Berlin, Congress and Treaty of
BERLIN, CONGRESS AND TREATY OF
treaty that ended the russo–turkish war, redividing the countries of southeastern europe that had belonged to the ottoman empire.
In March 1878, following the Russian victory over the Ottoman Turks in the Russo–Turkish War of 1877–1878, the Treaty of San Stefano was imposed. The principal feature of that pact was the creation of a large Bulgarian state, possessing coastal territory on the Mediterranean as well as on the Black Sea. The new Bulgaria also included the bulk of Macedonia, denying Austria-Hungary any avenue for advancement south to the coveted Mediterranean coast. Britain disliked the treaty, because it could allow the Russians to become a naval power in the Middle East, using the Mediterranean ports of the newly created Bulgarian puppet state. A grave danger existed that Austria and Britain would make war rather than tolerate such Russian aggrandizement.
Prince Otto von Bismarck, chancellor of the new German Empire (1871–1890), realized that such a major war might provide France with allies and a chance to avenge Germany's 1871 conquest. He therefore proffered his services as an "honest broker" who sought peace disinterestedly, since Germany had no ambitions in the Balkans or Middle East. Thus, the Congress of Berlin was convened in June–July 1878, attended by the plenipotentiaries of Turkey and all the major powers. Benjamin Disraeli, prime minister of Great Britain (1874–1880), and Count Gyula Andrássy, foreign minister of Austria-Hungary (1871–1879), made their advance preparations carefully, offering African territory to France and Italy and slashing the size of Bulgaria by returning most of it to the Ottomans, so that Russia's satellite would no longer claim Macedonia or a Mediterranean coast line. The Austrians gained a protectorate over Bosnia-Herzegovina and prepared for a future thrust southward to the Mediterranean by leaving their intended avenue of advance, the Sanjak of Novi Bazar, in Ottoman hands. Even Russia, deprived of a Mediterranean base, received compensations on the Asian Caucasus frontier. In a separate treaty, the Ottomans yielded the valuable island of Cyprus to Britain for ninety-nine years, in return for guaranteeing the Ottomans possession of their Asiatic lands for that period. Only afterward did the Ottomans realize that they had surrendered a valuable naval base in exchange for a British guarantee that neither could be nor would be fulfilled.
The Congress of Berlin is, therefore, the point at which Britain ceased to be Ottoman Turkey's great defender and Germany gradually took on that role. In the next generation, Germany, which had had no major Middle Eastern interests, was to become the principal protector of the Ottoman Empire and of Islam.
In the long term, by supporting Britain and Austria against Russian claims, Bismarck threatened that perfect harmony among the Great Powers—his chief instrument in keeping France isolated. To his credit, Bismarck "kept the telegraph lines open to St. Petersburg" as long as he held office. Nevertheless, Russian fears of an Austro–German alliance came to fulfillment in 1879, and those fears led to the Franco–Russian alliance, consummated from 1892 to 1894.
see also russian–ottoman wars; san stefano, treaty of (1878).
Jászi, Oszkár. The Dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.
Jelavich, Barbara. The Habsburg Empire in European Affairs, 1814–1918. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1969.