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A Time of Change 1948-1962

de gaulle

All times are, more or less, times of change, but the changes that took place in the 1950’s and 1960’s were extraordinary. This was particularly true in the part of the world dominated by the Soviet Union. During Stalin’s rule, the satellite countries — East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Albania — were like provinces of Russia. The one exception in Eastern Europe was Yugoslavia. In 1948, the Yugoslav government, headed by Josef Tito, refused to follow Stalin’s orders and insisted on maintaining its independence. This was possible for two reasons. There was no Russian army in Yugoslavia, as there was in other countries and Yugoslavia did not border on the Soviet Union. Tito’s defiance enraged Stalin, who boasted, “I will shake my little finger and there will be no more Tito. He will fail.” Stalin was certain Tito would fail because Yugoslavia carried on almost all of its trade with Eastern Europe and lacked the resources to be self-sufficient. Stalin had not reckoned with the United States. Realizing that it would be wise to support Tito in his struggle with Stalin, the United States gave military and economic aid to Yugoslavia. The little country prospered and gained complete independence from Russia. Stalin and not Tito, had failed. For five years the people of Eastern Europe were quiet. Then in June of 1953, three months after Stalin had died, the workers of East Germany rose up against the government of Walter Ulbricht, who had been hand-picked by Stalin. The Communist government might have been overthrown if the Russian army had not been called in. The troops crushed the revolt and Ulbricht remained in power — but the uprising was a warning of what was to come. Three years later, after Khrushchev’s famous “de-Stalinization” speech, Eastern Europeans asked themselves …

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Totalitarianism Versus Democracy

totalitarian

AS THE 1930’s drew to a close, only eight countries in Europe, besides Great Britain and France, were still democracies. They were Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Three of Europe’s most important nations were dictatorships. The Soviet Union was communist; Germany and Italy were fascist. There had been dictatorships before, but these went further; they were totalitarian. The word “totalitarian” comes from the word “total,” and total control is what these dictatorships were after — total control of their people, total control of their actions and thought. There were differences between the totalitarian countries. While Stalin exterminated his opponents as ruthlessly as the fascists, he sought to spread his power less by war than by internal revolt. Nor did the Soviets openly preach racial war and genocide. In Germany, however, the Nazis loudly boasted that the Germans were the master race, destined to conquer all other, inferior, peoples. “Today Germany,” they said, “tomorrow the world.” Furthermore, the fascists claimed to be the only ones who could stop Communism and the communists considered the fascists their worst enemies. As a result, the communists in some countries found themselves lined up with the defenders of democracy against fascism. In France they were part of the Popular Front. In the United States they supported Roosevelt and the New Deal. In Spain they fought against Franco side by side with men who believed in democracy, although the communists later betrayed the Spanish democrats. Three ideologies competed for control of the world and as events turned out, one totalitarian nation — the Soviet Union — would finally be forced to stand with the democracies against the totalitarians of Germany, Italy and Japan in the most terrible war in the history of the world.

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“On the Dole” 1918 – 1936

dole

IN Europe as in America, the leading democratic nations — Great Britain and France — faced the problems of the great depression. In those nations, too, the question arose: Could democracy survive, or would it give way to totalitarianism? Would the people turn instead to fascism or communism? Although Britain had a brief period of prosperity immediately after World War I, of all the world’s democracies, it was struck hardest and soonest by the depression. For Britain had a special problem. A highly industrialized country, it lived by its exports. It sold manufactured goods and coal to other countries and imported its food. Even before the war, Britain had begun to lose its markets. Other countries were making wool and cotton cloth, which was one of Britain’s most important exports. New fuels were developed that were replacing coal. More and more countries were using high tariffs to keep out foreign goods. After 1918, the situation became even worse. The fact that Britain had long been an industrial country was now working against it. Its machinery and manufacturing methods were old-fashioned and could not compete with the modern machinery and methods of other lands. Exports fell, factories shut down and millions of Britons were out of work. Britain had had unemployment insurance as early as 1911. Now the payments were increased and the unemployed went “on the dole,” as they called it. The government also provided old-age pensions and some medical and housing aid, but the people felt that the unemployment and other benefits were too small and they were dissatisfied. They began to turn to the Labour party. Up to this time, Britain’s strongest political parties had been the Conservative party and the Liberal party, with the Labour party a poor third. In 1922, the Labour party became second only …

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The Meaning of Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism

