The peace that followed the First World War was the continuation of war by other means. The Bolsheviks proclaimed an end to hostilities, only to plunge the Russian Empire into a barbaric civil war. The Western statesmen drafted peace treaties - one for each of the defeated Central Powers (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey) each of which was a casus belli in its own right. Nor, as Keynes predicted in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, did 'vengeance ... limp'. As it turned out, Keynes was only half right. He expected that the financial burdens imposed under the Treaty of Versailles would be the principal bone of post-war contention; the European 'civil war' would come, he wrote, 'if we aim deliberately at the impoverishment of Central Europe ... if we take the view that for at least a generation to come Germany cannot be trusted with even a modicum of prosperity ... that year by year Germany must be kept impoverished and her children starved and crippled'. The causes of the Second World War in Europe were not economic, however; at least, not in the sense Keynes had in mind. They were territorial- or, to be more precise, they arose from the conflict between territorial arrangements based on the principle of 'self-determination' and the realities of ethnically mixed patterns of settlement. Keynes also expected that the first reaction against the peace treaties would come from Germany. In fact it came from Turkey, though what happened there foreshadowed much that the Germans would later do.
The Bolsheviks promised their supporters 'Peace, Bread and Power to the Soviets'. Peace turned out to mean abject capitulation. At Brest-Litovsk, in the sprawling brick fortress that guards the River Bug, the German High Command demanded sweeping cessions of territory from a motley Bolshevik delegation.
The end of the war on the Western Front was well timed for the Bolsheviks. It undermined the legitimacy of the foreign powers' intervention, especially as they now had left-wing outbreaks of their own to deal with. Only the Japanese showed any inclination to maintain an armed presence on Russian soil, and they were content to stake out new territorial claims in the Far East and leave the rest of Russia to its fate. To be sure, the Bolsheviks controlled only a small part of the former Tsarist Empire. The German withdrawal from the Ukraine had created a vacuum of power to the west, a state of affairs memorably described in Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The White Guard.
the of I920 Lenin felt confident enough to export the Revolution is, ordering the Red Army to march on Warsaw and confilking of the need to 'sovietize Hungary and perhaps Czechia Rumania too'. Only their decisive defeat by the Polish army on the banks of the River Vistula halted the spread of the Bolshevism.
Terror by this time had become the keystone of Bolshevik rule. A typical Trotsky order promised that 'shady agitators, counterrevolutionary officers, saboteurs, parasites and speculators will be locked up, except for those who will be shot at the scene of the crime'. The crisis of the summer of 1918 legitimized Lenin's urge to play the part of Robespierre, assuming dictatorial powers in the spirit of 'the Revolution endangered'. The only way to ensure that peasants handed over their grain to feed the Red Army, he insisted, was to order exemplary executions of so-called kulaks, the supposedly rapacious capitalist peasants whom it suited the Bolsheviks to demonize. 'How can you make a revolution without firing squads?' Lenin asked. 'If we can't shoot a White Guard saboteur, what sort of great revolution is it? Nothing but talk and a bowl of mush.' Convinced that the Bolsheviks would not 'come out the victors' if they did not employ 'the harshest kind of revolutionary terror', he called explicitly for 'mass terror against the kulaks, priests, and White Guards'. 'Black marketeers' were to be 'shot on the spot'. The whole notion of exemplary violence seemed to fire Lenin's imagination. On August II,1918 he wrote a letter to Bolshevik leaders in Penza that speaks for itself: Comrades! The kulak uprising must be crushed without pity ... An example must be made. Hang (and I mean hang so that the people can see) not less than 100 known bloodsuckers. 2) Publish their names. 3) Take all their grain away from them ... Do this so that for hundreds of miles around the people can see, tremble, know and cry: they are killing and will go on killing the bloodsucking kulaks ... P.S. Find tougher people.
