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Russia and Turkey; the Eastern Question; the New Balkan States.

Modern History. (a.d. 1492-1898). Europe from 1815 to 1898.
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As regards Turkey, we have seen her loss of Greece in the reign of the able and energetic Mahmud II., who reigned from 1808 to 1839, and the advance of the Russian border to the Pruth, by the Peace of Bucharest, in 1812. This monarch, in pursuit of internal reform, made an end, by a general massacre in June, 1826, of the dangerous Janissaries, and he then organised his army on the European system. In the war with Russia in 1828-29, there were alternations of success, but the Russian general Diebitsch, in 1829, captured Silistria, crossed the Balkans, and reached Adrianople, and the able Paskevitch, in Asia, took Kars and Erzeroum. The Peace of Adrianople restored most of the conquered territory to Turkey, but Russia retained much of the eastern coast of the Black Sea, and acquired a "protectorate" over Wallachia and Moldavia. The revolt of Mehemet Ali, Pasha of Egypt, brought his troops through Asia Minor to within 120 miles of the Bosphorus, and the Ottoman government, appealing for aid to Russia, had to see her ancient foe's troops encamped at Scutari. Mehemet Ali's forces were withdrawn, and Turkey, in the Treaty of Hunkiar-Skelessi, in 1833, undertook to close the Dardanelles against the armed ships of all nations except Russia. Henceforth the history of Turkey becomes a part of the great "Eastern Question" which has for over half a century troubled the diplomatists and the peace of Europe. That question means, in its essence, the disposal of the territories of the effete empire whose record has long been that of decrepitude and decay, save only in the element of military force to the maintenance of which all else is sacrificed in a chaos of general misrule, attended by occasional ferocious outbursts of Mohammedan fanaticism directed against Christian subjects provoked by tyranny to open or secret discontent. In the northern provinces, Bulgaria, Servia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, with Wallachia and Moldavia, the bulk of the Forte's subjects consisted of adherents of the Greek Church. This fact afforded Russia a constant excuse for interference in the internal affairs of Turkey, and her intrigues and aggressions have been due to something more than an ordinary national desire for aggrandisement. Religious fanaticism has for centuries caused Russians to aim at the possession of Constantinople, the sacred city whence they received their particular form of Christianity, the spot where they desire to replace the crescent by the cross on the Mosque of St. Sophia. The sympathy of race, in the Panslavism of the great northern empire, with the largely Sclavonic people of European Turkey, has furnished another impulse in the same direction, and it is only the jealousy of the other great Powers that has hitherto prevented Russia from attaining the main object of her ambition. The Russian has, moreover, a hereditary hatred of the Tartar race who held sway for two centuries in the old "Muscovy," and the Tartar and the Turk are closely akin in blood.

In 1841 the jealousy of the Powers took an active form, and the Treaty of London provided that the Dardanelles should be closed against all ships of war while Turkey was at peace. At this time the Sultan was Mahmus's son Abdul-Mejid (1839-61), under whom the ambitious plans of the emperor Nicholas, seeking to give effect to Russian aspirations, brought about the Crimean War with events familiar to all readers of British history. The Russian invasion in Europe totally failed, brilliant victories being won on the Danube by Turkish troops, and the Russian forces being repulsed with enormous loss at the siege of Silistria. In Asia, Kars was overcome by famine, after the failure of a great Russian assault. In the Crimea, the victories of Alma and Inkermann were followed by the long and memorable siege of Sebastopol, ending in the capture of the fortress by the allied French and British forces in September, 1855. In March, 1856, the Peace of Paris restored to Turkey the command of the Danubian mouths; ended the Russian "protectorate" over the Christians in Turkey and the Danubian principalities (Moldavia and Wallachia); restored Kars to Turkey; and bound Russia not to maintain any naval arsenals in the Black Sea, or any naval force superior to that of Turkey. In 1861 Abdul-Mejid, who had made much pretence of "reforms" in his treatment of Christians and had then become noted for his wantonly profuse expenditure on barbaric splendour of life, was succeeded by his brother Abdul-Aziz. In 1866 Wallachia and Moldavia, expelling their ruler Prince Couza, an immoral and tyrannous personage, assumed virtual independence as "Roumania" under their chosen hereditary Prince Charles of Hohenzollern. In 1870 the main achievement of the Crimean War, as against the development of Russian naval power in southern waters, was rendered nugatory by that Power's taking advantage of the outbreak of the Franco-German war to declare that she would no longer be bound by that article of the Treaty of Paris (1856) which neutralised the Black Sea. Great Britain was not prepared to go to war, single-handed, to enforce the article, and in March, 1871, a Conference made an end of the clauses which shut the Euxine to ships of war belonging to Turkey and Russia. The fleets of other nations were still excluded by the closure of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus in time of peace. It has thus come to pass that Sebastopol, captured and destroyed at a vast expenditure of human life and treasure, is again a great naval arsenal and fortress, a standing menace to Turkey in conjunction with Russia's new powerful Black Sea fleet.

