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AT the end of the war the new states of Europe asked the world to hold back from giving too early judgment on their efforts to gather their scattered forces. "After ten years," they said, "it will be fair to judge us." They were inexperienced and optimistic. The personal, sectional and class rivalries and dissensions that persisted after our own Revolutionary War remind us that ten years is little in the life of a nation. The new states of Europe have accomplished much. But seeing how much has been done, and yet how much there still remains to do, we look back with wonder at the hopes of 1919. The ten years are up, however; so let us glance at the state of affairs in what at present is the most interesting of the Balkan countries.
The eleventh year of the Jugoslav union began dramatically. On the morning of the first Sunday in January 1929, King Alexander startled his country and gave the press of Europe an occasion for display headlines by issuing a proclamation dissolving Parliament and rescinding the Constitution. The same day he placed the government in the hands of a non-party cabinet, representing the different sections of the country and responsible directly to him and to him alone. As Premier -- as his personal representative, that is, to enforce his will -- he chose General Zhivkovitch, head of the Royal Guard since 1917, a man of energy and decision. The royal proclamation, addressed "To My Beloved People, to All the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes," was published in the Official Gazette the morning of Sunday, January 6, and was posted up at once in every village.
In his proclamation King Alexander resumed the method of direct address to his people which had marked his memorable pronouncement of January 6, 1919.[i] "The hour has come," he said, "when there must no longer be any intermediary between the People and the King." He went on to say that "Parliamentary institutions, which as a political instrument were a tradition of my regretted father, have remained my ideal as well." "But," he added, "blind political passions abused the parliamentary system to such a degree that it became a hindrance to all profitable national work. . . . Agreement -- even the most ordinary relations between parties and individuals -- became utterly impossible. Far from developing and strengthening the idea of national unity and the state, parliamentary methods began to provoke spiritual collapse and national disunion." "It is my duty," continued King Alexander, "to safeguard the unity of the state at all cost. I have resolved to fulfill this duty unhesitatingly to the very end. The supreme ideal of my reign is to maintain the union of the People. This ideal ought to be the supreme law not merely for me but for each individual. It is imposed upon me by my responsibility toward the People and before history, by my love for the country, and by my sacred regard for the innumerable and precious victims who fell in behalf of this ideal. To seek to remedy the present evil situation by a parliamentary change of governments or even by new elections, as has been done heretofore, would be to lose valuable time in more futile attempts of the sort which have absorbed us for several years. We must look for new working methods and blaze new trails."
What led the King to take this bold initiative? The situation must have seemed to him critical indeed, or he would never have undertaken responsibilities so little to his personal taste and fraught with such risks.
The Constitution, adopted after wearying discussions on Vidovdan, 1921, and designed to give equality to the various sections of the new country, had failed in its purpose. Parliamentary government as practiced in Belgrade had not only proved helpless to remedy the defects in the Constitution, but even seemed to have lost the momentum to enable it to keep alive. In its general provisions the Constitution was democratic and modern, but it contained specific errors. The government which it instituted was too centralized, and the administration became unwieldy and in some cases corrupt; judicial control over legislation was lacking; the voting law was complicated and gave autocratic powers to the chiefs of political parties, who dictated the candidates; the administration was split up into 33 oblasti (counties), too small to be given much power; Parliament was too large (about 315 members for about 13 million population). Political parties were numerous and divided from each other less on questions of principle than by the quest for patronage and by personalities and local prejudices; not one of them was truly national. It is not to be wondered at that the press was violent and that political debate descended to low levels.
