History Optional Paper- 2 Solution – 1989: Q.5 (c)
Q.5 (c) “The Eastern Question has always been an international question.” Comment.
Eastern Question was diplomatic problem posed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, arised as a result of the rise of a national feeling of nationality among the Balkan peoples, decliningTurkish (Ottoman) Empire and the divergent interests of Great Powers.
The central problem of the Eastern Question was: What was to take the place of Turkish Empire in the event of her disintegration?
The Eastern Question has always been an international question because the involvement of the interests of many international actors. Any internal change in the Turkish domains caused tension among the European powers, each of which feared that one of the others might take advantage of the political disarray to increase its own influence. This question arose periodically – e.g., during the Greek revolution of the 1820s, in the Crimean conflict (1853–56), the Balkan crisis of 1875–78, the Bosnian crisis of 1908, and the Balkan Wars of 1912–13.
The interest of the major powers in the Eastern Question:
(1) Russian’s interest in the Balkans
The ambitions of Russia at the expense of Turkey were a constant factor in the Eastern Question. Russia was bound to the peoples of Balkans by the ties of religion and race. Russia claimed the rights of protecting them from Turkish misrule. Russia also wanted to secure access to the Mediterrainian by seizing Constantinople from Turkey.
Hence Russian policy was to dismember Turkey or atleast dominate her by unequal treaties.
(2) England’s interest
Suspicion about the Russian designs upon Turkey was the key-note of the British policy. They feared that the Russian control over Constantinople would greatly weaken British hold upon India. They watched every Russian movement witg suspicion.
Thus over the Eastern Question there developed chronic antagonism between Britain and Russia. British policy was to check Russian advance by preserving the integrity of the Turkish Empire.
(3) Austrian interest
Austria was Russia’s rival in the Balkans because:
(a) Being a land locked country with only a short coast line at the head of Adriatic, she badly needed outlet to the sea. It was important strategically as well as economically (for sea borne trade). She needed expansion towards port in the Balkans by stopping Russian influence.
(b) The great volume of her trade passed along the Dunabe valley, and so it was her interest to prevent Russian supremacy at the mouth of Dunabe which would have happened if Russia expanded towards Constantinople.
(c) She feared the growth of the pan-Slavic movement in the Balkans, which was encouraged by Russia, as it would sap the loyality of her Slav subjects and could theaten Austrian Empire. Hence she tried to cripple and confine the leading Slav state in the Balkan i.e. Serbia.
(4) French interest
She had commercial and religious interest in the East.She had befriended Turkey and obtained special trading privileges. She was also traditional protector of the Roman Catholic Christians in the East under Turkish Empire.
(5) German interest
The affair of the East did not appeal to her till the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Bismarck had kept himself aloof of the Eastern Question. But in 1878, at the Congress of Berlin to solve the Eastern Question, he posed as an “honest broker” and administered a check on Russia in order to befriend Austria. Germany befriended with Turkey, trained her army and secured permission to build the Baghdad-Berlin Railways.