Nations across the globe were besieged in brutal and tumultuous wars between 1914 and 1918, popularly known as the First World War. The First World War was the outcome of a series of practices of old international system. These include inter-imperialist rivalries, chauvinism, antagonism, conflicts within Europe, alliances, and, militarization.
This consequently led to feverish preparation of the war. However, the end of the First World War led to withering away of the old international system. A new picture of the globe was formed with the reorganization of Europe.
Also, several events like the USA’s pledge of saving democracy while entering the war, the Russian Revolution against barbarous reign of Czar (or Tsar), the Fourteen Points (expected to form the basis of peace) proposed by the US President Woodrow Wilson, etc. led to the expectation that the period after the end of the war would bring peace, freedom and democracy. But, as the period unveiled all these expectations proved futile.
Nevertheless, indulgence in the First World War led to crippling up of the socio-economic system of the Europe. During the inter-war period, Europe was stuck in the vicious cycle of economic depression.
Debtor nations found it impossible to pay their debts without borrowing even more money at higher rates. This further worsened the economy to a larger extent. Germany, however, was the nation which was most hurt after the war. It was forced to accept her ‘war guilt’ through the reparations imposed on it by Britain and France using the Treaty of Versailles.
The era following the First World War also sharpened the division between the Leftists and the Rightists. One faction thought that extreme left could solve Europe ’s problem and the other sought leadership from the extreme right .
This led to a constant friction between the governments of Britain, France and Eastern Europe. Extreme viewpoints among leaders also engendered some totalitarian states like fascism in Germany, Italy and Spain. These extreme stands coupled with other factors laid the path towards the Second World War.
USA was one of the important players after the First World War. It played a central role in framing of the peace treaties and making of the world post – World War I. It also became the world’s dominant economic power.
During the war, USA smartly pursued the policy of capitalism and became a major creditor nation. It started debt financing of the European Nations (called as ‘Dollar Diplomacy’) which were largely debt ridden during and after the war. While the European nations were recuperating from the blow (especially economic) of the war, the United States started her industrial expansion.
This industrial expansion led to the narrowing up of the economic power in fewer hands. Later on, only few giant firms were present in the American market. This further strengthened their monopoly. This increased economic power led to their greater say in the political arena of the US on the whole. And as the proverb goes, power and virtue cannot coexist, increased instances of corruption and political scandals started emerging in the United States of America.
Apart from such extraordinary economic growth, the United States faced a serious economic crisis. As mentioned, USA pursued the policy of Capitalism, inevitable by product of which was repression and misery of the working class. Hence, this expansion led to strong unrest among the working class. Steps were taken to form the trade unions, but as the government and the business houses were paralleled, these trade unions and protests were crushed brutally.
Crash of 1929
The exceptional economic expansion, however, was short lived. On October 29, 1929 ( termed as the ‘ Black Tuesday ’), the economic crash was described as the Great Depression, began. The great depression has often been described as ‘the largest earthquake ever to be measured on the economic historian’s Richter scale ’.
The great depression was the outcome of the iniquitous distribution of purchasing power. As mentioned earlier, the wealth got concentrated in the hands of a few people. Advancement of technology led to increased profits for only those few who were in a position to buy what was being produced.
The paucity of currency led to the fall in prices of the commodities in the market. This instigated fall in the prices of shares. People started selling their shares, which further worsened the situation. A vicious cycle had been set in motion. Consequently, the stock market collapsed. This was followed by the failure of banks giving a massive blow to the savings of the people. This further emptied the pockets of the Americans .
The New Deal was the bunch of measures launched by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933). This was introduced in order to curb the ill effects of the Great Depression. It touched four major aspects: economic recovery, civic uplift, job creation, and investment in public works.
It brought immediate economic relief and reforms in industry, agriculture, finance, waterpower, labor, and housing. Most of the legislations were enacted within the first three months (popularly known as the ‘Hundred Days’) of Roosevelt coming to power. Agencies like Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps were setup for emergency and short-term governmental aid. National Recovery Administration was responsible to revive Industrial activity.
Securities and Exchange Commission was constituted to protect the investing public from fraudulent stock market practices. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration tried to increase prices by controlling the production of staple crops through cash subsidies to farmers. The Tennessee Valley Authority was bestowed to cover a seven-state area and supply cheap electricity, prevent floods, improve navigation, and produce nitrates.
USA and World
Woodrow Wilson was the president of US from 1913 to 1921. He came up with an ambitious foreign policy after the World War I. His foreign policy was noted for its idealistic humanitarianism.
He was an ardent votary of democracy and advocated the spreading of democracy. He wanted to create an international organization dedicated to keeping peace while having an active global role for the US. In his words, The world must be made safe for democracy’. He hoped to achieve this aim through a just and fair peace treaty and the formation of the League of Nations.
US was also closely watching Japanese movements and interests in China. US perceived these interventions as a threat to US economic interests. Therefore, US came up with an ‘open door policy ’ and a treaty was signed in 1922 with Japan, Britain, France and Italy. The main thread of this treaty was that no one country should establish her exclusive control over China. The treaty also placed a cap on Japan’s naval strength.
During this period, US was also reluctant to intervene in the acts of aggression by Japan, Italy and Germany. For more than a decade, she hadn’t recognized the government of USSR.
But USA’s policies in Latin America (popularly called as ‘Yankee Imperialism’) was somehow paradox to its principles of saving democracy the world over. The United States, banking upon strong economic domination and direct military intervention, increased its say in the affairs of the Latin American countries. This repressive control of the Latin American countries faced several resentments, but were often suppressed.
The First World War impacted economic, military and political arenas of Russia. After a huge economic blow, a new long-term development strategy was raising head in public discussions. The food and fuel shortages led to the revolution during February-March. This revolution determined the character and direction of Russian economic activity not just during the interwar years but even afterwards. It led to the seizure of power, in October 1917, by the Bolshevik Party of Vladimir ilyich Lenin (1870-1924). A brutal civil war and a communist experiment also followed.
Russia formally exited the first world war by signing a peace treaty (the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk) with the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire) in March 1918. But this peace treaty and Russia’s exit from the First World War proved futile as far as domestic peace and foreign intervention was concerned .
Most of the war – weary population in the erstwhile Russian empire faced violence for at least two more years. The war between the Bolshevik regime’s Red Army and the armies of their so-called White opponents continued till The Civil War and the foreign intervention(military intervention by Great Britain, France, Japan and the United States) totally ravaged the Russian economy. These and the famines that followed resulted in the death of millions of people.
