This scenario focuses on a Russia that westernises early with the liberal military Decembrist Revolt  of 26th December 1825 never occurring. This means that Tsar Nicholas I is not put off the westernisation begun by Peter the Great and instead of enshrining the Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality  doctrine he continues the path of Westernization.
The failed Decembrist Revolt turned Tsar Nicholas into one of Russia's most reactionary and disastrous monarchs. He had an aggressive foreign policy that sucked the empire's finances dry, having started the Russo-Persian War,  The Russo-Turkish War,  and the disastrous Crimean War. His terrible war performance is historically put down to his lack of trust in his generals and subsequent personal micro-management of his armies.
This seems to be the result of a failed uprising against him by military generals on his coronation that led to his mistrust of his generals and staunch conservative reactionism. In this timeline an alternative scenario will be explored where without these experiences he is a competent and moderate ruler that pushes through reforms and keeps Russia up to the standards of the rest of the world in Industrial terms and keeps the Russian military and industry efficient.
With Russia's booming trade Austria and Russia form closer bonds, both become increasingly close. Austria and Russia became allies when they signed the Pact of Brotherhood in 1849 in fear of a increasingly influential Prussia and the heavily industrialising UK and France. During the Crimean war Austria comes to Russia's aid and along with military competency on the Russian Side the Crimean war (though initially looking like a France/UK/Sardinia victory) managed to drag the war on longer than in our timeline, still to heavy losses on the Austria/Russia side.
The war is dragged on until 1857, where the UK pulled out to put down mutiny in India. This leaves the Austrians and Russians greatly out powering the French and Ottoman opposition which ended in March 1858 with the victory on the Russian side.
Acting swiftly, Russia pressed on into the Caucus territories of the Ottoman Empire. The French came to their aid but due to low performance were of very little help. By December 1858 the Russian/Austrian Alliance was greeted by the surrender of the Ottoman Empire as the invading forces pressed deep into Anatolia from the Balkans. Austria and Russia carved up the Balkans in the partition of Balkan Ottoman land. Russia also annexed a few small Ottoman territories in the Caucasus Mountains. The Ottoman empire faced various rebellions after this and entered a steep decline.
American Civil War
Russia had close ties both politically and economically to the USA leading up to the war, this was mainly in the interest of containing British Power and Influence. With the breakout of war in 1861 the Russian Empire refused to recognise the CSA, and placed heavy sanctions on the break away state.
In early 1862 Russia sent over twenty ships and ten thousand men to America, the Ships enacted the Caribbean Blockade, a precursor to the American blockade of the CSA. The Russian Blockade however extended into the Caribbean, blocking access to Cuba and Mexico via the Atlantic as the CSA was trading with the French and English islands there, already considering intervention in the interest of splitting American power and expanding their cotton trade Britain began to heavily consider Intervention on the side of the CSA. The Russians helped Union Blockade as well.
France, who were seeking imperial ventures in Mexico also suffered under this extensive blockade, on the 5th June 1862 Both France, the UK and the CSA signed the New Orleans Pact, which saw military and economic contribution to the CSA from the two powers, but not direct war with the USA on the part of France or the UK. Nevertheless, the USA declared it an act of war, the UK did not take this seriously until Yankee troops marched into Ontario, the British were quick to act and the Euro-American War officially began on the 8th of August. On the 10th of August the Russians declared war on the UK and France.
The Paris Conference
Afraid of direct war in Europe the French called a conference between the three European powers (France, Russia and the UK) over the terms of the war in Europe on the 23rd August 1862 in Paris. An agreement was met that no fighting was to occur between them outside of the Americas, and that this was a war over the two American states. The second term of the conference was that the three powers could only help blockade trade, or help occupy land but direct fighting in battles was not allowed.
Battle for the Coast
British and French navies met at Yucatan and sailed north to the Texan coast where they began to attack the Union blockade to high success, Operation Snake's Head saw the liberation of the Mississippi River from the Union blockade, and the reinforcement of Confederate troops.
Battle of DC and the End Of War
With the Confederate Ports and rivers secured, and allowed forces holding down occupied territory they pressed North. By January the 6th 1863 Washington DC was surrounded by Confederates. They marched into the city, every street was fought for and up to 200,000 people died on all sides, making it the bloodiest battle in American history. By mid February Confederates cleared Yankee trenches that were strewn across the mall. The capitol building and the White House were burned to the ground and various politicians from the Republican Party were captured and held hostage near Arlington. Fearing the elimination of half of his party, and the public outcry at the razing of Washington, Abraham Lincoln signed the Baton Rouge Agreement on the tenth of March 1863.
