Sunday, 20 August 2017

SUNNI-SHIA CONFLICT - REASONS AND HISTORY

Sunni and Shia are two main sects of Islam and the relations between these two sects almost always remained stressed and full of animosity. The major reasons behind these strained relations are opposing ideologies which comprise the faith (aqidah) and political positions of the two sides. Since early days of Caliphate to modern times, several armed conflicts have been fought between them and all the efforts to create harmony and normal relations between the two sects remained unsuccessful at large. The main reasons behind this serious conflict between Sunni and Shia sects are following.

Reasons behind Sunni Shia Conflict

·         The most important reason behind Sunni Shia conflict is the Shia belief that only persons of the Prophet’s household (ahl al-bayt) have the right to lead Muslims after the death of Holy Prophet (PBUH). Due to this belief, they regard the first three caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar and Usman) as usurpers while they also reject the caliphate of all the other Sunni Muslim rulers. In contrary, Sunni Muslims believe that Muslims can elect their political leaders through consensus. 

·         Most of the Shia sects (especially the majority Twelver Shia) believe that their imams are infallible as they are chosen by Allah and Holy Prophet (PBUH). Shia also visit the shrines of their imams and perform several rituals there. All these Shia believes and practices are totally rejected by mainstream Sunni Islam while the hardliners (especially Salafi Jihadists) termed few of Shia believes and acts as polytheism (shirk).

·         There are several other differences in Sunni and Shia belief, doctrine, rituals etc.

Major Events of Sunni Shia Conflict

·         After martyrdom of third rightly guided caliph Usman (RA), Muhammad’s cousin Ali (RA) became the fourth caliph (termed as first Imam by Shia). But Muslims from Hejaz (especially Makkah and Madinah) and Syria demanded revenge of Usman’s death from murderers who had taken oath on Ali’s hand. On this issue, Ali had to fight two battles. The first one was Battle of Camel against the people of Hejaz who were lead by Muhammad’s (PBUH) wife Ayesha (RA). But the most stiff and bloodiest battle was the Battle of Siffin that was fought against Usman’s cousin Muawiya (RA) who was leading forces from Syria (Ali’s supporters were mainly from Iraq). The battle remained inconclusive but it was the first time that the term of Shi’an Ali (supporters of Ali) was used and it later changed in to Shia.

·         After Ali’s martyrdom, his son Hassan (RA) became caliph but he passed the caliphate to Muawiya (RA) in order to end the bloodshed and unite Muslims due to which the whole era of Muawiya’s caliphate (19 years) remained peaceful. But Muawiya’s appointment of his son Yazid as his successor was not welcomed by several prominent Muslims and one among them was Ali’s younger son Hussain (RA). Hussain traveled to Kufa (Iraq) in order to gain support against Yazid but he was betrayed by the Iraqi people which resulted in the one-sided Battle of Karbala that took the lives of Hussain (RA) and 72 of his supporters. This battle is regarded as the biggest example of sacrifice by Shia Muslims while Sunni Muslims consider it as a sad incident of civil war between the Muslims. The day of Hussain’s martyrdom is still commemorated by Shia Muslims (and also by few Sunni Muslims).

·         After death of 3rd Umayyad ruler Muawiya bin Yazid, the emergence of space gave rise to several political parties and one among them was a shiite supporter Mukhtar Thaqfi. He gathered many people around him on the slogan of revenge for Hussain’s death. He captured Iraq from another political figure Abdullah bin Zubair (a prominent Sahabi who was also against Umayyad dynasty) and assassinated many people believe to be behind the martyrdom of Hussain bin Ali (RA). Later, Abdullah’s brother Mus’ab bin Zubair recaptured Iraq from Mukhtar and killed him. Mukhtar is regarded as a hero in Shia sect.

·         In 750 AD, the Umayyad Caliphate was replaced by the Abbasid Caliphate. Shia were fully supporting the Abbasid movement against Umayyads with the hope to achieve their goal of rule of ahl al-bayt. But instead, the Abbasids themselves became rulers on the basis of their close relationship with Prophet (they were from the lineage of Muhammad’s (PBUH) uncle Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib). As a result, Shia started opposing Abbasid Caliphate and the first Shia dynasty of Fatimid (belong to Shia Ismaili sect) appeared in the 8th Century (Cairo became their capital). This dynasty rejected the Abbasid Caliphate and claimed for their own caliphate.

·         Several Shia dynasties also ruled in various parts of Muslim world during Abbasid Caliphate but more dangerous were the Shia terrorist groups which never let the internal peace to prevail. Two of the most notorious Shia organizations were the Hashashins (a Ismaili Shia organization based in Iran and led by Hasan bin al-Saba) and Qaramites (an extinct Shia sect).

·         In 1501, Ismail I captured Iran and founded the Twelver Shia Safavid dynasty. He converted the mainly Sunni population of Iran to a Twelver Shia Iran (also eradicating other Shia sects) mainly through force. But when he used the same policy in Iraq, he was checked by the then Sunni Muslim and global power of the Ottoman Empire. The Battle of Chaldiran in 1514 proved to be a decisive one as Safavids lost control over Iraq and few other areas. Ottomans and Safavids also fought four major wars in 16th and 17th centuries. Apart from the third one, the Ottomans remained victorious in all the other wars and the Ottoman-Safavid conflict ended in 1639 with Treaty of Zuhab that was signed after the decisive Ottoman victory in the fourth Ottoman-Safavid war (1623-1639).


