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Art. 13.—THE TRI-UNE KINGDOM, POLITICAL AND
THE Armistice of November 1918 found the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in a very precarious situation. The relations with other States were difficult, but the internal condition of the Kingdom was still more so. During the three years which have elapsed considerable progress has been made, and to-day, from both points of view, the position is distinctly improved.
At the beginning of 1919, the Tri-une Kingdom was recognised by the Great Powers; subsequently Treaties
ween it and Germany, Bulgaria, Austria, and Italy were concluded and ratified, while Treaties were made with Turkey and Hungary, which were not, however, ratified till much later. In accordance with the Treaty of St Germain (with Austria) the population of the basin of Klagenfurt were to declare by means of a plebiscite whether they should belong to Austria or to the Tri-une Kingdom. The plebiscite when taken proved unfavourable to us. It was taken in what was known as zone 'A'(to the south of the Wörtersee), which contains 1768 square kilometres of territory; about half the population went to the poll, 22,000 (or about 59 per cent.) voting for Austria, while some 15,000 (41 per cent.) voted for the Tri-une Kingdom. The majority in favour of Austria was 6747. This defeat was entirely unexpected, but the issue was placed beyond a doubt, and we have to accept the results. A majority of the population of the district voted for Austria ; and, adherents as we are of the principle of self-determination, we raised no protest. It may, however, be remarked that the definition of the plebiscite zone was defective; if it had been confined to those districts in which the Slovenes are in the majority, the plebiscite would have gone in our favour. As it is, a Slovene population numbering at least 15,000 has been handed over to Austria, and the beautiful Alpine districts which they inhabit are lost to the Tri-une State.
The Treaty with Italy was, after long and vehement debate, concluded in Rapallo on Nov. 12, 1920, and speedily ratified. By it, Italy gained the districts of Gorizia,
Gradiska, Trieste, and Istria, as well as several islands in the Adriatic; and, in addition, she got possession of Zara in Dalmatia. Fiume with its surrounding district becomes independent, its frontiers marching with those of Italy. In concluding this treaty, the Tri-une Kingdom made heavy sacrifices, but it was felt that it was high time to put an end to our acrimonious and dangerous dispute with Italy. The treaty was followed by a diplomatic understanding of a very precise nature between Italy and ourselves, which aims at ensuring the exact execution of the Trianon Treaty (between the Entente and Hungary), and preventing the return of the Habsburgs.
These treaties, taken together, define the boundaries of the Tri-une Kingdom, except on the Albanian side. The frontier here remains as yet unsettled, and is a cause of much internal difficulty. It is devoutly to be hoped that it may be speedily defined. Mention should also be made of the treaty between ourselves and CzechoSlovakia, which ensures mutual defence against all who may endeavour to hinder the execution of the Treaty of Trianon. During the recent visit of Mr Také Jonescu to Belgrade, a similar treaty was concluded with Rumania, which is to be followed by a military convention. Finally, our former treaty with Greece still holds good.
So much for foreign relations. The internal condition of the Kingdom at the close of the year 1918 was fraught with numerous difficulties. Serbia, the predominating partner in the new State, had been carrying on war almost continuously for more than six years, for the last three of which her territory was occupied by the enemy. The land had been almost ruined and plundered of everything worth removing. A fifth of the population had perished. When the emigrants returned, they found a land in which the railways had been destroyed and the roads torn up, so that there were no means of communication. The mines and the factories were destroyed; the towns, in particular the capital, Belgrade, as well as Šabac and Smederevo, were devastated. Libraries and museums and many private houses had disappeared. Of the population that remained, a large number were suffering from wounds or disease and had neither hope nor energy left. The emigrants returning home found that life had to begin over again, with everything necessary for agriculture and domestic purposes to be procured afresh. Obviously, therefore, Serbia was unable to take over immediately the part that naturally belonged to her in the formation of the new State. The war had also struck Montenegro very heavily. The remaining lands, particularly Croatia and Slovenia, had remained practically untouched during the war, and were better prepared to take part in the work of reconstruction.
