Hetalia is one abbreviated name of a Japanese anime/manga series by Hidekaz Himaruya, alternatively known as Axis Powers Hetalia, Hetalia: Axis Powers, and Hetalia: World Series. It is a comedic retelling of world history using anthropomorphic personifications to represent different countries, starting with the Axis and Allied Powers of World War Two. "Hetalia" is a portmanteau of the Japanese words hetare and Italia, the former meaning something like "pathetic" or "helpless" and the latter being Japanese for "Italy." It is a reference to one of the main characters, who represents (Northern) Italy and is well known for both his love of pasta and his tactics of either surrendering or running away when confronted with a fight.
The series started out as a webcomic before becoming popular enough to spawn both a manga and an anime, along with a movie named "Paint It, White," a video game, and several CDs. It is meant to be a humorous series, hence the title and the behaviors of the personifications of the nations. The series is not set on any specific timeline, though it did start out with WWII, and so tends to cover a wide range of historical events, such as both World Wars, colonizations/conquests of Italy (both the northern and southern parts, which are represented by two separate characters), and the War of Austrian Succession along with some strips/episodes that don't focus on any particular time period and/or are set in modern times. It also includes a wide array of nations.
In Fanfiction Edit
This series does suffer from some shipping wars, but luckily, due to the enormous cast—over 40 characters have shown up in some way in the series—and an abundance of justifications for ships (due to historical or canon events), they usually are not too serious nor result in too many cases of characters dying for a ship. However, this does not mean that the fandom is free of bad slash, and it is probably more prone to it, since the majority of the cast are males.