Images of Germans and peoples of Austria-Hungary during the First World War based on the memoirs of Russian veterans


The purpose of the article is to analyze the transformations of the images of the Germans and the peoples of Austria-Hungary as military opponents of the Russian imperial army during the First World War through the prism of the memoirs of front-line soldiers. Research methods: historical-genetic, historical-comparative, method of content analysis. Main results. The pre-war images of Germans and the peoples of Austria-Hungary who lived in Russian society were studied; the memoirs of front-line soldiers were analyzed for the use of propaganda clichés or a critical attitude towards Russian information policy; the combat and moral and psychological characteristics of the German and Austro-Hungarian armies in the memoirs of Russian combatants of the First World War were investigated; the phenomenon of the collapse of the Russian front in 1917 is considered through the prism of transformations in the perception of the military opponent by Russian lower ranks and officers. Conclusions. The experience of the First World War showed the moral unpreparedness of Russian soldiers to engage in battle with the soldiers of Germany and Austria-Hungary at the initial stage of the confrontation due to the unhistorical nature of this conflict, the alliance between these states in the past. In view of this, Russian propaganda was designed to teach front-line soldiers to hate the new enemy. However, actual combat experience had a greater influence on the perception of the enemy than propaganda. Soldiers of Germany and Austria-Hungary appear through the prism of memoirs as those who are better technologically equipped, however, often capable of personal bravery and willpower, prone to subterfuge, accustomed to fighting in better living conditions than the Russians. Real combat experience contributed to the acquisition of human traits (both positive and negative) by the enemy in the imagination of Russian soldiers. This "humanization" of the enemy contributed to a rapprochement with him and became one of the factors of mass "fraternization" of soldiers and the disintegration of the front in 1917. Practical significance: the results of the study can be used in teaching the course "Social History of Europe" (university elective course at DNU named after Olesya Honchara). Originality: for the first time, the connection between the field of ideas of the mass of soldiers and the phenomenon of the disintegration of the Eastern Front of the First World War in 1917 was analyzed. Scientific novelty: the dynamics of transformations of the images of the military adversary in the environment of the Russian army during 1914–1917 are shown; analyzed a large array of memoirs of senior officers and lower ranks of the Russian army published either during the war or shortly after its end, which were not available to domestic researchers for a long time. Type of article: analytical.

Author Biography

Valeriia Lavrenko, Oles Honchar Dnipro National University

Ph. D. in History, Associate Professor at the Department of World History, Oles Honchar Dnipro National University, Dnipro, Ukraine


Andreev, V., 1928. Pervyiy russkiy marsh-manevr v Velikuyu voynu (Gumbinen i Marna) [The first Russian march-maneuver in the Great War (Gumbinen and Marne)]. Paris (in Russian).

Aramilev, V., 1930. V dyimu voynyi Paris. Zapiski volnoopredelyayuschegosya (1914–1917 gg.) [In the smoke of war. Notes of a volunteer (1914–1917)]. Moscow (in Russian).

Astashov, A., 2012. Propaganda na Russkom fronte v godyi Pervoy mirovoy voynyi [Propaganda on the Russian front during the First World War]. Moscow (in Russian).

Belov, V. M., 1915. Krovyu i zhelezom. Vpechatleniya ofitsera-uchastnika (osen 1914 g.) [By Blood and Iron. Impressions of a Participating Officer (Autumn 1914)]. Petrograd (in Russian).

Vasilevskiy, L. M., 1916. Po sledam voynyi: vpechatleniya voennogo vracha [In the wake of the war: impressions of a military doctor]. Petrograd (in Russian).

Gorbacheva, L. O., 2013 Ofitsialnaya propaganda i formirovanie obraza vraga v rossiyskom obschestvennom soznanii v godyi Pervoy mirovoy voynyi [Official propaganda and formation of the image of the enemy in the Russian public mind during the First World War]. Dokument. Arhiv. Istoriya. Sovremennost [Document. Archive. History. Modernity]. Yekaterinburg: Ural, issue 13, pp. 170–181 (in Russian).

