In the wake of Napoleon’s defeat, Europe is left deeply disorganized after nearly a quarter century of revolution and war.
Under the leadership of the four great victors over France: the United Kingdom, Austria, Prussia and Russia, the European countries meet in Vienna to determine the fate of the territories that were shattered by the Napoleonic conquests, and reconstruct a European order.
Two principles dominate the negotiations: the preservation of political equilibrium among the powers, and the restoration of old dynasties, driven out by the revolutionary wave.
The decisions taken in Vienna redraw the political map of Europe.
- Prussia expands to include a part of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, Swedish Pomerania, over half of Saxony, and above all, the greater part of the Rhineland. With these acquisitions, Prussia definitively obtains the status of a great European power.
- Russia secures its takeover of Finland. It is granted trusteeship over the greater part of Poland and removes Bessarabia from the Ottoman Empire. The Czar thereby continues his march towards Constantinople.
- Austria, for its part, recovers the Tyrol and receives the kingdom of Venetian Lombardy, as well as Dalmatia. These latter territorial expansions give the Hapsburg Empire a southern and Mediterranean engagement.
- The United Kingdom has no territorial claims on the European continent. More concerned with developing its colonial empire and insuring the security of its commercial shipping lanes, it obtains a certain number of islands, such as the islet of Helgoland in the North Sea, as well as Malta and the Ionian islands in the Mediterranean.
- Sweden sees its annexation of Norway confirmed at the expense of Denmark, which, in compensation, receives the duchies of Holstein and Lauenburg.
- France, a defeated power, regains approximately its borders of 1792. To curb its territorial ambitions, two buffer states are reinforced at its borders: in the north, the kingdom of the Netherlands, which includes Belgium, is created, whereas in the south, the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia recovers Savoy, the county of Nice, and expands to include the region of Genoa.
-Finally, the decisions taken at the Congress of Vienna leave the Italian peninsula, as well as Germany, partitioned, in spite of the creation of the German Confederation.
The new European order, drawn up in Vienna, marks the revenge of the Ancien Regime against the ideals of liberty resulting from the French Revolution, and fails to meet national aspirations that are growing in Europe.
Numerous peoples are left greatly disappointed: the Poles, whose country is once again wiped off the map, the Belgians and Norwegians, subjected to foreign rule, Italian and German patriots, who aspire to some form of national unity.
In the Balkans, the weakening of the Ottoman Empire sustains the desire for independence among Christian peoples: Serbs, Greeks, Bulgars, Romanians.