Military Review

How Bismarck "by iron and blood" created the Second Reich

“... The borders of Prussia on the Vienna treatises impede healthy public life; It is not by speeches and decisions of the majority that the great questions of modernity are resolved - this was a big mistake of 1848 and 1849, but by blood and iron. ”
Otto von Bismarck

145 years ago, 18 January 1871, the Second Reich was created. On this day, in the Versailles Palace near Paris, Bismarck, in the presence of the German princes, read the text of the proclamation of the Prussian king by the German emperor. It was the triumph of Germany’s blood and blood unification policy of the great German statesman Bismarck. The German Empire politically united all states with the German population (25 states with 40 million Germans), with the exception of Austria, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.


At the beginning of the XIX century, the German lands were part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation. It included dozens of government entities. The most powerful were Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria, Württemberg, and especially Austria, which was the largest public entity in the Holy Roman Empire. These states were formally subordinate to the emperor and the imperial Diet, but in fact possessed complete independence. The main centers of attraction and traditional rivals were Austria and Prussia.

The German question was particularly acute after the liquidation of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, that is, when Napoleon eliminated the First Reich. The German principalities entered the Rhine Union, which was under the influence of Napoleon’s empire. In the 1813 year, after the defeat of Napoleon’s army in the Battle of Leipzig, the Rhine Union disintegrated. Instead, the German Union was created from 38 German states, including Prussia and the German part of Austria.

Up until the formation of the Second Reich, there were two competing solutions to the German issue: the German one (under the rule of Prussia) and the German one (under the head of Austria). However, the Germanic variant was more complicated, since the Austrian empire included a large number of territories with different ethnic groups, many of which had their own experience of statehood. In addition, during this period Prussia significantly increased politically and economically. The territory of Prussia during the Napoleonic wars almost doubled due to the enclave on the Rhine, the northern part of the kingdom of Saxony and the Polish lands.

Austria was shaken by crises. So, 1848 year, in the Austrian Empire, a revolution began, also called the "spring of nations". Intensified national liberation movements. In 1849, the uprising was suppressed with military help from Russia, but the Austrian Empire was greatly weakened. At the end of the 1850s, Austria found itself in complete isolation in Europe: its hostile neutrality towards Russia during the Crimean (Eastern) War and the intervention in the Danube principalities destroyed the traditional alliance with Russia; and the refusal of active participation in the war pushed France from it. Relations with Prussia deteriorated due to rivalry in the German Confederation. The Austro-Italian-French war of 1859 led to the collapse of the Austrian army in the battle of Solferino, the loss of Lombardy and the formation of a strong Italian kingdom. At the same time, united Italy laid claim to part of the territory of the Austrian Empire and became a constant problem for Vienna, forced to divert forces to the south.

Austria was forced to make an agreement with Hungary, which claimed autonomy or independence: in 1867, the Austro-Hungarian agreement was concluded, which turned the Austrian empire into Austria-Hungary. The new state was a constitutional dualistic monarchy divided into Translating and Cistination. Both parts of the empire were headed by the former emperor of the Austrian Empire, Franz Joseph I, who ruled Austria-Hungary until the 1916 year. The Hungarians feared that the expansion of Austria at the expense of the German lands would lead to the strengthening of German domination, which would weaken their autonomy, and therefore did not support Vienna in unifying Germany.

Prussia was a more monolithic, single state entity. Berlin has maintained and strengthened the alliance with Petersburg. Prussia was the only great power that did not oppose Russia during the Eastern War, which, together with Prussian help in suppressing the Polish 1863 uprising of the year, ensured the benevolent neutrality of the Russian Empire in Prussia’s wars against its neighbors. Also, the Prussian king Wilhelm I was the uncle of Tsar Alexander II, which also inclined Russia's position in favor of Prussia. England in strong Prussia saw first a counterbalance to the French Empire and its expansion in Europe.

