Monastery Decani, Kosovo & Metohija, Serbia
Monastery Decani, Kosovo & Metohija, Serbia
Monastery Gradac, Raska, Serbia
Church of St John, Velika Hoca, Kosovo & Metohija, Serbia
Church of St John, Velika Hoca, Kosovo & Metohija, Serbia
Church of St Nicholas, Velika Hoca, Kosovo & Metohija, Serbia
Church of St Nicholas, Velika Hoca, Kosovo & Metohija, Serbia
Sanctuary of St Sava, Studenica, Serbia
Lipljan church, Lipljan,
Lipljan church, Lipljan, Kosovo & Metohija, Serbia
Patriarchate of Pec, Pec, Kosovo & Metohija, Serbia
Patriarchate of Pec, Pec, Kosovo & Metohija, Serbia
Church of St Demetrios, Patriarchate of Pec, Pec, Kosovo & Metohija, Serbia
Monastery Ravanica, Serbia
Monastery Ravanica, Serbia
Monastery Studenica, Raska, Serbia
Church of St Demetrios, Patriarchate of Pec, Pec, Kosovo & Metohija, Serbia
The Balkan crisis concluded by the Berlin Treaty of 1878 represents a milestone in both European and Balkan history. For Europe it marked the disintegration of the newly formed Three Emperors' League of Germany, Austria, and Russia. This in turn meant the renewal and intensification of the Austro- Russian rivalry in the Balkans which started with the Crimean War. It also meant the re-emergence of Britain as an active force in European affairs after years of splendid isolation under Gladstone.
The Ottoman Empire was left in a very comfortable position at the end of the Crimean War. The Treaty of Paris admitted the empire into the European concert of nations and explicitly guaranteed its integrity and independence. But this favorable situation did not last long. The protective diplomatic wall was demolished by a series of explosions that followed one another in quick succession. These explosions were the four wars that broke out in Europe in little more than a decade the French-Austrian War over Italy in 1859, the Austrian-Prussian attack upon Denmark in 1864, the unexpected Prussian victory over Austria in 1866, and the still more unexpected Prussian victory over France in 1870.
These wars disrupted the Crimean bloc of nations that had guaranteed Ottoman integrity in 1856. In fact, they completely demolished the European balance of power. For centuries France and Austria had struggled for Continental supremacy with Central Europe is their battleground. The events of 1859 to 1871 abruptly ended this struggle and created an entirely new setting. Austria no longer was the dominant power in Italy and Germany while France was left shorn of Alsace- Lorraine and burdened with an indemnity mil military occupation. England under Gladstone was engrossed in domestic affairs and anxious to avoid Continental entanglements. This left the new German Empire under Bismarck the first power on the Continent. "Europe," as someone put it, "had lost a mistress and gained a master."(1)
Bismarck after 1871 had every reason to be satisfied with his accomplish ments. He now wished only to preserve the status quo. France with her revanche policy was the most dangerous disruptive force on the Continent. Accordingly, he sought to isolate France and to keep her powerless. His instrument for accomplishing this was the Three Emperors' League, or Dreikaiserbund. The bloc of eastern empires, Russia, Prussia, and Austria, had preserved the Treaty of Vienna for over a generation. Bismarck now endeavored to perpetuate his own achievements by reviving this bloc. The heads of the three empires met in 1872 and 1873 and agreed to cooperate in the preservation of peace. In case war threatened, they were to consult together "in order to determine a common course of action." As for the Balkans, the two countries directly interested were Russia and Austria-Hungary. Both emphatically denied any intention of expansion into the peninsula and both undertook to refrain from any intervention and to maintain the existing situation.
The significance of these commitments is apparent. The bitterness that had characterized Austro-Russian relations since the Crimean War last had given way to reconciliation. But the agreement to freeze the status quo in the Balkans was easier to undertake than to enforce. Bismarck soon discovered that the Balkans were the "Achilles heel" of his League. A revolt broke out in Herzegovina in 1875 and, despite the efforts of the League members, it spread and created international complications until eventually it disrupted the Dreikaiserbund and brought Europe to the brink of war.
The Balkan states came of age during the years following the Crimean War. For the first time they joined in a series of bilateral pacts, to free themselves from Turkish rule. At the center of this alliance system was the prince of Serbia, Michael Obrenovich. Michael was not as forceful, a personality as his patriarchal sire, Milosh, whom he succeeded in 1860. But, he was better fitted to meet the current needs of his country. Milosh had accomplished much, but he belonged to the past. Serbia no longer could be governed as a private pashalik. A more modern state administration was needed and Michael was well suited for the task. He had a good education,was familiar with Western institutions, and possessed the drive and strength Of character necessary for leadership.
When Michael ascended the throne he found the South Slavs thoroughly aroused by the events in Italy. Just as the Italians were uniting into one nation, so the Yugoslavs dreamed of freeing themselves from Austrian and Turkish rule and uniting to form a great, independent, South Slav state. Prince Michael shared these aspirations. His ambition was to make Serbia the Piedmont of the Balkans. But since Serbia was too weak to act alone, Michael devoted himself to the task of bringing the Balkan states together for a war of liberation.
The Greeks to the south were ready to cooperate. They also had been aroused by the success of the Italians. They followed avidly the victories of Garibaldi in Sicily and Naples, and imagined themselves sweeping in similar fashion through Epirus and Macedonia. In fact, a revolution did breake out in the summer of 1866 on the island of Crete. The islanders convoked a general assembly and proclaimed their union with Mother Greece. Immediately Greco-Turkish relations became strained and the Greeks eagerly sought an alliance with their Serbian neighbors.
The European diplomatic situation in the 1860's was also favorable for close Balkan ties. Austria was the great opponent of revolution and change in the Balkans, but her defeats in Italy and Germany temporarily reduced her influence. On the other hand, Napoleon, the champion of the nationality principle, actively favored the liberation of the Balkans. Tsar Alexander II took the same position, in part for dynastic reasons because he wished to arrange a marriage between King George of Greece and the Russian Princess Olga. Accordingly he supported Greece on the Cretan question and urged the Balkan states to band together for common action against Turkey.