So it happened that in many parts of the world people were living under a system of government that came to be called totalitarianism. There were differences in the governments of the totalitarian countries, but they were alike in certain important ways. In each of them, the government was controlled by one political party, usually under a dictator and no other political parties were allowed. The ruling party was not satisfied to control the government; its aim was total control of the life of its people. It controlled the courts and the armed forces, labour and industry, science and the arts. In some countries, it controlled religion completely; in others, religious groups were allowed to exist so long as they did not challenge the power of the government. To keep their strict control of the people, the totalitarian governments set up a secret police and totalitarian countries were often called “police states.” The people had no civil liberties and no part in the governing of the country. They had to obey and do as they were told. If they did not, they risked prison, concentration camp, torture and death. As totalitarianism spread widely over the world, men began to wonder what had made it possible. The reasons were not too difficult to find . The end of World War I had left many countries, especially those that had been defeated, divided and disorganized. Their weak governments could not solve the problems that faced them. This gave “strong men” the chance to take over the government. Another important reason was the great depression that began around 1929. Business seemed to come to a standstill. Unsold goods piled up in warehouses, while factories shut down and millions of people were thrown out of work. Hungry people were willing to listen to anyone …

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After the Peace of Paris 1919 – 1920

league

DURING THE war, three great empires — the Russian, the Austro-Hungarian and the German –had vanished forever. Then, by the Treaty of Sévres, a fourth empire, the Ottoman, was quietly put to death. Turkey was confined to Asia Minor and became a republic. Of its former possessions, the League of Nations assigned Syria and Lebanon to France and Palestine and Iraq to Great Britain. Trans-Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which had fought the Turks under an adventurous British colonel named T. E. Lawrence, became independent kingdoms. In Europe, there were seven new states: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The first six, with Rumania, formed a zone that blocked Russian communism from spreading westward. Rumania had grown larger at the expense of Hungary, Russia and Greece at the expense of Turkey. Hungary and Austria were made small independent states, with no link between their governments. The South Slavs, who had triggered the crisis that brought on the war, saw their dream come true in a free, united Yugoslavia, but some Yugoslavs were still dissatisfied, for the Allies, in line with their secret treaty of 1915, had given Italy the port of Trieste and some islands on the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic. Italy also received the Trentino and South Tyrol, former Austro-Hungarian lands. AMERICA AND THE LEAGUE Although the five treaties of the Peace of Paris changed the map of the world, it left more than one nation resentful and discontented. The Italians felt that the Allies had betrayed them by not giving them any of the German colonies. The Japanese felt cheated of their rightful gains in the Pacific and the Germans were particularly bitter, for they felt they had been unjustly treated in almost every way. When the peace conference began, they had expected that the Allies …

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The United States and Victory 1915-1918

war

FEW AMERICANS noticed the advertisement that appeared in the New York newspapers on May 1, 1915. Signed by the Imperial German Embassy in Washington, it reminded Americans that Germany was at war with Britain. It warned that British ships in the water near the British Isles were “liable to destruction,” and that “travelers sailing in the war zone on ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.” That same day, the British steamship Lusitania sailed from New York and among the 1,250 passengers were 188 Americans. On May 6, when the Lusitania was off the coast of Ireland, she was attacked without warning by a German submarine. She was struck by torpedoes and within fifteen minutes she had sunk. Of the 1,154 persons who died, 114 were citizens of the United States. Many Americans were horrified, but they agreed with Woodrow Wilson, who had been president since 1915, that the United States should not take sides in the war. Wilson was re-elected in 1916, after campaigning on the slogan, “He kept us out of war.” Since the beginning of the war, agents of both the Allies and Germany had been trying to influence Americans. Although Wilson faithfully carried out his policy of neutrality, he was personally sympathetic to the Allies. As a matter of fact, most Americans favoured the Allies. At the same time, American citizens of German descent had no wish to fight against their old “fatherland,” and Irish-Americans, who disliked British for its treatment of Ireland, felt that the England should be given no aid. Then the German submarine commanders asked their government to resume unrestricted submarine warfare. By that, they meant that once again they would be free to sink ships of all nations‚ including neutrals, in the waters around the British …

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The Storm Breaks 1914

serbia

JUNE 28, 1914, was the Feast of Saint Vitus, an important holiday in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. The city was decorated with flags displaying the two-headed eagle of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a blazing sun shone down on the throngs of people in the streets. A small procession of four automobiles moved slowly along, making its way toward the city hall. In the second car, wearing a military helmet covered with green feathers, sat the old emperor’s heir Archduke Francis Ferdinand. He was Paying a state visit to this province of the empire he would one day inherit. Beside him, shielding herself from the hot sun with a parasol, sat his wife, the Countess Sophie. Near the Cumuria Bridge, a bomb came hurtling through the air. It missed the archduke and his wife, but exploded in the street, and flying splinters injured some of the archduke’s party and a number of bystanders. The procession went on to the city hall, where the archduke shouted at the mayor: “One comes here for a visit and is received with bombs. Mr. Mayor, what do you say? It’s outrageous. All right, now you may speak.” The mayor, who had been in the first car of the procession and had not seen the bombing, read his speech of welcome. The archduke made a little speech in reply. Then, in spite of the danger of another bombing, he decided to go to the hospital and see the injured persons. Again the four cars set out, but at an intersection the first two made a wrong turn. As the cars stopped to turn around, a young man on the street raised a pistol and fired two shots one at the archduke and the other at his wife. At first it seemed as if the bullets …

