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Bosnia and Herzegovina, so much the better ; if not, we shall
take them for ourselves. These provinces will either remain

* " I mention this," said Count SchouwalofE, " because the
misunderstanding between Austria-Hungary and Great Britain
has had a great influence on all the bearings of the Oriental
crisis. Had London and Vienna been able to come to an agree-
ment in the beginning, if they had openly declared that they
would not tolerate the war, the war would have been made
impossible. ... I foresaw that the entente, which was not
to be established at a distance, would be arranged in Berlin/'
(Unpublished Memoirs.)

These notes are valuable as a proof of the trouble into which
the diplomatic world was plunged. It seems, however, as if
Count P. Schouwaloff had not known evers^thing as to the
relations of London, of Vienna, or, rather, as if he had not guessed


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Turkish or belong to us. — *' Would you make war upon this
point ? "— " Yes, with no hesitation."—" War with Russia ? "—
" Ofl&cial Russia agrees with and recognises our interests, and
considers them legitimate (Agreement of Reichstadt) ; not-
withstanding the eventual clamour of the Pan-Slavists, she
will not make war on us in order to prevent our annexation
of Bosnia and Herzegovma." — *' If you allow her, on her side,
to annex Bulgaria, I suppose ? " — *' Official Russia declares
herself disinterested. She says she has only drawn the sword
in order to improve the lot of the Christians. . . . She can
occupy Bulgaria, organise it, and create a native administration,
but she must go no further. The independence of the delta
of the Danube is a principle with us. Should Russia deceive
us in this, or ignore this principle, we shall fight her ; this is
definitely settled. Our miUtary position assures us the ad-
vantage." — '* What about Prussia ? " — " Prussia will side with
us, and we can count at least on friendly neutrality from her.
We are sure of Prussia's attitude." Herein lies the secret of
Count Audrey's calnmess of demeanour in confronting the
question of the East.

It was after reading and appreciating this docu-
ment, which throws light on everything — the Austro-
German agreement, the Convention of Reichstadt,
etc.,— that the French statesman was once more
mastered by his doubts and fears, not knowing how
to liberate his line of action, and not venturing to
take a further step. France was in a position to
make her choice. Her wealth, her strength, had
been restored to her, her Oriental influence : all this
had weight. What was aimed at were the treaties
which had been her work. She was qualified either
to defend or to modify these treaties. Germany,
no mcwe than France, had any wish for war at a
time when, in any case, she would have more than
one opponent to deal with. This gave the French
Government, even if pacific in tendency, much
latitude of action.

Neither understanding nor warning as to events


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was lacking in the French statesmen; what was
needed was calm and clear determination. It was
at the height of the crisis of May the Sixteenth. Home
affairs were the centre of attraction, the seat of
passion. Did the Government tremble for the comi-
try, it also trembled for itself, placed as it was in such
a dangerous position and reduced to plead its cause
before the foreigner. Why is it that the private
correspondence of the Due Decazes, so interesting
and honourable from so many points of view, should
close with the pleading pro domo that he addressed,
in August, 1877, t^ d^ Gontaut-Biron : —

Is there, then, nothing to enlighten people's minds as to
what we are wishing and doing to dissipate the fatal misunder-
standing that is weighing on us ? [He is speaking of the Cabinet.]
For the last four years I have given every care, agreed to every
sacrifice, and drained the cup of bitterness, in order to show
the foreigner what is so obvious to my eyes and what I have
declared in all sincerity, namely, that Conservative France is
exclusively devoted to a policy of peace and moderation, that she
has abandoned all feelings of anger and resentment, that she has
repudiated all notion of revenge, that she alone, in short, could
bring about a general peace, and that she alone desires it. . . .
Yet the fact must be faced that all this was lost labour, that
these sacrifices were made in vain ; that monarchical and
conservative Europe prefers to us — ^whom ? — great gods I — the
Radicals I

M. de Gontaut-Biron was already convinced of
this and needed no fresh teaching. As to Prince
Bismarck, if by any indiscretion of the post he could
have known of this letter — ^indited, in fact, to his
address, he would have been surprised not to find
in it the close play of his adversary of 1875.*

^ As to the personal embarrassment of the Due Decazes and
his colleagues before Europe, nothing is more demonstrative
than the first chapter of the book ; Derniires Annies de VAmbas-


