appear till shortly before the outbreak of the great war, and consequently attracted little attention.

The worst of culprits should not be judged unheard. Even the most heinous crimes are viewed by modern jurisprudence in the light of the provocation and of the circumstances in which they were committed. At the end of the present war-before long, let us hopeBulgaria will appeal to Europe for a mitigation of her sentence. It is commonly said that the Bulgarians committed revolting atrocities, that they began the war against their allies, and that they got what they deserved. As regards the beginning of the war, the accusation is, of course, true. But, in order to arrive at a just judgment, the circumstances of the case must be considered.

The common belief that the Bulgarians lost their heads in consequence of their victories is altogether erroneous, except as regards a limited number of courtiers, politicians and militaires. Never did a nation display greater sobriety and restraint in the hour of victory. Even the tidings of Lule Burgas, conveyed in brief and modestly worded telegrams to Sofia, produced no paroxysms of excitement, no elation, no fanfaronnades. But the repudiation of the treaty of alliance by Servia, and still more the arguments by which it was maintained, aroused a keen feeling of indignation. A still greater provocation lay in the maltreatment of the Bulgarian populations of Macedonia and Thrace by the Servians and Greeks, which began from the first days of their military occupation of those regions. An interesting account of this persecution will be found in the Carnegie report. Bishops, priests and schoolmasters were evicted from their dioceses, churches and schools, and were banished from the country; the peasants were compelled to sign documents declaring themselves to be Serbs or Greeks; those who refused were beaten or imprisoned; and all the usual machinery of forcible assimilation was set in motion,

This state of things had continued for eight monthsunhappily it continues still-in territories which at that time had not yet been assigned to the Servians or Greeks, and were ex hypothesi in the possession of the three allies. The Macedonian emigrants, always a powerful


factor in Bulgaria and now augmented by some 18,000 volunteers as well as by refugees from the districts in Servian and Greek occupation, became restive; they mistrusted Russia owing to her frequent changes of attitude, and feared that, if her arbitration were accepted, a portion of Macedonia would be lost to Bulgaria. They therefore resorted to threats in order to prevent the departure of Dr Daneff for Petrograd, where a Conference of Balkan delegates was about to meet. They little knew that Russia was at that time prepared to award almost the whole of Macedonia to Bulgaria. But the main cause of the Bulgarian coup was the condition of the army. The peasant soldiers, who had been under arms for nine months, wanted to return to their fields for the harvest. They were willing, they said, to fight at once if fighting there must be, but otherwise they would go home. Had they done so, Bulgaria would have been compelled to surrender Macedonia to her enemies without striking a blow. The situation became desperate, and the war party had its way.

The rupture between the Allies was a success for Austrian policy, which had steadily laboured for this end. On the day of the Bulgarian attack the members of the Austrian legation at Sofia could scarcely conceal their delight. From the beginning,' wrote the inspired · Reichspost' some months later, we knew of the

' formation of the Balkan Alliance and we set ourselves to break it up.' In truth Austria knew only of M. Hartwig's plan, but the confession of the 'Reichspost' is nevertheless instructive. Ever since the Berlin Treaty it has been the settled policy of Austria to promote discord in the Balkans. Of this, abundant proof could be given if space permitted; it is enough to recall King Milan's unprovoked attack on Bulgaria, carried out under her auspices in the sacred name of 'equilibrium' in 1885, and the Greco-Rumanian alliance against Bulgaria, arranged by Baron von Burian, the new AustroHungarian Foreign Minister, in 1901. The Treaty of Bucarest, which perpetuated the causes of discord and indeed increased them, was another triumph for Austria; it violated the principle of nationalities, to which for domestic reasons she was always opposed, and facilitated the preparation of her approaching coup in the Balkans.



The creation of a big Servia, extending down the valley of the Vardar, would form an obstacle, of course, to her long-projected advance to the Ægean. But it had at least the advantage of perpetuating Bulgarian exasperation; and the effort to govern a hostile population would be a cause of weakness to Servia. But Austria had already decided to settle accounts with that Power. The treaty, of course, could not stand; but it served Austria's purpose for the present, so she confined herself to reserving her claim to its revision in the future while the Kaiser enthusiastically proclaimed its finality.

