Matveev G. F. On the issue of nations right to self determination in the First World War

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Title of the article On the history of the right of nations to self-determination in the First World War
Authors Matveev, Gennadiy Filippovich – Doctor of Historical Sciences, full professor, Head of the Slavic Studies Department, Faculty of History, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
In the section In memoriam / In Memory
Year 2014 Issue 1 Pages 171-193
Type of article RAR Index UDK 94(100)"1914/19" Index BBK 63.3 (0) 61
Abstract The article analyzes the evolution of the views of the leaders of the Great Powers on the role and place of the national question in international politics and international law during the years of the First World War. The author argues that neither the leadership of the Entente nor of the Central Powers had a full understanding of problems of the oppressed European nations before 1916. The issue was mostly perceived as the collection of particular individual problems: Polish, Czech, Serbian, Macedonian, Ukrainian, Finnish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Irish, Flemish, and others. Both belligerent coalitions saw the Polish Question as having for Russia, Austro-Hungary, and Germany, not only an international significance as well as a domestic dimension. The turning point in the approach to the national issue dates back to late 1916 – early 1917. The establishment of the Polish Kingdom by Berlin and Vienna in November 1916 had two important consequences. First, by resorting to concrete actions regarding the Polish Question that was of local significance, two powers gave the green light to transforming the slogan advocated by the leftists about the right of nations to self-determination into a norm of international law. Even the limited implementation of that norm in 1918–1919 resulted in the disintegration of Austria-Hungary and in Germany’s first territorial losses in the 20th century. Second, one of the fundamental norms of international law was violated. According to that norm the treaties on borders had never been abrogated, but suspended for the duration of the conflict between the parties concerned. Nicholas II promised to unite all Polish lands in the Russian Empire with the right of autonomy. The Entente and the USA stated their support of the declaration in a way that could also be interpreted as a general acknowledgement of the right of nations to determine their own destiny. It was precisely this general discourse that encouraged the political elites of the stateless nations. They construed it as the Great Powers’ readiness to implement the right of nations to self-determination. Also, the author emphasizes that in reality this principle was making its first steps in the world politics, was applied to a limited number of dependent nations. By the same token, the Wilson Peace Program had a strictly selective application in determining the nations that would be guaranteed the right to self-determination.
Keywords right of nations to self-determination, First World War, Wilson Peace Program
Full text version of the article. Article language Russian
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Tags: Wilson Peace Program, First World War, right of nations to self-determination