This question is indirectly about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and attempting to predict the future by studying the past.

This article claims:

Wartime land grabs tend to end badly for tyrants, historian warns

The central thesis is as follows:

“If a conquest is recognized internationally, the conqueror has a chance to hold on to new lands and bequeath them to future generations,” said Zubov.

“If, however, the world refuses to acknowledge these annexations, anschlusses, unifications, and reunifications – if the conqueror simply starts drawing new borders of their empire during a war – it all tends to end very poorly and comically if we set aside the all the blood that is spilled in the process.”

The article goes on to cite Napoleon and Hitler as examples supporting the thesis.

However, I'm wondering if there are any counterexamples? Specifically, counter examples that meet the following criteria:

  1. Dictator seizes land of another country by force.
  2. Conquest is not internationally recognized.
  3. Invaders hold the seized territory over the long term. (Let's say for two or more generations after the death of the original "conqueror").

Go back as far in history as you'd like. I'd like a comprehensive overview via multiple answers, if possible.

  • 7
    The history stackexchange might be an even better fit for this question.
    – Trilarion
    Jun 12, 2022 at 8:23
  • 5
    I think you might be better to ask for examples that don't meet those criteria. Most countries were ruled by dictators (hereditary monarchs) until recently. International recognition was hardly a concept. And the conquerors often retained their territory for centuries. The conquest of most of Latin America in the name of the Spanish kings and queens world be one example.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jun 12, 2022 at 10:50
  • 1
    @Trilarion OK, I have retracted my close vote.
    – Alexei
    Jun 12, 2022 at 13:49
  • 1
    To be on-topic here, the Q would need to specify a recent time frame.
    – Fizz
    Jun 12, 2022 at 16:01
  • 2
    UK, very broadly: Romans, Saxons, Vikings, French. Then the UK itself went on to claim about 1/4 of the Earth's landmass, some of which it still tentatively holds to this day.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 12, 2022 at 17:11

2 Answers 2


Western Sahara seems to meet your requirements:


From Wikipedia:

The Kingdom of Morocco is a monarchy with a Parliament and an independent judiciary. Morocco was an authoritarian regime according to the Democracy Index of 2014. The constitution grants the king honorific powers (among other powers); he is both the secular political leader and the "Commander of the Faithful" as a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. He presides over the Council of Ministers; appoints the Prime Minister from the political party that has won the most seats in the parliamentary elections, and on recommendations from the latter, appoints the members of the government. The constitution of 1996 theoretically allowed the king to terminate the tenure of any minister, and after consultation with the heads of the higher and lower Assemblies, to dissolve the Parliament, suspend the constitution, call for new elections, or rule by decree.

seizes land of another country by force

On 6 November 1975 Morocco initiated the Green March into Western Sahara; 350,000 unarmed Moroccans converged on the city of Tarfaya in southern Morocco and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross the border in a peaceful march. A few days before, on 31 October, Moroccan troops invaded Western Sahara from the north.

Conquest is not internationally recognized.

On 18 December 2019, the Comoros became the first nation to open a consulate in Laayoune in support of Moroccan claims to Western Sahara. In January 2020, The Gambia and Guinea opened consulates in Dakhla; meanwhile, Gabon opened a consulate general in Laayoune. As part of the Moroccan-Israeli normalisation deal, the United States established a temporary consulate post in Dakhla in January 2021 as a transition to establishing a permanent consulate within the near future.

Invaders hold the seized territory over the long term. (Let's say for two or more generations after the death of the original "conqueror").

Hassan II, King in 1975, only died in 1999, so only one generation. However the way international recognition is going, it seems plausible that this occupation will last another generation.

  • Israel would qualify too. Nobody recognizes the occupied territories as part of Israel, but Israel is doing well without international recognition - but with ample support of the USA.
    – Rekesoft
    Jun 13, 2022 at 11:16
  • 1
    I would not describe Israel as a dictatorship, so did not use that.
    – User65535
    Jun 13, 2022 at 12:09
  • Ups, yes, I forgot the part about dictatorships. Although it seems a spurious one, now that I think about it. The USA annexed Hawai the same way Russia did with Crimea, first sending the marines then sporting a referendum. Is it any better when a democracy does it?
    – Rekesoft
    Jun 13, 2022 at 12:15

I wonder if War of the Pacific would qualify. Chile attacked Bolivia and Peru, eventually got peace/ceasefire treaty and eventually got to keep large parts of the country for good.

Chile was de jure Republic back then, but so is Russian Federation. Wikipedia mentions that transition to more representative parliamentary democracy only happened after this war.

  • On that angle, the US occupied the Philippines for two generation, around the same time. I'm not even sure Chile qualified as much of a dictatorship at the time (1880s). Especially since they apparently had a change of leadership during the war (1881).
    – Fizz
    Jun 12, 2022 at 17:14
  • And can you explain how this war qualifies for "conquest is not internationally recognized"? I don't seen anything like that in the wiki page.
    – Fizz
    Jun 12, 2022 at 17:19
  • "Chile was also to occupy the provinces of Tacna and Arica for 10 years, when a plebiscite was to be held to determine nationality. ...Finally, in 1929, mediation under US President Herbert Hoover caused the Treaty of Lima to be signed by which Chile kept Arica, and Peru reacquired Tacna." - i.e. it was not recognized for around 30 years
    – alamar
    Jun 12, 2022 at 17:47
  • Not recognized by whom? International recognition doesn't generally refer to the warring parties, but to third parties. Given that the war essentially contemporary with the European powers Scramble for Africa, it's hard to see how the'd have objected much... Interestingly, the only thing that Britain seems to have cared about (in re this war) was not being held responsible for acts of war with warships made in its dockyards...
    – Fizz
    Jun 12, 2022 at 17:49
  • 1
    And the mutual relations between Bolivia and Chile are still bad; they e.g. didn't have full diplomatic relations for 60 years. Recent Bolician presidents like Evo Morales wan't the 1904 treaty "scrapped" bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-22287222 But still that doesn't mean the resulting borders aren't internationally recognized.
    – Fizz
    Jun 12, 2022 at 18:02

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