·         In 1932, the modern state of Saudi Arabia was established that is based on the ultra conservative Sunni Salafi ideology, severely opposed to Shiite doctrine. In 1979, Iran became a Shia theocracy state after replacing the secular Iranian monarchy through Iranian Revolution. Shia dominant Iran tried to export its revolution in other parts of Muslim world which escalated the proxy war between two opposing religious states. Both the countries tried to dominate the Muslim world and their efforts are quite evident from their participation in Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) and the Syrian Civil War (2011-present).  

REASONS FOR EARLIER MUSLIM CONQUESTS

During the era of Rashidun Caliphate, Muslim armies fought against two superpowers of the time, Byzantine Empire and Persian Empire, simultaneously and defeated both of them to expand their rule from today’s Iran in the east to Libya in the west and Turkey in the north. During these campaigns against the superpowers of the time, Muslims forces remained victorious in almost every major battle. It is much surprising for many people that how a newly-formed state was able to achieve such successes in very little time. Following are few of the important reasons that made the Early Muslim conquests possible.

New Religion

The most important reason that enabled the people of Arabia to transform from Bedouins to a superpower is their new religion - Islam. Before Islam, Arabs always remained disorganized and split in tribes. Islam united the Arab tribes under one leadership for the first time that increased their strength.
Islam also created courage and bravery by inculcating the spirit of martyrdom for religion. Under this spirit, Muslims fought vigorously in order to spread Islam in other parts of the world without even fearing the superpowers of the time.

Leadership Qualities

Leadership qualities of early Muslim rulers are also a reason for these early Muslim conquests. Abu Bakr (RA) became first caliph after death of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). At that time, many Arab tribes revolted against the caliphate. Abu Bakr not only launched expeditions against these rebel Arab tribes but also started the campaigns against Persian and Byzantine empires in order to prevent them from using the inner conflict of Arabia in their own interests. Soon, not only the rebellion was crushed but the initially successes against Persian Empire and Byzantines were also taken.

During the reign of Umar bin Khattab (RA), the whole Persian Empire was conquered while Muslims also took the areas of Levant, Egypt and Armenia from Byzantines. Umar not only played important role in the conquest of Persia and Levant but he also consolidated Muslim rule in the conquered areas by spreading Islam in these areas.

Great Military Generals

Arabs had military capabilities and they were fond of fighting and their capabilities came into light after they united under Islam. The world saw few of the best military generals during Muslim conquest of Persia, Levant and Egypt who totally outclassed the military might of Persia and Rome. The greatest Muslim general of the time was Khalid bin Walid (RA) who was given the title of Saifullah (Sword of Allah) due to her bravery and military genius. Khalid played major role in the conquest of Iraq (Arabian part of Persian Empire) and Levant. Several times, he defeated his opponent even many times larger in number than his own army. Enemy remained clueless over his skill, wisdom and attacks with lightning speed.

Amr bin al-As (RA) was another such great military leader who conquered Egypt with his leadership qualities and by taking advantage of the differences between the local people and Byzantine Empire.

Sa’ad bin Abi Waqas (RA) also proved his military leadership qualities during the conquest of Persia.

Weaknesses of Romans and Persians

Despite the leadership and military qualities of Muslim, there is also no doubt that the Persian Empire and Byzantine Empire had weaknesses due to the long Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602-628. The war ended with neither opponent taking any area of its foe but it weakened both the empires militarily and financially and it assisted the newly-established Caliphate to defeat both the Empires simultaneously.


Apart from that, both the empires didn’t take the emerging Muslim power seriously in the beginning of conflict which later proved to be disastrous for both the empires. 

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

GREATEST MILITARY LEADERS

Human history is full of great wars and battles and these military conflicts gave rise to several such great military leaders who proved their bravery, skills and military leadership during these wars and battles. But there are few such military leaders and commanders who are regarded as the greatest military leaders of all time due to the long lasting effects they produce on the geopolitical situation of the world. Following is the list and brief description of such great military leaders who changed the world with their military leadership abilities for a long time and they are remembered till now. The list is presented here in chronological order.

Cyrus the Great

Cyrus the Great was the founder of first Persian empire, the Achaemenid Empire. He became King of Persia in 559 BC and established the Achaemenid Empire in 550 BC after capturing Media from his maternal grandfather Astyages. In 547 BC, Cyrus captured Lydia (now Anatolia) while Babylonia came under the Persian rule in 539 BC. At the time of death of Cyrus the Great, Achaemenid Empire span from Indus River in the east to Mediterranean in the west. The empire, founded by Cyrus the Great with his leadership qualities, lasted till 330 BC and only Alexander the Great was able to end the Achaemenid Empire of Cyrus the Great.

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great is perhaps the most famous military leader and conqueror. Alexander became King of Macedonia in 336 BC at the age of 20 years after death of his father Phillip II of Macedon. Alexander initially suppressed the rebellions and united all the Greeks to fight against their common enemy Persia. Then he started campaign against the Persian Empire in 334 BC. In just four years, the Achemanid Empire came to an end at the hands of Alexander the Great. But Alexander didn’t stop here and captured areas of central Asia and western India before his death in 323 BC. At the age of 32 years, Alexander conquered areas in North Africa (Egypt), Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Persia etc. Alexander fought several battles during his military career and always remained undefeated which makes him one of the greatest military leaders of all time. His conquered areas came under the powerful effect of Hellenistic civilization after his death.

