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Russian Diplomacy.
The Blue Book on The Eastern Question.

Karl Marx

London, Friday, Feb. 10, 1854

At the time when the treaty of neutrality was concluded between Denmark and Sweden, I stated my conviction, contrary to the current opinion in England and France, that it was not by any means to be looked upon as a triumph of the Western Powers, and that the pretended protest of Russia against that treaty was nothing but a feint[a]. The Scandinavian papers, and The Times' correspondent, quoting from them, are now unanimous in recording the same opinion, declaring the whole treaty to be the work of Russia.

The propositions submitted by Count Orloff to the Vienna Conference, and rejected by them, were as follows:

1. Renewal of the old treaties.
2. Protectorate of Russia over the Greek Christians of Turkey.
3. Expulsion of all political refugees from the Ottoman Empire.
4. Refusal to admit the mediation of any other Power, and to negotiate otherwise than directly with a Turkish Envoy, to be sent to St. Petersburg.

On the latter point Count Orloff declared his readiness to compromise, but the Conference refused. Why did the Conference refuse? Or why did the Emperor of Russia refuse the last terms of the Conference? The propositions are the same on both sides. The renewal of the old treaties had been stipulated, the Russian Protectorate admitted with only a modification in the form; and, as the last point had been abandoned by Russia herself, the Austrian demand for the expulsion of the refugees[416] could not have been the cause of a rupture between Russia and the West. It is evident, then, that the position of the Emperor of Russia is now such as to prevent him from accepting any terms at the hands of England and France, and that he must bring Turkey to his feet either with or without the chance of a European war.

In military circles the latter is now regarded as inevitable, and the preparations for it are going on in every quarter. Admiral Bruat has already left Brest for Algiers, where he is to embark 10,000 men, and sixteen English regiments stationed in Ireland are ordered to hold themselves ready to go to Constantinople. The expedition can only have a twofold object: either to coerce the Turks into submission to Russia, as Mr. Urquhart announces, or to carry on the war against Russia, in real earnest. In both cases the fate of the Turks is equally certain. Once more handed over to Russia, not indeed directly, but to her dissolving agencies, the power of the Ottoman Empire would soon be reduced, like that of the Lower Empire, to the precincts of the capital. Taken under the absolute tutorship of France and England the sovereignty of the Ottomans over their European estates would be no less at an end.

If we are to take the war into our hands, observes The Times, we must have the control over all the operations.

In this case, then, the Turkish Ministry would be placed under the direct administration of the Western Ambassadors, the Turkish War Office under the War Offices of England and France, and the Turkish armies under the command of French and English Generals. The Turkish Empire, in its ancient conditions of existence, has ceased to be.

After his complete "failure" at Vienna, Count Orloff is now gone back to St. Petersburg "with the assurance of the Austrian and Prussian neutrality, under all circumstances." On the other hand, the telegraph reports from Vienna that a change has taken place in the Turkish Ministry, the Seraskier and Kapudan Pasha[b] having resigned. The Times cannot understand how the war party could have been defeated at the very time that France and England were going to war. For my part, if the news be true, I can very well understand the "god-sent" occurrence as the work of the English Coalition representative at Constantinople, whom we find so repeatedly regretting, in his blue-book dispatches, that

"he could hardly yet go so far in his pressure on the Turkish Cabinet as it might be desirable."

