History of the Eastern Question


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. History of the Eastern Question is Number 15 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. As discussed in this work, “the Eastern question” concerns three major developments: the decadence of the Turkish Empire since the 18th century; the resulting encroachments by Russia and Austria on Turkish lands in Europe and the reactions they called forth by other European powers; and the rise of nationalism in the Turkish-ruled lands “and a desire, as opportunity offered, to throw off the Turkish yoke and to attain independence.” The book is in four parts. The first is a general history that briefly summarizes the foundation of the Balkan nationalities in ancient and Byzantine times and discusses the Turks in Europe, the advance of Russia, the rise of independent states, Bulgaria and Macedonia, and the Turkish revolution of 1908 and the events that followed from it. The second part is a set of general observations about popular opinion and national sentiment in Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania, and Turkey, followed by a discussion of future possibilities for pacification and reconciliation in the Balkans. The third part of the study is a detailed analysis of the historical and legal aspects of the Straits question, meaning the legal regime governing the rights of Turkey, other Black Sea littoral states, and non-Black Sea states to transit either merchant vessels or warships through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles connecting the Black Sea with the Mediterranean. The last section covers the Danube question, or the legal regimes governing navigation and international commerce on the Danube River as it makes its way from the territory of Austria-Hungary through a number of states to the Black Sea. The appendix contains the texts of passages relevant to the Eastern question in the most important treaties concluded between 1774 and 1913. A foldout table, intended as an explanation to the historical map, summarizes the treaties of 1812‒1918 affecting international boundaries in the Balkans.

Last updated: September 11, 2017