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Soon after the outbreak of war the German government took control over banks, foreign trade and the production and sale of food as well as armaments. It also set maximum prices for various goods. When the Bolsheviks took power in Russia in they embarked on a vast nationalisation programme and later a comprehensive planned economy. The planned economy also had its adherents in other countries, especially after the twin shocks of hyperinflation in the s and the Great Crisis of The conflict had a global impact. In the Middle East, for example, the British and French promised different things to the Arabs and the Jews in return for their support against the Ottoman Empire.

Under the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement, London and Paris carved out respective spheres of influence in what was to become Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. But at the same time the British promised the Jews a homeland in Palestine under the equally infamous Balfour Declaration laying the foundations for the emergence of Israel and the world's most intractable contemporary conflict. When the British deceit was exposed it led to a permanent feeling of mistrust between many Arabs and European colonial powers. Many analysts point to the European carve up of the Middle East in with the many artificial borders as the root cause of the continuing turmoil in the region today.

Ethnic, sectarian and tribal differences were of little concern to the colonial-era map-makers.

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Iraq was formed by merging three Ottoman provinces - dominated respectively by Shias, Sunnis and Kurds. It was also cut off from Kuwait — the genesis of trouble later. The biggest losers of the post-war lottery in the Middle East were the Kurds. Nowadays this still stateless people enjoy a high degree of regional autonomy — as well as relative peace — in federal Iraq while their compatriots in Syria and Turkey face challenges from Damascus and Ankara. As regards the map of Europe, the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires were broken up and drastically shrunk, while Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were all born or reborn as nation states.

Russia underwent the Bolshevik Revolution that would have a major impact on European and world history. Germany was reduced in size and forced to pay substantial reparations. The Kaiser went into exile, and Germany plunged into economic and political chaos that paved the way for the rise of Hitler. The new countries were poor and often in conflict with each other.

US President Wilson had talked about transparent international agreements, unfettered access to the seas and the lifting of trade barriers.

These would prove utopian as was his concept of borders based on ethnicity, a concept that would be the precursor to many conflicts. The biggest of the new countries was Poland, which had disap-peared from the map for over a century after being partitioned in In when its bor-ders were finally settled, Poland had relatively good relations with only two neighbours — tiny Latvia to the north and a distant Romania to the south. If the Treaty of Versailles was deemed harsh then the Treaty of Trianon was arguably much harsher, leaving Hungary as a much reduced state with millions of Hungarians outside its borders.

These minority issues were suppressed during the communist era but resurfaced post causing major problems between Romania and Hungary and Slovakia and Hungary. Inevitably the EU was also drawn into attempts to resolve these minority issues. It was late in entering the war, only in , but emerged far stronger than most other nations as it had not suffered either the bloodletting or the wasted industrial effort of the major European nations. Their experience and loss of life helped push demands for independence.

India alone sent some , troops to fight for Britain. More than 10, never returned home. The First World War also heralded the birth of the League of Nations, a body of nation states to promote international peace and security. In the US would adopt a different approach. The financial crash of brought misery across Europe. Few in Western Europe believed that Hitler was deadly serious about creating a Greater Reich across the European continent.

There were also concerns that the reparations that had been demanded by France at Versailles had been too harsh, a view expressed eloquently in The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes. When London and Paris finally awoke to the threat it was too late. By Hitler controlled half of Europe after a stunning series of Blitzkrieg victories. In , just thirteen years after the proclamation of the one thousand year Reich it was all over. Germany was divided and lay in ruins. It was the greatest and deadliest war in human history, with over 57 million lives lost.

In combat, approximately eight million Russians, four million Germans, two million Chinese and one million Japanese soldiers lost their lives. Britain and France each lost hundreds of thousands. The civilian toll was probably higher — an estimated 22 million Soviet citizens were killed, and six million Jews in the Holocaust. It would take a coalition of the UK, the US and the Soviet Union to defeat Hitler after six years of bloody warfare that again brought widespread death and destruction to Europe — and to many other parts of the world. The war was not confined to Europe.

