Congress of Oppressed Nationalities closes in Rome

The Congress of Oppressed Nationalities, convened in Rome, Italy, during the second week of April 1918, closes on April 10, after representatives from the Czechoslovak, South Slav (or Yugoslav), Romanian and Polish National Committees proclaim their right to become “completely independent national States” after World War I ends.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s call for “self-determination” for all nations in his famous Fourteen Points speech, delivered in January 1918, began a decisive year in the history of the diverse peoples of central and eastern Europe. America’s entry into the war brought renewed hope to the exhausted Allies–France Britain, and Italy–and made them far more receptive to plans made by representatives of the Czech and South Slav populations now under control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Even Italy, with its hopes of territorial expansion along the Dalmatian coast, chose to support the right of the South Slavs to independence. With Russia out of the war, the other Allies no longer had to respect that nation’s claims to Poland, and they also began to defend the notion of a reorganized, independent Poland that would emerge when the war had been won.

The Congress of Oppressed Nationalities was sponsored by the Allies–particularly France and Italy–and designed to encourage the minority populations of different ethnicities inside Germany and particularly Austria-Hungary to assert their right to self-determination and rebel against their oppressors, thus weakening the Central Powers and making an Allied victory more likely. The congress’s closing vote, on April 10, denounced the Hapsburg government as an impediment to the rightful freedom and development of the nations and called for the dismemberment of Austria-Hungary once it had been defeated in the war.

As the delegates who attended the congress recognized, the future of the central and eastern European peoples–to a greater extent than that of anyone else in Europe or the rest of the world–rested wholly on the outcome of World War I. If the Central Powers proved victorious, which still seemed possible in the spring of 1918, the different nationalities living in the Austro-Hungarian Empire would be given autonomous status but would remain under the control of the empire, now ruled by Emperor Karl I of Austria. If the Entente proved victorious, on the other hand, the empire would be broken into pieces, with the South Slavs joined in a large state ruled by the Serbian monarchy and the Czechs and Slovaks united into a single state, Czechoslovakia. In both cases, Poland would likely gain its independence, and would serve as a buffer between Europe and the vast expanse of the newly created Soviet state.


Zapata assassinated in Mexico

Emiliano Zapata, a leader of peasants and indigenous people during the Mexican Revolution, is ambushed and shot to death in Morelos by government forces. Born a peasant in 1879, Zapata was forced into the Mexican army in 1908 following his attempt to recover village lands taken more

Bataan Death March begins

The day after the surrender of the main Philippine island of Luzon to the Japanese, the 75,000 Filipino and American troops captured on the Bataan Peninsula begin a forced march to a prison camp near Cabanatuan. During this infamous trek, known as the “Bataan Death March,” the more

Chaplin receives Oscar

As part of his first visit to the United States in 20 years, British film pioneer Charlie Chaplin accepts an honorary Academy Award for his “incalculable” contribution to the art of filmmaking. Chaplin, once America’s most successful movie star and director, had left the country more

Hertz rental car founder born

On this day in 1879, Sandor Herz—the future John Hertz, the man behind what will one day be the world’s largest car-rental company—is born in present-day Slovakia. Hertz immigrated to America with his family as a child and grew up in Chicago. In 1915, he founded the Yellow Cab more

ASPCA is founded

On April 10, 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is founded in New York City by philanthropist and diplomat Henry Bergh, 54. In 1863, Bergh had been appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to a diplomatic post at the Russian court of Czar more

B-52s begin bombing North Vietnam

Although the U.S. command refuses to confirm publicly the location of targets, U.S. B-52 bombers reportedly begin bombing North Vietnam for the first time since November 1967. The bombers struck in the vicinity of Vinh, 145 miles north of the Demilitarized Zone. It was later more

Tiger Woods wins fourth Masters

Tiger Woods wins his fourth Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club after a 15-foot birdie on the first hole of the sudden-death playoff against Chris DiMarco on April 10, 2005. The victory was Woods’ ninth major championship on the PGA tour. Eldrick “Tiger” Woods more

FDR creates Civilian Conservation Corps

On this day in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), an innovative federally funded organization that put thousands of Americans to work during the Great Depression on projects with environmental benefits. In 1932, FDR took more

Civilian Conservation Corps created

The Civilian Conservation Corps, a tool for employing young men and improving the government’s vast holdings of western land, is created in Washington, D.C. One of the dozens of New Deal programs created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to fight the Great Depression, the more

Atomic submarine sinks in Atlantic

On this day in 1963, the USS Thresher, an atomic submarine, sinks in the Atlantic Ocean, killing the entire crew. One hundred and twenty-nine sailors and civilians were lost when the sub unexpectedly plunged to the sea floor 300 miles off the coast of New England. The Thresher more

A torture chamber is uncovered by arson

On this day in 1834, a fire at the LaLaurie mansion in New Orleans, Louisiana, leads to the discovery of a torture chamber where slaves are routinely brutalized by Delphine LaLaurie. Rescuers found a 70-year-old black woman trapped in the kitchen during the fire because she was more

U.S. table tennis team visits communist China

The U.S. table tennis team begins a weeklong visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) at the invitation of China’s communist government. The well-publicized trip was part of the PRC’s attempt to build closer diplomatic relations with the United States, and was the beginning more

General Lee gives final address to troops

One day after surrendering to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, Confederate General Robert E. Lee addresses his army for the last time. “After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to more