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Part III: The Rationing System and the American Embargo   (cont'd.)

Chapter 35: The Consequences of the Economic Campaign to the Other States of the German Confederation

The Austro-Hungarian breakdown. – The Bulgarian breakdown. – The Turkish breakdown.

i) The Austro-Hungarian Breakdown

The advance of demoralisation in Austria-Hungary has left a clearer track, or line of march, behind it, than it did in Germany; but the outward symptoms were by no means identical in both countries. The symptoms of a German breakdown were disconnected, and separated by considerable intervals of time: the warning signs of an Austrian collapse first clearly displayed themselves in the spring of 1917, and, thereafter, appeared in a continuous succession. The greater difference is, however, that the symptoms of German unrest were on some occasions made manifest in the Reichstag, and the Landtage, while, at others, they appeared in the whole body politic of the nation; whereas disturbances purely political were, throughout, the clearest symptoms that the Austro-Hungarian empire was crumbling. For this reason, it is not possible to be certain, that the disintegrating influence, or exciting cause, was identical in the two countries. Everything combines to show, that what may be called the secondary consequences of a prolonged scarcity demoralised the German nation: it is by no means certain that the same can be said of Austria-Hungary; for, although the economists who wrote upon the subject, long afterwards, produced some interesting and significant figures about prices, wages, and the rest, they did not establish clearly what degree of suffering was inflicted, or whether the suffering was well spread, or what sections of the population escaped. Unless these points are established, no historian can decide whether the economic campaign brought the Austro-Hungarian empire to ruin, or whether that old structure fell to the ground, because the economic campaign accelerated corrosions that had for long been rotting its struts and foundations.

The immediate consequences of the economic campaign were, certainly, that, after 1915, the amount of corn available for feeding the people of Austria was very much below the quantity normally consumed by them. The relevant figures are:

Table LXXX:
Austro-Hungarian corn production, 1914-1918.

corn production
1914     90.2 million quintals 9.8 million quintals
1915 79.4       "         " 20.6       "         "
1916 62.9       "         " 37.1       "         "
1917 62.2       "         " 37.8       "         "
1918 52.7       "         " 47.3       "         "

These deficits were never made good by importations; even during 1915, Rumania only despatched 4.7 millions of quintals to Austria-Hungary; and there was an equal decline in other important foodstuffs. In the year 1914, 211 million quintals of potatoes were grown in Austria-Hungary; this fell to 149 millions in 1915, to 105 millions in 1916, and to 90 millions in 1917. Barley production was 32.7 millions of quintals in 1914, and 13 millions in 1917. Maize production fell from 54.2 million quintals in 1914, to 27.2 quintals in 1917. These shortages in grains, naturally caused derived shortages in meat, milk, butter and fats. In theory, and according to law, every Austrian subject was entitled to a ration of bread which ought to have been sufficient; but statistics of rationed food are very deceptive; for if the rationing schedules for Austria-Hungary represented the amount of food that every Austrian [694] ate, then, the suffering and distress, which we know were inflicted, would be unexplainable.1 It is, therefore, better to think of Austria-Hungary as our observers represented it in the fourth year of the war, a country with four bad spots, or zones of distress: Vienna, Buda-Pesth, Prague and Dalmatia; but with a countryside in which no signs of distress were visible. In each of the bad zones there was a severe shortage of everything necessary for life: bread, meat, milk, eggs and vegetables were extremely scarce; and new clothing was almost unobtainable. It was in a country thus afflicted that the following symptoms appeared.

In April, 1917, the outward signs of distress in Austria-Hungary were not stronger than they had been a year before; but those responsible for governing the country were certainly in the gravest anxiety; for it was on this date, that the new Emperor Karl warned the German government that Austria was so near exhaustion, that it would be more profitable to escape from the war by ceding territory, than to continue it, until some great disaster had befallen the empire. The escape that he proposed was that Germany should cede Alsace-Lorraine to France, and that Austria should compensate her ally out of Austrian Poland. The Emperor Karl urged that these sacrifices were advisable in the following words:

      We are fighting a new enemy, who is more dangerous than the entente: our enemy is international revolution, which is finding a powerful ally in the general famine. I do swear to you that I am not forgetting how fateful a moment of the war we have now reached; and do beg you to reflect, that, if we end the war soon - even at a heavy sacrifice - we shall [at least] have an opportunity of checking the upheaval that is now preparing.

