8. Rumania and the Present War

(a) The Rumanians outside the Kingdom

The axis on which Rumanian foreign policy ought naturally to revolve is the circumstance that almost half the Rumanian nation lives outside Rumanian territory. As the available official statistics generally show political bias it is not possible to give precise figures; but roughly speaking there are about one million Rumanians in Bessarabia, a quarter of a million in Bucovina, three and a half millions in Hungary, while something above half a million form scattered colonies in Bulgaria, Serbia, and Macedonia. All these live in more or less close proximity to the Rumanian frontiers.

That these Rumanian elements have maintained their nationality is due to purely intrinsic causes. We have seen that the independence of Rumania in her foreign relations had only recently been established, since when the king, the factor most influential in foreign politics, had discouraged nationalist tendencies, lest the country's internal development might be compromised by friction with neighbouring states. The Government exerted its influence against any active expression of the national feeling, and the few 'nationalists' and the 'League for the cultural unity of all Rumanians' had been, as a consequence, driven to seek a justification for their existence in antisemitic agitation.

The above circumstances had little influence upon the situation in Bucovina. This province forms an integral part of the Habsburg monarchy, with which it was incorporated as early as 1775. The political situation of the Rumanian principalities at the time, and the absence of a national cultural movement, left the detached population exposed to Germanization, and later to the Slav influence of the rapidly expanding Ruthene element. That language and national characteristics have, nevertheless, not been lost is due to the fact that the Rumanian population of Bucovina is peasant almost to a man - a class little amenable to changes of civilization.

This also applies largely to Bessarabia, which, first lost in 1812, was incorporated with Rumania in 1856, and finally detached in 1878. The few Rumanians belonging to the landed class were won over by the new masters. But while the Rumanian population was denied any cultural and literary activities of its own, the reactionary attitude of the Russian Government towards education has enabled the Rumanian peasants to preserve their customs and their language. At the same time their resultant ignorance has kept them outside the sphere of intellectual influence of the mother country.

The Rumanians who live in scattered colonies south of the Danube are the descendants of those who took refuge in these regions during the ninth and tenth centuries from the invasions of the Huns. Generally known as Kutzo-Vlakhs, or, among themselves, as Aromuni, they are - as even Weigand, who undoubtedly has Bulgarophil leanings, recognizes - the most intelligent and best educated of the inhabitants of Macedonia. In 1905 the Rumanian Government secured from the Porte official recognition of their separate cultural and religious organizations on a national basis. Exposed as they are to Greek influence, it will be difficult to prevent their final assimilation with that people. The interest taken in them of late by the Rumanian Government arose out of the necessity to secure them against pan-Hellenic propaganda, and to preserve one of the factors entitling Rumania to participate in the settlement of Balkan affairs.

I have sketched elsewhere the early history of the Rumanians of Transylvania, the cradle of the Rumanian nation. As already mentioned, part of the Rumanian nobility of Hungary went over to the Magyars, the remainder migrating over the mountains. Debarred from the support of the noble class, the Rumanian peasantry lost its state of autonomy, which changed into one of serfdom to the soil upon which they toiled. Desperate risings in 1324, 1437, 1514, 1600, and 1784 tended to case the Hungarian oppression, which up to the nineteenth century strove primarily after a political and religious hegemony. But the Magyars having failed in 1848 in their attempt to free themselves from Austrian domination (defeated with the assistance of a Russian army at Villagos, 1849), mainly on account of the fidelity of the other nationalities to the Austrian Crown, they henceforth directed their efforts towards strengthening their own position by forcible assimilation of those nationalities. This they were able to do, however, only after Koeniggraetz, when a weakened Austria had to give way to Hungarian demands. In 1867 the Dual Monarchy was established, and Transylvania, which up to then formed a separate duchy enjoying full political rights, was incorporated with the new Hungarian kingdom. The Magyars were handicapped in their imperialist ambitions by their numerical inferiority. As the next best means to their end, therefore, they resorted to political and national oppression, class despotism, and a complete disregard of the principles of liberty and humanity.[1] Hungarian was made compulsory in the administration, even in districts where the bulk of the population did not understand that language. In villages completely inhabited by Rumanians so-called 'State' schools were founded, in which only Hungarian was to be spoken, and all children upwards of three years of age had to attend them. The electoral regulations were drawn up in such a manner that the Rumanians of Transylvania, though ten times more numerous than the Magyars, sent a far smaller number than do the latter to the National Assembly. To quash all protest a special press law was introduced for Transylvania. But the Rumanian journalists being usually acquitted by the juries a new regulation prescribed that press offences should be tried only at Kluj (Klausenburg) - the sole Transylvanian town with a predominating Hungarian population - a measure which was in fundamental contradiction to the principles of justice.[2] In 1892 the Rumanian grievances were embodied in a memorandum which was to have been presented to the emperor by a deputation. An audience was, however, refused, and at the instance of the Hungarian Government the members of the deputation were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for having plotted against the unity of the Magyar state.