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The End of the Cold War: European Unity, Socialism, and the Shift in Global Power

It affected the Middle East, Africa and Asia causing untold suffering, not least when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in The war also increased demands for independence throughout much of the colonial empires still in European possession — the Dutch in Indonesia, the French in South East Asia, the Belgians in Central Africa, the British in India, etc. This was a particularly traumatic and drawn out process for the French, in Algeria and in Vietnam where they fought prolonged and bitter wars in an attempt to maintain their colonial control.

The defining paradigm for the next half century would be the Cold War. The Russian people had suffered immeasurably during the war, and western Russia was devastated by the land warfare which was primarily on Russian territory. But, in the process of defeating the Germans, the Russians had built a large and powerful army, which occupied most of Eastern Europe at the end of the war. Spared the physical destruction of war, the US economy dominated the world economy by Vaccinations helped lower mortality rates and boosted population growth.

Pro-gress in electronics and computers fundamentally transformed the post-war world. The de-velopment of the atomic bomb by European and American scientists during the war, not only changed the nature of potential future wars, but also marked the beginning of the nuclear power industry. World War II also gave the impetus for the establishment of the United Na-tions in , with the full backing of the US and other major powers.

There was a determination to avoid the mistakes of the interwar years which had exacerbated the Great Depression. One of the main results of the Second World War was the division of Europe. Huge armies stared at each other through an Iron Curtain that ran through the heart of Europe. The US marshalled Western Europe into a system of containment aimed at limiting and ultimately diminishing Soviet power. The division of Europe froze political change for several decades. Attempts by some Soviet satellite states to break free East Germany in , Hungary in , Czechoslovakia in were brutally suppressed by the Red Army.

There was no possibility for the nations that had been bolted together in the state of Yugoslavia to establish their own identities. The pent up demand for independence would later tear the Balkans apart in the s after the death of President Tito. By the s it became clear that Soviet communism was failing to deliver the standard of living that most people enjoyed in the West. The appointment of a new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, in , opened the path for a fundamental realignment of the European political landscape. His policies of glasnost and perestroika offered hope to the peoples of Eastern Europe and in he declined to send in the Red Army to suppress demonstrations for greater freedom in East Germany.

The prescient founding fathers took the highly symbolic coal and steel industries as the starting point for a new community method of government. If France and Germany shared responsibility for the industries that were at the heart of the armaments industry then there really could be no further war between these two rivals. This logic continued with the birth of the European Community in Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. World War II. Warfare — The article evaluates the degree to which the Second World War was responsible for the development of Europe since It seeks to disentangle effects that were clearly directly due to the war from those which can be seen as the result of changes already affecting pre-war Europe, and those due to post-war developments, such as the Cold War and the European Union.

It examines the relationship between long term social, economic and cultural developments and the impact of the war and political turning points. That great events have great effects seems a truism and it would follow that the Second World War, a conflict which caused a colossal loss of life, saw a continent divided as mighty armies strove for supremacy, and ended with much of Europe in ruins and the rest impoverished, must have had a transforming effect.

Few would deny that the great context for the development of Europe, politically, socially and economically, in the immediate post-war years was the war, but did it really transform Europe and, if so, for how long? Among the problems in assessing the changes to Europe, its nations, societies, economies and cultures, that may or may not be seen as consequent upon the war is the perennial historian's dilemma in distinguishing between short and long term developments.

Many of the changes that seem at first sight to have been due to the conflict and its aftermath may well have been simply the further effects of salient developments evident before the war. Then, of course, the impact of the war varied considerably as between the defeated and the victorious states, and indeed between combatants and neutrals, the latter providing a "control" for any assessment of the war's effects. Post-war Germany and Poland looked very different in, say, to what they had been in , but can the same be said for Sweden or, for that matter, Spain?

