10 Germany and Russia in the Belle Epoque: -- Part 1
This age was more likely to have been described as one of insecurity, rising international tension, imperial arrogance, riots, racism, and revolutionary uprisings - a haunting prelude to the horrors of 1914-45.
There were many reasons to be happy.
After another brief plunge in the early 1890s, Europe's economy began to recover, and most countries experienced renewed rates of economic growth.
In Europe, industrial production increased by 40 percent from 1900 to 1914.
The second industrial revolution, spurred by the chemical and electrical industries, helped to provide such things as street lighting, better public transportation, and cleaner water in the larger cities.
The poorer part of the population had more food and cheaper clothing.
In the countryside, where the depression had hit especially hard, farming income rose in large part because of the rapid growth of urban areas.
Russia was fed by investments from the west, especially from Russia's recently acquired diplomatic ally, the French Third Republic.
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The alliance between republican France and tsarist Russia was fraught with symbolism, related to Germany's rapid economic growth and the widespread alarm that Germany's rapid rise incurred.
Germany's ascent was notable in many areas: science, technology, higher education, Nobel prizes, music, literature, architecture, and the visual arts.
German businessmen began to offer goods and services that were superior in quality to those offered by the British, who resented the ungentlemanly manners of these German upstarts almost as bad as the Yankees.
For the first time since the 1840s, British elites began to worry about their ability to compete.
They made overtures to the French and Russians because of their concerns about Germany.
The fact that these former antagonists were becoming more friendly was not unrelated to the fact that in 1890 the most prominent symbol of Germany was replaced by the younger, unstable, saber-toothed tiger.
Nicholas II became the new tsar in 1894 at the age of 26.
Nicholas was supposed to be a new "tsar liberator" like Alexander II.
He was at least as bad as the leader.
Under the system of balance of power, these diplomatic shifts might be seen as reasonable in response to Germany's growth.
Because of the speed of Germany's ascent, the shifts had less of the appearance of a reasonable adjustment and more of a vicious cycle, each side intimidating and inciting the other in dangerous directions.
The French, Russians, and British felt the need to surround and contain this new power, which had been replaced by an unbearably bumptious Kaiser.
The Germans were able to strengthen their alliance with Austria-Hungary because of their convictions.
An arms race intensified a shift toward a stark bipolarity in diplomatic relations.
The early 1890s were seen as the beginning of a fatal diplomatic syndrome.
There was a more reckless nationalism and violent internal conflicts that emerged in all countries, visible on many levels: in the screaming headlines of the period's yellow journalism, in the mobs rioting against the Jews, in workers' strikes, and in anarchists' acts of terror.
Both liberals and conservatives accepted the shifts and moved towards a more direct sovereignty by the common people.
Replacing older ideals with newer practices involved manipulation of a mass electorate through emotional appeals to class resentments, nationalist exultation, and racist xenophobia.
Both liberals and conservatives embraced economic nationalism or "neo-mercantilism," which involved new tariffs and expanded roles for the state.
The second industrial revolution was characterized by less individual effort.
Larger amounts of investment capital were needed for general operations.
The SPD emerged from its twelve years of illegal status in Germany in 1890 to become the country's largest party and a new political model that was different from the older-style parties that were led and financed by upper-class, established elites.
The leaders of the SPD were chosen from the working class, with a sprinkling of maverick intellectuals from the middle and upper classes.
Germany's economic barons and allied ruling orders were alarmed by the expansion of the SPD and its associated trade unions.
Germany's leaders felt threats from inside the country as well as from its neighboring states.
Paranoia is a dangerous mentality in a state where people are growing in power.
It is more dangerous when the states around it are in the same situation as France was in 1870-1, and many of Germany's neighbors had concerns about its long-range intentions.
It is possible to conclude that the Belle Epoque was beautiful but also ugly, secure and destructive.
Long-existing beliefs in steady progress clashed with fears of decadence and downfall within the intellectual elites of these years.
Trust in the power of reason was undermined by an appreciation of the power of the irrational.
"End of century" was the last stage of a glorious era.
Edward VII took over the British throne in 1901.
When he became king, he was sixty years old and heir apparent.
He was fond of the pleasures of the Continent.
"Wilhelmian" is derived from the new Kaiser, cursed from birth with a withered arm, and the term, like Edwardian, carried suggestions of release from long, burdensome parental restrains.
The English and German monarchs were related to Nicholas II's wife, who was one of Victoria's many granddaughters.
In Chapter 2, it was noted that Wilhelm, Nicholas, and Edward resembled one another physically.
It is hard to see any of them as hopeful signs of Europe's future.
The thinker who has come for many observers to epitomize the emerging trends of the era, Friedrich Nietzsche, spent his final years in an insane asylum and did his most influential writing in the 1880s.
He spoke to a different audience than the Hegelians, Darwinians, or Marxists.