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Lessons for post-communist history: elements and objectives of Romanian and Serb-Croat-Slovenian foreign policy in the first past-war.

The First World War ceased as sudden as it started, involved many states and more than a billion people (1). World War I began as a continental war between the Triple Alliance and Entente, and then the conflict became a world one when the USA, Japan and other states from America and Asia became participants, shaking the life of the entire planet and influencing even the internal situation of the neutral states. For the Great Powers, "the total war" had an imperialist character, while for small countries, some of them being attracted into the conflict against their will, the war has another purpose: to liberate from the foreign domination and to achieve the entire national unity. "The will of the people was expressed ..., the state of things even millennial cannot last when it was found that it is against justice" showed A. Millerand in the 8th of May 1920; letter addressed to the Hungarian delegation at the Peace Conference in Paris (2).

The war was held on a large terrestrial territory and also in the air and on/under the water and imposed rapid weapons improvements. The machineguns, hand grenades, poison gas, tanks, zeppelins, aircraft, submarines as well as the mobilization of the entire population and the industrial war were elements of newness at that moment. The main land for battles was Europe, with its eastern and western fronts to which there were added more secondary fronts like the Balkans one and the mobilization was total and had important impacts in the further evolution of the peoples involved in the conflict.

As an object of dispute, both Romania and Serbia were at the beginning of capitalism development, being situated at the interference of the big interests of the Great Powers. In order to act to ensure the independence, the sovereignty and their integrity as well as to form national states, the states from south-east Europe had to take into consideration the complexity of the appeared situations (3). A series of factors determined the evolution of the two countries both internally and externally. From these, the religious factor, the political independence desire, the economic nationalism and the state role in the conception of the two states leaders were attempts to have passed the impact of the economic crises, the war participation, the geographic factor and the geopolitical one, etc. (4). In the foreign policy of the two countries, the idea of common defense developed after World War I. Area authorities, together with the reciprocal treaties, were alternatives which were applied immediately after the end of Peace Conference in Paris (5).

One of the war consequences was the dissolution of four empires, three of them being multinational: the Czarist Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the German Empire.

The Russian Revolution in February 1917 rushed the disintegration of the Czar army and the efforts of the temporary governments in order to restore the situation failed. The power taken by the Bolshevik in November 1917 led the next month to the Brest-Litovsk armistice and then to the peace signed in the same town in March 1918. Russia renounced to its sovereignty over Finland, Poland and the Baltic countries, recognized the independence of Ukraine, which will be occupied by the German army for a short period of time. The failing of Russia led to the surrender of Romania in May 1918. The surrender of Bulgaria at the end of September and then the surrender of Turkey at the end of October were preceded by the unconditioned surrenders of Austro-Hungary and Germany.

Defeated at Vittorio-Veneto (in October 1918) by the Italians, the Austrians signed the armistice on the 3rd of November and in that moment started the process of the Austro-Hungarian Empire disintegration under the national movements' stroke. Being alone defeated from the military point of view, Germany asked for peace at the beginning of November 1918. The Emperor Wilhelm the second addressed to President Wilson asking an agreement based on the Fourteen Points which maintained the freedom of sea navigation, the economic freedom, the respecting of people auto determination principles regarding the settlement of territorial litigations and colonial problems, general disarmament, an open diplomacy and the creation of a general organization of nations (6). Refused by the President of the USA and chased by the revolution, Kaiser escaped in Holland and the government of the new Republic of Germany signed on the 11th of November 1918 the armistice from Rethondes (Compiegne), getting the permission that the army could come back to Germany in order to fight against the communism.

So, after 4 years and 3 months of continuous fights World War I ended, with a Europe which was ruined from the material and human point of view, strongly shaken politically and bowled over from the moral values point of view. The ruin brought by the war generated the aggravating of the social tensions, and politically speaking, Europe was more divided and agitated than ever before. The disappearance of the great empires and the affirmation of the auto determination right principle had as an effect a new configuration of the borders and the appearance of new states, and the diversity of the political regimes amplified by the appearance of the totalitarianism.

