The new world configuration after the First World War was decided by the Allied Powers during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Everything that was decided there marked post-war Europe. However, despite the intentions of the defenders of the treaty, the end of the war did not mark the beginning of a period of peace.
The war triggered the outbreak of several events of great relevance to interwar Europe: the Russian Revolution of November 1917, the November Revolution of 1918 in Germany, the Hungarian Revolution of March 1919, the Turkish War of Independence (1919-23), and the advent of fascism to power in Italy in 1922.
These events only confirmed the failure of the intention to establish a period of peace and stability after the “Great War”, although the creation of the League of Nations was intended to prevent the outbreak of new conflicts.
Europe’s new territorial map
Germany’s territorial losses
The Second German Empire (in November 1918 it turned into the Weimar Republic) was defeated at the First World War, and was forced to surrender 13% of its territory, much of which belonged to Western Prussia. This was equivalent to losing 10% of its total population. And it lost 15% of its productive capacity, equivalent to the loss of 48% of iron production and 24% of lead.
In addition, the Treaty of Versailles imposed the loss of 90% of its merchant fleet, 100% of the submarine wiring and all its colonies.
The territories lost by Germany were:
- Alsace and Lorraine, which returned to France (territories occupied by Prussia in 1871);
- Saarland, a territory rich in coal mines. France asked for the complete annexation of the Saar, however President Wilson and Great Britain opposed it. The Saar became a territory administered by the League of Nations for a period of 15 years. Ended up this period, Saar’s population had to decide its future in a referendum. On the other hand, France controlled the Saar’s mines for its benefit;
- The Rhineland, a German region, continued to belong to Germany, but was occupied militarily by the Allies for 15 years. France raised a question about the Rhine by military request. The idea was to create a buffer state between France and Germany to avoid contact between the two countries, but the idea was rejected. The Rhineland was to be a demilitarized territory after 15 years of allied occupation;
- The cities of Eupen and Malmedy passed into Belgium;
- The duchy of Schleswig, in northern Germany, was claiming for Denmark. In 1921 a referendum was held to decide whether to accept annexation to Denmark. It was finally decided that the north of the Schleswig territory would be incorporated into Denmark and the south would continue into Germany.
To all this must be added the territorial losses in the western part of Prussia, where a safety belt had to be created with Russia. So Germany lost:
- Much of West Prussia went to Poland;
- In addition, East Prussia also ceded the territories of Pomerania to create a Polish corridor that would allow them to have access to the sea. The city of Danzig came under the protection of the League of Nations. East Prussia was thus isolated from the rest of Germany;
- Lithuania was granted Memelland.
Germany saw its territorial unity shattered. To go to East Prussia, it was necessary to pass through Poland. Considering that Germany was responsible for the war it was imposed a drastic reduction of its army, to only 100,000 individuals. It would be an army of internal intervention. He was forbidden to organize a general staff and was ordered to dissolve military schools.
Germany could not have a single fighter plane. The navy was limited to defending the coasts.
The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
Austria-Hungary disappeared from the map. The Peace of Versailles imposed the dissolution of the Empire and the creation of a small Austria, limited only to the German-speaking territories of 80,000 km², with 6 million inhabitants and Vienna as its capital. The first Austrian government assured that this state was not viable and proposed union with Germany, an option forbidden by France.
Hungary remained for the Magyar population, but lost Transylvania (Hungarian population) in favour of Romania. There were 90,000 km² of territory and 8 million inhabitants.
The territories that formerly depended on Austria and Hungary were constituted as new states and other territories were distributed among the existing states:
- Czechoslovakia brought together the Czech, Slovenian and Ruthenian peoples;
- The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (from 1929 it was called the Kingdom of Yugoslavia);
- Romania is assigned new territories: Transylvania, Bukovina and Bessarabia (which were from Russia). From Bulgaria, he received the Wallachia;
- Galicia was delivered to Poland in two phases: in 1919 and in 1923 the eastern part;
- Italy was assigned the territories of South Tyrol and Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The Free State of Fiume, claimed by the Italians, was not annexed to Italy until 1924.
Italian territorial claims
The Treaty of London of 1915 was a secret pact by which Italy went to war with the Allied Powers. Initially, Italy was allied with the central powers: Austria and Germany. According to this treaty, Italy had to declare war on Austria.
According to this secret pact, Italy would receive the following territorial annexations once the war was over:
- South Tyrol, which included the current provinces of Trento (Trentino) and Bolzano-Bozen (Alto Adige / Südtirol);
- Gorizia and Gradisca;
- Istria, but not Fiume (Rijeka);
- Part of the Inner Carniola;
- Northern Dalmatia, including Zadar (Zara);
- Protectorate over Albania;
- Part of the German colonial empire in Asia and Africa.
At the moment of truth, after the war, the Treaty of Versailles denied most of the territories claimed by Italy. Only the territories of South Tyrol and Friuli-Venezia Giulia were assigned to it. This was a mutilated victory and the feeling that Italy went from victorious to defeated. The Italians rejected the Peace of Versailles.
In September 1919 Gabriele D’Annunzio (Italian poet and nationalist) occupied Fiume and gave an ultimatum to the Italian government to annex this territory. The Italian government did not support D’Annunzio, and he had to withdraw, arriving at the 1920 Rapallo Treaty where Fiume was declared free territory in the hands of the League of Nations. In exchange, Italy refused to annex Albania. Italy was also not rewarded on the colonial question.