Belfast Telegraph

A look at The Great War... week six: The Age of Revolution

By Claire Williamson

It was the age of revolution.

While the majority of the fighting of World War One was taking place in mainland Europe - it was local issues that played an important part for many individuals in Ireland.

The Easter Rising was one of the most pivotal movements in Irish history.

In 1914 there was a deep divide between nationalist and unionist political groups.

Nationalists were committed to the war effort by their leader John Redmond.

For them the establishment of an Irish Home Rule parliament in Dublin was the main aim.

Home Rule would have given the Irish people their own parliament that could make laws relating to domestic Irish issues. 

Unionists in 1912 formed the Ulster Volunteer Force to oppose Home Rule. 

By early 1916 recruitment had declined sharply as the war became unpopular - over 210,000 Irishmen served with the British forces, 140,000 of them as volunteers. 

A small minority of separatist republican radicals broke away from John Redmond to form the Irish Volunteers and they began planning for a rebellion against British rule in Ireland.

Three groups, each with their own motives, participated in the Easter Rising - the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army.

The Easter Rising began on April 24, 1916 and ended after six days of fighting. Volunteers seized the General Post Office (GPO) and various other buildings in Dublin causing widespread destruction.

They were defeated by the British forces within days but it was the execution of 15 rebel leaders who survived the fighting that prompted public sympathy for the cause.

It is widely viewed as the catalyst for the Irish war of independence two years later.

Meanwhile, during the final phase of World War One the Russian Revolution took place. 

It removed Russia from the war and brought about the transformation of the Russian Empire into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

Russia's traditional monarchy was replaced with the world's first Communist state.

It was led by Vladimir Lenin as he rose to prominence as the most powerful figure in Russia.

The revolution that Lenin led marked one of the most radical turning points in Russia's 1,300-year history. 

The revolution opened the door for Russia to fully enter the industrial age. 

The Russian Revolution also had considerable international consequences. Lenin's government immediately pulled Russia out of World War I, changing the balance of forces for the remaining participants. 

Prior to the revolution, the Russian monarchy had become progressively weaker.  It was led by Nicholas II whose grandfather was assassinated.

Nicholas' father and eventually Nicholas himself, responded through the oppression of the Russian people. 

But this resulted in more unrest - he was forced to make concessions after each incident. His power weakened which saw Lenin rise to power.

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