In the 18th century, as in any other, mankind fought a lot and abundantly. However, the Seven Years War (1756–1763) is not just some local conflict. This is a global war that went on almost across the globe. The fighting covered not only Europe, but also America, Asia and partly Africa. Moreover, the dispute between Austria and Prussia over Silesia led to the severing of centuries-old alliances between world powers and contributed to the formation of new alliances. On one side of the barricades were Austria, Russia and France, on the other - Britain and Prussia. Who would have told them then that it would take a half century, and they would become sworn enemies.
Frederick the Great
The total number of losses of the warring parties exceeded one and a half million, including not only the soldiers, but also the civilian population. For those times - an absolute and a little terrifying record. In the early stages Prussia suffered huge losses, and its king, Frederick the Great, suffered several painful defeats. In August 1757, he was defeated at the Battle of Gross-Egersdorf, and in 1759 his army was almost completely destroyed near Kunersdorf. Soon Frederick also lost two 15-thousand corps. In 1760, Russian troops seized the capital of Prussia, Berlin, for four days. By the early 1960s, Frederick leveled off the situation a little, but the situation remained grave. In November 1761, the defeat of Prussia seemed inevitable. The death of Elizabeth was a real gift to Frederick. Peter Fedorovich, who spent his childhood in Schleswig-Holstein and was a fan of Frederick's talents, barely ascended the throne, broke off the alliance with Austria and France, concluding a separate alliance with Prussia.
The new emperor returned to Prussia all the territories that had already been lost to her. Russia would inevitably unleash a war against former allies, if Austria and France would not soon seek peace. The results are pretty curious. Prussia, for which the Seven Years' War was a real disaster, suddenly turned out to be its main beneficiary. If it were not for Peter’s generosity, everything would have been different. Prussia was waiting for the inevitable defeat.
Could it be otherwise?
Peter's sympathy for Frederick was well known to all. The heir did not make a secret out of it. Diplomats, ministers, and high-ranking military officials were well aware that the death of Elizabeth would lead to a cardinal change in the Empire’s foreign policy. And many of them, fearing to anger the future ruler, showed caution and slowness. The intrigues of the Russian Chancellor Alexei Bestuzhev-Rumin and Field Marshal Stepan Apraksin are widely known. In 1757, when Elizabeth fell ill, Bestuzhev, believing that the Empress would die within a couple of days, hewonly recalled Russian troops from Prussia. Elizabeth recovered, and Bestuzhev fell into disgrace and was removed from all posts.
Field Marshal Apraksin also distinguished himself. He won the battle of Gross-Egersdorf, despite the fact that he did absolutely everything to lose it. The Russian army retreated when it was necessary to advance, and Apraksin forbade the reserve to enter the battle, although this move could easily turn the tide of battle. As a result, the reserve was arbitrarily brought into battle by Pyotr Rumyantsev (the future great commander and field marshal too). The battle was won, Russian troops could easily build on success, take Berlin and end the war. Apraksin somehow retreated. The true motives of his actions remained secret. The field marshal was soon arrested and died under investigation. At one of the interrogations, he said that he was afraid of a trap. On the other hand, there is reason to believe that Apraksin was afraid of another - the wrath of the future emperor.
The events after the Battle of Kunersdorf were no less strange. Field Marshal Peter Saltykov and Austrian commander Ernst Gideon von Loudon routed Frederick the Great. Of the 48 thousand army of the Prussian king, only three thousand remained. And again, Berlin was in a zone of quick reach. But Saltykov and Loudon did not go to the Prussian capital. Whether because of disagreements, or because of the unwillingness of the Russian commanders quarrels with the heirs.
Warlords and diplomats, not wanting to risk their heads, sometimes resorted to outright sabotage. Yes, they fell into an ambiguous position, where any move could lead to disgrace. The war with Prussia could be ended more quickly if the empress’s health did not fail her, and her heir would not be a fanatical admirer of the main enemy in this conflict.
Elizabeth lived 52 years. Even by the standards of the 18th century, he was not considered an elderly woman. For example, her ally in the Seven Years War, the Empress of Austria Maria Theresa, lived 63 years. If the life of the Russian autocracy were a little longer, then the outcome of the war could have been different. The winners of it, thanks to the demarche of Peter, came out of England and Prussia. France lost many of its colonies in the New World and India, Austria - part of the territory. Russia, which was formally in the victorious bloc, against which she had fought for six years, did not receive anything. Except, perhaps, valuable military experience. But Prussia - on the contrary. The foundations of the future Germanic Empire were laid precisely then, in the Seven Years' War.
Taking the fortress of Kolberg
The creation of a unified Germany, before which another 108 years would remain, would have been impossible if the Russian-French-Austrian bloc would have destroyed Prussia. The success of Frederick introduced his country to the number of world powers. Prussia forced Europe to reckon with their interests and desires. Moreover, it received the status of the first of all German states and began to set the tone in their unification. This is quite an important point, because before the Seven Years' War, Austria could equally well claim to be united. After all, Austria was the successor of the traditions of the Holy Roman Empire. Prussia took the ball to his side. Not to mention the fact that the country's military expenses were covered by indemnity. Otherwise, the treasury of Berlin would remain completely empty. Here you have the main possible change. If the Seven-Year War had been formed differently, in 1871 the German Empire would not have appeared on the map of Europe. She would not become the worst enemy of France and Great Britain, and at the same time the main rival of almost the whole world in the First World War.