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  • 06 Jul 2019 GS Paper 1 History

    Examine the role of World War I in reshaping the geopolitics of present day Europe. (250 words)



    • Mention the consequences of WW I in creation of multiple geopolitical entities.
    • Europe’s transition from inter war period to the creation of European Union.
    • Contemporary events giving relevance to WW I.


    • First World War greatly impacted the political landscape of Europe due to the downfall of three empires and the emergence of new nation states. Later, the reorganization of internal borders was on the principles of ‘economic viability’ and geo-political interests and not on nationality, ethnicity and self determination as was promised earlier by the allied powers before concluding the peace treaties. Hence, it continues to be problematic in the 21st-century struggles for national identity and political autonomy.


    Consequences of World War 1

    • The war led to the collapse of three empires, including the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and German empires and emergence of new nation states.
      • Creation of Turkey after dismemberment of Ottoman Empire.
      • Separation of Austria-Hungary.
      • Uniting Slav people under Yugoslavia by merging Serbia and Montenegro.
    • The Paris Peace Conference created new political boundaries without much consultation with the local population.
      • Treaty of Sevres resulted in areas populated by Turks being given to Greece which resulted into conflict in Turkish mainland.
    • Decline of European supremacy: Economically and militarily, Europe was surpassed by the United States which emerged as a world power.

    Hence, WWI set the stage for changing political map of Europe, which was further cemented by future events like World War II, peace treaties and emerging economic necessities.

    Later changes

    • Inter war period:
      • Rise of Nazi Germany under Hitler to avenge the humiliating Treaty of Versailles further destabilized European polity and culminated to Second World War.
    • Cold war period: European states remained in a conflict zone band-wagoning USA against the Communist Russia. This phase was marked by events like division of Germany and rise and fall of the Berlin wall.
    • Rise of EU: As a consequence of two great wars, there was a need for large scale reconstruction which forced nation states to work together and led to the birth of the European Community in 1957.

    Contemporary Relevance

    • Russian President Vladimir Putin argues that the First World War left many Russians in the Soviet Republic of Ukraine which justifies Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.


    • World War I had not just impacted the European community in its early phase but the lessons learnt in the war continues to impact the current geopolitical events. Eg-

    Rise of nationalism: Nationalism was a significant cause of World War I. There has been a rise in the slogans like “Italy First,” “Hungary First” and “America First, reflecting the rise of nationalism in the present time. It is also followed by a similar feeling of distrust towards the other countries as observed during the War.

    Trade protectionism: During World War I, many of the leading economies took shelter behind high tariff walls to halt the forces of globalization. Following the onset of an economic depression in the early 1870s, one industrializing country after another turned against trade liberalization. Trade wars, colonialism and closed markets became the name of the geopolitical game. Similar trade protectionism is observed in the contemporary geopolitics in nations like the U.S, France and Britain.

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