Since no one party could secure control, cabinet crisis succeeded cabinet crisis. There were honest and high-minded public officials, but they could not make much headway. No Serbian statesman arose to inherit the mantle of Nikola Pashitch, who with iron determination had guided the Kingdom of Serbia through the war. Croatia was under the sway of Stephen Raditch, a well-meaning, honest and eloquent demagogue; but, like a wrongly bound book composed of pages individually reasonable but inconsecutive, he was without consistency and meaning. It made little difference whether Parliament had its full complement of members or whether the Croat Peasant Party were sulking at Zagreb; it always shirked its duty. It did not face the task of definitively stabilizing the currency, and it delayed even in equalizing taxes in the various provinces; in consequence, despite the inherent richness of the country, the economic improvement did not come up to expectations. The deputies fumbled with little figures of party majorities and left the civil and criminal laws of the country, inherited from five different régimes -- Serbian, Austrian, Hungarian, Montenegrin and Turkish -- unassimilated and uncodified. Thus it was possible for a man to be accepted as married north of the Danube, because a civil marriage had been performed according to pre-war Hungarian law, while across the river he was not married at all because pre-war Serbian law did not recognize purely civil marriages. Dozens of similar anomalies existed in every domain -- economic, financial, cultural and religious. The administration became intolerably slow, which was hardly surprising. How could a petty official in the provinces reconcile conflicts of law which experts at Belgrade shoved into pigeonholes rather than attempt to solve?
The inequality in the administration provoked resentment in the non-Serbian parts of the country, particularly in Croatia, where habits of obstruction and opposition learnt in the old days at Vienna and Budapest had not been forgotten and where negative criticism was the stock-in-trade of every politician. One's sympathy cannot be withheld from the Croatian masses, who felt themselves discriminated against and subject to a régime in which they had much less influence than in 1918 they had expected would be the case, but it is fair to remember that they entrusted themselves to demagogic leaders who for a long time preferred talking at random about republicanism, communism and the historic rights of Croatia to settling down at Belgrade to the humdrum responsibilities of shaping constructive legislation. It was during the time that Raditch was planning some combination which would give him control of the central government, or else while in dudgeon he was seeking support in Moscow, that the parliamentary condition at Belgrade became set in the wrong mold, the high governmental posts were monopolized by Serbians,[ii] and latent Serbo-Croat differences were aggravated.
Given the just cause for criticism of the administration, and given the Croat aptitude to criticize, it is no wonder that the situation was already bad before the tragic events in Parliament on June 20 a year ago, when a Radical deputy from Montenegro, having heard his colleagues taunted with corruption, leapt to his feet and shot down four Croatian deputies, two of whom died on the spot, while a third, Stephen Raditch, chief of the Croat Peasant Party, died in Zagreb two months later. The Croat deputies forthwith left Belgrade, announcing that they would never again set foot in Parliament as then constituted, and later declared that the Vidovdan Constitution had become an instrument of Serb hegemony and must be got rid of. Through the rest of the year the politicians and press of both sides vied in violence. Last October one of the principal leaders in Zagreb said to me, "The state is no longer a state but two states -- the only button between them is the King;" and he went on to speak of the Serb as "gipsies," "barbarians" and "fantastic megalomaniacs."
The King sought to relieve the tension by trying to form a neutral concentration cabinet under the leadership of General Hadjitch, the Minister of War, and including men of financial or administrative experience such as Dr. Djuritch, Minister in London, and Dr. Tartaglia, Mayor of Split. In turning to a general as premier he was following a suggestion of Stephen Raditch, who himself had urged that either Marshal Stepanovitch (who has since died) or General Zhivkovitch would be a good change from recent Radical Party leaders of the type of Mr. Vukichevitch. In fact, after an interview with the King on February 19, 1928, Raditch said publicly: "Our national army, which is our national shrine, can perhaps alone furnish a generally recognized leader strong enough to expel corruption and lawlessness without mercy, destroy partisanship in administration, and overcome the political terrorism which is turning our whole country into a great penitentiary." At that time the King told Raditch (as reported by the latter) that he was very averse to mixing the army in politics, but added: "However, I see that the question of forming a concentration ministry revolves about personalities, and I admit that a concentration of all political parties perhaps offers the only way of solving the great questions of the hour. I shall continue to investigate this matter. On principle, I am prepared to look for an individual capable of the particular task of carrying through the proposed program of concentration. After that, the Parliamentary parties should find a new leader in the National Assembly and should continue to work under parliamentary leadership. But under no circumstances do I want any feature of party politics to be transferred to the army." Six months later the King had so far progressed that he was willing to have General Hadjitch try to form a neutral cabinet, but the attempt failed, and a coalition under Dr. Koroshetz (a Slovene priest) was patched up to carry things along as best it could.
