Shifting European balance of power

To better understand the shift in this balance of power, let's look at four 19th Century regions that were largely responsible for the trouble brewing in Europe:

Region #1: Western Europe Map of Europe 1810

By 1810, Napoleon's French Empire extended over much of Western Europe. But by 1815, Napoleon was defeated and lost his empire at the Congress of Vienna. The result was a change in the balance of power in Western Europe. By 1825, the new German Confederation and Austria had grown at the expense of France.

In 1878, after yet another war - this time the Franco-Prussian War - and the peace signed Congress of Berlin, six major powers emerged as shown in the map: Great Britain, the German Empire, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Italy. At the same time these powers were consolidating their empires, another prominent region - the Ottoman Empire - began to experience a loss of power. Map of Europe 1878 after th Congress  of Berlin






Region #2: The Ottoman Empire

Between 1330 and 1699, the Ottoman Empire grew from a tiny kingdom of Ottoman Turks to one of the largest empires in the world.

When examining these maps, it should be clear that Austro-Hungary and Russia expanded at the expense of the Ottoman Empire - a fact that leads us to a discussion of the last two regions responsible for the events leading us into World War II - the Balkans and Russia.

Region #3: The Balkans

The Balkans include the area that today incorporates lands that were once largely sovereign but came under Ottoman rule after 1699 - Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzgovinia, Montenegro, and Kosovo. Map  of Balkans 1914



Map of Europe 1914

In these maps, you can see the geopolitical significance of the Balkan region - it serves as a land bridge between Europe and Asia, as well as the water route from the Mediteranean to the Black Sea. Consequently, the Balkans have undergone continual foreign invaasions since the beginning of the recorded history of the region.

Historically, the Balkan region consisted of small ethnic nations - most of which were independent at some time in their history - and all of which have sought sovereignty. Let's get a snapshot of what this was like in Croatia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia. The map below shows that by 950, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Serbia were all independent, sovereign entities.

Map of Balkans in 950

Croatia - became the first independent Balkan state in 925.

Bulgaria - was an independent empire from 632-1396

Serbia - became an independent state in 927

Bosnia - became an independent kingdom in 1377

As the map below indicates, this is what the Balkan region looked like on the eve of World War I.

Map of Balkans 1913

Region #4: The Russian Empire

By the middle of the 19th Century, the Russian Empire under Tsar Alexander II took Outer Manchuria from the Chinese Empire and sold Russian America to the United States in 1867.

Map of Russian Expansion 1800-1900

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