Triumph of the Policy of the Entente in Greece


[Current Opinion, July 1917]

The effect of the abdication of King Constantine, as foreseen in the Paris press, represents a compromize between the Hellenes and the Entente, and gives the lie to assurances in Austrian dailies that Berlin and Vienna control the course of events in Hellas. According to Dr. E. J. Dillon, writing in the London Telegraph, Constantine has been consistently hostile to the Allies ever since the opening of their campaign. During the first year of Sarrail's command of the so-called eastern army, the deposed sovereign employed every art and device at his disposal, open and covert, to harass that army and render its position precarious and untenable. Over and over again the general made representations, formulated proposals, and taxed, his ingenuity to get the Allied governments to dislodge the embodiment of danger that menaced the flank of the Allies from the Greek troops. The Allied governments declined to swerve from their friendliness to the King until within the last few weeks. Sarrail was even given to understand that he must let politics alone and confine himself to military considerations. The story runs that Sarrail would have been ordered home in disgrace but for his powerful friends in the chamber, one of whom went out to Greece, looked into the facts and reported to Paris that Sarrail was the object of an obscure but dangerous German conspiracy. The episode was the beginning of the end of the reign of Constantine.

A Defense of the Deposed King.

No less than four sets of censors stand between the Greeks and the Americans, as we are reminded by Mr. Paxton Hibben, a journalist of wide experience, who has reported the situation at Athens quite differently from his British and French brethren. He reveals the workings of a costly propaganda conducted by Venizelos "to persuade the world that the King of the Hellenes is an advocate of the doctrine of the divine right of kings,'' Venizelos, remaining the champion of freedom and democracy. King Constantine stands revealed in this friendly view of him as an ultra-democratic monarch whose aim was simply to save his country from the miseries that befell Servia, Montenegro and Rumania through their dependence upon powerful allies. Far from being pro-German, Constantine, we are told in the Hibben version of these events, tried to establish a cooperation between his army and that of the Allies under conditions which would not only secure Greece against disaster but would enhance the value of Greek support to the Allied cause. Venizelos is revealed, on the other hand, as an. imperialist seeking to take advantage of bureau at Salonica which keeps the wires busy.

Their daily cables are instantly transmitted the world over through the Entente censor and, published in the journals of England, France and Italy, to the mystification of millions. In those countries, according to the Atlantis, a patriotic Greek paper published here in New York the despatches of the Salonica press bureau are rehashed for American consumption. To make matters more bewildering, the Venizelists sent a committee to this country six months or more ago to influence opinion here and to get President Wilson to recognize Venizelos as the rightful ruler of Greece.

Do the Greeks Really Love Constantine?

Nothing could be more displeasing to the people of Hellas, in the light of what certain papers at Athens have said in the recent past, than the fall of their sovereign. Only last December, according to the tale told by Mr. Hibben, thousands of volunteers flocked to Athens to defend their sovereign against the armed forces of France, Great Britain and Italy. "The streets of the ancient city, thronged by masses of men, women and children crying: 'Long live the King!' when the Allied blockade of Greece began to pinch, showed more clearly than all the verbiage of Venizelos where the loyalty of the Greek people is rooted." The assertion is endorsed by the New York Atlantis, which "has been uneasy at the prospect that the Washington government may be misled by the machinations of Venizelos. Another and different view comes from Dr. Dillon. Writing, on the eve of the catastrophe, in the London Telegraph, he said:

"Incapable of chivalrous emotion, the ruler of the Hellenes is swayed by a feeling of mysterious awe towards the person of the Kaiser. Him he regards as the living embodiment of military force, the only ideal that calls forth his veneration. And towards the Kaiser he looks up for direction in all the tribulations of life as naturally as 'the sunflower turns to her god.' This hero-worship, childlike in its unreasoning instinctiveness, is the mainspring of Constantine's international dealings. Shrewd and practical enough to desire for himself, his dynasty, and his country the protection of the masters of the continent, he is firmly persuaded that the Germans, under Wilhelm's lead, will emerge from the smoke of battle the arbiters of Europe's fate. And he and his people have the enviable privilege of being their devoted clients. That would seem to have been the guiding motive of Constantine's foreign policy, not merely since yesterday, but long before the war—from the historic September day over three years ago on which he proposed a toast to the Kaiser and the German army, and ascribed his own recent victories to the principles inculcated by the invincible warriors of Prussia.

"Of his home policy the governing principle has been a constant endeavor gradually to substitute for the democratic constitution of latter-day Greece the benefits of autocracy, as it is understood and practiced in the Fatherland."

How far German influences will continue to dominate the conduct of Greece, remains to be seen. The first act of the youthful King Alexander was to pledge himself to "the brilliant policy of his revered-father."

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013

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