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was arrived at between the Powers. It was embodied in a
protocol, and was presented to the Porte. It was promptly
rejected on April loth by the Sultan as inconsistent with
the treaty of Paris by interfering with the independence
of the Ottoman Empire. Russia thereupon declared war
against Turkey, justifying it in a dignified manifesto, on
the ground that the Sultan, by rejecting the protocol, had
defied Europe. Russia, therefore, held the strong position
of acting on behalf of Europe. England was the only
Power to take exception to this. Lord Derby, in a
despatch to the Russian Government, said that he and his
colleagues regarded the action of Russia as an obstacle to
reform in Turkey, and held that the plight of the Christian
population could not be improved by war — a most unfor-


tunate prediction, as the result proved. More fortunate
was the prediction of Mr. Gladstone at the close of a
speech which he made in the House of Commons, on April
24, 1877, immediately after the declaration of war by
Russia, when moving a resolution intended to prevent the
Government from taking up a hostile attitude to Russia
in the coming war,

I believe, for one [he said], that the knell of Turkish tyranny in these
provinces (the Balkan provinces) has sounded. So far as human cyes
can jud^c, it is about to be destroyed. The destruction may not come
in the way or by the means that we should choose ; but come from what
hands it may, I am persuaded tliat it will be accepted as a boon by
Christendom and the world.'

The answer of the Government to Mr. Gladstone was
given in the debate by the Home Secretary, Sir Richard
Cross, later Lord Cross. It showed that the policy of
Lord Derby, and not that of Lord Beaconsfield, had pre-
vailed in the Cabinet. The Government, he said, regretted
the war which had been declared by Russia, and did not
believe that it would do any good, but it would not give
support to either side, unless the Suez Canal or Egypt or
Constantinople were threatened.

It followed from this decision of the British Cabinet
that the hopes which the Sultan had formed from the
speeches of Lord Beaconsfield were not realized. He was
left alone to fight against Russia in another attack on his
Empire. Immediately after the declaration of war, on April
24, 1877, two Russian armies invaded Turkey — the one in
Europe, of two hundred and fifty thousand men, under the
nominal command of the Grand Duke Nicholas, the other in
Asia, of a hundred and fifty thousand men from the Caucasus,
under that of the Grand Duke Michael. The former crossed
the Pruth into Roumania, which was still nominally a part
of the Ottoman Empire. But on April i 5th the Roumanian
Chamber had given its assent to a convention with Russia
providing for the passage of the Russian troops through
the principality and otherwise giving promise of friendly
support. The Porte, as was to be expected, treated this
as a hostile act, and directed the bombardment of Calafat,
a Roumanian fortress on the Danube. The Roumanians

' House of Commons, April 24, 1877.


thereupon, on May 21st, declared war against Turkey. They
gave most effective support to the Russians throughout the
campaign. Indeed, it may be fairly said from the course
of the campaign that the invasion of Bulgaria would not
have been successful without the help of the Roumanians.

The Emperor of Russia had further prepared the way
for the invasion of Turkey by securing the neutrality of
Austria -Hungary. At a personal meeting in the previous
year at Reichstadt, he had assured the Emperor of Austria
that he had no intention of taking possession of Con-
stantinople. He further promised that Bosnia and Herze-
govina would be handed over for occupation by Austria-
Hungary as a reward for neutrality in the event of success
in his war against the Turks.

Owing to unprecedented inundations in the valley of
the Danube, it was not till two months after the commence-
ment of the campaign that the Russian army was able to
cross that river. It did so at two points, the one in the
Dobrudscha, the other at Hirsova. In neither case did it
meet with serious opposition. The Turkish army of defence
was little inferior in numbers to that of the Russians, but
its general, Abdul Kerim, proved to be quite incompetent.
He spread his forces in detachments over a front of five
hundred miles, and was too late in concentrating them.
The Russians, after capturing Nicopolis, the Turkish strong-
hold on the Danube, advanced into Bulgaria and captured
Tirnovo, its ancient capital. Everywhere they were received
by the Bulgarians with rapturous demonstrations of delight
at the prospect of deliverance from Ottoman rule.

