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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 Million by January

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid