Politically, the end of the Napoleonic Wars and decline of the Holy Roman Empire had left a new spirit of nationhood throughout Europe, combined with hopes for power as a huge power vacuum opened up on the continent.
In the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire had been the primary force, based in Turkey, and holding much of the Balkans in south east Europe. This was now in decline, fuelling a power struggle in the Balkans as nations grasped independence. Russia sought to monopolise this and began interfering in the region. The result was the Crimean War of 1853, with Britain, France and Turkey stopping Russian attempts.
In the future Germany, Prussia was fast rising in power, causing France to attempt to stop them. In 1870 they declared war. The Franco-Prussian War did not go their way, with Prussia victorious. William I was Kaiser, and with his minister, Bismarck, had set about uniting all Germany under Prussian leadership. In 1888 William II, known as Kaiser Bill, took power. And as anarchy reigned in Europe – in particular the Balkans – he dreamed of dominating Europe.
Germany began an arms race with Britain. France built up its defences. Russia and Austria-Hungary both still had sights on the Balkans. A Triple Entente formed between France, Russia and Britain, whilst Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy formed the Triple Alliance. Then, in 1914, World War One exploded following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary.
Germany attempted to encircle France through Belgium. Joint British and French forces brought the advance to a halt in the stalemate of trench warfare. Whilst other theatres of battle existed – such as the Gallipoli Campaign and the guerilla war against the Turks in the Middle East – this was the centre of the war, and a most bloody affair it was. Eventually the USA joined in, providing enough forces to break Germany, who sued for a humiliating peace that was to guarantee a further war.
Another theatre of the war had been the failed Russian invasion of East Prussia, fuelling anger in the Russian people. This came in line with continued revolts following the recent suspension on the modernizations begun with Peter the Great. In 1917 the Russian Revolution came, Czar Nicholas II allowing a middleclass Duma, or parliament, to form, but the people had organized into workers’ committees, or Soviets, which soon took over, turning Russia into the communist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR, under Lenin, with Stalin taking over in 1924.
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