In this letter therefore the emperor stated, without equivocation, that the economic campaign, or the hunger that it was occasioning, was bringing the country to ruin and dissolution; but it would be hasty to regard this letter as a scientific diagnosis of the country's condition. The draftsman of it was obviously more concerned to be impressive than to be accurate. The important point to be remembered, however, is, that at this date, the governors of Austria were admitting that their country was virtually beaten; for Count Czernin was as decisive as his master, that it would be risking a tremendous disaster to prolong the war through the coming winter.

The reasons for this anxiety were certainly more patent to those who were governing Austria-Hungary than to those who were watching the country from an observation post; for, during the summer months, the only visible symptoms of the downfall that the emperor described as almost imminent in April, were an outbreak of strikes with a political complexion, which were declared at Prague during September; and a disturbance in the Austrian fleet at Cattaro, in the following month, when the crew of a torpedo-boat mutinied, and surrendered themselves voluntarily to the Italians. The mutineers spoke of other simultaneous disturbances in the battle fleet, but it is by no means certain that they were telling the truth; in any case, the outbreak was less serious than the disturbances that had shaken the German fleet a month previously. If, however, the outward signs of the approaching disaster were still weak and intermittent, evidence accumulated fast, that the rulers of Austria were becoming desperate; for, throughout the year they approached the entente powers so insistently, that they might almost be said to have been petitioning for peace. In April, the emperor appealed to President Poincaré through Prince Sixte de Bourbon; in September, Count Colloredo-Mannsfeld, and Count Karolyi were in Switzerland, endeavouring to prepare for a formal negotiation between Great Britain and Austria; they were followed by Professor Foerster, of Munich university, who visited the United States and the British, legations, as the emperor's unofficial representative. Early in November, an agent appeared at the British legation and announced he was empowered to state, that the Austro-Hungarian government were ready to [695] begin official conversations. Simultaneously, or nearly so, the Austrian minister at the Hague approached the British legation, while the Austro-Hungarian legation at Berne announced that Count Mensdorff would shortly arrive there, and would discuss peace with a British representative. Count Mensdorff was preceded at Berne by Count Karolyi, who was evidently instructed to excite the sympathies of the United States legation; for, although he had little to say about the conditions that Austria-Hungary would accept, he was explicit, and even eloquent, about the reforms that the government wished to undertake, and the regimen of freedom that they wished to institute. The count urged, in conclusion, that an American agent, Mr. Anderson, should visit Austria, and, when the president allowed him to go, Count Apponyi, the minister of education, received him, and gave every assurance that the Austro-Hungarian authorities were ready to start a negotiation. General Smuts now travelled to Berne, where he met Count Mensdorff, who offered to start a general negotiation for peace, by facilitating preliminary conversations between the British and German governments.

These repeated, insistent, attempts to open a negotiation for peace constitute evidence that the fortunes of the Austro-Hungarian empire were sinking; but, if all the proposals made by the Austrian ministers and their agents are examined, it does not appear that famine and revolution were their chief anxieties. The substance of what they proposed was that they should be given an early opportunity for reconstructing the political fabric of the empire; and not that they should be granted an armistice and a temporary supply of provisions. Political disruption seems to have been their dominant anxiety; for nothing said by Karolyi or Apponyi, and no statement that Professor Foerster made on the emperor's behalf suggests, even remotely, that the Austrian ministers thought themselves threatened by the disasters that accompany economic prostration: the rising of hungry men; the collapse of all authority; the rule of local committees, whose only maxims of government are a few precepts of workshop jargon. Whatever it was that the rulers of Austria feared, it was not this.

If, however, the appreciation of all these experienced men was correct: that the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was beginning to crack and split asunder, then certainly, the scarcities were quickening the process. The people were slightly better off in the winter of 1917 than they had been in the previous winter; but this alleviation determined all the local authorities in Austria-Hungary to hold even more tightly to supplies grown locally, in order that the benefits of a slightly happier condition might not be lost. In the autumn, the long grumbling controversy between the Austrian and Hungarian authorities became very sharp; for, on 6th September, the Hungarian minister, Count Hadik, announced officially, that Hungary could not supply what Austria demanded. This was followed by regulations that kept all Hungarian corns and meats in the country for the time being. The Bohemian authorities, who, though not so independent as the Austrian, were yet well empowered to issue local regulations, also came into open antagonism with the government at Vienna. In Croatia, the harvest seems to have been exceptionally good; but here also, the local authorities were getting the upper hand. Count Tisza travelled through the country, while the harvest was being gathered, and wrote a long letter to the emperor, of which the substance was that the central government could no longer break down the resistance of the local authorities, and put this plenty into circulation.2 As the winter continued, therefore, the Austrian shortages were steadily accentuated.

