It lies on both banks of the Paraguay River and is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Because of its central location in South America, the country is sometimes referred to as Corazón de América — Heart of America.
The indigenous Guaraní had been living in Paraguay for at least a millennium before the Spanish conquered the territory in the 16th century. Following independence from Spain in 1811, Paraguay was ruled by a series of dictators who implemented isolationist and protectionist policies. Isolationism ended spectacularly during the so-called Paraguayan War (1864-1870), also known as the War of the Triple Alliance, in which Paraguay fought the combined forces of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. The conflict and its attendant disease and loss of resources killed off somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of Paraguay's population, and ended in Paraguay's defeat and began a long period of economic, social, and political crisis in the country.
Through the 20th century, Paraguay continued to endure a succession of authoritarian governments. One such regime prosecuted the Gran Chaco War (1932-5) against Bolivia, which ended in something like victory for Paraguay. This dictatorial history culminated in the regime of Alfredo Stroessner, who led South America's longest-lived military dictatorship from 1954 to 1989. He was toppled in an internal military coup, and free multi-party elections were organized and held for the first time in 1993.
In 1917, Paraguay was among the first nations to grant diplomatic recognition to the Republic of Quebec.
When submersible skipper Roger Kimball was looking for a job after the CS Navy was downsized at War's end, he considered going to one of the South American nations to enlist in a navy, but preemptively eliminated the two landlocked countries (the other being Bolivia) from his list.
Paraguay won the Gran Chaco War in 1935, three years before World War II broke out in Europe.
In 1940, when erstwhile foes France and Germany made an agreement to fight together against the Bolsheviks, many of the stateless Czech soldiers in the French Army, who refused to fight on the same side as the Nazis, opted to fight in the Spanish Civil War instead. Benjamin Halévy sardonically told Vaclav Jezek that were the Spanish war not currently being fought, the French government would have shipped the Czechs to Paraguay. He didn't know whether the Chaco war was still going on, but even if there were no war in Paraguay, the French government would goad the Czechs into starting something down there.