E. Alexander Powell.

The New Frontiers of Freedom from the Alps to the Ægean online

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_Published April, 1920_



Owing to the disturbed conditions which prevailed throughout most of
southeastern Europe during the summer and autumn of 1919, the journey
recorded in the following pages could not have been taken had it not
been for the active cooperation of the Governments through whose
territories we traveled and the assistance afforded by their officials
and by the officers of their armies and navies, to say nothing of the
hospitality shown us by American diplomatic and consular
representatives, relief-workers and others. From the Alps to the Ægean,
in Italy, Dalmatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Turkey, Rumania,
Hungary and Serbia we met with universal courtesy and kindness.

For the innumerable courtesies which we were shown in Italy and the
regions under Italian occupation I am indebted to His Excellency
Francisco Nitti, Prime Minister of Italy, and to former Premier
Orlando, to General Armando Diaz, Commander-in-Chief of the Italian
Armies; to Lieutenant-General Albricci, Minister of War; to Admiral
Thaon di Revel, Minister of Marine; to Vice-Admiral Count Enrice Mulo,
Governor-General of Dalmatia; to Lieutenant-General Piacentini,
Governor-General of Albania, to Lieutenant-General Montanari, commanding
the Italian troops in Dalmatia; to Rear-Admiral Wenceslao Piazza,
commanding the Italian forces in the Curzolane Islands; to
Lieutenant-Colonel Antonio Chiesa, commanding the Italian troops in
Montenegro; to Colonel Aldo Aymonino, Captain Marchese Piero Ricci and
Captain Ernesto Tron of the _Comando Supremo_, the last-named being our
companion and cicerone on a motor-journey of nearly three thousand
miles; to Captain Roggieri of the Royal Italian Navy, Chief of Staff to
the Governor-General of Dalmatia; to Captain Amedeo Acton, commanding
the "_Filiberto_"; to Captain Fausto M. Leva, commanding the
"_Dandolo_"; to Captain Giulio Menin, commanding the "_Puglia_," and to
Captain Filipopo, commanding the "_Ardente_," all of whom entertained us
with the hospitality so characteristic of the Italian Navy; to
Lieutenant Giuseppe Castruccio, our cicerone in Rome and my companion on
dirigible and airplane flights; to Lieutenant Bartolomeo Poggi and
Engineer-Captain Alexander Ceccarelli, respectively commander and chief
engineer of the destroyer "_Sirio_," both of whom, by their unfailing
thoughtfulness and courtesy added immeasurably to the interest and
enjoyment of our voyage down the Adriatic from Fiume to Valona; to
Lieutenant Pellegrini di Tondo, our companion on the long journey by
motor across Albania and Macedonia; to Lieutenant Morpurgo, who showed
us many kindnesses during our stay in Salonika; to Baron San Martino of
the Italian Peace Delegation; to Lieutenant Stroppa-Quaglia, attaché of
the Italian Peace Delegation, and, above all else, to those valued
friends, Cavaliere Giuseppe Brambilla, Counselor of the Italian Embassy
in Washington; Major-General Gugliemotti, Military Attaché, and
Professor Vittorio Falorsi, formerly Secretary of the Embassy at
Washington, to each of whom I am indebted for countless kindnesses. No
list of those to whom I am indebted would be complete, however, unless
it included the name of my valued and lamented friend, the late Count
V. Macchi di Cellere, Italian Ambassador to the United States, whose
memory I shall never forget.

I welcome this opportunity of expressing our appreciation of the
hospitality shown us by their Majesties King Ferdinand and Queen Marie
of Rumania, who entertained us at their Castle of Pelesch, and of
acknowledging my indebtedness to His Excellency M. Bratianu, Prime
Minister of Rumania, and to M. Constantinescu, Rumanian Minister of

I am profoundly appreciative of the honor shown me by His Majesty King
Nicholas of Montenegro, and my grateful thanks are also due to His
Excellency General A. Gvosdenovitch, Aide-de-Camp to the King and former
Minister of Montenegro to the United States.

