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    July 3, 1906

    “The Eastern Question: Its Origin” The Medical Missionary, 15, 1, pp. 1-3.




    EVERYBODY knows of the Eastern Question; though not everybody knows just what it is. Briefly and bluntly stated, the whole Eastern Question springs from Russia’s design to possess Constantinople, and the efforts of the other great powers of Europe to keep her from it.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 1.1

    For more than a thousand years Russia has been wanting Constantinople. In this time she has made a number of attempts to gain it. Once she practically had it, but a brilliant move of Britain with other Powers prevented her from keeping it; and thus arose the Eastern Question in fact.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 1.2

    The first set attempt of Russia to take Constantinople was by a naval expedition in 865. An entrance into the very port of the city was gained; but a tempest, joined to the resistance of the city, caused the Russians to retreat. A second attempt, also by sea, was made in A.D. 904. This also was unsuccessful. A third attempt, again by sea, was made in A.D. 941; but this was defeated by the Greeks, through their employment of the Greek fire. The next attempt, the fourth, was in an expedition by land in A.D. 955-973. The armies marched successfully as far as Adrianople, about one hundred and twenty-five miles from Constantinople. There the Czar was summoned by the Greek emperor to “evacuate the country. Sviatoslav, who had just taken Philippopolis and exterminated the inhabitants, replied haughtily, that he hoped soon to be at Constantinople.” The tide of war turned however. The Russian armies were driven back to the Danube, there encompassed, assaulted, and starved to surrender, and were then released upon the solemn bond under oath to “relinquish all hostile designs,” “never again to invade the empire;” and if they broke their word, might they “become as yellow as gold and perish by their own arms.” Yet only seventy years afterward, A.D. 1043, another attempt was made by sea. This was also defeated—at the entrance of the Bosphorus by the Greek fleet with Greek fire and the aid of a tempest.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 1.3

    Though for centuries no other attempt was made from Russia to take Constantinople by force of arms, yet “the Russians were always dreaded by Constantinople. An inscription hidden in the boot of one of the equestrian statues of Byzantium announced that the day would come when the capital of the empire would fall a prey to the men of the north.”—Rambaud’s “Russia,” Chap. V., Par. 7.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 2.1

    “The memory of these arctic fleets that seemed to descend from the polar circle, left a deep impression of terror on the Imperial city. By the vulgar of every rank, it was asserted and believed that an equestrian statue in the square of Taurus, was secretly inscribed with a prophecy how the Russians, in the last days, should become masters of Constantinople. In our own time [1769-1774] a Russian armament instead of sailing from the Borysthenes, has circumnavigated the Continent of Europe; and the Turkish capital has been threatened by a squadron of strong and lofty ships of war, each of which, with its naval science and thundering artillery, could have sunk or scattered an hundred canoes such as those of their ancestors. Perhaps the presence generation may yet behold the accomplishment of the prediction, of a rare prediction, of which the style is unambiguous and the date unquestionable.”—Gibbon’s “Rome,” Chap. LV., Par. 13.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 2.2

    Throughout the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, the forces of the Russians were kept busy at home by their own internal necessities, the invasion of the Moguls and Tartars of Zingis Khan and Tamerlane, and by the power of the Turks who from 1299 onward, possessed the territories of the Eastern Empire, and from 1449 all of that empire itself, except the city of Constantinople alone, and who in 1453 took even that city.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 2.3

    But, though the Turks possessed Constantinople, this did not quench the Russian purpose to possess that city; it only added another item to the problem. For since that time Russia has “regarded the destruction of the Ottoman Empire as the great object of her existence.”—“Historian’s History of the World,” Vol. XXIV., Page 426.” Her first set attempt at this was made by Catherine the Great in 1769-1774. In 1769-’70 her armies were successful against the Turks in their possessions of the north of the Black Sea and the River Danube. In 1770 she also sent a mighty fleet from the Baltic around Europe to attack the Turks in Greece and the Mediterranean. “Her designs were truly gigantic—no less than to drive the Mohammedans from Europe.”MEDM July 3, 1906, page 2.4

    That year’s operations were of such brilliant success that it was thought the following year would see the full accomplishment of her purpose. “The position of Turkey was, indeed, critical; not only was one-half of the empire in revolt, but the plague had alarmingly thinned the population. Fortunately, however, for this power, the same scourge found its way into the heart of Russia; its ravages were as fatal at Moscow as at Constantinople; and it no more spared the Christians on the Danube, than it did the Mohammedans.”MEDM July 3, 1906, page 2.5

