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Consequences of the Russo-Turkish War 1877-1878

The Congress of Berlin, which assembled on June 13, 1878. will be forever famous for the great personalities which composed it and for the unsatisfactory settlement of the great questions brought before it. Undoubtedly it left conditions in the Near East much better than they had been in 1875, but scarcely an advantageous change can be credited to the deliberations of the congress itself. Both the improvements in the situation, such as the independence of Montenegro, Serbia, and Roumania, and the autonomy of Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia, and the shortcomings, such as the incomplete liberation of the Christian subjects of the Porte and the violation of the principleof nationality in the acquisitions of Russia, Austria, and England had been prepared beforehand. The predetermined compromise settlement which "in the Name of Almighty God" was sanctioned by the signatures of the brilliantly clothed plenipotentiaries was filled with the seeds of oppression, bloodshed, and war, not excepting those of the Great War.

The Treaty of Berlin was considered by many at the time as the final solution of the Near Eastern Question. But that did not prove to be the case, as the settlement left bitter animosities, which were to be productive of future wars. Bulgaria was especially disappointed and began preparing for'the Consress the recovery of the "Greater Bulgaria" of San Stefano. Russia was incensed at being robbed of the fruits of her victory, and, in revenge, began to threaten English interests in India1 and to intrigue against Austria in the Balkans.2 England, in the words of Disraeli, achieved "peace with honor" in settling the affairs of Turkey, but time was to prove that she "put her money on the wrong horse," as Lord Salisbury, the colleague of Disraeli, later declared. A new factor, Austria, entered prominently into Balkan affairs, a circumstance fraught with ominous consequences for the history of Europe. Germany, as yet, took no interest in Turkey. In the opinion of Bismarck the whole Near Eastern Question was not worth "the bones of a Pomeranian grenadier." He contented himself, as President of the Congress of Berlin, with playing the part of "an honest broker" among the Powers by acting as intermediary between the various claimants.

By 1885 Batoum was a strong military fortress, and by its possession Russia flanks any movement of any army that might be employed against her. The strategical importance of Batoum was apparently unperceived by English statesmen, but it was fully understood by lookers-on abroad, who are well aware that, holding Batoum, the Russians could despatch the vast army occupying the Caucasus en route to the Indian frontier. This so-called 'commercial' port, situated in an out-of-the-way, seemingly unimportant corner of the Black Sea, put the army of Trans-Caspiana, as it is called, in easy communication with Odessa, the Crimea, and the mouth of the Danube. In the course of a week an army of 100,000 men could be conveyed to the right towards India or to the left towards Europe.

The capture of Kars and Batoum are part of this plan, because they lie on the most convenient road to Herat and the Indian frontier. Thus it was evident to some British observers that Russia was carrying out steadily and surely her program of conquest. It was evident to them that Russia profited by every occasion which arose to turn away the attention of England from her designs. The most dangerous point was that Russia as she advanced strengthens her position in a manner altogether irretrievable by those against whom she was acting. This was done in many ways : by establishing her system of government (such as it was) ; by conciliating the ignorant inhabitants of the countries she forcibly annexed, she succeeded in persuading them that her system of civilisation surpassed that of all other nations; by making railways that can, in fact, only be used for the conveyance of troops; by forcing the people into her army ; and by Russifying the whole population, she guarded herself from any formidable rising against her arbitrary rule.

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