“Young Turkey,” as the reformers were called, obtained the necessary fetva from the Sheik-ul-Islam, deposed Abdul-Aziz, and placed his nephew, Amurath V, on the throne.
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.
It was evident that affairs in Turkey were fast approaching a crisis, which would result in the revolt of the subject peoples and the interference of the Powers, notwithstanding the stipulations of the Treaty of Paris. In 1871, Ali Pacha, the last of the reformers, died, and the disorders in the government increased. The subject peoples, crushed by their burdens, were rebellious, and were, moreover, incited to revolt by Slavic sympathizers. At length in July, 1875, the Herzegovinians and Bosnians rose, and men and money poured to their assistance from Serbia and Montenegro. The courts of St. Petersburg, Berlin, and Vienna, which had agreed, in 1872, to act in concert on the Eastern Question, warned the Sultan, and on August 18, 1875, demanded that a commission of their consuls should be permitted to proceed to the revolted country, hear the demands of the people, and transmit them to Constantinople, where they should immediately be acted upon. This was done, and the Sultan, not content with conceding the demands of the insurgents, issued, on October 2d, an irade, which not only granted what they asked, but gave them extensive local privileges besides. Unfortunately for him, the comedy of reform had been played too often; the insurgents ignored his edict and kept on with their struggle.
As in the past, Austria was the Power that exhibited the greatest concern at the course of events. To permit the existing condition of affairs to continue would mean either Russian intervention or the formation of a Serbian State, either of which would Andrassy, the Austrian Chancellor, therefore offered to draw up a note of protest to be signed by the signatories of the Treaty of Paris. England demanded sufficient delay to permit the Sultan to carry out the reforms promised in the irade of October 2d; and on December 12th the Sultan issued a second irade still more munificent than the first, promising the most extensive reforms in judicial, financial, and administrative matters. But the Bosnians and Herzegovinians refused to be conciliated by promises. Andrassy, therefore, submitted his note on December 30th to Germany and Russia, by whom it was accepted. It was then sent to London, Paris, and Rome. At the two latter capitals it received immediate adherence, and England promised to give it a general support, though she refused to commit herself to any particular action. The European directory therefore appeared to be in accord, and on January 30, 1876, the Andrassy note was sent to the Porte. It demanded that the Turkish Government put into execution without delay the following reforms :
- The establishment of full religious liberty and equality of sects;
- the abolition of tax-farming;
- the application of the revenues gathered in Bosnia and Herzegovina entirely to local purposes, and their distribution by local assemblies composed half of Christians and half of Muslims elected by the inhabitants;
- the amelioration of the condition of the agricultural population.
On February 13th the Sultan accepted the note, and a few days later published a new set of promises, relating to the government of the provinces, more elaborate than any that had preceded.
Austria was satisfied with the results of the Andrassy note, and, fearing a sympathetic uprising of the Slavs in her own dominion, employed every effort to check the insurrection and to persuade the insurgents to lay down their arms. The latter, on the contrary, pushed the war more vigorously than before, and Serbia and Montenegro began open preparations to come to their aid. Moreover, at the suggestion of Russia, the insurgents drew up early in April a list of the reforms which they demanded should be guaranteed by the European Powers. The Russian chancellor, Gortschakoff, proposed to Austria to send the demands to the Porte with a note to the effect that if they were not carried out, the Powers would adopt measures to enforce them. Austria declined the proposal; but on May 7th a Muslim mob in Salonika destroyed the French and German consulates and murdered the consuls. The necessity for action was evident, and, on the invitation of Bismarck, Gortschakoff and Andrassy united with him at Berlin in drawing up a new note to the Porte. At the suggestion of Gortschakoff, the demands of the insurgents of the month before were made the basis of the note, and on May 13th the conference agreed to the Berlin memorandum. It was much more severe than the Andrassy note. It required that the Sultan
- rebuild all the houses destroyed in the revolted countries, furnish the peasants with cattle and implements, and exempt them for three years from taxation;
- establish a Christian commission for the distribution of this aid;
- withdraw the Turkish troops except in specified places;
- authorize the Christians to remain armed until the reforms were effected; and
- delegate to the consuls of the Powers the supervision of the execution of the reforms.
Moreover, the memorandum demanded that an armistice of two months be granted, and declared that, if at the expiration of that time the desired end had not been accomplished, the Powers would resort to efficacious measures “to arrest the evil and prevent its development.” The Berlin memorandum was then sent to Paris, Rome, and London. At the two former capitals it was immediately accepted, but in London it was rejected without hesitation. Disraeli would accept no plan bearing the stamp of Russian suggestion.
Nevertheless, the other Powers decided to send the memorandum to the Porte, and May 30th was fixed as the day, but on the night of the 29th an event occurred which caused the memorandum to be forgotten. An opposition had long existed among the patriotic Turks against Abdul-Aziz because of his indifference to the welfare of his country, and this opposition determined on a revolution. Led by Midhat Pacha, “Young Turkey,” as the reformers were called, obtained the necessary fetva from the Sheik-ul-Islam, deposed Abdul-Aziz, and placed his nephew, Amurath V, on the throne. The new Government immediately adopted a vigorous policy and demanded of Servia the meaning of her extensive war preparations. Servia, believing herself thoroughly prepared Bosnia and Herzegovina, and allow the first to be occupied by Serbian and the second by Montenegrin troops. The Porte answered with an immediate refusal, and on May 30th Serbia, and on July 2d Montenegro, declared war. To the surprise of Europe, the Turks were generally victorious, and overran Serbia, upon whom they sought to impose severe terms, comprehending a return to the state of things existing previously to 1867, an indemnity for the expenses of the war, and an increase in the amount of the tribute.
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