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    July 17, 1906

    “The Eastern Question. Why Does Russia Want Constantinople?” The Medical Missionary, 15, 3, pp. 17-19.



    LET any person look at a map of the Russian possessions in Europe and Asia, and note where lie all her ports. It will readily be seen that with the exception of the ports in the Black Sea, they all lie in the very coldest regions; and these with the exception of St. Petersburg, Riga, and Vladivostok lie even in the arctic regions. And even St. Petersburg, Riga and the Baltic Sea itself, are ice-bound for nearly half the year. It is so also with Vladivostok.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 17.1

    At a glance, therefore, it is seen that for nearly or quite half the year, Russia’s navies are ice-bound and absolutely shut away from the world’s waters. And plainly this prohibits Russia from having any effective power on the sea; and excludes all prospect of her making successful war. And so long as this condition shall continue,—it matters not how strong she may be in herself, in navies and material,—as for real effectiveness she will rate only as a second-class power or less.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 17.2

    The Black Sea is the only water that Russia has that is open the year round. There she can build and float her navies always in free, warm water. But lo! the only door from the Black Sea to the world’s waters—the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles—is in the power of the Turk, and in addition by terms of specific treaties of the concerted powers is absolutely closed to war-vessels. Thus in effect the Black Sea, though warm water the year round, is rendered as valueless as though it were ice-bound the year round.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 17.3

    Is it, then, any wonder that Russia should have so long “regarded the destruction of the Ottoman Empire” and the possession of Constantinople, and thus the control of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, “as the great object of her existence?” It was to make the conquest of Turkey, that Peter the Great spent time in Holland and England to learn ship-building. He wrote: “We labor in order thoroughly to master the art of the Sea; so that, having once learned it, we may return to Russia and conquer the enemies of Christ, and free by His grace the Christians who are oppressed. This is what I shall long for, to my latest breath.”—Rambaud’s History of Russia, Chapter XXII., Sec. 2.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 17.4

    But in spite of all, there still hangs tenaciously the hated Turk, in full possession of the key to Russia’s only door. More aggravating still, the European “concert” persists in maintaining the Turk in that aggravating position. And yet aggravating above all, Russia herself is obliged to play a part in this harassing “concert.”MEDM July 17, 1906, page 18.1

    From the tantalizing tedium of this situation Russia sought relief in the far East, on the coast and waters of China. Little by little she pushed herself into Manchuria, and through Manchuria to the possession of the Laio-tung peninsula with its splendid harbors of Port Arthur and Dalny. There, all the year round she had open ports to the world’s waters. Now she would come into her own. Now she would be a world power indeed: on the sea as on land. There, accordingly, she proceeded immediately to establish docks, arsenals, and one of the mightiest strongholds in the world.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 18.2

    But in the Far East there were watching eyes, as well as in Europe. And even these eyes Russia herself had opened. In 1895 there was war between Japan and China. When peace was made the Laio-tung peninsula, with other territory was ceded to Japan. But Russia, France, and Germany united in protest against the cession of the Laio-tung peninsula. And the threatening protest of those three powers was supported by Britain to the extent of “advising” Japan to yield to the protest. To avoid a new war Japan yielded: and the territory in question fell immediately under Russia’s “influence;” and this “influence” very shortly became established possession under cover of a twenty-five year lease.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 18.3

    This opened wide the eyes of Japan to the fact that Russian power in the Far East meant only mischief to Japan. And when Russia not only spread her power over all Manchuria and built her mighty fortress and naval bases at Port Arthur and Dalny, but began openly to encroach upon Korea, and actually though “by secret diplomacy” sought “to obtain the important port of Masampo in southern Korea” at the very doors of Japan itself, then Japan plainly saw that soon she must fight for her very existence. The only question was whether she should wait longer and fight at home, at every disadvantage and with prospect of only defeat; or take the initiative at once and fight in foreign territory with prospect of success.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 18.4

    Japan did the wise and timely thing and grandly won. She took Port Arthur, Dalny, and the whole peninsula; destroyed Russia’s power in Manchuria; made sure of Korea; and by an offensive and defensive alliance with Britain, shut away Russia forever from any warm water port, and from all hope of any effective power, in the Eastern seas; and threw her back to the former conditions in which the taking of Constantinople is her only hope.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 18.5

    Russia instantly realized this. Indeed it was impossible for her not to realize it. And with her the whole world realizes it: and to the degree that no other calculation is now made; and to the certainty that admissions, and even preparations, are being made accordingly.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 18.6

    And the conditions for it are practically ready. At every step that Russia has taken in this course from the time of Catharine II. she has in some way met Britain. In every attempt that she has made on Constantinople she has found herself checked in such a way that she could plainly see the hand of Britain as predominant in it. So repeatedly and so long has this been evident, that now the whole world recognizes that the issues of the Eastern Question lie preeminently between Russia and Britain; and that the Eastern Question itself is now more than anything else a diplomatic and strategic contest between Britain and Russia.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 18.7

    In this contest it must be confessed that though Russia has sometimes made what seemed to be a master stroke, yet in the long run the permanent advantage has been with Britain. Of this the map of Europe and Asia as it stands to-day, politically, is a most remarkable and eloquent witness. In the preceding article on this subject, it was told how that, beginning at Constantinople, the “spheres of influence” of the powers has been extended clear across Asia to the Pacific Ocean. Britain and Russia have been the chief ones in this. And it is their mutual rivalry and jealousy that has been the cause of it.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 18.8