The Austrian and Hungarian governments now took such measures as were still possible to remedy this state of affairs. Bohemia was repartitioned into administrative districts; each one of which was made so small, that the Austrian government's [696] representative in the district was better able to exercise his authority. Though obstinate in controversy, the Hungarian government never intended that Austria should be deprived of all Hungarian supplies; and so, after some parley, a system was instituted, whereby surpluses, which local authorities agreed to be so, were requisitioned and despatched to Austria. The Hungarian authorities remained immovable, however, that what they could spare, and not what Austria declared she needed, should determine the quantity to be despatched.

These measures for strengthening authority were not immediately followed by political disturbances, but rather by a commotion in the workshops; for it was in January, 1918, that the great strike was first declared in Austria, and continued in Germany. This trouble in the workshops was, however, never properly settled in Austria, for on 12th March, it blazed up again: a railwayman's strike brought a great deal of traffic to a standstill, and, just as the trains were again beginning to move, there was a great strike in the munition factories at Florisdorff and Stradlau. These troubles were, however, less serious than the racial divisions that were beginning to bring all government to a stand. The Reichsrath assembled in the first part of February, and the deputies were so excited, and so determined that the ventilating of their antagonisms and jealousies should take precedence over all business, that it was doubtful whether the two houses would pass the budget. There is, however, a sharp difference between the state of the Austrian parliament and that of the German a few months before. All observers of German affairs were satisfied that the reception given to Erzberger's revelations, and the peace resolution that was so suddenly and excitedly passed, were symptoms of a general deterioration of spirit. The commotions in the Austrian parliament were quite different; for here the houses divided themselves into racial groups, which were so distrustful of one another, that no business could be transacted. Also, there was no workshop note in the catchwords that were bandied about in the Austrian parliament; the most inflammatory speeches were on a model that had been common nearly a century before, when the philosophers of the nineteenth century were circulating their panaceas through Europe: political freedom; representative institutions, and autonomy were much talked of; but no workshop jargon about capitalists and work slaves was mixed up with it.

The Austrian government therefore adhered to their plan of checking the rising excitement by remodelling the political structure of the empire; and Dr. von Seidler, the premier, promised legislation for setting up local parliaments. On receiving these promises, the Reichsrath passed a provisional budget, whereby the government were granted credits until the end of June; but the vote on this was a truce rather than a composition of differences; for, throughout the session, the Czech and the German deputies displayed the greatest hatred for one another, and the Czechs showed, by their conduct and utterances, that they were preparing for a fierce resistance to any constitutional reform that might weaken their countrymen's resolve to separate themselves entirely from the empire. When the Reichsrath was adjourned, the Vienna correspondent of the Frankfürter [sic] Zeitung wrote shrewdly, that a vast number of Austro-Hungarian citizens looked more to President Wilson for a redress of their grievances, than they did to their own rulers, and that this was fast bringing the operations of constitutional government to a standstill.

The process was very much accelerated by the extraordinary scarcity that now prevailed. As has been explained, the months of March, April, May and June were the leanest in every year. In Austria they were exceptionally hard; for the Hungarian peasants made a concerted resistance to the requisitioning of their exportable surpluses, and the quantities despatched to Austria were so much below what had been expected, that bread rations in Vienna were reduced by half. After the end of April, there were never more than three days' bread supply in Vienna, and to maintain even this, the Austrian authorities were, on one occasion, obliged to requisition several train loads of Rumanian corn, which were passing through [697] Austria on their way to Germany. From June onwards, all rations in German-Austria were merely figures stating how much food might be lawfully acquired; not even the richest men in Vienna could obtain it. This state of affairs was accompanied by a great outburst of industrial disturbances; there were strikes in all trades at Prague, Graz, Laibach and Buda-Pesth; in Vienna there was a furious bread riot opposite von Siedler's residence, which the rioters tried to storm. The Reichsrath was now due to assemble; but the premier decided that he could no longer govern constitutionally, and resigned. Baron Hussarek succeeded him; but he only assembled the Reichsrath to adjourn it (July, 1918). The end was, indeed, now very near; the yield of the coming harvest was roughly calculated by the end of July, and the responsible authorities estimated, that the deficit in corn alone would be twenty-three million quintals. There was no longer any hope of supplies from the Ukraine or Rumania. On 10th September, therefore, General von Cramon, the Austrian representative at great headquarters, told the German generals, that his government intended to sue for peace, and that the German government could no longer deter them. The first Austrian petition was, indeed, issued independently of the German (16th September); and, while it was being considered, the battle of the Vittorio Veneto was fought. Thereafter, the empire dissolved very fast; but authority was divided, and transferred rather than overthrown. The Yugoslav, Bohemian, and Polish, national councils, which proclaimed their countries independent, were for long in great administrative confusion; but it does not appear that their authority was ever submerged by that volcanic eruption from the workshops and the slums, which temporarily smothered all ordered government in Germany.