The French elite slept through the strengthening of Prussia, all its attention was occupied by colonial affairs. French forces were diverted to the seizure and strengthening of the colonies, where French interests were constantly faced with the British. The interests of France and Austria also clashed in Italy, which the French initially supported. In addition, Napoleon III underestimated the military power of the modernized Prussian state and hoped only to win as an arbitrator from the intra-German conflict. He believed that if necessary he would easily crush Prussia. As a result, France frankly missed many opportunities to halt the growth of Prussia’s power and transform it into the Second Reich.

The economy of Prussia was developing rapidly. In Prussia, large-scale industry developed especially rapidly. The Krupp cannon factory in Essen received great fame. The network of railroads was rapidly expanding, the single German market became stronger. Agriculture developed with the preservation of large landed estates (the “Prussian path”). As a result, the interests of big capital, landowners demanded the unification of Germany, the destruction of all the old medieval barriers, the creation of a single market that could claim its share of the world market. The intelligentsia also advocated unification: it was necessary to destroy the old feudal order, to develop science and education.

At the same time, the big bourgeoisie, landowners and many representatives of the intelligentsia were inclined to unite the country under the leadership of the Prussian monarchy. The Prussian monarchy was a force capable of embodying the interests of a significant part of society. In addition, under the impression of the unification of Italy in Germany, the movement for national unification also revived. Revolutionary sentiment began to grow again. It was necessary to channel this energy so that the revolution would not start. In 1862, the frightened Prussian king Wilhelm I appointed the decisive and purposeful Otto von Bismarck to be the first minister ("Iron Chancellor" Otto von Bismarck; Part of 2; Part 3). He showed himself to be a politician of firm will and a great practical mind. Bismarck skillfully led the internal affairs, strengthened the army and used the political aspirations of Russia and Italy in the interests of Prussia.

But Bismarck saw the main obstacle in the unification of Germany in Austria and France. Austria itself claimed leadership in Germany and opposed the policy of Bismarck. The rulers of a number of small German states were afraid of the takeover of their possessions by Prussia and supported Austria. France did not want to see a united and strong Germany on its borders, as it claimed leadership in Europe. In addition, France owned some disputed lands, where there was a significant percentage of the German population.

Bismarck consistently defeated all enemies, not allowing them to create a coalition against Prussia. At the same time, he received political support from Russia, which wanted to free 1856 from the humiliating conditions of the Parisian world. At first Prussia, in alliance with Austria, defeated Denmark (the Austro-Prussian-Danish war of 1864). Bismarck demanded that Denmark abandoned the two German provinces that were part of it - the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. The weak Danish army was easily defeated. Denmark abandoned its claims to Lauenburg, Schleswig and Holstein. The duchies were declared joint possessions of Prussia and Austria, with Schleswig being ruled by Prussia, and Holstein by Austria. This war was an important stage in the path of unification of Germany under the hegemony of Prussia.

Then Bismarck made an alliance with Italy (she claimed Venice), ensured the benevolent neutrality of Russia and the neutrality of France. Napoleon III hoped not to interfere with the Austro-Prussian war, wait for both opponents to weaken in their exhausting confrontation (Austria and Prussia were supposed to fight for a long time), and then get Belgium and Luxembourg without much risk, putting military pressure on the weakened winner. But Bismarck outplayed the French ruler, forcing Austria to disperse troops on two fronts - against Prussia and Italy, and making a blitzkrieg. The division of Schleswig and Holstein was deliberately chosen by Bismarck as a good excuse for a war with Austria.

