After the Great War. New Europe 1918–1923
The presentation includes over 200 pieces of archival material– photographs, documents, films, maps as well as individual testimonies to memory – shown in an in
When did the First World War really end? How many new states did appear on the map back then? How long did the military operations continue despite the ending of the war? Did being a millionaire actually mean being rich and what did the First World War change for women? These and other questions are answered in the outdoor exhibition titled After the Great War. New Europe 1918–1923, which is going to be shown in Poland for the very first time.
Prepared by the European Network Remembrance and Solidarity (ENRS) in cooperation with an international circle of historians, the exhibition marks an attempt at summarising the tumultuous beginnings of the interwar period, with particular emphasis on the history of East-Central Europe. The presentation includes over 200 pieces of archival material– photographs, documents, films, maps as well as individual testimonies to memory – shown in an interactive fashion. Given the circumstances caused by the COVID-19 epidemic, the exhibition is going to be presented with the due application of all available safety measures.
As part of its international tour, the exhibition After the Great War. New Europe 1918–1923 has been on display for two years now. Thus far, it has been viewed in Prague (Czechia), Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Bratislava (Slovakia), Verdun (France), Berlin and Weimar (Germany), and in 2020 it will be shown in Poland. The inhabitants of Wrocław and guests visiting the city are going to see it first.
The rich selection of materials showcased at the exhibition documents and makes the viewer realise the unprecedented scale of the changes that took place in Europe in the period 1918–1923. The First World War (1914–1918) completely transformed the face of the continent. On the heap of rubble left by four powers, a dozen or so new countries emerged. Almost all borders were delineated anew, often in armed conflicts over the five years following the official end of the war. In a number of places, such processes came to a close as late as around 1923. As a result of tensions between different and frequently contrasting interests, there emerged a ‘New Europe’ (a term first used by the Czechoslovakian president Tomáš G. Masaryk), where some nations perceived the result of the war as a great tragedy, while for some it marked the culmination of their efforts in their fight for independence. Yet what was common to them all was the labour of reconstruction after the wartime destruction and modernisation efforts made in the shadow of not just a political but also social, economic and cultural transformation.
The Polish presentation of the exhibition is taking place in the year marking the centenary of the Battle of Warsaw, of major significance for the course of the border delineation process, the Polish road to independence as well as stopping the march of the Red Army towards the West that entailed the risk of the Bolshevik Revolution spilling over to many European countries. Today, the Polish-Bolshevik war and the Battle of Warsaw are of fundamental importance for the significance of Polish identity and remembrance. By taking into account various points of view and different narratives, the unique nature of the exhibition helps perceive the Battle of Warsaw from a broader European perspective. The display presents its significance in the international context, thus facilitating a better understanding of its importance as well as the role in the process of the shaping of the European order after the First World War.
‘Our objective is to show that the consequences of certain phenomena from a century ago can be felt still today. By juxtaposing various interpretations of processes taking place in our region after the Great War, we can also present different sensitivities of individual nations as well as the diversity of the images of the conflict imbedded in collective memory,’ says Prof. Jan Rydel, the Polish coordinator in the European Network Remembrance and Solidarity, while Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, one of the consultants of the exhibition script, adds: ‘The exhibition recalls important events from a hundred years ago, making us realise why they matter for the understanding of not just the Second World War, but also contemporary East-Central Europe.’
The substance of the display has been determined by an international circle of historians from 20 countries across the world. Other members of this group include Prof. Jay M. Winter (Yale University, USA) and Prof. Andrzej Chwalba (Poland).
More information on the project and experts involved in the preparation of the exhibition and its international tour can be found at: www.enrs.eu/afterthegreatwar.