This combination of favorable domestic and international conditions made possible the series of alliances that Prince Michael concluded with Rumania (May 26, 1865, and January, 1868), with Montenegro (September 23,1866), with a Bulgarian revolutionary society (May 22, 1867), and with Greece (August 26, 1867). The most important was the Serbian-Greek pact which allocated Thessaly and Epirus to Greece and Bosnia-Herzegovina to Serbia. The signatories undertook to propagandize and arm the Christians of Eurpean Turkey and also to oppose any great power that sought to annex Balkan territory. A coordinated Balkan revolt against the Turks was planned for March 1868.
These ambitious plans came to nought for various reasons. One was that the pacts were concluded too late. The logical moment to strike was in 1866, when the war with Prussia had tied Austria's hand and the Cretan insurrection had distracted the Turks. But the Balkan countries were not ready for action then. By the time they had increased their armaments and negotiated their alliances the opportunity had passed. The Austro-Prussian War lasted only seven weeks; after that, Austria was free once more to watch the Balkans. Also, the Turks had been able to pacify Crete before the signing of the Greek-Serbian pact. In fact, the Greeks were becoming increasingly anti-Slav because of Russia's support for a Bulgarian church independent of the Patriarch ate. An anti- Slav society was organized in Athens in 1869 for the purpose of blocking the expansion of the Slavs in the Balkans. It will be recalled from Chapter 19 that when the Bulgarian Exarchate church was established on March 11, 1870, the Greeks reacted violently. Many advocated rapprochement with the Turks, whom they considered to be "less dangerous for the expansion of the Greek spirit than is Slavism." (2)
The final blow to the plans for a coordinated revolt was the assassination of Prince Michael on June 10, 1868. This was a tragic setback, particularly because his cousin and successor, Prince Milan, was utterly incapable of taking his place. Although highly intelligent, Milan had been thoroughly debauched in an unsavory family environment and had become a frivolous and unprincipled neurasthenic.
Thus the first Balkan alliance system disintegrated almost overnight.This became apparent during the Franco-Prussian War, when the Balkan peoples once more had an opportunity to strike without fear of intervention. But by this time united action was out of the question. The Russian ambassador in Constantinople, Count Nicholas Ignatiev, described the state of inter-Balkan relations in 1870 as follows:
If the Franco-Prussian conflict had started immediately after Sadowa, during the Cretan insurrection, the Greeks and the Serbs probably would not have hesitated to march against the Turks and to accomplish this gathering of the Christian shields which they so often dreamed of and discussed. Undoubtedly the very existence of the Ottoman Empire would have been in question. In 1870 the situation was drastically changed and one did not need to be a prophet to see that the complications of this period would not exercise the same fascination on the minds of the Eastern peoples....(3)
Despite the apathy and disorganization of the Balkan peoples in 1870, the revolt in Bosnia and Herzegovina only five years later found immediate response and spread from the Adriatic to the Black Sea. The explanation is to be found in the local conditions prevailing in Bosnia- Herzegovina and also in the effect of certain ideologies and foreign propaganda upon the South Slavic people.
Bosnia-Herzegovina, the two westernmost provinces of the Ottoman Empire, were held in a state of semifeudal serfdom by a unique Moslem Serbian landowning class. At the time of the Turkish invasion four centuries earlier, the native Serbian nobility accepted Islam and retained their lands. But the bulk of the population remained Christian, of both Catholic and Orthodox varieties. At the time of the revolt, out of a total population of l.2 million in the two provinces, 40 per cent were Moslem, 42 per cent Orthodox and 18 per cent Catholic.
Only a handful of the Moslems were large landowners, the remainder being peasants who were exploited in the same manner as their Christian counterparts But the Christians were more susceptible to foreign influences and were more dissatisfied with their lot. In practice, though not in law, they were bound to the estates of the Moslem landowners. They had the right to own landed property but the difficulties in the way of acquiring land were so formidable that few were able to surmount them. Peasants paid one third to one half of their crop to the landowner and also one eighth to the tax farmer. The latter also collected petty taxes on animals and on specific produce. In fact, as elsewhere, these tax farmers were a grievous burden because they paid a cash sum for the privilege of collecting the taxes and then proceeded to fleece the peasants mercilessly in order to secure a large return on [heir investment. It made no difference to them if the crops were poor and the peasants were in difficulty. Indeed, the immediate cause for the 1875 revolt was the crop failure of the previous year and the unrelenting pressure of the tax farmers.
These conditions had existed in Bosnia-Herzegovina for centuries. By themselves they do not explain the wide ramifications of the 1875 uprising. It is necessary to take also into account certain currents of thought and foreign influences. The most important of these were Pan- Serbism, PanSlavism, and Hapsburg expansionism.
Pan-Serbism persisted despite the assassination of Prince Michael. It is true that Milan had little sympathy for revolutionary movements. He looked to Vienna for support and followed the Austrian policy of opposing agitation among the South Slavs under foreign rule. But the popular sentiment for liberation and national unity was too deep-rooted to be banished by disapproval from above. Baron von Kallay, the Austrian diplomatic representative in Belgrade, warned his government in 1873 that "the mistaken notion that Serbia is called upon to play the role of Piedmont among the Slavs of Turkey is so strongly rooted that the Serbs no longer can understand that the Slavs of the different Turkish frontiers should seek aid and protection from any state except Serbia." (4) The following year the Serbian relational assembly, or Skupshtina, voiced the national aspiration as follows in its address to the throne: "To direct the scattered forces of our people toward a serious and common action, to reach an understanding with and to draw closer to our fellow peoples who have the same objectives, the same interests, and the same dangers, that is the road on which the national Skupshtina ardently wishes to see always its illustrious sovereign." 5 Thus Pan-Serb agitation continued despite the opposition of Milan. There can be little doubt that it had significant influence on the unredeemed brothers across the frontier in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Pan-Slavism was also a major factor in Balkan affairs during these years Its origins go back to the Slavophil cultural movement which stressed the intrinsic value of Russian as against Western European culture. Political overtones soon appeared and Slavophilism gradually was transformed into Pan-Slavism. The emphasis now was on the unity of all Slavs under the aegis of Russia. In 1858 the Slavic Welfare Society was established in Moscow, where a Slavic Ethnographic Congress was held in 1867. The cause was also furthered by the extremely popular books published by two prominent Pan-Slav leaders, General Rotislav Fadeev (Opinion on the Eastern Question 1870) and Nicholas Danilevski (Russia and Europe, 1871) . The general thesis advanced was that the Slavs were young and vigorous in contrast to the decadent Western Europeans, and that with the aid of Russia they shouldfree themselves from Turkish and Austrian domination and unite in a greaa confederation of which Russia would be the leader and Constantinople the capital.
