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and this in spite of the formidable barrier of the Vosges.

The op>ening in the mountain border of France has therefore affected
the country adversely. In Belgium too a similar evil is due to the
same cause. This small nation's only natural fron-
qJJ®~ ^^^ tier is the sea on the west Its territory is borderless
on the other sides. Belgium therefore became the
hedge coimtry in which French and German elements met It has
been the alternate prey of Teuton and Roman. Its population to-day
is made up of two elements, the Flemish and the Walloon, each rep-
resenting the two great peoples of western Europe. Time has welded
the two Belgian elements into a nation endowed with consciousness
of its individuality. But the curse of its unfortunate position has
hovered over the land through the ages to our day.

The country is divided within itself into a hilly and a depressed
area. The uplands are peopled by the Walloons and form the area
Reiirifln ^' French language. The lowland is the home of

Nal^^ Unit7 ^^ Flemings who speak a Teutonic dialect but
who also know French. For an official and the busi-
ness language of Belgium is French. This language is also that
of polite society and represents the existence of national imity. With
all the diversity brought about by race and environment both
Flemings and Walloons consider themselves as Belgians above every-
thing else. This union rests on solid economic foimdations; for the

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two main divisions complement each other. The lowlands contain
the farming and trading centers of the comitry, while the hilk have
become the seat of thriving mining and metallurgical industries.
The needs of the population are fdled by exchanges which take place
within the land. This condition is one in which culture has turned
environment to advantage with results beneficial to nationality.

The part played in history by Europe's northern plain looms so
for in an unfavorable light. It is the home of the Teutonic peoples
^^^^ and the seat of German power. Germany in Europe
Central nace ^ ^^ country of the core. The nation occupies on
the map a magnificently central position between the
Latin and the Slavic world. German writers have dwelt on this
enviable location with the utmost elation. **The heart of Europe"
is the appellation they often bestow upon their land. That this
position has contributed to the strength of Germany in war we know
to-day. In view of this, the lateness in the achievement of German
national imity is surprising. Here again the evidence of the map is
illuminating. German national territory comprises both a
mountain zone and a lowland. The transition between these two
natural regions is obtained by a series of subzones of decreasing
elevation but which are endowed with sufficient ph3^cal importance
to form distinct areas of peopling.

This fact coupled to the utter lack of frontiers on the northern
plain explains why Germany was divided into a large number of
petty states down to the memory of living generations. Comparison
of German physical and historical maps shows that the pohtical
morseling of German territory is particularly intense in the mountain-
ous areas of the south and southwest And each unit can be traced
to its geographical foundation. Thus to mention only a few Bavaria
represents the upper basin of the Danube, Wurtemberg the upper
valley of the Neckar and Franconia the higher valleys of the Main.

Thfa geographical phase of German history is repeated to a certain
extent in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The territory of the
Aftin^Al T^visl Monarchy is even more diversified than that

Anstria-HimearT ^^ ^^ Teutonic neighbor and ally. It will be shown
^^^ below that the varied elements making up the
population of the empire represent distinct natural regions.
Austria-Hungary is not a nation but only a political state. This
artificial unity is due to a single cause, to wit, the existence of the
important Danube corridor. Barring the Volga, this river is the

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longest in Europe. Its valley has always been the main artery of
continental trade. Historically Austria owes its political life and
its large territory to this river.

The importance of this natural highway was intensified at the time
of the Turkish penetration into Europe. The conquest of Balkan
land by Mohanmiedan armies was to be followed by further westerly
invasions for which the Danube provided a convenient route.
Austria's mission was to check the Turkish advance. For this pur-
pose Christendom in the affected regions rallied around Austria.
The large number of Slavs who owe allegiance to the house of Haps-
burg to-day is a relic of former grouping for protection. But with
the passing of the Turkish danger the reason for Austrian subjection
of alien peoples was removed. Valid reason may therefore be ad-
vanced for the liberation of Italians, Slavs or Rumanians from the
Austrian yoke.

