صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

ás was the injury inflicted by these events upon the prestige of their régime, never forgot for a moment that war would mean reaction and that even victory would be without fruit. Upon the northern frontier the Bulgarians, knowing that all would depend in a struggle upon the desperate use of their initial advantage in rapid mobilisation, waited to spring at a sign. At a serious gesture of Turkish aggressiveness they would have struck first. We have apparently again escaped the great war, but this generation in Europe now knows precisely how it feels to be on the brink of it.

To understand causes and consequences we must go back to the events immediately following the Turkish revolution. Western opinion was absorbed and enchanted by the spectacle of the public scenes of racial and religious reconciliation witnessed at places like Constantinople, Jerusalem, Beyrout. In Macedonia there appeared the little rift within the lute. We hope even yet that there will be no need to continue the quotation. It may prove, unhappily, to apply. From the first days of the reformed régime the antagonism between 'Bulgars on the one side and Greeks and Turks on the other began to exercise a sinister influence. The Greeks had received the revolution with transports, the Bulgars with sullenness. In their very silence the intensity of their ambition to acquire Macedonia was unmistakably revealed. But the Young Turks themselves, as has been before shown in these pages—and the vital importance of the distinction is even yet not sufficiently understood —are not Liberals in the first place. They are Nationalists above all. They could hardly help regarding the Bulgarians as the chief menace to the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. They were determined to defend all the rights of Turkey and to take a suitable opportunity of putting a parvenu and presumptuous nation in its proper place—that of a vassal State under Ottoman suzerainty. This attitude was the only serious mistake made by the “ Invisible Government,” and it was a very serious mistake indeed. The breach widened day by day. Sandansky, the leader of the brigand faction hostile to Sofia, was conspicuously patronised at Salonika. Negotiations failed upon a point of supreme importance. It is not certain what are the exact intentions of the Young Turks with regard to education and local government. They are still perhaps, with all their virility of temper, a little doctrinaire-prone to imitate the centralising tendencies of the French Revolution. They wished to make Turkish the ruling official language to a greater extent than is German in Austria or Magyar can remain in Hungary. But all the competing races feel that the fight for the extension of a language is a fight for the future of a race. The Bulgarian deputation to Salonika stipulated for a bold measure of autonomy in Macedonia. The Turks thought of Eastern Roumelia, and refused. The alienation between Sofia and Constantinople was complete. Bulgarians apprehended, and perhaps exaggerated, the danger with respect to their


3 N

national interests in Macedonia, of the rule of King Stork being substituted for that of King Log. The feeling that something must be done to make the future more certain was already strong when an untoward provocation determined them to act with trenchant decision

At the moment of the inauguration of the Hejáz railway and the great festivals at Medina, the credit of the new régime upon the Bosphorus stood at its height. Perhaps as a result of that mood of exaltation, and even under the conviction that it was a duty to reassert in every legal way the power and glory of Turkey, a very injurious and inexcusable affront was inflicted upon Bulgaria. To the diplomatic dinner on September 12th her agent was not invited. M. Gueshoff was informed that Bulgaria, being a vassal State, had no right at Constantinople to independent representation in the diplomatic corps. No efforts could induce Tewfik, the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs, to reconsider this decision. The whole Turkish press approved the attitude of the Porte, and declared that to Bulgarian protests upon such a plain point no importance could be attached. That blunder was of an unaccountable character. In relation to all the circumstances of the case it was of extraordinary magnitude. The Bulgarians deserve the name of “the Japanese of the Balkans," to at least this extent, that they are as proud as the Japanese of the national independence won thirty years ago. and as ready to shed the last drop of their blood in defence of the honour as well as the liberty of their country. Without reference to the Sultan, the Bulgarian Government for nearly a whole generation had exercised all diplomatic rights, had sent and received envoys, had concluded commercial treaties, had made peace and war. Bulgaria remained a neutral, like any other foreign State, in face of the war between Turkey and Greece in 1897, and was independently represented upon terms of absolute equality with Turkey in the second Hague Conference. These proofs might be amplified, but they are sufficient in themselves. To attack the real status quo by an attempt to treat the Bulgarian envoy in Constantinople as the agent of a vassal State was at least as unjustifiable and dangerous as the formal repudiation at Vienna and Sofia of those clauses of the Treaty of Berlin which had been allowed to remain for years & dead-letter.