Of particular importance for the Balkans was the well-known PanSlav diplomat, Count Nicholas Ignatiev, who represented Russia at Constantinople between 1864 and 1877. Ignatiev believed firmly in the principle of Slavic unity, which was to take the form of common action against the arch enemy, Austria-Hungary. "The Austrian and Turkish Slavs must be our allies, the weapons of our policy against the Germans." These views, it should. be noted, were quite different from those of Ignatiev's superiors in St. Peters-. burg. The contrast was particularly noticeable regarding the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Russian foreign minister, Prince Alexander Gorchakov, was of the opinion that "the Turkish Slavs can be made happy at the hands of the Government of Vienna, that Russian interests will not suffer from the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria." Ignatiev, on the other hand, considered it preferable to "postpone all thoughts of solving the Eastern Question, of liberating Bosnia and Herzegovina from Turkish domination rather than surrender these provinces to Austro-Hungarian rule and sacrifice the future of the Serbian nation."(6) Being the person that he was, Ignatiev had no compunction about working toward his Pan-Slav goal despite the official policy laid down by his superiors in Petrograd.
It is impossible to estimate how much influence Pan-Slav doctrine. had on the Balkan peoples. A French expert reported in 1876: "I have visited the Turkish Empire several times. I have had occasion to see Slav. Serbian, Montenegrin and Bulgarian patriots on the Danube or on t] Adriatic. I always found them very dissatisfied with the Ottoman regir but determined not to substitute Russian domination for it." (7) This and other evidence of a similar nature suggest that the "Mother Russia" approach of the Pan-Slavs was not too popular in the Balkans. On the other hand, Pan-Slavism cannot be ignored, especially during the thirteen years when Ignatiev was in Constantinople. He was undoubtedly the best-informed ambassador in the Balkan Peninsula, and, after 1870, he was so influential in Turkish government circles that he became known as the vice-sultan.
The Pan-Serbs and the Pan-Slavs were not alone responsible for the 1875 crisis. Certain elements in Austria-Hungary also were involved. It istrue that only a few years earlier Count Julius Andrassy, the Hapsburg foreign Minister, had promised his Russian counterpart, Prince Alexander Gorchakov, that Austria would refrain from intervening in Balkan affairs. This commitment accorded with Andrassy's personal inclination as a Magyar. The Slavs already constituted the largest ethnic bloc in the Hapsburg Empire and he did not wish to increase their preponderance by annexing any part of European Turkey. On the other hand he was determined that Serbia should not take over Bosnia-Herzegovina and he was ready to have Austria take over the two provinces herself rather than see them absorbed in a large South Slav state.
Certain groups in Austria-Hungary disagreed with Andrassy and favored a more aggressive policy. Many South Slavs who were already under Hapsburg rule wished to include all their fellow Slavs in the empire, which was then to be transformed from a dual Austro-Hungarian state into a triune Austrian-Hungarian-Slavic state. But the most influential exponents of expansion into the Balkans were the military men. Their argument was that possession of Bosnia-Herzegovina was essential for the defense of Dalmatia, the narrow province stretching down the length of the Adriatic coast. These military leaders persuaded Emperor Francis Joseph to spend a month traveling in Dalmatia in the spring of 1875. During his journey the emperor received many petitions from the Christians of Bosnia-Herzegovina complaining of Turkish oppression and asking him for protection. The avowed object of the trip was to stimulate unrest in the Turkish provinces and in this it was successful. Francis Joseph's tour was to a considerable degree responsible for the conflagration that began in Herzegovina in July, 1875. The emperor, on his part, was convinced by the end of his tour that the occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina could not be long delayed. In fact, orders were issued to the imperial forces in Dalmatia to be prepared for a march across the frontier.
We may conclude that several factors explain the outbreak and the course of the revolt in Bosnia-Herzegovina In the background were the centuries-old religious conflict and economic oppression. A more immediate impulse was provided by the extortionate tax farmers and by Francis Joseph's tour in Dalmatia. Once the revolt began, it was sustained by Austrian and Russian officials, who sought to exploit it for their own purposes. Hapsburg officials in Dalmatia, many of whom were Serbo-Croats by race, gave aid and comfort to the rebels and provided asylum for the refugees. Similarly, the Russian consul in Ragusa, the ardent Pan-Slav Alexander Ionin, frankly admitted: "I did not create the situation but I profited by it. It began as a small Stream) which might have been lost for want of direction; so I put up a stone here, and a stone there, and kept the water together."(8)
In mid-July, 1875, Andrassy and Gorchakov received reports that the Christian peasants of Herzegovina had risen in revolt. Neither statesman was pleased by the news. Both were anxious to preserve the Dreikaiserbund and both knew that trouble in the Balkans could easily create a rift between their countries. For this reason they took the initiative, together with their partner, Bismarck, in dealing with the disturbance. They persuaded the Turk to send a commissioner to Herzegovina to investigate the situation and the same time they instructed their consuls to attempt mediation. These efforts came to nothing. The Turks were lavish with promises of reform but the rebels were not impressed by promises that had always proved valueless in the past. They demanded either autonomy under a Christian prince or occupation by foreign powers until their grievances had been redressed. So the insurrection continued and it spread rapidly throughout Herzegovina and into Bosnia.
Andrassy now prepared a reform program which provided for complete religious freedom, abolition of tax farming, agrarian improvements, a guarantee that provincial revenues should be spent on provincial needs, and the establishment of a mixed Moslem-Christian commission to supervise the working of these reforms. This Andrassy Note, as it was called, was approved by the other powers and accepted by the Turks early in February, 1876. But the rebels again frustrated the attempt at mediation. They rejected the concessions on the ground that they were useless without a firm guarantee by the powers.
