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THE interference of nations in the internal affairs of other countries, although once a more common thing than it is to-day, has continued to play an important role in the creation of new states. This has happened despite the tendency of leading nations in recent times to take more and more account of the principle of non-intervention. Certain changes in ideas and conditions during the past century have, no doubt, had a most decided bearing in that connection. Keeping pace with increasingly rapid and suitable means of communication, the widening range of trade and travel has so spread out the interests of civilized countries that most nations have come to be scrupulously sensitive to the policies and practices of many others. Then too the aggressive and propagandist character of democracy and the efforts among those of the same race to achieve political unity have helped now and then to produce complications that have afforded more or less plausible excuses for intervention. There has been, meanwhile, no lack of imperative calls for the readjustment of political relations established as a result of conquest. For various reasons, it would seem, these manifestations of discontent, especially in the Turkish empire, have been quite generally seized upon as pretexts for interference from without. It is in this connection that the suspected national ambitions of some of the European governments and the lingering faith in the balance-of-power principle have quite frequently carried so-called friendly interpositions over into destructive wars...
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Copyright © 2016 by William Murray
Published by Perennial Press
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WALLACHIA, MOLDAVIA, SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO, UP TO THE TREATY OF PARIS — 1856
THE BALKAN PROVINCES UNDER THE PROTECTION OF THE EUROPEAN CONCERT — 1856-1870
INTERNATIONAL COMPLICATIONS, AND THE OUTCOME IN THE BALKANS — 1870-1878
ORGANIZATION OF BULGARIA AND EASTERN ROUMELIA AND THE MOVEMENTS LEADING TO THEIR UNION AND INDEPENDENCE — 1878-1909
SUMMARY — PRESENT SITUATION IN THE BALKAN STATES
THE INTERFERENCE OF NATIONS IN the internal affairs of other countries, although once a more common thing than it is to-day, has continued to play an important role in the creation of new states. This has happened despite the tendency of leading nations in recent times to take more and more account of the principle of non-intervention. Certain changes in ideas and conditions during the past century have, no doubt, had a most decided bearing in that connection. Keeping pace with increasingly rapid and suitable means of communication, the widening range of trade and travel has so spread out the interests of civilized countries that most nations have come to be scrupulously sensitive to the policies and practices of many others. Then too the aggressive and propagandist character of democracy and the efforts among those of the same race to achieve political unity have helped now and then to produce complications that have afforded more or less plausible excuses for intervention.
There has been, meanwhile, no lack of imperative calls for the readjustment of political relations established as a result of conquest. For various reasons, it would seem, these manifestations of discontent, especially in the Turkish empire, have been quite generally seized upon as pretexts for interference from without. It is in this connection that the suspected national ambitions of some of the European governments and the lingering faith in the balance-of-power principle have quite frequently carried so-called friendly interpositions over into destructive wars.
The anomalous conditions so long existing in Turkey have laid that country open in recent times to the application of what may be called exceptional principles of intervention. Nowhere else since the close of the French Revolution has intervention been so constant and in one sense so effective. Although the peace of Europe has often suffered by reason of the resulting complications, all this has been a most important factor in the creation of the four constitutional monarchies in the Balkans.
The Ottoman empire was built up by a series of conquests that made subjects of peoples who either could not or would not be one with the conquerors or with each other, hence patriotism there, in relation to the whole state, has been one-sided, to say the least. Religious differences and accompanying prejudices have ever been operative; while national and racial ambitions, together with the pressing need and the burning desire for a larger measure of liberty and security, have fostered there a spirit of jealousy, of discontent and of disunion. With these influences at work and with the increasing probability that a determined struggle would eventually receive the support of one or more of the great powers of Europe, the discontented nationalities under Turkish rule have succeeded for nearly a century in keeping up almost a constant strain on the forces that were calculated to hold the empire together. Yet this very clashing of interests, ambitions, and aspirations-to be seen as well in the consequent strivings of the interested powers — and the apprehension in Europe of grave and far reaching consequences likely to result from the impending conflict, have given a semblance of solidarity and a measure of perpetuity to what has come to be called the Concert of Europe.
