The greatest influence on the Balkans during this period was Russia and Austria-Hungary. England had a great influence in Turkey. London claimed world domination and, after the defeat of Napoleon’s empire, saw the main threat to its plans in Russia. London was also at that time the “command point” of the western project: the masters of the West tried to solve the “Russian question” for centuries, that is, to dismember and destroy Russia-Russia, the Russian superethnos. Therefore, England could not allow Russia to do what the British themselves would certainly have done on the Russian site, that is, to subordinate the Balkans to their influence, to occupy the zone of the straits, Constantinople, to expand their possessions in the Greater Caucasus. The British themselves, with the collapse of Turkey, claimed dominance in the straits (perhaps through Greece). The British could not allow Russia to take a key position in the collapse of the degraded Ottoman Empire and went to the southern seas. In London, engaged in strategic planning for decades to come.
Thus, the British government sought at all costs to prevent Russia from Constantinople-Istanbul and the straits, Do not let the Russians close the Russian (Black) Sea to their enemies, gain access to the Eastern Mediterranean and gain a foothold in the Balkans. The British were the enemies of the freedom of the southern Slavs, who saw the Russian "elder brothers". The English ambassador to Istanbul, Henry Elliot, was a fervent guide to London’s policy. In the dispatch to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Derby, he noted: "On the accusation that I am a blind supporter of the Turks, I will only note that I was never guided by sentimental love for them, but only by a firm intention to support the interests of Great Britain by all means." As acknowledged by another English politician, the Duke of Argyll, England pursued a policy of supporting Turkey because she sought to destroy all possible plans of Russia regarding the straits: “It was clear to the Turks that we acted without forgetting our own interests and wanting to stop nor was the price of the impending power of Russia. "
The British provided great military and material assistance to the Ottomans: they supplied the latest weapon, instructors sent to the army and navy. In December, 1876 English officers and 70 sailors were counted in the Ottoman military forces. Through your game, the British strongly urged the Ottomans that their main enemy was the Russians, that Russia was the only brake on the revival and prosperity of the Ottoman Empirethat it is she who allegedly organizes unrest in the Balkan provinces of Turkey, in order to more accurately take them into her own hands and “ponazat prisoners and Cossacks with whips”. So, Britain continued the ancient strategy - “divide and conquer”, pitting Turkey and Russia.
1877 year. Satirical card with Russia in the form of an octopus
In Vienna, they were ambivalent about the situation in the possessions of the Ottoman Empire. On the one hand, dOm Habsburg was not averse to expand their possessions in the Balkans at the expense of the Slavic lands, in particular, Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the other hand, the Slavic uprising could lead to adverse consequences for Austria. Under the scepter of the Habsburgs lived several million southern Slavs. And unrest among the southern Slavs could spread to other Slavic peoples of Austria-Hungary - the Western and Eastern Slavs. Successes in the liberation of the southern Slavs from the Turkish yoke also meant the approaching of the day when the Slavs could free themselves from Austrian dependence. Strengthening the sovereignty of Serbia and Montenegro, the expansion of their territories, the growth of military-economic power challenged the power of the Habsburgs in the Balkans. Serbia was a potential competitor of Austria-Hungary on the peninsula. The Austro-Hungarian elite was the worst enemy of the Slavic cause.
No wonder that during the Eastern (Crimean) War, it was Austria’s hostile position that became one of the decisive reasons for Russia's defeat. Vienna was afraid that the Russians would beat out Turkey from the Balkan Peninsula and take the place of the Ottomans, incorporating the Christian and Slavic states of the peninsula into their sphere of influence. That the Russians will get the mouth of the Danube. In this case, Austria-Hungary lost the status of a great power. Dominating the vast territories with the Slavic and Romanian populations, the Austro-Hungarian ruling circles, in the event of the complete defeat of Turkey and the triumph of the Slavic cause, could lose most of their lands, markets, wealth and power.