Meanwhile the fighting had become more widespread and savage. By March, 1876, approximately 156,000 refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina had crossed the frontiers into Serbia, Montenegro, and Austria-Hungary. Public opinion in Serbia and Montenegro was demanding intervention in behalf of the unfortunate fellow Slavs. Prince Milan in Belgrade and Prince Nicholas in Cetinje were both anxious to keep the peace. They were not prepared for serious campaigning and they had received strong warnings from Vienna and St. Petersburg to remain neutral. But the popular clamor was becoming so insistent that there was danger of a general Balkan conflagration.
Faced with this critical situation, the foreign ministers of the Dreikaiserbund met in Berlin in May, 1876. They prepared a new reform program, the so-called Berlin Memorandum, which was an extension of the earlier ndrassy Note. The Turkish government was to provide funds to settle the refugees in their homes, the Christians were to retain their arm for the time being, and the consuls of the powers were to supervise the application of the reforms and the repatriation of the refugees. The Memorandum was submitted to the French, Italian, and British governments for approval. The first two sent positive replies. But the British refused to follow the others, and in doing so they ended the possibility of an early and peaceful settlement of the crisis.
To understand the British action it is necessary to recall that a Conservative government under Disraeli had come to power in 1874. Disraeli had long criticized the "splendid isolation" policy of his predecessor Gladstone. At the time when Prussia was overwhelming the Second French Empire he had delivered a famous speech warning Parliament of the far-reaching repercussions of the war. This war represents the German Revolution, a greater political event than the French Revolution of last century.... Not a single principle in the management of our foreign affairs, accepted by all statesmen for guidance up to six months ago, any longer exists. There is not a diplomatic tradition which has not been swept away. You have a new world, new influences at work, new and unknown objects and dangers with which to cope.... The balance of power has been entirely destroyed, and the country which suffers most, and feels the effects of this great change most, is England. (9) Soon after assuming office, Disraeli demonstrated the new spirit behind British foreign policy. In 1875 he purchased the Suez Canal shares of the khedive of Egypt. The following year he arranged a series of magnificent celebrations in India, culminating in the proclamation of Queen Victoria as Empress of India. It was in keeping, then, that Disraeli should bristle when the Dreikaiserbund confronted him with the Berlin Memorandum. He objected to specific provisions, but above all he balked at the highhanded manner in which the Memorandum had been handled. It had been prepared without Britain's being consulted and now it was presented for approval with the request for a reply in two days. Disraeli sarcastically observed that Britain was being treated as though she were Montenegro or Bosnia. This he refused to tolerate, and he rejected the proferred Memorandum.
Disraeli's action proved a decisive turning point in the development of the crisis. During the same month of May events of far-reaching significance were occurring in the Balkans. On May 10 the Turkish reformer, Midhat Pasha, assumed office in Constantinople. On May 30 Abdul Aziz was deposed in favor of Murad V. And in the same month the Bulgarians rose in revolt and were immediately suppressed with barbarous brutality by Turkish irregular troops. We shall see that the "Bulgarian Horrors," as they were called at the time, aroused a wave of indignation in Europe and helped to magnify a Balkan disturbance into a European crisis. It was at this critical Juncture that Disraeli rejected the Berlin Memorandum and temporarily disrupted the efforts at collective mediation.
While the struggle raged on in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Milan and Nicholas were slowly giving way to the growing clamor for war. On August 16, 1875, elections were held in Serbia. The opposition Liberal party headed by Yovan Ristich won a substantial victory over the Conservatives. This represented a popular vote in favor of war. "I regret to have to report to YourLordship, " wrote the British consul in Belgrade, "that the affairs of Servia have assumed a much more critical aspect.... Whenever a decided advocate of a Revolutionary War against Turkey was confronted by a doubtful candidate, the preference was given by the electors to the former one ... "(10)
Milan fought hard to restrain his bellicose subjects. A coalition cabinet was formed, and when it showed signs of yielding to the popular clamor he summarily dismissed it. The succeeding ministry failed to stand more firmly. "I find very little difference amongst public men here, whether Radical or Conservative," the British consul reported; "of whatever shade of opinion, all are equally imbued with the desire to see Servian aggrandizement accomplished." " Milan's insistence on neutrality made him increasingly unpopular in the country. Hostile demonstrations convinced him that if he did not accept war he would face revolution. Furthermore, the Russian consul, who was an ardent Pan-Slav, officially transmitted his government's demands for peace but unofficially advised Milan to go to war. Finally, on May 5, 1876, Milan gave way and accepted a new ministry including Ristich.
Ristich was by no means an irresponsible firebrand. He was fully aware of Serbia's limited resources and of the real possibility of defeat. But he calculated that the combination of Pan-Slav pressure and Russian interests in the Balkans would force the tsar eventually to wage war on Turkey. His calculation proved correct, but he failed to foresee the diplomatic difficulties that Russia would have to overcome before being allowed to take up arms. He did not anticipate that Russia would be obliged to concede Bosnia-Herzegovina to Austria-Hungary, and that Serbia consequently was about to undertake a futile struggle irrespective of the outcome of battle.
Not being able to foresee these complexities of great-power diplomacy, Ristich finally decided to risk intervention. On June 30, 1876, Milan proclaimed war against Turkey. He was immediately followed by Nicholas of Montenegro. The two rulers were rivals for the leadership of the South Slavs; hence one could not remain inactive after the other had entered the fray. So Nicholas also declared war, and on July 2, 1876, his troops invade Herzegovina while the Serbs crossed over into Bosnia.
Ristich made every effort to win the support of Rumania an Greece and thus to present a united Balkan front against the Turks. He sent representatives to Bucharest and Athens and made repeated appeals. But the Rumanians and the Greeks had no interests directly involved in Bosnia Herzegovina and refused to abandon their neutrality. The British consul in Belgrade sent a report which threw revealing light on the extent to which Michael's Balkan alliance system had disintegrated by this time.
