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 patrioticand retributionist thought and is often motivated by economic or geo-political factors. Extreme revanchist ideologues often represent a hawkishstance, 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 nationremains "unredeemed" outside the borders of its appropriate nation-state. Revanchist politics often rely on the identification of a nationwith 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 autochthonousoccupation 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
Franceto regain the mainly German-speaking Alsace-Lorraineafter the humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian Warof 1870/71. Emperor Napoleon IIIhad declared and lost the war, and, in the Treaty of Frankfurt, lost Alsace-Lorraine, previously annexed by King Louis XIVin the 17th century.
French Third Republicthat 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 Africaand other adventures that would divert the Republic from objectives related to the "blue line of the Vosges" in Alsace-Lorraine. This ultra-nationalisttradition 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 Allianceof 1894 and, after more accords, the Triple Ententeof 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 Republiccalled 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 Corridorand the formerly Austrian Sudetenland(see Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia). This irredentismhad also been characteristic of the Völkisch movementin general and of the " Alldeutsche Verband" (Pan-Germanic League), which had been a motivating factor behind German unification in 1871.
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 Prussiaand Denmarkover Schleswigand Holstein(the First war of Schleswig1848-1851 and the Second war of Schleswigin 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 Transylvaniawithin Romaniaand 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, Kosovowith an Albanian majority, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprusand 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 Southwestby 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 immigrationand alleged separatist sentiments held by the illegal immigrants. Statements made by the National Council of La Razaabout "resettling" the mythical kingdom of Aztlanhave 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).
French Third Republic(1870-1940)
Karelian question in Finnish politics
Rump state(a geopolitical state of existence that revanchism may create, seek to correct, or both)
Status quo ante bellum
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