The Balkan league
I. E. Gueshoff
CHAPTER II. THE EVE OF THE BALKAN WAR
M. Daneff in Russia - Disturbances in Turkey - Austrian proposal - Allies mobilise - Diplomatic notes which were exchanged at this stage of the crisis (I-VII, October 10-18, 1912) - Intervention justified
After the conclusion of our alliance with Serbia, it became my duty, according to article 4 of the secret annex, to transmit a copy of the Serbo-Bulgarian treaty to-the Russian Emperor. This had to be done with the least possible delay, as the Turco-Italian conflict and the internal condition of Turkey might give rise to fresh complications dragging us into a war. Our interests required that before intervening we should secure the approval of the treaty by the Emperor and his acceptance of the part of arbitrator which the treaty reserved to him. The arrival of the Russian Imperial family at Livadia during the spring of 1912 afforded a convenient opportunity for sending a complimentary deputation on behalf of the Bulgarian King and Government. M. Daneff, President of the National Assembly, was appointed as head of the deputation, and entrusted with the mission of handing to the Emperor copies of the SerboBulgarian treaty, its secret annex, and the military convention. The other members of the deputation were General Marcoff,
Colonel Loukoff, and M. Miltcheff. They left on May 4, reaching Yalta two days later. The Emperor received the deputation on May 7, and on May 9 it started back for Sofia, with the exception of M. Daneff, who on May 14 left for Petrograd. At the latter place he continued his interviews with M. Sazonoff, saw the other Russian Ministers, and, after passing through Berlin, joined me towards the end of May in Vienna, where I had gone in connection with the visit of the Bulgarian King and Queen to the Emperor Francis Joseph. I have already mentioned that while in Vienna I had consultations not only with M. Daneff, but also with M. Theodoroff, Minister of Finance, and M. Rizoff, our representative in Rome.
M. Daneff had communicated to me from Petrograd his impressions of the audience with the Russian Emperor, and of his conversations with the various Russian Ministers. He now gave us fuller particulars on these matters. According to his account, which was corroborated by other reports, the reception of the Bulgarian delegates had been of the heartiest character, especially at the final dinner in which the entire Imperial family was present. The Emperor had expressed his joy at our understanding with Serbia, fully approving the treaty and its annexes. He had also spoken in favour of a similar agreement with Greece. Both he and the Russian Ministers proemised us their assistance to meet the material requirements of the Bulgarian army and to place a Bulgarian loan
[ M. Daneff in Russia ]
in Paris and London. As might have been expected, the most important conversations of M. Daneff were with the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs. At a later date, M. Sazonoff remarked that they were begun in a “somewhat raised tone” on the part of M. Daneff. The main object of the principal Bulgarian delegate had been to impress on the Russian Foreign Secretary the hardships of the position in which Bulgaria was placed owing to the necessity of always keeping ready for a war, since peaceful methods have failed to turn even the present difficulties of Turkey to any appreciable advantage. Besides, it was to us of urgent importance that the Macedonian question should be settled at the earliest possible moment, in view of the fact that the Bulgarian population in Macedonia was being gradually reduced by the oppressive policy of the Turkish authorities. This intolerable situation had forced many Bulgarians to ask themselves whether the moment had not arrived to seek for remedy in armed force. In one word, M. Daneff had not disguised from M. Sazonoff that Bulgaria was only waiting for an opportunity to cast the die.
In reply to all this, M. Sazonoff had counselled a cautious policy on our part He emphasised the fact that a Bulgarian intervention, and the Balkan complications which must follow such a step, would not meet with the approval of the Russian Government and Russian public opinion. Neither was he so sure that a general conflict would prove profitable to Bulgaria.
M. Sazonoff admitted that at the subsequent interviews he had found M. Daneff more reassured in this respect. When they approached the subject of the Russo-Bulgarian relations and the possibility of a Russo-Bulgarian military convention, M. Daneff pleaded in favour of including the vilayet of Adrianople in the sphere of Bulgarian influence. To this M. Sazonoff had replied that the said province was left outside the frontiers of San Stefano Bulgaria, and that when we realised our national aspirations Adrianople would lose its present importance as a Turkish advance post, because Turkey would have become a secondary Power.
After discussing the abolition of the Capitulations, our relations with the other Balkan States, and the right of Bulgaria to be represented on the Danubian Commission, to which claim Austria had already agreed, a few words were said on the invitation addressed to the Russian Emperor, through M. Daneff, to attend the consecration of the Cathedral Church of Saint Alexander Nevski in Sofia. M. Sazonoff expressed the hope that, in view of the arrangements already made for the whole summer, the negative reply of the Tsar will not have come altogether as a surprise to M. Daneff.
