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Old 10-10-2015, 12:22 AM   #1
George S.
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Default Berlin Congress and the Macedonian Question

Berlin Congress and the Macedonian Question
By Vanche Stoichev
Edited by Risto Stefov
[email protected]
October 2015

Most interesting about 19th century diplomatic and political practices, which have not changed to this day, is how the Great Powers treated the weak and smaller countries and the people in general, particularly the Balkan people… like they were some sort of “loot” or commodity to be divided among armed “thieves”.

Source: Military History of Macedonia, Skopje, 2004, pages 220 – 224.

When Greater Bulgaria was fashioned with the signing of the Preliminary Treaty of San Stefano no consideration was given to ethnic and economic issues. This created a number of problems among the Great Powers and the Balkan countries. The Macedonian people in Macedonia, along with Macedonian refugees living in various parts of the world, protested with many letters and requests to the Great Powers to not leave Macedonia under Ottoman rule, nor to unite it with Bulgaria.

After the Kumanovo-Kriva Palanka uprising was suppressed, the insurgents retreated to Vranie and sent a delegation to visit Serbian Duke Milan Obrenovich and ask him to persuade the Russian Emperor not to allow Bulgaria to annex Macedonia. After that Colonel Katardzhi, a Serbian representative in St. Petersburg, visited the Russian Tsar and gave him a letter explaining why southeastern Serbia and Macedonia should be separate from Bulgaria.

The Russian government replied to the letter as follows: “Our primary interests here are those of Russia, then of Bulgaria and finally of Serbia and Macedonia, but at the moment Bulgarian interests happen to be in line with Russian interests which makes them equal to Russian interests…” (Cf. Jovan Ristich. Diplomatska istorija Srbije. Beograd, 1896, Volume II, p. 120.)

On May 14, 1878 Dimitar Robev, a well-known Macedonian merchant from Ohrid and representative in the Ottoman Parliament, visited Serbia after the Great Powers decided to revise the Preliminary San Stefano Treaty. During his talks with Matia Ban, Robev asked for support from the Serbian government, more specifically from the Serbian representative at the Berlin Congress, to fight for Macedonian independence. Robev told Ban that he was in close contact with Count Ignatiev, Russian ambassador in Constantinople, who supported the idea that “Macedonia can not belong to any of the three larger nations (Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria) on the Balkan Peninsula”. After Robev’s initiative on May 14, 1878, Serbian politician Dimitria Todorovich wrote a letter to Jovan Ristich, Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which he said: “It seems to me as if this Captain Misha (Dimitar Robev -V.S.) wants to become a Duke of Macedonia…” (Archive of the Historical Archives of Serbia (AHIS), Collection of Jovan Ristich, Inv. No. 12/581, signature XII/5 dated May 14, 1878.)

Taking into consideration the political and military situation in and around Macedonia after the Russian-Ottoman war and after the signing of the Preliminary San Stefano Treaty in 1878, Macedonian emigrants and migrant workers living in the Serbian Principality came to the conclusion that the only way to resolve the Macedonian political and national question was by obtaining autonomy for Macedonia within the Ottoman Empire, within its historical borders, and with a Christian provincial governor as its head. The request was signed on June 2, 1878 by 19 Macedonian emigrants living in the Serbian Principality and, on June 12, 1878, delivered to Archimandrite Sava of Dechani, Serbian representative at the Berlin Congress, with a request to deliver it to the Congress (AHIS, Collection of Jovan Ristich, Inv. No. 12/581, signatureXII/5 dated June 12, 1878.)

Unfortunately the Russian government disagreed and was quick to reject Macedonian and Serbian requests. Great Britain and Austria-Hungary on the other hand, the two powers that opposed the Preliminary San Stefano Treaty, were preparing to protect their interests by any means possible, even by war if necessary. But Russia at that time was not prepared to enter a new war so it withdrew its support for Greater Bulgaria and accepted the annulment of the Preliminary San Stefano Treaty.

