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Despite Eastern Europe being the “spark” that ignited the First World War, for much of the West, it is the fighting in France that holds our collective memories.

On August 27, the National WWI Museum and Memorial hopes to correct that with a special exhibition, Empires at War: Austria and Russia, featuring never-before-seen objects from the Eastern Front of The Great War.

“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,” according to the museum’s press release. “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.”

Oft neglected or downright ignored, the Eastern Front saw the decline of two empires and the rise of revolutionary ideas. Despite this importance, collecting ephemera has been difficult due to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian dynasties.

With the Centenary of WWI, “opportunities to reengage the international community and enrich the collection” and shed “new light on the enduring impact of war on the Eastern Front” arose. And, unlike “many exhibitions, it is not presented chronologically but by topics.” said Doran Cart, senior curator at the museum. 

Opening this Friday, Empires at War: Austria and Russia is on view in Kansas City through January 2023.