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H P Blavatsky


 The Russo – Turkish War 1876-78


Theosophy in the Context of History


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H P Blavatsky was very familiar with the Balkans as she had toured the region in 1866-67. During the time she was there, Serbia gained its independence from Ottoman rule. HPB had met Prince Michael of Serbia on a previous visit and was a good friend of his aunt Princess Catherine. Her interest in Serbian and general Balkan nationalist aspirations and the struggle against Austrian and Ottoman rule is clear in the extract below from her article “Can the Double Murder ?” which begins with the murder of both Prince Michael and Princess Catherine.


After leaving the Balkans, HPB joined Garibaldi’s army in Italy and was wounded at the battle of Mentana in an abortive attempt to liberate the Papal States from French control.


To the Editor of The Sun.

Sir, -- One morning in 1867 Eastern Europe was startled by news of the most

horrifying description. Michael Obrenovitch, reigning Prince of Serbia, his

aunt, the Princess Catherine or Katinka, and her daughter had been murdered in broad daylight, near Belgrade, in their own garden, assassin or assassins remaining unknown. The Prince had received several bullet-shots, and stabs, and his body was actually butchered; the Princess was killed on the spot, her head smashed, and her young daughter, though still alive, was not expected to survive. The circumstances are too recent to have been forgotten, but in that part of the world, at the time, the case created a delirium of excitement.


In the Austrian dominions and in those under the doubtful protectorate of

Turkey, from Bucharest down to Trieste, no high family felt secure. In those

half Oriental countries every Montecchi has its Capuletti, and it was rumoured that the bloody deed was perpetrated by the Prince Kara-Gueorguevitch, or "Tzerno-Gueorgey," as he is usually called in those parts. Several persons innocent of the act were, as is usual in such cases imprisoned, and the real murderers escaped justice. A young relative of the victim, greatly beloved by his people, a mere child, taken for the purpose from a school in Paris, was brought over in ceremony to Belgrade and proclaimed Hospodar of Serbia. In the turmoil of political excitement the tragedy of Belgrade was forgotten by all but an old Serbian matron who had been attached to the Obrenovitch family, and who, like Rachel, would not be comforted for the death of her children. After the proclamation of the young Obrenovitch, nephew of the murdered man, she had sold out her property and disappeared; but not before taking a solemn vow on the tombs of the victims to avenge their deaths.


Prince Michael and Princess Catherine were murdered on June 10th 1867, about 3 months after HPB left the region and she goes on to tell how the murder is avenged.

“Can the Double Murder ?” is one of selection of short stories

Nightmare Tales (Short stories)


Supported by Russian foreign policy, Serbia and the Balkan states still under Ottoman rule organized themselves to throw off Turkish oppression and in 1876 this erupted into a pan-Balkan war that brought in Russia.


HPB support Russian foreign policy and gave the proceeds of payments for articles published in Russian newspapers and magazine to the Red Cross in Russia.


The last Russo-Turkish War (1876-78) was also the most important one. In 1876 Russia and its ally Serbia came to the aid of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bulgaria in their rebellions against Turkish rule. The Russians attacked through Bulgaria, and after successfully concluding the Siege of Pleven they advanced into Thrace, taking Adrianople (now Edirne, Tur.) in January 1878. In March of that year Russia concluded the Treaty of San Stefano with Turkey. This treaty freed Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro from Turkish rule, gave autonomy to

Bosnia and Herzegovina, and created a huge autonomous Bulgaria under Russian protection. Britain and Austria-Hungary, alarmed by the Russian gains contained in the treaty, compelled Russia to accept the Treaty of Berlin (July 1878), whereby Russia's military-political gains from the war were severely



Treaty of San Stefano (March 3 [Feb. 19, Old Style], 1878), peace settlement imposed on the Ottoman government by Russia at the conclusion of the Russo-Turkish War of 1876-78; it provided for a new disposition of the European provinces of the Ottoman Empire that would have ended any effective Turkish

control over the Balkans if its provisions had not later been modified. Its most important provision established an independent Bulgarian principality, which included most of Macedonia and extended to the Danube and from the Aegean to the Black Sea. The independence of Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania was recognized.


The boundaries of Serbia and Montenegro were extended so as to be contiguous, while Romania was compelled to cede southern Bessarabia to Russia, receiving the Dobrudja from Turkey in exchange. Bosnia-Hercegovina was to be autonomous. Parts of Asiatic Turkey were ceded to Russia, and the Ottoman sultan gave guarantees for the security of his Christian subjects.


The treaty was opposed by Austria-Hungary, which disliked encouragement of Slav nationalism, and by the British, who feared the new Bulgarian state would become a Russian satellite and a threat to Istanbul. The treaty was modified by

the terms of the Treaty of Berlin signed four months later on July 13.


Congress of Berlin (June 13-July 13, 1878), diplomatic meeting of the major European powers at which the Treaty of Berlin replaced the Treaty of San Stefano, which had been signed by Russia and Turkey (March 3, 1878) at the conclusion of the Russo-Turkish War of 1876-78. Officially convoked by the

Austrian foreign minister, Count Gyula Andrassy, the congress met in Berlin on June 13. Dominated by the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the congress solved an international crisis caused by the San Stefano treaty by revising the peace settlement to satisfy the interests of Great Britain (by denying Russia the means to extend its naval power and by maintaining the Ottoman Empire as a European power) and to satisfy the interests of Austria-Hungary (by allowing it to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina and thereby increase its influence in the

Balkans). In acting so, however, the congress left Russia humiliated by substantially reducing the gains that it had made under the San Stefano treaty. Furthermore, the congress failed to consider adequately the aspirations of the Balkan peoples themselves and, thereby, laid the foundation for future crises in the Balkans.



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206 Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 – 1DL.