INCORPORATION INTO ROUMANIA
To return to our narrative: Bessarabia was now in a position (in spite of the strictures of the memorial quoted above) of comparative tranquility, even if a tranquility arising from exhaustion. The Diet worked hard over the agrarian problem, even hearing a committee of large land-owners; the Council of Directors spent busy months transacting the business of the province; the Committee on the Constitution cheerfully gathered material for a comparative study of constitutions out of which should arise the best possible constitution for Bessarabia. To be sure, commerce and banking were disorganized; administrative changes, and passive strikes on the part of Russian officeholders, disarranged all public business; the money kept depreciating and drought spoiled the excellent crop prospects.
Still, a modus vivendi was being worked out along the lines thus far indicated, when the whole external framework of Roumania had a kaleidoscopic change; the victorious Germans were humbled, and had to sue for peace. In Roumania, the pro-German Marghiloman Ministry, whose great claim to gratitude was the reincorporation of Bessarabia into the Roumanian body politic, fell from power. The new administration had the triumph of uniting Transylvania, the Banat and the Bucovina with Roumania; and on Nov. 27 it called together the Bessarabian Diet to pass the agrarian legislation. We have already seen that the original statement of Dec. 2, 1917, was very radical, and contemplated the same total confiscation of property without compensation which took place in Russia itself. The bill now passed left to every boyar 250 acres of his estate, together with the house, vineyards and orchards; and the excess over 250 acres was paid for; indeed, in the case of foreign owners it was paid for in gold, which caused great dissatisfaction among the Bessarabians, who had to receive payment in depreciated paper money, and deferred payment at that, coming out to less than a dollar a hectare (2.47 acres).
The Greater Roumania now existing was a totally different entity from the country with which Bessarabia had united her destinies only a few months ago. That was even smaller than the Old Roumania of 1914, since the Transylvanian frontier had been pushed in by the Austro-Hungarians, and the Dobrudja had been detached, to be administered by the Central Powers jointly. The problem of the relations of the newly annexed provinces-Transylvania, the Banat, the Bucovina, the enlarged Dobrudja, and Bessarabia-with one another and the Old Kingdom, was clearly a matter for a Constitutional Convention of Greater Roumania, the imminence of which was announced. Pending this, a Parliament of Greater Roumania should be elected, all the provinces participating. There was therefore no further need of separate constitutional conventions in the individual provinces, nor indeed of separate legislatures. So late in the night of Nov. 2627, 1918, the Bessarabian Diet voted by acclamation to unite unconditionally with Roumania.
The Russian members of the Diet maintain that no quorum was present; I am assured by one of the Moldavian members present that there was. The question has now only an academic interest; at the time it marked the transfer of the pro-Russian efforts to Odessa, Moscow and Paris from Kishineff, which now became a Roumanian provincial city, second in size to Bucharest alone; indeed, it now contains well toward 300,000 people. Bessarabia had now entered upon a new political life, and Roumanian politicians scattered over the province in the first universal suffrage campaign for Parliament the Bessarabians had ever known. Doubtless one of the chief reasons the Roumanians have had so little difficulty in Bessarabia, in spite of all the post-war economic drawbacks, was this new and unknown political life, which has brought scores of prominent Bessarabians into an arena !they never knew before. Bessarabia has now participated in half a dozen elections for Parliament, and has in general cast her vote for the Opposition candidates. At a special election ("bye-election") held in Kishineff in June 1925, 12,000 out of 16,000 votes went to the opposition candidate, the venerable Alexandri, one of the signers of the petition of protest of Nov. 20, 1918. In fact, politics has been lively in Bessarabia ever since annexation; the election of Nov. 3-5, 1919, for the Constitutional Convention brought out 78.9% of the voters (a far higher percentage than we reach in the United States); 78 Roumanians, 4 Bulgarians, 3 Germans, 2 Ukrainians,, one Russian, one Greek and one Jew were elected from Bessarabia. The campaigns vie with the best we ever have in mud-slinging and abuse; indeed, the Russians use as propaganda documents against the Roumanian administration in Bessarabia, articles from opposition Roumanian newspapers abusing the party in power as responsible for conditions in the province. Russia, Poland, Italy, Spain and Greece have discredited the Parliamentary system; in Roumania it is still rampant. This makes all the more remarkable the statement in Stephen Graham's "Dividing Line of Europe," 1925, p. 167: " There are no elections"; most thinking Bessarabians feel there are too many!
