Otto von Bismarck or Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince von Bismarck,
Count von Bismarck-Schnhausen, Duke von Lauenburg--was a Prussian
statesman who in 1871 founded the German Empire and served as its
first chancellor for 19 years. Once the empire was established, he
actively and skillfully pursued pacific policies in foreign affairs,
succeeding in preserving the peace in Europe for about two decades.
But in domestic policies his patrimony was less benign, for he failed
to rise above the authoritarian proclivities of the landed squirearchy
to which he was born (Britannica, 1997).
Until his resignation in 1890, Bismarck had a relatively free
hand in conduct of foreign policy. After three successful wars, he saw
his task as promoting peace and gaining time so that the powerful
German Empire would come to be accepted as natural. Bismarck's two
areas of concern were the Balkans, where the disintegration of the
Turkish empire could easily lead to conflict between the Habsburg
monarchy and Russia, and France, where the desire to avenge the defeat
at Sedan was strong. In each area a general European conflagration
could flare up and involve Germany. In 1873 he embraced a pacific
foreign policy when he negotiated the Dreikaiserbund (Three Emperors'
League) with Russia and Austria-Hungary. But the alliance did not
survive the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. When the Austrians and British
threatened war over a Carthaginian peace imposed on Turkey by the
Russian victors, Bismarck called for a peace congress in Berlin. The
German chancellor succeeded in getting the Russians to moderate their
gains, and peace was preserved.
But a European conflagration had barely been averted. Soon
after the conference, Bismarck negotiated a defensive alliance with
Austria-Hungary, which remained in effect through World War I.
Although in the mid-1860s he had rejected such an alliance as harmful,