Berlin, Congress of

(1878)
   A meeting called by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to revise the Treaty of San Stefano, the 1878 Berlin conference as the first large international conference of the era of new imperialism. In the aftermath of the Ottoman Empire’s defeat by Russia in 1878, the treaty provided for a new order in European and Asiatic Turkey. Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania were extended and a new state, Bulgaria, was to emerge out of the Ottoman provinces north and south of the Balkan Mountains from the Danube to the Aegean and from the Albanian mountains to the Black Sea. Britain and Austria-Hungary agreed that the changes to European Turkey would damage their economic and strategic interests and give a preponderant power to Russia. The Treaty of Paris had established that matters pertaining to the Ottoman Empire’s integrity was for the joint cognizance of all the European powers, and so the Concert of Europe met to decide its fate.
   Representatives of the European Powers and the Ottoman Empire met in the Radziwill Palace, Berlin, on June 13, 1878 under Bismarck’s chairmanship. But the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and Lord Salisbury, his Foreign Secretary, had already determined the new balance of power in secret conventions. The convention with Russia was signed on May 30, and in it Britain allowed Russia to retain southern Bessarabia from the Ottoman vassal State of Romania, and Kars, Ardahan, and Batum on the Asian side of the Black Sea. In exchange, Russia agreed to reduce the size of Bulgaria.
   In Asia, Disraeli worried about the Russians establishing a foothold in Armenia and moving across Mesopotamia to the Persian Gulf and beyond to India. Britain agreed to Russia retaining Kars, Ardahan, and Batum only after deciding to acquire a base - as it turned out, Disraeli selected Cyprus - in which to station an army to launch against any future Russian incursions against Ottoman Asia. Although the policy of territorial aggrandizement had been muted in 1876 against a weak Porte, it was now linked to maintaining the order established by the Anglo-Russian Convention. Although the strategic order had been determined by the British, Russian, and Ottoman governments, the delegates at Berlin had a number of other questions to determine. The Congress, which lasted from June 13 to July 13, decided that Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania would be completely independent. Bulgaria became a self-governing principality, subject to the Porte, under Alexander of Battenberg. Not to be outdone, Austria-Hungary was assigned the occupation and administration of the volatile Ottoman province of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The British government offered leave to its French and Italian counterparts to pursue their ambitions in Tunis and Tripoli, an offer the French took up within four years, and the Italians in 1911.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Medlicott, W. N. The Congress of Berlin and After. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1963;
    Taylor, A.J.P. The Struggle for Mastery in Europe. 1848-1918. Oxford: Clarendon, 1954.
   ANDREKOS VARNAVA

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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