3 Really Long Wars

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Some wars seem to go on forever, and others actually do. Here are a few wars that have outlasted entire generations of people.

1. Isles of Scilly vs. Dutch Republic (335 Years)

The Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years' War is not only among the world's longest wars, but also one with the fewest casualties. Remarkably, a shot was never even fired, and the two parties didn't even know that they were in a war.

stmartins.jpgThe conflict originated during the Second English Civil War, part of the historic fight between Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentarians against King Charles I and his Royalist army. The Parliamentarians dominated the war and reduced the Royalists to a single stronghold in Cornwall, in the western United Kingdom. The Royalists were forced to retreat to the islands of Scilly, a scarcely populated archipelago known for its natural beauty (kind of a British Hawaii). The Dutch owed England for their help during the 80 Years' War against the Spanish, and so they sided with the seeming victor and sent naval support to the Isles of Scilly. The Dutch suffered serious cargo and ship losses; Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp went to Scilly to demand reparations from the Royalists. When he was denied, he declared war specifically upon the Isles of Scilly on April 17, 1651. Months later, the Royalists surrendered to the Parliamentarians, King Charles was beheaded, and the Dutch left the area without officially declaring peace.

In 1985, a historian wrote to the Dutch Embassy in London asking them to dispel the myth that the two parties remained in a war. After some research, the myth was proven true. A light-hearted peace treaty signing ceremony took place April 17, 1986, exactly 335 years after war had been declared.

2. Arauco War (About 290 Years)

During their domination of South America, the Spanish repeatedly tried to colonize the Mapuche, who had already thwarted attempts by the Incas. The war started in 1536 at the Battle of Reynogüelén, where the Spanish met a strong army while attempting to investigate the Strait of Magellan. The Mapuche refused to let the Spanish even cut through their territory and attacked the small Spanish army. Though the Spanish were outnumbered 24,000 to 5,000, their advanced weapons killed thousands of Mapuches and forced them to retreat.

270px-Espanoles_guerreando_en_chile_ovalle.jpgOver the following decades, the two sides met often in battle, with mixed results. But the Mapuche remained independent from Spanish rule, thanks in part to the natural boundary of the Bio Bio River. Battles were common during the 300 years of Spanish presence, but trade and interchange between Mapuche and Spaniards or Chileans also became common. The heaviest fighting occurred before 1609, when a maintenance treaty was signed between the Spanish-appointed governor of Chile and the Mapuche chiefs.

The War of Chilean Independence expelled Spanish rule from Chile. Surprisingly, the Mapuches opposed the war and the transition. With the Spanish gone, peace was established on January 7, 1825, about 290 years after the first battle. Chile used force and diplomacy to absorb Mapuche territories and the Mapuche were immediately devastated by starvation, disease and economic loss.

3. Japan, Russia and Montenegro (Various Lengths)

Diplomatic technicalities have legally extended many wars, but some of the strangest seem to involve Russia and Japan.

peace-treaty.jpgThe Russo-Japanese war started in 1904 and lasted only a year. Montenegro, a small Adriatic republic, showed support for their ally Russia by also declaring war on Japan. Of course, the tiny nation of Montenegro didn't have a navy or really any way to engage in combat against the Japanese, who were thousands of miles away. Though the actual war was rather swift, Montenegro didn't attend the signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth with Russian and Japan, nor did they seek their own treaty. The issue was forgotten about for decades as Montenegro joined Yugoslavia and later Serbia, but was brought to attention when Montenegro opted for sole independence in 2006. Finally, the Japan and Montenegro signed an official peace treaty in 2006. [Image courtesy of Britannica.com.]

But, wait, that's not it. Russia, now the Soviet Union, declared war on Japan again in 1945 during World War II and remain formally in a state of war to this day. Though they were in attendance, the Soviet Union refused to sign Treaty of San Francisco, the peace pact between the Allied Powers and Japan signed in 1951. The Soviet delegation opposed the lack of a guarantee against Japanese militarism and the exclusion of communist China from the conference (among other things). Additionally, the two nations still have a heated dispute over ownership of the Kuril Islands, an area taken by the Soviets during the war. Japan maintains that the islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and the Habomai rocks are not part of the Kuril Islands, and thus belong to Japan. Russia maintains that they own the four disputed islands. The two nations signed a joint declaration of peace to restore diplomatic relations in 1956. However, they have not formally ended the declaration of war. Russia will hand over the Shikotan and Habomai islands "provided that the actual changing over to Japan of these islands will be carried out after the conclusion of a peace treaty." So far, no one has proposed a treaty and Russia administers all of the Kuril Islands. The issue was raised again in summer 2008 when the Japanese government issued a new guideline for textbooks stating that the islands were under their rule.

December 23, 2008 - 12:52pm
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