General Gourko, with a flying corps, then made a very
hazardous but successful march across the Balkans by the
Hainkoi Pass, and advanced into Bulgaria along the Trudja
Valley as far as Eski Zagra. Thence, turning back, he
attacked the more important Shipka Pass from the south,
and defeated a Turkish force in occupation of it. Mean-
while, early in July, the main Russian army from Tirnovo
came in contact at Plevna, twenty miles south of the Danube,
with a Turkish army of fifty thousand men under Osman
Pasha, who had been sent in relief of Nicopolis, but was
too late for the purpose.

Plevna was not a fortress. It was a strong natural
position, where the Turks entrenched their army behind
earthworks and redoubts with great engineering skill, and


where they maintained an obstinate and memorable defence
for nearly five months, the most striking incident of the
campaign of 1877. Three unsuccessful assaults were made
by the Russians, assisted by a Roumanian army, in which
great losses were incurred. Thereupon, by the advice of
General Todleben, the hero of the defence of Sebastopol
in the Crimean War, the attempt to take these works at
Plevna by assault was given up, and it was subjected to a
close investment. The occupation of the Shipka Pass by
Gourko prevented the advance of a Turkish army in relief
of Plevna, in spite of successive attacks by the Turkish army
under Suleiman Pasha. As a result, after five months of
heroic resistance, Osman Pasha found himself in great straits
for want of food for his army. He determined to make a
great effort to break through the lines of the investing
army. The sortie failed, and Osman and his whole remain-
ing army of thirty -two thousand men were compelled to
surrender on January 9, 1878. This had the effect of
releasing the Russian army in front of Plevna. General
Gourko and the main part of the Russian army thereupon
marched to Sofia. General Skobeleff, in command of
another army, determined to force his way across the Balkan
range. An army of ninety thousand Turks under another
Pasha was stationed at the southern end of the Shipka
Pass and barred his way. Directing a part of his army to
made a feint attack along the Shipka Pass, Skobeleff led
the remainder by two sheep tracks distant about six miles
from the pass, and crossing the mountains, was able to attack
the enemy on the flank at Shenova. The Turks were
defeated and their whole army was compelled to surrender.
By this brilliant manoeuvre of Skobeleff, the Grand Duke
Nicholas, in nominal command of the whole Russian army,
was able to advance v/ithout further opposition to Adria-
nople. He took possession of it on January 28th. Mean-
while the Turks met with further defeats from the Serbians
and Montenegrins. The former captured the important
town of Nisch. The latter captured Spizza, in the bay of
Antivari, and Dulcigno, in the Adriatic.

In Asia the Turks were no more fortunate than in Europe.
Their army under Muktar Pasha was little inferior in
numbers to that of the Russians, but it was divided between
Kars, Ardahan, and Erzeroum. The Russians in the course
of the campaign of 1877 succeeded in successively cap-


turing these important fortresses and in getting possession
of nearly the whole of the districts inhabited by Armenians.

By the middle of January 1878 the resistance of the
Turks was practically at an end in both continents. They
were compelled to sue for peace and to appeal for the
mediation of the other Powers of Europe. On January 31st
an armistice was agreed on.

The capture of Adrianople and the fact that there was
no Turkish army capable of resisting the further advance
of the Russians to Constantinople caused great alarm to
the British Government. Opinion in England, which had
not supported Lord Beaconsfield in his desire to renew the
policy of the Crimean War, and to assist the Turks against
the invasion of Bulgaria by the Russians, now veered round,
at least among the wealthier and a large section of the
middle class, and declared itself vehemently opposed to
the occupation of Constantinople, which appeared to be
imminent, even if it should be only of a temporary

The British fleet at Besika Bay was ordered to enter the
Dardanelles. The House of Commons was asked to vote
six millions for war purposes. Every preparation was
made for war. Russia replied to these demonstrations by
advancing its army nearer to Constantinople. The head-
quarters of the Grand Duke Nicholas were established at
San Stefano, a village on the shore of the Marmora, within
sight of Constantinople. A portion of the British fleet then
took up a position near to Prince's Island, also within sight
of the capital. The position between the two countries,
England and Russia, was therefore most critical.

