Vienna Conference

gigatos | September 19, 2021


The Congress of Vienna held in 1814-1815 was one of the most important conferences in the history of Europe and a milestone in the history of international law. The Congress, which met in Vienna under the first Treaty of Paris (1814), was attended by all the European Principalities of the time, with a total of 450 delegates.

The purpose of the conference was, on the one hand, to seek a real system of balance between the Powers involved in the Napoleonic Wars and, on the other hand, the just settlement of the territorial problems that had arisen between the Royal Houses of Europe of that period.

As an event, this conference was of decisive importance in shaping the geopolitical map of Europe in the 19th century. The Great Powers that participated, England, Prussia, Austria, Russia and the defeated France, had the aim of serving their geopolitical purposes, but also the priorities set by the victors of the Napoleonic wars, i.e. the first four who had most of the gains of the final settlement.

The work of the Congress of Vienna began on 18 September 1814, under the presidency of the Austrian politician Metternich, and ended on 9 June 1815. Throughout this nine-month congress the Czar of Russia, the Emperor of Austria (he participated in the conference in parts) and the kings of Prussia, Denmark, Württemberg and Bavaria, as well as rulers of other, smaller states, took part. The heads of the delegations of the Great Powers were Count Metternich of Austria, Nesselronde of Russia (assisted by Kapodistrias and Ardenberg), Lord Caslro of England, and later Wellington, Count Umfold Harderberg of Prussia and Prince Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Perregaux of France, as well as Bernstorff (Denmark), Gathery and Wrede (Bavaria), Munder and others. α. In addition to the Dominions, Switzerland was also represented. All the agreements concluded at this Congress were contained in a single protocol – an act officially named: Final Act of the Congress of Vienna, and which was co-signed by all the delegates on the day on which the proceedings of the Congress closed, June 9, 1815.

The representative of France, Talleyrand, succeeded during the discussions in prevailing the spirit which he himself proposed (“Principle of Legitimacy”), which was expressed by the restoration of the aristocrats, after the defeat of Napoleon, by the predominance of the influence of the European rulers over their peoples, and finally by the complete consolidation of their former power.

During this congress, which was the first Congress of European Rulers, in Vienna, the capital of European classicism at the time, there were also great pompous celebrations and military ceremonies with parades and parades for which the Austrian government spent huge sums of money. In fact, the following charming story was told when an elderly diplomat attending the congress was asked: “Comment marche le Congrès?” (Coman marche le Congrès?) (= How does the Congress go?), he replied, “Le Congrès ne marche pas, il dance!” (Le Congrès ne marche pas, il dans!) (= The Congress does not march, it dances!). And indeed he danced at the winter riding school and in the reception halls of the palace of Senbrun, as well as in all the other palaces of the city where musical events and dances followed one another. Then Beethoven conducted one of his solemn concerts, while the Viennese dance, the waltz, dominated.

It becomes obvious that through the agreements and behind the scenes the Congress of Vienna tried to restore the disturbed European system of government from the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, through the principle of the “balance of power”.

The need to restore the old regimes created the Holy Alliance (September 1815) as a form of reactionary force for any revolution that would affect the interests of the great powers of the time. It was drawn up by the Emperors of Russia, Austria and Prussia and subscribed to by all the Rulers of Europe, with the exception of the Sultan.

It is worth mentioning in particular two incidents that occurred during the work of the Congress, which concerned both the Greek area (Ionian Islands) and the Greeks in general, which were considered important in the subsequent historical development, as well as two incidents that occurred outside the Congress, which concerned the Greeks.

English draft

During the Congress of Vienna the English representative submitted a special draft treaty concerning the Ionian Islands in particular. That special draft contained in summary the following:

This plan was immediately rejected by the Leaders of the other Powers.

Greek issue

At the Congress of Vienna, the Russian delegation accompanying Tsar Alexander was joined by Ioannis Kapodistrias. At some point in the proceedings of the congress, he considered that it was the most appropriate time to bring to the attention of the congress the question of the Greeks who remained under the Turkish yoke. Then, approaching the Emperor Alexander, he spoke to him in private so that he would take care of the Greeks, adding, among other things, that “the Greeks, after God, consider only the homogeneous Empire (Russia) as their protector”. Then the Tsar gave him permission to raise the question at one of the meetings and then he would assume the burden. Indeed Kapodistrias at the very next meeting taking the floor said: “I think it is the duty of Their Majesties, (Kings), to make any provision for the oppressed Greek nation in spite of the Ottoman power, which has suffered for so many centuries the tyrannical Ottoman yoke and which is in danger of falling into the last extermination and nihilism, wherefore it does not seem to me fair that the Kings should be indifferent. “Then Metternich, who was cultivating unpopular spirits, rose up and, answering Kapodistrias in a strong and insulting manner, said: “Herr Count! Europe knows no Greeks; it knows the Ottoman Empire under whose authority the Greeks residing therein are. For this reason, Sir Count, it appears that you have so supported, and left out of the bond of the Holy Alliance, the vast Ottoman State, but you will not succeed in your hopes concerning it. “Then the Emperor Alexander, thinking that this insult of his representative was also directed against his person, rose up and in a loud voice interrupted Metternich, saying: “The Greeks through Divine Providence and the European cutting-edge armed assistance want to be freed quickly and in accordance with their ancient ancestral rights, they will remain free, autonomous and independent.” Thereupon Kapodistrias did not continue his speech, but neither did Metternich dare to reply, and the tension that had arisen at that moment seemed to have caused a certain interruption, the head of the Russian delegation, Nesselrode, then undertook to put forward a counter-proposal to Kapodistrias”s proposal, which was followed by various exchanges of views that were finally understood only as a sounding out of the other Sovereigns on the Greek question, without any decision being taken.


Two principles formed the basis of the negotiations at the Vienna Conference:

Nevertheless, the following innovative principles of international law were agreed upon in those negotiations.


  1. Συνέδριο της Βιέννης
  2. Congress of Vienna
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