Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mitteleuropa: The German Plan Before Lebensraum

Those interested in early geopolitics and World War II are very well familiar with Lebensraum. Lebensraum literally translated means "living space." The theory, advanced by the Nazis, stated Germans needed to ethnically cleanse and colonize Eastern Europe. In the grandest effort of environmental determinism put into action, the virgin, hearty land was, in theory, going to help the German race continue to grow strong.

Lebensraum was the Germans largest racial geographical plan but it was not their first geographical plan to remake Eastern Europe. In 1915 geographer Friedrich Naumann wrote a book entitled Mitteleuropa (Middle or Central Europe). The plan called for the establishment of German-dominated states, German-dependent states, and German-colonized zones. Germany was to instantly annex more of Russian-controlled Poland while much of the western Russian Empire was to be fragmented into various into ethnic states in various stages of German control/influence.

Naumann's idea was put into practice, much more than Lebensraum as the latter theory was stuck in the first stage of "indiscriminate slaughter of anyone not ethnic German." The collapse of the Russian Empire and the victory of the German Empire on the Eastern Front allowed for the creation of ethnic states that were under various degrees of German control.
  • The last Kingdom of Poland was declared though never fully implemented. Though never fully demarked the kingdom was to be located around Warsaw and the lands to the northeast of Warsaw.
  • The Kingdom of Lithuania was an established kingdom formed by Germany. It lasted until the collapse of the German Empire at the end of World War I.
  • The United Baltic Duchy and the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia were to occupy present-day Estonia and Latvia. It was going to be a German-run state. This was plausible because there was a strong German presence in the Baltics until the end of World War II. Though the idea of the Duchy died with the end of the German Empire many German soldiers continued to fight in Latvia and Estonia against the original Soviet invasion.
  • The Belarusian People’s Republic was established not by Germans, who initially resisted the state, but by Belarusians. The Germans quickly realized though that a Belarusian state would be a good buffer against the Russians/Soviets. The republic lasted until 1919 when it was overrun by the advancing Soviet Red Army. The republic lives on today as a government-in-exile and acts as a democratic counterweight to dictator Alexander Lukashenko's Republic of Belarus.
  • In Finland the Germans were involved supporting the anti-communist White Guards against the Red Forces during the Finish Civil War. Finland was the greatest Mitteleuropa success. German support paid off with the Winter War which curtailed Stalin's expansionism before the Germans could open up the Eastern Front.
Mitteleuropa failed in the end. Germany, punished after World War I to the brink of collapse, remained (justifiably) paranoid and insecure along its eastern border. This fear aided the rise of Hitler who was determined to solve the threat with his own geopolitical plan.


data diplomacy said...

You may want to check your spelling Liebensraum is loving not living. Also Lebensraum is linked to the earlier post-German unification through WW1 rush to get their "place in the sun" by acquiring colonies.

Catholicgauze said...

Data Diplomacy,
Thanks, problem has been fixed. My German is not as good as it should be (many of the first modern geographers were German and I would love to read their work in the original language).