THE WALLACHIANS AND THE MOLDAVIANS — UP TO THE GREEK INSURRECTION (1821)
The beginning of a continuous control, under treaty rights, in the affairs of the Ottoman empire by one of the great powers of Europe, was in 1774. Six years previous, in connection with Russian interference in Poland, Turkey declared war against Russia. After several other nations became involved, this struggle resulted in the first partition of Poland, and in the acquirement by Russia of a protectorate over a part of the Ottoman subjects. In the treaty of peace (Kutschouc-Kainardji, 1774) the Porte agreed that a permanent Russian embassy might be established at Constantinople, and that Russia should have the right of free navigation in Turkish waters; and, most important of all, the Sultan promised “to protect constantly the Christian religion and its churches,” and “to keep religiously” to a list of conditions under which Russia restored Wallachia and Moldavia to Turkey. Also, as the circumstances of these two principalities might require, the Russian ministers resident at Constantinople were to be permitted to intercede in their favor. This treaty which expressed the agreement of the two empires “to annihilate and leave in an eternal oblivion all the treaties and conventions” previously made between the two states (some reference to boundaries was excepted), marks the beginning of a Russian régime, so to speak, in Turkish affairs, which was only brought to an end when the armies and navies of England and France joined with those of Turkey against Russia, in 1853-6.
Wallachia and Moldavia already had a history of nearly five hundred years, and the two principalities had now (1774) been tributary to the Porte for more than three centuries. A few descendants of the Latin-speaking Roman colonists in that part of Europe are supposed to have survived from the third century, A. D., and about the end of the thirteenth century these were joined by other Roumans (more or less Latinized peoples of eastern Europe) and thus were formed the two Rouman principalities. The southern — Wallachia — took its name from that by which its people were known to their neighbors, and the northern — Moldavia — was called by the name of its principal river. During the fifteenth century, these principalities were brought under the supremacy of the Ottoman government, but by paying a yearly tribute they retained, for a long period, practical independence in internal affairs and were governed down to 1720 by native hospodars (governors) of their own choosing. Unlike the social conditions in other Balkan provinces, however, the old nobility in Moldavia and Wallachia managed to perpetuate itself, and all governmental affairs administered by the principalities were controlled for centuries by the aristocracy.
Although the Treaty of Kainardji professed that there would be cultivated between the two sovereigns — the Empress and the Sultan —, as well as between the two empires, a “sincere union and a perpetual and inviolable friendship,” with a careful “accomplishment” and maintenance of the Articles, yet within ten years Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula and some nearby territory, and the Porte promptly responded by undertaking another war against the Czarina. This struggle was brought to an end in 1792 by the treaty of Jassy, which ceded to Russia some sections of Turkish territory, and reaffirmed all the former stipulations respecting Wallachia and Moldavia, beginning with the treaty of Kainardji.
The principalities suffered for a century (1720-1820) from their relations with the Phanariot Greek governors, who were sent to them by the Porte. As each appointment added somewhat to the income of the Sultan, it became customary to change these hospodars frequently. But every such change added greatly to the burdens of the principalities; and, mindful of her treaty rights, Russia induced the Sultan to issue a Hatti-cheriff, in 1802, fixing the terms of office for these officials at seven years, and making the consent of the Russian minister necessary to their removal. This promise was made while the Tsar was posing as the friend of Turkey, by helping to drive the French army out of Egypt. Only three years later, however, the great victory at Austerlitz, and the treaty that followed, making France through her new possessions — the Illyrian provinces — a neighbor to the Ottoman empire, inclined the Sultan and his advisers to put themselves again under the guidance of the French.
