The Age of Civil Transformation

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The Age of Civil Transformation

The Age of Civil Transformation, Nation-States and Imperalism (1789 – 1914)

1. Formation

After the German unification, Bismarck aimed to preserve the current political situation. So, he established in 1873 the League or Union of the Three Emperors: the Convention/alliance of the Historical Dynasties of Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and Russia.


The tension between Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, on the Balkan issue (powder keg of Europe) made it last for a short time.

  • Taking advantage of the decline of the Ottoman Empire (‘Sick Man of Europe’), Russia wanted to acquire straits (Bosphorus, Dardanelles) providing access to the Mediterranean Sea, and to expand its sphere of influence, it supported the aspirations for independence of the predominantly Slavic and Orthodox peoples of the Balkans. The Bulgarian uprising provided an opportunity for this: with the intervention of Russia, the Turks were defeated and agreed to the creation of Greater Bulgaria (Peace (treaty) of San-Stefano).
  • However, at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Germany, in support of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, prevented Russia from gaining too much ground: yet Greater Bulgaria could not be established, and even the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy could take over Bosnia and Herzegovina to offset Russia’s rise.

Germany was forced to choose between its allies in 1879 the military defense pact with the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy: they promised each other mutual protection against Russian and French attacks (Dual Alliance- a defensive alliance).

  • With the accession of Italy in 1882, the convention expanded into the Triple Alliance. Italy sought Germany’s defense primarily because of its North African colonial competition with the French.

With the succession of William II and the dismissal of Bismarck, German foreign policy became more aggressive(& ambitious) at the turn of the century: large-scale fleet development began and they also became involved in colonization.

  • As a result of the deteriorating German-Russian relations, in 1893, France and Russia concluded a military defense alliance (Russo-French Rapprochement) in the event of a possible German or Austro-Hungarian attack. This was preceded by economic cooperation that transcended (overcame) political contradictions (the opposite ideologies of a democratizing republic and an absolute monarchy): the large-scale influx of French capital (investment) into Russia.
  • After France surrendered to Britain in colonial conflicts (e.g., renounced the Nile Valley in favor of Britain during the Fashoda incident), in 1904 they concluded an anti-German friendship treaty, the Entente Cordiale (Cordial Agreement), which definitively demarcated(marked) their colonial claims.
    • In 1905, at the time of the First Moroccan Crisis/Tangier Crisis, Britain was already supporting France against Germany (Morocco became a French colony).
  • In the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, Russia was ugly defeated, so it no longer seemed a threat to Britain’s Asian colonies.
    • Thus, in 1907, a Russo-British friendship agreement was signed with French mediation. It was also merely a friendly treaty to designate colonial claims.
    • The 3 agreements made the Triple Entente.

The conflicts of the early 20th century further strengthened the two alliance systems.

  • In 1908, with German support and despite Russian protests, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy officially annexed Slavic Bosnia and Herzegovina to its territory.
  • In 1911, in the Agadir Incident/ Second Moroccan Crisis, Germany became more
    isolated facing France and Britain.
  • Eventually, in the two Balkan Wars of 1912-13, the Ottoman Empire’s European presence ceased(Eastern Question).
    • In the First war, the united Serbian-Bulgarian-Greek armies defeated the Turks.
    • However, the Second War broke out over the distribution of liberated territories, in which Bulgaria was defeated by Serb-Greek-Romanian-Turkish troops.
    • The Balkans have become a permanent hotbed of conflict (Balkan powder keg), and small nation states have sought the support of great powers: Serbia has become an ally of Russia.

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