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Modernism: The Creation of Nation-States

 | 
Ahmet Ersoy
, 
Maciej Górny
, 
Vangelis Kechriotis

Chapter III. “National projects” and their regional framework

The program of his foreign policy

Eleftherios Venizelos
Traduction de Mary Kitroeff

Texte intégral

1Title: Tó πpóypaμμa τῆς ἐξωτεp ῆς αủτoũ πoλιτιĸῆς (The program of his foreign policy)

2Originally published: Appendix to the newspaper Πατpíς (Motherland), Athens, 1915

3Language: Greek
The excerpts used are from the original.

About the author

4Eleftherios Venizelos: [1864, Mournies (the island of Crete) – 1936, Paris]: the most prominent Greek politician of the twentieth century. He was born to a well-off merchant family. He completed his secondary education in Chania (Tur. Hanya) in Crete. His father reluctantly sent him to study at the School of Law in Athens, from which young Eleftherios graduated in 1866 and returned to Crete. He was immediately involved in politics and soon elected deputy in the Parliament of what was then the autonomous Cretan polity under Ottoman suzerainty where he demonstrated his rhetoric mastery and political instinct. In 1905, he was the leading figure of the Ther-issos uprising, the most important among a series of similar revolts, fueled by the conflict between Christians and Muslims. In September 1908, following the Young Turk revolution, the Cretan Congress unilaterally declared the annexation of the Cretan polity to the Hellenic Kingdom. In the newly established cabinet, Venizelos participated as a foreign minister. Finally, in April 1910, he was elected president of the Congress and thus prime minister. In August 1910, following the ‘Goudi movement’ in Athens, he was invited by the ‘Military League,’ the secret society behind the coup, to take over as a prime minister of the Hellenic Kingdom. After the successful Balkan Wars in 1912–1913 his popularity increased immensely. The rivalry, however, and the eventual break with King Constantine, led Greek society to extremely high tension. In August 1920, with the Sevres Treaty, Venizelos accomplished his vision of a Greece that extended between ‘two continents and five seas.’ However, on his way back to Greece, royalist officers attacked him at the Lyon train station. He survived the attempted murder and returned to Greece, where he dissolved the Parliament and proclaimed elections for 1 November. However, his Liberal Party was defeated and Venizelos was not even elected as a deputy, upon which, he decided to quit politics and leave for Paris. He returned when he was asked by the leaders of the military coup following the Asia Minor defeat, in September 1922 (see Alexandros Papanastasiou, The republican manifesto) to lead the Greek delegation to the negotiations at the Lausanne conference. He returned to politics in July 1928, after the Republic had been declared and after the Liberal Party had been divided. In the election of 19 August 1928, Venizelos achieved an overwhelming majority and governed until 1932. During this period, unlike the period between 1910 and 1915, he pursued an extremely anti-popular policy, demonstrated mainly by the new labor legislation. At the same time, in 1930, he signed a pact of friendship with the Turkish prime minister, İsmet İnönü, thus initiating a period of peace between the two countries. In 1935, after a series of failed military coups, he attempted to take over power, relying upon his supporters in the army. After he failed, he was forced to leave for Paris, where he died a year later. Venizelos’s impact on Greek political life was immense. The term bεvıζελıσμός (Venizelism), used to describe his domestic policy, was identified with bourgeois modernization supported by state interventionism. In ideological terms, it is significant to stress that the split between Venizelists and Royalists formed an ideological cleavage which influenced Greek political life until well after the Second World War. Moreover, many Venizelist officers and civilians joined the Eθυıкό Aπελενθερωτıкό Mέτωπo (National liberation front), which during the Second World War gradually developed into a communist movement. Thus, the ensuing conflict between communists and royalists reproduced, to some extent, the previous political rivalry. In 2000, Venizelos was proclaimed by the Greek public the Greek politician of the century.

