German Question Through a Diplomatic and International Relations Perspective

The German Question was a controversial issue based on the Unification of Germany in 19th century. The question emerged especially during 1848 Revolutions on how to accomplish German Unification in the best way. Since it had an huge impact on the drawing borders of Europe, it had critical importance on international arena. It should be noted that it was not taken well by other European states which some had conflict in interests and others did not want any powerful enemy just nearby of. However, the common point for all was the fact that German was posing a threat especially under becoming more powerful states as an union of their nations.

First of all, the background is important to know. Between the years of 1815 and 1866, there existed 37 German-speaking independent state under the name of German Confederation including Prussia as the most dominant state. Especially with the alliance of Austria and contribution of Otto von Bismarck of Prussia who pursued the ‘’blood and iron’’ and skilful understanding of realpolitik, those German-speaking independent states were meant to be unified under one state. Meanwhile, different kind of scenerios came to stage such as Kleindeutschland and Grossdeutschland. Common point was to unify Germans any way. Their efforts were similar to Italian Unifications in terms of unifying people who had the same ethnicity and language.

Growing Germany meant growing threat since Prussia made war with many of the European states such as Austria, Denmark, France. Actually there were several reasons why unified Germans posed a threat from different perspectives of different states. For instance, France had war with Prussia and lost the Alsace-Loraine era which is important for coal reserves. This lost was shocking made France fear both economically and politically since it was kind of unexpected. This fact, later on, triggered the WW1 as one of the reasons to start. On the other hand, Britain did not want any powerful state on the European continent since it had already dealt with Napoleon I as an another counterforce. Any rising state meant any rising enemy for Britain. Also, with the growing importance of nationalism after French Revolution the emergence of nation-states as it was exemplified in German Unification which could be seen as a one of the greatest revolutions in the history of international relations as well. This meant threat for those multinational empires such as Austria-Hungary Empire and Ottoman Empire who had been recently struggling with rebellions on independence of nations.

In 1815, with the Congress of Vienna, balance of power which meant no state should gain power as much they could dominate one another, was accepted as a rule to organise international relations. Although this idea came as a counter-idea of Napoleon dominating over Europe, it played a huge role in the construction of diplomacy based on peace through the century in Europe. However, the fact that Germany and Italy became two powers in the continent meant such a balance could be abolished. In the long run it had even impact on the emergence of WWI resulting in catastrophic circumstances in addition to the change in the balances of power between states.


İlayda Bal