Triple Alliance (1882)

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Triple Alliance

Map Europe alliances 1914-en.svg
The Triple Alliance as opposed to the Triple Entente in 1914.
Status Military alliance
Historical era Belle Époque
  Dual Alliance
(Germany /Austria-Hungary)
7 October 1879
 Triple Alliance
(Germany /Austria-Hungary /Italy)
20 May 1882
 Italy leaves
3 May 1915
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Dual Alliance (1879)
Central powers Blank.png

The Triple Alliance was an agreement between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. It was formed on 20 May 1882 [1] and renewed periodically until it expired in 1915 during World War I. Germany and Austria-Hungary had been closely allied since 1879. Italy was looking for support against France shortly after it lost North African ambitions to the French. Each member promised mutual support in the event of an attack by any other great power. The treaty provided that Germany and Austria-Hungary were to assist Italy if it was attacked by France without provocation. In turn, Italy would assist Germany if attacked by France. In the event of a war between Austria-Hungary and Russia, Italy promised to remain neutral. The existence and membership of the treaty were well known, but its exact provisions were kept secret until 1919.

German Empire empire in Central Europe between 1871–1918

The German Empire, also known as the Second Reich or Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Emperor Wilhelm II in 1918.

Austria-Hungary Constitutional monarchic union between 1867 and 1918

Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a constitutional monarchy in Central and Eastern Europe between 1867 and 1918. It was formed when the Austrian Empire adopted a new constitution; as a result Austria (Cisleithania) and Hungary (Transleithania) were placed on equal footing. It dissolved into several new states at the end of the First World War.

Kingdom of Italy kingdom on the Appenine Peninsula between 1861 and 1946

The Kingdom of Italy was a state which existed from 1861—when King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia was proclaimed King of Italy—until 1946—when civil discontent led an institutional referendum to abandon the monarchy and form the modern Italian Republic. The state was founded as a result of the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which can be considered its legal predecessor state.


When the treaty was renewed in February 1887, Italy gained an empty promise of German support of Italian colonial ambitions in North Africa in return for Italy's continued friendship. Austria-Hungary had to be pressured by German chancellor Otto von Bismarck into accepting the principles of consultation and mutual agreement with Italy on any territorial changes initiated in the Balkans or on the coasts and islands of the Adriatic and Aegean seas. Italy and Austria-Hungary did not overcome their basic conflict of interest in that region despite the treaty. In 1891 attempts were made to join Britain to the Triplice, which, though unsuccessful, were widely believed to have succeeded in Russian diplomatic circles. [2]

Otto von Bismarck 19th-century German statesman and Chancellor

Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg, known as Otto von Bismarck, was a conservative Prussian statesman who dominated European affairs from the 1860s until 1890. He was Minister President of Prussia (1862–1890) and Chancellor of the North German Confederation (1867–1871) then the German Empire (1871–1890). He provoked three short, decisive wars against Denmark, Austria, and France. Following the victory against Austria, he abolished the supranational German Confederation and instead formed the North German Confederation as the first German national state, aligning the smaller North German states behind Prussia. Receiving the support of the independent South German states in the Confederation's defeat of France, he formed the German Empire and united Germany.

Shortly after renewing the Alliance in June 1902, Italy secretly extended a similar guarantee to France. [3] By a particular agreement, neither Austria-Hungary nor Italy would change the status quo in the Balkans without previous consultation. [lower-alpha 1] On 18 October 1883 Carol I of Romania, through his Prime Minister Ion I. C. Brătianu, had also secretly pledged to support the Triple Alliance, but he remained neutral since Austria-Hungary started the war [World War I]. [4] [5] On 1 November 1902, five months after the Triple Alliance was renewed, Italy reached an understanding with France that each would remain neutral in the event of an attack on the other.

Status quo is a Latin phrase meaning the existing state of affairs, particularly with regard to social or political issues. In the sociological sense, it generally applies to maintain or change existing social structure and values. With regard to policy debate, the status quo refers to how conditions are at the time and how the affirmative team can solve these conditions for example "The countries are now trying to maintain a status quo with regards to their nuclear arsenal which will help them if the situation gets any worse."

Balkans Geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe

The BalkansBAWL-kənz, also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in Southeast Europe with various definitions and meanings, including geopolitical and historical. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the whole of Bulgaria from the Serbian–Bulgarian border to the Black Sea coast. The Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Aegean Sea in the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The northern border of the peninsula is variously defined. The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala, 2,925 metres (9,596 ft), in the Rila mountain range, Bulgaria.