There was also a difference in the nature of the Balkan interests between the various ruling classes in Austria-Hungary. The Hungarian nobility did not aspire to expand the possessions of the empire at the expense of the South Slavic regions. The Hungarian elite feared the strengthening of the Slavic element in the Habsburg Empire. Hungary was a rich region and the Hungarian elite did not want to change the existing situation in the empire. Therefore, the Hungarians advocated the suppression of the Slavic national liberation movement. The Austrian ruling elite shared the fears of the Hungarian landowners, not wanting the growth of the national identity of the Slavs in the dual Austro-Hungarian state. But, on the other hand, the Austrian capital has already embarked on the path of expansion in the Balkans. Of all the Balkan regions, Serbia was the most economically dependent on Austria-Hungary. Most of the Serbian exports went to Austria-Hungary, or through its ports, since the Serbs did not have their access to the sea at that time (but wanted to get it). The Austrians received railway concessions, in particular, for the construction of a large highway to Istanbul, and this was of great economic importance for Serbia. Austrian capital wanted to expand its influence in the Balkans.
Because of this duality, the strategy of Vienna has changed as events developed in the Balkans. When the uprising began, the leading politician of Hungary and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Gyula Andrássy, said that these disorders were an internal Turkish affair and he was not going to interfere in them. He clearly showed that he would have preferred the Turks to drown a rebellion in blood. However, the Vienna court could not hold on to this position. In Vienna, there was a strong party that planned to solve the South Slavic issue, including the western part of the Balkans in the empire, starting with the capture of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the future, the Habsburg empire was supposed to become a triad of a dualistic power (with Austrian, Hungarian and Slavic elements). This made it possible to weaken the position of the Hungarians in the empire, in which a significant part of the Austrian elite was interested. Supporters of this line offered to make a deal with Russia, giving way to its sphere the eastern part of the Balkans. Emperor Franz Joseph became interested in this proposal, because he wanted to at least compensate for the loss of positions in Germany and Italy. He listened with sympathy to the supporters of the seizure of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Thus, the relative integrity of the decaying Ottoman Empire was in the interests of Vienna. The Austro-Hungarian elite held back the liberation of southern Slavs and Romanians in order to maintain and strengthen their own positions in the region. In 1866, Vienna suffered a defeat in the Austro-Prussian war and the Hapsburgs tried to compensate for their failure in German politics (a plan to unify most of Germany led by the Hapsburgs) by expansion in the Balkans. In Vienna, they planned to expand the empire at the expense of the South Slavic lands formerly belonging to Turkey, and to go to the Aegean Sea. As V.I. Lenin noted: “Austria went to the Balkans for decades to smother there ...”.
Petersburg's policies were controversial. On the one hand, the Russian government declared its support for the rebel Slavs. On the other hand, in Petersburg they did not want the expansion of the national liberation movement of the southern Slavs, they feared the growth of the social, Slavic movement in the country and international complications. Russia has not yet recovered from its defeat in the Crimean War, its diplomatic positions in Turkey, the Balkans, and Europe were weakened. Petersburg could not dictate terms from a position of strength, as it was during the time of Emperor Nicholas I.
Tsar Alexander II himself was dissatisfied with the “fussiness” associated with the Slavic committees. As a result, the government began to limit the activities of the Slavic committees, which became the centers of self-organization of society. However, there was an understanding that it was necessary to lead this movement. In October, Alexander Alexandrovich (the future Alexander III), heir to the throne, wrote to his mentor, K.P. Pobedonostsev, that if the government does not take the movement of aid to the southern Slavs, “God knows what will come of it and how it can end” . At court, a kind of "war party" was formed, headed by Alexander Alexandrovich. It consisted of K. P. Pobedonostsev, Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich and Empress Maria Alexandrovna. They insisted on a war with the Ottoman Empire in the name of the liberation of the brothers Slavs, believing that this would lead to a "unity of the king with the people" and would strengthen the autocracy.