ii) The Bulgarian Breakdown

From what precedes it can be said, with a tolerable degree of certainty, that scarcity so much accelerated political deterioration in Germany, that it can be called the actuating cause of it; and that, although it is not quite so certain that scarcity promoted disruption in Austria at an equal pace, it was yet a great incentive to it, as it inclined all men of influence and power to think of desperate remedies. The same cannot be said about Bulgaria; for of all the countries that were in alliance with the central empires Bulgaria was the least pinched: after three winters of warfare, and at the time of year when food was shortest in all enemy countries, the rations allowed by law were about three times what was allowed in Germany. It is therefore highly ironical, that, in order to protect themselves against the scarcity that threatened, and indeed because they did it successfully, the Bulgarian authorities were compelled to follow a line of conduct that so weakened the spirit of the nation, and so demoralised its armies, that one military reverse laid them prostrate and helpless.

It has been explained that the parliamentary committee, which attempted a first regulation of Bulgarian economy, was dissolved in the spring of 1917. The body that took its place was of a military composition: the head of it was a major-general, and the department responsible for provisioning the people was a branch of the general staff. In addition to these two departments, there were seven sections, with technical experts in charge of each. The powers granted to the new committee were very wide; the judicial section was a court, as well as an administrative body, and could try and punish all breaches of regulations that were brought to its notice. In the words of the Bulgarian economist, M. Danailow,

      The director, in his capacity of military commander, was vested with all the disciplinary powers of an army commander. It is not too much to say that this director had all the powers of a dictator in whatever related to provisioning, rationing, compulsory production in workshops and factories, compulsory sowings, compulsory cheese makings, etc. He was only responsible to the cabinet. The sub-directors exercised the powers of heads of departments; and of heads [698] of establishments if they were not soldiers.3 They had been entrusted with the duty of regulating the country's economic life, and of rationing all acquired wealth. They were the central chiefs and the dictators of all [commercial] enterprise. They were empowered to start, or to arrest, all production, or to order the production of new things, as circumstances demanded.

This committee, which was presumably established and planned on German advice, at once fixed rations for bread; a few months later, meat, milk, clothes, and boots were also rationed. In addition, the committee made all the more important products of agriculture and of industry subject to requisition, and fixed maximum prices for all goods that were allowed to remain on the free market. In order to bring farm produce under control as quickly as possible, local committees were established, whose duty it was to take stock of all production in the districts allotted to them, and to fix the quantities that were to be requisitioned from each farmer. These committees could command the services of twenty-five soldiers. Under this regimen, a liberal bread ration was established and equitably distributed; and the Bulgarian authorities were so far relieved from anxiety as to the future, that they undertook to feed all German troops operating in their territory. The grain harvest was one-twelfth below normal; but the committee made good some of this deficit, by very much increasing the production of vegetables: 128 thousand additional hectares were put under vegetables; even soldiers were forced to cultivate them, wherever it was possible, and so hard will the Bulgarian work, if he is attached to the land, that 145 thousand hectares of vegetable gardens were dug, sown, and harvested by soldiers behind the lines. The system was even more successful in the matter of milks and cheeses: every owner of goats and even of sheep was compelled by regulation to produce milk or cheese, and the following results were obtained:

Table LXXXI:
Bulgarian production of cheese, 1916 and 1917.

In 1917: 50,000,000 litres of milk were worked into cheeses.
In 1916: 9,500,000     "         "       "         "         "
In 1917: 7,500,000 kilogrammes of white cheese were produced.
In 1916: 934,000         "                 "           "        "

It was, also, thanks to the committee that the value of Bulgarian exports during the year 1917 exceeded that of the imports by 120,000 million golden levas: this was effected by despatching the greater part of the tobacco crop to Austria-Hungary and Germany, where it fetched a high price; for the Bulgarians would never allow that the price for their tobacco should be fixed beforehand and only promised, that they would protect their allies against an artificial rise in price.

