The Austrian Occupation of Novibazar, 1878-1909.


In planning the, occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina before the Treaty of Berlin, it seemed desirable to Austria to have a foothold in the, Sanjak of Novibazar. A double purpose would be served of thereby, of keeping Montenegro and Serbia apart, and thus hindering the impulse of the Serbo-Croats toward political unity, and of holding the door open for an advance of Austria, if not by political control, at any rate by commercial penetration, toward Salonica. The proposal was brought forward at the session of the Congress of Berlin on June 28, , and despite protests from the Turkish plenipotentiaries, on July 4 and July 10, was adopted on July 11, with no other change than a sentence appended concerning agreement as to details.


Article 25 of the Treaty of Berlin provided as follows:

The Government of Austria-Hungary, not desiring to undertake the administration of the Sanjak of Novibazar, which extends between Serbia and Montenegro in a southeasterly direction to the other side of Mitrovitza, the Ottoman Government will continue to exercise its functions there. Nevertheless, in order to assure the maintenance of the new political state of affairs, as well as freedom and security of communications, Austria-Hungary reserves the right of keeping garrisons and having military and commercial roads in the whole of this part of the ancient Vilayet of Bosnia. To this end the Governments of Austria-Hungary and Turkey reserve to themselves to come to an understanding on the details.

On the same day that the Treaty of Berlin was signed, for reasons which are still obscure, Russia entered into a secret convention with Austria-Hungary binding her not to raise any objections if, in consequence of inconvenience arising from the maintenance of Turkish administration, Austria-Hungary should be brought to occupy Novibazar definitively as in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


In the convention of April 21, 1879, between Austria-Hungary and Turkey the Emperor-King undertook to give notice beforehand of the time when his troops should enter the sanjak. Questions concerning their subsistence, quartering, etc., were to be arranged by the authorities and commanders of the two Governments, and all expenses were to be paid by Austria. The presence of the Austrian troops was not to interfere with the function of Ottoman administrative officers, judicial or financial. The Porte might also maintain regular troops, but not irregular, in the same places, "on a footing of perfect equality with regard to their number and military advantages, and the freedom of their movements." Austria would for the time being place troops only at three points on the Lim, namely, Pribol, Priepoliye, and Bielopoliye, to a total number of between 4,000 and 5,000 men.

4. OCCUPATION, 1879-1908.

This very limited occupation began on September 10, l879. Bielopoliye was presently exchanged for Plevlye. The Austrians appointed only one civil official. Good relations were steadily maintained between the Austrian and Turkish officials, largely due on the Turkish side to the friendliness of Ferik Suleiman, pasha for many years in Plevlye. The area garrisoned by the Austrians was after a time set off as a separate sanjak (that of Plevlye) by the Turks. The inhabitants of the sanjak had no affection for the Austrians, but nothing occurred to disturb the situation for almost 30 years.

When the question of railways was taken up actively early in 1908, Baron Aehrenthal asked permission of the Porte to survey a railway through the sanjak from Uvats in Bosnia to Mitrovitza. The Serbians presented as a counter proposal, with the support of Italy and Russia, a line across from the Danube to San Giovanni di Medua. Action was prevented by the outbreak of the Turkish Revolution.

5. TERMINATION, 1908-1909.

October 5, 1908, Austria announced the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Porte protested, and Turkish popular opinion was expressed by a boycott on all Austrian goods. Austria withdrew her troops from Novibazar on October 28. After long negotiations the Young Turk Government was obliged to conform to the situation, and in the, treaty of February 26, 1909, Austria obtained the cession of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but renounced a11 her rights in the Sanjak of Novibazar. In the course of the next few weeks, the powers signatory of the Treaty of Berlin consented to the abolition of the 25th article.

The reasons which led the Austro-Hungarian Government to withdraw from Novibazar are not fully known. It is believed that Italy demanded withdrawal as the price for Italian recognition of the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and that the Austrian general staff reported the true strategic line of advance toward Salonica to lie along the valley of the Morava in Serbia.

Source: Anderson, Frank Maloy and Amos Shartle Hershey, Handbook for the Diplomatic History of Europe, Asia, and Africa 1870-1914. Prepared for the National Board for Historical Service. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1918.

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