Page images
PDF
EPUB

exceptions, firstly, on the north and in connexion with the district lying to the north and east of the Rivers Drave and Danube, it is open to argument that, whilst this was claimed by the Jugo-Slavs on historical, racial, and strategic grounds, it might well have been wiser to leave it for division between Roumania and Hungary. The great, outstanding advantages of the adoption of such a course would have been that the Danube, the Drave, and the Teiss form natural frontiers in this locality. Their acceptance as such by the Allies might, therefore, have avoided some of the evils of the three party division of an area the present allocation of which is hardly natural. On the other hand, the disadvantages of such a settlement would have been that Belgrade must have remained a frontier capital, and that a further Slav population would have been doomed to partition between Roumania and Hungary. And, secondly, on the east, although it was natural for the Serbians to desire to make Bulgaria pay the price of her war policy, there were not sufficient arguments in favour of the changes made in the Serbo-Bulgarian frontier by the Treaty of Neuilly. Indeed, with the exception of the Strumnitza area, which commanded the Vardar Valley Railway, those changes, considered merely on strategical grounds, are so unimportant to Jugo-Slavia as never to compensate her for the renewed feelings of hostility which they have created in Bulgaria.

Since the conclusion of the above-mentioned arrangements there have occurred two events connected with the foreign relations of Jugo-Slavia. Firstly, the Klagenfurt plebescite, held in October last, and under the Treaty of Saint Germain, terminated entirely to the disadvantage of the Triune Kingdom; for, as the inhabitants of the first or southern zone voted in favour of Austria, no vote has been or will be taken in the second zone. The Treaty of Rapallo * appears finally to terminate the Adriatic question, the settlement of which, as we know from the published Correspondence,† had been causing so much anxiety to Europe for more

* This Treaty was signed on Nov. 12, 1920. So far, its full text has not been published in English.

+ 'Correspondence relating to the Adriatic Question.' Miscellaneous No. 2, 1920, Cmd. 586.

than two years. Presumably intended to destroy the fatal Treaty of London of April 1915, and recognised by the Allies so far as its territorial dispositions are con cerned, the Rapallo arrangement effects a compromise between the rival claims of the two parties; for, whilst Italy abandons her aspirations in Dalmatia-except at Zara and in some of the islands-Jugo-Slavia has made a great sacrifice in connexion with Fiume.

Although the Government of Belgrade considers that the destiny of Montenegro was decided by the vote of a so-called National Assembly held at Podgoritza, in November 1918, and although serious opposition upon this subject is likely to be terminated by the death of King Nicholas on March 1 last, brief reference must be made to this highly disputatious question before proceeding to a discussion of the internal affairs of the new Kingdom. So much has, however, been written upon the subject and so few reliable details are available, that I propose to confine myself to some general remarks upon a matter which has been badly handled by all concerned. When I was in Montenegro in the autumn of 1913, I found there was already a definite movement in favour of union with Serbia. This state of things, coupled with what was and is the decided mystery concerning various events which took place during the war, undoubtedly created most favourable ground for pressing home the Serbian claim, both abroad and in Montenegro. Whilst, therefore, I feel strongly that the Belgrade Government has taken up a foolish and unjustifiable attitude towards the problem, I do not believe, even before the death of the King, that any considerable section of Montenegrin public opinion was opposed to some form of union. If this be so, and my impression is confirmed by the Memorandum of Major H. Temperley, by the report of Mr Bryce,† and by the result of the election held by the Constituent Assembly last November, then the question is one of detail rather than of principle. Upon this point I think that a large number of people objected, and probably still object, to the compulsory termination of their independence and to the

* Miscellaneous No. 1 (1921), Cmd. 1123.

† Miscellaneous No. 2 (1921), Cmd. 1124.

arbitrary abrogation of their national entity. If this be the case, then the future largely depends upon the manner in which the Constituent Assembly accomplishes its task at Belgrade; for, whatever may have happened during the last few years, and as the Montenegrins surely do not wish to see the return of either of King Nicholas' sons, the promulgation of a Liberal Charter would undoubtedly have the advantage of converting all but a negligible minority of the Montenegrin people into faithful supporters of the Jugo-Slav cause.

