Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
THE machine-gun holes made during the 1920 elections on the front of Mr. Venizelos's former house on University Street are still there. But the visitor to Athens today finds few traces of the violent hostility between Royalists and Venizelists, which came to its savage climax when ex-Premier Gounaris and his colleagues in King Constantine's Cabinet, held responsible for the Asia Minor débâcle, were stood up against a wall and shot. I recollect an incident that shows how families used to be divided. It was during the Constantine régime. The widow of a famous archaeologist, a lady of strong anti-Royalist feelings who lived next door to Mr. Venizelos, took me out into her garden to look at the scars made on her property during the 1920 firing; her son, a Royalist officer who happened to be in charge of the battery that dominated the Venizelos mansion, had swung around one of the machine-guns and casually sprayed a few bullets against the maternal façade in order to emphasize the strength of his views.
Of course there is still partisanship in Greece today; although Venizelos won 228 out of the 250 seats in Parliament in the last elections, approximately a third of the million votes cast were for candidates on the so-called "Royalist" ticket. But restless as the Greeks are, they were surfeited with the variegated programs of the Pappanastasiou, Pangalos, Kondyles and other phantom régimes, and for once their chronic desire for change coincided with a desire for something more stable. Hence the recall of Venizelos, and the fact that today he rules Greece by constitutional processes, almost single-handed, and without markedly bitter feeling in any quarter. Royalist protests were heard against the inclusion of General Gonatas in the cabinet appointed by Mr. Venizelos last June, for he was a member of the revolutionary government responsible for the 1922 executions; but they remained merely protests. General Pangalos, still to be tried on the charge of having fired on the people during the elections of 1928, lives in his villa at Eleusis and usually is to be seen playing cards in the village café. General Kondyles is, I heard, in Paris. Venizelos, around whom such passions flared, for the moment seems unchallenged.
Venizelos is not wasting any of his precious time. He is a man of 66, and his years have not been spent in conserving his strength but in using it prodigally. One would not think it easy for him to shoulder again the burdens of active office. But today he looks younger, his eye is brighter, his speech quicker, than when he was in New York seven years ago. Those were mournful days. The edifice that he had built up was being swept away. He was intensely miserable and he seemed an old man. But today his little black skull cap, sign of age, has disappeared; work and power agree with him. He works long hours, busying himself with every detail of administration, investigating, writing orders. In his habit of acting promptly and preferring to write letters and memoranda in long-hand he is something like M. Poincaré, but more impulsive and intuitive and less systematic. Perhaps this energetic attention to detail is a weakness, especially since he is not a master of financial technicalities, but as his cabinet is on the whole mediocre (he is a better judge of situations than of men) it is necessary to turn to Venizelos personally to get things done; in consequence everyone does turn to him, and in so far as the tireless energy of one man can direct a modern state Venizelos directs Greece. He is not merely an administrator. He debates in Parliament on every subject, keeps close watch on the press, lays corner stones and makes public orations. Of course his particular interest is foreign affairs. He was hardly out of his bed with the dengue fever in the summer of 1928 before he was off to Paris, London, Rome and Belgrade, getting in order the pacts with Italy and Jugoslavia which have since been signed.
The population of Greece today is estimated at something over 6,300,000. This is about a million more than if there had been no exchange of populations, about 1,400,000 Greek refugees having come in and about 350,000 Turks and Bulgars having gone out. Of the total population only about 300,000, say 5 percent, are of non-Greek blood, so that Greece is now one of the most compact and homogeneous countries in Europe -- a very different Greater Hellas from that set up by the Treaty of Sèvres, when Old Greece and New Greece were geographical expressions. Today the citizens of New Greece are intermingled with those of Old Greece, and the risk of sectional rivalry no longer exists. Next to the disappearance of Royalist and Venizelist fratricidal passion this is the greatest change in the Greece of today from that of the first years after the Great War.