Aftermath of the American Civil War
After the Civil War the damage to Washington was extremely symbolic as well as financially devastating. With the Government struggling to maintain order, martial law was declared on March the fifteenth and ended exactly one year later, and emergency amendment to the constitution was put in place that relocated the capital to Columbus, Ohio. Far away from the Confederate Border and capital.
Following the result of the Civil war the United States entered a period of political turmoil that spanned fifteen years and saw the violent New England successionist rebellion that was crushed in the battle of Hartford after fifteen days. This severely limited the ability of America to expand its military and industrial power as the country struggled to make it through the period know as The Dark Days.
The Dark Days
On the fourth of July 1834 the US capital officially moved to Columbus, Ohio. The City of Washington DC joined the State of Maryland, while Columbus was renamed Columbia in tribute to the original capital. Large scale protests occured in Washington DC (Which was eventually renamed Washington, with it's district status removed) but this did not effect the outcome, the capital procceded to be moved for "National Security Fears." Many also saw the expanding borders of the US as a reason to have a more centralised Capital for an expanding Nation. This Was apart of Manifest Destiny, a process that lead to a cold war and carious skirmishes with the CSA and other break away territories like California and Deseret.
Union of California and Deseret
Amid the political turmoil in the East Coast USA, Mormon Separatists in the Utah Territories broke away, forming the State of Deseret. News traveled slowly back to Columbia, where over 20,000 soldiers were sent to retake the area. The Mormons enlisted the help of the Navajo people, promising them a homeland, which would strategically serve as a buffer state between Deseret and the CSA & Mexico.
The US army more than doubled the troops set for the Utah Territory after fighting had stretched on for over a month, until the CSA threatened to declare war unless they retracted. With chaos at its front door, and successionist much closer to home and with the American Project severely beaten as a viable construct, Congress decided that a stretch of desert was, in the world famous quote from the infamous Chicago Address of, emergency extended term, President Lincoln, "Too Little over which to Risk too Much."
Californian Nationalists staged a coup d'etat in Sacramento as the crisis unraveled. They saw the direction the US going in as disastrous and unlike the promised glory of Manifest Destiny. Although a majority of Californians are believed to have been opposed to succession at the time, fearing being forced to join the CSA, the overthrow of the state government was successful, this was just as the US retreated from Utah Territory and Arizona Territory (Deseret and Navajo) so little military response arrived, with Deseret beginning to arm itself, through exports bought from France and shipped in from Mobile, and the New England Rebellion inspired by events on the West Coast the ability to respond was minimal. Instead, Washington Territory was given statehood to make up for the loss of ports, in a rush to secure its land, territory was also divided and made into states by the United States. The CSA allied itself with the Californian government as well as the government of Deseret, but not Navajo who viewed it as weak and un-American.
Indian tribes in Indian territory swore allegiance to the Confederacy and were annexed during the summer of 1867. Public opinion towards the confederacy would become quite negative in the coming years amongst the once supportive Native population. Indian Territory was renamed Leesdale after the Confederate General Robert Lee.
California and Deseret joined together for a loose Federal/Confederate Union in 1867, called the Union of Deseret and California. It lasted until 1889 when due to major political and cultural differences the union was dissolved, with the Californian Republic taking California and Baja and Deseret retaining the rest of the land.
The Union of the two nations is famous for its illegal settlement of surrounding Mexican land, even before the Confederate-Mexican War. This eventually saw the Californification of Baja California, eventual rebellion in the Second Bear Rebellion and a union with California/Deseret. It was incorporated with California when the union of the three nations ended.
The Dark Days
Fall of the Ottoman Empire
By 1866 the Ottoman Empire was in the verge of collapse, with growing nationalism in the fringes of the empire. The Russians backed the 1866 Armenian War of Independence that spawned from the Armenian National Movement (1860-1866). It saw Russia march yet again into the Ottoman Empire, to secure an Armenian Victory in an attempt to establish Armenia as a satellite state. Although the Russian army only ever mobilized 20,000 troops in Armenia, their funding of ordinary rebels and the brute force used to occupy the land was enough to keep the Ottomans out.
The war dragged out for four years until the Ottoman economy had plummeted so bad with concentration on liberating their occupied Armenian Province. Eventually they gave up in effort to save their dying economy, ceding Armenia. In 1875 the Ottoman Empire was so badly in debt that it had to sell off Libya to the United Kingdom. With this Hejaz declared independence, and months later invaded by Russia who established a protectorate. The Ottoman Empire was practically annihilated and existed merely in name, having lost all their North African territory and all but Istanbul in Europe.
