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Austro-Hungarian Southern Slavs—that is to'say, the Croats, Serbs, and Slovenes—towards national union with the Serbians of the Kingdom found clear and definite expression, it might have been possible for Austria to have promoted Southern Slav unity and to have turned it in her own favour. There existed in Serbia a noticeable tendency, if not, indeed, an actual party, in favour of a far-reaching political and economic agreement with Austria, while the motto of the AustroHungarian Southern Slavs was then Union: within the ' Monarchy if possible, but, at all costs, Union.' But it would have needed an Austrian Cavour to read the signs of the times and to carry through a policy which would have secured for the Hapsburgs a predominant influence in the Balkans, and would at the same time have given them a solid basis for retrieving their former independence in Europe. In view of these possibilities no surprise can be felt that Germany should have moved every lever in Austria and in Hungary to force an anti-Southern Slav attitude upon Vienna, and to preclude any pro-Hapsburg solution of the Southern Slav question. Indeed, on looking back over the years between the annexation crisis and the outbreak of the present war, the hand of Germany appears even more visible in the policy of Vienna than it was to contemporary observers on the spot. All the Austrian and Hungarian politicians and writers, including the notorious Dr. Friedjung, who were most prominent in the anti-Serbian and anti-Southern Slav campaign, were precisely those who were most intimately connected with Berlin. This phenomenon—the identity of anti-Southern Slav propagandists with the agents or dupes of Germany–has also been noticeable during the war, and is too significant to be lost sight of in any consideration of the terms of a lasting European settlement.
Like the establishment of an ethnographically complete Rumania and a reunited Poland-objects which the Allies are admittedly pledged to obtain—the creation of a united Southern Slav State is now incompatible with the continued existence of Austria-Hungary. No false solicitude for the welfare of 'those nice people, the Austrians,' ought therefore to militate against either Southern Slav Union or the formation of an independent Bohemia, or Czecho-Slovakia. It is necessary clearly to recognise that in no case can Austria-Hungary
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continue to exist as a self-controlled monarchy. If she be not dismembered by the Allies in the interests of European security, she will be transformed and directed by Germany in the interests of Pan-Germanism. It is for this reason that the ‘Pro-Austrianism' of the Clericals, of Cosmopolitan High Finance, and of some deluded publicists and diplomatists among the Allies, is, in effect, but a form of Pro-Germanism. The argument that to add the German provinces of Austria to the present German Empire would be to 'strengthen' Germany, will not bear examination. There are, at most, between nine and ten million Germans in Austria. (Those in Hungary are enclavés and isolated.) The addition of these Austrian Germans to the German Empire would hardly make up numerically for the losses Germany would sustain by the inclusion of the Duchy of Posen in a reunited Poland, the return of AlsaceLorraine to France, and possibly of Schleswig to Denmark, while the subtraction of the other 42,000,000 Hapsburg subjects from the political and military command of Germany, and the organisation of most of them into independent States, would create, on the basis of the principle of nationality, a new counterpoise against the German block. It is, besides, improbable that the inclusion of 8,000,000 or 9,000,000 Austrian Germans in the German Empire under a Hapsburg Sovereign would leave unaltered the composition of the Federal Council or the balance of forces in the Empire itself.
From what has been said it should be clear that a chief cornerstone of any solid and lasting European reconstruction must be the creation of a united Southern Slav State consisting of the kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia-Slavonia-Dalmatia, and the purely Slav portions of Istria, Carniola and Styria, with due allowance for the necessity of fixing a practicable geographical boundary. Unless this State is formed, the main purpose of the Allies—the destruction of the power of Prussian militarism-can scarcely be achieved. The German road to the East will not be blocked, the principle of nationality will not have been vindicated, and the seeds of future wars will have been sown. It is a grave error to regard the Southern Slav question as merely an isolated issue in the Great War, a thing which the Allies can attend to or neglect without affecting substantially the quality of their victory. It was the immediate cause of the war. Hence the importance
of understanding it thoroughly and of facing betimes the difficulties by which it is surrounded.