Hannibal Barca

Hannibal Barca was a great Carthaginian military commander who is known for his military tactics and skills that he applied during the Second Punic War against the Roman Republic. Hannibal achieved so much fame for this war that it is also known as the Hannibalic War. His biggest achievement was crossing the Alps with thousands of soldiers and several elephants to invade the Roman Empire in Italy. It was considered impossible at that time. The Romans stunned at this successful journey and Hannibal inflicted crushing defeats to Roman Republic in the initial battles of Second Punic War. He is also known as the master of pincer movement and used this maneuver too perfectly to defeat the huge Roman army (more than 10 times his own army) in the famous Battle of Cannae in 216 BC. Though, Romans recovered from their early losses and the war ended with Roman victory but the bravery, adventure and military marvel of Hannibal is celebrated to this day which earned him a place in the list of greatest military commanders of all time.

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was a Roman political and military leader. He is known for playing a major political role in changing Roman Republic to Roman Empire but his military achievements are also great. His main military achievement was the conquest of Gaul (now France and Belgium) which eliminated the danger of Gallic tribes as Gaul became a province of Roman Empire while he was also the first Roman leader to invade Britannia. Soon after Gallic Wars, he had to fight the Great Roman Civil War (also known as Caesar’s Civil War) from 49 to 45 BC. After defeating his opponents, he became a dictator of Roman Republic and remained at this place till his assassination in 44 BC.

Attila the Hun

Attila the Hun was a great military leader and king of Hunnic Empire from 434 to 453 AD (till his death). During his rule, he united all the tribes of Hun Empire and ruled most of the eastern and central Europe. He was the most feared warrior by Eastern and Western Roman Empire who called him Scourge of God. Attila initially invaded unsuccessfully against Persia and then attacked the Eastern Roman Empire in 440 AD despite a treaty. He defeated the Byzantine army several times but could not invade Constantinople due to its better defensive measures. Later, he turned his attention towards Balkan and forced the Western Roman Emperor to pay him tribute. In 451, he invaded Roman Gaul (modern-day France) where his advances were halted by the alliance of Romans and Visigoths. His last invasion was on Italy in 452. He occupied and plundered several areas of Italy but left Rome without invasion after negotiations. In 453, Attila died. He proved to be not only the greatest but also the last king of Hunnic Empire as it collapsed soon after his death.

Khalid ibn al-Walid

Khalid ibn al-Walid was the greatest Muslim military commander who was responsible for most of the earlier Muslim conquests of Iraq and Levant. Khalid proved his military skills even before his conversion to Islam as he played the most important role in the defeat of Muslims during Battle of Uhud while fighting for Quraysh. After his conversion to Islam, his initial biggest success was the Battle of Mu’tah during which he managed to save his small army from 33 times larger army of a rival Arab tribe and their Roman supporters. This battle earned him the title of Saifullah (Sword of Allah) from Muhammad (PBUH). Later during the caliphates of Abu Bakr and Umar, Khalid defeated several times the numerically and technically superior armies of the then two superpowers, Byzantine Empire and Persian Empire. Muslim conquest of Iraq and Syria is credited to his military marvel and leadership qualities. He never lost a battle against any opponent. During every battle, he used the strength of his military very effectively. He was not only the greatest warrior of his time but also one of the greatest of all time.

Tariq bin Ziyad

Tariq bin Ziyad was a Muslim Berber warrior and general who commanded the Muslim armies to conquer Iberian Peninsula. Tariq bin Ziyad invaded Hispania in 711. After initial successes by Tariq, he defeated the numerical superior army of Visigothcs in 712 in the decisive Battle of Guadalete during which King Roderic of Hispania was also killed. This victory paved the way for the Muslim capture of Visigothis capital Toledo and other important areas of Hispania. Tariq bin Ziyad is known as the founder of Muslim rule in European Hispania. Hispania (al-Andalus) remained under Muslim control and influence for around next 800 years which shows his campaign to be a long lasting one. Tariq bin Ziyad is famously known for burning his boats after reaching Gibraltar in order to create the feelings of victory or death in his soldiers after ending every way of retreat. This resulted in their victory against far superior army.  

Charlemagne

Charlemagne was the king of Franks and Lombardy and the first Holy Roman Emperor. Charlemagne became king of Franks in 768 and later captured Lombardy in 774. He was appointed the first ever Holy Roman Emperor by pope in 800 Ad due to his services for Christianity. Charlemagne also protected the southern borders of his empire by creating a buffer zone at Pyrenees between Franks and Muslim Hispania. Later, this buffer zone proved important to halt the further advances of Muslims in Europe.

Saladin

Salah-ud-Din Ayyubi (commonly known as Saladin in West) was a Muslim Kurdish leader and military commander who achieved fame during the Third Crusade (1189-1192). In 1187, Saladin captured Jerusalem from Christians after which the combined Christian forces started the Third Crusade in 1189. Despite severe efforts from the Crusaders, Saladin managed to save Jerusalem from going in the hands of Crusaders. His encounters with Richard the Lionheart and his treatment of the Christian prisoners are still remembered.

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan was the founder of Mongol Empire who expanded the rule of the Mongols from a small area of Today’s Mongolia to northern China in the east and Central Asia and Eastern Europe in the west. After subjugating all the rival tribes in Mongolia, Genghis Khan entered China and then took control of central Asia after defeating the Khwarizm Empire in just 20 years (1207-1227). Southern Russia, Georgia and Armenia also came under wrath of the Mongols. The reasons behind such a large scale conquests by Genghis Khan were the unification of his men under the laws of “Yassa”, using the technology and war tactics of his opponents and assassinating anyone coming in his way. On several occasions, he killed even the whole population of area. Genghis Khan is known as one of the greatest and merciless leaders in the history.