The refugees have of course been a burden, but when the sufferings of this generation are over the balance will thenceforward be on the credit and not on the debit side. For the first time since Byzantine days practically all Greeks are under Greek rule, and for the first time in history they live compactly. There are Greek colonies at Alexandria and Marseilles, and some 80,000 Greeks still cling to their precarious existence in Constantinople, but there is no Greek irredenta except in the Dodecanese islands and in Cyprus, of which more later. Much has been done for the refugees, most of whom arrived on the shores of their motherland destitute and miserable. About half the number have been "settled" by the Greek Refugee Settlement Commission, established by the League of Nations and directed in turn by three Americans, Mr. Morgenthau, Mr. Howland and today Mr. Eddy, ably assisted by Sir John Hope Simpson and Mr. Alexander Pallis. Of the remainder, the Greek Government itself took care of a considerable proportion by giving them the former farms or houses of exchanged Turks and Bulgars. A further number were of the educated class, professional men such as doctors and lawyers, or else trained in some industry like carpet making; many of these were able to start life anew without special help. The rest have fended for themselves as best they could. I saw the hovels of groups of these latter in the Piraeus and Saloniki, made of scraps of board or loose stones mortared roughly together and roofed with Standard Oil cans, but swept clean and scrubbed inside and out, showing on every hand the decency and good qualities of the people living in them.
Today there is hardly a town in Greece where refugees are not to be found among the leading citizens. The imported agriculturalists, moreover, often are better workmen then the indigenous ones, and the standard of Greek agriculture is already being raised by the competition and example of the newcomers. Partly owing to the better methods used, but of course still more owing to the greatly increased acreage under cultivation, the tobacco production of Macedonia has been doubled and cereal production greatly increased; in several other parts of Greece where tobacco was not grown before it has been introduced, and grape growing and the raising of silk-worms has been developed. In consequence, the large adverse trade balance characteristic of Greek commerce is gradually being reduced. The Commission wisely followed the aim of getting as many of the refugees as possible into productive work on the land, and refused to attract them into the already overcrowded cities by building dwellings for them there. Roughly six-sevenths of the persons "settled" by the Commission have been put on the land.
Of course there is another side of the picture. So much has been done for the refugees, and on the whole it has been done so efficiently, that their lot in many cases is better than that of the poorer peasants of Greece proper who have clung to their old habits and their old farms. In the cities, too, when the refugees once get a start they sometimes crowd established persons out of business. The refugees are thoroughly organized and are articulate through their own deputies in Parliament, whereas the older inhabitants are divided among several party allegiances. In the cities the two elements are so mixed that feeling does not become concentrated or coherent, but there undoubtedly is some envy on the part of the hosts at the way in which their guests have made themselves at home and the efficient way in which their rights are protected by their political representatives. The natural processes of time and marriage will close the gap, but the refugee leaders are naturally not averse to keeping it open. Many related problems are still to be solved. The vast reclamation and irrigation schemes in Macedonia will produce quantities of highly fertile and valuable land. Will the refugees alone profit from this new land, or will they get an undue share of it? Their present allotments average ten acres. Will the new land be assigned preferentially to their children, or will poor peasants in general or completely landless persons from the cities be permitted to share? Such questions ought to be studied in advance, but there is no indication that as yet they are engaging the attention of the authorities.