In his efforts to remain neutral in the European conflict just ended, the Sultan had taken the precaution to make some warlike preparations along the lower Danube; and that led the Tsar to increase his influence over Ottoman subjects in that territory. Urged on now by the representations of the French minister, Sebastiani, and disregarding his agreement of four years previous, the Sultan permitted himself to be so deeply moved by the traitorous attitude of the governors of Wallachia and Moldavia in favoring Russian intrigue, that he removed these officials without the consent of Russia. The ambassadors of England and Russia then determined to force the Sultan to reinstate the governors, and he yielded, after a time; but, notwithstanding his submission, Russia moved her army into the principalities. England’s threatening attitude failed before the end of the year (1806) to prevent the Porte from declaring war against Russia. With a British fleet anchored a few miles from Constantinople (February, 1807), the Sultan’s government seemed inclined to yield to the English ambassador’s ultimatum, that Sebastiani be at once dismissed from the city; that the Porte renew the treaty of alliance with England and Russia; that the Bosphorus and Dardanelles be open to Russian ships of war; and that the Turkish navy be held by the English until the return of peace. Time was gained at Constantinople by delaying negotiations with England, and under the encouragement and direction of the French ambassador the defenses of the city were made ready to withstand an attack. Within two weeks the idea of an assault was abandoned by the British and their fleet sailed away; but they then made an unsuccessful attempt to invade Egypt, and as a result the Porte declared war against England (March) and formed an alliance with France.
The Russian forces being mostly engaged with the Prussians at this time against the French, made the outlook quite promising for the Turks. But the deposition of Sultan Selim (May, 1807) and the prospect, after the French won the battle of Friedland (June), that Napoleon and the Tsar Alexander would settle their differences served to bring about an entire change in the situation. The disorders in Turkey, culminating in the Sultan being set aside on the charge of “combating the religious principles consecrated by the Koran,” seemed to cause Napoleon to feel that the Osmanlis were hopelessly unstable, and that the fall of their empire was inevitable. He therefore all the more readily abandoned Turkey when he formed his alliance with the Tsar (July, 1807). The treaty of Tilsit, setting forth the terms of this alliance, stipulated that Russia should evacuate the Danubian principalities, but that the Turks were not to be allowed to enter that territory until a treaty of peace should be made between Russia and the Porte. ‘The Tsar and Napoleon secretly agreed, however, that the Porte must accept the mediation of France, and that a satisfactory result must be reached within three months after negotiations were commenced, else France and Russia would make common cause in leaving to the Porte simply Constantinople and the province of Roumelia. This treaty led to an armistice between Russia and the Porte (August), which continued for two years. France and Russia joined in another alliance in October, 1808, to be kept secret for at least ten years, in which France promised to aid Russia in annexing Wallachia and Moldavia. At the beginning of the next year, friendly relations were resumed between England and the Porte.
Russia continued to occupy the principalities; and when Turkey tried to come to terms with the Tsar Alexander, his demands were such that the Porte renewed hostilities (April, 1809). Although the Tsar was soon obliged to begin preparations for an impending struggle in his own country against the French, still the Russians continued, in general, to be successful against the Turkish forces.
Influenced by England’s ambassador, Stratford Canning, and, doubtless, by a general distrust of France, the Porte finally accepted the offer of Russia to give back all but about half of Moldavia, and the terms of peace were signed at Bucharest in May, 1812. Menzies expresses the opinion that “Turkey had committed suicide in not having seconded Napoleon in his audacious invasion of Russia;” and that in signing the treaty of Bucharest, the Porte “missed the most brilliant opportunity which ever presented itself to repair the losses of Turkey.” All of the former stipulations between Russia and the Porte, back to 1774, in respect to Wallachia and Moldavia, were again reaffirmed; but most important of all, perhaps, was the article of this treaty relating to Serbia.