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War had been declared on April 12th, 1877.
^ Although the Russians had decided on it
in the previous November, they were insufl&dently
prepared, but the Turkish preparations had been
still more inadequate. The first steps of the cam-
paign had been slow on both sides. Diplomacy
also had had a hand in things. General Le F16 wrote
on June 7th : —

The Emperor and his Chancellor ardently desire to avoid
any military and political action which might lead to rupture
with Great Britain, and which might give to any Power a sub-
ject or the slightest pretext for suspicion. They desire not to
be obliged to cross the Balkans through the course of military
operations, and they believe that a first victory of the Russian
army on the right bank of the Danube would be, for the great
Powers, the natural occasion for a benevolent intervention, of
which the inunediate consequence would be a Congress.

They therefore counted on a duel for first blood,
with immediate recourse to arbitration, but the
two campaigns, begun simultaneously, one in Europe,
the other in Asia, had been full of surprises. In
Europe, the Turks had offered no serious resistance
on the right bank of the Danube. The two Russian
armies, operating at a distance of 300 kilometres
the one from the other — one commanded by Zim-
mermann on the Lower Danube, and the other by
the Grand Duke Nicolas Nicolaiewich, Commander-
in-Chief and brother of the Czar, on the Middle
Danube, had approached the stream and crossed it

sade en AUemagne de M, de GotUaut-Biron, by Andr^ Dreux.
As to German influence, see a passage of the Mhnoires of Prince
von Hohenlohe, September 6th, 1877 : " We were talking with
Bismarck of the French elections, and the Chancellor told me
that he considered it necessary, during the election period, to
do something threatening " (vol. ii. p. 220).


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without a sword-stroke — Zimmermann at Galatz
and the Grand Duke at Zinmitza, near Sistova.

Beyond the Danube, the only line of defence for
the Turkish Empire consists in the Balkan range.
Zimmermann had made his way as far as Trajan's
Gate, and there, supported by the square base of
Vama — Choimila — Routschouk — Silistria, he had
made a halt.

The Turkish fleet, although commanded by an
English ofl5cer, Hobart Pacha, who was considered
able, had reduced its rdle to forbidding Russia the
use of the sea. The destruction of two monitors
by Russian torpedoes had demoralised the scarcely
naval spirit of the Turkish sailors. The course of
the Danube had been intercepted by a barrier of
torpedoes between Nicopolis and Routschouk.
Gonrko's The Grand Duke Nicolas, finding no ob-

^^^ stacle in his path, had sent on a vanguard
of 15,000 men under Gourko, with orders to push on
as far as possible. Gourko, full of enterprise, had
marched by way of Biela, Selvi, Timova, to the foot
of the Balkans. He penetrated the mountains as
far as Khankioi, repulsed the only Turkish battalion
that defended the pass, descended the southern
slopes, took Kazanlik, July 14th, also Eski-Sagra, and
then the important Schipka Pass by attacking it from
the south. By means of this surprising raid he
became free to enter the valley of the Maritza, which
leads to Adrianople. Ndther the Danube nor the
Balkans had protected Trnrkey ; they did not even
afford Russia the decisive battle which was to stay
her victorious arms. It was too easy a conquest,
its very facility constituted its danger.

The Turks are never in a hurry. They had pas-
sionately wished for war and they had prepared for


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it very badly. Having, it is true, a vast front to
defend, they had covered it with troops, from the
furthest confines of Armenia to the Adriatic Sea,
troubhng themselves little to inquire where they
might be attacked. There was no unity either
among the commanders or in the Government. Abdul
Kerim, who was Commander-in-Chief, could not
make himself obeyed by his officers ; each man did
practically what he chose. However, from Africa
and from the heart of Asia soldiers arrived in vast
numbers. Armed and clothed to some extent,
they hastened to the frontiers and constituted an
imposing effect. On the declaration of war, at the
end of May, 1877, the Sultan's proclamation to his
troops had aroused fierce enthusiasm : " You are
entering on a Holy War against the enemies of the
Faith, You bear not only the flag of the Ottoman
Empire but the banner of Islam. The swords of the
believers will open the gates of Paradise."

On finding Gourko so close to Adrianople the Turks
awoke to their danger. They now saw that the war
was serious, that it meant a fight for Ufe.