Meanwhile the Roumanian Government had been negotiating with the other Allies, to legitimate its occupation of Bessarabia. England and France took advantage of the occasion to do some hard bargaining; to quote Titulesco (Memorandum on the role of the League of Nations, the Reparation Commission and the Western States in the restoration of Eastern Europe as exemplified by Roumania, p. 34) : "In return for the recognition of the union of Bessarabia and Roumania, Gt. Britain and France demanded the payment to their nationals of the price of expropriation necessitated by the agrarian reform in conditions other than those fixed for the other proprietors in Bessarabia. This obligation, which has now been carried out by Roumania in the form of the delivery of bonds of the consolidation loan of 1922, amounts to:
If one considers the mean rate of exchange for the lei, namely, 900 to the pound (and of course the leu fell after that. C.U.C.), the result is that 978,191,100 lei are payable instead of 22,086,400 lei (the total of the first valuation of the commission set up in conformity with the law), that is to say, an excess of about 950 million lei."
The Bessarabian Treaty was finally signed on Oct. 28, 1920. Its provisions are:
"The British Empire, France, Italy, Japan, principal Allied Powers, and Roumania:
Considering that in the interest of general European peace it is of importance to ensure from now on over Bessarabia a sovereignty corresponding to the aspirations of the inhabitants, and guaranteeing to the racial, religious and linguistic minorities there the protection which is due them;
Considering that from the geographical, ethnographic, historic and economic viewpoints, the union of Bessarabia to Roumania is fully justified;
Considering that the inhabitants of Bessarabia have manifested their desire to see Bessarabia united to Roumania;
Considering finally that Roumania has of her own free will the desire to give sure guarantees of liberty and of justice, without distinction of race, religion or language, in conformity with the Treaty signed at Paris Dec. 9, 1919, to the inhabitants of the former kingdom of Roumania, as well as to those of the territories newly transferred;
Have resolved to conclude the present treaty...:
Art. 1. The High Contracting Parties declare that they recognize the sovereignty of Roumania over the territority of Bessarabia, comprised within the present Roumanian frontier, the Black Sea, the course of the Dniester from its mouth to the point where it is cut by the former line between the Bucovina and Bessarabia, and this former line.
Art. 2. A commission composed of three members, one of whom shall be named by the principal Allied Powers, one by Roumania and one by the Council of the Society of Nations on account of Russia, shall be constituted within the fortnight following the putting in force of the present Treaty, to fix on the spot the new boundary line of Roumania.
Art. 3. Roumania binds herself to observe and cause to be observed rigorously on the territory of Bessarabia indicated in Art. 1, the stipulations of the Treaty signed at Paris, Dec. 9, 1919, by the principal Allied and Associated Powers and by Roumania, and notably to ensure there to the inhabitants without distinction of race, language or religion, the same guarantees of liberty and justice as to the other inhabitants of all other territories forming part of the kingdom of Roumania.
Art. 4. Roumanian nationality with full rights shall be acquired, to the exclusion of all other, by the subjects of the former Russian Empire established in the territory of Bessarabia as indicated in Art. 1.
Art. 5. Within the term of two years after the putting in force of the present treaty, the subjects of the former Russian Empire over 18 years of age and established in the territory of Bessarabia, as indicated in Art. 1, will have the right of choosing any other nationality that may be open to them. The husband's choice will carry with it the wife's, and the parents' choice will carry the children's under 18 years of age. Such persons as have exercised the right of choice above provided for, shall within the following twelvemonth move their domicile into the state in whose favour they have pronounced themselves. They shall be free to keep what real estate they possess on Roumanian soil. They may carry away with them all their personal property of whatever description. No export duty shall be levied on them for this.