My Greek Colleague has often spoken to me of the way in which the Servians had kept aloof from all participation during the Cretan Insur- rection an he has frequently repeated to me that the lesson of 1867 [in Crete] has not been last on his Government, which had no reason to disturb their good relations with the ported, and would certainly discourage by every means, any disturbance in Turkish Provinces largely inhabited by Greeks, unless they saw first the Slavs fairly committed and the conflagration assuming a general character and one presenting a reasonable chance of success. (12) Despite the lack of allies, the Serbians and Montenegrins began the war with wild enthusiasm. "The idea which animates everyone," wrote the Rumanian representative in Belgrade, "is to free from Turkish domination their Yugoslav brothers inhabiting the Balkan Peninsula. Their aim is reunion temporarily under two sceptres and eventually under one.... This is a war to the death between the South Slavs and the Turks. It is a war of race and of religion " (13) But the Turks were also excited and determined. More volunteers flocked into Constantinople than the army could use. They, too, regarded the war as one of "race and religion." The outcome of the struggle was a crushing defeat for the Serbs Not only did they receive no aid from the Greeks and the Rumanians, but the Montenegrins insisted on fighting only in Herzegovina, where the Turkish forces were negligible. Thus the Montenegrins were able to advance some distance, but on the decisive Bosnian front the Serbs were defeated with heavy losses. Before the fighting ended Serbia mobilized one sixth of her total population, of which one tenth were killed or wounded.
The spreading of the war in the Balkans increased the complexity of the problem facing the great powers. No longer was it merely a question of arranging a satisfactory settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now Serbia and Montenegro were belligerents, while in Bulgaria the large-scale atrocities had so aroused European public opinion that the restoration of Turkish rule no longer was feasible. The English were particularly sensitive to the "Bulgarian Horrors" because they had fought the Crimean War to preserve the Ottoman Empire. In June, 1876, the first reports began to reach England of the depredations of the bashi-bazouks, the Turkish irregulars who had destroyed dozens of villages and massacred rebels and innocent alike. Disraeli at first summarily rejected the charges because his diplomatic representatives were slow in sending reports. But a mass of detailed information began pouring in from various trustworthy sources, including British correspondents, the American consul-general, Eugene Schuyler, President George Washburn of Robert College, and several American missionaries. It became clear that well over ten thousand Bulgarians had been massacred and several dozen villages destroyed.
A great storm of moral indignation swept over England. The high Point was Gladstone's passionate indictment of Turkish rule in his pamphlet, "Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East," of which it is said fifty thousand copies were sold in a few days. Gladstone did not call for outright partitioning of European Turkey. Rather, he demanded autonomy for the subject Christians so that they might be freed from the oppression of Turkish administrators and soldiers. "Let the Turks now carry away their abuses in the only possible manner, namely by carrying off themselves. Their Zaptiehs and their Mudirs, their Bimbashis and their Yuzbachis, their Kaimakams and their Pashas, one and all, bag and baggage, shall, I hope, clear out from the province they have desolated and profaned." (14)
So great was the furor that one of the cabinet members, Lord Salisbury, wrote to Disraeli that concessions would have to be made to public opinion.
It is clear enough that the traditional Palmerstonian policy is at an end. We have not the power, even if we have the wish, to give back any of the revolted districts to the discretionary government of the Porte.... I should like to submit for your consideration whether the opportunity should not be taken to exact some security for the good government of the Christians generally thoroughout the Turkish Empire. The Govt. of 1856 was satisfied with promises.... We must have something more than promises...." (15)
This statement is quite significant. It suggested the possibility of fundamental changes in European Turkey. Russia could be counted on to press for 'something more than promises." Bismarck from the beginning had urged wholesale partitioning of the Ottoman Empire as a means of satisfying both the Balkan peoples and the great powers. But Disraeli refused to con-sider any drastic measures. He was convinced that the agitation in England was a momentary aberration and that the country soon would come to its senses. Also, he was determined, for reasons of prestige, to pursue an indipendent policy rather than follow behind the Dreikaiserbund. The result was that now, as in the time of the Crimean War, Britain emerged as the defender of the Ottoman Empire. The Balkan crisis became more and more a duel between Britain, the supporter of the status quo, and Russia, the self appointed champion of Balkan liberation.
The remainder of the year 1876 was characterized by intense diplomatic activity. The most important consequences were the Reichstadt Agreement reached by Russia and Austria on July 8, the Russian ultimatum to Turkey which resulted in an armistice on October 31, and the international conference held in Constantinople in December, 1876, and January, 1877.
The background of the Reichstadt Agreement was the mounting Pan-Slav agitation in Russia for assistance to the embattled Balkan Slavs. The agitation reached such proportions that the Russian diplomats had to consider the possibility of intervention even against the wishes of the government. In that eventuality a prior agreement with Austria would be essential Otherwise the Russian army would run the risk of being ordered out of the Balkans, as had happened during the Crimean War. So Andrassy an Gorchakov met at Reichstadt and agreed that the prewar status quo should be restored if Serbia and Montenegro were defeated. But if the two Balkan States were victorious, Austria and Russia were to cooperate to regulate the territorial changes. They agreed that no large Slavic state should be set up in the Balkans, but misunderstanding existed from the start regarding the details of the new frontiers. Gorchakov understood that in case of victory Serbia and Montenegro would annex the larger part of Bosnia-Herzegovina and that Austria would receive only a small part of Bosnia. Andrassy, on the other hand, thought that the larger part of Bosnia-Herzegovina would fall to the Hapsburg Empire. This misunderstanding was to cause difficulties between the two powers before the crisis was resolved.
Meanwhile, it was the Turks who were winning over the Serbs and drawing closer to Belgrade. The Pan-Slavs redoubled their agitation and whipped up popular indignation in Russia. Finally, the tsar took action and dispatched a forty-eight-hour ultimatum to Constantinople demanding an armistice of six weeks for the Serbs. The Turks yielded and accepted the armistice on October 31, 1876. This was the last opportunity for a peaceful settlement. The powers agreed to send representatives to a conference in Constantinople to work out terms.
The conference opened on December 12. The British delegate was Lord Salisbury, one of the ministers who had less fear of Russia and more sympathy for the Balkan Christians than did Disraeli. Salisbury got along well with Ignatiev and the conference quickly reached a compromise agreement. The main provisions were that Bulgaria should be divided into an eastern and western province, Bosnia-Herzegovina united into one province, and each of the three provinces to have a considerable degree of autonomy, including a provincial assembly and a local police force. Also, Serbia was to lose no territory and Montenegro was to be allowed to keep the areas she had overrun in Herzegovina and northern Albania.
