Herbert Adams Gibbons.

The reconstruction of Poland and the Near East ; problems of peace online

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most precious thing in the world?


"Are you a patriot?" said Napoleon in
1810 to John Sniadecki, rector of the Uni-
versity of Vilna,

"Sire," answered the Rector, "from my
birth I have learned to love my country,
and her misfortunes have only strength-
ened the love I bear for her."

After an additional century of Poland's
misfortunes, her children, scattered over
the whole world, would give the same
answer. And there are seven times as
many of them now as there were then.




"The society of nations must hereafter be
based upon the principle of the equality of peo-
ples and their right to govern themselves in
accordance with their aspirations, without be-
ing molested by more powerful neighbors. This
is the thesis of the Allies as well as of Presi-
dent Wilson. The organization of Europe on
the basis of the principle of nationalities is the
negation of the right of conquest. The Balkan
populations have not been delivered from the
Turkish yoke to fall under German guardian-
ship." — Editorial in the Paris "Temps,^* Janu-
ary 29, 1917.

FOR some years, during the precious
months I was able to spend in Paris
between trips, I pursued a hobby that did
not put money in my purse or fresh air in
my lungs. But the spell of it held me


even after the outbreak of war. Resi-
dence and travel in the near East had
awakened interest in the history of the
Ottoman Empire and Constantinople.
There was not the leisure to wander
through centuries: so I chose the period
when the Osmanlis, a new race in history,
spread their power through the Balkans
and closed in upon the capital of the
Byzantine Empire. In the Bibliotheque
Nationale, from nine in the morning until
four in the afternoon, I lived in the four-
teenth century. Events since 1914 are
strikingly reminiscent of that period: the
anxiety of Europe over what was going on
at Constantinople; ambassadors at the
Sublime Porte striving, for the sake of
keeping open or cutting off the Black Sea,
to win to their side the nation that held
the key to the straits; the occupation of
Tenedos by the maritime power that


would brook no rival; the effort to reach
Constantinople by way of Gallipoli pen-
insula; and the seizure of Saloniki to in-
duce the Greeks to march on the side of
the seizer. Two days before France
mobilized for the Great War, I ordered
from my German bookseller in Paris the
latest book on the question of the succes-
sion to Constantinople. It was by the
Rumanian minister to Belgium. M.
Djuvara described one hundred and one
schemes that had been conceived and elab-
orated in Europe during the last four
centuries to take Constantinople from the
Turks, and put the Bosphorus and the
Dardanelles under European control.

From the treaty of Kutchuk-Kainardji
in 1774, to the treaty of Berlin in 1878,
Russia was the powerful claimant to Con-
stantinople. She fought three wars to
attain her goal. Against Russian preten-


sions stood the two Occidental Powers.
Great Britain was the consistent defender
of the Turks. France maintained an atti-
tude hostile to Russian aspirations. Even
when Xapoleon, at the height of his power,
was planning to divide the world with
Alexander, he could not reconcile himself
to the idea of jNIuscovite domination at the
place where Europe and Asia meet.

Since 1878, new defenders of Ottoman
integrity against the Russians have arisen.
The Central European Powers, Italy,
Austria, and Germany, achieved their na-
tional unity in the two decades preceding
the treaty of Berlin. Hemmed in on the
west by Great Britain and France and on
the east by Russia, born too late to extend
their political sovereignty over vast colo-
nial domains, and unable (if only for lack
of coaling-stations) to develop sea-power
greater than that of their rivals, nothing


was more natural than the German and
Austro-Hungarian conception of a Drang
nacli Osten through the Balkan peninsula,
over the bridge of Constantinople, into the
markets of Asia. The geographical posi-
tion of the Central European states made
as inevitable a penetration policy into the
Balkans and Turkey as the geographical
position of England made inevitable the
development of an overseas empire.
Since Lord Beaconsfield forced the treaty
of Berlin upon Russia by a threat of war,
British foreign policy has changed. The
integrity of the Ottoman Empire became
of secondary interest to the British from
the moment they gained control of Egypt
and realized what the Suez Canal meant to
them. Gradually Germany and Austria-
Hungary have drifted into the position of
protectors of Turkey. For France made
an alHance with Russia, the traditional


enemy of Turkey, and it became increas-
ingly evident, especially since the Anglo-
Russian agreement of 1907, that British
statesmen, in sj^ite of the pledge implied
in the occupation of Cypms, no longer
held as sacrosanct the i^olicy of the main-
tenance of Ottoman integi'ity.

