The New International Encyclopædia/Eastern Question

EASTERN QUESTION. The complicated problem of international politics growing out of the relations of Turkey and the Balkan nationalities to the great Powers of Europe and to each other. The problem has occupied the attention of Europe, in more or less degree, since the second half of the eighteenth century, when the rapid curtailment of the Ottoman power through the Russian advance southward seemed to threaten the establishment of Russian supremacy in the southeast of Europe at the expense of Austria. In the beginning the decline of Turkey chiefly concerned only these two powers. Subsequently, however, the interests of Great Britain became more closely bound up with the fortunes of the Turkish Empire as the importance of the British possessions in India increased, and with it the necessity of preserving a safe and short line of communication between England and the Far Orient. France, too, was involved in the web of diplomacy, first and naturally, as one of the great powers, secondly because of its ancient connection with the Porte, and, thirdly, because of the developments resulting from the ambitious schemes of Mehemet Ali of Egypt. Germany, until the very last years of the nineteenth century, disclaimed all interest in the Eastern Question, but at that time German capital had not yet entered extensively into railroad and other business enterprises in Syria, which at present have resulted in establishing close relations with the Ottoman Government. The Eastern Question entered upon its modern phase in the Crimean War (q.v.), and assumed definite form at the Congress of Paris in 1856, whose work was slightly modified by the London Protocol of 1871. The opening of a new highway to the East by the Suez Canal and the English occupation of Egypt have helped to complicate the Eastern Question. A new phase of it developed when Russia decided to break the old arrangements and began a war with Turkey in 1877. The new status created by this war, the full results of which Russia was not allowed to reap, was embodied in the treaty arrangements of the Congress of Berlin. This arrangement still holds so far as the signatory powers are concerned, but considerable changes have taken place through the annexation of Eastern Rumelia to Bulgaria in 1885, the shifting of the boundary line between Greece and Turkey as a result of the war of 1897, and the establishment of autonomy in Crete.

Though affairs in Eastern Asia have tended to divert attention from the Eastern Question proper, the problem is still a vital one and fraught with great importance to the future development of international relations. Russia has her eye still fastened upon Constantinople; Great Britain must still defend her position in Egypt; above all, Austria-Hungary must, in very self-preservation, seek to retain her influence among the Slav peoples of the Balkans. The balance of adjustment in that peninsula at present is delicate, with Austrian influence predominant in Servia, with Russian influence powerful in Bulgaria, and Greece still anxious to restore, in some measure at least, the ancient Byzantine or Greek Empire. Consult: Holland, Studies in International Law (Oxford, 1898); id., The European Concert and the Eastern Question (Oxford, 1885); de Monicault, La question d'orient (Paris, 1898). See Bulgaria; Greece; Montenegro; Rumania; Russia; Russo-Turkish War; Servia; Turkey; Berlin, Congress of.