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On 28 July 1914, Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia, which meant the onset of the First World War. Europe turned to a vast battlefield, divided into several fronts, since two opposing “blocks” entered the war: the Central Powers (Germany, Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey) on one side and the Triple Entente (France, Great Britain and Russia) on the other. During the first year of the war, in spite of its partnership in the trilateral alliance with Austro-Hungary and Germany, Italy remained neutral. With the signing of the Treaty of London, between Italy and the Triple Entente, Italy quit the alliance and declared war on Austro-Hungary on 23 May 1915. Thus the south-west front was opened; it was six-hundred kilometres long, running from the pass of Stelvio on the Swiss-Italian-Austrian border trifurcation, across Tyrol, the Carnian Alps, and through the Soča Region to the Adriatic. The ninety-kilometre-long section of the front that ran along the river Soča from Mt. Rombon to the Adriatic was named the Isonzo Front. During the twenty-nine months of warfare, from May 1915 through October 1917, twelve offensives were fought in this area. Eleven of them were launched by the Italians, the last one, the twelfth, by the soldiers of Austro-Hungary and Germany.

The First Isonzo Battle (23 June – 7 July 1915)
The Second Isonzo Battle (18 July – 3 August 1915)
The Third Isonzo Battle (18 October – 4 November 1915)
The Fourth Isonzo Battle (10 November – 2 December 1915)
The Fifth Isonzo Battle (11–16 March 1916)
The Sixth Isonzo Battle (4–16 August 1916)
The Seventh Isonzo Battle (13–17 September 1916)
The Eighth Isonzo Battle (9–12 October 1916)
The Ninth Isonzo Battle (31 October – 4 November 1916)
The Tenth Isonzo Battle (12 May – 5 June 1917)
The Eleventh Isonzo Battle (17 August – 12 September 1917)
The Twelfth Isonzo Battle (24 October – 9 November 1917)

After the initial shifting, the front line in the Upper Soča Region stabilized and turned to a static warfare. Fights took place mainly in the mountainous world. Civilians from the settlements in the immediate vicinity of the front were evacuated and forced to seek refuge; the settlements were occupied by soldiers. The front line between the Italian and the Austro-Hungarian armies ran from the top of Mt. Rombon to the Bovec basin, along the valley of the Slatenik to the Krn range, across Mt. Mrzli vrh, from where it descended to the Tolmin basin. The hills Mengore, Bučenica and Cvetje formed the blockade on the right bank of the Soča. In such a way Austro-Hungary defended the important railway- and road connections with the inland of the monarchy. This up to 2.5-kilometre-wide territory entered the history as the Tolmin bridgehead. The frontline continued across the Banjška planota plateau, past Gorizia and across the Kras area to the Trieste Bay. The majority of the Isonzo battles were fought along the lower section of the Soča where the world is not as mountainous as along its upper section. The anticipations of the Italian Army were that it would be easier to break the enemy's defence here than in the mountainous world.
 
The last chapter of the fights along the Soča occurred during the 12th Isonzo Battle which started on 24 October 1917, right along the river’s upper course. In literature, the battle is also known as the Miracle of Kobarid. It started with a short but powerful artillery backup attack by the joint Austro-Hungarian-German Army, and afterwards, the infantry attacked along the entire front line. Two simultaneous crucial advances were made, one from Bovec down the valley towards Žaga, and the other from Tolmin towards Kobarid. The break through the Isonzo Front was followed by the advance to the Friuli lowland and, further on, to the river Piave, where the front stabilized on 9 November 1917. After one year more of fights against the Italian Army, and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the First World War was brought to an end on 11 November 1918 with the capitulation of Germany.

The warfare along the Soča, which ended in October 1917, left numerous traces. Its memorials, caves, trenches, fortifications and cemeteries belong to cultural and historical heritage. It reminds us of the suffering, sacrifices and deaths of thousands of lads and men of numerous nations, and stands as a warning.
The war also affected bitterly the civil population in the settlements along the front.







 
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