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A Brief History of International Relations

The World Made Easy

Kathleen Brush

The world does not need to be complex and confusing. It can be made simpler so that the business, political, social, and economic implications of global news briefs beaming across televisions and electronic devices can be easily grasped. Key to this is knowing that a five-hundred-year competition for global supremacy between the Chinese, European, Islamic, and Russian empires only ended in 1945. When it did, the world had 57 independent nations. After all empires were dissolved in 1991, there were 193, and each nation carried histories of empires in the form of conquest, religions followed, languages practiced, diversified populations, repressive rule, and histories of discrimination. A Brief History of International Relations: The World Made Easy explores this history of global conflict to contextualize and simplify the often perplexing relations between nations and empires.

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Chapter 26. Central Europe


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Central Europe was a central battleground in the competition for empire. The Habsburg, French, Ottoman, Russian/Soviet, and Swedish empires and the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth ruled tracts of Central Europe. One aftermath of empire diversity is religious diversity. This is a region that uniquely has nations with Muslim, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and irreligious majorities.

One aftermath of regular wars and treaties changing borders was the alteration of population diversity. Between 1772 and 1795 Poland was partitioned three times. Each time the Polish people were separated into multiple states. The former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia intentionally combined diverse ethnicities from multiple states to help secure and defend independence after WWI. During WWII Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania lost more than 10 percent of their populations. Jews, Slavs, and gypsies disproportionately suffered.

Most nations in this region experienced independence more than once. For some, the first came in the 18th and 19th centuries after winning wars for independence from the Ottoman Empire.1 Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the Second Republic of Poland, and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia gained ← 249 | 250 → independence after WWI. All Central European nations would experience independence, in many cases again, between 1989 and 2008.

The post-WWII commitment to self-determination should have restored independence to the nations of Central Europe in 1945. But Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union was occupying most of the region and Soviet forces weren’t letting go. All nations in this region except Yugoslavia2 and Albania3...

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