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Top 10 Real Life Plot Twists That Changed History Forever

Top 10 Real Life Plot Twists That Changed History Forever
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
We didn't see that coming! For this list, we'll be going over the plot twists and other unexpected events that had a big impact on history. Our countdown includes Japan Wins the Russo-Japanese War, Gore Loses, Bush Wins, Napoleon's Return, and more!

Top 10 Real Life Plot Twists That Changed History Forever


Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 real life plot twists that changed history forever.

For this list, we’ll be going over the plot twists and other unexpected events that had a big impact on history.

If we shockingly left one out of our list, be sure to surprise us in the comments below!

#10: Genghis Khan Gets Snubbed

Khwarezmia (hhhwarr-EZZ-MEE-uh) was an empire covering much of modern-day Afghanistan and Iran. In the early 11th century, they were contacted by Genghis Khan, who sought to create a trade agreement and possible alliance. But then the disrespect began. A 500-person caravan that arrived from the Khan was captured and killed with the sultan’s approval, and further ambassadors that arrived to free them were also executed. In response, Genghis broke off his attacks on China, and spent three years decimating the Khwarezmian Empire, killing close to 2 million people, or nearly a quarter of their population. The conquest led to the empire’s downfall and was an important stepping stone for later Mongol campaigns to the west.

#9: Japan Wins the Russo-Japanese War

In the early 20th century, both Japan and Russia had designs on Manchuria and Korea. Despite the island nation being much smaller and seeking to negotiate early on, Japan managed to get the better of Russia in the ensuing year-and-a-half long conflict. Given Russia’s status as a great power at the time, the rest of the big name nations at the time were surprised Japan achieved victory. Its triumph not only opened up its further conquests on mainland Asia that would play a large part in its imperialism for the next half century, but Russia’s defeat also sowed the seeds for the Russian Revolution in 1905 and the rise of the Soviet Union.

#8: The Industrial Revolution’s Disastrous Consequences

The Industrial Revolution changed everything! The development of new manufacturing processes and power sources essentially created the modern world as we know it today, with huge changes in everything from technology to social norms. However, there have also obviously been plenty of unforeseen consequences to all the innovations. Easily the most harmful has been the increase in pollution worldwide, which has had a drastic effect on the environment. And while the standard of living has risen in some parts of the world, in others the Industrial Revolution has only widened the gap between the rich and the poor.

#7: A Slip of the Tongue Brought Down the Wall Early

Creating a physical barrier between East and West Berlin, as well as the East and West areas of Europe, was probably doomed from the start, but the moment the Berlin Wall’s downfall was secured was pretty unexpected. In 1989, the East German press spokesman Günter Schabowski (geunter shah-PAWV-shee) was set to announce an easing of travel restrictions between East and West, but had not been informed of the specifics before delivering the message. Although the plan was to implement them the following day, Schabowski, ignorant of this, told the press it went into effect immediately; prompting a flood of people to cross, which led to the guards being overwhelmed and the public dismantling the wall.

#6: Terms of Peace Set the Stage for More Wars

The Treaty of Versailles was the treaty that ended the first World War. However, its terms, instead of ensuring that it really was “the war to end all wars,” instead sowed the seeds for more to follow. Although WWII was somewhat foreseen even then, with a French general even calling the treaty an “armistice for 20 years,” the signers did not predict how their wanton boundary dividing would lead to so many — still — ongoing conflicts in the Middle-East or how the denial of Vietnam’s independence would partially instigate the Vietnam War. You could argue that most treaties are just stopgaps, but this one had such an impact on troubles that still persist until today that it still feels shocking.

#5: Gore Loses, Bush Wins

The 2000 U.S. presidential election was one of the most contentious and momentous in the nation’s modern history. A battle over recounting votes in Florida essentially decided the whole thing, along with a related Supreme Court decision, and led to an unexpected (and still debated) victory by George W. Bush. Not too long after came the horrors of 9/11, and subsequently ormer President Bush and his administration proceeded to entangle the country in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, while also declaring war on terrorism. Had Gore won, it’s unlikely most of these wars would have arisen or at least lasted so long.

#4: Prussia Saved by Fanboy

While the Seven Years’ War, beginning in 1756, is primarily remembered for being a conflict between Britain and France, many European countries took sides, and Prussia aided Britain while also seeking to expand its own territory. Things were looking bleak for the kingdom until Russia’s Czarina Elizabeth died. Her nephew, German-born Peter III, was a great admirer of Prussia’s Frederick II, and pulled Russia out of the war and signed a peace treaty with them, saving his idol and the country from certain ruin. Without this act, Prussia probably would never have survived long enough to unify Germany. Peter’s actions also caused him to be deposed by his wife, Catherine, later called the Great, who ushered in a golden age for Russia.

#3: Napoleon’s Return

As great a military commander as he was, Napoleon still lost big-time in Russia. This allowed a coalition of allies to drive him to defeat, forcing his abdication and leading to his exile to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean in 1814. However, less than a year later, the former emperor escaped his imprisonment and marched back to Paris, with few men to start with. Astonishingly, he managed to win every French army sent against him; growing his forces and retaking his throne with little bloodshed. Of course, he was defeated again a mere 3 months or so later, but how often does the defeated tyrant come back?!

#2: Arabs Defeat Byzantines & Persians

The Sassanid (suh-SAY-nid) Empire of Persia and the Byzantine Empire were engaged in a 30-year war in the early 7th century, one of many conflicts between the two rivals. However, no one at the time could have predicted that both impressive empires would be conquered by an Arabian army sweeping up from the south. Sure, 3 decades of war had depleted both empires, but they were still major powerhouses, and the Arab forces were the underdogs. Yet they succeeded through superior tactics and the conversion of their foes to their new religion – Islam. The conquest essentially ended the last of the Roman empire, and Persian culture had a heavy influence on Islam going forward.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Grand Princess of Kiev’s Brutal Revenge
Olga’s Enemies Expected a Meek Widow, but She Defeated Them All

Spanish Double Agent
Juan Pujol García (poo-JJJJOLE) Pretended to Be a Nazi Sympathizer, But Misled Them to Facilitate D-Day

Harvard Psychological Experiments Created the Unabomber
Ted Kaczynski Had His Beliefs Broken Down, And He Later Built Explosive New Ones

Assassins’ Second Attempt Helped Launch WWI
Franz Ferdinand’s Driver Took a Wrong Turn and Assassins Finished the Job

#1: Hitler Attacks Russia

Despite both Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union signing a non-aggression pact, the former launched an unprecedented assault on Russia a few years later. Codenamed Operation Barbarossa, Hitler committed millions of troops to the invasion, more than any other force in history. The invasion was devastating for both attackers and defenders, with millions killed in both combat and in murders by the Nazis. Ultimately though, opening up the Eastern Front proved very costly for Hitler, as it brought the Russians into the war against him and divided his attentions, massively contributing to the eventual loss of the war for Germany. If he had held off, who knows how the war would have turned out.
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