** World War I -- declaration of war

World War I: Germany Declares War on Russia (August 1, 1914)

German declaration of war
Figure 1.--Here we see a Berlin street scene as Germany launched World War I. The announcement of the mobilization of the Imperial German Army for war was posted on a street Litfaßsäule and a crowd of people are reading it (August 1, 1914). We are not sure if this was just annoincing mobilization or if it made clear that it meant war.

When the German July 31 ultimatum to Russia expired, Germany issued its own mobilization order (August 1). Germany and France issued mobilization orderes within minutes of each other. The German Government sent sent another ultimatum to Russia which pointed out that since both Germany and Russia were in a state of military mobilization, an effective state of war existed between the two countries. Germany the declared war on Russia at 7:00 pm. The German anbassador in St. Pteresburg poresented this nessage to the Tsar, "The Imperial German Government have used every effort since the beginning of the crisis to bring about a peaceful settlement. In compliance with a wish expressed to him by His Majesty the Emperor of Russia, the German Emperor had undertaken, in concert with Great Britain, the part of mediator between the Cabinets of Vienna and St. Petersburg; but Russia, without waiting for any result, proceeded to a general mobilisation of her forces both on land and sea. In consequence of this threatening step, which was not justified by any military proceedings on the part of Germany, the German Empire was faced by a grave and imminent danger. If the German Government had failed to guard against this peril, they would have compromised the safety and the very existence of Germany. The German Government were, therefore, obliged to make representations to the Government of His Majesty the Emperor of All the Russias and to insist upon a cessation of the aforesaid military acts. Russia having refused to comply with [not having considered it necessary to answer] this demand, and having shown by this refusal [this attitude] that her action was directed against Germany, I have the honour, on the instructions of my Government, to inform your Excellency as follows: His Majesty the Emperor, my august Sovereign, in the name of the German Empire, accepts the challenge, and considers himself at war with Russia." The German government justified military action, stating that Russian plans for aggression was demonstrated by the Tsar's mobilization order. German mobilizing was only in response to Russian mpobilization. [Hamilton and Herwig, pp. 70-91.] France realized that its security would rise or fall with Russia and honored its treaty with the Russians. The French had learned as a result of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) never to face the Germans alone. Again we can see how significant the mobilization orders were. Germany set the Schliffen Plan in motion. This was the German military plan first conceived in 1905 as to how fight a two front war. The German calculation was they had to deal with France first before the Russians could fully mobilize. The plan aimed at gaining a quick victory against the French so the German forces could be concentrated on the Eastern Front. The question in Berlin, St. Petersburg, and Paris became what would Britain do.


Hmilton. Richard F. and Holger H. Herwig. Decisions for War, 1914–1917 (2004).


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Created: 9:32 PM 8/5/2021
Last updated: 9:32 PM 8/5/2021