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From the beginning of our Twentieth Century, the main strategic interest of the Western world was concentrated in Europe on the river Rhine, with intent to contain on that line the evergrowing might of Germany. Yet, the failures of peacemaking at the end of two world wars demonstrate that the river on whose banks the peaceful European order has to be organized is the Danube rather than the Rhine. The Danube is not only the main waterway of the European Continent, but above all, it is the European River in the political sense.

The greatest importance, from the point of view of European equilibrium, is undoubtedly attached to the peaceful and cohesive order in the Middle Danube Valley. Here in the heart of Europe, various, comparatively small nations exposed not only to German but equally to Russian expansion. If either of these major powers penetrates into the natural fortifications of the Carpathians in the East, or the Sudeten Mountains in the West, the balance of the Continent will be dangerously upset and peace in Europe will come to an end. The strategic key position of the Continent, particularly in the era of air superiority, is the triangle: Prague - Vienna - Budapest. Hungary is of specific importance placed as she is on the bend of the Danube, where the expanding forces of two World Powers cut across each other. Peace has to be stabilized on the Danube; once the disturbance reaches the Rhine, war becomes inevitable.

Prior to the outbreak of the first World War, the Middle Danube Valley lived under the unified leadership of the Austro - Hungarian Monarchy. At that time the community of interests and ancient ties provided by historical, political and economic connections converted this geographical region into a unit, self - sufficient for its own economic and military ends. It required no exterior assistance to defend its interests, and formed the cornerstone of European equilibrium, standing between the political aspirations of the Russian and German Empires. In this territory there lived together six nations (Austrian, Hungarian, Czech, Croat, Slovak and Slovene) and numerous other racial and national minorities. It was an area in which the peoples could not be well separated from one another by geographical frontiers,


for whatever divisions were made, they would still, of necessity, leave numerous minorities within the areas of practically all the States, due to the intermingling of the races. For a century following the Congress of Vienna (1815), the Austro - Hungarian Monarchy filled the part of a veritable League of Nations in this region, though with the improvement that its organization had been built up gradually in the course of history, so that it possessed an inner stability. This system ensured civilization in the West European sense of the word, comparative freedom, order, peaceand the advantages of its position as a Great Power, to all the peoples, great and small, living within its confines.

With all its undoubted advantages, however, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy suffered from a fundamental weakness; that very "anti-nationalism" by the aid of which she was, during a considerable period, sustained, but which in the end proved the chief cause of her undoing. The outbreak of the first World War found this territory in a state of inner ferment when, after a long period of well- being, its peoples, having advanced in wealth and enlightenment, had for the most part failed to find the means of satisfying their desire for national independence. That is why, as a result of the decomposition that followed defeat in the war, it proved possible to realize their desire for independence on a scale far in excess of what the reasonable interest of the peoples concerned demanded. On top of all this, an unprecedented opportunity was offered by the victors to the nations subjected to the rule of the Dual Monarchy. They were exonerated from the consequences of defeat and accepted as victorious powers associated with the Allies, if they decided to break their former allegiance to the Monarchy. The majority of all these peoples had borne loyally the cruel sacrifices imposed upon them by the World War. But could they refuse to escape disaster and have all their wishes fulfilled, when the victors offered them that opportunity? This chance, however, was denied to the Austrian and to the Hungarian people. What then eventually happened, was not the necessary re-organization of Austria- Hungary, not the creation of independent States within a federation or confederation, but the establishment of feuding States on the ruins of the Monarchy, to the complete abandonment of their traditional co-operation.

The breaking up of unity in the Middle Danube Valley proved to be a major defect in the European structure from which, in the long run, no one profited. Deprived of self - sufficiency, the new States fell


victim to what Germans call "Klein - Staaterei," the evils of smallness reduced internal markets, the highest custom tariffs, recurrent and protracted financial crises, extreme nationalisms promoted by the lack of self-sufficiency. The Treaty -makers had to realize that by applying the ethnic principle, as pledged by President Wilson, a number of much too small, unviable State-formations would be created in the Danube Valley. It being impossible to call into being a number of Lilliputian States corresponding to the variety of people living within the territory of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the Treaty-makers invented as companions to the Austrian and Hungarian nations two new nations first brought to light at the Peace Conference-the fictitious Czechoslovak and Yugoslav nations - and then granted them independent Stateship of their own. These "national States," which suffered from a lack of united national consciousness, inherited the diseases of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy - the national and minority antagonisms - without of course, inheriting the advantages of her position as a Great Power and her settled inner stability.

