовим борцима рекао: „Војводо, ви сте се више неголи одужили Српству, зато ми је драго што ми се пружила прилика да Вам лично из руке у руку предам за сада ово моје мало признање. Ми Срби дужни смо да се с поносом сећамо оних црногорских хероја који се вољно жртвоваше на мојковачким положајима за спас српске војске и српскога народа. Захваљујући само великом осећању Српства и братства, Црногорско-санџачка војска је истрајала у борби и потврдила старо уверење нашег народа да су Црногорци срж Српства, његова узданица и његови вековни браниоци”.

Треба се сетити и телеграма који је команданту Васојевићког одреда, војводи Лакићу Војводићу, упутио краљ Никола, у коме изражава захвалност на храбром и неустрашивом држању у борбама против надмоћнијег непријатеља. „Велика српска породицо, да се хвалиш и поносиш међу морем и Дунавом док год буде Срба и јунака! Истрајте најлепши синови моји!”, писао је краљ Црне Горе.

Међутим, данас Монтенегром као да царују неки други погледи. Они период после Мојковачке битке виде као оправдање за српске злочине над црногорским народом и насилну анексију Црне Горе од стране Србије. А саму битку виде као свесно жртвовање црногорских живота, како би били спасени српски. Од оваквог тумачења, само је корак до тврдње која такође повремено провејава – да је црногорска војска жртвована да не би више постојала сила која би се одупирала уједињењу! Али, како онда објаснити да су јунаци с Мојковца свесно погинули за Србију, ако су били наводно против уједињења?

Одговоре на ова питања даје песник Матија Бећковић, који за „Политику” каже да је Ђукановић славио Мојковачку битку 6. јануара, када је напад почео.

– Али Црква је славила 9. јануара, на Светог Стефана, то је трећи дан Божића. Митрополит црногорски Амфилохије ће сутра у „Сава центру” одржати беседу. Да не прође прослава, а да није обележена у Србији, где живи више Црногораца него у Црној Гори, као и потомака учесника Мојковачке битке. Сутрашње обележавање почеће поменом сердару Јанку Вукотићу на Новом гробљу – објашњава Бећковић и подсећа да је сердар Јанко сахрањен на Новом гробљу, поред Николе Пашића. Био је ађутант краља Александра.

– Мојковачка битка је наставак Косовске битке. Ту су погинули последњи косовски јунаци. Касније су говорили како је српска војска већ била одступила, али, ако је то тачно, онда се

Мојковачка битка још више онебесала! Па онда кажу, садашњи режим у Црној Гори, да је то била битка за друге. Али, ако је и то тачно, онда је она још значајнија – каже Бећковић.

Мојковачка битка је показала да су Србија и Црна Гора неодвојиве, а да су ропство и Црна Гора неспојиви, истиче песник.

– Већ је био пао Ловћен, готово без борбе, а окупацијске новине су писале да је то непријатеља више узбудило него пад руске тврђаве. Оскрнавили су капелу на Ловћену, а митрополиту Митрофану Бану наредили да Његоша склони с Ловћена, и то ноћу. Митрополит је на то одговорио: „Непријатељ нам је узео оружје, али на Ловћену има доста камења, па ћемо камењем бранити владику”. Краљ Александар, Петров и Зоркин син, упутио је Вукотићу депешу: „Ако три дана зауставите Аустрију, одужили сте се Српству”! Још траје расправа да ли је та битка била велика или мала. Али, веће битке за образ, част и братску љубав није било – објашњава Матија Бећковић и истиче да је „битка на Мојковцу, као и Косовска, више у надлежности поезије, него историје”.

– А сада, разуме се, политичари покушавају да фалсификују историју, али то је тешко у Црној Гори у којој никад није престала битка за памћење. Краљ Александар, Његошев потомак, обновио је капелу на Ловћену, а Јосип Броз, који се против Мишића борио на Церу, није стигао на Мојковац. Отишао је у Галицију. Али је зато стигао да доврши дело Фрање Јосифа и сруши капелу на Ловћену. Главни аргумент је био то што ју је подигао краљ Александар! Није се зауставио на Мојковцу, него се са Сутјеске упутио право на Бели двор, где борави и после смрти. Црногорци данашњи кажу да су се борили за слободу, а пали у ропство, мислећи на српско ропство. Они су данас независни од Србије и свог народа, а зависни од свих других. Монтенегро је признао НАТО државу Косово, али Црна Гора није. Косово је остало онамо-намо и свуда је где има Срба, и нарочито у Црној Гори. Мојковачка битка се није завршила 1916. на Ловћену, него већ сто година траје у рату и миру – поручује Матија Бећковић.


Stogodišnjica Mojkovačke bitke

Autor: Bojan Bilbija

Mojkovačka bitka bila je nastavak Kosovske bitke. Tu su poginuli poslednji kosovski junaci i ona je, kao i Kosovska, više u nadležnosti poezije, nego istorije, kaže Matija Bećković.

