The Balkans, 1878–1885
The outbreak of an anti-Ottoman revolt in Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1875 provided Serbia with an opportunity to shed Ottoman suzerainty entirely and commence territorial expansion. It also provoked terse European Great Power rivalries, known as the “Eastern Question.” In 1876 Serbia, in conjunction with Serb-inhabited Montenegro, declared war on the Turks in aid of the rebels and in hopes of acquiring the two rebellious provinces. Russia supported the Serbs’ action, prompting England to intensify its efforts to preserve intact what remained of the Ottoman Empire in Europe — to foil any increased Russian presence in the strategically crucial Balkans that might be gained by a Serbian victory. The Habsburgs sought to validate their Great Power status by dominating the Serbs and by expanding their empire into Bosnia-Hercegovina. They too could not afford to permit the Russians a strong foothold in the Balkans.