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Aftermath of World War I

This article, the Aftermath of World War I, continues from the main World War I article due to the length of the text.

Fighting in World War I ended when an armistice took effect at 1100 hours on November 11, 1918.

Table of contents
1 The Blockade of Germany
2 The Treaty of Versailles
3 Influenza pandemic
4 Geopolitical and Economic Consequences
5 Social trauma
6 Remains of ammunition
7 Memorials and Tombs
8 World War I Resources
9 See also
10 External links

The Blockade of Germany

Following the war, the Allies maintained a naval blockade against Germany. It is estimated that this blockade caused the deaths of ~800,000 German civilians, due to malnutrition, during the final two years of war. The maintenance of the blockade, as described by Leckie in Delivered From Evil, would "torment the Germans...driving them with the fury of despair into the arms of the devil". Many historians have argued that the treatment of Germany, following the war, was one of the causes of World War II, others reason the opposite. Everybody agreed though that either the treatment was too harsh or too soft, there were no golden middle.

Churchill would refer to the blockade during his March 3, 1919, speech to the British House of Commons: "We are holding all our means of coercion in full operation...we are enforcing the blockade with vigour...Germany is very near starvation. The evidence I have received...shows...the great danger of a collapse of the entire structure of German social and national life, under the pressure of hunger and malnutrition."

The blockade was not lifted until June of 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

The Treaty of Versailles

Following the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, The June 1919 Treaty of Versailles put an official end to the war. Amongst its 440 articles, the treaty required that Germany accept responsibility for starting the war and pay heavy reparations. The treaty also included a clause to create the League of Nations. The US Senate never ratified the treaty, despite President Wilson's campaign in support of it. The United States negotiated a separate peace with Germany, this was finalized in August 1921.

Influenza pandemic

A separate, but related event was the great influenza pandemic. A new strain of Influenza, originating in the U.S.A (but misleadingly known as "Spanish Flu") was accidentally carried to Europe with the American forces. The disease spread rapidly through the both the continental U.S. and Europe, reaching, eventually, around the globe. The exact number of deaths is unknown, but in excess of 20 million people worldwide is not considered an overestimate. See also: Spanish Flu.

Geopolitical and Economic Consequences


Perhaps the single most important event precipitated by the privations of the war was the Russian Revolution. Socialist and explicitly Communist uprisings also occurred in many other European countries from 1917 onwards, notably in Germany and Hungary.

As a result of the Bolsheviks' failure to cede territory, German and Austrian forces defeated the Russian armies, and the new communist government signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. In that treaty, Russia renounced all claims to Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland (specifically, the formerly Russian-controlled Congress Poland of 1815) and Ukraine, and it was left to Germany and Austria-Hungary "to determine the future status of these territories in agreement with their population." Later on, Lenin government renounced also the Partition of Poland treaty, making it possible for Poland to claim its 1772 borders.


Nearly 15 percent of the land area of the German Empire was ceded at Allied insistence to various countries. The largest confiscated part of Germany was restored to Poland, that claimed most areas that had been part of Poland before partitions 1772-1795. Those provinces were in 1871 incorporated into Germany; the part of it was sometimes referred as the "Polish Corridor" because of its position between East Prussia and the rest of Germany. Britain and France occupied the vast majority of former German and Ottoman colonies as "League of Nations mandates".

Despite the humiliations of the peace, Germany honoured its war heroes and commemorated its victories, notably with the construction in 1927 of a massive monument at Tannenberg to their victory there over the Russians. German militarists soon invented theories about the revolutions at home that they claimed prevented German victory in the Great War. Many Germans came to believe that they could have won the war but for the treachery of politicians on the homefront. It took WWII to finally convince them otherwise.

Despite having been in favor of Germany paying reparations, the USA ended up lending funds to Germany for economic reconstruction — much of which was actually used to pay reparations instead. Germany did make other reparations in the form of goods and raw materials; however the overall effect of reparations was to cause economic recession not only in Germany, but also in other countries where German exports depressed local market prices.


During the Soviet Revolution and Civil wars, many non-Russian nations gained brief or longer lasting independence.

The countries of Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia gained their independence.

Proclaimed by Germans and Austrians on the area of Congress Kingdom in 1916, the Kingdom of Poland - the part of Mitteleuropa plan, was replaced by Second Polish Republic in 1918. Under the dynamic leadership of temporary head of state Jozef Pilsudski, it united the former Polish provinces of Austria and Prussia. Pilsudski also wanted to help Belorussia and Ukraine to became nations, however the plan failed and both countries became separate Soviet republics.

Romania, initially formed from the union of Vallachia and Moldova retrieved the Eastern part of Moldowa from Russia.