It was decided to concentrate the efforts that till
then had been scattered. Suleyman Pacha was
recalled from Montenegro and opposed, with superior
forces, to Gourko, who no longer ventured to advance
but retreated, not without contributing to the
defence of the Schipka Pass. This accomplished, he
had to re-cross the Balkans and fall back on the
Danube, where things were singularly compUcated
for the Grand Duke Nicolas.

The Army of the Centre, which he commanded,
formed a triangle of which Gourko's vanguard was
the apex. The more this triangle was lengthened
the greater was the danger to its sides. On the left,


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towards the Lower Danube, Zimmermann held the
attention of Abdul Kerim, who was afterwards
replaced by Mehemet Ali. For greater security the
Russian leader had confided two army corps to the
Czarewitch with orders to drive away from Roust-
chouk the Turkish army forming on the Lom, which
might threaten his rear. On the right, following
the same idea, he ordered General von Krudener,
commanding the gth Corps, to establish himself on the
road to Widin, in order to intimidate the force of
Osman Pacha.

osman ^^^^ movement, however^ was forestalled.

Pacha Osman Pacha, an officer of genius, who had
learnt his first lessons in the rough school of
the War of Secession, had a cool head and a steady
eye. Arriving too late to raise the siege of Nicopolis,
he had halted on the heights above the little town of
Plevna, where met several roads, and which, from
this side, held the key of Turkey. Knowing what
he could expect of his troops, he began to entrench his
position, forming triple firing lines, skilfully concealed.
On July 20th, without reconnoitring, Krudener hurled
himself on this position. He attacked and was
repulsed. The next day, having received reinforce-
ments, he attacked again, was once more repulsed
and totally beaten. His defeat cost him 6,000 men.

It was no longer a question for the Russians of
following Gourko and crossing the Balkans. The
triangle had weakened on the right ; it had to be
strengthened and the bases of operation approached.
The Grand Duke himself was defeated with enor-
mous loss. There were not enough troops for
blocking Osman Pacha, who had been able to keep
his communications open, and receive men and
provisions. His army, numbering 45,000, had held


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off 150,000 Russians and lost them 50,000 men.
Antumn had now approached.

On the Asiatic side, Fortmie was also doubtful.
Loris Melikoff, with a splendid army, had taken
the offensive against Mouktar Pacha, an experi-
enced soldier who knew how to wait and how to
manoeuvre. The Russians had Erzeroum as their
object, and Erzeroum was covered by Kars, a forti-
fied town of the first rank. The fate of Kars
would decide the campaign in Asiatic Turkey. The
Russians divided their army into four invading
columns, separated by impassable mountains. They
were, at the same time, besieging Batoum, which
was protected by Turkish cuirassiers. At first they
met with no obstacle, took Bayazid and Ardakan,
and invested Kars. But Mouktar retired to a
good position before Erzeroum, and there received
reinforcements from Trebizond, and in his turn
took the offensive and successively repulsed the
different Russian corps. Kars was relieved, July
loth, just as, for the first time, Krudener failed at

Europe experienced much surprise and agitation
on the arrival of these tidings. It was exactly the
reverse of what had been expected. During the
month of August Russia had been considered de-
feated. Competent men, among them Marshal von
Moltke, had declared that Russia would not finish
with the Turks in one campaign and that the war
would last at least ten years, were men and money
still available. In London the Russian power
was thought to be practically annihilated. Lord
Beaconsfield intended to dictate the terms of peace,
and let it be fully understood that moderate men
like Lord Derby would soon have to quit the


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Ministry. The streets of Pesth were illuminated in
honour of the Turkish victories. Prince Bismarck
quitted his retreat and met Count Andrdssy at
Salzburg. The Czar Alexander left the army of the
Danube and went to the Austrian manoeuvres, where
he saw the Emperor Francis-Joseph.

Did he obtain any security from this quarter ?
However it may have been, an important develop-
ment occurred — Roumania decided to take part in
the war (August 24th). The proclamation of the
Prince, dated August 27th to September nth, declared
the absolute independence of Roiunania : —

How terrible would be our position if the Turkish troops
were allowed to take the offensive and bring the scene of war
across our frontiers. We are obliged to co-operate with the
imperial forces of Russia in order to hasten on the end of the
war at all costs.

