Contemporary Period: Foreign Affairs

Up to 1866 Rumanian foreign politics may be said to have been

non-existent. The offensive or defensive alliances against the Turks

concluded by the Rumanian rulers with neighbouring princes during the

Middle Ages were not made in pursuance of any definite policy, but merely

to meet the moment's need. With the establishment of Turkish suzerainty

Rumania became a pawn in the foreign politics of the neighbouring empires,

nd we find her repeatedly included in their projects of acquisition,

partition, or compensation (as, for instance, when she was put forward as

eventual compensation to Poland for the territories lost by that country

in the first partition).[1] Rumania may be considered fortunate in not

having lost more than Bucovina to Austria (1775), Bessarabia to Russia

(1812), and, temporarily, to Austria the region between the Danube and the

Aluta, called Oltenia (lost by the Treaty of Passarowitz, 1718; recovered

by the Treaty of Belgrade, 1739).

[Footnote 1: See Albert Sorel, The Eastern Question in the Eighteenth

Century (Engl. ed.), 1898, pp. 141, 147 &c.]

While her geographical position made of Rumania the cynosure of many

covetous eyes, it at the same time saved her from individual attack by

exciting countervailing jealousies. Moreover, the powers came at last to

consider her a necessary rampart to the Ottoman Empire, whose dissolution

all desired but none dared attempt. Austria and Russia, looking to the

future, were continually competing for paramount influence in Rumania,

though it is not possible to determine where their policy of acquisition

ended and that of influence began.

The position of the principalities became more secure after the Paris

Congress of 1858, which placed them under the collective guarantee of the

great powers; but this fact, and the maintenance of Turkish suzerainty,

coupled with their own weakness, debarred them from any independence in

their foreign relations.

A sudden change took place with the accession of Prince Carol; a

Hohenzollern prince related to the King of Prussia and to Napoleon III

could not be treated like one of the native boyards. The situation called

for the more delicacy of treatment by the powers in view of the

possibility of his being able to better those internal conditions which

made Rumania 'uninteresting' as a factor in international politics. In

fact, the prince's personality assured for Rumania a status which she

could otherwise have attained only with time, by a political, economic,

and military consolidation of her home affairs; and the prince does not

fail to remark in his notes that the attentions lavished upon him by other

sovereigns were meant rather for the Hohenzollern prince than for the

Prince of Rumania. Many years later even, after the war of 1878, while the

Russians were still south of the Danube with their lines of communication

running through Rumania, Bratianu begged of the prince to give up a

projected journey on account of the difficulties which might at any moment

arise, and said: 'Only the presence of your Royal Highness keeps them [the

Russians] at a respectful distance.' It was but natural under these

circumstances that the conduct of foreign affairs should have devolved

almost exclusively on the prince. The ascendancy which his high personal

character, his political and diplomatic skill, his military capacity

procured for him over the Rumanian statesmen made this situation a lasting

one; indeed it became almost a tradition. Rumania's foreign policy since

1866 may be said, therefore, to have been King Carol's policy. Whether one

agrees with it or not, no one can deny with any sincerity that it was

inspired by the interests of the country, as the monarch saw them.

Rebuking Bismarck's unfair attitude towards Rumania in a question

concerning German investors, Prince Carol writes to his father in 1875: 'I

have to put Rumania's interests above those of Germany. My path is plainly

mapped out, and I must follow It unflinchingly, whatever the weather.'

Prince Carol was a thorough German, and as such naturally favoured the

expansion of German influence among his new subjects. But if he desired

Rumania to follow in the wake of German foreign policy, it was because of

his unshaken faith in the future of his native country, because he

considered that Rumania had nothing to fear from Germany, whilst it was

all in the interest of that country to see Rumania strong and firmly

established. At the same time, acting on the advice of Bismarck, he did

not fail to work toward a better understanding with Russia, 'who might

become as well a reliable friend as a dangerous enemy to the Rumanian

state'. The sympathy shown him by Napoleon III was not always shared by

the French statesmen,[1] and the unfriendly attitude of the French

ambassador in Constantinople caused Prince Carol to remark that 'M. de

Moustier is considered a better Turk than the Grand Turk himself'. Under

the circumstances a possible alliance between France and Russia, giving

the latter a free hand in the Near East, would have proved a grave danger

to Rumania; 'it was, consequently, a skilful, if imperious act, to enter

voluntarily, and without detriment to the existing friendly relations with

France, within the Russian sphere of influence, and not to wait till

compelled to do so.'

