Berlin Congress of 1878: reasons for convocation, participants, results

The Berlin Congress is a famous international congress, which was convened in 1878 to revise the terms of the San Stefano Peace Treaty. It was with his help that the Russian-Turkish war, which lasted from 1877, was actually completed. This congress ended with the official signing of the Berlin Treaty. It is noteworthy that the meetings themselves were held on the territory of the Reich Chancellery.


War of Russia with Turkey

The Berlin Congress was preceded by the San Stefano peace treaty, which almost immediately came under criticism from many European powers. Most European countries considered its conditions unacceptable. For example, in London they were convinced that the border with Bulgaria should lie along the Balkan Range. And in Austria-Hungary they openly declared a violation of the agreements that were previously concluded with the Russians.

The peace agreement between Russia and Turkey was formalized in a small place called San Stefan,which was located in the western suburbs of Constantinople. Nowadays, there is a district of the Turkish capital of Istanbul called Yeshilkey. By signing this document, the parties officially ended the military confrontation, which played a decisive role in freeing the Balkan peoples from the Ottoman protectorate. In this regard, the situation was reversed.

At the same time, England, together with the same Austro-Hungary, did not want to allow the strengthening of Russian positions in the Balkans. They also sought by all means to extinguish the national liberation movement, which flared up on the Balkan Peninsula, and their particular opposition to the possible appearance of the Slavic state of Bulgaria there. The disagreement of the powerful European powers with the outcome of the peace agreement on the Russian-Turkish war is the main reason for the Berlin Congress.

At the same time, the obvious fact was that after completing the confrontation with Turkey, Russia would not be able to launch a new war against a powerful coalition. Even Germany, which had previously acted as an ally, did not provide any support. In private conversations between Chancellor Bismarck and the Russian ambassador, the first stronglyadvised to agree to discuss the terms of the peace treaty at the Berlin Congress.

Revision of the peace treaty

San Stefan Treaty

In fact, St. Petersburg was forced to isolate itself and was obliged to go for a revision of the San Stefano Treaty. Representatives of many European countries took part in the work of this congress. Among them are delegations from Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany, England, France, Turkey, Italy. Representatives of Iran, Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania were also invited as interested parties. These are the main participants of the Berlin Congress.

Russian Emperor Alexander II decided to repeat the imitation of the threat to British commerce at sea, for which he ordered to house 20,000 troops in Turkestan in the summer of 1878, in order to send them to Afghanistan if necessary, and plans to invade Kashmir were also seriously considered.

But it did not bring the desired effect. During the Berlin Congress, these manipulations of the Russian government played virtually no role.

Prior agreements

Russian-Turkish war

The congress, which started in Berlin, was preceded by several important agreements.So, in May, the British and the Russians concluded a secret treaty that effectively predetermined the revision of the Treaty of San Stefano.

After this, England signs another secret agreement, this time with Turkey, securing a defensive alliance. Under the so-called Cyprus Convention, Great Britain received the right to occupy Cyprus and exercise full control over government reforms in Turkey and Asia Minor.

In exchange for this, the British themselves undertook to defend the borders in the event that Russia demands a revision. Another agreement concluded between England and Austria-Hungary actually determined the general line of the main powers at the congress.

Work at the congress

Otto von Bismarck

The German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck took the chair at the congress. The main issues that were brought up for discussion were previously discussed in detail at private meetings and meetings between representatives of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and England.

Benjamin disraeli

The German delegation was headed by Otto von Bismarck, English Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, from Austria-Hungary - by Foreign Minister Gyula Andrássy, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Gorchakov.

The main disputes were about Bulgaria.The territory of this country was determined at the time of the conclusion of the agreement in San Stefan. England and Austria-Hungary insisted on cutting its borders to the minimum possible. Also, the stumbling block was Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the lands of which Austria-Hungary claimed exclusively, as well as the territory of modern Transcaucasia, which passed to Russia from Turkey. The opponents were the British.

Bismarck initially stated that he would take a neutral position in the history of the Berlin Congress. But in fact, through his actions he supported England and Austria-Hungary, eventually forcing Russia to take most of their initiatives.

Work results

Russian army

The main result of the congress was the conclusion of the Berlin Treaty. This is an international agreement under which participants signed on July 1, 1878. This treatise has fundamentally changed the outcome of the previously concluded Treaty of San Stefano. Russia suffered significant damage.

The results of the Russian-Turkish war the Berlin Congress completely changed. He influenced most of the European powers.

Provisions of the treatise

In berlintreatise contained provisions that were of great importance.Bulgaria was divided into three parts. A vassal principality was formed from the Balkans to the Danube, the center of which was formed in Sofia. The lands of Bulgaria to the south of the Balkans formed the autonomous province of the Turkish Empire, the center of which was in Philippopolis. Macedonia, which included land from the Aegean Sea and the Adriatic, was returned to Turkey unchanged in status.

Bulgaria with the center in Sofia became an autonomous principality, the elected head of which was approved by the Sultan with the consent of the major great powers. For the time being, the management of Bulgaria was retained by the Russian commissar until it adopted a constitution. The tenure of the Russian troops in Bulgaria was limited to nine months. But the Turkish troops lost the opportunity to attend the territory of the principality, but it was obliged to pay tribute to Turkey annually.