THE SERBIANS — UP TO THE GREEK INSURRECTION — 1821
The treaty of Bucharest marks the beginning of a Russian protectorate over another portion of the Ottoman population. In this treaty the Tsar and the Sultan came to “a solemn agreement” respecting the security of the Serbians; and though the terms were somewhat indefinite, still Russia could now demand and exact, under treaty right, that a fairly well-defined policy should be followed by the Porte in dealing with these people. The Sultan was to proclaim a general amnesty to the Serbians; and he was to leave to them the administration of their internal affairs, and to exact only moderate taxes which were to be paid direct to the Porte. But the Turks were still allowed to garrison the Serbian fortresses; and that opened the way for troubles that soon followed.
These stipulations gave a new anchorage to the hopes of the Serbians for reasonable security and increasing liberty in a portion of the territory which had been occupied by their race for centuries. Back in the ninth century, A. D., the Serbs had taken possession of that part of Europe at the close of the period of migrations and were already making a start toward forming political institutions. They early embraced the Christian faith, and being within the Roman Empire of the East they acknowledged the emperor’s supremacy, on condition that their rulers should be native chiefs, of their own choosing. Thus their early patriarchal form of government was preserved. In the eleventh century, however, the Greeks made an armed attack in order to force the Serbians to accept a Greek governor. The attempt failed and only served to establish on a firmer basis the princely power of the native rulers.
The Serbians were not long in discovering the advantages of being alongside of Western Christendom. By the prospect of support from the West — from the Pope as well as from the Western emperor — the Serbians were from time to time encouraged in resisting the encroachments of the Eastern Empire. During a considerable part of the fourteenth century, Serbia was the strongest power in southeastern Europe; and her last and only great king, Stephen Dushan (1333-56), even besieged Constantinople, with the idea, it is said, of destroying the Empire of the East. Under Dushan, the clergy elected their own patriarch, thus completing the independence of the Serbian, empire, which then comprehended the larger part of the Balkan peninsula. An Assembly composed of clergy and laity, under the presidency of the king and patriarch, exercised legislative and other functions, but the laws continued in keeping with the more or less primitive ideas of these people. As the Serbians most nearly represent the unmixed Slavic race, so their system of laws is, of all the Slavonic systems, the most national.
After the death of Dushan (1356), a half-century of internal struggle left Serbia once more a small kingdom. The Osmanlis were already overrunning that part of Europe, and the battle of Kosovo (1389) brought Serbia under tribute to the Sultan; then the great victory for the Turks at Varna (1444) made the Serbians defenseless rayahs — non-Moslem subjects under Ottoman rule. A century of comparative quiet then followed in Serbia. The Christian Serbians were not allowed to hold office, or to, carry arms; but, as time went on, some of their most illustrious families turned Mohammedans, and thus it was that now and then the people of this province were governed by officials united with them in race, but separated from them by religion.
For more than four centuries the Serbian Church remained independent; the native patriarchs paying the Porte, meanwhile, an annual tribute of something like sixty-three thousand asperes (about $650.00). Finally, when the struggle began which tore Hungary from the Turkish empire, the Serbian patriarch joined the Austrian forces. By the end of the war (1699) thirty-seven thousand families from Serbia had migrated with him to Hungary. The Porte appointed another Serbian patriarch. But the people who remained in Serbia now saw a part of their race enjoying a good degree of freedom outside of Turkish territory. So when another opportunity came to aid Austria against the Porte, they joined with the enemies of the Sultan, and in the Peace of Passarowitz (1718) Turkey was forced to cede to Austria a large part of Serbia. European politics, however, soon restored this territory to the Ottoman empire (1739); and then it was that the Serbians lost the privilege and the inestimable advantage of having a native patriarch, and were given over, in relation to the many interests then centered in the Church, to the domination of the Greek patriarch at Constantinople. Serbia thus lost the last vestige of self-government, and became doubly dependent; for the people must now struggle against the Greeks as well as the Osmanlis. All through the eighteenth century the Greeks exercised a wide influence, especially in European Turkey; and now, with a Greek Metropolitan in Serbia, the Phanariots could also extend their influence over that province. Wherever the Greek patriarch exercised complete ecclesiastical authority over those who were not of the Greek race, his priests and teachers were sure to labor assiduously in transferring their own language and ideas to the people. It may be added, also, that the more educated Greeks hoped for the restoration of the Byzantine Empire, and that their views respecting the union of Church and State naturally made them feel certain that, in such an event, political power would go hand in hand with ecclesiastical authority, and that the Greeks would thus become the dominant race.
