World War One was shorter, earlier and much less devastating than in OTL. The old system which held sway over Eastern Europe since the end of the Napoleonic Wars, shored up by the power of Austria and Russia, came to an end. The succeeding years saw both chaos and consolidation, as revolution swept the Balkans and Russia and as Germany became a great power.
World War One
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Most pre-war observers considered an Austro-Russian victory likely. To their surprise, Austria collapsed quickly and though Russia proved harder to subdue, the Allies won a (relatively) quick and easy victory, and thus did not harshly punish the losers. Russia and Austria lost only border areas, but their unofficial spheres of influence came to an end. Germany and Italy unified at last, while Britain and France took stewardship over the Balkans.
The Post-War OrderUnrest forced both Austria and Russia to reform: the old Austrian Empire
, under threat of revolution, morphed into Austria-Hungary , and eventually the United States of Greater Austria . With the last change, the long-reigning Franz Joseph abdicated in favor of Franz Ferdinand. The new emperor reminded many of the old councilor Bach: liberal towards the ethnic minorities but a staunch Catholic, fearful of war with the great powers but in favor of expansion overseas.
In Russia, the war's loss led to the abdication of Tsar Michael II and the ascension of his brother, Alexander IV . Nonetheless, the new administration proved no less oppressive than the last, and could not rebuild the huge losses Russia had sustained during the war.
The Balkans found themselves divided again between Britain and France, along the same line as Austria and Russia did. The Balkans states furious at their 'betrayal' by Russia during the war, assembled armies in secret, to fight for complete and total independence.
The Revolutions of 1899-1908
China had long suffered under the colonial yoke and the post-war Japanese occupation of Manchuria only increased the number of secret anti-Western societies, often supported by the Qing government. In 1899, the most important of them, the Yihetuan, or Boxers, launched a large uprising in Northern China and Manchuria. Though the Europeans eventually crushed them, the Boxers threw back numerous relief expeditions.
The Ottoman Empire gained little in the Balkans from the peace settlement, as well as taking awful casualties in the Caucuses front, and the British added insult to injury by annexing Cyprus. The Ottoman Parliament helped liberalize some institutions, but did nothing to change the Empire's status as a de facto British puppet state. The Yihetuan victories, though ephemeral, and the reforms in Austria, inspired a secret group of army officers, The Young Turks, to launch a coup against the sultan, which succeed. Egypt also saw nationalist uprisings, led by the Wafd party, while the Madhists, even while cut off from Russian aid, continued to raid British and French possessions from Sudan.
With the British and French distracted by the Young Turks, the Balkan nations saw their chance and revolt broke out everywhere. Besides the anti-British and French revolts, numerous ethnic conflicts occurred, and internal governmental conflicts occurred in both Serbia and Greece.
By and large, the most significant events occurred in Russia. Alexander IV lost his throne and fled to exile in Sweden. The revolutionaries established the Russian Republic , despite a few radicals pushing for socialist revolution. The Republic, however, tumbled into crisis as seemingly every ethnic group in the empire pushed for independence. Poland, Finland and Romania invaded to try and grab land and support the large Ukrainian insurrection (also aided by the British). The Germans also (secretly) sent troops into the Baltic states.
The British and French moved quickly to crush the Young Turks and the Balkan revolts, and despite several reverses, succeeded in restoring the old order. Not so in Russia. Franz Ferdinand called an international conference to prevent an all-out war over the spoils of Russia. The British gained the most, with the creation of a large, independent Ukraine and the independence of the Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus (MRNC), both states beholden to British interests, while French-aligned Poland got huge swaths of land as well. Germany only got Courland and a puppet state in the rest of Latvia (though Estonia and gained independence as a Russian vassal). Humiliated, Germany laid the groundwork for an alliance with Finland, as well as annexing the three Thuringian states. By 1903, peace again held sway over Europe, although it took until 1908 for the British to finally crush the Madhists and Boers in Africa. In that same year, the revolutionary wave ended where it began, when the Tongmenghui Revolution in China, leading to the replacement of the Qing Dynasty by a fragile republic.
Despite the seeming restoration of order, the events of the revolutionary wave drove Germany away from Britain and France permanently. New political power structures emerged in Austria, Russia, and China. Germany, under Wilhelm II, began building a navy, further destroying her relations with Britain. With the newly-formed USGA neutral, Germany found itself without any significant allies. Despite this, Wilhelm continued to aggravate the Western powers, culminating with the two Moroccan Crises of 1907 and 1911.
Britain and France began to give the Balkan states more leeway in international relations and almost complete autonomy in internal affairs. Britain, especially, saw more 'war exhaustion' in the early postwar years than in World War One itself. Nonetheless, the British Empire stood at the apex of its power, with no nation in a condition to dare oppose it. The Imperial Conference of 1907 created the status of 'dominion,' immediately applied to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Newfoundland, followed by South Africa five years later.
The Crushing of the Young Turk Revolution led to the de facto division of most of the Ottoman Empire outside Anatolia between the French, British, and Italians, on Egyptian lines. The Italians, however, found that both the British and French opposed them every step of the way-they only got overlordship over Libya, the Dodecanese, and Southwest Anatolia, all difficult to govern territories. France took all the Arab lands north of Hejaz, east of Egypt, and west of Iraq, while the British took all of Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf. With Britain and France backing their enemies, the Saudis never come to power. OTL Saudi Arabia becomes divided between Hejaz in the west, Jabal Shammar in the center, and (the British protectorates of) Kuwait and Hausa in the east.
The newly created liberal states (the Russian Republic, the USGA, and the Chinese Republic) began the task of supplanting the ancient monarchies they displaced. The USGA managed to move smoothly on and even prosper, but Russia's new government proved more fragile, yet was able to administer their remaining territories. In China, spurred on by the British and French, Yuan Skikai, former general of the republican forces, declared himself Emperor in 1911. Immediately, southern warlords and even many in his own ranks turned against him, but he managed (thanks to British and French weaponry) to defeat his enemies in the National Protection War and rule over most of the country, although his strength remained tenuous.