Italian artillery in Ethiopia during
the crisis, 1936
What is it?
The Abyssinia Crisis was a diplomatic
crisis between the Kingdom of Italy
and the Empire of Ethiopia (also
known as Abyssinia).
Who was involved?
Both Ethiopia and Italy were members of the League
of Nations. Italy joined in 1919, and Ethiopia joined in
1923, seven years after Haile Selassie I was appointed
head of state.
In 1928, both countries signed the Italo-Ethiopian
Treaty of Friendship, which declared a 20 year
friendship between the two countries.
Also in 1928, the two countries signed the Kellogg-
Briand Pact, which forbid the use of war as an
“instrument of national policy”.
Benito Mussolini Haile Selassie I
When did it happen?
The Abyssinia Crisis took place during the interwar
period, starting in 1934, and officially ending in 1936
when Italy captured Addis Ababa on May 5th, during
the Second Italo-Abysinnian War.
However, Ethiopia was part of the East African
Campaign against the Axis Powers in World War II,
so the fighting continued until the war was over in
Where did it happen?
The incident that started the crisis was in the
Ogaden, a region in the Somali State in Ethiopia.
Why did it happen?
In the early 1930’s, the population of Italy was growing steadily,
and Benito Mussolini wanted to increase the size of the Italian
Empire in order to gain more raw materials, to promote
nationalism, and to provide a place for the growing population
In 1930, Italy built a fort at Walwal, in the boundary zone
between Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland.
In November 1934, an Ethiopian militia arrived at the fort and
demanded that the Italian troops leave. The next day, a British
and Ethiopian survey commission passed through the fort. The
commission protested the Italian confrontation, but the British
members of the group left to avoid conflict. The Ethiopian
members stayed, and this caused a skirmish, which started the
Ethiopia appealed to the League of Nations, and
arbitration was attempted multiple times, by both
the League and by Great Britain.
The Italians, however continued to send large
numbers of troops to areas around Ethiopia.
Eventually, the League exonerated both Ethiopia
and Italy, but on October 3, 1935, Italy invaded
Ethiopia, starting the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.
What was the result?
The crisis led to the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and
eventually to the creation of Africa Orientale Italiana
(AOI) or Italian East Africa.
It undermined the power of the League of Nations
to maintain peace throughout the world, which led
World War II.
It encouraged Italy to ally itself with Nazi Germany,
which created two definite sides in Europe, the
Allied and the Axis Powers.