An essay on this subject written in, shall we say, , or , would have a very different perspective, for many of changes made by the war were far from permanent and, arguably, post-war developments had a greater effect. This is most obviously the case when we consider the redrawing of the map of Europe in the immediate post war period. The war ended with what in historical terms was an odd peace, for there was no peace treaty with Germany, 1 in part because the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers had left no authority to conclude peace with, and also because of the disintegration of the alliance of the victorious powers shortly after the moment of victory.

Nevertheless, states Estonia , Latvia and Lithuania disappeared, frontiers were changed, and, most importantly, the division of Germany into occupied zones provided the blueprint for the emergence of two German states. In general, East Central Europe moved west, in terms of frontier changes, seen most evidently in those of Poland, which lost territory to the Soviet Union and gained it at the expense of what had been Germany, and because of the movement of millions of people, expelled from their homes and moving west in search of security.

There was also a movement in the opposite direction as Latvians and other Baltic people and numerous other ethnic groups, such as Crimean Tartars, were forcibly moved eastwards by the Soviet authorities. A feature of the post settlement was thus, if settlement is not an inappropriate term, the brutal displacement of populations.

Whereas the Versailles Settlement had attempted to make frontiers coincide with national or ethnic divisions, the aftermath of the Second World War saw peoples made to fit frontiers. In particular, millions of Germans were expelled from East Prussia and other German territory ceded to Poland, and from the Sudetenland , while there were parallel movements of Poles from the territories ceded to the Soviet Union into that gained from Germany.

Although the fate of Eastern and Central Europe was largely decided at Yalta in February , the future political shape of the continent was formally agreed at Potsdam , 17 July to 2 August , where the Allied leaders decided that there should be an inter-allied council to co-ordinate the four occupied zones of Germany and agreed that Austria should be independent, France be returned Alsace-Lorraine , and Czechoslovakia the Sudetenland, and that Poland's western frontier should be the Oder-Neisse Line previously the Curzon and then the Molotov-Ribbentrop Line.

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The palimpsest of the arrangements was distinct in and discernible in or even the late s, when troops of the wartime allies still garrisoned Berlin , but by , after the implosion of the Soviet Union, the "velvet" revolutions in the satrap people's republics, and the reunification of Germany, the map of Europe resembled that in the wake of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of March , rather more than that of , though the end of Yugoslavia and recent events in the Ukrainian Republic remind us that political geography is rarely permanent; a hundred-year-old inhabitant of Lviv will have been an Austro-Hungarian , a Polish, a Soviet, and a Ukrainian national during his or her lifetime.

We must also consider the view that the two World Wars should not necessarily be treated as autonomous but perhaps be seen as parts of a single conflict, a "Thirty Years War" of the twentieth century, 2 a conflict that arose from the long-term political and economic rivalries of great powers and Europe's fault lines which led these rivalries to ignite into warfare. It is, indeed, possible to argue that the Cold War period can be seen as at least a sequel to it.

Such an interpretation of the dark history of Europe in the twentieth century does, of course, downgrade the importance of ideology and of the "great dictators" and has been attacked on the grounds that the coming to power of Adolf Hitler — was, not only the major cause of World War II, but that his hysterical and paranoid agenda gave that war its own unique and horrific nature.

Nevertheless, the outcome of the Second World War and the nature of the fracturing alliance that triumphed was clearly the major factor in determining, in political-geographic respects, the map of post-war Europe. Its impact was clearly discernible for nearly half a century, although we can debate whether it was the position of the armies of the western powers vis-a-vis the Red Army in or the subsequent announcement of the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan in , the formation of NATO in , or the entry of West Germany into the alliance in that decisively made for a divided Europe.

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In that the division was also an ideological one, it determined the nature of economies and societies. It is, however, when we come to the economic and social effects of the war upon Europe, that determining the degrees and the ways in which the experience of the war as well as its outcome shaped the post-war world becomes difficult.