Timur

Timur the Lame or Tamerlane is known as the greatest warrior king of the second half of 14th Century. After became sole ruler of Transoxiana, Timur remained at war against various opponents for the next 35 years (1370-1405) and expanded his empire to modern day Afghanistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and parts of India, Russia etc. During his rule, he defeated every great opponent of that time and one of them was the Ottoman sultan Bayazid Yeldrim. Timur prepared to conquer China but died before the start of this campaign in 1405. His military successes make him one of the greatest military commanders of all time.

Peter the Great

Peter the Great was the founder of Russian Empire. He became Tsar of Russia in 1682 and transformed Russia in to an Empire after several successful wars. The most famous war was the Great Northern War that he fought against Swedish Empire. The war lasted from 1700 to 1721. Despite initial losses, Peter continued his efforts and the war ended with a victory for Peter. The Northern war resulted in the emergence of Russian Empire as a new world power and it reduced the influence of Swedish Empire. Apart from reforms, Peter the Great is also known for his military leadership qualities which transformed Tsardom of Russia to Russian Empire.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte is known as the greatest French military leader and emperor who rose to fame after French Revolution. During French Revolution, Napoleon showed his military leadership abilities by crushing several rebellions and foreign interventions. Napoleon became French Emperor in 1804. During his reign, Napoleon defeated different coalitions three consecutive times (wars of third, fourth and fifth coalition) between 1803 and 1809. Napoleon was later defeated during the War of the Sixth Coalition due to defection of Napoleon’s allies and his rule completely ended after defeat in the War of the Seventh Coalition. But despite these defeats, Napoleon is regarded as one of the greatest military leaders by his supporters and opponents alike due to the role he played during Napoleonic Wars.



Monday, 29 February 2016

WORLD WAR 2

World War 2, WW2 or the Second World War is the deadliest war of the human history that took the lives of around 70 million people (including military and civilian) from around the world. This six year long (September 1939 to September 1945) war was mainly fought in Europe, Asia and Africa while all the great powers of that time were divided in two blocs (Allied and Axis) to participate in the WW2. Nazi Germany was leading the Axis Power which had main support from Japan and Italy. The Allied Powers were mainly comprised of UK, USA, France, Soviet Union, China and others. The war is especially known for the atrocities committed by both sides on civilians of opponents. Major examples are the Holocaust by Germany and the atomic bombings on Japan by USA. 

Causes of World War 2

·         After defeat in World War 1, Germany suffered harsh conditions from the victorious Allied Powers. All the German overseas territories were annexed while Germany also lost few German areas of Europe. Restrictions were laid on German armed forces while the German Empire was replaced by a democratic republic (Weimer Republic). There was a deep feeling in Germany that they were winning the WW1 but the inside traitors brought defeat for them. These feelings produced nationalism in Germans which gave rise to Nazi Party in power in 1933 and Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. The aim of Nazi party was to unite all Germans (which they considered as superior race).

·         Italy was on the side of Allied Powers during World War 1 but due to disagreement over the distribution of spoils of war, the nationalists in Italy were unhappy and the enhanced nationalistic feelings of Italian people later paved the way for Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini in 1925. The aim of this Fascist regime was to make Italy a world power on the lines of Roman Empire.

·         In the start of 20th Century, the Japanese Empire was becoming powerful with ideologies of Japanese nationalism and militarism and had the ambition to control the whole of Asia. After defeating Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), Japan later annexed Manchuria (southeast China) in 1932 and formed a puppet government there in order to expand its territory and economic interests. Lesser conflicts between Japan and China continued later which culminated into Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. The border conflicts between Japan and Russia also started in 1932 due to Japan’s expansionist goals. 

Events Before World War 2

·         Ethiopian Empire was a rare independent country in Africa in the 19th and 20th Century that had already defeated Italy in the First Italo-Ethiopian War (1894-96). In order to accomplish its expansionist ideology, Italy invaded Ethiopia (known as Second Italo-Ethiopian War) in October 1935 and occupied the African country in May 1936. Both the countries were part of League of Nations by the league remained silent on this war.

·         In July 1936, the Spanish Civil War started between the leftist Republicans (who were in power) and their opponents Nationalists. Germany and Italy supported the Nationalists while the Republicans were mainly supported by Soviet Union. The war lasted till April 1939 and ended with victory for the Nationalists. Germany and Soviet Union used this proxy war to test their weapons and battle tactics for a major war. 

·         Germany started to accomplish its goal of unification of all German areas in 1938. In March 1938, Germany annexed the German-speaking country of Austria and then started claims on the German majority areas (Sudetenland) of Czechoslovakia. Sudetenland became part of Germany as a result of Munich Agreement in September 1938 through meditation from UK and France. Encouraged by this division, Germany and Italy forced Czechoslovakia to surrender its Hungarian-populated areas to Hungary in November 1938 through First Vienna Award. Later in March 1939, Germany captured the whole of Czechoslovakia and divided it in to two puppet states of Bohemia and Moravia and Slovak Republic. After German ultimatum, Lithuania also ceded its German-majority area of Klaipeda Region to Germany in March 1939.

·         Germans intentions were now clear and when Germany demanded the Free City of Danzig from Poland in August 1939, Britain and France assured their support for independence of Poland while the same assurance was provided to Greece and Romania after Italy’s capture of Albania in April 1939.

·         In retaliation, Germany signed Molotov-Ribbentop Pact with Soviet Union under which both the countries accepted the German influence over western Poland and Lithuania and Soviet influence over Finland, Estonia, Latvia and eastern Poland. The purpose of this pact was to protect the eastern side of Germany in case of any war with Britain and France.