As a result of all this, the Bulgarian people were so little pinched, that in June, 1918, after three years of warfare, and at the time of year when food was shortest in all blockaded countries, our expert observers could detect no sign of want in the country, save only among retired officials and townsmen with fixed incomes, who were severely inconvenienced by the high prices. It must thus be said that the economic campaign inflicted no suffering upon the Bulgarian nation. Nevertheless, in Bulgaria, as elsewhere, the secondary consequences of the campaign continued to operate, after the first consequences had been completely checked.

Whatever the virtues of the committee may have been (and they must certainly be judged to have been hard working and capable men), they did not establish their control experimentally; but prepared their system in the seclusion of their offices, and enforced it, when ready, as though it were an army order. A peasant population, whose habit of life was to be in the last degree secretive about their affairs, and to whom the marketing of what they intended to sell was a matter as intimate and domestic as birth, death or marriage, thus found themselves subjected, almost in a night, to what they could only regard as a savage and inhuman fiscal tyranny. There [699] was immediate resistance to the regulations about extra sowing, slaughtering of beasts, and reporting of stocks; but the committee, having foreseen this, overcame it quickly; the twenty-five soldiers attached to every local committee were vigorously and continuously employed. Within a few weeks, therefore, the committee were the masters of all that they wished to lay their hands on; but they were, thenceforward, ruling their countrymen, more as a foreign conqueror rules an occupied territory, than as native governors, who exert an authority that is supported by custom.

      A large number of controllers official and disguised (writes M. Danailow) visited workshops, shops, factories, farms and private houses, under the authority of the committee, in order to see that the regulations were being carried out, and (which was more important) in order to detect breaches of the law.... In addition, representatives of the committee appeared wherever anybody was buying or selling, and the annoyance of it was almost unbearable. Everybody thought he was in danger of being suspected for the most futile reason, or feared that he was being denounced in some anonymous report. Seizures in private houses, forced sales, cross questionings before the magistrates, arrests, became daily occurrences. It has to be admitted that these severities were usually justifiable: they certainly gave excellent results. But the agents were often too conscientious and made baseless accusations, which discouraged the people. More remarkable, the severity strengthened itself, and without reason. The agents developed a habit of mind peculiar to themselves: they saw breaches of the law everywhere. Traders were particularly suspect; and the heaviest blows fell upon them. In some places the agents provoked breaches of the law by the traps they set. I am not here speaking of the dishonesty of some; but only of their love of suspicion and persecution....
      This control of all economic activity, these prosecutions, forced sales, seizures and confiscations inevitably affected the soldiers. Many of them returned on leave from the front, only to get the bad news that their parents or friends were before the courts, on a charge of breaching the regulations. Of necessity this discouraged and angered them; and many of my contemporaries consider that the anger excited by the countless prosecutions undertaken against farmers, who had hidden their grain, or who had made false declarations, was the real cause of the military breakdown.

There were other causes. By the summer of 1917, the controversy between the German and Bulgarian authorities had spread to the nation at large; but, as can be imagined, the issues were much distorted by the popular fancy. It was known that the parliamentary committee for controlling the distribution and exportation of foodstuffs has been dissolved under German pressure. From the outset therefore, and quite independently of the hatred they subsequently excited, the new committee were represented as a mere instrument for executing German wishes. Like all popular accusations this was very unjust, for General Protoguerof and his colleagues were probably more honest, and certainly more capable, than the place hunters they dispossessed. As for the charge that they were mere German agents, they would not have administered the Bulgarian economic system so well, if there had been a word of truth in it. The honesty and high capacity of the new committee was, however, no check to the ugly spirit that was certainly abroad, in the spring of 1917, when every deputy in the Sobranye who had nothing to hope for from the Radoslavoff government, and every mayor, town counsellor, or other magnate, who hoped to get some advantage by a change of government, was sure of a good round of applause, or of a strong approving murmur, if he represented every inconvenience that the people or the army were suffering, as evidence that the Germans were using the country for their own purposes.