[Footnote 1: See Revue des Deux Mondes, June 15, 1866, article by Eugene


The campaigns of 1866 and 1870 having finally established Prussia's

supremacy in the German world, Bismarck modified his attitude towards

Austria. In an interview with the Austrian Foreign Secretary, Count Beust

(Gastein, October 1871), he broached for the first time the question of an

alliance and, touching upon the eventual dissolution of the Ottoman

Empire, 'obligingly remarked that one could not conceive of a great power

not making of its faculty for expansion a vital question'.[2] Quite in

keeping with that change were the counsels henceforth tendered to Prince

Carol. Early that year Bismarck wrote of his sorrow at having been forced

to the conclusion that Rumania had nothing to expect from Russia, while

Prince Anthony, Prince Carol's father and faithful adviser, wrote soon

after the above interview (November 1871), that 'under certain

circumstances it would seem a sound policy for Rumania to rely upon the

support of Austria'. Persevering in this crescendo of suggestion,

Austria's new foreign secretary, Count Andrassy, drifted at length to the

point by plainly declaring not long afterwards that 'Rumania is not so

unimportant that one should deprecate an alliance with her'.

[Footnote 2: Gabriel Hanotaux, La Guerre des Balkans et l'Europe (Beust,

Memoires), Paris, 1914, p. 297.]

Prince Carol had accepted the throne with the firm intention of shaking

off the Turkish suzerainty at the first opportunity, and not unnaturally

he counted upon Germany's support to that end. He and his country were

bitterly disappointed, therefore, when Bismarck appealed directly to the

Porte for the settlement of a difference between the Rumanian Government

and a German company entrusted with the construction of the Rumanian

railways; the more so as the Paris Convention had expressly forbidden any

Turkish interference in Rumania's internal affairs. It thus became

increasingly evident that Rumania could not break away from Russia, the

coming power in the East. The eyes of Russia were steadfastly fixed on

Constantinople: by joining her, Rumania had the best chance of gaining her

independence; by not doing so, she ran the risk of being trodden upon by

Russia on her way to Byzantium. But though resolved to co-operate with

Russia in any eventual action in the Balkans, Prince Carol skilfully

avoided delivering himself blindfold into her hands by deliberately

cutting himself away from the other guaranteeing powers. To the conference

which met in Constantinople at the end of 1876 to settle Balkan affairs he

addressed the demand that 'should war break out between one of the

guaranteeing powers and Turkey, Rumania's line of conduct should be

dictated, and her neutrality and rights guaranteed, by the other powers'.

This demarche failed. The powers had accepted the invitation to the

conference as one accepts an invitation to visit a dying man. Nobody had

any illusions on the possibility of averting war, least of all the two

powers principally interested. In November 1876 Ali Bey and M. de Nelidov

arrived simultaneously and secretly in Bucarest to sound Rumania as to an

arrangement with their respective countries, Turkey and Russia. In

opposition to his father and Count Andrassy, who counselled neutrality and

the withdrawal of the Rumanian army into the mountains, and in sympathy

with Bismarck's advice, Prince Carol concluded a Convention with Russia on

April 16, 1877. Rumania promised to the Russian army 'free passage through

Rumanian territory and the treatment due to a friendly army'; whilst

Russia undertook to respect Rumania's political rights, as well as 'to

maintain and defend her actual integrity'. 'It is pretty certain', wrote

Prince Carol to his father, 'that this will not be to the liking of most

of the great powers; but as they neither can nor will offer us anything,

we cannot do otherwise than pass them by. A successful Russian campaign

will free us from the nominal dependency upon Turkey, and Europe will

never allow Russia to take her place.'