Armenia, Georgia and Azherbeijan states were established in Caucasus region. In 1922 all these countries were invaded by Soviets and proclaimed Soviet Republics. Similar events happened in Central Asia.

Austro-Hungarian Empire

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken into many pieces. The new republics of Austria and Hungary were established, disavowing any continuity with the empire. Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia formed the new Czechoslovakia. Galicia was transferred to Poland and South Tyrol and Trieste went to Italy. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, and Vojvodina were joined with Serbia and Montenegro to form the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later Yugoslavia. Transylvania became part of Romania. These changes were recognised in, but not caused by, the Treaty of Versailles.

Because of the intermixed population and partly because of the interests of great powers, the new borders did not always follow ethnic divisions. The new states of eastern Europe nearly all had large national minorities. Hundreds of thousands of Germans continued to live in the newly created countries. A quarter of ethnic Hungarians found themselves living outside of Hungary.

Ottoman Empire

At the end of the war the Ottoman government collapsed completely and the Ottoman Empire was divided amongst the victorious powers.

France and the Britain got most of the Middle East, and the British were given the Mandate of Palestine under the League of Nations.

Italy and Greece were given much of Anatolia, however Turkish resistance forced out the Greeks while the Italians were unable to establish themselves. The independent state of Armenia was created in eastern Turkey, however the Red Army invaded in 1920 and the state was annexed.

An autonomous Kurdish area was also created, but attempts to become independent in the 1920s were suppressed by the Turks.

British Empire

Less concrete changes include the growing assertiveness of Commonwealth nations. Battles such as Gallipoli for Australia and New Zealand, and Vimy Ridge for Canada led to increased national pride and a greater reluctance to remain subordinate to Britain, leading to the growth of diplomatic autonomy in the 1920s.

As for the UK itself, funding the War had a huge economic cost. For being the World's largest overseas investor, it became one of its biggest debtors, with interest payments forming around 40% of all government spending. Inflation more than doubled between 1914 and its peak in 1920, while the value of the Pound Sterling fell by 258%. Reparations in the form of free German coal depressed the local industry, precipitating the 1926 General Strike.

United States

In the USA, disillusioned by the failure of the war to achieve the high ideals promised by President Woodrow Wilson, the American people chose isolationism and enjoyed several years of unbalanced prosperity until the 1929 Stock Market crash.


For France, the end of the War seemed to finally mark to end of Prussian-German domination which had lasted since the Prussians and British had ousted Napoleon in 1814, and especially since their defeat in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War.

However the generalissimo of the Allied forces, Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch, had demanded that for the future protection of France the Rhine river should now form the border between France and Germany. Based on history, he was convinced that Germany would again become a threat, and on hearing the terms of the Treaty of Versailles had left Germany substantially intact, he observed with great accuracy that "This is not Peace. It is an Armistice for twenty years."

Also extremely important in the War was the participation of French colonial troops from Indochina, North Africa, and Madagascar without whom France might well have fallen. When these soldiers returned to their homelands and continued to be treated as second class citizens, many became the nucleus of pro-independence groups.

World Economy

The pressures in the world economy caused by German reparations, and the presence of so much industrial capacity that had been developed to fight the war but was now unused, were major causes of the 1929 Great Depression.

Social trauma

The experiences of the war lead to a sort of collective national trauma afterwards for all the participating countries. The optimism of 1900 was entirely gone and those who fought in the war became what is known as "the Lost Generation" because they never fully recovered from their experiences. This was especially acute in France where a huge number of their young men were killed or injured during the conflict. For the next few years the nation became obsessive in its mourning and thousands of memorials were erected, one for each village in France.

Remains of ammunition

Throughout the areas where trenches and fighting lines were located, such as the Champagne region of France, quantities of unexploded shells and other ammunition have remained, some of which remains dangerous and continues to cause injuries and occasional fatalities into the 21st century. Some are still found nowadays, for instance by farmers plowing their fields. Some of this ammunition contains chemical toxic products such as mustard gas. Cleanup of major battlefields is a continuing task with no end in sight for decades more. Squads remove, defuse or destroy hundreds of tonnes of unexploded ammunition every year in Belgium and France.

Memorials and Tombs


Many towns in the participating countries have a war memorial dedicated to local residents who lost their lives. Those of national importance include:

Tombs of the Unknown Soldier:

World War I Resources

For more details on the subject, consult these histories:

(list of histories here)

The first major television documentary on the history of the war was the BBC's The Great War (1964), made in association with CBC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and The Imperial War Museum. The series consists of 26 forty-minute episodes featuring extensive use of archive footage gathered from around the world and eyewitness interviews. Although some of the programme's conclusions have been disputed by historians it still makes compelling and often moving viewing.

See also

External links