Unknown author, historical artefact. – The Near East

This text is copied from ‘The Book of a Million Facts’, seemingly published in 1933. (Author unknown).

I will give more precise details of the reference book I am copying from in future parts of this series of posts. And I will try to discover who was responsible for compiling the book.



Geography and providence have endowed the Englishman with a double portion of exclusiveness, and it is hard for him to grasp Balkan problems. He is the owner of a “detached” house; he is not overlooked. This was not so with the Balkan States; they were not even semi-detached, and party walls were very thin.

There were six different races in the peninsula, embracing three different creeds. They lived too close together to appreciate one another properly. In fact, they constituted a mutual-hate society which destroyed all hopes of making common cause with each other against the Turk.   

The struggle for independence in Serbia began in 1804 when dry rot within and Russian pressure without compelled the Turk to loosen his hold. When, in 1827, the Greeks threw off the yoke of Turkish oppression, the national spirit in the Balkans began to grow very quickly, and by the Peace of Adrianople two years later Serbia won a measure of self-government.

In Bulgaria, closer to the centre of Turkish rule, the first stirring of the national spirit was not witnessed until 1870, when a Church, independent of Greek Patriarchate, was readily recognised by the Sultan. Turkey, the sick man of Europe, was a decadent nation, and concessions were essential to her continued existence.

Unhappily this brought the renewal of dissensions, and Greek was now pitted against Bulgar. It was precisely the atmosphere which for centuries had favoured the persistence of Turkish despotism.   

The Danubian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia lay clear of the Turkish advance.

Gradually, however, they fell under her pernicious control until, in the early nineteenth century, Russia began to interest herself in the provinces and disputed control over them with Turkey. In 1859 the two states were united, and in 1878 complete independence was secured. Three years later the principality became the kingdom of Rumania.   

The independent spirit of the Balkan nations had not died with the Turkish conquest; it had been ruthlessly held under. By the opening of the nineteenth century, the Turkish Empire seemed doomed to dissolution and the peoples of the peninsula began to struggle for their independence. That the Empire survived so long is due partly to her strange vitality but in main to the conflicting ambitions of the great European Powers.

The spoil was so valuable that the birds of prey could never agree to a peaceful division. Great Britain and France, mutually jealous, were mortally afraid of Russia so that Turkey became, in turn, the protégé of France, Great Britain and Germany, and out of this position she has sucked no small advantage. It has enabled her with impunity to defy the dictates of God and man in the treatment of her subject peoples.   

Up to 1878 Turkey was bolstered up in her wars with Russia. In the Crimean War Great Britain and France definitely allied themselves with her in order to prevent Russia from hastening the death of the “sick man.” But the Treaty of Paris (1856) admirable “on paper,” proved, in effect, utterly futile. It depended for its success upon the ability of the Turks honestly to carry out their promised reforms in the treatment of their Christian subjects.

Between 1856 and 1878 events in the Balkans led directly to a repetition of the pre-Crimean situation.  The Bulgarian atrocities of 1876 startled Great Britain and the Western Powers and gave Russia an opportunity to take the field as the champion of the Pan-Slav movement. Left to herself, Russia would have cut the Ottoman Empire in pieces by the creation of a “Big Bulgaria” at the Peace of San Stefano, but the powers intervened, and the Congress of Berlin (1878) met to readjust the map of Eastern Europe.    

In so far as it set out to prevent Russia from dismembering Turkey it was a success. In so far as it established small states- Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Rumania- in real or virtual independence, it deserved credit. In so far as it aimed at peaceful settlement of the Eastern Question, it was a conspicuous failure.

Austria-Hungary had now a definite stake in Balkan concerns by the control of Bosnia-Hercegovina. For her, the decline of Slavonic Russian influence marked the entry of the Teutonic Powers with an aggressive forward policy which threatened to absorb the smaller Balkan States. While the Austrians occupied Bosnia there could be no union between the South Slavonic States- the ideal longed for by the Serbian nationalists. Bosnia-Hercegovina was an eastern Alsace-Lorraine.   

The critical year in Balkan history during the twentieth century was 1908. While the economic war was raging between Serbia and Austria the latter power annexed Bosnia and Hercegovina, an action which caused a European crisis and spelt national death to Serbia. From that moment it became quite clear to every Southern Slav that war could not long be delayed.

In the same year, the “Young Turkish” revolution deposed the Sultan but showed to the onlookers that power had merely been transferred to an unscrupulous clique supported by the army.

Taking advantage of the revolution, Bulgaria proclaimed its complete independence.   

In 1911 Italy, growing more and more uneasy at the ambitions of the Central Powers and fearful for her own position in the Mediterranean, declared war on Turkey.

Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria took advantage of the situation to join in, and the defeat of Turkey became a certainty.

One year later the second Balkan War saw the defeat of Bulgaria by Serbia, with Greek and Rumanian assistance. The quarrel was occasioned by the Serbian desire for an outlet to the sea which had been thwarted by the creation of Albania.

The treaty of Bucharest (1913) proved merely a triumph for Austrian diplomacy. It did little else other than “paper over the cracks.”   

Behind the unsettled Balkan questions there loomed still vaster issues – the future of the South Slavs in the Dual Monarchy, the “peaceful” penetration of the Near and Middle East by Germany, the Teuton fear of Russia, and, overall, the heavy burden of armaments”.