If the Bulgarians had ever been united, this snarling temper would probably never have gained such strength that it became a political force; but, as the antagonists of the Radoslavoff party had never subscribed to an union sacrée or a Burgfried, so, they were waiting on events, and using every opportunity that offered of discrediting their rivals. The Germans now gave them an exceptional chance. As has been explained, Erzberger's speeches in the Reichstag were followed by the peace resolution of 17th July, which the deputies voted by a great majority. The second paragraph of the resolution which ran:

      The Reichstag is striving for a peace of understanding for a durable pacification of peoples. Forced annexation of provinces... are incompatible with a peace of this kind,

[700] is said by all authorities to have disturbed every section of the Bulgarian people; for everybody read it as an announcement that the Germans were preparing to desert their allies, or, at least, to give them no support in the negotiations for a final settlement. It was, indeed, a natural line of reasoning that it was of little use to endure so much, if the provinces conquered from Serbia, at the cost of such quantities of blood and treasure, would have to be yielded again, in order that the Germans might reach a settlement more easily. The soldiers were said to have been particularly distrustful; and, although the people looked more to the Germans, than to the Austrians, for guidance, the peaceful sentiments that Czernin was compelled to infuse into his public utterances stimulated the misgivings of a people, who are by nature cunning, distrustful, tenacious of every advantage gained, and apprehensive of anything that might put an advantage in jeopardy. In addition, all Bulgarian authorities are satisfied that President Wilson's speeches demoralised the Bulgarian people; for the soldiers and the peasants interpreted the President's utterances as a declaration, that ethnographic boundaries should be imposed upon friend and foe. They argued, therefore, that as a claim for those parts of Macedonia, where the Bulgarian language is spoken, could be better set up on the eleventh of President Wilson's political principles, than upon any declaration made by a German or an Austrian statesman, so, it would be more sensible to establish the claim at once, by ceasing from all active operations against the entente armies, and by negotiating for a settlement with the United States government.4 The Bulgarians were the more encouraged to be confident in their political calculations, in that the United States government never declared war against their country. These opinions, circulating freely throughout the country, are believed by all competent observers to have corrupted the army from its natural allegiance; for not even the officers were free of the infection. It was, in fact, just such a line of reasoning as peasants would follow: a shrewd calculation of advantage and disadvantage, misleading only, because too high a value was given to selfishness, and cunning.

Although Bulgaria's resistance to the economic campaign was, in many respects, more successful than that of any other enemy, not even the committee that organised the resistance could protect the country indefinitely against scarcity. It has been shown, in the course of this narrative, that each of the enemy suffered a first shock from the dislocations of economic warfare; that they recovered from it, and then enjoyed a short period of ease; and that this period was followed by a slow but regular, decline. The economic system of Bulgaria passed through the same cycle of recovery and decadence, the difference being only, that the period of recovery (for so the year 1917 may be called) was longer, and therefore deceptive; and that the decline had only begun when the Bulgarian armies were defeated. In June, 1918, however, it was generally admitted, that the harvest was a bad one, and that rations would have to be reduced. The actual figures, which were not disclosed until later, were very alarming; the committee estimated that only two-thirds of the normal quantities of grains would be gathered; in point of fact they over-estimated.5 The announcement about rations excited the anger that had for so long been rumbling, and was taken by all to be proof of what everybody had suspected, that General Protoguerof and his officers were draining the country to satisfy Germany. Of [701] all charges directed against the committee this was the most popular and the most unfounded, for if anything can be said with certainty about the Bulgarian committee of control, it was that they were hard bargainers.6 The charge was, however, very difficult to rebut; the committee were hated, and it was notorious that they had not secured from Germany, any of the agricultural machinery that was required to make good the growing shortages in drag beasts, and farmers' wagons.

Monsieur Radoslavoff was now driven from office, and his place taken by Monsieur Malinoff, who replaced General Protogueroff by General Popof, a political soldier with a seat in the Sobranye. This change conciliated parliament, but it by no means made the committee popular in the country, as the powers it was exercising could not be diminished in the slightest degree. The harvest was poor, and the incentive to cheat and withhold stocks was proportionately stronger. Requisitions, inspecting of stocks, and the rest, were therefore more than ever necessary. Nor could M. Malinoff order a mitigation of the new scale of rations, which were proclaimed soon after he took office. The Turkish government chose this ill moment for opening a negotiation for recovering the territory east of the Maritza, which the Bulgarians had wrested from them during the second Balkan war. This provoked a storm of indignation in the country and the Sobranye; and the fifteenth anniversary of the Macedonian insurrection was celebrated to a nasty accompaniment of demonstrations against all countries and governments that were in alliance with Bulgaria. Monsieur Malinoff was obliged to post a proclamation in all villages and communes, that not a grain of food should leave the country; and that the Maritza territory would never be ceded.

