Serbia, Europe, Historical Profile (1922), #016-Serbia Under King Milan


On Feb. 22, 1882, the SkupStina proclaimed Serbia a kingdom. But the internal situation remained unsatisfactory. The compensation to Turkish landlords in the new territory, and the building of railways, under the terms of the Berlin Treaty, necessitated foreign loans, and hence increased taxation. An attempt was made on Milan's life in 1882, and in 1883 there was an abortive rising at Zajecar, which was used as a pretext for savage measures of repression against the newly formed Radical Party.

Milan by his favouritism and personal policy envenomed the party struggle, and the scandals of his private life and his undignified quarrel with Queen Natalie undermined the prestige of the dynasty. Serbia's rash and unprovoked attack upon Bulgaria, after the union of Eastern Rumclia in 1885, was mainly the work of Milan himself, who hoped to regain popularity by foreign conquest and regarded Bulgarian unity as a blow to the Balkan balance of power. The Serbian advance on Sofia was suddenly arrested by Prince Alexander's victory at Slivnifa: the Bulgarian army in its turn invaded Serbia and thanks to unpreparedncss, bad leadership and panic on the Serbian side, would probably have entered Belgrade, had not Austria-Hungary threatened armed intervention.

Kalnoky explained to his German ally, who feared increased Austro-Russian friction, that he had acted not for the sake of Serbia or Milan, but on account of the moral effect upon Serbia's kinsmen inside the Dual Monarehy. The Treaty of Bucharest (March 1886) restored the status quo, but Serbia's prestige in Europe was effectually eclipsed for over two decades. King Milan's personal situation was undermined, and the divorce scandals of 1888 were the last straw.

In the winter of that year he initiated a new and more liberal constitution (Dec. 22, 1888-N.S. Jan. 5, 18S9), which provided for an extended franchise, closer parliamentary j control, irremovability of judges and liberty of the press. From 1 Milan's point of view this was devised as a beau gestc, such as | might rehabilitate the dynasty in popular favour. It was followed by his abdication (March 1889) in favour of his only child, Alexander, then only 13: and a regency was formed by the veteran Ristic, with Generals Protic and Bclimarkovic.

A month before withdrawing from Serbia, Milan renewed the secret treaty with Austria-Hungary for another six years: as redrafted, it pledged the latter to protect the Obrenovic dynasty, especially against "hostile incursions directed from Montenegro, " and in the event of a Balkan upheaval to support Serbia's "territorial extension" southwards. Her definition of this as meaning "the valley of the Vardar as far as circumstances shall permit, " amounted to the endorsement of Serbian as against Bulgarian claims in Macedonia.

      "Serbia, Europe, Historical Profile (1922), #016-Serbia Under King Milan," The Encyclopedia Britannica. (New York: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1922); digital edition, ( : posted 15 Jan 2013)

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