From a long-range perspective, even though the formal establishment of Germany as a national state is a fairly recent phenomenon, its forerunners and preceding entities have played a significant role in European affairs for centuries. In the Battle of the Teotoburg Forrest, a coalition of Germanic tribes defeated professional Roman legionaries, crushing the Empire’s expectation of conquering Germania and expanding throughout Northern Europe, an impressive victory considering the asymmetries involved. Centuries later, the Holy Roman Empire ‒ under the leadership of Germanic rulers that were the successors of Charlemagne ‒ represented the most powerful Western European state of the Middle Ages. In the Battle on the Ice, a clash that foreshadowed the Napoleonic and Nazi campaigns to conquer Russian lands, the Teutonic Knights attacked the Novgorod Republic (a polity of Orthodox Slavs) but the attempt was repelled by Rus Prince Alexander Nevsky, a statesman whose legacy is still revered by contemporary Russians.
In the 19th century, the legendary Otto Von Bismarck masterminded the creation of a unified Germany, an accomplishment that was reached through a bold combination of both hard power and diplomatic skill. The German state became notorious for its active involvement in the deadly game of European power politics, a dangerous endeavor whose pursuit required worldly wisdom in terms of pragmatic statecraft, a strong political resolve, and the material capability to face powerful and wealthy rivals. In parallel, the unorthodox theories of nationalist economist Friedrich List inspired Germany to seek industrialization as a path to enhance prosperity and national power. Eventually, the rise of Germany as a force to be reckoned with would eventually shape the course of history in the following century, an event that would entail tectonic geopolitical shifts and a copious amount of bloodshed.