Turkey had the legal right to protect the borders of Eastern Rumelia with the help of regular troops, which were located in the border garrisons. Albania and Thrace remained Turkey. In Crete, as well as in these provinces, in Turkey and Turkish Armenia, local authorities were obliged to reform local government in the shortest possible time in accordance with the regulations of 1868, committing themselves to equalize the rights of Muslims and Christians.

Turkey was forced to abandon claims to a border town called Hotur in favor of Persia. The independence of Montenegro, Romania and Serbia was officially recognized. At the same time, the territorial increments of Serbia and Montenegro, which had previously been provided for in the Treaty of San Stefano, were significantly reduced and reduced.

Montenegro, which had the port of Antibari on the Adriatic Sea, now lost the right to have its own fleet, as well as to carry out sanitary and maritime control. The right to these works were transferred to Austria-Hungary.

Territory of Serbia

The Berlin Congress and its decisions had a significant impact on the territory of Serbia. It was increased, but not at the expense of Bosnia, as originally assumed, but at the expense of the land for which Bulgaria claimed. Northern Dobrudja and the Danube Delta were withdrawn in favor of Romania. Austria-Hungary officially received the legal right to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as to have a permanent military garrison in the territory between Montenegro and Serbia. That garrison, which was located in Novpazarsky Sandzhak, officially remained behind Turkey.

The Greek-Turkish border was largely corrected. Such an opportunity was provided by the results of negotiations between these two countries with the direct participation and mediation of major European powers. The final decision to increase the territory of Greece was made in 1880 after the transfer of part of Epirus and Thessaly to Greece.

As a result of the Berlin Congress, free shipping was guaranteed in the territory from the Black Sea to the Iron Gates along the Danube. Russia was forced to abandon the Alashkert Valley and Bayazet, acquiring only Ardahan, Batum and Kars. In it, she was obliged to enter the port of free trade, it was called the port-free regime. One of the small positive results of this treatise for Russia was the return of Southern Bessarabia. With these results, the 1878 Berlin Congress ended.


The value of the Berlin Congressfully able to assess only a few years later. Russian diplomacy made great efforts to give a worldwide significance to the Armenian question. An important role in this was played by Emperor Alexander II,it was precisely because of his perseverance that it was possible to cover this issue so broadly at all levels. But after the Berlin Congress, the situation has changed somewhat. According to Article 61, the Port was obliged to immediately carry out large-scale reforms to improve the current situation in the Ottoman Empire, especially in the territories where indigenous Armenians lived.

The treatise to which this article is devoted placed on Turkey obligations to improve the situation of the Armenian population, which automatically raised the question of the need to allow Armenians into the circle of so-called civilized nations. Before that, they, like almost all Caucasian peoples at that time, were considered officially uncivilized. Moreover, under international law in force at that time, a nation that was considered uncivilized could only be an object for the actions of a civilized nation, to which it was directly obliged to obey. However, other parties had no right to interfere in their relationship. According to the Berlin treatise signed by its participants, this applied to all the great powers without exception.

Action document

Officially, the Berlin contract remained valid and was legitimate until the Balkan Wars, which lasted in 1912 and 1913. However, part of his decisions remained unfulfilled, others were changed over time.

Abdul Hamid II

For example, it turned out that the reforms of local self-government that Turkey had promised to carry out in territories populated predominantly by Christians were never brought into life. Moreover, the fulfillment of the terms of this treatise over the years deliberately ignored the government of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II. The governor seriously feared that the reforms, if he decided on them, would ultimately lead to absolute domination of Armenians in the eastern part of his country. Over time, he assumed that Armenians would be able to claim their independence, which he did not want to allow.

Once Abdul-Hamid II declared to the German ambassador von Radolin that he would not yield to the pressure of the Armenian diaspora even under the threat of his own death. Therefore, he did not carry out any reforms aimed at their autonomy.

The British, based on the signed Cyprus Convention, sent their consuls to the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire, who confirmed that the Armenians were not being treated in a proper and inappropriate way.As a result, in 1880, at once six countries that at one time signed the Berlin Treaty, sent an official note to Porte, demanding the immediate implementation of specific reforms. This was justified by the need to ensure maximum safety for the life, health and property of Armenians.

In response, Turkey categorically refused to comply with this note, having taken some measures solely for visibility. In the British consulate, they were even described as an "excellent farce." Therefore, in 1882, Western states once again tried to get the Turkish government to implement a concrete plan for effective reforms. But this initiative at the very last moment was disrupted by Bismarck.

Bulgaria's position

Bulgaria was not in a simple position either. In 1885, it officially merged with Eastern Rumelia in a single principality. And another year later she achieved the cancellation of the free port at the conference in Batum. In 1908, the Bulgarian government officially declared independence from Turkey, proclaiming a kingdom. But Austria-Hungary turned the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina into annexation.

As the influential British historian Taylor testified, the Berlin treatise became a kind of watershed that was preceded by wars that lasted for almost three decades. But thanks to this treatise, as much as 34 years in this part of the world, it was possible to establish a relatively peaceful time. As subsequent history showed, this world was predominantly only an appearance. In fact, all this time there was a fierce struggle between the diplomatic missions of different countries, and the threat of a real and bloody war hung over Europe.

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