Kulaks were 'foes of the Soviet government ... blood-suckers ... spiders ... [and] leeches'. Egged on by this kind of splenetic language, Bolshevik food brigades felt no compunction about killing anyone who tried to resist their raids. The very insecurity of the Revolution encouraged terrorist tactics. In the early hours of July 17, just hours after Lenin had wired a Danish paper that the 'exczar' was 'safe', the Bolshevik commissar Yakov Yurovsky and a makeshift firing squad of twelve assembled the royal family and their remaining servants in the basement of the commandeered house in Ekaterinburg where they were being held and, after minimal preliminaries, shot them at point-blank range. Trotsky had wanted a spectacular show trial, but Lenin decided it would be better 'not [to] leave the Whites a live banner'." Unfortunately, because the women had large amounts of jewellery concealed in the linings of their clothes, they were all but bullet-proof. One of the executioners was very nearly killed by a ricochet. Contrary to legend, Princess Anastasia did not survive but was finished off with a bayonet. Only the royal spaniel, Joy, was spared. Other relatives of the Tsar were also taken hostage, including the Grand Dukes Nikolai, Georgy, Dmitry, Pavel and Gavril, four of whom were subsequently shot. Violence begat violence. A month after the execution of the Tsar, an assassination attempt that nearly killed Lenin was the cue for an intensification of the revolutionary terror.
Under Felix Dzerzhinsky the Bolsheviks created a new kind of political police which had no compunction about simply executing suspects. 'The Cheka', as one of its founders explained, 'is not an investigating commission, a court, or a tribunal. It is a fighting organ on the internal front of the civil war ... It does not judge, it strikes. It does not pardon, it destroys all who are caught on the other side of the barricade.' The Bolshevik newspaper Krasnaya Gazeta declared: 'Without mercy, without sparing, we will kill our enemies in scores of hundreds. Let them be thousands, let them drown themselves in their own blood. For the blood of Lenin ... let there be floods of blood of the bourgeoisie - more blood, as much as possible.' Despite all the pre-war talk of monarchical solidarity, George V decided against offering his Russian cousins asylum in Britain. They were shunted pathetically from Tobolsk to Ekaterinburg as the Bolsheviks tried to work out what to do with them. Dzerzhinsky was happy to oblige. On September 23, 1919, to give just one example, sixty-seven alleged counter-revolutionaries were summarily shot. At the top of the list was Nikolai Shchepkin, a liberal member of the Duma (parliament) that had been set up after 1905.
Much of the violence of the civil war was hot blooded. On both sides, prisoners were killed, even mutilated; whole villages were put to the sword. Kornilov himself had spoken of 'burn[ing] half of Russia and shed[ ding] the blood of three-quarters of the population' in order to 'save Russia'. His Volunteer Army slaughtered hundreds of peasants on its 'Ice March' from the Don to the Kuban and back. But a clear and chilling sign of the true character of the new regime was the construction of the first concentration camps. By 1920 there were already more than a hundred camps for the 'rehabilitation' of 'unreliable elements'. Their locations were carefully chosen to expose prisoners to the harshest possible conditions - places like the former monastery of Kholmogory, in the icy wastes beside the White Sea. The Cheka had unusual ideas about how to rehabilitate prisoners. In Kiev a cage full of starved rats was tied to prisoners' bodies and heated; the rats devoured the victim's innards in their struggles to escape. In Kharkov they boiled the skin off prisoners' hands - the so-called 'glove trick'. With methods like these it is perhaps not surprising that the Reds were able to recruit more soldiers than the Whites. It helped, however, that many White officers seemed intent on restoring the old regime, complete with their own privileges as landowners; given the choice, many peasants preferred the devil they did not know - especially when the diabolical figure of Lenin was transmuted into a pseudo-saint, all but martyred for the sake of revolution. The personality cult that sprang up around him was intentionally designed to provide a surrogate religion for the Revolution, at a time when churches and monasteries were being destroyed, priests and monks murdered.
