The Affect Of The Two World Wars On The Political Evolution Of Europe

2524 words - 10 pages

After the First World War, Europe was socially, economically and politically crippled. The Great War had divided entire nations into two main sections: those who believed in the Extreme Left's ability to take control and regain national strength, prosperity and pride, and those following the Extreme Right's promise of leadership towards economic and political stability.

Throughout the inter-war period of 1919-1938, two main political movements were evident throughout Europe. Communism in the Soviet Union had been gaining strength and power under the rule of the Bolsheviks. Further West, Totalitarian ideologies were rising in the main European states, many of which had been involved in the wartime alliance. Mussolini's brand of Fascism was taking hold in Italy. The Spanish Civil war in the 1930's left Franco as dictator of the Spanish political system. Hitler's rise to power as leader of the newly formed Nazi Party in Germany, expanded fascist control in Western Europe.

The League of Nations, a covenant created during the peace talks of 1917-1920 was part of President Wilson's plan to "reaffirm the sincerity of the Western war aims", which included his `fourteen points' system, which "called for national self-determination, and the creation of a "general association of nations [to afford] mutual guarantees of political independence..."" . However, Wilson's efforts at peace were not well-received, although the Fourteen Points were used as a base for the 1918 armistice by Germany. The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 excluded the Central powers, since it was felt that there was enough tension between the victorious powers, and the addition of Russia, Germany, Austria, Turkey and Bulgaria would heighten the tension, rendering the peace conference futile. Germany eventually joined the League in 1926, followed by Russia in 1935. The U.S. Senate voted against joining the League in 1919, and remains excluded. This marked the start of U.S. isolation from European matters, and although the League failed, it set the basis for the United Nations formed after World War Two.

As a course of World War One, three key empires had disintegrated: the Austria-Hungary empire, the German empire, and the Ottoman Empire. This led to the creation of new, smaller independent states spread throughout Europe. These states were formally recognised during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. However, the newly-found states became economically unstable, since they had relied on the Empirical system for strength. They were divided internally by political groups and the newly formed governmental systems were unsure of their approaches to socio-economic and political methods of leadership. This provided the Germans with an easy target for their totalitarian ideologies in later years.

In Eastern Europe the Baltic States of Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, once collectively owned by Germany and Russia, had formed new countries. Finland maintained connections...

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