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THE HELLENIC CRISIS FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF CONSTITUTIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LAW

PART V

We now come to the last part of what one might call the Greek tragedy, which was played in Hellas during the first three years of this world war with such marvelous success under Teutonic guidance. The events of June, 1916,1 laid bare the whole plot, unmasked the royal actors at Athens, and compelled France and England, the protecting Powers of Greece, at last to take drastic measures.

The surrender of the "key" to Eastern Macedonia (the Roupel fortress) by Constantine to the Germano-Bulgarian forces was rightly considered by the guardians of Greece as a hostile act directed against them, demanding the adoption of appropriate measures for the security of their armies on the Balkan front. Their first measure to this end was the substitution of Allied authorities for those of Greece in the city of Salonika. The second was the refusal by Great Britain to supply coal to Greek ships. The three Entente Powers had previously warned the Greek Government that if it allowed the armies of their enemies to advance freely into Greek territory, such action would lead to serious consequences. Therefore, the Royal Government of Greece, fearing lest the Allies institute repressive measures of a more drastic character, informed the Entente Governments that the further advance of the Bulgarian troops into Greek territory would be prevented. 3

On June 10, 1916, as a further precautionary measure, French military forces occupied the Island of Thassos, near the port of Cavalla, in Macedonia, because France had reasons to believe that the Bulgarians would be allowed by Constantine to occupy that port.

1 See Part IV in this JOURNAL for July, 1918. 2 London Times, June 9, 1916.

3 Statement of Mr. Skouloudis, the Greek Premier, to the Entente Ministers, in London Times, June 10, 1916.

On June 21, 1916, the Governments of France, Great Britain and Russia sent to the Greek Government the following collective note:

Under instructions from their Governments, the undersigned, Ministers of France, Great Britain, and Russia, representatives of the guaranteeing Powers of Greece, have the honor to make the following declaration to the Hellenic Government, which they have also been instructed to bring to the notice of the Greek people:

As they have already declared solemnly and in writing, the three guaranteeing Powers of Greece do not ask her to depart from her neutrality. They give a striking proof of this in putting amongst the first of their requests the complete demobilization of the Greek army in order to insure tranquillity and peace to the Greek people. But they have numerous and legitimate grounds of suspicion against the Greek Government, the attitude of which towards them is not in accordance with its repeated engagements, or even with the principles of a loyal neutrality. It has too often favored the activities of certain foreigners, who have been openly working to mislead the opinion of the Greek people, to pervert its national conscience, and to create on Greek territory hostile organizations contrary to the neutrality of the country, and tending to compromise the security of the naval and military forces of the Allies.

The entry of Bulgarian troops into Greece, the occupation of Fort Rupel and of other strategical points with the connivance of the Greek Cabinet, constitute a fresh threat for the Allied troops, which imposes on the three Powers the obligation to demand guarantees and immediate action.

On the other hand, the Greek constitution has been ignored, the free exercise of universal suffrage prevented, the Chamber dissolved for the second time in less than a year against the clearly expressed wishes of the people, the electors summoned with general mobilization in force, with the result that the present Chamber only represents a small part of the electorate, the whole country subjected to a régime of police oppression and tyranny, and led towards ruin without attention being paid to the justifiable observations of the Powers. The latter have not only the right, but the imperative duty, to protest against such violations of the liberties of which they are trustees to the Greek people.

The hostile attitude of the Greek Government towards the Powers who liberated Greece from the foreign yoke and assured her independence, the evident collusion of the present Cabinet with their enemies, are yet stronger reasons for them to act with firmness, basing themselves on the rights which they hold from treaties to safeguard the Greek nation, and which have been strengthened each time the

4 British Parliamentary Paper, Miscellaneous No. 27 (1916).

exercise of its rights and the enjoyment of its liberties has been threatened.

Consequently, the guaranteeing Powers find themselves compelled to insist that the following measures should immediately be put into force:

1. The real and complete demobilization of the Greek army, which is to be placed on a peace footing with the least possible delay.

2. The existing Ministry to be immediately replaced by a Cabinet of Affairs of no political complexion, affording all necessary guarantees for the loyal application of the benevolent neutrality which Greece has undertaken to observe towards the Allied Powers, as well as for the sincerity of a new appeal to the country.

3. The immediate dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies, fol. lowed by a general election immediately after the expiration of the term laid down by the Constitution and after the general demobilization shall have restored the electorate to its normal conditions.

4. The removal, in accord with the Powers, of certain police officials, whose attitude, inspired by foreign influence, has facilitated assaults on peaceful citizens as well as insults offered to the Allied legations and their nationals.

Ever animated by the most benevolent and most friendly feeling towards Greece, but at the same time resolved to obtain without discussion or delay the application of these indispensable measures, the guaranteeing Powers can only leave to the Greek Government the entire responsibility for the events which may occur if their just demands are not immediately accepted.