For the trouble to which they put themselves in facilitating my visit to
Jugoslavia I am deeply grateful to His Excellency M. Grouitch, Minister
from the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes to the United States,
and to His Excellency M. Vesnitch, the Jugoslav Minister to France.

From the long list of our own country-people abroad to whom we are
indebted for hospitality and kindness, I wish particularly to thank the
Honorable Thomas Nelson Page, formerly American Ambassador to Italy; the
Honorable Percival Dodge, American Minister to the Kingdom of the Serbs,
Croats and Slovenes; the Honorable Gabriel Bie Ravndal, American
Commissioner and Consul-General in Constantinople; the Honorable Francis
B. Keene, American Consul-General in Rome; Colonel Halsey Yates, U.S.A.,
American Military Attaché at Bucharest; Lieutenant-Colonel L.G. Ament,
U.S.A., Director of the American Relief Administration in Rumania, who
was our host during our stay in Bucharest, as was Major Carey of the
American Red Cross during our visit in Salonika; Dr. Frances Flood,
Director of the American Red Cross Hospital in Monastir, and Mrs. Mary
Halsey Moran, in charge of American relief work in Constantza, in whose
hospitable homes we found a warm welcome during our stays in those
cities; Reverend and Mrs. Phineas Kennedy of Koritza, Albania; Dr. Henry
King, President of Oberlin College, and Charles R. Crane, Esquire, of
the Commission on Mandates in the Near East; Dr. Fisher, Professor of
Modern History at Robert College, Constantinople; and finally of three
friends in Rome, Mr. Cortese, representative in Italy of the Associated
Press; Dr. Webb, founder and director of the hospital for facial wounds
at Udine; and Nelson Gay, Esquire, the celebrated historian, all three
of whom shamefully neglected their personal affairs in order to give me
suggestions and assistance.

To all of those named above, and to many others who are not named, I am
deeply grateful.

E. Alexander Powell.

Yokohama, Japan,
February, 1920.












The Queen of Rumania tells Major Powell that she
enjoys being a Queen _Frontispiece_


His first sight of the Terra Irridenta 12

The end of the day 20

A little mother of the Tyrol 20

Italy's new frontier 28

This is not Venice, as you might suppose, but Trieste 46

At the gates of Fiume 60

The inhabitants of Fiume cheering d'Annunzio and his raiders 78

His Majesty Nicholas I, King of Montenegro 124

Two conspirators of Antivari 130

The head men of Ljaskoviki, Albania, waiting to bid Major and
Mrs. Powell farewell 142

The ancient walls of Salonika 158

Yildiz Kiosk, the favorite palace of Abdul-Hamid and his
successors on the throne of Osman 194

The Red Badge of Mercy in the Balkans 208

The gypsy who demanded five lei for the privilege of taking
her picture 234

A peasant of Old Serbia 234

King Ferdinand tells Mrs. Powell his opinion of the fashion in
which the Peace Conference treated Rumania 240

The wine-shop which is pointed out to visitors as "the Cradle
of the War" 252




It is unwise, generally speaking, to write about countries and peoples
when they are in a state of political flux, for what is true at the
moment of writing may be misleading the next. But the conditions which
prevailed in the lands beyond the Adriatic during the year succeeding
the signing of the Armistice were so extraordinary, so picturesque, so
wholly without parallel in European history, that they form a sort of
epilogue, as it were, to the story of the great conflict. To have
witnessed the dismemberment of an empire which was hoary with antiquity
when the Republic in which we live was yet unborn; to have seen
insignificant states expand almost overnight into powerful nations; to
have seen and talked with peoples who did not know from day to day the
form of government under which they were living, or the name of their
ruler, or the color of their flag; to have seen millions of human
beings transferred from sovereignty to sovereignty like cattle which
have been sold - these are sights the like of which will probably not be
seen again in our times or in those of our children, and, because they
serve to illustrate a chapter of History which is of immense importance,
I have tried to sketch them, in brief, sharp outline, in this book.

