Berlin’s treaty or how the Balkans suffered unfair treatment

In duration of one month (between 13 June -13 July) 1878 in Berlin, the European major powers gathered together in order to solve the problems concerning the faith of many European nationalities. That delegation of representatives was highly influence by the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, whose main concerns were not to pacify the eruption of crisis in Europe (mainly in the Balkans) after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, but to satisfy the desires of another European powers such as Britain and Austro –Hungary. That was diplomatic meeting , but it was far from being diplomatic and fair in many ways, especially regarding the ethical origin and respecting the rights of many nationalities across the continent. This is ample evidence, how one treaty could do more harm than good and how people’s wishes could be disregard and throw away without much courtesy.

Three main powers were in the center of that hurricane of struggles for domination between  the Ottoman empire (which was in its period of decay), the Russian empire (with its pretentions of dominations over the Balkans) and the Austro-Hungary with similar wishes as the Russians. In addition, the British’s interests were to support the Ottoman empire in hope to prevent Russian’s power to encroach in the Balkan’s territory. By contrast, one by one many balkans’ states became independent or less pliable to Ottoman’s influence , which immediately made them  potential targets for Russia or Austro-Hungary domination.

However, an arrival of the new element like “Pan-Slavism” movement , added brand new complexion in the international affairs. As a matter of fact, that movement arose by the power of culture, history and traditional heritage between the people in the northern (Poles, Ukrainians), western (Czechs, Slovaks) and southern Slavs (Serbs, Croats, Slovenes) and had its most influential power over the Balkans. The movement was eagerly accepted and grasped with wave of enthusiasm by Russia, since the empire could rise its pretentions over Poland and Ukraine. However , Poland refused to accept the new doctrines , being tired of the unwanted control of Russian, Prussian and Austrian empires on her territory, the only thing Poland wanted was her ultimate independence.

In 1786, after the miserable failure of Serbia’s war against the Ottoman Empire , an international conference took place in Constantinople , highly recommended by Russia , in which it was decided to be made settlements mutually agreeable to all parties. During the conference , the destiny of the Balkans’ nations were subject of greedy imperialism as if the territory was big cake and everyone was eager to get the biggest piece. For instance, Russia was eager to support the independence of Serbia and Montenegro as long she was given free access to Bulgaria and Romania. On the other hand, Bosnia and Herzegovina would be under the influence of Austro-Hungary. However, this rearrangement of priorities was not accepted lightly by the Turkish sultan Abdul Hamid II, consequently the Russo-Turkish war broke out with its highest straight and allured every Balkan’s state into war. It ended with the treaty of San Stefano, with the new enlarged Bulgarian state with its new territories, which possessed a treat in the eyes of Great Britain and Austria as they feared that it would serve as a tool of Russian’s expansion in the Balkans.

The main aim of the congress in Berlin was to re-create a new map of Europe, which would serve in benefit to only three states. Serbia, Rumania and Montenegro declared their independence, but Rumania had to cede the territory of Bessarabia to Russia, which the latter had lost after the Crimean War.

As the reason above, the possibility of Bulgarian’s state being a treat to great powers , was not justifiable to their unfair actions and the treaty of Berlin. After almost 500 years under slavery and Ottoman influence over Bulgarian territories, after that new state taking its first breath and could sense the freedom for the first time, Bulgaria was almost torn into after the treaty of Berlin. The territories of Macedonia and the unnatural creation of the principality of East Rumelia were under the control of the Ottomans.  Looking back with the perspective of the present, we could see how the coexistence of so many nationalities under Ottoman empire’s control was something impossible for 19th century Europe. One of the questions, which intensified the pressure even more was Macedonia, Bulgarians and Serbians were adamant to one another they were reluctant to give up on it, neither the Ottomans.

However, the most striking fact of the whole treaty was that representatives of from Russia, England, Austria-Hungary, Germany, France, Italy and Turkey attended it, in addition there were representatives of Balkan countries (Greece, Iran, Romania, Montenegro and Serbia) were invited to the congress but did not participate in its work. I would like to make an emphasis on the fact that there was no representative of Bulgaria, which violated the treaty and its validity. Here, we could see how Bulgarian state was not only refused a say in that question, but also was a subject of unfair treatment.

Nevertheless, Britain and German’s concerns about the Balkans’ influence or future dominations had grounds, they were unjustified in the eyes of many people. For instance, the Russian general Nikolay Pavlovich Ignatiev wanted ‘the Eastern peoples ,notably the Slavs,to turn their gaze to Russia, and not to other European state’.

The future of Bulgaria ,already divided into two principalities the first one (with capital Sofia) between the Danube and the Stara Planina range and the second (capital Plovdiv) in the south of the Stara Planina range, was uncertain and vague. There were fervent discussions over the fact that the prince (knyaz) who was supposed to rule the new Bulgarian state (with capital Sofia) should not have to be from Russia. Eventually , in 1886  Alexander of Battenberg was chosen to be the leader of the nation and who was a nephew of Russia’s Tsar Alexander II. Actually, the new –crowned knyaz was far from being satisfied with his position in his new principality, he even complained to his uncle and even expressed his concerns regarding his power and influence over the state. He even complained that his power was strongly restricted by the constitution and the government and that he felt himself out of place in that country – Bulgaria.

But we could easily forgive those words of him, as he was still young (only 25 years old when he came to power) and he was still green , knowing nothing of the foreign affairs and unscrupulous games of power.


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