Until this year Rumania was the only Balkan state having a second chamber. The example of the Rumanian Senate has not as a rule been one to inspire envy in neighboring states, yet Greece has just instituted a Senate and Jugoslavia is thinking about following suit. At the time the Greek Republic succeeded the Monarchy, the new Constitution provided for the revival of the Senate abolished in 1863. When Mr. Venizelos in 1928 abandoned his studies of Thucydides, which he had been pursuing in his native Crete, and resumed active control of the Liberal Party as a preliminary to again becoming Prime Minister, he announced that he would proceed to put the constitutional provision into effect. As a preliminary, he signed a decree providing that both House and Senate should henceforth be elected by the majority instead of the proportional system. The senatorial elections were held last April. As foreseen, the Venizelists won nearly three-quarters of the 92 members elected. These, with 18 more appointed by the universities and shipping, commercial and other associations, met with the House to choose 10 more "for merit," making a total of 120 members. The Senators chosen by the electorate hold office for nine years and are replaced by thirds every three years; those elected jointly by the House and Senate hold office only during the legislative term of the House. The chief powers of the Senate are revisionary and negative. One important provision is that it must give its consent before the President can dissolve the House and call new elections.
As soon as the Senate had taken office it met in joint session with the House and chose a President of the Republic. Though Admiral Condouriotis, who was elected for a five-year term, had been serving as Provisional President for even longer than that, this was the first opportunity for formally inducting him into office in the manner laid down by the Constitution.
In its dealings with foreign states the present Greek Government is following conciliatory lines. This is due not only to the weakness of the internal position, after the sufferings of three wars, the influx of refugees, and the bitter party feuds, but because Greece feels that she was badly let down by both Great Britain and France, and she is not going to risk burning her fingers again. England's influence in Greece is traditional; that of France has been more marked in intellectual and cultural realms. But it is no secret that neither country feels in a position today to give guarantees to Greece -- and next door is Mussolini. Italy is the nearest of the Great Powers to Greece, and she aspires to be the mistress of the Mediterranean.
Feeling the pressure of the situation, Mr. Venizelos hastened to make a general pact of amity and arbitration with Italy, and more or less duplicated it in the pact with Jugoslavia signed at Belgrade, March 27, 1929. Preliminary to the general pact, the representatives of Greece and Jugoslavia met at Geneva and on March 17 reached an agreement regulating the use of Saloniki by Jugoslav commerce. General Pangalos in 1926 had been willing to treat the Jugoslavs very generously as regards Saloniki, but he fell before his arrangements could be ratified. By the new arrangement the Jugoslav Free Zone at Saloniki, which General Pangalos had agreed to enlarge, reverts to the boundaries agreed upon in 1923; only Jugoslav merchandise shall pass through it, transit merchandise through Jugoslavia being assigned to the Greek Free Zone; and Greek sovereignty is fully protected, both as regards port administration and as regards the management of the railway. The rights in that railway which Jugoslav financiers in 1923 acquired by purchase from the Chemins de Fer Orientaux are transferred to Greece for 20,000,000 francs. The general treaty with Greece was also something of a disappointment to Jugoslavia, who had been hoping for a promise of Greek help in case Bulgaria should join forces with Italy in any future conflict. But Venizelos was not to be led into a commitment of this sort.
The success of Mr. Venizelos in satisfying Italy and Greece simultaneously shows his powers as a diplomat. It is the end of the first act of his foreign policy. The beginning of the second will be awaited with interest. For one thing is certain -- Mr. Venizelos always has a program.
Particular interest will follow his course with regard to the Dodecanese, a group of islands in the eastern Aegean with a population that is almost wholly Greek. Today Rome makes no bones about its intention to keep them permanently, but though Mussolini speaks of Italy's "undisputed possession" the fact is that her squatter rights have never been recognized by the other Great Powers nor by Greece, and the occupation has brought long and loud complaints from the inhabitants. In the complicated history of the case certain events stand out: 1911 -- Italy's occupation of the islands during the Libyan war, and her statement that it was to be "temporary"; 1920 -- the Græco-Italian accord signed simultaneously with the Treaty of Sèvres, renouncing in favor of Greece all Italy's "right and title" over the islands; 1922 -- Italy's repudiation of this agreement after the collapse of the Greek campaign in Asia Minor and the upset of the Treaty of Sèvres; 1923 -- the silence of the Treaty of Lausanne on the future of the Dodecanese (though Mr. Venizelos made reserves on the subject when he signed); and today Italy's intensive fortification of the islands, especially Rhodes and Leros, accompanied by a campaign of Italianization and by petty persecutions of those who do not bend to it. In May the King and Queen of Italy visited Rhodes and the Roman press spoke of the Italian annexation as "irrevocable."