Had the Western Powers and Russia intervened at this time on behalf of a more equitable arrangement, they would in all probability have succeeded. Austria, notwithstanding her desire for war, could not have opposed the transference of the greater part of Macedonia to its rightful owner. She had already begun to pay court to friendless Bulgaria. Germany was not ready for war; she had only recently begun the great augmentation of her forces which she deemed necessary in consequence of the formation of the Balkan Alliance and the consequent fall of Turkey. Italy, as we now know, would not have moved. The conduct of the Western Powers was excused on the ground of their anxiety for peace. The world has seen how peace has been preserved. The maxim · Be just and fear not'is something more than a high moral precept; it is commonly a safe rule to follow in private and political life. The opportunity for arriving at a just and reasonable settlement, which the Balkan States and the Powers alike threw away at the time of the London Conference, once more presented itself at Bucarest. Such a settlement could now only be imposed from above. This might have been done with comparative ease in London; the task was now more difficult, but far from impossible, notwithstanding the greedy appetites which had been whetted during the period of controversy and the savage passions kindled by the war.

The main problem which the Balkan delegates both in London and Bucarest had to face was how to come to any kind of an arrangement that would satisfy the swashbucklers and demagogues at home; most of them, moreover, were party leaders themselves and had their own political future to consider, which might be fatally compromised if they surrendered any portion of the national claims. At Bucarest, for instance, M. Venizelos received orders from King Constantine to demand so much of the Ægean coast that only a few kilometres near Dedeagatch would have been left to Bulgaria. He refused and tendered his resignation, but eventually had his own way. Similarly Dr Daneff had demanded his recall before the premature break-up of the London Conference. Strange as it may seem, if the Powers of the Entente, either during the London Conference or before the signature of the Treaty of Bucarest, had interposed with an equitable solution, the Balkan delegates would have welcomed an intervention which would have enabled them to plead force majeure, and the various governments would have done likewise. Resistance would never have been attempted without armed support from the Central Powers, and of this there was no prospect whatever.

On the day before the signature of the Treaty of Bucarest the writer sailed up the Danube and passed beneath the two gigantic pontoon bridges over which the Rumanian troops marched into Bulgaria. The sight suggested the question, which of the two States had meditated aggression in the past? These immense structures had been prepared for years; Bulgaria possessed nothing similar; her thoughts were with her enslaved kinsmen in Macedonia. Under the guidance of King Carol, Rumania had concluded a military convention with Austria ; she had been offered a large slice of her neighbour's territory, and the means had been duly provided for her entry into the Promised Land. The finger of Austria seemed to stretch over the long line of pontoons; Rumania had already taken her morsel —not so large indeed as the stipulated portion; what would Austria do next?

On the same day Austria, already aware of the terms of the treaty, enquired, as we know from Signor Giolitti's disclosures, whether Italy would agree that a foederis had arisen for a joint attack on Servia; he was met by a refusal. What passed between Austria and Germany at this time is unknown, but there is nothing to show that Germany backed the Austrian request on


[ocr errors]

this occasion. On the other hand, it seems improbable that Austria would have taken this step without consulting her principal ally. The Italian reply seems to have given Austria pause; and, if William II donned his shining armour' at this moment, he soon replaced it in the cupboard. That Austria meditated an attack on

. Servia so early as the preceding June, when the war between the Balkan Allies, which she had deliberately fomented, broke out, seems proved by the recent revelations of M. Pichon and the historian Guglielmo Ferrero; while M. Take Jonescu, the Rumanian statesman, relates that at that time the Austrian minister at Bucarest declared to him that Austria would come to the aid of Bulgaria with arms in her hands.' 'Nous avons fait bonne affaire,' said a high Austrian official gleefully to a friend of the writer at the moment of the Bulgarian attack in Macedonia. But the Treaty of Bucarest caused Austria to make up her mind. The murder of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, which took place ten months later, furnished a convenient pretext for putting her design into execution; Germany was now ready; the shining armour at Berlin was displayed to all the world, and the great catastrophe followed.

The Treaty of Bucarest is founded on the ruins of violated contracts; it stands on the flimsy substructure

; of torn-up scraps of paper.' It has not been recognised by any of the Powers, and therefore cannot be regarded as a legitimate substitute for previous arrangements which they have drawn up or sanctioned. It presents a series of grotesque frontiers, traced on vindictive lines in violation of the principle of nationalities and in defiance of economic laws. It has condemned more than a million unhappy beings to conditions of existence which cause them to regret the rule of the Turks. It was completed during a period of eight days-a short time for the discussion of the most complicated question of modern times—and was imposed on the Bulgarian delegates almost literally at the point of the bayonet. Before the end of the negotiations M. Maiorescu, the Rumanian prime minister, intimated to M. Toncheff that, if he failed to sign the document, within 48 hours Rumanian troops would occupy Sofia.

Bulgaria now demands the revision of the treaty,

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »