Germany, Italy, Russia, and Japan all initiated combat against peaceful countries for the clear purpose of territorial expansion. Of these only Russia ended the war with more territory than it started with. Were there any other countries that did so and were successful?

Edit: I guess I wasn't clear enough. By "initiated combat" I was trying to say that they created a war where there wasn't already one.

  • 12
    Note that one of “peaceful” countries actively took part in dismembering Czechoslovakia several months before the German attack. Aug 12, 2017 at 17:02
  • 1
    IMHO there were two of them: Britain and France.
    – user2247
    Aug 12, 2017 at 19:26
  • @Incnis Mrsi While this wouldn't technically qualify as an answer because there doesn't seem to have been any combat involved, it is very interesting information. Thank you!
    – Readin
    Aug 19, 2017 at 18:06
  • Perhaps it would help if you listed the countries that created a war where there wasn't already one; as far as I can tell the only nation that did that was Germany; after that point there was a war.
    – MCW
    Aug 19, 2017 at 18:37
  • @MarkC.Wallace Japan created a war where there wasn't one in China. Russia was a co-creator of the war in Europe that Germany created. I'm not completely clear on this last one, but if I remember correctly Italy invaded Ethiopia to acquire land when there wasn't a war already occurring.
    – Readin
    Aug 20, 2017 at 0:18

5 Answers 5


If you factor in nations that got attacked, a few other countries ended up with territorial gains. Most notably Poland, whose border shifted to the west (at a net loss). The Netherlands took a few minor bites out of Germany as war reparations, and eventually returned nearly all of it. Belgium and Luxembourg likewise with even tinier areas. Italy and a few other countries had a laundry list of border changes as well.

If you stick to aggressor nations, though, then Russia indeed was the only country that succeeded in expansionist war aims (against Poland and Finland, before it got attacked by Germany).

  • 11
    Technically speaking the US belongs on the list as it gained a couple Pacific islands. (It doesn't belong in spirit, though, as these were trivial and expansion was never a war aim.) See here.
    – user15620
    Aug 12, 2017 at 16:31
  • 3
    @StevenBurnap: yeah, the list in the first paragraph is by no means exhaustive, but I believe OP was interested in countries that declared war for the purpose of gaining territory - which insofar as I'm aware disqualifies them all except Russia. Aug 12, 2017 at 16:44
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    If you consider USSR an "aggressor nation", you should say the same about Britain and France, who helped Hitler annex Czechoslovakia.
    – user2247
    Aug 12, 2017 at 19:25
  • 10
    @DP_: France and Britain did not declare war on Czechoslovakia. Russia (or more precisely the USSR) declared war on Poland and Finland. Aug 12, 2017 at 21:48
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    The USA also got all of Western Europe, even if some places kept the legal fiction of being separate countries.
    – Scott
    Aug 14, 2017 at 4:47

According to the wikipedia article on Paris Peace Treaties, 1947,

Bulgaria was restored to the borders of 1 January 1941, returning Vardar Macedonia to Yugoslavia and Eastern Macedonia and Western Thrace to Greece, but keeping Southern Dobruja per the Treaty of Craiova, leaving Bulgaria as the only former Axis power to keep territory that was gained during the Second World War.

Thus, Bulgaria is the answer to your question.

  • 8
    Bulgaria was neutral until March 1st 1941 though, and then only reluctantly joined the axis over fears of a German invasion. Also, the territorial gains in question were from a brokered deal with Romania, rather than wars of aggression. Aug 12, 2017 at 11:12
  • That's interesting. Thank you. (I'm learning far more than I expected to from having asked this question).
    – Readin
    Aug 19, 2017 at 18:08

China started the war without Manchukuo, and ended up with "Manchuria."

This was in spite of itself. China was not an aggressor nation in World War II, and was, in fact, "more sinned against than sinning" (Shakespeare).

But the Soviets conquered most of Manchuria from Japan, and handed it over to its Communist allies, which won the Chinese civil war.

  • 2
    I'm not deriding the Bard's quote, but weren't all the opposing team members involved in the debacle for having been sinned against? Unless I'm mistaken, the Japanese were mangling the Chinese Army before Germany lit the fuse in Poland. And Stalin shared a seat on both teams before opting out of his deal with Adolf. Russia was the real oddball.
    – Ace
    Aug 13, 2017 at 19:05
  • You write as if Shakespeare were talking about WWII.
    – OrangeDog
    Aug 14, 2017 at 10:04
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    My understanding is that the SU handed Manchuria over to Chiang Kai Shek, not "to its Communist allies".
    – fdb
    Aug 14, 2017 at 12:08
  • @fdb:Tell that to Lin Biao. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lin_Biao The Soviets may have done so nominally, through a treaty, but only after letting the Communists infiltrate the province with a quarter million men. They were playing both sides, as they did in 1925-27.
    – Tom Au
    Aug 14, 2017 at 13:01
  • The Chines post-war take-over of Taiwan was very much a result of China having been attacked, not a result of China attacking. I was looking for countries that had been the initial aggressors rather than the revenge-seeking victors.
    – Readin
    Aug 19, 2017 at 18:10

First, the OP’s premise about greedy totalitarian jerks unilaterally attacking “peaceful” countries is an over-simplification. There were no clear-cut imperialists and their victims. There were, generally, some greater and lesser imperialists. Countries with strong and weak military, with good and bad fortunes.

Not only Russia gained. Ukraine1 (under the USSR) also “ended the war with more territory than it started with”, because Transcarpathia wasn’t returned to Czechoslovakia. Republic of China2 obtained Taiwan, which later proved to be an asset critically important for the Chiang’s regime. Ironically, Romania3 “ended the war with more territory than it started with” — it already lost Bessarabia (to the USSR) by 1941, but gained Transylvania from Hungary after switching sides in 1944. Yugoslavia4 also expanded a bit at the expense of Italy and, possibly, Hungary. Allies also permitted Ethiopia5 to de facto annex the Italian colony of Eritrea (although Ethiopia had very little to do with starting the World War II).

1 Arguably had large expansionist aims in 1939.
2 Intermittently clashed with the Empire of Japan over northeast China.
3 Invaded the USSR in 1941 with a force second to the Third Reich’s only.
4 It was NOVJ (the Partisans) who won the war, not the pre-war monarchy. NOVJ certainly aimed to “expand” its presence in the country occupied by the fascists.
5 Had territorial disputes with Italian colonies.

  • 1
    How many of those countries "initiated combat with expansionist war aims"? Aug 12, 2017 at 17:37
  • @sempaiscuba: Romania, certainly. Using some sophistry, you can also argue that Tito’s NOVJ “initiated combat” not only to drive aggressors away, but to conquer some ethnically Slav territories as well. Also note that RoC unlikely deemed Japanese possessions in northeast China lawful, and Ethiopia’s war against Italy started from a tiny territorial dispute. Aug 12, 2017 at 18:07

The U.S. certainly wound up with Hawaii and Guam during this period, although due to the post-war hegemony I can see how this would be overlooked.

  • 8
    Guam was occupied by the US from 1898 following the Treaty of Paris. Hawaii became a US Territory in 1898. (WWII was fought between 1 September 1939 – 2 September 1945). Aug 14, 2017 at 0:17
  • 4
    This is a particularly amusing claim, given what actually brought the U.S. into WWII in the first place... The U.S. actually ended up with less territory in the aftermath of WWII, as the Philippines (a U.S. colony since 1898) became an independent country following the war. Granted, that was already in the plans before the war.
    – reirab
    Aug 14, 2017 at 2:49

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