These terms were presented as the "irreducible minimum" which the powers would accept. The Turks nevertheless rejected them. This was the celebrated occasion, described in the last chapter, when the sultan promulgated the constitution which provided for reforms and which stipulated that Ottoman territory was inalienable. Under the circumstances the work of the conference became irrelevant and the delegates were so informed. The latter tried to salvage something from the wreckage by reducing their demands from the original "irreducible minimum" to what they now described as the ''quintessence." (16) But the Turks remained adamant in their refusal to grant con cessions to the rebels.
The Turks took such a strong stand because they knew they had strong popular backing. Public opinion was aroused and articulate in Constantinople as well as in London and St. Petersburg. Also, there is little doubt that the Turks were encouraged to stand firm by the British ambassador, Sir Henry Elliot, who effectively undermined Lord Salisbury in Constantinople. Elliot considered the terms laid down by the conference as "impossible demands." He criticized them severely to his government and apparently he did not hide his views from the Turks. Salisbury asked that Elliot be re moved from Constantinople. The request was denied because both Disraeli and Foreign Minister Lord Derby shared Elliot's views. In fact, Lord Derby had informed the Turkish ambassador the day before the conference opened that England would not "assent to, or assist in coercive measures against Turkey" (17) Likewise, Disraeli was criticizing Salisbury severely for conceding too much to Ignatiev. "Sal. seems most prejudiced," he wrote to Lord Derby on December 30, "and not to be aware, that his principal object, in being sent to Const., is to keep the Russians out of Turkey, not to create an ideal existence for Turkish Xtians. He is more Russian than Ignatieff...." (18) The Turks were aware of these views in high places in England and therefore expected substantial assistance in case of war with Russia. Under these circumstances they naturally refused to make serious concessions.
Russia had anticipated the failure of the Constantinople Conference and had opened negotiations with Austria beforehand in order to clear the way for action against Turkey. Russia had no choice in this matter because she could not wage a campaign in the Balkans without the consent of Austria. On January l5, 1877, the two powers signed the so-called Budapest Convention. This provided that if the Constantinople Conference failed and war ensued between Russia and Turkey, Austria would remain benevolently neutral and in return could annex Bosnia-Herzegovina. Russia was to regain the Bessarabian area lost in 1856. Like the Reichstadt Agreement, this convention stipulated that no large state should be created in the Balkans.
These terms meant that in case of war Russia would do the fighting and Austria would derive most of the advantage. Russia therefore made a final effort for a peaceful settlement. She persuaded the powers to sign the London Convention (March 31, 1877), which merely asked Turkey to introduce those reforms which she herself had already proposed. The powers were to watch the operation of the reforms, and if conditions remained unsatisfactory they reserved the right "to declare that such a state of things would be incompatible with their interests and those of Europe in general." The "irreducible minimum" had been reduced virtually to the vanishing point. But the Turks felt themselves in a strong position and rejected the proposal on the grounds that it violated the Treaty of Paris. Finally, on April 24, 1877, after nearly two years of futile negotiations, Russia declared war upon Turkey.
Russia began the war against Turkey under exceptionally favorable diplomatic circumstances. Both Austria and Germany were benevolent neutral while France and Italy were noncommittal and reserved. This left only Britain, but that country was distinctly unfriendly. Disraeli was convinced that the Russians would be in Constantinople in nine weeks and that "it would take nearly that time for us to reach and entrench ourselves in the Dardanelles." (19) Accordingly, he proposed that Britain should occupy Gallipoli for the duration of the war. The cabinet rejected the proposal, fear ing that it would lead to an alliance with Turkey and to speedy involvement in the war. Instead, a note was issued warning Russia against attacking or Occupying Constantinople, the Straits, the Suez Canal, or Egypt.
Meanwhile, the Russians were making spectacular progress into the Balkans They had traversed Rumania at a leisurely pace, not crossing the Danube until June 23. But then they pushed rapidly southward to the Balkan Mountains. On June l9 they occupied the Shipka Pass, opening the way to southern Bulgaria. The further the Russians advanced the higher the tension mounted in Britain. Bismarck was gravely concerned with the danger of a general conflagration and again advanced his favorite scheme for a wholesale partition of the Ottoman Empire. But Disraeli distrusted the German chancellor and refused to consider his proposal. Instead, he persuaded his cabinet to vote on July 21 that war should be declared if the Russians occupied Constantinople and did not make arrangements to retire immediately.
The gathering tension subsided for some time when the Russians met an unexpected reverse at Plevna, a Turkish fortress located close to the Russian bridge over the Danube. The Russians made repeated attempts to take the fortress but were repulsed with heavy losses. Finally, General Todleben, the hero of Sebastopol, arrived upon the scene and established a commplete blockade. But a regular siege required time, and in the meanwhile the Russian wings could not advance farther. This stalemate allowed the summer of 1877 to pass without incident.
The unexpected reversal in Russian fortunes produced an amusing shift in the relations between Russia and the Balkan states. When the Russians were forging ahead all the Balkan countries eagerly offered their services in order to be eligible for a share of the booty. Russia rejected the offers because she assumed she would not need assistance and because she feared that, if all the Balkan peoples intervened, the war would take on the appearance of a general Balkan revolutionary movement and would antagonize Britain and Austria-Hungary. Then, after the setback at Plevna, the Russians urged the Balkan states to enter the war at once. But the latter now held back, discouraged by the unexpected resistance of the Turkish forces. Only Rumania entered, and that country, it should be noted, had already been half involved because its territory was being used by the Russians for transit purposes. In taking up arms the Rumanians had no illusions regarding the future. They were quite aware that a victorious Russia would demand the cession of southern Bessarabia lost in 1856. But they calculated that by intervening they would get some compensation elsewhere. And besides, intervention for them was not as risky as for the other Balkan states located to the south of the Danube.
