Sunday, January 04, 2009

The 1878 Congress of Berlin: its effect on the territorial status of Macedonia

The 1878 Congress of Berlin: its effect on the territo­rial status of Macedonia
by Konstandinos Vakalopoulos
abstract from the book "Modern History of Macedonia 1830-1912", 1988
Barbounakis Publishing

Public opinion within the Greek kingdom was divided in its aspirations as to the future status of the Greek provinces still under the Ottoman yoke, particularly after the unfavourable impression created by the preliminary treaty of San Stefano. Some maintained that Greece ought to seek annexation of the rebel provinces of Epirus and Thessaly, while leaving the fate of Macedonia and Thrace to the judgement of those Great Powers that were opposed to a Slav presence in the Aegean. A second body of opinion, more daring than the first, proposed a global solution, namely the acquisition by Greece of all Turkey's European provinces including Constantinople. In this way, they said, the Greek presence would come to constitute a genuine counterbalance to Slav infiltration. The Greek ambassador in Berlin, Alexandros Rangavis, for example, proposed that Thessaly, Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace, the Aegean islands, the coast of Asia Minor, and Constantinople should all be attached to the Greek kingdom. In the case of negative reactions Greece should request the internationalization of Constantinople, and the temporary occupation of Macedonia and Thrace by a western power until such time as they were eventually awarded to Greece. Rangavis specifically stated that the expansion of the Greek state as far as the Bosporus was now no longer an insubstantial dream, but a European necessity[1].

The strong opposition of the Great Powers to the preliminary treaty of San Stefano made a decisive contribution to promoting support for the Greek case. In Britain, quite apart from the Philhellene stance of the press and of a large section of public opinion, government policy had become orientated once and for all towards the inevitable dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. The tour of Macedonia made in March 1878 by Captain Synge, as already mentioned, is to be seen in the context of British attempts better to understand the situation in European Turkey. The Greek protests against the provisions of the San Stefano treaty were well-received in Italy, too. Further­more, the French diplomatic representatives within the Ottoman Empire also painted in gloomy colours the terms of the agreement, insofar as they affected the Greeks. Mallet, the French consul in Thessaloniki, was explicitly in favour of the cession of Western and Central Macedonia to Greece. Even official Austrian foreign policy rested on the conviction that Turkey could no longer keep its European provinces. Count Andrassy, the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, favoured the application of a plan that would both suit Austrian interests and provide for the dismantlement of European Turkey That is to say, he supported the annexation by Greece of Epirus, Thessaly aJ part of Western Macedonia. Nevertheless, he was not against a Bulgaria! presence on the Aegean seaboard between Porto Lago and the mouth of m River Strymon. He did, however, reject the Bulgarian claims west of Strymon and north as far as Vranje, because these areas contained Greeks at; Albanians for the most part, and also because the Bulgarian claims woul prevent Austria's political and commercial expansion in the direction of Thessaloniki. Andrassy was even willing to support the founding of aj autonomous Macedonian province, independent of Bulgaria, but under thl political suzerainty of the Porte; it was to be bounded on the east by the Strymon, on the south by the Aegean and the Aliakmon, on the west byt' Albanian principality, and on the north by the Sar mountains[2].

While diplomatic activity continued in both Greece and Europe in the wake of the San Stefano treaty, the Slavophone Greek communities oi Macedonia did not cease proclaiming to the Greek government their intention of fighting alongside the Greek army, should Greece decide to seek a militanj confrontation with Turkey[3]. In early May 1878 the Congress of Berlin wa^ convoked, with the object of reviewing the terms of the preliminary treaty of] San Stefano, to which one Great Power after another (especially Britain) had] expressed its opposition. The official Greek line had already been laid down, and consisted of a minimum programme of territorial claims, which included Epirus, Thessaly and Crete. The Greek side expected the Congress to respond to pressure from Britain and to refuse to countenance the incorporation of Macedonia and Thrace within Bulgaria. British policy, meanwhile, was motivated by the desire to check Russian infiltration in the Balkans, to establish an essential Greek presence as a counterpoise to Russian activity, and to secure the compliance of the Greek state with the suppression of revolt in the Ottoman provinces[4]. Thus there was considerable British diplomatic activity on the one hand, while a strong likelihood existed on the other of a rapprochement between Greece and Turkey. Against this background, King George I held a meeting with Wyndham, the British charge d'affaires in Athens, and agreed that the northern frontier of the Greek state should consist of the course of the River Aliakmon from the Thermaic Gulf to the Lake of Kastoria, and from there should follow the course of the River Aoos as far as the Adriatic[5].

