During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, several major conferences among world’s powers were held with the intention of preserving peace. Both the Congress of Vienna, headed by Klemens von Metternich of Austria after the Napoleonic Wars, and the Paris Peace Conference, which was held after the Great War, resulted in treaties that were aimed to keep the peace, but they were ineffective to a comparable extent. The Treaty of Vienna was more successful than the Treaty of Versailles because it did a better job in avoiding a major war about a century, which was five times longer than the other treaty; created equal power amongst the European countries, and prevented the French belligerence in a peaceful manner rather than a destructive one unlike the Treaty of Versailles.
The initial goals of both treaties were to suppress French and German aggressions, respectively. The Treaty of Vienna substantiated the “balance of power” throughout Europe and it had a success stopping the French aggression because of its friendly attitude towards France. The Treaty of Versailles, however, did not quite establish the true peace within European nations; but carried a sense of peace for a short period of time. Though its initial goal was stopping German aggression it failed to achieve it. Humiliating and isolating Germany from international politics will turn into a greater German belligerence and eventually a great war in the future.
Under the control of Napoleon Bonaparte, the leader of France between 1799 and 1815, French army had conquered many lands and created tension in Europe. The European powers found the remedy in uniting their powers, in other words making an alliance, against France. The Napoleonic Wars were series of wars fought between France and alliances involving England, Prussia, Russia, and Austria at different times.  Napoleon was a military genius and he gained initial success in the Napoleonic Wars. However, the alliance of European powers would cease his power and success. As an old Turkish proverb says, “Every declivity has an acclivity and every acclivity has a declivity.”  This proverb exactly demonstrates Napoleon’s situation when he was approaching to his decline. After Napoleon’s decline representatives of the victorious powers met to solve the problems arose from the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.
The primary aim of the leaders was to design a new political map for Europe in order to make most stable territorial arrangements and secure Europe.  According to their plan, “No country was to receive territory without giving up something in return, and no one country was to receive enough territory to make it a present or future threat to the peace of Europe.”  By doing so the victorious powers had expected balance of power and lasting peace in Europe. Since France was seen guilty for the Napoleonic Wars, the leaders were distributing French lands among each other and in this way they were punishing France. However, that was not the only punishment for France.
France also had to pay money for war indemnities. The leaders’ idea was a brilliant one, because they would weaken France by taking some parts of its territory and making her paying money so France would not be able to start a war again; in other words present French belligerence was prevented and there was peace. As a result, the actual purpose of redrawing of the European territorial map was achieved as it guaranteed peace. However it was left to a system of alliances to preserve that peace.  The European powers were able to defeat Napoleon by uniting their strength and even after the war they kept their alliance.
They signed the Quadruple Alliance in 1815 whose purpose was to protect Europe against future French aggression and to preserve the status quo.  Forming of an alliance, however, should not be misunderstood. The representatives wanted to restore the old regime in Europe and they worked as fairly as possible. In 1818, France had completed the payment of war indemnities and joined the alliance, and it became Quintuple Alliance. The involvement of France in the alliance was the most obvious evidence that have probed the powers’ desire not to hurt France. Otherwise, France would be destroyed harshly and this would encourage the French to bear a grudge against them. Finally, the delegates settled the issues which arose after the Napoleonic Era; the delegates were so successful that no one got angry or hateful to the other side, and they established peace throughout Europe until the beginning of the Great War.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the European powers signed many alliances depending on their interests and goals. Triple Entente, consisting of Great Britain, France and Russia; and Triple Alliance, consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy were the most important alliances. Later on they would, more or less, form the Allied Powers and the Central Powers, respectively; with some additional countries when they were entering into World War One (WWI) in 1914. Although in the beginning there were only European countries fighting; it was called world war, because there would be involvement of countries outside of Europe such as United States and Japan.