Plevna finally was starved out and forced to surrender on December 10. The Russians resumed their advance and by January 4, 1878, reached Sofia. The Turks appealed to England to mediate. The tsar refused mediation and referred the Turks to the Russian commander in the field. Armistice negotiations began on January 19. By that time the Turkish defenses were crumbling. Reports reached London that Adrianople could not be held and that the road to Constantinople was wide open. Disraeli again fumed and stormed while Queen Victoria swamped him with a deluge of almost hysterical letters demanding immediate action. "There is not a moment to be lost or the whole of our policy of centuries, of our honour as a great European Power, will have received an irreparable blow! . . . Oh, if the Queen were a man, she would like to go and give those Russians, whose word one cannot believe, such a beating! We shall never be friends again till we have it out This the Queen feels sure of." Even Disraeli was moved to remark, "It is something to serve such a sovereign." (20)
Disraeli tried to prod the Austrians to mobilize but they were committed by the Budapest Convention and refused to move unless the Russians actually violated its provisions. Disraeli finally persuaded the cabinet on January 93 to order the fleet to Constantinople, though the foreign minister, Lord Derby resigned in protest. Then, in anticlimactic fashion, the order was recalled upon the receipt of reassuring reports, which later proved to be completely erroneous.
Meanwhile the Turks and Russians concluded an armistice agreement on January 31. The terms provided that the Russian forces should occupy Turkish territory almost to the outskirts of Constantinople. The British were not informed of this provision, so that war fever mounted once more as the Russians drew closer to the capital. By this time the "Bulgarian Horrors" and the bashi-bazouks had been forgotten, and, instead, the crowds in England enthusiastically sang,
We don't want to fight,
But, by Jingo! if we do,
We've got the ships,
We've got the men,
We've got the money too!
On February 12 Disraeli again ordered the fleet to steam to Constantinople. This time the orders were carried out, though, on the request of the sultan, the ships anchored on the Asiatic side of the Sea of Marmora; Thus Russian soldiers were quartered at San Stefano, ten miles from Constantinople, while British warships rode at anchor across the Straits less than fifty miles away. Peace hung in the balance in this precarious manner until finally the Turks and the Russians signed the Treaty of San Stefano on March 3, 1878.
The Treaty of San Stefano provided that Bosnia-Herzegovina be granted the reforms proposed by the Constantinople Conference, though with some modifications. Serbia and Montenegro were to be made independent-< and somewhat enlarged. Rumania was also granted full independence and was to receive part of the Dobruja in return for southern Bessarabia. which went to Russia. Russia was to acquire, in lieu of the greater part of the financial indemnity which she claimed, Batum, Kars, Ardahan, and Bayazid in eastern Asia Minor. Bulgaria was to be established as an autonomous principality with an elected prince. The most significant provision of the treaty had to do with the territorial extent of the new principality. With the exception of Constantinople, Adrianople, and Saloniki, it included virtually all the territory between the Danube in the north, the Black Sea in the east, the Aegean Sea in the south, and Lake Ohrid and beyond in the west. Thus a greater Bulgaria was created and European Turkey virtually annihilated.
Leaving aside for the moment the volcanic question of Macedonian ethnology, it is clear that from the diplomatic viewpoint the San Stefano Treaty was bound to arouse opposition in all quarters. Austria complained with justification that the new Bulgarian principality violated the stipulation in the Budapest Treaty that no large Balkan state was to be established. Disraeli was convinced that the principality would be merely a Russian outpost and that it would give Russia access to the Aegean and virtual control over Constantinople. He also feared that Russia's acquisitions in Asia Minor would culminate eventually in a Russian base on the Gulf of Alexandretta.
Both the Greeks and the Serbs also were opposed to San Stefano. The Greeks had attempted to enter the war after the fall of Plevna but, being vulnerable to sea power, they were forced to remain neutral by the threat of a British blockade. Naturally they were bitter when the war ended with Bulgaria becoming the largest state in the Balkans while they received nothing. The Serbs found San Stefano equally distasteful. They had re-entered the war two days after the surrender of Plevna. Austria warned them to strike south toward Macedonia rather than west into Bosnia. They heeded the warning and occupied a considerable area while the Turks were fleeing before the Russians. But now all this territory was to be incorporated in the Bulgarian principality. The Serbians protested to St. Petersburg, but were informed bluntly that Russia's interests came first, Bulgaria's second, and Serbia's last. The Belgrade government naturally was indignant and decided to hold the land it occupied, even to the point of resisting the Russians by force.
The Russians undoubtedly expected this opposition. Probably they took more than they expected to keep in order to have some surplus for bargaining. They had long recognized the right of the other powers to pass upon such articles as infringed upon the 1856 settlement. They now agreed to attend a congress in Berlin to reconsider these articles. But they did not anticipate the degree to which San Stefano would be mutilated before a settlement could be arranged that was satisfactory to all the great powers.
Before the congress met, much diplomatic activity occurred. Britain and Russia tried to win the support of Austria-Hungary but both failed to pin down the evasive Andrassy. So the new British foreign minister, Lord Salisbury, approached the Russians directly for a preliminary agreement before the congress. The Russians were ready to compromise because their army was in no condition for more fighting and the revolutionary movement at home was becoming serious. On May 30 the two powers signed an agreement covering the general lines of settlement. The most important modification of San Stefano was the splitting of Bulgaria into two parts divided by' the Balkan Mountains. The Austrians were now afraid that they would be isolated at the congress; hence on June 6 they also concluded an agreement with the British. They undertook to support Britain on various points concerning Bulgaria, and the British in turn were to back any proposal regarding Bosnia-Herzegovina that Austria might present. After these preliminaries the' congress convened at Berlin on June 13.
An impressive galaxy of diplomats gathered in Berlin to reconsider the San Stefano Treaty Bismarck was elected president in accordance with customary practice. By this time he had lost some of his old vigor, and according to his own account he downed a tumbler of port every few hours to keep going. Yet he dominated the congress, and time and again his energy and decisiveness kept it from breaking up. Disraeli was another outstanding personality. He suffered from asthma and gout and hobbled around on a stick. But Bismarck was sufficiently impressed by him to remark, "The old Jew, he is the man." Disraeli's associates were on tenterhooks lest he address the congress in his barbarous French. They coped with the delicate situation by informing him that the entire gathering eagerly waited to hear a speech from "the greatest living master of English oratory." No one ever quite knew.'' whether Disraeli took the hint or accepted the compliment. The Russian,foreign minister, Prince Gorchakov, could not resist attending, though he was eighty and had to be carried upstairs to the chamber. He did not contribute much to the work of the congress with his artificial graces, inordinate vanity; and passion for bon mots.
