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Balkan war can be had by simply glancing at the records of the British House of Commons of the first weeks after the war was declared.
Sir Edward Grey, then and now Foreign Secretary of State for Great Britain, making the first announcement of the rupture between Turkey and the Balkan States, said-exposing the views not only of his Government but of the European concert as well-that Europe, being taken unawares, would not permit any alteration of the Balkan frontiers as the result of the war.
After the first victcries of the Balkan allies we see Great Britain changing her policy. "The Balkan victors shall not be deprived of the fruits of their victories," Premier Asquith was declaring in Parliament less than a fortnight after Sir Edward spoke. In both these instances the British statesmen were voicing the policy of the European concert taken as a whole. In the first place, the Foreign Secretary was led into believing that Turkey might prove victorious against the Balkan coalition, and the warning about the immutability of the Balkan frontiers was only for Turkey, in case her victorious armies were to cross the boundaries into Bulgaria, Servia, Montenegro, and Greece.
When events marked the utter collapse of the Turkish campaign, Premier Asquith came out with the declaration that Europe had agreed on a policy safeguarding the interests of the victorious Balkan allies. This policy was maintained as long as the Balkan victories were confined in their first progress toward Ottoman territory, at the same time leaving the great European interests unharmed. But when Servian troops arrived at Durazzo, and Montenegro entered Scutari while Greece kept pushing on to Avlona, and Bulgaria stood before Tchataldja, the European concert was no longer unanimous in safeguarding the interests of the victors.
Austria, seeing her secular dream of a descent on Saloniki definitely destroyed, and feeling at the same time the imperative need of making impossible a Servian occupation of the Adriatic
littoral, raised her voice in favor of the creation of an autonomous Albania at the expense of Servia, Montenegro, and Greece.
Italy, and then Germany, joined their ally in support of Albania. Russia, at the same time not wishing to give any greater impetus to the Bulgarian campaign, dexterously manipulated Rumania, which raised at that time her first claims on Dobrudja.
France, who for the last twentyfive years has subjected her Near Eastern policy to the exigencies of the Petrograd statesmen, agreed to the Albanian proposals of the four powers, and finally Great Britain, fearing complications, declared abruptly through Sir Edward Grey that the Balkan war was one of conquest, and for that reason subject to European intervention. In this way European diplomacy stepped into the Balkan conflict and took charge of the final settlement of the first war.
The resolution to interfere in the war once taken, the European powers lost no time in finding a way to end the conflict, and with this object in mind they forced on the belligerents two successive armistices, culminating in the two peace conferences of London. These armistices served two purposes from the diplomatic point of view; first, they exhausted financially the little Balkan countries; and, secondly, they prepared public opinion for the acceptance of any peace terms.
The second conference in London succeeded in forcing a peace treaty on the Balkan States. With the exception of Bulgaria, who hoped to retain most of the Turkish territory won by the Balkan coalition, every one was dissatisfied with the way the London conference ended.
Turkey, on one hand, was losing more territory than at first imagined, as the result of her defeat, and the loss of Adrianople was especially hard for every Turk.
Greece was obliged to sign a peace treaty giving her vague and indefinite boundaries and leaving out the question of the Aegean Islands and Epirus, to be settled at a later date by another
conference of the Ambassadors of the six great powers in London.
Servia also had to wait for the realization of her fondest hope, which was to obtain a free commercial access to the Adriatic by way of Durazzo or San Giovanni di Medua. That question also was to be decided by the Ambassadorial conference. Montenegro was to lose Scutari, for which she had shed her heart's blood, without getting at the same time any adequate compensation. Such was the Peace of London, from the strictly Balkan point of view, and its conclusion in May, 1913, was the signal for the disruption of the Balkan League and the forerunner of the second war. One month later Bulgaria, having fallen under Austrian influences, quarreled with Servia and Greece over the division of certain Macedonian territories, and on June 16 (29, New Style,) all of a sudden attacked her erstwhile allies, thereby bringing about the second Balkan conflict, with Greece, Servia, and Montenegro united against her. The outcome of this war, the entry of Rumania and Turkey into the field against Bulgaria, the tearing up of the London Treaty, and the settlement of Bucharest are too well known to need an extensive mention here.
The Treaty of London once torn to pieces by the second Dalkan war, it remained for the great powers to find a new way of forcing their terms on the recalcitrant Balkan States, and this they succeeded in doing by adroitly using Rumania as the representative of European diplomacy. Thus the Rumanian Army, without any provocation from Bulgaria, took the field against her neighbor, and acted as a mediator and arbiter of the second Balkan conflict.
