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Art. 6.-THE BAGDAD RAILWAY.
FOR years men have been talking and writing of Mesopotamia and the Bagdad Railway; and bewildered with 'firmans,' 'irades,' concessions,' and 'kilometric guarantees,' have been left with the vague idea that, probably through the fault of the British Government, the Germans realised exceedingly successful commercial and financial results from their venture in Asia Minor. Now that the end of the War has rendered available information previously only accessible to Germans, it is consoling to be able to announce that, far from having made money over the Bagdad Railway, the promoters of that enterprise incurred losses which ran into millions, and that, even had the War not taken place, it is unlikely that the Bagdad Railway could ever have become a financial success.
The idea of linking up Mesopotamia with the Mediterranean by rail is of British origin. It dates back to the Fifties, when Colonel Chesney, R.E., who conducted the first accurate survey of Mesopotamia, suggested that the Euphrates Valley might be developed by giving it railway communication with the Syrian ports of Alexandretta or Suedia. The Englishman, however, turns instinctively to water rather than to land transport; and, although Mesopotamia did attract a certain amount of British enterprise, it was through Lynch's steamers, and not through Chesney's railways.
The first railway in Asiatic Turkey was built by a British Company and has remained under British control. This line received its concession in 1856, started from Smyrna, and ran up the Meander Valley to Aidin, and eventually beyond that town, being built in successive sections, each of which was worked and made a paying concern, through the consequent development of the surrounding country, before the next section was begun.*
The significance of this method will be
Similarly, the English S. and C. Railway was built in sections by a British Company. Like the Aidin Railway it never received a subvention from Turkey. At the end of the stipulated term of years it passed to the Turkish Government, and was thereupon given to a French Company, and became the S.C.P. (Smyrne-Cassaba-Prolongement).
seen when we come to deal with the construction of the Bagdad Railway. Unlike all other Turkish lines, the Aidin railway, as it is generally called, received no kilometric guarantee; that is, the Turkish Governmen did not promise to make up the revenues of the railway should they prove insufficient, to an annual gross average return of a fixed amount per kilometre. This line has played a useful and profitable part in the development of Asia Minor; but has never been able to exercise a political influence comparable to that of the younger companies.
French railway enterprise in the Near East has, on occasion, come into conflict with that of Germany; but, from a general point of view, it can be said that the Germans abandoned to French interests the railway possibilities of European Turkey and North-West Asia Minor; and to the Russians the Black Sea Coast, keeping for themselves the great road to the East, the road to Bagdad. Nor was this at first unwelcome to the British, whose ideas in regard to Turkey were still coloured by memories of the Crimean War. Already, since 1873, a railway had existed, running from Haidar Pacha, opposite Constantinople on the Bosphorus, to Ismidt, some 90 kilometres east. It had been built for the Sultan by Wilhelm von Pressel, a German engineer who played a great part in railway construction in Asia; but had been conceded to an English Company in 1880. The Ottoman Government, in 1888, bought out the original British Company, and granted to Herr Kaulla, the representative of the Deutsche Bank, not only the concession of the Ismidt Railway, but also that for the extension of the same railway to Angora. As a result of this, the Ottoman Railway Company of Anatolia came into being, with the Deutsche Bank as the directing force behind it and the German Government ready to assist by any means in their power.
The position of the Turkish Government cannot be understood without reference to the character and aims of the reigning Sultan. Abdul Hamid II, a man whose great ability has been seldom recognised, worked throughout his life in the pursuit of one ideal-Pan-Islamism, that is, the religious and political unity of Moslems all
over the world. None of his predecessors had laid much stress on the Sultan's claim to be Commander of the Faithful and Successor of the Prophet. But after Turkey had lost the greater part of her Balkan possessions, and her cause in Europe began to appear hopeless, the idea of recovering elsewhere all, and more than all, that had been lost became particularly attractive. So far as religious primacy was concerned, Abdul Hamid's propaganda achieved speedy success. The establishment of Turkish Consuls-General in the British and Dutch East Indian possessions was the next step. Religious and political obedience are much more closely bound together in the Moslem than in the Christian world; and because the British ruled millions of Moslems in India, the Sultan abandoned the traditional Turkish policy of friendship with this country. On the other hand, it was obviously to British interest to confine the Sultan's authority as Khalif strictly to religious matters; in view of which circumstances, it is not surprising to find that, on Aug. 1, 1899, Herr Kurt Zander, of the Anatolian Railway, wrote to Herr Siemens, the Deutsche Bank representative in Constantinople: For the Sultan, the Bagdad Railway is solely a weapon against the English Khalifate policy.' On the other hand, Abdul Hamid was aware of the fact that German financiers were anxious to extend their operations towards the Persian Gulf, and had decided that, far from requesting the construction of the railway she desired, Turkey should be graciously pleased to grant on her own terms the petitions of those who desired to serve her. The success of this policy is acknowledged in a letter from Zander to Siemens of March 5, 1900.
