Treaty of Björkö

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The Treaty of Björkö, known as the Treaty of Koivisto in modern Finland, was a secret mutual defense accord signed on 24 July 1905 between Wilhelm II of the German Empire and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

Secret meeting[edit]

Prior to the signing of the mutual defense treaty, Wilhelm II arranged four days earlier to meet secretly with Tsar Nicholas II. On the evening of Sunday 23 July 1905 the Kaiser arrived from Vyborg Bay to Koivisto Sound in his yacht, the Hohenzollern. He dropped anchor near Tsar Nicholas' yacht, the Polar Star. This secret meeting is confirmed based on their discussions via telegram dubbed, "The Willy-Nicky Correspondence."[1]

Treaty[edit]

The overall defense treaty contained four articles and was signed by Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicholas II. It was countersigned by Tchirschky, Count von Benckendorff, and Naval Minister Aleksey Birilyov.[2]

Their Imperial Majesties, the Emperor of All the Russias on the one side, and the German Emperor on the other, in order to insure the peace of Europe, have placed themselves in accord on the following points of the herein treaty relative to a defensive alliance:

  • Art. I. If any European state attacks one of the two empires, the allied party engages to aid the other contracting party with all his military and naval forces.
  • Art. II. The high contracting parties engage not to conclude with any common enemy a separate peace.
  • Art. III. The present treaty will become effective from the moment of the conclusion of the peace between Russia and Japan and may be denounced with a year's previous notification.
  • Art. IV. When this treaty has become effective, Russia will undertake the necessary steps to inform France of it and to propose to the latter to adhere to it as an ally.

[Signed] Nicholas. William.

[Countersigned] Von Tschirschky. Count Bekendorf. Naval Minister, Birilev.

Reaction[edit]

Although the treaty was signed by the Tsar, it was inevitably a "dead letter" because of Russia's commitment to France. The Russian statesmen Sergey Witte and Vladimir Lambsdorff, neither present at the yacht nor consulted beforehand, insisted that the treaty should never come into effect unless it was approved and signed by France. The Tsar gave in to their pressure, much to the consternation of the Kaiser who did not fail to reproach his cousin: "We joined hands and signed before God, who heard our vows!... What is signed, is signed! and God is our testator!"[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fay, p. 48. Author cites from A. A. Knopf's work (ed. Herman Bernstein), The Willy-Nicky Correspondence (January 1918). Nobody has the slightest idea of meeting. The faces of my guests will be worth seeing when they suddenly behold your yacht. A fine lark. Tableaux. Which dress for the meeting? Willy.
  2. ^ Fay, pp. 68-69. The treaty was published in the Izvestia on December 29, 1917. On December 31, 1917, the treaty was copied in the Paris Excelsior. Afterwards, the treaty was copied (with slight paraphrasing) by works from Bompard and Nekludov.
  3. ^ Cecil, p. 102.

Sources[edit]

  • Cecil, Lamar. Wilhelm II. UNC Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8078-2283-3.
  • Fay, Sidney B. The Kaiser's Secret Negotiations with the Tsar, 1904-1905. The American Historical Review: Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 48–72. October 1918.