In my experience, in Central Europe, people are more aware of the Second World War, than the First World War. This seems to be the case in other European an American regions, too.

Do others also see this emphasis and awareness of WW2 over WW1?

How does knowledge of WW1 illuminate and explain current events?

How does understanding WW1 compare to understanding WW2, in terms of understanding current events and issues likely to arise?

Some points about WW1's importance:

  • It happened exactly 100 years ago
  • Many modern European (Italy, Great Britain, Austria, Hungary, France) were physically and politically shaped by it.
  • It brought us modern warfare like tanks, airplanes, submarines
  • It gave the USA the status of a worlds superpower
  • It gave birth to important nations like Soviet Union and Turkey
  • It marked the beginning of the end of world-wide Colonialism and and the end of Absolutism

A related, but perhaps separate question: How have the two wars been treated in popular films and literature? What are some of the better treatments and when were they made?

  • 1
    One short answer - there are a lot of people still alive today who served in (and remember) WWII but no veterans remain from WWI
    – davidjwest
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 21:07
  • 2
    Interest in WWI is currently undergoing a bit of a resurgence due to the 100 year anniversary. You might be interested in the YouTube channel The Great War.
    – Schwern
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 21:38
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    "It was a real World War in contrary to WW II which was a series of local conflicts" that's a pretty extraordinary claim. Could you clarify what you mean by that?
    – Schwern
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 21:39
  • 1
    @Schwern Exactly. In fact, series of local conflicts applies more to WWI than WWII because of the developments in the Balkans.
    – taninamdar
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 21:51
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    @DevSolar That's only the Western Front. The very dynamic Eastern, African, and Middle Eastern fronts are all too often ignored, it was, after all, a World War.
    – Schwern
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 19:46

2 Answers 2


World War II was in many respects a "continuation" war of World War I, from which there were a lot of "unfinished" business. World War II brought "closure" to many of these things. Consider the following:

1, Yes, tanks planes, submarines, and other weapons were developed during World War I,but it wasn't until World War II that people realized how destructive they were. One scientific idea, atomic theory already existed by World War I, but no one knew until World War II where it would lead.

  1. World War I began the destruction of "European" empires (mainly Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire), but it wasn't until World War II that global empires were dismantled, and countries like India became fully independent.

  2. The League of Nations formed after World War I did not prevent a second world war. But the United Nations formed after World War II kept conflicts "local."

  • +1 because you elaborated my first point with more precision.
    – taninamdar
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 22:16
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    World War II actually built new empires (US western block and Soviet eastern block), while the Great War just destroyed old empires (except Germany, which was only slightly reduced in size and power, but kept as-it, much unfortunately).
    – Bregalad
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 19:16

This is only an extended comment.

One (possibly unsatisfactory) reason is that WWII happened after WWI, and so the interwar period is now seen as a period of 20 years that led to an even greater conflict. Had WWII not happened, WWI would have been seen as a watershed event, one that led to the fall of Four great empires (Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany and Ottoman).

Another interesting point is that, WWI is still seen in the Eastern Europe as the fire that gave birth to new nations, and revived old (like Poland). So it also largely depends on who you ask.

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