The blue books begin with dispatches relating to the demands put forward on the part of France with respect to the Holy Shrines demands not wholly borne out by the ancient capitulations[417], and ostensibly made with the view to enforce the supremacy of the Latin over the Greek Church. I am far from participating in the opinion of Mr. Urquhart, according to which the Czar had, by secret influences at Paris, seduced Bonaparte to rush into this quarrel in order to afford Russia a pretext for interfering herself in behalf of the privileges of the Greek Catholics. It is well known that Bonaparte wanted to buy, coûte que coûte[c], the support of the Catholic party, which he regarded from the very first as the main condition for the success of his usurpation. Bonaparte was fully aware of the ascendancy of the Catholic Church over the peasant population of France, and the peasantry were to make him Emperor in spite of the bourgeoisie and in spite of the proletariat. M. de Falloux, the Jesuit, was the most influential member of the first ministry he formed, and of which Odilon Barrot, the soi-disant Voltairian, was the nominal head. The first resolution adopted by this ministry, on the very day after the inauguration of Bonaparte as President, was the famous expedition against the Roman Republic. M. de Montalembert, the chief of the Jesuit party, was his most active tool in preparing the overthrow of the parliamentary régime and the coup d'état of the 2d December. In 1850, the Univers, the official organ of the Jesuit party, called day after day on the French Government to take active steps for the protection of the interests of the Latin Church in the East. Anxious to cajole and win over the Pope[d], and to be crowned by him, Bonaparte had reasons to accept the challenge and make himself appear the "most Catholic"[418] Emperor of France. The Bonapartist usurpation, there-fore, is the true origin of the present Eastern complication. It is true that Bonaparte wisely withdrew his pretensions as soon as he perceived the Emperor Nicholas ready to make them the pretext for excluding him from the conclave of Europe, and Russia was, as usual, eager to utilise the events which she had not the power to create, as Mr. Urquhart imagines. But it remains a most curious phenomenon in history, that the present crisis of the Ottoman Empire has been produced by .the same conflict between the Latin and Greek Churches which once gave rise to the foundation of that Empire in Europe.

It is not my intention to investigate the whole contents of the "Rights and Privileges of the Latin and Greek Churches," before having considered a most important incident entirely suppressed in these blue books, viz.: The Austro-Turkish quarrel about Montenegro[419]. The necessity to previously treat this affair is the more urgent, as it will establish the existence of a concerted plan between Russia and Austria for the subversion and division of the Turkish Empire, and as the very fact of England's putting the subsequent negotiations between the Court of St. Petersburg and the Porte into the hands of Austria, cannot fail to throw a most curious light on the conduct of the English Cabinet throughout this Eastern question. In the absence of any official documents on the Montenegro affair, I refer to a book, which has only just been published on this subject, and is entitled the Handbook of the Eastern Question, by L. F. Simpson.[e]

The Turkish fortress of Zabljak (on the frontiers of Montenegro and Albania) was stormed by a band of Montenegrins in December, 1852. It is remembered that Omer Pasha was ordered by the Porte to repel the aggressors. The Sublime Porte declared the whole coast of Albania in a state of blockade, a measure which apparently could be directed only against Austria and her navy, and which indicated the conviction of the Turkish Ministry that Austria had provoked the Montenegrin revolt.

The following article, under date of Vienna, Dec. 29, 1852, appeared then in the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung

"If Austria wished to assist the Montenegrins, the blockade could not prevent it. If the Montenegrins descended from their mountains, Austria could provide them with arms and ammunition by Cattaro, in spite of the presence of the Turkish fleet in the Adriatic. Austria does not approve either of the present incursion of the Montenegrins, nor of the revolution which is on the eve of breaking out in Herzegovina and Bosnia among the Christians. She has constantly protested against the persecutions of the Christians, and that in the name of humanity; Austria is obliged to observe neutrality toward the Eastern Church. The last news from Jerusalem will have shown how fiercely religious hatred burned there. The agents of Austria must, therefore, exert all their efforts to maintain peace between the Greek Christians and the Latin Christians of the Empire."

From this article we glean, firstly, that coming revolutions of the Turkish Christians were anticipated as certain, that the way for the Russian complaints concerning the oppression of the Greek Church was paved by Austria, and that the religious complication about the Holy Shrines was expected to give occasion for Austria's "neutrality."

In the same month a note was addressed to the Porte by Russia, who offered her mediation in Montenegro, which was declined on the ground that the Sultan[f] was able himself to uphold his own rights. Here we see Russia operating exactly as she did at the time of the Greek revolution[420] first offering to protect the Sultan against his subjects, with the view of protecting afterward his subjects against the Sultan, if her assistance should not be accepted.

The fact that there existed a concert between Russia and Austria for the occupation of the Principalities, even at this early time, may be gleaned from another extract from the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung, of 30th December, 1852:

"Russia, which has only recently acknowledged the independence of Montenegro, can scarcely remain an idle spectator of events. Moreover, commercial letters and travelers from Moldavia and Wallachia, mention that from Volhynia down to the mouth of the Pruth, the country swarms with Russian troops, and that reenforcements are continually arriving."

Simultaneously the Vienna journals announced that an Austrian army of observation was assembling on the Austro-Turkish frontiers.

