1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Slatin, Sir Rudolf Carl von
SLATIN, SIR RUDOLF CARL VON (1857-), Anglo-Austrian soldier and administrator in the Sudan, was born on the 27th of June 1857 at Ober St Veit near Vienna. At the age of seventeen he made his first journey to the Sudan, reaching Khartum by the Nile route in October 1875 in company with Theodor von Heuglin (q.v.). Thence he went through Kordofan to Dar Nuba, exploring the mountains of that region. He returned to Khartum in consequence of a revolt of the Arabs against the Egyptian government. There Slatin met Dr Emin (Emin Pasha) and with him purposed visiting General C. G. Gordon at Lado, Gordon at that time being governor of the equatorial provinces. Slatin, however, was obliged to return to Austria without accomplishing his desire, but Emin went to Lado and at Slatin's request recommended the young traveller to Gordon for employment in the Sudan. In 1878, while Slatin was serving as a lieutenant in the crown prince Rudolf's regiment in the Bosnian campaign he received a letter from Gordon inviting him to the Sudan, of which country Gordon had become governor general. At the close of the campaign Slatin received permission to go to Africa and he arrived at Khartum in January 1879. After a brief period during which he was financial inspector, Slatin was appointed mudir (governor) of Dara, the south-western part of Darfur, a post he held until early in 1881, when he was promoted governor-general of Darfur and given the rank of bey. While administering Dara, Slatin conducted a successful campaign against one of the Darfur princes in revolt, and as governor of Darfur he endeavoured to remedy many abuses. He had soon to meet the rising power of the mahdi Mahommed Ahmed (q.v.). Early in 1882 the Arabs in southern Darfur were in revolt. With insufficient resources and no succour from Khartum, Slatin gallantly defended his province. Though victorious in several engagements he lost ground. His followers attributing his non-success to the fact that he was a Christian, Slatin nominally adopted Islam. But all hope of maintaining Egyptian authority vanished with the news of the destruction of Hicks Pasha's army and in December 1883 Slatin surrendered, refusing to make any further sacrifice of life in a hopeless cause. In the camp of the mahdi an attempt was made to use him to induce Gordon to surrender. This failing, Slatin was placed in chains, and on the morning of the 26th of January 1885, an hour or two after the fall of Khartum, the head of Gordon was brought to the camp and shown to the captive. Slatin was kept at Omdurman by the khalifa, being treated alternately with savage cruelty and comparative indulgence. At length, after over eleven years' captivity, he was enabled, through the instrumentality of Sir Reginald (then Major) Wingate of the Egyptian Intelligence Department, to escape, reaching Egypt in March 1895. In a remarkable book, Fire and Sword in the Sudan, written in the same year and issued in English and German in 1896, Slatin gave not only, as stated in the sub-title, “a personal narrative of fighting and serving the dervishes” but a connected account of the Sudan under the rule of the khalifa. Raised to the rank of pasha by the khedive, Slatin received from Queen Victoria the Companionship of the Bath. On the eve of his surrender to the mahdi at Christmas 1883 he had resolved, if he regained his liberty, to use the knowledge he would acquire while in captivity for the eventual benefit of the country, and after a year's rest he took part, as an officer on the staff of the Egyptian army, in the campaigns of 1897-98 which ended in the capture of Omdurman. For his services in these campaigns he was made a K.C.M.G. and in 1899 was ennobled by the emperor of Austria. In 1900 he was appointed Inspector-General of the Sudan, in which capacity his mastery of Arabic and his profound knowledge of the land and peoples proved invaluable in the work of reconstruction undertaken by the Anglo-Egyptian government in that country. In 1907 he was made an honorary major-general in the British army.