[Footnote 1: The Rumanians inhabit mainly the province of Transylvania, Banat, Crishiana, and Maramuresh. They represent 46.2 per cent. of the total population of these provinces, the Magyars 32.5 per cent., the Germans 11.5 per cent., and the Serbs 4.5 per cent. These figured are taken from official Hungarian statistics, and it may therefore be assumed that the Rumanian percentage represents a minimum.]

[Footnote 2: Over a period of 22 years (1886-1908) 850 journalists were charged, 367 of whom were Rumanians; the sentences totalling 216 years of imprisonment, the fines amounting to Fcs. 138,000.]

Notwithstanding these disabilities the Rumanians of Transylvania enjoyed a long period of comparative social and economic liberty at a time when Turkish and Phanariote domination was hampering all progress in Rumania. Office under the Government growing increasingly difficult to obtain, the Rumanians in Transylvania turned largely to commercial and the open professions, and, as a result, a powerful middle class now exists. In their clergy, both of the Orthodox and the Uniate Church - which last, while conducting its ritual in the vernacular, recognizes papal supremacy - the Rumanians have always found strong moral support, while the national struggle tends to unite the various classes. The Rumanians of Hungary form by far the sanest element in the Rumanian nation. From the Rumanians within the kingdom they have received little beside sympathy. The important part played by the country at the Peace of Bucarest, and her detachment from Austria-Hungary, must necessarily have stimulated the national consciousness of the Transylvanians; while at the same time all hope for betterment from within must have ceased at the death of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, an avowed friend of the long-suffering nationalities. It is, therefore, no mere matter of conjecture that the passive attitude of the Rumanian Government at the beginning of the present conflict must have been a bitter disappointment to them.

(b) Rumania's Attitude

The tragic development of the crisis in the summer of 1914 threw Rumania into a vortex of unexpected hopes and fears. Aspirations till then considered little else than Utopian became tangible possibilities, while, as suddenly, dangers deemed far off loomed large and near. Not only was such a situation quite unforeseen, nor had any plan of action been preconceived to meet it, but it was in Rumania's case a situation unique from the number of conflicting considerations and influences at work within it. Still under the waning influence of the thirty years quasi-alliance with Austria, Rumania was not yet acclimatized to her new relations with Russia. Notwithstanding the inborn sympathy with and admiration for France, the Rumanians could not be blind to Germany's military power. The enthusiasm that would have sided with France for France's sake was faced by the influence of German finance. Sympathy with Serbia existed side by side with suspicion of Bulgaria. Popular sentiment clashed with the views of the king; and the bright vision of the 'principle of nationality' was darkened by the shadow of Russia as despot of the Near East.

One fact in the situation stood out from the rest, namely, the unexpected opportunity of redeeming that half of the Rumanian nation which was still under foreign rule; the more so as one of the parties in the conflict had given the 'principle of nationality' a prominent place in its programme. But the fact that both Austria-Hungary and Russia had a large Rumanian population among their subjects rendered a purely national policy impossible, and Rumania could do nothing but weigh which issue offered her the greater advantage.

Three ways lay open: complete neutrality, active participation on the side of the Central Powers, or common cause with the Triple Entente. Complete neutrality was advocated by a few who had the country's material security most at heart, and also, as a pis aller , by those who realized that their opinion that Rumania should make common cause with the Central Powers had no prospect of being acted upon.

That King Carol favoured the idea of a joint action with Germany is likely enough, for such a policy was in keeping with his faith in the power of the German Empire. Moreover, he undoubtedly viewed with satisfaction the possibility of regaining Bessarabia, the loss of which must have been bitterly felt by the victor of Plevna. Such a policy would have met with the approval of many Rumanian statesmen, notably of M. Sturdza, sometime leader of the Liberal party and Prime Minister; of M. Carp, sometime leader of the Conservative party and Prime Minister; of M. Maiorescu, ex-Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, who presided at the Bucarest Conference of 1913; of M. Marghiloman, till recently leader of the Conservative party, to name only the more important. M. Sturdza, the old statesman who had been one of King Carol's chief coadjutors in the making of modern Rumania, and who had severed for many years his connexion with active politics, again took up his pen to raise a word of warning. M. Carp, the political aristocrat who had retired from public life a few years previously, and had professed a lifelong contempt for the 'Press and all its works', himself started a daily paper ( Moldova ) which, he intended should expound his views. Well-known writers like M. Radu Rosetti wrote[1] espousing the cause favoured by the king, though not for the king's reasons: Carol had faith in Germany, the Rumanians mistrusted Russia. They saw no advantage in the dismemberment of Austria, the most powerful check to Russia's plans in the Near East. They dreaded the idea of seeing Russia on the Bosphorus, as rendering illusory Rumania's splendid position at the mouth of the Danube. For not only is a cheap waterway absolutely necessary for the bulky products forming the chief exports of Rumania; but these very products, corn, petroleum, and timber, also form the chief exports of Russia, who, by a stroke of the pen, may rule Rumania out of competition, should she fail to appreciate the political leadership of Petrograd. Paris and Rome were, no doubt, beloved sisters; but Sofia, Moscow, and Budapest were next-door neighbours to be reckoned with.