On Dec. 6, 1852, Lord Stanley interpellated Lord Malmesbury with respect to the affairs of Montenegro, and Bonaparte's noble friend made the following declaration:

"The noble lord intimated his desire to ask whether any change had recently taken place in the political relations of that wild country bordering on Albania, called Montenegro. I believe that no change whatever has taken place with respect to its political relations. The chief of that country[g] bears a double title; he is head of the Greek Church in that country, and he is also the temporal sovereign. But with respect to his ecclesiastical position he is under the jurisdiction of the Emperor of Russia, who is considered to be the head of the whole Greek Church. The chief of Montenegro has been" (as I believe all his ancestors were before him) "accustomed to receive from the sanction and recognition of the Emperor his Episcopal jurisdiction and titles. With respect to the independence of that country, whatever the opinion of different persons may be as to the advantage of such a position, the fact is that Montenegro has been an independent country for something like 150 years, and though various attempts have been made by the Porte to bring it into subjection, those attempts have failed one after another, and the country is in the same position now that it was some 200 years ago."

In this speech Lord Malmesbury, the then Tory Secretary for Foreign Affairs, quietly dissects the Ottoman Empire by separating from it a country that had ever belonged to it, recognising at the same time the Emperor of Russia's spiritual pretensions over subjects of the Porte. What are we to say of these two sets of Oligarchs, except that they rival each other in imbecility?

The Porte was, of course, seriously alarmed at this speech of a British Minister, and there appeared, shortly afterward, in an English newspaper the following letter from Constantinople, dated Jan. 5, 1853:

"The Porte has experienced the greatest irritation owing to Lord Malmesbury's declaration in the House of Lords that Montenegro was independent. He thus played into the hands of Russia and Austria, by which England will lose that influence and confidence which she has hitherto enjoyed. In the first article of the treaty of Sistova, concluded between the Porte and Austria in 1791 (to which treaty England, Holland, and Russia were mediating parties), it is expressly stipulated that an amnesty should be granted to the subjects of both Powers who had taken part against their rightful sovereigns, viz.: the Servians, Montenegrins, Moldavians and Wallachians, named as rebel subjects of the Porte. The Montenegrins who reside in Constantinople, of whom there are 2,000 to 3,000, pay the haratch or capitation-tax, and in judicial procedure with subjects of other Powers at Constantinople, the Montenegrins are always considered and treated as Turkish subjects without objection."

In the beginning of January, 1853, the Austrian Government sent Baron Kellner von Köllenstein, an aide-de-camp of the Emperor[h], to Cattaro to watch the course of events, while Mr. d'Ozeroff, the Russian Envoy at Constantinople, handed in a protest to the Divan against the concessions made to the Latins in the question of the Holy Shrines. At the end of January, Count Leiningen arrived at Constantinople, and was admitted on the 3d February, to a private audience with the Sultan, to whom he delivered a letter from the Austrian Emperor. The Porte refused to comply with his demands, and Count Leiningen thereupon gave in an ultimatum, allowing the Porte four days to answer. The Porte immediately placed itself under the protection of England and France, which did not protect her, while Count Leiningen refused their mediation. On Feb. 15, he had obtained everything he had asked for (with the exception of Art., III) and his ultimatum was accepted. It contained the following articles:

"I. Immediate evacuation of Montenegro and the establishment of the status quo ante bellum.

"II. A declaration by which the Porte is to engage herself to maintain the status quo of the territories of Kleck and Suttorina, and to recognize the mare clausum in favor of Austria.

"III. A strict inquiry to take place concerning the acts of Mussulman fanaticism committed against the Christians of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"IV. Removal of all the political refugees and renegades at present in the provinces adjoining the Austrian frontiers.

"V. Indemnity of 200,000 florins to certain Austrian merchants, whose contracts had been arbitrarily annulled, and the maintenance of those contracts for all the time they were agreed on.

"VI. Indemnity of 56,000 florins to a merchant whose ship and cargo had been unjustly confiscated.

"VII. Establishment of numerous consulates in Bosnia, Servia, Herzegovina and all over Rumelia.

"VIII. Disavowal of the conduct maintained in 1850, in the affair of the refugees."

Before acceding to this ultimatum, the Ottoman Porte, as Mr. Simpson states, addressed a note to the Ambassadors of England and France, demanding a promise from them of positive assistance in the event of a war with Austria. "The two Ministers not being able to pledge themselves in a definite manner," the Turkish Government yielded to the energetic proceedings of Count Leiningen.