Another complication has developed in
the question of Constantinople since the
treaty of Berlin. The Balkan Christian
states, created to be dependent upon the
Great Powers, asserted their independ-
ence. Rumania increased in population
and wealth. Bulgaria and Greece ig-
nored the limitations imposed upon them
territorially and politically by the treaty
of Berlin. Little Montenegro on more
than one occasion defied all the Powers.
Serbia, with Russian backing, began to
make trouble for Austria-Hungary, and
Serbian and Italian irredentism clashed on


the Adriatic littoral. At the mouth of the
Adriatic Greek aspirations were irrecon-
cilable with those of Italy. The war that
liberated the Christians of the Balkans
from the bondage reimposed upon them
by the treaty of Berlin would have de-
feated both Austro-ITungarian and Rus-
sian ambitions had not the war broken out
over the partition of the conquered terri-
tory. By refusing to allow Greece and
Serbia and Montenegro to divide Albania,
the Great Powers were directly respon-
sible for the second Balkan War. Had
Serbia been permitted to retain the outlet
to the Adriatic she conquered by arms, she
would not have broken her treaty with
Bulgaria, and Macedonian territorial
claims could have been adjusted. By
listening to the remonstrances of Vienna
and Rome, the conference of ambassadors
at London thought they w^ould avoid a


European war. On the contrary, they
made it inevitable.

No impartial student of the diplomatic
correspondence during the momentous
twelve days that precipitated the war can
fail to attach the responsibility for the out-
break of hostilities to Berlin and Vienna.
The evidence published by the Central
Powers alone — their official documents
put forth in the form of special pleading — •
are all one wants to refute the laborious
defense that has been attempted by the
German polemicists. Why then do I
speak of the war as inevitable? It is be-
cause the explanation of the developments
of the twelve days and the precipitation of
the crisis must be sought in events that
preceded the Sarajevo assassination.
War does not arise from technicalities, and
from the ill will and bad faith of certain
diplomats during a few days. Let us


throw aside the defense of the German and
Austro-ITungarian foreign offices during
the twelve days — a del'ense weak to the
point of absurdity. Had the statesmen
of the Central Powers justification for
adopting — perhaps unconsciously — the
uncompromising attitude that Russia must
not interfere in the Austrian punishment
of Serbia, and that if Russia did interfere,
and the Great War was precipitated, it
would come better now than later, since it
had to come? The Central Powers main-
tained that Serbia was a foyer of Pan-
slavic propaganda, which, if unchecked,
would menace the integrity of the Austro-
Hungarian Empire, and destroy the
power of Teutonic Europe to keep open
the path to the East and to defend the
Ottoman Empire against Russia. Were
they right, or were their fears groundless?
We cannot answer this question yet; for


its answer depends upon whether the En-
tente Powers regard Constantinople in the
hght of principle or as a pawn.

In the early part of the nineteenth cen-
tury the Ottoman Empire would have
gone the way of all other empires the
world has known had it not been for the
rivalry of those who coveted the inherit-
ance. Since the Congress of Vienna,
Turkey has been a constant source of
friction in European international rela-
tions. Because of Turkey, wars have
been fought and alliances formed and
shifted that influenced the destinies of na-
tions which had no interest, directly or
indirectly, in the fa(fe of Turkey. States-
men in European capitals, in the endeavor
to solve the question of the Orient to what
they believed was the advantage of their
own nation and to prevent its solution to
what they believed was the advantage of


another nation, have not hesitated to play-
navies and armies on the diplomatic chess-
board, to excite ill feeling among peoples
who had no reason to be enemies of one an-
other, and to use cynically the force behind
them for the purpose of keeping in slavery
the small Christian races of the Balkan
peninsula and Asiastic Turkey.