The European system was connected with the existence of the double monarchy which was constituted because of a compromise in 1867. The fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire made possible the solving of the national requests for some peoples which were included in time into the conservatory regime. The end of the Hapsburg domination over the Danube Europe and the defeat of Turkey produced a high geopolitical shake and the oppressed nations did not want to accept the compromise anymore. The Congress of the Austro-Hungary oppressed nations, held in Kiev in the presence of 10,000 delegates and some leaders of allied military delegations, as well as the Nationalities Congress, held in Rome between the 28th of March and the 9th of April 1918 (the representatives of Romanians, Checks, Slovenians, Croatians, Slovakians, Poles, etc.), represented the moment for the starting of the common fight "against the common oppressors by the moment in which each of these peoples will have their total freedom, their complete national unity and their political freedom" (7).

During the negotiations for peace treaties, the great powers which won the war showed the tendency to map out new influence and domination areas in those territories being in the sphere of the defeated powers.

Both Romania and Serbia ended the war near the Allies. Both states unlike Greece fulfilled their desires becoming sovereign entities within internationally recognized boundaries based on Versailles treaties. Referring to this period, Nicolae Titulescu said that it represents "a mixture of old truths destined to die and new truths which are not clear enough" (8). Paris Peace Conference was designed to juridical sanction the new political-territorial situation whose equilibrium was difficult from the exclusion of Russia and Germany point of view, two important power centers in Europe (9). The American, British, Japanese, and French experts presented detailed plans of territorial requests more or less feasible. The idea of creation of a Balkan Federation, in order to keep the integrity of Habsburg monarchy as well as "the peace program" was some of these (10).

The united national Romanian state was constituted during an internal revolutionary process through plebiscitary meetings, within a favourable international context, when the auto determination right became an international right and when the great empires disappeared. Once the national desideratum was fulfilled, the economic potential of Romania increased and this way the capitalist relations were consolidated and the production forces developed while the political life evolved within an unconsolidated democracy.

Romania, after the Great Union (295,049 [km.sup.2,] 14.7 million inhabitants) (11) developed "as a bastion against the resentments of right of the former Habsburg monarchy and the radicalism of left coming from the former Russian Empire" (12). Because of the radical postwar reform (Universal Vote, Agriculture Reform, the 1923 Constitution Law) between 1917 and 1925, Romania moved to a modern democracy being a strong voice in the European concert of democracies. Because of the revisionist and protester wave of the status quo created through the Versailles system and the dominant totalitarianism of the interwar period, Romania will give up both politically and territorially. The democratic regime will be replaced by an authoritative regime and then with a military regime subordinated to Germany interests.

The Kingdom of Serbians, Croatians and Slovenians (247,542 [km.sup.2], 11.6 million inhabitants) (13) even if it wanted to represent the old Kingdom of Serbians was from the structure point of view more complex the Great Romania. In that period there were a few people who understood that Yugoslavia (the country of the southern Slavs) represented a new creation. Serbia weakened by the war, was not strong enough to impose in front of Croatia which expected to be part of a new Austro-Hungary, playing the role of a recognized autonomous entity, of a Slovenia to which, Yugoslavia had to represent the occasion to fulfill and impose, of a Bosnia being between Croatia and Serbia and of which territory was wanted by both of them. The new state of meridional Slavs was constituted through the union of two independent regions (Serbia and Muntenegru) and the joining of large areas of former Habsburg Empire (Slovenia, Croatia, Slavonia, Dalmatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, parts of Baranja, Backa and Banat). There were almost two years necessary to establish the borders of the kingdom. This complex process, which was unfolded in a few phrases, was ended by the signing of Peace Treaties with Austria (on the 10th of September 1919) (14), with Bulgaria (on the 27th of November, 1919) (15) and with Hungary (on the 4th of June 1920) (16).