On top of all this, these synthetic structures broke away from previous, more tolerant traditions and established themselves as centralized national States. The fabric of Czechoslovakia was somewhat more homogenous than that of Yugoslavia. In 1919, the population of the newly formed State amounted to 13.6 million, with 6.8 million Czechs making up one-half of the people; 3.2 million Germans and one million Hungarians were degraded, much against their will, to the level of a minority, while two million Slovaks were merged, in spite of their resentment, with the Czechs in order to form a majority. In the autumn of 1938, when the Slovaks recuperated their freedom of action, they demanded and obtained an autonomous Slovak government of their own. They insisted, above all, that the fiction of a "Czechoslovak" nation be definitely discarded. The artificial edifice of the Czechoslovak national State, in spite of some of its undeniable virtues, particularly in the social field, disintegrated into its component parts. It took four years of the first World War to demolish the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy - a single conference held at Munich sufficed to achieve the same result in Czechoslovakia.

Yugoslavia, still called in the Paris Peace Treaties the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, was put together even more precariously. The population of these three nations, plus nine additional national


minorities, amounted in 1921 to fourteen million, of whom only thirty - six per cent were Serbs.1 Yet, this militant Serb minority was determined to impose its rule on the rest of the population. "We have shed our blood during the war and we have established this Kingdom," a Serb patriot explained to me in the early twenties, pleading that the Serbs had earned the right to be exempted from taxation, for "it is only fair that those who did not sacrifice their blood for the Kingdom sacrifice in peacetime their money and pay all the taxes." There did develop in Yugoslavia, besides political oppression, economic and financial discrimination also, in favor of Serbia, as against the more developed Croatia. Patriotism and fine military virtues by themselves do not suffice to create a spiritual condition conducive to a fair government extending over foreign races.

A year or two preceding the murder of King Alexander I, I lectured on this subject in London, in the Royal Institute for International Affairs. A Mr. Popovitch, onetime Minister of Finance in Montenegro, called on me the next day - just to shake hands with me. "You Hungarians are lucky," he assured me, with fury in his eyes. "You were only dismembered. But we Montenegrins, we, who started the World War, we, who fought it to the bitter end and won it, think, what happened to us Look at the map, where is Montenegro? Nowhere! Montenegro was stolen by the Serbs." This unhealthy irritation of Mr. Popovitch was soon brought to an end - a few days later he was found murdered in his London hotel. His assassin, however, was never apprehended.

One thing has been proved beyond all doubt in the period between the two World Wars: while applying the ethnic principle, it is impossible in theory, as well as in practice, to force different national groups to unite against their will and then to achieve in that State inner consolidation. Czechoslovakia, with a democratic Constitution, ably governed in the lifetime of President Masaryk, became quite incapable of standing the strain of trying times and simply dissolved without armed resistance, owing to the utter lack of internal equilibrium and stability resulting from a lack of unified national consciousness.

The decadence of Europe between the two World Wars teaches another lesson also: territorial increase does not mean a gain for a

1 The latest (1961) official census of Yugoslavia's population shows that of the 18,549,000 inhabitants only 7,806,00 are Serbians, that is 42%.


nation, if that expansion is effected at the cost of the incorporation of discontented nations, or minorities of other nationalities. Small but homogenous Serbia proved formidable in her four years of war against Austria-Hungary, whilst Yugoslavia, three times larger but saturated with disgruntled, even hostile elements, was a pushover for Hitler and a welcome prey for Tito, the Communist. Gifts of land by the Peacemakers caused misfortune to the recipients whenever granted in conflict with the right of self-determination. Sumner Welles has recorded that in his conferences with Mussolini in the spring of 1940, the only sound remark which the Duce made was that "the minority problems had been the curse of Europe, and . . . until they were solved there could be no hope of any stable peace."2 Welles also admits that in European history the minority questions have been "a frequent incentive to war." It was particularly the nationalism of the young nations, many of which had only been separated after the first Woid War from big Empires - which, as a rule, became intolerant and over-ambitious. Having had, as yet, no disappointments and no experience of their own to guide them, the once oppressed soon turned into oppressors.