On February 28th, Count Leiningen arrived at Vienna, and Prince Menchikoff at Constantinople. On the 3d of March, Lord John Russell had the impudence to declare, in answer to an interpellation of Lord Dudley Stuart, that

"In answer to representations made to the Austrian Government, assurances had been given that the latter held the same views as the English Government on the subject; and, though he could not state the precise terms of the arrangement that had been made, the intervention of France and England had been successful, and he trusted the late differences were now over. The course adopted by England had been to give Turkey such advice as 'would maintain her honor and her independence.... For his own part, he thought that on grounds of right, of international law, of faith toward our ally, and also on grounds of general policy and expediency, the maintenance of the integrity and independence of Turkey was a great and ruling point of the foreign policy of England."

Written on February 10, 1854
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4013, February 27, 1854:
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 914, February 28,
and the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 651, March 4, 1854
Signed: Karl Marx


[a] See this volume, p. 594.—Ed.

[b] The War Minister and the Minister for the Navy.—Ed.

[c] At all costs.—Ed.

[d] Pius IX.—Ed.

[e] L. F. Simpson, The Eastern Question: a Connected Narrative of Events from the Missions of Count Leiningen and Prince Menschikoff to Constantinople, to the Present Day. Marx quotes below passages from this book (pp. 3-6 and 8-10).—Ed.

[f] Abdul Mejid.—Ed.

[g] Danilo I Petrović Njegoš.—Ed.

[h] Francis Joseph I.—Ed.

[415] This article was published in The Eastern Question.

[416] For the Austrian and Russian demands for extradition of Hungarian and Polish revolutionary refugees in Turkey see Note 29 ↓.

[29] In 1849 the Russian and Austrian governments demanded that Turkey should extradite Hungarian and Polish refugees who had taken part in the revolution in Hungary. The Turkish Government, which hoped to make use of the refugees in reorganising the army, refused to comply with this demand. The conflict became especially acute after the intervention of the Western powers, which decided to oppose Russia for fear of her growing influence in the Near East and in Central Europe. The British Government sent a squadron to the Dardanelles. Nicholas I was compelled to give way and be content with the Turkish Government's promise to expel the refugees from Turkey.

[417] Capitulations—documents that granted commercial advantages and privileges to the subjects of West-European states in Oriental countries, including Turkey.

[418] Marx is ironically dubbing Louis Bonaparte with the title the Pope conferred on Ferdinand, King of Aragon (1479-1516), for the banishment of the Moors from Spain and which was subsequently used by the Pope in addressing the Spanish kings.

[419] In 1852 a conflict arose between Turkey and Montenegro, which demanded complete independence of the Sultan, whose vassal it remained nominally. The Porte rejected Russia's mediation on this issue, and at the beginning of 1853 the Turkish army under the command of Omer Pasha invaded Montenegro. The Austrian Government feared that if Russia entered the war to defend the Montenegrins that would cause unrest in the Slav regions of the Habsburg Empire, so it hastily dispatched Count Leiningen on a special mission to Constantinople (Marx mentions this mission below) to demand the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Montenegro and the restoration of the status quo. The concentration of Austrian troops on the Montenegrin border compelled the Porte to accept these demands.

[420] The Greek insurrection was prepared by secret societies of Greek patriots (Hetaeria). It was sparked off in spring 1821 by a march of a detachment under Alexander Ypsilanti—a Greek officer in the Russian army and leader of a secret society in Odessa--to the Danubian Principalities across the Pruth in order thence to enter Greece. The campaign was a failure, but it marked the beginning of a mass movement in Greece which soon spread throughout the country. In January 1822 the National Assembly in Epidaurus proclaimed the independence of Greece and adopted a Constitution. Initially the powers of the Holy Alliance strongly opposed the insurrection. However, the great sympathy aroused everywhere for the Greek struggle against Turkish domination, and especially the opportunity of using this struggle to strengthen their influence in the south of the Balkans, caused Britain, Russia and France to recognise Greece as a belligerent and render her armed assistance. Russia's victory in the Russo-Turkish war of 1828-29 was of major importance in helping Greece to acquire independence. Turkey was compelled to recognise Greece as an independent state. However, the European powers imposed a monarchical form of government on the Greek people.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.613-622), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979
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