Слике страница
PDF
ePub

addressed to the King his famous memoranda, advocating the immediate entry of Greece into the war on the side of the Entente, for reasons based only on considerations of Greek interest, not on any modified view of the treaty.

The arguments of these memoranda were so irrefutable that King Constantine decided to get rid of Venizelos at once. But even his successor, Gounaris, declared officially on the roth of March 1915 that the Greek attitude to Serbia would not be modified in any respect. In the following month, when Bulgarian ' irregulars' attempted to cut the Nish-Salonica railway, Gounaris energetically associated Greece with the Serbian protest at Sofia, reminding Bulgaria of the treaty's potentiality. His action was cordially approved by the entire Greek press, including the anti-Venizelist papers which have since discovered an attachment to German and Bulgarian interests. The same papers renewed their declarations of fidelity to Serbia at the beginning of August 1915, on the signature of the Turco-Bulgarian agreement. Meanwhile, however, Venizelos had won the elections of June 1915, and it had become clear that he could not by ordinary methods much longer be excluded from office. So quite unmistakably can be traced the German plan for the invalidation of the Greco-Serbian Treaty, or rather the German plan for preparing public opinion in Greece to accept the fact that King Constantine did not intend in any circumstances to fight for Serbia against Germany.

The notorious Schenk, of whom so much has been heard, was just a simple little press agent with plenty of money, and he would naturally begin with the provincial press. There, surely enough, the first murmurings of hostility to Serbia made their appearance in July. But when in effect Venizelos returned to power in September the denunciations of Serbia were taken up by the opposition newspapers, which were only too glad to find a method of attacking Venizelos and at the same time to console themselves for the loss of office by drawing German pay. Of course the Germans did not work through Schenk alone ; he was quite a subordinate official, employed only to prepare the ground; other independent departments were established in Athens for military information, submarine supply, and political graft. But the real headquarters of their operations were at the palace, where King Constantine and Streit were in direct communication with Berlin. From the palace Bulgaria was secretly informed that the uncon

ditional neutrality of Greece had been secured. Upon that information Bulgaria mobilised. Venizelos immediately ordered a counter-mobilisation, but was astounded, when he took the decree to the palace for signature, to be told for the first time that the mobilisation was to be regarded only as a precautionary measure.

The opposition papers then began to develop a suggestion that Serbia was not in a position to carry out her own obligations under the treaty. It was in order to nullify these arguments that Venizelos asked the Entente Powers if, in the event of actual war between Serbia and Bulgaria and the consequent bringing into operation of the Greco-Serbian alliance, England and France would be prepared to send a force to Salonika to take the place of the Serbian contingent which the military convention attached to the treaty provided for service with the Greek army. It has been pointed out by Dr. Ronald Burrows and the few other well-informed writers that this was the full extent of Venizelos' so-called ' invitation.' French and British troops began to land at Salonika on the end of October on the natural assumption that Greece would respect the treaty ; but Venizelos was obliged to protest, because the landing was technically a violation of Greek neutrality, which would lapse automatically only at the moment when Bulgaria commenced hostilities against Serbia. On the 4th of October Venizelos explained in the Hellenic Chamber the negotiations which had led up to the existing situation, and declared his intention of respecting the treaty and using the Greek army for the defence of the Serbian flank. M. Gounaris, as leader of the opposition, then for the first time, in spite of the fact that he had been in power from March till August, publicly announced his discovery that the treaty did not apply in the case of a ' European' as opposed to a 'Balkan’ war. The policy of Venizelos was approved by more than three-fifths of the Chamber, but he was immediately dismissed by King Constantine. From that day onwards the various Governments at Athens were all puppets manipulated from the royal palace, and although from time to time they were allowed to profess a benevolent' neutrality, they all remained consistently hostile to the interests of the Entente. It was only three weeks later, in a note addressed to England, that the repudiation of the treaty was embroidered with diplomatic excuses.

The betrayal of Serbia was in itself sufficient to indicate the quality of King Constantine's 'neutrality.' It was in effect an act of hostility to Serbia, and Serbia was the ally of England, France, and Russia, the protectors of Greek liberty. But the protectors preferred to take the word of King Constantine and prepared to accept his ' benevolent neutrality.' Venizelos at first offered to support the new Ministry, and his majority in the Chamber only overthrew it after they had been grossly insulted by the Minister for War, who was immediately appointed to a high office at Court. When a general election became inevitable (in December 1915) the methods adopted for its' preparation' were so flagrant that Venizelos and his supporters abstained altogether from the poll.

