The Historical Text Archive: Electronic History Resources, online since 1990 Bringing you digitized history, primary and secondary sources
HTA Home Page | E-books | Europe | The Eastern Question

6: The Eastern Question

<< 5: Establishment of The Dual Monarchy || 7: Internal Reforms >>

THE outbreak of disturbance in the Balkans ended this period of calm. The insurrection in Bosnia and Herzegovina immediately affected Austria; refugees in large numbers crossed the frontier and had to be maintained by the government. The political problem presented was a very difficult one. The sympathy of the Slav inhabitants of the empire made it impossible for the government of Vienna to regard with indifference the sufferings of Christians in Turkey. Active support was impossible, because the Hungarians, among whom the events of 1848 had obliterated the remembrance of the earlier days of Turkish conquest, were full of sympathy for the Turks. It was a cardinal principle of Austrian policy that she could not allow the erection of new Slav states on her southern frontier. Moreover, the disturbances were fomented by Russian agents, and any increase of Russian influence (for which the Pan-Slav party was working) was full of danger to Austria. For a time the mediation of Germany preserved the good understanding between the two eastern empires. In 1875 Andrássy drafted a note, which was accepted by the powers, requiring Turkey to institute the reforms necessary for the good government of the provinces. Turkey agreed to do this, but the insurgents required a guarantee from the powers that Turkey would keep her engagements. This could not be given, and the rebellion continued and spread to Bulgaria. The lead then passed to Russia, and Austria, even after the outbreak of war, did not oppose Russian measures. At the beginning of 1877 a secret understanding had been made between the two powers, by which Russia undertook not to annex any territory, and in other ways not to take steps which would be injurious to Austria. The advance of the Russian army on Constantinople, however, was a serious menace to Austrian influence; Andrássy therefore demanded that the terms of peace should be submitted to a European conference, which he suggested should meet at Vienna. The peace of San Stefano violated the engagements made by Russia, and Andrássy was therefore compelled to ask for a credit of 60 million gulden and to mobilize a small portion of the army; the money was granted unanimously in the Hungarian Delegation, though the Magyars disliked a policy the object of which appeared to be not the defence of Turkey against Russia, but an agreement with Russia which would give Austria compensation at the expense of Turkey; in the Austrian Deputation it was voted only by a majority of 39 to 20, for the Germans were alarmed at the report that it would be used for an occupation of part of the Turkish territory.

The active share taken by Great Britain, however, relieved Austria from the necessity of having recourse to further measures. By an arrangement made beforehand, Austria was requested at the congress of Berlin to undertake the occupation and administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina - an honourable but arduous task. The provinces could not be left to the Turks; Austria could not allow them to fall under Russian influence. The occupation was immediately begun, and 60,000 Austrian troops, under the command of General Philippovich,¹ crossed the frontier on the 29th of July. The work was, however, more difficult than had been anticipated; the Mahommedans offered a strenuous resistance; military operations were attended with great difficulty in the mountainous country; 200,000 men were required, and they did not succeed in crushing the resistance till after some months of obstinate fighting. The losses on either side were very heavy; even after the capture of Serajevo in August,

¹ Josef Freiherr Philippovic von Philippsberg (1818-1889), belonged to an old Christian noble family of Bosnia.

the resistance was continued; and besides those who fell in battle, a considerable number of the insurgents were put to death under military law. The opposition in the Delegations, which met at the end of the year, was so strong that the government had to be content with a credit to cover the expenses for 1879 of less than half what they had originally asked, and the supplementary estimate of 40,000,000 gulden for 1878 was not voted till the next year. In 1879 the Porte, after long delay, recognized the occupation on the distinct understanding that the sovereignty of the sultan was acknowledged. A civil administration was then established, the provinces not being attached to either half of the empire, but placed under the control of the joint minister of finance. The government during the first two years was not very successful; the Christian population were disappointed at finding that they still had, as in the old days, to pay rent to the Mahommedan begs. There were difficulties also between the Roman Catholics and the members of the Greek Church. In 1881 disturbances in Dalmatia spread over the frontier into Herzegovina, and another expedition had to be sent to restore order, When this was done Benjamin de Kallay was appointed minister, and under his judicious government order and prosperity were established in the provinces. In accordance with another clause of the treaty of Berlin, Austria was permitted to place troops in the sanjak of Novi Bazar, a district of great strategic importance, which separated Servia and Montenegro and through which the communication between Bosnia and Salonica passed. This was done in September 1879, an agreement with Turkey having specified the numbers and position of the garrison. Another slight alteration of the frontier was made in the same year, when, during the delimitation of the new frontier of Montenegro, the district of Spizza was incorporated in the kingdom of Dalmatia.