The Revolution had been made in the name of peace, bread and Soviet power. It turned out to mean civil war, starvation and the dictatorship of the Bolshevik Party's Central Committee and its increasingly potent subcommittee, the Politburo. Workers who had. Small wonder the veteran revolutionary writer Maxim Gorky came, for a time at least, to despair of revolution he had earlier hailed. And though there had been 'terrible' Tsars in Russia's past, the empire established by Lenin and his confederates was the first to be based on terror itself since the short-lived tyranny of the Jacobins in revolutionary France. At the same time, for all the Bolsheviks' obsession with Western revolutionary models, theirs was a revolution that looked east more than it looked west. Asked to characterize the Russian empire as it re-emerged under Lenin, most Western commentators would not have hesitated to use the word 'Asiatic'. That was also Trotsky's view: 'Our Red Army', he argued, 'constitutes an incomparably more powerful force in the Asian terrain of world politics than in European terrain.' Significantly, 'Asiatic' was precisely the word Lenin had used to describe Stalin.
lics)? Yet that was to miss the vast change of ethos that separated the new empire from the old. Though there had been 'terrible' Tsars in Russia's past, the empire established by Lenin and his confederates was the first to be based on terror itself since the short-lived tyranny of the Jacobins in revolutionary France. At the same time, for all the Bolsheviks' obsession with Western revolutionary models, theirs was a revolution that looked east more than it looked west. Asked to characterize the Russian empire as it re-emerged under Lenin, most Western commentators would not have hesitated to use the word 'Asiatic'. That was also Trotsky's view: 'Our Red Army', he argued, 'constitutes an incomparably more powerful force in the Asian terrain of world politics than in European terrain.' Significantly, 'Asiatic' was precisely the word Lenin had used to describe Stalin.
Was the port at the mouth of the River Vistula called Danzig, its German name? Or was it to be Gdansk, as the Poles called it? Once a free, self-governing Hanseatic city under the protection of the Teutonic Knights, Danzig had recognized the sovereignty of the Polish crown from the mid-fifteenth century until the end of the eighteenth century. But in I793 it was annexed by Prussia, then, after a brief period of independence during the Napoleonic era, in 1871 it, became part of the German Reich. More than 90 per cent of the town's population were German. Most of the peasants in the surrounding countryside, however, were Polish or Slavonic Kashubes.
Danzig was one of countless questions to confront the Western leaders and their entourages when they gathered at Versailles in 1919. The great optimist and moralist among them, the Virginian-born and Presbyterian-raised US President Woodrow Wilson, believed he had the answers. And where before we mentioned the expectations raised by President Wilson's January 1918-Fourteen Points in the case of the Middle East, and also China, we now briefly continue with Eurasia.
From December I9I4 onwards Wilson had argued that any peace settlement 'should be for the advantage of the European nations regarded as Peoples and not for any nation imposing its governmental will upon alien people'. In May I9I5 he went further, asserting unequivocally that 'every people has a right to choose the sovereignty under which they shall live'. He repeated the point in January I9I7 and elaborated on its implications in points five to thirteen of his Fourteen Points. According to Wilson's original draft of the Covenant, the League would not merely guarantee the territorial integrity of its member states but would be empowered to accommodate future territorial adjustments 'pursuant to the principle of self-determination'. This was not entirely novel, needless to say. British liberal thinkers since John Stuart Mill had been arguing that the homogeneous nation state was the only proper setting for a liberal polity, and British poets and politicians had spasmodically stuck up for the right to independence of the Greeks and the Italians, whom they tended to romanticize. When trying to imagine an ideal map of Europe in I857, Giuseppe Mazzini had imagined just eleven nation states ordered on the basis of nationality. But never before had a statesman proposed to make national self-determination the basis for a new European order. In combination with the League, self-determination was to take precedence over the integrity of the sovereign state, the foundation of international relations since the Treaty of Westphalia two and a half centuries before.
