Otto Von Bismarck

[Duke of Lauenburg]

Biography of Otto Von Bismarck

Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg (1 April 1815 – 30 July 1898), simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a conservative German statesman who dominated European affairs from the 1860s to his dismissal in 1890. After a series of short victorious wars he unified numerous German states into a powerful German Empire under Prussian leadership, then created a "balance of power" that preserved peace in Europe from 1871 until 1914.

As Minister President of Prussia 1862–90, Bismarck provoked wars that made Prussia dominant over Austria and France, and lined up the smaller German states behind Prussia. In 1867 he also became Chancellor of the North German Confederation. Otto von Bismarck became the first Chancellor of a united Germany after the 1871 Treaty of Versailles and largely controlled its affairs until he was removed by Kaiser (Emperor) Wilhelm II in 1890. His diplomacy of Realpolitik and powerful rule gained him the nickname the "Iron Chancellor". As Henry Kissinger has noted, "The man of 'blood and iron' wrote prose of extraordinary directness and lucidity, comparable in distinctiveness to Churchill's use of the English language."

He used balance-of-power diplomacy to keep Europe peaceful in the 1870s and 1880s. He created a new nation-state and led the way to the welfare state. He disliked colonialism but reluctantly built an overseas empire when it was demanded by both elite and mass opinion. Bismarck (a devout Lutheran) was loyal to his king, who in turn gave Bismarck his full support. While his new German Empire had universal male suffrage, the elected officials did not have real control of the government. Bismarck distrusted democracy and ruled through a strong, well-trained bureaucracy with power in the hands of a Junker elite representing the landed aristocracy in the east.

Bismarck, an aristocratic Junker himself, had an extremely aggressive and domineering personality. He possessed not only a long-term national and international vision, but also the short-term ability to juggle many complex developments simultaneously. As the leader of what historians call "revolutionary conservatism" Bismarck became a hero to German nationalists; they built hundreds of monuments glorifying the iconic symbol of powerful conservative leadership. Historians generally praise him as a statesman of moderation and balance who kept the peace in Europe and was primarily responsible for the unification of modern Germany.

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