This peremptory note compelled the Premier, Mr. Skouloudis, and his associates to tender their resignation to Constantine, who was not long in substituting another Cabinet headed by Mr. Zaimis. The new Prime Minister, who subsequently proved to be no less subservient to the royal will than his predecessor, assumed the reins of government on June 23, 1916, and on the same day in a note to the three Entente Ministers, he declared that the Greek Government was ready to acquiesce completely in the demands of the three Allies.

This apparent submission did not, however, prevent the King from continuing to use every possible artifice to thwart the plans of the Entente Powers, culminating in an open clash with them and the shedding of innocent blood. Thus, while the demobilization of the regular Greek army was slowly and reluctantly proceeding, Constantine was secretly preparing another army, modelled on the Swiss

5 British Parliamentary Paper, Miscellaneous No. 27 (1916).

system, which could be made ready within a short time. These prospective soldiers, who were enrolled under the euphemistic name of “reservists,” soon became the terror of those who opposed or were suspected of opposing the so-called royal policy. The money needed for the organization of these bands was amply furnished by the German Legation at Athens.

While the German Minister at Athens was giving assurances to Mr. Zaimis that the armies of the Central Powers and their Allies would not advance beyond the occupied Greek strongholds and fortresses, in Eastern Macedonia,' the Bulgarians were making preparations to push their forward movement as far as the Ægean Sea and to dispossess Greece of her territory with its rich tobacco fields and the much coveted port of Cavalla.

This movement was accomplished undoubtedly with the connivance of Constantine, who had given secret orders to the Greek commanders not to oppose the Bulgarian invasion. As a matter of fact, the Greek army not only did not attempt to stop the invasion, except a small section which did so contrary to its instructions, but it refused to help the French contingents which attempted to stop the invaders. When the Bulgarian army approached the outskirts of Cavalla, the officer in charge of the defense of that locality took the necessary measures to defend the city, but, to his surprise, General Hatsopoulos, acting under superior orders, gave instructions to the Greek troops to surrender the surrounding ground and prohibited them from digging any trenches for their defense.'

The invasion of Macedonia by the Bulgarian troops and the disastrous consequences which resulted from it for Greece, made a deep impression on the Greek people of that country; but the most humiliating and disgraceful incident of the Macedonian tragedy was the

6 This was admitted by Mr. Tganetouleas, the Minister of Finance in the Cabinet of Prof. Lambros, during the Parliamentary inquiry instituted in Greece in the course of the year 1917. See minutes in Greek National Herald, November 29, 1917.

7 Greek White Book, Document No. 67, Supplement to this JOURNAL for April, 1918, p. 159; also Documents Diplomatiques, Supplément, 1917, No. 33.

8 S. B. Pronotario, The Macedonian Tragedy (in Greek), pp. 26, 27, 28.
9 Ibid., p. 49.

surrender of nearly 8,000 Greek troops under General Hatsopoulos with nearly all the war material accumulated by Greece in Eastern Macedonia. Most of these troops had reached the sea coast and were preparing to embark on English boats for transportation to the Greek mainland, under instructions of the Greek Minister of War (General Yanakitsas), when they were suddenly ordered by their commander, General Hatsopoulos, to move to the interior of the country, behind the Bulgarian troops. Thus, while the War Minister was ordering the troops to return to Greece, King Constantine was giving secret orders to their commander to surrender them to the Germano-Bulgarian Army.10 The only action that the Greek Government took was to make a perfunctory protest to Germany and demand the return of the troops, which was, of course, not complied with. This action of Germany in making prisoners of war of troops of a neutral country was entirely unprecedented, but was undoubtedly done at the suggestion or with the acquiescence of Constantine, who feared that these soldiers, if left free, would join the Salonika movement.

On August 30, 1916, a revolution, headed by some Greek officers and a few civilians, broke out in Salonika. The revolutionists immediately repudiated the Government of Constantine and formed a Committee of National Defense, whose purpose was to eject the Bulgarian invaders from Greek Macedonia. This revolutionary junta later developed into the Provisional Government of Greece, under the leadership of Mr. Venizelos, Admiral Countouriotis and General Danglis, with headquarters at Salonika. The Provisional Government, under the eyes of the three protecting Powers of Greece, soon began to increase in power and influence, to the detriment of the Royal Greek Government attached to the Central Powers.

As the King still continued to temporize and evade in the fulfillment of the promises made to the Entente, on September 1, 1916, 23 Allied warships, with 7 transports of troops, appeared a few miles off the port of Piræus. The next day the ministers of Great Britain

10 The German Minister at Athens, in a note to the Greek Minister under date of August 28, 1916, stated that the Greek troops surrendered voluntarily the forts and Cavalla, as well as the war material. Greek White Book, Doc. No. 68 in SUPPLEMENT, April, 1918, p. 160.

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