871.014 Bessarabia/123

The Rumanian Legation to the Department of State15

Aide-Mémoire Regarding the Status of Bessarabia

Although the U. S. S. R. has signed the Litvinoff protocol of February 1929,16 pledging itself not to resort to war with Roumania and not to attempt to recover Bessarabia by force of arms, it still refuses to recognize the reunion of this province with Roumania.

Roumania’s contention is that, by its reunion with Roumania in 1918, Bessarabia has again become an integral part of the Kingdom of Roumania.

In order to completely elucidate this matter, it is necessary to consider the history of this province.

The territory which after the years following the Treaty of Bucharest of 181217 was named by the Russians “Bessarabia,” since its earliest history was a part of Moldavia and had no separate name.

Following the Russo-Turkish War of 1806–12, by the Peace Treaty of Bucharest, Turkey “ceded” to Russia that part of Moldavia which is situated between the rivers Prut and Dniester.

At that time, Moldavia was in a relation of suzerainty with Turkey. The nature of this relation was minutely regulated by the Treaty of 1511, concluded between Bogdan, Prince of Moldavia, and Sultan Bayazid II; and that of 1634 made between Vasile Lupu, Prince of Moldavia, and Sultan Mohammed IV. They not only insure Moldavia’s independence, but the Sultans take upon themselves the obligation to defend Moldavian integrity against all enemies.

Therefore, the Turkish “cession” was a violation of these treaties. On October 26, 1812, the Moldavian Divan protested energetically against this violence but in view of the obvious “vis major” the protest remained without any practical results.

However, by the Treaty of Paris of 1856,18 the three Southern districts of what had become known as Bessarabia were reunited with Moldavia and the Protocol of Paris of 185819 provided that the relations [Page 802] between Turkey and Moldavia (and Wallachia) were to be governed “by the existing treaties.” Thus the treaties concluded between Turkey and the Roumanian Principalities,—treaties which guaranteed their independence and territorial integrity,—were recognized as being still valid and in force.

The Congress of Berlin, in 1878, retroceded these three districts to Russia,20 in spite of the agreement concluded in 1877 between Russia and Roumania,21 whereby Russia undertook to respect Roumanians territorial integrity. This violation of a solemn pledge was met with a most forceful protest by the representatives of Roumania, but without avail.

Notwithstanding all efforts of denationalization on the part of Russia, the Roumanian character of Bessarabia was preserved until the War and the population is still overwhelmingly Roumanian, even in the Russian statistics.

It is, therefore, no wonder that in 1917, soon after the Russian Provisional Government, which was recognized by the United States of America,22 adopted and enunciated the principle of the self-determination of nationalities, Bessarabia declared its autonomy (October 20, 1917), and after Ukrainia declared itself independent, pronounced itself an independent republic23 and later, on March 27 [April 9?], 1918, by a vote of its legislative assembly, the “Sfatul Tarii,” decreed its reunion with Roumania.23a

On October 28, 1920, the principal allied powers concluded a treaty with Roumania24 by which they have recognized that “from the geographical, ethnographical, historical and economical viewpoints the union of Bessarabia with Roumania is fully justified,” and that the sovereignty of Roumania over this territory is “corresponding to the aspirations of the inhabitants.”

In view of the above, it is to be deeply regretted that, judging from certain indications, one would reach the conclusion that the Government of the United States of America does not recognize that Bessarabia is an integral part of the Kingdom of Roumania.

One of these indications is the fact that on the official maps of the State Department this territory is designated as being “under Roumanian occupation.” Another indication is that the immigration quota [Page 803] for Bessarabia is at present incorporated into the Russian quota, although when the quota system was first adopted the Bessarabian quota was included in the quota allotted to Roumania. Later, a separate Bessarabian quota was established, but, since July 1, 1923, this was merged with the Russian quota so that Roumanian citizens residing in Bessarabia and desirous of immigrating to the United States have to obtain their visa from the quantum allotted to Russia.

Representatives of the State Department, in the course of conversations on this subject with members of the Roumanian Legation,—conversations which took place at various times since 1922,—have claimed that the attitude of the United States Government in regard to Bessarabia was in conformity with the principles laid down in the “Colby Note” of August 10, 1920,25 wherein the Government of the United States enunciated its policy toward all territorial changes affecting Russia. It may be recalled that according to this document the United States Government was not prepared to recognize any diminution of the Russian territory, because the people of the United States considered the people of Russia as their friends and inasmuch as the Soviet Government was not recognized by the United States as having authority to speak in the name of the Russian people,—in view of the friendship between the two nations,—no such diminution could be recognized by the United States until such time when Russia would have a government representing the will of the Russian people. When it was pointed out that Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia,26 Finland27 and territories now forming an integral part of Poland28 were taken from Russia and that the United States Government accorded them recognition, a fact which sanctioned a diminution of Russian territory,—representatives of the State Department replied that the case of Bessarabia is not identical, as the Soviet Government had concurred in the above-mentioned territorial changes but not in the loss of Bessarabia. However, it is difficult to understand how such a recognition by the Soviet Government might affect the situation inasmuch as this is exactly the same Russian Government which the “Colby Note” disqualifies from having the right to voice the will of the Russian people and which is still not recognized by the United States of America.