The cabinet crisis that brought Dr. Koroshetz to power was the twenty-third in the ten-year life of the state; and as many more crises had been barely staved off after excited manœuvering. Hardly any of them had been provoked on issues of vital national interest. Despite the obvious dangers of the situation, internal and external, a cabinet crisis of unusual frivolousness was now to be opened by Mr. Davidovitch, the leader of the Democratic Party. Early in December 1928 Mr. Davidovitch went to Premier Koroshetz and announced that he was going to force the members of the Democratic Party to resign from the cabinet, and that he intended provoking the crisis by proposing to indemnify the peasants in cash for losses resulting from recent bad crops. Presumably he thought the proposal would enshrine him in the hearts of the peasants, even though in view of the lack of funds there was no possibility of carrying it into effect. The incident may seem trivial, but the whole negotiation is worth tracing through in order to show how heedless the party leaders had become of the dangers threatening the country's very existence. Informed of the affair, the King sent for Mr. Davidovitch and suggested that instead of proposing a cash disbursement -- a demagogic measure which even if it were feasible would only afford temporary relief -- he work out a careful system of agricultural credits, and that in any case he postpone the crisis for six weeks until after the adoption of the budget. Mr. Davidovitch in refusing to delay excused himself by saying that the real reason for his action was his assurance that during a cabinet crisis the Croat absentees would be glad to enter into negotiations for forming a new government in partnership with the Democrats.
Pursuant to Mr. Davidovitch's determination the cabinet fell, and in accordance with parliamentary routine the King sent for the heads of the different parties, including of course Dr. Matchek and Mr. Pribichevitch,[iii] who had been breathing defiance from Zagreb. When these two presented themselves to the King -- it was on Friday, January 4, 1929 -- they proposed that since the deeper crisis was not parliamentary but constitutional, a neutral cabinet chosen by the King should hold elections for a Constituent Assembly to revise the Constitution as follows: The country should be divided "on historic lines" into seven provinces or states -- Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Voivodina, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia. Each division should have administrative and legislative autonomy in all matters except foreign relations, which should be entrusted to a central body composed of delegations from the seven state diets. Not merely were educational and religious matters to be controlled by each separate state, but the army, railways, telegraphs, and finance (except foreign loans) as well. The military forces raised in each state, for example, would be subject to its own jurisdiction and would not be liable for service outside its frontiers except by consent of the local diet. It should be noted in passing that Dr. Matchek's "historic frontiers" are hard to define. For example, he claimed Dalmatia for Croatia, though since Napoleon's time they have been separate; nor can the Voivodina be considered a historic entity. Moreover, he revealed how much real weight he placed on the "historic" element when he suggested that as a concession Macedonia might perhaps be included in Serbia, if Serbia would agree to let Croatia take northern Bosnia!
King Alexander considered that the plan would destroy the unity of the state, throttle its economic development and render it impotent to defend its international rights. As for Mr. Davidovitch, he threw up his hands in horrified surprise; there could be no collaboration with the Croats, he said, on any such basis as that. The other party leaders, representing two-thirds of the deputies in Parliament, refused even to discuss the proposal.