When he went to Rome a year ago, Mr. Venizelos agreed that the Dodecanesian question should be left to one side (also, apparently, the question of the Italian penetration of Albania), and in signing the treaty of friendship and arbitration with Italy he did not repeat the "reserves" he made six years ago at Lausanne. To journalists he merely said that the question had not been introduced, that it was one solely between the Italian Government and the Dodecanesians, and that the lot of the latter would be ameliorated as a result of better relations between Rome and Athens. His expectations, based presumably on Italian assurances, do not seem to have been fulfilled so far. Complaints continue to be heard about the compulsory instruction in Italian in all the schools in the islands (even on an island like Calymnos where there is not a single native of Italian blood), the Vatican's appointment for the first time of an Archbishop of Rhodes, and the evident intention of the Italian Government to get the Orthodox Church there under its control, presumably as an instrument of denationalization. Several of the Orthodox sees in the Dodecanese are now vacant, and when the Oecumenical Patriarch named new incumbents of Greek nationality they were refused permission to land. Dodecanesian leaders profess to believe that Italy intends gradually to extinguish their autonomous church and set up a Patriarchate under Italian control, perhaps with its seat at Venice; this might be accomplished by a coup similar to that by which the Albanian Government recently established a Patriarchate of its own in defiance of canon law.
The Dodecanesians are of course quite impotent to resist Italy unaided, nor is Greece in a position to do much for them. Any hopes which they have for the future must be based on the following ideas: (1) a dictatorship centering around a single man may lose its strength and direction when that man comes to the end of his career, or it may pass the bounds of public toleration and ensuing domestic disorders may weaken its action abroad; (2) a European catastrophe such as a new war or a new alignment of the Powers would have repercussions in Asia Minor; specifically, Italy might suffer heavily, or else she might gain so much that the islands might become of small value to her, or at any rate of less value than Greek friendship; (3) Great Britain, worried at the creation of an Italian Heligoland in the Aegean, might reassert its previous contention that the Italian occupation is temporary and might reinforce her pressure on Italy by herself offering to cede Cyprus to the motherland. None of these hopes is very substantial at the present time, but history has shown the Greek islanders to be a determined people, and they say they are prepared to wait.
Greek relations with Bulgaria and Turkey are not yet satisfactory, and apparently Mr. Venizelos considered them less susceptible of improvement than relations with Italy and Jugoslavia, because he reversed the order of approach of some of his predecessors and came first to terms with Rome and Belgrade; Mr. Papanastasiou and Mr. Michalakopoulos tried to begin at Angora.
Coloring all relations between Greece and Bulgaria is the fundamental problem of how to carry out the promise contained in the Treaty of Neuilly that Bulgaria was to have access to the Aegean through the narrow Greek coastal strip. Bulgaria does not feel like spending large sums of money to improve the harbor of Dedeagach unless she has something like a territorial corridor to it, especially as whatever is done for Dedeagach will be at the expense of her present Black Sea ports. At Lausanne the Powers definitely refused to give Mr. Stamboulisky a corridor to the Aegean, and Greece does not think of according it today. As a substitute she proposes that whatever Bulgarian commerce naturally flows south should pass through the Free Zone at Saloniki, and to that end she offers to make a railway link with the Bulgarian railways at some convenient point; unfortunately the existing Bulgarian line running south to Petritch is narrowgauge, and even if it were connected with the Greek lines all shipments would have to be broken at the frontier. Both sides -- Greece no less than Bulgaria -- stand to gain by opening traffic routes from the north down to the Aegean littoral. The advantages would become even more obvious if Bulgaria ever realized her dream of constructing a bridge across the Danube at Ruschuk or at Vidin; Saloniki then would gain a hinterland extending up to Poland. The specific causes of most of the peevish comment that often flows back and forth over the telegraph wires between Athens and Sofia -- as for example when Mr. Venizelos showed reluctance to compensate the Bulgarian emigrés from Greek Macedonia in view of the moratorium accorded Bulgaria in paying reparations to Greece -- such matters, one is tempted to say of detail, can be adjusted. But the future is not likely to differ from the past in matters more fundamental. The triangular difficulties inherent in Greek control of the northern shores of the Aegean will remain to stir up feeling in Greece, Bulgaria and Jugoslavia, and will continue to offer opportunities for political manœuvering which only strong statesmen bent on peace will be able to resist.
