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Chapter XIII. The Balance of Power

The recovery of France.—The jealousy of the powers.—The policy of uniting against the strongest.—The dream of Russia.—A war of liberation.—The powers interfere in favor of the Turk.—The Congress of Berlin.—Bismarck's Triple Alliance.—France and Russia are driven together.—The race for war preparation.—The growth of big navies.

Under the third republic,3 France recovered very rapidly from the terrible blow dealt her by Germany. Her people worked hard and saved their money. In less than two years, they had paid off the last cent of the one billion dollar indemnity, and the German troops were obliged to go home. France had adopted the same military system that Germany had, and required all of her young men to serve two years in the army and be ready at a moment's notice to rush to arms. She began also to build up a strong navy, and to spread her colonies in Africa and other parts of the world. This rapid recovery of France surprised and disturbed Bismarck, who thought that never again, after the war of 1870, would she become a strong power. He had tried to renew the old "Holy Alliance" between Germany, Russia, and Austria with the idea of preventing the spread of republics. These were the three nations which gave their people very few rights, and which stood for the "divine right of kings" and for the crushing of all republics. Bismarck called this new combination the "Drei-kaiser-bund" or three-emperor-bond. He himself says that the proposed alliance fell to pieces because of the lies and treachery of Prince Gortchakoff, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

3The first republic began in 1792, when King Louis XVI was beheaded, the second in 1848 when Louis Philippe, the "citizen king," was driven out.

An incident which happened in 1875 helped to estrange Germany from Russia. As was previously said, Bismarck was astonished and alarmed when he saw how quickly France was getting over the effects of the war. In 1875, some trouble came up again between France and Germany, and Bismarck a second time planned to make war on the republic and—complete the task that he had left unfinished in 1871. He wanted to reduce France to the rank of a second class power, on a par with Spain and Denmark. This time, however, England and Russia growled ominously. They notified Bismarck that they would not stand by and see France crushed—not from any love of France, but because they were jealous of Prussia and afraid that the Germans might become too powerful in Europe. Accordingly, Bismarck had to give up his idea of war. Prussia was strong, but she could not fight England, Russia, and France combined. However, he remembered that England and Russia had spoiled his plans and waited for a chance to get revenge.

[Illustration: Peter the Great]

The great object of all European diplomats was to maintain what they called "the balance of power." By this they meant that no one country was to be allowed to grow so strong that she could defy the rest of Europe. Whenever one nation grew too powerful, the others combined to pull her down.

In the meantime, trouble was again brewing among the Balkan nations, which were still subject to the Turks. Revolts had broken out among the Serbians, and the people of Bosnia and Bulgaria. As has already been told, these nations are Slavic, cousins of the Russians, and they have always looked upon Russia as their big brother and protector. Any keen-eared, intelligent Russian can understand the language of the Serbs, it is so much like his own tongue. (Bel-grad, Petro-grad; the word "grad" means "city" in both languages.)

Not only was Russia hostile toward the Turks because they were oppressing the little Slav states, but she had reasons of her own for wanting to see Turkey overthrown. Ever since the reign of Peter the Great, Russia had had her eye upon Constantinople. Peter had conquered the district east of the Gulf of Finland, and had founded St. Petersburg4 there, just to give Russia a port which was free of ice. In the same way, other czars who followed him had fought their way southward to the Black Sea, seeking for a chance to trade with the Mediterranean world. But the Black Sea was like a bottle, and the Turks at Constantinople were able to stop the Russian trade at any time they might wish to do so. Russia is an agricultural country, and must ship her grain to countries that are more densely inhabited, to exchange it for their manufactures.

4Now called Petrograd.