Of the more than 100 million people forming twelve independent States in the Eastern half of Europe, at least 30 per cent - i.e. thirty million - were living, between the two World Wars, as minorities under a rule which was alien and resented by most of them as oppressive. Arbitrarily drawn frontiers foolishly increased the number of dissatisfied minorities, whereas it would have been of general interest to reduce the number of the discontented by living up to the solemn pledge of self-determination proclaimed as the basic peace-programme of the victorious Powers. They handled the ethnic principle and the requirement of self-determination cynically and ignorantly. I blame cynicism for most of their gross mistakes, since during the second World War, while in Washington, I became acquainted with the so-called "Black Book," a collection of documents, many of British origin, describing conditions and facts in the Central Valley of the Danube. The "Black Book" had been used at the Paris Peace Conference; it gave information, mostly correct, on a number of problems which the Peacemakers then mishandled.

The totalitarian dictators very soon obtained the chance to subdue

2 Summer Welles, Where Are We Heading? (London, 1947), p. 108.


these synthetic States with little effort by winning to their side the discontented minorities and using them against the regimes under which they were ordered to live. Particularly in States where a minority could rely for support on its co - nationals living in a neighboring independent State, the discontented minority engaged the governing regime in constant internal struggles, sapped the strength of the State and actually immobilized it. This is what happened in peacetime to Czechoslovakia, in 1938, and to Yugoslavia in 1941, when she became involved in the second World War.

Fatal internal weaknesses of this kind became the factors determining even the foreign policy of these new States. It would have seemed natural that the five, comparatively small Successor States replacing the unified system of Austria-Hungary would restore in some freely chosen form their centuries-old collaboration in order to achieve security and prosperity, the two main concerns of all viable States. Such efforts at continued collaboration were, however, thoughtlessly prevented by the victorious Powers. Article 203 of the Trianon Peace Treaty, imposed on Hungary, is characteristic of this shortsightedness. It orders that "every favor, immunity, or privilege in regard to importation, exportation or transit of goods granted by Hungary to any . . foreign country whatever, shall simultaneously and unconditionally, without request and without compensation, be extended to all the Allied and Associated States." The victors would not tolerate collaboration, not even a preferential tariff system in the Central Valley of the Danube which might restore at least the economic unity disturbed by the new frontiers and eventually lead to a regional organization or a Danubian federation.

To fully understand the reasons why Danubian unity was lastingly destroyed, Franco-British policy has to be surveyed in its relation to the European Continent. It was years before the Balkan wars (1912 - 13) that France and Great Britain became worried about the growing naval, military and economic might of the German Empire. They resented the Triple Afliance of the Central Powers led by Germany, which had become too strong and was threatening the European balance of power successfully maintained throughout the nineteenth century. Unfortunately for all, the British attempts by King Edward VII to induce Francis Joseph, Emperor and King of Austria-Hungary, to break away from the German Alliance were unsuccessful and, as a result, not only


was the Franco-British "Entente Cordiale" strengthened, but diplomatic collaboration with Tsarist Russia was also started. It was aimed at supporting Slavic influences in Central and Southeastern Europe against the growing power of Germany and her Allies. Simultaneously, the prestige of the highly-regarded Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was being undermined systematically by British propagandists, the champions of Slav interests, to justify the planned disruption of the Danubian Monarchy abused - by Seaton, Watson, Wickham Steed and others as "the jail of nations." Pan-Germanism was to be counteracted by Pan-Slavism in alliance with France and Great Britain. Yet, Pan-Slavism was bound to lead to the imposition of Russian domination over all its weaker Slav partners.

The clash of Slavic and Germanic forces brought about the first World War which ended with the complete destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the centuries-old unified system of the Danubian Basin, an artificial split was then created by the Paris Peacemakers and this rift was perpetuated by the formation of the Slav-dominated Little Entente (1921),3 sponsored by France and backed by Britain. On the Continent, France became the controlling member of a coalition of all the countries interested in the preservation of the status quo. This system was to keep down eventual pro-German influences in the centrally located non - Slavic countries of the Danube Valley. One of them, Austria, was put on a reducing diet whilst the other one, Hungary, was brutally dismembered at Trianon. Yet, no stable order could be established in the Danubian Basin without Hungary, or against Hungary. Not only because of her determination to resist encirclement, but even more so, because of Hungary's central geographical location which reduced the Little Entente to an empty shell bound to break down under any major pressure weighing on the extended periphery of that system. Problems of this area could no longer be solved by peaceful means during the lull between the two World Wars. A danger zone, divided in itself, instead of a roadblock to halt the would-be conquerors, was created in the heart of Europe. Is it surprising that those nations in the Eastern half of Europe, which gained their freedom and independence in the first World War, have all been reduced to slavery during and since the second World War? Two victories of the Western Democracies have brought them, as an end-result, more oppressive

3 Czechoslovakia - Yugoslavia - Rumania.


masters than any they had known previously. Roughly, this is the balance sheet of twentieth century peacemaking in the Eastern half of Europe.