But though Mr. Davidovitch could indicate no way out of the crisis which he had frivolously provoked, it continued -- the parliamentary crisis, and, as Dr. Matchek had quite justly pointed out, the constitutional crisis as well. What was King Alexander to do? He might try another coalition, with the same elements that had so often failed. He might try new elections, which under the existing electoral system would return the same faces and the same voices to Parliament. He saw the unity of the country being sapped. Looking abroad, he saw enemies on several frontiers. He sat down and wrote the proclamation which has been summarized above. Calling in General Zhivkovitch as a neutral Premier, he collected the strongest cabinet he could from among the men he felt most trustworthy and competent. All the eighteen whom he invited to join the non-constitutional cabinet accepted; the retiring Premier, Dr. Koroshetz, himself asked to be included, and the Foreign Minister, Dr. Marinkovitch, and the War Minister, General Hadjitch, retained their portfolios. Of the eighteen, five were Croats, one was a Slovene, and the remaining twelve were Serbs, some formerly affiliated with the Radical Party, some with the Democratic. The offices of all the political parties were locked up, newspaper discussion was ended by a censorship law, and the people awoke on the Sunday morning before the Orthodox Christmas with an unexpected present in their stocking -- political silence!
Silently the "Christmas Cabinet" began to blaze the new trails spoken of in the royal proclamation. There were no arrests; no gangs roved around administering castor oil. A basic statute was promulgated defining the powers of the new régime. Addressing his new Ministers, the King admonished them "never to forget that the safety of the state is the supreme law, and to serve the people the most sacred of duties." A unified penal code, based on the proposals which the Parliament had never found time to ratify, was promulgated. The law-making record of the first three months of the régime deserves to be given in full:
Law stating the Royal Powers.
Defense of the Realm Act.
Law changing the Law of Municipalities and Provinces.
Law changing the Law of the State Council and State Courts.
Law changing the Law of State Control.
Statute for Judges.
Law of the State Court for the Defense of the State.
Cadastral Law (Land Measurement).
Law regulating the Courts.
Law establishing the Supreme Legislative Council and the Commission of Experts in the Ministry of Justice.
Law regulating the competency of Military Courts.
Criminal Law of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
Additional Laws concerning Municipalities.
Law for assistance of the families of the late Mr. Pavle Raditch and Dr. Bassaritchek.
Law for legal coöperation with the Republic of Austria.
Law concerning Barristers and Lawyers.
Additional Laws concerning Municipalities.
Law ratifying the Kellogg Pact.
Financial Law for 1929-30 (Budget).
Law regulating the competency of the Government and of Ministries.
Law against corruption of government officials.
Law providing help for sufferers from disasters caused by the elements.
Of these laws, one of the most interesting is that appointing a "Supreme Legislative Council" of about fifteen leading lawyers and professors from different parts of the country, which consults with the Prime Minister and advises him regarding all proposed laws. Though it cannot prevent the Prime Minister from taking a particular action, it scrutinizes and gives its opinion on all projects which the various Ministers submit to him for approval, and it may also come to have the power of recommending projects of its own. Alongside of this body the Minister of Justice has been empowered to set up preliminary commissions of specialists to draft projects of laws pertaining to his department; they will intensify the work of unifying legislation in the Kingdom. The whole machinery of government is further being speeded up by the decision that matters formerly requiring the assent of the whole Council of Ministers need only be submitted to the Prime Minister for his consent before they go to the King for final consideration and signature. Departmental red tape is also being cut. For example, the statistical sections of all ministries are being centralized in the Prime Minister's office, so that the cabinet can be given precise information at a moment's notice. A study of the governmental departments has led to the reduction of the number of ministers from eighteen to fourteen. The Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs has been merged in that of Public Works; Religion in that of Justice; Agrarian Reform in that of Agriculture; and Health in that of Social Welfare. The aim is to save money, prevent duplication of work, and facilitate the unification of the laws. The post of Under-Secretary, a political plum only slightly less sweet than that of Minister, has been abolished; Assistant Ministers -- permanent experts -- will be appointed where needed and will form the nucleus of a nonpolitical civil service. In the diplomatic service fifty ex-ministers have been pensioned off instead of being held en disponibilité, and at the same time the number of non-Serbian ministers has been increased by three -- one of them being the new Minister at Washington, Dr. Pitamic, Professor of Constitutional Law in the University of Ljubljana. In the army, thirty-six generals have been retired, in some cases because they were supposed to have owed their appointment to political favor, in others in order to make way for younger officers on a lower scale of pay.