5Main works: La politique de la Grèce: ouvrage contenant les discours prononcés par l’homme d’etat aux séances historiques du Parlement hellénique (octobre et no-vembre 1915): le traité Greco-Serbe, le péril Bulgare, la Grèce, l’entente et les puissances centrales, l’expédition des Dardanelles, la politique intérieure (1916); Ἡ Ἑλληνoτoρкıкή συμϕωνíа каí аíπρoσϕυγıкаí ảπoζημıὡσεıς: Δὐo íστoρıκаí àγoρεὐσεıς τoũ Πρωὐθυπoυργoũ κ Βευıζἐλoυ [The Greco-Turkish treaty and compensation for the refugees: two historic speeches by Prime Minister Venizelos] (1930); Пoıoí oí ὑπεύθυνoı δıáτήν Mıκρaσıaτıκήν Kaτaστρoϕήν: τá ĩ ảπώτερa aĩτιa τῶν σημερıνῶν οỉκονομıκ ῶν μaς δvσχερεıῶν: τρεĩς ἱστορıκaí ảγορεύσεıς [Who are responsible for the Asia Minor disaster: The ulterior causes of our current economic woes: three historic speeches] (1932); Ἡ Kρητıκή ἐπaνáστς τοῦ1889, [The Cretan revolution of 1889] (1971), Βaλκaνıκόν σύμϕωον κaί ἡ ἑλληνıκή ἐξωτερıκή πολıτıκή 1928–1934 [The Balkan pact and Greek foreign policy] (1974).

Context

6In August 1909, a group of middle ranking army officers gathered around a society called Στρaτıωτıκός Σύνδεσμος (Military league) organized a military movement in Goudi, a suburb of Athens. The officers revolted, aiming to put an end to political stagnancy and decrease the involvement of the royal family in the army. Since they did not claim power for themselves and since no politician of the old regime could form a viable government, the ‘League’ invited Eleftherios Venizelos, the prime minister of the Cretan polity who was already famous in Greece, to take over. Venizelos suggested that the only way out was the formation of a new cabinet and the introduction of constitutional reforms. King George I, not without hesitation, accepted his suggestion. The elections took place in August 1910 and Venizelos was elected deputy for Athens. He soon received the mandate and opted for new elections, which would give him a majority in Parliament. In fact, the old parties did not participate in these elections and Venizelos achieved overwhelming majority. This new Parliament, in 1911, introduced a series of reforms in the administration, education, labor and other areas which created conditions for the modernization of public life.

7However, Venizelos’s major concern was to enhance Greek involvement in the so-called ‘Eastern Question.’ During the previous crisis, in 1877–78, Greece had proved incapable of taking any serious action at a time when all neighboring nations, the Bulgarians in particular, took great advantage of the opportunity to improve their position in the region. At the Berlin Congress, the autonomy of Bulgaria and Montenegro was promulgated, Romania and Serbia became independent, but Greece had achieved nothing. Venizelos approached the other Christian Balkan states with a proposal for common action against the Ottoman Empire. The policy of an alliance between Balkan states dated back to the 1860s, but then it was limited to defense agreements signed between Greece and Serbia. These agreements dictated common action against the Ottoman Empire and consequent distribution of any conquered lands. However, when during the Serbian-Ottoman war of 1875, King Milan asked for a Greek contribution, Koumoundouros’ government did not consider itself bound by the agreement. In the 1880s and 1890s, a different kind of Balkan coalition was sought through the activity of the association Άνaτολıκή Ὁμοσπονδία (Eastern Federation), founded in Athens in 1884. The association developed into the most important champion of Balkan unity. Yet, under the political circumstances of the end of nineteenth century such a ‘utopian’ plan could not appeal to the broader masses. However, by the early 1910s, Serbia and Bulgaria had already signed a pact for common action. In September 1912, Venizelos signed a similar pact with Serbia. Thus, on 30 September, Greece declared war on the Ottoman Empire. On 1 October, during the opening ceremony of the Parliament, the deputies from Crete were welcomed with enthusiasm. The declaration of war immediately triggered popular enthusiasm since the eagerness to compensate for the defeat of 1897 at the hands of the Ottomans was widespread. In the two Balkan Wars which followed, Venizelos’s policy proved successful. On 28 June 1913, the treaty signed in Bucharest between Bulgaria and the rest of the Balkan states satisfied all Greek claims in Macedonia, Epirus, the Aegean islands and Crete.

