Page images

The Future of Poland

By HERBERT ADAMS GIBBONS Author of "The New Map of Europe," etc.

The Poles no longer have a common country, but they have a common language. They will remain, then, united by the strongest and most durable of all bonds. They will arrive, under foreign domination, to the age of manhood, and the moment they reach that age will not be far from that in which, emancipated, they will all be attached once more to one center.-TALLEYRAND, after his return from the Congress of Vienna, 1815.


REAT BRITAIN and France, as well as Russia, Austria, and Prussia, were signatories of the Treaty of Vienna, and were bound by their signatures to enforce its provisions. The first article of the final act of the Congress of Vienna declared solemnly, "The Poles, subjects respectively of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, will obtain national representation and national institutions." Russia, in addition, undertook to preserve separate and autonomous the kingdom of Poland, which was to enjoy its own laws, language, and constitution. During the hundred years that Europe lived under the


régime established by the Congress of Vienna, Russia, Austria, and Prussia constantly and consistently regarded their international obligation toward the Poles as a "scrap of paper." British and French diplomats of successive ministries never lifted a finger to help the Poles to retain those rights guaranteed to them at ViThey were content to send notes of mild remonstrance to Russia after the disgraceful events of 1831 and 1863, and to Austria when the republic of Cracow was suppressed in 1846. It is only since the beginning of the present war that the surprising thesis has been developed in London and Paris that a nation is materialistic and has no sense of honor when it does not rush into war over questions of principle and humanity which do not vitally affect its own national interests, and that it is a sign of weakness, pusillanimity, and indecision for statesmen to send notes!

Among enlightened liberals in all nations, and especially in France, there has been deep sympathy for the martyrdom of Poland, and a desire to see her historic wrongs righted. But during the decade

preceding the outbreak of the European War the Poles learned that they had no friends anywhere among the nations. For when Germany and Russia entered into a new era of persecution, more formidable than any experienced in the past, there was no protest except from Austria-Hungary, who had manifestly an ax to grind. More than that, old friends in Great Britain and France, with an eye to conciliating Russia, not only became indifferent in the hour of trial, but even attempted to justify, or at least condone, the crimes of Russia. Long before the events of August, 1914, proved the reality of the Triple Entente, the approaching AngloRusso-French alliance was foreshadowed by the way London and Paris journalism. handled the Polish question. If there is one lesson for Americans in the European War and the events which preceded it, it is that we must write our own history and do our own reporting. Otherwise we are sure to be misinformed about what has been done and is being done in Europe. Prejudice, hopeless bias, insincerity, special pleading are the order of the day among European writers.

The violation of Russia's international obligations to Poland and Finland have been explained on the ground that the old. Russian policy was dictated by the bureaucracy, and that all would be changed. when the will of enlightened Russian liberalism began to make itself felt. The institution of the Duma was hailed as the beginning of a new era for Russia, just as the reestablishment of Abdul-Hamid's constitution was hailed as the beginning of a new era for Turkey. There seemed to be a curious failure, and there still is, on the part of Occidental observers to realize that the attempt to graft our constitutionalism upon these two Oriental organisms could not bring forth the fruit confidently predicted and immediately expected. The democracy of western Europe is a slow growth, born of Rome, the Renaissance, and the Reformation, nurtured by the tears and blood of our ancestors through many generations, and made secure through general education.

What can we hope for in eastern Europe and Asia in less than a decade?

Poland and Finland have fared far worse at the hands of Russia since the Duma came into being than before. The Russian liberals are nationalists of the most virulent type, and they believe that the full play of constitutionalism is possible only after the entire empire has undergone thorough Russification. So they have waged a bitter war against the Poles by reducing Polish representation in the Duma, by opposing local self-government for municipalities, by refusing the Poles the privilege of being educated in their own language, and by searching for the development of existing laws and the invention of new laws to ruin the Poles economically. It is the fashion to-day to hold up Austria-Hungary under the Hapsburgs as the shining example of the oppressor of small nationalities that have been seeking to lead their own lives. Certainly none can deny the oppression of the Slavic nationalities in the dual monarchy by the German and Magyar bureaucrats of Vienna and Budapest. I was in Agram, the capital of Croatia, during that memorable spring of 1912, when the iniquity of Austro-Hungarian officialdom was laid bare before the world. Only three months later I was in Helsingfors, the capital of Finland, and it was while I was investigating the Russian persecution of the Finns that I read an "inspired" news article from Petrograd which attempted to justify the separation of the province of Khelm from the kingdom of Poland. Never, in the worst days of the iron heel, had the old Russian despotism gone so far as to impair the territorial integrity. of the Poland intrusted to Russia by the Congress of Vienna.