M. Gueshoff quitted Constantinople. The Bulgarian Government prepared its stroke. The first step, though its real meaning was very cleverly masked, was the seizure of the East Roumelian rail. way. The great trunk line from Vienna to Constantinople passes through various States, and belongs to as many proprietors. But where it ran through Bulgaria only part of it was the property of the principality. The Eastern Roumelian section had remained under Ottoman control, and continued to be worked under a concession from the Porte by the Oriental Railways Company. The shareholders of that concern are chiefly German and Austrian. Now for mobilisation purposes this section not fully controlled by the principality is the most important. The Bulgarians were as dissatisfied with this state of things as we should be if a German company worked the London and North Western Railway. Nor ought Europe to have been under any doubt as to the significance of this question. Some warnings had been forgotten. Before his assassination, M. Petkoff had declared to a French interviewer 1 : “We hope to be able to repurchase the sections of our railways which still belong to the Oriental Railway. Bulgaria must have a complete network of communications, and a network which belongs to her alone." But the solution might have been indefinitely postponed had not relations between Sofia and Constantinople been strained. On September 18th, however, a few days after the Gueshoff incident, the employés on the Oriental Railway Company went on strike. The great through route was dislocated, and for a time communication with Central Europe was suspended. The Sofia Cabinet stepped in, manned the line and the rolling stock with troops, and upon a plea of the absolute necessity of restoring communications, seized the railway so long coveted. On September 21st the strike terminated, the company wished to resume control, but was told that a Bulgarian railway must remain in Bulgarian hands. Full financial compensation was promised. The act was piratical in procedure, but was political in intention to a more important extent than was at first realised. As a high-handed and most audacious defiance of international law it was not meant merely as a reassertion of Bulgarian prestige at the expense of the Young Turks. It was meant to place the whole mechanism of mobilisation in Buigarian hands, lest the worst consequences should follow from the repudiation of even the nominal status of a vassal State by the proclamation of Bulgarian independence. That was already determined upon.

The next link in the chain of events was the visit of the Prince and Princess of Bulgaria to Budapest in connection with the great jubilee of the Emperor-King. This visit was paid on September 23rd, immediately after the definite refusal to surrender the Eastern Roumelian line was known; and its importance was decisive. With Turkey alone Bulgaria had always been ready to measure herself. But she could not run the risk of being attacked in the rear. The neutrality of Roumania was essential, that of Servia desirable, and the attitude of these countries would be determined by that of Austria. Only a year ago Prince Ferdinand had made renewed efforts to secure Austrian consent to his assumption of the Royal title. He had failed. Upon the recent occasion of the Budapest

(1) See an admirable volume of political impressionism, Des Monts de Bohême au Golfe Persique, by René Henry (Plon, 1908), p. 418.

visit it was plain that the policy of the Ballplatz had altered. Vienna needed a precedent and an accomplice. The brilliancy and warmth of the welcome extended to the candidate for sovereign honours convincd the world that Austria had been squared, and that Bulgaria would act. It is the hard Tartar basis underlying the Slav surface in religion and language which makes “the Japanese of the Balkans” formidable in all they do. With an unscrupulousness very competent and very characteristic they prepared for the coup, and denied that it was contemplated. Cautious observers remembered a certain sentence, admirable in vigour and penetration, which occurs in Napoleon's correspondence: “ Austria is arming: she denies her armaments: therefore she is arming against us." When everything was ready the blow was struck. The last vestige of vassalship was thrown underfoot.