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The Coming of the Storm 1905 – 1913

balkan

ALREADY HEMMED in on two sides by France and Russia, the Germans were dismayed to see Great Britain join their rivals. They feared that they would be surrounded by unfriendly powers and they decided to test the Entente Cordiale. They were anxious to find out how strong it was and how far Great Britain would go in backing up its new ally. The place they chose for the showdown was Morocco, where the French, now with the approval of the British, were policing large areas and taking over territory and rights. So, in March of 1905, a German warship suddenly appeared off the Moroccan port of Tangier. Kaiser Wilhelm came ashore and made a speech. He startled his listeners by declaring that Morocco ought to be an independent country. When the diplomats of the world heard of this speech they guessed what the kaiser was up to. He did not really care whether or not the French stayed in Morocco. He was simply trying to break up the new understanding between France and Great Britain. Events soon showed that the diplomats were right. Germany summoned the European powers and the United States to a conference, to discuss Morocco’s future. The conference met in 1906, in the Spanish city of Algeciras, but instead of supporting Germany‚ all the powers except Austria-Hungary sided with France. In the end, Germany’s attempts break the Entente only made it stronger. Even before the Algeciras conference was over, French and British Generals and admirals were planning the joint defense of their countries. In 1911 came a second Moroccan crisis, when the German gunboat Panther anchored in the port of Agadir. The Germans said they were merely protecting their interests, but it was soon clear that they intended a kind of international blackmail. They said they would …

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Storm Clouds over Europe 1882-1907

alliance

AS THE year 1899 drew to a close, Europeans and Americans began to wonder when, exactly, the nineteenth century would end and the twentieth century begin. Most people thought that this would take place at midnight of December 31, 1899, but historians disagreed. They pointed out that the first hundred years after the birth of Christ had ended with the final seconds of the year 100. Therefore, they said, the twentieth century would not begin until January 1, 1901. As they toasted the new century that New Year’s Day most people in Europe and America were satisfied and hopeful. Life was better for them than it had been for their fathers and grandfathers, they were certain that it would be better still for their sons and grandsons. They believed in human progress and looking back over the century just past, they could find good reasons for this belief. There had been no widespread fighting in Europe since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. The last war between European powers, the Franco-Prussian War, had taken place in 1870. Since then, thirty years of peace had brought tremendous benefits to the advanced countries of Europe. The growth of industry and trade had steadily enriched these countries and raised their living standards. With the spread of education, millions of people had learned to read and write. Democratic ideas were advancing everywhere; by now, most European countries had law-making assemblies with elected members and more people had the right to vote than ever before. As the powers had acquired territories on other continents, European ideas, beliefs and methods had come to dominate the entire world. Europeans were proud of their civilization and confident of the future. True, they had problems at home and abroad, but they were sure that their parliaments and …

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Rivalries in the Middle East 1856 – 1912

ottoman

THE MIDDLE EAST where Europe, Asia and Africa meet had long been known as one of the great crossroads of the world. Most of its people were Moslems, but among them were many Christians and Jews. They spoke languages as different as Arabic and Latin, Slavic and Turkish. They had little in common except that they were all subjects of the Ottoman sultan in Constantinople. The Ottoman Empire — so called after its early founder, Othman — was the last of several empires to rule over a large part of Islam. Unlike the earlier empires, it was dominated not by Arabs, but by Turks. Centuries before, the Turks had fought their way west from Central Asia and founded a new homeland in the West Asian peninsula of Turkey. From there, they had pushed outward, conquering lands and peoples. In 1699, however, they had lost Hungary to the Austrians. After that, while the nations of western Europe grew stronger, the Ottoman Empire became weaker. Throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Ottoman sultans had to combat enemies both within and without their empire. Their foreign enemies were the European powers, which snatched up their outlying lands. Their enemies at home were the subject peoples, especially in the Balkan Peninsula of southeast Europe, who demanded their freedom. Unrest was chronic and the Ottoman Empire, which was usually called simply Turkey, came to be known as “the sick man of Europe.” By the 1850’s, Turkey had lost lands north of the Black Sea to Russia and Algeria‚ in North Africa, to France. Of its former Balkan holdings, Greece was independent and both Serbia and Rumania had some freedom. A native Arab dynasty ruled much of Arabia. In Egypt, a former Turkish governor had set himself up as hereditary khedive, or viceroy, …

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