Reports now began to be received that the Bulgarian soldiers were unsteady. The first of these rumours came from Switzerland, with which country Bulgaria had contrived to keep up a brisk trade. Soon afterwards, our military intelligence agents reported, that there had been disciplinary trouble in at least seven regiments. The Bulgarian soldiers had, indeed, more cause to be dissatisfied than the civilians; for, in the autumn of the year 1918, they were, in some respects, the worst provided section of the whole people. They never lacked food, for twelve ounces of bread, one meat meal with vegetables, and a fair quantity of native wine, were always allowed them; many regiments were, nevertheless, in the last state of destitution. Thousands of soldiers had served all through the summer without boots; many thousands more had no caps; and, when soldiers were released from the front to gather the harvest, the gangs of ragged and dirty men, who were to be seen in every village, excited universal pity. A German officer on the Macedonian front often saw men slinking away to hide themselves, in order that no foreigner should see their filth. As Bulgarian peasants are not by nature careful of their appearance, it can be imagined to what state the soldiers were reduced to be so ashamed of themselves. It would be natural to attribute the bad equipment of the Bulgarian troops to the economic campaign, which had made all textiles so scarce in the central empires; but it is by no means certain that this is the proper inference to be drawn: Monsieur Danailov explains the miserable condition of so many Bulgarian regiments by bad administration only; and says, that there were always good stocks of boots and clothing in the depots, but that they were never properly distributed.

[702] When, therefore, General Franchet d'Esperey ordered the Serbians and the French to carry the great mountain that dominated the Bulgarian front, the attacking troops advanced against an army that was shaken by misfortune, and a nation that was demoralised by suspicions. It cannot, however, be asserted, positively, that this decided the issue; for it is to the honour of the Bulgarian troops, that, having so many good reasons for laying down their arms, they yet met the onslaught like brave men and good soldiers. It was only after they had failed to hold the French and Serbians, and saw their best positions overwhelmed, and their front broken, that they disobeyed all orders to rally and disbanded.

iii) The Turkish Breakdown

It seems beyond all question that the economic campaign operated against Turkey with more decisive effect than against any other enemy country; for the Ottoman empire was the only state at war which was unable to organise any effective resistance to it. Committees and special departments of government were established, German advisers were attached to them, laws, decrees and emergency proclamations were issued; but nothing checked the scarcity in the towns, and, during the last two years of the war, the economic state of Turkey seems to have been substantially unaltered. The people in all the towns, particularly those in Constantinople and Smyrna, were suffering want; in those parts of the countryside where the peasants had habitually raised one kind of crop, the population was severely pinched, for goods were so badly distributed, that even a rough exchange of products between district and district had become difficult. In those parts where millet, maize, and fruit are grown, the people lacked for nothing; but the zones of distress were always much larger than the zones of easy living. As this bad state of affairs continued, unalleviated, for two and half years, without provoking a popular uprising, it is not quite correct to say that the economic campaign operated against Turkey without check or hindrance, for the courage, patience, and endurance, of a nation that suffered so much without complaining proved a formidable obstacle.

There was, however, one section of the people who suffered more than the most stoical can bear, and that section was the army. As the transport services deteriorated, so, army supplies were steadily reduced, until nothing was being sent to the armies beyond what is a bare necessity for conducting a campaign. Guns, arms and ammunition reached the various fronts; but, from the summer of 1917 onwards, food supplies grew steadily scarcer, and the soldiers received neither boots, nor uniforms, nor letters from home. The field hospitals hardly deserved the name, for drugs, medical stores, bedding and service were as scarce as food and clothing; the base hospitals were little better, although a charitable society called the Red Crescent remedied matters slightly in a few places. From 1917 onwards the soldiers deserted the colours in increasing numbers, and fled in armed gangs to those parts of the country where food could be obtained. In the summer of 1918, it was estimated that half a million men were living like brigands in the fastnesses and remoter parts of Anatolia. They raided villages in arms, came to a composition with the headmen, and retired, after arranging how their supplies should be delivered to them. The town of Brusa became a tributary state to a band of men who lived in the hills outside. These communities of bandit raiders were far too numerous to be dealt with by the constabulary, of whom few were left in the country; and no authority, local or central, had any troops to despatch against them.

The armies that remained in the military theatres were thus more composed of men who were too apathetic to assist themselves, than of soldiers proper, and their condition is best described in the words of their own commanders.

