Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The World Wars and Interwar Period 



The first half of the 20th century saw the world entangled in two global wars, conducted with an unprecedented brutality. The First World War developed from a purely European affair into a conflict involving the colonies and the United States. It altered Europe's political landscape and shifted the power balance worldwide. In World War II, the nations of Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa were drawn into the conflict through the aggressive policies of an ambitious Nazi Germany. The war was conducted with the most up-to-date weapons technology and cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of the European Jews, represented an unparalleled moral catastrophe for modern civilization.


Pablo Picasso "Weeping Woman", 1937




Southeast Europe between the Wars 



In the wake of the Ottoman Empire's decline, independent kingdoms were founded in almost all of the states of southeastern Europe at the start of the 20th century. In the powder keg of the Balkans, Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia united after 1918 to form the new state of Yugoslavia. German troops occupied Yugoslavia in World War II. The advance of the Red Army after 1944 then brought all of the Balkan states under the influence of communism. Greece alone was able to maintain its independence from communism after the war.



Greece was shaken by domestic crises following World War I and a lost war against Turkey. When the Germans occupied the country in 1941, the Greeks successfully resisted.


At the outbreak of World War I, Greece's 2 King Constantine I was determined to protect the neutrality of his country, while Prime Minister 3 Eleutherios Venizelos favored entering the war on the side of the Entente.

2 Constantine I, King of the Hellenes

Eleutherios Venizelos

Against the will of the king and the Greek people, he asked the British and French to set up a base in Thcssaloniki.

Constantine abdicated in 1917 in favor of his son Alexander, whom the 5 Entente forced to declare war on the Central Powers through a coastal blockade.

5 French and British troops in Thessaloniki, 1915

As a reward for this, Greece was granted a sizable amount of territory after the end of the war in 1918. The conflict with Turkev over Izmir led to a two-year war that ended in defeat for the Greeks. More than a million Greek inhabitants were driven out of Turkey, and Turks in Greece emigrated back.

The republic was proclaimed in 1924. However, after several dictatorships, domestic stability was restored when Prime Minister Venizelos took office in 1928. The world economic crisis hit Greece hard, and in 1932 Venizelos was not reclcctcd. Radical right- and left-wing groups were able to build up their strength during the depression.

In 1935, the Royalists repealed the constitution and declared a monarchy under 6 King George II.

The king was unable to bring about domestic peace, though, and so 7 General Ioannes Metaxas seized power in a coup in 1936 and established a military dictatorship based on fascist ideology.

Through an attempted invasion by the Italians in 1940, which the Greeks were able to repulse, Greece was dragged into World War II. German troops occupied the country in 1941. The Communists organized a partisan resistance movement against the occupiers and brought a large part of the country under their control.

The 4 German troops withdrew in October 1944.

When the conservative republican government in exile was installed in Athens under the protection of the British, the Communists incited a revolt that, after clashes with British troops, was ended in a cease-fire. Despite an agreement, the government, with British assistance, was in control only in the cities.

6 King George II oversees a maneuver, 1940

7 General loannes Metaxas
(second from the right)

4 German tank in Athens, 1944



The Balkan States

With the founding of Yugoslavia at the end of World War I, a new state came into being in the Balkans. Along with Bulgaria and Albania, it was caught in the sphere of influence of the Axis powers in World War II.


Following the disintegration of the great empires in the First World War , Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia united with the Kingdom of Serbia. On December 1, 1918, King Peter I proclaimed the "Kingdom of the Serbs. Croats, and Slovenes," which was renamed Yugoslavia in 1929. The state was unstable, however, due to social and economic problems, particularly the opposition of the Croats to the almost exclusive Serbian leadership.

During the 1930s, it increasingly came under 9 German influence, and in 1940 Yugoslavia was partitioned by Hitler's troops and divided among the Axis powers.

The Communists under Tito took the leadership of the partisan fighters against the occupiers and in 1944 agreed with the royal government in exile concerning a provisional government.

Bulgaria suffered great losses following World War I.

Having already suffered territorial losses in the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria, as an 8 ally of the Central Powers, was put under a heavy burden of reparations by the Treaty of Neuilly.

It lost Western Thrace to Greece, thus depriving it of access to the Aegean.

9 The Yugoslavian prince regent Paul with his
wife on a state visit to Berlin, 1941

8 Caricature of Bulgaria's entry into the war,
which was "pushed" by the Central Powers, 1915

To protect itself from the territorial claims of its neighboring countries, Bulgaria under 10 Czar Boris III moved closer to the Axis powers in 1939, and in 1941 it became a signatory of the 11 Tripartite Pact.

Following the invasion by the Red Army in 1944, the Communists took over government in Sofia.

Bulgaria then signed a treaty with the Soviet Union and declared war on Germany.

10 Czar Boris III of Bulgaria
together with his family, 1940

11 Yugoslavia becomes a
signatory of the Tripartite Pact,

1 Red Army occupies Bulgaria;
Communists build a new government,
Sept. 1944

In 1912-1913, Albania gained its sovereignty after the Balkan wars, but during World War I, the country was contested by the hostile Great Powers. Albania was the only Balkan state whose territory remained unchanged after the war; the claims of Greece, Yugoslavia, and Italy were disallowed at the Paris Peace Conference. Italy, which had occupied the north of the country during World War 1, recognized Albania's independence in 1921.

Ahmed Bey Zogu, who governed the Albanian republic as president from 1925 and then from 1928 as King Zog I, unsuccessfully sought to rid the country of Italian influence.

In April 1939, Mussolini occupied the country, and 13 King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy was installed as king of the Albanians.

Italy used the country as a base in World War II. Resistance formed against the occupying power, although the Albanian Communists and nationalists also fought against one another after 1943. The Communists prevailed in 1944, and Enver Hoxha took over the leadership of the country.

12 Ahmed Zogu, president of
Albania from 1925 and king
from 1928, photo, 1930

13 Reception of the Albanian delegation in the Roman Quirinal palace
on the occasion of the proclamation of King Victor Emmanuel III as
king of Albania, 1939



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