On the very day that Bismarck took this step, the definitive Treaty of San Stefano was signed.
Continuing 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. The selection is presented in six easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in The Berlin Congress of 1878.
On February 3rd Austria, indignant at the disposal of Bosnia and Herzegovina in a manner contrary to what was believed to be the promise of the Czar in the previous July, notified Russia that she would consider null any agreement between the belligerents which should modify existing treaties and which should affect the interests of Europe, and especially those of Austria-Hungary, unless it were submitted to a conference of the Powers; and she suggested that such a conference should meet at Vienna. As to Beaconsfield, he went a step further, and on February 15th ordered the English fleet with troops on board to pass the Dardanelles and anchor in front of Constantinople. The Czar then promised that if the English would abstain from landing troops, his forces would not enter the city. Gortschakoff had answered the note of Andrassy evasively, demanding that a distinction be made between what in the treaty affected all Europe and that which concerned only Russia and Turkey. At the same time he treated with Bismarck, who up to this time had been favorable to Russia, for the opening of a congress at Berlin, and on March 3rd Bismarck invited the Powers to send representatives to such a congress.
On the very day that Bismarck took this step, the definitive Treaty of San Stefano was signed. By its terms Turkey was required to recognize the independence of Romania, Servia, and Montenegro, all of which were to be increased in size. But the most important stipulation was that for the erection of the autonomous tributary principality of Bulgaria, with a Christian government and a national militia, and with boundaries extending from the Black Sea on the east to Albania on the west, and from the Danube on the north to the Aegean on the south. This would have practically blotted out Turkey as a European Power. What was left was to be divided into four parts unconnected with one another: The environs of Constantinople on the east, the peninsula of Salonika in the south, Thessaly and Albania in the west and southwest, and Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Novi Bazar in the northwest. The Prince of Bulgaria, who was not to be a member of any of the reigning dynasties of the great European Powers, was to be elected by the people, and confirmed by the Porte, with the assent of the Powers; but the constitution of the principality was to be drawn up by an assembly of Bulgarian notables under the supervision of a Russian commissioner, who was to superintend the administration of affairs for two years, supported by 50,000 Russian troops. Bosnia and Herzegovina were to receive the reforms demanded for them at the Conference of Constantinople, with such modifications as might be agreed upon by the Porte, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. The Porte engaged to apply to Crete the Organic Law of 1868, to extend analogous reforms to the other Greek provinces of the empire, and to improve the condition of Armenia, and guarantee the safety of the inhabitants from the Kurds and Circassians. Turkey also assumed to pay a war indemnity of 1,410,000,000 rubles, but the Czar, in view of the “financial embarrassment” of Turkey, agreed to commute 1,100,000,000 rubles for territory in Asia, and for the Sandjak of Tultcha, which Romania was to be obliged to take in exchange for that part of Bessarabia which was detached from Russia in 1856 and which was now to be restored to her. Russian ecclesiastics, pilgrims, and monks travelling or sojourning in the Ottoman Empire, together with their property and establishments, were placed under the official protection of the Czar, and priests and others in holy places, and especially the monks of Mount Athos, of Russian origin, were confirmed in their privileges. The Straits were to be always open to the merchant-ships of the world, and the old treaties of commerce between the two countries were to be maintained.
There were two States that were determined to prevent the carrying out of the Treaty of San Stefano — Austria-Hungary and England. The latter took immediate action. March 13th Lord Derby notified Bismarck that England would not send a representative to the Congress at Berlin unless the Treaty of San Stefano should be considered in its entirety. After two weeks of spirited correspondence between London and St. Petersburg, the Czar announced on March 26th his refusal to submit to the congress those portions of the treaty which concerned only Russia and Turkey. Both countries began to sound the other Powers. In France the Due Decazes, supported by the Royalists, who were friendly to Russia, had just been driven from office, and Mr. Waddington, who was known to be friendly to England, succeeded him in charge of foreign affairs. Austria-Hungary naturally supported England. Italy, who had hoped for something on the Albanian coast, did likewise. There remained only Germany, who, before and during the war, had given to Russia a friendly support. But Gortschakoff was now to be grievously disappointed, for Bismarck gave his approval to the plan of laying the entire treaty before the proposed congress. Under such circumstances Beaconsfield felt justified in defying Russia. On March 28th he allowed Lord Derby to resign from the Foreign Office, and replaced him by Lord Salisbury. He then reinforced the British fleet before Constantinople, and sent additional troops to Malta, and on April 1st Lord Salisbury notified Europe that the Treaty of San Stefano placed the Black Sea under the absolute domination of Russia, destroyed the real independence of the Ottoman Empire, and was in general contrary to the interests of Great Britain. Russia, weakened by war and diplomatically isolated, could only submit, and on April 9th Gortschakoff, incensed at what he considered his betrayal by Bismarck, addressed a note to London asking for the modifications which England would demand in the treaty. They were communicated to Count Shuvaloff, then Russian ambassador as Beaconsfield was negotiating with the Porte for the cession of the island of Cyprus, in return for which Great Britain was to defend the Turkish possessions in Asia Minor against Russia, the Porte promising to introduce into those possessions reforms which were to be agreed upon later between the two Powers. A treaty to this effect was secretly signed June 4th.
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