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method of political analysis, popular in Central Europe during the first half of the 20th cent., that emphasized the role played by geography in international relations. Geopolitical theorists stress that natural political boundaries and access to important waterways are vital to a nation's survival. The term was first used (1916) by Rudolf Kjeflen, a Swedish political scientist, and was later borrowed by Karl HaushoferHaushofer, Karl
, 1869–1946, German geographer, theorist of Nazi geopolitics, including the doctrines that the state is a living organism and that race and territory are linked. After a successful military career he became (1921) professor of geography at Munich.
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, a German geographer and follower of Friedrich RatzelRatzel, Friedrich
, 1844–1904, German geographer. He traveled as a journalist in Europe (1869) and in Cuba, Mexico, and the United States (1872–75). Thereafter he devoted himself to geographical studies and taught geography at the polytechnical school in Munich
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. Haushofer founded (1922) the Institute of Geopolitics in Munich, from which he proceeded to publicize geopolitical ideas, including Sir Walford J. Mackinder's theory of a European "heartland" central to world domination. Haushofer's writings found favor with the Nazi leadership, and his ideas were used to justify German expansion during the Nazi era. Many expansionist justifications, including the American "manifest destiny" as well as the German Lebensraum, are based on geopolitical considerations. Geopolitics is different from political geography, a branch of geography concerned with the relationship between politics and the environment.


See A. Dorpalen, The World of General Haushofer (1942, repr. 1966); W. A. D. Jackson, ed., Politics and Geographic Relationships (2d ed. 1971); S. B. Cohen, Geography and Politics in a World Divided (2d ed. 1973); P. O'Sullivan, Geopolitics (1986).



a bourgeois, reactionary concept that employs misinterpreted data of physical and economic geography to substantiate and propagandize the aggressive policies of imperialist states. The fundamental ideas of geopolitics assert the decisive role of physical-geographic conditions in the life of human society and the inequality of the races. The theories of social Darwinism and of Malthusianism are also employed. Advocates of geopolitics resort to extensive use of the concepts of Lebensraum,“natural boundaries,” and geographic location in justifying militarism and wars of conquest.

The concept of geopolitics emerged in the period of imperialism. One of the first exponents of geopolitics was the Swedish political scientist and Pan-Germanist R. Kjellén, who during World War I (1914-18) proposed the term “geopolitics” for his doctrine of the state as a geographic and biological organism that strives for expansion. Other early exponents were the German geographer F. Ratzel, the English geographer H. Mackinder, and the American admiral A. T. Mahan. During the period between the two world wars, geopolitics was cultivated intensively in Germany. It became the official doctrine of German fascism. The head of the German adherents of geopolitics was General K. Haushofer, the founder and editor (1924—44) of the journal Zeitschrift für Geopolitik, which propagandized ideas of revanche and aggression. K. Haushofer had close ties with the ruling clique of the fascist party. In the USA the ideas of geopolitics were developed in the 1940’s by N. Spykman and other geographers and sociologists.

After World War II (1939-45) geopolitics began to revive in the USA, West Germany, and other imperialist states as a means of justifying the militarization of these countries and their aggressive policies and revanchist ideas, which were directed against the socialist countries and the national liberation movement. Publication of the journal Zeitschrift für Geopolitik was resumed in West Germany in 1951, and the Association of Workers in Geopolitics was reestablished. Contemporary adherents of geopolitics attempt to explain the opposition between the socialist and capitalist countries by geographic determinism.


Wittfogel, K. “Geopolitika, geograficheskii materializm i marksizm.” Pod znamenem marksizma, 1929, nos. 2-3, 6, 7-8.
Geiden, G. Kritika nemetskoi geopolitiki. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from German.)


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