[Illustration: Entrance to the Mosque of St Sophia]

Therefore, it has been the dream of every Russian czar that one day Russia might own Constantinople. Again, this city, in ancient days, was the home of the Greek church, as Rome was the capital of the western Catholic church. The Russians are all Greek Catholics, and every Russian looks forward to the day when the great church of St. Sophia, which is now a Mohammedan mosque, shall once more be the home of Christian worship. With this plan in mind, Russian diplomats were only too happy to stir up trouble for the Turks among the Slavic peoples of the Balkan states, as Serbia, Bulgaria, Roumania, and Montenegro are called. Glance at the two following maps of southeastern Europe, and see how Turkey had been reduced in size during the two hundred years which followed the Turkish defeat at the gates of Vienna by John Sobieski and the Austrians. The state of Bessarabia had changed hands two or three times, remaining finally in the hands of Russia.

The revolts of the Balkan peoples in 1875 and 1876 were hailed with joy among the Russians, and the government at St. Petersburg lost no time in rushing to the aid of the Balkan states and declaring war on Turkey. After a short but stubbornly contested conflict, Russia and the little countries were victors. A treaty of peace was signed at San Stephano, by which Roumania, Serbia, and Bulgaria were to be recognized by Turkey as independent states. The boundaries of Bulgaria were to reach to the Aegean Sea, including most of Macedonia, thus cutting off Turkey from her county of Albania, except by water. Bear this in mind, for it will help you to understand Russia's later feeling when Bulgaria in 1915 joined the ranks of her enemies.

[Map: Southeastern and Central Europe, 1706]

[Map: Losses of Turkey during the Nineteenth Century]

[Illustration: The Congress of Berlin. Prince Gortchakoff (seated).
Disraeli (with cane). Count Andrassy. Bismarck.]

The matter was all settled, and Turkey had accepted these terms, when once more the diplomats of Europe began to meddle. It will be remembered that Russia three years before had prevented a second war against France planned by Bismarck. It was very easy for him to persuade Austria and England that if Russia were allowed to cripple Turkey and set up three new kingdoms which would be under her control, she would speedily become the strongest nation in Europe. The "balance of power" would be disturbed. England and Austria sided with Germany, and a meeting of statesmen and diplomats was called at Berlin in 1878 to decide once more what should be the map of Europe. Representatives were present from all the leading European countries. Even Turkey had two men at the meeting, but the three men who really controlled were Bismarck, Count Andrassy of Austria, and Lord Beaconsfield (Benjamin Disraeli) of England. Russia was robbed of a great part of the fruits of her victory. Bulgaria was left partially under the control of Turkey, in that she had to pay Turkey a large sum of money each year for the privilege of being left alone. Her territory was made much smaller than had been agreed to by the treaty of San Stephano. In fact less than one-third of the Bulgarians were living within the boundaries finally agreed upon by the congress. A great part of the Serbians were still left under Turkish rule, as were the Greeks of Thessaly and Epirus. The two counties of Bosnia and Herzegovina were still to belong to Turkey, but as the Turks did not seem to be strong enough to keep order there, Austria was to take control of them and run their government, although their taxes were still to be paid to Turkey. Austria solemnly agreed never to take them from Turkey. Russia, naturally, was very unhappy over this arrangement, and so were the inhabitants of the Balkan kingdoms, for they had hoped that now they were at last to be freed from the oppression of their ancient enemies, the Turks. Thus the Congress of Berlin, like that of Vienna in 1815 laid the foundation for future wars and revolutions.

Bismarck now set out to strengthen Germany by making alliances with other European states. He first made up with his old enemy, Austria. Thanks to the liberal treatment that he had given this country after her disastrous war of 1866, he was able to get the Austrians to join Germany in an alliance which states that if two countries of Europe should ever attack one of the two allies, the other would rush to her help.

The Italians were friendly to Germany, for they remembered that they had gotten Venetia from Austria through the help of the Prussians, but they had always looked upon the Austrians as their worst enemies. It was a wonderful thing, then, when Bismarck finally induced Italy to join with Austria and Germany in a "Dreibund" or "Triple Alliance."