In 1866, the well-armed and prepared Prussian army invaded Austria and on July 3 defeated the Austrian troops near the village of Sadova. This battle decided the outcome of the war and the struggle for leadership in Germany. The main result of the victory of Prussia was the withdrawal of Austria from the German Union. Prussia annexed Schleswig-Holstein and the possessions of small German states in the center of Germany - the kingdom of Hanover, the elector of Hesse-Kassel, the duchy of Nassau and the city of Frankfurt. Bavaria and Hessen-Darmstadt ceded part of their lands to the north of the Main river to Prussia. The remaining states of Northern Germany (21 number) 10 August 1866 of the year became part of the new federation (North German Union), which, rejecting the principle of the union of states, organized in the form of a union state, in which Prussia had a leading role. It was the core of the Second Reich. All states retained the monarchical structure, their dynasties and governments, separate armies, laws and courts. Prussia did not intervene in the affairs of the South German states (south of Main), so as not to irritate France. However, in order not to remain in isolation, these states concluded secret agreements of a defensive nature with the North German Union.

How Bismarck "by iron and blood" created the Second Reich

After the defeat of Austria, the main empire in the further unification of Germany led by Prussia was the French empire of Napoleon III, who dreamed of the glory of Napoleon, but did not possess his talents and led the state to a military catastrophe. Therefore, Bismarck decided to defeat France and complete the unification of Germany. In addition, he was going to take away from France two disputed regions - Alsace and Lorraine.

Napoleon III and the French elite themselves wanted war. The government needed a “small victorious war” to stabilize the internal situation. Attempts to agree with Bismarck on the annexation of Luxembourg and especially Belgium ended in nothing, the expansion of the French empire in Europe could only occur by military means. Prussia stood in the way of France. The French were confident of victory, overestimating their strength.

Russia was unhappy with Prussia’s excessive activity in Germany. However, the defiant behavior of France angered the Russian Tsar. In addition, Bismarck supported Russia in revising the Paris Treaty of the Year 1856, which forbade Russia to have a Black Sea navy and fortifications on the Black Sea coast. Austria-Hungary was weakened, the Hungarians were against the war. In addition, Russia acted as a deterrent, making it clear that it would strike at Austria if it attacks Prussia. As a result, the Austrian revanchists were forced to accept it. Italy was inclined towards an alliance with France, but was hampered by the problem of Rome. France held troops in Rome and supported the papal state, which prevented the completion of the unification of the Italian state. Therefore, the Italians decided to maintain neutrality and occupied Rome when France was defeated. England was irritated by the strengthening of France and its claims to Belgium, so she chose to remain neutral. The British wanted to create a counterbalance to France in Europe and to set the two powers against each other for a long time.

The head of the Prussian government, Bismarck, provoked France. He knew well that the Prussian army was stronger than the French. Soon a conflict arose between France and Prussia over the replacement of the vacant Spanish throne. During the negotiations, Bismarck deliberately insulted the French in order to provoke a war. 19 July 1870 France declared war on Prussia. On the same day, at a meeting of the North German Reichstag, Bismarck announced the start of the French war against Prussia.

Military operations showed all the rottenness of the Napoleon III regime. The French army was not ready for war. The French slowly mobilized, as a result of the Prussians received an almost double numerical superiority at the beginning of the war. The French government did not have a definite plan of war, the army did not have a single leadership, the troops were poorly supplied. Prussia has been purposefully preparing for war with France for several years. The better motivated, prepared and armed Prussian army inflicted a crushing defeat on the French forces. The courage of the French soldiers could not rectify the strategic mistakes of the leadership. The main French army under the command of Marshal Bazin was blocked at Metz. The second army under the command of Marshal MacMahon, and under which Napoleon III was stationed, was surrounded by Sedan. September 1 was a battle, and the next day after unsuccessful attempts to break through, Emperor Napoleon III capitulated with the whole army. In Paris, an uprising began and a republic was proclaimed. Bazin’s army also capitulated (in October). Prussian troops occupied a large part of France and blocked Paris. France was split: the patriots tried to continue the resistance, and the new bourgeois government of 28 in January, 1871 surrendered to Prussia.

