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11-08-2015, 16:02

Germany and Russia

A final major element of instability on the international scene was the relationship between Germany and Russia. In the eyes of key German leaders such as Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, the ramshackle Russian Empire, recently defeated in war by Japan and going through the trauma of early industrialization, was nonetheless a growing threat. Humiliation in the Far East turned Russian foreign policy planners toward gains in the Balkans. Russia's new Duma (parliament), established after the Revolution of 1905, brought public opinion into play over foreign affairs. Foreign policy makers like Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov aimed at containing Austria-Hungary's expansion in the Balkans. The Austrian annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908 raised alarm among government circles and in public opinion. Nationalist newspapers like Novoe Vremya as well as Duma deputies such as Count Vladimir Bobrinsky of the Nationalist party soon pointed with alarm to German ambitions in the Balkans. The rhetoric of Pan-Slavism, which called for ethnic solidarity between Russia and its Slavic brethren in southeastern Europe, also inflamed the atmosphere.4 Reforms in the Russian army, the very size of Russia's population and natural resources—all these elements made it likely that Germany's vast power would be increasingly overshadowed by a resurgent Russia. With Russia allied to France, Germany's permanent foe since 1870, the authorities in Berlin were doubly afraid of the Russian threat. A study by the German general staff in the spring of 1914 predicted that Germany and Austria-Hungary would have to face a Russian army, when it had fully mobilized, of frightening dimensions: ninety-four infantry divisions, twelve rifle brigades, and thirty-five cavalry divisions. 5 German prime minister Bethmann Hollweg himself had returned from a trip to Russia in 1912 "deeply disturbed at his first-hand impressions of that empire's human and material resources.

 

 

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