Berlin, Congress of

views updated May 23 2018


BERLIN, CONGRESS OF , gathering of the great European powers in 1878 to settle problems concerning the Balkans and Near East arising after the war between Russia and Turkey in 1877. Held between June 13 and July 13, 1878, it was attended by representatives of Austria-Hungary, France, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, and Turkey, with some participation of representatives of the Balkan states (Greece, Montenegro, Romania, and Serbia). Among its most influential members was the head of the British delegation, Benjamin *Disraeli (Lord Beaconsfield). The position of the Jews in the Balkan countries (Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria) was also placed on the agenda on the initiative of the "Zion" society in Bucharest, led by Adolf Weinberg and Adolf *Stern; these joined with the *Alliance Israélite Universelle in Paris and the Council for the Defense of Romanian Jews in Berlin, led by Moritz *Lazarus. The Jewish community of Berlin petitioned the chairman of the congress and head of the German delegation, Count *Bismarck, on Feb. 28, 1878, to raise the question of equal rights for Romanian Jews at the congress. As a result, the German representatives were instructed to demand equal civil rights for the members of all religions in the Balkan countries and the inclusion in the peace treaty of special paragraphs to this effect explicitly providing for their implementation. The question of equal rights for the Jews in these countries was also discussed in the parliaments of France, Italy, Austria, and Hungary, and the representatives of these countries at the congress were requested by special resolutions to ensure an appropriate settlement.

To deal with the Jewish questions a special council was established in Berlin consisting of the representatives of the Committee for Jewish Affairs in Berlin (Gerson von *Bleichroeder, M. Lazarus, Jacob *Bernays, and Berthold *Auerbach), representatives of the Alliance (Sacki Kann, Charles *Netter, and Emanuel *Veneziani), the delegation of Romanian Jews (Adolf Stern, Marco Brociner, Taussig, and Hermann *Hirsch), and representatives of the Alliance in Berlin (Salomon Neumann, the banker Julius Platho, and Hermann Goldschmidt). This committee formulated a memorandum which was submitted to the entire congress, followed by a second memorandum to Bismarck. The memoranda contained a description of the plight of the Jews in the Balkan countries accompanied by a request that the members of all creeds and races should be guaranteed equal civil rights in the peace treaty (stipulated in special clauses). Special steps were also taken to submit the Jewish requests to the representatives of the different governments. To this end Baron Maurice de *Hirsch and Sir Moses *Montefiore began negotiations with the representatives of England and France, and Bleichroeder turned his attentions to Bismarck and the Russian representative, Count Shuvalov.

The members of the united committee also visited the representatives of the Balkan countries (Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria), who were not officially represented at the congress but were working behind the scenes. The Romanian representative, Kogaălniceanu, endeavored to persuade the Jewish representatives not to appeal to the congress since the question of equal civil rights for Jews was an internal affair of the Romanian government. Threats against the Jews of Romania appeared in Romanian newspapers which also attempted to influence the Western Jews to withdraw their demands. These tactics, however, were vehemently condemned and rejected by the representatives of the Alliance.

On June 24, 1878, the Jewish problem came up for discussion as part of the general consideration of Bulgarian affairs. The French representative, Waddington, proposed that a clause be inserted in the peace treaty recognizing the independence of Bulgaria on condition that it granted equal civil rights to members of all races and religions. The proposal was accepted. On June 28, during the discussions on Serbia, the Turkish representative, Karatheodori (Caratheodory) Pasha, and the English representative, Lord Salisbury, demanded that a similar clause be inserted in the peace treaty as a condition for the recognition of Serbian independence. The Russian representative, Prince Gorchakov, opposed this resolution on the ground that the Jews of Serbia, Romania, and Russia could not be put in the same category with the Jews of Paris, London, Berlin, and Vienna. Despite his opposition it was decided to insert in the peace treaty a clause (par. 35) guaranteeing equal rights.

Also during the discussions on Romania it was proposed by Waddington that recognition of that country's independence should be made contingent on her granting equal rights to the members of all religions within her borders. The proposal received the full support of Beaconsfield, Count Andrássy of Austria-Hungary, and Bismarck, and even the agreement of Shuvalov. By a separate resolution, introduced into paragraph 44 of the peace treaty, equal rights were granted to the members of all religions in Romania. This principle was also to be binding, according to a resolution introduced by Salisbury, on Turkey, Greece, and Montenegro.

The question of the future of Palestine was also touched upon by the congress indirectly. In June 1878 a group of Jews submitted a memorandum to the congress (addressed to Bismarck and Beaconsfield) requesting that the Jews in Palestine should be given their independence (in the same manner as had been restored to the Balkan peoples) and permitted to establish a constitutional Jewish monarchy in that country. This memorandum was listed in the protocol of documents submitted to the congress but was not discussed on the floor. Before the congress assembled, there were discussions in the English press concerning the political resurgence of the Jews in Palestine. After the congress was concluded, Serbia and Bulgaria complied with the clauses of the peace treaty obliging them to grant equal rights to their minorities, and even incorporated these clauses in their constitutions. Romania refused to meet her obligation, and the struggle to implement paragraph 44 of the peace treaty in this country extended over decades.


Kohler and Wolf, in: ajhsp, 24 (1916), ix; 1ff.; 40; J. Brociner, Die Judenfrage in Rumaenien und ihre Loesung (1879); B. Segel, Rumaenien und seine Juden (1918); L. Wolf, Notes on the Diplomatic History of the Jewish Question (1919), 23–26, 52; Gelber, in: hj, 2 (1940), 39–48; idem, in: ylbi, 5 (1960), 221–48; idem, in: Sefer Yovel… S. Federbush (1960), 117–64; idem, in: Sefer Yugoslavyah (Tel Aviv, 1962); J. Meisl, Die Durchfuehrung des Artikels 44 des Berliner Vertrages in Rumaenien und die europaeische Diplomatie (1925); N. Leven, Cinquante ans d'histoire…, 1 (1911).

[Nathan Michael Gelber]

Berlin, Congress of

views updated May 21 2018


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


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

Berlin, Congress of

views updated May 29 2018

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

Berlin, Congress of

views updated May 21 2018

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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Congress of Berlin