A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 15

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THE CONGRESS OF BERLIN


by the Turks under Osman, who had seized and entrenched a flanking position at whence the most desperate efforts, culminating in a grand attack on September 11, failed to dislodge him. Assault was then abandoned for investment; three months later, after a desperate attempt to cut his way out, Osman was compelled to surrender (December 10). In the East, also, the Russian advance through the Caucasus had been held up in the first months; but there, too, the tide had turned decisively before December. After the fall of Plevna the Turkish resistance began to crumble; on January 20, 1878, the Russian forces were in Adrianople (Edirne), where on January 31 peace preliminaries were signed. On March 3, the Adrianople convention became the treaty of San Stefano.

Meanwhile, however, the fall of Plevna had set the governments of the other Powers in motion. A sweeping triumph might enable Russia to dictate terms destructive both of Austrian and of British interests — regardless of the conditions on which those Powers had observed neutrality. Neither Russia nor Britain wanted war, but the British government felt it necessary to demonstrate its readiness for that alternative, and through the first months of the war the tension was extreme. Austria proposed a conference, which ultimately took shape as the Congress of Berlin, since the terms of the treaty of San Stefano intensified instead of allaying the perturbation of Austria as well as of Great Britain. The fundamental disagreement between the Powers was oil the question: how far had Russia the right to dictate her own terms to Turkey, and how far had the Powers concerned in the previous treaties the right to insist upon modifications of those terms?

The congress met in June at Berlin under the presidency of Bismarck as the representative of Germany in the character of the sincere friend of all parties, having no interests of her own at stake and desiring only to induce them all to accept equitable adjustments of their divergent or antagonistic interests. The result was the treaty of Berlin, generally regarded as a triumph for Disraeli's diplomacy since at the end of it very little was left of the San Stefano treaty; while it was accompanied by independent pacts, on the one hand between Great Britain and Turkey and on the other between Austria and Russia, which left the whole Eastern question on a footing new but scarcely more harmonious than before.

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