[Footnote 1: See R. Rosetti, Russian Politics at Work in the Rumanian Countries , facts compiled from French official documents, Bucarest, 1914.]

Those who held views opposed to those, confident in the righteousness of the Allies' cause and in their final victory, advocated immediate intervention, and to that end made the most of the two sentiments which animated public opinion: interest in the fate of the Transylvanians, and sympathy with France. They contended that though a purely national policy was not possible, the difference between Transylvania and Bessarabia in area and in number and quality of the population was such that no hesitation was admissible. The possession of Transylvania was assured if the Allies were successful; whereas Russia would soon recover if defeated, and would regain Bessarabia by force of arms, or have it once more presented to her by a Congress anxious to soothe her 'sentiment de dignite blessee'. A Rumania enlarged in size and population had a better chance of successfully withstanding any eventual pressure from the north, and it was clear that any attempt against her independence would be bound to develop into a European question. Rumania could not forget what she owed to France; and if circumstances had made the Transylvanian question one 'a laquelle on pense toujours et dont on ne parle jamais', the greater was the duty, now that a favourable opportunity had arisen, to help the brethren across the mountains. It was also a duty to fight for right and civilization, proclaimed M. Take Ionescu, the exponent of progressive ideas in Rumanian politics; and he, together with the prominent Conservative statesman, M. Filipescu, who loathes the idea of the Rumanians being dominated by the inferior Magyars, are the leaders of the interventionist movement. It was due to M. Filipescu's activity, especially, that M. Marghiloman was forced by his own party to resign his position as leader on account of his Austrophil sentiments - an event unparalleled in Rumanian politics.

These were the two main currents of opinion which met in conflict at the Crown Council - a committee ad hoc consisting of the Cabinet and the leaders of the Opposition - summoned by the king early in August 1914, when Rumania's neutrality was decided upon. The great influence which the Crown can always wield under the Rumanian political system was rendered the more potent in the present case by the fact that the Premier, M. Bratianu, is above all a practical man, and the Liberal Cabinet over which he presides one of the most colourless the country ever had: a Cabinet weak to the point of being incapable of realizing its own weakness and the imperative necessity at this fateful moment of placing the helm in the hands of a national ministry. M. Bratianu considered that Rumania was too exposed, and had suffered too much in the past for the sake of other countries, to enter now upon such an adventure without ample guarantees. There would always be time for her to come in. This policy of opportunism he was able to justify by powerful argument. The supply of war material for the Rumanian army had been completely in the hands of German and Austrian arsenals, and especially in those of Krupp. For obvious reasons Rumania could no longer rely upon that source; indeed, Germany was actually detaining contracts for war and sanitary material placed with her before the outbreak of the war. There was the further consideration that, owing to the nature of Rumania's foreign policy in the past, no due attention had been given to the defence of the Carpathians, nor to those branches of the service dealing with mountain warfare. On the other hand, a continuous line of fortifications running from Galatz to Focshani formed, together with the lower reaches of the Danube, a strong barrier against attack from the north. Rumania's geographical position is such that a successful offensive from Hungary could soon penetrate to the capital, and by cutting the country in two could completely paralyse its organization. Such arguments acquired a magnified importance in the light of the failure of the negotiations with Bulgaria, and found many a willing ear in a country governed by a heavily involved landed class, and depending almost exclusively in its banking organization upon German and Austrian capital.

