Wartime land grabs tend to end badly for tyrants, historian warns

10 June, 03:14 PM
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The Kremlin is trying to include in Russia the Ukrainian territories that are currently occupied by Russian troops (Photo:REUTERS/Chingis Kondarov/File Photo)

The Kremlin is trying to include in Russia the Ukrainian territories that are currently occupied by Russian troops (Photo:REUTERS/Chingis Kondarov/File Photo)

With the Kremlin now openly saying it wants to annex several occupied regions of Ukraine, expanding the borders of the Russian state, Russian historian Andrey Zubov in a column for NV says that in the past such land grabs have tended to spell doom for the tyrants who attempted them.

“If a conquest is recognized internationally, the conqueror has a chance to hold on to new lands and bequeath them to future generations,” said Zubov.

“If, however, the world refuses to acknowledge these annexations, anschlusses, unifications, and reunifications – if the conqueror simply starts drawing new borders of their empire during a war – it all tends to end very poorly and comically if we set aside the all the blood that is spilled in the process.”

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That’s what Napoleon enjoyed doing – conjuring up new French departments in the European lands he seized.

“Free European countries refused to recognize these French annexations, and by 1815, France reverted back to its old 1792 borders,” the historian added.

“The great empire was shattered, and the former emperor, who loved to redraw maps, became a British prisoner at St. Helena’s.”

A similar compulsion possessed Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. In 1944, when it was clear to everyone that the Third Reich was doomed, Hitler annexed a swathe of formerly Italian territories – Dalmatia, Trieste, and Tirol. But all these gains were wiped out at the Potsdam peace conference, and Germany lost a lot of land in the east.

“And now the Russian government is talking about absorbing several Ukrainian regions into Russia, well before the war it started in 2014 is over.”

“Crimea’s done, Donbas, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia are likely to follow; some in Russia are very fond of getting creative with political maps.”

“I urge them to recall how this ended for the great and powerful of old – shame, imprisonment, death; the best case scenario is if the world agrees to restore the old pre-war borders of a rampaging empire,” Zubov said.

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