10 Countries That Didn't Survive the Cold War

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The Cold War spelled the end of numerous countries from 1947-91. Grenada, whose story was featured at the Historiat earlier this week , survived. Poland, Egypt, and Thailand survived, too. The country of South Vietnam, on the other hand, did not survive. On Oct. 26, 1955, South Vietnam declared its independence from Vietnam proper, kicking off a decades-long war that dragged in both Cold War superpowers and the longtime regional kingmaker in southeast Asia, China.

We all know that things ended badly for the rebels. Here are 10 more countries that didn’t survive, either:

10. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (1922-91). It’s best to start with the easiest one. The Soviet Union was one of the two superpowers responsible for the Cold War. The communist state’s story is a familiar one for most history buffs. There were many countries that lost their independence to the Soviets, from khanates in Central Asia to medieval kingdoms in the Caucasus, but by the start of the Cold War in 1947, all had been crushed and absorbed into the U.S.S.R.

9. Tibet (1912-51). Another easily recognizable name on the list, Tibet was governed by a feudal theocracy. After the Communists stamped their authority over the traditional territories of the Republic (1912-49) and the Qin Empire (1644-1912), Tibetan socialists urged China to invade and annex Tibet, in the belief that Beijing would topple the theocracy (which could be brutal) and usher Tibet into a new, more enlightened era.

8. Republic of Katanga (1960-63). Located in the southern part of what was then called Congo-Leopoldville (now the DR Congo, and before that Zaire), Katanga was once an independent kingdom that was eventually absorbed into the Belgian Congo after costly wars against both Belgium and the British. When Congo-Leopoldville gained its independence in 1960, the Katanga region tried to secede from the new country. Katanga was crushed for good in 1963, by a United Nations “peacekeeping” force. Congo-Leopoldville became a major area of focus by both superpowers throughout the Cold War, and the Republic of Katanga is one of the major reasons why.

7. Republic of Biafra (1967-70). To the north and west of Katanga, another restless would-be republic declared its independence from a former colony-turned-country. The Biafran War was a war within a war: it was fought between Christian and Muslim factions in the middle of the Cold War. Biafra lost, and Nigeria remained unified, but the problems stemming from Biafra’s secession remain today.

6. Federation of South Arabia (1962-67). Many of the Arab polities on the Arabian Peninsula had, by the end of World War II, clustered into a number of small federations that outsourced their foreign policies to the British Empire. The Federation of South Arabia was actually a successor to the Aden Protectorate, located in present-day Yemen, which was part of the British Raj in India. Cool, right? The Federation, which eventually grew to include 17 emirates, was short-lived. It merged with the Protectorate of South Arabia (which was composed of four emirates) to form South Yemen. In 1990, South Yemen merged with North Yemen to form, uh, Yemen. After four unhappy years together, South Yemen tried to divorce North Yemen, but things got messy. The conflict is one of the worst in the world today.

5. Protectorate of Sikkim (1947-75). For those of you who are map enthusiasts, Sikkim is that spot in India located between the tiny countries of Nepal and Bhutan. While Kathmandu and Thimphu opted for sovereignty, Sikkim, after India became independent of the British Empire, opted to transfer its protectorate status from London to New Delhi, and it remained a protectorate until 1975, when the monarchy was overthrown and a popular referendum opted to join India rather become a sovereign state.

4. Protectorate of Hyderabad (1947-48). Hyderabad, another protectorate of the British Empire, is located smack dab in the middle of India. When the British Empire left South Asia, it gave its princely states a few different options: join India, join Pakistan, or “remain” independent (princely states were technically autonomous, and simply outsourced their foreign affairs to the British Empire). Unlike most princely states, Hyderabad tried to assert its independence. India wasn’t having any of it, though, especially since the would-be independent republic was located right in the middle of what was to be the world’s largest democracy. It was under the guise of democracy that India invaded and annexed Hyderabad in 1948, claiming that the people of Hyderabad wanted to join the Indian union but were prohibited from doing so by anti-democratic princes.

3. Khanate of Kalat (1666-1955). Located in what is now Pakistan, the former khanate is also the home to Balochistan, a cultural hearth for one of South Asia’s oldest ethnic groups. The khanate’s story echoes those of other South Asian (and South Arabian) countries: it became a British protectorate and, following the Empire’s exit from the region, merged with Pakistan.

2. Aceh (1953-59). The Sultanate of Aceh was a wealthy commercial state that was around in the 16th through early 20th centuries. Located on the large island of Sumatra in present-day Indonesia, the Dutch eventually conquered Aceh and incorporated it into its massive Asian colony. When the Dutch left, and Indonesia rose in their place, Aceh tried to reassert its independence, resulting in a brutal war that drew in the Cold War superpowers.

1. The Islamic State (1949-62). How about this? The Islamic State causing trouble way back in the Cold War? How is this even possible? Because this Islamic State existed in Indonesia rather than the Fertile Crescent, and it fought side-by-side with a number of allies against a common, easily dislikeable foe, the Dutch, after World War II. Darsul Islam, as it was known, was not quite as vicious as the Islamic State found in Mesopotamia, but its leaders definitely sought to reestablish an ulama based on Sharia law. The dictatorship of Sukarno crushed the Islamic State for good in 1962, thanks to generous funding by both Washington and Moscow.

Further thoughts
Aside from the Soviet Union, this list is loaded with countries from Asia and Africa, thanks to the process of decolonization that occurred after World War II. The French and British empires crumbled under the weight of the Nazi war machine, and Paris and London tried to oversee an orderly transition of their colonies from administrative units within an empire into sovereign states in an international order.
This transition saw three different competing worldviews, two of which were much more successful than the third. Socialists and traditionalists (or conservatives) both argued that colonies should be independent, sovereign states to be placed on equal footing in the international arena with the likes of France and the U.K. The arguments of these two worldviews largely won out, and when it came time to actually govern as sovereign entities, the blood started to flow.

The third worldview was liberal, but most liberals argued that colonies should be granted a more equal footing within the empires that they were already a part of. They were unionists, or federalists. Liberals not only lost the battle of ideas, but when the blood started to flow, most of them had to flee to the West. An example of the liberal thought experiment that lives on today can be found here at RealClearHistory is “10 Places That Should Join the U.S.”

The Latin American exception
There are also no Latin American countries on this list. By and large, Latin America’s Cold War experience echoes that of Europe and North America. Political factions vied for power through the electoral process and via the press, but of course Latin America experienced many coups and counter-coups while Europe and North America did not. There is no time to delve into the theories about why this happened, but it is worth noting that Latin America, rather than being considered a part of the underdeveloped world alongside Asia and Africa, is culturally Western. Latin America is the red-headed stepchild of the West.


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