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The changes made in the map of Europe by the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 were not merely the occasion but a cause and probably the most potent, and certainly the most urgent, of all the causes that led to the World War which has been raging with such titanic fury since the summer of 1914.
Had the Balkan Allies after their triumph over Turkey not fallen out amongst themselves, had there been no second Balkan War in 1913, had the Turkish provinces wrested from the Porte by the united arms of Bulgaria, Greece, Servia, and Montenegro been divided amongst the victors either by diplomacy or arbitration substantial justice would have been done to all, none of them would have been humiliated, and their moderation and concord would have commended their achievement to the Great Powers who might perhaps have secured the acquiescence of Austria-Hungary in the necessary enlargement of Servia and the expansion of Greece to Saloniki and beyond.
But the outbreak of the second Balkan War nullified all these fair prospects. And Bulgaria, who brought it on, found herself encircled by enemies, including not only all her recent Allies against Turkey, but also Turkey herself, and even Roumania, who had remained a neutral spectator of the first Balkan War. Of course Bulgaria was defeated. And a terrible punishment was inflicted on her. She was stripped of a large part of the territory she had just conquered from Turkey, including her most glorious battle-fields; her original provinces were dismembered; her extension to the Aegean Sea was seriously obstructed, if not practically blocked; and, bitterest and most tragic of all, the redemption of the Bulgarians in Macedonia, which was the principal object and motive of her war against Turkey in 1912, was frustrated and rendered hopeless by Greek and Servian annexations of Macedonian territory extending from the Mesta to the Drin with the great cities of Saloniki, Kavala, and Monastir, which in the patriotic national consciousness had long loomed up as fixed points in the "manifest destiny" of Bulgaria.
That the responsibility for precipitating the second Balkan War rests on Bulgaria is demonstrated in the latter portion of this volume. Yet the intransigent and bellicose policy of Bulgaria was from the point of view of her own interests so short-sighted, so perilous, so foolish and insane that it seemed, even at the time, to be directed by some external power and for some ulterior purpose. No proof, however, was then available. But hints of that suspicion were clearly conveyed even in the first edition of this volume, which, it may be recalled, antedates the outbreak of the great European War. Thus, on page 103, the question was put:
"Must we assume that there is some ground for suspecting that Austria-Hungary was inciting Bulgaria to war?"
And again, on page 108, with reference to General Savoff's order directing the attack on the Greek and Servian forces which initiated the second Balkan War, the inquiry was made:
"Did General Savoff act on his own responsibility? Or is there any truth in the charge that King Ferdinand, after a long consultation with the Austro-Hungarian Minister, instructed the General to issue the order?"
These questions may now be answered with positive assurance. What was only surmise when this volume was written is to-day indubitable certainty. The proof is furnished by the highest authorities both Italian and Russian.
When the second Balkan War broke out San Giuliano was Prime Minister of Italy. And he has recently published the fact that at that time--the summer of 1913--the Austro-Hungarian government communicated to the Italian government its intention of making war on Servia and claimed under the terms of the Triple Alliance the co-operation of Italy and Germany. The Italian government repudiated the obligation imputed to it by Austria-Hungary and flatly declared that the Triple Alliance had nothing to do with a war of aggression. That Austria-Hungary did not proceed to declare war against Servia at that time--perhaps because she was discouraged by Germany as well as by Italy--makes it all the more intelligible, in view of her bellicose attitude, that she should have been urgent and insistent in pushing Bulgaria forward to smite their common rival.
This conclusion is confirmed by the positive statement of the Russian government. The communication accompanying the declaration of war against Bulgaria, dated October 18, contains the following passage:
"The victorious war of the united Balkan people against their ancient enemy, Turkey, assured to Bulgaria an honorable place in the Slavic family. But under Austro-German suggestion, contrary to the advice of the Russian Emperor and without the knowledge of the Bulgarian government, the Coburg Prince on June 29, 1913, moved Bulgarian armies against the Serbians."