Meanwhile negotiations took place directly between Russia
and the Porte. Terms of peace were offered and agreed to,
and on March 3, 1878, a treaty was signed between the
two Powers at San Stefano. It was in accord with the
promises which had been made to the British Government
by the Czar. Constantinople, the province of Thrace, and
Adrianople were left in possession of the Turks, and the
capital was not even to be temporarily occupied by the
Russian army. Bulgaria was not to become a Russian
province or even an independent State. But a great Bul-
garia from the Danube southward, with frontiers on the
Black Sea and the .^gean Sea, and including the greater
part of Thrace, was constituted as an autonomous State,


subject to the nominal suzerainty of the Sultan, under a
prince to be elected by its people and approved by Russia.
As thus constituted, it would cut off the Porte from direct
junction and communication by land with its remaining
possessions in the Balkan peninsula, such as Macedonia,
Epirus, and Albania. Serbia and Montenegro were to be
greatly enlarged and both were to be independent States.
Bosnia and Herzegovina were to be endowed with autono-
mous institutions while remaining subject to the Porte.
Reformed administration was to be secured for the reniaining
Balkan provinces. No extension was conceded to Greece,
but Thessaly, Epirus, and Crete were included in the pro-
vision of reformed administration. The Roumanians were
very shabbily treated after the valuable assistance they had
rendered to the Russian army. The part of Bessarabia, in-
habited largely by Roumanians, which had been taken from
Russia by the treaty of Paris and added to Moldavia, was to
be restored to the Czar, together with a small strip which
brought Russia up to the Danube as a riverain State. In
exchange, Roumania was to be content with the barren
Dobrudscha, sparsely inhabited by Bulgarians and Turks.
Roumania was to- be an independent State. In Asia, Kars,
Ardahan, Bayezid, and Batoum, and their districts were to
be ceded to Russia. Erzeroum was to be restored to
Turkey. An indemnity for the war of twelve millions
sterling was to be paid by Turkey.

The publication of these terms did not allay the appre-
hensions of the British Government. They were regarded,
in the first instance, as meaning the complete dismember-
ment of Turkey in Europe. Lord Beaconsfield and the
Turkophil members of the Government believed that a
great Bulgaria would be completely under the influence of
Russia, and would be used as a stepping-stone for the
ultimate acquisition of Constantinople by that Power. They
could not understand, what was often insisted upon by Mr.
Gladstone in his speeches, that the best barrier against
the advance of Russia, in the Balkan peninsula, would be
a self-governing, contented, and prosperous State, and that
the larger it was the better it would serve that purpose. The
Government, under these misapprehensions, determined to
resist the creation of a big Bulgaria, even at the risk of
war with Russia. They maintained that the treaty of San
Stefano was completely at variance with the treaty of


Paris of 1856, and must be revised by a new Congress of
the great Powers of Europe.

The Russian Government would not agree to submit
the whole treaty to a Congress, but only some parts of it.
A collision between Russia and England seemed to be
imminent. War preparations were continued by the latter,
and hidian troops were sent to Malta. Lord Derby, the
P'oreign Minister, and Lord Carnarvon, the Colonial Secre-
tary, who were opposed to war, resigned, and the war party
in the Cabinet prevailed. But the Czar was very averse to
war, whatever might be the wishes of his generals at the
front before Constantinople. At the last moment terms
of reference to a Congress were agreed upon between the
two Governments, and war was averted. By an agreement
which was intended to be secret, but which was divulged
to the Press in England by an unscrupulous employe at the
Foreign Office, the British Government promised to support,
at the Congress, the main clauses of the treaty of San
Stefano, subject to a concession, on the part of Russia, as
to Bulgaria. Under this agreement, the intended big Bul-
garia was divided into three pai^ts. That between the
Danube and the Balkan range was to be dealt with as
proposed in the San Stefano treaty. It was to be an
autonomous State under the suzerainty of the Sultan, with
a prince elected by its people. A second part of it, imme-
diately south of the Balkan range, to be called Eastern
Roumelia, was to be an autonomous province more directly
under the control of the Porte . A third, the part bordering
on the yEgean Sea and containing a mixed population of
Bulgarians, Serbians, Greeks, and (in parts) Moslems, was to
be restored to the Porte subject to conditions for better ad-
ministration equally with other Turkish provinces in Europe.
This part has since been generally spoken of as Macedonia.

