IX. The problem of reform
3. Policy of Russia
Of Russian policy it is equally difficult to write with assurance. For who makes Russia's policy? To answer the question would be to disentangle the intimate and complicated relations between the Tsar, the Grand Dukes, and the several ministries. It is a habit with a certain English school to talk as though Russia were a single entity which cherishes long views and works with amazing cunning and competence towards their realisation. The odd thing is that Russia entertains precisely the same delusion about us. It is merely a prejudice and an exaggeration which has grown up in the course of a long and bitter rivalry. Some of the Russian agents in Macedonia and the Balkan peninsula generally, undoubtedly seemed to be men
of an active and enterprising temper, who would gladly have favoured a policy of aggrandisement and intrigue. The war has taught us that the bureaucracy imposes only the slackest discipline upon its agents. If one were to judge Russian policy by the attitude of her consuls, one would certainly arrive at the conclusion reached by the Greeks, that Russia still favours the Bulgarians, subsidises the revolutionary Committee, ferments insurrection, and aims at consolidating her position in Turkey by using her kinship with the local Slavs to crush all other elements of the population. The Turks will add that she is steadily working to undermine their prestige and corrupt their integrity by every form of moral and political humiliation which an unscrupulous foe can devise. Such is the popular view in the Balkans, and, if one accepts the purely local standpoint, it is the natural and inevitable view.  When we turn, however, to what is generally known about the public attitude of the Russian Government, the facts tell a diametrically opposite tale. It may be undermining Turkish authority, but its influence has been supreme in Constantinople ever since 1890, when English prestige began to wane. It certainly stood by the Sultan during the Armenian butcheries. Towards Bulgaria it has been cold, and at times hostile, since the coup d'état of 1885, when Eastern Roumelia was added to Bulgaria proper, and the
1. The popular view of the Balkans is, of course, no evidence at all. In that atmosphere of intrigue and duplicity the lightest suspicion at once passes current as fact, and no native is so poor-spirited as to criticise evidence. The Greeks treat the statement that the Russian Government subsidise the Bulgarian Committees as a proposition which requires no demonstration. But the same Greek journalists who advance this charge also profess to believe that the English Relief Fund was spent in financing rebellion! An Albanian agitator of some experience once assured me that he knew for a fact that Boris Sarafoff had received a vast sum (naming the amount) from St. Petersburg. He went on to add that the English Balkan Committee had given him £50,000! The first statement, I fancy, deserves no more credit than the second. I once distributed a few hundred pounds to some famine-stricken villages in Crete, which were sent to me from the late Duke of Westminster's fund. I happened to be on terms of personal friendship with one or two of the Russian naval officers at Canea. It was at once assumed that I was a Russian agent, and that the money came from Russia! On such bases are Balkan politics built.
Russian officers who were training the Bulgarian army left it in the lurch to face Servia alone. It is true that the relationship is apt to grow more cordial when a Russophil Ministry comes into power at Sofia. The Tsar stood godfather to little Prince Boris, and there was a flicker of the old fraternal sentiment during the celebrations in 1902 at the Shipka Pass. But in general Russia has been at no pains to conceal her chagrin. When she created a free Bulgaria, she doubtless intended that it should be a mere vassal of her own Empire. She did not foresee the growth of a strong independent State. She accuses Bulgaria of ingratitude. She detests her radical and progressive tendencies. She realises that Bulgaria belongs in spirit to the West, and that the reactionary traditions of M. Pobiedonostseff's Empire  have as little attraction for her as for any of the non-Slavonic peoples of the Balkans. Time was when the Greeks, because they were Orthodox, were the favoured protégés of Russia. The Bulgarians succeeded them in her favour, and now they in turn have proved themselves unworthy of her patronage. The result is that the ideal of a free and autonomous Macedonia no longer attracts her. She was willing enough to liberate Macedonia in 1878 when she supposed that a Great Bulgaria, stretching from the Danube to the Aegean, would be a mere vestibule of the Russian Empire. To-day she hesitates, for she has no guarantee that a free Macedonia would serve her political ends. Nothing, indeed, is more curious than the way in which Russia and England have exchanged rôles since 1878. Then Disraeli opposed the liberation of Macedonia because he feared that a Great Bulgaria would strengthen Russia's power in the Balkans. To-day Lord Lansdowne supports the programme of autonomy and liberation because he knows that the complete emancipation of the Bulgarian race would erect a permanent barrier against Russian aggression. This reversal of policy had taken place as early as 1885, when Eastern Roumelia achieved her union with Bulgaria. England warmly supported the change;
2. This was written before Count Witte's coming to power. I am not sure that it is yet out of date.
Russia urged Abdul Hamid to reduce the rebel, by force of arms. The Bulgarians have not forgotten conduct of their late liberator in that crisis. No doubt Russia is unwilling to abandon altogether her Panslavist traditions.  She still whispers in Sofia, "A day will come." She still protects the Bulgarian Church, which she created. It is possible that her agents at times extend a dubious and furtive encouragement to the revolutionary Committees, and certainly they are often ready to rescue suspected insurgents from prison and exile. But her real policy is probably her public policy. She is doubtless sincere when she denounces the revolutionary organisations as subversive and criminal elements, and in her official communiqués throws upon them the whole responsibility for the anarchy of Macedonia. A consistent despotism could take no other view. It cannot with safety be liberal abroad and reactionary at home. There is an informal Holy Alliance, which Sultan, Kaiser, and Tsar make common cause any group of men who are struggling for freedom. There is too much in common between the Macedonian insurgent and the Russian terrorist for a modern Tsar to encourage the one while he dreads the other. And so it happened that when in 1902 it became clear that something must be done to avert insurrection and stave off war, Russia joined with Austria in proposing the barest minimum of reform. Both Powers probably foresaw that their prescriptions would fail. They took care to inaugurate a form of intervention which could not lead to autonomy, while it might easily pave the way for a joint occupation. In 1876, during a graver but somewhat similar crisis, Russia proposed a scheme of local autonomy for the various Slavonic provinces. In 1902 her scheme was an Austro-Russian control. It is obvious that when the day arrives for her to claim her inheritance in Turkey, she will not attempt to instal a native
3. Since the close of the Japanese War the Moscow Panslavist League, which used to be under the patronage of the late Grand Duke Serge, and is now controlled by one of his creatures, M. Tcherep Spiridovitch, has shown signs of renewed activity, and is once more turning its attention to the Balkans.
tenant. She will manage the estate herself. But it is no less clear
that it was not part of her plan to precipitate an immediate crisis. The
Japanese War was already casting its shadow over her path. She intended
to procrastinate and gain time, to secure a recognition of her right of
intervention but not to exercise it, to substitute one futile scheme of
reform for another, and to make good her claim at law while postponing
to her own convenience the moment for enforcing it.
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