Tag Archives: Russia

The Reinsurance Treaty

The Reinsurance Treaty between Germany and Russia: a brief overview

Germany and Russia signed the secret Reinsurance Treaty that ensured they would each remain neutral if the other went to war with a third European power.

Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary had entered into a second Three Emperors’ Alliance in 1881. Like the one before it, the agreement was designed by the German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, to isolate France from potential allies and avoid rivalry between his two neighbours over territory in the Balkans.

Continuing tensions between Austria-Hungary and Russia over this region led to the agreement’s collapse in 1887 and forced Bismarck to find another way to maintain French diplomatic isolation.

Germany had already formed the Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary in 1879, so the Reinsurance Treaty was created to ensure Russia continued to side with Germany. In return Germany agreed to a Russian sphere of influence in Bulgaria and the Black Sea.

By the time the treaty came up for renewal in 1890, Wilhelm II had become Kaiser of Germany. He insisted that Bismarck resign the Chancellorship in March that year, and argued that his personal relationship with Tsar Alexander III would be enough to avoid any future problems with Russia. Bismarck’s successor Leo von Caprivi was also unwilling to seek a renewal of the Reinsurance Treaty, meaning that it lapsed.

Without the treaty to tie St Petersburg to Berlin, the Russian government began to forge closer relations with France. France’s improving diplomatic situation was formalised in the Franco-Russian Alliance of 1892. This opened up Germany to the possibility of a war on two fronts, making the failure of the Reinsurance Treaty a contributing factor to the outbreak of the First World War.

Europes-military-alliances-in-World-War-I-1914

Causes of the First World War – the ‘Alliance System’

An overview of the Alliance System before the outbreak of the First World War including archive footage from the time.

The July Crisis and the outbreak of World War One

This revision podcast provides an overview of the July Crisis of 1914 that acted as the spark to World War One.  The episode begins with the events of 28th June when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated by the Black Hand Gang.  It then goes on to explore the impact of the assassination on the diplomatic actions of Germany and Austria-Hungary, including the ‘blank cheque’.  Finally, the podcast describes the actions of Russia, France and Britain as the major nation states of Europe fell in to war.

          

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Causes of the First World War – The July Crisis

Beginning with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary, this video explores the 6-week period known as the July Crisis.  It explains the concept of Germany’s ‘Blank Cheque’ and how the alliance system caused the nations of Europe to become embroiled in what was now a ‘world’ war.  Reference is made to the Schlieffen Plan and how this led to Britain’s declaration of war.

Treaty of London 1839

The Treaty of London: Belgium independence and the First World War

The Treaty of London recognised and guaranteed the independence and neutrality of Belgium.

In 1813 Napoleon’s rule of the Netherlands was ended by the combined armies of Russia and Prussia, and control was given to William Frederik of Orange-Nassau. Two years later, as a result of the Congress of Vienna, modern Belgium became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

These southern provinces were predominantly Catholic, and a sizeable number of the inhabitants spoke French. However, William clearly favoured Protestantism and had tried to impose Dutch as the official language. This led to tensions which were exacerbated by economic problems that included high unemployment and arguments over the effect of free trade on the less developed south. A revolution erupted in 1830 that led to the states declaring independence on 4 October, although William refused to recognise the independent Belgium for over nine years.

In signing the treaty that formally recognised the existence of the independent Kingdom of Belgium, the Netherlands were joined by Britain, Austria, France, Russia, and the German Confederation. Furthermore, Britain insisted that the signatories also recognise Belgium’s perpetual neutrality.

The neutrality clause was of central importance in the outbreak of the First World War, since Germany violated Belgium’s neutrality when its forces crossed the border in the Schlieffen Plan. Britain thus claimed to be upholding the Treaty of London when it declared war on 4 August 1914 – much to the anger of German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg who couldn’t believe Britain would go to war over a ‘mere a scrap of paper’.

Causes of the First World War

An explanation of the causes of the First World War…sheer brilliance.

The outbreak of the First World War

The failure of the Schlieffen Plan

What if the Schlieffen Plan had worked?

This documentary examines the counter-factual debate of what would have happened if the Schlieffen Plan had worked.  It opens with a review of the ‘real’ events, and then speaks to various experts to find out their opinion on how things could have been different.

First World War – “The Killing Fields”

People’s Century was an excellent television series which focused on major events in the Twentieth Century.  In this episode, soldiers from all sides of World War I remember the trenches, the tactics, and the terrible nature and scale of the slaughter that shattered the old world order.  They remember recruitment, machine guns and mustard gas, aerial bombing, the trenches, Battles of Verdun and the Somme, conscientious objectors, military justice, American participation, and armistice.

PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

PART 4