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31.03.2012 23:28 - THE BULGARIAN DELEGATION AT THE PARIS PEACE CONFRENCE, 1919-1920
Автор: vkolev22 Категория: История   
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      The military collapse of the Bulgarian Army on the front of Thessaloniki in the middle of September 1918 led to the country`s withdrawal from World War I. According to the armistice, signed on September 29th, Bulgaria should withdraw, disarm and demobilize its armies with the exception of three divisions and four cavalry regiments that should sustain the order in the country and should guard the borders with the Ottoman Empire and Rumania. Bulgarian communications were to be placed under the control of the Eastern army of the Entente, considering the ongoing war with the Central Powers and a 100 000 strong Bulgarian army in Western Macedonia had to become prisoners of war as a guarantee of the country`s compliance with the armistice. Diplomatic relations with the former allies Berlin, Wien and Istanbul had to be severed at the request of the Entente as well as such relations with all governments emerging on the territory of the former Russian empire as a result of the two revolutions in 1917. The agreement provided for partial occupation of the country including the capital Sofia, and for a future military convention between Bulgaria and the Entente in connection with the continuing military actions against the Central Powers. The armistice was signed only two days after the bulk of military insurgents proclaimed republic and were preparing to attack of the capital.

          The heavy conditions of the armistice and the turmoil of the mutiny radicalized the situation in the country. Under the pressure of the minority coalition government of Alexander Malinov, King Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha had to abdicate on October 2nd 1918 and to leave Bulgaria for Austria-Hungary and later for Germany. His son King Boris III ascended to the throne the next day. In mid-October the regiments of the Entente entered Sofia and soon occupied the country. Under the pressure of the commanding French General Franchet d`Esperey the government was forced to resign. On October 17th a new broad coalition cabinet was appointed, headed again by the leader of the Democratic Party Al. Malinov. It consisted of two groups of parties. The first of them were the traditional pro-Russian parties, that under the new circumstances freely demonstrate their pro-Entente feelings, trying to win the sympathy of the occupying armies. The other group were the left parties like Agrarians, Radicals and Social-Democrats, that were invited for the first time in the government of the country in an attempt to broaden the political and social support of the regime. The predominant illusion was that the new cabinet and the new monarch will be able to convince the Entente to apply the principle of self-determination and to achieve the national unification, the principal Bulgarian war aim. However the Entente met the new government with suspicion and rejection mainly because of the leading role of the Democrats in it and the premiership of Al. Malinov. In French and British eyes he was not compliant enough and he spend a lot of time during the secret negotiations for a separate peace in the summer of 1918 not succumbing to their pressure. In violation of the conditions of the armistice the Entente allowed Romania to re-occupy South Dobrudja and Al. Malinov resigned in protest. At that time the proposal of British Prime Minister Lloyd George for an immediate separate peace conference with Bulgaria in Rome was rejected by the French allies.
          The leader of the People`s Party Teodor Teodorov was appointed Prime Minister in the new coalition government on November 28th 1918. That cabinet had to deal not only with the rising social pressure in the country, but also to respond to the strong campaign of anti-Bulgarian propaganda in the press of the neighbouring countries and of the Great powers of the Entente. The “Bulgarian atrocities campaign” was not an unknown phenomenon for Sofia. It was an actual repetition of the situation after the Balkan wars, when practically every Balkan country was accusing almost anyone of its neighbours of violence and of breaking of international law. However the situation in 1918-1919 differed dramatically from that in 1913. After the two Balkan wars an impartial inquiry of an independent and neutral international commission on behalf of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was conducted and it proved undoubtedly that atrocities and non-complying with international law was a common practice of all belligerent countries. Under the new circumstances the inquiries were a product of the governments of the victorious countries and were organized mainly by the respective military authorities. The evidence collected often contradicted even with elementary practical logic.
          That development resulted into the establishment of a separate Bulgarian inquiry, trying to collect evidence and to oppose the results of the other inquiries. A real “newspapers war” emerged. Under the hostile propaganda and especially under the impression of French President Raymond Poincaire`s opening speech to the Paris Peace Conference of the Entente on January 18th 1919, Bulgarian diplomacy adopted the concept of conducting of plebiscites in all contested regions on the peninsula under international control. That would guarantee that the real wishes of the population would not be neglected.