In this essential duty, the first question which demanded an answer was, 'Where are we to begin ? Should it be with the restoration of the devastated territories or the political constitution of the new State as a whole ?' The temptation to begin with agriculture and industrial reconstruction was great, but again Serbia sacrificed herself for the general good. She set aside her internal needs and devoted herself to the laying of a foundation for the new State. In this matter, however, not only in Serbia, but in other parts of the Tri-une Kingdom, there were great difficulties, some of which, it must be confessed, were of our own making. Professional politicians in most countries are a mischievous element, and the Tri-une Kingdom is no exception to this rule. Party passions and personal rivalries have risen very high during the last three years. They had their origin even during the war, when, at the sittings of the exiled Skupshtina in Corfu, two political parties, the Radicals and the Independents, waged a bitter quarrel, a quarrel only embittered and further confused when the JugoSlav Committee, whose work in other respects may claim many merits, began to share in the petty party differences of Serbian politicians.
But, in addition to this internal trouble, there were other difficulties for which we were not to blame. The chief cause of these was the quarrel with Italy, which occupied fully two years. Internal conditions are always influenced by external, but the effect was necessarily more serious than usual in our case. The quarrel over the Adriatic hindered all progress and prevented any domestic reorganisation. No progress towards this end could be made while so serious an uncertainty in our foreign relations remained open. To clear up the political situation a General Election was required; but in order
to hold an election the Army would have to be demobilised, whereas it had to be kept on a war footing so long as the Adriatic question was acute. For this reason the order for demobilisation was postponed till June 5, 1920, nearly a year and a half after the Armistice; and the General Election did not take place till Nov. 28, the earliest possible date. Thus the consolidation of our internal conditions could only begin at the close of the year 1920, more than two years after the Armistice.
On Dec. 1, 1918, a National Council had met in Zagreb (Agram). This Council was formed from among the most competent representatives of our nation in the countries that hitherto had been part of the AustroHungarian Empire. It decided for the fusion of all those lands with Serbia and Montenegro into one State. The decision was communicated to the Crown Prince Alexander, who accepted it; and on Dec. 24 he issued a proclamation declaring that .The different parts of our fatherland, till now broken up into many pieces, are by the unanimous decision of the people, united into one Kingdom.' Thereupon there was summoned to Belgrade a provisional National Assembly formed out of the old Skupshtinas (Parliaments) in Belgrade and Cetinje and the Diets at Zagreb, Ljubljana (Laibach), Sarajevo, and Spljet, the numbers of these representatives being in proportion to the former strength of those bodies. A Ministry or Cabinet was also formed from the political groups thus represented according to their respective strengths; while separate local governments were established at Zagreb, Ljubljana, Sarajevo, and Spljet.
This National Assembly, it must at once be observed, was not elected by the people, as is the case, for instance, with the Constituent Assembly. It was composed of members of the pre-war National Parliaments; the Serbian members, for instance, having been elected so far back as 1912, before the Balkan Wars. It is obvious that a body so chosen could not be regarded as truly representing the wishes of a people that had survived seven years of war and three of exile and enemy occupation. The members representing the lands which had formed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had also been elected before the Great War. Moreover, they had been elected under a foreign régime and under a
system which, while it could not prevent some true friends of the people from being elected, permitted some hostile elements to intrude. Finally, many of the members had never undergone election at all, but were simply delegated by the National Council of Zagreb to the Belgrade Parliament. In short, the Parliament as a body neither enjoyed the confidence of, nor held any mandate from, the people at large.
When this Parliament met in March 1919, the political elements composing it stood thus. The two strongest parties in Serbia were the Radicals and the Independents; beside them, but far weaker, stood the National and Progressive parties; the Socialists had only one or two members. In Croatia, the strongest party was the Serbo-Croat Coalition; then came the Starčević group which subsequently, along with the other sections, formed the National Club or Croatian Union. In the Slovene lands were two parties-the Clericals and the Liberals. The members from Bosnia were representative of the older or the younger generation of Serbian champions of national rights or the representatives of various creeds. The members from Dalmatia and from the Banat and Bačka generally followed the divisions prevalent in Croatia and Serbia. The Montenegrin members were all opposed to the Government of the late King Nicholas and in favour of union with Serbia.
Now all these parties were local and distinct from each other, having sprung up each in its own small province from the political conditions there prevailing; and all had been in existence for thirty or forty years. In the new country, as modified by the war, they had no true raison d'être; and it was obviously necessary either to change everything from the bottom and to form new parties corresponding to the realised needs of the State or, while retaining the old party divisions, to combine them more or less according to similarities of view, so that the same parties might spread over the whole country. The first of these alternatives was preferable and might have been expected to take place, but it was the second which actually came about.
In the first place, the Socialist groups all over the country combined to form one organisation; and the Clerical party followed suit. Between February and