On May 30, 1878, Britain and Russia secretly signed a treaty according to which Russia gave up the idea of creating a Greater Bulgaria in favour of creating an autonomous Bulgarian principality located in the Balkan Mountains extending as far as the Danube River. Russia then made requests for Bulgaria’s international recognition (within its natural borders), as well as for Eastern Rumelia to become an autonomous province within the Ottoman Empire. Britain, on the other hand, took Cyprus and agreed for Russia to take Batum, Kars and Bessarabia. On June 6, 1878 Britain and Austria-Hungary agreed not to allow Bulgarian territory to expand south of the Balkan Mountains and the Russian occupation of Bulgaria be limited to six months. Austria-Hungary was allowed to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina. Britain and Austria-Hungary also agreed to have a common approach to all other issues (Cf. V. M. Hvostov and I. I. Minc. Istorija diplomatije. Volume II, edition V., P. Potemkin, Belgrade, 1949, pp. 49-52.)

After this, the Great Powers called for a Congress to take place in Berlin which lasted from June 13 to July 13, 1878. The Congress was attended by delegates representing Britain, Austria-Hungary, Germany, France, Italy, Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Balkan state representation was not on par with that of the Great Powers. Having no independent state of their own the Macedonian people had no representation. German chancellor Bismarck chaired the Congress. The basis for the decisions made at this Congress had already been drafted May 30, 1978 by the British-Russian Treaty. The Berlin Congress basically annulled the Preliminary San Stefano Treaty and replaced it with the Treaty of Berlin which was then signed by the Congress. This treaty was composed of 64 articles which basically changed the situation in the Balkan Peninsula.

The Treaty of Berlin freed Macedonia from Greater Bulgaria and from Eastern Rumelia. Sofia Sanjak was united with the Bulgarian Principality in exchange for giving the Ottoman sultan the right to bring his armies to Eastern Rumelia. Russia’s occupation of Bulgaria was limited to no longer then nine months. Russia was given the right to organize a government in Bulgaria. The Congress ended on July 13, 1878 with the signing of the Treaty of Berlin, which allowed Austria-Hungary to occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia to occupy Bessarabia, Batum, Kars and Ardaham and Britain to occupy Cyprus. Serbia, Montenegro and Greece were given independence. Macedonia, Sanjak and Kosovo were placed back under Ottoman rule… (Cf. Vojna enciklopedlja. Volume I, Belgrade, 1970, p. 584.)

The Berlin Congress did not resolve any of the national issues in the Balkan Peninsula. The Balkan countries that were given independence became advocates of the Great Powers which consequently over time became involved in new armed conflicts in the region.

Count Shuvalov, one of the Russian representatives at the Congress, requested that his colleagues who were present take necessary measures to pacify the situation in Macedonia. He recommended that: “experienced agents be sent there, who in the name of His Majesty the Emperor of Russia would look after Macedonian interests as the Russians have done for all Slavic speaking nations. Macedonians would be granted the same liberty as the Bulgarians. Resolving the Macedonian Question unfortunately has proved to be very difficult and always rushed, therefore it is our duty to Macedonia to act in accordance with the Constantinople Throne because experience shows, as it did in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, that we will end up working for the benefit of Austria-Hungary. If after a period of time, for example, certain disturbances or revolutions take place in Macedonia, it may be possible for the Great Powers, especially Britain and Italy, to reconsider and allow this province to unite with Austria-Hungary, and by doing so involve us into a far more serious conflict. The Russian government can not act indifferently towards the takeover of Solun by the Austrians.” (Cf. Dokumenti za borbata na makedonskiot narod za samostojnast i za nacionalna drzhava. Op. cit, Volume I, pp. 237-238.)