The major problem is that of distinguishing between pre-war influences, the experience of the war, its result, and the Cold War, which followed so swiftly. The relentless advance of Allied forces in and achieved a victory, so complete as to prevent any revival of the defeated regimes. Although celebrated with justice by the victors, it was gained at an enormous cost to all of Europe. The excesses of the Soviet forces, which raped and looted their way through eastern Germany are now well known, 4 but for many years this went unrecognised by western writers.

If the conduct of the western Allies was far superior, total war cannot be waged without leaving desolation and a huge loss of civilian life in its wake and, what one author has called, "collective amnesia", 5 has obscured the costs of liberation as armies fought their way through France, Belgium and Holland.


  • Germany's Unification;
  • The Younger Gods.
  • A Plan for Escape (Palabra Sur Book);

Europe in offered a picture of desolation and ruin. Parts of the Soviet Union had been fought over three times, while Poland had suffered aggression from both Germany and Russia in and the Soviet advance in had paused only to allow the German army to destroy Warsaw. Central Europe has been described as a "lunar landscape dotted with enormous heaps of rubble and bomb craters", 6 while, in Berlin, "Ninety-five per cent of its urban area lay in ruins". Victorious but battered, Britain was, a threadbare and austere country with an exhausted economy, now that American aid was withdrawn, and the French economy was dislocated: "food was scarce in the winter of , and there were virtually no reserves of gold or foreign currency".

Two European civil wars or one punctuated by a lengthy armistice had not only resulted in the problems of reconstruction, but had substantially reduced the power and influence of the major European states with the exception of Russia, long perceived in western and central Europe as largely an extra-European power, but one whose armies had penetrated deep into Central Europe in much as they had done in As the Cold War developed, it became clear that only two powers in the world had emerged from the war with enhanced strength and that these two "super powers" were the USA and the Soviet Union or USSR.

The Transformative Impact of World War II

A further weakening of the position of Europe came with the diminuendo of the colonial empires of Britain, France and the Netherlands. The stress and expense of war and of humiliation at the hands of Japan had already impacted severely upon the positions of the imperial powers, while the opposition of the USA and of the emergent United Nations to colonial possessions was a further factor.

Winston Churchill — [ ] had, perhaps, failed to realise or had ignored the anti-colonial implications of the Atlantic Charter, which he and Franklin D. Roosevelt — [ ] had signed in , or the strength of American opposition to empires. US policy was, nevertheless, ambiguous as anti-imperialism could conflict with its Cold War interests; having refused to back Britain during the Suez crisis in , it proceeded to press her to retain bases of strategic importance, as with Cyprus and Diego Garcia. The process of decolonisation set in, sometimes "with astonishing — and in some cases excessive speed", as with the British Empire, 9 at a single blow with the Dutch Empire, collapse and precipitate withdrawal as with the Belgian Empire, or accompanied by a hard and lengthy struggle as with France's wars in Vietnam and Algeria , 10 but it was practically complete by the early s.

Essentially the imperial powers lost the appetite and will to hold on to empires, which were no longer seen as worthwhile by their home electorates. As Mark Mazower born has commented, "imperial powers were rarely forced to retreat as a direct result of military insurrection — Algeria was the exception rather than the rule". Britain, at first sought a substitute for Empire in the Commonwealth, but was then to waver between Atlanticism and Europe, while France, hastily, turned its attention towards Europe and followed a policy of forming a close relationship with West Germany.

The physical and economic recovery of Europe was, despite the enormous damage done to the infrastructure, industry, agriculture and commerce, to be quicker than most observers expected and that of Western Europe was spectacular after the bleak and austere immediate post-war years. It has been argued that it was the depths to which Germany had sunk in , the near-starvation, disorder and hopelessness that inspired a West German recovery that prioritised economic recovery stability, and order, 12 while another view is that it was a determined effort to erase the past.