A correct interpretation of European history teaches us that the geographical frontier has in general proved stronger than the ethnographical one. And, though conquerors have from time to time succeeded in breaking through the natural ramparts created by the Almighty - in most cases indeed after a brief interval - the natural order of things has mostly been restored. Rivers - even the largest ones - act rather as links connecting the territories flanking their shores the geographical frontier functioning as a dividing line between states is the mountain range; particularly the watershed. The natural fortifications of the Middle Danube Valley - the line of the Carpathians - form an easily defensible obstacle against inroads from the North and the East; and they afford protection alike to all the peoples living in this territory. The ethnic principle would therefore have to be applied in the Basin encircled by the Carpathians in a manner not likely to dislocate the uniform defense system of the peoples living in the Danube Basin. It is of general European interest that the fortifications formed by the Carpathians be rendered strong enough to hold their own against all attacks. That result, however, is attainable only by the institution of a uniform defense system extending to the whole territory. This requirement is a key problem of European stability. The Czechoslovak politicians dug the grave of their own State when they expected Europe to help their country in its hour of danger, instead of themselves ensuring the effectual defense of Europe by the traditional co-operation in the Danube Valley which for centuries had protected Europe against Turkish invasions.

I did not wait for Hitler's advent to power to advocate in the Hungarian Parliament co-operation between Hungary and her neighbors. The waves of the American financial crash of 1929 had hit the disintegrated Danubian region most severely in the early thirties. "Without a reasonable amount of economic co-operation," I said on May 27, 1932, "our country, isolated as it is, cannot survive. This is, however, also true in the case of our neighbors, though according to Dr. Benes, it is only Austria and Hungary who bear the grave consequences of this situation." After describing the devastating effects of the world economic crisis in Czechoslovakia, I continued. "All these


troubles of Czechoslovakia do not please me at all. Difficulties of one nation always have a direct bearing on the fate of other nations. I know that we Hungarians will suffer, if Czechoslovakia fares ill. It is high time that we put an end to reproaches, to exaggerated censure of each other's faults and shortcomings, and that all of us begin to seek a solution which will take us out of our present impasse. If we want to prevent the collapse of Central Europe, we must become imbued by a new spirit of mutual esteem and solidarity - honest nationalism which works for international understanding."

On a balmy September afternoon, in 1934, in Geneva, on leaving the Assembly meeting of the League of Nations. Mr. Benes joined me in my walk along the Lake. He felt gleeful, with his influence strengthened by the admission of the Soviets to the League, and imparted to me his conviction that everything would be perfect in Europe if only we, the Hungarians, would acquiesce in our fate and give up our demand for a revision of the Trianon Peace Treaty. He became quite exuberant in his praise of the existing international order guaranteed by the League of Nations, which excluded the possibility of any major change. I listened to him in silence and felt uneasy, for he seemed to really mean what he was saying. I asked him finally: "Are you aware of what dangers threaten you from the North?"

He stopped and I spoke to him in great earnest, holding him by a button of his jacket: "Has the time not come, for you to consolidate the position of Czechoslovakia, at least on her Southern frontier, with her neighbors? Can you feel safe, while on bad terms with every one of them - not only Germany, but also Poland, Hungary and Austria? One of them, under a leader called Adolf Hitler, has just started massive rearmament. Who will be his first victim? It will be You, Mr. Benes, with your friends far away and your enemies so near! And don't think that I will feel happy while You are being destroyed, for I know that after You it will be my turn. Would You please give serious thought to the necessity of co-operation on equal terms among the nations of the Danube Valley?"

I felt annoyed with Benes, for he had been the leading opponent of Danubian unity, whereas this concept did have able spokesmen in the Prague Parliament. Prominent among them was Milan Hodza, the competent Slovak Leader of the Agrarian Party, who two months later became the Prime Minister in Prague. Before the war, he had been


a member of the Hungarian Parliament; he understood our mutual problems particularly as an economist, and was convinced of the necessity of a unified Danubian system. For years, we had maintained friendly relations, to which Mr. Benes now alluded.

"I know of the plans you have discussed with Hodza," he said in a somewhat discouraged tone. "You may even be right, but I cannot change my policy - I have gone too far in a different direction." One month later, Konrad Henlein launched a new party, the "Sudeten Home Front." The bells were tolling for Mr. Benes, but he pretended not to hear them.