Art. 6. Roumania recognizes as Roumanian subjects, with full rights and without any formality, the subjects of the former Russian Empire who were born on Bessarabian territory, as indicated in Art. 1, of parents there domiciled, even though at the date when the present treaty enters into force, they themselves may not be there domiciled. However, within the two years following the putting into force of the present treaty, these persons may declare before the proper Roumanian authority in the country of their residence that they renounce Roumanian nationality, and they will then cease to be regarded as Roumanian subjects. In this respect the husband's declaration shall be considered valid for the wife, and the parents' declaration shall be considered valid for the children under 18 years of age.
Art. 7. The High Contracting Parties recognize that the Danube mouth known as the Kilia Channel should pass under the jurisdiction of the European Danube Commission.
While waiting for the conclusion of a general convention for the international regulation of watercourses, Roumania binds herself to apply to the portions of the Dniester River system which may be included within her bounds or which may form her frontiers, the regulations provided for in the first paragraph of Art. 332 and in Arts. 333-338 of the Treaty of Peace with Germany of June 28, 1919.
Art. 8. Roumania will assume the responsibility of the proportional share falling to Bessarabia of the Russian Public Debt and of all other financial engagements of the Russian State, as shall be determined by a special convention between the principal Allied and Associated Powers on the one hand and Roumania on the other. This convention shall be prepared by a commission designated by the said powers. In case the commission does not reach an agreement within the term of two years, the points in question shall be immediately submitted to the arbitration of the Society of Nations.
Art. 9. The High Contracting Parties shall invite Russia to sign the present treaty, as soon as there shall exist a Russian Government recognized by them. They reserve the right to submit to the arbitration of the Council of the Society of Nations all questions that may be raised by the Russian Government concerning the details of this treaty...The sovereignty of Roumania over the territories here comprised, shall not be called in question. All difficulties which may arise after the application of the treaty shall be handled in like manner.
The present treaty shall be ratified by the signatory powers. It shall not enter into force until after the deposit of these ratifications and after the entry into force of the treaty signed by the principal Allied and Associated Powers and Roumania on Dec. 9, 1919. The deposit of the ratifications shall be carried out at Paris. The Powers with seat of government outside of Europe shall have the right to confine themselves to notifying the Government of the French Republic, through their diplomatic representative at Paris, that their ratification has been given, and in that case they will have to transmit the instrument as rapidly as may be. An attested statement of the deposit of ratification shall be drawn up. The French Government shall remit to all the signatory Powers a certified copy in conformity with the attested statement of the deposit of ratification.
Done at Paris, the twenty-eighth of October, one thousand nine hundred and twenty, in one sole copy which shall remain deposited in the archives of the Government of the French Republic, and of which authentic copies shall be remitted to each of the Powers signing the Treaty."
The United States, in conformity with its original policy of not recognizing the smaller states created out of border Russia, does not admit the validity of this treaty; and it has not yet been ratified by either Japan or Italy.a In fact, an official statement in the Rome Tribuna of April 20, 1926, announced that the Italian Government had no intention of departing from its attitude, especially considering the close relations it had now been maintaining for some time with the Soviets. There was however a rather circumstantial rumor afloat in 1926, that Italy was trying to bring about a rapprochement between Roumania and the Soviets on this subject, and was projecting a trunk-line railroad between Spalato and Odessa, via Belgrade, Transylvania and Bessarabia, which would bring the Black Sea close to the Adriatic (see p. 275).
Russian committees in Odessa and Paris at once took up the fight to reassert Russian supremacy in Bessarabia; and the Soviet Government continues it.