    The calamity of the plague so weakened both powers that through the war continued nearly three years longer, the issue was so uncertain that it was concluded in July, 1774, by the peace and treaty of Kutchuk-Kainardji by which “Russia obtain the free navigation of the Black Sea, the right of passage through the Danube, a large tract of land between the Bug and the Dnieper, with the strong fortresses of Azov, Taganrog, Kertch, and Kinburn. The rest of the Crimea was ceded—not, indeed, to the Turks, but to its own khan, who, though declared independent, must of necessity be the creature of the empress, [Catherine] in whose hands those fortresses remained. They were the keys to his dominion, and even to the command of the Black Sea. A sum of money sufficient to defray the expenses of the war was also stipulated; but it was never paid. The advantages which Russia derived from the other articles were ample enough; among them, not the least was the commerce of the Levant and of the Black Sea.”—Id. Vol. XVII., PP. 380-383. Thus though the empress Catherine’s design “to drive the Mohammedans from Europe” was a failure, there was begun the dissolution of the Turkish empire which from that time has gone steadily forward little by little unto to-day very little of it remains in Europe.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 2.6

    In 1787 the empress Catherine of Russia in alliance with the emperor Joseph II. of Austria, planned the “partition of the Turkish empire,” with the absorption of Poland by Russia and the grand duke Constantine, second grand-son of Catherine, to be established in Constantinople as “Emperor of Byzantium.” “Joseph II. was invited to meet the Empress in Kherson in order to consult with her upon a partition of the Turkish empire;” into which city “Catherine made a magnificent entry... passing under a triumphal arch on which was inscribed in the Greek tongue, ‘The way to Byzantium.’”MEDM July 3, 1906, page 2.7

    “After the meeting at Kherson, the two imperial allies prepared to direct their forces against the whole extent of the Turkish frontier, from the Adriatic to the Black Sea.” Turkey was systematically provoked into a declaration of war, in order to give to Catherine an excuse for open hostilities. The war was desperately fought on both sides. The allies steadily gained, however, and “became masters of the whole line of fortresses which covered the Turkish frontier: the three grand armies, originally separated by a vast extent of country, were rapidly converging to the same point, and threatened by their united force, to overbear all opposition, and in another campaign to complete the subversion of the Ottoman empire in Europe.”MEDM July 3, 1906, page 2.8

    But just at this point Britain, Prussia, and others incited Poland to revolt; encouraged discontent in Hungary; materially aided the king of Sweden in his war against Russia; fomented troubles in the Netherlands; Prussia even “opened a negotiation with the Porte for the conclusion of an offensive alliance, intended not only to effect the restoration of the dominions conquered during the existing war, but even of the Crimea, and the territories dismembered by the two imperial courts of Poland;” and “laid the foundation of a general alliance for reducing the overgrown power of Austria and Russia.”—Id. pp. 398-409.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 2.9

    France which was the only power that might have helped the allies “was in the throes of her great revolution, and Joseph was left without a resource.” Just then, also, February, 1700, the emperor Joseph died; and his successor concluded with Turkey a separate treaty which also separated Austria from the alliance with Russia. Russia continued the war on her own part till 1792, when finding it impossible to succeed against Turkey and at the same time hold her own in Poland “resolved for this time to give up her conquests in Turkey in order to indemnify herself in Poland.” Russia therefore, accepted “the intervention of the friendship Danes” and the peace and treaty of Jassy between Russia and Turkey was concluded January 19, 1792.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 2.10

    When in his own behalf, Napoleon I. was playing all the powers of Europe, under pretense of friendliness to Turkey he secured war between Turkey and Russia; and in negotiations with Russia he caused everything in reference to Turkey to bear upon “a scheme of partition” of that empire. A truce was arranged August 24, 1807, which held till 1811 when Napoleon’s war with Russia compelled that power again to conclude a peace with Turkey and to “abandon the long coveted prey, when it was already in its grasp.”—Id. pp. 466-468.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 2.11

    In 1828 Russia again brought on a war which was openly declared June 3. In June, 1829, one Russian army had gained Adrianople once more; another had taken Erzurum in Asia; “and the two generals would doubtless have joined hands in Constantinople, but for the efforts of diplomacy and the fear of a general conflagration.... Austria was ready to send her troops to the help of the Turks and the English also seemed likely to declare for the vanquished. It was therefore necessary to come to a halt. Russia reflected that, after all, ‘the sultan was the least costly governor-general she could have at Constantinople,’ and lent an ear to moderate conditions of peace.”—Id. pp. 544, 545.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 3.1