Later on, in the Serbian crisis (1805-12), Russia sent a counselor and various supplies to them, promising to support their cause if they would accept the Russian protectorate with a Phanariot prince. But the Serbians soon came to distrust their Greek Metropolitan, who kept up familiar relations with the Russian councilor; and the fear of Greek influence had much weight, during that struggle, in keeping Serbia from forming a closer alliance with Russia.
When Austria joined with Russia back in 1788, preparatory to a decisive struggle against Turkey, the Serbians again readily volunteered against the Porte, and many of them fought in a body, under Austrian commanders. Jealousy among the maritime powers and fear occasioned by the upheaval in France hurried the conclusion of peace (1791- 92), however, and, in keeping with England’s demands, the treaty was on the basis of the strict status quo ante bellum. Again, and quite contrary to expectations, Serbia was left to form a part of the Ottoman territory, but under a general amnesty, nevertheless, for Serbians who had fought against Turkey, and with the agreement that those who had left the principality or had been driven from their homes might return to their estates. The intervention of the European powers had at least rendered their return to the dominion of the Porte a fait accompli. But many of them had received a training in the Austrian service, nevertheless, that was soon to be turned to account.
The next two Pashas of Belgrade endeavored to rule in a way that would naturally lead the Serbians to favor the Turkish administration, and there was a beginning now among these people of contentment and prosperity. This brief period of ten years followed the expulsion of the Janissaries from Serbian territory because they would not give up their opposition to the Pasha, and their habits of plundering the rayahs. In the general weakness of the Ottoman empire at that time, groups of brigands began to overrun European Turkey, and it was not long before the expelled Janissaries united with one of these bands and made an effort to force their way back into. Serbia (1804). The Turkish Pasha of Belgrade now took an unprecedented step in calling the Serbian rayahs to arms, and they fought side by side with their Mohammedan neighbors, against the invaders. This united force continued to be victorious until the Sultan weakened, and ordered the Pasha to reinstate the Janissaries. It was not long, however, before one of these who had returned shot a former Serbian leader for refusing to comply with his unjust demand, and when the Pasha undertook to punish the murderer the Janissaries quickly united and the Pasha was slain. The supreme authority in Serbia was then taken over by four chiefs of the Janissaries, and they sent others of their number into, the provincial towns, where they were unmerciful in their exactions, and exercised the power of life and death. When the Sultan hinted that he would send an army against them if they did not modify their conduct, the Janissaries felt sure that it must be the purpose at Constantinople to arm the Serbians against them. Accordingly, they at once fell to killing off all the possible leaders among the natives (1804). In sheer desperation, the Serbian leaders quickly roused their people, and within a few weeks the Janissaries were driven out, and the native leaders and their followers were left in control.
It was at this stage that the Serbians determined to make an appeal to some Christian power to intervene in their behalf. At different times, they had fought with and for Austria; but Austria, they remembered, had always returned conquered territory and its inhabitants to the Porte. They were fully aware, also, of the effectual way in which the Tsar of Russia had cared for the interests of the Wallachians and the Moldavians. So they were not long in deciding to apply to, Russia; and accordingly, in August, 1804, three Serbian representatives were sent to St. Petersburg. These returned the next February, to say that Russia would help in Constantinople to, secure compliance with their requests, so soon as these were laid before the Ottoman government. Deputies were then sent to Constantinople (1805), where they were soon imprisoned; and the Sultan sent a pasha to assume control in Serbia.
