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Useful Notes: Otto von Bismarck

"Nicht durch Reden und Majoritätsbeschlüsse werden die großen Fragen der Zeit entschieden — das ist der große Fehler von 1848 und 1849 gewesen — sondern durch Eisen und Blut." translation 

Born to a wealthy Prussian family in 1815, Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck is most famous for the role he played in creating the German Empire, his Blood and Iron speech, and for having been a Magnificent Bastard.

Bismarck had a long career in politics, starting with being appointed as a representative to the Prussian legislature, Minister President of Prussia, and eventually becoming Chancellor of the German Empire. It should be said, that while the Chancellor was supposed to be subservient to the Emperor, Bismarck tended to just do what he wanted. He really only kept his position for so long because he was ''just that good'' at running Germany, and was the only one skilled enough to maintain the complicated foreign policy he had set up. Unfortunately for Bismarck (and eventually Germany) Wilhelm II quickly got fed up with him having his own agenda, and got rid of him.


Tropes Associated With Otto von Bismarck

  • Badass:
  • Bread and Circuses: One of the main motivations behind things like the welfare reform, and on a more general note.
  • Chekhov's Skill: He learned to speak French when he was young, a skill he later used to instigate war between Prussia and France by simply shortening the report of a conversation between Wilhelm I and the French ambassador so it looked like each of them had been horribly disrespected by the other.
  • The Chessmaster
  • Crowning Moment Of Awesome: Unifying a bunch of small, defenceless states into the badass German Empire.
  • Cunning Linguist: He spoke and wrote English, French, and Russian (as well as his native German) fluently. We even have a recording now to prove it.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Considering his treatment of Wilhelm II, the latter's sacking of him could well be read as this.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: To the first two Kaisers, anyway, though a very loyal one.
  • The Emperor: Ironically, since he was only the Chancellor, but he is a prototypical Shadow Emperor.
  • The Empire: Duh.
  • Foreshadowing: Famously predicted that "One day the great European War will come out of some damned silly thing in the Balkans". He was right. He also stated that Germany would collapse twenty years after his death. He died in 1898.
    • At the end of the Franco-Prussian War, Bismarck knew that demanding the French pay war reparations would only guarantee the French would do it to the Germans the next time they fought. He only did it because he knew the German people wouldn't be satisfied any other way.
  • Genghis Gambit: Could just as easily be called the Bismarck Gambit.
  • Germanic Efficiency: Was both an example and the Trope Codifier.
  • Glorious Leader
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: He was originally opposed to the idea of a united German nation.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: During the reign of Wilhelm I, Bismark commonly got what he wanted simply by threatening to resign. He was just that good. However, when he did the same thing under Wilhelm II, the ambitious Emperor was only too happy to oblige. Oops.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down:
    "Nothing should be left to an invaded people except their eyes for weeping."
  • Large and in Charge: Over six feet tall and around two hundred sixty pounds at his heaviest.
  • Made of Iron: Was once shot five times at point-blank range. Bismarck seized the would-be assassin by the throat and held him till the guards came up to help.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Bismarck ruthlessly manipulated everyone around him (up to and including the Emperor himself) to get his way.
  • The Man Behind the Man: He played his own king (and later Emperor) like a flute. As the king put it: "It's hard to be king under such a chancellor."
  • Manipulative Bastard
  • Morality Pet: Germany.
  • Morally Ambiguous Chancellor.
  • Nice Hat: Often seen on photos wearing a Pickelhaube.
  • Out-Gambitted: By himself no less! You see, he had taken Wilhelm II under his wing to influence him into going against his father. Though this worked in turning Wilhelm away from his father's policies, Bismark didn't account on Wilhelm's father being Emperor for only 99 days, and thus created a monster (Wilhelm) that he himself couldn't control. Then, Bismark was outgambitted again by Wilhelm - who managed to out gambit himself by out gambitting Bismarck, see What an Idiot below.
  • Pet the Dog: He originated the modern social insurance system. Ironically, as a means of reducing worker support for the socialist parties, which he loathed.
    • Of course, it was a very sneaky pet. He picked 65 (which has become the standard in a lot of Western countries) as the retirement age because the average age was barely over 50, which meant almost nobody would receive benefits.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: He had only few scruples he wasn't willing to override. He just found more expedient and effective ways to get what he wanted than by kicking the dog, such as refraining from picking a fight with Britain.
  • Red Baron: The Iron Chancellor.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!
  • Start of Darkness: While it's indisputable he did not and would not have approved of the actions of most of his successors, the centralization and authoritarianism he fostered in the nascent German Empire turned out quite unhealthy for Germany's prospects in the early-mid 20th century.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: When Prussia faced a revolution in 1848, and King Frederick William IV decided to leave Berlin for the safety of Potsdam, Bismarck tried to rally the peasants of his estate and march on Berlin in the name of the king, but was told that he would be more useful providing food for the Army.
    • Of course, considering that he practically advocated rather...extreme measures be carried out during the march, the matter of political expediency and preventing Berlin from falling apart even further also came into play.
  • What an Idiot: On the part of Wilhelm II. Yeah, firing the Magnificent Bastard who put your country together and has been running it for the past twenty years, in the middle of a diplomatic semi-crisis that he instigated and was in the process of resolving, was the best possible thing you could have done. Of course, in his eyes, it was. Particularly since he calculated (correctly) that Germany could ride the crisis out, bitterly resented Bismarck on a personal (very personal) and hardly unjustified level, and was tired of being hemmed in by the Iron Chancellor's power. He just didn't take into account the long term, and the fact that there might have been a very good reason for keeping him out of the loop.
  • What Could Have Been: What would have happened if Bismarck had never influenced Wilhelm II and remained in power? Would the World Wars, Russian Revolution, and the Cold War never have happened? Possibly.
    • At least not in the way they did eventually happen.
    • Alternatively: what if he never succeeded (at least to the way he did) in unifying Germany under as authoritarian a nation as it was?
      • Go even further. What if Prussia had lost the Austro-Prussian War, leaving Austria as the dominant leader of the German Confederation instead of Prussia?
      • Even further, what if Bismark's advice to treat Austria leniently in the Austrian-Prussian war had gone ignored. Maybe Austria would not have mended fences with Germany farther down the line. Or, conversely if Austria had not been forced out of Germany entirely by the conflict and allowed to remain a part of Germany, if junior to Prussia. Großdeutschland anyone?

Works In Which Otto von Bismarck Appears Or Is Cited Include:

  • Played magnificently by Curd Jürgens in two episodes (The English Princess and The Honest Broker) of the 1974 BBC miniseries Fall Of Eagles.


Götz von BerlichingenHistorical-Domain CharacterSimon Bolivar
Other Royal FamiliesUseful NotesRobert The Bruce

alternative title(s): Otto Von Bismarck
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