Because I was curious to see for myself how the countrymen of Andreas
Hofer in South Tyrol would accept their enforced Italianization; whether
the Italians of Fiume would obey the dictum of President Wilson that
their city must be Slav; how the Turks of Smyrna and the Bulgarians of
Thrace would welcome Hellenic rule; whether the Croats and Slovenes and
Bosnians and Montenegrins were content to remain pasted in the Jugoslav
stamp-album; and because I wished to travel through these disputed
regions while the conditions and problems thus created were still new,
we set out, my wife and I, at about the time the Peace Conference was
drawing to a close, on a journey, made largely by motor-car and
destroyer, which took us from the Adige to the Vardar and from the
Vardar to the Pruth, along more than five thousand miles of those new
national boundaries - drawn in Paris by a lawyer, a doctor and a college
professor - which have been termed, with undue optimism perhaps, the
frontiers of freedom.

Some of the things which I shall say in these pages will probably give
offense to those governments which showed us many courtesies. Those who
are privileged to speak for governments are fond of asserting that
_their_ governments have nothing to conceal and that they welcome honest
criticism, but long experience has taught me that when they are told
unpalatable truths governments are usually as sensitive and resentful as
friends. Now it has always seemed to me that a writer owes his first
allegiance to his readers. To misinform them by writing only half-truths
for the sake of retaining the good-will of those written about is as
unethical, to my way of thinking, as it is for a newspaper to suppress
facts which the public is entitled to know in order not to offend its
advertisers. Were I to show my appreciation of the many kindnesses which
we received from governments, sovereigns and officials by refraining
from unfavorable comment on their actions and their policies, this book
would possess about as much intrinsic value as those sumptuous volumes
which are written to the order of certain Latin-American republics, in
which the authors studiously avoid touching on such embarrassing
subjects as revolutions, assassinations, earthquakes, finances, or
fevers for fear of scaring away foreign investors or depreciating the
government securities.

It is entirely possible that in forming some of my conclusions I was
unconsciously biased by the hospitality and kindness we were shown, for
it is human nature to have a more friendly feeling for the man who
invites you to dinner or sends you a card to his club than for the man
who ignores your existence; it is probable that I not infrequently
placed the wrong interpretation on what I saw and heard, especially in
the Balkans; and, in those cases where I have rashly ventured to indulge
in prophecy, it is more than likely that future events will show that as
a prophet I am not an unqualified success. In spite of these
shortcomings, however, I would like my readers to believe that I have
made a conscientious effort to place before them, in the following
pages, a plain and unprejudiced account of how the essays in map-making
of the lawyer, the doctor and the college professor in Paris have
affected the peoples, problems and politics of that vast region which
stretches from the Alps to the Ægean.

The Queen of the Adriatic never looked more radiantly beautiful than on
the July morning when, from the landing-stage in front of the Danieli,
we boarded the _vapore_ which, after an hour's steaming up the teeming
Guidecca and across the outlying lagoons, set us down at the road-head,
on the mainland, where young Captain Tron, of the Comando Supremo, was
awaiting us with a big gray staff-car. Captain Tron, who had been born
on the Riviera and spoke English like an Oxonian, had been aide-de-camp
to the Prince of Wales during that young gentleman's prolonged stay on
the Italian front. He was selected by the Italian High Command to
accompany us, I imagine, because of his ability to give intelligent
answers to every conceivable sort of question, his tact, and his
unfailing discretion. His chief weakness was his proclivity for
road-burning, in which he was enthusiastically abetted by our Sicilian
chauffeur, who, before attaining to the dignity of driving a staff-car,
had spent an apprenticeship of two years in piloting ammunition-laden
_camions_ over the narrow and perilous roads which led to the positions
held by the Alpini amid the higher peaks, during which he learned to
save his tires and his brake-linings by taking on two wheels instead of
four the hairpin mountain turns. Now I am perfectly willing to travel as
fast as any one, if necessity demands it, but to tear through a region
as beautiful as Venetia at sixty miles an hour, with the incomparable
landscape whirling past in a confused blur, like a motion-picture film
which is being run too fast because the operator is in a hurry to get
home, seems to me as unintelligent as it is unnecessary. Like all
Italian drivers, moreover, our chauffeur insisted on keeping his cut-out
wide open, thereby producing a racket like a machine-gun, which, though
it gave warning of our approach when we were still a mile away, made any
attempt at conversation, save by shouting, out of the question.

