Serbia’s Great War in photographs : the May 2017 Slavonic item of the month

The Kingdom of Serbia’s involvement in the First World War saw a proportional loss of life which far outstripped that of the other Allies.  Ratni album (War album), published in Belgrade in 1926, commemorates the war with both reverence and realism.  From photographic portraits of victorious generals to pictures of the combatant and civilian dead, this extraordinary volume captures it all.

The front cover, with a standard ruler along the left to provide scale.  Close-ups of some details of the cover are provided at the end of this post.

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Remembrance in print : recent European publications on World War One


Elsie en Mairi : Engelen van Flanders Fields (C201.b.5854). A Dutch graphic novel.

Due to the centenary of the start of World War I, commemorations have been planned in a wide variety of disciplines. Anybody who saw the Tour de France pass through Cambridge at the beginning of July will have seen the two vehicles that made up part of the Caravane publicitaire from l’office de tourisme d’Arras, which were commemorating the centenary. Other memorials abound this year, from the large national and international events, to small and local ones. Publishers throughout Europe are not immune to this, and much has been published this year to tie in with the centenary. In the UL, we have been trying to buy a selection of these books, and in this post we highlight a few, which helps demonstrate how our collections across European languages complement each other.

Already in 1915 the University Librarian aimed to collect as detailed a documentary record as possible of the conflict, and the Cambridge War Reserve Collection is one of the most extensive of its kind, particularly notable for its fugitive material. As early as 1916 the Librarian wrote that “German propaganda literature has been accumulated chiefly from Italy, Spain, the United States, and some of the South American Republics. Much of this is printed in Germany; but some is produced by partisans at Genoa, Barcelona, Castellón, New York, Chicago, Shanghai, Bogotá, Medellín …” The new additions described below are a clear example of the Library’s attempts to build on existing strength, and indicate the continuing importance of international coverage.

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Slavonic item of the month : August 2014

In August 1914, Germany and Austro-Hungary declared war on Russia, and the bloody Eastern Front of the First World War opened. The war saw a great deal of propaganda on all sides, some surprisingly humorous. We look at a mischievous pamphlet from Petrograd (renamed from the Germanic “Sankt-Peterburg” that same month) about Kaiser Wilhelm.

Front cover of N.A. Ratomskii's Chto dumaet Vil’gel’m kogda emu ne spitsia? (CCC.54.469)

Front cover of N.A. Ratomskii’s Chto dumaet Vil’gel’m kogda emu ne spitsia? (CCC.54.469)

Imperial Russia’s involvement in the First World War was disastrous, seeing the deaths of millions of soldiers and eventually the empire’s own demise too. The bloody Eastern Front opened after Russia’s incursion into Galicia with the Battle of Tannenberg, a battle lost so catastrophically by the Russians that their commander, Aleksandr Samsonov, chose to commit suicide than face the Tsar.

Anti-German sentiment was at fever pitch in Russia, and in August 1914, the empire’s capital, Sankt-Peterburg (St Petersburg) was renamed Petrograd to be more Slavic. The University Library has about 30 publications printed in 1914 with the place of publication given as Petrograd. Among these is Chto dumaet Vil’gel’m kogda emu ne spitsia? (What does Wilhelm think about when he can’t sleep?; CCC.54.469), by N.A. Ratomskii.

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Sarajevo 1914

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28th 1914 will forever be remembered as one of the key turning points in twentieth century world history. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie were shot dead in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand gang, a group of Serbian nationalists, whose aim was to free Serbia of the rule of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The assassination of its heir presumptive gave Austria-Hungary the opportunity to settle some old scores and declare war on Serbia, which, in turn, precipitated a political crisis between the major European powers, and this, in turn, triggered a chain of events which led directly to the outbreak of the First World War. This feature will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Sarajevo assassination and explore how the event and its consequences are represented in the UL’s German collections.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria (source)

From an early age, Franz Ferdinand pursued a military career in the Austro-Hungarian army and became heir to the Habsburg throne following the suicide of his cousin Crown Prince Rudolf at the famous hunting lodge in Mayerling in 1889. There was tension in his relationship with Emperor Franz Joseph, but historians have differed regarding the nature of Franz Ferdinand’s political views. Some historians emphasise his liberalism compared to the emperor, especially his advocacy of greater autonomy for ethnic groups within the Austro-Hungarian empire, whilst others emphasise his Catholic conservatism and absolutist belief in Austro-Hungarian dynastic rule.

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