These led the Soviet government to pursue various stringent measures that came to be known as War Communism and the New Economic Policy (NEP).
War Communism was the name given to the economic system introduced in Russia from 1918 to 1921. It was introduced by Lenin to combat the economic problems brought on by the civil war. It aimed to abolish private trade, control labor and nationalize all large-scale industry.
It also enabled forced requisition of surplus grain and other food products from the peasantry by the state. One of the foremost measures of war communism was nationalization of land. Later on, Banks and shipping were also nationalized and foreign trade was declared as a state monopoly. War Communism also took control of the distribution of food. The war communism had the following underlying principles:
No private ownership,
State should determine what labor one needs to do. For instance, once a military army had served its purpose, it became a labor army.
Extreme centralization of the economy (in the hands of the state).
State to be the sole producer and distributor.
These measures badly impacted both agricultural and industrial production. The peasants’ production fell substantially and led to chronic starvation. Labor productivity and industrial output also plummeted. Uncontrolled inflation rendered paper currency worthless. This led the state to replace the money system with a universal system of state rationing (sometimes, reintroducing barter system).
New Economic Policy (NEP)
The New Economic Policy was a revised economic strategy introduced by Lenin in 1921 after the ill effects of the previous policy of war communism came to fore. It was a retreat from the previous policy of extreme centralization and state control.
The policy of War Communism created social distress and led to riots, strikes and demonstrations, One of the important events that urged Lenin to give a second thought to the policy of war communism was the Kronstadt Uprising of 1921. Hence, the NEP was introduced so as to give a breathing space to the ravaged economy of Russia.
Some of the broad measures adopted under the New Economic Policy were as under:
Agriculture, retail trade, and small-scale light industry were returned to private ownership.
The control of heavy industry, transport, banking, and foreign trade were retained by the State.
Money was reintroduced.
Peasants were allowed to own and cultivate land, while paying taxes to the state.
The New Economic Policy helped the Soviet economy recuperate. This led to the return of some capitalist classes known as new kulak and Nepmen (or NEP men).
Nevertheless, the New Economic Policy did not solve all of Russia’s economic ills either. Despite improved wages and conditions, it became difficult to attract workers back to the cities. This became one of the reasons as to why Russia’s industrial recovery in the early 1920s was much slower than its agricultural recovery.
Formation of USSR
On December 29, 1922, a conference of delegations from Russia, Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, Ukrainian and Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republics approved the treaty on the creation and declaration of the USSR, forming the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In February 1924, the USSR was recognized by the British Empire. The same year, a Soviet Constitution was proclaimed cementing the concept of erstwhile constituted USSR.
The principle of nationality and the equality of all nationalities were the bedrocks of these Republics. These Republics were even allowed to secede from the constitution. They were also free to promote their own language and culture.
Within the decades of establishment, the Soviet Union grew into one of the world’s most powerful and influential states.
It comprised of 15 republics – Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. In 1991, however, the Soviet Union was dissolved after the collapse of its communist government.
Foreign Policy of USSR
The foreign policy pursued by the Soviet Union projected it as an ardent votary against colonialism as it was the only major power taking a stand against colonialism then.
Although this outlook could also be inferred as USSR’s (a strong Socialist state) strong opposition to Capitalism, a by product of which was colonialism.
USSR signed several treaties with Iran, Afghanistan, and Turkey (signed with Mustafa Kemal) strengthening their sovereignty, and Turkey’s war to restore its territorial integrity. In 1934, the USSR joined the League of Nations and made efforts in the direction of maintenance of independence of nations.
Meanwhile, the extremes of Fascism (like in Italy and Spain, and Nazism in Germany) were raising its head. The Fascist states were pursuing the policies of inhumanism, irrationalism, totalitarianism, and dictatorship leading to excessive atrocities on the people. In the hope of nourishing fascism against communism (so as to end communism), most western countries appeased these fascist states. USSR got an edge by taking a stand against these acts of aggression and urged others for a united action to check fascist aggression. She also participated in various disarmament conferences and made proposals for complete disarmament.
Meanwhile, communist parties had taken roots at the end of the war. Before the war also, workers were asked to unite so as to thwart any attempt of war, and once war started, its speedy termination had been vowed. In 1919, the Communist International (or Comintern/Third International) was constituted in Moscow in order to advocate world communism. This further strengthened the socialist/communist ideology and led to establishment of the communist parties in various other states.
In almost all countries, they played a leading role in organizing the workers against the miseries created by the capitalist system. This also led the west to view Comintern as an instrument of Soviet foreign policy against them.
Japan was the only non-western state which maintained full political independence during the age of imperialism. This led her to pursue the urge of its domination, at least over a majority of Asia. She was also the greatest naval power in the pacific region. These were the reasons which, inter alia, led Japan to seek an expansionist foreign policy.
With Japan’s modernization in the late 19th century, came her longing for expansion. At the end of the First World War, Japan made major colonial gains in the Pacific and over a large part of China.
Japan used soft power (like economic support) as well as hard power (like various acts of aggression) so as to fulfil this desire. The first apparatus employed was that of economic aid, just like dollar diplomacy of the USA. This peaceful policy of the economic support was extended to China and the states of South East Asia.
However, this approach started proving futile with the growing demand of Chinese national unification and rising influence of the Chinese Communist party. Japan never wanted that the attempts of Chinese unification should come to a positive conclusion. She also annexed China in 1937.
In 1931 with little resistance, Japan occupied Manchuria and established a puppet government there. She also tried to hinder the growing communist influence and establish her dominance over Asia and Pacific by signing the Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany in 1936. This want of Japan, coupled with those of Italy and Germany (for they had same desires over the rest of the world) paved the way for World War II.
Her dependence on other countries, especially China, for raw materials, machinery and foodstuffs was also one of the reasons for its thirst of direct or indirect expansion.
During the inter-war period, Japan’s ambitions to become a global power led to the establishment of totalitarian political system. The say of the military increased substantially and the repressive and jingoistic political system, regarded as ‘Military Fascism’, came into being.
