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The Great War
Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Timeline Maps & Battles The Shaping of the 21st Century Historians
OverviewHatred and HungerWar Without EndYashka / WilsonSassoon / Owen
Voices of the Great War

Yashka Yashka
Maria Botchkareva, known as Yashka, led her all-women "Battalion of Death" in one last fight on the Russian Front in July 1917.

Play Audio"...The Colonel gave the signal. But the men on my right and to the left of Captain Petrov would not move. They replied to the Colonel's order with questions and expressions of doubts as to the wisdom of advancing.
The cowards!
We decided to advance in order to shame the men, having arrived at the conclusion that they would not let us perish in No Man's Land. ...Some of my girls were killed outright, many were wounded... We swept forward and overwhelmed the first German line, and then the secondů our regiment alone captured two thousand prisoners."
-- Maria Botchkareva - Yashka, My Life as Peasant, Officer and Exile

Yaska's 'Battalion of Death'
Yaska's "Battalion of Death"
Maria Botchkareva led Russia's "Battalion of Death." Recruited in 1917 by special permission of the Provisional Government, this all-woman unit of the Russian Army was organized to show that women, too, could fight and die for the fatherland. They were also sent to the front to humiliate the men and increase their will to fight the Germans. In July, Alexander Kerensky launched the last Russian offensive of the war, throwing Yashka and her battalion into battle. The strategy failed completely when a German counter-offensive broke the Russian lines. Maria Botchkareva survived the war, spent time in New York City where she wrote her memoirs, and was later shot as a traitor when she returned to Russia.

Historian Commentary

Orlando Figes, Historian
Kerensky was a young man in 1917. In many ways that was the tragedy of Russia in 1917, that such huge responsibility was placed on the shoulders of such an inexperienced man. Kerensky was also foolish. He was a great orator... Young girls fell in love with him. His rhetoric was sickly sweet, which in the euphoria in the spring 1917, was just what was needed.
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Woodrow Wilson Woodrow Wilson
President Woodrow Wilson attended the Paris Peace conference in 1918.

Play Audio"Delegations from all over the world came to me to solicit the friendship of America. They frankly told us that they were not sure they could trust anybody else.... Some of them came from countries which I have, to my shame, to admit I have not heard of before."
-- Woodrow Wilson - Paris Peace Conference, 1918

King Faisal of Saudi Arabia with T.E. Lawrence
King Faisal of Saudi Arabia with T.E. Lawrence
The European people had an extremely positive initial response to Wilson when he arrived on the continent for the Paris Peace Conference. Other participants included Ho Chi Minh, future leader of Vietnam; W.E. B. Du Bois, representing Black Americans; and T.E. Lawrence who represented the Arabs who had fought for the Allies. All three were ignored, betrayed or rejected, with repercussions that have echoed through the rest of the century.

Historian Commentary
The Versailles Treaty

Jay Winter, Historian
The peace negotiations in Paris are like a grand bazaar where all kinds of merchants come and spread their wares -- what they have to offer, what they want to buy, what they feel is theirs by right. ...One of the fascinating questions about the peace negotiations of 1919, is whether the position of Germany as weak, but not too weak, is a function of a need to stop revolution from spreading from Russia to the West.
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