The 19th and 20th centuries were a period of unprecedented change in human history. In 1807, the Napoleonic Wars were raging; in 2007, smartphones were becoming a thing. No other era in human history comes close to matching this rate of change.
In no other place was this change faster than in Europe. As technology evolved, the borders of nations shifted, and entire states rose and fell. The 20th century in particular saw the shattering of ancient kingdoms and the birth of many news states. Take a look below for 8 European countries that no longer exist.
Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a constitutional monarchy in Central and Eastern Europe between 1867 and 1918. It was formed when the Austrian Empire adopted a new constitution: as a result Austria and Hungary were placed on equal footing. It dissolved into several new states at the end of the First World War.
Austria-Hungary was a multinational state and one of Europe’s major powers at the time. It was geographically the second-largest country in Europe after the Russian Empire, and the third-most populous. The Empire built up the fourth-largest machine building industry of the world, after the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom.
After 1878, Bosnia and Herzegovina was under Austro-Hungarian military and civilian rule until it was fully annexed in 1908, provoking the Bosnian crisis among the other powers. The northern part of the Ottoman Sanjak of Novi Pazar was also under de facto joint occupation during that period but the Austro-Hungarian army withdrew as part of their annexation of Bosnia.
Austria-Hungary was one of the Central Powers in World War I, which started when it declared war on the Kingdom of Serbia on July 28, 1914. It was already effectively dissolved by the time the military authorities signed the armistice of Villa Giusti on November 3, 1918.
The Kingdom of Hungary and the First Austrian Republic were treated as its successors de jure, whereas the independence of the West Slavs and South Slavs of the Empire as the First Czechoslovak Republic, the Second Polish Republic and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, respectively, and most of the territorial demands of the Kingdom of Romania were also recognized by the victorious powers in 1920.
The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy collapsed with dramatic speed in the autumn of 1918. In the capital cities of Vienna and Budapest, the leftist and liberal movements and politicians strengthened and supported the separatism of ethnic minorities.
Czechoslovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe that existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until its peaceful dissolution into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on January 1, 1993.
From 1939 to 1945, following its forced division and partial incorporation into Nazi Germany, the state did not de facto exist but its government-in-exile continued to operate.
From 1948 to 1990, Czechoslovakia was part of the Eastern Bloc with a command economy. Its economic status was formalized in membership of Comecon from 1949 and its defense status in the Warsaw Pact of May 1955. A period of political liberalization in 1968, known as the Prague Spring, was forcibly ended when the Soviet Union, assisted by several other Warsaw Pact countries, invaded Czechoslovakia.
In 1989, as Marxist–Leninist governments and communism were ending all over Europe, Czechoslovaks peacefully deposed their government in the Velvet Revolution; state price controls were removed after a period of preparation. In 1993, Czechoslovakia split into the two sovereign states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
3. The Papal States
The Papal States were a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula under the direct sovereign rule of the Pope, from the 8th century until 1870. They were among the major states of Italy from roughly the 8th century until the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia unified the Italian Peninsula by conquest in a campaign virtually concluded in 1861 and definitely in 1870.
At their zenith, the Papal States covered most of the modern Italian regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Romagna, and portions of Emilia. These holdings were considered to be a manifestation of the temporal power of the pope, as opposed to his ecclesiastical primacy.
By 1861, much of the Papal States’ territory had been conquered by the Kingdom of Italy. Only Lazio, including Rome, remained under the Pope’s temporal control. In 1870, the Pope lost Lazio and Rome and had no physical territory at all, except the Basilica of St. Peter and the papal residence and related buildings around the Vatican quarter of Rome, which the new Italian state did not occupy militarily.
In 1929, the head of the Italian government, at the time the Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, ended the crisis between unified Italy and the Holy See by negotiating the Lateran Treaty, signed by the two parties. This recognized the sovereignty of the Holy See over a newly created international territorial entity, the Vatican City State, limited to a token territory.
4. East Germany
East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic, was a country that existed from 1949 to 1990, when the eastern portion of Germany was part of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. It described itself as a socialist “workers and peasants state,” and the territory was administered and occupied by Soviet forces at the end of World War II.
The German Democratic Republic was established in the Soviet zone, while the Federal Republic was established in the three western zones. East Germany was a satellite state of the Soviet Union. Soviet occupation authorities began transferring administrative responsibility to German communist leaders in 1948, and the GDR began to function as a state on October 7, 1949.
Soviet forces remained in the country throughout the Cold War. Until 1989, the GDR was governed by the Socialist Unity Party, though other parties nominally participated in its alliance organization, the National Front of Democratic Germany. The SED made the teaching of Marxism-Leninism and the Russian language compulsory in schools.
In 1989, numerous social, economic, and political forces in the GDR and abroad led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the establishment of a government committed to liberalization. The following year, open elections were held, and international negotiations led to the signing of the Final Settlement treaty on the status and borders of Germany.