The southern boundary of the Austrian state abuts against Italian
lands from Switzerland to the Carinthian hills. Along this contact
line a notable Italian element maintains itself within
Ele ents -^^s^™"" '^^ foreign area is Italian proper in western
Tyrol and Ladin in its eastern extension. The southerly
advance of Germans in the moimtains followed the valle)^ of the
Etsch and Eisack, showing thereby that the channels through which
mountain waters flowed also facilitated transit of traders from
Gernian highlands to the Adriatic. A steady ciurent of freight has
been maintained along this route since the beginnings of continental
commerce. By the Middle Ages numerous colonies of German
merchants had acquired solid footing along the much-traveled road
over the Brenner Pass which connected Augsburg and Venice.

By degrees the Germans occupied the valley of the Etsch south of
its confluence with the Eisack. The divide between Teutonic and
Italian languages has its westernmost reach at Stelvio near Trafoi.
The junction of Swiss and Austrian political boundaries at this point
corresponds to the contact between the German of the Tyrol and the
Romansh idioms of Engadine. Ladin settlements begin north of
the Fleims valley and spread beyond the Groden basin to Pontebba
and Malborghet where the meeting of three of Europe's important
peoples, the Romans, Germans and Slavs, occurs.

The Italian section of the Tyrol constitutes the Trentino of present-
day Italian irredentists. As early as 774 Charlemagne's division of
the region between the kingdoms of Bavaria and of Italy had implied

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recognition of differences which later were to be expressed by nation-
ality. But the importance of maintaining German control over
natural lines of access to southern seas determined his successors to
award temporal rights in the southeastern Alps to bishops upon
whose adherence to Germanic interests reliance could be placed.
The bishopric of Trentino thus passed under the Teutonic sphere of
influence which is preserved to-day by the political union of the
territory of the old see to the Austrian Empire. Definite annexa-
tion of the Trentino to the province of T)rrol took place in 1815.
Contact with the Teutonic element appears to have failed, however,
to eradicate or modify the Italian character of the region's institu-
tions or its life.

The Czechs of Bohemia make up Slavdom's vanguard in Europe.
On a racial map the area they occupy conveys a vivid picture of a ram

- I Qi battering the compact mass of Teutons. Few regions
Vanffuard *"^ ^ ^^^ defined as this mountain-framed land. It

is the most centrally situated block of continental
Europe. Here better than in any unredeemed territory perhaps, the
j)oet's song, the historian's tale and the scientist's achievements have
contributed to the awakening of national conscience. With school,
church and their famous athletic and tourist associations as sole
weapons, the Czechs are waging a vigorous campaign to secure
political independence. Within their territory Pan Germanism is
strictly on the defensive. Pitted against Saxons on the north, Ba-
varians on the west and Austrians on the south, the Czechs like the
Slav-encircled Hungarians appear to derive renewed energy from the
very encroachments upon their national ideals.

With the Bohemians must be included their kinsmen and neigh-
bors the Moravians and Slovaks. Community of national aspirations
Th ftth ^ generally ascribed to these three Slavic groups. A
Czechs Czecho-Slovak body consisting of about 8,500,000 in-
dividuals thus came into being within the Dual Monarchy.
The Slovaks are mountain dwellers who have but slightly fraternized
with Czechs and Moravians notwithstanding close racial and lin-
guistic affinity. The course of centuries failed to change their cus-
toms or the mode of life led in the western Carpathians. The Hun-
garian plain unfolded itself below their rocky habitation without
tempting them to forsake the seclusion of their native valleys. Their
language holds its own as far east as the Laborec valley. Junction
with Polish is effected in the Tatra.

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South of the Baltic the unbroken expanse now peopled by Germans
merges insensibly into the western section of the great Russian plain.
ii» "D tff "^^^^ extensive lowland is featureless and provides
Positi ^ "no natural barriers between the two nations it
connects. The Polish area alone intervenes as a
buffer product of the basin of the middle Vistula. The region is a
silt-covered lowland which emerged to light after the drying out of
glacial lakes of recent geological age. It appears to have been in-
habited by the same branch of the Slavic race since the beginning
of the Christian era. It was the open country in which dearth of
food and the consequent inducement to migration did not exist.
The development of Poland rests primarily on this physical founda-
tion. Added advantages of good land and water coromunication
with the rest of the continent likewise contributed powerfully to the
spread of Polish power, which at one time extended from the Baltic
^ores to the coast of the Black Sea.