Campaigns of World War 2 (WW2)

European Campaign

The World War 2 formally started on 1st September 1939 by Invasion of Poland by Germany, Slovak Republic and later Soviet Union. After one month, Poland was defeated and divided by the invaders. Germany took the western half of Poland and Free City of Danzig while Soviet Union annexed eastern half of Poland. Slovakia and Lithuania also took small parts of Poland. Britain and France declared war against Germany on 3rd September 1939.

In the end of November 1939, the Winter War started between Soviet Union and Finland after the former’s invasion of the latter. The war ended in March 1940 with limited soviet victory as it captured Gulf of Finland and few borders areas after sustaining heavy casualties. 

Norway was a neutral country during WW2 but the strategic location of Norway was very important for both the opponents. Both Germany and allies tried to make use of Norwegian neutral zone which later prompted Germany to start the Norwegian Campaign on 9th April 1940. Britain and France aided the resistance of Norway against Germany which lasted for 62 days and Germany was able to capture Norway on 10th June 1940 while the allied troops had to withdraw from Norwegian front after the German invasion of France in May 1940.

The Battle of France started on 10th May 1940 with German invasion of Luxembourg, Netherlands and Belgium. Luxembourg surrendered immediately while Germany captured Netherlands in a week and Belgium till 28th May 1940. Unlike World War 1, the trench warfare was not possible to save France due to advancement in warfare technology. German superior military, armored and fighter jets completely outclassed the French defending forces and the Battle of France ended on 25th June 1940 with a decisive victory for Germany and Italy. Large part of France was captured by Germany (Italy captured some French area near border) while the south area became Vichy France, a semi-independent state that either remained neutral or sided with Axis during WW2. 

After occupation of France, Britain was the only country left in the Western Europe that was fighting against Germany. In order to force Britain to surrender, Germany decided to invade Britain soon after the Fall of France. But Britain is an Island which had one of the strongest navies which made it impossible for Germany to invade Britain with its land forces (Heer). Instead, Germany invaded Britain with its air force (Luftwaffe) in order to demoralize the British military and civilians and this invasion is known as Battle of Britain. Air strikes from Germany started in July 1940 and lasted till October 1940. Initially, Germany bombarded the coastal areas of Britain to ensure the sea blockade and later initiated its target on Royal Air Force (RAF) in August 1940. In September 1940, Luftwaffe started strategic bombing of London and other important industrial cities (known as The Blitz) in order to reduce industrial production and decrease the morale of British people. But the effort remained unsuccessful due to stiff resistance by RAF while pilots of Poland, Belgium, Free France and other occupied countries also played important role in the success of Britain. The Battle of Britain was the first defeat for Germany in World War 2.

On 28th October 1940, the Balkan Campaign started with Italian invasion of Greece. Albania was already occupied by Italy in April 1939 and the Italian invasion of Greece took place from Albania. But Italy could not occupy Greece due to stiff resistance from the defenders and the Italian forces repelled till 13th November 1940. Soon after that, the Greek counteroffensive started which took even large part of Albania from Italy till January 1941. On seeing the defeat of Italy, Germany intervened in the campaign and German invasion of Yugoslavia started in April 1941. Yugoslavia surrendered within two weeks and divided by the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Hungary). In April 1941, the Battle of Greece started with German help which ended the war in less than a month in favor of Axis. After successful Battle of Crete in May 1941, the Axis took control the whole of the Balkan area. 

Now Germany and its allies were in control of all of Europe except Britain and Hitler decided to accomplish its plan of eliminating Communism by capturing Soviet Union. Germans opened the Eastern Front with invasion of Soviet Union in June 1941 with the code name of Operation Barbarossa. The Germans were supported by Romania, Hungary and Finland. Initially, the operation remained very successful and the Germans occupied the Baltic States, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and few eastern parts of Russia within few months. But the stiff resistance from Russians and severe cold weather halted the German advances on the most important Russian cities during Battle of Moscow (October 1941-January 1942) and Siege of Leningrad (September 1941-January 1944). Later, Soviet counter-offensive started with the arrival of fresh Soviet troops from Siberia and Far Eastern Russia. After limited winter successes in 1941-42, Germans remained upper hand in this Soviet invasion. But the soviet victories in the Battle of Stalingrad (August 1942-February 1943) and the Battle of Kursk (July 1943) proved decisive for the outcome of the Eastern Front. After these battles, it was complete retreat from Germany and its allies on the Eastern Front and Soviet Union recaptured most of its areas lost to the Axis in 1944.

In the European Campaign, the situation began to reverse on both Eastern Front and West Front in 1944.  The Allies re-captured Normandy (France) on 6th June 1944 (known as D-Day) while Liberation of Paris came in August 1944. Germany carried out its last offensive on Western Front in December 1944 known as Battle of the Bulge that was fought at the Ardennes (Belgium & Netherlands). Germany failed to secure any ground but the battle delayed the Allied offensive for few weeks. In 1945, Allied Powers from west and Soviet Union from east were heading towards Germany and German defeat was looking obvious. At this time, Adolf Hitler committed suicide on 30th April 1945 and the Allied forces from both West and East entered Berlin on 8th May 1945 which ended the World War 2 in Europe. 

Asia & Pacific Campaign

After the European Campaign, the other most important theatre of World War 2 was the Asia and Pacific Campaign. During this campaign, Japan was mainly representing the Axis power while their major opponents were USA, China and Britain and its colonies. This campaign is especially important due to two reasons. The first is that this campaign started in 1937 before the proper start of World War 2 and ended around one month later after end of WW2 in Europe. Apart from that, the nuclear weapons were used by USA against Japan during this campaign.