Applying the principle of self-determination proved far from easy, however, for two reasons. First, as we have indicated, there were more than thirteen million Germans already living east of the borders of the pre-war Reich - perhaps as much as a fifth of the total German speaking population of Europe. If self-determination were applied rigorously Germany might well end up bigger, which was certainly not the intention of Wilson's fellow peacemakers. From the outset, then, there had to be inconsistency, if not hypocrisy, in the way Germany was treated: no Anschluss of the rump Austria to the Reich - despite the fact that the post-revolutionary governments in both Berlin and Vienna voted for it - and no vote at all for the 250,000 South Tyroleans, 90 per cent of whom were Germans, on whether they wanted to become Italian, but plebiscites to determine the fate of northern Schleswig (which went to Denmark), eastern Upper Silesia (to Poland) and Eupen-Malmedy (to Belgium). France reclaimed Alsace and Lorraine, lost in 1871, despite the fact that barely one in ten of the population were French-speakers. In all, around 3.5 million German-speakers ceased to be German citizens under the terms of the Versailles Treaty. Equally important, under the terms of the 1919 Treaty of St Germain-en-Laye, more than 3.2 million Germans in Bohemia, southern Moravia and the hastily constituted Austrian province of Sudetenland found themselves reluctant citizens of a new state, Czechoslovakia. There were just under three-quarters of a million Germans in the new Poland, the same number again in the mightily enlarged Romania, half a million in the new South Slav kingdom later known as Yugoslavia and another half million in the rump Hungary left over after the Treaty of Trianon. The second problem for self-determination was that none of the peacemakers saw it as applying to their own empires - only to the empires they had defeated.
For example did Wilson seriously contemplate, asked General Tasker Bliss, 'the possibility of the League of Nations being called upon to consider such questions as the independence of Ireland, of India, etc., etc.?' Or as the British historian turned diplomat James Headlam-Morley sardonically noted: 'Self determination is quite demode.' He and his colleagues 'determine[d] for them [the nationalities] what they ought to wish', though in practice they could not wholly ignore the results of the plebiscites in certain contested areas. There were, it is true, serious attempts to write 'minority rights' into the various peace treaties, beginning with Poland. But here again British cynicism and self-interest played an unconstructive role. Revealingly, Headlam-Morley was as sceptical of minority rights as he was of self-determination. As he noted in his Memoir of the Paris Peace Conference: “Some general clause giving the League of Nations the right to protect minorities in all countries which were members ... would give [it] the right to protect the Chinese in Liverpool, the Roman Catholics in France, the French in Canada, quite apart from more serious problems, such as the Irish ... Even if the denial of such a right elsewhere might lead to injustice and oppression, that was better than to allow everything which means the negation of the sovereignty of every state in the world.”
The fate of Danzig illustrates the kind of bargains being struck. At the suggestion of the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, Danzig and the surrounding area (in all, just over 750 square miles) now reverted to its historic status as a free city, though it was now placed under League of Nations protection; the Poles were awarded their own free port, post office and control of the railways. Danzig had its own currency and stamps, but its foreign policy was determined in Warsaw. This was just part of a larger geographical anomaly. Danzig was roughly equidistant between Berlin, beyond the River Oder, and Warsaw further down the River Vistula. But the territory to the west of Danzig was now Polish since the formerly German provinces of West Prussia and Posen had been ceded to Poland, while the territory to the east, the province of East Prussia, remained German. The creation of the 'Polish Corridor' running from Upper Silesia to Danzig thus left East Prussia as a bleeding chunk of Germany between the Vistula and the Niemen. Was Danzig really a free city? Or was it actually a Polish captive? And was that also the true situation of East Prussia? To assert their claims, the Poles sought to monopolize the Danzig postal service; at the same time, they constructed a rival port, Gdynia, to divert commerce away from the Free City. Danzigers who wished to travel to Germany (including Prussia) required a Polish transit visa. The poisoned atmosphere generated by such petty sources of friction is well preserved in Gunter Grass's Danzig trilogy, The Tin Drum, Cat and Mouse and Dog Years. It is no accident that the most memorable fictional personification of the German catastrophe, the stunted drummer Oscar Matzerath, is born in Danzig in 1924.