Interwar period witnessed a new liberal spirit in Japan. It saw the development of democratic trends in 1920s with the introduction of universal male suffrage. But this democratic fervor was short lived. Notwithstanding the signs of liberal changes, many Japanese were not at ease with this new form Japan was taking. Tensions intensified between those who wanted radical changes (workers, communists, etc.) and those embracing Japan’s traditional ways (conservatives, chauvinists, etc.). This was the outcome of Japan’s Industrialization with no change in Japan’s feudal system. This led to the passage of some of the anti-radical legislations (under the influence of Rightists). These acts curtailed individual freedom in Japan, thwarted any radical attempt, and eventually crushed the communists.
Consequently, Japan’s turning away from these liberal trends was set in motion. Ideas like national chauvinism, superiority of Japanese culture and emperor-worship were propagandized.
As Japan moved more and more towards conservatism, military gained increased influence over the country and its civil affairs. The military started developing strong nexus with some of the secret societies attacking the modern ideas of pacifism, liberalism and democracy. Agendas of saving Japanese culture from foreign intervention were spread.
The state was being transformed to serve the Army and the emperor. All political parties were ordered to dissolve into single association, forming a one-party state based on totalitarian values. Various nationalist initiatives were determined to mobilize Japanese society for a total war against the West. This increasing impact of military was the major reason as to why Japan pursued an aggressive and expansionist foreign policy between the two world wars.
After the end of the First World War, the epoch of popular mass movement was started in India. This period witnessed the struggle for Swaraj in India.
The Indian National Movement, indeed, saw a new phase, seeds of which were sown during the war itself. In order to gain support, the Allied powers (Britain, US, France, etc.) made frivolous promise of extending democracy after the war. However, this promise proved shallow when the tussle for division of erstwhile colonies of the Central powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, etc.) among the allied ones happened.
Moreover, the economic situations of the colonies worsened after the war. The Indian industries faced losses and wanted a protectionist policy to be followed by a favorable government. All the strata of Indian society, like educated youth, artisans, workers and peasants were feeling the brunt of miseries of unemployment, economic hardships and high prices of goods.
But, just after the war, when the nationalists were awaiting major political gains, Britain struck Indian Nationalism with an Iron fist. It came up with the Rowlatt Act authorizing the government to imprison any person without trial and conviction in the court of law and suspending Habeas Corpus. This led to one of the most brutal acts against humankind, when a peaceful agitation associated with the Rowlatt act was scheduled in a closed park in Amritsar.
However, a British military General ordered to open fire on the protesters and that dark event is remembered as the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (1919).
Inter alia, a progressive national movement came into being with Mahatma Gandhi assuming leadership of the national movement. The Indians gained significant concessions in the events like Champaran Satyagraha (1917) , Ahmedabad Mill strike (1918), and, Kheda peasant struggle (1918).
A major watershed event took place during the interwar years in India. Khilafat agitation and the Non-Cooperation movement (1919-22) was launched aiming to resist the British wrongs in Turkey (the issue of Caliphate) and Punjab (Jallianwala Bagh Massacre), and also to attain the goal of Swaraj.
It saw a unified India standing against Britain’s brutality. The national movement, even after an abrupt end of Non-Cooperation movement, got strengthened. It seeped down to every nook and corner of India, politicizing nearly every stratum of the Indian society. It also repelled the fear of Indians.
The interwar period was also important because of the emergence of a new trend of Socialism in India. Socialist and Marxist ideas proliferated with the establishment of the Communist party of India and Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). Various revolutionary activities also took place with the evolution of revolutionary leaders like Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Surya Sen and Prafulla Chaki.
In 1927, with the announcement of formation of Simon Commission for constitutional reforms, came a new enthusiasm of nationalism. As this commission had no Indian representation, it faced a stiff boycott in India. Even the Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha supported congress in this boycott. And, after these events, the demand of Poorna Swaraj (Complete Independence) was raised by the Indian National Congress in 1929. The Civil Disobedience Movement was launched in 1930 with the most famous Dandi March.
The nationalist urge also started penetrating the Indian army. A Resolution on Fundamental Rights and Economic policy was passed by the Indian National Congress in its Karachi session. Peasants’ and Workers’ movements started getting grounds all over India.
These string of events, somehow cleared the haze in the British minds that Indian could be calmed down with small concessions. This phase was, rather, an important milestone in the history of the Indian National independence movement.
In 1912, China was proclaimed a Republic after long years of rule of the Manchu dynasty. This was the outcome of the revolutionary struggles under the tutelage of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the founding father of China. But this Republicanism proved to be momentary when General Yuan Shikai (first President of China) dismissed the Parliament in 1913. Dr. Sen sensed the wrong aspirations of General Yuan and constituted a National Party of China (Kuomintang) so as to give a call for ‘Second Revolution’.
However, General Yuan sent Dr. Sen to exile. According to historians, General Yuan had support of the foreign powers and had desires to become Emperor.
After the death of General Yuan, in 1916, without any successor, China plunged into Warlordism (Rule of Warlords). During the Warlord era (1916-27), the national authority of China got balkanized into numerous regions, each controlled by powerful local leaders. They often fought among themselves for their supremacy.
One of the landmark events, post First World War, took place in China on May 4, 1919. This event, which came to be known as the May Fourth Movement, was a protest against the Chinese government’s weak response to the Treaty of Versailles, especially allowing Japan to receive territories in Shandong which had been surrendered by Germany after the Siege of Tsingtao. China also got inclined towards the ideology of Communism (after the Russian Revolution). The Communist Party of China was formed in 1921. Dr. Sun Yat Sen sought the support of Russia in China’s national unification. The Communist Party and Kuomintang decided to work together and formed a National Revolutionary Army against the warlords.
At first, the working of the Revolutionary Army was seamless. It also got coupled with the workers’ and the peasants’ movements. But after the death of Dr. Sen in 1925, Kuomintang got internally divided into communists and anti-communists. This was followed by setting up of a government (at Nanjing) by the then chief of national revolutionary army, General Chiang Kai Shek. This faction (Kuomintang having anti-communists) under General Shek got detached with the communists and started suppressing them. The dream of China’s unification now got deviated towards petty power politics. This led to civil war in China where the Communist Party of China and the army of General Shek were at loggerheads.