The world had never seen a war like before… Maybe, it was one of the bloodiest wars in the human history. Millions of people died, wounded; hundreds of towns and cities were destroyed to bits. At the end of WWI many treaties were signed with the defeated side, which was the Central Powers. Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 between Germany and the Allied Powers (representatives from France, United States, Great Britain and Italy), and was the harshest peace treaty of the war. Germany had to accept the guilt for the war, the treaty restricted German army to 100,000 troops with no submarines or airplanes, had to pay huge payments for all the damage of the war, lost many territories and her colonies, and the most bizarre thing was that Germany had not even invited to the conference.
It is clear that the Allies wanted to punish Germany so bad that Germany would never become strong enough to start a war again. The representatives, however, claimed that they only want to maintain peace in Europe. How can they expect to have peace by making Germany angry? It is impossible. Due to the all clauses, Germany’s government and economy would weaken. Moreover, they would adopt the Russian revolutionist ideas and become a communist country. The representatives, apparently, could not see the threat of Communism while they were singing their song of “Peace, Perfect Peace.” The Treaty of Versailles created peace to some extent but only for a short period of time because Germany would want to take revenge from all the countries which punished her. That would ruin the peace in Europe with another major war, known as the World War Two.
The Treaty of Vienna and the Treaty of Versailles have a great deal of similarities and dissimilarities between each other. First of all, both of them wished for everlasting peace after strenuous wars in the European continent. However, they had different procedures to carry out their goal. For example, the Treaty of Versailles preferred to punish and ignore Germany; the representatives in the Treaty of Vienna decided, firstly, to punish France then to restore their relations with France, so that she would not feel humiliated and isolated from continental politics. The decision in Vienna turned out to be a cleverer one as it maintained peace a lot longer time than the other treaty. In both cases after the wars, the conferences redrew the political map of Europe. They made it to stabilize their continent after the atrocious wars.
Another similarity was the defeated sides must pay for their defeat in terms of money and lands. From both France and, especially, Germany huge amounts of money were demanded for war indemnities. They had to sacrifice some of their lands in order to gratify the desires of the victorious powers. The treaties are disparate for their point of view of the defeated countries. For instance, Germany did not participate in decision-making in the Treaty of Versailles, whereas France joined the alliance after completing her payments of war indemnities. The French existence was valuable for the victorious powers since they appreciated her existence in decision-making for Europe’s future.
On the other side, the Allies believed Germany should have been punished severely and there was no need to invite Germany to the conference. Making Germany suffer caused to inequality in Europe. Even though every country that was involved in the war was guilty, basically, only Germany was punished for all the damage in the war. This double standard indicates that unpleasant events were waiting for Europe such as another big war. Although they occurred in different time periods, the two treaties determined the future of Europe without concerning their effectiveness because the Treaty of Versailles, as an unsuccessful treaty, determined Europe’s future in short period of time than the Treaty of Vienna.
The Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of Vienna were two controversial documents. The Treaty of Vienna placed importance to the benefits of the European societies. The representatives did not ignore France, but made her part of their alliance. The representatives aimed to establish and maintain peace in Europe without causing to any revengeful feeling of France. The friendly policy of the victorious powers in Vienna towards France encouraged the equality among European nations and it was achieved. On the other side of the coin, the representatives at Versailles purposed the weakening of Germany and they did that as cruelly as they could.
Consequently, Germany would not have the strength to recover from such hard condition and would not able to start a war once again. In this manner, the representatives believed they had achieved the everlasting peace but they have missed an important point… This point is revolutionary ideas of Russia, which would inspire the German society and lead to another major war. This proves the delegates at Versailles had made a mistake in carrying out their policies. Their policy could only avoid a big war for twenty years, which is five times less than the accomplishment at Vienna. Thus, the Treaty of Vienna is more successful than the Treaty of Versailles. The dissimilarities in the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of Vienna were huge that they outshone the representatives’ efforts to prosper their intentions.
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4. Class Handouts