At a short of time of the union proclamation, after intense negotiations, it was the first compromise between the centralist tendencies and the federalist ones, being formed a coalition government. In the same time, it started to function a temporary National Convention with delegates from the National Yugoslavian Committee in Zagreb and from the Old Serbia and with representatives of Voievodina and Muntenegru. The interwar Yugoslavia as well as Romania, presented the features of a country "under development, with an economy mostly based on agriculture" (17).

After a transition period during which the most important problem was the Agrarian Reform, and also a new Constitution to prove that the new state had a democratic regime, in the same way as in Romania, the society was riding to an authoritative regime supported by a new federal constitution. The Porcelain Dictatorship of King Alexandru and his successors was installed on the 6th of January 1929, when he dissolved the Parliament and assumed the task to lead in order to keep the unity and integrity of the state. In fact, the authoritative regimes had already installed in 6 of the European countries, this being the first one in the Balkans (18).

After the fulfillments on the 1st of December 1918, it came next the international recognition of what the peoples of the two states had achieved. During the Peace Conference in Paris the delegations of the two states achieved the recognition of the national and political fulfillments established through plebiscite and large national meetings organized in the same year. Even if the national and political program was realized, the existence of some percentages which represented the minorities, as well as the attempts of coagulation of the provinces and states included in the new entities kept conflictual situations of a low intensity in Romania and at a high one in Yugoslavia.

The international juridical recognition of the new political and territorial statutes through the recognition of nationalities and peoples auto determination principle was not enough in order to simplify the exercise of the stipulations of the Peace conference Treaties. The process unfolded in the field proved to be difficult and sometimes it was contested. Yugoslavia and Romania based on the treaties in June 1914 and August 1916 should have had at the Peace Conference equal rights with the other countries which signed the treaties. But they were included into the group of states with limited interests being able to participate to the debates only when they were invited. During the Peace Conference, the right to decide belonged to the Council of Four (19). Both states could not send delegates to the Territorial Commission and to the Committee for the study of the territorial problem.

The Commission for Romanian-Yugoslavian Affair discussed the problem of Banat on the 8th of February 1919, when from the Great Britain the speaker was Eyre Crowe, France--Jules Laroche and the USA--Live day. As well, in the commission there were other meetings regarding the problem of Banat and Basarabia being made recommendations to the Central Territorial Commission.

After ample discussions (started in the Territorial Commission on the 11th of February 1919), the Supreme Council established on the 11th of June 1919, the border between Romania and Hungary, and on the 13th of June 1919 the one between Romania and the Serb-Croat-Slovenian Kingdom. The discussions continued in 1920 when there were signed minutes of field findings. The documents regarding these actions recognized the historical act from the 1st of December 1918 and this way the Romanian--Serbian divergences regarding Banat came to an end.

The procedures used by the Great Powers limited the right to express of small and middle states. Because of that the delegation of Romania and the one of the Serb-Croat-Slovenian Kingdom could not express their point of view regarding the Treaty with Germany, being obliged to sign the Versailles Treaty (on the 28th of June 1919) without being able to study it and formulate observations (20).

In May 1919, for similar procedures of the members of the Council of Four about the treaties which were about to be signed, Ion I.C. Bratianu, the leader of the Romanian delegation had the initiative of a collective oral note addressed to George Clemenceau, the President of the Peace Conference by the Romanian, Serbian, Pole, Czechoslovakian and Greek delegations, through which it was requested "that the projects of the treaties to be communicate in time in order to be analyzed" (21).

Even so, the events did not happen in the desired way. Because of a new protest addressed by I.C. Bratianu, on behalf of the mentioned delegations, it was obtained the delay for the 2nd of June 1919 of the project delivery to the delegation of Austria. The document contained some clauses which could permit the interference of the Great Powers into the internal affairs of Romania and the Serb-Croat-Slovenian Kingdom. On the pretext of "concern regarding the minority rights observance", the members of the Council of Four reserved the liberty to decide measures which they considered necessary in order to protect the rights and inetrests of these minorities. The free transit of all goods, means of transport of Allied and Associated Powers without custom, completed the brutal infrigement of sovereignity and independence of the two states. The Council did not accept the objections made by the protesters and because of that Ion I.C. Bratianu left the Peace Conference on the 2nd of July 1919. Even so, the \peace Treaty with Austria was signed on the 10th of September 1919. So, both Romania and the Serb-Croat-Slovenian Kingdom faced a job done (22). During the Senate meeting from the 29th of December 1919, the Transylvanian senator Vespasian I. Pella kept a speech also talking about the division of Banat between the two neighbour states: Romania and Yugoslavia, action which "touched our hearts ... because it is of an incontestable importance our right national territorial requests" and it touches us this "unfair cut which we wanted to see that it completes the land of our country and not to disfavor our entire people and to make us sad because of this sacrilege done to our country." (23).