This idea was also supported by the Panslavists, the Slavophiles. He demanded a hard line against Turkey. The leader of the Slavophiles, I. S. Aksakov, in June 1876 of the year in Moscow, declared: “Our brothers in Turkey must be released; Turkey itself must cease to exist. Russia has the right to take Constantinople, since freedom of the straits for it is a matter of vital importance. ”
Indeed, the Russia needed to resolve vital issues in the region. Turkey and Austria-Hungary were our competitors in the Balkans, and the southern Slavs were allies. Russia was profitable weakening of the historical enemy - Porta and Austria. The most important interest of Russia in the Middle East was the issue of the straits. It was a military-strategic and economic issue. A powerful enemy fleet could penetrate the Black Sea through the straits and threaten the South Russian coast, as happened during the Crimean War. In the future, having received the straits and Constantinople, Russia could strengthen its position in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. In addition, through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles passed the only exit for the entire maritime trade in southern Russia. The collapse of the "sick man" - Turkey, promised Russia great strategic benefits. Russia could teach the straits, reliably closing the south of Russia from the western "partners", extend its influence to the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea and to the Middle East. That is, in the Big Game Russia made an important move. Russia also occupied leading positions in the Balkans, delivering a severe blow to Austria’s positions, returning the “favor” to Vienna for a hostile position during the Crimean War. Significantly stronger, friendly Serbia became the conductor of Russian influence in the region. In addition, Russia expanded its sphere of influence in the Caucasus, could complete the liberation of the Armenian people.
However, in the ruling circles of Russia, weakened by the Crimean War, it was understood that for the implementation of global, pan-Slavic tasks the empire had neither forces nor allies. The "peace party" in St. Petersburg prevailed. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chancellor A. M. Gorchakov, the Minister of War D. A. Milyutin, the Minister of the Interior A. E. Timashev, the Minister of Finance M. H. Retern and other dignitaries strongly opposed the war. Their opinion was shared by Tsar Alexander Nikolaevich. It was believed that war would have the most disastrous effect on Russia's external and internal situation. “The same thing that happened in the Crimean War,” wrote Milutin, “again, all of Europe will overturn us.”
Therefore, in the 70s, the tsarist government, due to its weakness and international isolation, tried to achieve its goals by peaceful, diplomatic means and had no plans to seize Constantinople. First of all, Petersburg hoped to find a common language with the Habsburgs. On the whole, St. Petersburg sought only to restore the positions lost as a result of the defeat in the Crimean War, to finally eliminate the articles of the Paris Treaty that infringe upon the position of Russia, to strengthen its position in the Balkans. The government of Alexander openly declared that he had no aggressive plans on the Balkan Peninsula, and supported the peacemaking initiatives of the Western powers, which, in fact, kept the slavish position of the southern Slavs.
In particular, the Russian ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, N. P. Ignatiev, believed that Russia's eastern policy should be aimed at the complete abolition of the Treaty of Paris, ensuring free passage through the straits for Russian ships, and Russian control of the straits zone and Constantinople through the creation of sovereign in the Balkans Slavic states associated with Russia political and trade agreements. Since the direct seizure of the Bosphorus and Constantinople led to unpredictable military-political consequences, Ignatiev considered it advisable to temporarily “abandon the idea of open dominance on the Bosphorus”. Chancellor A. M. Gorchakov, who wrote to the Russian ambassador in London, P. A. Shuvalov, also held a similar position, that the Russian government to capture Suez and Egypt had “neither interest, nor desire, nor means,” but Constantinople and the straits “in this moment ... is also unavailable to us. "
A certain role in the Middle East crisis was played by the German Empire and France. The German Empire (Second Reich) - it was a young state, formed as a result of the successful policy of Chancellor Bismarck - "iron and blood" created the united Germany, but without Austria. Prussia consistently defeated Denmark, Austria and France and became the core of the Second Reich. Russia at this time maintained friendly neutrality towards Prussia, punishing Austria for hostile policies during the Eastern War. Petersburg took advantage of the weakening of France after the Franco-Prussian war and the heightened Franco-German contradictions in order to achieve the abolition of the articles of the Paris treatise 1856, which forbade Russia to keep the navy in the Black Sea. Russia achieved this already in 1871 at the London Conference. As a result of the energetic measures taken by Bismarck in 1873, an agreement was signed on the “Union of Three Emperors”. The Austro-Hungary, Germany and Russia that signed the agreement pledged, in the event of an attack on one of these states, to develop a “joint course of conduct”. But this alliance did not have a solid platform, since all three powers did not want to limit themselves in foreign policy. The interests of Russia and Austria clashed in the Balkans, and Germany planned to once again smash France, which was opposed by the Russian Empire.