8Despite certain disagreements, Venizelos and Constantine, who succeeded his father George I in 1913 when the latter was murdered in Salonica were on very good terms. However, the outbreak of the First World War was to change their relation dramatically. When Greece was asked by the allies to contribute to the siege of the Dardanelles in 1915, Venizelos and Constantine held conflicting positions. Constantine was pro-German. After all, his wife Sofia was Kaiser Wilhelm II’s sister. He insisted on keeping Greece out of the war, in neutrality, which eventually would facilitate the plans of the Central Powers. Venizelos, on the other hand, considered this war as an opportunity for the fulfillment of Greek irredentist plans, and since he was pro-British, he insisted that Greece should enter the war on the side of the allies. Venizelos resigned, but, in the elections of 31 May 1915, the Liberal Party again achieved a majority. Due to the King’s firm refusal however, Venizelos had to resign again. The crisis ensued has been described as the Ἑθνıκός Δıχaσμός (National schism).

9It is under these circumstances that Venizelos gave his speech to the Parliament. He accused his opponents of political inconsistency. On the one hand, they considered the expansion of the Greek state necessary, but on the other hand, they reproached the leader of the Liberals for the alliance with the other Balkan countries during the Balkan Wars. If they abstained from the war, in the long run this would help the Ottoman Empire survive and would reinforce the hegemony of Bulgaria. This would be disastrous for the Greeks of the Ottoman Empire, the so-called unredeemed brothers who were already being persecuted. Venizelos, whose party, in his view, represented the ‘New Greece’ (Νέa Ἑλλáς), accused his opponents of representing the old political world and of not daring to cope with the complexities of the new conditions. He believed that the struggle among nations was inspired by noble aspirations and that it was the fulfillment of the natural restoration. In other words, Greek irredentist policies do not violate any other nation’s rights, as they are firmly grounded on abundant historical justification. This is why, sacrifices were necessary on the part of the people. The task was the creation of a ‘Greater Greece’ (Μεγáλη Ἑλλáς) which would be able to survive economically and politically, protect its citizens and make them proud of their nationality.

10The Liberal Party did not participate in the December 1915 elections, and the majority in the new Parliament turned out to be overwhelmingly pro-royalist. Venizelos fled to Salonica where he formed a revolutionary cabinet known as the Ἐθνική Ἃμυνa (National defense). Allied troops, which had already disembarked in Salonica, moved to Athens and forced the proroyalist Skouloudis government to resign. Thus, on 29 May 1917, Constantine fled the country and was succeeded by his son, Alexander I. Venizelos arrived few days later and Greece entered the war on the side of the Allies.

11Venizelos’s vision for the creation of a Greece that would extend across ‘two continents and five seas’ was a radical version of the old ‘Great Idea’ that had dominated Greek politics throughout the nineteenth century (see Ioannis Kolettis, Of this great idea) and was accomplished after the end of the war and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. With the Sevres treaty, signed on 10 August 1920, Greece was given not only Western and Eastern Thrace but also a large zone around Izmir, in the county of Aydin (Gr. Aydini), where the Greek army would operate as a transitional regime until a plebiscite would be held five years later to indicate which country this area would be annexed to. By May 1919, Greek forces had already disembarked in Izmir. This marked the beginning of a new war between the Greek army and Turkish national resistance forces organized by Mustafa Kemal Pasha. The war ended with a bitter Greek defeat and the consequent exchange of population between Greece and Turkey in 1923. Devastation was inflicted upon the Greek populations of Asia Minor who, if they were lucky to survive the war, had to abandon their territories where, in many cases, an uninterrupted presence of Orthodox culture could be traced back a couple of millennia. The refugees managed to integrate into Greek society only after decades of hardships and discriminations. Despite the Ankara pact of 1930 that actually put an end to their hopes and expectations of returning to their homes, they were so much attached to the charisma of the ‘national leader,’ which was how they saw Venizelos, that they did not hold him responsible for their calamities, since already from November 1920 he was not any more in power. However, what has been described in public memory and in the relevant literature as the ‘Asia Minor Catastrophe’ cannot be only explained by the incapacity of the Royalist cabinets and the military genius of Mustafa Kemal Pasha. An entire policy should be held accountable, namely from irredentist dreams that led to such an unprecedented suffering. As recent literature has shown, Venizelos not only served this policy consistently, but also profited from its appeal to the public.