          The government and the public in Bulgaria followed closely the developments in Paris, although the information was scarce, chaotic and contradictory. Still by January 1919 the first results in the preparation of Bulgaria`s participation for the Peace conference emerged. Under the guidance of the Prime Minister T. Teodorov, who was at the same time Minister of foreign affairs and religion, the results of the Bulgarian inquiry were systematized in two volumes issued in French and named La verite sur les accusations contre la Bulgarie. The first of them comprised of an introduction and impressive amount of Bulgarian documents, while the second volume was composed entirely of facsimiles of original non-Bulgarian documents. Those two volumes were not only the Bulgarian response to the propaganda campaign against the country, but also formed the foundation of all diplomatic efforts of the country to present and defend its cause during the peace conference.
          The main topic of accusations was that the Bulgarian government through the military command deliberately caused mass famine in the conquered regions like Eastern Macedonia or the Morava valley in Eastern Serbia aiming the destruction of the population. It was revealed however that the famine was not a deliberate policy, but a short time crisis that took place in the whole country and was partly due to the blockade of Entente navies of the port of Kavala and Dedeagatsch on the Aegean coast. The population of the conquered lands was considered not as foreign or alien but as Bulgarian and there was not any policy aiming at its destruction. The accusation of forced labour was attacked through documentation demonstrating the payment of wages but mainly the distribution of food and other products that were preferred by the population. Moreover the labour was organized around building local communication that was used not only by the armies, but also by the population and road building conscription was an ancient common system in all Balkan countries. Most of the destructions blamed on the Bulgarian forces were results of the previous Balkan wars that ended only two years before Bulgaria entered World War I.
          In compliance with the decision of the Council of Five, on June 11th 1919 the High Commander of the Entente forces in Bulgaria, the French General Cretien asked the government in Sofia to form an official delegation to participate in the Peace conference in Paris. The list of the delegates was prepared by the Prime Minister and was shortly approved by the cabinet. The initial idea was to form a cross-party delegation, but the participation of members of the liberal parties, that concluded the alliance with the Central Powers was rejected by the majority of the ministers and the participation of Communist representatives was never discussed. So the delegation was composed of 5 ministers, one from each of the ruling parties. At the head of the delegation was the premier T. Teodorov from the People`s party with Professor Venelin Ganev from the Radical Democrats, the Agrarian leader Alexander Stamboliysky, Yanko Sakazov from the Social Democrats and Mikhail Sarafov from the Progressive Liberals. Each of them should appoint a Private Secretary. The delegation included also six councilors, namely the ex-Prime Minister Ivan Gueshov, the Bulgarian Minister in Washington Stefan Panaretov, the diplomat Dimitar Tzokoff, General Ivan Lukov from the Supreme Command, Bogdan Morfov in his capacity of Director of the Railways and Ports and the member of Parliament Nikola Sakarov. Eleven experts and 15 more persons were also attached to the delegation, thus the total number was 42 persons, the most numerous delegation the country had ever formed up to that moment. Among them were representatives of the Moslem, the Jewish and the Protestant communities of the country.The delegation had its first constituent meeting on July 16th and three days later it was accepted by King Boris III who gave them no instructions.
          On July 19th late at night the delegation started its long journey to Paris by the ruined railway network of central Europe. It left the country for Bucarest and via Vojvodina, Northern Italy and Switzerland arrived in Paris after an eight days journey on July 26th. In Lausanne during a long pause the delegation met the leaders of the Bulgarian colony in Switzerland and established an informational centre that had to oppose the Greek and Serbian propaganda in the Entente and neutral countries.
In Paris the Bulgarian delegation was quartered in Chateau de Madrid near Bois de Boulogne next to the delegation of German Austria, but established no connections with it. As the other delegations of the countries that lost the war, the Bulgarians had their relations with the outside world strictly limited. They were not allowed to leave their quarters without permission, to establish any contacts with journalists and public figures, to send or receive correspondence apart from the official French liaisons officers of a special Military mission headed by the French Colonel Henry, that was accredited to the Delegation. The delegates received no positive information apart from the French press and the isolation strongly hampered their work.
The first act of the delegation was the official sending of the two volumes La verite sur les accusations contre la Bulgarie to the heads of all delegations. Very soon it was realized that there was absolutely no reaction to them and the campaign in the French press became even more active. Some of the delegates from the left parties considered the two volumes to be of little practical use and their criticism led to the composition of a much shorter English language version entitled The Accusations against Bulgaria that was circulated among the delegations and the press. It was more analytical and had a polemic character with both the Greek memoire and the Serbian volume Documents relatif aux violations de la Conventions de la Haye et de Droit International en general, commis a 1915 a 1918 par les Bulgares en Serbie occupee.