The Congress of the Powers met at Berlin on June 1 3,
1878, under the presidency of Prince Bismarck. It was
the most important gathering of the kind since the Congress
of Vienna in 18 15. The Great Powers were represented
by their leading statesmen. England, by Lord Beacons -
field and Lord Salisbury ; Russia, by Prince Gortchakoif
and Count Schouvalofit' ; France, by its Prime Minister,
Waddington ; Italy, by Count Corti, its Foreign Minister ;
Austria, by Count Andrassy. The Porte, apparently, was
unable to find a competent Turk for the purpose.


It was represented by Karatheodori, a Greek, and by
Mehemet Ali, a renegade German. Germany, it need not
be said, was represented by Bismarck, who acted as the
'honest "broker." Although apparently invested with un-
limited authority to deal with all questions arising out of
the treaty of San Stefano, the Congress found that its hands
were practically tied behind its back by the agreement
between England and Russia. It had no other option than
to cut down the big Bulgaria under the tripartite scheme
already described, which was the essence of the Anglo -
Russian agreement. As regards the artificially created
province of Eastern Roumelia, Lord Beaconsfield, who
throughout the proceedings of the Congress championed
the Turkish cause, insisted that the Porte was to have the
right to maintain garrisons in its frontier fortresses. He
threatened to break up the Congress if this was not con-
ceded. Russia, though strongly opposed to this, ultimately
gave way. This was a triumph for Beaconsfield, the value
of which we can now appreciate, with the knowledge that
no advantage was ever taken by the Porte of this permission
to garrison Eastern Roumelia.

The most important point on which the Congress effected
a change in the treaty of San Stefano was in respect of
Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the instance of Bismarck,
these two provinces, instead of being endowed with
autonomous government, were handed over to Austria for
occupation and administration, while remaining nominally
a part of the Turkish Empire. Montenegro was to lose
half of the territory conceded to it at San Stefano.' The
claims of Greece for a definite extension of its territory
were championed by the representative of France, but were
opposed by Lord Beaconsfield. The Congress contented
itself with a recommendation to the Sultan that the
boundaries of Greece should be extended so as to include
Thessaly and a part of Epirus. Organic reforms of adminis-
tration and law were to be carried out by the Porte in the
European provinces of the Empire on the recommendation
of a Commission to be appointed by the Great Powers.

The Congress confirmed to Russia the acquisition of
the provinces in Asia above referred to, and the restora-
tion of Erzeroum and Bayezid to the Porte. The Armenians

^' ' Bismarck induced Lord Beaconsfield to propose this to the Congress.


were guaranteed good government and protection from the
raids of Kurds and Circassians. Some other amendments
of the San Stefano treaty of no great importance were
decided upon, and on July 13, 1878, the treaty of Berlin
was signed by the representatives of all the Powers, after
exactly a month of discussion.

After his success at the Congress in respect of the
Roumelian garrisons, obtained by the threat of war,
Beaconsfield was able to return to England with a flourish
of trumpets, boasting that he had succeeded in obtaining
' peace with honour.' Though the treaty of Berlin nullified
that of San Stefano as regards the big Bulgaria, it did,
in fact, ratify the virtual dismemberment of the Ottoman
Empire in respect of four-fifths of its territory in Europe
and freed about eight millions of people from its rule. This
great achievement was due to Russia alone, and the gains
to that Power in Bessarabia and Armenia were in com-
parison small and unimportant. The splitting up of
Bulgaria, which constituted the main dift'erence between
the two treaties, was due to British diplomacy, backed by
threats of war. But the result obtained did not stand the
test of even a short experience. Two of the Bulgariati
provinces thus torn asunder were reunited seven years later.
More recently, the parts of Macedonia and Thrace restored
to full Turkish rule by the treaty of Berlin have, within
the present century, again been freed from it, and have
been annexed to Serbia and Greece in about equal portion.

