File No. 768.74/75.

The American Minister to Greece to the Secretary of State.

No. 107.]

Sir: War having broken out between the Balkan allies, I have the honor to make a report to the Department on the conditions out of which the war finally developed and the real issue which it involves.

[The Minister here mentions his interviews with the Prime Ministers of Servia (June 24), Bulgaria (June 27), Roumania (June 19) [Page 79] and Greece (July 9 and previously). He then describes his observations of the military situation at Ilskub (where the fighting began), Veles, Prilip, Monastir and Saloniki.]

The vital historical movement in the Balkans since the beginning of the 19th century has been the disentanglement of the subject peoples (Slav and Greek) from Turks and latterly their differentiation from one another. With the resurrection of these long-entombed nationalities and their recovery of national consciousness have come national self-assertion, the struggle for mastery, the determination to dominate rivals, and above all the deliberate policy to appropriate to the utmost possible extent the vast domain which the palsied hand of the Turk was gradually but inevitably releasing in Europe.* * *

Thrace, between the Black Sea and the Nestos River, had in the course of the war against Turkey been automatically assigned to Bulgaria, whose armies also occupied the territory west of the Nestos up to an irregular line approximately fixed by the points of Doiran, Strumica, Istip and Kochana, excepting only the Chalcidian Peninsula and its immediate hinterland which were held by the Greeks. By the same automatic process the war had assigned to the Greeks Epirus, Southern Albania and Southern Macedonia, up to the line of Koritsa, Fiorina and Gumendza, though the determinate northern boundary of New Greece awaited the action of the Great Powers as regards Albania and of the Allies as regards Macedonia. The valor of the soldiers of Montenegro had also marked out its field of expansion to the south and east of the present Kingdom. Of Turin’s possessions in Europe, apart from Constantinople with its fringe of hinterland and Albania with its unsettled southern frontier, there remained the territory known as Novi Bazar, Old Servia, and that portion of Macedonia lying between the provisional western boundary of New Bulgaria and the provisional northern boundary of New Greece; and this entire tract had been conquered and was held by Servian troops. To this Bulgaria objected. She made no issue over Novi Bazar and most or all of Old Servia; but in virtue of her treaty with Servia she claimed everything that was left in Macedonia north of the final Greek frontier and south and east of a line drawn from Ochrida towards the Vardar, which it intersected a few kilometres above Veles, extending thence over Ovce Polje to Egri Palanka and terminating on the present Bulgarian frontier at Golema Vrch. It is over the disposition of this triangular section of western Macedonia (which I traversed some days ago in two different directions) that the Allies have had recourse to arms; for though Bulgarians resented the Greek occupation of Saloniki, and Greeks the Bulgarian occupation of south eastern Macedonia—the Seres, Drama and Kavala district—it is improbable that either Government would have made war to alter the fait accompli in those localities.

Western Macedonia is the crux of the difficulty. Servia holds it by force of arms, but the population in the triangular section in dispute is not prevailingly Servian. The Greeks can make a good ethnological case for Monastir and some other points north of their present military frontier. But as a result of my own observations and inquiries I am disposed to believe that while the majority of the inhabitants are Mussulman—Turks or perhaps Albanians—the largest element in the Christian population is Bulgarian.* * *

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Any ethnological statements about Macedonia, however, must be received with great reserve and no little suspicion. For the Balkan peoples, foreseeing the inevitable collapse of Turkish power in Europe, have long been busy in “staking out claims” for the succession. * * * Life, property, peace, order, justice, humanity, the sanctities of religion—these have all been ruthlessly sacrificed to establish in Macedonia the exclusive claims of rival nationalities to the Turk’s inheritance. The maxim “live and let live” has been unknown among these fierce contestants for national aggrandizement.

[Here follows a minute explanation of the claims of each of the Balkan States as stated to the Minister by the respective Prime Ministers.]

At the close of the war with Turkey the Bulgarians not only concentrated their forces near the Greek lines, but they made successive attacks against sections of the region included in the Greek military occupation. Then followed violations of the neutral line, each resulting in a gain of territory for the Bulgarians and a corresponding loss for the Greeks. To prevent further effusion of blood there was finally and formally established a new line of demarkation which was traced on the basis of the state of things created by the previous aggressions of the Bulgarians. But though this took from Greek occupation half of the Panghaion—the region extending from Orphani towards Kavala—the line seems to have been loyally respected by the Greek forces. Suddenly, however, on the 30th of June the Bulgarian army crossed this line, and occupied the whole of the Panghaion, and commenced a rapid offensive against both the Greek and Servian fronts all along the line from Eleftherai on the Gulf of Kavala to Guevgheli on the Vardar, and thence to Kotchana, north of Istip. This being regarded as war though without a declaration, the conciliation of Mr. Venizelos was at an end and the Greek troops were ordered to advance. Mr. Venizelos declared in his speech in the Chamber of Deputies that this “advance demonstrated, what also the despatches of the King prove, that the Bulgarians had already commenced their march against Saloniki, which they planned to take by surprise.”

Thus ended all hope of a peace settlement of the dispute between the late Allies against Turkey. For such a peace solution no one had striven more earnestly than Mr. Venizelos. He believed that the task of dividing the conquered Turkish territories could be accomplished by a conference of the representatives of the victorious Balkan States. And, in case of failure, he proposed arbitration. Nor was this programme of recent birth. On the contrary, only a few days after the declaration of war against the Ottoman Empire, Greece communicated with her allies on the subject of the division amongst them of Turkey in Europe, tracing the line of her own ethnological claims and adding that, in case of the failure of direct negotiations, she thought that the disputed points ought to be referred to arbitration. But Bulgaria gave no definite reply, and after months of waiting the question was postponed till the close of the war against Turkey. But Mr. Venizelos has not ceased to champion this method of settling the dispute, which he has kept, on all suitable occasions, before the view of the Allies and of Europe. And his devotion to the programme of [Page 81] negotiation with recourse if necessary to arbitration gives Greece today an enormous moral advantage in the opinion of the civilized world.

[Remarks on the progress of the war.]

In the conversation already referred to I asked Mr. Venizelos what Greece was fighting for. First, he said in substance, we are defending ourselves against attack; and then, as regards our programme, we assert the principle of nationality, we oppose the hegemony, the domination, of Bulgaria, and we desire an equilibrium between the Balkan States.

To curb the pretensions of Bulgaria is now a leading object with the Greeks, Servians, and Montenegrins. This was clear both from the talk of Mr. Venizelos and [the Servian Prime Minister] Mr. Paschitch. But these are not the only national statesmen who would clip the Bulgarian wings. The Premier of Roumania, Mr. Maioresco, voiced the same policy in the conversation I had with him on June 19th, at which Minister Jackson was also present. And he said clearly that in case of war Roumania would adjust her frontiers on the Bulgarian side.

Time alone will show how Bulgaria can meet all these attacks. Meanwhile the auguries seem to be unpropitious for her.

I have [etc.]

J. G. Schurman.

Note.—The treaty of peace was signed on August 10, 1913, and on August 11 the American Minister transmitted a copy of it to the Department, with a complete set of the protocols and annexes (despatch No. 435, Roumanian series; file No. 768.74/114).