All over Europe there were similar collisions between the ideal of the nation state and the reality of multi-ethnic societies. Previously diversity had been accommodated by the loose structures of the old dynastic empires. Those days were now gone. The only way to proceed, if the peace was to produce viable political units, was to accept that most of the new nation states would have sizeable ethnic minorities. In the new Czechoslovakia, for example, 51 per cent of the population were Czechs, 16 per cent Slovaks, 22 per cent Germans, 5 Percent Hungarians and 4 per cent Ukrainians. In Poland around 14 per cent of the population were Ukrainians, 9 per cent Jews, 5 per cent Byelorussians and more than 2 per cent Germans. Roughly a third of the population of all the major cities was Jewish. Romania had reaped a handsome territorial dividend from her wartime sufferings, acquiring Bessarabia (from Russia), Bukovina (from Austria), southern Dobruja (from Bulgaria) and Transylvania (from Hungary). But the effect was that nearly one in three inhabitants of the country was not Romanian at all: 8 per cent were Hungarians, 4 per cent Germans, 3 per cent Ukrainians - in all there were eighteen ethnic minorities recorded in the I930 census. The preponderance of non-Romanians was especially pronounced in urban areas. Even the Romanians themselves were divided along religious lines, between the Uniate Christians of Transylvania and the Orthodox Christians of the Romanian heartland, the Regat. Yugoslavia - initially known as 'The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes', which named only three of the country's seventeen or more ethnic groups - was the supreme hodgepodge. The Serbs had dreamed of a South Slav kingdom that they would dominate; as if to make that point, the new state's constitution was promulgated on June 28, 1921, the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo and of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand's assassination. In reality, Yugoslavia was an uneasy amalgam not just of Croats, Serbs and Slovenes, but also of Albanians, Bosnian Muslims, Montenegrins, Macedonians and Turks - not to mention Czechs, Germans, Gypsies, Hungarians, Italians, Jews, Romanians, Russians, Slovaks and Ukrainians. Bulgaria and Hungary both retained sizeable minorities - accounting for, respectively, 19 and 13 per cent of their populations, despite having lost territory under the peace treaties. In these five countries alone, around twenty-four million people were living in states that regarded them as members of minority groups.
It was, of course, theoretically possible that all the different ethnic groups in a new state would agree to sublimate their differences in a new collective identity. But more often than not what happened was that a majority group claimed to be the sole proprietor of the nation state and its assets. In theory, there was supposed to be protection of the rights of minorities. But in practice the new governments could not resist discriminating against them. As for the new era of peace supposedly ushered in by the Paris treaty, it was over in the blink of an eye. The borders of the new Polish state were themselves determined as much by violence as by voting or international arbitration. Between 1918 and 1921, the Poles fought small wars against the Ukraine, Germany, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia and Russia; the upshot was that Poland extended much insufficient; one effect was to cripple the German literature department of Czernowitz's once renowned university. German civil servants in Czechoslovakia were obliged to pass an examination in Czech; the effect was to halve the proportion of Germans in the civil service. The Polish post office refused to deliver letters addressed to the old German place names in West Prussia and Posen. In the same spirit, the Italian authorities forced the Germans of the Tyrol to learn Italian, while at the same time offering incentives to Italians to settle in the province. Political organization by German minorities was also hampered. In 1923, for example, the Polish government banned the Bydgoszcz-based Germandom League (Deutschtumsbund). Small wonder so many Germans opted to leave the so-called 'lost territories' and resettle in the reduced Reich. By 1926 some 85 per cent of the Germans in the towns of West Prussia and the formerly Prussian province of Posen had left. Those who remained were mostly isolated farmers or defiant landowners like the family of Oda Goerdeler, whose East Prussian estate became part of Dzialdowo county. As she recalled, the German community to which she belonged was 'haunted by feelings of superiority, which had previously been taken for granted'. After 1919 they simply 'sealed [themselves] off from the Polish element'.
Yet the most vulnerable minority in Central and Eastern Europe were - as in the Russian civil war - not the Germans but the Jews. The very moment of national independence in many countries was marred by outbreaks of anti-Jewish violence. In the Slovakian town of Holesov, for example, two Jews were killed and virtually the entire Jewish quarter was gutted. In Lw6w Polish troops ran amok in Jewish neighbourhoods, incensed by Jewish protestations of neutrality in the contest for the city between Poles and Ukrainians. A progrom at Chrzan ow in November 1918 saw widespread looting and pillaging of Jewish homes and businesses; in Warsaw synagogues were burned. Further east, there were also pogroms in Vilnius and Piilsk - where Polish troops shot thirty-five people for the offence of distributing charitable donations from the United States - while in Hungary there was an anti-Semitic 'White Terror' following the suppression of the Jewish socialist Bela Kun's short-lived soviet regime in Budapest.