The "Coburg Prince" is of course Ferdinand, King of Bulgaria. That he acted under Austro-Hungarian influences in attacking his Balkan Allies on that fateful Sunday, June 29, 1913, is no longer susceptible of doubt. But whatever other inferences may be drawn from that conclusion it certainly makes the course of Bulgaria in launching the second Balkan War, though its moral character remains unchanged, look less hopeless and desperate than it otherwise appeared. Had she not Austria-Hungary behind her? And had not Austria-Hungary at that very time informed her Italian ally that she intended making war against Servia?
But, whatever the explanation, the thunderbolt forged in 1913 was not launched till July 28, 1914, when Austria-Hungary formally declared war on Servia. The occasion was the assassination, a month earlier, of the heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenburg, in the streets of Sarajevo. The occasion, however, was not the cause of the war. The cause was that which moved the Dual Monarchy to announce a war on Servia in the summer of 1913, namely, dissatisfaction with the territorial aggrandizement of Servia as a result of the first Balkan War and alarm at the Pan-Serb agitation and propaganda which followed the Servian victories over Turkey. These motives had subsequently been much intensified by the triumph of Servia over Bulgaria in the second Balkan War. The relations of Austria-Hungary to Servia had been acutely strained since October, 1908, when the former annexed the Turkish provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which under the terms of the treaty of Berlin she had been administering since 1878. The inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina are Serb, and Serb also are the inhabitants of Dalmatia on the west and Croatia on the north, which the Dual Monarchy had already brought under its sceptre. The new annexation therefore seemed a fatal and a final blow to the national aspirations of the Serb race and it was bitterly resented by those who had already been gathered together and "redeemed" in the Kingdom of Servia. A second disastrous consequence of the annexation was that it left Servia hopelessly land-locked. The Serb population of Dalmatia and Herzegovina looked out on the Adriatic along a considerable section of its eastern coast, but Servia's long-cherished hope of becoming a maritime state by the annexation of the Serb provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina was now definitively at an end. She protested, she appealed, she threatened; but with Germany behind the Dual Monarchy and Russia still weak from the effects of the war with Japan, she was quickly compelled to submit to superior force.
During the war of the Balkan Allies against Turkey Servia made one more effort to get to the Adriatic,--this time by way of Albania. She marched her forces over the mountains of that almost impassable country and reached the sea at Durazzo. But she was forced back by the European powers at the demand of Austria-Hungary, as some weeks later on the same compulsion she had to withdraw from the siege of Scutari. Then she turned toward the Aegean, and the second Balkan War gave her a new opportunity. The treaty of Bukarest and the convention with Greece assured her of an outlet to the sea at Saloniki. But this settlement proved scarcely less objectionable to Austria-Hungary than the earlier dream of Servian expansion to the Adriatic by the annexation of the Turkish provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The fact is that, if we look at the matter dispassionately and in a purely objective spirit, we shall find that there really was a hopeless incompatibility between the ideals, aims, policies, and interests of the Servians and the Serb race and those of the Austrians and Hungarians. Any aggrandizement of the Kingdom of Servia, any enlargement of its territory, any extension to the sea and especially to the Adriatic, any heightening and intensifying of the national consciousness of its people involved some danger to the Dual Monarchy. For besides the Germans who control Austria, and the Hungarians who control Hungary, the Austro-Hungarian Empire embraces many millions of Slavs, and the South Slavs are of the same family and speak practically the same language as the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Servia. And Austria and Hungary can not get to their outlets on the Adriatic--Trieste and Fiume--without passing through territory inhabited by these South Slavs.
If, therefore, Austria and Hungary were not to be left land-locked they must at all hazards prevent the absorption of their South Slav subjects by the Kingdom of Servia. Pan-Serbism at once menaced the integrity of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and jeopardized its position on the Adriatic. Hence the cardinal features in the Balkan policy of Austria-Hungary were a ruthless repression of national aspiration among its South Slav subjects--the inhabitants of Croatia, Dalmatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina; a watchful and jealous opposition to any increase of the territory or resources of the Kingdom of Servia; and a stern and unalterable determination to prevent Servian expansion to the Adriatic.
