Treaty of Berlin (1878)
|Treaty between Great Britain, Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Turkey, for the Settlement of the Affairs of the East|
South-eastern Europe after the Congress of Berlin
|Context||Congress of Berlin, after the Russo-Turkish War (1877–78), during the Great Game period of Great Powers diplomacy|
|Signed||13 July 1878|
|Location||Berlin, German Empire|
The Treaty of Berlin was the final act of the Congress of Berlin (13 June – 13 July 1878), by which the United Kingdom, Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Abdul Hamid II revised the Treaty of San Stefano signed on 3 March the same year. The most important task of the Congress was to decide the fate of the Principality of Bulgaria established in the Treaty of San Stefano, even though Bulgaria itself was excluded from participation in the talks at Russian insistence. At the time, being non-existent on the world map, Bulgaria was not a subject of international law, neither were the Bulgarians themselves. This exclusion was already an established fact in the Constantinople Conference of the Great Powers, held one year before without any Bulgarian participation.
The treaty formally recognized independence of the de facto sovereign principalities of Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, together with the autonomy of Bulgaria, though the latter de facto functioned independently and was divided into three parts: the Principality of Bulgaria, the autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia, and Macedonia, which was given back to the Ottomans, thus undoing Russian plans for an independent—and Russophile—"Greater Bulgaria". The Treaty of San Stefano had created a Bulgarian state, which was just what Great Britain and Austria-Hungary feared most.
- United Kingdom
- Germany and Prussia
- Ottoman Empire
The three newly independent states subsequently proclaimed themselves kingdoms: Romania in 1881, Serbia in 1882 and Montenegro in 1910, while Bulgaria proclaimed full independence in 1908 after uniting with Eastern Rumelia in 1885. Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia in 1908, sparking a major European crisis.
The Treaty of Berlin accorded special legal status to some religious groups; it also served as a model for the Minorities System that was subsequently established within the framework of the League of Nations. It also vaguely called for a border rectification between Greece and the Ottoman Empire, which occurred after protracted negotiations in 1881 with the transfer of Thessaly to Greece.
It is interesting to note that the Marquess of Salisbury, the British Foreign Secretary at the Congress, had originally supported the Russian position and the Treaty of San Stefano. After returning from the Congress, Salisbury confessed that by supporting Austria-Hungary instead of Russia, the British had "backed the wrong horse."
According to British historian A. J. P. Taylor: "If the treaty of San Stefano had been maintained, both the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary might have survived to the present day. The British, except for Beaconsfield in his wilder moments, had expected less and were therefore less disappointed. Salisbury wrote at the end of 1878: "We shall set up a rickety sort of Turkish rule again south of the Balkans. But it is a mere respite. There is no vitality left in them."
The Kosovo Vilayet remained part of the Ottoman Empire. Austria-Hungary was allowed to station military garrisons in the Ottoman Vilayet of Bosnia and Sanjak of Novi Pazar. The Vilayet of Bosnia was placed under Austro-Hungarian occupation, though formally remaining a part of the Ottoman Empire until being annexed by Austria-Hungary in 1908. The Austro-Hungarian garrisons in the Sanjak of Novi Pazar were withdrawn in 1908, following the annexation of the Vilayet of Bosnia and the resulting Bosnian crisis, in order to reach a compromise with the Ottoman Empire (the Ottoman government was struggling with internal strife due to the Young Turk Revolution in 1908, which also paved the way for the loss of Bosnia and loss of Bulgaria in the same year.)
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