One would be unwilling to assert that
pubHc opinion in any European nation
knowingly sanctioned the crimes and
knowingly supported the blunders of the
dij^lomats. Governments have been sus-
tained in their fratricidal strife over the
Turkish succession because the public has
been kept in ignorance or misinformed.
One is astonished at the lack of knowledge
shown by the people who create govern-
ments in the questions their representa-
tives are called upon to face and solve.
Parliaments, also, are not cognizant of the

most vital issues and agreements of inter-
national diplomacy. One almost despairs
of the working of democracy when he
studies European diplomatic history since
the days of universal suffrage. The only
change is that the people elect their auto-
crats. The men they have elevated to
power are just as irresponsible and as re-
bellious to democratic control as were

One can go beyond the statement of an
ignorant and misinformed electorate to set
forth the ignorance and misinformation of
the elected. A striking illustration of this
is the action of the British cabinet when
the Russians imposed upon Turkey the
treaty of San Stefano. To destroy this
treaty, the British were willing to allow
themselves to be led into a war as foolish
and as futile as the Crimean War had
proved to be, less than a quarter of a cen-


tury before. IB^consfield and Salisbury
declared that they had come back from
Berlin bringing peace with honor. Yet
it was not long until Salisbury confessed
that they had "backed the wrong horse"!
Freycinet took upon himself the re-
sponsibility of depriving France, by a de-
cision formed from imperfect knowledge
and without consultation, of the work of
two generations in Egypt and the fruits
of the vision of the builder and backers of
the Suez Canal. Ever since the treaty of
Berlin, France and Great Britain have
been badly served by their foreign offices
and their diplomatic representatives in the
Ottoman Empire and the Balkans.

On October 23, 1916, Lord Grey,
speaking at a luncheon of the foreign
newspaper correspondents in London,

In what spirit is the war being conducted


by the Allies? We shall struggle until we have
established the supremacy of right over force
and until we have assured the free development
in conditions of equality and conformity to
their own genius, of all the states, large and
small, who constitute civilized humanity. . . .
We shall continue our sacrifices until we have
assured the future peace of the whole European

Although the apphcation of the prin-
ciple of nationality is extremely difficult
in countries where the population is mixed,
and where the most numerous element has
neither the wealth nor the education of the
minority, nor the minority's bond of at-
tachment to a neighboring larger state, it
is manifest that if an equitable and durable
peace is to be secured within every exist-
ing political unit and in each natural and
economic and geographical section, the
majority must be considered. Only thus
can the settlement be regarded as the


triumph of right over force. Otherwise
nationahty will remain as it has been in
the past and as it is now — a principle to
be applied where it is to the interest of the
dominant group of belligerents to apply
it, and to be disregarded where it is to the
interest of the victorious Powers to dis-
regard it. If the new map of Europe is
to be made by right and not by force, as
Lord Grey and all other French and
British statesmen have asserted, the same
principle must be applied everywhere.
Not only would it be a mockery of justice,
but it would be an impugnment of the
good faith of the Entente Powers before
history and the leaving of questions un-
settled for another test of arms if the
aspirations of all the belligerent Powers
and the claims of all the little states are
not decided upon the same principle.
Liberal public opinion in France and


Great Britain needs to be enlightened con-
cerning the Balkan and Turkish settle-
ments/ If the press continues to be

1 The most important newspapers in France, which
are read by the elite of the nation, are full of half-truths
and untruths in regard to the condition of affairs in
eastern Europe. Since the beginning of the war, no
French newspaper, either in the news columns or edi-
torially, has presented the problems of the Balkan States
and of Austro-Hungarian and Russian subject nation-
alities in accordance with the facts, as they are com-
monly known by students and travelers. There are
many thoughtful, accurately written, and clearly devel-
oped books on eastern and southeastern Europe avail-
able in the French language. But if ever read, they are
now forgotten, and editors give their readers amazing
misinformation about Russia and Austria-Hungary and
the Balkans. The quotation from the Paris "Temps"
at the head of this article is taken from an editorial
commenting upon a recent interview given by Premier
Bratiano to a "Temps'' correspondent. The words are
noble, and we subscribe fully to the elevated sentiment.
But the "Temps" does not tell its readers that less than
half the population of Transylvania and only a third of
the population of the Bukowina are Rumanians, and
that even among the Rumanians of the Dual Monarchy
only a small class, which is without great influence,
wants union with Rumania. The "Temps" has never in-
formed its readers of the nature and meaning of Rus-
sian and Italian aspirations in the Balkans, and of the
betrayal of the principle of nationalities by French and
British statesmen to satisfy those aspirations.