The subject of a military convention between Russia and Bulgaria was also discussed with General Souhomlinoff, the War Minister. M. Daneff had agreed with the latter that the question should once more be examined by General Paprikoff, our Minister
[ Disturbances in Turkey ]
in Petrograd, and General Souhomlinoff, after which a project would be submitted to Bulgaria. I may add here that no such project was received by us before the Balkan war, and that the Russian Government never again mentioned the subject either in Petrograd or in Sofia. The Russians were evidently not in a great hurry to conclude such a convention with us, fearing perhaps that it might further accentuate the warlike disposition which they had noticed in M. Daneff and in other allied statesmen.
MM. Daneff, Theodoroff, Rizoff, and myself remained in Vienna until nearly the middle of June. After supplying M. Rizoff with instructions on the important matter which had brought him to Vienna, we left for Bulgaria, where I undertook a short journey in the southern departments, resuming my work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs towards June 20. Not long after my return, we were startled by those fateful events in Turkey which forced the allies to mobilise their armies, and finally precipitated the Balkan war.
It was not in vain that the late Herr von Kiderlen-Wächter warned me to expect the early fall of the Young Turkish regime. The new Turkish crisis was accompanied by such violent disturbances that our allies were no less impressed than ourselves, and proposed the adoption of measures which should guard the Christian nations in the Balkans against the cataclysm with which Turkey was threatened. Cataclysm was the term
employed by M. Maioresco, the Roumanian Prime Minister, when in June 1912 he for the first time mentioned to our Chargé d'Affaires in Bucharest the desperate condition of things in the Ottoman Empire. I seized this opportunity to reply that we were ready to come to an understanding with Roumania in the event of a Turkish catastrophe. M. Maioresco, however, declined to enter into my views, even after M. Kalinkoff, our Minister in Bucharest, had renewed my offer, contenting himself with the vague assurance that if matters reached a climax, Bulgaria and Roumania would easily come to an agreement. He also declined to say what the territorial demands of Roumania would be in such a case.
I need not dwell at great length on the first symptoms of the coming crash : agitations throughout Turkey against the Young Turks, the circular letter of Mahmoud Shevket Pasha forbidding the officers to occupy themselves with politics ; the revolt of the garrison in Adrianople ; the pronunciamento at Monastir ; the revolt of the Albanians ; the fall of the Young Turkish Cabinet ; the battle near Mitrovitza after which the victorious Albanians became masters of the sandjaks of Ipek, Prizrend, and Prishtina ; the Albanian ultimatum ; the massacres at Kotchani and Berana ; the occupation of Uskub by the Albanians. All these events, especially the last three, awoke a resounding echo in Sofia, Athens, Belgrade, and Cettigne, and it required no prophetic gift to foretell that
[ Austrian proposal ]
they would not pass without far-reaching consequences. The European Chancellories were no less impressed than the Balkan Governments by what was happening, and on August 14 the Austrian Government, which was most amicably disposed towards Turkey, stepped forward with the famous proposals of Count Berchtold in favour of administrative decentralisation in European Turkey. If Austria was driven to such radical measures, was it likely that the Balkan States would remain indifferent to the fate of their co-nationalists ? To this preoccupation in Athens and Belgrade was added the anxiety caused by the Albanian claims on Greek and Serbian districts, the Albanians openly demanding the entire vilayets of Uskub and Monastir. No such fears were entertained in Sofia as regards the Albanian danger, but in Bulgaria the massacre at Kotchani had produced even a deeper impression. What reason had we for being over-punctilious with an Empire already exhausted by the war with Italy, torn by internal feuds, with an undisciplined army and an empty treasury ? On August 14 an impressive meeting was held in the Bulgarian capital, and ten days later the various brotherhoods, representing the Macedonian and Thracian districts, opened their congress. Both the meeting and the congress voted resolutions to the same effect : Bulgaria must immediately mobilise her army and demand autonomy in favour of Macedonia and Thrace, failing which, she must declare war on Turkey. Otherwise the
country was threatened with troubles, bringing in their wake incalculable consequences.