The probable course of events in Turkey itself is far from clear, and Græco-Turkish relations are correspondingly unpredictable. Their general tenor varies from year to year, almost from month to month. Too much evidently was expected from the accord signed at Athens in 1926, as indicated by the Turkish Government's attempts in March 1929 to seize Greek properties in Constantinople which under the terms of the agreement were exempt. Later in the spring the protracted negotiations over the last thorny question of property claims were announced to have succeeded, and the way was said to be open for the signature of a pact of friendship between the two hereditary enemies. Then came word that despite the efforts of the neutral members of the Exchange Commission the pourparlers had been broken off. The upshot is still uncertain. With a rather weak legal case, Angora is not likely to favor arbitration at The Hague, suggested by Athens as a last resort.
Realistic Greeks understand that Mustapha Kemal's ultimate aim is to wipe out the last traces of Hellenism in all parts of his domain. This cannot be done without fresh heart burnings. About as many Turks (80,000 to 90,000) still remain in Western Thrace as Greeks in Constantinople. Though these Turks have not shown any desire for repatriation they might theoretically be exchanged for the Constantinople Greeks. The trouble is that the latter are mostly rich and substantial citizens, with important businesses and some of them with great fortunes. It would be hard to agree on terms for their exchange with Thracian peasants, the more so as Greece does not want any more refugees and as she thought the matter of the Constantinople Greeks had been finally regulated.
The Royalist leaders do not criticize the methods adopted by Mr. Venizelos to smooth out Greek foreign policy. Their chief aim seems to be to keep their organization alive and to color its program in such a way that it will not be too conspicuously inharmonious with that of the government; indeed, their small number in the Chamber gives them hardly any other alternative. It is significant that even in the pre-election campaign the Royalists posted up pictures of King Constantine, who has been dead for six years, rather than of his son George, who (though in exile) represents a political fact and not merely a tradition. The exiled King has been living quietly in Bucharest, and unlike his brother-in-law, Prince Carol of Rumania, has refrained from political intrigue. He has encouraged former royalist supporters to return to Greece and resume their old occupations, and bases his expectation of eventually being called back to his royal duties on the belief that the country gradually will come to see the advantages of possessing a stabilizing constitutional factor rather than on any idea that a revolution in his favor is imminent or desirable. In this he probably is wise. What attraction would there be for him in going back to rule an armed camp? The official Royalist leader, Mr. Tsaldares simply says that though he has not changed his juridical position he nevertheless recognizes that the question of the régime cannot be reopened today, and that meanwhile as a patriot he is glad to see a strong government in power rather than an ineffective coalition of groups. Some Royalists are inclined to blame their party leadership, which admittedly is not impressive. Referring to the failure of their candidates in the Senatorial elections, one of the Royalists papers said: "Shall we always be faced by the same dilemma when we go to the polls, of voting for a bad affirmation in order not to vote for a useless negation?"
The remark is apposite. The Greeks, despite their restless nature, are not going to vote against the Liberal Party until they see another leader with a positive program better than that of Mr. Venizelos. By that token no one seems likely at present to disturb Mr. Venizelos's span of power.