When Soviets Claimed A Little Piece Of France After World War I

“An unbreakable union of free republics, Great Russia has welded forever to stand!” —National anthem of the Soviet Union (1977)

In A Nutshell

After World War I, the territory of Alsace-Lorraine was given to the French. At the time, all of Germany was in turmoil following a sailor’s revolt. Communist revolutionaries in France followed the lead of the Russian Revolution and declared Alsace a separate country for two weeks before the French took over.

The Whole Bushel

The end of World War I may have ended international hostilities in the participating nations, but it greatly destabilized the Central Powers, most notably Germany. As the war ended, disgruntled sailors in the navy declared mutiny and kicked off the German Revolution, which spread to the Alsace region of France. The Alsace region is nestled between France and Germany and has changed hands many times during its history.

Nowadays, it’s part of France, but Alsace was considered German territory for a long time before the end of World War I. With the end of World War I, however, Alsace attempted to declare itself a foreign country during the German Revolution. A revolutionary atmosphere had quickly spread across the country following the sailor mutiny, eventually forcing Wilhelm II to abdicate the throne and causing uprisings in various parts of Germany.

On November 8, the one-year anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Bavaria and other provinces held revolts. This quickly spread throughout the nation, causing more bloodshed in the beleaguered nation.

With the revolution spreading, Bavarian socialist Kurt Eisner took the opportunity to address a large group of workers in Munich on November 8, 1918, just a few days before the war officially ended, calling for a general strike and an overthrowing of the Bavarian state monarch.

The group marched on the Munich army base, converting most soldiers to their cause. King Ludwig III went into hiding when he saw public opinion turning against him, and Eisner declared Bavaria an independent country the next day. Although the revolution was modeled after the Russian Revolution, Eisner was clear that he would not be looking to take property rights.

That day, demonstrators in Strasbourg (the capital of Alsace) heard of the Bavarian revolution and began their own revolt. Thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets just as insurgent sailors from northern Germany were returning.

The sailors established the Council of Strasbourg Soldiers and declared themselves an independent country.

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Plain red flags (of the tone shown above) were hoisted from the church spires and the council began discussing communist reforms. The council adopted a straightforward motto. “We have nothing in common with capitalist states, our motto is: neither German neither French nor neutral. The red flag won.”

Success was short-lived. When World War I ended, Germany and France agreed that Alsace would become French territory. Two weeks after Alsace’s independence, the French occupation forces moved in.

French forces forcibly terminated the strikes and overthrew the council. Agitators were arrested, and Alsace was incorporated into the French centralized system. The local Germans were forced to speak French and then relocated throughout the country. (The Alsace people remembered these actions, and they later offered little resistance to the Nazi invasion.)

Three months later, the Republic Counsel of Bavaria was officially convened and declared the region an independent country on April 6, 1919. The new government was idealistic but was filled with incompetent people.

Foreign Affairs Deputy Dr. Franz Lipp (who had spent plenty of time as a patient in psychiatric hospitals) declared war on Switzerland for not lending the Bavarian Republic locomotives. Fortunately, nobody in either country took him seriously. After six days, the Communist Party took over the government and began to enact communist reforms.

By this time, the new republic was becoming a concern for the German loyalist forces. They marched on Munich and recaptured the city. These two countries are the farthest west a communist government was ever founded.

Show Me The Proof

Flags of Alsace
Two-Fisted History: The Short-lived Soviet Republic of Alsace-Lorraine
Spartacus Educational: Bavarian Republic
The First and Second Council Republics