VII.

THE MODERN KINGDOM OF SERVIA.

(1882-1896.)

THE Berlin Treaty, which was intended as a per manent settlement of the eternal Eastern question, failed to satisfy either Servia or Bulgaria. Each country was jealous of the other; Servia claimed Vidin, Bulgaria desired Nisch and Pirot, and it was not long before an opportunity occurred for the display of their mutual antipathies. On the Bulgarian bank of the river Timok, which forms the boundary between the two states, there is an uninhabited tract of land, called Bregova. No mention was made of it in the Treaty of Berlin, and accordingly the Serbs, who lived on the opposite bank, continued to cross the river for the purpose of tilling this debatable ground, until in the summer of 1884 a Bulgarian regiment drove them out. The high protective tariff, which the principality erected against Servia in the same year, increased the irritation, and when the union of the two Bulgarias was suddenly accomplished in the autumn of 1885, it was impossible to 347 348 THE MODERN KINGDOM OF SERVIA. hold back the Servian nation. It must be confessed that there was no adequate motive for war, but all their national susceptibilities were aroused by this unexpected aggrandisement of Bulgaria, and war both king and people would have. M. Garashanine, the Servian Premier, went to war "with a light heart." "Nous allons piquer une tête," he said with a smile, and no one doubted but that Servia would win an easy victory over her embarrassed rival. But, as we have shown in the second part of this volume, the result was far otherwise. Servia, utterly routed at Slivnitza, was only saved by the intervention of an Austrian diplomatist from, a Bulgarian occupation, and was fortunate to have escaped, as she had escaped in 1877, without loss of territory or the payment of a war indemnity.

The complete failure of their campaign against Bulgaria caused much discontent among the Serbs. For some time past the Government had been very unpopular, and party feeling had run high. In 1882 King Milan nearly shared the fate of his predecessor at the hand of an officer's widow, who fired at him in the cathedral of Belgrade. Next year the arbitrary measures of the "iron minister," Cristić, led to a peasant insurrection; which was suppressed after considerable bloodshed. The party of the pretender, Prince Peter Karageorgevic, son-in-law of the Prince of Montenegro, began once more to raise its head, and a conspiracy was discovered to dethrone King Milan and put him in his place. To crown all came the disastrous Bulgarian war, which emptied the treasury, enormously increased the national debt, and destroyed 349 MILAN ABDICATES. such military reputation as Servia had gained in the second campaign of 1877. Domestic quarrels in the royal household soon became a public scandal. The king had married a beautiful Russian lady, Natalie Kesckho, daughter of a colonel in the Imperial army, who traced her descent from the old Counts of Baux. From the first the two disagreed, and their opposite political sympathies increased their private differences. The queen was a strong partisan of Russia, the king a friend of Austria; she longed to support the Czar; her husband publicly declared Panslavism to be "the enemy of Servia," and avowed that he could be neutral in any Austro-Russian war. At last he obtained a divorce from his wife, and at once granted a new and much more liberal constitution than that of 1869. The most important article was that which made all classes of the community, and not peasants alone, eligible as deputies, but one-fourth of the National Assembly was still to be nominated by the king. Freedom of the press and the lowering the suffrage were also points of the new charter, which, in spite of Russian bribes, was accepted by the Assembly early in 1889. The king did not however, long remain to guide the nation under the new constitution which he had given it. Exhausted with worries, domestic and political, broken in health and prematurely old, he suddenly resigned on the 6th of March of the same year in favour of his son Alexander, a lad of thirteen, and appointed three Regents, the chief of whom was the same M. Ristić, the "Cavour of Servia," who had been Regent during his own minority.

350 THE MODERN KINGDOM OF SERVIA.

The four years of the Regency were much disturbed by the continual quarrels of the ex-king and his consort, who asserted her right to reside permanently in Servia, where she was very popular. At last, both she and her former husband consented to leave the country, which their presence had greatly agitated. The intrigues of the Pretender and the growth of Republicanism so. much alarmed the royal couple that they made up their private differences in

ROSE WINDOW T KRUŠEVAC.

order to save the throne for their son. That precocious youth showed that he possessed the firm character of the founder of the dynasty by suddenly arresting the three Regents on the night of the 13th of April, 1893, as they sat at dinner with him in the royal konak, or palace, at Belgrade, together with all his Ministers. Troops occupied the Government offices, and next morning the young king issued a proclamation, declaring himself to be of age, dis 351 ALEXANDER I. solving the National Assembly and announcing his intention to save the State from disaster. The coup d'état of this boy of seventeen was completely successful, and its success encouraged him to another. At midnight on the 21st of May, 1894, he abolished the constitution granted five years before, and restored the old constitution of 1869, in order to destroy the influence of the Radical party. Europe recognised that Servia had a monarch of great determination, who was resolved to govern as well as reign. Whether he will put an end to the deplorable party strife between the three factions of Liberals, Progressists, and Radicals, which is the curse of his country, remains to be seen. But no one can help looking forward with interest to his career. Some have thought that he is destined to revive the Empire of Dusan, and unite once more under a common sceptre the scattered members of the great Servian family. Doubtful though this may be, one thing is certain, that if Servia desires to prosper, she must take to heart her national motto: "Unity alone can save the Servian people."