ANARCHY IN BESSARABIA
From now on, the historian who tries to discover, and present, the real course of events, must throw up his hands in despair. Generations will probably pass before the publication of archives now secret will make clear the inner springs of action, in the events which now so rapidly succeeded one another. Today, one is dependent on statements, books and articles which are obviously biased, and it is almost impossible to steer a middle course. Both Russians and Roumanians have published much outright propaganda; this often contains genuine documents and truthful statements, together with much wild exaggeration, like the following, on pp. 88-89 of " The Roumanian Occupation in Bessarabia: Documents," one of the publications (in English) issued by the so called Bessarabian Delegation at the Peace Conference: "The intellectual level of the Roumanians scarcely exceeds that of the inhabitants of the Sandwich Islands . . . . Roumania is a country so backward, it has civilization so inferior and a mentality so primitive that it is astounding such a people could have reached the sill of the twentieth century and remain what it really is." Yet this same volume contains some useful documents. The best accounts I have found, from the Russian standpoint, are the articles of Mark Slonim, a Russian Bessarabian Social Revolutionary, and Ryabinin-Sklyarovsky; from the Roumanian, La Raspantie : Moldova de la Nistru in anii 1917-1918 (At the Crossroads: Moldavia on the Dniester in 1917-18), by D. Bogos, youthful Chief of Staff in the ill-fated Army of the Moldavian Republic, and Moldova dintre Prut shi Nistru (Moldavia between Pruth and Dniester), 1812-1918, by Dr. P. Cazacu, an admirably documented and well written work.
On one point all these accounts agree; that is, in execration of a certain Ilie Catarau, whom the Russians characterize as .a paid Roumanian agent, and the Roumanians as a Bolshevist agitator. He was the commander of the First Moldavian Regiment, and thus in charge of the armed forces of the new Moldavian Republic. His viewpoint is amply set forth in his reply, dated Nov. 27, 1917, to a request from the local military authority at Soroca for eight cohorts of his regiment with which to repress marauding troops-a request endorsed into a command by the General Military Commissariat; Catarau answers that after discussion of the matter by the regimental committee, it was decided not to send the cohorts, since "the Moldavian Democracy, in the name of the soldiers of the Moldavian Regiment, understands that the way to stop the anarchy which has arisen in agrarian matters, is not to use military force, but to pass a clear and laconic (sic) law doing away with all the causes which give rise to fire and devastation." Rhetoric even in the military service of the Republic! During the war, I was on the Macedonian Front not long after the Russian regiments on that front had deposed their officers and formed soviets, debating every order from headquarters as if it were a simple proposal. The French and British had no sympathy with this procedure, surrounded and disarmed the Russians, and gave them their choice, either to work on the roads like prisoners of war, or join fighting units. Evidently Bessarabia was now face to face with similar disorganization, and the case called for immediate decision.
Complications were added by a formal order from the Ukrainian Rada for the complete disbandment of all troops, in view of approaching peace with the Central Powers. The Bessarabian Republic was invited to send representatives. The following are the instructions given to the Bessarabian delegates to the Peace Conference of Brest-Litovsk; I translate them from the original Russian, in the facsimile which accompanies the vitriolic "Deux Ministres du Cabinet Roumain," one of the Krupensky "Bessarabian Delegation" publications (Paris, Jan. 15, 1920):1) All the contracting parties shall recognize the Delegates as representatives of the Moldavian Popular Republic, having equal rights in the Conference.
2) The Delegation must insist on the inclusion in the preliminary peace project, of a compact guaranteeing full autonomy to the Moldavian Republic, in the boundaries of the former Province of Bessarabia, in force until the calling of the Popular Assembly of the Moldavian Republic, which must decide the further historic course of the country.
3) The territories of the Moldavian Republic, in the boundaries of the former Province of Bessarabia, are indivisible, nor may any part of the Moldavian Republic be alienated to the benefit of another government.
4) Until the meeting of the Popular Assembly, the Representatives of the Moldavian Republic stand absolutely by the platform adopted in the Declaration of the Sfatul Tzarii of Dec. 2, 1917.
5) The Delegation recognizes the Soviet of Commissioners of the People only as the government of Great Russia, and all dealings with the Soviet of Commissioners of the People are to be regarded from that standpoint.
6) The Delegation must insist on the installation of a direct wire from Brest to Kishineff, and after each session of the Conference, they must immediately present the state of affairs to the Council of General Directors.
7) All the items in these instructions are of an imperative (categoric) character, and may not be altered without consent of the Council of Directors.