Otto von Bismarck sought the hegemony of Germany in Western Europe, defeated two historical the enemies of Prussia - Austria and France. However, in order to finally occupy a dominant position in Europe, Germany had to re-defeat France, which dreamed of revenge for defeat in the war of 1870-1871. But Russia did not want the repeated defeat of France. In particular, during the “war alarm” of 1875, Germany was about to re-defeat France. As a pretext for inciting the anti-French campaign and propaganda of a preventive war in the German press, the law on universal military service, adopted by the French National Assembly in 1872, was also used, as well as the reform of French military formations, which increased the composition of the infantry regiments from three to four battalions, which was internal affairs of the French Republic. In Germany, military preparations began openly, the rearmament of the army was hastily completed, and troops were drawn to the French border.
In February, 1875 was sent to St. Petersburg by a special diplomatic official, Radowitz, who enjoyed the special trust of Chancellor Bismarck, with the goal of convincing Russia of neutrality in the event of a war with France. The Russian government categorically warned Germany that it would not allow a new rout of France. Following Russia, the British government also took a negative stance toward a possible German aggression against France. Thus, during the “military alarm” of 1875, Russia was the main obstacle to the German aggression against France. Russia actually saved the French from a new military rout that would turn France into a second-class power. This time Germany retreated, but did not abandon its aggressive intentions.
Austria-Hungary was less dangerous for Berlin. The ruling circles of the Habsburg Empire did not abandon the idea of revenge for defeat near Sadovaya in 1866, but, sensing the political weakness of the empire, they began to seek rapprochement with Germany and its support for foreign policy expansion in the Balkans. The Second Reich willingly went to meet these aggressive aspirations of Austria-Hungary in order to distract Russia from France, tie its hands and gradually subordinate Vienna to its course. The movement of Russia in the Balkans and the Middle East was in the interests of Germany, diverting the attention of St. Petersburg from Franco-German relations.
In this way, preparing a preemptive war with France, Germany tried to isolate it from Russia and Austria-Hungary. And as soon as the Middle East crisis began, Berlin tried to push Russia with Turkey, England and Austria-Hungary in order to gain freedom of action against France. In a conversation with N. P. Ignatiev, Bismarck promised full support for his Russia on the Eastern issue, not only diplomatic, but also material, with money and even with the army, if the Russians allowed Germany to deal with France unhindered.
German diplomacy insistently instilled in the Russian government the idea that the most favorable conditions were created for Russia to solve the Eastern question in their favor. “The present epoch,” Bismarck said to the Russian diplomat Shuvalov, “is the most beneficial for Russia to dispose of Turkey at its own discretion.” At the same time in Berlin they were not indifferent to the strengthening of the Russian positions in the Balkans. Germany was going to use the eastern crisis not only to defeat France and conquer hegemony in Western Europe, but also to penetrate the Balkans and the Middle East. According to the plan of the German leadership, Austria-Hungary was to act as a conductor of German influence in the region. As the Russian ambassador in Constantinople, N.P. Ignatiev, noted: “Prince Bismarck meant to put Austria-Hungary and, if possible, Russia into his dependence, pushing the first to the Balkan Peninsula so as to continue to resolve the Eastern Question, in our sense , it was unthinkable and impossible ... without a preliminary deal between these two powers with the inevitable mediation of Germany and to the detriment of, of course, Russian-Slavic interests. ”
After the failure of a number of foreign policy adventures and the pogrom 1870-1871. France followed a cautious policy on the eastern question. With large investments in the Ottoman Empire, France advocated the preservation of a holistic Turkey. The French were going to get their sphere of influence. French capital benefited Turkey's semi-colonial position. However, France could not have a significant impact on the outcome of the crisis: the constant threat of a new war with Germany forced her to seek the support of Russia and England, to maneuver between them. Supporting one or the other side, she sought to prevent a war in the Balkans, since in any of its outcome French interests could suffer.
Thus, in general, Russia did not have allies in the West. The ruling elites of the Western powers during this period were interested in preserving the integrity of the rotten and semi-colonial Ottoman Empire in order to continue the parasitism on its peoples, including the Slavs. Also, the West did not want to strengthen the military-strategic, economic positions of Russia in the region. The Western powers used Porto as a market for their goods, allocation of capital, a source of raw materials, and an important military strategic base for the constant threat to Russia in the south. This tangle of contradictions could only be resolved by war.
To be continued ...