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Episode 30 - Killing the Sick Man of Europe:

The New Balkans (Congress of Berlin Part 1)

Uploaded: 25 June 2019

In this episode, your daring hosts examine the tangled story of the Congress of Berlin. 

In 1877, having spent the entire preceding century at each other’s throats, arch-rivals Russia and the Ottoman Empire went to war again.

Russia considered itself the leader of the Slavs and the prosecutor of the Eastern invaders, looking to free the Holy Lands from Ottoman control. 

The Ottomans were an ailing, fragile superstate, inheritors of the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem and now stretched thinly over South-Eastern Europe. Cracks had already begun to appear - in Greece, in Serbia and in several other places.

In a very Russian fashion that some might recognise from other historical episodes, Russian-sponsored troops from Serbia and Bulgaria were encouraged to rise up and after much struggling, managed to defeat the Ottoman army in battle.

This led to an overly ambitious Russian attempt to redraw the Balkans as it would like to see it, a dangerous move that provoked the ire of the watchful Great Powers. 

In this episode, we set the scene as the South-Eastern rivals are hauled in front of a jury of their peers and betters and Russia is hauled across the coals for its troubles. In this episode:

  • Why even the most powerful of the Great Powers were secretly desperate to avoid a war

  • The mystery of “Greater Bulgaria” and why it terrified the Austrians

  • How an exhausted Russia could still threaten the interests of five industrialised nations simultaneously 

  • Why after 500 years, Christendom had “won back” Jerusalem… but didn’t want it

  • How - in seeking peace - the Great Powers inadvertently sowed the seeds of the First World War

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(South) Eastern Europe 1878

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