World War - World Wars of The 20th Century

World Wars of The 20th Century

The World Wars of the 20th century took place on almost every populated continent on Earth. Many of the states who fought in the First World War also fought in the Second, although not always on the same sides.

The two World Wars of the 20th century caused unprecedented casualties and destruction across the theaters of conflict. The numbers killed in the wars are estimated at between 60 and 100 million people. Civilians suffered as badly as or worse than soldiers, and the distinction between military combatants and non-combatant civilians was often overlooked or ignored. Both world wars saw large scale murders. The Ottomans were responsible for the death of over one million Armenians. The Nazis were responsible for multiple genocides during the Second World War, most notably the Holocaust. Both the Soviet Union and United States deported and interned minority groups within their own borders, and largely due to this conflict later many ethnic Germans were expelled in much of Eastern Europe. Advances in technology were responsible for a large amount of casualties. The First World War saw major use of chemical weapons. The Second World War was also the first conflict in which nuclear weapons were used, devastating the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

World War I World War II
Deaths 15 to 20 M 60 M
Injured 9 to 15 M 20 M
Conscripts 65 M 90 M
Battlefield Size 3 M km² 17 M km²

The outcome of the World Wars had a profound effect on the course of world history. The old European empires collapsed or were dismantled as a direct result of the wars' crushing costs and in some cases the defeat of imperial powers. The United States was firmly established as the dominant global power, along with its ideological foe, the Soviet Union, in close competition. These two "superpowers" exerted political influence over most of the world's other states for decades after the end of World War II (ending in the late 1980s in the Soviet Union). The modern international security, economic and diplomatic system was created in the aftermath of the wars. Institutions such as NATO, the United Nations and the European Union were established to "collectivise" international affairs, with the explicit goal of preventing another outbreak of general war. The wars also greatly changed the course of daily life. Technologies developed during wartime had a profound effect on peacetime life as well—for instance, jet aircraft, penicillin, nuclear energy, and electronic computers.

Since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, there has been a widespread and prolonged fear of a Third World War between nuclear-armed superpowers.

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