Political uniformity was thus the result of the unifying influence
of a region characterized by coromon physical aspects. From the
Carpathians to the Baltic, the valley of the Vistula constitutes both
the cradle and the blossoming field of Polish humanity and its insti-
tutions. In spite of the remoteness of the period of their occupation
of the land, these children of the plains never attempted to scale
mountainous slopes. The soUd wall of the western Carpathians
between Jablimka and Sanok, with its abrupt slopes facing the north,
forms the southern boundary of the country.

The struggle for predominance between Poles and Germans along
Poland's western boundary is fully nine centuries old. In the 6th
century Slavonic tribes had become widely dis-
1? " ^nn^^ tribut^ between the Oder and the Elbe in the course
of westerly expansions, which corresponded to south
and west migrations of Teutonic peoples. The beginning of the
present millennium witnessed the inception of a slow and powerful
Germanic drive directed toward the east. Repeated German aggres-
sions brought about the earliest union of all Polish tribes into one
nation at the beginning of the nth century. It proved, however,
of little avail before the fighting prowess of the knights of the Teu-
tonic Order who, by the first half of the 13th century, had succeeded
in adding all Wend territory to Teutonic dominions. This early
and northern phase of the "Drang nach Osten" brought the
Germans to the coast of the Gulf of Finland. Their advance was

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rendered possible in part by the presence of Tatar hordes menacing
southern Poland. Teutonic progress was also facilitated by the
condition of defenselessness which characterizes an open plain. Be-
tween the Oder and the Vistula the slightly undulating lowland is
continuous and devoid of barriers to communication which the
interposition of uplifted or uninhabitable stretches of territory
might have provided.

Polish history has been affected both favorably and adversely by
this lack of natural bulwarks. The one-time extension of Polish
Poland Without ^^^^S^^^X ^^ ^^^ coasts of the Baltic and Black
Defenses ^^^ ^^ *^ within fifty miles of Berlin and the cen-

tral plateau of Russia was a result of easy travel
in a plain. This advantage was more than offset by the evident
facOity with which alien races were able to swarm back into the vast
featureless expanse forming Polish territory. The very dismem-
berment of the coimtry is in part the result of the inability of the
Poles to resort to the protection of a natural fortress, where a stand
against oppressing foes might have been made.

Poland's easterly expansion, with its prolonged and finally dis-
astrous conflict with Russia, began after the battle of GrUnwald in
1410. Although the Poles then inflicted a decisive defeat on the
German knights, the western provinces they had lost could not be
regained. In the eastern field the basin of the Dnieper merged
without abrupt transition into that of the Vistula just as the basin
of the Oder on the west had formed the western continuation of the
Baltic plain. Four centuries of struggle with Russia ensued until
the Muscovite Empire absorbed the greatest portion of Poland.

The presence in Europe of Hungarians, a race bearing strong

linguistic and physical aflSnity to Turkish tribesmen, is perhaps best

explained by the prolific harvests yielded by the

JKSuM ^^^^ ^^"^y^ ^^ ^^ Danube and Theiss. Huns,

Avars and Magyars, one and all Asiatics wandering
into Europe successively, were enticed into abandonment of nomad-
ism by the fertility of the boundless Alfold. Western influences
took solid root among these descendants of eastern ancestors after
their conversion to Christianity and the adoption of the Latin al-
phabet. So strongly did they become permeated by the spirit of
Occidental civilization that the menace of absorption by the Turks —
their own kinsmen — was rendered abortive whenever the Sultan's
hordes made successful advances toward Vienna. At the same time.

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fusion with the Germans was prevented by the Oriental origin of
the race. The foundation of a separate European nation was thus
laid in the Hungarian plains.

A minor group of Hungarians has settled on the eastern edge
of the Transylvania mountains. They live surrounded by Ru-
The Magyar °^^^°s ^^ *^ sides except on the west, where a lone
Oatpost outpost of Saxons brings Teutonic customs to the east.

The name of Szekler, meaning frontier guardsmen, ap-
plied to this body of Magyars, is indicative of their origin. Their
presence on the heights overlooking the Rumanian plain bespeaks
the solicitude of Hungarian sovereigns to control a site on which
the natural bulwark dominating their plains had been raised. These
Magyars represent at present the landed gentry of Transylvania.