Meanwhile, Japan’s aggression was increasing over Asia,and especially China and annexed Manchuria in 1931. This engendered anti-Japanese feelings all across the Chinese territory. People were waging nationwide protests against Japan. But, Kuomintang, under General Shek, was so much involved in anti-communist activities that it could not unite with the communist party against the Japanese aggression. Concurrently, the Communist Party’s influence was also increasing under the leadership of Mao Zedong (an ardent votary of the causes of peasants). They also got leverage when the army of General Shek launched an attack on communist held areas in south China. This event clarified the longings of General Shek who wanted complete removal of his opponents, the communists.
Later on, a Japanese attack on China happened in 1937.But, still the main focus of General Shek was eradication of communists rather than China’s unification and territorial protection. Irked by all these events, his troops finally arrested him and released him only after he vowed to wage a united war against Japan in association with communists. Although internal tussle and suspicions against each other continued, Kuomintang (under General Shek) and communist party (under Mao) waged a united struggle against Japan.
Korea was also struggling under the Japanese colonial rule. But the end of the First World War and the Russian Revolution gave a new vigour to the Koreans. The Russian Revolution disseminated and cemented the feeling of nationalism among the people of Korea. This led to drafting up of Declaration of Independence in 1918, which was read out before enthusiastic and participative people.
Workers’ and peasants’ movements were also gaining strength. The people of Korea were planning to raise an anti-Japan front against Japan’s increasing expanse in Asia, especially China and Korea).
The countries of South-East Asia were colonies of the west (including US). The policy of maximum possible extractionfrom colonies was pursued by the colonial masters. Their economic activities were , in a way or the other, driven by the sole agenda of aiding the economies of the mother country. Workers and peasants were agitating against the oppressive policies of the colonial masters.
The influence of communism was growing with the establishment of communist parties in countries like Vietnam, Burma (Myanmar), Malaya (Malaysia), etc. On the whole, the nationalist zeal was taking roots all across these nations .
In Philippines , the feudal system was coupled with USA’s colonialism. A large majority of the exports and imports were directly and only channelized to US. US has extended its Yankee Imperialism (as in Latin American countries) to Philippines. There was huge unrest among the peasants paving way for radical political movements. But, as always , these were struck hard with the iron fist.
France was having control of the Indo-China (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) region. The nationalist struggle here was led by Ho Chi Minh, who later on led the Viet Minh Independence Movement. During the French rule, people from these countries came in contact with the Socialist ideas (Revolutionary ideas) .
This led Ho Chi Minh to set up the Revolutionary Youth League of Vietnam. Later on, the Vietnamese Communist party ( later renamed as Communist party of Indo-China) was also formed. These and several other organizations, like the Vietnam National Party, continuously rebelled against the foreign control.
In Indonesia , the nationalist fight was spearheaded by the Nationalist Party (formed in 1927) under Ahmed Sukarno.
Various other organizations, like the Islamic Alliance, the Indies Social-Democratic Association and the Communist party of Indonesia ( formed in 1920), were constantly challenging the colonial authority (Dutch rule). Various workers’ and peasants’ organizations also came to fore during this period.
Burma was a part of British India till 1937. The nationalist movement, here, got leverage with the Indian National movement.
The Indian National Movement had Copernican impact on the nationalist struggle of Burma. Young Men Buddhist Association ( in 1906), the General Council of Burmese Association (in 1921), Thakins, a Burmese nationalist group and comprising of young, disgruntled intellectuals) and the Burmese communist party were formed. The Burmese leaders established contacts with the nationalist leaders of India.
In Ceylon (Sri Lanka), influence of some upper sections got strengthened in administration. Franchise was extended to adults with the creation of an assembly under the new constitution in 1931. Roots of nationalism strengthened here during the period.
After the demise of the Afghan ruler Habibullah Khan, Amanullah Khan reigned the throne as Emir from 1919 till 1926 and as Malik ( King) till 1929. With several skirmishes, and war, Afghanistan secured its full independence with the signing of a treaty at Rawalpindi in 1919 with the United Kingdom. Following this, Afghanistan, under Amanullah Khan, started laying the foundation stones of its independent foreign policy. It also signed a treaty with USSR in 1919. He also undertook some reforms to modernize the country and established an Afghan Air Force with the help of the Soviet Union.
Thereafter, he also started undertaking several western – styled reforms, for instance, an education programme, road – building projects, legislative reforms, emancipation of women, etc. He also made several trips to Europe in light of these reforms .
This irked the fundamentalists and conservatives of Afghanistan. Consequently, in 1928, a civil war like situation arose in Afghanistan leading to abdication of Amanullah Khan in 1929 and accession of the throne by Nadir Shah. Nadir Shah also undertook several constitutional changes.
The First World War had a profound impact on Iran. The First World War led to overthrow of the Qajar regime and its replacement by Reza Shah which was central to the development of modern Iran.
Britain had its oil interests in Iran which was plunged into numerous revolutionary activities. Viewing all this, Britain signed an Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919, covertly making Iran a protectorate of Britain.
It guaranteed the British access to Iranian oil fields (including five Northern provinces formerly under the Russian sphere of influence).
This aroused intense opposition in Iran, including those by communists. The agreement, however, was never ratified by Majlis (Iranian Constituent Assembly ) and was formally denounced in 1921.
In 1921, Reza Khan, an Army officer, marched into Tehran and seized power, inaugurating a new phase in Iran’s modern history. He also invalidated the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919 and was later made the Shah of Iran after deposing of the then ruler of Iran. Steps for the development of Industries, transport, modern education were undertaken.
Under the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement ( 1916), signed between Britain and France, all the politically and commercially valuable portions of the Arab world would be under British and French imperial spheres after the end of war. This also imparted several gains to Russia in Istanbul, the Turkish Straits and Armenia.
Britain got the control of Jordan, southern Iraq, and, the ports of Haifa and Acre, for access to the Mediterranean.
France got control of southeastern Turkey , northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
Ottoman rule came to an end after the First World War, and Iraq came to be administered by the British Empire as Mandatory Iraq. Britain established Faisal bin Hussein to the throne of Iraq, having original powers in her hands .
The British Royal Air Force also controlled some military positions. Britain’ s control over Iraq, however, earned uprisings which were brutally suppressed by the Britain .
This control, directly or indirectly, lasted till 1936 (because of pro-British governments of Iran), when the National Reform Party overthrew the pro-British government. The party was also helped by some sections of the Army.
Nevertheless, this was short lived and again a pro-British government was established in 1937 in Iran. So, in a nutshell, it could be inferred that the British influence, covertly or overtly, was present there in Iran during the inter-war period.
