Skip to main content

Berlin, Convention of


Concluded June 18, 1881, this Convention of Berlin recreated the Three Emperors' League between the Great Powers: Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia. Each power pledged to remain neutral if one of the signatories were to become involved in a war with another Great Power. The closing of the Straits to all warships was reconfirmed. A separate protocol recognized Austria's right to annex Bosnia-Herzegovina (an option exercised in 1908) and reiterated the Bulgarian territorial settlement imposed by the 1878 Congress of Berlin.

The treaty reflected Otto von Bismarck's strategy of keeping France isolated following the Franco-Prussian war, in part by binding Russia to Germany. The Russian government viewed the convention as a necessary evil to give Russia a period of peace on its western frontiers, to counter the Austro-German alliance, and to avoid a repetition of 1878, when a coalition of other Great Powers had prevented Russia from fully exploiting its victory over Turkey. A December 1879 Foreign Ministry conference chaired by Minister Nikolai Karlovich Giers concluded that a nonaggression pact with Vienna and Berlin was absolutely essential to obtain "the repose of which [Russia] has the most imperious need." Faced with growing internal social unrest and the need to slash military spending, Russia could not afford renewed military competition.

Alexander III renewed the alliance in 1884, but it expired in 1887. The convention failed to provide any mechanism for regulating Austro-Russian rivalries in the Balkans, especially because Germany was unable to function as an honest broker between Vienna and St. Petersburg. Nor was Russia inclined to permanently accept a status quo predicated on its post-1878 weakness. Bismarck concluded a nonaggression pact (the Reinsurance Treaty) when the convention lapsed, but Germany abrogated this agreement in 1890 when Bismarck was retired. This paved the way for the 1894 Franco-Russian alliance.

See also: germany, relations with; three emperors' league


Dmytryshyn, Basil. (1974). Imperial Russia: A Sourcebook, 17001917. Hinsdale, IL: Dryden Press.

Fuller, William C., Jr. (1992). Strategy and Power in Russia, 16001914. New York: Free Press.

Riasanovsky, Nicholas V. (1984). A History of Russia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nikolas Gvosdev

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Berlin, Convention of." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . 17 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Berlin, Convention of." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . (February 17, 2019).

"Berlin, Convention of." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved February 17, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.