The victory over France led to the formation of the Second Reich. With the beginning of the war, the Germans from the South German states immediately took the side of Prussia. The victories of the Prussian army caused an unprecedented rise in national self-consciousness. The South German states began negotiations with Prussia on joining the North German Union. Baden decided to join the North German Union before the war. November 23 The 1870 Agreement was signed between the North German Union and Bavaria, and on November X, Württemberg entered into the Union. December 25 The Reichstag of the North German Union, at the suggestion of the Chancellor of the North German Union, Bismarck renamed the North German alliance into the German Empire, the constitution of the North German union became the constitution of the German Empire, and the post of President of the North German alliance became the German emperor. Bismarck organized a letter from the German sovereigns asking the Prussian king Wilhelm I to accept the imperial crown from their hands. 10 January 1870, in the Palace of Versailles near Paris, Bismarck, in the presence of German princes, read the text of the proclamation of the Prussian king by the German emperor. Thus arose the Second Reich.

The structure of the German Empire included members of the North German Union and the South German states, as well as Alsace and Lorraine, rejected from France. Bismarck's dream came true - he created a single German state. A new powerful state emerged on the continent - the German Empire with a population of 40 million and 1 million army. In general, the national unification of Germany was a progressive phenomenon, since the centuries-old fragmentation of the German lands was eliminated and the masses benefited from this by becoming residents of a powerful and prosperous power. A strong impetus to the development of the economy, culture, education and science. Thanks to Bismarck’s policy, Germany is still Europe’s leading power, its economic leader.

It must be said that the experience of uniting the divided German people is still relevant. Thus, the superethnos of the Rus is the largest divided people. For the survival of the Russian Federation, Ukraine-Ukraine, Belarus, as well as such Russian suburbs as the Baltic States, Transnistria and Moldova, unity is necessary. Otherwise, all these parts of Russian civilization will be divided and absorbed by the West. At the same time, the Russian and Soviet culture, the heritage of our great past, will be completely destroyed. These processes of de-Russification and de-Sovietization, which we observe on the wreckage of “Great Russia” (USSR), will continue until the complete elimination of the “Russian spirit”. The need to restore the empire (superpower) shows the whole история of our people and state. The unity of the entire territory of the Russian civilization is necessary for the preservation of its identity (the “Russian matrix”), military-strategic security and prosperity of the national economy, and the growth of people's well-being. The beginning of world war only reinforces this need.

Proclamation of the German Empire in Versailles. Bismarck in white in the center of the picture
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  1. venaya
    venaya 19 January 2016 07: 10
    The need to restore an empire (superpower) shows the whole history of our people and state

    Thank you for the article (+) It is very informative, even in such a short volume, it was possible to describe many of the most important nuances in the technology of this association, also taking into account the military aspect. Of course, I’m sure that such an association could not do without the participation and help of other influential forces, but we won’t talk about it, it’s better to think about the possible prospects of our country for now.
    1. ImPerts
      ImPerts 19 January 2016 07: 29
      When the world gets used to the fact that Russia also has its own interests to be reckoned with, then it will be possible to collect stones that were scattered by perestroika.
      1. kit_bellew
        kit_bellew 19 January 2016 08: 47
        While Russia is embedded in the US economy, they wanted to spit on our interests. Aviation in Syria is, of course, good, but very very small. And in general from another opera. That's when we cease to depend on the dollar mass received for oil and gas, then we will be able to defend our interests in full growth. And now, alas - solid Athos, Porthos and Compromise :(
      2. heal
        heal 19 January 2016 09: 33
        Quote: ImPerts
        When the world gets used to that Russia also has its own interests to be reckoned with, then it will be possible to collect stones that were scattered by perestroika