The seeds of today’s conundrum in the region comprising Israel-Palestine was sown during and after the First World War. The Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) led to the division of Turkish -held Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine into various French and British administered areas. Palestine was put under an international regime, and hence, would have an international administration.
The exodus of Jews under the ideology of Zionism was already set in motion ( during second half of 19th century). Myriad people immigrated to Palestine from across the world, claiming Palestine to be their ancestral land. During the war also, British government, in order to lure the Zionist ieaders, promised (in the Balfour Declaration) setting up of a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. The same land has also been promised to the Arabs living there by the Allied forces (in the McMahon Agreement).
Arab nationalism also cemented with the establishment of British mandate in Palestine ( a League of Nations mandate). Mass uprisings happened and were suppressed brutally .
An Arab rebellion for the independence of Palestine which tried to end the Jewish immigration in Palestine happened in 1969. This was cowed down by the British .
The Arab Palestinian Congress was also waging the nationalist struggle in Palestine. In 1937, a chain of events led the British, through Peel Commission, to propose the partition the Palestine into two parts: one under Arab control and another under Jewish control. This further instigated the protests across the whole Palestine and some of the Arab countries. However, in 1939, the British government, using its carrot and stick policy, issued a white paper promising independence to Palestine after ten years, with guarantees for the rights of both Jews and Arabs.
Syria and Lebanon
The French mandate for Syria and Lebanon was a League of Nations mandate after the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire.
The French deposed the then King of the Arab kingdom of Syria Faisal bin Hussein (later established as king of Iraq by Britain). The peoples of Syria and Lebanon rose against the French mandate and an insurgency broke out in Syria in 1925. The agitators occupied almost the entire country, including the capital city of Damascus. It also spread to parts of Lebanon.
When the popular government acquired power in France, it signed an agreement with the representatives of Syria and Lebanon, promising their independence after three years.
This proved futile and the French mandate lasted until 1943 with the emergence of two independent countries, Syria and Lebanon.
French troops completely vacated Syria and Lebanon in 1946.
There are multitude of opinions about the position of colonialism in African continent during the inter-war period. While some opined that this period was the ‘Golden period of Colonialism’ in the African continent because of stagnating anti-imperialist upsurge, others reckoned that apart from stagnation in the anti-imperialist upsurge, new forces against the colonialism were taking shape. Modern nationalism and powerful nationalist movements were also raising heads .
The interwar period also witnessed exceptional political and intellectual change in Africa. The awakened population in Africa started demanding more space in the machinery running the system. Various associations were formed.
Furthermore, with India gaining independence (in 1947), the movement towards self-rule became more intense .
Dynamic nationalist movements also arose in various states of North Africa like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya and Algeria.
The Independence struggle in Egypt was led by Wafd party (established in 1918) under the leadership of Saad Zaghlul Pasha. The British control over Egypt could not last long after the First World War. It came to a nominal end with the establishment of the Egyptian independent kingdom under the kingship of Ahmad Faud.
British forces were still present there, banking on two facts: for the protection of Egypt and the Suez Canal; and, for ruling Sudan (under joint Anglo-Egyptian control).
Later on, Zaghlul Pasha formed the government in Egypt by sweeping the elections under a new constitution enacted in 1923. He demanded complete independence of Egypt. His demand was cowed down indirectly by the King of Egypt by dissolving the parliament. Furthermore, several steps were pursued like enacting new constitutions so as to increase the powers of King and undermine the authority of parliament .
Mass uprisings followed and ultimately, in 1935, the constitution of 1923 was restored and Zaghlul Pasha again came to power in 1936. A treaty was also signed with Britain ending the British seizure of Egypt.
Still, Britain was allowed to place 10,000 soldiers along the Suez Canal, sowing seeds for future tussle.
Morocco was under the Spanish control but the anticolonialist fervour was already in its vehement phase. Accordingly, an incident, popularly known as Rif rebellion ( 1921), happened which got support even from outside Morocco and became a motivating force for the colonies across the globe. In 1921, a rebellion by the Rif tribes, under the leadership of Abdel Karim, arose. They wrecked the Spanish forces and even French when France came to aid the Spanish force. Then later on, a combined troop of Spain and France suppressed the rebellion. Although the rising was quelled, but it left major impact on other colonies. It also gained sympathy from outside Morocco (like Communists and workers of France).
The First World War engendered the feeling of national identity among the people of South African countries. The workers and peasants, among others, felt the sense of oneness because all were suffering under the hands of their colonial masters. Their common grievances gave way to the formation of several trade unions and organizations .
Intelligentsia also played a Copernican role. They also formed several political organizations (For example : National Democratic Party of Nigeria) which helped in the development of political consciousness. They were aided by these organizations in their struggle against imperialism. However , there was huge paucity of these intellectual leaders. The foremost reason behind this was extremely limited educational facilies in South Africa.
Many historians are of view that colonists had strictly checked any educational developments in South African states because, they thought, it may prove dangerous for them.
They wanted to be highly cautious because growing education leads to raising up of consciousness, and, hence, nationalist movement. This was the case with India .
Beside their scarcity, some intellectuals like Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Nnamdi Azikiwe (Nigeria), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) , Leopold Senghor ( Senegal), became prominent leaders in their respective countries and led the nationalist struggle.
Pan African Congress
It was a global movement championed by several international organizations and individuals. They believed that all people of African descent shared a common identity and their struggles against slavery , racism, and colonialism were also common. The proponents of Pan-African movement included the likes of Edward Wilmot Blyden, and W.E.B. Dubois. Their main aim was to bring all peoples of African descent together to discuss inequalities faced by Africans the world over.
W. E.B. Dubois convened the first Pan-African congress at Paris in 1919 during the Paris Peace Conference. The congress passed resolutions demanding equal political rights for the Blacks in the US and other parts of the world and the right of self -determination for the African people . Several other congresses were held in later years (1921, 1923 , and 1927). Marcus Garvey ( from Jamaica) also started another Pan-African Movement . He laid the foundation of Universal Negro Improvement Association, in 1914, calling for developing a sense of pride among the Black people all across the globe.
The Negritude Movement was the culmination and emergence of a sense of pride, dignity and self -esteem among the peoples of African descent. It also got impetus from various anti-imperialist movements in Europe and Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association.
The Negritude movement was influenced by the Harlem Renaissance or New Negro Movement. It was a cultural, social and artistic movement started in Harlem, New York in 1920 s.
