A History of the North German Warring States Period

Chapter I

The Beginning of the North German Warring States Period

On July 19, 1870, the curtains would close on a dark era in German history, as the Treaty of Rome was signed, ending what would come to be known as the German War, a grueling, bloody affair, as France, Austria, and their South German allies slowly ground down the formidable Prussian army. The South German states of Baden, Wurttemberg, Bavaria, and Saxony would be solidifed under Austrian influence, with Austria itself talking its old territory of Silesia. The French would annex the Saarland, with the Rhineland becoming an independent state under French influence. The long-suffering Hannover, which had to suffer through a grueling subjagation, followed by a bloody liberation, would be given all of Northwest Germany as a reward for its suffering. The Danes, who had entered the war in its final months and proven decisive in breaking the backs of the Prussians, would be awarded Holstein. The Italians, for their willingness to back down from the Prussian camp, would be able to annex the short-lived Kingdom of Venice, which had been created to get the Italians to declare peace and ruled by the old Emperor of Mexico, in return for a guarantee that they would respect the sovereignty of the Papal States and drop any further claims on Austrian lands.

However, it would prove that the curtains would open on an even darker era - the North German Anarchy Period [1], where there was no real centralized authority, and the lands of North Germany were dragged back, in a political aspect, to the Dark Ages. As this period started, the question has been raised by countless people - why was this allowed by the European powers? For the most part, the answer was simple - the balance of powers. For centuries, the lands of Germany had been divided, and this would allow for a tenuous Concert of Europe to develop, which no-one wanted to break. The French and Austrian Empires, understandably, did not want anything more to do with North Germany, especially in a capacity that involved restoring the Prussians to power. The British, while their royalty had much sympathy for their Hanoverian cousins, were in a period of "Splendid Isolation". And the Russians knew that as soon as a Russian boot hit Prussian soil they would be at war with all three powers mentioned above.

The start of the North German Anarchy Period was an extremely complex affair that involved luck and circumstance more than planning. As Franco-Austrian forces finally approached Berlin in the summer of 1869, most of the government - and royalty - of Prussia - would flee eastward, to the old fortress city of Konigsberg, where they planned to remain until the war's end. When the peace was signed, the monarchs would begin to make their way back to Berlin - until word came of the Berlin Commune, a socialist revolution that had quickly gained support of a general military mutiny. Prussian King Wilhelm I, realizing that it would be impossible to take Berlin, would quickly move back to Konigsberg, electing to consolidate his hold in East Prussia than risk losing everything in Berlin.

This chain of events, combined with the mutiny of the Prussian army and the withdrawal of the French and Austrian ones, would lead to a general collapse of authority throughout Prussia. Much of Prussia, especially inland Prussia, would become splintered, as local town authorities, nobility, and communes taking after the one in Berlin would raise to fill the vacuum of authority. The general lawlessness in the area would lead many, especially former soldiers, to form gangs of bandits to steal and loot whatever they could, with some of the smarter bandits forming "bandit kingdoms", which allowed them to "tax" the populace to enrich themselves.

With this state of events, some would assume that the Berlin Commune would attempt to expand its power, perhaps to dominate all of Prussia. However, it was not to be. Disputes between the leftist bloc, led by such men as a jubilant Karl Marx, and the mutinous soldier bloc would come to dominate the Berlin Commune, with the people of Berlin trapped in the middle. With the chaos in the rest of Prussia, food would become hard to come by, and a strict rationing system was put in place. Finally, in the summer of 1871, a force of Junkers approached from the East, with a convoy of food, and the mutinous soldiers and people would almost instantly turn against the Communists. If not for a more leftist-sympathizing soldier warning Marx and his compatriots to flee, many leaders of the leftist movement would have been killed in a day. The junkers, for their part, would quickly dissipate their warm welcome when they invited King Wilhelm, a hated figure for his cowardice and his role in the Siege of Berlin. After a series of riots, they would have the good sense to flee, taking many of the mutinous soldiers with them, to West Prussia, where they would settle down and link up with their King. As Berlin settled into a tradition of becoming a "neutral" city, with sporadic takeovers from various forces, the North German Anarchy was set into stone.

There was one factor consistent across all of Prussia during the beginning of this period - a mass exodus. Almost all Prussians who had the means to flee would do so. For most, the preferred destination was the south German states, most notably Saxony, but some went to the French Rhineland, or somewhere in the New World. The population drain alone would set the lands of Prussia back demographically by decades, as it, for all intents and purposes, lost its entire middle class. Prussia soon became dominated by the nobility and the peasantry, yet another example of its backslide into the Dark Ages.