At the Congress of Berlin the possibility of participation by Greek delegates was duly discussed. The British representative, Lord Salisbury, requested that the Greek presence should be restricted to those sessions directly concerned with Turkey's Greek provinces, namely Crete, Epirus, Thessaly, Macedonia and Thrace. The request was granted, but held good only for the provinces bordering on the Greek state and for Crete[6]. The Greek delegation, headed by Theodore Deligiannis, had instructions to demand Epirus, Thessaly and Crete for Greece, and to make common cause with those European powers that disagreed with the cession of Macedonia and Thrace to Bulgaria, but consented to the granting of autonomy to them under the superintendance of the consuls of the Great Powers[7]. Lord Salisbury's speech at the session of 17 July 1878 in Berlin was especially revealing of the political situation in Macedonia at the time. He spoke about the worsening of intercommunal strife in the region, particularly after 1870, and about the founding of the Exarchate, the harsh conflict between Greeks and Bulgarians for possession of the schools and churches, and the unequal representation of Greeks and Slavs at the Berlin Congress, given that the Russian representati­ves exclusively served the Bulgarian cause[8].

The final text of the treaty of Berlin (1/13 July 1878) called upon the Porte to come to an agreement with Greece as regards the frontiers of Epirus and Thessaly. It also laid down that a Bulgarian principality should be founded, and provided for substantial changes in the political regime of Eastern Rumelia[9]. Article 23 provided for the introduction of administrative reforms in Turkey's remaining European provinces, Macedonia among them, on the basis of Crete's Organic Statute of 1868. According to this, the formation of joint committees with the participation of local Christians would be proposed to the Sultan in every administrative region[10]. As a result, local committees were indeed set up in 1879-80 in the capitals of the vilayets of Thessaloniki, Adrianople, Monastir and Ioannina, to study the possibility of reforms whereby Christians and Muslims would acquire the right to participate in local administration. Relevant proposals were to be sent to Constantinople. The Congress of Berlin also legislated on behalf of the monks of Mount Athos, who were henceforth to have absolute equality of rights[11]. Let it be noted here that Russian monks first settled officially on Mount Athos between 1873 and 1876; in 1883 they were reckoned to number 998, as compared with 2,412 Greek, 200 Bulgarian and 206 Romanian monks[12]. Another decisive step for the political future of Macedonia was the granting of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Austria. (In 1878 it was laid down that Austria should occupy the two provinces temporarily; and in 1881 the annexation was finalized). This event deprived Serbia of any outlet to the west, and inevitably turned its sights towards Macedonia, where the national aspirations of Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia were bound to clash[13].

The Congress of Berlin did not make any final settlement either on the Epirus and Thessaly frontier question or on the other matters which interested the Christian Ottoman subjects. This lack of a definitive solution obliged Greek foreign policy to abandon its stand of 'impeccability' (in the Turkish regard), so as to put pressure on Turkey and the Great Powers. The continuing insurrection in Western Macedonia provided the necessary opportunity for the perpetuation of unrest in Macedonia with the consent, and indeed the encouragement, of the Greek government[14].