On April 23 the Russian armies passed the Pruth. An offer of active

participation by the Rumanian forces in the forthcoming campaign was

rejected by the Tsar, who haughtily declared that 'Russia had no need for

the cooperation of the Rumanian army', and that 'it was only under the

auspices of the Russian forces that the foundation of Rumania's future

destinies could be laid'. Rumania was to keep quiet and accept in the end

what Russia would deign to give her, or, to be more correct, take from

her. After a few successful encounters, however, the Tsar's soldiers met

with serious defeats before Plevna, and persistent appeals were now urged

for the participation of the Rumanian army in the military operations. The

moment had come for Rumania to bargain for her interests. But Prince Carol

refused to make capital out of the serious position of the Russians; he

led his army across the Danube and, at the express desire of the Tsar,

took over the supreme command of the united forces before Plevna. After a

glorious but terrible struggle Plevna, followed at short intervals by

other strongholds, fell, the peace preliminaries were signed, and Prince

Carol returned to Bucarest at the head of his victorious army.

Notwithstanding the flattering words in which the Tsar spoke of the

Rumanian share in the success of the campaign, Russia did not admit

Rumania to the Peace Conference. By the Treaty of San Stefano (March

3,1878) Rumania's independence was recognized; Russia obtained from Turkey

the Dobrudja and the delta of the Danube, reserving for herself the right

to exchange these territories against the three southern districts of

Bessarabia, restored to Rumania by the Treaty of Paris, 1856. This

stipulation was by no means a surprise to Rumania, Russia's intention to

recover Bessarabia was well known to the Government, who hoped, however,

that the demand would not be pressed after the effective assistance

rendered by the Rumanian army. 'If this be not a ground for the extension

of our territory, it is surely none for its diminution,' remarked

Cogalniceanu at the Berlin Congress. Moreover, besides the promises of the

Tsar, there was the Convention of the previous year, which, in exchange

for nothing more than free passage for the Russian armies, guaranteed

Rumania's integrity. But upon this stipulation Gorchakov put the

jesuitical construction that, the Convention being concluded in view of a

war to be waged against Turkey, it was only against Turkey that Russia

undertook to guarantee Rumania's integrity; as to herself, she was not in

the least bound by that arrangement. And should Rumania dare to protest

against, or oppose the action of the Russian Government, 'the Tsar will

order that Rumania be occupied and the Rumanian army disarmed'. 'The army

which fought at Plevna', replied Prince Carol through his minister, 'may

well be destroyed, but never disarmed.'

There was one last hope left to Rumania: that the Congress which met in

Berlin in June 1878 for the purpose of revising the Treaty of San Stefano,

would prevent such an injustice. But Bismarck was anxious that no

'sentiment de dignite blessee' should rankle in Russia's future policy;

the French representative, Waddington, was 'above all a practical man';

Corti, the Italian delegate, was 'nearly rude' to the Rumanian delegates;

while Lord Beaconsfield, England's envoy, receiving the Rumanian delegates

privately, had nothing to say but that 'in politics the best services are

often rewarded with ingratitude'. Russia strongly opposed even the idea

that the Rumanian delegates should be allowed to put their case before the

Congress, and consent was obtained only with difficulty after Lord

Salisbury had ironically remarked that 'having heard the representatives

of Greece, which was claiming foreign provinces, it would be but fair to

listen also to the representatives of a country which was only seeking to

retain what was its own'. Shortly before, Lord Salisbury, speaking in

London to the Rumanian special envoy, Callimaki Catargiu, had assured him

of England's sympathy and of her effective assistance in case either of

war or of a Congress. 'But to be quite candid he must add that there are

questions of more concern to England, and should she be able to come to an

understanding with Russia with regard to them, she would not wage war for

the sake of Rumania.' Indeed, an understanding came about, and an

indiscretion enabled the Globe to make its tenor public early in June

1878. 'The Government of her Britannic Majesty', it said, 'considers that

it will feel itself bound to express its deep regret should Russia persist

in demanding the retrocession of Bessarabia.... England's interest in this

question is not such, however, as to justify her taking upon herself alone

the responsibility of opposing the intended exchange.' So Bessarabia was

lost, Rumania receiving instead Dobrudja with the delta of the Danube. But

as the newly created state of Bulgaria was at the time little else than a

detached Russian province, Russia, alone amongst the powers, opposed and

succeeded in preventing the demarcation to the new Rumanian province of a

strategically sound frontier. Finally, to the exasperation of the

Rumanians, the Congress made the recognition of Rumania's independence

contingent upon the abolition of Article 7 of the Constitution--which

denied to non-Christians the right of becoming Rumanian citizens--and the

emancipation of the Rumanian Jews.[1]

