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The Complex Conflict in Europe: World War I Beginnings and the Balkan Situation Today

The causes of World War I are very complex and have been discussed and debated by historians throughout the 20th century. How and why did the assassination of an Archduke lead to a global conflict? What did tensions in the Balkans have to do with the rest of Europe and the world? Does the current conflict in the Balkans bear resemblance to the conflict in that region at the beginning of World War I? You'll investigate the answers to these questions in this activity.

1. Read a brief overview of the beginnings of World War I at World War I Remembered:, linking to "The War to End All Wars."

2. Go to the Interactive Timelines at and see what happened in 1914. Draw your own timeline of the events in 1914 in which European nations declared war on each other.

3. Go to The Balkans Since 1815 map at to find out where the Balkans are located.

4. Why did this war begin, anyway? It wasn't just because the Archduke was assassinated - assassinations don't always lead to war, of course. What tensions had been developing in Europe to cause this event to trigger the Great War? This is an extremely complex question and hasn't been "officially" answered even by leading historians. In this activity, you'll need to gather evidence and come up with your own theory and opinion as to the causes of the war. Visit the following Web sites:

5. After investigating the evidence at the above sites, do the following:

  1. Answer this question: How did conflict in the Balkans contribute to the beginnings of global conflict?

  2. List the top three reasons why you think the conflict grew into such a big war. Then explain each reason in a paragraph, using examples from the sites to support your views.

6. As you have read, the conflict in the Balkans that preceded World War I increased tensions throughout Europe and contributed to the beginning of the war. There has, of course, been tremendous conflict in this region in the 1990s. Go to the following sites to find out more about this complex situation.

7. Write two to three pages that address the following questions about the Balkans:

  1. What does the word "balkanization" mean (refer to a dictionary), when was the word created, and does it appropriately describe this region today as it did when the word was coined? Why or why not?

  2. Why is this region so unstable?

  3. Are the conflicts going on today similar to those that occurred before World War I?

  4. Why haven't the conflicts of this decade led to another global war?