The Farthest West Soviet Republic

(Sometimes my articles for Listverse don’t pan out. Either they don’t get published or I end up not finding enough information to finish them. I do not want to waste my work, so I publish the pieces on my blog.)

While most people think of communism as having spread only as far as Eastern Europe, after World War I two communist republics declared independence in Germany. They claimed to be Soviet Republics, but were both too short-lived to make difference. These short nations were independent Alsace and Bavaria.

The Alsace region is nestled between France and Germany and has passed hands many times during its history. Currently it is within France, but for a long time before the end of World War I Alsace was considered German territory. With the end of World War I, however, Alsace followed in the footsteps of Bavaria and 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.

With the Revolution spreading Bavarian socialist Kurt Eisner took the opportunity to address a large group of workers in Munich on November 8th, 1918, four 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 the public opinion turning against him and the next day Eisner declared Bavaria an independent country.

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. Red flags were hoisted from the church spires and the Council began discussing communist reforms. The Council adopted the motto of: “We have nothing in common with capitalist states, our motto is: neither German neither French nor neutral. The red flag won.”

Revolutionaries in Strasborg.

Revolutionaries in Strasborg.

Success was short-lived. When World War I ended, Germany and France agreed for Alsace to become French territory. Two weeks after Alsace 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 German population was forced to speak French and were relocated throughout the country. Twenty years later these actions would cause the Alsace people to not put up much resistance to German invasion. The Alsace Republic was the farthest West organized Soviet Republic history.

The Bavarian Republic was farther East but lasted longer. Initially problems ensued. Even though Eisner considered Bavaria a free country, it was absorbed into the new German Weimar Republic. A year after the revolution, Bavarian living conditions had rapidly declined leaving the public disenchanted by Eisner’s government. On his way to resign as minister, Eisner was assassinated.

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Three months later the Republic Counsel of Bavaria was officially convened and declared themselves an independent country on April 6th, 1919. The new government was idealistic, but was filled with incompetent people. Foreign Affairs Deputy Dr. Franz Lipp (who had spent lots of time as a patient in psychiatric hospitals) declared war on Switzerland for not lending the Bavarian Republic locomotives. Fortunately nobody in both countries took him seriously. After six days, the communist party took of the government and began to enact communist reforms. By this time the new Republic was becoming a concern for the German loyalist forces and they marched on Munich. Nearly 1,000 communist supporters were killed in street fighting and 700 were later executed, ending the Bavarian Republic. Among the loyalist forces were Himmler and Hess, future Nazi leaders. Although the Republic was short-lived, the Nazis used the predominately Jewish leadership as a propaganda tool to vilify the German Jewish population in the build up to World War II.

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