Even though this statement had encouraging effects on the Macedonian people who turned their hopes towards Russia, the Slavic committees once again tried to resurrect Greater Bulgaria as per the San Stefano Treaty. Despite the fact that many independent states were created and solutions to problems were found after the Berlin Congress, still, the most important issue in the Balkans was the unresolved Macedonian Question. The Macedonian people in the absence of a Macedonian state, in the absence of a Macedonian political party to represent their interests, the Macedonian national question was treated like it was a “Bulgarian issue”, an “Ottoman problem”, a “Greek issue”, or a “Serbian issue”. The Macedonian Question became connected to the “Greek problem”, especially when the Greeks began to make requests to annex Crete, Epirus and Thessaly. The French were in support of this Greek request, while the British suggested that this matter be resolved by a treaty between Greece and the Ottoman Empire. In regards to the Macedonian Question, the Great Powers at the Berlin Congress recommended the following measures be applied to Macedonia and other European parts of the Ottoman Empire:

1. Implement the Organic Constitution approved at the Island of Crete in 1868;

2. Create constitutions for Epirus, Thessaly and Macedonia;

3. Create a special commission composed of representatives from the native population who would then create an appropriate constitution for each region… (Cf. Correspondence relative the Berlin Congress. London, 1878, Protocol No.13. Cf. Ivan Panayotov. Ruskata diplomaciya i osvobodenieto na B’lgariya. ‘Voennoistoricheski sbornik (Military history review)’, No. 6, Sofia, 1967, p. 40. Cf. Dolalmenti za borbata na makedonskiot narod za samostojnost i za nacionalna drzhava. Volume I, pp. 236-237.)

Later these constitutions would be submitted first to the Sublime Porte (Ottoman authorities) for review and then to the Russian Emperor for approval before they were to be implemented. But on Bismarck’s suggestion, instead of the Russian Emperor, the Congress decided to appoint a European Commission for Eastern Rumelia which was to control the implementation of the constitutions. According to recommendations made by the Berlin Congress, this Commission was also asked to take care of the process for creating a constitution for Macedonia. The Sublime Porte was given the responsibility to carry out reforms in accordance with Articles 23 and 62 of the Treaty of Berlin. Article 23 obliged the Porte to implement the 1868 Organic Constitution in Macedonia already implemented in Crete, with necessary changes made by a special Commission composed of Macedonian representatives determined by the Porte. After the Macedonian Commission drafted this Constitution, it would be reviewed by the European Commission for Eastern Rumelia. Article 62 obliged the Sublime Porte to respect and maintain all religious rights. The Ottoman Empire had no right to use religion as an excuse to exclude people from their civil and political rights (Cf. Ljuben Lape. Odbrani tektoviza istorijata na makedonskiot narod. Op. cit, pp. 216-217.)

Even though the Ottoman Empire, in principle, agreed to adopt all the Berlin Treaty recommendations, in practice it was business as usual. Unfortunately the Congress did not include penalties, sanctions or any other consequences if its recommendations were disregarded.

After the Berlin Congress was signed the Macedonian people faced even greater perils. Every Macedonian person who exhibited national feelings was tried and punished with the most common punishment being “death or to 101 years of hard labour”. The Prisons were full to capacity with Macedonians. Many lives were lost. While the other countries which were under Ottoman rule were now in line for becoming independent, Macedonia was thrown back into Ottoman hands with only one request; to carry out some reforms, which the Porte never intended to carry out anyway. Russia, it seems, did not understand the essence of the Macedonian Question and was unwilling to help the Macedonian people, not even to gain autonomy. Of all the revolutionary and liberation movements and armed uprisings that took place in the Balkans before the Berlin Congress, the Macedonian struggle was the only struggle that was not crowned with any success; the Ottomans were never asked to make territorial concessions for the Macedonian people… (Cf. Henrik Batowski. Shto stana so Berlinskiot dogovor. Glasnik na INI, year XXXII, 1973, p. 123.)

Instead of granting Macedonia its liberty, the Berlin Congress decided to only recognize Macedonia as a special historic region ripe for future colonial plans. Macedonia was given back to the Ottoman Empire, as it turned out, so that the Great Powers could later exercise their unrealized colonial plans. To make this possible and easy they added a small number of obligations to Article 23 of the Treaty which would put them in control of the situation at any time, enabling them to use it at any time and achieve their goals.