The moment was one of solemn gravity and the pressure on the part of public opinion had become well-nigh irresistible. In the midst of the crisis arrived M. Kolusheff from Cettigne, with an offer on the part of the Montenegrin King of immediate action. We had either to accept this proposal or to decline it. On August 26 MM. Daneff, Theodoroff, General Nikiphoroff, and myself, with the consent of the Ministerial Council, met the King at Tzarska Bistritza, near Tcham Kourya. I reported on the situation, after which followed prolonged deliberations on the most difficult problem which had confronted any Bulgarian Government since the country was liberated. The unanimous decision at which we arrived did not differ from that already taken by the Ministerial Council—and was to accept the offer of Montenegro and to arrange with Greece and Serbia for an immediate intervention on behalf of the Christian populations in European Turkey.
In accordance with this decision, M. Kolusheff at once returned to his post at Cettigne, having full powers to conclude with Montenegro an oral understanding to which I have referred elsewhere. We also got in touch with MM. Spalaikovitch and Panas, the representatives of Serbia and Greece, the former leaving for Belgrade, whence he returned on August 31, followed by M. Tosheff, our Minister in Serbia. While we were negotiating with the latter country through our
[ Allies mobilise ]
diplomatic agents, similar pourparlers went on between Sofia and Athens by means of the telegraph. On September 21 M. Daneff went to Nisch in connection with the Serbian fears of an attack by Austria. These apprehensions were not altogether groundless and deserved to be examined with the same seriousness which we bestowed on the repeated counsels of M. Sazonoff not to push matters to extremes. After prolonged discussions, we were gradually coming to an agreement among ourselves, when suddenly the report reached us from Constantinople that Turkey had ordered a general mobilisation. The four allies replied to this measure on September 30, by ordering in their turn a mobilisation of all their forces.
This done, we next broached the capital question of the reforms which we were to demand from Turkey in favour of our co-nationalists in her European provinces. After the mobilisation, the Great Powers had also begun to talk of reforms, but the highly unsatistactory answer of the Sublime Porte to their representations made it clear that Turkey was resolved on war. She soon precipitated the conflict by arbitrarily stopping the Serbian munitions at Uskub, placing an embargo on the Greek steamers in Constantinople and recalling her representatives in the Balkan capitals, and formally opened hostilities.
I reproduce the various diplomatic notes which were exchanged at this stage of the crisis, most of them being fully published now for the first time.
I. Note to Bulgaria, handed in on October 10, 1912
The Russian and Austro-Hungarian Governments declare to the Balkan States :
1. That the Great Powers strongly deprecate all measures that are likely to cause a disturbance of peace ;
2. That basing themselves on article 23 of the Treaty of Berlin and acting in the interest of the populations, they take in their hands the execution of the reforms in the government of European Turkey, it being understood that the reforms do not infringe the sovereignty of H.M. the Sultan or the integrity of the Turkish Empire. This declaration reserves for the Powers the liberty of examining in common these reforms ;
3. That if, notwithstanding all this, war should break out between the Balkan States and the Ottoman Empire, they will tolerate at the end of the conflict no modifications of the present territorial status quo in European Turkey.
The Great Powers will collectively make to the Sublime Porte the representations entailed by the present declaration. II.
II. Note handed in at Constantinople on October 10, 1912
The undersigned Ambassadors of Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, France, Russia, and Germany have been instructed by their Governments to inform the Sublime Porte that the five Powers take note of the intentions which the Turkish Government has publicly announced of introducing reforms, and will immediately examine with the Sublime Porte, in the spirit of article 23 of the Treaty of Berlin and the Act of 1880, the reforms which the situation in European Turkey necessitates and the measures for guaranteeing their execution in the interest of the populations. It is understood
[ Turkey temporises ]
that these reforms will not infringe the territorial integrity of the Empire.
III. Reply of the Turkish Government
In reply to the communication of October 10 1912, which the Ambassadors of Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, France, Russia, and Germany were instructed by their Governments to make to the Sublime Porte, the undersigned Imperial Minister of Foreign Affairs has the honour to remind them that, as they themselves admit, the Sublime Porte had spontaneously recognised the necessity of introducing reforms in the administration of the European vilayets. The Ottoman Government takes this matter the more to heart, as it proposes to carry out the said reforms without any interference from outside. It considers that on this condition alone vail their realisation contribute to the happiness and economic development of the country, by ensuring in the liberal spirit of the Turkish constitution concord among the various nationalities composing the population of the Empire. It should be added that if its past efforts to ameliorate the internal conditions of these provinces have not produced the expected result, one of the principal causes for this vail be found in the disturbed state and insecurity, due to the outrages of revolutionary organisations whose real purpose is not difficult to divine. The Imperial Government none the less values the friendly intention of the step which the Great Powers have deemed it desirable to take with a view to the present circumstances. It fully sympathises with their efforts to obviate the danger of a conflict, with its inevitable calamities, which the civilised world must try to prevent by every method of conciliation. In this respect the Imperial Government is convinced that it has facilitated their humanitarian efforts to solve an arduous problem.