Archival materials from the Serbian delegation to the Peace Conference in the Archive of Jugoslavia explicitly reveal that the Entente had a common scheme in searching and collecting materials against the ex-enemies. It was created in the Commission on the Responsibility of the Authors of the War and on Enforcement of Penalties chaired by the United States Secretary of State Robert Lansing and by its three sub-commissions and it was based upon the structure and the approach of the famous Bryce reports about alleged war crimes and violation of international law and rules of waging war in Belgium and against the Armenians in the Ottoman empire. Additionally all the work of the inquiries of the Entente was organized by the Serbian military authorities that collected the evidence on the terrain both in advance to the arrivals of the inter-allied commissions and after their departure. Recent researches on the Belgian case clearly demonstrate that evidence, collected by the military has a far lesser credibility than the one collected by civil authorities. As a whole the “atrocities campaign” against Bulgaria strictly followed the steps and organization of the similar campaigns against the Central empires and was aimed at the preparation of the public opinion for the peace treaties. It consumed the major efforts and time of the Bulgarian delegation but with no practical results.
At the end of July the Bulgarian delegation started a diplomatic offensive concerning the state borders. At the beginning it was concentrated upon Thrace. On August 1st a memoir was handed to the Conference about Western Thrace that was claimed by Greece. In that respect the Bulgarian delegates were convinced that they were following the example of the German delegation that often sent similar documents to the conference. The need for preservation of the region within the Bulgarian state borders was based upon historic rights, the ethnic composition of the population, the geographic and economic connections with the Bulgarian mainland and political considerations. That memoire was the first of its kind and formed a model that the delegation repeated on several occasions. Sufficient parts of it were prepared in Sofia in advance, forseeing the developments in the peace conference.
          A similar memoire was composed about Eastern Thrace, based upon the conclusions of the Report of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. It was aimed to explore the moment when the Bulgarian delegates were informed that the Supreme Council of the Entente was discussing the peace conditions with the Ottoman Empire in connection with the Greek claims and the decision to allow Greece to occupy the region of Izmir in Asia Minor. Bulgaria supported one of the most artificial constructions that was discussed at the conference – the creation of a multinational Constantinople state under the protection and control of the USA that had to guard the Straits.
          By that time the delegates received confidential information about a Serbian memorandum claiming more than 13 000 sq. km in a strip alongside the western border of the country. The motives were purely strategic and aimed at securing the railway connection along the valleys of Morava and Vardar and some military advantages over Bulgaria. The Bulgarian response was in the traditional form of a memoire addressed at the conference with the traditional structure, enumerating historic, demographic, economic and strategic proves of the Bulgarian character of the contested region and opposing the Serbian thesis.
          Another type of memoirs prepared by the Bulgarian delegation and officially sent to the Peace Conference were connected with the minorities problems. Their preparation was aimed at the identical texts input in the different sections of the draft of the peace treaty within its second part connected with the new state borders. The first memoire had a general character considering the fundamental principle of personal freedom of religion, language and corporations as it was enshrined in the Tarnovo constitution of 1879 and practiced by the Bulgarian state for forty years. Although the Bulgarian position was that such texts were unnecessary considering the Bulgarian tradition and practice, their introduction into the peace treaty would be positive in connection with the fate of the Bulgarian minorities in the other Balkan countries. Separate memoires were prepared and sent to the conference in connection with the Moslem and the Jewish minorities, signed by their respective delegates that repeated the official position and supported it with concrete arguments. These memoires reflected the actual cooperation between Bulgarians and Turks in Western Thrace during the interim Entente regime under the French General Charpy.
