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View series: The first World War, 1914-1918

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Towards the Clash of Nations 1871-1914

This map is part of a series of 20 animated maps showing the history of The first World War, 1914-1918.

The map of Europe now differs greatly from that designed by negotiators at the Congress of Vienna. Six great powers dominate the continent; their goal is to intervene in international affairs.

-At the center of Europe, three powers occupy a space which was still partitioned in 1815: the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now a double monarchy, remains a state in which each kingdom has its own minorities; its situation encourages it to enlarge its zone of influence in the Balkans. The German Empire and Italy have achieved their unity, but still must insure its cohesion.

-In the east, the immense Russian Empire extends from Poland to the Pacific; it encompasses diverse peoples in Europe and Asia. The Czar devotes himself to maintaining the unity of this empire, and endeavors to spread its influence by carrying out a Pan Slavic policy towards the Balkans.

-In the west, France and England, the most anciently constituted and democratic nations, deploy concurrent colonial policies.

However, dissatisfaction remains for peoples whose national engagement has not been taken into account. Demands based on language, religion and culture increase within states constituted as nation-states, or multinational empires.

Faced with these movements, the States seeks to reinforce their cohesion, at times at the price of certain concessions:

-The Russians attempt to divide and rule in Finland and in the Baltic countries.

-The Hungarians pursue a policy of magyarization, which displeases the Croats and Romanians.

-Austria seeks a compromise in Bohemia between the German and Czech populations.

-England considers resolving the Irish question, thanks to an autonomy project for the island.

Certain demands are met. Iceland progressively obtains its political autonomy from Denmark; Norway has its independence recognized by Sweden, while in the Balkans, new States are built on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

On the diplomatic plane, relations among the powers have been transformed; gradually, a system of alliances has been substituted for the ideal of a European order, hoped for at the time of the Congress of Vienna. This system at the turn of the century divides Europe into two hostile blocs. On one side, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, grouped together within the Triple-Alliance, and on the other, France, Russia and England, linked by the Triple-Entente.

National sentiment is heightened within these two blocs, each nation claiming to be on a civilizing mission. State patriotism, intended to strengthen internal cohesion, is promoted, in particular through public education and the military; this sometimes results in aggressive nationalism, fueled by crises that shake the allied blocs.

From 1905 to 1914, these crises increase, at times pitting together Russians and Austrians in the Balkans, at others, French and Germans on colonial issues.

Dialogue and cooperation among nations are not abandoned, but the mechanics of the systems of alliance and the arms race end up by plunging the continent into war.