[1] - Alternatively known as the North German Anarchy in some academic circles.
Chapter II

The Baltic Consolidation

The chaos and fragmentation that would hit the parts of inland Prussia would not be as severe on the coasts of the Baltic Sea. For the most part, the German War would end at Berlin, and so while these regions had many of their young men returning home in coffins, they were not devastated by the conflict. The Baltic Sea was also a major trade thoroughfare since the days of the Hanseatic League, with cities like Danzig and Stettin being major trade hubs for such an affair. This would allow these states to rebuild much faster.

One of the first nations to emerge along the Baltic would be a restored Grand Duchy of Pomerania. Pomerania had always had a somewhat unique culture, having a long history as an independent nation before being subjugated by the Swedes and then the Prussians. Indeed, this rapid unification was caused in part by fears that the Swedes would land on Pomeranian shores, fears that would prove to be ludicrous. The throne of the Grand Duchy would be offered to Georg August, the brother of the Duke of Mecklenburg, in an attempt to bond Pomerania and Mecklenburg. The attempt would be successful. After Georg August's unfortunate death in 1876, he would be succeeded by his eldest son, Georg Alexander.

Another state to emerge would be Danzig. Like Pomerania, it had a long history of independence, and its position on the Vistula had always been influential. The leadership of Danzig, along with prominent merchants from the city, would declare the Free City of Danzig. In 1871, the Free City of Danzig would recreate the Hanseatic League, along with Pomerania and Mecklenburg, to defend themselves from any foreign assault - especially from the Royal Prussians.

The Royal Prussians, for their own part, would establish themselves in Konigsberg, and with their junker allies would expand to include most of the Province of Prussia, with the obvious exception of Danzig. They still laid claim to all of Prussia, but when they did try to send a foray into Prussia in 1873, almost all powers in the remnants of Prussia would unite to push the hated King Wilhelm back into Prussia proper. As the situation became apparent to many in Europe, there would be one power that was keen to take advantage of it - Russia, who had quite a large army stationed directly on the border with Prussia. Russia would soon pressure Wilhelm to sign a "Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation", which essentially reduced Wilhelm into a Russian puppet, although Russian aid certainly built up Royal Prussia, and would prepare it for a potential future conflict to retake all of Prussia.

There was one more major state that emerged during this period, and it would be very different to its neighbors - the Free Republic of Poland. Quickly seizing control of the Prussian province of Posen, or Poznan in Polish, it would attract many Polish revolutionaries, especially those from the January Revolution of 1863 in Russian Poland. Eventually, a triumvirate made up of old Polish revolutionaries would come to power - Karol Libelt,
Marian Langiewicz, and Ludwik Mierosławski. The three men, all rivals, would change positions within the turbulent politics of the young Republic. Of course, an independent Polish republic was undesirable to both the Austrians and the Russians, but the Austrians were already exhausted from the German War and were still in the process of integrating Silesia, while the Russians feared a war if they entered Prussian soil, especially from France, whose Emperor had sympathies for the Poles much like his infamous great-uncle. And so, an informal agreement was made - the Republic would change its name to the Republic of Poznan, dropping any claims over Austrian or Russian Poland, and in return it would be allowed to survive. Over the years, many Poles would sneak across the Russian border to Poznan.

While the states in the East and around the Baltic would consolidate, lands further inland would not get such a luxury. In most cases, every town was its own entity, ruled by a town council, a commune, a noble, a group of bandits, or, in some rare cases, a clergyman. While the first few years would be chaotic and bloody, the exhausted people would, for the most part, decide to settle into the new normal, with supplies being sent through the Free City of Hamburg (which became even more prosperous) and the Elbe.

Things would remain this way for the next several years, as the various states and towns of what was once Prussia would settle into their new state, and it seemed like this new system was now firmly in place.

I can see the various powers arming and providing advisers to the various powers. What do Americans think of this?
Americans have mixed opinions. The remnants of Prussia almost universally don't have republican styles of government, either being to the far-left, "bandit kingdoms", or traditional monarchical / noble rule. The general consensus is that Americans don't want to get involved in the middle of Europe, although a couple of enterprising Americans will try to make this into some kind of a business.