Euractiv has an article on the proposed commemorations of the Great War within Europe. Noting that a shared history is one of the foundations for a demos, the European Commission's unwillingness to participate in these events proves a notable failure for the Project. However, it is politically astute.
The British commemorations will focus on memory and loss, the defining themes of the war for thirty years as the last of the few have passed away. If there is an ebbing tide of the 'just war' and the 'right thing to do', this will not ne questioned deeply under the current coalition. Euractive misdescribes this as a focus on victory. The French reaction is similar. For both countries, the conflict is bound up with notions of cultural identity and how communities were tested or split asunder.
For Germany, Austria and Italy, the war is almost forgotten. Some view the emphasis on the conflict in the West as a form of victors' justice. Others cannot focus on the start of their tragedy since the prologue proved a miserable commencement to greater disasters. And in Russia, the centenary is viewed as a path for resurrection and a chance to draw upon Tsarist, not Communist, antecedents:
Vladimir Putin's Russia, meanwhile, has seized on the chance to fan national pride, reviving the memory of a war it says was unjustly forgotten under the Soviet regime -- which today's Russian rulers accuse of bowing shamefully to Germany in 1917.
How we recall the war depends upon national experience and the final disposition of the war. Those countries that lost and suffered revolutionary upheaval displaced their grieving and forgot their dead. But where losses were borne by stable democracies and without political change, there was a groundswell of remembrance and the names of the dead can still be discerned in lichened village sculpture under cross or sword.
For the only lesson from the Great War that we still observe for our citizen soldiers is recited in the Ode of Remembrance: "We shall remember them!" "Lest we forget!"