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annexation,in international law, formal act by which a state asserts its sovereignty over a territory previously outside its jurisdiction. Many kinds of territory have been subject to annexation, chief among them those inhabited by settlers of the annexing power, those which already have had the status of protectorates of the annexing state, and those conquered by the force of arms. The consent of other interested powers must be obtained in order that the annexation be generally recognized in international law. Efforts to establish the self-determination of inhabitants as the only grounds for the transfer of territory have been realized in the Charter of the United Nations, which does not recognize annexation as an instrument of national policy. The term annexation is also used in municipal government to describe the process by which an incorporated local government may extend its legal control over surrounding areas. Usually this type of annexation requires the consent of the other communities concerned.
appropriation by force (seizure) of all or a part of the territory of a state or people. In general, wars ended in annexation during the slave-owning and feudal periods; in the period of capitalism, annexation became the basic means of expanding the territory of one state at the expense of another. The list of instances of annexation contains several kinds of colonial seizure as well as a variation of annexation—the creation of states with puppet regimes (for example, the formation in 1932 of Manchukuo by Japan).
In the very first days of its existence, the Soviet state enacted the Decree on Peace, in which it set forth its position on the question of annexation, defining annexation as any appropriation of a small or weak nationality without its definite, clear, and voluntarily expressed consent, no matter when this forced appropriation took place, how advanced or retarded the nation which has been forcibly annexed or forcibly contained within the borders of a given state, or, finally, where the given nation is located—in Europe or in distant transoceanic countries (Collection of Statutes of the RSFSR, 1917, no. 1, p. 2.)
The USSR consistently opposes the policy of annexation, defending the right of all peoples to self-determination and independence (for example, the protest of the Soviet government concerning the annexation of Czechia—Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia—and other regions of Czechoslovakia by Hitler’s Germany in 1939 and the protest to the Soviet government concerning the annexation of Austria in 1938 by Hitler’s Germany).
According to the standards of contemporary international law, annexation is illegal. The United Nations Charter forbids any threat of force or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political autonomy of any state (ch. 1, arts. 1, 2, etc.). In spite of the illegality of annexation, imperialist states continue their predatory policy in the form of covert annexation (for example, the USA’s extention of the status of statehood to the annexed Hawaiian Islands) or in the form of overt annexation (for example, the annexation of South West Africa by the Republic of South Africa).
A. V. SPERANSKAIA