The Russian viewpoint is perhaps best stated by Slonim, former member of the Provincial Diet, and an opponent of the Bolshevists. I translate from his article in the "Volya Rossiyi," III, 1924, p. 79, where he says:
"The Protocol was ratified first by England, and then, on March 11,1924, by France. We shall not stop to inquire why France needed just then to ratify the Protocol, or what conditions she found it necessary to attach to the Roumanian gifts. Seriously speaking, we must consider all these acts as having no binding force for Russia. Bessarabia was not even conquered by the Roumanians, and therefore could not be given to them on the score of conquest at the conclusion of the World War. In the course of the war Bessarabia was abstracted from Russia by the process of forcible seizure, and in addition the seizure was perpetrated not by enemies of Russia but by an ally of Russia in the war, and sanctioned by other allies. Russia does not recognize Bessarabia as an inalienable part of the Roumanian Kingdom. Russia, and every Russian, continues to regard Bessarabia as a part of the territory of the Russian State. From the fact that a part of the Russian territories has been occupied by foreign armies, there does not yet result a right to Bessarabia on the part of Roumania, nor a renunciation of Bessarabia on the part of Russia.
Bessarabia is a part of Russia; sooner or later there must come about her reunion with the Russian State. Along what lines can that take place? In deciding the Bessarabian question, three parties are interested: Roumania, Russia, and the inhabitants of the country itself. On this occasion the decisions were exclusively one-sided. They were brought about by the misrepresentation, under intimidation, of the inhabitants, and without the participation of Russia. Not a single Russian administration, unless it wishes to be a government of treason to the nation, would consent to recognize those international acts which, in contravention of the Treaty of Paris of 1878, ignoring one of the important Powers which signed it-Russia-would establish a new sovereignty over Bessarabia. The "single front" on boundary questions, even to the Bolsheviks, held even by the Russian emigres on the Bessarabian question, should force those diplomats to ponder who revel in illusions, as if Russian questions could be decided in London and Paris, in cloistered sessions of representatives of France, Italy, England and Japan.
The fortunes of Bessarabia can be decided by agreement between two of the parties concerned: Russia and Roumania. But all the Roumanian-Soviet conferences have shown that it is impossible to reach such agreement. The outcome of the last, the Vienna Conference, merely strengthens legitimate pessimism on this score. The break was due specifically to Bessarabia, for the Roumanian Government declared that it could not admit consideration of any question regarding the status of Bessarabia.
It would seem most natural of all, in view of such conditions, to ask the inhabitants of Bessarabia itself: do they wish to remain with Russia, or do they desire union with Roumania? A plebiscite, organized by the League of Nations, with guarantees of freedom of suffrage, under stipulation of removal of the Roumanian troops, and temporary administration o f the country, until the termination of the plebiscite, by an International Commission, with representation of America and neutral countries-that is the only just method now of deciding the question. The Russian Democracy proposes it not because it has any doubts of Russia's right to Bessarabia, or of the relations of the inhabitants to the Roumanians, but because without a plebiscite there is no peaceful means of disposing of the Bessarabian question. The present directors of European international life must thoroughly assimilate this fact. If no referendum of the inhabitants is organized in Bessarabia, there will come about a positive menace, to the effect that the Bessarabian question will be settled by a very dreadful and cruel means-force of arms. And so long as the Allied Powers are not inclined to reexamine their relations to Bessarabia, and to yield to the Russian request for a plebiscite, along the Dniester will remain a focus of revolt and armed conflicts, threatening all Europe with disastrous convulsions."
The Roumanian attitude toward this proposed solution was that it was unnecessary, since the Provincial Diet did actually represent the country's wishes, and inadvisable, since it would single out one of the Russian border states for a plebiscite, disregarding all the others. But with the passage of the years, this has become a purely academic question, and there seems to be little discussion of it, even in Russian quarters. It is generally understood that negotiations continue between Roumania and the Soviets, incidentally covering Bessarabia, which constitutes a valuable diplomatic asset-to the Roumanians because of their possession of it, to the Soviets because their threat of reoccupying it is a real menace to Roumania. The Soviets appear to have spent all the Roumanian government money and securities deposited at Moscow during the German-Austrian invasion of Roumania, and have thus lost this asset, with which they tempted the Roumanians in earlier negotiations; but they still possess the Roumanian government archives, and perhaps have not sold the manuscripts, works of art, etc., which were brought to Moscow from Jassy with the treasure.Next Chapter Previous Chapter
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