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Austro-Hungarian oppression in the Balkans and in Jugoslav lands in Austria-Hungary, was by the logic of events destined to awake to a rude reality. It was destined to pay for its sleepiness and passivity with millions of lives and with a misery unsurpassed in history. And it was at last destined to side with those whose oppression it tolerated, and whose warnings it despised. And the logic of events, victorious like every truth, forced upon Europe, and consequently upon the whole world, the great and far-reaching importance of the Jugoslav problem.
The annexation of Bosnia-Hercegovina by Austria-Hungary in 1908 was the first big event resulting from the policy of preparedness, and the first step in the realization of the Austro-German programme of Mitteleurope. It was accomplished boldly and with the Entente as an angry but powerless onlooker. The result was that Entente diplomacy opened one eye, only to faster shut the other one. The bite in the sour apple of Austro-German success was sweetened by the avoidance of world conflagration. The due logic of events was surely ackowledged, but the fact was again overlooked that events do not stop, that the first act of the Balkan drama must necessarily be followed by the second, third and so on, until the very ripe problem is either way settled. The second act was the Balkan war with its epochal internal and external results. Undertaken in defiance of the European concert it pronounced the determined judgment of the Balkan peoples that they have decided to settle their question among themselves, without outside interference. It was a hard blow to European diplomacy, but at the same time it was the first strong emphasising of the principle of self-determination. Diplomacy of course once more attempted to upset such an unheard of insolence, and the conference of London was designated to spoil the over-weeningness of the Balkan peoples. But it was doomed to failure, and the continuation of the war, and subsequently the peace of Bucharest sealed the fact, that peoples, even if small and weak, break with the foul tradition of being led and commanded by the big and strong ones. Germany and Austria-Hungary, who already during the war succeeded to persuade Bulgaria to become a shameless traitor on the common cause, accepted the treaty of Bucharest with furious rage, whereas the Entente diplomacy preferred to show an artificial indifference. This indifference was so great that it failed even to note the AustroGerman preparations for the tremendous third act.
The successes of the Balkan wars, especially the glorious resurrection of Serbia, were a deadly thorn in Austro-German eyes. There was not the least doubt that the strengthening of Serbia will provoke the utmost opposition of AustriaHungary who suddenly saw all her Balkan plans endangered, and that nothing will be left unturned to bring about such a conflict, or such a pretended conflict, which will enable her to attack Serbia, before this country has recovered from the military exhaustion of the Balkan war, and before Russia and the Entente powers are adequately prepared to defend her. But besides endangering the Austro-German “Drang nach Osten,” the resurrection of Serbia multiplied the long existing menace for Austria-Hungary, arising from the strong movement of her Jugoslav subjects towards liberty and unification with the victorious brothers across the Danube and Drina. This movement, suppressed with all the means, legal and illegal, by the governments of Vienna and Budapest, developed after the Balkan wars with such rapidity and force, that the foundations of the Hapsburg Empire, fraudulously cemented together, began seriously to totter. This was one means more to hasten preparations for the ruin of Serbia, and over her ruins the way to German world domination. Had European diplomacy at that time rightly understood the tremendons significance of the Balkan situation with all its hangings-on, and had it taken the only steps dictated by the situation, instead of again muddling away, the allies would have met the onslaught of the Central Powers better prepared, not only military, but politically which would have been of immense value in dealing with the mailed and oiled host of the Kaiser. But the logic of events was again overlooked, and the logic of events brought about the greatest and bloodiest war in history.
The outbreak of the war opened at last the eyes of the whole world, including the European diplomacy, and the grand conception of Berlin and Vienna became at last vivid to everybody. The innocent German lamb and the doubleheaded Austrian rooster, pained in fear of the Pan-Slav bear, were "forced” to draw the sword for their “protection," and to protect themselves by slaughtering millions and destroying the noblest values of humanity. The mighty fan of their aims and ambitions, which was so long clasped together, opened, and the stupefied world learned for the first time clearly the judgment the Kaiser pronounced over it. The unanimous reaction which followed, and which should have been less bloody if set at work long ago, pronounced its counter-judgment culminating in the proclamation of the principle of democracy and national selfdetermination. With that the whole immense reservoir of national problems all over the world, was at once opened. Subjugated nations and oppressed peoples got for the first time an acknowledged right, not only to raise their voice, but to be heard. There is no wonder if they availed themselves of this right with all the means of disposal. Subjugation and oppression are terrible whoever imposes them, but if the oppressors are Germans and Magyars, the oppressd are surely the most unfortunate beings on earth.
