The issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank (and other territories) is quite controversial, including its legality and its impact on the peace process. I'm wondering if there was any similar occurrence in recent history - has an occupying power built settlements and transfer its own population to the occupied territories? If there are such cases, how did it happen, how was the international reaction and how was the issue resolved (if it was)?

If I need to specify my definition, let's say:

  • recent means anything since the 20th century,
  • the territories were occupied as a result of a war or some other coercive means,
  • the territories were big/significant enough (i.e. not just a city or a microstate). As comparison the West Bank population is 2.5-3 million), let's use this as minimum.
  • The occupying power transfered its civilians to the occupied territories to live and the settler population should be significant, say more than 10% of the native population. (as comparison, according to Wikipedia there is about 1 Israeli settler per 5 West Bank Palestinians).
  • 11
    the very term "occupied territories" itself is loaded. Those areas are part of Israel under the UN declaration establishing Israel in the first place. The only thing "impacting the peace process" is the fact that there is an Israel at all, as the PLO and Hamas are never (and they state so in their own charters) going to be satisfied with anything less than the total destruction of Israel and the extermination of all Jews in the area.
    – jwenting
    Mar 13, 2014 at 8:04
  • 7
    @jwenting Everyone is using the term "occupied territories" (The obvious exception being Israel, which prefers "disputed territories"). For a more specific example, the UN has been using the term "occupied territories" since 1967 (Security Council Resolution 242). Furthermore, the UN still formally uses "occupying power" when referring to Israel's presence in the Gaza strip (even though Israel claims to have disengaged from the area since 2005).
    – yannis
    Mar 13, 2014 at 13:45
  • 4
    Contrary to @jwenting, I don't see how the term occupied could be deemed loaded. As the link in the original question clearly indicates, the relevant national and international organizations (the UN Security Council and General Assembly, the International Court of Justice, the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention) are all in broad agreement on which territories are occupied by Israel, with essentially only Israel dissenting (but then again, it would be surprising to see a state incriminating itself).
    – Olivier
    Mar 13, 2014 at 14:40
  • 5
    Jwenting- Those areas were NOT part of of the UN partition. Zionist/Israeli forces established control over ALL areas the were designed as part of the the Jewish state, and considerable more. The Occupied territories refers to land occupied after the 1967 war.
    – pugsville
    Mar 14, 2014 at 4:19
  • 6
    I'm not sure what Israel's outward statements say, but internally and in the Hebrew-speaking media, they are referred to always as the occupied territories (Shtakhim Kvushim, possibly conquered territories), and usually just as the territories.
    – Carmi
    Mar 16, 2014 at 11:08

6 Answers 6


I can think of several examples which are big enough, recent enough and well known enough not to be disputed.

  1. In 1938 the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia, and civilians were free to settle there under the "Lebensraum" (breathing room) philosophy. The occupation was (at first) of an area populated mostly by ethnic Germans, but legally at least that doesn't matter.
  2. The Chinese occupation (and annexation) of Tibet, in which people who are ethnically Han Chinese are settling in areas of TIbet for many years now. If I remember correctly, they are now about 50% of the population.
  3. Israel again, this time in the Sinai peninsula. The territory was conquered from Egypt in 1967, and civilian settlements were built in the 1970's. The settlements were entirely (and forcibly) dismantled as part of the Begin-Saadat peace treaty in 1980-82 and the territory was handed back to the Egyptian government.

Where to start? Starting from the forced exchange of population between Greece and Turkey in 1923, you will find no shortage of examples, some of truly unbelievable scale. Among the most prominent ones are population transfer and Russian settlements in the former USSR (considering the brutality of the regime, I think it is beyond dispute that these satisfy your second criteria) and the numerous expulsions and relocations (with Poles, citizens of the USSR and ethnic Germans by far the more numerous victims) which took place during the Second World War.

Compared to numerous instances in the XXth century, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are thus in fact quite unremarkable.

  • XXth? Is that a normal way to refer to a century?
    – CGCampbell
    Jul 10, 2014 at 17:52
  • @CGCampbell - in Russia itis
    – DVK
    Jul 11, 2014 at 17:39
  • Roman numerals are used for centuries in Spanish, too.
    – dan04
    Jul 21, 2014 at 3:15
  • Crimea (occupied by Russia from Crimean tatars, with tatars forcibly deported and Russians moved in). Later re-occupied in 2014, with both Ukrainians and Crimean tatars being discriminated against (the leader of Crimean tatars was exiled).

  • Königsberg, which USSR occupied, de-germanized, and turned into Russian-majority Калинингра́д (Latin: Kaliningrad).

  • Why the downvote? Russia gets a free pass?
    – DVK
    Jul 10, 2014 at 19:25
  • Not at all, but these two examples are already explicitly in my answer, along many others.
    – Olivier
    Jul 11, 2014 at 8:31
  • @Olivier - unless I missed something, your answer is just links to Wikipedia with no details?
    – DVK
    Jul 11, 2014 at 17:40

French Algeria might qualify.

Algeria was conquered militarily (in 1830) and maintained under French control against regular rebellions until 1962. Its status within the empire was very different from that of other French colonies, with a tight integration to France itself, while maintaining a sharp distinction between “natives” and “Europeans” (which included not only settlers coming from mainland France but also immigrants from Spain, Italy and other countries and Jews - there was a Jewish population in Algeria before the French conquest but all Jews were granted citizenship by the décret Crémieux and thus kind of assimilated to the “settlers”).


How about in 1948 when India invaded Hyderabad and conquered it? Any Indians who since moved to the area are also occupying settlers.


One example is the Russian population in Kazakhstan. (The USSR transferred large populations around, so this is probably not the only example.) Settlement started in the 19th century, but increased in the 20th century. According to Wikipedia, by 1917, 30% of the population was Russian.

Many more Russians arrived in the years 1953-1965,during the so-called Virgin Lands Campaign of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. Still more settlers came in the late 1960s and 70s, when the government paid bonuses to workers participating in a program to relocate Soviet industry close to the extensive coal, gas, and oil deposits of Central Asia. By 1979 ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan numbered about 5,500,000, almost 40% of the total population.

Following independence, Kazakhstan instituted policies to reaffirm its cultural dominance, such as requiring Kazakh be spoken as the only official language. Ethnic Russians found the policy discriminatory and now the percentage of Russians stands at 30%. Repatriation of Russians was discussed with the Russian government, but found to be inappropriate. At this time, the issue remains unresolved and is a source of conflict and political dispute. So large and entrenched of a minority group is considered to be nearly impossible to resettle.

I'm not sure about the international reaction, the policies of the USSR were routinely condemned in the West, although many still supported them as a positive quality of ruthless pragmatism.

  • "The island nations were originally uninhabited, allowing for a larger percentage of the population to be of European descent. The people of the nation today are mostly mixed heritage creoles and only about 5% of the population is Gran'bla ("big whites"), giving the native population now near full control of the country." Makes no sense. If they were uninhabited the white population is as native as the black population...
    – jwenting
    Mar 13, 2014 at 11:35
  • 1
    As to Kazakhstan, it's just one example. Russification happened in every single of the SSRs, especially in the south. One big reason the Crimea has a large Russian population now for example is its popularity with senior CPSU officials as a summer retreat.
    – jwenting
    Mar 13, 2014 at 11:36
  • @jwenting That's true, but the country has a history of slavery and exploitation of the creoles by the Gran'bla, so they don't see each other as that way.
    – Razie Mah
    Mar 13, 2014 at 12:36
  • Doesn't matter, it's not natives vs foreigners but 2 groups of foreigners.
    – jwenting
    Mar 13, 2014 at 12:39

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