Carol I of Romania King of Romania

Carol I, born Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, was the monarch of Romania from 1866 to 1914. He was elected Ruling Prince (Domnitor) of the Romanian United Principalities on 20 April 1866 after the overthrow of Alexandru Ioan Cuza by a palace coup d'état. In May 1877, he proclaimed Romania an independent and sovereign nation. The defeat of the Ottoman Empire (1878) in the Russo-Turkish War secured Romanian independence, and he was proclaimed King of Romania on 26 March [O.S. 14 March] 1881. He was the first ruler of the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen dynasty, which ruled the country until the proclamation of a republic in 1947.

When Austria-Hungary found itself at war in August 1914 with the rival Triple Entente, Italy proclaimed its neutrality, considering Austria-Hungary the aggressor and defaulting on the obligation to consult and agree compensations before changing the status quo in the Balkans, as agreed in 1912 renewal of the Triple Alliance. [6] Following parallel negotiation with both Triple Alliance, aimed to keep Italy neutral, and the Triple Entente, aimed to make Italy enter the conflict, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary.

Triple Entente Early 20th century understandings between France, Russia and the United Kingdom

The Triple Entente describes the informal understanding between the Russian Empire, the French Third Republic, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland following the Franco-Russian Alliance of 1894, the Entente Cordiale of 1904 and the Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907 and which was a powerful counterweight to the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. The Triple Entente, unlike the Triple Alliance or the Franco-Russian Alliance itself, was not an alliance of mutual defense.


The man chiefly responsible for the Triple Alliance was Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany. [7]

Chancellor of Germany Head of government of Germany

The title Chancellor has designated different offices in the history of Germany. It is currently used for the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, the head of government of Germany.


By the late 1870s, Austrian territorial ambitions in both the Italian peninsula and Central Europe had been thwarted by the rise of Italy and Germany as new national powers. With the decline and failed reforms of the Ottoman Empire, Slavic discontent in the occupied Balkans grew, and both Russia and Austria-Hungary saw an opportunity to expand in this region. In 1876, Russia offered to partition the Balkans, but Hungarian statesman Gyula Andrássy declined because Austria-Hungary was already a "saturated" state and it could not cope with additional territories. [8] The whole Empire was thus drawn into a new style of diplomatic brinkmanship, first conceived of by Andrássy, centring on the province of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a predominantly Slav area still under the control of the Ottoman Empire.[ citation needed ]

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known to its inhabitants and the Eastern world as the Roman Empire, and known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state and caliphate that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. Although initially the dynasty was of Turkic origin, it was Persianised in terms of language, culture, literature and habits. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Gyula Andrássy Hungarian statesman

Count Gyula Andrássy de Csíkszentkirály et Krasznahorka was a Hungarian statesman, who served as Prime Minister of Hungary (1867–1871) and subsequently as Foreign Minister of Austria-Hungary (1871–1879). Andrássy was a conservative; his foreign policies looked to expanding the Empire into Southeast Europe, preferably with British and German support, and without alienating Turkey. He saw Russia as the main adversary, because of its own expansionist policies toward Slavic and Orthodox areas. He distrusted Slavic nationalist movements as a threat to his multi-ethnic empire.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Republic in Southeast Europe

Bosnia and Herzegovina, abbreviated BiH or B&H, sometimes called Bosnia–Herzegovina and often known informally as Bosnia, is a country in Southeastern Europe, located within the Balkan Peninsula. Sarajevo is the capital and largest city.

On the heels of the Great Balkan Crisis, Austro-Hungarian forces occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina in August 1878 and the empire eventually annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in October 1908 as a common holding under the control of the finance ministry, rather than attaching it to either Austria or Hungary. The occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina was a step taken in response to Russian advances into Bessarabia. Unable to mediate between Turkey and Russia over the control of Serbia, Austria–Hungary declared neutrality when the conflict between the two powers escalated into the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878). [8] To counter Russian and French interests in Europe, an alliance was concluded with Germany in October 1879 and with Italy in May 1882.


Cartoon of the Berlin satirical journal Lustige Blatter. In the Triple Alliance adult Germany drags the Austrian boy along, while the Italian child throws a tantrum to stay with the French cockerel. Triple Alliance Lustige Blatter.jpg
Cartoon of the Berlin satirical journal Lustige Blätter . In the Triple Alliance adult Germany drags the Austrian boy along, while the Italian child throws a tantrum to stay with the French cockerel.

