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Treaty of Berlin - 13 July 1878

By the Treaty of Berlin the Ottoman Empire was given back lands conqured by Russia during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. Bulgaria was reduced by two-thirds the size proposed in the San Stefano Treaty, with no access to the Mediterranean Sea. The Congress of Berlin assembled on June 13, 1878, and ended its labors by signing the Treaty of Berlin on July 13. one month later. The fashioning of this important document, which has been called the constitution of the Balkan Peninsula during the following 30 years, might seem to have been marveously speedy. As a matter of fact, nearly all of its more significant features had been agreed upon beforehand, so that the congress had little to do beyond gathering existing understandings into a unified, elaborated, and harmonious whole.

Count Shuvaloff, Russian ambassador at London, served as intermediary in carrying personally to Petrograd (starting May 7) a statement of the British objections to the Treaty of San Stefano. On his return he was able to reach, by May 30, a secret agreement with Lord Salisbury, which was later embodied in the entire Treaty of Berlin. The principal features were that the Bulgarian regions south of the Balkans were not to be withdrawn wholly from Turkish control; that the Sultan would have the right to canton troops on the frontiers of southern Bulgaria: that England would present the cause of the Greeks of Thessaly and Epirus to the powers; that while feeling " profound regret" at the cession of southern Bessarabia to Russia, she would not dispute it; and that Bayazid, controlling the main route from Asia Minor into Persia, should be given back to Turkey. Russia thus made considerable concessions.

Prince Bismarck dominated the proceedings of the congress and used his authoritative presence to drive the deliberations rapidly, suppressing at will the representatives of small states when they were permitted to appear for short hearings before the Congress, and limiting debate on-the questions already arranged.

The Bulgarian question occupied four days (June 22 to 26). The new principality was reduced to about one-third of that arranged at San Stefano. Another third, under the name of Eastern Roumelia, was to have a separate status and a different organization, while the remainder was given back to Turkey to constitute, under the name of Macedonia, that theater of robbery, arson, rape, and murder which, in full sight of Europe, disgraced the opening years of the twentieth century. On the 28th the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (See article. Austria-Hungary and the Balkan Settlement of 1878) by Austria was gently proposed, to the surprise perhaps of none but the Turkish delegates. On July 13 the Turkish delegates, on peremptory orders from Constantinople, required Andrassy, after fierce debate, to sign a separate paper affirming that the Austrian occupation would be provisional. The increments assigned to Serbia and Montenegro at San Stefano were materially reduced, so that, in Austria's interest, the two small States might be carefully insulated from each other. England did indeed assume not only the defense of the Sultan's Asiatic possessions, but the protection of the Armenians, both of which engagements she quietly abandoned within a few years without returning Cyprus to the Porte. The only power that showed any attachment to the principle later regarded as of paramount importance, the self-determination of peoples, was Russia, but even she did not hold to it against what she conceived to be her interests.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:29:29 ZULU