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Q9. Briefly describe how World War I changed the political geography of World? Also, discuss Immediate Consequences of the War and the Peace Treaties and Midterm Impact of World War I

The war and the peace treaties transformed the political map of the world, particularly of Europe. Three ruling dynasties were destroyed — the Romanov in Russia during the war itself, the Hohenzollern in Germany and the Habsburg in Austria-Hungary. Soon after the war, the rule of Ottomans came to an end in Turkey. Austria and Hungary became separate independent states. Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia emerged as independent states. Poland which had been divided among Russia, Austria and Prussia in the eighteenth century was reformed as an independent state.

Much of Eastern Europe, in particular, was re-divided along ethno-linguistic lines, and Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland all became independent countries. Several other nations were awkwardly combined into the countries of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. A major reorganization of the Near and Middle East also took place following the war, establishing the forerunners of the countries we know today as Armenia, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.

The aftermath of World War I also marked the practical end of monarchy on the continent and of European colonialism throughout the rest of the world. Most European nations began to rely increasingly upon parliamentary systems of government, and socialism gained increasing popularity. The brutality of the conflict and the enormous loss of human life inspired a renewed determination among nations to rely upon diplomacy to resolve conflicts in the future. This resolve directly inspired the birth of the League of Nations.


Immediate Consequences of the War and the Peace Treaties

Revolutionary changes were brought about by World War I in all forms of social life, as well as in all modes of thinking. World War I caused a terrible loss of human life and property. It involved practically all the countries of Europe and the U.S.A., as well as most of the African and Asian states. Nine million men were killed, and twenty-nine million men were wounded or missing. Thirteen million died on account of civilian massacres, disease and famine, which overtook the world, as a consequence of the Great War. The financial cost of the Great War was estimated to have been about 400 billion dollars.

The map of Europe was reconstructed by a series of treaties.

By the Treaty of Versailles, Germany had to surrender: provinces of Alsace and Lorraine and the coal mines of the Saar basin to France, and many other strategic areas to Belgium, Denmark, Poland and Lithuania

The Treaty of St. Germain was imposed on Austria on September 10, 1919. As a result of this treaty, the Empire of Austria-Hungary was destroyed. Austria and Hungary were separated. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were created as two new states.

The Allies imposed a separate treaty, called the Treaty of Trianon, upon Hungary on June 4, 1920. Hungary lost about 90,000 square miles of territory with a population of about 12 million under this treaty.

The Treaty of Nevilly was forced by the Allies upon Bulgaria on November 27, 1919. Finally, the Allied powers imposed the Treaty of Sevres upon Turkey on August 10, 1920.

Nationalism triumphed to a great extent. The German, the Austrian and Hungarian, the Turkish and the Russian empires were shattered. On their ruins, new national states were built, which were founded on the principle of ‘self-determination’ of the people, as advocated by President Woodrow Wilson. The Polish territories, which were seized by Russia, Prussia and Austria, at the congress of Vienna of 1815, were joined to form the sovereign state of Poland. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were formed into two new independent ideologies and economic systems.

The above Treaties aimed at reducing the armaments of the vanquished and keeping them militarily weak. The Treaty of Versailles made Germany stand fully unarmed before the fully armed Allied powers. All kinds of tanks, armored cars, military aero-planes, submarines and air-force, were forbidden in Germany. The manufacture of arms and ammunition was heavily restricted. The Treaty of St. Germain reduced the Austrian army to 30,000 soldiers and her naval force to only three police boats on the Danube.

The end of the war caused serious problems such as large-scale unemployment and also a disruption of normal industrial and economic life. This created a favorable atmosphere for the growth of leftist and other parties, such as Socialist, Communist, Fascist and Nazi parties which gained power in Europe. It also led to the birth of communism in Russia, and authoritarian dictatorships in Italy, Germany, Spain and Turkey.

The Allied Powers set up a Reparation Commission to estimate the total amount of reparation to be made by Germany. The latter was supposed to make financial atonement for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allies. It was to make an initial payment of five billion dollars. It was also to devote its economic resources to the physical restoration of the devastated areas in France. German criminals were to be tried and punished by military tribunals of the Allied Powers.


Midterm Impact of World War I

World War I led to the emergence of Great Powers in Europe, America and the Far East. Great Britain proved to be the leading maritime and colonial power on earth. France came to be regarded as a great military power in Europe. Japan enhanced its power and prestige in the Far East, at the cost of China and Russia. Finally, the U.S.A. emerged from the Great War as a great world power.

The Treaty of Versailles was too harsh on Germany; it was fully deprived of her colonies and was totally disarmed by the treaty. It had to pay a crushing war indemnity. It was natural then, that the Germans grew up on the cult of revenge under the leadership of Adolph Hitler who was mainly responsible for World War II.

The period after the war saw the war saw the beginning of the end of the European supremacy in the world. Economically and militarily, Europe was surpassed by the United States which emerged from the war as a world power The Soviet Union was also to soon come up as a major world power.

The period after the war also saw the strengthening of the freedom movements in Asia and Africa. The weakening of Europe and the emergence of the Soviet Union which declared her support to the struggles for national independence contributed to the growing strength of these struggles.

The Allied propaganda during the war to defend democracy, and the participation of Asian and African soldier in the battles in Europe also helped in arousing the peoples of Asia and Africa. The European countries had utilized the resources of their colonies in the war. The forced recruitment of soldiers and laborers for war, and the exploitation of resources of the colonies for war by the imperialist countries had created resentment among the people of the colonies.

The population of the colonial countries had been nurtured on the myth that the peoples of Asia and Africa were inferior to the Europeans. The role played by the soldiers from Asia and Africa in winning the war for one group of nations of Europe against another shattered this myth. Many Asian leaders had supported the war effort in the hope that, once the war was over, their countries would be given freedom. These hopes were, however, belied. While the European nations won the right to self-determination, colonial rule and exploitation continued in the countries of Asia and Africa. The contrast between the two situations was too glaring to be missed. Its increasing awareness led to the growth of nationalist feelings in the colonies. In some countries, the first stirrings of nationalism were felt after the war.

The First World War had been believed to be ‘a War to end all war’. However, the Peace Treaties had failed to ensure this. On the contrary, the treaties contained certain provisions which were extremely harsh on the defeated countries and thus they sowed the seeds of further conflicts. Similarly, some victorious countries also felt cheated because all their hopes had not been fulfilled. Imperialism was not destroyed as a result of the war. The victorious powers had in fact enlarged their possessions.

The factors which had caused rivalries and conflicts between imperialist countries leading to the war still existed. Therefore, the danger that more wars would be fought for another ‘division’ of the world remained lurking’.

The emergence of the Soviet Union was considered a danger to the existing social and economic system in many countries. The desire to destroy it influenced the policies of those countries.

These factors, combined with certain developments that took place in the next twenty years, created conditions for another world war.


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