The perennial misgovernment exercised by Turkey over all her subjects, Moslem and Christian alike, soon caused another war with Russia., In 1875 a revolt began in Herzegovina, supported by Servia, Bosnia, and Montenegro, and the rebels were aided by Russian volunteers with the connivance of their government. The Turkish troops were at first unable to suppress the outbreak, and the fury of Moslem fanaticism expressed itself in the murder of the German and French consuls in Salonica. A "palace-revolution" in the Turkish capital caused the deposition and death of Sultan Abdul-Aziz, succeeded by Murad V., who was deposed, as mentally incapable, in August, 1876, and replaced by his brother Abdul-Hamid II., the astute, miserable, blood-stained monster, justly branded as "the Great Assassin," who still (in 1898) defiles the world by his existence in a seat of irresponsible power. In the summer of 1876 the whole civilised world, an expression from the scope of which British and other sympathisers with Turkey must be carefully excluded, was horrified by the atrocious cruelties perpetrated by the Turkish irregular troops after the suppression of a revolt in Bulgaria. Popular feeling was so strongly aroused in Russia that the tsar (Alexander II.) was impelled to invade Turkey in April, 1877, and the latest Russo-Turkish war began. The Russian troops were at first miserably handled, and severe repulses, with great loss of life, were incurred in vain assaults on Plevna, but the subsequent generalship of Todleben, the hero of the defence of Sebastopol, Skobeleff, and Gourko caused the capture of the Plevna garrison, the victorious passage of the Balkans, and an advance almost to the gates of Constantinople in the early days of 1878. In Asia, Kars was taken by storm in November, 1877. The Congress of Berlin, sitting in June and July, 1878, restored peace on the terms of independence for Servia, Montenegro, and Roumania, the first and last becoming "kingdoms"; the cession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Austria; the creation of the independent principality of Bulgaria in the territory between the Danube and the Balkans; the establishment of southern Bulgaria as the province of Eastern Roumelia, under the suzerainty of the Sultan, with a Christian governor-general and a separate militia; and the reduction of the Sultan's territory in Europe to the land south of the Balkans which represents the ancient Thrace, Macedonia, part of Epirus, and Illyria, between the Black Sea and the Adriatic. In Asia, Russia retained Kars and the port of Batoum, the latter on the express stipulation that it should not be made into a naval station, but should remain a purely open commercial port. With her usual shameless perfidy, Russia has now withdrawn the privileges of Batoum as a free port, and converted the place into another Sebastopol.

The history of the new Balkan States may be briefly dealt with. In 1885 Servia, ruled by King Milan I., under a constitution including a freely elected national assembly, wantonly attacked her neighbour Bulgaria, but the invaders were decisively defeated by the invaded at the battles of Slivnitza and Pirot, and the Servian state was saved only by Austrian intervention. In 1889 King Milan abdicated in favour of his young son Alexander, a lad of 13 years of age, who was installed as sovereign under a "Council of Regents." Bulgaria, on becoming an independent principality, passed under the constitutional rule of the freely elected Prince Alexander of Battenberg, a scion of the Ducal House of Hesse by a morganatic marriage, and a near kinsman of the tsar. He displayed great gallantry and skill in leading his troops in the brief war with Servia, and gained the warm affection of his subjects. A kind of union with Eastern Roumelia took place in 1886 in the Prince's recognition by the Porte as governor of that province. In the summer of that year Alexander was kidnapped by Russian partisans in his palace at Sofia, and sent to Austria, whence he soon returned to receive an enthusiastic welcome from his Bulgarians. The insolent hostility of the tsar then induced the prince to abdicate, and a provisional government, firmly maintaining the national cause against Russian menaces, held rule until the acceptance of the throne, on the choice of the regency, in 1887, by Prince Ferdinand of Coburg.

Roumania, whose troops fought with the utmost gallantry alongside the Russians at Plevna, became a kingdom in 1881 under Charles of Hohenzollern, and the country has since become flourishing, with a very large and thrifty body of peasant proprietors of land. There is a limited monarchy with two Houses of Parliament, and Roumania is now freed from the evil effect of both Russian and Turkish influence.

The latest stage of European history has presented the disgraceful spectacle of the six great nations styled "the Powers" in a position of impotence to deal with the Eastern Question in any way that shall do justice to nationalities suffering under the atrocious misrule of Turkey. The governments of Russia and Germany have been conspicuous in preventing the adoption of measures which should fitly assert the dignity and rights of Christendom and civilisation against the Moslem tyrant. Abdul-Hamid, the energetic, relentless, vigilant, and consistent enemy of Christians, has caused and permitted, in his Asiatic dominions, slaughter and devastation far exceeding any beheld in those much-enduring countries since the days of Othman and Bajazet. In the Treaty of Berlin, Armenia came under the protection of Great Britain, and that fact alone made her wretched people a special mark for the suspicion and hatred of a remorseless despot and a fanatical populace. Nothing could have been more unfortunate for the Armenians than the assumption by Great Britain of a vague form of protectorate which, for the first time, excited political hopes and, perhaps, even revolutionary dreams, in the minds of those who trusted to the Western Power. The independence of Bulgaria had bitterly wounded Turkey. The alleged ingratitude of Bulgaria had enraged the Russian government, and the two former foes, Russia and Turkey, became combined, the one by the basest inaction, the other by the most ruffianly violence, in hastening the ruin of the Armenian people. The Armenians, forsooth, not being adherents of the Greek Church, could claim no Christian sympathy from holy and orthodox Russia, the only Power in a position to save them by prompt military action, and the Sultan, secured against restraint and punishment by the mutual jealousies of the great European nations, revelled in the opportunity of insulting and defying the best public feeling of the country, Great Britain, whose arms and diplomacy, in the Crimean War, and after the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78, had twice saved Turkey from extinction as a European power. It was in 1894 and 1895 that the Armenians, long exposed to the ravages of Kurdish and Circassian raiders, were subjected to the deliberate system of massacre inaugurated by the Turkish Sultan, with the loss of tens of thousands of lives, and the carrying-off of countless women and girls into a slavery worse than death. Many meetings were held in the British Isles to express the utmost indignation of humane people, but British diplomacy, unable to face the contingency of a general European war, unable to induce any action on the part of Russia, a country now callous to all considerations save her own interest, has made patriotic Britons look back with bitter regret to the days of Palmerston and Canning.

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