12VK

The program of his foreign policy

A microhelladic policy

  • 1 Nestos river (Tur. Karasu) forms today the physical border between two Greek provinces, eastern Ma (...)

13And if you were to further tell me that it would be possible for this state to be indifferent both to its national aspirations and to its obligations and that it is possible, by betraying all these, for it to exist and to exist as a self-sufficient state, limiting itself within its former borders, if that is what you were saying, I would still understand you. But since that is not what you are saying and since you consider necessary the development of the state in order for its borders to coincide with the borders of its national domination, not only for moral and sentimental reasons, but for reasons of politics and economics, you will allow me to consider your policy incomprehensible, when you dare, even today, after the events which have transpired, to censure me for joining forces with Bulgaria and Serbia, in order for Greece to extend its borders to the Nestos.1 But difficulties have come about today, and it is probable that these difficulties would not have occurred had our borders not extended that far, and it is probable, should our borders extend further, that we shall encounter more difficulties, for, the greater the interests of the state, the more natural it is for them to adjoin the interests of others and to cause friction, and thus you censure me because, having extended Greece’s borders, I am the cause of these difficulties; in that case, your policy is microhelladic, if I may call it so, and that being the case it would be better for us to ask all neighboring countries what they want us to give them and have them sign a deed of settlement, while we limit ourselves henceforth to the remaining state, following this settlement, to be able to live in this minor state without distractions!

  • 2 The old settlement of Ano Kervilion (Mac. Krushevo), in present-day Republic of Macedonia.

14And you will allow me once again, Gentlemen, to tell you, that I find myself before a phenomenon which has manifested itself repeatedly in this very chamber during the past five years. We have the old world of Greece represented by the new Government; we have the new, post-revolutionary world represented by the Liberal Party. The old ideology, represented by the current Government, is the one which thought that Greece could not create an army of more than 60,000; the one which thought that Greece must not ally itself with anyone towards the realization of its national claims; the one which had limitless as well as vague and nebulous aspirations regarding these national claims, in order for its actual preparation to be in inverse proportion to the magnitude of its claims. We did not know then how far our national claims may extend; many times we spread them out so much that those among our politicians who were content with our borders extending to the north as far as Kroussovo2 were labelled as betraying Greece’s rights. Participating in this Government is the Greek politician who was accused of betraying Greece’s rights because he took care, poor fellow, in the regulating and the understanding of Macedonian affairs, to leave out, besides the other two provinces, the province of Kosovo. It is, therefore, natural, when Greece is faced again today by issues comparable to those of 1912, that we should find ourselves at opposite poles of political thought. Now, as you did then, you do not wish for a war together with allies. Today you say: “Let this cup pass from me.” And when I tell you that this cup will not pass definitively, but entirely temporarily, in order to return again so that you may drink of it to the last drop, you say to us: “You are to blame, you, who led us as far as the Nestos!” (Applause.) Do you not think, therefore, Gentlemen, that the new Greece has the right to say to the old Greece: “Gentlemen, it is your obligation, faced once again with such great and complicated difficulties, to step aside and leave the country to the new Greece, which has the spiritual fortitude to confront these new circumstances?” (Prolonged applause.)

The cession of Cyprus

15[...] The significance this would have for the future shaping of the Kingdom of Greece each of you comprehends.

