WWI and Territorial Changes in Europe
World War I (WWI) occurred between 1914 and 1918, which involved 32 nations, resulting in various social impacts and demographic changes in Europe. The social effects include deaths, the emergence of technology, modern medication, defined social classes, and changes in women’s rights. Demographically, Europe was divided and reshaped to establish new territories due to numerous factors, including military forces, nationalism, and imperialism. Several nations were created from the collapse of four European empires, which included the Russian, Ottoman, German, and Austria-Hungary empires, which reshaped the entire map of Europe. This paper reviews how these empires collapsed during and after WWI and which regions were created from the downfall. It also attempts to explain how factors in WWI led to changes in the territorial borders of Europe.
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Rising nationalism in the Balkan region brought tension in the different minority ethnic groups, leading to the Balkan war during WWI and the emergence of nationalist groups. The Balkan region was located between the Austria-Hungary, Russian and Ottoman empires, a strategic location for hiding and ambush and prided efficient transportation through the water. The area was part of the Ottoman empire, but it remained a source of interest for many strong powers like the British and French. Aside from this, the region had numerous challenges of its own. A perfect example is the existence of many ethnicities, which resulted in nationalist groups. The Balkans’ nationalist groups led a revolution against Russian imperialism, leading to the expansion of Serbia and the creation of countries known today as Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Finland.
The European empires had a great rivalry among themselves as each territory aimed to conquer more colonies and expand their imperialism. The Ottoman kingdom faced extreme imperialism rivalry from the Russian empire, which gave rise to WWI, where the two fought on opposing frontlines. By picking sides with Germany, the Ottoman Empire suffered great defeat during the war at Gallipoli Peninsula, which caused many lives and a retreat from the battle. Ottoman power was also rivaled by the British and French, who wanted imperial control over their territory. When the supremacy of the kingdom weakened, the other imperial solid realms that won victories took control and made decisions regarding peace treaties that led to the division of territories. The ottoman empire retained the country of Turkey after giving most of its land to the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
Nations that held power during WWI relied on their military ability to conquer and retain lands. During the skirmishes, most military forces spent substantial resources obtaining more men and advanced weapons to gain more victories. Each resilient empire believed that having the most powerful military enhanced the acquisition of world power. With the belief, competition rose, and with increasing antagonism, more finances were used, leading to economic instability. Germany suffered the greatest financial depression because of fines for reparations and compensation after WWI. The economic strain led to the weakening of the German rule on its colonies. As a result, the colonies used the opportunity to create riots and socialist revolutions, hence gaining independence leading to the creation of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the expansion of Belgium, France, and Denmark.
Although historians claim that the boundaries established after WWI are more political than economic, which had only created new problems between the countries, the war played a significant role in shaping Europe today. Empires were destroyed along with ideologies of militarism, nationalism, and imperialism, which were socially and economically oppressive. The creation of new nations brought peace, economic stability, and embracing of people’s culture that was otherwise suppressed. From these events in history, mankind has learned that although adverse effects characterize war, it can also result in some positive outcomes.