The Interwar Background
At the close of World War I, the four defeated empires that had dominated and ruled East Central Europe—the German, Habsburg, Ottoman, and Russian empires—were replaced by a dozen new or restored or enlarged would-be nation-states, all of which based their asserted legitimation on the then reigning politico-moral principle of national self-determination. Though the territorial arrangements of 1919 to 1921 still left a number of additional nations in East Central Europe stateless and created problems of aggrieved minorities allocated to states toward which they felt little or no affinity (conditions that induced revisionist apologists for the territorial losers of World War I to charge that the territorial arrangements were merely a cynical and unprincipled victors' fiat), for all their admitted flaws, they still freed three times as many people from nationally alien rule as they subjected to such rule. The real political weakness of the interwar effort to implement the principle of national self-determination in East Central Europe lay not in its alleged hypocrisy, but in the impossibility of reconciling it with three other important aims of the peacemakers of 1919 to 1921: the permanent diminution of German power, the permanent containment of Russian power, and the permanent restoration of international order in Europe. In other words, the geopolitical map of interwar East Central Europe, with its plethora of new, restored, and enlarged soi-disant nation-states, was not congruent with the real distribution of power in Europe.
Germany and Soviet Russia embodied the two basic revisionist