On the 5th and 6th of November 2015 the enlightening conference on “Unknown Fronts” took place in Groningen, organized by the University of Groningen and the Netherlands-Russia Centre. The main purpose of this conference was to shed light on the fronts that formed the South Eastern and East European theatres during the First World War. There exists a serious gap in the historical knowledge about these Eastern fronts, both in the West and the East of Europe. However, since the Communist bloc in Eastern Europe collapsed many sources became available after being invisible for a long time. These ‘new’ sources also provoked ‘new’ historical debates. As it did, for instance, after Christopher Clark presented his findings on this topic in his book called The Sleepwalkers (2012). With Clark not being the only one, he can be seen as part of an “Eastern Turn” in First World War historiography. Aimed at filling the gap and making unknown fronts known, this conference has made an important contribution to the necessary revision and redefinition of the First World War.
These two days of exchanging and sharing information were divided into six different blocks, three on each day, in which twenty-two speakers presented their latest research. These blocks were preceded by a keynote lecture given by Geert Buelens (University of Utrecht). He emphasised the importance of a reassessment of the First World War, not only in historical content, but also in the meaning of the word itself. One of the focus points in this, he states, should be on nationalism in the changing political landscape of the period surrounding the war. Nationalist wars started before and ended after The Great War, of which the significance in several cases turned out to be greater than of the First World War itself. He also points at the importance of looking at the Jewish perspective of “fighting your own brothers”. In this way linking important societal developments with developments in literature, Buelens stressed that a more transnational approach to the war is needed to overcome, both in historical content and in the meaning of the word, the predominantly Western interpretation of the First World War.