Guide to territory and governance in the Balkans (incl. Hungary and Turkey)
during and after the Second World War


During the War



In the 1930s an Italian client state under King Zog’s royal rule. Invaded by Italy in April 1939 and made into an outlying Italian province. Base for the unsuccessful Italian invasion of Greece in October 1940; the southern third of the country is overrun by Greek armies before the end of the year. After Germany’s rapid defeat of Yugoslavia and Greece in April 1941, Albania’s borders are extended with lands from Yugoslavia (most of Kosovo, western Macedonia, and a strip of Montenegro) and Greece (northwestern Epirus). German forces occupy the country (thinly) in Sept. 1943 when Italy leaves the war, but pull out in Nov. 1944.

Restored to independence with pre-war borders. The new government of Nov. 1944, an alliance of resistance forces headed by Communist Enver Hoxha, evolves quickly into a Communist one-party state.


Under the (relatively relaxed) royal rule of King Boris since 1935. A revisionist state, but holds to neutrality as long as possible after the war starts. Gains Southern Dobrudja from Romania in Sept. 1940, by German fiat. Joins the German alliance system in March 1941 and accepts the stationing of German troops; German ally until the end. Joins in the attack on Yugoslavia in April 1941, and in July 1941 is allowed to annex most of Yugoslav Macedonia and a strip of Serbia, as well as most of Greek Thrace and the islands of Thasos and Samothrace. Does not send troops to fight in Russia. Surrenders to the Red Army in Sept. 1944 and puts its armies under Soviet command; Germans hold part of the country until November.

Restored to pre-war borders, but is allowed to keep Southern Dobrudja on the grounds that the population is ethnically Bulgarian. Under manipulation by the Soviet occupation forces, the coalition governments of 1945-46 gradually come under definitive Communist control.


In Oct. 1940 invaded by Italian armies from Albania, which are repulsed in fighting during the winter with significant military assistance from Britain. Overrun quickly by German armies in April 1941. In July most of Greek Thrace and the islands of Thasos and Samothrace are assigned to Bulgaria and part of Epirus to Italian-controlled Albania. The rest of the country, including Crete and the remaining islands, is under Italian or German military rule (nominally mostly Italian, in practice mostly German), with a vestigial puppet government; after Italy leaves the war in Sept. 1943 Greece is entirely under German military rule. Significant partisan activity, partly Communist and partly anti-Communist begins in 1942. German forces, in danger of being cut off, withdraw in Oct. 1944 (except from Crete).

Restored to pre-war boundaries, plus the Dodecanese Islands (incl. Rhodes) from Italy. The Western-style parliamentary monarchy imposed by the British on mutually antagonistic partisan factions attains relative stability only with the end of the civil war of 1946-49.


In the 1930s an oligarchical parliamentary state under the powerful regent Admiral Horthy. As a revisionist state, friendly to Germany before the war. In Nov. 1938, after Munich, gains the Hungarian-speaking districts of Slovakia and Ruthenia from Czechoslovakia at German insistence (the First Vienna Award). In March 1939 Hungary forcibly annexes the rest of Ruthenia, as rump Czechoslovakia collapses under German invasion. In August 1940 Hungary acquires northern Transylvania (some two-fifths of the whole) from Romania at German insistence (the Second Vienna Award). Hungary joins the German alliance system in Nov. 1940; German ally until almost the end. Joins in the attack on Yugoslavia in April 1941 and is rewarded with half of the Voivodina (the Bačka) and other small territories. Joins in the fighting in Russia. Occupied by German troops in March 1944 as Soviet armies approach; put under German military rule in October 1944 when the Hungarian government attempts to change sides in the war. Liberated by Soviet forces in destructive fighting between September 1944 and April 1945; the battle of Budapest lasts from Nov. 1944 to February 1945.

Restored to pre-war borders; 250,000 ethnic Germans flee or are expelled. A parliamentary democracy, distorted by heavy pressure from Soviet occupation authorities, fades by degrees to definitive Communist Party rule by mid-1947.


The political system in the 1930s is dominated by King Carol. As a victor state in World War I, friendly to the Allies before the war. Forced by German pressure to cede territories to German allies in summer of 1940 (see below). After Marshal Antonescu comes to power in a coup, becomes a German ally. German forces are stationed in the country from Oct. 1940 on. Joins the German alliance system in Nov. 1940; in June 1941 joins in the invasion of the USSR and recovers the territories lost to the USSR in 1940. Romanian armies are decimated at Stalingrad. With Soviet armies already well into the country in Aug. 1944, the Romanian government changes sides in the war, and its armies fight on under Soviet command. Parts of the country come under German military rule until October 1944.

Restored with all of Transylvania but without Northern Bukovina, Bessarabia and Southern Dobrudja. The post-war coalition government is definitively under Communist control by the end of 1947.

(w/ Crisana,
Maramures &
most of the Bánát)

Hungarian before 1918. The northern part of the territory (some two-fifths of the whole) is ceded to Hungary in August 1940 by German fiat (the Second Vienna Award).

Returned intact to Romania.

and Northern

Bessarabia was Russian before 1918, Northern Bukovina Austrian. Ceded to the USSR In June 1940 under pressure from the USSR, Germany and Italy. Northern Bukovina and coastal Bessarabia are added to the Ukrainian SSR, while the rest of Bessarabia forms the Moldavian SSR. Returned to Romania after the German invasion of Russia, along with Transnistria (incl. Odessa) to the east of Bessarabia. Reconquered by the USSR in summer 1944.

Re-incorporated into the USSR as in 1940.


