A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 18

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THE WORLD DRIFT TO WAR


The trouble that Bismarck had been so anxious to guard against developed by degrees, and the rift between Russia and the Central empires gradually widened. France, already convalescent, grew stronger as the years passed. The gulf between the autocratic tsardom in the east and the democratic republic in the west proved no insuperable barrier. The perpetual sources of friction between Great Britain and France on the one hand and Russia on the other proved capable of accommodation. So that at last all Germany convinced itself that those three Powers were joint conspirators whose common aim was her own destruction. And the outcome of that conviction was — Armageddon. These developments, however, were not immediate. For a quarter of a century the British empire remained in splendid isolation, and France hardly less than Great Britain, though after a long interval the beginnings of amity sprang up between her and Russia; while the effect of the Berlin treaties was at first to intensify the established antagonism between Russia and Great Britain.

Great Britain had made a private bargain with the Porte guaranteeing the Asiatic possessions of the Turks — other than those ceded to Russia under the treaties — conditionally upon the carrying out of reforms, and upon the British occupation and administration of the island of Cyprus, which would provide her with a naval station of considerable value in the eastern Mediterranean.

Nor was Russia’s policy in Bulgaria successful in furthering her own projects. The prince nominated for Bulgaria was the tsar’s nephew, Alexander of Battenberg. At the outset, Russian influences predominated, arousing patriotic antagonism to foreign control. But the prince established his own despotic authority by a coup d’état setting aside the theoretically admirable but practically paralytic constitution which had been bestowed on the principality. Russia applauded, but when he turned his powers to account, assumed the championship of Bulgarian independence, and dismissed the Russian counsellors, Russia was wroth. He could and did gain popularity by restoring the constitution (1883) without loss of authority.

In 1885 Eastern Rumelia ejected its Turkish governors and proclaimed its own union with Bulgaria. Alexander hastened to assume the proffered sovereignty. Serbia took alarm — she must be compensated for this Bulgarian expansion. Compensation

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