What happens in Europe doesn’t stay in Europe

by Paul Holmes ([email protected]) 207 views 

Here’s a quick quiz, for entertainment and amusement purposes only. Prizes are definitely not a part of this project.

The rules are simple: no cheating by using Wikipedia or other reference sources, no history teachers may play and participants must answer within 30 days. Opinions of the judges are final. The clock is ticking. Ready, set, GO!

What is the capital of present-day Yugoslavia?

Vienna sausages, those short little wieners surrounded by gel and crammed into cans and sold in the United States, are imported from Vienna, Austria.

There are just two correct pronunciations of Vienna sausage in Arkansas. Name one.

Weiner schnitzel is a Viennese dish made of pork in the shape of sausages.

Maria Theresa, who was the leader of the Habsburg Empire for 40 years, was distantly related to Mother Teresa.

Bratislava is a weiner schnitzel with coleslaw on the side.

Bulgaria exports to the United States the best Bulgarian beef, made exclusively from the meat of Bulgarian bulls.

The Balkan nations were called the Powder Keg of Europe in the run-up to World War I in a squabble over which country made the best shotguns.

The Blue Danube, a song written by Johann Strauss Jr., stayed on the top 40 hot records list for 42 consecutive weeks.

Serbian-born Nicola Tesla invented the electric car in 1950.

Actually, the questionnaire is a bit silly since I made up the questions, but if it has any value, the questionnaire may serve as the generator of conversations at coffee shops and barber shops from at least a 50-mile radius, if not statewide.

Perhaps many of our readers were exposed to some European history, particularly the rich and varied history of the Balkans. With their changing boundaries and the difficult pronunciations of some of the names and places of these lands far away from our corner of the world, it is in one sense easy to see why many of us, me included, have a hard time keeping straight who led what country and when.

We may not know when Maria Theresa was empress of the Habsburg dynasty, but very few of us who get ESPN on our TVs, would likely say we never heard of Serbian Novak Djokovic, a dominating power in professional tennis, or gymnasts from the Balkans and weightlifters from Bulgaria.

The point is, no matter how remote or obscure a nation is, what happens halfway around the world impacts not just us in the United States, but also people around the globe.

World War I, also known as the Great War, started in 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. His murder resulted in a war across Europe that lasted until 1918.

During the four-year conflict, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers) fought against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Canada, Japan and the United States (the Allied Powers). Thanks to new military technologies and trench warfare, World War I saw levels of destruction not previously reached.

A Serbian nationalist assassinated the archduke with the goal of forcing the Austro-Hungarian Empire into giving up Bosnia and Herzegovina. Instead, the world was plunged into a nasty conflict that took as many as 22 million soldiers’ lives and up to 11 civilian lives.

Though billed as the War to End All Wars, some historians believe World War I set the stage for World War II. It led to the fall of four great imperial dynasties in Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey, resulted in the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and, in its destabilization of European society, laid the groundwork for World War II.

Though the U.S. wanted a treaty that would not treat Germany harshly, Great Britain, France, and Italy wanted to punish Germany. As a result, Germany had to pay a huge sum in reparations to the Allies. That requirement wrecked Germany’s economy and led to the failure of the Weimar Republic after the war ended.

Germany also had to give up land and reduce its military capabilities. The harsh treaty also created much resentment in Germany. These factors led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

That leads me to believe that perhaps we are not as a nation paying enough attention to what Russia is doing in Ukraine. Russian officials said in 2014 they were “annexing” Crimea from Ukraine and that’s what happened.

Now, though we haven’t committed battalions of soldiers and Marines to Ukraine, at least not yet, we are supplying tons of armaments. Also, Ukraine is getting 40 to 60 American-made updated F-16 fighter jets from Denmark and the Netherlands. The Danes and Dutch must be a little nervous about that. The Russians have said the F-16s represent an escalation of the war between Russia and Ukraine. We don’t want the Russian bear to maul Europe but we’re walking a bit of a tight rope.

Let’s hope that unlike World War I, we know what we’re doing.

Editor’s note: Paul Holmes is editor-at-large for Northeast Arkansas Talk Business & Politics. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are those of the author.