Ksyunin, A.I., 1916. Narod na voyne (iz zapisok voennogo korrespondenta) [The people at war (from the notes of a war correspondent)]. Petrograd (in Russian).

Kobets, O., 1993. Zapysky polonenoho (pryhody i vrazhennia uchasnyka Pershoi svitovoi vijny) [Notes of a prisoner (adventures and impressions of a participant of the First World War)]. Kyiv (in Ukrainian).

Kozelskiy, O., 1916. Zapiski batareynogo komandira: sostavlenyi po pismam, zametkam i rasskazam uchastnika voynyi [Notes of a battery commander: compiled from letters, notes and stories of a participant in the war]. Petrograd (in Russian).

Kutsyk, R. R., 2017. Karykatura iak osoblyvyj mekhanizm informatsijnoi propahandy na terytorii ukrains’kykh hubernij Pivdenno-Zakhidnoho kraiu [Caricature as a special mechanism of informational propaganda in Ukrainian provinces of the South-Western region]. Naukovi pratsi istorychnoho fakul’tetu Zaporiz’koho natsional’noho universytetu [Scientific works of the historical faculty of Zaporizhzhia National University], issue 47, pp. 86–91 (in Ukrainian).

Makarov-Zarechenets, V. G., 1939. Yegorevskie kavaleryi: zapiski pulemetchika mirovoy voynyi [Yegorievsk Cavaliers: notes of a machine gunner of the World War]. Moscow (in Russian).

Paduchev, V. L., 1931. Zapiski nizhnego china 1916 god [Notes of the lower rank 1916]. Moscow (in Russian).

Pankratov, A. S., 1915. Krovavoe zarevo. Ocherki voynyi [Bloody Glow. Essays on War]. Yaroslavl (in Russian).

Pireyko, A. M., 1935. Na fronte imperialisticheskoy voynyi: vospominaniya bolshevika [On the front of the imperialist war: memoirs of a Bolshevik]. Moscow (in Russian).

Senyavskaya, E. S., 1997. Obraz vraga v soznanii uchastnikov Pervoy mirovoy voynyi [The image of the enemy in the minds of participants in the First World War]. Voprosy istorii [Questions of history], no. 3, pp. 140–156 (in Russian).

Sergeevskiy, B.N., 1933. Perezhitoe. 1914 [One’s past. 1914]. Belgrad (in Russian).

Stelmakh, S., Kotova, S., 2014. Formuvannia “obrazu voroha” v rosijs’kij publitsystytsi 1914–1915 rr. (na prykladi zhurnalu “Russkaya mysl”) [Formation of the Enemy Image in Russian journalism of 1914–1915 (on the example of the Russian Thought magazine)]. Visnyk Kyivs’koho natsional’noho universytetu imeni T. Shevchenka. Seriia: Istoriia [Bulletin of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Series: History], no. 3, pp. 35–38 (in Ukrainian).

Tumilovich, E.V., 2014. Vospominaniya. Pervaya mirovaya: vzglyad iz okopa [Memories. World War I: a view from the trench]. Moscow; St. Petersburg (in Russian).

Filippova, T., and Baratov, P., 2014. “Vragi Rossii”. Obrazy i ritoriki vrazhdy v russkoy zhurnalnoy satire Pervoy mirovoy voyny [The Enemies of Russia. Images and rhetoric of enmity in Russian magazine satire of the First World War]. Moscow (in Russian).

Yudin, N. V., 2012. Sozdanie obraza vraga v propagande stran Antanty v nachale Pervoy mirovoy voyny (avgust – dekabr 1914 g.) [Creation of the enemy image in the propaganda of the Entente countries at the beginning of the First World War (August – December 1914).]. Izvestiya Saratovskogo universiteta [News of Saratov University]. Seriya: Istoriya, mezhdunarodnyie otnosheniya, vol. 12, issue 3, pp. 50–58 (in Russian).
How to Cite
LAVRENKO, Valeriia. Images of Germans and peoples of Austria-Hungary during the First World War based on the memoirs of Russian veterans. Universum Historiae et Archeologiae, [S.l.], v. 4, n. 2, p. 156–172, july 2022. ISSN 2707-6385. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 10 aug. 2022. doi:
World History