After the Austro-Prussian War was started in 1866 Russia honoured the Pact of Brotherhood and invaded Prussia, from the East. While in OTL one of Austria's main problems was traversing the terrain into Prussia, Russia did not face this problem. They also forced Prussia to fight on two fronts, splitting their army. Russian ships blockaded ports along the Prussian heartland. A unified Germany was viewed as an extreme threat by the Russian monarchy, fearing it challenged growing Russian economic dominance and their large, highly skilled army.
Austria had a harder time defending Venice from the Italians as it focused mainly on Prussia to the North. Russian Ships from Sevastapol and Austrian ships from the nearby Posts from the Austrian Balkans lead to an effective blockade all across Italy. Only when Prussia was defeated did an offensive on Italy really start, with Austria using containment tactics to limit the damage inflicted by the Italians on the border and by blockading ports to wreck havoc on the national economy. Recently occupied Balkan states proved strategically important for Russia and Austria in the war on Italy.
Bavaria, Baden, Saxony and Würtemberg fought for Austria during the war and merged to form the South German Confederacy after the war. Prussia was excluded from Germany and had all diplomatic or economic relations with the other German states banned. The South German Confederation was essentially an Austrian Puppet state from 1867 when the war ended to 1874 when the Red July Bavarian anti-German unification nationalist rebellion disposed of the Austrian-appointed government.
The Semi-Unification of Germany and The Rise of the German Powers
The South German Confederation, free of Austria quickly grew to match Prussia's industrial strength by the 1890s. Power over the small German States became focused in the hands of the South Germans. Under the Treaty of Saxony in March 1894 all minor German states were willfully annexed all German states besides Munster, Hanover and Prussia. Hanover and Prussia protested the move, fearing Austrian Interventionism in the affairs of a German Confederation, in protest the North German Federation was formed between them in November 1894, this would later merge with the Kingdom of Prussia in 1900.
The North German Federation desired to Unite the South German Confederation with the North, as well as getting back occupied Rhineland territories that had been taken from Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War and split between The Russian Empire and the Austrian Empire. The South German Confederation desired to keep the status quo. The forces of German Nationalism, especially in the North as well as the anger of the occupation of the Rhineland and exclusion from Germany would drag the European continent into a long an bloody war.
Hellenic Conquest of Western Anatolia
Greek Nationalism soared with the early decline of the Ottoman Empire, leading to a form of Neo-Byzantine Nationalism. Many Greeks saw themselves as the fathers of Civilization, and that Byzantium was their rightful homeland which was stolen by the Turks and allowed by the jealous Italian city-states. A practice known as metatopisi or "Relocation" became popular among Greek Nationalist scholars, a concept that involved Greeks moving to Constantinople and western Anatolia and violently succeeding from the country and uniting with Greece. This Call made few actual people move the the remaining western Ottoman lands, but Raiding civilian border mobs would frequently raid the farmlands outside Constantinople and occasionally cause riots in the city.
The Young Greek Guards came into power in the 1889 sudden election which saw the total collapse of the ruling coalition. The party won a moderate majority of seats in the national legislature. They were quick to outlaw all opposition with relatively little objection. By 1892 they had allied with Russia. After ten years of vast economic and social reforms support for the regime was at it highest.
Trenches were built around the border with the Ottomans in mid-1899, a Russian Naval Blockade of Constantinople almost destroyed the Ottoman Empire from within, Greece declared war and quickly advanced onto Constantinople, before securing the city a month later. Russian troops marched through their satellite, Armenia, to the city of Alexandretta, occupying all land between the city and Armenia, cutting the Empire in half. At the time much of the Ottoman military was putting down a string of revolts from Damascus to Baghdad, when the Russians created the Alexandretta Land Blockade this trapped them far away from the Greek invasion, allowing the Greeks to advance into Anatolia, with the Russians staying behind to occupy the city of Constantinople. The Treaty of Konya in December 1899 saw the Ottomans surrender all of western Anatolia to Greece, with Greece establishing the Hellenic Empire.
Scramble for Africa
It is generally agreed that the Scramble for Africa, the rushed imperial conquest of the Africa by the major powers of Europe, began with King Leopold II of Belgium. After a report in early 1876 that the mineral resources of the Congo Basin could return a substantial profit, the Belgian king ordered the creation of the International African Association, under his personal direction, to assume control over the Congo Basin region. When Leopold asked for international recognition of his personal property in the Congo, Europe gathered at the Berlin Conference, called to create policy on imperial claims. The conference, after much political wrangling, gave the territory to Leopold as the Congo Free State. The conference further decreed that for future imperialist claims to garner international recognition, "effective occupation" would be required. The conference also created some definition for "effective occupation," noting that significant "economic development" was required.