[Footnote 1: Rumania only partially gave way to this intrusion of the

powers into her internal affairs. The prohibition was abolished; but only

individual naturalization was made possible, and that by special Act of

Parliament. Only a very small proportion of the Jewish population has

since been naturalized. The Jewish question in Rumania is undoubtedly a

very serious one; but the matter is too controversial to be dealt with in

a few lines without risking misrepresentation or doing an injustice to one

or other of the parties. For which reason it has not been included in this


It was only after innumerable difficulties and hardships that, at the

beginning of 1880, Rumania secured recognition of an independence which

she owed to nobody but herself. Whilst Russia was opposing Rumania at

every opportunity in the European conferences and commissions, she was at

pains to show herself more amenable in tete-a-tete, and approached

Rumania with favourable proposals. 'Rather Russia as foe than guardian,'

wrote Prince Carol to his father; and these words indicate an important

turning-point in Rumania's foreign policy.

In wresting Bessarabia from Rumania merely as a sop to her own pride, and

to make an end of all that was enacted by the Treaty of Paris, 1856,

Russia made a serious political blunder. By insisting that Austria should

share in the partition of Poland, Frederick the Great had skilfully

prevented her from remaining the one country towards which the Poles would

naturally have turned for deliverance. Such an opportunity was lost by

Russia through her short-sighted policy in Bessarabia--that of remaining

the natural ally of Rumania against Rumania's natural foe,


Rumania had neither historical, geographical, nor any important

ethnographical points of contact with the region south of the Danube; the

aims of a future policy could only have embraced neighbouring tracts of

foreign territory inhabited by Rumanians. Whereas up to the date of the

Berlin Congress such tracts were confined to Austria-Hungary, by that

Congress a similar sphere of attraction for Rumanian aspirations was

created in Russia.[1] The interests of a peaceful development demanded

that Rumania should maintain friendly relations with both the powers

striving for domination in the Near East; it was a vital necessity for

her, however, to be able to rely upon the effective support of at least

one of them in a case of emergency. Russia's conduct had aroused a deep

feeling of bitterness and mistrust in Rumania, and every lessening of her

influence was a step in Austria's favour. Secondary considerations tended

to intensify this: on the one hand lay the fact that through Russia's

interposition Rumania had no defendable frontier against Bulgaria; on the

other hand was the greatly strengthened position created for Austria by

her alliance with Germany, in whose future Prince Carol had the utmost


[Footnote 1: It is probable that this confederation had much to do with

the readiness with which Bismarck supported the demands of his good

friend, Gorchakov.]

