Most people, the term "German Reich" is associated with Nazi Germany, but this analogy is not quite accurate. With the Nazi period in the history of the country associated the term "third Reich". But when in this case, it was the other two? Let's find out, especially focusing on the concept of "first Reich".

The meaning of the term

What do historians understand by the word "Reich"? Translation from German language into Russian is as follows: "territory under the authority of the ruler." The word is derived from rīkz – “ruler”, “Lord”. A more simplified value is "Empire".

The term has become common in the 20-ies of the last century. It was then, after the collapse of Imperial Germany in the First world war, German patriots began to call her “second Reich”. They believed that the revival of power of the great country possible. These hopes were connected with the coming of the third Reich. Later these ideas were used by Nazi propaganda that the term has come to refer to their own state.

But let's look deeper into history and find out what, in the opinion of the Germans, who lived at the beginning of the last century, meant the term “First Reich”.

Attempts to revive the Roman Empire

In the period when the Roman Empire fell into pieces, barbaric Germanic tribes although greatly contributed to its destruction, but nevertheless these goals are not set. They wanted to live in the lands of the Empire, to enjoy the benefits, but not eliminate it. Therefore, the leaders of these tribes, settling here permanently with his people into Roman lands, often took the title of federates, that is, allies of the Romans.

Even the German commander Odoacer, in fact, eliminate the Western Roman Empire formally acted on the request of the Eastern Emperor. Created in Italy own barbaric state, he recognized his part of the Empire. A similar status had rival Odoacer and later the receiver of the ostrogothic king Theodoric. Even the Frankish ruler Clovis received the consular insignia from Constantinople of the Emperor, thus formally becoming a servant of the Empire.

After hundreds of years after the fall of Rome, the rulers of many German States in Europe wanted to revive the Empire in the West. Did the Frankish king Charles the Great. After defeating the Kingdom of the Lombards, who lived then in Italy, he was crowned in the year 800 the Pope crowned Emperor of the West. However, his government lasted not very long, torn by the internecine wars of the heirs of Karl. But the beginning of the revival of the Empire was laid.

The beginning of German statehood

Charlemagne's Empire broke up into three large States which, in turn, is divided into many smaller Duchies. In 919 year at the helm of the East-Frankish Kingdom and became the Duke of Saxony, Henry the Fowler. The history of Germany, according to some experts, begins the counting from this date. Henry was able to unite the Duchies into a single state, as far as possible in the conditions of feudal fragmentation, and even successfully pursued an expansionist foreign policy, primarily against the Slavs.

But in 936 Henry I the Fowler died. He was succeeded by son Otto I the Great. It is believed that he founded the first Reich.

Foundation of the Holy Roman Empire

Beginning of the reign of Otto, as often happened at that time, was marked by the suppression of internal uprisings and the strengthening of Royal power. Then his eyes turned to the lands outside of Germany.

One of the most attractive targets for the young German king was Italy. This flourishing country at that time mired in internal strife and conflict. The pretext for Otto to start the campaign was based on the complaint of the widow of the Italian king Lothair Adelheid on harassment Berengar, firmly established on the throne. The German king made a successful trip to Italy in 951 year, as a result of which its ruler while maintaining his title, but had to demonstrate humility.

However, later Berengar showed obstinacy, and that was the cause of the next campaign of Otto in 961. It was then that he deposed the rebellious Italian king and married Adelheide. A year later Pope John XII crowned Otto the Imperial crown. So under the sceptre of one ruler was a United Germany, and Italy, arose the Holy Roman Empire (first Reich).

The confrontation with the papacy

The subsequent history of the Reich were marked by a sharp confrontation of the Emperor with the popes. It was associated with the struggle for supremacy between spiritual and secular authority, for the right to appoint bishops for control of the Italian cities, and other political issues.

The new strengthening of the power of the emperors

The history of Germany subsequent to these events, a period known as the Interregnum. It lasted 20 years. During this period, neither feudal family could not firmly entrenched in the Imperial throne. The real power of the Emperor often did not extend beyond his own Duchy. And quite often there were several contenders for the crown. Each of them was considered to be the true Emperor.

