What happened to most of the new democracies that were established in Europe after World War I?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Unfortunately and tragically, these new countries were destroyed by both the Nazis and the Soviets in the inter-war period and in the aftermath of World War II.

One of the intentions of the victorious powers after the Armistice of 1918 was to enable ethnic self-determination for all the peoples of...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Unfortunately and tragically, these new countries were destroyed by both the Nazis and the Soviets in the inter-war period and in the aftermath of World War II.

One of the intentions of the victorious powers after the Armistice of 1918 was to enable ethnic self-determination for all the peoples of Europe (and theoretically, at least, of the Middle East as well). Nationalities that had not had their own countries for centuries (and in some cases not at all) were reorganized into new nation-states. These included Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, and Romania. Part of the problem with this arrangement was that Central Europe did not consist of ethnically "pure" regions, so various peoples of different ethnic groups were still going to live under the rule of another group. For example, the region known as Transylvania was given to Romania in spite of being populated largely by ethnic Hungarians. The section of Czechoslovakia that now comprises most of the Czech Republic and was known as Bohemia had been under the control of ethnic Germans and German-speaking Austrians for centuries, but it now formed the core of a new country. This change created the resentment among German nationalists which was exploited by Hitler and the Nazi Party in their rise in the 1920s and '30s.

Whatever the internal problems and imperfections of these new countries, they were overrun by Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II. Poland was attacked from both sides and partitioned in 1939, then completely overrun by the Germans in 1941. Czechoslovakia was destroyed, with the western part incorporated into Germany and the eastern section, Slovakia, made into a German client state. Yugoslavia was overrun by the Germans, and Hungary was coerced into being subservient to the Germans as well. Romania was attacked first by the Soviets, then by the Germans, then taken over by the Soviets again, and much of its territory was then incorporated into the Soviet Union.

With the defeat of Germany in World War II, the Germans were expelled from the countries they had taken over. These were now reorganized into Soviet puppet states ("satellite" states). Though they had been democracies in the inter-war period, they became Communist dictatorships after the war, a situation that continued until 1989 when they finally gained independence and a restoration of democratic rule in most cases.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When World War I ended, many democracies were created in Europe. One of our goals in the war was to make the world safe for democratic governments.  We wanted more democratic governments in Europe. However, by the time World War II started, and certainly shortly after it ended, many of these democracies had disappeared.

Those that disappeared before World War II did so mainly because there were many major economic problems that the democratic governments could not solve. The Europeans, accustomed to dictatorships or monarchies, turned to a strong unelected leader to resolve these economic problems.  Germany is a good example where a dictator came to power.

Even more of them disappeared after World War II when the Soviet Union expanded its system of communism. In these communist countries, there were no free elections.  Instead, a leader was chosen often without any elections or elections with choices of candidates.  Many Eastern European countries became Communist after World War II ended. Thus, democratic government disappeared not long after it was established in Europe.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team