Turning to the internal position and particularly to the economic and political situations, which are very closely allied, there are naturally still great difficulties to be overcome. From the former standpoint, one of the principal problems is concerned with the fact that whilst the Serbian has always been used to pay a comparatively high price for manufactured articles, of necessity imported from abroad, the people of the ceded territories have been accustomed to acquire what were to them home-produced goods upon more reasonable terms. Consequently, as there must now be the same tariffs throughout the Kingdom, the natural financial disadvantages to be suffered by the former inhabitants of Austria-Hungary will require careful explanation and handling. Politically speaking, too, considering that Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Dalmatia each possessed various degrees of autonomy under the old régime, and that administrative autonomy is still in the hands of the local governments of each of these districts, who dispense the pre-war laws, it is obvious that any present or future attempt to create a Greater Serbia or to rob the people of privileges which they have enjoyed in the past, would be fatal to the destiny of the country. On the other hand, I was equally struck by two facts which speak well for the future. Firstly, the Prince Regent, Prince Alexander, is a material asset and a binding force in the country; for he is not only popular in Serbia and throughout the army, but the visits which His Royal Highness paid to his new possessions last year created a very favourable impression among practically all classes of the inhabitants. And secondly, I found nobody in Croatia or Slovenia (where I saw representative men of the various political

parties) who was opposed to some form of union with Serbia. As parliamentary government, ministerial re sponsibility to parliament, and the free rights of the citizen are already accepted axioms, the great problem of the moment therefore concerns the nature of the Constitution to be drawn up by the newly-elected Assembly. Whilst presumably this document will in clude clauses re-instituting a monarchy, defining whethe there shall be one or two Chambers, and establishing the relations between the State and the Church, it momentous sections will obviously be those dealing with the question of centralisation or decentralisation. More over, in the case of the acceptance of the latter principle there will still remain decisions as to whether such a measure shall be political or merely administrative, and as to whether it shall be applied to the present distinc territorial units or to smaller and more numerou

areas.

Although it is too soon to forecast what may be the form of Constitution now to be adopted, or to express any opinion as to the broader results of the election held last November, certain general observations are possible upon the political situation thereby created Its first outstanding feature is that no one Party secured a majority, and that, whereas the Centralists and the Decentralists are about equal in numbers, in most cases the areas directly interested in decentralisation voted in favour of such a measure in its wider or more limited form. The result of this and of the highly confused composition of the Chamber is that the Radicals and the Democrats, who together do not possess quite half the seats, have formed a more or less loose Coalition under M. Pashitch, who has acquired, so I understand the support of the Bosnian Moslems and probably also that of the Serbian Peasants. As the Radicals in principle favour some form of autonomy and as the Democrats stand for the complete unification of the country, this would seem to mean that, in the face of the present danger, the two great opposing political groups have decided to sink their differences and to work for the larger interests of the country. On the other hand, whilst the importance of M. Raditch with his fifty-one Croatian Peasant supporters and the

influence of the Communists should not be exaggerated, it must be remembered that the power of these sections is an unknown quantity, and that, at a given moment, either or both might assume a rôle of considerable significance within or without the Chamber. The future, therefore, almost entirely depends upon whether M. Pashitch, who is the most experienced statesman in the country, is capable of adapting and broadening his ideas to suit the new circumstances by which he is surrounded, and upon whether the present or another Government is able to arrive at a compromise upon the Constitutional question-a compromise which must be acceptable not only to the Cabinet assembled at Belgrade, but also to the peoples of the component parts of the present State.

As Roumania is affected by some of the same international arrangements as Jugo-Slavia, I will pass next to that country, whose war gains must be considered under two headings. On the west and as a direct result of the Treaties of Trianon and of Saint-Germain and of the arrangements made by the Great Powers for the partition of the Banat between Roumania and JugoSlavia, the former country obtains very large areas of new territory, most of which used to be Hungarian, but a small part of which was formerly Austrian. And then, on the east and north-east, the frontier of Roumania is now formed by the River Dniester and not as heretofore by the Pruth. This means that she has secured Bessarabia and, therefore, in this direction all or more than all the territory to which she has laid stout claim for over forty years. This development, which certainly would not have been possible but for the exit of Russia from the war, originally depends not upon an Allied decision but upon events which took place locally. They began soon after the Muscovite Revolution, for in the summer of 1917 the Bessarabians demanded an autonomy which at that time intended to leave them within a federated Russian Republic. By December of that year, however, a declaration of independence had been made; and in the following April, when terms of peace had been imposed by the Central Powers upon Roumania, a Bessarabian National Assembly voted, by a large majority, in favour of a qualified form of union with

« PreviousContinue »