History has stood witness to wars and revolutions through time that have impacted nations, politics, cultures, societies and religions. Some of the most prominent conflicts that left a major impact have been:
The Kalinga War (262-261 B.C.)
No war in history has left such a dramatic and profound influence on the victor, which made him renounce violence forever and propagate the path of non-violence and tolerance thereafter. This was a war fought by Emperor Ashok of the Mauryan Dynasty that ruled most of India at the time. Kalinga was a prosperous kingdom on the east coast that had a rich heritage of culture and craft.
The subsequent battle for Kalinga was fought between the numerically superior army of Ashok and Kalingaraj, the King of Kalinga, resulting in a brutal bloodbath on both sides. While Emperor Ashok emerged the undisputed victor, the brutality and extent of loss of lives deeply impacted him and he took a vow to never fight another war. He dedicated himself to propagating Buddhism, the path of non-violence and Dharma. It was under his rule that Buddhism was exported to South East Asia and spread to other parts of India.
The Crusades (1095-1291 A.D.)
This was a 200-year war fought between Christian armies of Western Europe, who first responded to Pope Urban II’s call to fight and reclaim The Holy Land from Muslim armies. Several wars came to be fought between Christian and Muslim armies during this period, known as The Crusades.
The Crusade ended in 1291, when the Mamluk Dynasty of Egypt finally defeated the Christian forces in their last stronghold of the coastal town of Acre and drove them out of Egypt and Syria. The Crusades are relevant since they created tensions between Muslims and Christians that has had a lasting impact, even today.
American Revolution (1775-1783 A.D.)
The American Revolution or the American War of Independence was the rebellion led by colonists of 13 North American colonies against the British Colonial government. The subsequent victory for the colonists was achieved and led to the Declaration of Independence. The revolution was significant as it marked the defeat of the world’s most powerful monarchy at the hands of common people, and even led to the birth of the United States of America.
French Revolution (1787-1799 A.D.)
The French Revolution was triggered by France’s costly involvement in the American War of Independence that left the French state bankrupt. Severe drought, poor harvest, rising taxes and spiraling prices of food, especially bread, all caused deep resentment against the ruling elite. The storming of the Bastille is marked as the launch of the people’s revolution in France and culminated with the execution of King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette.
The revolution was fought for principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and is significant for the impact that ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen’ has had in shaping views on governance, human rights and social order of other nations, including America.
American Civil War (1861-1865)
Just before Abraham Lincoln, the Republican President elect was sworn into office on March 4th, 1861, seven southern states that practiced slavery announced they were going to secede from the Union, which comprised of 34 states, and form the Confederate States of America.
The major point of contention was the proposed abolition of slavery that most Democrats and Republicans of Northern states supported. The southern states depended on slaves to manage their cotton fields and therefore, were vehemently opposed to any attempt at banning slavery.
On April, 12th 1861, hostilities between the Union and Confederate states began, with the confederates attacking Fort Sumter, in a civil war that lasted four years and left over 700,000 dead with millions injured. The Confederate states were finally defeated and the process for reconstruction and unification soon began.
The American Civil War is significant for the decision to abolish slavery in the United States of America and for its impact leading to a new and united America.
World War I (1914-1918)
World War I was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. On June, 28 1914, a Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke along with his wife, in Sarajevo. The resulting political and diplomatic turmoil saw several nations taking sides.
Austria-Hungary formed part of the Central allies that had support from Germany, the Ottoman Empire and later Bulgaria, while Serbia formed part of the Allied powers and received support from Russia, France, Belgium, Great Britain, and subsequently from Italy and the United States.
On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and invaded it which was the start of World War I. It lasted four years and left over nine million soldiers and 10 million civilians dead with over 21 million injured.
World War I resulted in the collapse of imperial dynasties of Austria-Hungary, Russia, Germany and Turkey. New nations were born as European borders were redrawn. The Versailles Treaty was signed on June, 28 1918 and was aimed at bringing peace and stability to the region.
This was to be short lived, as German pride was hurt at being forced to sign the Treaty on unfavorable terms and then being denied entry to the League of Nations. Twenty years later, German nationalism was to rise once again through the Nazis, leading to World War II.
Russian Revolution (1917)
Russia’s costly involvement in World War I resulted in Russia losing a great many soldiers in the war. The cost of war resulted in food scarcity and rising prices, which built up public anger and resentment towards Czar Nicholas II, the Russian monarch who ruled Russia.
Each time the Duma or Parliament raised its voice against the Czar’s policies, it was dissolved by the Czar. Meanwhile, Vladimir Lenin began gathering support of the rural masses based on his Marxist ideals, calling themselves Bolsheviks. On March 8, 1917, (or February 23 as per Russia’s Julian Calendar), the February Revolution began when people took to the streets of Petrograd (now known as St Petersburg). By March 15, 1917, Czar Nicholas II was forced to step down marking an end to Russian aristocracy.
A provisional government was formed and power was shared with the Petrograd Soviet, but this was short lived as by 6 & 7 November 1917, the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin took control in a bloodless coup. The Bolsheviks faced military resistance from anti-Bolsheviks White Army, and they were defeated by 1920. In 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was established, the world’s first Marxist state.
World War II (1939-1945)
The rise of Nazi Germany led by Adolf Hitler, sought to regain German glory and pride, that it believed it had lost during World War I. The war started with Germany invading Poland on 1 September 1939. With Germany making a move on France, both France and Great Britain joined the war against Germany. Soon, over 30 countries were to join the war with Germany, Italy, Japan forming the Axis powers, and France, Great Britain, Russia and the US, forming the Allied powers.
The war in Europe ended with the German surrender on 8 May 1945, with Allied forces entering Berlin and the subsequent death of Adolf Hitler. Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945, after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was to be the most brutal and widespread war ever, which resulted in over 85 million military and civilian deaths.
The end of World War II resulted in the fall of Japanese and Italian empires and the birth of the United Nations. However, this was also the beginning of the world being polarized between two political ideologies, democracy and communism. The U.S. and USSR were to emerge as superpowers and engage in a cold war that kept the world divided until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
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