The Second Sino-Japanese War started in July 1937 with Japanese invasion of China and lasted during the whole World War 2 till Japanese surrender on 9th September 1945. Japan had already captured Manchuria (northeast China) in 1932 and started the occupation of other parts of China in July 1937. In the same year, Japan captured the important northeastern areas of Beijing, Shanghai, Taiyuan and Nanjing (a massacre was committed by Japanese in Nanjing). First victory for Chinese came in 1938 in the Battle of Taierzhuang in southeast China and the. In 1939, the Chinese defended the southeast China by defeating Japan in the Battle of Suixian-Zaoyang (April-May 1939), Battle of Changsha (Sep-Oct 1939) and the Battle of South Guangxi (November 1939) and later they also launched a surprising but unsuccessful Winter Offensive in various parts of east China in the end of 1939 and beginning of 1940. In September 1940, Japan captured the French Indochina (Southeast Asia) to block Allied support of China. Japan’s invasion to China continues till 1945 but Chinese resistance limited the Japanese occupation to eastern part of China and later defeat of Japan at the hands of Allied powers helped the complete liberation of China from Japan. 

The Pacific War was an important campaign of World War 2. Japan and USA were major belligerents during this campaign while other Allied countries of Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, British colonies etc) also assisted US during the campaign. The war started with Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii (USA) on 7th December 1941 after which US declared war against Japan. Apart from ffew initial successes, the campaign proved disastrous for Japan as it lost successive battles against US and Allied forces. The last major battle of the campaign was Battle of Okinawa (April-June 1945) after which Japan lost all the areas to Allied powers except mainland Japan.

The South West Pacific Theatre was a separate campaign from Pacific Ocean Campaign of World War 2. During this campaign, the Allied colonies of South West Pacific were the main targets of Japan. From December 1941 to 1942, the Japanese invaded several areas in the Pacific Ocean under the control of Allied Powers and was able to capture Borneo, Philippines, Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and parts of Solomon Island and Guinea. The Allied counteroffensive started in 1943 and they successfully regained all the areas lost to Japan. The Borneo Campaign (May-August 1945) was the last major campaign of the South West Pacific after which the island of Borneo was liberated from Japan.

The Asian Campaign was also fought in Southeast Asia from December 1941 to September 1945. Like other campaigns of Asia, the Japanese troops captured several areas in the beginning of the war including Hong Kong, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Andaman & Nicobar Islands (British India). But situation changed in the later years and Allied Powers regained all the lost areas to Japan in 1944 and 1945.

By the end of 1944, Japan had lost most of its occupied areas and the Allied forces started the Japan Campaign in and around mainland Japan in the start of 1945 in order to force the surrender by Japan. US played most important role during this campaign. Air raids along with naval and land battles were fought during this campaign. Japanese Volcano Islands were captured by Allies after Battle of Iwo Jima (February-March 1945) while the Japanese lost the control of Okinawa Island after the Battle of Okinawa (April-June 1945). The Allied powers crushed the naval power of Japan after Operation Ten-Go (April 1945) and the Battle of Sagami Bay (July 1945). 

Due to kazakami (suicide) attacks of Japanese on US naval ships, it was evident that the resistance of Japanese will be severe during invasion of mainland Japan by the Allied forces. In order to prevent any other long war, US decided to use its latest and most lethal weapon, nuclear weapon, on Japan to force the country to surrender. US bombarded two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th August 1945 respectively. Around 200,000 Japanese (90% of them civilians) lost their lives due to this nuclear bombing and it forced Japan to surrender on 15th August 1945.

Soon after US nuclear bombings on Japan, the Soviet-Japanese War (1945) started on 9th August 1945 with Soviet invasion of Manchuria (Manchukuo). Japanese soon lost the control of Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Korea and nearby areas to Allies after which the surrender was signed on 2nd September 1945 which ended the World War 2. 

Campaigns in Middle East and Africa

The Middle Eastern campaign during WW2 was fought in Iraq, Syria-Lebanon and Iran. The purpose of Anglo-Iraqi War (May 1941) was to abolish the newly established nationalist regime of Iraq and restore the former puppet regime. The British easily achieved their purpose in this one-month long war. The Syria-Lebanon Campaign started in June 1941 and lasted for 5 weeks. Syria-Lebanon was under the control of Vichy France and the campaign was launched by UK and Free France in order to take the area from Vichy France. After severe battles and heavy casualties, Free France took the area from Vichy France. The British and Soviet troops invaded Iran on 25th August 1941 in order to protect their oil fields and supply lines as Persian monarch Reza Shah had friendly relations with Axis powers. In less than a month, the Iranian king was deposed and replaced by his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi by the invading forces.  

In Africa, the World War 2 was fought in the areas of East Africa and North Africa. The East African Campaign was primarily fought around Italian East Africa (now Ethiopia, Eritrea & Somalia) and British controlled Kenya, Somaliland and Sudan from June 1940 to November 1941. Italy and UK were main belligerents during this campaign. In 1940, the Italians were on the offensive and they captures British Somaliland and few areas of British Sudan but the situation changed in 1941 as the Allies not only re took all their lost areas in their offensive but Italy also lost control of its East African area which resulted in restoration of Ethiopian Empire.

The North African Campaign was a major campaign of World War 2 that was fought for 3 years from June 1940 to May 1943 between Axis forces of Italy, Germany and Vichy France and Allied forces of UK, Free France and USA. The areas of this campaign were Italian Libya, French controlled Algeria, Tunisia & Morocco and the British puppet state of Egypt. Fierce battles were fought during the North African campaign while Allies remained on offensive during the campaign. The campaign ended with decisive victory for Allies and Italy and Vichy France lost all their areas in North Africa as the result of their defeat. Allied victory in North African Campaign paved their way for Italian Campaign. 