From the point of view of practical politics only the issue of the conflict will determine the wisdom or otherwise of Rumania's attitude. But, though it is perhaps out of place to enlarge upon it here, it is impossible not to speak of the moral aspect of the course adopted. By giving heed to the unspoken appeal from Transylvania the Rumanian national spirit would have been quickened, and the people braced to a wholesome sacrifice. Many were the wistful glances cast towards the Carpathians by the subject Rumanians, as they were being led away to fight for their oppressors; but, wilfully unmindful, the leaders of the Rumanian state buried their noses in their ledgers, oblivious of the fact that in these times of internationalism a will in common, with aspirations in common, is the very life-blood of nationality. That sentiment ought not to enter into politics is an argument untenable in a country which has yet to see its national aspirations fulfilled, and which makes of these aspirations definite claims. No Rumanian statesman can contend that possession of Transylvania is necessary to the existence of the Rumanian state. What they can maintain is that deliverance from Magyar oppression is vital to the existence of the Transylvanians. The right to advance such a claim grows out of their very duty of watching over the safety of the subject Rumanians. 'When there are squabbles in the household of my brother-in-law,' said the late Ioan Bratianu when speaking on the Transylvanian question, 'it is no affair of mine; but when he raises a knife against his wife, it is not merely my right to intervene, it is my duty.' It is difficult to account for the obliquity of vision shown by so many Rumanian politicians. 'The whole policy of such a state [having a large compatriot population living in close proximity under foreign domination] must be primarily influenced by anxiety as to the fate of their brothers, and by the duty of emancipating them,' affirms one of the most ardent of Rumanian nationalist orators; and he goes on to assure us that 'if Rumania waits, it is not from hesitation as to her duty, but simply in order that she may discharge it more completely'.[1] Meantime, while Rumania waits, regiments composed almost completely of Transylvanians have been repeatedly and of set purpose placed in the forefront of the battle, and as often annihilated. Such could never be the simple-hearted Rumanian peasant's conception of his duty, and here, as in so many other cases in the present conflict, the nation at large must not be judged by the policy of the few who hold the reins.

[Footnote 1: Quarterly Review , London, April, 1915, pp. 449-50.]

Rumania's claims to Transylvania are not of an historical nature. They are founded upon the numerical superiority of the subject Rumanians in Transylvania, that is upon the 'principle of nationality', and are morally strengthened by the treatment the Transylvanians suffer at the hands of the Magyars. By its passivity, however, the Rumanian Government has sacrificed the prime factor of the 'principle of nationality' to the attainment of an object in itself subordinate to that factor; that is, it has sacrificed the 'people' in order to make more sure of the 'land'. In this way the Rumanian Government has entered upon a policy of acquisition; a policy which Rumania is too weak to pursue save under the patronage of one or a group of great powers; a policy unfortunate inasmuch as it will deprive her of freedom of action in her external politics. Her policy will, in its consequences, certainly react to the detriment of the position acquired by the country two years ago, when independent action made her arbiter not only among the smaller Balkan States, but also among those and her late suzerain, Turkey.

Such, indeed, must inevitably be the fate of Balkan politics in general. Passing from Turkish domination to nominal Turkish suzerainty, and thence to independence within the sphere of influence of a power or group of powers, this gradual emancipation of the states of south-eastern Europe found its highest expression in the Balkan League. The war against Turkey was in effect a rebellion against the political tutelage of the powers. But this emancipation was short-lived. By their greed the Balkan States again opened up a way to the intrusion of foreign diplomacy, and even, as we now see, of foreign troops. The first Balkan war marked the zenith of Balkan political emancipation; the second Balkan war was the first act in the tragic debacle out of which the present situation developed. The interval between August 1913 (Peace of Bucarest) and August 1914 was merely an armistice during which Bulgaria and Turkey recovered their breath, and German and Austrian diplomacy had time to find a pretext for war on its own account.

'Exhausted but not vanquished we have had to furl our glorious standards in order to await better days,' said Ferdinand of Bulgaria to his soldiers after the conclusion of the Peace of Bucarest; and Budapest, Vienna, and Berlin have no doubt done their best to keep this spirit of revenge alive and to prevent a renascence of the Balkan Alliance. They have succeeded. They have done more: they have succeeded in causing the 'principle of nationality' - that idea which involves the disruption of Austria - to be stifled by the very people whom it was meant to save. For whilst the German peoples are united in this conflict, the majority of the southern Slavs, in fighting the German battles, are fighting to perpetuate the political servitude of the subject races of Austria-Hungary.

However suspicious Rumania may be of Russia, however bitter the quarrels between Bulgars, Greeks, and Serbs, it is not, nor can it ever be natural, that peoples who have groaned under Turkish despotism for centuries should, after only one year of complete liberation, join hands with an old and dreaded enemy not only against their fellow sufferers, but even against those who came 'to die that they may live'. These are the Dead Sea fruits of dynastic policy. Called to the thrones of the small states of the Near East for the purpose of creating order and peace, the German dynasties have overstepped their function and abused the power entrusted to them. As long as, in normal times, political activities were confined to the diplomatic arena there was no peril of rousing the masses out of their ignorant indolence; but, when times are abnormal, it is a different and a dangerous thing to march these peoples against their most intimate feelings. When, as the outcome of the present false situation, sooner or later the dynastic power breaks, it will then be for the powers who are now fighting for better principles not to impose their own views upon the peoples, or to place their own princes upon the vacant thrones. Rather must they see that the small nations of the Near East are given a chance to develop in peace and according to their proper ideals; that they be not again subjected to the disintegrating influence of European diplomacy; and that, above all, to the nations in common, irrespective of their present attitude, there should be a just application of the 'principle of nationality'.