File No. 763.72/12055

The Ambassador in France ( Sharp ) to the Secretary of State

No. 6706

Sir: Referring to my telegram No. 5492 of the 19th instant, 12 p.m.,1 I have the honor now to enclose copies of the statement left by Dr. Ante Trumbich, to which reference was therein made. It may be of interest to the Department to know that after the Doctor left me at the Chancery, inasmuch as he was to depart for London early the following morning, he spent the whole of that evening until 6 o’clock in the morning preparing this statement, which, however, his secretary was not able to get typewritten for delivery for some days thereafter.

In the light of recent events, all of the Doctor’s observations as to the rebellion among the Yugo-Slavs against Austria, and their [Page 865] willingness to fight with the Allied armies, would seem to be fully confirmed.

References to the hostile feeling exercised by the Italian Government toward his people reflect the feelings which the Yugo-Slavs—and, for that matter, the Serbians also—have toward Italy. It is one of distrust and dislike. The Albanians have much the same prejudice, and it might be said that all the peoples living on the eastern coast of the Adriatic look with jealous eye toward any encroachment of Italian authority on that soil.

In a subsequent despatch I will forward a very instructive and interesting map1 which Doctor Trumbich left with me, and which shows the section of that coast which, by the London agreement in 1915, Great Britain, Russia and France stipulated should be given to Italy as the price of her entrance into the war.

I have [etc.]

Wm. G. Sharp

Memorandum of the President of the Jugo-Slav Committee in London ( Trumbić )

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Italo-Yugoslav Conflict

Italy would not enter the war on the side of the Allies until Russia, England and France refused [agreed?] to sign the memorandum guaranteeing Italy that she was to get the shores of the Adriatic Sea; with all the islands—(just as it is pointed out with red pencil on the added geographical card.2) That memorandum was signed by those great powers and by Italy, in London, on April 25 [26], 1915.3

The Italian Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sonnino, is still adhering to the clauses of that convention. It was given out in Austria at the time the Bolsheviki published it in Petrograd. That convention caused the greatest dissatisfaction and profoundest apprehension among the Yugoslavs who desire their freedom and do not want to come from under the Austrian yoke into the Italian one. That is one of the main causes of the distrust of the Yugoslavs in their dealings with Italy.

France and England are bound by their signature to please Italy, and the Yugoslavs are to-day looking toward America, who stands for the self-determination of nationalities, that she will liberate them and enable them to choose a government of their own.

[Page 866]

If Italy will get those Yugoslav territories there will never be peace between Italy and the Yugoslavs. And sooner or later that would be one of the causes of a new war.

The whole territory north and east of that part of the Adriatic Sea that belongs to Austria is inhabited by the Slavonic people and only in a few small town centers, for instance Trieste, and some towns on the western shores of Istria, are there inhabitants of Italian extraction. Those town centers depend for everything they need upon the surrounding countries that are thoroughly Slavonic. Here there are no Italian villages. The fight of the Yugoslavs against the Italian pretensions is a fight of the Slavonian democracy against small numbers of Italian bourgeoisie and against the imperialistic aspirations of Italy.

It is a very threatening struggle because the Yugoslav democracy is self conscious and civilized and wants to achieve in this war its main aim. …1 their liberation from Austro-Hungary and the union of the whole race of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes—including the Serbians of Serbia proper and Montenegro proper—into one democratic state of their own. That state with their 12,000,000 population and with the territory of 260,000 square kilometres stretching between the Danube and the Adriatic Sea will be the natural barrier and bulwark against German expansion into the Balkans, Constantinople and Asia Minor.

The Austro-Hungarian and the Balkan problem cannot be solved successfully if in the first place the Yugoslav problem (which represents the bridge between Central Europe and Asia Minor) fails to receive most serious attention from the Allies’ diplomats.

As a seafaring nation the Yugoslavs are known to the whole world. The majority of the sailors of the Austrian commercial fleet, officers as well as men, are Yugoslavs from the Adriatic. Five hundred thousand tons of that commercial fleet belong to the Yugoslavs.

The Yugoslav Nation wants to maintain its independent position on the sea and will fight with all its powers against Italy and anyone who would try to dispossess them.

The Rôle America is to Play between Italians and Yugoslavs

America must offer her protection to the Yugoslavs in accordance to the principles laid down by President Wilson, in accordance to its traditions and against the imperialistic pretensions of Italy. If the Allies want the Yugoslavs of Austria-Hungary to give their [Page 867] support an attempt must be made to convince Italy that her claims are unjust.

In France and England there exists at the moment a disposition to accede to these just demands. But the convention of London still binds them. America has free hands and possesses the power to influence Italy by her support in money, food stuffs and war materials.

Italy is asking America for military assistance. Contrary to this demand America asks nothing from Italy. If America makes her opinion clear to Italy [on] the problem of the Yugoslavs, the success is assured.

The foremost Italian newspapers have already published the I facts that America does not entertain great sympathies for Italy and does not want to send troops to Italy on account of the Yugo-slav question. So the Italian public opinion is ready and prepared to accept the American decision in the Italy-Yugoslav conflict. We need to-day a strong official policy and influence brought upon the Foreign Minister, Sonnino, who is one of the conservative politicians of the old school, and who has made manifest his Germanophilism.

Sonnino kept away from the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities of Austro-Hungary which took place in Rome in April, 1918. And the press, inspired by him, is still showing an indisposition toward the new political constellation. Sonnino opposes the fighting of the Yugoslav war prisoners in the Serbian Army. It has also been proven that he was against the enrolling of the Czecho-Slovak war prisoners with whom he has no territorial disagreements. The pact between the Czecho-Slovak National Alliance for the formation of a Czecho-Slovak Legion was made and signed by Minister President Orlando, without the cooperation of Mr. Sonnino.

What Should Be Done

Italy should be willing to reconsider the policy of the resolutions, adopted at the convention at London, April 25 [April 26, 1915?].

The Means Possessed by America

Italy, mobilized, has, as authentic figures show, about 5,200,000 men. In spite of this Italy will not undertake an offensive against the Austria-Hungary Army—but asks America for 200,000 men.

America’s answer to Italy should be that Italy will get all the help whenever she renounces her imperialistic pretensions. If Italy [Page 868] renounces the London convention, influenced to do so by America. America will have done much for the oppressed Yugoslavs.

How to Hasten the End of the War

A well prepared and well conducted naval and military campaign against Sebenico will facilitate and hasten the destruction of the Austrian Army and Navy. That would mean the inner political collapse of Austria. After that is done the surrendering of Germany will be the matter of short delay,

What Do the Jugoslavs Expect of America?

The Yugoslav question is a part of the Austro-Hungarian problem.

The Czecho-Slovaks and the Poles succeeded in getting their recognition and the promise for their independent future.

America, France and England see in the Czecho-Slovak National Alliance and the Polish National Council the representatives and chief organs of the respective nationalities.

The Yugoslavs of Austria-Hungary deserve and should receive the same recognition.

England and France, though favourably inclined, failed to do so on account of the Italian activities.

It is necessary that America, bound by no convention to Italy, come forward with an independent recognition of the Yugoslavs of Austria Hungary and their representative the Yugoslav Committee in London.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not reproduced.
  3. Not transmitted with this despatch.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1917, Supplement 2, vol. I, pp. 497500.
  5. Punctuation as in the original.