Without wishing to lay too much stress on the fact that many of the stipulations of the Treaty of Berlin have never been applied in the spirit which prompted them, Ottoman interests thereby seriously suffering ; without stopping to discuss how far article 23 could, more than other articles of the same treaty, retain its binding force, the Ottoman Government declares that, acting on its own initiative, it has decided to submit the Bill of 1880 to the approval of the Parliament in the course of its next session. The Great Powers may rest assured that the Imperial authorities will scrupulously watch over its application, after it has been promulgated in accordance with the constitution of the country. It would be highly unjust to infer from the procrastinations and negligence of the preceding regime that the present Constitutional Government will follow those same habits, or to suppose that it will allow itself to be influenced by any doubts which may still linger on this point to adopt any measures except those which are alone in conformity with the well-understood interests of the empire and its populations. IV.
IV. Note of Bulgaria to the Great Powers, October 13, 1912
The Bulgarian Government, after taking into consideration the declaration of the six Great Powers, made through the Governments of Austria-Hungary and Russia, and acting in concert with the Governments of the remaining Balkan States, begs to express its appreciation of the interest which the six Great Powers take in the populations of European Turkey and to thank them for their promise to “take in their hands” the execution of the administrative reforms, in conformity with article 23 of the Treaty of Berlin. The Bulgarian Government, in agreement with the Governments of Serbia and Greece, nevertheless considers that after so many former
[ Decision of the Allies ]
promises, solemnly made by Turkey and confirmed by international treaties, it would be inhuman on their part not to attempt to obtain for the Christian populations of the Ottoman Empire more radical and better defined reforms which, if fully and conscientiously applied, would not fail to improve their present miserable lot. For this reason, they feel constrained to address themselves directly to H.M. the Sultan, and to indicate the principles on which those reforms must be based, as well as the guarantees which must be given for their sincere execution. They are convinced that if the Turkish Government accedes to their demand, order and tranquillity will be restored in the provinces of the Empire, and a lasting peace will be ensured between Turkey and the Balkan States, which have in the past so often suffered from the provocative and arbitrary conduct of the Sublime Porte.
V. Note of Bulgaria to Turkey, October 12, 1912
The undersigned President of the Ministerial Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cults has the honour to request the Ottoman Chargé d’Affaires to transmit to the Imperial Government the following communication, together with the explanatory note which accompanies it :
“Notwithstanding the declaration of the six Great Powers, made through the Governments of Austria and Russia, promising to take in their hands the execution of the reforms in the administration of European Turkey, the Governments of Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia consider it their duty to address themselves directly to the Government of H.M. the Sultan and declare that only radical reforms, sincerely and completely carried out, can ameliorate the miserable condition of the Christian populations in the European vilayets of the Empire and ensure
peace between the latter and the Balkan States, towards which the Sublime Porte has so often maintained a provocative and arbitrary attitude which had no justification.
“The Governments of Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia, while regretting that recent events prevent Montenegro from joining in the present representations, invite the Sublime Porte to take, in concert with the Great Powers and the Balkan States, immediate measures for the elaboration and introduction in European Turkey of the reforms laid down in article 23 of the Treaty of Berlin, adopting as a basis the principle of ethnic nationalities (administrative autonomy of the provinces, Belgian and Swiss governors, elective local assemblies, gendarmerie, educational liberty and local militia), and entrusting their application to a Superior Council which will consist of an equal number of Mahommedans and Christians and will act under the control of the Ambassadors of the Great Powers and the Ministers of the four Balkan States.
"They hope that Turkey will be able to reply favourably to this demand, undertaking to introduce the reforms described in this communication and in the explanatory note within a period of six months, and consenting to give as proof of her acquiescence the order for the demobilisation of her army.”
The undersigned avails himself of the present opportunity to renew to the Ottoman Chargé d’Affaires the assurances of his high consideration.
(Signed) I. E. Gueshoff.
