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The Treaty of Björkö, known as the Treaty of Koivisto in modern Finland, was a secret mutual defense accord signed on 24 July 1905 between Wilhelm II of the German Empire and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

Secret meeting

This secret mutual defense treaty was signed at a meeting arranged by Wilhelm II only four days beforehand. On the evening of Sunday 23 July 1905 the Kaiser arrived at Koivisto Sound from Vyborg Bay in his yacht, the Hohenzollern, which then dropped anchor near Tsar Nicholas' yacht, the Polar Star. Proof that the meeting took place is given by telegrams that they exchanged, dubbed "The Willy-Nicky Correspondence", made public in 1917 by the new revolutionary government in Russia.[1]


The overall defense treaty contained four articles and was signed by Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicholas II. It was countersigned by Tchirschky and Naval Minister Aleksey Birilyov.[2]

Leurs Majestés les Empereurs de toutes les Russies et d'Allemagne, afin d'assurer le maintien de la paix en Europe ont arrêté les Articles suivants d'un Traité d'Alliance défensif.

Their Majesties the Emperors of all the Russias and Germany, in order to ensure the continuance of peace in Europe have decreed the following Articles of a Defensive Alliance Treaty.

Article I

En cas où l'un des deux Empires serait attaqué par une Puissance Européenne son allié l'aidera en Europe de toutes ses forces de terre et de mer.

In case one of the two Empires is attacked by a European Power, his ally will help him in Europe with all his land and sea forces.

Article II

Les hautes parties contractantes s’engagent à ne conclure de paix séparée avec aucun adversaire commun.

High Contracting Parties undertake not to conclude separate peace with any common adversary.

Article III

Le présent Traité entrera en vigueur aussitôt que la paix entre la Russie et le Japon sera conclue et restera valide tant qu’il ne sera pas dénoncé une année à l’avance.

The present Treaty shall enter into force as soon as peace between Russia and Japan is concluded and shall remain valid as long as it is not denounced a year in advance.

Article IV

L’Empereur de toutes les Russies, après l’entrée en vigueur de ce traité, fera les démarches nécessaires pour initier la France à cet accord et l’engager à s’y associer comme alliée.

The Emperor of all the Russias, after the entry into force of this treaty, will take the necessary steps to initiate France to this agreement and engage it to join as an ally.

Wilhelm I.R. Nicolas

Von Tschirschky und Brogendorff Birilev.


Although Tsar Nicholas had signed the treaty, it was not ratified by his government because of the pre-existing Franco-Russian Alliance. The Russian prime minister Sergey Witte and foreign minister Vladimir Lambsdorff, neither present at the signing, nor consulted beforehand, insisted that the treaty should never come into effect unless it was approved and signed by France. Lambsdorff told the Tsar that it was "inadmissible to promise at the same time the same thing to two governments whose interests were mutually antagonistic".[3] The Tsar gave in to their pressure, much to the consternation of the Kaiser, who reproached his cousin: "We joined hands and signed before God, who heard our vows!... What is signed, is signed! and God is our testator!".[4] Wilhelm's chancellor, Count von Bülow, however, also refused to sign the treaty because the Kaiser had added an amendment to the draft (against the advice of the Foreign Office) which limited the treaty to Europe.[5]


  1. Fay, p. 48, citing from A. A. Knopf's work (ed. Herman Bernstein), The Willy-Nicky Correspondence (January 1918). "Nobody has the slightest idea of meeting. The faces of my guests will be worth seeing when they suddenly behold your yacht. A fine lark. Tableaux. Which dress for the meeting? Willy." (Original text, in English).
  2. Die Grosse Politik der Europäischen Kabinette 1871-1914, Vol.19, p. 465.
  3. Reynolds, p. 23
  4. Cecil, p. 102
  5. Clark, p. 193


  • Cecil, Lamar. Wilhelm II. UNC Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8078-2283-3.
  • Fay, Sidney B. The Kaiser's Secret Negotiations with the Tsar, 1904-1905. The American Historical Review: Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 48–72. October 1918.
  • Reynolds, David. Summits. Six Meetings That Shaped the World. Basic Books, 2007. ISBN 978-0-465-06904-0
  • Clark, Christopher. Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life in Power. Penguin, 2009. ISBN 978-0141039930
  • Die Grosse Politik der Europäischen Kabinette 1871-1914, Vol.19, Chapter 138: Der Vertrag von Björkoe (pp. 433–528), 1927.

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