The 'Balkan powder keg'
The decline of the Ottoman Empire created a vacuum waiting to be filled by new forces. The Balkans became an unstable theatre in which the interests of the major powers clashed with the national programmes of the emergent peoples of south-eastern Europe.
This harboured considerable potential dangers not only for the Turkish Sultan but also for the multinational Habsburg empire, which was itself having to deal with the emancipatory aspirations of the young nations. As an expanding major power, Austria-Hungary attempted to assert itself in the Balkans but came into conflict with Russia, which saw itself as the protector of the orthodox Balkan Slavs. A new enemy was also emerging in Serbia, which was endeavouring to establish itself as a regional power.
The occupation and subsequent annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina added new territories to the Habsburg Monarchy, but it also meant that Vienna was increasingly drawn into the vortex of complex conflicts in the unstable region.