The Greek, Servian, Montenegrin, and Bulgarian delegates who went to Bucharest at the close of the war knew beforehand that behind the actions of the Rumanian Government stood united the whole of European diplomacy, again striving to put down once for all these insolent little States who thought themselves emancipated from European guardianship. These delegates knew quite well
that there was no escape, but they went, trying and hoping for the best. The Rumanian "Green Papers," published a short time after the Treaty of Bucharest and covering a period between Sept. 20, 1912, and Aug. 1, 1913, give a vivid and true story of the whole proceedings, showing once more what a powerful instrument diplomacy is in the hands of the strong for cheating the weak.
On Aug. 1, 1914, we see the Balkan Peninsula presenting the following aspect:
From the erstwhile European Turkey, of six vilayets, or departments, namely, those of Adrinople, Saloniki, Monastir, Uskub, Jannina, and Scutari, only one, and that mutilated, remains, the Vilayet of Adrianople. Greece, Bulgaria, Servia, Montenegro, and Albania appropriated the rest. Gone is Crete, and gone are the twenty-six Aegean Islands, twelve of them permanently united to their Hellenic motherland, while Italy temporarily occupies fourteen as a result of the Tripolitan war of 1911. Thus Turkey, from an area of 168,500 square kilometers, and 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 inhabitants, forming her European dominions, was reduced to about 30,000 square kilometers and nearly 3,000,000 inhabitants, including the population of Constantinople, amounting, according to the only available foreign statistics, to 1,203,000 inhabitants. Of course Turkey has in Asia an area of more than 2,000,000 square kilometers, with a population approximating 20,000,000, but that, properly speaking, does not enter into Balkan considerations.
Greece, after her two victorious wars, approximates 120,000 square kilometers in territory, with more than 5,000,000 population.
Rumania has 139,690 square kilometers of area and 7,601,660 of population.
Servia has an area of 87,300 square kilometers and a population of 4,256,000.
Bulgaria's area is 114,000 square kilometers, with 4,766,900 of population.
Montenegro has an area of 14,180 square kilometers and half a million in population, and, lastly, Albania, the new
born State, with its scant hope of future political life, has an area of about 17,600 square kilometers, with an approximate population of 800,000 inhabitants.
Were the Balkan States satisfied with the above arrangement when the great European war broke? To this question we have the following answer from those concerned:
Turkey never forgave the European powers the treatement accorded to her in the London peace conference, and proved her dissatisfaction by entering Thrace and occupying Adrianople immediately she saw Bulgaria engaged in the second war. But Turkey desired also the Aegean islands occupied by Greece, and these, all but two at the entrance to the Dardanelles, the powers allotted to Greece, not securing thereby an increase of Turkish sympathies.
Greece was disappointed in two instances by the European powers; first, because they did not make their decision regarding the islands binding upon Turkey, thus creating a series of unending controversies between the Porte and the Government of Athens, one result of which was the wholesale expulsions and persecutions of the Greek element in Turkey, and especially in the Vilayets of Adrianople and Smyrna.
tion of settling in a friendly way the Greco-Turkish differences was to be discussed between the Grand Vizier, Prince Said Halim, and the Premier of Greece, E. K. Venizelos, in a meeting of the two statesmen in Brussels, when the great European war broke.
Bulgaria, who for a moment saw her most cherished dream of Balkan hegemony realized and had all her fondest hopes shattered by the second war and the Treaty of Bucharest, cannot help regarding her neighbors as the robbers of what she considers her national patrimony, and at the same time she does not forget that in all their proceedings against her, Greek, Servian, Rumanian, and Montenegrin acted with the tacit approval of the great powers.
Servia for years had struggled to get an outlet on the Adriatic, and when, after a glorious war, she attained her goal,
she found Austria opposing her, and behind Austria the whole of the European concert.
Montenegro in the same way cannot forget the disappointment of being cast out of Scutari after one of the most strenuous and glorious campaigns of her history, and lastly Albania, poor and helpless, without any support from her creators, feels all that a weak and wretched foundling has to feel toward those responsible for its misfortunes and miseries. In contrast with these feelings, Rumania was the only Balkan State perfectly satisfied with the new arrangement. In fact, Rumania, having played in the war the part of a great power, came out of it not only with increased prestige but also with the richest of all the Bulgarian provinces, Dodrudja, as a sort of deserved payment for serving the ends of European diplomacy.