Given notice by King Leopold, the major European powers sprung into action. Great Britain dominated the breadth of the African continent from Egypt to South Africa, as well as Nigeria and the Gold Coast; the French occupied vast expanses of West Africa; the Spanish controlled Morocco; the Russians boasted control over modern-day Tanzania to Eritrea and Cameroon; the Portuguese exerted full control over Angola and Mozambique. Only Ethiopia and the African-American state of Liberia remained independent. Conquest was relatively easy for the European states: because of previous agreements not to sell modern weapons to Africans in potential colonial areas, Europe easily held the technological and armament advantage. Bands of just a few hundred men and barely a handful of machine guns could obliterate thousands of Africans in mere hours.
The only notable exception to this was Ethiopia, a strategically (especially after the opening of the Suez Canal) placed state at the horn of Africa. By the early 1870s, Ethiopia was in danger of invasion from the British, French, and Italians. With Britain occupying Egypt in 1882, France taking Djibouti in 1884, and Russia dominating Eritrea in 1885, Ethiopia's Emperor Menelik II hatched a daring plan: he would obtain the modern weapons he needed to protect the boundaries of his state. Menelik II gave minor concessions to France in return for weapons, Russia grew nervous of the growing French interest in the country and offered Menelik Italian weapons, as well. Soon, Britain and even Italy joined in the game. Throughout the 1880's, Ethiopia grew stronger and stronger as the scramble for Africa went on around it.
In late 1903 Russia launched an Invasion of Ethiopia, the war was long and bloody but Ethiopia finally fell in mid-August 1905.
After the Great war Belgium's Congo territory was split, with the North going to Russia and the south going to Austria. Austria was given Zambia and Malawi Greece was given Libya while Russia took Egypt and Sudan. France gained Benin and South Germany was awarded Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia, while South Africa was awarded independence.
Declaration of North German Sucession.
on the ninth of march 1904 Schleswig-Holstein, Oldenburg and Meklenburg declared sucession to North Germany, inviting a North German occupation. The South German Confederation Austria, with the backing of Russia, threatened an invasion of North Germany, which was ignored and the annexation went ahead.
A week later what came to be known in Austrian Media as the Slow German's Club, the South German enclaves in North Germany, invited the annexation by North Germany, who promised the unification of all German lands. Russia wished to avoid war as it expanded its colonial exploits into Africa, and pressured Austria and South Germany into accepting the annexations. South Germany grudgingly accepted and signed the Treaty of Hamburg along with North Germany, Russia and South Germany which gave the territories to north German officially.
Belgian Civil War
After the rise of the Federalist Hanoverian German Patriots Party in the North German Federation in the 1890s, which focused on Political Protestantism and Pan-German nationalism, many followed the parties rhetoric of blaming the largely Catholic South German Confederation for being loyal to the church and Catholic Austria over greater Germany.
This message became popular all over protestant Dutch and German Europe, increasing the sectarian divides of Europe. In particular the rise of the ideology that became known as Hannoverianism spread like wildfire in the religiously divided, Dutch Flanders region of Belgium. They came to blame the Catholic, and largely more wealthy, French speaking Wallonians for much of their problems and there was a good base of support in the north of joining with Germany in a union much like Hungary and Austria.
Declaration of Germanic Union
Flanders nationalist Politician Herbert Miller stood on a platform in Grotze Square, Bruges on the 8th April 1905
The Great War
French occupation of separatist Flanders, UK declaration of war.
North German Invasion of Flanders in aid of separatists..
Battle of Strasbourg and North German Invasion of Alsace-Loraine
North German invasion of the occupied Rhineland
Austria, Russia and South Germany declare war
The Fringe Powers vs the Central Powers
Hellenic occupation of Ottoman Near-East.
Russian Invasion of Westproben
Battle of Calais
Serbian Red Friday revolution.
Russian occupation of Ottoman, Iraq and Assyria
Sardinia-Piedmont occupation of Two Sicilies
Blockade of the United Kingdom
Irish Good Friday Rebellion
French Liberation of the Netherlands
English Invasion of France
Battle of Paris
Siege of Berlin
Ousting of the UK from France
North German surrender
Central Powers invasion of the United Kingdom
Irish Black Tuesday Revolution
Occupation of Southern England
Scottish Provisional Republic