The status quo has changed in 1273, when the Imperial throne Rudolph of Habsburg, at the same time was Duke of Austria. He greatly strengthened the power of the Emperor. Although he inherited her pass he could not, but nevertheless, his reign proved to be helpful to the future exaltation of the Habsburgs.

The next dynasty of Luxembourg, who was both the king of Bohemia, the Imperial power grew even more. However, for this the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire had to make considerable compromises with their vassals. In 1356 Karl IV issued the “Golden bull” which regulated the procedure of election of the emperors.

The rise of the Habsburgs

In 1452 the Emperor became a member of the Habsburg Friedrich III. Since then the representatives of this dynasty almost continuously, with one exception, was at the head of the first Reich until his death.

Son of Frederick III Maximilian thanks to a successful dynastic marriages managed to ensure the dominance of the Habsburgs in Europe for their descendants. So, his successor Charles V was also the Holy Roman Emperor, ruler of the Netherlands, king of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Spain, under its control put the rich colonies of the New world, and a number of other smaller lands. After the death of this ruler, these territories were divided between his son Philip, who became king of Spain and his brother Ferdinand I, who became Emperor.

Thirty Years War

But a number of subsequent events though has not led to a complete collapse of the Habsburgs, but significantly weakened their position in Europe. The main event that contributed to this was the Thirty years war, which began in 1618. Its cause was the desire of the German Protestant princes in the territories that they profess the religion which they desire. Naturally, this aroused opposition to the Habsburgs, who were Catholic.

The thirty years war was one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts, who knew Germany. Reich Habsburg alienated not only the Protestant princes, but also some of the Catholic kings. For example, France in this war was an ally of the Protestants, as was longtime rival of the Habsburg monarchy.

In the end, after thirty years of protracted conflict in 1648 was signed the peace of Westphalia. According to him, the Emperor agreed to respect the right of local princes to profess the religion they wish, legally recognized secede from the Empire, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands, although in fact it happened even earlier. Thus, the Habsburgs lost their dominance in Europe.

The final stage of the history of the Holy Roman Empire

This defeat did not mean the end of Imperial power, although she was considerably weakened and is now actually fully applied only to the ancestral possessions of the Hapsburg – Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and a number of other lands. After his death in 1742, the Emperor Charles VI, who had no male children, the crown for three years even fell into the hands of the Bavarian house of Wittelsbach, but was soon returned to the Habsburgs.

The reign of Empress Maria Theresia can be considered the last attempt to revive the power of the Holy Roman Empire. She had won some military victories, as well as rapidly developed the art. Coins of the Reich of that time clearly demonstrate the influence of the enlightenment on the Austrian court.

But it was flourishing before twilight.

The end of the first Reich

From the late seventeenth century began a number of French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars that shook the whole of Europe. The coalition, which included the Holy Roman Empire suffered one defeat after another. Particularly significant was the victory of Napoleon over the Russian-Austrian army at Austerlitz in 1805. The following year Franz II was forced to abdicate the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, leaving behind only the title of the Austrian Emperor.

So the first Reich finished its story.

The following Reichs

Meanwhile, after the fall of Napoleon intensified the Kingdom of Prussia, which was located in the North of Germany with its capital in Berlin. This government conducted a series of successful wars. During one of them in 1870 was the defeated France. After that, the Prussian king Wilhelm was United under his rule almost all the German lands except Austria and took the title of Emperor (Kaiser). Is public education called “the second Reich”. However, already in 1918 because of the defeat in the First world war the Imperial power in Germany was replaced by the Weimar Republic.

In the German state 20-ies of XX century was quite strong revanchist sentiments, which were expressed in the hopes of creating the third Reich. It was in the Wake of those aspirations came to power the national socialist party headed by Adolf Hitler. He managed to create almost the perfect machine for the enslavement, plunging into the chaos of war, the whole world. However, the allied forces managed to turn the tide of the fighting to defeat Nazi Germany.

Since then, the term "Reich" is primarily associated with Nazism.