01 decembrie 2012

1 Decembrie 1918 nu a venit pe tavă (I)

Partea I   Partea a II-a   Partea a III-a

O serie de articole de epocă, de la siteul The Great War in a Different Light, despre realităţile de pe frontul românesc, în timpul primului război mondial.
from 'The War Illustrated', 16th September, 1916
'Why Rumania Is Our New Ally'

Nations Have No Friends, Only Interests

left : the queen of Rumania
right : the king of Rumania
from a French literary magazine

To be perfectly frank, Rumania has joined in the colossal conflict from the simplest, sincerest, and most universal of all human motives—self-interest. But while this is true, it is not by any means the whole truth, for in her case self-interest coincides, as it does not always nor even often, with the principles of justice and eternal right. When on Sunday, August 27th, she declared war on Austria-Hungary, and thereby also declared that she took the side of the Allies, she was inspired by the conviction that the time was opportune for her to realise that which she long has desired.

Frank Statement of "Casus Belli"

What Rumania wants is such an extension of her territory as will include the people of her own race, known as the Rumanes, who live in that part of Hungary called Transylvania, and who for many years have groaned under the tyranny and oppression of the Magyars. And she finds a further justification of her action in the well-grounded belief that her definite appearance in the field at the present juncture will tend to hasten the end of the vast and terrible struggle which has shaken the world to its foundations.

In the interesting Note, which was handed to the Austro-Hungarian Minister at Bukarest after the Crown Council had come to its momentous decision, Rumania defines her attitude in the matter with refreshing candour. Towards the close of this remarkable document, which writes the first page of a new epoch in her history, she observes very accurately that the war raises the gravest problems affecting the national development and the very existence of States, and then goes on to say that " Rumania, from a desire to contribute in hastening the end of the conflict, and governed by the necessity of safeguarding her racial interest, sees herself forced to enter into line with those able to assure to her the realisation of the national unity. The expression "sees herself forced," with the regret it implies, comes naturally enough from her past position, first with respect to the alliance which subsisted between her and Germany, Austria, and Italy prior to the war, and secondly with regard to her special relations with the Dual Monarchy.

Before the Note was published it was widely supposed, rather than positively known, that Rumania had entered into some sort of, treaty with the Central Powers and Italy, who in 1914 formed the Triple Alliance. This compact, she tells us, was essentially of a conservative and defensive character, its object being to guarantee security to the contracting parties against any attack from outside. When the war broke out both Italy and Rumania, rightly looking on the belligerency of Germany and Austria as distinctly aggressive, declined to endorse it, and refused to begin hostilities against the Entente Powers, but both still remained members—at any rate nominally—of the Triple Alliance, which only passed out of existence when Italy, in 1915, declared war on Austria.

The action of Italy, between whom and Rumania there always has been the greatest sympathy, put a new complexion on affairs, and it was from that time that Rumania began to hold the views which have led her to take the part of the Allies. The Note states in unmistakable language that when the Triple Alliance ceased to be, then the reasons which had determined her adherence to that political group also disappeared. Rumania, in fact, felt that she was no longer safe, and had to reconsider her position.

There was a good deal more than that in the case. For not only had Rumania regarded- her agreement with the Triple Alliance as ensuring peace for herself from without, but she had thought of it as a pledge for the improvement of the lot of her kinsfolk, who were the subjects of the Dual Monarchy or, more precisely, of the Magyars of Hungary. The pledge, however, was not redeemed. No amelioration of the unhappy circumstances of the Rumanes of Transylvania occurred ; their life was a burden to them. How matters stood cannot be phrased better than in the Note: "For a period of over thirty years the Rumanians of the Dual Monarchy not only never saw a reform introduced of a nature to give them even the semblance of satisfaction, but, on the contrary, they were treated as an inferior race, and condemned to suffer the oppression of a foreign element which forms only a minority in the midst of the diverse nationalities constituting the Austro-Hungarian States."

Austrian Tyranny Over the Rumanes

In Hungary, which has a population of upwards of twenty-one millions, that of Austria being about twenty-nine millions, there are over three millions of Rumanian blood. The Magyars number some ten millions, but many so-called Magyars are not of that race at all, and the real figure should be much smaller. In Transylvania, by the census of 1910, at least 55 per cent, of the people are Rumanian, as against 34 per cent, of Szeklers or Hungarians; the remainder is of Saxon origin, and not friendly to the Magyars.