The Negrito Movement was also a literary movement ( 1930s and 1940s) against the colonial rule, especially French. It was engendered among French-speaking African and Caribbean writers living in Paris. It was a product of black writers coming together, through the French language, to assert their cultural identity. The leading figures of this movement were Leopold Sedar Senghor (elected first president of the Republic of Senegal in 1960), Aime Cesaire from Martinique, and, Leon Damas from French Guiana.
From a political viewpoint, it was an important step towards the rejection of colonialism. Emerging at the cusp of African independence movements, Negritude made an impact on how the colonized viewed themselves.
Racial Oppression in South Africa
The establishment of a Pact Government (1924) in South Africa under the Nationalist Party as the governing party witnessed the introduction of a brutal policy termed as Apartheid ’. This led to cementing of racial oppression in South Africa during the interwar period.
In 1910, the Union of South Africa was established, and the previously separate colonies of the Cape, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange Free State became provinces in the Union.
The Nationalist Party, established in 1915, became one of the prominent political outfits of the states of South Africa. It was further strengthened during and after the First World War. It became the governing party of South Africa from 1948 until 1994, and was disbanded in 2005. Its policies , other than apartheid, included the establishment of a South African Republic, and, the promotion of Afrikaner (Boers) culture.
Under the influence of the White rulers (the Pact Government), various dictums and laws were passed undermining the rights of the Blacks. They were forced to leave the fertile land, carry identity cards and even abandon jobs. The blacks were also forced to live in areas under horrible conditions and were restricted to visit several areas. Formation of Trade Unions by Blacks were banned and were paid far less than the whites. No franchise was awarded to them.
Numerous organizations like the African National Congress and the South African Indian Congress raised their voices against these brutalities. The All Africa Convention was also held with an aim of promoting African rights through boycott.
The economic growth and the political calmness experienced by the Latin American countries in the 19th century came to an end as 20th, century unveiled. The war and its aftermath had a ravaging impact on the Latin American countries as both internal and external challenges started raising their heads. Latin America’s ever close incorporation in the world economy also proved disastrous.
The interwar period witnessed growing communists, workers ’, peasants’, democratic, and, left wing movements in the Latin America. Several political uprisings also took place against the puppet governments, as was the case in Nicaragua. However , some of these uprisings gave way to the demagogic leaders, and, hence, the dictatorship .
The United States’ Yankee Imperialism (US domination over Latin America) was also challenged during this epoch. These oppositions led US to change its policies of military intervention. USA now started turning towards economic imperialism as a large number of economies were dependent on exports. Later on, these economies were struck harder by the import sanctions imposed by the US and the Great Depression.
Mexico became an epitome for other Latin American countries for its stand against Yankee Imperialism ( US domination). A new constitution was proclaimed in 1917.
She adopted various socio-economic policies in favor of peasantry. She also established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, which was evident in the backdrop of growing communist ideology all across Latin America.
However, numerous land reforms exclaimed by the new constitution were adopted half-heartedly until the presidency of Lazaro Cardenas. He adopted and executed those proclamations in real sense, and, ultimately Mexico became a model of political stability in Latin America.
Changes in US Policy
Political turmoil was prevalent after the First World War in Latin American countries. Almost every Latin American country was waging internal and external wars on a gamut of issues. But a common issue which came up during this period was their united stand against covert and overt facets of Imperialism.
They collectively challenged the US domination which was largely dependent upon military intervention. They further got impetus in their call against imperialism by joining the League of Nations and attending the Brussels Conference ( 1927). An all AmericanAnti-Imperialist League was also formed.
These, coupled with other factors, led US to pursue some different policy towards Latin America, called as ‘Dollar Diplomacy’. The policy of domination got deviated from direct military intervention to economic intervention.
The ultimate aim was to increase the dependence of Latin American economies on that of the policies and economy of US. The US Troops withdrew from countries like Nicaragua, Panama, etc. The Platt Amendment, which outlined the role of the United States in Cuba and the Caribbean, was nullified. The United States, in 1933, supported the declaration that ‘no state has the right to interfere in the internal or foreign affairs of another ’. These policies under the then president, Franklin D . Roosevelt, came to be known as the ‘Good Neighbor Policy’ . However, the troops from Panama Canal Zone were not withdrawn.
Europe from 1919-23
New States in Europe
The end of the First World War saw remapping and redrawing of the boundaries of states in Europe. The three most powerful monarchies of the continent : the Hohenzollern dynasty in Germany , the Romanovs in Russia and the House of Habsburg-Lorraine in Austria- Hungary vanished. It also paved way for some ethnic and nationalist groups, long dreaming of nationhood and self-government, in carving out a state of their own.
One nation to emerge after the First World War was Poland. Before 1914, the Polish people had been subjects of the Russian Empire. It was sandwiched between Germany and Russia. After the Russia’ s withdrawal from the war (1918), most of Poland came under German rule. Later on, the defeat of Germany and signing of the Polish Minority Treaty (also called the Little Treaty of Versailles) created the independent sovereign state of Poland.
With the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire under the Treaty of Saint-Germain, much of the territory under its control got redistributed. The separate independent nations of Austria and Hungary were established by separating both of them from the Kingdom of Austria- Hungary. Austria became landlocked and lost important farmland and industrial resources. It was prohibited from any future political unification with Germany. The Austrian army was restricted to a maximum of 30 ,000 and its entire air force and most of the naval ships were surrendered to the Allies. It was also compelled to pay reparations. Three new nation-states were also formed: Czechoslovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia.
Successive treaties, like Treaty of Neuilly, Treaty of Trianon, Treaty of Sevres, resolved the fate of Bulgaria, Hungary and the Ottoman Empire.
In 1922, Ireland, under British control, was partitioned. Dominion status was given to an Irish Free State while Northern Ireland (Ulster) was still under the British influence. Later on, the Irish Free State proclaimed herself as a sovereign state.
Whatsoever became the political geography of Europe, the rearrangements engendered tension and conflicts between the states. Most countries were dissatisfied while the insecurity and dilemma was prevalent among the states. Many ententes, alliances, treaties of friendship and non-aggression pacts were signed between different countries during this period. Many shifts in these alliances and friendships also took place. And ultimately, these were to instigate the immediate causes of the Second World War two decades later.