Some idea of these difficulties may be gleaned if it be remembered that the interests of Roman Catholic and Orthodox ' clericalism,' as well as the claims of extreme Italian national
ism,' militate against the complete unification and fusion of the Southern Slavs ; while, within the Southern Slav family itself, differences of development and tradition require the most careful and far-sighted treatment. By Orthodox
Clericalism' is meant the tendencies associated with the Russian Holy Synod in its narrower manifestations, which are apt to oppose any 'inquination’ of Serb Orthodoxy by the association of the Orthodox, or Serb, with the Croat and Slovene, or Roman Catholic, Southern Slavs in one and the same State. By Roman Catholic Clericalism' is meant the tendencies which would fain keep the Catholic Southern Slavs politically segregated from the Orthodox, lest political unity and the establishment of complete religious equality hamper Roman Catholic propaganda. I do not for a moment believe that the religious interests of either Church would be adversely affected by Southern Slav unity. Rather the contrary. By extreme Italian 'nationalism' is meant illiberal claims to the annexation by Italy of considerable tracts of purely Southern Slav territory, partly for ill-defined strategic ' reasons, partly in the name of historical memories extending from the Roman Empire to the fall of the Venetian Republic, and partly out of a desire to prevent the establishment of any strong State on the eastern shore of the Adriatic. Apart from the general consideration that to sanction the application of the strategic principle' against the Southern Slavs, in defiance of the principle of nationality, would deprive the Allies, including Italy, of any moral right to combat the equally strategic ' claims of Germany in Belgium, there is the practical consideration that the deliberate creation of an anti-Italian Southern Slav Irredentism would tend to perpetuate those very causes of unrest which helped to bring on the present war. Unless the new European settlement removes all the main causes of Slav unrest by reuniting the Poles, and uniting the CzechoSlovaks and the Southern Slavs, it will be halting and precarious. There is the less reason to run this risk in that a
VOL. 225 NO. 459.
fair and amicable settlement of the Italian and Southern Slav claims in and around the Adriatic is perfectly feasible without doing grievous wrong to either. Once in possession of Trieste, with a sufficiently deep littoral and defensible border extending from the present Italian frontier eastwards and southwards round the Gulf of Trieste, and including at least the western half of the Istrian peninsula with Pola and the Riva Arsa ; with the Istrian Islands, besides Lissa and Vallona, the Italian strategic situation in the Adriatic would defy attack without infringing any essential Southern Slav rights. There would remain the question, which naturally appeals strongly to Italian sentiment, of preserving the traces of italianità at the few points on the Dalmatian coast where they remain ‘in being,' and, in particular, of assuring the position of Italian-speaking minorities of the population. No experienced student of the Southern Slav question can anticipate any real difficulty on this score, provided that the Italian Government and the Southern Slavs alike be persuaded that agreement and cooperation are essential to both, and take their stand frankly on the principle laid down by the Italian Premier Sigr. Boselli in the Chamber on the 7th of December, that peace, to be lasting, must be based upon 'an equilibrium built up upon 'the rights of nationalities.' Lord Robert Cecil said truly, at the inauguration of the British Italian League on the 24th of November, that there is no real conflict between the Southern Slav and the Italian National ideals. 'I am certain,' he added, “there is room for both. It only wants clear under'standing on both sides to avoid misconception.'
The first requisite of a 'clear understanding' is impartially to ascertain the facts and to free the debate from the heated polemics which partisan spirit and enemy intrigue have envenomed. The matter needs to be taken out of the hands of propagandists more anxious to score a point off the other side than to promote good feeling and agreement. No excuse can be offered for some recent manifestations in the Italian press; and though the earlier mistakes of Southern Slav propagandists may be viewed with greater indulgence if their position as refugees, and therefore, to some extent, trustees for their less fortunate fellow-countrymen, be taken into account, it cannot be zainsaid that they too have erred by placing before the European public statements of their case that challenge criticism. But the work of conciliation is eminently a task for the Allied Governments, and especially for that of Italy. Italy, as the elder sister of unredeemed Hapsburg peoples, has a mission of liberation to accomplish. Some of her writers and statesmen have revealed their understanding of this mission and have proclaimed a lofty conception of it and of true italianità. One such statement, published in the Secolo of Milan on the 28th of November, contained the following passage :
'The question how the various Austrian peoples, once liberated from the yoke, will constitute themselves as self-governing States and group themselves according to their tendencies and nationalities, ought not to preoccupy us during the effervescence of war. The urgent and important thing is the undoing of Austria. ... The important thing is that these peoples, once liberated, should become a sure bulwark against Germanism and a pledge of lasting peace in Europe. If Italy wishes to be really great, prosperous and powerful, she must embody this conception of the European settlement according to the natural tendencies of peoples. She must resolutely plant on her borders a banner bearing the device of “ Liberty and Nationality,” and direct towards this end every act of her international life. This is the third mission of Italy in the world.'
This article drew from a prominent Southern Slav, Dr. Lazar Markovitch, of Belgrade University, who edits at Geneva the Southern Slav organ La Serbie, the following comment :
Never has the mission of Italy been more clearly and nobly defined. Words so worthy and so just, from the pen of a true representative of the Italian people, will go to the heart of all Serbians and Southern Slavs ; and with such an Italy the friendship between the two neighbouring peoples would be eternal.' Lest it be imagined that the writer in the Secolo spoke for himself alone, the declarations of two eminent members of the present Italian Government, Signor Bissolati and Baron Sonnino, may be added to that of the Premier, Signor Boselli. After defining 'victory' as the redemption of Italian lands, the reconstitution of Belgium, the restoration to France of all her provinces now under the German heel, the re-establishment of Serbia and the liberation of the Rumanes * from the
* By 'Rumanes' are meant the unredeemed Rumanians of Austria-Hungary as distinguished from the people of Rumania.