The Kingdom of Italy, like some of the other European powers, wanted to set up colonies and build up an overseas empire. With this aim in mind, Italy joined the German–Austrian Alliance to form the Triple Alliance, partly in anger at the French seizure of Tunisia in 1881 (the so-called Schiaffo di Tunisi by Italian press), which many Italians had seen as a potential colony, and partly to guarantee herself support in case of foreign aggression: the main alliance compelled any signatory country to support the other parties if two other countries attacked. At the time, most European countries tried to ensure similar guarantees, and because of the Tunisian crisis, Italy found no other big potential ally than its historical enemy, Austria-Hungary, against which Italy had fought three wars in the 34 years before the first treaty signing. [lower-alpha 2]

However, Italian public opinion remained unenthusiastic about their country's alignment with Austria-Hungary, a past enemy of Italian unification, and whose Italian populated districts in the Trentino and Istria were seen as occupied territories by Italian irredentists. In the years before World War I, many distinguished military analysts predicted that Italy would attack its supposed ally in the event of a large scale conflict. Italy's adherence to the Triple Alliance was doubted and from 1903 plans for a possible war against Rome were again maintained by the Austrian general staff. [9] Mutual suspicions led to reinforcement of the frontier and speculation in the press about a war between the two countries into the first decade of the twentieth century. [10] As late as 1911 Count Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, chief of the Austro-Hungarian General Staff, was advocating a military preemptive strike against Austria's supposed Italian ally. [11] This prediction was strengthened by Italy's invasion and annexation of Libya, bringing it into conflict with the German-backed Ottoman Empire.


King Carol I of Romania was of German ancestry. That, coupled with his wish to turn Romania into a centre of stability in South-Eastern Europe (as well as his fear of Russian expansion and their competing claims on Bessarabia), led to Romania secretly joining the Triple Alliance on 18 October 1883. Only the King and a handful of senior Romanian politicians knew about it. Romania and Austria-Hungary pledged to help each other in the event of a Russian, Serbian, or Bulgarian attack. There were, however, several disputes between the two countries, the most notable being the policy of Magyarization of Transylvania's Romanian population. Romania did eventually manage to achieve the status of Regional Power in the aftermath of the Balkan Wars and the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest, but less than a year later, World War I started and Romania, after a period of neutrality, in which both the Central Powers and the Allies tried persuading Romania to join their respective sides, eventually joined the Allies in 1916, after being promised Romanian-inhabited Austro-Hungarian lands. Romania's official reason for not siding with the Triple Alliance when the war started was the same as Italy's: the Triple Alliance was a defensive alliance, but Germany and Austria-Hungary had taken the offensive. [12]


  1. "However, if, in the course of events, the maintenance of the status quo in the regions of the Balkans or of the Ottoman coasts and islands in the Adriatic and in the Aegean Sea should become impossible, and if, whether in consequence of the action of a third Power or otherwise, Austria-Hungary or Italy should find themselves under the necessity of modifying it by a temporary or permanent occupation on their part, this occupation shall take place only after a previous agreement between the two Powers, based upon the principle of a reciprocal compensation for every advantage, territorial or other, which each of them might obtain beyond the present status quo, and giving satisfaction to the interests and well founded claims of the two Parties." [1]
  2. The First, Second and Third Italian Wars of Independence.

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  1. 1 2 Grenville, John; Wasserstein, Bernard, eds. (2013). The Major International Treaties of the Twentieth Century: A History and Guide with Texts. Routledge. p. 38. ISBN   9780415141253 . Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  2. George Frost Kennan (1984). The Fateful Alliance: France, Russia, and the Coming of the First World War. Manchester University Press. pp. 82–86. ISBN   978-0-7190-1707-0.
  3. Charles Seymour (1916). The Diplomatic Background of the War. Yale University Press. pp. 35, 147.
  4. Hentea, Călin (2007). Brief Romanian Military History. Scarecrow Press. p. 102. ISBN   9780810858206 . Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  5. Becker, Jean-Jacques (30 January 2012). "Chapter Fourteen: War Aims and Neutrality". In Horne, John (ed.). A Companion to World War I. Blackwell Publishing. p. 208. ISBN   9781405123860 . Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  6. (art. 7)
  7. "Triple Alliance". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2016. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  8. 1 2 "Austria:Constitutional experimentation, 1860–67". Encyclopædia Britannica. 15 November 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  9. Rothenburg 1976, pp. 124–125.
  10. Rothenburg 1976, p. 152.
  11. Rothenburg 1976, p. 163.
  12. Keith Hitchins, A Concise History of Romania, p. 149