The new Servia which emerged from the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 was an object of anxiety and even of alarm to the statesmen of Vienna and Buda-Pesth. The racial and national aspirations already astir among the South Slavs of the Dual Monarchy were quickened and intensified by the great victories won by their Servian brethren over both Turks and Bulgarians and by the spectacle of the territorial aggrandizement which accrued from those victories to the independent Kingdom of Servia. Might not this Greater Servia prove a magnet to draw the kindred Slavs of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Dalmatia, and Croatia away from their allegiance to an alien empire? The diplomacy of Vienna had indeed succeeded in excluding Servia from the Adriatic but it had neither prevented its territorial aggrandizement nor blocked its access to the Aegean.
Access to the Aegean was not, however, as serious a matter as access to the Adriatic. Yet the expansion of Servia to the south over the Macedonian territory she had wrested from Turkey, as legalized in the Treaty of Bukarest, nullified the Austro-Hungarian dream of expansion through Novi Bazar and Macedonia to the Aegean and the development from Saloniki as a base of a great and profitable commerce with all the Near and Middle East.
Here were the conditions of a national tragedy. They have developed into a great international war, the greatest and most terrible ever waged on this planet.
It may be worth while in concluding to note the relations of the Balkan belligerents of 1912-1913 to the two groups of belligerents in the present world-conflict.
The nemesis of the treaties of London and Bukarest and the fear of the Great Powers pursue the Balkan nations and determine their alignments. The declaration of war by Austria-Hungary against Servia, which started the present cataclysm, fixed the enemy status of Servia and also Montenegro. The good relations long subsisting between Emperor William and the Porte were a guarantee to the Central Powers of the support of Turkey, which quickly declared in their favor. The desire of avenging the injury done her by the treaty of Bukarest and the prospect of territorial aggrandizement at the expense of her sister Slav nation on the west drew Bulgaria (which was influenced also by the victories of the Germanic forces) into the same group in company with Turkey, her enemy in both the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. Bulgaria's opportunity for revenge soon arrived. It was the Bulgarian army, in cooperation with the Austro-German forces, that overran Servia and Montenegro and drove the national armies beyond their own boundaries into foreign territory. If the fortunes of war turn and the Entente Powers get the upper hand in the Balkans, these expelled armies of Servia and Montenegro, who after rest and reorganization and re-equipping in Corfu have this summer been transported by France and England to Saloniki, may have the satisfaction of devastating the territory of the sister Slav state of Bulgaria, quite in the divisive and internecine spirit of all Balkan history. The fate and future of Bulgaria, Servia, and Montenegro now depend on the issue of the great European conflict. The same thing is true of Turkey, into which meanwhile Russian forces, traversing the Caucasus, have driven a dangerous wedge through Armenia towards Mesopotamia. Roumania has thus far maintained the policy of neutrality to which she adhered so successfully in the first Balkan war--a policy which in view of her geographical situation, with Bulgaria to the south, Russia to the north, and Austria-Hungary to the west, she cannot safely abandon till fortune has declared more decisively for one or the other group of belligerents. The only remaining party to the Balkan Wars is Greece, and the situation of Greece, though not tragic like that of Servia, must be exceedingly humiliating to the Greek nation and to the whole Hellenic race.
When the war broke out, Mr. Venizelos was still prime minister of Greece. His policy was to go loyally to the assistance of Servia, as required by the treaty between the two countries; to defend New Greece against Bulgaria, to whom, however, he was ready to make some concessions on the basis of a quid pro quo; and to join and co-operate actively with the Entente Powers on the assurance of receiving territorial compensation in Asia Minor. King Constantine, on the other hand, seems to have held that the war of the Great Powers in the Balkans practically abrogated the treaty between Greece and Servia and that, in any event, Greek resistance to the Central Powers was useless. The positive programme of the King was to maintain neutrality between the two groups of belligerents and at the same time to keep the Greek army mobilized. Between these two policies the Greek nation wavered and hesitated; but the King, who enjoyed the complete confidence of the general staff, had his way and the cabinet of Mr. Venizelos was replaced by another in sympathy with the policy of the neutrality of Greece and the mobilization of the Greek army.