From this general dissatisfaction of the Balkan States with European diplomacy and European intrigue sprang Gavrilo Prinzip and the murder at Serajevo that plunged Europe and the World into the greatest and most disastrous war of all time.
In fairness, however, to the Balkan States it must be said at this juncture that war, in whatever form and character, was far from the Balkan mind on June 28, 1914, when the Austrian Archduke and heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand, and his consort were assassinated by the Servian youth Prinzip in the capital of Bosnia.
The years 1912 and 1913 had been too costly for the whole of the Balkan Peninsula, and the necessity of a continued peace for a good number of years was universally recognized, with the exception of Constantinople, in Athens, Bucharest, Sofia, Belgrade, Cettinje, and even Durazzo. To prove this we have the opinions of all the Balkan leaders and the views expressed in the Balkan press up to Aug. 1, 1914.
A single point yet calls for a few remarks, and this covers the mutual relations of the Balkan States just before the European war.
We have seen in what a degree the
question of the ownership of the Aegean Islands had divided the Governments of Athens and Constantinople. In fact, if any war in the Near East were to be feared, this was one between the two secular enemies, Greek and Turk, and when in May, 1913, the anti-Greek agitation in the Ottoman Empire reached its climax it was only through the tremendous influence of the Greek Premier on Hellenic public opinion and his extreme moderation that a new diplomatic rupture between the two countries was averted.
In anticipation of this eventuality Turkey secured two battleships of the dreadnought type, the Brazilian Rio de Janeiro (then Sultan Osman I. and afterward H. M. S. Erin, England having taken over the ship on Aug. 5, 1914) and the Reshadieh, (likewise taken over by England and renamed H. M. S. Agincourt,) and was preparing for war in such haste that Greece did not hesitate to buy at the original cost price the two old American battleships Idaho and Mississippi, (now Lemnos and Kilkis.)
This was in July, 1914, just a few weeks before the European war. Since that time Greco-Turkish relations have been neither better nor worse. It must be said here that these relations had their origin, not in the obsolete London Treaty of May, 1913, but in the Treaty of Athens, signed in December, 1913, between the two countries, and covering in a general way the more essential points of the outstanding questions between the two parties, excluding, however, the Aegean Islands controversy.
After signing the Treaty of Bucharest Bulgaria turned her attention exclusively to Turkey, and, letting bygones be bygones, concluded the Peace Treaty of Constantinople in October, 1913, and inaugurated the most friendly relations with her erstwhile opponent. Since that time the report has spread that an alliance, both offensive and defensive, had been signed by the two countries, but this has been repeatedly denied both from Constantinople and Sofia.
The diplomatic relations between Servia and Turkey and Montenegro and Turkey were re-established a short time
before the European war, but these countries, being now in no direct contact with Turkish territory, their relations with the Porte are of little importance.
Between Bulgaria on one hand and Rumania, Greece, Servia, and Montenegro on the other, the diplomatic relations have been re-established, but gone is the old friendship, for reasons already explained. Greece, Servia, and Montenegro are the best of friends and, according to unofficial and confidential reports, a defensive and offensive alliance for the maintenance of the Balkan status quo exists between the three countries. Between Rumania and Greece friendly relations exist, and for some time it was said that a marriage was to be arranged between the Greek Crown Prince, George, and the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of the Rumanian King, Ferdinand I., who succeeded to the throne after the death of his uncle, King Charles. This match, however, seems to have been abandoned, perhaps for political reasons, and more SO because Greco-Rumanian relations have not as yet reached that firmness which only might justify such a rapprochement of the two royal families.
Between Servia and Rumania there is some courtesy but scarcely any friendship, and this is not surprising, especially now, when each side is aiming to an aggrandizement (at the expense of Austria) in a way injurious to the other. Montenegro naturally follows Servia's course, and as for Albania, what we said previously of her applies now, with this particular observation, that the only neighborly interest shown her is from Italy, trying to play the game of Tripoli at the expense of the Skipetars, while all the other European powers are busily engaged in the great war.
In conclusion we may note that of all the Balkan States only Rumania and, to a certain degree, Greece have any money to run their affairs. This, however, has nothing to do with the matter of their entrance in the war, as in that case there will be one or the other European combination to pay the freight.
Such was the aspect of the Balkan Peninsula at the beginning of the great European war.
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