As for the international reports from the end of World War I, an important role had the problems of Danube navigation and through the Black Sea Straits. Both Romania and the Serb-Croat-Slovenian Kingdom as riparian states were directly interested in the content of the Danube Final Status. This was signed in Paris, on the 23rd of July 1921 and had as distinct points the free and open navigation of all flags in perfect equality conditions on this river. Romania as well as Yugoslavia hardly digested that. The newly created authorities came from the Great Britain, France and Italy, states which were not riparian but with a main role in navigation control on the river.

Between 1918 and 1940 in Romania there were 38 governments, while in Yugoslavia only 12, which shows the existence of long political instability periods. The need to provide an adequate institutional structure for the new requests of the modern state and progress constituted the common point in the evolution of both states. The fundamental problem in the juridical field was the legislative unity (24), and in the political fields the internal consolidation and the external stability through the recognition of the new European status quo.

Through the peace treaties between 1919 and 1920, it was created a new equilibrium, the status being divided between the victorious and defeated states. The first were "obliged" to face the success while the others had to face the resentments. Being at the edge of their powers both groups confronted with the problems of the new territories, populations and electors. The new states tried to solve the national problems while the Great Powers tried to impose their own domination to Europe and the whole world. States as Romania and Yugoslavia had to take into consideration the interests of the Great Powers when they established the borders where there were many ethnic groups as well as the necessity of establishing borders capable to guarantee a minimum of security.

The trying point of faith in the ideal of peace was represented in the period by "the attitude regarding the established status quo by the signed system of treaties. The new political map of Europe offered not only satisfaction for the numerous requests but also a lot of dissatisfactions. Numerous national minorities hardly accepted to integrate in states which appeared from the central empires dismemberment (the Sedets in Czechoslovakia). These dissatisfactions gradually developed in time because of new accumulation developed the revisionism which will be more and more aggressive and will radically influence the evolution of the international relations. The appearance of new national states in contra balance with the conscious crises of the European society in a relatively short period of time diluted in the world equation of power of the decade which followed the crisis between 1929 and 1933.

The Prime Minister Ion I.C. Bratianu, referring to the Romanian foreign affairs directory lines, emphasized that Romania "is one of the states most interested in peace keeping and consolidation of the political situation established through the existent peace treaties" (25).

From the five peace treaties signed between the victorious and the defeated states, those from Saint-Germaine, Trianon and Sevres contain elements of a great importance for the recognition of both Romania and the Serb-Croat-Slovenian Kingdom. The treaties contained territorial stipulations which interested in the high grade the two states. From these we mention the stipulations from the second part of the Trianon Treaty referring to the routes which had to be followed by the borders between Hungary and the adjacent states as Romania and the Serb-Croat-Slovenian Kingdom (26). Based on this document, in 15 days after coming into force, a Demarcation Commission had to start its activity in the field. The consistent efforts of the middle and small states during the Peace Conference could be seen when it was established on the 10th of August, the Borders Treaty and the failure of the Sevres Treaty. Romania, the Serb-Croat-Slovenian Kingdom, Poland and Czechoslovakia on one hand and the main Allied and Associated Powers on the other hand, signed the Sevres Treaty which proved the sovereignty of these countries over the borders recognized by the documents of Peace Conference (27). At the Peace Conference, the delegation of the Serb-Croat-Slovenian Kingdom fought "passionately" in order to delimit the borders with all neighbours no matter if they were called Italians, Austrians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Albanians or Romanians. Compared to all its neighbours, except Greece, the Yugoslavian government presented more or less sustainable claims. With Italy they claimed Istria and Dalmatia, with Austria, the northern border of Slovenia, with Hungary, the northern border of Croatia, Voivodina and Slovenia, with Bulgaria the eastern border and Macedonia, with Albania, the Kosovo area and Shkoder, with Romania, Banat (28).

