Revanchism (from French "revanche," "revenge") is a term used since the 1870s to describe a political manifestation of the will to reverse territorial losses incurred by a country, often following a war. Revanchism draws its strength from patriotic and retributionist thought and is often motivated by economic or geo-political factors. Extreme revanchist ideologues often represent a hawkish stance, suggesting that desired objectives can be reclaimed in the positive outcome of another war.

Revanchism is linked with irredentism, the conception that a part of the cultural and ethnic nation remains "unredeemed" outside the borders of its appropriate nation-state. Revanchist politics often rely on the identification of a nation with a nation-state, often mobilizing deep-rooted sentiments of ethnic nationalism, claiming territories outside of the state where members of the ethnic group live, while using heavy-handed nationalism to mobilize support for these aims. Revanchist justifications are often presented as based on ancient or even autochthonous occupation of a territory known by the German term "Urrecht," meaning a nation's claim to territory that has been inhabited since "time immemorial", an assertion that is usually inextricably involved in revanchism and irredentism, justifying them in the eyes of their proponents.


Motivations of territorial aggression and counter aggression are as old as tribal societies, but the instance of modern "revanchism" that gave these furious groundswells of opinion their modern name lies in the strong desire in France to regain the mainly German-speaking Alsace-Lorraine after the humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71. Emperor Napoleon III had declared and lost the war, and, in the Treaty of Frankfurt, lost Alsace-Lorraine, previously annexed by King Louis XIV in the 17th century.

The French Third Republic that followed the overthrow of Napoleon and the Second French Empire had even more "esprit de revanche". Georges Clemenceau, of the (Radical Socialist Party), opposed participation in the scramble for Africa and other adventures that would divert the Republic from objectives related to the "blue line of the Vosges" in Alsace-Lorraine. This ultra-nationalist tradition influenced French politics up to 1921 and was one of the major reasons France went to great pains to woo Russia, resulting in the Franco-Russian Alliance of 1894 and, after more accords, the Triple Entente of the three great Allied powers of World War I: France, Great Britain, and Russia.

French revanchism was the main force behind the Treaty of Versailles, which regained Alsace-Lorraine for France, pinned the blame of the World War on Germany and extracted huge reparations from the defeated powers. The conference was not only opened on the anniversary of the proclamation of the Second Reich, the treaty had also to be signed by the new German government in the same room, the Hall of Mirrors.

A German revanchist movement responded to the losses of World War I. Pangermanists within the Weimar Republic called for the reclamation of territories considered to be the "rightful" property of a German state due to pre-war borders or because of the territory's historical relation to Germanic peoples. The movement called for the re-incorporation of Alsace-Lorraine, the Polish Corridor and the formerly Austrian Sudetenland (see Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia). This irredentism had also been characteristic of the Völkisch movement in general and of the "Alldeutsche Verband" (Pan-Germanic League), which had been a motivating factor behind German unification in 1871.

Other examples

There are a number of historical examples, past and present, which relate to revanchism. Revanchist sentiments may have been behind two 19th-century wars between the Kingdom of Prussia and Denmark over Schleswig and Holstein (the First war of Schleswig 1848-1851 and the Second war of Schleswig in 1864).

Similar sentiments prevailed in post-World War I Hungary, which called for a revision of the borders set up by the Treaty of Trianon, especially regarding Transylvania within Romania and South-Slovakia which has a Hungarian majority.

Modern revanchist politics often center around certain areas of historic competition and claims of ownership, as in the case of Carpathian Ruthenia, Kosovo with an Albanian majority, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Israel/Palestine.

As part of the recurring immigration debates in the United States, anti-illegal immigration groups have raised the specter of a "reconquista" (reconquest) of the American Southwest by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. Much of the Southwest was originally part of Mexico, prior to being annexed by the United States in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. There has never been a significant movement among Mexicans or Mexican-Americans to return the conquered lands to Mexico, although anti-illegal immigration groups have argued that there is an erasure of the borders between these two countries due to massive illegal immigration and alleged separatist sentiments held by the illegal immigrants. Statements made by the National Council of La Raza about "resettling" the mythical kingdom of Aztlan have helped to make the immigration debate tenser still, though the National Council of La Raza or NCLR have denied making any such statements. Neil Smith outlines the contemporary theory of revanchism in the context of urban regeneration in his book "The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City" (1996).

ee also

*East Prussia
*Fait accompli
*Franco-Prussian War (1870)
*French-German enmity
*French Third Republic (1870-1940)
*Karelian question in Finnish politics
*Reconquista (Mexico)
*Recovered Territories
*Rump state (a geopolitical state of existence that revanchism may create, seek to correct, or both)
*South Schleswig
*Status quo ante bellum
*Uti possidetis


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  • revanchism — [rə vanch′iz΄əm] n. 〚< Fr revanche < MFr revancher < re ,RE + vencher, var. of vengier: see REVENGE + ISM〛 a spirit of re …   Universalium

  • revanchism — [rə vanch′iz΄əm] n. [< Fr revanche < MFr revancher < re ,RE + vencher, var. of vengier: see REVENGE + ISM] a spirit of revenge moving a defeated nation to aggressively seek restoration of lost territory, authority, etc. revanchist adj.,… …   English World dictionary

  • revanchism — noun see revanche …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • revanchism — noun The political policy of endeavouring to regain lost territory. Syn: revanche See Also: revanchist …   Wiktionary

  • revanchism — [rɪ van(t)ʃɪz(ə)m] noun a policy of seeking to retaliate, especially to recover lost territory. Derivatives revanchist adjective &noun Origin 1950s: from Fr. revanche, lit. revenge + ism …   English new terms dictionary

  • revanchism — re·vanch·ism …   English syllables

  • revanchism — /rəˈvæntʃɪzəm/ (say ruh vanchizuhm) noun a militarist desire for reprisal, especially after losing territory. {French revanche revenge} …   Australian-English dictionary

  • revanchism — n. Polit. a policy of seeking to retaliate, esp. to recover lost territory. Derivatives: revanchist n. & adj. Etymology: F revanche (as REVENGE) …   Useful english dictionary

  • revanchist — revanchism, n. /reuh van chist, vahonn shist/, n. 1. an advocate or supporter of a political policy of revanche, esp. in order to seek vengeance for a previous military defeat. adj. 2. of or pertaining to a political policy of revanche. 3. of or… …   Universalium

  • Nicolae Iorga — Iorga redirects here. For the village in Botoşani County, see Manoleasa. Nicolae Iorga Nicolae Iorga in 1914 (photograph published in Luceafărul) Prime Minister of Romania …   Wikipedia

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