The Chargé in Bulgaria ( Wilson ) to the Acting Secretary of State
[Received January 18, 1919.]
Sir: During the first ten days of my stay in Bulgaria, I have had occasion to talk with a considerable number of persons, Bulgarians and others, including the King, the Bulgarian Ministers, various leaders of political parties, the heads of the British, French, Italian, Greek and the Servian Military Missions, American Missionaries and others and the following report is the result of some of the conclusions drawn therefrom.
There is no question in my mind but that both the Bulgarian people and Government are today pro-Ally, glad to be free of German control, glad to have the Allied Armies in the country, at least for the present, and regretting sincerely that they entered the war on the German side. This regret is not entirely owing to the fact that they misjudged the situation and must suffer for being on the losing side, but also to the fact that Bulgaria allowed herself to be drawn into the war by the King and a few agents of Germany against the will and contrary to the sentiments of the Bulgarian people as a whole.
Their point of view is, however, peculiar in regard to their participation in the war on the side of the central powers. They realize that they committed a “crime”, as the Prime Minister called it, but once having admitted this fact, they seem to think that this is an end of the matter, and cannot seem to understand why there should be any hard feeling or resentment among the Allies towards Bulgaria, or why there is anything to prevent Bulgaria from resuming her pre-war position as “The Spoiled Child of the Balkans”. The Prime Minister is almost the only one who does not adopt this attitude.
This feeling is especially strong in regard to the United States, for whom Bulgaria has always had the warmest feelings, and the fact that Bulgaria and the United States have not been at war makes it [Page 255] apparently impossible for the Bulgarians to understand that American public feeling is not so cordial towards their country as before the war. Every Bulgarian with whom I have spoken looks to the United States to espouse the Bulgarian cause at the Peace Conference, and states that they have the most absolute confidence in President Wilson and his theory of nationalities, which they expect will fulfill all their aspirations for territorial expansion. I have not spoken to a single Bulgarian who has not told me that no pressure could have induced Bulgaria to side with Germany if she had believed that the United States would enter the war. It is also a fact that Germany used every argument and threat to induce Bulgaria to declare war on the United States and that the latter refused even at the risk of a break with her allies.
From England also the Bulgarians seem to expect support at the peace conference. Up to the time of the war, England had always been more favorably disposed to Bulgaria than to the other Balkan states, and I understand that even now there is [are] a number of prominent Englishmen, both in Parliament and out, who favor a lenient treatment of Bulgaria.
Bulgaria further counts upon Italian jealousy of the Yougo-Slavs and a greater Servia to bring Italy to use her influence at the conference to secure for Bulgaria a slice of Macedonia, in order to prevent it from being joined to Servia.
In fact France is the only one of the great powers from whom Bulgaria seems to fear great hostility at the peace conference. Every Bulgarian whom I have met has asked me anxiously, “Is the feeling in France against us terribly bitter”? It is believed that the Yougo-Slavs are the special protégés of France, who at the peace conference will use all her influence to increase the Yougo-Slav state, especially at the expense of Bulgarian territorial aspirations in Macedonia.
There is also a much less friendly feeling in Bulgaria for the French troops forming the army of occupation than for the English and Italian. The latter especially seem to get on excellently with the Bulgarians with whom they have to deal and are as a matter of fact a fine lot of troops.
The Bulgarians too seem satisfied with the English troops and say that those parts under English jurisdiction have no cause of complaint and are well administered.
There does not seem to be the same cordial feeling for the French forces in the country. This is due largely to the fact that the whole army of occupation is under French command, and that naturally all orders, unpopular or otherwise, emanate from the French. Also, perhaps, the French troops in Bulgaria are not quite of such a good class as the English and Italians. The fact that many of them [Page 256] are colored is resented by the Bulgarians, and there is furthermore no doubt but that the feelings of the French, both officers and men, is [are] less friendly to Bulgaria than those of other nations. General Chrétien, the French officer at the head of the Allied forces is an excellent man for the place. He is able to understand the Bulgarian point of view and desires and works for strict justice for Bulgaria.
Colonel Napier, head of the British Military Mission, goes even further and is in my opinion decidedly friendly towards the Bulgarian people even to sympathizing with their aspirations for increased territory.
As to Bulgaria’s feelings for her Balkan neighbors, these still remain intensely bitter towards Greece and Roumania, as she feels that it was largely owing to these two countries that she was tricked into going into the war with the Germans, and she still remembers her loss of territory to them both after the second Balkan war. On the contrary all Bulgarians with whom I have talked about Servia seem to look forward to a rapprochement with that country, and to closer relations, at least commercial ones. There is some vague talk of Bulgaria and Greater Servia making some sort of a union sometime in the indefinite future, but I am not inclined to give much weight to this idea, especially as far as Bulgaria is concerned, though I believe it is favored by the Yougo-Slavs and Servians.
There is no doubt but that a Servia with ports on the Adriatic would have a strong attraction for Bulgaria, and would tend to increase commercial relations and possibly political ones as well, and there is a possibility that if Bulgaria is given no increase of territory by the peace conference or worse still should be reduced in territory, she would of necessity be absorbed by a Greater Servia, and completely lose her individuality as a separate nationality.
The difference in feeling towards Greeks and Servians is shown by what is taking place in the repatriation of civilians of those two countries from Bulgaria. The Chief of the Servian Military Mission tells me that everything is going smoothly so far as the Servians are concerned, while there is no doubt that efforts to make the repatriation of Greeks hard and painful are in some degree intentional.
I have been unable up to the present time to form any opinion on Bulgarian relations with Turkey, present or future, beyond the fact that every Bulgarian cherishes a profound hatred for the Turks. A few days ago the Bulgarian Minister and staff from Constantinople and the Bulgarian Consuls in Turkey arrived in Sofia. The official newspapers stated that the Entente had obliged Turkey to expel them as according to the terms of the armistice Turkey was to break relations with her former allies. Sweden has taken charge of Bulgarian interests in Turkey.[Page 257]
As reported in my telegrams the burning question for Bulgaria is the Dobrudja which is now under Allied Military jurisdiction. To this temporary arrangement the Bulgarian Government has no objection, provided that this district be restored to Bulgaria by the peace conference. Next to this comes Macedonia, or rather that part of it which Servia, in the secret annex to the Serbo-Bulgarian Treaty of 1912, acknowledged as purely Bulgarian, and without interest for Servia. If these two bits of territory are awarded to Bulgaria I believe that she will be satisfied and cease to be a source of trouble in the Balkans. If, on the other hand, Dobrudja is awarded to Roumania and the above-mentioned part of Macedonia to Servia and Greece, Bulgaria will never accept the decision as final, and sooner or later trouble will again begin in the Balkans. Bulgaria has, I firmly believe, abandoned her chauvinistic ideas and exaggerated territorial pretensions in Macedonia and would be fully satisfied with the rather modest increase referred to above. And even more important for future peace is her regaining possession of the Dobrudja. In view of the large territorial acquisitions which it seems likely will be granted Servia and Roumania, it is to be hoped that they will not grudge these two bits to Bulgaria, as such a settlement will surely strengthen the chances of a lasting Balkan peace. As to Thrace, Bulgaria seems, in spite of the large Bulgarian element in the population there, to have largely disinterested herself. In any case she would not in my opinion, consider the acquisition of territory there as compensation for her claims of the Dobrudja and a part of Macedonia.
A copy of this despatch has been sent to the American Embassy in Paris for transmission to the American Peace Delegation.
I have [etc.]