muzzled by the censorship after the armis-
tice is signed, and if the delegates who go
to the peace conference are bound by
agreements contracted during the war for
the sake of expediency and are uncon-
trolled by the democracies they represent,
will not the sacrifices of this terrible war
have been in vain? The happiness of the
nations of the Balkan peninsula and of the
races of the Ottoman Empire is not going
to be secured by the division among the
victors of the territories in which they live.
The worst blunder made by Entente diplo-
macy since the beginning of the war, in
regard to the near East, was the public
statement by M. Delcasse that Con-
stantinople was promised to Russia. M.
Trepoff, prime minister of Russia, con-
firmed this statement later in a speech to
the Duma. Who promised Constanti-
nople to Russia, and why? What fair-


minded man can bl^me Bulgarians and
Greeks and Turks for not regarding the
Russian menace as less formidable than
the German menace? The Balkan States
do not wani Austria-Hungary in Albania.
But neither do they want Italy there. It
would be disastrous for them to have Ger*
many in Constantinople. But it would Be
equally disastrous for them to have Russia
there. If the principle of nationality calls
Rumania to free Transylvania from the
Hungarians, H calls her with equal force
to free Bessarabia from the Russians. If
Rumania's act in joining the Entente
Powers, following a similar act under
similar circumstances and for similar rea-
sons by Italy, was glorious and noble and
self-sacrificing, why should Bulgaria's
analogous act be treason and felony?
What benefit would the Greeks derive
from the possession of Smyrna, across the


sea from their own mainland and with a
large luntcrland to be defended, if they
were to have the Italians in Epirus and the
Russians in Thrace? Greece was offered
overseas territory at the expense of seeing
great Powers installed in contiguous terri-
tory with splendid naval bases.

There are two arguments for giving
Constantinople to Russia: (1) Russia
must be rewarded for her help in crushing
Germany, and the Turks punished for join-
ing the Germans; (2) Russia is hemmed
in on all sides, and has a right to con-
trol her sole and natural outlet to the
world. Both of these arguments regard
Constantinople as a pawn, and both reveal
what has been consistently held up to us
as the typically Prussian point of view.
The mental attitude is detestable : for it is
a selfish one, and does not take into con-
sideration at all the feelings or the rights


or the interests of otiiers. The reasoning
is inadmissible: for it attacks the foun-
dation of international morality and the
only possible basis of a stable world

If the Turks went into the war because
they were wrongly led by a few men whom
Germany bribed, they are to be pitied in-
stead of punished. The way to correct
the evil is to get after the men of whom
the Turkish nation were the dupes, and not
to put the Turks in subjection to Russia.
If the Turks went into the war because
they felt that their national existence was
imperilled by Russian schemes of aggran-
dizement, they had as much right to take
up arms as France had, and the only
reason for depriving them of liberty would
be right of conquest, which, up to this time,
has been the justification for holding alien
races in political bondage. The prev-


alence of this reasoning in the peace con-
ference would mean that this war will go
down to posterity as others of history — a
struggle for booty, which the victors
shared. If Russia ought to have Con-
stantinople because she helped to defeat
Germany, the war is not being fought in
the spirit described by Lord Grey or for
the ends claimed by Lord Grey.