        It is necessary that they are not used to the world, but to the Kremlin, and with this, alas ...
    2. Max_Bauder
      Max_Bauder 19 January 2016 14: 12
      And now Merkel is driving this "empire" down the drain.
      1. Rastas
        Rastas 19 January 2016 20: 44
        Bismarck's empire should not be idealized. German historians, for example, have a figurative expression that Bismarck programmed Hitler. He, of course, was a great man, but the model of the country, based on the exorbitant ambitions of German capital, which considered itself deprived, and the military order aimed at redistributing the world, led in the 18th to the collapse of Germany. E. M. Remarque in his novels "The Return" and "The Black Obelisk" rather severely judged Germany during the time of the Kaiser, and that was the Bismarck Empire.
      2. iouris
        iouris 20 January 2016 00: 17
        I think Merkel in the story of migrants just portrays herself a silly woman. The inevitable explosion of nationalist sentiment in Germany will lead to the creation of the Fourth Reich. Here, the main thing is that someone like Napoleon III should not appear on the Russian throne.
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 19 January 2016 07: 53
    For the survival of the Russian Federation, Ukraine-Little Russia, Belarus, as well as such Russian suburbs as the Baltic states, Transnistria and Moldova, unity is necessary. Otherwise, all these parts of Russian civilization will be divided and absorbed by the West.... It has already begun, absorption by the West .. And it goes .. and for a long time .. where are encouraged, lyutichi .. other Slavic tribes .. Apparently their fate is not an example for today's politicians of the Ukraine and Belarus ... The first, probably the same talked about their separate "national" identity ..
  3. tehnokrat
    tehnokrat 19 January 2016 11: 06
    Thanks to the author of the article, and a big "+".

    Quote: ImPerts
    When the world gets used to the fact that Russia also has its own interests to be reckoned with, then it will be possible to collect stones that were scattered by perestroika.

    It seems, in a slightly different order:
    Russia also has its own interests to be reckoned with;
    it's time to collect the stones that scattered perestroika.

    And let the world get used to it.
    1. ImPerts
      ImPerts 20 January 2016 15: 12
      Also as an option)))
  4. V.ic
    V.ic 19 January 2016 12: 18
    The article is certainly useful, and for those who also want to "interestingly" I advise you to reread VS Pikul "The Battle of the Iron Chancellors". They say that the author's version was much more interesting / before the editors truncated the material /.
  5. Belousov
    Belousov 19 January 2016 12: 26
    Good article. Bismarck was really a great statesman, who worked for the good of his country. Let's hope that we again will have people worthy of the glory of Stalin. Putin is trying to do something in foreign policy, but the domestic policy in its execution is more reminiscent of Khrushchev, Gorbachev, Yeltsin.
    1. Cap.Morgan
      Cap.Morgan 19 January 2016 17: 19
      What should be worthy of the glory of Stalin? In construction and victories at all costs despite blood, losses, fear-based power, suppression of OWN, wasteful expenditure of human and material resources? In that?
      Do you compare Putin and Yeltsin?
      Incredible. Incomprehensible. Do you even remember Borya-drunk?
  6. Приговор
    Приговор 19 January 2016 13: 22
    I think the conclusion of the author of the article is ABSOLUTELY correct. I am ready to accept any deprivation for myself personally, but let's restore our united and powerful State. And I don’t care what you call it: USSR-2, the Russian Empire, Russia or the republic. The main thing is unity. This is the guarantee of strength and prosperity of the country and people.
    1. Cap.Morgan
      Cap.Morgan 19 January 2016 17: 14
      As you call a ship, it will sail.
      An empire is one thing, a republic is a completely different one, and a completely different union of powers, uluses, and communities of diverse composition and goals ... this is not at all suitable for Russia.
        ALEA IACTA EST 19 January 2016 20: 42
        The main thing is for the shipbuilders to grow their hands from the right place. yes
        And there is a worthy name, do not hesitate. smile
      2. The comment was deleted.
    2. Mavrikiy
      Mavrikiy 19 January 2016 20: 41
      "The main thing is unity. This is the guarantee of the strength and prosperity of the country and people."
      You can add: the very existence of not only everyone, but also the country. For a country is not a state, but an inheritance that we leave to children.
    3. Rastas
      Rastas 19 January 2016 20: 52
      Well, endure hardships while someone is working out 2 million a day. There can be no unity with such, unity can be where there is equality of opportunity and equality before fair laws. And there can be no unity with anti-people’s power, at least whatever you call the country. They will not endure any hardships, but they will drive people like you to slaughter, pumping up simpletons before these ideological craps ... like Germany, Austria and the Entente’s countries did before the war. As long as such a psychology exists among people, bloody wars will continue, and do not think that you will return from it with orders, or perhaps without arms and legs, and you will not care about capital tycoons and the government. So it was with WWI veterans in Europe and America.
  7. Robert Nevsky
    Robert Nevsky 19 January 2016 17: 32
    Yes, Russia and England then allowed the creation of the Second Reich.
    I think it was a mistake.
    1. Mavrikiy
      Mavrikiy 19 January 2016 20: 14
      "There were favorable factors for the creation of the German Empire: One faith in God, one people, one culture, one language, one vision for a common future. For a strong Russia, such assets are also needed to create a monolithic state."
      Well. Do you create Germany or Russia? Do not stick palm trees on our soil, they will die.
      Our birch grows well, without asking anyone about the correctness.
      ALEA IACTA EST 19 January 2016 20: 38
      Quote: Robert Nevsky
      I think it was a mistake.

