The Major Wars and Conflicts of the 20th Century

The Major Wars and Conflicts of the 20th Century

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The 20th century was dominated by wars and conflicts that often altered the balance of power around the globe. The 20th century saw the emergence of "total wars," such as World War I and World War II, which were large enough to encompass nearly the entire world. Other wars, like the Chinese Civil War, remained local but still caused the deaths of millions of people.

The reasons for the wars varied from expansion disputes to upsets in government to the intentional murder of an entire people. However, they all shared one thing: an extraordinary number of deaths.

Which Was the Deadliest War of the 20th Century?

The largest and bloodiest war of the 20th century (and of all time) was World War II. The conflict, which lasted from 1939 to 1945, involved most of the planet. When it was finally over, more than 60 million people were dead. Of that enormous group, which represents about 3 percent of the entire world population at the time, the huge majority (well over 50 million) were civilians.

World War I was also bloody, with 8.5 million military deaths plus an estimated 13 million more civilian fatalities. If we were to add in the deaths caused by the 1918 influenza epidemic, which was spread by returning soldiers at the end of World War I, the WWI total would be much higher, since the epidemic alone was responsible for 50 to 100 million deaths.

Third in the list of bloody wars of the 20th century is the Russian Civil War, which caused the deaths of an estimated 9 million people. Unlike the two world wars, however, the Russian Civil War did not spread across Europe or beyond. Rather, it was a struggle for power following the Russian Revolution, and it pitted the Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, against a coalition called the White Army. Interestingly, the Russian Civil War was over 14 times deadlier than the American Civil War, which saw the deaths of 620,000. The American Civil War was by far the deadliest war in history for United States soldiers. The second deadliest war in terms of American deaths was World War II in which 405,399 Americans died.

The List of Major Wars and Conflicts of the 20th Century

All of these wars, conflicts, revolutions, civil wars, and genocides shaped the 20th century. Below is a chronological list of the major wars of the 20th century.

1898-1901 Boxer Rebellion
Boer War
Russo-Japanese War
Mexican Revolution
First and Second Balkan Wars
1914-1918 World War I
Armenian Genocide
1917 Russian Revolution
Russian Civil War
Irish War of Independence
1927-1937 Chinese Civil War
1933-1945 Holocaust
Second Italo-Abyssinian War (also known as the Second Italo-Ethiopian War or the Abyssinian War)
1936-1939 Spanish Civil War
1939-1945 World War II
Cold War
1946-1949 Chinese Civil War resumes
1946-1954 First Indochina War (also known as the French Indochina War)
1948 Israel War of Independence (also known as the Arab-Israeli War)
1950-1953 Korean War
1954-1962 French-Algerian War
1955-1972 First Sudanese Civil War
1956 Suez Crisis
1959 Cuban Revolution
Vietnam War
Six-Day War
1979-1989 Soviet-Afghan War
1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War
1990-1991 Persian Gulf War
1991-1995 Third Balkan War
1994 Rwandan Genocide


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