The housecleaning extended throughout the administration. The city councils of the three capitals -- Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana -- have been dismissed and reconstituted with nonpolitical business men, professors and bankers. The commune councils, which affect most closely the life of the countryside, have also been dismissed, and the Veliki Zupans (or Governors) instructed to appoint new commune councils. In many cases it has been found possible to reappoint the old elected ones. On March 8 when I visited Mr. Zorichitch, the Veliki Zupan at Zagreb who has 120 communes under his control, he had reappointed 71 commune councils intact, in 7 others he had replaced professional office holders or malefactors with non-political members, and with regard to the remainder he was hearing requests and receiving local advice before taking action. He was just back from the town of Varashdin where he had secured the voluntary retirement from the council of all the purely political members, regardless of party, and had reappointed the non-political members plus the requisite number of business and professional men. This particular Veliki Zupan is himself a Croat and for some years was the assistant to his predecessors -- the last of whom, incidentally, was a Serbian General. The instance must not be exaggerated; Mr. Zorichitch is said to be one of the best of the 33 Veliki Zupans in various parts of the country, and doubtless many of them are more politically minded than he, but as Zagreb was particularly discontented with the bad administration of the past it is interesting to see the type of man that the new régime appointed there and how he set about his task. Certainly the lessening of tension among the more substantial citizens is noticeable to anyone who has visited Zagreb at regular intervals in recent years. Of course the politicians de carrière are furious though silent, and among the general public the first flush of enthusiasm over the King's abolition of the hated Vidovdan Constitution has waned, but it has been replaced in part by satisfaction over administrative improvements and an attitude of "wait and see" over the vital question of decentralization. In present circumstances King Alexander can hardly spend much time in Zagreb, but perhaps he will find it possible to take what would undoubtedly be a very popular step and establish his cousin, Prince Paul, in regular residence there.
We have seen that in addition to being psychologically refreshing the coup d'état has already resulted in some substantial accomplishments. In making his assistants work far into the night at their tasks of administrative and legal reform the King has shown that he is quite aware that time is the key to the situation. If the régime can constantly present the people with new proofs of its administrative efficiency and energy it will be demonstrating that the moment when a return to constitutional government is feasible draws nearer. The Serbs, even more than the Croats, will need this encouragement, for they set great store by the constitutional privileges won in their struggles with the Turks.
Simultaneously with pressing forward reforms in the administration, King Alexander doubtless is taking counsel regarding the new constitution which he will eventually decree. He knows enough not to expect to satisfy either the centralist or the federalist extremists. But he is a sincere Jugoslav, as was shown the other day when his Prime Minister in a public toast referred to "The Jugoslav Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes" -- the first time the adjective had been used officially in the national title and perhaps foreshadowing the day when the sectional names will disappear. It therefore is not at all impossible that, although rejecting Dr. Matchek's "historic frontiers," the King nevertheless will consent to the division of the state into six or eight provinces, arranged chiefly with an eye to economic interest and possessed of large autonomies as regards cultural matters and local taxation. There is some sentiment among his advisers for the creation of a Senate, in which chambers of commerce, the universities, bar associations and other organizations shall have representation, with the addition of a certain number of senators appointed by the Crown to represent the various parts of the country. Provided such a body were given the right to initiate as well as veto legislation, it might be very useful; otherwise it might prove merely ornamental or even obstructive, because what the old parliament needed was not a check but a goad.