It will be seen from this brief statement that by the treaty
of Berlin Great Britain obtained nothing for itself, unless
it were that the division of Bulgaria was of permanent
value to it in strengthening' the hold of the Turks on
Constantinople, a contention which has not been confirmed
by subsequent events. It did, however, succeed in getting
something out of the general scramble for territory. By,
another secret treaty which, to the amazement of the
members of the Congress at Berlin, was made public during
their sittings, the Porte agreed to hand over to the occupa-
tion of England the island of Cyprus, on terms very
similar to those under which Bosnia and Herzegovina were
placed under the charge of Austria. The occupation of
the island was limited to the time during which Kars and
Ardahan should be in possession of Russia. As ft con-
dition of this occupation. Great Britain guaranteed to the


Porte its Asiatic possessions. But this guarantee was con-
ditional on good government being secured to the Armenian
population in the east of Asia Minor, a condition which
has never, in fact, been fulfilled. The treaty was justified
in the British Parliament on the ground that Cyprus would
be of great value as a place d'armes for the British
army in the event of attack by Russia on the Asiatic
provinces of Turkey or of an attack from any quarter
on Egypt. The Porte was guaranteed by the British
Government an annual tribute so long as the occupation
should last, based on the average revenue which it had
received from the island. The proceeds were assigned
for payment of the interest on the loan raised by Turkey,
during the Crimean War, guaranteed by England and
France. The arrangement was made hastily and without
due inquiry, with the result that the island has been,
burthened with a charge far in excess of its past pay-
ments to the Porte, and the British taxpayers have been
compelled to bear a part of the burthen. An occupation
such as that of Cyprus was almost certain to become per-
manent, and in 19 14, during the existing war, the island
was permanently annexed by the British Government.

Looking back at the events which led to the liberation
of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule and to all the other changes
sanctioned by the treaty of Berlin, it must now be fully
admitted that the agitation which Mr. Gladstone promoted
against the Turkish Government had a great ultimate eft'ect.
It averted the use of armed force by Great Britain for
the purpose of preventing the intervention of Russia on
behalf of the Christian population of the Balkans. In a
great speech in the House of Commons in review of the
treaty of Berlin, Mr. Gladstone delivered himself of this
verdict on it : —

Taking the whole provisions of the treaty of Berlin together, I must
thankfully and joyfully acknowledge that great results have been achieved
in the diminution of human misery and towards the establishment of
human happiness and prosperity in the East.

As regards the conduct of England at the Congress he
added these weighty words : —

I say, Sir, that in this Congress of the Great Powers the voice of
England has not been heard in unison with the constitution, the history,


and the character of England. On cvciy question that arose, and that
became a subject of serious contest in the Congress, or that could lead to
any practical results, a voice has been heard from Lord Beaconsfield and
Lord Salisbury which sounded in the tones of Metternich, and not in the
tones of Mr. Canning, or of Lord Palmerston, or of Lord Russell. . . .
I do affirm that it was their part to take the side of liberty, and I do also
affirm that, as a matter of fact, they took the side of servitude.'

Lord Salisbury himself lived to make the admission that
England in its Eastern policy " put its money on the
wrong horse."

The three years which followed the treaty of .Berlin
were spent by the Great Powers in the endeavour to give
effect to its provisions, by settling the boundaries betw^een
Turkey and its disjecta membra, and other important details.
Two of these questions led to great difficulty. The Porte,
as was to be expected, put every obstruction in the way
and resorted to its accustomed dilatory methods. By the
treaty Montenegro had been guaranteed a port in the
Adriatic. It was not till 1880, after the return of Mr.
Gladstone to power in England, that effective pressure was
put on the Porte. He induced the other Powers to join
in sending a combined fleet to the Adriatic to blockade
its coast as a demonstration against the Porte. This, how-
ever, was not effective for the purpose. It mattered little
to the Porte that its coast in the Adriatic was blockaded.
It was not till the British Government threatened to send
its fleet to Asia Minor, and by seizing some custom houses
there to cut off supplies of money, that the Sultan was
brought to book. Eventually the port of Dulcigno and
the district round it were ceded to Montenegro and its
claim for access to the Adriatic was conceded.

The case of Greece caused even greater difficulty. The
treaty of Berlin, it has been showD, contained no specific
promise or guarantee of a cession of territory to Greece. It
merely made a recommendation to that effect, leaving it to
the discretion of the Porte whether to accede to it or not.
As Greece had taken no part in the war of liberation of
the Balkans, it had no special claim, except such as
arose from a wish of the Powers to avoid complications in

Online LibraryG. Shaw-Lefevre (George Shaw-Lefevre) EversleyThe Turkish empire, its growth and decay → online text (page 30 of 35)