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Wars That Forever Altered World History

Our world has witnessed one too many wars or situations that could have quickly escalated into full-fledged wars had the opposing countries not known better. But war is an armed conflict between two or more countries and their allies. 


Initially, the world knew only of ammunition in swords and daggers or knives. Deadly blades that could cut steel were used on battlefields to fight. However, over time, like everything else, countries developed their arms and ammunition to create something more deadly and far more fatal, even from a distance. 


Recorded in comparatively graphic detail, the first war to ever be fought and known in the history of humanity was between Egyptian forces led by the sixth Pharoah of the Thutmosid Dynasty and the Canaanites, who were best known for being a pre-Israeli indigenous people. This war was called the Battle of Megiddo and was fought in the 15th century BC. After this, the intensity of wars only increased over time, and the number of lives lost soon became alarmingly uncontrolled. 


Even before the first world war in 1914, several nations were at war. Whether it was due to issues over shared land, prisoners taken hostage from one country, or asserting dominance– hostilities between countries have always existed. In some cases, these hostilities escalated into battles, and these battles into wars.


Diplomacy and friendliness with allied countries were critical because a war could not be fought alone. This led to various alliances being formed, and nations within those alliances were then obligated to stand with their side if any fight was to take place. 


The First World War (1914-1918)


The causes of the world’s first war and the events leading up to it have been subject to extensive debate. The two major players and parties here were the Central Powers and the Allies. 


As the term WWI suggests, this war included countless countries from nearly every corner of the world. The Central Powers consisted of Germany and Turkey. On the other hand, the Allies were France, Russia, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan. In 1917, this alliance was joined by the United States of America. 


This war had unprecedented consequences and led to unfathomable things for the world at the time. It caused the fall of the imperial dynasties of Russia, Turkey, Germany, and Austria-Hungary. In Russia, it also led to the Bolshevik Revolution, and instability surged through Europe. 


The Bolshevik Revolution, also known as the Russian Revolution, was a period of extreme social and political instability and revolts in Russia that began during WWI and ended years after the war was declared over. The result of this revolution was the fall of the Russian monarchy, which was one of the most severe repercussions of the first world war. 

WWI was sparked when the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were murdered by the Head of Serbia’s Military Intelligence, Colonel Dragutin, also known by his alias – “Apis.” 


It is said that the assassination of the Austrian Archduke started the world war. The Russian forces supported Serbia, and Austria would go on to be part of the Central Powers. 

This war ended with the defeat of the Central Powers and resulted in the deaths of 9 million soldiers and 13 million civilians. It was one of the most tragic, large-scale, and harrowing wars our world had seen at the time, not knowing that there was more to come. 


WWI finally ended in 1918.


World War II (1939-1945)


The leading players in this war were the Axis and Allied Powers. The dynamics between countries differed in this war in comparison with the first. 


The Axis powers consisted of Germany, Italy, and Japan as opposed to the Allied Powers led by the United Kingdom, United States, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Hungary, Croatia, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria later joined the Axis powers


Historians deem this war a bitter continuation of the first world war, which seemed to have been left ‘unfinished.’ Undoubtedly, this was the most significant and catastrophic war in the history of our world, leaving 15 million soldiers and 45 million civilians dead. Another 25 million were injured.


This war changed history as it was known at the time. It led to the expansion and growth of the Soviet Union in East Europe, which later had devasting effects. The Communist movement also rose and established itself in China. WWII was when USA and USSR made the world bipolar, which meant they became the two major power holders. 


WWII began when Adolf Hitler ordered Poland to be annexed by his troops. This meant waging war with countries allied with Poland – France, and Great Britain. As soon as Hitler began his strike on Poland, the two allies declared war on Germany. 


Initially, the Allies’ odds against Germany didn’t seem too great as the country had extensive military equipment and well-organized infantries. However, by late 1939 to early 1940, the odds seemed to get better. 


After six years of developing their military and weapons, battling through day and night, and ever-changing tactical relations, WWII finally ended in 1945 with the defeat of the Axis Powers as Germany surrendered to the Allies. Japan also surrendered following the devastating and fatal bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, carried out by the US. 


The Cold War (1947-1991)


During WWII, USA and USSR gained so much power that the two nations ended up making the world bipolar in terms of power. It was long before they began having issues with each other’s actions, and their troubles soon divided the world in two. 

There were those countries that allied with the USA and those that sided with USSR. These alliances held high importance throughout this cold war. It was called the ‘cold’ war because although there were heated escalations between the two powers and their respective allied nations, they never turned into weaponized battles as both sides knew of the capacity that the other possessed. They knew that a full-fledged war would lead to a bleak future for the world. 


The period of the cold war lasted for a long time and witnessed times when disagreements could have easily tipped over to the side of battles. But fortunately, the two sides knew better than that and let the war be waged on political, geographic, and economic fronts. There was also widespread propaganda from both sides against each other, and they urged countries to join them as allies for protection and safety. 


There were also a few countries, such as India, Indonesia, Egypt, and Ghana, that rallied for newly-independent governments to retain their independence and not be forced to ally with either side. This led to the formation of the Non-Alliance Movement (NAM).


The cold war ended with the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the formation of multiple nation-states that were previously part of the USSR. The US then went on to obtain more power, and the world soon became a hegemony, which is never a good place for our world to be in as there need to be some balancing powers.


However, some countries now have the potential to be the balancing sides in the current equation. 


Questions about whether the current war between Russia and Ukraine will escalate into WWIII are being posed. But if the world still understands the military capacities of opposing sides and considers the damage it could cause worldwide, then the war must be avoided at all costs. 


Edited by Whitney Edna Ibe

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