Because I wished to follow Italy's new frontiers from their very
beginning, at that point where the boundaries of Italy, Austria and
Switzerland meet near the Stelvio Pass, our course from Venice lay
northwestward, across the dusty plains of Venetia, shimmering in the
summer heat, the low, pleasant-looking villas of white or pink or
sometimes pale blue stucco, set far back in blazing gardens, peering
coyly out at us from between the ranks of stately cypresses which lined
the highway, like daintily-gowned girls seeking an excuse for a
flirtation. Dotting the Venetian plain are many quaint and charming
towns of whose existence the tourist, traveling by train, never dreams,
their massive walls, sometimes defended by moats and draw-bridges,
bearing mute witness to this region's stormy and romantic past. Towering
above the red-tiled roofs of each of these Venetian plain-towns is its
slender campanile, and, as each campanile is of distinctive design, it
serves as a landmark by which the town can be identified from afar.
Through the narrow, cobble-paved streets of Vicenza we swept, between
rows of shops opening into cool, dim, vaulted porticoes, where the
townspeople can lounge and stroll and gossip without exposing themselves
to rain or sun; through Rovereto, noted for its silk-culture and for its
old, old houses, superb examples of the domestic architecture of the
Middle Ages, with faded frescoes on their quaint façades; and so up the
rather monotonous and uninteresting valley of the Adige until, just as
the sun was sinking behind the Adamello, whose snowy flanks were bathed
in the rosy _Alpenglow_, we came roaring into Trent, the capital and
center of the Trentino, which, together with Trieste and its adjacent
territory, composed the regions commonly referred to by Italians before
the war as _Italia Irredenta_ - Unredeemed Italy.

Rooms had been reserved for us at the Hotel Trento, a famous tourist
hostelry in pre-war days, which had been used as headquarters by the
field-marshal commanding the Austrian forces in the Trentino, signs of
its military occupation being visible in the scratched wood-work and
ruined upholstery. The spurs of the Austrian staff officers on duty in
Trent, as Major Rupert Hughes once remarked of the American staff
officers on duty in Washington, must have been dripping with furniture

Trent - or Trento, as its new owners call it - is a place of some 30,000
inhabitants, built on both banks of the Adige, in the center of a great
bowl-shaped valley which is completely hemmed in by towering mountain
walls. In the church of Santa Maria Maggiore the celebrated Council of
Trent sat in the middle of the sixteenth century for nearly a decade. On
the eastern side of the town rises the imposing Castello del Buon
Consiglio, once the residence of the Prince-Bishops but now a barracks
for Italian soldiery.

No one who knows Trent can question the justice of Italy's claims to the
city and to the rich valleys surrounding it, for the history, the
traditions, the language, the architecture and the art of this region
are as characteristically Italian as though it had never been outside
the confines of the kingdom. The system of mild and fertile Alpine
valleys which compose the so-called Trentino have an area of about 4,000
square miles and support a population of 380,000 inhabitants, of whom
375,000, according to a census made by the Austrians themselves, are
Italian. An enclave between Lombardy and Venetia, a rough triangle with
its southern apex at the head of the Lake of Garda, the Trentino,
originally settled by Italian colonists who went forth as early as the
time of the Roman Republic, was for centuries an independent Italian
prince-bishopric, being arbitrarily annexed to Austria upon the fall of
Napoleon. In spite of the tyrannical and oppressive measures pursued by
the Austrian authorities in their attempts to stamp out the affection of
the Trentini for their Italian motherland, in spite of the systematic
attempts to Germanicize the region, in spite of the fact that it was an
offense punishable by imprisonment to wear the Italian colors, to sing
the Italian national hymn, or to have certain Italian books in their
possession, the poor peasants of these mountain valleys remained
unswervingly loyal to Italy throughout a century of persecution. Little
did the thousands of American and British tourists who were wont to make
of the Trentino a summer playground, climbing its mountains, fishing in
its rivers, motoring over its superb highways, stopping in its great
hotels, realize the silent but desperate struggle which was in progress
between this handful of Italian exiles and the empire of the Hapsburgs.