By preparing a number of treaties of commerce, eliminating graft, setting up a bureau to encourage foreign trade, and establishing an agrarian bank to grant credits to peasants, the administration has already produced a favorable impression in the economic field. But a further and indispensable task remains to be accomplished. Jugoslavia is almost the only European country which has not yet stabilized its currency. In order to do this it will be necessary to float a loan abroad similar to those arranged by many other countries, either through the League of Nations or through private bankers with the support of certain central banks. A consortium of British banks, headed by the Rothschilds and including the houses of Hambro, Schroder and Baring, is now working on the project, with the collaboration of American banking interests. A difficulty seems to be that when a previous loan was floated the Jugoslav State put up collateral (in the form of pledged revenues from customs, monopolies and state railways) to the value of about a hundred million dollars, although the section of the loan eventually issued totalled only twenty-five millions. It may be necessary to make some adjustment of this prior lien on a disproportionate section of the national income before the stabilization loan can be successfully launched. Incidentally, the King's appointment of two leading Croats as Ministers of Finance and Commerce shows the non-sectional nature of his government and should increase foreign confidence in its credit; Dr. Sverluga, Minister of Finance, is President of the Zagreb Bourse and is not likely to enter into an agreement which would not carry Croat approval. Meanwhile, French capital is also becoming active; a French company has bought out the Italian concession to develop water-power in Dalmatia, and has engaged to supply 550 million kilowatt hours per year within three years, for use in industry and in electrifying the railroads.
Though the new régime is principally concerned with home reforms, several developments of interest in Jugoslav foreign policy have followed the coup d'état. An agreement has been reached with Greece regarding the use of Saloniki, and this has been followed by a general pact of amity, conciliation and judicial settlement. Presumably Belgrade had been hoping for a treaty with Greece which besides assuring her of Greek neutrality in case Italy provoked war would provide for Greek assistance in case Bulgaria joined the conflict. In other words, she wanted something like the 1913 treaty, adjusted to the new circumstances. Mr. Venizelos knew how much this would anger Rome, and was not to be argued out of his position by talk about the dangers of the Greek position in case Jugoslavia were downed by an Italo-Bulgar combination. The Jugoslavs have now decided to put the best face possible on the affair, and probably console themselves by remembering that the 1913 treaty with Greece did them precious little good when Bulgaria entered the Great War. In any case, they use Saloniki for only about three percent of their foreign trade, and in the event of a war with Italy the Italian fleet would blockade Saloniki and prevent the importation of supplies. King Alexander was probably right in settling the matter more or less on the Greek terms, and turning with a free mind to other more important matters.
A change for the better in Jugoslav-Bulgar relations was noticeable after King Alexander ordered the re-opening of the frontier, closed since the murder of General Kovachevitch. The improvement was carried further when a mixed commission met at Pirot to examine into a number of pending questions, especially how best to avoid frontier incidents and how to deal with them when they arise. Arrangements were made to open public telephone communication between Sofia and Belgrade, and the negotiators exchanged views as to the sort of permanent mixed commission which might be set up to regulate frontier incidents on the spot, thus reducing them to the category of police incidents and preventing newspaper exploitation. No agreement was reached on the difficult matter of how to liquidate the properties of citizens of one state situated on the other side of the frontier; and Bulgaria rejected the Jugoslav suggestion that the best way to hinder unauthorized persons from crossing the frontier (thus diminishing Bulgarian comitadji raids) would be to establish a ten-kilometer zone into which none but actual inhabitants and government officials should have right of entry. But even though many matters remained unsettled, the mere fact that a conference could be held, and Jugoslavia's prompt ratification of the protocol of the conference, showed that Belgrade was in a conciliatory frame of mind. It was also announced that discussions looking to a commercial treaty would begin shortly.