Whether Roumania had assured herself any de-
finite profit from the victory is not stated.^

* During the month of May, Gortschakoff, in an oflBcial Note
to the Roumanian Government, declared that " Russia had no
need of help from the Roumanian army, that if Roumania
entered on the war she would do so at her own risk." And
nothing could have been much more definite than a conver-
sation between Prince Charles and GortschakofE at Ploiesti in
the beginning of June. *' The Chancellor recognised that
Roumania needed the delta of the Danube for her economic
and political development, but he claimed for Russia the arm
of KUia in Bessarabia, which the treaty of 1856 had ceded to the
Principalities. The Prince replied that the time for dealing
with these questions had not yet arrived, that only after a
successful campaign would there be any question of extending
the frontiers." (Witte, p. 299.) On the other hand, however,
after the month of August the Russians solicited the immediate
intervention of Roumania. The Roumanian statesmen were of
opinion that delay would be advisable ; it was the Prince who,
strongly supported by Bratiano, took the decisive step and
the responsibility of entering upon the campaign.


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Prince Carol was invested with the general com-
mand of the allied troops before Plevna. The Rou-
manian army numbered 50,000 men and 180 cannon.

j.^^ Reinforcements were also arriving for
Surrender the Russians. It was resolved to attempt
evna ^ f^^^y^ assault with the help of the Rou-
manians, September 14th — but it was again repulsed.
Another sort of effort seemed required.

The old general Totleben, the hero of Sebastopol,
was summoned, and allowed full liberty of action,
with the Imperial Guard at his disposal. He sur-
roimded Plevna with entrenchments, occupied the
roads to Widin and Sofia, by which Osman was pro-
visioned, and narrowly blockading the place he set
himself to wait. A terrible winter tried the mettle
of the allies. They suffered all that the men before
Sebastopol had suffered, all that Vsevolod Garchine
has described.^ Osman, with no more food or
ammunition left, attempted to break the iron bands
by which he was encircled. Repulsed and wounded,
he surrendered with 40,000 men. (December loth


The Turks had not been able to profit by

^^oiK^^ the unhoped for respite afforded by the
admirable defence of Plevna. In Asia their
position was no better. Mouktar Pacha, after his
first successes, instead of confirming them by a
vigorous advance, had contented himself with harass-
ing the enemy ; the Russians had regained some
ground, the Grand-Duke Michael and Loris Melikoff
had obtained reinforcements. In October they
attacked the Turkish general entrenched before Kars,
defeating him and driving him into Armenia. For

* La Guerre. Preface by Guy de Maupassant, V. Havard,


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the second time Kars was invested; the garrison
of 20,000 men, after a month of exhausting attacks,
endeavoured to escape, but was surroimded and
taken prisoner. The town itself, till then deemed
impr^nable, was carried by an heroic assault. The
Turks fell back on Erzeroum. Mouktar Pacha, with
part of his forces, was recalled to Europe. The fall of
Erzeroum was but a question of time, when the
Armistice intervened.

The campaign in Europe had not been interrupted
by the winter. Plevna fallen, there was nothing to
stop the onward march of the Russian troops. In
spite of terrible sufferings, in spite of frost and snow,
they crossed the Balkans, using every pass. It was
a magnificent movement on to the vast breadth of
the peninsula. In the west the Montenegrians drove
the Turks before them ; they occupied Antivari,
January loth, and besieged Scutari ; further forward
the Servian troops, which had entered the line of
battle, gained the victory of Pirot and took possession
of Nisch ; towards the centre. General Gourko was
victorious at Taschkesen and crossed the mountains
during the early days of January. Radetzki, com-
bining his movements with Mirsky and Skobeleff,
surrounded and took prisoner Wessel Pacha, who
was defending the Schipka Pass with a force of 30,000
men. An eye-witness writes : —

The enthusiasm with which the news was received at head-
quarters was indescribable. The Grand-Duke left his tent
shouting hurrah to announce the great tidings. Thousands of
voices echoed the shout, and a loud roar of sound arose, of songs
and acclamations, while the band played the National Hymn,
Baji6 izaria Krani I

It was a sudden, ahnost miexpected close to much
suffering. All the roads to Constantinople seemed
VOL. IV. 321 Y