Moreover, other Balkan states, too, like Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania, not to mention the Albanians, were also displeased about the frontiers allotted to them in the treaty. In the future they were to concentrate their efforts on winning for themselves the Christian communities of Macedonia at that time living under Ottoman rule. Thus the harsh rivalry between the various Balkan states, which became even sharper in Macedonia after 1878, was entirely accounted for by the ethnic composition of the region's population[15]. The analysis and interpretation of this complex phenomenon falls thematically into another phase in the history of the Macedonian problem: namely that which began after the Berlin Congress and lasted until 1908. An indication of the unrest which prevailed among the Christian communities of Macedonia during this time was the Bulgarian uprising, which occurred in the adjoining Males and Kresna districts of North-Eastern Macedonia. Quite a large number of Greeks from Thessaly and Macedonia took part in this uprising, because they had expectations of the ultimate abolition of Turkish rule, and gave priority to the liberation of Macedonia over and above any national differen­ces between the various Christian groups[16].

During the period which preceded the Congress of Berlin, nationalistic activity by the Serbians had not reached any great pitch in Macedonia. The Committee for the Schools and Teachers of Old Serbia, funded by the Serbian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, had assumed responsibility for the education of Macedonian schoolchildren in Serbia and for the issue of Serbian schoolbooks to various schools in Macedonia [17]. The Serbo-Turkish War of 1876, however, interrupted for a time the work of the Serbians in Macedonia; their activity recommenced more systematically in the late 1880s[18].

At the time of the Berlin Congress the Albanians gave the first signs of their own national awakening. They were profoundly disturbed by the prospect of the expansion of Montenegro and by the Greek claims in Epirus, part of which, the Koritsa sanjak, was contained within the Monastir vilayet. The founding of the Prizren Union of Albanians in June 1878 was directed towards preventing the annexation of territory regarded as Albanian and towards the establishment of an autonomous system of government within the Ottoman Empire. Albanian efforts to publicize their cause among the Great Powers conferring at Berlin included the dispatch of streams of petitions and memoranda to the delegates, which all sought the creation of an autonomous Albanian state. Despite Albanian opposition, Greece continued to support the proposal of a dual Greco-Albanian state on the pattern of Austro-Hungary. Be that as it may, it is a fact that the Albanian movement was unable to make much headway in Macedonia up to, and even after, 1878. The major stumbling-blocks to its progress were: the permanent state of anarchy which prevailed in all areas where there were compact Albanian communities; the strong cultural and religious contrasts existing within the Albanian people themselves; the opposing political interests of Italy and Austria; and the Porte's negative reaction to the proposed Albanian state[19].

Although Romania had no hope of expanding into the Macedonian region, during the Berlin Congress it redoubled its efforts on behalf of the proselytism of Vlach-speaking Macedonians. Its motive was to obtain a pawn in future negotiations on its frontier differences with Bulgaria in the Dobruja area. Romania had already been angered by Russia's annexation of Bessarabia in 1878, and by the presence of some six million 'irredent' Romanians in the Austro-Hungarian provinces of Banat and Bucovina in Transylvania. So now Romanian foreign policy turned its attention directly to Macedonia, in a 'paroxysm of national pride', as N. Vlachos termed it[20]. In the aftermath of the Berlin Congress there was a considerable upsurge of Romanian activity in the Ioannina and Monastir vilayets. After the inauguration in 1879 of a Macedono-Romanian association in Bucharest and the establishment of a Romanian consulate in Thessaloniki, the situation intensified. In the Thessaloniki vilayet, however, the Romanians seem to have been less active[21].