According to the principle of "nationality," which is now so generally accepted, Transylvania ought to be Rumanian, or at least she should be governed by the Rumane majority. In her Note Rumania points out to Germany that her own unification was a recognition of this principle. At one time Transylvania had a Diet or Parliament, as her neighbour Croatia-Slavonia still has, but it was taken away from her by the Magyars. Though she has a franchise, and is technically in full political union with Hungary, her votes do not count, owing to the terrorism of the ruling caste as well as the ignorance in which the great bulk of her people are kept, 70 per cent, being illiterates. They were scarcely treated as human beings.

It was small wonder, then, that the wrongs of these downtrodden and suffering- Rumanes should create the most painful feeling in Rumania, and maintain between her and Austria-Hungary a continual' state of animosity, which threatened every moment to. disturb most seriously their good relations with one another. Being but a small Power, Rumania for the most part had to submit in silence to the miserable condition of her kin. At the outset of the war she had some hope that the Dual Monarchy would change its policy, but she was disappointed.

Two years of war have proved that Austria-Hungary, hostile to all domestic reform that might benefit the peoples she governed, showed herself, to quote from the Note once more, "as prompt to sacrifice them as she was powerless to defend them-against external attacks." Thus Rumania breaks her silence, and says what was in her mind, but which for obvious reasons she was unable to give utterance to before. Her day has now come, and with it that of her oppressed nationals in Transylvania, whose frontier passes she has so quickly penetrated to join issue with their oppressors.

Rumania had yet another cause for declaring war on Austria and adhering to the Entente Powers. Properly speaking, she is not one of the Balkan States, but her contiguity to them, and the march of recent events in that region, have brought her well, within their orbit. By the Second Balkan War, which was speedily and effectually terminated by her intervention, she gained a small slice of territory from Bulgaria. In her view—though, of course, not in that of Bulgaria—this acquisition rectified her frontier, giving her greater security against aggression, and at the same time repaired the injustice, as she considered it, that had been done to her by the Congress of Berlin. Now Bulgaria was the pet and the protegée at that time of Austria, who had egged her on to fight her former allies.

It must be remembered that it was Austria, and hot Germany so much, that cast her shadow over the Balkans just then, and embodied the Drang nach Osten; and Austria made Rumania feel her intense displeasure with what had been meted out to Bulgaria.

A new situation arose when Austria went to war with Serbia in July, 1914. The Balkans again were thrown into turmoil, and the whole position of affairs in that area became disquieting to Rumania. She was well aware of the ideas respecting Serbia which were held by Austrians and Hungarians alike, and dreaded the revenge they would wreak upon that brave but unfortunate country. Her fears were to be amply justified, but at the outset of the war she asked Austria to say what were her intentions with regard. to Serbia, and Rumania now specifically asserts that she imposed neutrality on herself in consequence of the assurances she then received that Austria was not inspired by the spirit of conquest, and had absolutely no territorial gains in view. As all the world knows, these assurances were not realised. In spite of a glorious resistance, which drove back in crushing defeat three invasions of her soil, hapless Serbia, insufficiently aided by the Allies, was overwhelmed in the end, and her land has been apportioned between Austria and Bulgaria. Such is the value of the pledged word of Austria.

The True Example of Italy

No doubt Rumania reflected that there were other Powers whose wotd was to be trusted, but with Austria triumphant, Bulgaria swollen and exultant, and Serbia blotted out—temporarily,. as we all know—from the .roll of the nations, she had to take stock of her position very seriously. Earlier she had before her eyes, so that she could not help seeing the general success, as should be admitted, of the Central Powers in the field last summer and autumn, which committed Ferdinand of Bulgaria and his people to the German programme.

No one was better informed of the tremendous losses of Russia than Rumania. The one bright beam that shone like a beacon for her was the breaking away of Italy from the Triple Alliance. Still earlier, when the war looked less dark for the Allies, as when Russia was victorious in Galicia, she was urged by many, even of her own leaders, to throw in her lot with the Entente Powers. All the while she was courted or threatened, according to the look of things, by the Central Powers, but she bided her time. Her position -was extremely delicate, and even critical. She could expect little or no help from Russia, and practically she was surrounded on all sides by the enemies of the Allies.

Rumania and the Winning Card

The great fact remains that, in spite of all temptations, notwithstanding all menaces, she did not stand in with Germany. For one thing, the majority of her people had no love for the Germans, but liked France and Italy; and for another, her King, though he was a Hohenzollern, and had been a Prussian soldier, put the interests of Rumania, his adopted country, before everything—to his everlasting honour be it -said. Most of all, her destinies were mainly in the strong grasp of a remarkable man, M. Bratiano, her Prime Minister. Calm and infinitely patient, moving slowly or not at all, he weighed events, and waited. It is, easy now to see the influences working on him and where his sympathies lay, but he had to be sure not to make any mistake. It was a matter of life or death to Rumania.

