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Marching Toward War

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Rising Tensions in Europe

Many people in Europe had joined groups to work for peace. However, developments would soon lead Europe into war.

One of those developments was nationalism - a deep feeling of attachment to one's own nation. This force helped unify the people of a country. It also created competition between countries.

By 1900, six nations were rivals for power in Europe. These nations, called the Great Powers, were Germany, Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, and France. They competed economically, and they competed for neighboring land.

Imperialism was another force that helped lead to war. France and Germany were each seeking to control of parts of Africa. They almost came to war twice in the early 1900s. Mistrust was a huge problem.

The third factor leading to war was a growing arms race. Each country in Europe - except Great Britain - built a large army. Glorifying war and preparing for it is called militarism.

What were the factors leading to war?
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Tangled Alliances

Growing rivalries led the nations to make military alliances. Prussia's chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, feared that France would want revenge for its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. He set out to isolate France. In 1879, he formed a Triple Alliance with Austria-Hungary and Italy. He also signed a treaty with Russia.

Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany did not want to share power with Bismarck. He forced Bismarck to resign and followed his own foreign policy. He let the agreement with Russia end. Russia soon allied itself with France. This alliance meant that Germany would have to fight enemies on its eastern and western borders if there were a war with either country. Wilhelm II then moved to make the German navy larger.

Britain grew alarmed. It began to build more ships. It also entered into the Triple Entente alliance with France and Russia. The six Great Powers had now formed two camps—Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy against Britain, France, and Russia.

What caused countries to fear one another AND how did they respond?
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Crisis in the Balkans

Meanwhile, trouble was brewing in the Balkans, in southeastern Europe. The Ottoman Empire controlled this area. But it was breaking apart. Both Austria-Hungary and Russia wanted some of this land.

The kingdom of Serbia was also in this region. It wanted to bring other Slavic peoples who lived in the Balkans under its control. In 1908, AustriaHungary seized Bosnia and Herzegovina. These lands had Slavic peoples. This action angered the Serbs. However, their Russian allies were unwilling to support them, and they backed down.

By 1914, the situation was different. Serbia had gained land in other parts of the region and felt strong. Austria worried that Serbia might interfere with its control of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In June 1914, a Serbian killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of AustriaHungary. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Russia came to Serbia's defense. Soon most of Europe was at war.

What part did the Balkans play in the increasing tensions?
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