The Serbs and Russian Pan-Slavism, 1875-1878

The Serbs and Russian Pan-Slavism, 1875-1878

The Serbs and Russian Pan-Slavism, 1875-1878

The Serbs and Russian Pan-Slavism, 1875-1878

Excerpt

Serbia and Montenegro in the nineteenth century, like Yugoslavia since 1948, exerted influence in European power politics incommensurate with their size. They lay between Russia, to which they were attracted by linguistic, ethnic, and religious ties, and western Europe, which exerted increasingly powerful cultural and economic pressure upon them. In an age of rising nationalism, the Serbian people, divided between the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, dreamed of independence and unity. In the 1870's Serbian and Montenegrin statesmen sought to follow the path which had led the Italians to liberation and unity in the 1860's. Because of its strength, historical traditions, and relative size, Serbia, although still a vassal of Turkey, hoped to lead the Serbian people to create a greater Serbia or Yugoslavia, just as Piedmont had led the Italians; and Serbian nationalists in other lands recognized this leadership.

When revolts against Turkish rule broke out in Bosnia and Hercegovina in 1875, these nationalists looked to Russia to deliver them from foreign oppression. In Russia, sympathy for the Serbian Christians existed in Court circles, among nationalist diplomats, and in the lower classes, and was actively expressed through the Slav committees. These sympathies, however, did not necessarily induce Russians to favor creation of a large, independent Serbian state. Furthermore, the Russian government's desire for peace to consummate domestic reforms, and for harmonious relations with Austria-Hungary, suggested maintenance of the status quo in the Balkans. Russian policy under Alexander II and A. M. Gorchakov therefore fluctuated indecisively, and rivalry among the Serbian states as well as the fortunes of war added greatly to the difficulties faced by Serbian statesmen. Cleverly assessed and ma-

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