Germany's attitude towards Rumania had been curiously hostile during these

events; but when Prince Carol's father spoke of this to the German

Emperor, the latter showed genuine astonishment: Bismarck had obviously

not taken the emperor completely into his confidence. When, a few days

later, Sturdza had an interview with Bismarck at the latter's invitation,

the German Chancellor discovered once more that Rumania had nothing to

expect from Russia. Indeed, Rumania's position between Russia and the new

Slav state south of the Danube might prove dangerous, were she not to seek

protection and assistance from her two 'natural friends', France and

Germany. And, with his usual liberality when baiting his policy with false

hopes, Bismarck went on to say that 'Turkey is falling to pieces; nobody

can resuscitate her; Rumania has an important role to fulfil, but for this

she must be wise, cautious, and strong'. This new attitude was the natural

counterpart of the change which was at that time making itself felt in

Russo-German relations. While a Franco-Russian alliance was propounded by

Gorchakov in an interview with a French journalist, Bismarck and Andrassy

signed in Gastein the treaty which allied Austria to Germany (September

1879). As Rumania's interests were identical with those of Austria--wrote

Count Andrassy privately to Prince Carol a few months later--namely, to

prevent the fusion of the northern and the southern Slavs, she had only to

express her willingness to become at a given moment the third party in the

compact. In 1883 King Carol accepted a secret treaty of defensive alliance

from Austria. In return for promises relating to future political

partitions in the Balkans, the monarch pledged himself to oppose all

developments likely to speed the democratic evolution, of Rumania. Though

the treaty was never submitted to parliament for ratification, and

notwithstanding a tariff war and a serious difference with Austria on the

question of control of the Danube navigation, Rumania was, till the Balkan

wars, a faithful 'sleeping partner' of the Triple Alliance.

All through that externally quiet period a marked discrepancy existed and

developed between that line of policy and the trend of public opinion. The

interest of the Rumanians within the kingdom centred increasingly on their

brethren in Transylvania, the solution of whose hard case inspired most of

the popular national movements. Not on account of the political despotism

of the Magyars, for that of the Russians was in no way behind it. But

whilst the Rumanians of Bessarabia were, with few exceptions, illiterate

peasants, in Transylvania there was a solidly established and spirited

middle class, whose protests kept pace with the oppressive measures. Many

of them--and of necessity the more turbulent--migrated to Rumania, and

there kept alive the 'Transylvanian Question'. That the country's foreign

policy has nevertheless constantly supported the Central Powers is due, to

some extent, to the fact that the generation most deeply impressed by the

events of 1878 came gradually to the leadership of the country; to a

greater extent to the increasing influence of German education,[1] and the

economic and financial supremacy which the benevolent passivity of England

and France enabled Germany to acquire; but above all to the personal

influence of King Carol. Germany, he considered, was at the beginning of

her development and needed, above all, peace; as Rumania was in the same

position the wisest policy was to follow Germany, neglecting impracticable

national ideals. King Carol outlined his views clearly in an interview

which he had in Vienna with the Emperor Franz Joseph in 1883: 'No nation

consents to be bereaved of its political aspirations, and those of the

Rumanians are constantly kept at fever heat by Magyar oppression. But this

was no real obstacle to a friendly understanding between the two

neighbouring states.'

[Footnote 1: Many prominent statesmen like Sturdza, Maiorescu, Carp, &c.

were educated in Germany, whereas the school established by the German

community (Evangelische Knaben und Realschule), and which it under the

direct control of the German Ministry of Education, is attended by more

pupils than any other school in Bucarest.]

Such was the position when the Balkan peoples rose in 1912 to sever the

last ties which bound them to the decadent Turkish Empire. King Carol, who

had, sword in hand, won the independence of his country, could have no

objection to such a desire for emancipation. Nor to the Balkan League

itself, unfortunately so ephemeral; for by the first year of his reign he

had already approached the Greek Government with proposals toward such a

league, and toward freeing the Balkans from the undesirable interference

of the powers.[1] It is true that Rumania, like all the other states, had

not foreseen the radical changes which were to take place, and which

considerably affected her position in the Near East. But she was safe as

long as the situation was one of stable equilibrium and the league

remained in existence. 'Rumania will only be menaced by a real danger when

a Great Bulgaria comes into existence,' remarked Prince Carol to Bismarck

in 1880, and Bulgaria had done nothing since to allay Rumanian suspicions.

On the contrary, the proviso of the Berlin Convention that all

fortifications along the Rumania frontier should be razed to the ground

had not been carried out by the Bulgarian Government. Bulgarian official

publications regarded the Dobrudja as a 'Bulgaria Irredenta', and at the

outset of the first Balkan war a certain section of the Bulgarian press

speculated upon the Bulgarian character of the Dobrudja.

