I'm tired of making maps. Now I'll get to posting them. This one should be familiar to everyone. The eastern German border was from one of B_Munro's maps.
A British soldier has an unarmed German in his sights. He hesitates to shoot him, but the soldier ignores his conscience. This is war, and that was the enemy. He pulls the trigger. The German falls. Private Henry Tandey had just killed an unarmed man, one Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler. Two months later, the Great War would end.
But the Great War was not the last war in Europe, or indeed the world. The peace created by the Allies was unstable. But Germany, weak and divided, would not be the instigator of the next war. The next, big threat lay further east.
Communism was on the march. In Italy, one of the victorious powers, a communist revolution overthrew the Italian king and created the People's Republic of Italy. Unrest in the former German and Austro-Hungarian empires pitted left and right against one another, destabilizing the new democratic governments there. France and Britain did nothing, for they feared another great war. In 1928, the stock market crashed in New York, bringing more destitution and chaos to the Western world.
All of this was noted in Moscow. The Soviet Union, under the iron fist of Joseph Stalin, had cut itself off from the world under its 'socialism in one country' program. Now, with the capitalist West weak, feeble and the people on the march, Stalin thought of a plan for socialism in all countries. Communist victory in the Spanish Civil War further cemented Stalin's plans.
The first target was Finland. The country was invaded in 1940, almost without warning. While the Finns put up a valiant resistance, they were eventually crushed by the Red Army. More importantly, the British and French did nothing but smuggle arms across the Norwegian border. Next to fall were the Baltic states, and with Poland and Germany bickering with one another, the British and French could not create a united front against the Soviet Union. The British did make an ultimatum to Stalin: he could go no further in Europe. For the next two years, the Soviets then focused their efforts on carving out a sphere of influence in China, at first in conflict with Japan but then later developing an understanding with Tokyo.
By 1943, the Red Army was a new force. Trained officers had replaced those purged by Stalin in the early years. Plans for the conquest of Europe, in conjunction with the Italians and a Japanese attack against Europe's colonial possessions, was established. And by 1943, the Red Army marched across the Polish borders, with orders not to stop until they reached the Pyrenees. The nations of Europe formed a new, united front against the Soviet juggernaut, but the Polish and eastern European armies were brushed aside. In the United States, the country remained divided on the issue of war against the Soviets, with many noting that there was nothing the Americans could do now that they dominated Eurasia. America did join the war in 1944, but with their economy in shambles and large-scale civil unrest, the Americans couldn't contribute as much as they'd like. The Allies had a more successful defense across the Rhine, but with the development of new and better tanks, and the true might of Soviet industry beginning to show in full force, the Allies fell.
By 1946, Europe was red. In the East, Japan seized Europe's colonies, aided with Soviet resources. The Red Army seized the Middle East, giving them the oil they need to power their war machine. The American economy began to become a true war economy, but with Europe firmly under Soviet control, the costs of liberating the continent were too high for all but the most ardent anti-Soviets. In late 1947, the Soviets revealed to the world their newest invention: the atomic bomb, which was used against Tehran. Soon afterward, a ceasefire was reached with the Soviets.
By the 1980s, the world remains divided into the three blocs formed at the Second Great War. The Allies, dominated by the United States, remain devoted to the destruction of the Soviet menace. While democratic, the Allied nations are very intolerant of any opinion that does not meet their definition of "democratic," with any pro-Soviet or pro-Japanese sentiments censored. Britain in particular is a very militaristic and nihilistic society, knowing that war would destroy their country but planning on remaining defiant to the end. American society has taken the opposite route: it is a society which focuses on the positive at all costs. Negativity about current affairs or a hypothetical war with the Soviets is frowned upon, and will lead to social ostracism and some legal sanction.
The Soviet Union is a juggernaut, but a collapsing one. The death of Stalin created major instability as would-be successors jockeyed for power, and the end result was a troika of no-names that have let the various SSRs manage their own affairs. The Soviet Union is by no means democratic, with any anti-communist sentiment earning a man a one-way trip to Siberia, but it is the SSRs who are responsible for the day-to-day policing of their people. This has led to national rivalries within the Soviet Union, with some regions threatening to break away entirely. Italy, however, remains autocratic and centralized, which has led to violence from its Libyan and Ethiopian "fraternal socialist protectorates," who dislike the imposition of Italian culture and communism.
The Japanese Empire's alliance with the Soviets ended as soon as the war did, and it has become opposed to both the Allies and the Soviets. Believing strongly that its "divine destiny" is now to dominate the entire world, the Japanese prepare for a global war on two fronts. The Emperor, theoretically sovereign, is but a figurehead for a fanatical military, one that believes in "civilizing" the Great East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, even as this causes unrest. Its allies, India and China, have been exempted for now, because their populations are too large to treat in such a manner, but both the Indians and the Chinese are looking for a way out of the GEACPS without committing themselves to either bloc. But economic ties keep them in, for both India and China are, de facto, ruled by Japan's zaibatsu.
Technology continues to advance. While the brilliant Albert Einstein was killed during a riot instigated by the German Workers' Party before he could complete his work, many of his theories have become accepted throughout the world. Nuclear weapons are commonplace around the world, and each bloc has at least a hundred thousand nuclear warheads under its command. Jet aircraft are ubiquitous, while hovercrafts have become popular in Japan and even airships have made a comeback in the Soviet bloc. And the Allies, pioneers in laser technology, have started to place laser weapons on everything. Some Allied commanders believe that their new laser defense systems can negate the Soviet and Japanese nuclear arsenals, making them far more reckless than they ought to be.