This Hungarian colony was in full development at the end of the
13th century. Its soldiers distinguished themselves during the period
of war with the Turks. Prestige acquired on the battlefield strength-
ened the separate and semi-independent existence of the coromunity.
The region occupied by these Hungarians is situated along the eastern-
most border of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The towns of Schass-
burg and Maros V&s&rhely lie on its western border. The Rumanian
area situated between the land of the Szekler and the main Hun-
garian district is studded with numerous colonies of Mag3^rs, thereby
rendering delimitation of a boundary in the region almost impossible.

The Saxon colony adjoining the Szekler area on the west is also a
relic of medieval strategic requirements. In spite of the name by
which this German settlement is designated, its original
P J. members appear to have been recruited from different

sections of western European regions occupied by Teutons.
Colonization had already been started when King Gesa H of Hungary
gave it a fresh impulse in the middle of the 12th century by inducing
peasants of the middle Rhine and Moselle valleys to forsake servi-
tude in their native villages in return for land ownership in Tran-

To promote the eflSdency of the soldier colonists as frontier guards-
men an unusual degree of political latitude was accorded them. In
time their deputies sat in the Hungarian diet on terms of equality
with representatives of the nobility. Prolonged warfare with the
Tatar populations attempting to force entrance into the Hungarian
plains determined selection of strategical sites as nuclei of original
settlements. These facts are responsible for the survival of the

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Teutonic groups in the midst of Rumanians and Hungarians. To-day
the so-called Saxon area does not constitute a single group, but con-
sists of separate agglomerations clustered in the vicinity of the
passes and defiles which their ancestors were called upon to defend.
The upper valley of the Oltu and its mountain affluents in the rectangle
enclosed between the towns of Hermannstadt, Fogaras, Mediasch
and SchHssburg contain at present the bulk of this Austrian colony
of German ancestry.

The Germans and Hungarians who founded settlements on the
Transylvanian plateau were unable to impose their language and ideals
. on the inhabitants of the moimtainous region. Ruma-

umaman ^igin, representing the easternmost expansion of Latin
^^ speech, is in use to-day on the greatest portion of this

highland, as well as in the fertile valleys and plains surrounding it
between the Dniester and the Danube. A portion of Hungary and
the Russian province of Bessarabia is therefore included in this lin-
guistic unit outside of the kingdom of Rumania. Beyond the limits of
this continuous area the only important: colony of Rumanians is
found around Metsovo in Greece, where, in the recesses of the Pindus
mountains and surrounded by the Greeks, Albanians and Bulgarians
of the plains, almost half a mUlion Rumanians have managed to main-
tain their Latin character.

From the valley of the Dniester to the basin of the Theiss the steppes

of southern Russia spread in unvar3dng uniformity, save where the

tableland of the Transylvanian Alps breaks their con-

ve on ^^j^y^ 'pijg entire region was the Dacia colonized by

Plains and 1 ^ tt • r i»^ • 1 • t i- t> •

Mountains Romans. Umty of life m this home of Rumanian

nationality has been unaffected by the sharp physical
diversity afforded by the enclosure of mountain and plain within the
same linguistic boundary. The thoroughness with which Rumanians
have adapted themselves to the peculiarities of their land is evinced
by the combination of the twin occupations of herder and husbandman
followed by Moldavians and Wallachians. Cattle and flocks are
led every summer to the rich grazing lands of the elevated Transyl-
vanian valleys. In winter man and beast seek the pastures of die
Danubian steppes and prairies. Rumanians thus maintain mountain
and plain residences, which they occupy alternately in the year. These
seasonal migrations accoimt for the intimacy between highlanders
and lowlanders, besides affording adequate explanation of the
peopling of the region by a single nationality.