Danubian unity offers the best protection for the Balkans also. The traditional highway of the Russians - the road leading to Constantinople along the Black Sea coast can be blocked best by forces in the Transylvanian Carpathians outflanking that route, but hardly by frontal defense in the Moldavian Low Lands. If the Transylvanian mountains in the Southeast are guarded by a determined band of defenders threatening the flank of an advancing Russian army, no Russian general will dare to penetrate Southward beyond the small town of Focsani across that narrow strip of land - barely 120 miles wide - lying between the Carpathians and the marshes of the Lower Danube. In the course of three campaigns undertaken against the Balkans during the nineteenth century by the Tsars, the mere appearance of an Austro-Hungarian Army in the passes of the Carpathians sufficed either to force back the Russians, or at least to bring them to a halt. The most important stronghold for Balkan security is the Carpathians, the defense of which, however, cannot be ensured except within the framework of a unified military system in the Central Danubian Basin.

The disintegration of the Danube Valley has caused the deterioration of cultural relations also, giving rise to difficult and indeed delicate problems. This region is the meeting point of various Eastern and Southeastern cultures of Byzantine origin and the basically different Western cultures resting on Roman Catholic and Protestant foundations. This difference in culture formed quite as important a dividing line in the life of the peoples, as did national divergences. And although the antagonisms originating from cultural differences may not seem to be as intensive as those of a national character, they are nevertheless deeper, more lasting and even more difficult to bridge. The Soviets, through the intermediary of the Russian Orthodox Church, are fully


exploiting Moscow's Byzantine traditions, but they are still struggling against the Roman Catholic Church, which is putting up more effective resistance to Communism, than does capitalism or any other single Western force.

The antagonism existing between the Pravoslav (Orthodox or Greek Oriental) world and the cultures that have developed on Roman foundations not only involves religious and denominational differences but - as a consequence of the mission which the various Christian Churches have been fulfilling in this part of Europe - it extends also to the general way of life, to traditions, to ideals, to social concepts and to the State and social machineries. In a word, it involves the whole standard of culture and denotes a difference extending to every phase of the life of the people. This was reflected also in economic matters, in wages, in price levels, and indeed in the quality of the work done. Until the nineteenth century, the churches provided for the spiritual and physical welfare of these peoples, supplying them with scholars, artists, doctors, intellectual, agricultural and industrial instructors; consequently, the difference between the conceptions and cultural standards of Byzantium and Rome continued in the age of nationalism to be as fundamental a phenomenon as were the national differences. The present monolithic Communist structure imposed on all these peoples has considerably reduced these differences which, nevertheless, are far from being extinct.

In the Paris Treaties after the first World War, these considerations were completely ignored. That is why it could happen that the treaty-makers attempted to compress in a single centralized State nations with stronger individualities than any others in the Balkans: the Pravoslav Serbians and the more sophisticated Western European Croats, a nation thoroughly Catholic in its spiritual structure. Moreover, the Croats, protected for eight centuries by the Crown of St. Stephen against absorption by the Turkish invaders, had avoided becoming Balkanized. In general, it may be stated that a West European culture area will inevitably feel unhappy if it is incorporated in the Balkans, which for centuries has suffered Turkish occupation. The different moral standard of the Ottoman Empire - its predominant weakness of purpose and its one-time proclivity towards corruption - has struck deep roots in that region. The undeveloped character of social conscience, the lower scale of wages and the inferior standard of living compared to Central


Europe - all these exercised a depressing effect on the intellectual and material life of societies with Western ideas accustomed to a higher standard of culture and ethics.

Following the incorporation of Croatia into Yugoslavia, not only the Croats, but even the Serbian minority of Croatia, led by the talented Svetozar Pribichevitch, very soon became antagonistic to the centralized new regime. He was accused in Belgrade of being "infected by the culture of the Svaba" (meaning by Svaba the Hungarians and the Germans of Austria-Hungary). He felt closer to Raditch, the Croat leader, than to the Serbs in Serbia proper and joined in the Croats' fight against centralization of the State - When King Alexander I proclaimed his dictatorship, he emigrated from Yugoslavia, which he had helped to establish.

There was a lesser, yet quite distinct separation after the first World War in Rumania also, between Rumanians from Transylvania and those from the "Regat," the pre-World War part of Rumania. Most Rumanians follow the Byzantine rite, yet the Rumanians of Transylvania disliked the mores of the Regat, on which centuries of Turkish domination had left a deep imprint. Cultural disparity has caused much resentment on the borderline of two civilizations. General degradation by the Soviets, wiping out all Christian culture, is now equalizing East and West on the lowest common denominator.

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