The attitude of the Austrian authorities toward their unwilling subjects
of the Trentino was characterized by a vindictiveness as savage as it
was shortsighted. Like the Germans in Alsace, they made the mistake of
thinking that they could secure the loyalty of the people by awing and
terrorizing them, whereas these methods had the effect of hardening the
determination of the Trentini to rid themselves of Austrian rule. Cæsare
Battisti was deputy from Trent to the parliament in Vienna. When war was
declared he escaped from Austria and enlisted in the Italian army,
precisely as hundreds of American colonists joined the Continental Army
upon the outbreak of the Revolution. During the first Austrian offensive
he was captured and sentenced to death, being executed while still
suffering from his wounds. The fact that the rope parted twice beneath
his weight added the final touch to the brutality which marked every
stage of the proceeding. The execution of Battista provided a striking
object-lesson for the inhabitants of the Trentino and of Italy - but not
the sort of object-lesson which the Austrians had intended. Instead of
terrifying them, it but fired them in their determination to end that
sort of thing forever. From Lombardy to Sicily Battista was acclaimed a
hero and a martyr; photographs of him on his way to execution - an erect
and dignified figure, a dramatic contrast to the shambling, sullen-faced
soldiery who surrounded him - were displayed in every shop-window in the
kingdom; all over Italy streets and parks and schools were named to
perpetuate his memory.

Had there been in my mind a shadow of doubt as to the justice of Italy's
annexation of the Trentino, it would have been dissipated when, after
dinner, we stood on the balcony of the hotel in the moonlight, looking
down on the great crowd which filled to overflowing the brilliantly
lighted piazza. A military band was playing _Garibaldi's Hymn_ and the
people stood in silence, as in a church, the faces of many of them wet
with tears, while the familiar strains, forbidden by the Austrian under
penalty of imprisonment, rose triumphantly on the evening air to be
echoed by the encircling mountains. At last the exiles had come home.
And from his marble pedestal, high above the multitude, the great statue
of Dante looked serenely out across the valleys and the mountains which
are "unredeemed" no longer.


King Victor Emanuel arriving at Trieste on a destroyer after its
occupation by the Italians]

Though Italy's original claims in this region, as made at the
beginning of the war, included only the so-called Trentino (by which is
generally meant those Italian-speaking districts which used to belong to
the bishopric of Trent) together with those parts of South Tyrol which
are in population overwhelmingly Italian, she has since demanded, and by
the Peace Conference has been awarded, the territory known as the upper
Adige, which comprises all the districts lying within the basin of the
Adige and of its tributary, the Isarco, including the cities of Botzen
and Meran. By the annexation of this region Italy has pushed her
frontier as far north as the Brenner, thereby bringing within her
borders upwards of 180,000 German-speaking Tyrolese who have never been
Italian in any sense and who bitterly resent being transferred, without
their consent and without a plebiscite, to Italian rule.

The Italians defend their annexation of the Upper Adige by asserting
that Italy's true northern boundary, in the words of Eugène de
Beauharnais, written, when Viceroy of Italy, to his stepfather,
Napoleon, "is that traced by Nature on the summits of the mountains,
where the waters that flow into the Black Sea are divided from those
that flow into the Adriatic." Viewed from a purely geographical
standpoint, Italy's contention that the great semi-circular barrier of
the Alps forms a natural and clearly defined frontier, separating her by
a clean-cut line from the countries to the north, is unquestionably a
sound one. Any one who has entered Italy from the north must have
instinctively felt, as he reached the summit of this mighty mountain
wall and looked down on the warm and fertile slopes sweeping southward

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