Црногорска војска на положају код Мојковачких врата (Фото Матица црногорска)
Tačno vek posle Mojkovačke bitke, kada su polugoloruki crnogorski vojnici 6. i 7. januara 1916. razjurili višestruko nadmoćniju austrijsku silu – kao da se barutni dim i prašina još nisu slegli. Sutra, kada ćemo svečanom akademijom u „Sava centru” obeležiti veliki jubilej, sve je mnogo drugačije nego pre sto godina kada su Serdar Janko, Krsto Popović i njihovi junaci svoja dela zlatnim slovima ispisivali u istorijskim čitankama. Oni su verovali u Srpstvo, u jedan narod i bratstvo bez granica, ali u novim tokovima crnogorske istoriografije, njihovo zavojevanje slobode želi se predstaviti kao pad u srpsko ropstvo. Iako ih je, zapravo, tada okupirao Beč, a ne Beograd. Beograd ih je samo oslobodio.
Milo Đukanović govorio je pre dve nedelje u Mojkovcu na Svečanoj akademiji povodom stogodišnjice bitke. Crnogorski premijer koji želi u NATO bio je na ovom slavnom mestu srpske istorije ipak umereniji, naglasivši da obeležavanjem jubileja Mojkovačke bitke savremena Crna Gora pokazuje da ne zaboravlja i poštuje svoju slavnu prošlost. „Sa osećanjem izuzetnog poštovanja, klanjamo se senima njenih žrtava i junaka i potvrđujemo vernost slobodarskoj i moralnoj tradiciji Crne Gore. Kao što su crnogorski junaci na Mojkovcu ostali verni Crnoj Gori i njenoj slobodi”, rekao je Đukanović i podsetio da je time omogućena nesmetana evakuacija srpske vojske s prostora Crne Gore i Albanije.
Ovo zamagljivanje suštine ne može sakriti činjenicu da je Janko Vukotić u bitku poveo i svoju ćerku Vasiliju, koja je potom rekla: „Da nije bilo krvavog Božića na Mojkovcu, ne bi bilo ni Vaskrsa na Kajmakčalanu”. Prema njenim rečima, Crnogorci su tada govorili: „Važno je da je bratska srpska vojska izmakla, ako mi izginemo imaće ko da nas osveti i satre švapsku silu!” To je bila priča o Srbima – Srbijancima i Crnogorcima. Mojkovački junaci su govorili da „nema veće ljubavi od te, da ko položi život svoj za bližnje svoje”.
Mojkovačka bitka bila je epilog tromesečnih krvavih borbi Crnogorske sandžačke vojske pod komandom serdara Janka Vukotića na frontu od Višegrada do Novog Pazara, braneći odstupnicu srpskoj vojsci koja se povlačila prema Skadru.
Pojedini današnji crnogorski istoričari o tome govore kao o „uzaludnom žrtvovanju”, ali tadašnji crnogorski oficiri i vojnici, kao ni sam kralj Nikola, nikada svoju odluku o pomoći nisu doveli u pitanje. Bez obzira na to što su sigurno bili svesni da će Mojkovačka bitka biti poslednji boj Kraljevine Crne Gore.
U decembru 1915. godine, prestolonaslednik Aleksandar, Nikola Pašić i Radomir Putnik traže pomoć od kralja Nikole da zaustavi Austrougare i omogući odstupnicu srpskoj vojsci, koja se već približavala Skadru. Crnogorci su ostali ukopani na Mojkovcu, iako su i oni mogli da krenu u povlačenje prema Skadru. Ali, nisu. Dali su reč. Ona im je bila vrednija od zlata, od života. Pobeda je izvojevana, Bojina Njiva je odbranjena. Nije pomoglo ni što je austrijski general Rajner lično s isukanom sabljom predvodio poslednje juriše svoje vojske. Nije mogao proći. Prošla je samo srpska vojska. Kralj Nikola je posle toga napustio zemlju i onda je crnogorska vlada donela odluku da prestane da se bori. Serdaru Janku naređeno je da položi oružje.
Kralj Aleksandar je kasnije, odlikujući serdar Janka Karađorđevom zvezdom s mačevima, njemu I njegovim borcima rekao: „Vojvodo, vi ste se više negoli odužili Srpstvu, zato mi je drago što mi se pružila prilika da Vam lično iz ruke u ruku predam za sada ovo moje malo priznanje. Mi Srbi dužni smo da se s ponosom sećamo onih crnogorskih heroja koji se voljno žrtvovaše na mojkovačkim položajima za spas srpske vojske i srpskoga naroda. Zahvaljujući samo velikom osećanju Srpstva i bratstva, Crnogorsko-sandžačka vojska je istrajala u borbi i potvrdila staro uverenje našeg naroda da su Crnogorci srž Srpstva, njegova uzdanica i njegovi vekovni branioci”.