Italian Campaign

Soon after the North African Campaign, the Allied invasion of Sicily started in July 1943 and captured Sicily from defending forces of Italy and Germany till August 1943. Italian Empire signed the Armistice of Cassibile on 3rd September 1943 with Allied forces which ended Italian collaboration with Axis powers. Soon after, the Allied invasion of mainland Italy started in September 1943 and the invaders captured the southern areas of Italy including Selerno, Calabria and Taranto in two weeks. Also in September 1943, the local people of Naples liberated their area from Germans. The Allies slowly advances towards northern Italy in 1944 by breaking the defenses of Germany and the final offensive was launched in April 1945 which ended the German occupation of Italy till 2nd May 1945. 

Naval Campaign

Apart from Pacific Ocean, the naval warfare was fought during WW2 mainly in Atlantic and Arctic Ocean from 1939 to 1945. The purpose of the naval campaign by both the Allied and Axis was to blockade the sea routes of opponent in order to disrupt the economic and military transportation. Thousands of people (both military and civilians) from both sides were killed and hundreds of ships, submarines and aircrafts were destroyed during the naval campaign of WW2. 

Casualties during World War 2

World War 2 proved to be the deadliest war of human history as around 70 million people (estimates ranging from 50 to 85 million) died due to direct and indirect effects of war. Over 20 million soldiers of various countries lost their lives during the conflict. Around half (app. 9 million) of them belong to Soviet Union. Other countries that lost large number of soldiers include: Germany (approx. 4.5 million), China (more than 3 million) and Japan (more than 2 million). USA lost more soldiers (over 400,000) than UK (around 385,000).

The civilian deaths due to direct and indirect effects of World War 2 were around 50 million. The major sufferers were: Soviet Union (over 18 million), China (over 12 million) and Poland (over 5.5 million). According to estimates, more than 5 million Jews and less than 1 million Romani were among the civilian deaths as a result of Holocaust. 

Effects of World War 2

·         The defeat in World War 2 completely ended Nazism in Germany with death, execution and imprisonment of all the major figures of Nazi Party. Germany not only lost its all occupied areas but Germany itself was divided among West Germany and East Germany under the control of western countries and Soviet Union respectively.

·         Great European powers like UK, France and Germany were dominating the world politics since several centuries but World War 2 depleted their sources and these European powers were replaced by USA and Soviet Union as new world powers.

·         The emergence of USA and Soviet Union as world powers initiated the cold war between communism and capitalism. Soviet Union spread its influence in eastern and central Europe and several parts of Asia, Africa and South America while USA had allies in western, southern and northern Europe along many countries in other continents. Several proxy wars were fought between USA and USSR during this cold war that ended with disintegration of Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

·         Due to military and economic weakness, the European colonial powers were not able to keep their colonies under their control and all these colonies in Asia and Africa gained independence within few years from few decades after WW2.

·         Killing of large number of Jews by Germany during WW2 created sympathies for Jews in western world. These sympathies were used for creation of Israel in 1948 that started a long-lasting Arab-Israel conflict in the Middle East.

·         After Japanese surrender, USA took control of mainland Japan, several Japanese islands in Pacific and South Korea. Soviet Union took Sakhalin Island, Kuril Islands and North Korea. Chinese areas were given back to China.

·         The Civil War in China between Chinese nationalist regime and communists restarted after the end of WW2. World War 2 had weakened the nationalists a lot and provided good experience to the communists. In 1949, communists captured the mainland China that became People’s Republic of China. The nationalists took control over Taiwan (a small island south of mainland China).

·         United Nations Organization (UNO) was established after the end of World War 2 in order to prevent any such large scale war. League of Nations (formed after World War 1) proved ineffective against World War 2 but UN successfully prevented any world war in the course of Cold War. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

RUSSIAN REVOLUTION (1917)

Russian Revolution is the event of change of Russian form of government from monarchy to Soviet Republic in 1917. During World War 1, the trembling military and economic situation of Russian Empire paved the way for abdication of Tsar Nicholas II by the Russian imperial parliament Duma in March 1917. But the Provisional Government continued Russia’s participation in the World War 1 which was not acceptable for Bolsheviks (radical socialists). The Bolsheviks formed their military wing, Red Guards, and overthrew the Provisional Government in November 1917. Soon after the empowerment of Bolsheviks, the Russian Civil War started that lasted till 1922 with victory for the Bolsheviks and they transformed Russia to Soviet Union.

Events Leading to the Russian Revolution
·         The economic condition of Russia was not stable since the beginning of 20th Century. This situation, along with Russia’s humiliating defeat in Russo-Japanese War, was used by socialists very effectively. The declining economic condition suffered the factory workers and peasants alike. The general strikes of factory workers increased many folds in the start of 20th Century and later the Russian Revolution of 1905 forced the Tsar Nicholas II to establish Duma (parliament). It was a big achievement for socialists and also provided them valuable experience for a revolution of larger scale in 1917.

·         The World War 1 started in 1914 in which Russia took part as one of the Allied Powers, opposing Central Powers. But the Russian Army suffered several defeats at the hands of Germany on the eastern front of the war and the causality rate was climbing with the passage of time. The defeats in war also brought economic instability and shortage of necessities of life (especially food shortage). This gave rise to protests by workers and mutinies by the soldiers (there were large number of conscript soldiers in the Russian military in 1917). February Revolution was the result of this situation. 

