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North East Europe : Prussia

By Michael Johnathan McDonald

The Prussian name had nothing to due with Germany at all. The area known as Prussia was inhabited in early middle ages by West Slavic tribes, ancestors of the modern Poles, in the West, and Baltic tribes, closely related to Lithuanians, in the East. These tribes and a few others were pagan and forced by a new involvement during the mid-middle age period founded by Hanseatic knights hospitaler in the Holy Land, during the Third Crusade. These were monks that battled other monks. They began during the crusades to battle people that were not Christian. They conquered the Prussian people with the convert or die policy and eventually the language was lost and German langue was assimilated. They then turned the Prussian people into serfs (Slaves) and made themselves lavish stone castles and became masters of non-free people.

Some say that it was established in 1190 as a hospital order, and its initial purpose was to care for crusaders who were injured or otherwise in need of assistance. 1226, Prussia was conquered by the Teutonic Knights, a military religious order, who converted the Prussians to Christianity. One of the most important periods in the history of the Teutonic Order began in about 1224. The Christian duke, Conrad of Mazovia, appealed to the Grand Master Hermann von Salza for assistance against the warlike Prussians, who had periodically fought Poland, Pommerania and Mazovia for centuries, and destroying many villages, churches and monasteries. Pope and the Emperor urged the Teutonic Order to intervene and after Conrad s renunciation over the sovereignty on the land to be conquered, the Order was promised the control of Courland and Livonia as a reward in the event of victory. 1

Germany regions in the middle ages were a bunch of incoherent (disunity) petty kingdoms which had mostly petty nobles leading them. The Hapsburg family was the strongest family controlling Germany in the middle ages and they controlled from the region of Austria. At its height of the independent states there were about 360 of them. Some smaller ones were gobbled up by the bigger ones, and then another one would come along. (Napoleon eventually reduced this number to about 39)

This state was ruled over by petty germen nobles by a royal family named Hohenzollern family. It is by mostly luck and conniving that they worked their way through the Middle Ages up the ranks to rulers of the region. The family planned marriages which held properties, and were on the winning side of battles after battles the uplifted their prestige.

Prussia was on the south-east side of the Baltic Sea. The Hohenzollern family lived in the region of the Black Forest in South Germany. They became Protestants during the reformation and witnessed most Prussians convert; whereas other countries around remained Catholics. Poland for instant remained solidly Roman Catholic. Hohenzollern took over the Teutonic Order of Monks: eventually the family rose to become Dukes. The first Duke of Brandenburg. The family moved to Berlin. Then the thirty years war the family was on the winning side and were promoted: The first Duke of Brandenburg. Brandenburgs tried to think of any way they could achieve rulership of Perssia. The family created many reforms and became progressive during the industrial revolution. The leader of the family wanted to be king of all the german states. Eventually he just pronounced he was the leader of the country of Prussia. The king.

Becoming Protestant was a calculated plan of the family. This brought in the greatest talent that had hard times with the Church. One can remember this was a huge mistake that cost Spain the world’s superpower status in the N. Renaissance period. Next was the desire to built the most feared army in region. This state of Prussia became a Sparten like society ran as a military state.

An example of how stringent the discipline and serious of the Brandenburg’s were that the kings only son was put to a test. The story goes that the only boy needed a companion to grow up with because he had no sisters or brothers. As the boy was growing up he was opposite of the his father. He like reading and p[laying the violin and wanted to become a playwright in Paris. His companion and him, eventually hatched a plan to run away from a father who ran his castle like the army barracks. The two could not get along. In fact at the time many sons could not get along with their fathers because of the strict regimen of this state. The two boys one night packed up nap-sacks with food and supplies and tied together bead sheets and descended out of the castles top floors onto the drainpipe to escape in the middle of the night. They shimmied down the drainpipe and when they reached the bottom the now 13 year-old son of the king, and his companion, saw his father come walking around the corner. “What are you doing my son,” the father asked. The King was serious and stern. “You have already become a military person. Do you know what this means to be running away from your duties?” This was no ordinary father. He took his son and court-martialed him. Placed him before a military tribunal and he was found guilty and sentenced to death the next morning by a firing squad.

The next morning before the execution the king had second thoughts. “ There is one problem my son, you are my only son and are the only one that will succeed me on my thrown.” “ For your punishment you will be forced to watch your dear friend be executed by a firing squad.”

As the boy was forced to watch from out of an open window below at the courtyard where his companion was blindfolded then shot to death by a firing squad, his father turned to him and said: “You try this again and you’ll die.” Frederick learned his lesson that day and from then on he changed his attitude and began to orders his help around like a strict army sergeant.