The congress of Berlin indirectly caused some difficulties with Italy. In that country was a large party which, under the name of the "Irredentists," demanded that those Italian-speaking districts, South Tirol, Istria and Trieste, which were under Austrian rule should be joined to Italy; there were public meetings and riots in Italy the Austrian flag was torn down from the consulate in Venice and the embassy at Rome insulted. The excitement spread across the frontier; there were riots in Trieste, and in Tirol it was necessary to make some slight movement of troops as a sign that the Austrian government was determined not to surrender any territory. For a short time there was apprehension that the Italian government might not be strong enough to resist the movement, and might even attempt to realize these wishes by means of an alliance with Russia; but the danger quickly passed away.

In the year 1879 the European position of the monarchy was placed on a more secure footing by the conclusion of a formal alliance with Germany. In the autumn of that year Bismarck visited Vienna and arranged with Andrássy a treaty by which Germany bound herself to support Austria against an attack from Russia, Austria-Hungary pledging herself to help Germany against a combined attack of France and Russia; the result of this treaty of which the tsar was informed, was to remove, at least for the time, the danger of war between Austria-Hungary and Russia. It was the last achievement of Andrássy, who had already resigned, but it was maintained by his successor, Baron Haymerle, and after his death in 1881 by Count Kalnóky. It was strengthened in 1882 by the adhesion of Italy for after 1881 the Italians required support, owing to the French occupation of Tunis, and after five years it was renewed. Since that time it has been the foundation on which the policy of Austria-Hungary has depended, and it has survived all dangers arising either from commercial differences (as between 1880 and 1890) or national discord. The alliance was naturally very popular among the German Austrians, some of them went so far as to attempt to use it to influence internal policy, and suggested that fidelity to this alliance required that there should be a ministry at Vienna which supported the Germans in their internal struggle with the Slavs, they represented it as a national alliance of the Teutonic races, and there were some Germans in the empire who supported them in this view. The governments on both sides could of course give no countenance to this theory Bismarck especially was very careful never to let it be supposed that he desired to exercise influence over the internal affairs of his ally. Had he done so, the strong anti-German passions of the Czechs and Poles, always inclined to an alliance with France, would have been aroused, and no government could have maintained the alliance. After 1880 the exertions of Count Kalnóky again established a fairly good understanding with Russia, as was shown by the meetings of Francis Joseph with the tsar in 1884 and 1885, but the outbreak of the Bulgarian question in 1885 again brought into prominence the opposed interests of Russia and Austria-Hungary, In the December of this year Austria-Hungary indeed decisively interfered in the war between Bulgaria and Servia, for at this time Austrian influence predominated in Servia, and after the battle of Slivnitza the Austro-Hungarian minister warned Prince Alexander of Bulgaria that if he advanced farther he would be met by Austro-Hungarian well as Servian troops. But after the abdication of Alexander, Count Kalnóky stated in the Delegations that Austria-Hungary would not permit Russia to interfere with the independence of Bulgaria. This decided step was required by Hungarian feeling, but it was a policy in which Austria-Hungary could not depend on the support of Germany, for - as Bismarck stated - Bulgaria was not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. Austria-Hungary also differed from Russia as to the position of Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria, and during 1880-1887 much alarm was caused by the massing of Russian troops on the Galician frontier. Councils of war were summoned to consider how this exposed and distant province was to be defended, and for some months war was considered inevitable; but the danger was averted by the renewal of the Triple Alliance and the other decisive steps taken at this time by the German government.

Since this time the foreign policy of Austria-Hungary has been peaceful and unambitious; the close connexion with Germany has so far been maintained, though during the last few years it has been increasingly difficult to prevent the violent passions engendered by national enmity at home from reacting on the foreign policy of the monarchy; it would scarcely be possible to do so, were it not that discussions on foreign policy take place not in the parliaments but in the Delegations where the numbers are fewer and the passions cooler. In May 1895 Count Kalnóky had to retire, owing to a difference with Bánffy, the Hungarian premier, arising out of the struggle with Rome. He was succeeded by Count Goluchowski, the son of a well-known Polish statesman. In 1898 the expulsion of Austrian subjects from Prussia, in connection with the anti-Polish policy of the Prussian government, caused a passing irritation, to which Count Thun, the Austrian premier, gave expression. The chief objects of the government in recent years have been to maintain Austro-Hungarian trade and influence in the Balkan states by the building of railways, by the opening of the Danube for navigation, and by commercial treaties with Rumania, Servia and Bulgaria; since the abdication of King Milan especially, the affairs of Servia and the growth of Russian influence in that country have caused serious anxiety.

<< 5: Establishment of The Dual Monarchy || 7: Internal Reforms >>