Rise of Authoritarian Regimes
The immediate years post the First World War saw the emergence and strengthening of right wing extremism in Europe. Post-war Europe was a ground of severe political turmoil. There was huge discontent among the masses because of prevailing radical changes and unemployment.
The prejudiced nature of peace treaties after the war also gave way to the success of demagogic leaders, and, hence, totalitarian and authoritarian regimes.
The Russian Revolution influenced the struggle against repression. Various revolutions were organized on the line of Russian Revolution, but were futile because of lack of unity among various groups (like socialist parties and radical groups). This failure helped the anti-democratic elements in gaining ground. Various authoritarian governments rose to power in countries like Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Poland, Greece, Italy, and later on, Germany.
There was also a strong growth of the communist ideology all across the globe, especially in the Eastern Europe. The fear of the rising strength of the communist ideology further strengthened the right wing extremist viewpoints.
The powerful countries (west) were reluctant to thwart this growing totalitarianism in order to support them against communism.
In 1919, 26 of 28 European countries were democratic. By 1938, 16 of them had turned into dictatorships. The opposition was suppressed, personal liberties were restricted, and citizens were made to obey leaders who possessed absolute power. And in 1941, only five democracies were left (UK, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, and Switzerland) while all the others had been destroyed or occupied by non-democratic powers.
Fascism in Italy
Italy also suffered political unrest after the end of the First World War. The economy was in shambles and the country was plagued with unemployment, inflation, riots, strikes , and brigandage. This led to emergence of the Socialist and communist forces along with workers’ and peasants’ movements.
In the backdrop of all this, the conservative and regressive elements of Italy formed the armed bands, the fasces. The main agenda was to terrorize the people who, in their view, were the enemies of nation – the communists, socialists, workers’ and peasants’ movements. The fasces were regressive in the sense that they took extreme pride of the ancient Roman Empire and wanted to revive Italy’s greatness at the expense of anything, even with the use of extreme violence.
Benito Mussolini, who later became the dictator of Italy, formed the National Fascist Party in 1921. The Fascist party upheld claims of veterans and the nationalist interests of Italy while crushing any anarchist elements in the country. In order to thwart any attempt of a social revolution, Mussolini would send out his gangs of thugs, the Blackshirts, to riot against communists and other groups while claiming his men were protecting the peace .
The elites of Italy who, in their personal interests, forced Italy to the war, and felt dissatisfied after the war , saw hopes for their unfulfilled desires in these extreme rightists. They saw the Fascist party as a shield against growing anarchy and social revolution in Italy. The government did nothing against the Fascist party and was mere a silent spectator .
The parliamentary elections of 1919, in Italy, however, gave a blow to the fascists, as they lost very badly. This led the fascists to capture, first, the cities of Bologna and Milan, and, in 1922, Rome . Mussolini seized the control of the national government. Then, through intimidation and rigged elections, he tightened his grip on Italy. He bullied the Italian Parliament into giving him emergency powers that allowed him to shut down other parties, censor the press, and end other civil liberties. By 1925, Italy became a fascist dictatorship .
Europe from 1924-36
Impact of Great Depression
The Great Depression, which started in 1929, was the economic crises faced by the US. It lasted till 1939 and impacted nearly all the economies of the world. Since US was least impacted of all the belligerent countries, it started pursuing a policy of Dollar diplomacy.
It aided the war ravaged European economies to recover. This aide led to increased and extreme dependence of the European economies over that of the US. But when the Great Depression struck the US economy in 1929, it also impacted Europe’s economy .
The United States, in the backdrop of its own crises, stopped direct monetary aid to the European nations which led to further crippling up of the economies. Unemployment also skyrocketed with the shutting up of various industrial houses. The agricultural economies, whose exports were channeled to US, faced serious consequences. The economic unrest, coupled with some political issues, led to the establishment of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. This gave a big blow to democracy and human rights.
Triumph of Nazism
The most inhumane form of fascism, Nazism, was developed in Germany. It was based on the lines of Italian fascism and was regressive in the same sense. It also seized power (putsch) in the same manner as was done by Mussolini in Italy.
The peace treaties signed after the war, the reparations on Germany and the economic misery (of Great Depression) gave birth to the feeling of extreme dissatisfaction in the minds of some sections of Germany. A dominant section of Germany also felt humiliated. The right wing extremists found their way in this situation of extreme turmoil.
The authoritarian groups and parties got the opportunity and started raising their heads. They condemned democracy, advocated repudiation of the Versailles treaty and glorified war. They also organized conspiracies to overthrow the democratically elected government (Weimar Republic) and wanted to establish dictatorship in Germany.
The Nazis aroused the feelings of anti-Semitism (hatred towards Jews) and eulogized the notion of ‘pure blond Aryan’. They considered themselves superior to other races , and hence, claimed their divine right of ruling over the world. They wanted to unite people of German race under one nation and propounded expansionist foreign policy so as to acquire land for a great Germany.
Banking upon the agendas of bringing back the glory of Germany, the national pride and its stand against communism, Nazis got the support of big Business houses of Germany. A large section of army also supported the cause of Nazis. Nazis also organized gangs of thugs, like Blackshirts in Italy and the Brownshirts. They also took the path of extreme violence and wanted to create terror among the minds of people , especially communists, socialists.
Their main political opponents of Nazis were the Social Democrats and the Communists. The popularity of Nazis started increasing after 1929-30. Their vote share started increasing in the successive elections and in 1932, the Nazi party emerged as a single largest party against the Social Democrats and the Communists.
In 1932, Field Marshall Paul Von Hindenburg (who led German armies in WW I ), was elected President with the support of Social Democrats. In 1933, Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler as the Chancellor of Germany.
After acceding to power, Hitler took no time in cementing his position in the political arena of Germany. He consolidated his power and in 1934, became the President of Germany. Before his presidency, Hitler terrorised the Jews, communists , trade union leaders, ant-Nazis, and even, social democrats . Mass killings and assassinations were organised in concentration camps and also openly .
Political parties were disbanded and Germany got converted into an armed camp. Germany, under Adolf Hitler , withdrew from the Versailles treaty and started huge militarization of the country. It also started territorial expansion. For example, Rhineland was captured in 1936.
League of Nations Policy of Appeasement
The League of Nations was created as an international organization in 1920 after the First World War so as to provide a forum for resolving international disputes. It was the brainchild of the then US President Woodrow Wilson (Fourteen Points plan), although US did not join it. The League of Nations effectively resolved some international conflicts but failed to prevent the outbreak of the Second World War.
