Time for NATO to Close Its Door
The Alliance Is Too Big—and Too Provocative—for Its Own Good
THE banishment from Turkish soil of Constantine VI, who was elected Oecumenical Patriarch in January, has brought to the front the question of the future of the institution of which this prelate became, as it were, the still-born representative. A deep-seated and long-standing antagonism exists between Turkey and the Patriarchate, of which this incident is only the latest manifestation and which, in the interest of both parties, calls for a prompt and radical solution.
Practically on the morrow of the capture of Constantinople in 1453, Mohammed II, "The Conqueror," issued a Berat, or Imperial Patent, by virtue of which the Greek community was allowed to retain its faith and practise it in almost complete freedom. Constantinople remained the seat of the Oecumenical Patriarchate, which continued to function in the magnificent premises assigned to it in the Phanar (as the Greek quarter of the city was called), surrounded by the same pomp and splendor as before. Not only this, but its spiritual jurisdiction was extended to the entire Orthodox population of the Empire--Bulgars, Rumanians and Serbs, as well as Greeks; and to this spiritual jurisdiction, which grouped under one religious sceptre ethnical elements outnumbering by far the dominant race, was added a very considerable administrative authority. The ecclesiastical organization of the Greeks became in this fashion the framework of a vast system of self-government applicable to all the members of the Eastern Church, irrespective of nationality, of which the Greeks had the control through their Patriarchate.
Here is how Prof. Philip Marshall Brown, of Princeton University, alludes to the subject in his book, "Foreigners in Turkey, Their Juridical Status," published in 1914: "His (the Conqueror's) idea was extremely simple. He aimed at leaving the Greeks in the enjoyment of their own customs and laws, in the fullest practical measure possible, under the responsible control of their Patriarch who was to serve as their intermediary or ambassador with the Sublime-Porte. . . . He also granted to the Patriarch and his successors an almost unlimited jurisdiction over the members of the Greek nation. . . . The essential fact to note is that the Turks, in the midst of a great triumph, recognized generously and spontaneously to the conquered the right to govern themselves according to their own laws and customs in all affairs considered as sacred by the Mussulmans as well as those which were not vital to the State." Such statements should do much towards inducing the Western public to revise its opinion of Turkish imperial rule.
The fact is that the annals of imperialism do not record a single instance of a treatment of the conquered by the conquerors even remotely approaching in liberalism that meted out to the Greeks by the Turks. A veritable imperium in imperio--that is what the Greek community represented in the Ottoman Empire, and the Oecumenical Patriarchate had the absolute control of the machinery of this formidable organization.
So long as Turkey remained powerful, inspiring respect and fear at home and abroad, the Patriarchate observed, at least outwardly, a correct attitude towards the state. No sooner, however, were there signs of impaired authority than the Patriarchate (in which disloyalty had been smouldering from the very moment of the subjection of the Greek race to Turkish rule) reared its head in opposition. With Muscovite encouragement, it plunged into a policy of subversive intrigue aiming at the restoration of Greek independence and the reconstitution of the Empire of Byzance. The conclusion of the treaty of Kutchuk-Kainardji in 1774, by which defeated Turkey was made to recognize victorious Russia's claim to a right of protection over the Orthodox populations of the Empire, marks the beginning of the revolutionary enterprise of the Patriarchate.
No doubt it was in a way natural that, insensible to gratitude, the Patriarchate should take advantage of the opportunities which the Turks themselves, in their over-confident liberalism, had so abundantly provided, to work for liberation from Turkish rule. History teaches that no people conscious of its individuality will resign itself to the loss of its independence. Sooner or later, if not from the outset, it will grow restive under the foreign yoke, its reactions growing in violence and intensity as time goes by and occasion serves.
But it was no less natural that Turkey, taking her stand on the right of conquest, which to this day forms an essential part of the conventional public law of the civilized world, should have viewed the revolutionary movement among her Greek subjects in the light of a criminal enterprise to be resented and combated with all the greater force because, according to the official code of ethics in general use, its prosecution was, in the circumstances, a manifestation of gross ingratitude. And if the Patriarchate became the object of the special aversion of the Turkish people and Government, this is sufficiently explained by its role as initiator, organizer and leader of the aforesaid movement. To denounce the operation of these feelings as being a display of what is called Turkish fanaticism is a libel on the Turkish race. (The introduction of religious passion into Turkey's relations with the subject Christian peoples was due to the influence exercised in her midst, so long as she was an Empire, by such truly fanatical elements as the Arabs and the Islamized Slavs and Greeks. These elements having ceased to play a role in the new Turkey, the latter's action may be trusted to be entirely free from fanaticism in the future. Her renunciation of the Khalifate and the secularization of the state show that the new spirit is already fully in operation.)