The father dies and Frederick takes over controls and continues to make reforms and modernize Prussia. Although he becomes Frederick the Great, he never quite gave up his love for literary circles. For example, he hosted Voltaire in many stay- overs for reading and literary conversations. He read Machiavelli and publicly denounced him while using many of his strategies. Frederick establishes freedom of religion which brings in the greatest artists and enlightened scientists. He builds railroads and industrializes his lands. Prussia becomes an upwardly moving state.

One of the progressive ideas that Frederick made was the institution of the Potato in the diet. Many in Europe believed Potatoes were mere poison. Frederick realized the nutritional value and created ways for his troops to carrying them in battle – they last long and are a good source of nutrition.

He takes over some lands that had good agriculture fields to create a larger produce base for his people. He loves to go out on military maneuvers and pitch camp. He makes stringent laws that no cooking will be done after sundown. All the lights in the camp must be off. This is so that the enemies are not able to spot his army at night.

On night about twilight, Frederick roamed the campgrounds and see a light. He heads toward the area and with his butt of his sword lifts the curtains of the competent up to reveal a young recruit presiding over a candle with a sheet of paper and a pen. “What are you doing soldier,” Frederick asks? With out a hesitation the soldier immediately jumps up on his feet and salutes the King. “I’m writing my sweetheart a letter, “replies the new soldier. “ Well,” said the king “Let’s hear it.” “I have not written anything your majesty because I have writers block,” said the recruit. “I do not know how to write what I did today,” he blurted out. The king replied, “Well let me help you then.” So the king dictated what when on during the day and gives the newbie a great lines for his sweetheart. “Also, tell your sweetheart,” the king ending a beautifully dictated letter for the soldier “that this will be the last letter you will ever write because tomorrow you will shot for having a light on after sundown.” The king was serious about building up his military.

Frederick the Great got his army in order and battled Napoleon in many great meetings between them.

For the Greater german states, the middle ages left them in lots of little pockets of political units. All of them were autonomous entities packed into a lose empire, ruled by petty nobles. At the height of the number of different states were 360 independent german states, all in the area called the Holy Roman Empire that was neither holy nor roman. Various wars gobbled up smaller states consolidating larger states. Austria ruled by the influential Hapsburgs led the politics of Germany for many centuries.

1815 Prussia wanted to consolidate the german lands.

1820 All german states agreed to unify a trade code which would redraw trade barriers to the outermost borders of the german states. All the different little states all had tariffs (trade dues) and moving product across Germany could be expensive. Doing away with the internal tariffs freed up trade between the germans which was a step of some type of unity. Each internal boarder merchant had to pay customs prices which made prices exorbitant.

Meanwhile the mini revolutions in 1848 brings a man named Bismarck into political scene. Northern France and the south of the german states didn’t last. Austria was still the biggest controller and crush the resistance. Vienna had put up a decree that there would be no more revolutions and Prussia in 1848 came down to squelch the uprisings that made Vienna took note and place them in influential voting positions for important leaders in Europe. Prussia placed back the old regimes just like Italy had done in the revolutions that began about now in there country. Still people saw this unification thing as something that was important. Prussia in 1848 makes its prime Minister, called a chancellor in germany, call him up as an important man.

This was a well educated Prussian man who realized the up and coming Prussian influence on Europe. He was progressive in thought that blended in with the progressive society. He also, believed that the unity of germany should be realized. Europe would pay a price for his self esteem to get them to unite. “ Prussia should become the leader in the german world,” Otto Von Bismarck would say. “ Austria great days are over.” This was true, Austria was stuck in the old age and the progressive machine of the Prussian outpaced them in technology. He is similar to Cobar ( Italy unifier of Piedmont) to use tricks and political sneakities to swart opponents and be a mover and shaker.

He begins plans to make a move to force Austria into a war. Austria’s army is far superior to Prussia, but , some how again, progressive civilizations seem to come through on the technology side of the formula to come out ahead in battle. He views the Hapsburgs as a liability. There were many Slavics in Austria and they would assimilate with the german people, instead of the tiered old balkanization of separation which created leaders who have no other choice then to force them out of their domain, or if they refuse to leave, kill them. For a time, Austria sees Prussia’s cold military state running on clock time and begins to fear them. In addition, the rest of germany, the general populace that is, all wanted to be poets, writers, playhouse performers and general artists. Not Prussia. They were Spartan-directed.

Meanwhile Bismarck is figuring out how to pick a fight with Austria. He wants the world to recognize Prussia is stronger than Austria. He decides to invade some agricultural independent land and calls of the Austrians to jointly administer the lands. “ Let Austria and Prussia administer these territories.” Austria managed to not keep up its administration promises, so Bismarck took to the newspapers saying that Austria is a bad country. His newspapers show Austria in a bad light.