Moreover, the United States Government, in the “Colby Note,” adopted the principle that the aspirations for liberation of such nations which live on territories forcibly annexed by Russia are legitimate and their liberation from oppressive alien rule involves no aggressions [Page 804] against Russia’s territorial rights and has received the sanction of the public opinion of all free peoples. This is precisely the case of Bessarabia. In no case have the Russians more brutally abused a small nation and annexed more arbitrarily a territory from a country which was too weak to defend itself. And of all these annexations, Bessarabia was the most recent one. It is, undoubtedly, for these reasons that the Principal Allied Powers and the majority of the civilized world hastened to repair this wrong.

But leaving aside the juridical and historical aspects of the question, the de facto situation is that for over ten years, Bessarabia is an integral part of the Kingdom of Roumania, a country with which the United States of America is in friendly relations. The freely elected representatives of Bessarabia are members of the Roumanian Parliament, and other Bessarabians are to be found in the Government, who together with the Crown have to decide upon the relations between Roumania and the United States of America.

To sum up, there are two theses on the subject:

Roumania, a country with which America has friendly relations, maintains that Bessarabia freely demanded her reunion with Roumania, from whom she was arbitrarily separated, in violation of treaties and good faith. This thesis has been accepted and guaranteed by the European powers.
The U. S. S. R., with whom America has no diplomatic relations, maintains that Roumania has “occupied” Bessarabia.

Roumanians cannot but be painfully impressed by the fact that the United States of America seems to have adopted the Russian point of view, by describing Bessarabia on official maps as being “under Roumanian occupation” and by including Bessarabia in the Russian immigration quota.

It is believed that the United States of America could easily remove these sources of irritation without in any way prejudicing the legal issue, inasmuch as by a change on the above-quoted points they would merely be recognizing the de facto situation today. It is further believed that such action would in no way conflict with the traditional American policy of noninterference in European political differences, on the contrary it would be the true expression of a policy of neutrality on such issues.

It should be noted that apart from the three great European powers who have solemnly and explicitly recognized “de jure” the reunion of Bessarabia to Roumania, all other countries have tacitly acquiesced in the facto situation as it now exists, with the sole exception of the United States of America.

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It hardly needs to be added that any change on the above quoted points would not receive any publicity in Roumania, but would be welcomed with great satisfaction by the responsible factors of the country.

  1. Handed to the Under Secretary of State by the Rumanian Minister on February 18, 1930.
  2. Protocol between Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Rumania, and the U. S. S. R. for the immediate entry into force of the Treaty of Paris of August 27, 1928, regarding renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, signed at Moscow, February 9, 1929; League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. lxxxix, p. 369.
  3. May 16/28, 1812. English text, Hertslet, Map of Europe by Treaty (1814–1891), vol. 3, p. 2030 (art. 4, p. 2031); French text, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. xiii, p. 908.
  4. Dated March 30, 1856; Hertslet, Map of Europe, vol. 2, pp. 1250, 1259; British and Foreign State Papers, vol. xlvi, p. 8.
  5. Convention of Paris, August 19, 1858; Hertslet, Map of Europe, vol. 2, p. 1329 (articles 1, 2, p. 1332); British and Foreign State Papers, vol. xlviii, p. 70 (in French).
  6. Treaty of Berlin, July 13, 1878; Hertslet, Map of Europe, vol. 4, pp. 2759, 2791 (art. 45); British and Foreign State Papers, vol. lxix, p. 749 (in French).
  7. Convention of Bucharest, April 16, 1877; Hertslet, Map of Europe, vol. 4, p. 2576.
  8. On March 22, 1917; see telegram No. 1124, March 22, 1917, from Ambassador Francis, Foreign Relations, 1917, p. 1211.
  9. See ibid., 1918, Russia, vol. ii, p. 715.
  10. See telegram No. 68, April 10, 1918, from the Minister in Rumania, ibid., p. 719.
  11. See telegram No. 1866, October 29, 1920, from the Ambassador in France, Foreign Relations, 1920, vol. iii, p. 434. For draft text, see ibid., p. 427; for signed text, see Great Britain, Cmd. 1747, Treaty Series No. 15 (1922).
  12. See note of August 10, 1920, to the Italian Ambassador, Foreign Relations, 1920, vol. iii, p. 463.
  13. On July 28, 1922; see ibid., 1922, vol. ii, pp. 873874.
  14. On May 7, 1919; see note of January 12, 1920, to the Finnish Minister, ibid., 1919, vol. ii, p. 226.
  15. On January 22, 1919; see telegram No. 395, January 22, 1919, from the Commission to Negotiate Peace, ibid., p. 741.