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Berlin, Congress of

BERLIN, CONGRESS OF

The diplomatic conclusion to the Russo-Turkish War of 18771878 and postwar crisis.

Before the war, Russian diplomats promised Austria-Hungary that no "large, compact Slavic or other state" would result from the expected reorganization of the Balkans, and that Russia would allow Austrian occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and prevent Montenegro from acquiring a seaport in return for Russia's reacquisition of Southern Bessarabia and annexation of Batum (Reichstadt, July 1876; Budapest, April 1877). Russian councils, however, were divided. Court factions and generals backed the more ambitious ambassador to Istanbul, Nikolai P. Ignatiev, over Foreign Minister Alexander Gorchakov and Russia's cautious envoys in Vienna and London, Yevgeny Novikov and Peter Shuvalov.

The initial bilateral Treaty of San Stefano, forced upon Istanbul in March 1878, followed Ignatiev's line. It stipulated a large Bulgaria with an Aegean coast and an indefinite occupation by fifty thousand Russian troops until the Bulgarians established their own army. In addition, it called for an enlarged Montenegro with the three small Adriatic ports she had occupied; a less enlarged Serbia with most of the Sanjak of Novi Bazar divided between the two Serbian states; and the Russian acquisition of Batum and most of Turkish Armenia east of Erzerum down to Bayazid, as well as Southern Bessarabia, in place of most of the huge indemnity assessed at 1.4 billion rubles.

As the Turks expected, both the British, who had already sent a naval squadron inside the Sea of Marmora, and the Austro-Hungarians objected, as did the Serbians and Romanians, who felt cheated. Russia's weak financial situation (the ruble had fallen 40%) rendered war with Britain unthinkable, so Gorchakov agreed with the Austro-Hungarian proposal for a Berlin congress under Otto von Bismarck's leadership to settle outstanding issues. Shuvalov worked out the essential compromises in London before the congress met, and joined Pavel P. Oubril, the ambassador to Berlin, and the now senile Gorchakov as Russia's delegates there.

The congress was a resounding success for the British led by Benjamin Disraeli, whose threats to leave ("waiting train" tactics) forced a division of Bulgaria intro three partsonly the northern one being truly autonomous under Russian tutelage with far fewer Russia troops thereand made Russia limit its acquisitions in Asiatic Turkey, while he stood by London's separate arrangements with Istanbul regarding the Straits and Cyprus. Shuvalov did salvage the port of Varna for autonomous Bulgaria and one Adriatic port for Montenegro, as well as Southern Bessarabia, Kars, Ardahan, and Batum (nominally an open port) for Russia.

The Treaty of Berlin, signed by Britain, France, and Germany, as well as Russia, Turkey, and Austria-Hungary, achieved a tenuous Balkan peace lasting thirty-four years, but left Serbian and Russian nationalists seethinga catalyst for the secret Austro-German Dual Alliance of 1879 and mounting German distrust of Russia. Russia and Austria-Hungary dared agree on the latter's eventual annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina only by a secret agreement (1881), which caused a storm when implemented in 1908. The southern Balkan settlement collapsed in 1885, when Bulgarians on their own, in defiance of the Russians, united the southern third with the north.

See also: balkan wars; gorchakov, alexander mikhailovich; russo-turkish wars; san stefano, treaty of

bibliography

Medlicott, W. N. (1963). The Congress of Berlin and After: A Diplomatic History of the Near East Settlement, 18781880, 2nd ed. London: Frank Cass.

Sumner, Benedict Humphrey. (1962). Russia and the Balkans, 18701880, reprint ed. Hamden, CT: Archon.

David M. Goldfrank

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Berlin, Congress of

Congress of Berlin, 1878, called by the signers of the Treaty of Paris of 1856 (see Paris, Congress of) to reconsider the terms of the Treaty of San Stefano, which Russia had forced on the Ottoman Empire earlier in 1878. Great Britain and Austria-Hungary were the powers most insistent on revision; Russia submitted the treaty to revision only after Great Britain threatened war and Bismarck had offered to mediate as "honest broker." He was chairman of the congress. Disraeli represented Great Britain; Count Andrássy, Austria-Hungary; William Henry Waddington, France; Aleksandr Gorchakov, Russia; Count Corti, Italy; and Alexander Karatheodori, the Ottomans. The agreements reached in the Treaty of Berlin and the accompanying British-Turkish pact deeply modified the Treaty of San Stefano. Montenegro, Serbia, and Romania were recognized as independent states; Romania, however, was forced to cede S Bessarabia to Russia in return for the less favored Dobruja. Greater Bulgaria, which had been created at San Stefano, was divided into N Bulgaria, a principality under nominal Ottoman suzerainty; Eastern Rumelia, to be governed, with certain autonomous rights, by a Christian appointee of the Ottoman emperor; and Macedonia (including Adrianople), under unrestricted Ottoman sovereignty. Bosnia and Herzegovina, original cause of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, were assigned to Austria-Hungary for administration and military occupation. In Asia, Russia acquired Ardahan, Batum, and Kars from the Ottomans. Cyprus was to be under temporary occupation by Great Britain through a separate agreement, and Crete was promised constitutional government. Other provisions included an important rectification of the Greco-Ottoman boundary, the demilitarization of the lower Danube, and the protection of the Armenians and other religious minorities in Turkey. Russia was antagonized by Bismarck's handling of the conference, thereby bringing to an end the first Three Emperors' League.

See R. Albrecht-Carrié, The Concert of Europe (1968).

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Berlin, Congress of

Berlin, Congress of, 1878. A summit conference which met in the German capital, under the presidency of Bismarck, in June 1878. All the European great powers and Turkey were represented. Lord Salisbury and Lord Beaconsfield ( Benjamin Disraeli) represented Britain. It had been summoned because European opinion was uneasy at the gains Russia had made by the treaty of San Stefano at the end of the recent Russo-Turkish War. Many questions were settled by secret agreements before the congress assembled. San Stefano had provided for a ‘Big Bulgaria’, an autonomous principality including half the Balkan peninsula, which seemed likely to be under Russian influence. This was divided and part returned to Turkish jurisdiction. Austria was to ‘occupy and administer’ Bosnia and Herzegovina, although they remained under Turkish suzerainty. Britain was to lease Cyprus from Turkey. This gave her a forward base in the eastern Mediterranean to cover the Suez canal, opened in 1869. In return, Britain promised to maintain Turkish interests in Asia Minor. The independence of Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania was recognized but Romania had to cede southern Bessarabia to Russia. Disraeli returned to London boasting that he had secured ‘peace with honour’ but Salisbury later concluded that they had ‘backed the wrong horse’ in trying to prop up the Turkish empire. Panslavism was temporarily checked but the emerging Balkan nations remained dissatisfied.

Muriel Evelyn Chamberlain

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Berlin, Congress of

Berlin, Congress of (1878) Meeting of European powers to revise the Treaty of San Stefano (1878), which had increased Russian power in se Europe to an extent unacceptable to other powers. The purpose of the Congress, under the presidency of Bismarck, was to modify its terms. The main territorial adjustment was to reduce the Russian-sponsored Greater Bulgaria.

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