The GDR dissolved itself, and Germany was reunified on October 3, 1990, becoming a fully sovereign state again. Several of the GDR’s leaders, notably its last communist leader Egon Krenz, were prosecuted in reunified Germany for crimes committed during the Cold War.
5. The United States Of The Ionian Islands
The United States of the Ionian Islands was a state and amical protectorate of the United Kingdom between 1815 and 1864. It was the successor state of the Septinsular Republic. It covered the territory of the Ionian Islands, in modern Greece, and it was ceded to Greece as a gift of the United Kingdom to the newly enthrones King George after the Resolution for union with Greece which was proposed by the Party of the Radicals.
Before the French Revolutionary Wars, the Ionian Islands had been part of the Republic of Venice. When the 1797 Treaty of Campo Formio dissolved the Republic of Venice, they were annexed to the French Republic. Between 1798 and 1799, the French were driven out by a joint Russo-Ottoman force. The occupying forces founded the Septinsular Republic, which enjoyed relative independence under nominal Ottoman suzerainty and Russian control from 1800 until 1807.
The Ionian Islands were then occupied by the French after the treaty of Tilsit. In 1809, the United Kingdom defeated the French fleet off Zakynthos Island on October 2, and captured Kefalonia, Kythira and Zakynthos. The British took Lefkada in 1810. The island of Corfu remained occupied by the French until 1814.
On November 26, 1850, the Radical MP John Detoratos Typaldos proposed in the parliament the resolution for the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece which was signed by Gerasimos Livadas, Nadalis Domeneginis, George Typaldos, Frangiskos Domeneginis, Illias Zervos Iakovatos, Iosif Momferatos, Telemachus Paizis, Ioannis Typaldos, Aggelos Sigouros-Dessyllas, Christodoulous Tofanis. Britain responded with persecutions, arrests, imprisonment and exile. In 1862, the party was split into two factions, the United Radical Party and the Real Radical Party.
On March 29, 1864, representatives of the United Kingdom, Greece, France and Russia signed the Treaty of London, pledging the transfer of sovereignty to Greece upon ratification; this was meant to bolster the reign of the newly installed King George I of Greece. Therefore, on May 28, by proclamation of the Lord High Commissioner, the Ionian Islands were united with Greece.
6. The Kingdom Of The Two Sicilies
The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was the biggest of the states of Italy before the Italian unification. It was formed as a union of the Kingdom of Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples, which collectively had long been called the “Two Sicilies.”
The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies lasted from 1815 until 1860, when it was annexed by the Kingdom of Sardinia to form the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. The capitals of the Two Sicilies were in Naples and in Palermo. The kingdom extended over the Mezzogiorno and the island of Sicily. Jordan Lancaster noted that the integration of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies into the Kingdom of Italy changed the status of Naples forever: “Abject poverty meant that, throughout Naples and Southern Italy, thousands decided to leave in search of a better future.” Many went to the new world. The kingdom was heavily agricultural, like the other Italian states; the church owned 50% to 60% of the land by 1750.
The absolute monarch style of the Bourbon Dynasty wasn’t popular and there were three popular uprisings against the monarchs between 1800 and 1848, when Sicily became independent for over a year. The advanced constitution it adopted, with dramatic liberal reforms and a plan for a united Italy, was a hint of what was to come in 1860, when Garibaldi and his volunteers invaded from Sardinia and conquered the kingdom, with the help from Britain.
Two Sicilies was absorbed by the new Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Despite its relatively short history, it was the home of many firsts, including the first railway in Italy, the first volcano observatory in the world and the first suspension bridge in continental Europe.
Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centered on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947.
For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia, with its capital in Konigsberg and from 1701 in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.
The name “Prussia” comes from the Old Prussians; in the 13th century, the Teutonic Knights – an organized Catholic medieval military order of German crusaders – conquered the lands inhabited by them. In 1308, the Teutonic Knights conquered the region of Pomerelia and Danzig. Their monastic state was mostly Germanised through immigration from central and western Germany, and, in the south, it was Polonised by settlers from Masovia.
The Kingdom ended in 1918 along with other German monarchies that collapsed as a result of the German Revolution. In the Weimar Republic, the Free State of Prussia lost nearly all of its legal and political importance following the 1932 coup led by Franz von Papen. Subsequently, it was effectively dismantled into Nazi German Gaue in 1935.
8. The Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire, historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire, or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Sogut by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I.
After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, at the height of its power under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire was a multinational, multilingual empire controlling most of Southeast Europe, parts of Central Europe, Western Asia, parts of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, North Africa and the Horn of Africa. At the beginning of the 17th century, the empire contained 32 provinces and numerous vassal states. Some of these were later absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, while others were granted various types of autonomy during the course of centuries.
The Empire’s defeat and the occupation of part of its territory by the Allied Powers in the aftermath of World War I resulted in its partitioning and the loss of its Middle Eastern territories, which were divided between the United Kingdom and France. The successful Turkish War of Independence against the occupying Allies led to the emergence of the Republic of Turkey in the Anatolian heartland and the abolition of the Ottoman monarchy.