Apart from the impossibility of realising her national ideals through Austria and Germany, Rumania's final decision must have depended largely on the four factors which have caused the red tide of war to turn. These are the failure of the Germans at Verdun, the raising of large British armies ensured by compulsory service, the resurgence of Russia and her great success in Volhynia, Galicia, and. Bukovina during the past three months, and the Franco-British offensive on the Somme, all of which have combined to take the initiative from Germany End leave her everywhere on the defensive. The concentration of huge forces of the Allies at Salonika must also have had some effect. M. Bratiano at last was satisfied, and Rumania is in the field with her hundreds of thousands of soldiers, everyone of whom knows why she has joined in the' war, and is keen to fight the thing through.

the king of Rumania

*   *   * 

from 'the War Illustrated’ 13th April 1918
'Smoke-Clouds of Destruction'
a Wanderer in War Lands

How a Great Task was Greatly Achieved

What will happen to the Rumanian oil-fields ? Many people would be glad to know, especially those who have money invested in them. Will the Germans try to keep them ? If so, will the property of British investors be confiscated ?

The British, French and Russian Governments agreed, so it was stated in Rumania at the time of the destruction of the wells, to pay compensation for damage done. Now Russia has no Government. Will France and Britain recompence shareholders in oil companies for their whole losses ?

What would those losses amount to if the oil district were annexed ? That I must leave to "someone in the City" to compute. All I know is that the engineers put the value of the property destroyed towards the end of 1916 at thirty million pounds ! A more effective, more creditable piece of work has not been done during the war.

Yet it was, of course, a melancholy business. It had taken many years to build up the Rumanian oil industry. Years of thought and labour, of effort and calculation. Years, at last, of triumph and profitable toil for all concerned.

A "Destroying Angel"

The industry kept a large population busy and prosperous. It provided the world with more than one of the necessaries of life, as we live it to-day — with light and heat, with grease to make the wheels of engines go round, with the driving power for millions of automobiles and other kinds of petrol motors. Hundreds of thousands of people depended upon its continued working for their living, or for part of it. The convenience and comfort of millions have been affected by the lessening of the petrol supply. Yet it was a military act of necessity to destroy. the industry as far as possible.

"What is war," Napoleon asked, "but a game of barbarians ?" Savage and senseless, save from its own distorted view-point, acts of war must always be.

It was on a sunny November, day that I first saw in Bucharest my old acquaintance "Jack" Norton Griffiths — "Empire Jack" his constituents used to call him. He was looking at the ruins of a building wrecked in the early morning air raid. At first I did not recognise him, in uniform with red tabs, but I found that being a Staff colonel had not a whit changed his jolly, kindly, care-free nature, nor diminished his immense energetic capability by any job of "militarism."

He had been sent out to see that. The Germans got as little as possible out of Rumania, either in the way of oil or grain. Already it was clear that the Rumanian Army could not save the country from invasion. Help was looked for from Russia, but the Russians could not send it in time. They were most unjustly accused of "betraying Rumania." That is nonsense. General Alexeieff was ready to do all that lay in his power, but he could not work miracles. Only a miracle could have moved sufficient Russian troops to save Rumania from Mackensen's machine- like manipulation of his forces.

By the end of November it was clear that the oil-wells must either be destroyed or presented to the enemy. Already they had been left untouched too long. The Rumanian Government urged that they should be left a little longer. But now Colonel Norton Griffiths had his orders. Off he went to Ploesti, the capital of the oil country. He called together the British engineers and managers who had longest experience and those who were reputed to possess the longest heads.

He got valuable advice also from American oil-men. There was general agreement that the only way to seal up a well, so that it could not be used again, was to drop the dipping machinery into it upside down. Wherever such a thing had happened by accident, it had been found impossible to get the machinery out.

Then the colonel got to work. He is by the way, the founder and head of a very big contracting firm which makes docks, digs canals, builds harbours all over the world. Now he proved that he was no less competent at destruction than at construction. A "destroying angel," the oil people nicknamed him. One mine manager of a poetical turn, described him to me as being "in love with ruin."

A great deal of oil was pumped or run off from the reservoirs into shallow basins, where it was set on fire. It did not explode. It did not blaze up. It burned sullenly, giving off a dense black smoke. All over the country the dense black smoke rolled in sinister, slowly-moving clouds. At a place called Targovistca, twenty miles away, it was thick enough to blot out the daylight and make dark night at four in the afternoon.

As I look back, those days of destruction are like a nightmare in my memory. A nightmare lit up by huge flares of burning petrol, lakes of petrol, rivers of petrol, and always above them dense, black, stinking smoke.

