Tuesday, October 28, 2008

There were four empire in Europe before World War I, after it only a single Empire remained intact

World War I actually did have an effect, but there are complicating factors**. The four Empires that reigned in Europe were the German Empire, also known as Prussia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire*, the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Empire. Collectively they controlled almost all of Central and Eastern Europe. The revolutions of 1848 saw some gains for certain countries, with the events leading to the independence of Italy for one, but didn't really change the situation by forcing self determination for countries that were formally incorporated under bigger political dynasties. The definition of "Empire" is closely related to the term "Emperor", with an Emperor being a king who controls other kings, much as a king is a lord who controls many lords. The German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires were smashed by World War I and their subject nationalities liberated, but the Russian Empire remained, although the social system was changed by the Revolution.

The Revolution, while doing many things, didn't grant independence to Central Asia, or to the Baltic States and Poland, who had to fight against Russia to get their interwar independence. Neither did the countries of the Caucuses gain independence, or the Ukraine. Some of these countries had significant socialist movements who did want to be affiliated with the Russian Revolution, therefore complicating issues, but many did not.

The Russian Soviet Federal Republic, Russia itself, contained many autonomous Republics within it that were composed of ethnic minorities who were granted autonomy within Russia but not either independence or the possibility of independence even though these peoples were frequently those conquered by the Russian Empire during Tsarist times. Instead, they experienced internal colonialism as the natural resources of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics were exploited for the benefit of areas dominated by ethnic Russians.


*on edit: it's important to emphasize that the Austro-Hungarian Empire really was both Austrian and Hungarian. Although Hungarians are an ethnicity who are very unique in Europe because of their extra-European origins, they too dominated over subject nationalities in central Europe, like Slovakia and Croatia. This is important today because there's an ultra-nationalist movement in Hungary that wants to restore "Greater Hungary", which was Hungary before people like the Slovaks and Croats became independent. Without realizing that although Hungarians are a linguistic and cultural minority in Europe that they were still aggressors in Central Europe is important to understanding this political movement today.

**The complicating factor is that documents found in the Russian foreign office after the Revolution reportedly suggested that after the war Britain and Russia, and France, would each carve out spheres of influence in Europe. A similar plan was actually implemented in the areas of the Middle East that were formerly part of the Ottoman Empire.

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