16And do not think, Gentlemen, that, by virtue of your policy today, we are simply rejecting all these potential demands of Greece’s for the sake of not waging an inevitable war against Bulgaria at this time. We are rejecting them not only in the present time, but we are rendering it impossible for a future realization of these national dreams. By virtue of your policy, not only will we not dash all Bulgarian dreams of hegemony in the Balkans and limit her to where her national mass gives her the right to live together with the other people of the Balkan Peninsula, not only do we render impossible at present the definitive termination of the struggle which, as I have said on other occasions, has been waged for the past 13 centuries between ourselves and Bulgaria, but we are in danger, by virtue of your policy—which, without it being your intention, serves the interests of the other European alliance—to render possible the preservation of the Ottoman Empire after the war. You will allow me to say that one must be blind not to see what will take place from then on, should the Ottoman Empire emerge from the war unscathed. The uprooting of Hellenism, which began in April of 1914, will be absolute and irreversible. The entire national structure which exists within the Ottoman Empire and which is not a creation merely of recent centuries but is indigenous, coming into existence much earlier—by a millennium—than the Ottoman conquest, this entire structure will be swept away completely, sending all those millions of the Greek element here, to the free Greece. The events leading up to the European war will convince you of which will be the fate of Hellenism in Turkey, should that country survive it.

The government assumes a heavy responsibility

17[...] It is quite natural, Gentlemen, given the ideas behind the actions of the old political world of Greece, which today holds the majority of the Government seats, it is quite natural, I say, for it not to be able to adapt to the new state of things, not to be able to adapt to the large and colossal problems which have been emerging from the time during which Greece, having ceased to be small, extended its borders and occupied a position in the Mediterranean which was not only extremely imposing but also extremely enviable, and as such, extremely dangerous. How dare you, with those old ideas, to take on the responsibility of the policy you have carved out, indeed distancing yourselves from the traditional policy of this old political world of Greece, a world which knew that it is impossible for the prosperity of Greek affairs to be in contrast to the Powers that rule the sea? How is it possible, I repeat, today, having such ideas, to wish to impose them, against the repeatedly expressed opinion of the National Representation, against the very results of the recent past, which you did not hesitate, with the sincerity which distinguishes you, fellow citizen, again this very evening to denounce and to clearly state that, deep down, you think that we would be better off if we were within our old borders, those of before 1912? [...]

Epilogue. We will create a Greater Greece

18Regrettably, after the triumphant wars, we were not given time to develop our new country and organize this enlarged Greece according, as far as possible, to the model of a new state, and thus supply the people with all those advantages and all those benefits which could originate from the expansion of our borders. This truly unfortunate nation has, until now, seen nothing other than the sacrifices which it suffered for the expansion of the state’s borders and had the moral satisfaction that it liberated its brothers, and the national satisfaction that it belongs to a state which is larger than it was before; however, from a material point of view, from the point of view strictly of economic interests, it has yet to see how it has benefited from this expansion of the state. It is natural, therefore, that today, all we have to present before the people are, once again, the required sacrifices, but sacrifices which will, Gentlemen, and it is my firm belief—inasmuch as there may exist among people such beliefs regarding such matters—it is my firm belief and my political opinion that these sacrifices will lead to the creation of a great and powerful Greece, which will not constitute an expansion of the state by conquest, but a natural return to the borders within which Hellenism was active from prehistoric times. We will create a Greece which will be greater and strong and rich, capable of developing within its borders a vital industry, capable, by the interests it will represent, of entering into trade treaties with other states under the best possible conditions, and capable of protecting the Greek citizen, wherever he may be in the world, as is the case with the great and powerful states, while at the same time, not suffer persecution and not suffer the lack of any protection, as the subjects of the present-day Greek state suffer today.

19When you take account of all this, Gentlemen, you will understand why I said a little earlier that I am in the grip, and not only I, but the entire Liberal Party, of the most forbidding melancholy, for, by your government, you are leading Greece, unwittingly, but surely, to disaster, for you will make the country go to war out of necessity, under the harshest terms and under the most adverse conditions, and you will lose this opportunity to create a greater and powerful Greece, an opportunity which is only given to a nation once every millennium. (Prolonged applause both from the chamber and the galleries.)

Notes

1 Nestos river (Tur. Karasu) forms today the physical border between two Greek provinces, eastern Macedonia and western Thrace.

2 The old settlement of Ano Kervilion (Mac. Krushevo), in present-day Republic of Macedonia.

Auteur

Mary Kitroeff (Traducteur)

© Central European University Press, 2010

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