Nothing in the war has made a deeper impression on my mind. The lurid sensationalism of it, the hurry in which it was all done, with the query lurking at the back of everyone's thoughts : "Can we do it in time ?"

With Colonel Norton Griffiths worked several oil-men. The new officers set to work with as many helpers as they could enlist by promise of reward. It was a perilous job they were engaged in. There were dangers of falling roofs or walls, dangers of fire, dangers of suffocation. And added to these, there was danger in the threatening mood of the population.

These unfortunate people had to look on and see their living vanish. They saw the wells and refineries which supported them and their families being choked up and knocked down. "Better that the Germans should have them, and employ as, than that we should have no work and starve." That was how they argued.

The colonel was here, there and everywhere, "the life and soul of the party," as another mine manager put it. This poor fellow had helped to break up his own home. His furniture, piano, a library of books which he had been collecting since he was a boy, all had gone. His job had gone. The oil-field which he had managed so capably, and made to yield its increase in growing volume year after year, was out of action. Yet he joked about it. He was the most cheerful of us all as we sat at our scanty meals.

the destruction of the Rumanian oil-wells as seen by a German magazine - 'Illustrirte Berliner Zeitung'

Just in Time

If the oil would not light up quickly the colonel took bundles of blazing straw and flung them into it. He was seen swinging sledge-hammers against the oil-refining machinery, "He ought to have been killed a hundred times," said an admiring American. "Why he wasn't, I cannot understand." His example made all his assistants work like three men apiece.

Just in time they got their work finished. The sound of the guns, magnified by the mountain echoes, had been coming nearer and nearer. Through the town wounded men and deserters and fugitives were flowing in solid streams. There was no hope now that the enemy could be checked before he had captured Bucharest and the oil region.

The well-to-do part of the frightened population had no thought but to flee. The rest for the most part, took a fatalist view. "Let the Germans come," they said to each other. "They can't harm us more than these foreigners have done."

On a Saturday the destruction was almost completed. It was, known that the Rumanian Headquarters Staff had passed through Ploesti in flight. "Give it up now," the colonel was urged. The bombardment sounded very near.

“No," he said, "we'll make a clean job of it." They went on until the Monday. Then the remains of Avarescu's Army began pouring down from the passes they had held so bravely, and so much longer than they had been expected to hold them.

Only then did Colonel Norton Griffiths give the word to quit. It would, indeed, have been useless to stay longer. There was nothing left to do.

portraits of colonel Griffiths / oil wells ablaze in Rumania

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Citate din gândirea profundă a europeiştilor RO

Adrian Cioroianu, 2009 ("Şi totuşi, Europa unită există – deşi nu toţi europenii votează"): Într-o Uniune Europeană ce întârzie să-şi legifereze unitatea (din moment ce Tratatul de la Lisabona nu este ratificat de toate statele membre), într-o Uniune care nu are încă o politică externă comună şi nici o politică de securitate energetică (vezi diferenţele mari dintre state comunitare precum Italia, Germania, România sau Lituania în privinţa relaţiilor lor cu Rusia, de exemplu), într-o Uniune al cărui „euro-parlament” de la Bruxelles & Strasbourg nu prea se ştie cu ce se ocupă, lipsa unui entuziasm comunitar nu poate surprinde. În anul 2007, cu ocazia unei vizite a lui H.G. Pöttering (preşedintele Parlamentului European) în România, în numele MAE român am organizat un prânz în onoarea oaspetelui – la care au fost invitaţi mulţi dintre politicienii exponenţiali ai tuturor partidelor noastre parlamentare. Cu toţii i-am povestit dlui Pöttering cât de unanimă a fost dorinţa românilor de a adera la Uniune şi cât de mult ne-am bucurat, de la mic la mare. Zâmbind, acesta ne-a spus că nu e convins că această unanimitate ar trebui să ne entuziasmeze – cu atât mai mult cu cât nimeni nu poate garanta cât de reală era ea. Date fiind problemele ce or să apară în procesul de integrare, poate ar fi fost mai bine să ştiţi mai precis cine crede într-adevăr în Uniune şi cine nu – a spus, în rezumat, invitatul nostru. Şi cred că acest raţionament era corect. Poate o să-l înţelegem mai bine în următorii ani, în care e foarte posibil să apară şi la noi curente (politice sau intelectuale) care să pună problema în termeni mai tranşanţi: ce aduce Uniunea Europeană unui stat ca România? Beneficiile sunt mai mari decât constrângerile? Avantajele sunt superioare concesiilor? Personal, cred că răspunsul la astfel de întrebări este cert pozitiv. Dar nu exclud eventualitatea ca unii români să nu vadă lucrurile astfel – şi, mă tem, numărul lor va fi, în următorul deceniu, în creştere".

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