During the Peace Conference was debated the minority problem based on the application of the nationalities principle. In order to solve such a problem, considered of a great importance, there were identified two solutions in the attempt to limit the danger of a great riot: the plebiscites and minority protection. For that it was founded the commission of the new states and minorities in which there were included the representatives of France, England, the USA, Italy and Japan, this commission elaborated after a passionate debate "minority treaties" whose provisions will be seen also in the treaty project with Austria (29).

Because of World War I, the world map and especially the Europe map was changed a lot because some empires disappeared and appeared more new states. The role of the Great European Powers decreased but increased the role of the USA. It also appeared the Soviet Russia. Between the Great Powers appeared divergences even during the peace negotiations.

The Nations Society (the Nations League), an organization created during the Peace Conference in Paris, was not stipulated with enough means in order to eliminate and to prevent new conflicts. It was deprived of the USA participation because the American Congress refused to ratify the Versailles Treaty, the Soviet Russian participation which was not invited not even to Paris between 1919 and 1920 as well as the support of the defeated states. The Nations Society was nothing else but the club of the victorious states without a special political, economical, military and moral authority.

In such conditions, the contemporary period began with a long period of uncertainty of economical and political instability, a permanent climate of crisis, all these leading finally to the World War II (1939-1945). Between the two world wars the international relations followed a sinuous line, the intervals of diplomatic relaxation alternated with tensed ones, this situation being connected with the internal evolution of different states.

In the opinion of the Romanian and Yugoslavian military experts, as well as the politicians of the two states, the necessity of the existence of some bilateral treaties and military conventions with the Great Powers and their neighbours and of an area organization was a priority of diplomacy and foreign affairs of Romania and the Serb-Croat-Slovenian Kingdom.

Mihaela Barbieru

University of Craiova,

Faculty of Social Sciences, Political Sciences Specialization


(1) The human and material damages of World War I were of 10 million dead people, 20 million injured and mutilated people, over 278 billion of dollars (Also see Cezar Avram, The Political History of Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries, Craiova, Reduta Publisher House, 2003, p. 203).

(2) Apud Mircea Musat, Ion Ardeleanu, Romania after the Great Union, vol. II, part. I, 1918-1933, Bucharest, Scientific and Encyclopaedic Publisher House, 2011, p.43.

(3) See Mihaela Barbieru, Romanian-Yugoslavian Miliary Relations during Interwar Period (1919-1939), Craiova, Aius Publisher House, 2010, p. 305-308.

(4) See Bogdan Murgescu, Romania and Europe. The Economc Gap Accumulation (1500-2010), Bucharest, Polirom Publisher House, 2010, p. 305-308.

(5) Pacea Conference in Paris (the 18th of January 1919--the 21st of June 1920) was held at the end of World War I and the purpose was to put back the world on the new bases. At the meeting, started on the 18th of January 1919, participated 27 states, 4 dominions and India (32 states), and the peace negotiations were held in Paris and a few other places. The President of the Conference was the Prime Minister of France, Georges Clemenceau, as a representative of the host country. The representatives of the defeated countries and of the Russian Soviet Republic were not invited. After World War I the political map of Europe established through the Peace Treaties in Paris, had a new configuration because new states appeared: Czechoslovakia, Poland and the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), Finland; some states reunited like Romania and the Serb-Croat--Slovenian Kingdom while Austria and Hungary became independent states.

(6) See Nicolae Ciachir, The Great Powers and Romania (1856-1947), Albatros Publisher House, Bucharest 1996; Congres de la Pax 1919-1920, Paris, 1920; La Roumanie devant le congres de la pax, Paris, 1919-1920; Pavel Radulescu, Trate de pax de Versailes. Trate de Trianon, Paris, 1922.