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There was a time, however, when Rumanian nationality became
entirely confined to the mountain zone. The invadons which fol-
lowed the retirement of the Romans had driven Rumanians to the
shelter of the Transylvanian ranges. Perched on this natural fortress,
they beheld the irruption of Slavs and Tatars in the broad valleys
which they had once held in imdisputed sway. Only after the flow
of southeastern migrations had abated did they venture to reoccupy
the plains and resume their agricultural pursuits and seasonal

The outstanding fact in these historical vicissitudes is that the
mountains saved Rumanian nationality. Had the Romanized
Dacians not been able to find refuge in the Transylvanian Alps there
is no doubt that they would have succumbed to Slavic or Tatar ab-
sorption. As it is, the life of Rumanians is strongly impregnated
witfi eastern influences. Oddly enough, its Oiristianity was derived
from Byzantium instead of from Rome, and were it not for a veritable
renaissance of Latinism about i860 its aflSnity with the Slavic world
would have been far stronger in the present century.

Of the two groups of southern Slavs subjected to Austro-Hungarian
rule the Slovenes are numerically inferior. Settled on the calcare-
ous plateau of Camiola, they' duster around Laibach
Q^^^ and attain the German area on the north, along the
Drave between Marburg and Klagenfurt. Eastward
they march with Hungarians and the Serbo-Croat group of southern
Slavs. Their southern boimdary also coincides with the latter's.
Around Gottschee, however, a German zone intervenes between
Slovene and Croatian areas. Practically the entire eastern coast of
the Gulf of Triest is peopled by Slovenes. The group thereby ac-
quires the advantage of direct access to the sea, a fact of no mean
importance among the causes that contribute to its survival to the
present day in spite of being surrounded by Germans, Hungarians,
Croats and Italians.

The Slovenes may be considered as laggards of the Slavic migrations
that followed Avar invasions. They would probably have occupied
the fertile plains of Hungary had they not been driven to their ele-
vated home by the pressure of Magyar and Turkish advances. Con-
finement in the uplajid prevented fusion with the successive occupants
of the eastern plains which unfolded themselves below their mountain
habitations. Racial distinctiveness characterized by language no
less than by highly developed attachment to tradition resulted from
this state of seclusion.

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South of the Hungarian and Slovene zones the Austro-Hungarian
domain comprises a portion of the area peopled by Serbians. Serbian
^^ language, predominates from the Adriatic coast to the

Serbian Stock ^^^® ^°^ Morava rivers, as well as up to the section
of the Danube comprised between its points of con-
fluence with these two rivers. Serbian, in fact, extends slightly east
of the Morava valley toward the Balkan slopes lying north of the
Timok river, where Rumanian prevails as the language of the up-
land. To the south contact with Albanian is obtained.

This Serbian area includes the independent kingdoms of Monte-
negro and Serbia. \Wthin the territory of the Dual Monarchy it
comprises the provinces of Croatia, Slavonia, Bosnia, Herzegovina
and Dalmatia. Serbian nationality is founded, therefore, on the
region of uplift which connects the Alps and the Balkans or which
intervenes between the Hungarian plain and the Adriatic.

Union between the inhabitants of this area is somewhat hampered
by the division of Serbians into three religious groups. The western-
most Serbs, who are also known as Croats, adhere to the Roman
Catholic faith. Followers of this group are rarely met east of the
19th meridian. A Mohammedan body consisting of descendants of
Serbs, who had embraced Islam after the Turkish conquest, radiates
around Sarajevo as a center. The bulk of Serbians belong, however,
to the Greek Orthodox church. Cultural analogies between the Mo-
hammedan and Orthodox groups are numerous. Both use the
Russian alphabet, whereas the Croats have adopted the Latin letters
in their written language.

The Serbian group made its appearance in the Balkan peninsula
at the time of the general westerly advance of Slavs in the 5th and 6th
centuries. A northwestern contingent, wandering
««^* te^> Serbia ^^^^S the river valle)rs leading to the eastern Alpine
foreland, settled in the regions now known as
Croatia and Slavonia. Here the sea and inland watercourses pro-
vided natural communications with western Europe. Evolution of
this northwestern body of Serbians into the Croatians of our day was
facilitated by the infiltration of western ideas. But the great body
of Serbians occupying the mountainous area immediately to the south
had their foreign intercourse necessarily confined to eastern avenues
of communication. They therefore became permeated with an
eastern civilization in which Byzantine strains can be easily detected.

Online LibraryWorld Peace FoundationA League of Nations → online text (page 9 of 53)