In spite of the fact that there was no intention of helping Serbia, nor even, as it subsequently appeared, of resisting a Bulgarian invasion of Greek Macedonia, the army was kept mobilised. Thus the electorate was prevented from expressing its discontent with a government which did not represent its views, while at the same time the men, by a system carefully organised by the admittedly pro-German General Staff, received daily instruction in the wickedness of Venizelos, the virtues of King Constantine, and the invincibility of Germany, a theme which was illustrated when convenient by such announcements as that of the fall of Verdun.* It was the application, not of industrial, but of political' conscription. Incidentally it had a disastrous effect on the finances of the country, which are supposed to be under the supervision of the Three Powers. At Athens there was no longer any pretence at constitutional government. The representatives of the Allies were openly insulted, while King Constantine maintained a force of secret police at the service of German interests and refused even to acknowledge a respectful petition addressed to him by the Greek communities abroad.

On the 25th of May Fort Rupel, a commanding position on the flank of General Sarrail's army, which had entrenched itself at Salonika during the winter, was handed over to the Bulgarians with all its defences, by an agreement secretly arranged between Athens, Berlin, and Sofia. The existence of this agreement, indignantly denied at the time by the Greek Government, was subsequently proved by documentary evi

* This was officially announced at Kavalla to the troops paraded in honour of the King's birthday on the 3rd of June last.

dence.* After the demobilisation at the end of June things went from bad to worse. The men released from the colours were drafted into the now notorious League of Reservists, which, with King Constantine's approval and in his name, terrorised the civil population and committed every sort of outrage and robbery with impunity, on the pretext of a plot against the King's life. This organisation was financed by the German legation.

Meanwhile Bulgarian and German troops, again by arrangement, occupied Kavalla, where a whole division of the Greek army was instructed to surrender, and was conveyed, with all its equipment, to Germany. Subsequently the whole of Greek Macedonia, as far as Florina, was occupied by the Germans and Bulgars, who appropriated all the Greek frontier works and war material, said to have cost the Greek Government about £8,000,000. The protests of the Entente were politely ignored, or postponed with assurances of good will, or placated by a change of Ministry. Almost every politician in Athens was invited to form a Ministry, except Venizelos, who had twice received the confidence of the electorate. The only honest man of the many who attempted to do so, M. Zaimis, actually recommended King Constantine at the beginning of September to recall Venizelos and declare war against Bulgaria. As this was after the Rumanian entry into the war and the consequent formation at Salonika of the Greek Committee of National Defence (which was joined a month later by Venizelos himself), King Constantine allowed it to be believed that his neutrality was no longer inflexible, and there was once again a general pretence of reconciliation. This, however, was the signal for such a violent outbreak of terrorism on the part of the Reservists' League (which was long ago supposed to have been dissolved) that the British Fleet had to anchor off the Piræus.

But the only result of this demonstration of power was the arrest of a few German agents and spies—including Baron Schenk, who told an English journalist in a Parthian interview that his work would be carried on after his own departureand the surrender of the post offices. Nothing more seems

* See the Patris, October 16–18 and November 6–11 (0.s.) 1916, and compare the Morning Post, June 21, 1916, and the Preuss Zeitung, June 7, quoted in the Morning Post, July 28.

VOL. 225. NO. 459.

to have been said about the Reservists, and poor M. Zaimis, who had promised their final disappearance, found his position impossible, for behind his back his Minister of the Interior was acting on private instructions received from the palace. All the time the real control of affairs remained with King Constantine, who cancelled the appointments of persons, however distinguished, who ventured to utter a word in favour of Venizelos or of the Constitution, and replaced them by the corrupt place-hunters of the old régime who had been so laboriously weeded out by Venizelos in 1910. He surrounded himself at the palace with a cabal consisting of his chief political adviser Streit, German-bred staff officers like Dousmanis and Metaxas, and Viennese dandies like Theodore Ypsilanti, whose wife, a Hungarian, distinguished herself in the outbreak of the ist of December 1916, by personally inciting the Reservists to loot and massacre. In this select circle King Constantine would express, in the barrack-room language for which he is noted, his hatred of Venizelos, his contempt for constitutional government, his contempt for France and England. And when the representatives of these Powers began to be suspicious of his charming proposals that they should, as a mere guarantee of good faith, begin by financing and equipping his army, he would retire to bed with a recrudescence of his old wound, or send one of his brothers, Prince Andrew, or Prince Nicolas, on a diplomatic tour of the Allied Courts to complain that he was only too anxious to help the Entente if they would ask their representatives not to bully him.

There are many unproved details about King Constantine's rule that might be added by anyone who cares to be sensational ; there is, for instance, the circumstantial story printed in an obscure Greek paper of the royal mail-bag on its way to Berlin, captured in Thessaly by the British Intelligence Service some months ago; but I have preferred to mention only those charges which are based on unimpeachable evidence. They suffice to make it quite clear that there was never any question of allowing a small Power to remain neutral.' Rather, the difficulty at Athens was that of imposing neutrality on a nest of German intrigue. King Constantine's observance of neutrality was characterised by the closest possible co-operation with Germany, and it is impossible to believe that this fact can have escaped the notice of all departments of the British Government.

« ПретходнаНастави »