The Chargé in Bulgaria ( Wilson ) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 23

Sir: I have the honor to refer to previous telegrams and despatches of the Legation in regard to the situation in the Dobrudja, where apparently all pretense of keeping to the terms of the armistice between Bulgaria and the Allies has been thrown aside by the latter.

As the Department is aware, the armistice which was signed on September 29th between the representatives of Bulgaria, and General Franchet d’Esperey, representing the Allies, provided in the first two articles as follows:

“Art. I.… The Bulgarian Administration shall continue in those parts of Bulgaria actually occupied by the Allies.

“Art II. Immediate demobilization of the whole Bulgarian army except the continuance on a war footing of a group of all branches of the army consisting of:

  • 3 Divisions of 16 battalions each
  • 4 Regiments of cavalry,

which shall be used, two divisions for the defense of the Eastern frontier of Bulgaria and the Dobrudja, and one division to guard the railways.”

In spite of this formal agreement all Bulgarian troops were shortly afterwards ordered to leave the Dobrudja, but at the same time the French High Command gave written assurances that the Bulgarian civil administration should continue under existing Bulgarian officials. A little later however, practically all these civilian officials, appointed from Sofia, were ordered to leave the district, but a further written engagement was made that the strictly local Bulgarian officials would be allowed to remain (this would include, mayors of towns, local police, and priests), and that the rest of the administration would be a purely inter-Allied military one. It was especially and chiefly understood that no Roumanian officials whatsoever should be introduced. Next, however, came an order ordering practically all Bulgarian officials to leave the Dobrudja, including school-masters, priests, and local police, although mayors were to be allowed to remain if “not pro-Bulgarian in sympathy”. The police and other officials were however to be Roumanian, though under control of the Allied Military forces. It was even then distinctly understood that no Roumanian military forces were to be allowed in the district. As a matter of fact however, Roumanian gendarmes immediately entered the Dobrudja and I learn that these are only nominally gendarmes, but are actually part of the Roumanian regular army, and though I cannot vouch for the truth of the statement I am told that actually Roumanian regiments have also arrived.

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The Bulgarian Government did not fail to protest to the French at each of these violations of formal agreements, but without effect, and they are now trying to make the best of the situation imposed upon them. The Government is also endeavoring as much as possible to keep the true situation in the Dobrudja from the knowledge of the public, fearing lest public opinion may become excited and internal disturbances occur which will prejudice Bulgaria in the eyes of the world. Little reference, therefore, is made to the Dobrudja in the Press.

The Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Theodoroff, and the Ministers of War, Interior, and Finance have all spoken to me within the last few days with the greatest bitterness of the manner in which the Allies have failed to respect their agreements. They have said that they had supposed that written agreements were looked upon as “scraps of paper” by the Germans only, but that they have learned to their cost that the Allies have exactly the same ideas on this subject. I regret to say that the good name and prestige of the Allies have suffered a blow in Bulgaria from which it will be difficult for them to recover.

The French, British, and Italian military commands in personal and confidential conversation with me have not hesitated to express their dislike of the orders which they have been obliged to carry out by commands received from higher authorities, and they state that Bulgaria has every right to complain of her treatment in this matter by the Allies. They also appreciate fully the loss of prestige suffered by the Allies.

The following extract from a personal letter from an English officer of the British Military Force in the Dobrudja voices the general opinion of the French, British, and Italian military officials in Bulgaria with whom I have spoken:

“The situation in the Southern Dobrudja is fantastic and would be ludicrous if it did not verge on the tragic.

“The Roumanian officials have returned though the Bulgar mayors are to remain, the gendarmes (soldiers in reality) have also arrived in considerable numbers. In the towns they are more or less under our protection, but are of course quite powerless as the people have formed their own civil police; something in the nature of special constables who wear a white armlet. In the villages the people will not let them enter at all, and are prepared to prevent their coming by force. In some cases we have planted them in a village despite this, by sending a strong force of British soldiers, but in such cases we have to have a detachment in the village to look after them.

“The way this question has been handled by the Allies is ridiculous and very stupid. One might think they wanted to create disorders in the Balkans instead of bring peace. All British officers who have been in the Dobrudja are unanimous in their conviction that the country is Bulgar.”

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Even in conversation with the Greek and Servian military missions, who are of course delighted with what is actually taking place in the Dobrudja, it is clear that their belief in the honesty and fairness of the Allies is shaken, and that they distrust what may happen in their own countries, where also the word of the Allies may become a “scrap of paper” as with the Bulgarians.

Personally I believe the person chiefly responsible for the present situation in the Dobrudja is General Berthelot, Commander of the French forces in Roumania. He is, as is natural, strongly pro-Roumanian and consequently anti-Bulgarian. His reports, also quite naturally, have influence with General Franchet d’Esperey, Commander of the Allied forces in the Orient. Having fought against the Bulgarians this officer is also naturally anti-Bulgarian,… The reports of these two high military officials have of course great influence on the French High Command in Paris, from which are issued the orders concerning Bulgaria and the Dobrudja. The reports from French officials in Bulgaria do not seem to have much weight there.

The French are in supreme command in Bulgaria, and apparently action is taken by them without consulting the British and Italian Military Missions, which is resented by the latter, and is partly the cause of the lack of cordiality and cooperation, not to put it stronger, existing among the Allies in Bulgaria, to which I have had occasion to refer before.

In the above report I am not in any way holding a brief in favor of Bulgaria. However, in this country the United States is popularly considered as one of the Allies, and therefore in a way a party to the Bulgarian-Allied Armistice. As the influence of the United States is firmly believed in Bulgaria to be binding on all the Allies, a failure on its part to urge observance of the Allied-Bulgarian Armistice of September 29, 1918, reflects on the United States as well as on the actual signatories.

A copy of the above despatch has been forwarded to the American Peace Mission in Paris.

I have [etc.]

Charles S. Wilson