In her struggle with the Patriarchate, Turkey was terribly handicapped, until the conclusion of the Treaty of Lausanne, by the tyranny exercised over her by the great powers of Europe. Terrorized by naval demonstrations, military occupations, financial boycotting, etc., to which the great powers did not hesitate to resort on numerous occasions, Turkey, rather than enter into conflict with them on the subject of the Patriarchate --Russia being particularly dreaded in this connection--finally gave up all serious attempt at crushing this inveterate foe installed in her midst.
The defeat of Turkey in the Great War, followed as it was by the occupation of Constantinople by the Allies and Greece, gave the Patriarchate its long-awaited opportunity to throw off its allegiance to Turkey and transfer it to Greece. This was in the natural order of things, but the situation thus created, so long as it lasted, was marked on the Greek side by an inconceivable orgy of provocations and aggressions.
The decisive victory of the Nationalist troops over the Greek army of occupation in Anatolia, and the ensuing Peace of Lausanne, introduced a radical change in the relationship of Turkey to the Western world. The Patriarchate, too, felt the repercussion. Having recovered her sovereignty in full, Turkey found herself at last free to deal with this institution according to its deserts--short, however, of banishing it from the country, this for a reason to be explained presently.
Angora began by severing the organic connection existing between the Patriarchate and the state. Gone now are the administrative rights it possessed for centuries, gone the privileges and franchises, the pomp and splendor, on which rested its great situation in the country and to which it owed much of its prestige abroad. Except that its activities are watched and its hierarchical organization controlled, the Turkish Government refuses to take any notice of its existence. In the eyes of Angora the Patriarchate has ceased to be anything more than the head office of the native Greek community. Its oecumenical pretensions are absolutely ignored.
But though dealing a great blow at the authority of the Patriarchate, and reducing thereby in some measure its power to injure the country, the new restrictions did not go the full length of what was demanded by the security of the state. The fact is that the only means of preventing the Patriarchate from being a source of trouble and danger to Turkey is for the latter to withdraw its hospitality.
The entire orientation of Greek foreign policy demonstrates that Greek imperialism has not disarmed, at least in relation to Constantinople and the narrow stretch of territory which still separates it from the Kingdom of Hellas. And that the maintenance of Constantinople as the seat of the Patriarchate, in unwilling response by Turkey to the passionate insistence of Greece supported by the Allies and the United States at Lausanne, was intended to serve the cause of Hellenic expansion, is irresistibly suggested by the circumstances. Manifestly, the underlying motive of the effort to ensure the survival of the Patriarchate in Constantinople was the intention to use this institution, in the future as in the past, as a bulwark of Hellenic influence in the heart of the coveted place itself and as an agent of the policy pursued by the Greek Government at the expense of Turkey. Corroborative evidence of this interpretation is to be found in the exemption from the operation of the Convention for the Exchange of Populations of a certain category of the Turkish-born Greeks of Constantinople. What other explanation is there of this concern for an exception in favor of fifty or sixty thousand Constantinopolitan Greeks, when ready consent was given to the expatriation of the remaining two million Greeks throughout Turkey, except that the favored group was meant to keep alive Hellenic claims on the City of Constantine? And what more logical than to bracket this case with the case of the Patriarchate and to discern in each a confirmation of the interpretation given to the other?
Be that as it may, a positive fact is that the Patriarchate has not ceased to be a hot-bed of intrigue, in violation of the specific condition on which Turkey assented to its remaining in Constantinople. The latest instance of its impenitence was the election of Constantine, who had been formally declared liable to exchange by the competent mixed commission and concerning whom the electoral synod had received the warning of the government to strike him off the list of candidates as it had been decided to make no exception in his favor and to remove him forthwith from Turkey.