But the Serbs already had a native leader, Kara George, a simple peasant; and they determined that they would not surrender their country to the Sultan’s representative until they were given some reason to. hope for some amelioration of their former condition. From that time the Serbians were fighting, not a party, but the Ottoman empire, and they looked to Russia for support. However, they began the struggle alone, and by the middle of the next year (1806), excepting the fortresses, their territory was free from Ottoman soldiers. An embassy was again sent to Constantinople. Realizing now the danger of a closer alliance between the Serbians and the Russians, the Porte agreed to concede all the requests of the Serbians on condition of being paid a fixed annual tax and having an official in Belgrade with one hundred and fifty Turks. These promised concessions would have made the country practically independent; but late in the autumn the Porte refused to ratify the terms already agreed upon, and the Serbians then fought their way into the fortresses.
There was already a sort of representative central government among the Serbians, carried on by two groups of native councilors. Each of the twelve districts into which their territory was divided had a military chief, and these leaders held an assembly (Skupschtina, from skupti, to assemble) each year, soon after New Year’s Day, and made necessary plans for war and attended to matters relating to finance and judicature. The need of another council, however, was soon apparent, and in 1805, a Senate (Sowiet) composed of one elected representative from each district, had begun its meetings. This body began at once to establish schools and courts of justice, and undertook to care for the civil affairs of the whole country.
The success of Kara George as a leader in the field, however, soon laid the foundation for his real leadership in both civil and military matters. As the war went on, there were instances of merciless vengeance; and cruel jealousies among native leaders bore deadly fruit. The Tsar sent companies of soldiers, and gave aid to the Serbians from time to time in various other ways; so when Turkey made liberal proposals to Kara George (1811), with the idea of inducing him to, renounce the protectorate of Russia, he communicated with the Russian headquarters and then informed the Porte that he would accept such terms as might be agreed upon between the Sultan and the Tsar. The treaty of peace that followed (Bucharest, 1812) was undoubtedly a disappointment to the Serbians. It stipulated, nevertheless, that their peace must not be disturbed; and Turkey agreed, “as a mark of her generosity,” to come to an understanding with them in the matter of regulations for carrying out this promise.
Throughout the career of Napoleon, affairs in Turkey were a sort of barometer of many of his undertakings; and at this time the Tsar’s necessity for concentrating all his forces in Russia against the invading army of the French left the Serbians without any material support. In fact, the turn in the great conflict in the West in 1813 might well have led them to despair of receiving any aid until that struggle should end. Because of the general indefiniteness of the terms of the treaty of Bucharest relating to Serbia, and also owing to the prevailing conditions, it is not strange that the two parties differed in interpreting the promises that had been made. The Ottomans claimed that the treaty of Bucharest required the Serbians to surrender the fortresses and their arms and ammunition, and to allow the banished Turks to return. The Serbians were not willing to accept that interpretation; but after a Turkish army reached their frontier (May, 1813), Kara George offered his submission, on condition that the expelled Ottomans should not be allowed to return. Their return, he held, would be sure to disturb the peace of the country. But the Porte would delay no longer, and the Turkish forces pressed on into Serbia. French influence at Constantinople, and the expectation of receiving the assistance of France, are claimed to have influenced the Turks in hurrying forward what proved to be a successful attempt to reconquer that territory. On the third of October, Kara George, abandoning his countrymen, fled from Serbia. His example was quickly followed by the senators and many of the other Serbian leaders, and resistance to the Turks was soon abandoned. The Serbians as a whole had made a good effort to, defend their country; but their warrior chiefs who had so often led them to victory during the eight years before the treaty of Bucharest (1812), for one cause and another, were now no longer in command. The changes incident to the acquirement of monarchial power by one chief — Kara George — had driven away a number of the former leaders and had lessened the spirit of self-reliance in the several districts. Ranke has most carefully traced the history of Serbia, and he tells us that in this struggle, “from some incomprehensible cause,” Kara George did not appear upon the scene of battle.
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