Apart from some minimal successes, the League failed to secure its core mandate. It became a remote control in the hands of dominant European powers who, in their personal interests, ruined the covenant of League. Had the mandate been pursued properly, the history could have been different .
These dominant powers rather followed the policy of appeasement towards the growing notoriety across the globe . It never checked the inhumane agendas and expansionism of countries like Germany, Italy, and, Japan. All this sowed the seeds of the most devastating war of the history the Second World War.
The west (dominant European countries) appeased the fascists in order to check the growing communism and against the Soviet Union. They thought that these extreme rightists would shield them against the blow of socialist and communist revolution. It did nothing substantial to check Japan’ s growing aggression in the east. The league, apart from some meagre steps , never stopped Japan from increasing its imperial desires (Japan attacked Manchuria, China). It also took half-hearted stand against Italy’s annexation of Ethiopia (a member of League of Nations) in 1935-36. Only few partial sanctions were imposed on Italy, which were withdrawn in 1936. It also turned its eyes away from the barbaric atrocities of Adolf Hitler. The only power which stood against growing fascism was the Soviet Union.
But, as greed has no frontiers, the policy of appeasement proved futile. Its idleness became more evident as Hitler ’s demands grew. He invaded Czechoslovakia and then Poland against the Munich Agreement. When Hitler invaded Poland, Britain declared war on Germany, beginning the Second World War.
Spanish Civil War
The civil war in Spain ( 1936-39 ) was a military revolt against the Republican government of Spain. It was backed by conservative elements within the country. The rebels (Nationalists) were aided by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The Republicans received aid mainly from the Soviet Union, and also, volunteers from Europe and the US (anti-fascists). It was preceded by an unsuccessful military coup by the rebels.
In 1930s, Spain’s political arena was in a tussle between the right-wing Nationalist and the left-wing Republican parties. The Nationalist party was supported by monarchists, landowners, employers , the Roman Catholic Church and the army. The Republicans consisted of the workers, the trade unions, socialists and peasants. The Republicans came to power in 1931 and was removed by the rebelling army in 1936, hence, triggering a civil war.
Spain was having geo-political importance, possessing strategic naval bases on the Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean. If it fell to the Nationalists, France would be surrounded by the Fascists (Germany and Italy), whose invasion would have weakened other anti-fascist nations. The security of these ports was also important because, if captured by fascists, it would provide them with an edge there.
Hitler and Mussolini sent joint troops and weapons to help the nationalists. The USSR sent weapons and supplies to aid the republicans. Some historians also hold the view that Stalin only wanted Germany to be busy at some other front so as to deviate it from Soviet Union. And, after the capture of Madrid in 1939, fascists got a stronghold in Spain, and they captured Spain.
This war could also be regarded as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the Second World War. In the backdrop of half – hearted intervention and appeasement by the world powers (except the Soviet Union), the fascist states found themselves in a better position to wage a war again. Within three years, the globe once again plunged into another, yet more devastating, world war.
Japanese Aggression on China
Japan, banking upon its dream of a ‘New Order in East Asia’, wanted to bring Japan, Manchuria and China under a single political union. After its annexation of Manchuria in 1930s, Japan attacked China, capturing large parts of Northern China.
Cities of Beijing, Nanjing, and Shanghai were also annexed. Japanese troops extravagantly bombed the cities of China. These brutal steps of Japan were also ignored by the League of Nations as condemnation was only in words.
Annexation of Austria
The situation of Austria post – first world got reduced to a state of less political significance and strength. Post war situations forced Austria, as happened in many nations, to a dictatorial rule of Engelbert Dollfuss. Like in other parts of Europe, stringent measures were taken in Austria also to suppress the socialist and communist voices.
The rise of dictatorship in Austria paved way for its alliance with other dictatorial, hence fascist, regimes especially, Italy and Germany ( which was banned by the peace treaties after the war). Mussolini supported Dollfuss, and, after his assassination, moved to the frontiers of Austria.
Germany, under Adolf Hitler, decided not to intervene in this issue. But, later on, after the formation of Rome-Berlin Axis, in 1936, and , Anti-Comintern pact in 1937, Hitler and Mussolini came together. Hence, in 1938, Hitler also marched to Austria with his troops.
These fascist forces came to the aid of fascists in Austria. Anschluss i.e., Austria’s union with Germany, was achieved, breaking the words and deeds of the peace treaties. Even then, the world powers were silently watching the situations and harping their own theories of Hitler’s expansion.
The Munich Pact was signed between the leaders of France, Britain, Italy and Germany in September 1938. The agreement was the defining moment in the policy of appeasement towards Hitler ’s belligerence and expansionist vanity. The agreement transferred the control of Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia to Germany on the basis that the region had a population of over three million ethnic Germans.
It left the whole of Czechoslovakia at the mercy of German expansion. However, initial rejections by Czechoslovakia to cede Sudetenland to Germany was supported by the Soviet Union. But the west was so much indulged in its self-interests that it neither involved Czechoslovakia nor the Soviet Union in the meeting at Munich. After its capture of Sudetenland, German troops annexed the remaining parts of Czechoslovakia.
Poland and Negotiations with USSR
The expansionist policies of Hitler could not be appeased as he wanted to unite all Germans under a Great Germany. He also wanted to expand its territory so as to provide living space (Lebensraum) for Germans. But Hitler’s desires could not be satisfied by the western silence and policy of appeasement, ultimately aiding Germany in its expansion. After annexing Austria and Czechoslovakia, Poland was the next target.When the question of Poland’s annexation was raised by Germany, Britain and France got alerted. They felt the threat and declared that any attempt to threaten Polish independence would have serious consequences for Germany. They assured to extend their support to Poland in case of annexation. But this failed to warn Germans, as it was too late to do so. Germany paid no heed to such warning by Britain and France.
Therefore, for the first time, Britain and France started negotiations with the Soviet Union to form an alliance against Germany. However, these talks failed to settle down with an anti-Nazi alliance. Finally, Germany came up with a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union in August
It invaded Poland in September 1939, and, just after the two days, Britain and France declared war on Germany. German occupation of Poland is one of the darkest chapters before and during the Second World War. Some 6 million people, almost 18 percent of the Polish population, were killed during the Nazi reign of terror as mass executions, forced evictions and enslavement took place.