Signed: Pres. of the Council of General Directors P. Erhan.
Pres. of the Delegation J. Inculetz.
Director General for International Affairs Pelivan.
There was now a Bolshevist Soviet in Kishineff; in November, the notorious Dr. Roshali, President of the Republic of Cronstadt, visited Kishineff as an inspector, and intensified Russian Bolshevist feeling against the Moldavians. The latter decided to send to Jassy for some Transylvanian troops to maintain order; but the Bolshevist sympathizers headed off each messenger. Transylvanian troops finally did arrive from Kieff, the night of Jan. 6; but they were attacked and disarmed by Bolshevist sympathizers. Local Bolshevist committees now arose all over Bessarabia, disregarding the Diet, whose lack of funds and of armed support made it more impotent every day.
The Ukrainian Rada, in view of this general anarchy, thought the moment propitious to annex tempting portions of Bessarabia, and their Premier Golubovitch notified the German High Command that both the north and south of Bessarabia were peopled mainly by Ukrainians and were dependent commercially upon Odessa; the Ukrainians sent word to the Austrians that they would proceed to occupy the line Ocnitza-BaltzRabnitza. Inculetz sent a telegram to Gen. Shtcherbatcheff, Russian Commander-in-Chief at Jassy, asking for troops for protection. Shtcherbatcheff, having no Russian troops available, turned the request over to his Roumanian allies, who had also received similar requests from Directors Codreanu, Pelivan and Secara. Russian writers blame Shtcherbatcheff for the loss of Bessarabia. "We know," says Slonim, in his article in the "Volya Rossiyi," Apr. 15, 1924, p. 68, " who gave the Roumanians the idea of veiling the seizure of the country under the mask of `defending the border from Bolshevism.' It was the Commander of the Russian Armies on the Roumanian Front, Gen. Shtcherbatcheff. By indulging his naive and light-minded hope of the salutary role of Roumanian intervention, Gen. Shtcherbatcheff helped the Roumanians seize Bessarabia .... He helped Gens. Prezan and Broshteanu, the future military chief of Bessarabia, mobilize a division for the occupation of a Russian province, indulging an illusory hope of `utilizing Kishineff as a military base for a campaign against the Germans,' but the actual mobilization was carried out with the permission of the Germans. 'Ludendorff's staff,' remarks Gen. Denikin . . . `already in late December 1917, proposed to the Roumanian administration the occupation of Bessarabia, and later offered Roumania for that occupation the right to keep some divisions on a war footing" (see "Greater Roumania," p. 223). Of course this was no new thought to the Roumanians, as Slonim would imply; the reincorporation of Bessarabia into Roumania had, been a Roumanian hope from the outset, and before Roumania's entrance into the war, efforts had been made by Italy at . St. Petersburg to secure the guarantee, on Russia's part, of the return at least of the Budjak. Naturally the Germans encouraged this ambition at this time, as a means of strengthening their own position in southeastern Europe, and of securing a much needed grain supply for the Central Powers; but it would be a mistake to assign so much importance to German policy in this matter as do the Russians. Ryabinin-Sklearovsky bears witness, through Gen. Shtcherbatcheff's son's notes, to the inevitable character of Roumanian armed intervention, and to the general conviction, even in Russian minds, that once in possession, the Roumanians would occupy Bessarabia permanently. It was universally recognized as an inevitable historic fatality.
The news that Roumanian troops had been asked for, roused great resentment among those who still clung to the hope of a Bessarabian state within the Russian Federated Republic. President Inculetz of the Diet, and President Erhan of the Council of Directors General, telegraphed, under date of Jan. 6, 1918: "Jassy, Roumanian Government. We protest against the introduction of Roumanian armies into the territory of the Moldavian Republic. We demand categorically the immediate cessation of shipments of troops, and the prompt recall of those troops already over the border. The introduction of Roumanian troops into Bessarabia threatens us with the horrors of civil war, which has already begun. The Russian troops must be allowed to pass freely without any hindrance." The Bolshevist Soviet of Kishineff, in its indignation at the calling for Roumanian troops, put a price on the heads of the Moldavian Directors-Cristi, Pelivan and Codreanu-whom it held responsible for this action, and endeavored to dispossess the Diet of all power. Disorder increased; four pro-Bolshevist members of the Diet were murdered-Pantir, Prakhnitzky, Tchumatchenko and Grinfeld. But when news came of the speedy approach of Roumanian troops, the Communists subsided, and after efforts to do as much harm as possible, the majority decamped and crossed to the other side of the Dniester.Next Chapter Previous Chapter
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