Also of help in producing the Jugoslav-Bulgar détente was a striking event in the post-war life of Bulgaria: the near-suicide of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. The sanguinary warfare between the two branches of the Organization reached its climax last July when General Protogueroff was shot down by order of his rival, Ivan Mihailoff, in one of the main streets of Sofia. This shocked Bulgarians, including the Macedonian elements not associated with the terroristic organization, and turned them against Mihailoff. Protogueroff was a figure in Bulgarian (as distinct from purely Macedonian) affairs, having done good service as a General in the Bulgarian army. The brazen way in which his rivals reached out and killed him in the capital added to public indignation. Everyone knew that the differences of principle which had first brought dissension into the Macedonian ranks had gradually been superseded by an individual struggle for control and for the prerogatives and profits that go with the leadership of a powerful organization. Many Macedonians resented the fact, too, that Mihailoff is a young fellow only about thirty years old; like most of his associates, he had not yet been born when Protogueroff first began his comitadji activity against the Turks. True, the Organization has come out of the struggle with increased discipline and cohesion; the opposition to Mihailoff is all but crushed, though it still bites back whenever it gets the chance. But its "diplomatic corps" abroad has been dissolved, most of the members being of the older Protogueroff order; the number of individuals ready to undertake enterprises in Southern Serbia is diminished; and, above all, public opinion in Bulgaria has been alienated, releasing Premier Liaptcheff from the necessity for timid dealing with the Organization's illegal activities -- in case he and Foreign Minister Bouroff sincerely make up their minds to come to terms with Jugoslavia. Their true attitude, and the present power of the Macedonian Organization, will be revealed when the "season" for comitadji activity is further advanced.
Unfortunately, Belgrade's desire to reach an understanding with Sofia has been chilled by the reception accorded a certain Dr. Pavelitch, leader of a small Croatian group, when he visited Bulgaria recently at the invitation of the National Committee of the Macedonian Refugees. He was feted all through the country, and in Sofia made a speech calling for the formation of a common battle front against the Jugoslav Government by the Croats and the Bulgarian Macedonians. Now Dr. Pavelitch has never been a power in Croatia, and since he has nothing to gain from a Serbo-Croat reconciliation one suspects that he merely aims to sabotage the present effort to bring it about. But the incident is of a certain importance, not only as indicating the lengths to which some of the Croat politicians are willing to go but even more as giving Bulgarophobe elements at Belgrade new grounds for asserting that Bulgaria is unregenerate and will make common cause with any enemy of Serbia, domestic or foreign.
The Italian press -- and in present conditions the Italian press is hard to distinguish from the Italian Government -- has never concealed its delight at Bulgarian comitadji activities in South Serbia. When therefore the British and French Governments found it necessary last summer to lodge a protest at Sofia against Minister of War Valkoff's laxity in preventing the forming of armed bands on Bulgarian territory, no one was surprised that the Italian Government held aloof. Thus encouraged, King Boris maintained General Valkoff in office for a time and has now sent him as Minister to Rome. Bulgaria's neighbors have found further evidence of the King's liking for Italy in his open desire to marry the Princess Giovanna; for a royal marriage is not a private matter. A warm partisan of the match was the Queen of Italy, who as a member of the now defunct Montenegrin dynasty naturally would be gratified if one of its representatives might be reëstablished on the Balkan chessboard. In fact the pretty little princess whose picture was plastered all over Sofia this spring combines the two qualities which the Jugoslavs least care about seeing associated with a neighboring throne; she is an Italian, and so would increase Italian influence in the Balkan peninsula, and she is of the House of Niegush, former rivals of the Karageorgevitch. But anxiety on that score can now cease; the religious difficulty has proved insurmountable and the project has definitely been abandoned. The new patisserie shop in Sofia which was announcing that it was to be called "Princess Giovanna" will have to look around for another name.
