News / Europe

How WWI Changed the Map of Europe

How WWI Changed the Map of Europei
X
George Putic
August 01, 2014 9:13 PM
A century ago at the beginning of the First World War, the maps of Europe, Asia and Africa looked much different than they do today. Historians say many of the border changes - agreed upon after the war - were made for political rather than economic reasons, creating new problems whose impact can be felt even today. VOA’s George Putic has more.
George Putic

A century ago at the beginning of the First World War, the maps of Europe, Asia and Africa looked much different than they do today.  Historians say many of the border changes - agreed upon after the war - were made for political rather than economic reasons, creating new problems whose impact can be felt even today.  

After four years of carnage and more than 16 million dead soldiers and civilians, three empires that had lasted for centuries - Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman - gradually ceased to exist and many new nations emerged, says Mike Heffernan, professor of historical geography at the University of Nottingham.

"Poland was reconstituted in the East; the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are established.  The Austro-Hungarian Empire, this vast zone to the southern part of Europe, is divided up into a range of smaller states," said Heffernan.

It took about five years and several treaties to dismantle the three empires. The new nations welcomed their new independence, but Heffernan says experts who advised national delegations during the negotiations were not economists.

“They tended to be historians, geographers and classically trained Oxford academics for example, who were not necessarily aware or mindful of creating a new economically integrated and viable European world," said Heffernan.

The old empires had provided a degree of stability, so many had trouble adjusting to life under a different rule, says Margaret MacMillan, professor of international history at Oxford University.

“Suddenly people throughout the Middle East and the center of Europe found themselves living in a world where they didn't know what country they belonged to; it wasn't quite clear what the borders of those countries would be; a whole lot of small wars were breaking out between different national movements trying to grab territory, and so it was in fact a very difficult time for people," said MacMillan.

The peace lasted merely a couple of decades and a new conflict was already brewing.  Even the Second World War did not solve all the border problems.  The peace lasted longer, but as soon as the Soviet Empire fell apart, new conflicts broke out.  Again, the maps had to be redrawn.

Stanislao Pugliese is a European history professor at Hofstra University in New York.  He says most people do not understand that maps are often times arbitrary and usually do not correspond to culture and politics.  He spoke via Skype.

“We might think that borders are sacred and sacrosanct and immutable, but history has told us that they aren’t," said Pugliese.

Pugliese says only a couple of decades ago, nobody could picture the Soviet Union ceasing to exist, which also changed the lines on the maps. They should not be expected to last forever, either. 

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid