GHDI logo

Three Emperors’ Treaty with Austria and Russia (June 18, 1881)

In 1873 Bismarck had negotiated the Three Emperors’ League, which included Franz Joseph I of Austria, Alexander II of Russia, and Wilhelm I of Germany. These monarchs guaranteed their countries’ neutrality in case of a conflict with another nation. The events of 1878 and Russia’s resentment of Bismarck’s role as an “honest broker” at the Congress of Vienna threatened this agreement, but the old relationship among the three conservative empires was reconstructed by the Treaty of the Three Emperors of June 1881, which fell short of a formal alliance. The treaty ruled out the possibility that Russia would support France in case of another Franco-German conflict. But it also made it very unlikely that Britain would join the Dual Alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary, on account of Britain’s long-standing disagreements with Russia.

print version     return to document list previous document      next document

page 1 of 2

Three Emperors’ Treaty between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia from June 18, 1881

The courts of Austria-Hungary, of Germany, and of Russia, animated by an equal desire to consolidate the general peace by an understanding intended to assume the defensive position of their respective states, have come into agreement on certain questions which more especially concern their reciprocal interests.

With this purpose the three courts have appointed:*

Article I. In case one of the high contracting parties should find itself at war with a fourth Great Power, the two others shall maintain towards it a benevolent neutrality and shall devote their efforts to the localization of the conflict.

This stipulation shall apply likewise to a war between one of the three powers and Turkey, but only in the case where a previous agreement shall have been reached between the three courts as to the results of this war.

In the special case where one of them should obtain a more positive support from one of its two allies, the obligatory value of the present article shall remain in all its force for the third.

Article II. Russia, in agreement with Germany, declares her firm resolution to respect the interests arising from the new position assured to Austria-Hungary by the Treaty of Berlin.

The three courts, desirous of avoiding all discord between them, engage to take account of their respective interests in the Balkan Peninsula. They further promise one another that any new modifications in the territorial status quo of Turkey in Europe can be accomplished only in virtue of a common agreement between them.

[ . . . ]

* Plenipotentiaries were: for the Reich, Reich Chancellor Prince Bismarck; for Austria, Count Imre Széchényi (1825–98, Ambassador in Berlin 1878–92); for Russia, Peter v. Saburow (Envoy in Athens 1870–80, Ambassador in Berlin 1880–84.) [All footnotes adapted from Ernst Rudolf Huber, ed., Dokumente zur Deutschen Verfassungsgeschichte (Documents on German Constitutional History), 3rd rev. ed., vol. 2, 1851-1900. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1986, p. 495-96.]

first page < previous   |   next > last page