Here’s a new footnote for Chapter 3 of my Russian history, covering an interesting World War I story:
You may have heard the story about the World War I Christmas Truce; along part of the western front in 1914, the Germans and British agreed to a one-day truce for Christmas, climbed out of the trenches to greet one another, played soccer, and went back to war the next day. The equivalent story on the eastern front happened in the winter of 1916-17, in the Kovno-Wilna-Minsk district (near the present-day Belarus-Lithuanian border). That season, starving wolves attacked small groups of German and Russian soldiers, even when they were in the trenches. Russian wolves are larger and stronger than other wolves to begin with, and the weapons used against them–poison, rifles, hand grenades, even machine guns–failed to eradicate the menace. No matter how many wolf packs the Germans and Russians killed, more wolves appeared to take their place, as if they were rapidly breeding somewhere in the vicinity. Eventually the soldiers got permission from their commanders to negotiate a truce, during which they would work together to kill the wolves instead of each other. The resulting team hunt was a complete success; they bagged hundred of wolves, and the rest fled the area. Here is how The New York Times reported the story. The lesson to be learned here is that if you want combatants to put aside their differences, introduce an enemy who can destroy them all. Science fiction writers like to write stories about the nations of earth joining together to fight an alien invasion (e.g., Harry TurtleDove’s Worldwar series); next to the Black Death, this may be the closest thing to a real-life threat to humanity during wartime.