It was, under all the circumstances of the case, an exceedingly difficult policy to carry out successfully. Each group of the belligerents wanted special favors; the nation was divided on the subject of neutrality; the expense of keeping the army mobilized was ruinous to the country; and the views and sympathies of the greatest statesman Modern Greece had ever had remained out of office, as they had been in office, diametrically opposed to those of the victorious warrior-King and doubtless also of the Queen, the sister of the German Emperor. This condition was one of unstable equilibrium which could not long continue. It was upset on May 26, 1916, by a Bulgarian invasion of Greek territory and the seizure of Fort Rupel, one of the keys to the Struma Valley and to eastern Macedonia. The cities of Seres and Drama with their large Greek Population, and even Kavala are now in danger, and the Greek people seem greatly stirred by the situation. Mr. Venizelos in a newspaper article bitterly asks:
"Who could have imagined a Greek army witnessing the Bulgarian flag replacing that of Greece? Is it for this that our mobilization is maintained?"
But, while Greece has been invaded by Bulgaria, with the support of Germany (who, however, has given a written promise that the Greek territory now occupied shall be restored), Greek sovereignty has since suffered another severe shock by the intervention of Great Britain, France, and Russia, who, under the Protocol of London, are the Protecting Powers of the Kingdom. These Powers demand of the Greek government that the army shall be completely and immediately demobilized, that the present cabinet shall be replaced by another which shall guarantee benevolent neutrality toward the Entente Powers, that the Chamber shall be immediately dissolved and new elections held, and that certain public functionaries obnoxious to the legations of the Allies shall be replaced. And statements from Athens dated June 21 announce that Greece, under the menace of an embargo maintained by the allied navies, has yielded to these demands. With Greece humiliated by the Protecting Powers and her territory occupied by Bulgaria, with Servia and Montenegro overrun and occupied by the German-Austrian-Bulgarian forces, with Roumania waiting to see which of the belligerent groups will be finally victorious, with Bulgaria now basking in the sunshine of the Central Powers but an object of hatred to all the Allied Powers and especially to Russia, one may be pardoned for refusing to make any guess whatever as to the way in which the resultant diagonal of the parallelogram of European forces will ultimately run through the Balkans. Fortunately also such prediction has no place in an account of the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913.
To-day the Balkan nations are the pawns of the Great Powers who are directly responsible for the deplorable conditions that now exist among them. Yet in a very real sense their present tragic situation is the nemesis of the political sins of the Balkan nations themselves. These sins are those of all undeveloped political communities. Even the most highly civilized nations may temporarily fall under their sway, and then civilization reverts to barbarism, as the terrible condition of Europe to-day actually demonstrates. But the acute disease from which Europe suffers is more or less chronic in the Balkans, where elemental human nature has never been thoroughly disciplined and chastened in the school of peaceful political life and experience. Each for himself without regard to others or even without thought of a future day of reckoning seems to be the maxim of national conduct among the Balkan peoples. The spirit of strife and division possesses them; they are dominated by the uncontrolled instinct of national egoism and greed. The second Balkan War, alike in its origin, course, and conclusion, was a bald exhibition of the play of these primitive and hateful passions.
The history of the world, which is also the high tribunal of the world, proves that no nation can with impunity ignore the rights of other nations or repudiate the ideal of a common good or defy the rule of righteousness by which political communities achieve it--justice, moderation, and the spirit of hopeful and unwearying conciliation. In their war against Turkey in 1912 the Balkan nations, for the first time in history, laid aside their mutual antagonisms and co-operated in a common cause. This union and concord marked at least the beginning of political wisdom. And it was vindicated, if ever any policy was vindicated, by the surprise and splendor of the results.
My hope for the Balkan nations is that they may return to this path from which they were too easily diverted in 1913. They must learn, while asserting each its own interests and advancing each its own welfare, to pay scrupulous regard to the rights and just claims of others and to co-operate wisely for the common good in a spirit of mutual confidence and good will. This high policy, as expedient as it is sound, was to a considerable extent embodied in the leadership of Venizelos and Pashitch and Gueshoff. And where there is a leader with vision the people in the end will follow him. May the final settlement of the European War put no unnecessary obstacle in the way of the normal political development of all the Balkan Nations!
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