TURCO-RUSSIAN WAR—TREATY OF BERLIN
Liberalism had received a check. In this outburst of severity, used to repress the free instincts of a once great nation, the temper of the Russian people had undergone a change. The warmth and ardor were chilled. The Emperor’s grasp tightened. Some even thought that Finland ought to be Russianized precisely as Poland had been; but convinced of its loyalty, the Grand Principality was spared, and the privileges so graciously bestowed by Alexander the First were confirmed.
While the political reforms had been checked by the Polish insurrection, there was an enormous advance in everything making for material prosperity. Railways and telegraph-wires, and an improved postal service, connected all the great cities in the empire, so that there was rapid and regular communication with each other and all the world. Factories were springing up, mines were working, and trade and production and arts and literature were all throbbing with a new life.
In 1871, at the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War, the Emperor Alexander saw his uncle William the First crowned Emperor of a United Germany at Paris. The approval and the friendship of Russia at this crisis were essential to the new German Empire as well as to France. Gortchakof, the Russian Chancellor, saw his opportunity. He intimated to the Powers the intention of Russia to resume its privileges in the Black Sea, and after a brief diplomatic correspondence the Powers formally abrogated the neutralization of those waters; and Russia commenced to rebuild her ruined forts and to re-establish her naval power in the South.
There had commenced to exist those close ties between the Russian and other reigning families which have made European diplomacy seem almost like a family affair—although in reality exercising very little influence upon it. Alexander himself was the son of one of these alliances, and had married a German Princess of the house of Hesse. In 1866 his son Alexander married Princess Dagmar, daughter of Christian IX., King of Denmark, and in 1874 he gave his daughter Marie in marriage to Queen Victoria’s second son Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh. It was in the following year (1875) that Lord Beaconsfield took advantage of a financial crisis in Turkey, and a financial stringency in Egypt, to purchase of the Khedive his half-interest in the Suez Canal for the sum of $20,000,000, which gave to England the ownership of nearly nine-tenths of that important link in the waterway leading direct to her empire in India.