Apart from Mussolini's decision not to renew the treaty of amity with Jugoslavia, there has been only one incident of importance in the direct relations of Rome and Belgrade since the first of the year. This was the publication in the Giornale d'Italia on April 12 (reproduced throughout the Italian press) of an attack by the editor, Mr. Gayda, on the Jugoslav Government. Under the heading "How the Serbian General Staff is Organizing Terror on the Frontiers," the newspaper devoted its entire front page and half of the second to the printing of alleged "documents" of a Jugoslav secret society supposed to be enlisting terrorist bands on a great scale for a surprise attack on all the neighbors of Jugoslavia, the whole at vast cost and under the direct supervision of the chief of staff of the Jugoslav army. To those who remember a propaganda book issued by the "Awakening Magyars" four years ago, the "documents" have a familiar ring. The Jugoslav Government issued a categorical denial of their authenticity, adding contemptuously that the military program laid out was balderdash and would be impossible to execute under any circumstances. The Jugoslav censorship, which from the start had eliminated references to Italy from the Jugoslav press, was relaxed enough to allow Pravda to characterize the disclosures of the Roman newspaper as "lying and stupid," Politika to compare them with the celebrated Friedjung forgeries of the Hapsburg Monarchy, and other papers to refer to them as a smoke screen to distract Europe's attention from the activities of Signor Grandi in Albania and Hungary. An apologist for the Giornale d'Italia, writing to The Near East, states that the mere fact that the documents in question could be published under present conditions in Italy gives one "reason to suppose that the Italian Government is aware that they are not forgeries." This statement is a grave criticism of the manner in which the Fascist Government treats a neighbor with which it nominally maintains friendly relations.
Of course King Alexander cannot talk too much about returning to constitutional methods; the politicians, now submerged, would at once begin clandestinely to re-create the old parties and would demand the allegiance of the functionaries who at present are working whole-heartedly for the new régime. But though it is difficult to fix a date for the end of the dictatorship, the King will hardly make the error of taking perfection as the standard to be attained before he feels free to restore parliamentary government. If after reforming the administration he can inspire it with even a degree of his own energy and idealism, if he can succeed in elaborating the principal laws necessary for the unification of the state legal system, if he can work out some just compromise between the claims of the centralists and the federalists (whether or not the extremists of either side like it) and incorporate it in a new constitution, then he will be in a position to decree a new electoral law and proceed with good chances of success to hold elections and assemble a parliament. He will want to feel sure that he is not returning, after all these labors, to the same futile situation which existed before. But he should not hope that everything can be regulated to his complete satisfaction. In politics there is no finality and no perfection. He has started well. If he is able to solve the constitutional puzzle and then make an end, he will rank not only as one of the most courageous statesmen of Europe but as one of the wisest.
At the same time he will have set a record among dictators; whatever their original intentions, they are not apt to find an opportune moment for relinquishing their powers. This is because dictatorships usually are composed of cliques of army officers or politicians who must continue in office or revert to obscurity. King Alexander is in a superior position. His royal colleagues, the Kings of Italy and Spain, would almost surely suffer from the enforced ending of the dictatorships which now dominate their realms; they have acquiesced in them and consequently they are identified with them. But though implicated, they find themselves in the unfortunate position of exercising practically no control over events. King Alexander chose to undertake the responsibilities himself and himself exercise the control. Duty called him, he felt, not to let any sort of secondary considerations delay a supreme effort to preserve the unity of the country, and advantage counselled that he act himself rather than allow anyone else to assume dictatorial powers. Fortunately he is that very rare thing among rulers, the most patient, sensible and conscientious man in his country. If his officials continue carrying out his instructions faithfully and rapidly he should have his reward.
[i] For a translation of the 1919 proclamation see "New Governments of Central Europe," by M. W. Graham. For the 1929 proclamation see L'Europe Nouvelle, Jan. 12, 1929.
[ii] The complaint that there were no Croat generals was less justified than complaints about Serbian monopolization of posts in diplomacy, the National Bank, etc. It was too much to ask Serbia to accept as generals the old Croat officers from the Austro-Hungarian army, with thirty years record of inefficiency and defeat. But in the lower ranks all regions have had due representation and normal promotion, so that in the course of time there will be Croat generals.
[iii] Dr. Matchek succeeded Raditch as head of the Croat Peasant Party. For some years Mr. Pribichevitch was the strongest apostle of centralization; in fact, he left the Democratic Party in protest when it formed a cabinet with the Croat Peasant Party. It was then that he set up the Independent Democratic Party. Later he made terms with the Croats and is now their ally.