Trace and explain the relations between Germany and Russia during 1871-1914

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During the period 1871-1914, the relations between Germany and Russia changed from friendly to hostile, and the downfall of Bismarck marked the turning point to the relations. When Bismarck was still diplomatically active in Europe (1871-1890), Russia was on friendly terms with Germany although Russia had already a bit disappointed with Germany. It was because Bismarck strived to maintain friendly relations with all the powers. However, after the rise of Kaiser William II (1890-1914), the situation was dramatically changed due to his unskillful and aggressive diplomatic skills. In fact, there were no direct conflicts fought between Germany and Russia. The major factor causing their relations to be intensified was the third party- Austria. Germany was always on the Austrian side, and Austria was hostile to Russia mainly because of the Eastern Question, so Germany would help Austria to fight against Russia. In this way, the relations between Germany and Russia were worsened.

In 1873, Germany was active to make friends with Russia and they were in alliance together. It was because Bismarck feared that the revenge of France and any attack from the country after unification of Germany in 1870. There was also the Bismarck’s nightmare which France would co-operate with Russia and then Germany would face a two-front war. Therefore, Bismarck’s main concern in foreign affairs was to isolate France until she might not be able to have revenge against Germany. With the object in view, Bismarck created the Dreikaiserbund in 1873. The ruler of Germany, Austria and Russia agreed to the preservation of peace and to consult one another to determine a common course of action in case that a threat of war. But the underlying weakness of the League---rivalry between Austria and Russia over the Balkan Peninsula made the alliance difficult to maintain later.

The Eastern Question insidiously caused the relations between Germany and Russia starting to deteriorate. Since the time that the Ottoman Empire began to decline by the turn of the 19th century, the people there who influenced by nationalism desired for independence. This led to revolution and suppression in the Balkan. The situation was further complicated by the intervention of the big powers. For example, Austria sought to maintain the status quo in the Balkans. As she was a multi-national empire, the success of the nationalist movement might endanger the national security of the empire. Besides, Russia territorial ambitions clashed with the interest of Austria. Being a ‘land-locked’ state, Russia wanted to acquire warm water-ports in the Balkans (e.g. Constantinople). As most of the Balkan people were of the Slav race, Russia could extend her influence in the Balkans in name of protecting her brother races (e.g. Serbia). Therefore, Russia declared war on Turkey in 1877 (The Russo-Turkish War) that claimed to help Serbia. Turkey was defeated and signed the Treaty of San Stefano. However, Austria objected to the terms especially the creation of a Russian-controlled Bulgaria as she feared that the end of the Ottoman Empire and the revolts of the Slavs in the Balkans would set an example for the Slavs in the Austrians Empire to follow. At this time, although Bismarck had kept Germany out of the dispute and acted as an ‘honest broker’ to held the Congress of Berlin (1878) to work out the solutions, the Bismarck’s act angered Russia as Germany was oblique in causing her defeated diplomatically. By then, the Dreikaiserbund completely broke down in 1878 after the Congress of Berlin and Russia was estranged from Germany. The Russian press condemned Bismarck and there was even an open demand for an attack on Germany.

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Realizing the inability of maintaining friendly relations with both Austria and Russia after the Congress of Berlin (1878), Bismarck chose Austria to be his ally because Germany preferred a weaker partner which could be more easily controlled; Austria had racial ties with Germany; alliance with Russia would antagonize Britain as Britain did not like her colonial rival [Russia] to be supported by a strong power. On October 7, 1879, Bismarck made the Dual Alliance with Austria. After the signal of the Dual Alliance of 1879, Russia felt that she was betrayed. The relations between Russia and Germany were positively ...

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