Nationalist Movement in Asia and Africa - Civil Services Preparation Online! UPSC & IAS Study Material

Nationalist Movement in Asia & Africa

by Devender

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After the First World War, the movements for the independence of peoples of Asia and Africa found new strengths. Many leaders of freedom movements supported the war in hope of gaining freedom or at least more rights once the war was was over but their hopes were crushed as Imperialist leaders soon made it clear that the slogans of freedom and democracy were not for colonies.

  • The war weakened the imperialist countries
  • It also helped in awakening the people of colonies
  • The struggle for freedom entered a new phase
  • The strength of the freedom movement grew when the Soviet Union also decided to support

Most of the countries in Asia and Africa got their independence after the end of the Second World War but the period between the First and Second World War saw a tremendous weakening of Imperialism.


Nationalist Movements in Asia

  • During this period, the freedom movement became a mass movement in India under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • An uprising took place in Indonesia against Dutch rule. National Party was organized to achieve independence in 1927.
  • A movement for independence started in Korea from Japanese rule.
  • Iran was divided before World War I into Russian and British spheres of influence
  • The Soviet Government after the revolution gave up its sphere of influence
  • Soviet withdrew all their troops from that area
  • However, Britishers were keen to extend their sphere to the entire country
  • These efforts brought many uprisings and in 1921, Reza Khan seized power
  • He became the emperor in 1925
  • Britishers troops left Iran and the modernization of Iran started
  • In the 19th century, Britishers waged many wars on Afghanistan which resulted in Afghanistan was no longer independent.
  • The foreign relations of Afghanistan was governed by Britishers
  • The king of Afghanistan was killed in 1919
  • His son, Amanullah took over the throne
  • He declared complete independence of Afghanistan and got recognition from the Soviet Union
  • The British government in India waged war on Afghanistan
  • Britishers didn't succeed and had to recognize the new Afghan government
  • An uprising occurred in Arab against Britain and France.
  • The Arabs were asked by the allies to fight against their Ottoman rulers during the First World War
  • At the end of the war, Arabs didn't get the freedom they were looking forward to
  • Britain and France took control of the country and made it their mandates
  • An uprising began against Britain in Egypt which forced Britain to give independence to Egypt but the British still kept troops in Egypt
  • Syria was gifted to France after the war
  • France was met with serious opposition from the start
  • An open rebellion was started against the French rule
  • The French countered the situation with a reign of terror
  • The city of Damascus was reduced to ashes as it was the center of the revolt
  • French troops bombed the city from the air, used shelling and heavy artillery
  • Despite all this, French rule was still resisted
  • Nationalist Movement in Turkey:
  • Turkey came up on the losing end in World War I which led many nations which were under the Ottoman rule to become free. Arab territories which were under them were given to Britain and France.

  • The allies didn't stop at the dismemberment of the empire
  • They wanted to dominate Turkey and give away its parts to Italy & Greece.
  • It led to a massive uprising in India against the Britishers
  • This uprising was known as the Khilafat Movement and it combined with the Indian Nationalist movement.
  • This movement was against the domination of Turkey by allied Powers and the annexation of parts of Turkey.
  • However, the Sultan of Turkey agreed to the terms of allied powers
  • But, before any treaty could be signed between the sultan and allied powers, a new Government was formed
  • This national government was under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal with headquarter in Ankara.
  • This government signed a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union
  • Soviet Union provided them political support and arms for the national cause
  • Following the treaty with the sultan, Turkey was invaded by Greece
  • However, the Turks were able to repel the invasion
  • Allied powers were forced to end the old treaty with the sultan
  • The allied troops were withdrawn from Turkey and all its parts remained intact
  • And Turkey was able to win its complete freedom.
  • Turkey became a republic country and the new government abolished the institution of the Caliph. Education was taken out of the hands of religious leaders and religion was separated from the state. This revolution became an inspiration for the movement of freedom in Asia and it also promoted the ideas of social reform and modernization.

  • Nationalist Movement in China:
  • A revolution started in China in 1911 which resulted in the establishment of democracy but the power was passed among corrupt governors which were known as Warlords. The Nationalist movement in China aimed to overthrow foreign domination and unification of China by ending the rule of these warlords.

  • Dr. Sun Yat Sen was the founder of the national movement
  • He played an important role in the 1911 revolution
  • He set up a government at Canton in south China in 1917
  • His party, Kuomintang led the struggle in China for many years
  • The Russian revolution had a deep impact on China
  • The new government in Russia ended all unequal treaties made by the emperor with China
  • It also pledged to help China in its national struggle
  • The communist party of China was formed in 1921
  • Kuomintang and the Communist party started working together in 1924
  • They received various kinds of help from the Soviet Union
  • Sun Yet Sen died in 1925 after which the unity between the two parties was broken and civil war broke out

Japan attacked China to overtake the whole country in the 1930s. Both the communist and Kuomintang parties decided to work together to defeat Japan. Although, Communists emerged as the leading player in resisting the Japanese invasion. It established its supremacy in China and at the end of World War II came out victorious.


Nationalist Movement in Africa

Political and National consciousness also woke up in Africa during this period. In the 1920s and 30s, people became associated with politics but it was only after the Second World War end, national independence gained momentum in Africa.

The Pan African congresses also played a major role in the growth of national consciousness. It asserted the identity, unity of the African people, and independence of Africa. The people of Ethiopia fought heroically against the Italian invasion in 1935-36 which also served as an inspiration for the people of Africa.

The emergence of the struggle for freedom in Asia and Africa and the awakening of national consciousness were important factors in the making of the modern world. While people of these continents were pressing for independence, Europe was getting ready for the next World War.



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