Ceded to Bulgaria In Sept. 1940 under German pressure.

Allowed to remain with Bulgaria on the grounds that the population is ethnically Bulgarian.


Maintains a precarious eutrality throughout the war, being surrounded on all sides by belligerents or by territories controlled by belligerents.

No territorial changes in Europe, and no change in system of government.


In the 1930’s a royal dictatorship (since 1934 by the regent Prince Paul) with some parliamentary influence. As a victor state in World War I, friendly to the Allies before the war but drifting in Germany’s direction until a coup in March 1941; this provokes a sudden invasion by German, Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian forces in April. Dismembered: parts are annexed by Germany, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria, and the rest is set up as the occupied puppet states of Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. Maintains a government-in-exile in London during the war. Strong guerrilla activity in the mountains leads to formation of a counter-government in Nov. 1943, sponsored by the largest branch of the resistance, the Communist-led Partisans under Tito. Belgrade is freed in Oct. 1944 jointly by the Partisans and the Soviet Army, after which the Red Army leaves the fighting (more against Chetniks, Ustashe and others than against Germans) to the Partisans.

Restored to pre-war borders, plus lands seized from Italy up nearly to Trieste and Udine; Yugoslav demands for the Klagenfurt area of Austria are finally rejected in 1949. The Partisans, by right of military victory, establish a Communist one-party state in 1945.

(Apart from the Banovina of Croatia pre-war Yugoslavia was a unitary state; the regions below are historic territories corresponding roughly to the six post-war Republics.)


The north (except for a small district ceded to Hungary) is re-annexed by Austria (now part of the Reich), as before 1918; the south (incl. Ljubljana) is annexed by Italy, then by the Reich (along with Istria) after Italy leaves the war in September 1943. The Partisans take Ljubljana only in May 1945.

Becomes a constituent Republic of federal Yugoslavia. Restored to pre-war borders, plus Italian territory inhabited by Slovenes: up to and partly beyond the Isonzo (set in 1947), and northern Istria up to the edge of Trieste (finally set in 1954).


Already before the war (Aug. 1939) historic Croatia-Slavonia is enlarged into the semi-autonomous "Banovina of Croatia", incl. Dalmatia and large ethnically Croatian parts of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Following the defeat parts of Dalmatia are annexed by Italy, and small northern areas of Slavonia are annexed by Hungary. The remainder, enlarged by the rest of Bosnia-Hercegovina, is nominally independent, a dictatorship of Ante Pavelic’s genocidal Ustasha; supposedly part of Italy’s sphere of influence, it is in practice increasingly under the influence of Germany, whose troops are also stationed there. After Italy leaves the war in Sept. 1943, German rule is more overt, and Croatia recovers Italy’s gains in Dalmatia. Much of the resistance fighting takes place on Croatian territory, but the Partisans take Zagreb only in May 1945.

Becomes a constituent Republic of federal Yugoslavia. Restored to its historic (not its pre-war) borders, incl. Dalmatia, plus southern Baranya (not part of Croatia before the war); from Italy it gains most of Istria (with Rijeka/ Fiume) and Italy’s pre-war Dalmatian territories (Zadar and some islands); while it gives up the Kotor area (to Montenegro) and most of Syrmia (to Serbia).


Partially assigned already before the war to the Banovina of Croatia; wholly annexed by Croatia in the dismemberment after defeat. The Partisans take Sarajevo only in April 1945.

Becomes a constituent Republic of federal Yugoslavia. Restored to its borders of Austro-Hungarian times.


Loses the Bačka to Hungary, the Serbian Banat to direct German military administration, the Sandjak to the Italian puppet state of Montenegro, most of Kosovo province to Italian Albania, and a southeastern strip of territory to Bulgaria. (Also loses Yugoslav Macedonia, as described below.) The remainder comes under German military administration, with only a shadowy puppet state under General Nedič. Liberated from Sept. to Dec. 1944.

Becomes a constituent Republic of federal Yugoslavia. Regains the lands lost to Albania, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Hungary, and gains most of Syrmia (formerly part of Croatia-Slavonia); but loses Macedonia, which itself becomes a Republic. Two autonomous regions are formed within Serbia: the Voivodina, including the Bačka, the Banat, and Syrmia; and Kosovo.


Loses small territories to Italian Albania but gains the Sandjak from Serbia. At first nominally a kingdom under Italian military occupation; after Italy leaves the war in Sept. 1943, it has a puppet administration subject to German military rule. Evacuated by German forces from Nov. 1944 to Jan. 1945.

Becomes a constituent Republic of federal Yugoslavia. Restored to its historic, pre-1918 borders plus the Kotor area (formerly part of Dalmatia).


A Serbian province before the war. After the defeat a western section is annexed by Italian Albania, the rest by Bulgaria. Evacuated by German forces from Nov. 1944 to Jan. 1945.

Becomes a constituent Republic of federal Yugoslavia. Recovers the lands lost to Albania and Bulgaria.

Recent historical atlases useful for this topic:

Eastern Europe:

Richard and Ben Crampton. Atlas of Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. London and New York: Routledge,1996.
Dennis P. Hupchick and Harold E. Cox. The Palgrave Concise Historical Atlas of the Balkans. New York: Palgrave, 2001.
Paul Robert Magocsi. Historical Atlas of East Central Europe. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993.

Soviet Union:

Allen F. Chew. An Atlas of Russian History, rev. ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970.
Martin Gilbert. Atlas of Russian History, 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Nazi Germany:

Michael Freeman. Atlas of Nazi Germany, 2nd ed. London and New York: Longman, 1995.