How did World War I contribute to the rise of dictators in Europe?
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The three most important dictators to arise in Europe in the decade or so after the First World War were Benito Mussolini in Italy, Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union and Adolf Hitler in Germany. These men rose to power essentially because their countries had in some way been made unhappy by the outcome of that war.
Mussolini came to power first. His rise was connected in part to the war. In the Treaty of Versailles, the Italians had not gotten what they had been promised when they entered the war. This upset them greatly and led to nationalist sentiment. The war also helped to disrupt the economy and society, opening the way for conflict that led to the rise of the fascists.
Hitler’s rise was much more clearly connected to WWI. The Treaty of Versailles had punished Germany harshly. Hitler’s rise was predicated on rousing German anger at this treatment and at the alleged “stab in the back” that caused Germany to lose WWI. His Nazi ideology was able to capitalize on those emotions.
Stalin’s rise was also connected to WWI. The ineptitude of the Russian war effort had helped to overthrow the old regime. The Bolsheviks were able to take power in part because the war had discredited the monarchy.
WWI contributed to the rise of dictatorship, then, because it caused some countries to be unhappy with the world order that came out of the war.
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