In addition to these and other diplomats representing the great powers, there were delegates from Turkey and from the Balkan states. The latter were at least politely heard before being ignored. But the Turks were both ignored and insulted. "If you think the Congress has met for Turkey," Bismarck bluntly told them, "disabuse yourselves. San Stefano would have remained unaltered, if it had not touched certain European interests." (21) Even the British, who supposedly were the champions of the Turks, gave them orders and suffered no back talk. The British ambassador in Constantinople Sir Henry Layard, assured Salisbury that he had made certain of the cooperation of the chief Turkish delegate, Caratheodory Pasha. "I have given Caratheodory to understand that if I find him playing false I will leave no stone unturned to break his neck, and as he knows I can do it, it is to hi' interest to keep well with us."( 22)
The congress was not a meaningless rubber-stamp affair. It is true that agreements had been reached beforehand but these were of a general nature. On several occasions the congress almost foundered over specific is sues. such as the amount of territory that Russia should obtain in eastern Asia Minor and the degree of control that Turkey should keep over the southern Bulgarian province. Finally satisfactory terms were arranged and the treaty signed on July 13, 1878.
The essential difference between the Treaty of Berlin and that of San Stefano has to do with Bulgaria. The large autonomous principality originally established now was divided into three parts: Bulgaria proper, north Of the Balkan Mountains, to be autonomous with its own elected prince, though tributary to Constantinople; Eastern Rumelia, south of the Balkan Mountains, to be under a Christian governor appointed by Constantinople but approved by the powers; and Macedonia, which was to remain under direct Turkish administration. Thus the Bulgaria of Berlin was only one third hat of San Stefano and was completely cut off from the Aegean.
Serbia and Montenegro were declared independent and given additional territory, though not as much as stipulated at San Stefano. Rumania also became independent and acquired part of the Dobruja, though, as expected, she was forced to surrender southern Bessarabia to Russia. Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the crisis originated, were handed over to Austria to occupy and administer though not to annex. Austria was also authorized to garrison the strategic Sanjak of Novi Bazar located between Serbia and Montenegro. This provision was designed to forestall a development that Austria always feared-a large, united Yugoslav state that might attract the South Slavs under Hapsburg rule. Greece claimed Crete, Thessaly, Epirus, and a part of Macedonia, but received nothing. The powers had so many other interests to promote that they evaded the Greek case by inviting the Turkish government to come to terms with Greece concerning the rectification of frontiers. Bismarck remarked cynically that with thousands of years of history behind them the Greeks could afford to wait a few more to fulfill their ambitions.
Russia received Batum, Kars, and Ardahan in addition to southern Bessarabia. The British had prepared for this Russian advance in Asia Minor by concluding earlier, on June 4, the Cyprus Convention with the Turks. This committed the British to resist any further Russian expansion in Asia Minor; in return they were to occupy and administer the island of Cyprus for as long as the Russians retained Kars and Batum. When the French demurred at this new British foothold in theeastern Mediterranean, Bismarck told them, "Why do you not go to Carthage?"
Turks slaughter us and Albanians burn down our homes
To the respected gentlemen representing the great powers at the Congress of Berlin
According to widespread opinion in the German capital, the work of the Congress of Berlin, the ultimate European court of justice, is drawing to an end. However, since the issue of the suffering people of tragic Old Serbia [Kosovo and Metohija] has yet to be discussed by the high-level representatives of the European powers, I, the undersigned, with the authority granted to me by this people, respectfully direct my humble request to the esteemed members of the Congress so that they may be so good as to acquaint themselves for what the subjugated and almost completely destroyed people of Old Serbia hope.
Gentlemen, take pity on the suffering of a people which has been treated extremely badly and has found itself on the edge of the abyss, cast under the feet of others as slaves and stripped of every hope. Since the Almighty God in His mercy has placed in your hands the fate of a people who have been enslaved for centuries on European soil and since the great European powers have accepted the noble task of alleviating the tragic fate of the population of this part of Europe, may you act as the fathers and benefactors of the forgotten people of Old Serbia at this critical moment.
This people has endured unprecedented suffering to the present day because it was abandoned to the mercy, and lack thereof, of Turkish and Arbanas [Albanian] renegades. Now that the position of all the peoples of the Balkan peninsula has been improved, is it just that we should remain in the chains of awful tyranny? Is it just that the Turks continue to slaughter us and Arbanasi to burn down our homes? Is it just that we remain subjugated by treatment which is worse than treatment of livestock in Europe? Because we fought in the war for liberation; because we revolted against exploitation; because we demonstrated our desire for freedom and unification with our brothers, if the old order is restored, Muslim fanaticism will be unrestrained; it will be even more brutal and it will cause us even greater suffering than in the past.
This is why we once again raise our voice before the European community and ask that it show mercy toward us and that it not abandon us to this bloody and brutal enslavement. If it cannot guarantee our freedom, let it at least ensure some degree of autonomy for us and our personal safety.
As the representative of this just request, I beg Your Excellencies to accept my expressions of respect by which I remain
Your Excellencies' most humble servant
In Berlin, 3 July 1878.
Archmandrite and authorized representative
of the people of Old Serbia
Note: This letter is taken from "Hvosno", publication of St. Sava Cultural Center in Istok. Following the displacement of most Serbs from Istok, it is now based in Leposavic http://www.hvosno.co.yu/defaulte.htm
About the author: L.S.Stavrianos
The author of "The Balkans since 1453" is one of the country's leading authorities on the Balkans. His previus books on this area include "The Balkan Federation", "Movement Towards Balkan Unity in Modern Times", "Greece. American Dilemma and Opportunity." He is also the author of the recently published and highly praised pamphlet "The Ottoman Empire" -one of the series of "Source Problems in World Civilization".
Professor Stavrianos, now a member of the history faculty at Northwestern University, has been awarded at various times a Royal Society of Canada Fellowship, Ford Foundation Faculty Fellowship, and Guggenheim Foundation Faculty Fellowship to further his extensive researches. Before coming to Northwestern he lectured at Queens University in Canada and taught for a number of years at Smith College.