In the early morning of October 5th a royal salute was fired by the guns of the garrison at Sofia. A few hours later Prince Ferdinand and his Ministers arrived at Tirnovo and proceeded on foot to the ancient Church of the Forty Martyrs. There a memorable manifesto was read, restoring that ancient “ Tsardom ” of Bulgaria which once overshone even the crown of the Byzantine emperor. “Nothing should arrest the progress of Bulgaria, nothing should hinder her success. Such is the will of the nation. Let that will be fulfilled. . . . Inspired by the sacred purpose of satisfying national needs and fulfilling the national desire, I proclaim with the blessing of the Almighty, Bulgaria, united since September 6th, 1885, as an independent kingdom.” Ferdinand I. took, in fact, the title of Tsar -a little circumstance more amusing to Vienna than pleasing to St. Petersburg. It was, however, the title borne when Bulgaria stretched for a time from the Black Sea to the Adriatic. It was meant to suggest a further goal to national ambition. The new Tsar hoped that at some time in the future, no matter how remote it may now be, his dynasty will reign in Constantinople. For the rest, we recall a passage from the works of one of the most learned, sympathetic, and even enthusiastic friends the Slavs have ever had in the West, M. Louis Léger, to whose lifework every student of the affairs of South-Eastern Europe owes a deep debt:

It is to be remarked that among the Slavs-race essentially anarchical as they are-all the words designating authority are of foreign origin. Kral, king, comes from the German Karl; kniaz, prince, from König; tsar, from Cæsar. The choice of the higher title will prove sooner or later to have been not a ridiculous fact, but a serious one. When M. Léger describes his beloved Slavs as “an essentially anarchical race," his remark is unfortunately far too true. Yes, but the Bulgars are not pure Slavs. The Mongolian alloy makes them as patient, indomitable, constructive as the Prussians themselves. Bismarck remarked

[ocr errors]

long ago that they had the solid qualities out of which strong States are gradually built. They have, above all, the most priceless of gifts—the power of persevering work. No day in their national life is wasted. Travellers returning in the last few weeks to scenes they had last visited twenty or thirty years before were amazed to see cultivation climbing on every side to the tops of the hills.

Thunderclaps followed in the way we have already described. The question was now transferred in earnest to the Chanceries of the Great Powers. Sir Edward Grey took firm action at once. Without the loss of a day he called upon Europe to vindicate the faith of treaties. He declared it to be an indispensable condition of international security that no single Power should be able to repudiate a general engagement without the consent of its cosignatories. This was the principle upon which Austria insisted, as Sir Edward Grey reminded her, when Russia in 1871 had torn up the Black Sea clauses of the Treaty of Paris. The Foreign Secretary in the next place insisted that Turkey had a right to compensation and to some effectual guarantee against further attacks upon its prestige. Prestige is always a convenient, though never an attractive, word. In this case it represents a reality which it is very necessary to safeguard. The Young Turkish régime depends for its existence more upon its credit in the sight of the mass of Mussulmans than upon anything else. From the action of Bulgaria, Austria, Crete, the spirit of reaction, working in secret for a time but stronger from the beginning than had first been thought, received a mighty impulse. Sir Edward Grey at this time was not in favour of a Conference. It seemed better to try by every effort to localise the diplomatic trouble, and to prevent the reopening of the Eastern question as a whole. The Turks were looking to us, and their strong feeling was that Conferences had never done good to Ottoman interests. The foundations of our new-won influence upon the Bosphorus were about to be tested. The test has been prolonged. Whether we shall maintain a position which would have been one of the best assets of our Imperial policy—that is what still remains to be seen. Sir Edward Grey was supported by the overwhelming weight of public opinion. It is infinitely regrettable, however, that Baron Aehrenthal and Prince Ferdinand were ridiculed and denounced in many organs of the Press to an extent which was altogether unjustified by the circumstances, and was certain to prove a serious disadvantage to the true objects of British policy.

The next move rested with M. Isvolsky. The Russian Foreign Minister was by no means in complete accord with his British and French colleagues. He proposed that a Conference should be summoned, and he hinted at “compensation ” for Russia. This could

« السابقةمتابعة »