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Between 1920 and 1939, a total of 63 countries became member states of the League of Nations. The Covenant forming the League of Nations was included in the Treaty of Versailles and came into force on 10 January 1920, with the League of Nations being dissolved on 18 April 1946; its assets and responsibilities were transferred to the United Nations.

The League's greatest extent was from 28 September 1934 (when Ecuador joined) to 23 February 1935 (when Paraguay withdrew) with 58 members. At this time, only Costa Rica (22 January 1925), Brazil (14 June 1926), Japan (27 March 1933) and Germany (19 October 1933) had withdrawn, and only Egypt was later joined (on 26 May 1937).

The members (listed from their earliest joining and alphabetically if they joined on the same day) at that time were Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, the British Empire, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, El Salvador, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Italy, Liberia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Persia/Iran, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Siam, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, Luxembourg, Albania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Irish Free State, Ethiopia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Turkey, Iraq, the Soviet Union, Afghanistan, and Ecuador.

Of the 42 founding members,[1] 23 (or 24, counting the Free France) were members when the League of Nations was dissolved in 1946. A further 21 countries joined between 1920 and 1937, but seven had withdrawn, left, or been expelled before 1946.

Countries are listed under the year in which they joined. Several countries withdrew after joining; the Covenant stipulated that a withdrawing country kept its obligations and membership for two years. Several countries also ceased to exist after annexation by Germany, Italy, or the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was expelled from the League in 1939 after its invasion of Finland, and was the only country to face that measure.

Despite formulating the concept and signing the Covenant, the United States never joined the League of Nations. Saudi Arabia (then the Kingdom of Hejaz) also signed the Covenant but did not join, and some relatively-isolated sovereign states in Europe and Asia did not join either, including Iceland, Yemen, Mongolia, Nepal, and Bhutan. Ecuador signed the Covenant but did not join until 14 years later.

Likewise, none of the European microstates of Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City ever sought membership in the organization.[citation needed]

At the IX Congress of European Nationalities, an organization of the League of Nations, held in Bern, Galicia, Basque Country and Catalonia, the first three autonomies of Spain, were recognized as a nation. In any case, they were not independent but were represented by the Spanish government.[2]


A map of the world in the years 1920–1945, which shows the League of Nations members during its history.
  Colonies of members
  Colonies of non-members

10 January 1920: founding members











1939 expulsion of the Soviet Union

On 14 December 1939,[14] the Soviet Union was expelled for invading Finland in violation of the Covenant of the League of Nations, by a Council vote of 7-0-4-3 (7 in favor, 0 against, 4 abstaining, 3 absent).[15] The British Empire, France, Belgium, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, South Africa, and Egypt voted in favor; the Republic of China, Finland, Greece, and Yugoslavia abstained; and Iran, Peru, and the Soviet Union itself were absent. Three of the votes in favor had been made Council members the day before the vote (South Africa, Bolivia, and Egypt). This was one of the League's final acts before it practically ceased functioning.[16]

It has been disputed whether the expulsion was legally valid. Article 16 paragraph 4 of the Covenant states that the Council may expel a member from the League if all members of the Council other than the to-be-expelled member concur. However, it is unclear if abstentions or absences are permitted for expulsion votes (though it is undisputed that they are allowed for non-expulsion unanimous Council decisions).[15] Even if permitted, it is disputed whether the expulsion could be legally valid without a majority (8 out of 14) of the Council in favor.[16][failed verification]

Regardless, both the expulsion and dispute had little practical effect. The Soviet Union had already declared nine days earlier that it would be absent from the League until further notice, it acknowledged its expulsion[17] and made no move to challenge it on the disputed grounds, no other member was ever expelled from the League to demonstrate any precedent, and the League took no further significant actions due to the Second World War.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Buell, Raymond Leslie (1929). International Relations. H. Holt. p. 647.
  2. ^ Perez Pena, Marcos (13 September 2013). "80 años desde que Galicia es oficialmente nación". Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  3. ^ South America Archived 10 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Encyclopedia of World History
  4. ^ League of Nations chronology, United Nations
  5. ^ Czechoslovakia never formally left the League and was present at the last meeting of the Assembly in 1946
  6. ^ Left upon German takeover in 1943[citation needed]
  7. ^ Hannsjoachim Wolfgang Koch, Macmillan International Higher Education, 1985, Aspects Of The Third Reich, p. 297
  8. ^ Occupied by Axis Powers 1941–1945
  9. ^ Hell, Stephan (8 January 2020). "A seat at the table". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  10. ^ Withdrew from active participation in the League after its defeat by the Soviet Union in 1944.
  11. ^ Forced to withdraw by German occupation in May 1940 and incorporation into the German Reich.
  12. ^ Forced to withdraw by Italian invasion of 1939.
  13. ^ Toledo-García, Itzel; University of Essex, UK: ‘’"La cuestión de la dignidad nacional en el ingreso de México a la Sociedad de Naciones, 1919-1931"’’ [1] Retrieved 4 September 2016. (Translated from Spanish: "On September 7th, 1931, the British Empire, Germany, Northern Ireland, Spain, France, Italy and Japan began the initiative; next day the proposal was adopted unanimously by the assembly, and the invitation was sent to the government of Mexico. The 10th of September the acceptance was communicated in Geneva… Two days later, Mexico was declared member of the League of Nations.")
  14. ^ Scott 1973, pp. 312, 398.
  15. ^ a b c Gross, Leo. “Was the Soviet Union Expelled From the League of Nations?” The American Journal of International Law, vol. 39, no. 1, 1945, pp. 35–44. JSTOR, Accessed 19 Feb. 2024.
  16. ^ a b Magliveras 1999, p. 31.
  17. ^ Magliveras 1999, p. 26.


Further reading