Treba se setiti i telegrama koji je komandantu Vasojevićkog odreda, vojvodi Lakiću Vojvodiću, uputio kralj Nikola, u kome izražava zahvalnost na hrabrom i neustrašivom držanju u borbama protiv nadmoćnijeg neprijatelja. „Velika srpska porodico, da se hvališ i ponosiš među morem i Dunavom dok god bude Srba i junaka! Istrajte najlepši sinovi moji!”, pisao je kralj Crne Gore.
Međutim, danas Montenegrom kao da caruju neki drugi pogledi. Oni period posle Mojkovačke bitke vide kao opravdanje za srpske zločine nad crnogorskim narodom i nasilnu aneksiju Crne Gore od strane Srbije. A samu bitku vide kao svesno žrtvovanje crnogorskih života, kako bi bili spaseni srpski. Od ovakvog tumačenja, samo je korak do tvrdnje koja takođe povremeno provejava – da je crnogorska vojska žrtvovana da ne bi više postojala sila koja bi se odupirala ujedinjenju! Ali, kako onda objasniti da su junaci s Mojkovca svesno poginuli za Srbiju, ako su bili navodno protiv ujedinjenja?
Odgovore na ova pitanja daje pesnik Matija Bećković, koji za „Politiku” kaže da je Đukanović slavio Mojkovačku bitku 6. januara, kada je napad počeo.
– Ali Crkva je slavila 9. januara, na Svetog Stefana, to je treći dan Božića. Mitropolit crnogorski Amfilohije će sutra u „Sava centru” održati besedu. Da ne prođe proslava, a da nije obeležena u Srbiji, gde živi više Crnogoraca nego u Crnoj Gori, kao i potomaka učesnika Mojkovačke bitke. Sutrašnje obeležavanje počeće pomenom serdaru Janku Vukotiću na Novom groblju – objašnjava Bećković i podseća da je serdar Janko sahranjen na Novom groblju, pored Nikole Pašića. Bio je ađutant kralja Aleksandra.
– Mojkovačka bitka je nastavak Kosovske bitke. Tu su poginuli poslednji kosovski junaci. Kasnije su govorili kako je srpska vojska već bila odstupila, ali, ako je to tačno, onda se Mojkovačka bitka još više onebesala! Pa onda kažu, sadašnji režim u Crnoj Gori, da je to bila bitka za druge. Ali, ako je i to tačno, onda je ona još značajnija – kaže Bećković.
Mojkovačka bitka je pokazala da su Srbija i Crna Gora neodvojive, a da su ropstvo i Crna Gora nespojivi, ističe pesnik.
– Već je bio pao Lovćen, gotovo bez borbe, a okupacijske novine su pisale da je to neprijatelja više uzbudilo nego pad ruske tvrđave. Oskrnavili su kapelu na Lovćenu, a mitropolitu Mitrofanu Banu naredili da Njegoša skloni s Lovćena, i to noću. Mitropolit je na to odgovorio: „Neprijatelj nam je uzeo oružje, ali na Lovćenu ima dosta kamenja, pa ćemo kamenjem braniti vladiku”. Kralj Aleksandar, Petrov i Zorkin sin, uputio je Vukotiću depešu: „Ako tri dana zaustavite Austriju, odužili ste se Srpstvu”! Još traje rasprava da li je ta bitka bila velika ili mala. Ali, veće bitke za obraz, čast i bratsku ljubav nije bilo – objašnjava Matija Bećković i ističe da je „bitka na Mojkovcu, kao i Kosovska, više u nadležnosti poezije, nego istorije”.
– A sada, razume se, političari pokušavaju da falsifikuju istoriju, ali to je teško u Crnoj Gori u kojoj nikad nije prestala bitka za pamćenje. Kralj Aleksandar, Njegošev potomak, obnovio je kapelu na Lovćenu, a Josip Broz, koji se protiv Mišića borio na Ceru, nije stigao na Mojkovac. Otišao je u Galiciju. Ali je zato stigao da dovrši delo Franje Josifa i sruši kapelu na Lovćenu. Glavni argument je bio to što ju je podigao kralj Aleksandar! Nije se zaustavio na Mojkovcu, nego se sa Sutjeske uputio pravo na Beli dvor, gde boravi i posle smrti. Crnogorci današnji kažu da su se borili za slobodu, a pali u ropstvo, misleći na srpsko ropstvo. Oni su danas nezavisni od Srbije i svog naroda, a zavisni od svih drugih. Montenegro je priznao NATO državu Kosovo, ali Crna Gora nije. Kosovo je ostalo onamo-namo i svuda je gde ima Srba, i naročito u Crnoj Gori. Mojkovačka bitka se nije završila 1916. na Lovćenu, nego već sto godina traje u ratu i miru – poručuje Matija Bećković.
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