Countries of Europe that were colonised or semi-colonised

Nov 2017
One would think that colonisation is something that occurs solely to non-European countries, but that is actually not the case. From the 16th century on we've seen European countries that have been essentially colonised even if just indirectly. Here they are in no particular order:


After the succession crisis that hit Portugal after its king stupidly died in an ill-prepared colonial adventure in Morocco, Spain invaded the country, got rid of anti-Spanish nobles and annexed it alongside all of the colonial empire that Portugal possessed, forming what is now known as the Iberian Union in 1580.

But it didn't stop there. Portugal managed to become independent of Spain again after 60 years in 1640, but at that point Holland had stolen much if not most of its colonies, including the entire half of Brazil that was composed of the whole of the Brazilian coastline, and was forced to sign humiliating treaties after treaties that basically made the Portuguese economy fall in control of the Dutch even after the Netherlands had agreed to give back Brazil.

This only got worse when Britain ascended, again Portugal's economy basically getting controlled from London after signing humiliating treaties that privileged the British. The fact that Britain conquered Gibraltar, close to the Portuguese coast, only made things worse. If we point out that Portugal was then invaded and conquered by Napoleon it simply becomes overkill.


The Irish are perhaps the best known of all the European anti-colonial freedom fighters if the multiple portrayals of the Irish Republican Army in popular media are taken into account. Colonialism in Ireland started in the 16th century when the English began to push their claims for the entire island hard, started persecuting Catholicism and then became a battleground between Spain and England as Spain supported anti-English rebels and regularly occupied the island to do so.

This would continue in the 17th century until around the Peace of Westphalia when the English finally kicked the Spanish out and proceeded to end the colonisation process that started in the prior century. Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland, performed massacres and helped pacifying it that way. Ulster became basically the centre of a viceroyalty that controlled all of the country.

To make everything worse, the union between Scotland and England only consolidated English rule over Ireland even more as it now had more resources to administer its Irish colonial viceroyalty with the help of Scotland, and it also had more legal grounds as another country had recognised the English right to rule the country of the Irish people.

British brutality over the Irish would lead to the famous potato famine that killed over 1 million people, many Irish would also be sent into prison labour in Australia while others escaped into the US where they were hardly treated better until several decades later. The Irish had to fight a war of independence against Britain in the 20th century to finally liberate themselves, and it still failed to liberate the entire country as northern Ireland still remains a firm British colony to this day.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (PLC) became a major Central European power in the 16th century, but its maritime Baltic economy came to be largely controlled by Holland, Sweden and Denmark in the 17th century, and suffered repeatedly from wars and invasions by the latter two, not to mention how Dutch wars with other countries affected the Baltic economy severely.

All of this made the PLC nothing but a weakened carcass of its former self, so that it suffered not one, not two but three partitions by Prussia, Russia and Austria just in the 18th century alone. The former PLC would then suffer even more with the Napoleonic conquest and the subsequent British victory over France that devastated these territories even more thanks to war and economic domination.

As if this wasn't enough, they would get invaded and practically annexed by Nazi Germany in WWII - with Stalin reinvading them at first as well -, after having gotten their hard-fought independence from Prussia, Russia and Austria in WWI and following the October Revolution. Nowadays the Baltics and Poland are under permanent occupation by US forces and are subordinated states of NATO and the European Union.


Speaking of Austria, this Central European territory was once the heart of the Holy Roman Empire. Even when it was basically absorbed into Spain, Austria was never treated as a colony and actually benefited in good measure, though not as much as other portions of Spain's empire like the Low Countries, from the colonial plundering done by the Spaniards. The Austrians even basically got control over Bohemia and Hungary by the end of the 16th century.

However, the 17th century proved disastrous for Austria. Even though it managed to stop the Ottoman advancement into Europe, the devastation of neighbouring German territories during the Thirty Years War, the ascension of Holland which took away a good portion of the economic income from Austria and the circling of Austria by powerful German princes left Austria a weakened state.

Of course it still managed to recover somewhat in the 18th and even 19th centuries by conquering part of Poland and resisting incursions by other European powers, but Napoleon would successfully invade and devastate Austria and Prussia would later unify many of the German territories circling Austria, taking control over most of its economy. The only respite the Austrians got was they got to fully annex Hungary and Bohemia and part of the Balkans into their empire.

