Treaty of Björkö

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, Count von Benckendorff, and Naval Minister Aleksey Birilyov.[2]

Their Imperial Majesties, the Emperor of All the Russias on the one side, and the German Emperor on the other, in order to insure the peace of Europe, have placed themselves in accord on the following points of the herein treaty relative to a defensive alliance:

[Signed] Nicholas. William.

[Countersigned] Von Tschirschky. Count Bekendorf. Naval Minister, 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. Fay, pp. 68-69. The treaty was published in Izvestia on December 29 1917. On December 31, 1917, the treaty was copied in the Paris Excelsior. Afterwards, the treaty was copied (with slight paraphrasing) in narratives by Bompard, French ambassador at Petrograd 1902-08, and the Russian diplomat Anatoly Neklyudov.
  3. Reynolds, p. 23
  4. Cecil, p. 102
  5. Clark, p. 193


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