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Otto Von Bismarck achieve the unification of Germany?
Del Delosandro T. Dugeon
Western Civilization II History 1102
It is proven by many centuries of international relations' history that some strong country appeared every century and was able to change the traditional system of international relations according to own values in this sphere. For example XVII century can be characterized as a period of French influence when French monarchs considered the main priorities of their foreign policy to be fighting for national interests of their mono-national country. XVIII century is famous for British equilibrium conception which meant that no European country should be stronger that any other state, particularly Britain. And the same occurred in 19th century when Germany led by Bismarck created new order in Europe, which meant that the major factor of international relations was military and economical strength. So, French theory of "raigon d'etat" (which meant using any methods to achieve success in national foreign policy) was replaced by Bismarck's conception of "Realpolitik" which valued only aggressive force as the leading method of international relations.
"Iron Chancellor" Otto von Bismarck was the main personality of that time; he was a unique kind of politics who managed achieving great success, which determined major events in Europe in the 20th century. Unified strong and powerful empire was the main result of his wise diplomacy and active (sometimes even aggressive) politics. Bismarck succeeded forming absolutely new nation united by the ideology of creating a new German Empire which had to be strong and powerful enough to protect German nation and revenge those European countries which bothered development of Germany for many centuries. Unified state was a dream for millions of common Germans and at last that dream came true: new era of German history began. Europe was forced to respect new strong state and all European monarchs realized they would have to reckon with that new power.
To begin with we should remember that Germany had been a separated territory for many centuries; it included weak states, which cooperated with each other only as small parts of ineffective confederation. Sure, such country would never have any chance to go on developing and improving own political, economical and cultural spheres of social life. Germany stayed an outdated territory which lived own life separately from progressive processes occurred in the leading European countries, such as France, Britain and even Russia. There were only two rather strong German states: Prussia and Austria, which could be the centers of possible unification of all German lands. Austria was a leader in German Confederation but didn't have strong national economics because it was a typical agricultural country. Prussia was a real police regime, which found order to be the main sense of life of all Prussians, but, though, being extremely antidemocratic state, Prussia was the most developed industrial part of disintegrated Germany and also had rather strong army. Ultimately just exactly this state and its politician O. von Bismarck became the leading power in great unification of Germany.
Bismarck was a typical Prussian aristocrat whose political views in the beginning of his career were rather conservative. He joined Gerlach group (conservative aristocrats) and found the main aim preserving aristocracy from bureaucratization; in other words, his political views of this early period were very traditional and reactionary. Later he realized weakness of this ideology and considered Prussian hegemony in German Confederation as the main condition of any important political success. Prussia, which was dear to Bismarck's heart was considered to be the dominant state in Northern Europe and had to unite all German lands even under the condition of bloody war. As Prussian politician "he refused to put up with Prussia's traditional role as junior partner to Austria ... " (Imanuel Geiss, Fred Bridgham The Question of German Unification: 1806-1996 p. 44) and he noticed that only under the condition of strong power and aggressive foreign policy Prussia could achieve success because as "Iron Chancellor" said:"The position of Prussia in Germany will not be determined by its liberalism but by its power..." (Bruno Schneider The Great Unification p.289.)
Bismarck's political career began in 1849 after he was elected to the Prussian Landtag (Chamber of Deputies). Later he was sent to St. Petersburg where he learnt particularities of this powerful state's diplomacy and became a real master of foreign affairs. Russian Chancellor Gorchakov valued his talents. Then Bismarck was sent to Paris as Prussian minister and 11 years of diplomatic practice helped him in his future actions as future unification of all German lands depended on how foreign countries would treat new unified Germany.
October 1862 is a turning point of German history - Otto von Bismarck became Minister-President of Prussia and started fulfilling his great plans. We can find out his plans from his talk with British Prime Minister in 1862 during his visit to London. There he said that first of all he would reorganize and strengthen Prussian army, declare war on Austria and after the victory - unite Germany. Bismarck's first success was turning Russia into Prussian ally because he succeeded convincing Chancellor Gorchakov and Czar Alexander II that German and Russian national interests coincided. As a result these countries adopted a military agreement, which meant that both Russia and Prussia would fight against common enemy together. That was a great success as Austria realized that such agreement was adopted not to defeat Polish rebellion but to protect Prussia from any military danger from outside. After becoming a Minister-President Bismarck started reorganization of Prussian army and managed increasing its size in spite of the opposition of Landtag, which didn't understand the real sense of their minister's military preparations. His first targets were two small German territories belonged to Denmark - Schleswig and Holstein as their rulers wished to be independent both from Denmark and German Confederation. German Confederation authorized sending troops to Denmark and Bismarck was sure that this intervention should be undertaken by Prussia and Austria, as he wanted to use hostile neighbor in own interests. By February 1864 Holstein and Schleswig were captured by allied forces and divided between Austria and Prussia. The next target was Austria but Bismarck knew that waging a war against this country would need either international support or just simple neutral position of major European counties. "As a safety measure, Bismarck wanted to keep at least a wire to St. Petersburg open for as long as possible, even making early concessions ..." (Geiss, Imanuel Bridgham, Fred The Question of German Unification: 1806-1996 p. 53). That's why he was absolutely right thinking that Russia would do nothing to bother Prussia defeating Austria (eternal Russia's rival). After political success in Russo-Prussian relations he promised French leader some Austrian lands to turn France into neutral state; that was smart political action as he could solve all problems being sure that France and Russia - real European leaders ( on European continent) would not interfere in his activities. When researching Bismarck's letter to Minister von Manteuffel we can find out that the war was inevitable and Bismarck admitted that fact. Here are his words which can explain much about his plans and understanding of the situation: "I wish only to express my conviction that, in the not too distant future, we shall have to fight for our existence against Austria and that it is not within our power to avoid that, since the course of events in Germany has no other solution." (Bismarck's Memories p.431).
In 1866 Austrian army was defeated and Prussia became a true leader of German Confederation but Bismarck didn't wish to capture all Austrian lands as he realized it was too dangerous because Russia was already threatened by fast Prussian victory and France was afraid of Prussia's strengthening as well, in addition war against Austria was not popular among Prussians. Here is a part of Bismarck's speech about victory in 1866: "We had to avoid wounding Austria too severely; we ought rather to reserve the possibility of becoming friends again ... If Austria were severely injured, she would become the ally of France ... she would even sacrifice her anti-Russian interests for the sake of revenge on Prussia ... " (Zieger, Michael The Iron Chancellor p.134). When reading these words we can see that he was true when preventing Prussian army from occupying Austrian lands as majority of Prussian officials and military commanders thought. Practically all historians admit that was the only correct solution of that political problem.
After Austrian defeat Bismarck planned to provide 3rd and last phase of unification of all German lands but the situation in European international relations had changed: to succeed Bismarck had to find strong and reliable ally to defeat France. War against France became inevitable as many German lands (we have to remember that Prussians always dreamed of spreading their influence far to the west) belonged to France and French leader would never let Prussia take them back, so the only way out was waging a war. Bismarck didn't hurry…[continue]
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