It was originally intended that the main line of the Anatolian Railway should run through Angora to Cæsarea, and continue through or near Sivas (there were several plans) to the headwaters of the Tigris at Diarbekir; and thence down the valley to Bagdad and the Persian Gulf. Von Pressel to the last maintained that this route, or one still more northerly, would have been preferable to that adopted. But the country was difficult, and Russia watched with jealous eyes any movement towards Armenia. As a result, the extension from Angora eastwards, though provided for in the
fresh concession granted to the Anatolian Railway i 1893, did not materialise, but a new line from Eski Shehir to Konia, the ancient Iconium, was built and opened for traffic in 1896.
Until this time the influence of the German Govern ment had been mainly indirect. In 1898, however William II paid his historic visit to the East, and associated himself immediately with the Sultan's Pan Islamic ideas. It is instructive to compare the criticisms of Abdul the Damned,' in most of the Western Press with the Kaiser's speech at Damascus on Nov. 8, 1898 when he assured 'The Sultan and the 300 millions of Moslems who venerate him as Khalif that the German Emperor is ever their friend.' The Kaiser also threw himself whole-heartedly into the idea of a Bagdad Railway, and came to regard the project as particularly his own. Not only did he personally bring pressure to bear upon the Sultan to obtain the granting of a concession for a line from Konia to the Anatolian Railway; but in August 1899, when receiving the Turkish Ambassador in Berlin, he said, 'Now then, get my railway down there finished for me.' ('Na, nun machen Sie mir da unten Meine Bahn fertig.') It should be noted that the German Government never quite realised the distinction between assistance and interference. The financial promoters of the scheme had frequently to complain that Baron Marschall von Bieberstein, the Ambassador in Constantinople, and Major Morgen, his military attaché, with entire disregard for economic considerations, interfered in matters that should have been regarded as strictly business. So great was the eagerness of the German diplomats that the business men in Berlin, in September 1900, wrote to inform their colleagues in Turkey of steps the Foreign Office had taken on behalf of those colleagues in Constantinople of which they themselves were not aware. Yet the Turks were secretly keener for the scheme than they pretended to be, and a letter of Zander's, dated April 11, 1902, describes the joy and relief of Zekki Pasha and another highly-placed Turkish official, when he said they might tell the Sultan that the affair could be managed.
A survey expedition went over the ground in 1899
soon after the Kaiser's visit. Not only were its chief engineers, Mackensen and Von Kapp, Germans, but the official German connexion was emphasised by the placing of the entire concern under the direction of Stemrich, the German Consul-General in Turkey. At the same time Major Morgen prepared a report on the strategic possibilities of the line. The survey party reported unfavourably on the Angora-Sivas route, and recommended an extension from Konia through the Taurus Mountains by the famous pass known as the Cilician Gates. This scheme was severely criticised by Von Pressel, who clung to his idea of a more northerly route, and it is now admitted that the prospectors vastly underestimated the difficulties of the Taurus region. Still, as it stood, their plan was considered feasible, and was approved by Berlin. Siemens was summoned to a conference at which the Emperor himself, Bülow, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Miquel, the Finance Minister, were present. Siemens reported that so far as concerned the financial and technical aspects, capital could be found and construction completed within about ten years; but that the political side was out of his hands. The Emperor, with the concurrence of both ministers, guaranteed the removal of any political obstacle. It was, however, considered desirable to obtain British co-operation, and necessary, therefore, to persuade the British, not merely to ignore, but actively to assist, an enterprise which possibly threatened their Indian Empire and certainly provided a means of evading their control of the Suez Canal. As for the French, they had a long record of influence in the Near East and large sums' invested there-202 million francs in railways alone-and, apart from their natural dislike of the spread of German influence and trade, it was not impossible that they should desire an extension eastwards of the French Smyrna-Cassaba Railway, which had already reached the Anatolian line at Afion KaraHissar, though it was not yet joined to it. The 'international' character of the proposed railway was, therefore, insisted upon; and elaborate calculations were prepared, showing the saving in time that the new route would provide for mails and passenger traffic from Europe to India and the East generally. It was
Vol. 285.-No. 467.