The Jugoslavs are one of the nations which through centuries had to suffer bitterly under Austro-Magyar domination, and which through centuries in vain tried to attain its liberty, independence and unity. In vain and in spite of the fact that to every student of national and political conditions in southeastern Europe the Jugoslav problem must present itself as one on which the whole structure of a peaceful Europe must be based. But the Jugoslav problem has attracted little consideration in the past, as far as the allies are concerned, and its significance has only begun to penetrate into the mind of the “few responsible” since the war has brought in an imperative form the Jugoslav problem on the order of the day. At present the truth cannot be any more concealed, that the Jugoslav question is one of the most important, perhaps even the foremost question of the present war. It includes in itself not only a Jugoslav, but also an imminent European and world problem. It is the flesh and the bone of the whole Eastern Question. If all the problems of the war are settled, excluding only the Jugoslav problem, there is no doubt that the future peace will be a very strong Austro-German peace. It would mean to lay new, and even firmer foundations for the next terrible catastrophe of mankind. It would mean a full victory for the Kaiser and for the truly grand, and truly dangerous idea of Mittel-Europe. A right and just solution of the Jugoslav problem is equal to a right and just solution of the problem of German world domination, for by protecting the one and destroying the other, the basis can be established for a lasting peace. It must never be forgotten that German world domination can be attained only on an open road to Constantinople and the Persian Gulf, and conclusively to Egypt and India. On this road the Jugoslavs—if independent and united-can, will and must be the only barrier. If this barrier is made strong and firm, there is no power which will break through.
Since the Jugoslav problem made itself familiar with public opinion in Europe and America, there ensued much talk about the proper solution of it. But among many excellent ideas which less or more hit the mark, there were only too many aiming at a partial solution, very often in the interest of Austria-Hungary, or at least with the intention to satisfy both, Austria-Hungary and the Jugoslavs. Such ideas and proposals betray the highest grade of political dilettantism. If the Jugoslavs consented to have a partial solution of their question, they could have it at once, and the whole Jugoslav propaganda would be superfluous. Austria-Hungary would be only too glad to settle the whole question in a partial sense, and recent events in the dual monarchy fully confirm this fact. Therefore it cannot be strongly enough emphasized that a partial solution of the Jugoslav problem is no solution at all, and that no one of the 13,000,000 Jugoslavs will ever declare himself contented or will accept a partial solution. The Jugoslav problem is
thoroughly ripe, and must be solved in its entirety. It is the sine qua non of the future peace. And it must not be forgotten, that as determined as the Jugoslavs were in their struggle for deliverance, freedom and unity, as determined they will be in defending their standpoint, not only in their own interest, but also in the interest of democracy, humanity, and a better and juster Europe. In opening before the world all the aspects and prospects of their problem, they do not beg for alms, nor do they expect to gain anything from a charitable disposition of this or that statesman. With the utmost resolution they demand justice, nothing but justice. They are no beggars but a proud, capable nation, whose aspirations are indisputably just, and indisputably clean. There are only two aims by putting forward the Jugoslav question. First, to enlighten real democracies all over the world on the true facts and on the righteousness of Jugoslav aspirations, and second to destroy the misunderstandings and misrepresentations which were accumulated by Austro-German propaganda before the war, and which still are spread by Austro-German agents and pacifists of different patterns throughout the allied countries. In treating it this way the Jugoslav problem cannot fail to engage the genuine sympathy and the support of everyone to whom the principle of democracy and national self-determination is no mere phrase.
As already mentioned, the Jugoslav question went before the war almost unnoticed in Western Europe and in America. Only the Teutonic powers have realized its full importance and have treated it accordingly, of course from their own point of view. For Western Europe the complex of the Balkan question never included that part of the Jugoslav lands which was under Austro-Hungarian domination, although it was an indivisible and integral part of it. The average public, not excluded some “far-sighted" diplomatists, got used to regard the Balkan question more from the point of back-stair stories, imagining the Balkan peoples as good minded ruffians, playing with sword and fire among themselves, but not endangering the lazy indifference of Europe. Only very few recognized that the Balkans were