Many Macedonians living in Bulgaria, especially those who had participated in the Russian-Ottoman war as well as those who were members of intellectual organizations, organized protests and wrote letters condemning the Berlin Congress decisions. Prominent Macedonians organized a meeting in Plovdiv in August 1878, during which they came up with the following resolutions: (Cf. Ivan Katardhiev. Kresnenskoto vostanie. Skopje, 1978, pp. 27-28.)

1. Send requests to all European monarchs and ask for their support to improve the status of the Macedonian people;

2. Send a request to Jurai Shtrosmaier, a well-known Croatian social worker, and ask him to persuade the Russian Emperor to place the Macedonian people under his patronage;

3. Send a request to Austria-Hungary to place Macedonia under its patronage.

Unfortunately the moment Russian Command in Bulgaria found out about this initiative, it put an end to it. But, as can be seen from the above resolutions, the Macedonia people did not want a Macedonian unification with Bulgaria, they wanted liberty for Macedonia. The fact that they opposed both the San Stefano Treaty and the recommendations made by the Berlin Congress, proves that the Macedonian people wanted liberty above all else.

The Berlin Congress was a missed opportunity for resolving the Eastern Crisis in Macedonia by peaceful means and for enabling the creation of an independent or an autonomous Macedonian state within the Ottoman Empire. The circumstances were also favourable for resolving the Macedonian Question. A resolution for the Eastern Crisis and for offering Macedonia autonomy had already been defined and was part of the Great Power plan, unfortunately the Ottoman Empire did not follow through and neither did the Great Powers. After the Russian-Ottoman war ended, Russia was prohibited from occupying Macedonia. The other powers did not want it to gain access to the Aegean Sea. This was made evident by Britain, which strongly objected to Russian involvement in the Mediterranean, especially in the Suez Canal. Britain openly protected its own interests in this region. The idea of creating a large Slavic state in the Balkans, as planned by the Pan-Slavic Committee, failed with the annulment of the Preliminary San Stefano Treaty. Bu, in spite of all that, Count Ignatiev still had a plan for Macedonia to be given autonomy within the Ottoman Empire. His wish was that his close friend Dimitar Robev (a prominent Macedonian revolutionary and merchant and member of the Ottoman parliament) would become Duke of Macedonia. After the Preliminary San Stefano Treaty was annulled, Austria-Hungary too was looking at the possibility of creating an autonomous Macedonia with General Rodich as its Duke. General Rodich was an Austrian with Croatian roots (Cf. Dokumenti za borbata na makedonskiot narod za samostojnost i za nacionalna drzhava. Op. cit., Volume I, p. 235).

However, because of Great Power personal interests in the region, the opportunity for Macedonia to peacefully gain its liberty and independence, as did the other neighbouring countries prior to the Berlin Congress, was lost. Britain above all, in its attempts to preserve the Ottoman Empire, proved that it wanted to prevent Russia from accessing the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, and to stop Germany and Austria-Hungary from reaching the Balkans and the East. Britain wanted to be the only force in the Mediterranean Sea at any cost, even if it had to sacrifice the Macedonian people’s liberty. Denying Macedonia its liberty was also a signal for the neighbouring countries that Macedonia was now up for grabs.

Because of all this, the next Macedonian (Kresna) Uprising was organized with aims at liberating all of Macedonia as well as proving to the world, especially to Macedonia’s neighbours, that the Macedonian people were prepared to fight with weapons in hand for their own liberation and not for any unification with any of the neighbouring countries.
"Ido not want an uprising of people that would leave me at the first failure, I want revolution with citizens able to bear all the temptations to a prolonged struggle, what, because of the fierce political conditions, will be our guide or cattle to the slaughterhouse"
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Old 10-30-2018, 03:48 AM   #2
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Any primary documents on Macedonian's opposition to San Stefano?
I know of two tragic histories in the world- that of Ireland, and that of Macedonia. Both of them have been deprived and tormented.
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