But to Beaconsfield and Bismarck and Andrassy, and the other plenipotentiaries who hastened to Berlin in June for conference, it was a very indiscreet proceeding, and must all be done over. Gortchakof was compelled to relinquish the advantages gained by Russia. Bulgaria was cut into three pieces, one of which was handed to the Sultan, another made tributary to him, the third to be autonomous under certain restrictions. Montenegro and Servia were recognized as independent, Bosnia and Herzegovina were given to Austria; Bessarabia, lost by the results of the Crimean War, was now returned to Russia, together with territory about and adjacent to Kars. Most important of all—the Turkish Empire was revitalized and restored to a position of stability and independence by the friendly Powers!
So by the Treaty of Berlin England had acquired the island of Cyprus, and had compelled Russia, after immense sacrifice of blood and treasure, to relinquish her own gains and to subscribe to the line of policy which she desired. A costly and victorious war had been nullified by a single diplomatic battle at Berlin.
The pride of Russia was deeply wounded. It was openly said that the Congress was an outrage upon Russian sensibilities—that “Russian diplomacy was more destructive than Nihilism.”
Emperor Alexander had reached the meridian of his popularity in those days of promised reforms, before the Polish insurrection came to chill the currents of his soul. For a long time the people would not believe he really intended to disappoint their hope; but when one reform after another was recalled, when one severe measure after another was enacted, and when he surrounded himself with conservative advisers and influences, it was at last recognized that the single beneficent act history would have to record in this reign would be that one act of 1861. And now his prestige was dimmed and his popularity still more diminished by such a signal diplomatic defeat at Berlin.
ALEXANDER II. ASSASSINATED—NIHILISM
The emancipation had been a disappointment to its promoters and to the serfs themselves. It was an appalling fact that year after year the death-rate had alarmingly increased, and its cause was—starvation. In lands the richest in the world, tilled by a people with a passion for agriculture, there was not enough bread! The reasons for this are too complex to be stated here, but a few may have brief mention. The allotment of land bestowed upon each liberated serf was too small to enable him to live and to pay his taxes, unless the harvests were always good and he was always employed. He need not live, but his taxes must be paid. It required three days’ work out of each week to do that; and if he had not the money when the dreaded day arrived, the tax-collector might sell his corn, his cattle, his farming implements,