The old multi-national empires of continental Europe had been the architects of their own destruction. Like train drivers knowingly steaming full tilt towards one another, they themselves had caused the great train crash of 1914. But though it spelt the end of four dynasties and the creation of ten new independent nation states, the end of the war did not mean the end of empire. The British and French empires grew fatter on the remnants of their foes' domains. Meanwhile, two of the defunct empires were able to reconstitute themselves with astonishing speed and violence. A new and more ruthless Russian empire emerged behind the fac;ade of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. A new and less tolerant Turkey was born in Ankara, abandoning the ruins of the Sublime Porte, just as the Bolsheviks had moved their capital eastwards to Moscow.
And what of the Germans, who had lost not one but two empires in the debacle of 1918 and who now found themselves divided up between two rump republics, with a diaspora scattered across more than seven other states? Keynes, who proved to be the most influential of all the critics of the Paris Peace, was quite right to foresee a period of severe economic crisis in Germany, though how far the hyperinflation of 1922-3 was a direct consequence of the Versailles Treaty, as opposed to German fiscal and monetary mismanagement, remains debatable. Keynes's remedy was clear: reparations should be set at the relatively modest level of £4 billion, to be paid in thirty annual installments starting in 1923.” Germany should be lent money, allowed to trade freely, encouraged to rebuild her economy. This was not a matter of altruism, but enlightened self-interest. For there could be no stability in Central Europe without a German economic recovery.”
So when dictators challenged the borders that had been drawn up after 1918; when they invaded and occupied sovereign states - how then would the erstwhile peacemakers respond? The answer was by seeking a continuation of peace at almost any price, provided the price was not paid by themselves.
The very moment of national independence in many countries was marred by outbreaks of anti-Jewish violence. In the Slovakian town of Holesov, for example, two Jews were killed and virtually the entire Jewish quarter was gutted. In Lw6w Polish troops ran amok in Jewish neighbourhoods, incensed by Jewish protestations of neutrality in the contest for the city between Poles and Ukrainians. A progrom at Chrzanow in November I9I8 saw widespread looting and pillaging of Jewish homes and businesses; in Warsaw synagogues were burned. Further east, there were also pogroms in Vilnius and Piilsk - where Polish troops shot thirty-five people for the offence of distributing charitable donations from the United States - while in Hungary there was an anti-Semitic 'White Terror' following the suppression of the Jewish socialist Bela Kun's short-lived soviet regime in Budapest. The revolutionary movement cut through these and other Jewish communities like a double-edged sword. Sometimes they were accused of having sided with the Germans during the war; sometimes they were accused of siding with the Bolsheviks during the Revolution.
Violence gave way to discrimination during the 1920s, despite the fine words of the Minorities Treaties. In Poland Sunday became a compulsory day of rest for all. Jews who could not prove pre-war residence were denied Polish citizenship. It was difficult for a Jew to become a schoolteacher; to become a university professor was next to impossible. State assistance was made available to Polish schools only, not to Jewish schools. The number of Jewish students at Polish universities fell by half between in 1923 and 1937. As one Polish politician put it, the Jewish community was 'a foreign body, dispersed in our organism so that it produces a pathological deformation. In this state of affairs it is impossible to find a way out other than the removal of the alien body, harmful through both its numbers and its uniqueness.' The leader of the Nationalist Party, Roman Dwomski, spoke in similar terms. Not untypical of the post-war mood was the poem that appeared in Przeglctd powszechny in December 1922:
contaminating Poland thoroughly: It scandalizes the young, destroys the unity
of the common people. By means of the atheistic press it poisons the spirit,
Incites to evil, provokes, divides ... A terrible gangrene has infiltrated our
body And we ... are blind! The Jews have gained control of Polish business, As
though we were imbeciles, And they cheat, extort, and steal, While we feed on
fantasies, Our indolence grows in strength and size, And we ... are blind!
