Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, August 27, 2021

“Empires at War: Austria and Russia” Opens Today at the National WWI Museum and Memorial


Empires at War,  now open at America's National World War One in Kansas City, MO, features never-before-seen objects from the Eastern Front of the Great War.  By the close of World War I, four empires had collapsed, including both the Russian and the Austro-Hungarian Empires. Empires at War: Austria and Russia examines the conflict on the Eastern Front, an aspect of the war often less surveyed but with cataclysmic results for the millions affected.

Often viewed as the "spark" that ignited the First World War, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, were assassinated on 28 June 1914. As one of the very first nations to declare war, Austria accused Serbia of plotting and backing the assassination and threatened invasion. Russia roared in to support its Slav brothers, rapidly mobilizing its forces, resulting in huge losses and contributing to revolutions at home.

Russians Operating a Trench Mortar

Austrian Bowl for the Home Front

The Eastern Front was a ‘war of movement’ where the Central Powers, with over 2.5 million troops, faced a much larger, but disorganized, force of 4 million Russians. Drawing from original objects recently added to the Museum and Memorial’s collection, the exhibition features an extraordinary collection of never-before-seen Austrian and Russian material culture—uniforms, equipment, flags, hats, helmets and more.

“The subject matter of this exhibition rose out of the wealth and diversity of Austrian and Russian objects and archival materials that the Museum and Memorial has been fortunate to acquire over the last decade. Unlike many exhibitions, it is not presented chronologically but by topics.” said Doran Cart, senior curator at the National WWI Museum and Memorial. “Pivotal battles, Austrian and Russian women in the war, and the changes in the nations are illustrated, and their stories told by the participants.”

Russian Propaganda Poster (Detail)

Austro-Hungarian Radio Operators

Although the Museum and Memorial has been collecting internationally since 1920, material culture from the Eastern Front of the war has been difficult to acquire due in part to the collapse of dynasties. The commemoration of the Centennial of WWI brought opportunities to re-engage the international community and enrich the collection, shedding new light on the enduring impact of war on the Eastern Front.


Russian Army Belt Buckle

Empires at War: Austria and Russia 

Opens 27 August 2021 and is on view in Exhibit Hall through January 2023. Admission is included with the purchase of a Museum ticket.


  1. I'd love to see this.
    Maybe it'll still be there when Delta subsides.

  2. OK, where is this Museum? It seems like everyone claims to be a National Museum.


    1. National WWI Museum and Memorial
      2 Memorial Dr, Kansas City, MO 64108

    2. It was dedicated by General Pershing in either the late 20"s or early 30's. It fell into disrepair but had extensive expensive repair 20 or 30 years ago and is an extensive and modern WW1 museum.
      It is what you would expect from a Smithsonian museum such as the two Air and Space museums in the Washington DC area.
      Highly recommend. Visited with my dad several times in its original configuration and twice since 2000. I live in Phoenix--it wasn't an afternoon jaunt.