          At sufficient part of the attention of the Bulgarian delegates was concentrated upon the first post-war parliamentary elections in the country in mid-August 1919. Most of the delegates were prominent figures in their political parties and were active in the political struggles and in the electoral campaign. They were frequently sending not only information on the activities of the delegation and on the proceedings of the Peace conference and its commissions but were actively involved in the political campaign. The results of the elections led to a dramatic restructuring of Bulgarian political spectrum. The left political parties won an overwhelming victory with the Agrarians winning 28% of the vote, the Communists – 21%, the Social Democrats – 12% and the Radicals – 8%. The four liberal parties that ruled the country for the most part of the Great War secured only three seats in the Parliament and two of them were unable to enter it. The centre-right pro-Entente parties suffered a heavy loss because of the initial information about the heavy conditions in the draft of the peace treaty with Bulgaria that started to leak in the French and British press and the embarrassing attitude of the occupying armies in the country. Even the Prime Minister T. Teodorov was not elected in his traditional region of Caribrod on the western border that had to be ceded to Serbia.
          The election results and the fact that no party could form its homogenious government totally destabilized the situation in the country and the work of the delegation. The last act the delegates did was the acceptance of a long debated memo on the situation in Bulgaria at the beginning of the World War. It represented a totally different picture from the usual Entente construction and tried to through the blame for the union with the Central Empires on ex-Premier Vassil Radoslavov in compliance with King Ferdinand, twisted the will of the nation to remain neutral or join the Entente and forcefully joined the Central Powers, repressing any opposition. In connection with that the Delegation sent a note to the Secretariat of the Conference claiming the extradiction of V. Radoslavov and of the ex-Commander in Chief of the Bulgarian Army General Nikola Zhekov from Germany to Bulgaria where they were to be sued by a special court.
          After several postponements on September 19th 1919 the draft of the peace treaty was handed to the Bulgarian delegation in Salle des Horlogues at Versailles and the delegation were given 25 days for response and a permission to leave Paris. The text closely followed the structure of the peace treaty with Germany and was hastily prepared, so was full of mistakes and misunderstandings. In several places even the words Germany/German were not replaced with Bulgaria/Bulgarian. Among the proposed signatories on the side of the Entente were not only new states that emerged as a result of the World War like Poland and Czechoslovakia and were not in a state of war with Bulgaria, but the list was led by the USA whose deliberate policy in 1917-1918 was to preserve diplomatic relations with Bulgaria despite the pressure of their allies. However two of the delegates Mikhail Sarafov and Venelin Ganev were left in Paris to keep the contact with the conference.
          On arrival in Sofia the Head of the Delegation made a short report on its work before the Parliament and resigned due to the election results. On September 30th a special day of national mourning was organized throughout the country. A sufficient part of the efforts of the delegates were centered on the formation of the new Bulgarian government. After intensive political negotiations on October 7th 1919 the new coalition cabinet was formed with the Agrarian union holding seven ministries, the Peoples` Party with two ministries and the Progressive Liberals with only one ministry.
          Meanwhile a team was appointed by the government to evaluate the draft of the peace treaty that included the top experts in the administration and professors from Sofia University including several Russian professors, who had recently immigrated to the country because of the civil war there. The analysis was accepted by the new government and was supported by the Parliament. It was structured in three parts and later comprised three diplomatic notes (note A, note B and note C) that were sent to the Peace conference and presented the official position of the Bulgarian Kingdom.
Note A included all elements in the draft that were absolutely supported by Bulgaria namely the creation of the League of Nations, the International Labour Organization and the text for the protection of minorities. They were considered to be of crucial importance for the preservation of international peace in case they have universal character. Bulgaria expressed desire to apply for membership in both international organizations as soon as the peace treaty was signed and properly ratified. The protection of minorities was also approved with insisting upon its reciprocal application for Bulgarian minorities in the neighboring countries. Note B totally rejected the new state borders on the principle of national unification. It dealt subsequently with the borders with Romania, the Serb-Croatian-Slovenian State and Greece, enumerating all kinds of traditional arguments trying to support the Bulgarian interests. A separate part of that note was dedicated to the Macedonian problem opposing the Serbian and Greek constructions concerning the region. Note B was dedicated to the texts of the peace treaty that concentrated the attention of Bulgarian public opinion and of the activities of the Bulgarian government and Delegation to the Peace Conference.