Explanatory note, accompanying the communication of October 13, 1912
1. Confirmation of ethnic autonomy in favour of the nationalities in the Empire, with all its consequences ;
[ Reforms demanded ]
2. Proportional representation of each nationality in the Imperial Parliament ;
3. Admission of Christians to all the public employments in the provinces inhabited by Christians ;
4. Recognition of all the schools of the Christian communities on a footing of equality with the Turkish schools;
5. Undertaking by the Sublime Porte not to alter the ethnic character of the provinces of the Turkish Empire by introducing Mahommedan settlers ;
6. Local military service, with Christian cadres. Pending the formation of these cadres military service to be suspended ;
7. Reform of the gendarmerie in the European vilayets, under the effective command of Belgian and Swiss officers ;
8. The appointment of Swiss and Belgian governors for the vilayets inhabited by Christians, who will be confirmed by the Powers and will be assisted by elective local councils ;
9. The formation at the Sublime Porte of a Superior Council, composed of an equal number of Mahommedans and Christians, to supervise the application of the reforms. The Ambassadors of the Great Powers and the Ministers of the four Balkan States will have the mission to exercise control over the work of this council. VI.
VI. Note of Bulgaria to Turkey, October 18, 1912
The undersigned Representative of H.M. the King of the Bulgarians, acting on orders from his Government, has the honour to communicate to H.E. the Imperial Minister of Foreign Affairs the following :
The Sublime Porte having failed to reply to the identical note of the Governments of Bulgaria,
Greece, and Serbia, addressed on October 13, 1912, and the situation, which was already critical owing to the arbitrary detention of the Serbian munitions at Uskub and the embargo on the Greek steamers, having been further aggravated by the unlawful attacks on the Serbian and Bulgarian posts by Turkish troops, and by the interruption of diplomatic relations, through the recall by the Sublime Porte of its representatives, the Government of H.M. the Bulgarian King, is, to its deep regret, constrained to have recourse to the force of arms. It leaves to the Ottoman Government the entire responsibility for this interruption of relations between Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. The undersigned has the honour to inform the Imperial Government that, from this moment forward, Bulgaria considers herself in a state of war with Turkey, and my mission having ceased, I propose to leave Constantinople within the shortest possible time. The Turkish subjects residing in Bulgaria are at liberty to quit that country if they should feel so inclined. Those who prefer to remain there may count on the protection of the laws.
(Signed) M. C. Sarafoff.
VII. Circular note of Bulgaria on the commencement of hostilities, October 18, 1912
The Royal Bulgarian Legation has been instructed by the Bulgarian Government to communicate to the Government of . . . . . . . . . the following:
The anarchy in Turkey which so deeply disturbs the tranquillity and security of the neighbouring States having lately assumed more threatening proportions, the Great Powers deemed it imperative to take in their hands the execution of the reforms promised by article 23 of the Treaty of Berlin. In replying to this latest expression of the collective
[ Intervention justified ]
will of Europe the Sublime Porte once more had recourse to methods which have so often been employed in the past. It announced its intention to introduce serious reforms in the European and Asiatic vilayets of the Empire, declaring at the same time that it considered all foreign intervention detrimental to their success. This promise on the part of the Ottoman Government has everywhere been met with the incredulity of which Count Andrassy spoke in his note of December 30, 1875, in the following terms : “One of the explanations of this deeply rooted mistrust will be found in the fact that more than once measures, such as are mentioned in the recent rescripts of the Sultan, had been previously announced without the lot of the Christians being in the slightest degree improved.” Events during the last thirty-seven years have abundantly demonstrated the justice of this verdict. For this reason the Governments of Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia, refusing to tolerate any longer the sufferings of their co-nationalists in Turkey and to endure a state of things full of dangers for their own future, had determined to insist upon an effective control over the preparation and execution of the reforms which alone can improve the condition of the Christian peoples of the Empire and pacify the Balkan Peninsula.
This last effort, whose moderation stood in striking contrast with the provocative attitude of Turkey and her unwarranted mobilisation against the Balkan States, having failed and all diplomatic relations having been interrupted by the Sublime Porte, the Governments of Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia are, to their great regret, obliged to have recourse to armed force. Considering herself in a state of war with Turkey, Bulgaria has addressed to the latter a formal declaration to that effect, in conformity with article 1 of the Convention on the opening of hostilities, of October 17, 1907.
The Royal Bulgarian Government believes that the end which it pursues by declaring the war coincides with the interests of all civilised countries. The foreigners living in the territories whose permanent pacification is the aim of the war cannot but benefit by the attainment of that object. Under a rule of order, freedom, and progress, the interests of the subjects of all countries will be better protected, the material prosperity and the moral advancement of the population will receive constant and enlightened encouragement. The Bulgarian Government, therefore, ventures to count on the sympathies of all friendly countries and addresses an urgent appeal to the Government of . . . . . . . . . for its benevolent neutrality in the arduous task which it has undertaken.
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