    In 1831 Mehemet Ali, Turkish Pasha of Egypt, had attained such power that he decided to strike for independence. In October of that year he sent an army of fifty thousand men for the invasion of Syria. This army made an easy conquest as far as to Acre, but that stronghold had to be besieged. It was taken however, May 27, 1832. A Turkish army that had been sent for the relief of Acre was defeated, as were all other forces that were met by the Egyptians; and by a decisive victory December 21, 1832, “The victor was free to march upon Constantinople; nothing could impede his progress.”MEDM July 3, 1906, page 3.2

    The advancing army reached Brusa, “and was menacing Scutari,” the city only across the strait from Constantinople. The western Powers had witnessed all of this without offering to the Sultan any aid whatever. Indeed their sympathies, if not their encouragement, were with the rebellious and invading forces. Here was a grand opportunity for Russia; and she seized it. She offered aid. The Sultan “Mahmud, being frightened, accepted the offers of aid made him in the name of the Czar by General Muraviev.” France advised further parley with Mehemet Ali, but he now asked so much that the Sultan could not consent. The invaders “marched upon Scutari. Mahmud then summoned the Russians, who landed fifteen thousand men in the city, and prepared to defend it.” Thus at last with fifteen thousand armed men in the city, Russia had practical possession of Constantinople.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 3.3

    But, “The French and English ambassadors, frightened at this intervention, pointed out to the Sultan the danger of letting Russia gain a footing in the heart of the empire; it would be better, said they, to capitulate to his rebellious subjects. The Sultan allowed himself to be persuaded, and on May 5, 1833, the viceroy consented to evacuate Asia-Minor in return for the Pashalik of Acre, Aleppo, Tripoli and Damascus, with their dependencies.”MEDM July 3, 1906, page 3.4

    But again the pendulum swung toward Russia: “Mahmud, blinded by resentment, and misled by the promises of St. Petersburg, signed with Nicolas a treaty of offensive and defensive alliance ... Turkey put herself at the mercy of the autocrat of all the Russians.”MEDM July 3, 1906, page 3.5

    This, however, was too much for the other Powers to bear. Russia must not be allowed to hold this mighty advantage, which in a crisis could so easily be turned into absolute and irresistible possession. The arrangement of May 5, 1833, between the Sultan and Mehemet Ali, was merely an arrangement, and not a conclusive peace; and the quarrel went on, with the Powers shifting their sympathies or their favor, advising settlement or urging war, as advantage seemed to invite.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 3.6

    This continued for six years, when, June 30, 1839, died the Sultan Mahmud, and the Sultanate fell to his son who was but sixteen years old. The tide still ran full in favor of the rebellious Pasha. The Turkish fleet sent from the capital to attack the Egyptian fleet, went over bodily to Mehemet Ali. “Fortune seemed to be emptying its horn upon the Egyptian.”MEDM July 3, 1906, page 3.7

    The case was desperate for Turkey, and, in that, for all the Powers—except Russia. For her, as well as for the Egyptians, it was Fortune’s own bounty. But the other Powers must act, or Constantinople and the Turkish empire would be gone forever, and Russia alone would be the fortunate possessor. This was certain: and as certainly a general confused war, if the Powers were to hold up their heads at all. Therefore, the four Powers—Britain, France, Austria and Prussia—suddenly, and for the occasion, sunk all differences, and made the original, bold, and high and mighty stroke, of assuming absolutely all the responsibilities of Turkey and the whole case. “In order to prevent Turkey from again throwing herself into the arms of Russia, the four great Powers, in a collective note of July 27, 1839, declared that they would take the settlement of the Eastern Question into their own hands.”MEDM July 3, 1906, page 3.8

    This bold lead checkmated Russia by the single move itself. She could not suddenly, without any preparation whatever, war against all Europe; nor could she afford to be completely left out and have the other Powers go on and settle all the matters involved, without any recognition or consideration of her in any way whatever. She was therefore forced to abandon every advantage that she possessed, either by position or by the late treaty, and, with the bare saving of her face, enter the “concert” upon original conditions with the other Powers. Accordingly, “Russia, in order not to be entirely left out, had to give her assent, and to support the convention as fifth Power.”—Id:, pp. 451-453.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 3.9

    Such was the origin, and thus arose, The Eastern Question.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 3.10

    Primarily therefore, the Eastern Question is, The Responsibility of the Four Great Powers of Western Europe for Turkey. And this responsibility was assumed from the necessity of keeping Russia from permanently possessing Constantinople.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 3.11

    How the Eastern Question has become the whole world’s question, will be told next week.MEDM July 3, 1906, page 3.12

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