    It was there shown that Russia’s possessions and spheres of influence comprehend the northern and north-eastern parts of Asia Minor; Persia; northern Afghanistan; Siberia and North China, except Manchuria, to the Pacific; while Britain’s spheres of influence comprehend Cyprus and the southern coast of Asia Minor, Egypt, Arabia, India, Thibet, the heart of China, and, through her alliance with Japan, all from China to the point of Kamchatka. It will be seen by this that in no place does Russia reach any available water, while Britain does so everywhere.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 18.9

    And details only make this the more emphatic. Beginning at the point of Kamchatka, Britain’s offensive and defensive alliance with Japan gives to her against Russia all the waters of the far East. By definite understanding with Russia, the whole valley of the Yang-tse-kiang, which in every sense is the heart of China, is Britain’s sphere of influence. By Colonel Younghusband’s expedition into Thibet and the treaty made at the capital there, British influence must ever be predominant there. All India is British possession. Islands inside the Persian Gulf, by which she can control the Straits of Ormuz, are British possessions. Aden on the north and Somaliland on the south, of the mouth of the Straits of Bab-el-mandeb are both British. All Egypt with the Suez Canal and the mouths of the Nile, is British. Cyprus at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, is British. Gibraltar at the entrance of the Mediterranean is British.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 18.10

    Nor does the story stop at Gibraltar: the English Channel is British. And yet more, and, if anything, more remarkable still as against Russia the Skager Rack, if not also the Kattegat, is safely British. For in the winter and spring of 1906 Norway became independent. The great question then was whether she should be a republic or a kingdom. It was finally decided that the form of government should be a kingdom. And the man who was chosen as king, is the nephew and son-in-law of the king and queen of England. Under all the circumstances of that affair of Norway, can anybody doubt that this selection of the nephew and son-in-law of Britain’s sovereigns was brought about by British diplomacy?MEDM July 17, 1906, page 18.11

    To any who might be inclined to doubt it, it might be well to say that Sweden was on the brink of war with Norway to bring her under. Norway was thoroughly prepared and ready to resist. The night of the last day for the Swedish decision, Norwegian troops were all waiting, with horses harnessed and saddled-ready to spring to action on the instant of telegraphic notice. But that night, in the last minutes as it were, the British minister to Sweden went to Kim Oscar and made such representations as secured the recognition of Norwegian independence, and therefore peace. This and kindred facts put it fairly past all question that British diplomacy put Britain’s nephew and son-in-law on the throne of Norway.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 18.12

    And it is easy to see that this may well be only a part of Britain’s long contest with Russia. For the king of Norway who is nephew and son-in-law of the sovereigns of Britain, is the son of the king of Denmark. And the king of Denmark is brother to Britain’s queen. Nor with this strong British connection in ... Denmark and Norway, it might well easily come about that in a general war in which Britain and Russia were the chief antagonists, Norway and Denmark would stand with Britain. And by this Britain could absolutely close the Kattegat against Russia. And if this be so then Britain would have the key to every door of Europe and Asia, and could shut every one tight against Russia. And if Britain can make sure of the friendship of France, for which she is working hard and which she has been fast gaining, then she can shut tight and hold all these doors against all the rest of the world.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 18.13

    Let any one take a map of Europe and Asia, and, beginning with Norway and Denmark, draw a chain along Britain’s points of vantage—the English channel, Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, the Mouths of the Nile, the Suez Canal, the Straits of Bab-el-mandeb, within the Straits of Omuz, all India, Thibet, the heart of China to Shang-hai, Wei-hai-wei, on the point opposite Port Arthur, Hong-kong, then, by her alliance with Japan, Formosa and the isles of Japan to the point of Kamchatka, then along the fiftieth parallel through Sagalien, then down and across the Sea of Japan to the northern line of Korea, then down the Yalu and over the peninsula to Port Arthur. Let anybody do this and then say, if he can, that British diplomacy and statesmanship have not magnificently triumphed over Russia in the contest of the Eastern Question. In all the history of the world there has never been a longer-headed problem, nor one more wisely worked out, than this one so splendidly perfected by the statesmen of Britain.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 19.1

    And now the bearing of this on Russia’s getting Constantinople: Russia is now pleading that since Britain has gained so much as she has, and is so secure in it all, she can well afford to let Russia have Constantinople—without any further disputing.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 19.2

    More then this, a leading British journal has openly advocated Britain’s doing this very thing; of saying to Russia, Take Constantinople whenever yet get ready; we shall not object. It is not worth our contending for now.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 19.3

    In addition to this the latest history on this subject, issued only last year, gives the following two ominous sentences:—MEDM July 17, 1906, page 19.4

    “Never has the outlook in Turkey been so gloomy and deplorable as to-day.” “Danger looms large from all quarters; everywhere the sword of Damocles hangs over Ottoman rule.”—Historians of the World, Vol. XXIV., pp. 433, 434-5.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 19.5

    And such is the prospect, yea such is the bright prospect, of Russia’s very soon possessing Constantinople. And when she takes it, then what?—That will be the next study.MEDM July 17, 1906, page 19.6

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