These developments were underpinned by different economic and social systems and, if in part the result of the war and differing national traditions, were also consequent on America's aid to the West via the Marshall Plan. A salient feature of the recovering Europe has been identified as the increased role of the state as director of economies and, via increased taxation and state welfare, of civil societies and the organisation and direction of states for the war effort has been held to be a major influence on these developments. A little disputed effect of total war is that it vastly increases the power of governments and both governments and peoples had become accustomed to, respectively, positions of command and dependency.

Whether these post-war developments represented a continuation of war-time systems of government, had already been evident in pre-war Europe, or were largely a response to the problems of a ravaged Europe can be debated. The more extreme forms of state control of economic and social life experienced by the states of Eastern and Central Europe may be seen as imported from, or imposed by, the Soviet Union, though many of these states had formerly been used to a high degree of government direction and were experiencing some of the worst problems of post-war dislocation and poverty.

The Impact of the First World War and Its Implications for Europe Today | Heinrich Böll Stiftung

Central to the recovery of Western Europe was a balance or synthesis between liberal capitalism and socialism, though in France and Italy this was challenged by powerful Communist Parties, strengthened by the Resistance movements which had developed late in the war. The general direction of governments' policies was contested between social democratic and moderate conservative parties, but moved steadily towards the latter from the early s. Whether the Cold War divide, the formation of the Soviet Bloc and the imposition of socialist one party economic and political systems of government on much of East Central Europe was planned by Joseph Stalin — from the beginning has been much debated.

Anne Applebaum born , Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe has, more recently, provided support for this thesis. Certainly the take-over of the Baltic States had already provided a taste of what was to come, while Communist parties in states overrun by Russian forces clearly expected full support for their seizure of power. Against this interpretation, there is Stalin's apparent flexibility in making his "back of an envelope" Percentage Agreement with Churchill, while Mark Mazower has queried whether over Italy and Poland there was not, "at the highest levels, a tacit quid pro quo?

Blueprint or not, the fact remains that, one by one, socialist states, closely allied to the Soviet Union or "people's democracies" emerged: Bulgaria , where from a Communist-dominated Fatherland Front was the only legal political group; Poland and Romania, where a strong parallel state was dominated by Communists; and Hungary and Czechoslovakia, where, until , a limited degree of democracy was permitted. Some have argued that the timetable of the Soviet takeover was dependent on Stalin's reactions to US policies - the ending of aid to the Soviet Union, the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan -but there are good reasons for believing that whatever flexibility he demonstrated elsewhere, as in Greece , Stalin was determined to place sympathetic governments and economic systems in the countries "liberated" by the Soviet forces.

As he said to Milovan Djilas — , the Yugoslavian partisan, who eventually fell out with Marshal Josip Broz Tito — , "This war is not as in the past: whoever occupies a territory also imposes his own system". That the USSR would reject the aid proffered by the Marshall Plan of to it and its satellites had been foreshadowed by its refusal to be bound by the conclusions of the Bretton Woods Conference of July or to join the two economic organisations set up by it, the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and development, considering, correctly, that the new economic order they represented gave a considerable advantage to the USA and to the US dollar which became the lynchpin of the world's financial system.

Essentially the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan represented the policy of the containment of Soviet power and influence and they and the Soviet reaction reinforced the emerging division of Europe. The closing months of witnessed unprecedented change in the world political and social order. Historical transformation in both Eastern and Western Europe accelerated at a rapid pace and resulted in three major developments: the collapse of communist ideological and political hegemony in Eastern Europe; the end of the Cold War between the communist and Western blocs, led by the USA and the Soviet Union; and the impending economic integration of Western Europe in , paving the way for political, social, and cultural evolution of European unity and a decline in the influence of the two superpowers.

Against this backdrop, the author charts the unique opportunities and potential pitfalls that accompany the increased economic and political integration of the European Community. The author stresses the importance of understanding that the impending European economic unification, and the consequent autonomy of the European Community from its traditional Atlantic alliance, will radically alter the face of social politics in Europe and will redefine the realities of world politics and the economic balance of power.

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