the day after Sudetenland Germans broke off relations with Czechoslovakia,
Germany's Chancellor Adolph Hitler gave yet another rousing speech about
the importance of self-determination. Citing American President Woodrow
Wilson's Fourteen Points, Hitler and others such as Sudeten German leader
Konrad Henlein made clear that the borders of Germany were not what they
should be. Hitler had set the ultimatum of October 1 as the hand-over of
the Sudetenland, which was demographically German, to Germany, and it
looked as if the rest of Europe were going to agree.
What if borders actually followed the
bounds of national majority?
Most newspapers reported lightly on the
speech, focusing more on the significant rioting as introduction of
Czechoslovak troops into the region.
"1. Alsace may have been German by language but the
people regarded themselves as French 2. Luxembourg would have vanished not
grown - the people regarded themselves as a type of French in the manner
of the Walloons 3. the Sudetenland problem was two fold - there was no
neat ethnographic boundary that wouldn't still leave hundreds of thousands
of Czechs and Germans on the wrong side of the line and second that the
rump Bohemia had no natural lines of defense. The border forts were all in
German areas." - reader's comment
Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, editor of
National Geographic for nearly forty years, happened upon the story, and
it put a thought into his head: What would Europe look like if state
borders actually followed the bounds of national majority?
Preempting a story about the modernization of Hawaii, Grosvenor leaped
into the project with many of his staff. They followed census data and
made international calls, simply asking local editors what they thought
each town would prefer. In the October 1938 issue, Grosvenor published his
map, which gave a similar, yet ghostly, outline of Europe. The often
fought-over Alsace-Lorraine between France and Germany was split, with a
much larger area given to Luxembourg. Poland shifted slightly southeast.
The Balkans followed much of their divides from being broken up in 1918
but with wider boundaries for Bosnians. Other people groups had countries
that did not exist, such as the Basque of Spain.
"As was a considerable part of the industry. " -
After his takeover of Sudetenland, Hitler came upon
the article and used it as propaganda, saying that even the Americans
agreed. Much of Europe was unsettled by the thought of lines being
shifted, while in the United States, the map was noticed only with
anthropological interest and general academic humming. In the following
months, Grosvenor would produce a series of such maps for Africa, the
Middle East, South Asia, and the many Native American settlements in
western United States and Canada.
"Not to mention banking and financial centers. " -
World War II swept across Europe, Africa, and the
Pacific for the next six years. As it came to an end, diplomats began
arguing over the reassigning of borders. When the old National Geographic
map was shown to him, Franklin Roosevelt was impressed with his
predecessor Wilson's ideas of giving people self-determination, so much so
that he was willing to overlook its use by Hitler. He pushed for such
restructuring during the Yalta Conference, and Truman pushed harder at
Potsdam. As the United Nations took form, these principles became critical
to international policy, causing several borders to be reshuffled.
"I've seen a map of Central/Eastern Europe showing
ethnic groups, and the only way you'd have every ethnic group governed by
itself would have been a hodgepodge of Ruritanian-style principalities
that would make post-Westphalia Germany look like a sane setup." -
The later National Geographic maps helped create
the numerous nations of Africa and India during decolonization, following
demographic populations rather than old imperialistic treaties.
With minimal reason for civil disputes (excluding internal affairs, such
as the Chinese Civil War and the Restructure of Ireland of the 1980s),
most wars during the latter part of the twentieth century were blocked by
means of UN peacekeepers defending borders and diplomats discussing
alternatives. Some instances required further breakup of nations, such as
the dissolution of Iraq into Sunnistan, Kurdistan, and Iraq proper in 1963
and North and South Sudan in 1972.
Other instances, such as the Korean Police Action, ensured that the
people of Korea were properly represented in democratic election of their
pseudo-socialist republic in 1950.