During the last decade the Prussian Government, also, without interference from the imperial Reichstag, has carried on a brutal and cynical war against the Poles of Posnania and eastern Prussia. The aim of German statesmen, like those of Russia, has been to stamp out Polish nationality by every possible means. Some Socialists and a certain section of the

Catholic Center protested in the Reichstag and in the press against Prussia's anti-Polish measures, pointing out their folly as well as their illegality; but the great bulk of the German lawmakers profess the same narrow nationalism as the Russian lawmakers. They are determined to give no quarter to Poles who have the misfortune to be German subjects until they abandon their nationality and their language. From 1848 until the outbreak. of the present war Germany has displayed complete solidarity with Russia in her treatment of the Polish question. The dictum has been: "Poland is dead. She must never be resuscitated."

Or the partitioners, Austria alone gave the Poles autonomy, and allowed them freedom in the development of their national life and their national institutions. Galicia has enjoyed a peculiarly fortunate geographical and political position since the formation of the dual monarchy in 1867. To keep the Bohemians in check, to prevent the spread of Russian propaganda, to forestall the possibility of the German element being put in a minority

in the Vienna Reichsrath by a Panslavic combination, Austrian statesmen have consistently curried favor with the Poles. Thanks to the exigencies of Austrian internal politics, Galicia has become the foyer of Polish nationalism, and from Cracow and Lemberg has gone forth the light that has kept alive and fostered the hope of the ultimate realization of the aspirations of the Polish people. Many Poles have resented deeply what they call the Galicians' indifference to, or, as it is sometimes more strongly put, betrayal of, the Pan-Polish ideal. But it is not because they refuse to put themselves in the other man's place and to realize that he who gets must give. It would be strange indeed if the Galicians, comparing their lot with that of Poles under the Romanoffs and the Hohenzollerns, should remain uncompromising and unwilling, if only for policy's sake, to give a certain measure of loyalty and show a certain measure of appreciation to the Hapsburgs.

But from an economic point of view the Poles under the Hapsburgs have suffered serious handicaps for which political autonomy was only a partial recompense. If


we believe in the principle that all subjects of a state have a right to free and unrestricted enjoyment of the advantages accruing from membership in that state, and are not to be discriminated against or exploited for the profits of others, there is ground for a serious indictment against the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy in the treatment of the Poles, however favored they may have been politically. Nearly one third of Austria's grain, more than two fifths of her potatoes, one half of her horses, and one fourth of her cattle are raised in Galicia. Hungary and portions of Austria specialize in the same products, so that the agriculture and stock-raising of Galicia are not essential to the well-being of the empire. And by refusing logical railways and canal construction, Austria and Hungary have kept Galicia in a position of inferiority for export of agricultural products and stock.

[ocr errors]

There has been equal malevolence in the way Austria has blocked the development of Galicia's salt to prevent competition with Salzburg, and Galicia's coal and iron to prevent industrial competition. Austria, enjoying free trade with Galicia, has forced her manufactured products upon the Poles, and they have been powerless to compel her to take from Galicia a full equivalent in Galician products. Only the discovery of petroleum, which is not found elsewhere in the dual monarchy, has enabled Galicia to prosper in the face of artificial economic disadvantages.

FROM the point of view of intention, and in execution, the Russian exploitation of Poland has been far worse. Since 1865, Polish proprietors in Ruthenia and Lithuania have been compelled to pay into the Russian treasury a super-tax of ten per cent. on their incomes. The kingdom of

« PreviousContinue »