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to open simultaneously, while Greece also entered
the lists and sent her army into Thessaly. Turkey,
who till then had counted on a military intervention
of the Powers, especially of England, was at the
mercy of the enemy. On January 9th, the Sultan
demanded an Armistice. The Grand Duke Nicolas
refused to negotiate anything but terms of peace.
^^^ The onward march of the Russians was
Russians at acccleratcd. It was now necessary to
Adrianopie jj^f^j.,^ j-j^^ diplomatic serviccs of the ac-
complished facts. On December 15th, 1877, Lord
Derby had notified Count Schouwaloff in writing
that Great Britain would oppose a Russian entry
into Constantinople. Gourko pursued his victories
despite the opening of negotiations ; after a three
days' fight he crushed the army of Suleyman Pacha,
the last resource of the Sultan, at Philippopolis
January 15th. On January 20th Colonel Stroukoff
entered Adrianopie at the head of a detachment of
cavalry. " The panic was such that the Turkish
leaders made no attempt at resistance ; their only
care was to save their lives." Mehemet Ali had been
told to defend Adrianopie, which was strongly forti-
fied ; he fled, accompanied by two police officials,
at sight of the first squadrons.

The whole of the Russian army was directed upon
Adrianopie. This time the triumph was irresistible.

The vanguard accomplished a march of 350 kilometres in
sixteen days, through snow and mud, fighting all the time.
The losses were enoraious. Of the 5,000 men who had left Sofia,
barely 2,500 reached Adrianopie, and these shoeless and in

On January 31st, the day the peace preliminaries
were signed at Adrianopie, the Russian forces covered
the approaches to the Turkish capital — from Rodesto


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to Silivri. This triumphal progress filled with joy
and pride the Russia that had been trembling for her
power and position.

The soldiers had now to hand on their task to the
diplomatists. These sufferings, these enormous sac-
rifices — were they all to go for nothing ? * Would any
one attempt to snatch the prey from the victor ? The
sacred goal of the campaign was Saint Sophia ; the
Emperor had told the Grand Duke that it was Con-
stantinople. Was the error of four centuries now to
be repaired ? — the Christians of the East delivered ?
Who would oppose the voice of the liberating and
victorious Czar ?

In Europe the Powers were surprised and irritated,
but the advantage lay with quietness. The con-
temporary events have been already noted ; in
France the Republicans had come into power ;
in Italy, M. Crispi. Victor Emmanuel was dying,
and the Pope was soon to follow him. Prince
Bismarck was keeping silence, but labouring at his
projects. It was just the time that he was planning
for Gambetta's journey to Berlin ; he was soothing
Austria, who was uneasy at events ; and he was
out of touch with England. During the early days
of 1878, Coimt Miinster, German Ambassador in
London, a man of cool and practical mind, was
the guest of Lord Derby in the country ; they had
long interviews together. Midhat Pacha was in
London. Lord Derby was, as usual, very patient ;
he had no wish to act alone, but was waiting for
Austria-Hungary, whom he still mistrusted, to take
the initiative.
^ Public opinion in England was aroused. It was

* The Russian mortality during the war has been estimated
at 80,000 men.


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in the nature of things that the English Parliament
should kindle the flame. On January tsth, the
day on which the Turkish plenipotentiaries, Savfet
Pacha and Namik Pacha, left Constantinople to
England i^t^^vi^w the Russiau General, there was
and Russia a lively debate within the House of Com-
mons. Sir Charles Dilke, an enfant terrible,
who was often a pioneer, proposed that England
should take her share of the spoil as a matter of
course and lay hands on Egypt. His proposal was
not well received. Lord Beaconsfield made a
haughty and somewhat threatening speech. Lord
Derby, however, thought that there was still room
for negotiation. Abandoning the ground of interests
he made public the notification he had made to
Russia, namely, that any convention modif5dng
the Treaties of Paris (1856) and of London (1871)
was an act of European significance, and as such
should be submitted to the Powers. The declara-
tion had been made to St. Petersburg by the
Cabinets of London and Vienna simultaneously.
As to the occupation of Constantinople, the British
Government requested that no Russian force should
be sent into the peninsula of Gallipoli. In order
to support these views, a command was given, on
-January 25th, that the British fleet should leave
the Bay of Smyrna for the Dardanelles, and should
the order not be coimtermanded, to make its way
from thence to Constantinople. The two opponents
were standing face to face. All Europe was alarmed ;
war seemed inevitable.

Online LibraryGabriel HanotauxContemporary France → online text (page 24 of 48)