      (i) When the troops are entrained they do not know one another, nor do they know their officers. They know only that they are being sent to a bad place. They therefore slip away, whenever an opportunity offers, notwithstanding that they risk being shot if they are found. They jump off [703] the trains; they drop out of columns of march, when they are going through broken country; they disappear from bivouacs. Every division marching to the theatres east or south of the Taurus has lost thousands of men.... This wholesale desertion is not a natural failing of the Turkish army. Izzet Pasha, who commands in the Caucasus, and in whom I place the greatest reliance, tells me that it was unknown until now. - Liman von Sanders, 13th December, 1917.
      (ii) The food situation of the fourth army is so dreadful that only 350 grammes of flour can be given to the men, and 2.5 kilogrammes of forage to animals. If communications are not improved, it is doubtful whether we can go on. - Report from the fourth army H.Q., December, 1917.
      (iii) The Turkish soldiers concentrated at that time in Palestine [October, 1917] had not enough bread to maintain their strength. They received almost no meat, no butter, no sugar, no vegetables, no fruits. Only a thin tent gave a semblance of protection from the hot sun by day, and from the cold of the night. They were wretchedly clothed. They had no boots at all, or, what they had, were so bad that they injured the feet of many who wore them. Soldiers had been without word from home for years. Owing to the bad communications no leave was ever given. There was no amusement of any sort, no tobacco, no coffee. And men so placed could not but see that their German comrades on the same front were well fed, and enjoyed every sort of comfort and amusement. - General Hussein Hussni Emir.
      (iv) There are no bonds left between the government and the people. What we call the people are composed now of women, disabled men and children. For all alike the government is the power which insistently drives them to hunger and death. The administrative machinery is devoid of authority. Public life is in full anarchy. Every new step taken by the government increases the general hatred the people feel for it. All officials accept bribes, and are capable of every sort of corruption and abuse. The machinery of justice has entirely stopped. The police forces do not function. Economic life is breaking down with formidable speed. Neither people nor government employees have any confidence in the future. The determination to live rids even the best and the most honest of every sort of sacred feeling. If the war lasts much longer, the whole structure of Government and dynasty, decrepit in all its parts, may suddenly fall to pieces.
      The end of the war is not near. The other side has more power to resist than ourselves. The attitude of the Germans is devoid of initiative. They seem to say: Come and defeat us, if you can! The keys which may terminate the war are not in our hands.
      Our army is very weak. Most of the formations are now reduced to one-fifth of their prescribed strength. The Seventh Army, which constitutes our only organised strength, has been shaken without exchanging a single shot with the enemy. It fully demonstrates the general exhaustion. The 59th Division which was sent from Constantinople at full strength - with battalions a thousand strong - consisted, 50 per cent., of men so weak that they could not keep their feet. The rest consisted of undeveloped youths between seventeen and twenty, and of used-up men between the ages of forty-five and fifty-five. The best organised divisions lose half their numbers by desertion or sickness before they reach the front. The army cannot remedy this situation. It is a result of general conditions. - Mustapha Kemal to Enver Pasha, September, 1917.

The utter overthrow of the Turkish army and the submission of the Turkish people was, indeed, only delayed until the autumn of 1918, because it was difficult to collect the forces necessary for the purpose. When General Allenby was ready to move, the Turks were virtually helpless; for their stoicism and endurance were no longer any barrier to the forces that had been assembled against them.

1See the elaborate rationing tables on pp. 82, 83, of Gratz Schuller: Der wirtschaftliche Zusammenbruch Oesterreich Ungarns, and compare them with Max Muller's monthly reports on the condition of the people of Vienna in the winter of 1917-18. ...back...

2Quoted in Gratz-Schuller: Der Wirtschaftliche Zusammenbruch Oesterreich-Ungarns, p. 85. ...back...

3The difference in the powers granted to a head of department and to a head of an establishment in Bulgaria is not explained. I take it that a Bulgarian head of establishment is equivalent to a permanent under-secretary in Whitehall. ...back...

4It ran thus: Rumania, Serbia and Montenegro to be evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia accorded secure and free access to the sea; and the relations of Balkan States to one another determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan States should be entered into. ...back...

5The figures were (in hundreds of kilos):

Bulgarian production of cereals, 1912, 1915 - 1918.
1912 1915 1916 1917 1918
Cereals   27,720,385   22,826,903   17,687,032   16,761,103   11,381,738

6As even Captain Falls (see Macedonian Campaign, Vol. II, p. 134) seems to have thought that there was something in the charge, it is as well to give the figures:

Bulgarian exports of cereals, etc., 1916 - 1918.
Exports, in thousands of levas
1916   1917   1918
Cereals and leguminous products     13,072 2,563 136

Practically all agricultural exports were to Austria-Hungary or to Germany. See Danailov: Les Effets de la guerre en Bulgarie, p. 401. ...back...

A History of the Blockade of Germany
and of the countries associated with her in the Great War:
Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey.

by A. C. Bell (Historical Section, Committee of Imperial Defence).