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Also called Second World War, a conflict that involved virtually every part of the world during the years 193945. The principal belligerents were the Axis powersGermany, Italy, and Japanand the AlliesFrance, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China. The war was in many respects a continuation, after an uneasy 20-year hiatus, of the disputes left unsettled by World War I. The 40,000,00050,000,000 deaths incurred in World War II make it the bloodiest conflict as well as the largest war in history.
Along with World War I, World War II was one of the great watersheds of 20th-century geopolitical history. It resulted in the extension of the Soviet Union's power to nations of eastern Europe, enabled a Communist movement eventually to achieve power in China, and marked the decisive shift of power in the world away from the states of western Europe and toward the United States and the Soviet Union.