February Revolution

In February 1917, the situation became uncontrollable for the administration due to widespread strikes by workers (including women), students and teachers for their demand of bread and other necessities. Tsar was on the battlefront and he ordered the army on 11th March to suppress the riots by force. But due to mutiny among the soldiers, the orders could not be followed. Tsar reached the capital Petrograd on 14th March and he decided to abdicate throne to his brother Michael Alexandrovich on 15th March over advice from Army Chiefs and other ministers. But Michael refused to take the position without a consensus. After his refusal, a Provisional Government was announced on 16th March 1917 by Duma and Tsar Nicholas II was placed under house arrest along his family at the Alexander Palace. 
Protest in February 1917

Provisional Government

The Provisional Government was made up of centre-left members that were in majority in Duma. Georgy Lvov became the first Russian Prime Minister of post-monarchy era. He belonged to a liberal Constitutional Democratic Party. The socialists formed their own bloc in Duma, known as the Petrograd Soviet (workers’ council).

Although the liberals were in control of provisional government, the socialists also had strong influence in workers and soldiers. Therefore, the Provisional Government was like a dual power where liberals were in charge and socialists were a pressure group. On seeing greater role of socialists, they were offered by the Provisional Government to take part in the government. Most of the socialist parties declined the offer but a moderate faction Socialist Revolutionary Party (SRP) joined the government and its member Alexander Kerensky became the second Prime Minister of non-Imperial Russia on 17th July 1917.

The new government continued the participation of Russia in World War 1 while it was opposed by the more radical faction of the socialists, the Bolsheviks.
The continuous participation of Russia in World War 1 was bringing more defeats, deaths and shortage of supplies of food and other necessities of life. Germans were aware that Bolsheviks are against the war. The Bolsheviks’ leader Vladimir Lenin was in Switzerland. Germany brought him in train from Switzerland to Russia in order to strengthen the Bolsheviks so that pressure could be increased on the Provisional Government to end its participation in the war against Germany. Lenin returns to Russia in April 1917.

In June 1917, the Russian army opened an unsuccessful offensive against Central Powers and the counterattack of the opponents proved disastrous for the Russian military. The Bolsheviks and their supporters started demonstrations in Petrograd (known as July Days) demanding all power for the soviets but these demonstrations were suppresses by the Russian government. The government was aided by moderate socialists (SR, Mensheviks) and monarchy-supportive organization the Black Hundreds. All the important leaders of Bolsheviks were arrested while Lenin fled to Finland.

But Bolsheviks were able to restore their influence in August 1917 as a result of the Kornilov Affair. In August, Russian Supreme Commander Lavr Kornilov ordered his troops to pacify the city from radicals which was a coup attempt against the Russian Government. PM Karenski sought help from Bolsheviks and Red Guards and the coup failed due to Bolsheviks influence over workers and soldiers which halted the mobilization of Kornilov’s troops. Later, Kornilov was dismissed from his position. For their support, all the jailed Bolsheviks were freed by the government. 

October Revolution

After seeing favorable conditions, Lenin returned from Finland to Russia in October 1917. Lenin pressed on the overthrow of the Provisional Government. The Bolshevik Central Committee passed the resolution of armed resistance against the Provisional Government on 2nd November (20th October according to Julian calendar) 1917. The Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC) of Bolshevik party started taking action on 7th November (25th October) 1917 and soon captured the important buildings including Winter Palace in Petrograd. 

Russian civil War

Soon after the October Revolution, the Russian Civil War started between the Bolsheviks Red Army and the anti-communist forces known as the White Army. Russian nationalists, monarchists and moderate socialists were present in the White Army. During Russian Civil War, several separatist movements also started in the areas of Baltic, Eastern & Central Europe, North Caucasus etc. The White Army was also aided by several foreign powers including UK, USA, Japan, France etc. The Civil War lasted from November 1917 to October 1922. White Army gained few successes in the beginning of war but the Bolsheviks, supported by masses of Russian population, decisively defeated the White Army in the Russian Civil War. The Red Terror by Cheka (Bolsheviks secret police) also played important role in victory of Red Army while Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Poland gained independence. 

Assassination of Nicholas II

Emperor Nicholas II and his family were under house arrest since his abdication in March 1917. After October Revolution, the imperial family came under the arrest of the ruling Bolsheviks. After the start of full-scale Russian Civil War, the Imperial family was placed to Bolshevik stronghold of Yakaterinburg in April/ May 1918. The White Army was gaining victories in the war due to which there was danger that they could reach close to the imperial family. In this situation, Nicholas II was assassinated along his family members and servants on 16th July 1918 by their Bolshevik captors. 

Effects of Russian Revolution

After French Revolution, the Russian Revolution was the second most important revolution of Europe that created several major immediate and long-lasting effects in Russia and the whole world.

·         Soon after the Russian Revolution in 1917, several other areas in Europe, Asia and America took effects from the revolution but most of these efforts failed in other parts of the world till the end of World War 2. The victory of Soviet Russia in WW2 against Germany assisted the Soviet Union to spread its influence and communist ideology in other parts of the world that initiated the Cold War between Soviet Union and USA (the two new world powers).

·         The Russian Revolution changed the whole society, culture and governmental system of Russia. All the large industries and agricultural farms came under direct control of the government. In long term, this policy proved disastrous for economy.

·         The new regime suppressed any opposition very brutally. During Stalin’s era, numbers of detention camps (Gulag) were established in various parts of Russia where the opponents were put in large numbers and many among them died there due to cruel treatment by authorities and hard living conditions. From many parts of Russia, even the whole population was exiled to other parts. A prominent example is the people of North Caucasus and Crimea who were exiled to Siberia and Central Asia.