(7) Apud Zorin Zamfir, Contemporary UniversalHstory, vol. I, Oscar Print Publisher House, Bucharest, 1999, p. 29.

(8) The National Archives of Romania (further quoted NAR), the Royal House Collection, 3/1919, f.14.

(9) See Romanian Academy, The Hstory of Romanians. Romania reunted (1918-1940), vol. VIII, Bucharest, Encyclopedic Publisher House, 2003, p. 4.

(10) Ibidem, p. 4-5.

(11) In 1930, from the number of inhabitants' point of view, Romania was the 8th rank in Europe (18 million) while Yugoslavia was on the 10th rank (14 million). See The history of Romanians ... p. 31.

(12) Stevan K. Pavlowitch, The Balkans Hstory. 1804-1945, Polirom Publisher House, Iasi, 2002, p. 236.

(13) Gheorghe Zbuchea, The Hstory of Yugoslavia, Bucharest, Corint Publisher House, 2001, p. 39.

(14) Known as the treaty from Saint Germaine, it recognized the belonging of Bucovina to Romania and the independence of the Serb-Croat-Slovenian Kingdom

(15) Through The Peace Treaty from Neuilly sur Seine, there were recognized the borders between Bulgaria and Romania from one hand and Bulgaria and the Serb-Croat-Slovenian Kingdom from the other hand.

(16) The Trianon Treaty established the borders of the new state Hungary with its neighbours: Austria, the Serb-Croat- Slovenian Kingdom, Romania, and Czeckoslovakia.

(17) Gheorghe Zbuchea, The Hstory of Yugoslavia, Bucharest, Corint Publisher House, 2001, p. 50.

(18) See Ioan Scurtu (coord.), Political Structures in Central and South-Eastern Europe (1918-2001), vol. I, Bucharest, Romanian Cultural Foundation Publisher House, 2003, p. 99-102; Barbara Jelavich, The Balkans Hstory.The 20th Century, vol. II, Iasi, European Institute Publisher House, 2000, p. 135-147.

(19) The Great Britain, France, Italy and the USA

(20) See Ioan Scurtu, The Contemporary History of Romania (1918-2003), Bucharest, Romania of Tomorrow Foundation Publisher House, 2003, p. 58-59.

(21) Ibidem, p. 59.

(22) Ion I.C. Bratianu resigned from the government. After new diplomatic pressures, which lead to the threat of exclusion of the Romanian delegation from the peace Conference, the new government (Alexandru Vaida-Voevod) signed the peace treaty with Austria.

(23) Speeches and Parliament Debates. 1864-2004, Bucharest, Mica Valahie Publisher House, 2006, p. 210.

(24) The extent of some laws application from the old Romania and Serbia as well as the elaboration of new unique laws through which there were cancelled the former laws.

(25) Ion I.C. Bratianu, The Activity of the Legislatives Bodies and Government from January 1922 to the 27th of March 1926, Bucharest, 1926, p. XIX.

(26) See Frederic C. Nanu, Romania Foreign Affair (1918-1933), Iasi, European Institute, 1933, p. 17.

(27) See Valeriu Florin Dobrinescu, Doru Tompea, Romania at the Two Peace Conferences in Paris (1919-1920; 1946-1947). A Comparative Study, Focsani, Neuron Publisher House, 1996, p. 172.

(28) Gheorghe Zbuchea, the quoted work, p. 38.

(29) See Lucian Leustean, Romania and Hungary wthin New Europe (1920-1923), Iasi, Polirom Publisher House, 2003, p. 141-147; Gheorghe Iancu, The Problem of the Ethical Minorities in Romania in Documents of the Nation Society (1923-1933), Cluj, Argonaut Publisher House, 2002, p. 29.
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Title Annotation:ORIGINAL PAPER
Author:Barbieru, Mihaela
Publication:Revista de Stiinte Politice
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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