[1]-E. Kofos, Greece and the Eastern Crisis, p. 195 and note 1.
[2]-For details of the Great Powers' attitude to the San Stefano treaty, see op. cit., pp. 198-205; Β. H. Sumner, Russia and the Balkans 1870-1880, pp. 443, 446; C. Naltsas, Der San Stefano Vertrag..., pp. 54-6.
[3]-I. Notaris, Αρχείον Στεφάνου Δραγούμη, p. 37.
[4]-Ε. Kofos, Η επανάστασις της Μακεδονίας, ρ. 38; idem, Ο ελληνισμός στην περίοδο 1869-1881, pp. 124-7; idem, Greece and the Eastern Crisis, pp. 207f, including details of the British attitude.
[5]-E. Kofos, Ο ελληνισμός στην περίοδο 1869-1881, p. 128; idem, Greece and the Eastern Crisis, pp. 221-2.
[6]-C. Naltsas, op. cit., pp. 57-8; E. Kofos, Ο ελληνισμός..., p. 131.
[7]-Ε. Kofos, op. cit., p. 132.
[8]-Documents diplomatiques: Affaires d'Orient, pp. 74-5.
[9]-H. R. Wilkinson, Maps and Politics, p. 89.
[10]-Documents diplomatiques: Affaires d'Orient, pp. 283-4; A. d'Avril, Negociations relatives au traite de Berlin, pp. 363-4; A. Schopoff, Les Reformes et la protection desChretiens, p. 380; Henryk Batowski, 'Die territorialen Bestimmungen von San Stefanod Berlin', in Der Berliner Kongress von 1878: Die Politik der Grossmachte und die ProblmA Modernisierung in Siidosteuropa in der zweiten Halfte des 19. Jahrhunderts (Wiesbaden, 1911 p. 69.
[11]-E. Kofos, Ο ελληνισμός στην περίοδο 1869-1881, p. 132-9, 159; idem, Greecim the Eastern Crisis, pp. 229f; Manol Pandefski, 'Makedonija vo medunarodnite sporodl dogovori vo vremeto na Istocnata Kriza', Makedonija vo Istocnata Kriza, pp. 70-2.9
[12]-N. Vlachos, To Μακεδονικόν ως φάσις του Ανατολικού Ζητήματος, pp. 206-1
[13]-Ν. Vlachos, op. cit., p. 29; C. Naltsas, To Μακεδονικόν Ζήτημα και η ΣοβιιΛ πολιτική (Thessaloniki, 1954), pp. 70-1; Barbara Jelavich, 'Russia, Britain and the Bulgaiii Question 1885-1888', Siidost- Forschungen 32 (1973) 168; K. Vakalopoulos, 0 Bid ελληνισμός, p. 63.
[14]-E. Kofos, Η επανάστασις της Μακεδονίας, p. 42; idem, Greece and thehm Crisis, pp. 251-2.
[15]-Cf. K. Vakalopoulos, Ο Βόρειος ελληνισμός, pp. 11-12.
[16]-Concerning the Bulgarian uprising in 1878, see the detailed bibliography illVakalopoulos, op. cit., p. 52, note 123; F. Adanir, Die Makedonische Frage, pp. 86-1.0] numerous French consular reports in Francuski dokumenti za istorijata na Makedorim narod, pp. 231-3, 237-40, 243-8, and particularly pp. 245, 251, 252-4f.
[17]-L. Doklestic, Srpsko-Makedonskite odnosi vo XIX-ot vek, p. 453.
[18]-K. Vakalopoulos, op. cit., pp. 328-9, for details.
[19]-For details, see Vasilis Kondis, Ό Αλβανικός Σύνδεσμος της Πρισρένηςκίρόλος του στο ζήτημα του καθορισμού των Ηπειρωτικών συνόρων', Βαλκανικά ΣνμμΑ5 (1976) 201-2 (Appendix), including copious bibliography. Cf. N. Vlachos, op. cit.p.l F. Adanir, op. cit., pp. 83-6; K. Vakalopoulos, op. cit., p. 67 and notes 203,204,205,fori fundamental published literature on the Albanian question during this period.
[20]-N. Vlachos, op. cit., pp. 34-5.
[21]-For details, see Karl Adolf Bratter, Die Kutzowallachische Frage (Hamburg, Μp. 64; Alexandre Rubin, Les Roumains de Macedoine, p. 143; Max-Demeter Peyfuss,! Aromunische Frage: Ihre Entwicklung von den Ursprilngen bis zum Frieden von Bukarest(IU und die Haltung Osterreich-Ungarns, pp. 54-5; K. Vakalopoulos, op. cit., pp. 95-7.


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