Manifestly, Turkey cannot rely on any assurances or pledges, however binding in appearance, that the Patriarchate will settle down to a loyal attitude towards the State. No other resource is left to her but to put the frontier between herself and this institution. Sooner or later this decision will have to be taken. That the Patriarchate claiming to represent the entire Orthodox world, composed of close upon two hundred million individuals belonging to fifteen or twenty different nationalities, should continue to have its residence in Mussulman Turkey, whose population does not include today more than 100,000 members of the Eastern Church--and these all Greeks--is an anachronism and paradox.
At the Conference of Lausanne the question having been raised of the location of the Patriarchate, a declaration was obtained from Turkey to the effect that this institution would be allowed to remain in Constantinople on condition that it would cease to deal in politics and intrigue. But this declaration does not figure in the text of the Treaty of Lausanne or any of its annexes. It is simply recorded in one of the procès-verbaux of the Conference, which deprives it of the force of an international stipulation. And the condition on which its validity, such as it was, was made to depend, has been repeatedly violated, as explained higher up, and thus in any case has ceased to be binding on Turkey. For the rest, not a single treaty or convention or other international agreement is in existence which imposes on Turkey any obligation whatsoever as regards the Patriarchate. Juridically speaking, therefore, she is absolutely free to banish it from her soil.
The question now presents itself whether, though free from judicial restraints, Turkey is not morally called upon to stay her hand; whether, in other words, she is not obliged to take into consideration the sentiment of Christianity which, according to current statements, would be shocked if the Patriarchate were removed from its historical and traditional setting. The answer to this is that no considerations of international comity can be allowed to prevail over the raison d'état. Also, the offensive attitude systematically adopted towards Islamism by the Christian world has in any case relieved Turkey of all obligation to spare the religious sensibilities of the latter.
But, as a matter of fact, would the removal of the Patriarchate from Constantinople really produce a commotion in the Christian world in the sense and to the extent claimed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, for instance, who, moving for information in the House of Lords concerning the banishment of Constantine, declared that the "Oecumenical Patriarchate is one of the most venerable of institutions, with a range of authority and influence far outside the limits of Constantinople and whose continuity is fundamentally important to the whole Christian Church"? The question is worth inquiring into briefly.
The Patriarchate is certainly a venerable institution. For the rest, the Archbishop's statements are inaccurate. The oecumenical pretensions of the Patriarchate are contested by every Orthodox community, except the Greek. The Rumanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, and Russian communities (the latter the most important of all), proclaimed at different periods their independence of the Phanar. In the case of the three firstnamed communities, this was a revolt against the administrative as well as the spiritual jurisdiction of the Patriarchate and as such it was marked by feelings of deep hostility toward the latter's policy of Hellenization. In reality, the "Oecumenical" Patriarchate ceased to exist long ago. There can be no talk of its continuity, as such. Its removal from Constantinople, which does not mean in the least its suppression as a religious institution of the Greeks, can only have the effect of setting limits to its legitimate rôle. The Greek community may, and no doubt will, deplore the change--but not the rest of the Orthodox world.
Again, the Roman Catholic Church has always been hostile to the Oecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, in which it saw a rival to its own pretensions to universality, quite apart from considering it a heretic rebel against the "mother" institution. The removal of the Patriarchate from Constantinople will be pleasing to Catholic circles, as implying a lowering of its status.
Of the three great divisions of the Christian Church there remains the Protestant. And of this only one section, the Anglo-Saxon (British and American), has shown any concern in regard to the geographical future of the Patriarchate. As a matter of fact, in the Anglican world this concern is inspired much more by political than by religious considerations. The American Church is the only one, then, which can be credited with a sincere feeling of religious emotion in this connection. Much as Turkey would like to show regard for the sensibilities of the United States the possibility is denied her by the force of circumstances.
It is only a maudlin or medievally militant or politically contaminated Christianity than can oppose the idea of the transference of the Patriarchate from Constantinople to some congenial locality in Christian territory. (Greece is logically designated as the place best suited for harboring its future destinies.) From the point of view of the prestige of this institution, of the purification of its activities, of the regularity and efficiency of its functioning, the change can only redound to its advantage. Apart from the obscurity to which it is condemned in Turkey, it is exposed to all the misadventures and humiliations which its incorrigibility and the accumulations of Turkish resentment are bound to bring upon its head. Such incidents as the banishment of the holder of the patriarchal office, not to speak of the frequent police raids which have been made upon it lately, all tending to ruin what prestige it may still possess, must recur so long as it remains on Turkish soil.