[Footnote 1: See Augenzeuge, op. cit., i. 178]

The Balkan League having proclaimed, however, that their action did not

involve any territorial changes, and the maintenance of the status quo

having been insisted upon by the European Concert, Rumania declared that

she would remain neutral. All this jugglery of mutual assurances broke

down with the unexpected rout of the Turks; the formula 'the Balkans to

the Balkan peoples' made its appearance, upon which Bulgaria was at once

notified that Rumania would insist upon the question of the Dobrudja

frontier being included in any fundamental alteration of the Berlin

Convention. The Bulgarian Premier, M. Danev, concurred in this point of

view, but his conduct of the subsequent London negotiations was so

'diplomatic' that their only result was to strain the patience of the

Rumanian Government and public opinion to breaking point. Nevertheless,

the Rumanian Government agreed that the point in dispute should be

submitted to a conference of the representatives of the great powers in

St. Petersburg, and later accepted the decision of that conference, though

the country considered it highly unsatisfactory.

The formation of the Balkan League, and especially the collapse of Turkey,

had meant a serious blow to the Central Powers' policy of peaceful

penetration. Moreover, 'for a century men have been labouring to solve the

Eastern. Question. On the day when it shall be considered solved, Europe

will inevitably witness the propounding of the Austrian Question.'[1] To

prevent this and to keep open a route to the East Austro-German diplomacy

set to work, and having engineered the creation of Albania succeeded in

barring Serbia's way to the Adriatic; Serbia was thus forced to seek an

outlet in the south, where her interests were doomed to clash with

Bulgarian aspirations. The atmosphere grew threatening. In anticipation of

a conflict with Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia sought an alliance with

Rumania. The offer was declined; but, in accordance with the policy which

Bucarest had already made quite clear to Sofia, the Rumanian army was

ordered to enter Bulgaria immediately that country attacked her former

allies. The Rumanians advanced unopposed to within a few miles of Sofia,

and in order to save the capital Bulgaria declared her willingness to

comply with their claims. Rumania having refused, however, to conclude a

separate peace, Bulgaria had to give way, and the Balkan premiers met in

conference at Bucarest to discuss terms. The circumstances were not

auspicious. The way in which Bulgaria had conducted previous negotiations,

and especially the attack upon her former allies, had exasperated the

Rumanians and the Balkan peoples, and the pressure of public opinion

hindered from the outset a fair consideration of the Bulgarian point of

view. Moreover, cholera was making great ravages in the ranks of the

various armies, and, what threatened to be even more destructive, several

great powers were looking for a crack in the door to put their tails

through, as the Rumanian saying runs. So anxious were the Balkan statesmen

to avoid any such interference that they agreed between themselves to a

short time limit: on a certain day, and by a certain hour, peace was to be

concluded, or hostilities were to start afresh. The treaty was signed on

August 10, 1913, Rumania obtaining the line Turtukai-Dobrich-Balchik, this

being the line already demanded by her at the time of the London

negotiations. The demand was put forth originally as a security against

the avowed ambitions of Bulgaria; it was a strategical necessity, but at

the same time a political mistake from the point of view of future

relations. The Treaty of Bucarest, imperfect arrangement as it was, had

nevertheless a great historical significance. 'Without complicating the

discussion of our interests, which we are best in a position to

understand, by the consideration of other foreign, interests,' remarked

the President of the Conference, 'we shall have established for the first

time by ourselves peace and harmony amongst our peoples.' Dynastic

interests and impatient ambitions, however, completely subverted this

momentous step towards a satisfactory solution of the Eastern Question.

[Footnote 1: Albert Sorel, op, cit., p. 266.]

The natural counter-effect of the diplomatic activity of the Central

Powers was a change in Rumanian policy. Rumania considered the maintenance

of the Balkan equilibrium a vital question, and as she had entered upon a

closer union with Germany against a Bulgaria subjected to Russian

influence, so she now turned to Russia as a guard against a Bulgaria under

German influence. This breaking away from the 'traditional' policy of

adjutancy-in-waiting to the Central Powers was indicated by the visit of

Prince Ferdinand--now King of Rumania--to St. Petersburg, and the even

more significant visit which Tsar Nicholas afterwards paid to the late

King Carol at Constanza. Time has been too short, however, for those new

relations so to shape themselves as to exercise a notable influence upon

Rumania's present attitude.