Note C proposed numerous concrete changes in the draft in connection with the military and economic restrictions to the state sovereignty and the reparations that would make them acceptable for Bulgaria. It opposed the principle of the professional army in favour of the traditional military conscription and expressed the desire for some numerical extension. Concerning the reparations, the proposal was for their reduction, for lesser annual installments and against the interests upon the global sum. As Bulgaria was the only country with fixed total sum and scheme of payment of its reparations unlike Germany, Austria and Hungary, it had to act on its own and the results were a well-planned policy that was strictly followed in the next decade and led to the final overthrow of that financial burden. A strong opposition was formed also against the restoration of the capitulations regime. Bulgaria proposed that the inter-allied courts of justice designed for its citizens accused of committing war crimes and of breaking the international law would consist only of representatives of the Entente excluding the neighboring countries and strangely the proposal coincided with that of the delegations of its neighbors. The three notes were handed to the Secretariat of the Peace Conference on October 24th 1919 by the Head of the delegation T. Teodorov. He was informed that the peace treaty should be signed by the Prime Minister Al. Stamboliyski.
Almost immediately afterwards the new government ordered the arrests of more than 200 leaders of the liberal parties. The National Assembly voted a new Law for the ministerial responsibility and a Law for the responsibilities for the national catastrophe. A Parliamentary inquiry was formed that resulted in the Third State Court, a specialized court, constituted by the Parliament for the actions of cabinet ministers and heads of central administrative departments. In 1921 the Third State Court sentenced the Liberal leaders to long term imprisonments. That was an evident demonstration that Bulgaria was rejecting the old regime and was complying with the conditions imposed upon it by the Entente.
The Entente`s response to the Bulgarian objections was handed to the Bulgarian delegation on November 3rd 1919. It met with contempt Bulgaria`s approval of the League of Nations and of the International Labour organization and linked the countries membership in them with the exercise of the peace treaty. Formal guarantees were given about the application of the minorities rights through the League of Nations. The contest of the state borders was rejected and several of Bulgaria`s proposals for concrete amendments to the draft were accepted. The Bulgarian armed forces were enlarged by 3000 men and a small number of navy vessels were allowed. The scheme of reparation payments was also improved. The next day T. Teodorov left Paris and appointed M. Sarafov as interim Head of the Delegation thus pressing the Prime Minister`s arrival in the French capital.
Al. Stamboliyski informed the Secretariat of the Peace Conference through M. Sarafov that he would arrive in Paris immediately after the National Assembly approved the final text, prepared by the Conference. That happened on November 8th in an unprecedented parliamentary session where all political parties clearly expressed their position against the clauses of the peace treaty. The government proposed a resolution of protest that received a cross party support. Still the resolution declared that the peace treaty was to be signed by the government. The same position was followed in the declaration of the interim Head of the Delegation, stating that Bulgaria was accepting the terms only complying with brutal military force. On November 10th the last minute amendments to the peace treaty were implanted. The government of Switzerland insisted upon recognition of its traditional neutrality while the government of Austria sought diplomatic recognition. Both amendments were approved by the Conference and by the Bulgarian delegation.
On November 19th the Prime Minister Al. Stamboliyski arrived in Paris and at once informed the President of the Conference that he had accepted the functions of Head of the Bulgarian Delegation. In personal letters addressed to the premiers of France, Greece, Romania and Serbia he made a final desperate move to insert last minute changes in the state borders, that were officially rejected by the Greek Premier E. Venizelos, while the Romanian and Serbian counterparts preferred to keep silent. On November 25th Al. Stamboliyski and the Secretary General of the Peace Conference Dutastas arranged that the signing of the treaty would take place the next day. However it was postponed with one day thus coinciding with an important Bulgarian military commemoration day – the day of the Knights of the Order of Military Valour, which at that time was the highest national military award.
November 27th 1919 marked the signing of the Peace treaty between Bulgaria and the Entente in the town hall of Neuilly-sur-Seinne and the end of the work of the Bulgarian delegation at the Paris Peace Conference. Its activities were hampered by the unprecedented diplomatic practices and total isolation that prevented it from taking adequate actions in defense of the national interests. The results were modest and were due more to the controversies among the Great Powers in the Entente and the USA and between the Balkan allies of the Entente and to random events. That was the atmosphere that surrounded the German, the Austrian and the Hungarian Delegations as well. It created the characterization of the whole Versailles system as an unfair and unjust dictate. On the other hand it set up the frames in which Bulgarian diplomacy had to act in the next twenty years in conditions of restricted state sovereignty, similar to the treaty of Berlin from 1878 that presumpted slow gradual actions and exploring every change in the international relation mainly through the League of Nations. That policy had to be persistent but flexible, denying strong pressure but insisting on convincing the other part in the lines determined by the principle of “peaceful revisionism” enshrined in article 19 of the Covenant of the League of Nations.



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