Today’s installment concludes The Berlin Congress of 1878,
our selection from The Eastern Question: A Study in Diplomacy by Stephen P.H. Duggan published in 1902. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of six thousand words. Congratulations!
Previously in The Berlin Congress of 1878.
The Congress of Berlin opened its sessions on June 13, 1878, and exactly one month later the Treaty of Berlin was signed. The chief figures at the congress were Beaconsfield and Salisbury, who appeared for England; Gortschakoff and Shuvaloff, for Russia; Bismarck, who was president of the Congress for Germany; Andrassy, for Austria; and Waddington, for France. Italy and Turkey, and, when their interests were in question, Greece and Romania, were also represented. The twenty sittings of the congress formed one continuous struggle between the representatives of England and Russia. Germany and Austria almost always, and France and Italy usually, supported England, and on almost every important question the Russian representatives found themselves alone. Gortschakoff never forgave Bismarck for his attitude at the congress, and as the sessions continued, and the treatment of the Slavic cause at the hands of the Germans and Magyars became known, an intensely angry feeling sprang up in Russia, not so much against England, from whom Russia expected nothing, as against Germany, from whom she expected much.
By the Treaty of Berlin, as signed July 13, 1878, the Bulgarian principality erected by the Treaty of San Stefano was divided into three parts:
- Bulgaria proper, which was to extend from the Danube to the Balkans, and which was to become an autonomous principality, and to pay an annual tribute to the Sultan; the Prince, who was not to be a member of the reigning dynasties of the great Powers, to be elected by the people and confirmed by the Porte, with the assent of the Powers;
- Eastern Romelia, a name invented to designate Southern Bulgaria, which was to have an autonomous administration and a Christian governor-general appointed by the Sultan for five years, with the assent of the Powers, but was to remain under the political and military control of the Porte;
- Macedonia, which was given back without reserve to the Sultan.
This division reduced the new principality, as it was constituted under the Treaty of San Stefano, by more than half, both in territory and in population, and removed it, and incidentally Russian influence, entirely from the Aegean. Bosnia and Herzegovina were placed under the control of Austria-Hungary for an indeterminate period, and the same Power was also authorized to keep garrisons and have military and commercial roads in the Sandjak of Novi-Bazar, privileges which placed her on the road to Salonika, the goal of her ambition. The Turkish representatives protested vigorously against this action, which displeased Serbia and Montenegro also; but the congress was obdurate. Serbia and Montenegro were recognized as independent principalities, but received only slight accessions of territory, instead of the large increases allowed by the Treaty of San Stefano.
To Greece nothing was given; but the treaty provided for direct negotiations between Turkey and Greece under the supervision of the Powers, which resulted in 1881 in her securing Thessaly. The Greek representatives had demanded Albania, Epirus, and Crete; but all these were left to Turkey, though it was stipulated that the Organic Law of 1868 should be applied to Crete. Romania was treated harshly; for, although her independence was recognized, she not only was not compensated for her sacrifices in the war, but was compelled to restore to Russia the detached portion of Bessarabia, a fertile country inhabited by Romanians, receiving in exchange the Dobrudja, inhabited chiefly by Tartars backward in civilization. Religious disabilities were done away with, and freedom of religion and of worship provided for, in the new Slavic States, as well as in the Ottoman Empire; ecclesiastics, pilgrims, and monks of all nationalities were to enjoy the same rights and privileges in that empire, and were, together with their establishments, to be under the official protection of the diplomatic and consular agents of the Powers, though the special rights of France in the holy places were to be respected. Russia, besides receiving Bessarabia in Europe, obtained a large part of Armenia and of neighboring districts in Asia; but it was agreed that the reforms to be instituted in Armenia should be applied under the superintendence of the Powers, and not, as by the Treaty of San Stefano, under that of Russia alone.
Two days after the settlement of the Russian claims in Asia was made, England disclosed her secret treaty with Turkey and announced that she would immediately take possession of Cyprus. To Gortschakoff this was a stunning blow. He had seen Beaconsfield succeed at almost every point, and he pointedly asked the congress to make known the principle and the methods according to which it designed to insure the execution of its august decrees. The last three days of the congress were consumed in a passionate discussion of this question, and then at the suggestion of Lord Salisbury it was dropped. The Russian Chancellor went back to St. Petersburg greatly humiliated, while Beaconsfield returned to London bringing “peace with honor,” to receive the plaudits of his countrymen.
The work of the Congress of Berlin was not calculated to increase friendliness among the Powers of Europe. Turkey felt outraged at being despoiled, not only by her enemy, Russia, but by her professed friends, England and Austria. The States of the Balkans found their high hopes dashed to the ground. Romania complained of the loss of Bessarabia; Serbia and Montenegro, of the disposal of Bosnia and Herzegovina; and Greece, of the scant attention paid to the aspirations cherished by her people. Russia deeply resented the attitude assumed by the Germans and Magyars toward the Slavs. Indeed, so violent was the manifestation of feeling in Russia against Germany and Austria-Hungary that Bismarck deemed it prudent to form an alliance with the latter Power in October, 1879, for mutual protection, an alliance which was joined by Italy in 1882, because of the colonial activity of France in Northern Africa. It is only with the lapse of years and the development of new interests that the ill-feeling engendered at Berlin in 1878 has faded away.
This ends our series of passages on The Berlin Congress of 1878 by Stephen P.H. Duggan from his book The Eastern Question: A Study in Diplomacy published in 1902. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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