But then WWI came along, Austria-Hungary ceased to exist in their entirety and were left as nothing but balkanised middle-sized states economically dependent completely on Britain and the United States. As if that wasn't enough, Hitler would annex Austria and the newly formed country of Czechoslovakia to Germany, as well as reducing the now independent Hungary to a puppet state, which would then be occupied by Allied troops.


Spain's process of becoming a semi-colony at the very least started after the Thirty Years War. The humiliating subordination of Portugal to Holland and later Britain affected Spain as well since it's one of its closest neighbours, and Gibraltar got not only conquered but practically colonised by Britain, with which the Spanish economy was controlled from London.

Later Spain got invaded and conquered by Napoleon and became little more than a battleground between Britain and France as its colonial empire also crumbled and Britain made it so that most its American possessions were lost and subordinated to British interests on top of that, what has come to be known as Britain's "informal empire".

Spain again became a battleground for rivalling European powers, mainly Britain and Germany, during its two civil wars roughly coinciding with WWI and WWII. During WWII Spain would basically become a puppet state of Nazi Germany under Francisco Franco, and after Hitler's defeat, it would switch sides to the US based on their common anti-Communist goal.

Recovery from colonialism has come after the death of Franco, but the economic problems and political instability caused by membership in the European Union and NATO which became completely apparent in this decade shows how this recovery has been slow.

The Balkans

The Balkans are a multiplicity of countries which is why I have to group them here since otherwise we would be all day here. Ever since the 19th century the Balkans have been conquered or indirectly controlled by Britain, Germany, Russia and the United States. The Russians and the British supported "independence" movements against Ottoman rule in the 19th century that were in reality nothing but pro-British and pro-Russian tools to create puppet states.

Later in WWI the Austrians tried to take control over parts of the Balkans and Germany supported this, wanting to carve territory in the Mediterranean to have further access to the Egyptian Suez Canal ruled by Britain. After they got beaten, they remained indirect dependencies of Britain, until WWII when fascist Italy and Nazi Germany invaded the Balkans and either annexed them or installed puppet states.

The Allies would then invade and occupy the Balkans, from which socialist Yugoslavia, Communist Romania and Bulgaria and fascist Greece emerged. After the Cold War, they would suffer from the Yugoslavian war where NATO devastated the country by bombing it, ending with the disintegration of the Balkans into various mini-states that were occupied by NATO and still are to this day and were introduced into the European Union which has economically devastated them.


The last country in our list remarkable for having emerged with relatively high living standards despite suffering from continual colonisation attempts by other European countries. Although Sweden controlled either directly or indirectly much of the territory of Finland, actual colonisation didn't begin until after the Reformation when the Kingdom of Sweden started to rather furiously colonise Finland as an enclave against Russia.

These attempts were heavily intensified during the 17th century when Sweden under Gustavus Adolfus became a major European power. The Finnish people, including the Sami, would be evicted from their lands or put under heavy intensified labour, killing many. The fact that Sweden waged various wars against Russia didn't help the Finns at all, and Russia certainly returned the Swedish aggression with equal vigour.

Eventually after centuries of Swedish attempts at conquering Russia by invading from Finland, the Russians were able to steal Finland away and annex it completely to their own colonial empire. It would remain a Russian possession for well over a century until 1918 when the Finns were devastated by White Army attempts at reducing it to a stronghold against Communism and finally declared independence against Soviet attempts at leaving it a Russian territory to prevent the creation of a White stronghold.

Stalin would go on to invade Finland in WWII and the Nazis followed suit, after they had reduced much of Scandinavia to a puppet state, affecting Finland that way too. Following the Nazi defeat and the devastation of Russia by the Nazi invasion, Stalin would resign all claims to Finland and the Nazis would leave, Finland remaining an independent state that miraculously managed to recover after five centuries of Swedish and Russian colonialism, though with the Sami people still living with rather unequal conditions.


Forum Staff
Mar 2008
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
Is some government paying you spread disinformation.?

Your writing style betrays your mind set.