The Italian people had been very friendly to the French, and this going over to their enemies would never have been possible but for an act of France which greatly angered Italy. For many years, France had been in control of Algeria on the north coast of Africa. This country had once been a nest of pirates, and the French had gone there originally to clean them out. Next to Algeria on the east is the county of Tunis, which, as you will see by the map, is very close to Sicily and Italy. The Italians had been looking longingly at this district for some time, intending to organize an expedition and forcibly annex it to their kingdom. They waited too long, however, and one fine day in 1881 they found the prize gone,—France had seized this county for herself. It was Italy's anger over this act of France more than anything else that enabled Bismarck to get her into an alliance with Germany and her ancient enemy, Austria.

France now saw herself hemmed in on the east by a chain of enemies. It looked as though Bismarck might declare war upon the republic at any time, and be perfectly safe from interference, with Austria and Italy to protect him. Russia, smarting under the treatment which she had been given by the Congress of Berlin, was full of resentment against Germany. Both the French and the Russians felt themselves threatened by Bismarck's Dreibund, and so, in self-defense each country made advance toward the other. The result was the "Dual Alliance" between France and Russia, which bound either country to come to the aid of the other in case of an attack by two powers at once.

In this way, the balance of power, disturbed by Bismarck's "Dreibund," was again restored. Many people thought the forming of the two alliances a fine thing, "for," said they, "each party is now too strong to be attacked by the other. Therefore, we shall never again have war among the great powers."

England was not tied up with either alliance. On account of her position on an island, and because of her strong navy, she did not feel obliged to keep a large standing army such as the great powers on the continent maintained.

These nations were kept in constant fear of war. As soon as France equipped her army with machine guns, Germany and Austria had to do the same. As soon as the Germans invented a new magazine rifle, the Russians and French had to invent similar arms for their soldiers. If Germany passed a law compelling all men up to the age of forty-five to report for two weeks' military training once every year, France and Russia had to do the same. If Italy built some powerful warships, France and Russia had to build still more powerful ones. This led to still larger ships built by Germany and Italy. If France built a fleet of one hundred torpedo boats, the Triple Alliance had to "go her one better" by building one hundred and fifty. If Germany equipped her army with war balloons, Russia and France had to do the same. If France invented a new kind of heavy artillery, Germany and Austria built a still bigger gun.

This mad race for war equipment was bad enough when it had to do only with the five nations in the two alliances about which you have been told. However, the death of the old emperor of Germany in 1888 brought to the throne his grandson, the present Kaiser,5 and he formed a plan for making Germany the leading nation on the sea as Bismarck had made her on the land. He saw France and England seizing distant colonies and dividing up Africa between them. He at once announced that Germany, too, must have colonies to which to export her manufactures and from which to bring back tropical products. This meant a strong navy to protect these colonies, and the race with England was on. As soon as Germany built some new battleships, England built still others, larger and with heavier guns. The next year, Germany would build still larger ships, and the next England would come back with still heavier guns. As fast as England built ships, Germany built them. Now, each battleship costs from five to fifteen million dollars, and it does not take long before a race of this kind sends the taxes too high for people to stand. There was unrest throughout Europe and murmurs of discontent were heard among the working classes.

5The present Kaiser's father reigned only ninety-nine days, as he was a very sick man at the time of the old emperor's death.

Questions for Review
  1. How did France pay off her war indemnity so promptly?
  2. Why did Bismarck's three-emperor-alliance fail?
  3. What is meant by "the balance of power"?
  4. What was the condition of the Serbs, Bulgarians, etc. before 1878?
  5. Why did Russia covet Constantinople?
  6. Why did the powers prevent the treaty of San Stephano from being carried out?
  7. What wrongs were done by the Congress of Berlin?
  8. Why did Bismarck form the Triple Alliance?
  9. How was he able to induce Italy to join her old enemy, Austria?
  10. What was the effect of the formation of the Triple Alliance on France and Russia?
  11. What result had the formation of the two alliances on the gun-industry?
  12. How was England brought into the race for war equipment?