Russia’s attitude to the fate of Slavic peoples during the Balkan crisis of 1875–1878
The fourth and last Russo-Turkish War in the 19th century was closely linked to yet another attempt on the part of Russia to resolve the so-called Eastern Question to its advantage. The war also became a key historical moment for the Balkan nations in the pursuit of their national aspirations. An outline of this complex political problem is presented on the basis of selected Russian memoirs: of Prince Vladimir Meshchersky, Prince Dimitri Obolensky, Baron Nikolai Wrangel and a young officer, Alexei Brusilov. What constitutes an interesting supplement to the impressions and opinions of Russian aristocrats (both princes) is memoirs by Józef Zaczyński, a man of Polish origin but until the war in Turkish service as a physician and pharmacist. Meshchersky and Obolensky expressed the views of Russian Slavophiles, with Baron Wrangel being more critical of the tsarist policy. Acompletely different attitude to the war is presented by the Polish physician Zaczyński in his memoirs. Meshchersky and Obolensky were deeply convinced of the rightness of the Russian mission in the Balkans. They believed this was a fight against Turkish oppression of Orthodox Slavic peoples. The course of the war clearly affected their emotions, ranging from euphoria to breakdown and despair. They were also disappointed by the Serbs’ attitude to the war and Russia’s policy. Zaczyński, as befitted adoctor, was not emotionally involved on any side, nor did he manifest any prejudice against anyone. He provided professional medical assistance to everyone who was in need. The Russian activists were disappointed by the fact that the army did not seize Constantinople; nor was the Treaty of San Stefano a dream come true for them and they were rightly concerned that diplomatic intrigues might mean that the hard-won victory would be squandered.
Translated by Anna Kijak