      There was a reunion of the people, what is the mistake? request
    3. The comment was deleted.
    4. Setrac
      Setrac 19 January 2016 21: 07
      Quote: Robert Nevsky
      Yes, Russia and England then allowed the creation of the Second Reich.

      That is, from your point of view, the United States has nothing to do with it?
  8. bekjan
    bekjan 19 January 2016 17: 32
    There were favorable factors for the creation of the German Empire: One faith in God, one people, one culture, one language, one view of a common future. For a strong Russia, the creation of a monolithic state also requires such assets.
  9. Mavrikiy
    Mavrikiy 19 January 2016 20: 09
    Yes. Perhaps we need to look around and find our Bismarck. Otherwise, they will let go in the footcloths.
    ALEA IACTA EST 19 January 2016 20: 39
    Unfortunately, William II did not have the wisdom to keep Germany from disaster.
    1. Cap.Morgan
      Cap.Morgan 19 January 2016 21: 46
      In Germany, the scientific and technological revolution.
      Many inventions. Gasoline-electric civilization versus British coal.
      The card prince believed in his star)))
  11. Leader
    Leader 19 January 2016 20: 51
    It is a pity that in the 19th century. Russia and Prussia did not destroy Poland as a state.
    We would then unite in an alliance with the Germans - there would be no world wars, and the whole world was now controlled.
      ALEA IACTA EST 19 January 2016 20: 58
      It was destroyed in the XVIII century. Dismembered. Gobbled up. But... recourse
  12. Rastas
    Rastas 19 January 2016 21: 17
    In general, the article is rather strange with the strange conclusion that we should take Bismarck’s policy as a basis. But the author does not seem to understand the realities. Why didn’t he say the main thing - the unification of Germany was in the interest of FIRST ALL Prussian capital for expanding sales markets in German lands and further gaining world domination with the ousting of England, France and the USA from the market, which led to war. And what did the masses win? They became residents of the state, as the author writes? Nonsense, it’s enough to remember how many of them died on the WWI fronts and for what higher goals? The life of an ordinary person did not get better; there would be no revolution of November 18th. Or does the author consider the people to be only the winners of German capital? And the rest should die for such a people.
    1. iouris
      iouris 20 January 2016 00: 22
      Did he say that Bismarck worked for the people? Bismarck created the conditions for the development of German industry, German capital. Hitler did the same. Merkel will do the same. The Germans simply wait until the US grip loosens, and then ... In short, it doesn’t seem enough: Ukraine has almost been chopped off. We should rather turn everything back ...
  13. nnz226
    nnz226 20 January 2016 17: 33
    And how can Russia unite Russians ?! Also "iron and blood" ?!