Things were not a great deal better in Romania. Jews were not given full citizenship unless they had served in the Romanian army or been born of two parents both of whom had also been born in Romania. Jewish enrolment in universities was restricted. In Bukovina the introduction of a Romanian school-leaving examination in 1926 caused all but two out of ninety-four Jewish candidates to fail. Only through bribery could non-Romanian candidates hope to pass.Yet despite the importance of Zionism in Polish-Jewish politics, only a small proportion of Polish Jews drew the conclusion that they would be better off trying to find a Jewish state in the new 'home' their people had been granted in what was now the British 'mandate' in Palestine. Even in the I930s just 82,000 Polish Jews emigrated there. In fact, only a minority of Polish Zionists were committed to systematic colonization of the Holy Land; the majority were just as interested in what could be achieved in Poland itself.
In 1916 the British and French agreed between themselves to carve up large tracts of the Ottoman territory, the former claiming what was to become Palestine, Jordan and the greater part of Iraq (then known as Mesopotamia), the latter Syria and the rest ofIraq. Under the terms of the Treaty of Sevres these arrangements were confirmed and extended to satisfy the territorial cravings of other victorious powers. The Italians were given the Dodecanese Islands, including Rhodes and the Anatolian port of Kastellorizzo. The Greeks were to have Thrace and Western Anatolia, including the port of Smyrna (today Izmir). Armenia, Assyria and the Hejaz (now part of Saudi Arabia) were to be independent. Plebiscites were to decide the fate of Kurdistan and the area around Smyrna. Sevres was to do for the Ottoman Empire what St Germain-en-Laye had done for the Habsburg Empire: to sheer it right down to the bone, but on the basis Italians had occupied Libya. The Serbs and their confederates had defeated them in the First Balkan War, leaving a small piece of Thrace around Adrianople (Edirne) as the sole remnant of their Balkan empire. These experiences deepened the Young Turks' mistrust of the non- Turkish populations within their borders. The far worse ravages of war against the combined might of the British, French and Russian empires turned mistrust into murder, with malice aforethought. Nothing illustrates more clearly that the worst time to live under imperial rule is when that rule is crumbling. Not for the last time in the twentieth century, the decline and fall of an empire caused more bloodshed than its rise.
The Greek population of western Anatolia and the Black Sea littoral (the Pontus) had numbered around two million on the eve of the First World War. Their communities were very ancient; they had been there for more than two thousand years, a fact to which magnificent edifices like the theatre at Ephesus bore witness. They continued to thrive in the modern world, as any visitor to the busy waterfront of Smyrna could see. Yet as early as October 1915 the German military attache reported to Berlin that Enver wanted 'to solve the Greek problem during the war ... in the same way that he believes he solved the Armenian problem'. The process began in Thrace. It was in fact more plausible for the Turks to portray the Greeks as a fifth column, since the Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos strongly favoured Greek intervention on the side of the Entente powers and, although King Constantine resisted until finally driven to abdicate in June 1917, the presence of an Anglo-French force at Salonika from October I9I5 cast doubt on the credibility of Greek neutrality. Viewed from Salonika, the First World War was the Third Balkan War, with Bulgaria joining Germany and Austria in the rout of Serbia; indeed, it was to shore up the disintegrating Serbian position that the Entente powers had sent their troops to Salonika. It was too late. The AngloFrench force remained penned in, unable, despite Greece's belated entry into the war, to prevent the German-Bulgarian defeat of Romania in 1917. Yet the final phase of the war saw a collapse as complete as that suffered by the Germans on the Western Front. An offensive on the Salonika Front forced Bulgaria to sue for peace on September 25, I9 I 8; six days later the British marched into Damascus, having defeated the Turkish army in Syria.
In the best traditions
of classical Greek drama, however, hubris was soon followed by nemesis. The
crisis of defeat had led to revolution in Turkey. In April 1920 a Grand
National Assembly was established in Ankara, which repudiated the Treaty of
Sevres and offered the post of President to the fair-haired, blue-eyed,
hard-drinking General Mustafa Kemal.