A major source of distress and chaos in Eastern Europe was the interaction of different ethnic groups. Over the centuries, Eastern Europe had become a region populated by various and sundry ethnicities, some concentrated in small areas, others spread throughout large tracts. According to the principle of national self-determination, the redrawn borders of Eastern Europe attempted to grant as many ethnic groups as possible self-government. However, the interaction of politics and longstanding beliefs and resentments with the reorganizing process meant that these borders were often drawn without regard for the consequences. For instance, although Czechoslovakia was the most stable of the Eastern European states, in its government, its society was wracked by ethnic conflict. In the newly drawn state, only 65 percent of the inhabitants were Czechs or Slovaks, two groups that had bonded together more out of necessity than mutual affection. The major minorities in Czechoslovakia consisted of 3 million Germans, almost 20 percent of the population, and 700,000 Hungarians. Both of these groups resented being lumped together with the majority groups, and maintained close ties to their original nations. The Hungarians actively sought independence, and the Germans, most of which lived near the German border, formed their own political parties and imported much German ideology. There was no spirit of cooperation, making effective democracy nearly difficult, and eventually, resistance to German aggression impossible.

Popular pages: The Interwar Years (1919-1938)