Europe between two World War
In January 1919, representatives from 27 nations gathered in Paris to write a peace agreement. However, the losers of the war were not invited to attend. The Germans, the Austrians, and the Ottoman Turks had no say in making peace. The Russians were not in Paris either, because the Bolsheviks had already signed a peace treaty with Germany.
The meeting was a stormy one from the start. Both France and Britain blamed Germany for the war, so they wanted Germany to pay for the damage it had done. They also wanted Germany to give up its colonies in Africa and Asia.
Conflicting Views Groups that had once been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire also attended the Paris meeting. They wanted the peacemakers to recognize their countries as independent nations. The Allies were willing to do so, but they quickly found that this was not an easy task. Many groups claimed the same lands. President Woodrow Wilson of the United States also attended the conference. Wilson firmly believed that unless the agreement was just, there would be no lasting peace. In Paris, Wilson called for a number of things, including an end to secret treaties between nations and a cutback on the number of weapons countries kept on hand. He also wanted to set up an association, or league, of nations that would work out peaceful solutions to disagreements between countries. The Peace Treaty After months of bargaining, the peace treaty was finally completed. The treaty placed all blame for the war on Germany. As a result, Germany was forced to give up its colonies and to pay for the costs of the war. The treaty also limited the size of the Germán army. The Allies wanted to make sure that Germany would never again be able to start another war.
The Germán people were outraged by the treaty. At first, their leaders refiised to sign it. In the end, however, they were forced to accept the terms of the treaty.
Germany’s allies were also punished. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was divided into several small countries. The same was true of the Ottoman Empire in Southwest Asia. Some of the lands it had ruled became independent nations. France and Britain took over the rest.
The treaty did not do everything Wilson had hoped. However, it did cali for a league of nations. With that, Wilson was happy. Many other Americans, though, believed that their country’s best hope for peace was to stay neutral. A neutral nation is one that does not take sides. In the end, the United States refused to join the league and sign the treaty. Several years later, however, the United States did work out a sepárate treaty with Germany and its allies.
Many people in the United States and elsewhere hoped that the treaty and the League of Nations would ensure lasting peace. Their hopes were in vain. Soon nations were again preparing for war. The Soviet Union Is Formed While the peacemakers debated in Paris, the Russians were in the middle of civil war. Many different groups battled the Bolsheviks for control of the country. By 1920, the Bolsheviks had won, under the leadership of Vladimir Ilyich Ulanov, better known as Lenin. Soon after, Russia became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the Soviet Union.
Lenin and his followers set up the first communist govemment. This govement was based on the ideas of Karl Marx, a political philosopher who had lived in Germany about a century earlier.
The Growth of Dictators During the 1920’s, countries in the western part of Europe watched nervously as the Russian communists set up their govemment. Many Europeans feared that communism might spread to their countries. To stop that from happening, the people of Europe wanted strong govemments, even if those goverments took away some freedoms. Unfortunately, many people did not understand that this attitude could allow dictators to take power. Italy In 1922, Benito Mussolini became dictator of Italy. Mussolini took away many freedoms, but few people were brave enough to protest. Mussolini wanted to build a great empire. In fact, he told the Italian people that his empire would be as large as the oíd Román Empire.
In 1935, Mussolini attacked Ethiopia in East Africa. Mussolini was sure that no one would risk war by coming to Ethiopia’s aid. No one did. Japan In the 1930’s, a group of military leaders gained control of Japan. The military leaders believed that they could solve their country’s economic problems by building an empire that would include China and other parts of Asia. Such an empire could bring raw materials to Japan’s factories, as well as new markets for Japanese goods. So, in 1931, Japan attacked Manchuria, a part of China that was rich in coal, oil, and wheat.
When other countries protested, Japan left the League of Nations. Like Mussolini, J apanese leaders believed that no one would risk a war by coming to China’s aid. No one did.
Spain After a bloody civil war, Spain also fell under a dictatorship in 1939. The new dictator, Francisco Franco, won power with the help of Italy’s Mussolini. Franco’s rise was also aided by a leader from Germany—Adolf Hitier.