A very keen Frenchman recently said
to me : "You do not realize that Russia is
a vital factor in our hojie and determina-
tion to crush Germany. Therefore, we
must keep quiet about Poland, and we
must agree to Russia's demands in the
near East. Our one thought is the safety,
now and in the future, of France, and the
necessities of the situation alone guide
the near-Eastern policy of the Entente

"But is not this the Notwendigkeit ar-


gument of Bethmann-Hollweg?" I re-

The Frencliman smiled sadly. "It al-
ways comes to that in war," was his

The second argmnent for the Russian
occupation of Constantinople — and this is
presented most strongly to the French and
British public — is that Russia must con-
trol her southern outlet to the sea. The
Pacific outlet is thousands of miles across
the continent of Asia. The Arctic outlet
is ice-bound during the greater part of the
year. The Baltic outlet is at the mercy
of Germany. The lessons of the present
war are used to demonstrate the peril of
Russia's windpipe being held by a hostile
Power. It is argued that Russia is push-
ing her way by irresistible economic forces
seaward, and that if she does not get now
under her control the path to the sea she


will inevitably disturb the world's peace
later to do so. A prominent liberal and
independent review in England recently
published an article which proves — to the
satisfaction of its writer — that a few mil-
lion people in the way of a great and
growing nation must not be allowed to
disturb the bonds uniting the British and
Russian peoples. The Balkan and Otto-
man races must be made to understand
that they cannot block the way to the re-
construction of Europe along the lines de-
termined by the Entente Powers. Their
geographical position makes necessary
subjection to Russia. One can find no
difference between this reasoning and that
of the German Wcltpolitik champions.
It bears the stamp of Berlin and Leipsic
and Jena. It is the kind of argument by
which the Germans justified in 1864 the
conquest of Schleswig-IIolstein, and plead


to-day for the permanent inclusion of
Belgium in the German Empire.* It is
the underlying motive of the Austro-IIun-
garian conquest of Serbia. The weak
must stand aside for the strong!

If the economic-outlet-to-the-]\Iediter-
ranean argument is a justifiable reason
for subjugating alien races, and bringing
them under a government they abhor, and
if a few millions must bow before a hun-
dred millions, the retention of Triest and

1 Foreign Secretary Zimmerman, in the note to neutral
governments of January 31, 1917, announcing Germany's
intention to initiate unrestricted submarine warfare,
said: "As regards Belgium, for which the United States
has warm sympathy, the Imperial Chancellor declared a
few weeks previously that it had never been among
Germany's intentions to annex Belgium." But we can-
not, unfortunately, accept this statement as an expres-
sion of German public opinion. Long before the war,
German historians and geographers taught that Bel-
gium was a part of Deutschtum, and would eventually
be brought within the German Empire. German irre-
dentism is like Italian irredentism in almost every par-
ticular, origin, causes, reasons of late development, basis
of claims, methods of propaganda among the people.



Fiume by Austrians and Hungarians is
also a necessity, and the Bosnia-Herze-
govina annexation of 1908 was a wise
policy, inspired by the desire to assure the
peace of Europe ! Advocates of allowing
Russia to take Constantinople declare that
they are backing Russia because they sin-
cerely desire to reconstruct Europe along
lines that take into account economic
necessities and that are laid down in the
view of avoiding another cataclysm for the
next generation to face and suffer from.
Very good. But how, then, can they
logically support the Adriatic pretentions
of Italy and the disappearance of German
influence in the Balkans ? If they do sup-
port both Russian and Italian claims, they
are either insincere or are suffering
through the bitter passions of the moment
from a loss of the j^ower of clear thinking.
The argument against the Russian oc-


cupation of Constantinople are unanswer-
able. Only those who adopt the German
mental attitude or who are so anxious to
defend the Russian point of view that
they forget they are at the same time
pleading for the German point of view,
can combat them. Since the war began
no article has been written advocating
Russia at Constantinople which has not
furnished material for German polemicists
and weapons for German diplomats.
The harm done to the cause of the Entente
Powers in the Balkans by thoughtless
writers in Paris and London, who saw
only one move in the great game and be-
lieved they were helping the common cause
by encouraging Russian aspirations, has
been incalculable.

Too much writing about Constantinople
and too little writing about Poland gave
the German propaganda in eastern Eu-


rope and southeastern Europe the chance

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Online LibraryHerbert Adams GibbonsThe reconstruction of Poland and the Near East ; problems of peace → online text (page 3 of 9)