1866 Austria got exasperated that Prussia was embarrassing them so Austria calls for war. This is called the six-week war. Bismarck provoked it, but Austria fired the first shot! Prussia had the technology advantage and the railways that were built under the aggressive industrialization of the progression of the state played the decisive role in the smaller army, that of Prussia, beating the larger and more experienced Austrian Army to the boarders of the others country. The Prussia crushed the Austrians and they had to concede their dominance of the Germans, one and for all. The advantage was the train mobilized the troops in battle, even though the Austrians were the bigger army. Significance is that Austrian was now out of German affairs.

After the treaty was signed, Austria could only focus on the southern side of Europe for its controlling desires. Bismarck achieved much. But this did not mean that Germany was unified. Protestant Prussia and Germany had different religions and views. Bismarck continued to look for tricks to get them into a situation for a forced signing of unity pacts of the various germen states.

During the French revolution of 1848 in France a namesake was elected: Louis Napoleon Bonaparte III. The Napoleon Bonaparte was Napoleons lost son. In respects, this nephew of Napoleon took this title. He was elected because of his name, which had both recent kingly names as Louis and Bonaparte. He became president of the second French Republic. People cheered and his popularity grew. In four years he became widely popular and he performed a Coup d'etat and pronounced himself Emperor. He believed he was so powerful that friends who tried to make him see his mistakes he imprisoned. He really was a pipsqueak. Bit-by-bit he begins to lose his popularity with bad decisions. As a result he gets meaner and through people in jail that does not agree with him. Any one that criticized him, or brought him bad news, was thrown into jail. 1860 his popularity is in the pits and he wants the Pope to help him out so he sends troops over to Italy to help in the squelching of the unification efforts by Piedmont. 1870 At this point Otto Von Bismarck is still looking for a way to trick his country into unification.

Spain’s reigning king dies and leaves no heir. Spanish nobles are looking around for a heir to the throne. So a faction of them say “Lets look to Hohenzollern family for a man.” But the family is protestant while Spain is catholic. After looking around for a while they find one catholic man from the Hohenzollern family. “Lets get him as the king and align us with a powerful state.”

Napoleon III hears this and goes into orbit. Why? Because Spain is on the south of France and Germany is in the north and tow countries on their sensitive borders could attack France: Although, this was not even though of by Bismarck or the Spanish nobles, it caused extreme suspicion in the eyes of Napoleon III. Napoleon III gets scared because France would be sandwiched. “This amounts to a declaration in France of war with Prussia or the immediate removal of this plan.” Napoleon III said. Although the Spanish had not made any confirmations and were still searching outside of the Hohenzollern family for a leader this didn’t matter. Then Prussia said “we have no desire to go to war with you France. It is the Spanish leaders who are thinking about this – not us.” Now Bismarck thinks how can I exploit this situation. How can I benefit by this ruckus.

So the French ambassador said “ I will try to do something about this – to end this crisis. He lives in Berlin and he goes to Ems. When he talks to the king of Prussia, he confirms that he has no desire to get involved in a war with France. “ Its all a Spanish thing” he says. He also tell him, “ I have no desire to put a Hohenzollern on the Spanish throne.”

With this all said, things should have gone back to normal, but Bismarck had a trick up his sleeve. So the king of Prussia, who was hunting at the time, was hard to get a hold of, for the time being. Yet, at the lodge, the French ambassador sees him and sends a telegram to Napoleon III from there. It is intercepted by Bismarck who changes some of the words to make it look like he was insulting the Prussians. Then he sends it to his propaganda newspapers. “I didn’t write that” the ambassador said the next day looking at the newspaper. Another letter was sent to Napoleon III and he says “That’s it” I declare war. So it was Bismarck who provoked the war in the first place. It would be France that fired the first shot. Now Bismarck could bribed the strip of German territories between Prussia and France saying, only are armies can protect your states from being obliterated.

Bismarck’s plan was realized and the states all signed treaties that, more or less, unified Germany. (This is evidence of rulers manipulating politics to get what they personally want).

This is called the famous Ems Telegram

This began what is known as the Franco-Prussian war 1870-71.

The French fought bravely, but lost the war. The reason why was not that the French army was inferior to the Prussians or that their generals were not good field commanders, but Napoleon III took over the controls of central command of the army and played chief general, which was a disaster because he was not a military man. In fact, the generals on the battle field that didn’t receive his commands did very well on the battlefield. ( The ones who did well were the units that didn’t receive orders from Napoleon III). Prussians invaded Paris for 24 hours. Then, Prussia surrounded Paris for about three months forcing the Parisians to eat horses, eat rats and eat all the zoo animals (Except the elephants) Napoleon III died a broken man.

This significance was the unification of Germany.

1. A brief history of the Teutonic Order


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