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Forces propose Greater Serbia: Russia opposes "1 state, 3 nations"


The Nis Declaration, adopted by the Serbian National Assembly on December 7, 1914, during the most critical moments of the First World War, which emphasized that the priority war goals were the liberation of Croats, Slovenes and Serbs living in Austria-Hungary and unification with them, was not met. to a favorable reception in Russia, England and France, our allied countries.

Historian Dragoljub Zivojinovic even claims that these great powers refused to accept the declaration. Each of these countries had its own special reasons why it did not want to respect the ambitious ideas of Serbian politicians to create a new state in the Balkans - Yugoslavia.

In tsarist Russia, which was Serbia's most faithful ally and in which Orthodoxy took the form of state ideology, they could not understand that Belgrade so easily accepted the idea of ​​creating a country where peoples who shared serious confessional differences should live together. One of Russia's most influential politicians, Sergei Dimitrievich Sazonov, a foreign minister who previously served as Russia's ambassador to Rome and was well acquainted with the Vatican's proselytizing policies, vigorously opposed the creation of a state where Orthodox and Catholics lived together.

NIKOLA Pasic, disturbed by the news coming from Petrograd, ordered MP Miroslav Spalajkovic to address the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs for an explanation. He received Spalajković on April 7, 1915, and explained in detail his disbelief in the possibility of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes living together. He convinced the Serbian envoy that Russia would strive to make Serbia a strong and territorially enlarged state after the end of the war.

- Serbia will get the largest territory and a significant part of the coast, because it made the biggest sacrifices and did the greatest services - Sazonov was convincing.

The Serbian MP immediately sent an encrypted telegram to Belgrade: "It is clear that Sazonov does not consider our program of complete unification of Serbs, Slovenes and Croats feasible for now, and that is why he is not thrilled with it." with the Catholic element of a few million, it has not lost its former character in which Orthodoxy was a major factor. "

The efforts of most Russian politicians to expand Serbia territorially and reach the Adriatic Sea became aimless at the moment when the 1917 revolution broke out in Russia. Some historians therefore believe that the collapse of the Russian Empire was fatal for Serbia and the Serbian people.

The idea of ​​creating a new state on the Balkan Peninsula, which would be called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and which was enthusiastically supported by Serbian politicians during the First World War, led by then Prime Minister Nikola Pasic - was not favorably accepted in some Western countries. , primarily in England and Italy.

In London, they did not consider Austria-Hungary as their main enemy in that war, but Germany, whose expansionist policy endangered British vital interests in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. According to British politicians, the strongest barrier for the German Drang nach Osten (penetration to the East) could be the renewed Balkan Alliance from the war of 1912, in which Serbia, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria would be reunited. However, Bulgaria created the biggest problems regarding the renewal of the Balkan military bloc because it hesitated between two warring parties - the Entente powers (Russia, England and France) and the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy). In order to persuade Bulgaria to join the Entente, that is, to join the Balkan Alliance, English politicians were ready to offer Sofia the biggest territorial concessions, but at someone else's expense, Serbia.

They offered Bulgaria parts of Macedonia, which were disputed after the end of the First Balkan War, and which belonged to Serbia. In order to get consent from Belgrade for a "certain territorial transaction", the British were willing not only to rebuild war-ravaged Serbia, but to give it the status of "Greater Serbia". Proof of this attitude of the British is the content of the memorandum sent to the Russian government in mid-January 1915 by British Foreign Secretary Edward Gray: "If the Serbian government guarantees parts of Macedonia to Bulgaria, Serbia's aspirations for a Greater Serbia, including part of the Adriatic coast, will be met." It has another historical significance because it directly denies the claims that have been spread for years from the "Viennese kitchen" that the idea of ​​"Greater Serbia" originated from Serbian expansionist circles, from the time of Garašanin and "Načertanija".

In a new memorandum sent to Nikola Pašić on August 13, 1915, Gray concretized the PROPOSAL on a "Greater Serbia" in terms of territories: "Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slavonia, Srem with Zemun, Bačka and the Adriatic coast from Cape Planka (not far from Split) north to the point 10 km south of Cavtat, as well as the islands (Veliki and Mali Drenik, Ciovo, Solta, Brac, Jakljan, Kolocep and Peljesac). Gray's memorandum also mentions Serbian regions in southwestern Banat, but noted that this would be "resolved by a peace treaty, unless Romania enters the war on the side of the allies."

Italy, which in the meantime left the Triple Alliance and joined the Entente forces, opposed the creation of Yugoslavia for fear that establishing a new state of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes would jeopardize Rome's interests and its claims to Istria, the Kvarner islands and part Dalmatia, the territories that belonged to the Kingdom of the Apennines on the basis of the Treaty of London, which the Italians signed with Great Britain. On August 4, 1915, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sydney Sonino, sent a confidential message to the Serbian government through the Russian ambassador to Rome, Alexander Geers, that one article of the secret London Treaty provided for Serbia don't mind.

Gray's second memorandum and the message of the Italian minister to Pasic solve the dilemma imposed by many domestic historians, that the Serbian side was not familiar with the details of the London Agreement.

ACADEMICIAN Dragoljub Zivojinovic, who was one of the best experts on European archives, wrote about this initiative from London: "In terms of its scope and political implications, Gray's proposal was a far-reaching step in importance and consequences." First of all, he more fully than before represented the British concept and at the same time supported the idea of ​​a Greater Serbia. The proposal provided for the unification of all those parts of Austria-Hungary where the Serb ethnic population made up the majority or at least a certain percentage of the population.

As skepticism reigned in France as well, the president of the Yugoslav Committee, Ante Trumbic, wrote in his diary on September 11, 1915, that "Russia and Italy oppose the creation of a Yugoslav state and that France and England are second to them."

Distrust among the leading politicians of the Entente in relation to the creation of Yugoslavia reigned until the middle of 1918, so to speak, until the end of the First World War. The turn in the attitudes of some European statesmen arose after the sudden change in American policy in this war, which it entered at the end of 1917. US President Woodrow Wilson fundamentally changed his mind about the fate of Austria-Hungary: instead of its survival and renewal, which he advocated in 1917 , at the end of the war he advocated the disintegration and dismemberment of the Habsburg monarchy. The most ardent supporters of the Yugoslav idea were encouraged by the changes in the attitude of the American president, because only on the ruins of Austria-Hungary could the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes descend.


FROM THE SPRING OF 1915, Frane Supilo, a Croatian journalist, politician and member of the Yugoslav Committee in London, visited Russia. And he came across, as he wrote in his notes, "a solid Orthodox bulwark in Russia." Prince Yusupov, one of the most influential representatives of the Russian aristocratic elite, told him: "You are listening to the Pope, so the head of state is out of the state." people with three names. " Visibly disappointed, the Croatian politician sent a telegram from St. Petersburg to Pasic on April 11, 1915: "Sazonov does not want this unification due to religious differences between Serbs, Croats and Slovenes."