Sunday 17 June 2012

The creation of Romania and the Arab Spring; conservatives, liberals and neo-cons


Lord Robert Cecil in 1857.

Re-reading R.W.Seton-Watson's History of the Roumanians (1934), 
I was struck by the support given by Mr. Gladstone and Lord Robert Cecil (later Gladstone's great conservative opponent, Lord Salisbury), after the end of the Crimean War, to the idea of parliamentary government in the 'Danubian Principalities'  - Wallachia and Moldavia, which later formed Romania. I see parallels with British and Western attitudes towards last year's Arab Spring. Cecil, supporting a motion introduced by Gladstone in the House of Commons in May 1856, welcomed "an opportunity which might never recur of establishing those institutions to which we owe our own happiness."   Wallachia and Moldavia  deserved parliamentary rule and would benefit from it, he and Gladstone argued, just as people last year argued that Arabs deserved democracy and the rule of law.

The Eastern Question ('Eastern' meaning the Near East, European Turkey or the Balkans) bedevilled international politics between 1821 and 1914, rather as the Middle Eastern question has done in the last sixty years, and ended in dragging the world into the devastating war which, in many senses, was the end of civilisation. Both the Near East and the Middle East are attractive but backward places, not especially important in themselves, but the decline of Ottoman power and the emergence of nationalism left them highly unstable. Over the Eastern Question hung the question of whether Constantinople should one day be Russian, Bulgarian, Greek or remain Turkish. Finally in 1915 England agreed that Russia should have Constantinople and the long-held Russian dream of Mass in the Hagia Sofia seemed at last to be close to fulfilment. Whoever had Constantinople controlled the Straits but control of the Straits and the Black Sea was of limited importance in an age of colonies and later the Suez Canal. Likewise, now the Cold War is over, it is hard to see why the Middle East is accorded so much importance. The Middle East has very much oil, of course, as during the Second World War had Romania, but so have Russia and other countries. 

Of course the Romanians were not ready for democracy in the 1850s or half a century later and perhaps the Arabs are not ready yet but Romania benefited from representative government. It is not yet clear whether representative government will take hold in Egypt or Tunisia and, if so, whether this will be a benefit. (Iran after all had until recently a greater measure of democracy than any other country in the Middle East except Lebanon and Israel). In Syria and Libya the odds are very much against free institutions, in my opinion. 

Home rule was a good thing for Romania and independence  de jure instead of de facto for Romania did not unduly unbalance the balance of power in Europe. It did little harm, except to ten thousand soldiers killed in the War of Independence, those maimed and their loved ones. It was a war not sought by Romanians but fought bravely by them, largely for the benefit of Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia. King Carol I distinguished himself by being the last European monarch to command an army in battle at the battle of Pleven, in Bulgaria, where he won a famous victory against the odds. Romania was given part of the Danube Delta and a small stretch of impoverished coastline, the Northern Dobrudgea, sparsely inhabited by a motley mixture of nationalities, but her ally Russia annexed Southern Bessarabia, now the Republic of Moldova, a sore which still hurts to this day.

By contrast, the overthrow of the dictatorships in the Arab World seems at the present moment likely to do much harm to the countries concerned and to the West, by bringing to power Muslim extremists and perpetuating in Libya chaos. It is a great pity that monarchies cannot be reintroduced into Egypt, Libya and Iraq as they were in the Balkans. Even better perhaps, if I am allowed a flight of fancy, were princelings like Carol I of Romania available to be sent to the Middle East as constitutional monarchs in the nineteenth century sense, with real powers, to take a large part in the governance of their backward kingdoms, but the spirit of the age would not permit it.

I wonder whether the Arab countries will ever have good government and even whether Islam and parliamentary systems can co-exist. Turkey is a Muslim exception that seems to prove the rule, as the Ataturk settlement rested on secularism enforced for the army and, for many years, by a dictatorship. In democratic Turkey the Ataturk settlement is crumbling and political Islam becoming more powerful but we hope that moderate Islam and democracy can be combined. On the other hand, the pro-British monarchies in the Middle East, before Israel and Nasser, were stable parliamentary systems and Egypt in the early 1920s even had a Jewish Minister of Finance.  Islam is therefore not always incompatible with representative institutions, at least in countries which were clients of imperial Britain. 

At one point during the Austro-Piedmontese War of 1859 the idea was floated for a moment of compensating Austria for the loss of Venice by giving her Wallachia and Moldavia. This idea died in thinking, but a period of Austrian rule, unlike Ottoman rule, and unlike Hungarian rule of the kind Transylvania endured after 1867, might have had advantages for Romania. This was what Bosnia enjoyed as a Hapsburg protectorate after 1878 (governed jointly by the two halves of the Dual Monarchy). It would have united Romanians on either side of the Carpathians and would have raised the cultural and economic level of Wallachia and Moldavia.  

Home rule and independence in Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece, by contrast with Romania, led to wars, pogroms and ethnic cleansings. They destabilised the region for many years and not only the region. The First and Second Balkan Wars were followed by a third Balkan War which we know as the First World War. It began in Bosnia and ended in Bulgaria, where the Central Powers were finally defeated. Flanders was only an inconsequential side-show. It might be called the War of the Ottoman Succession.

Romanian independence was not very problematic because Romania had never really been  part of the Ottoman Empire, though shown as such on the  maps, and had always been ruled by Christian princes, without any settlement by Muslims. The Sultan was a sort of suzerain rather than the direct ruler of Wallachia and Moldavia - a suzerein status they shared, among the Sultan's domains, only with the Lebanon.  From 1812 the Tsar had treaty rights to interfere in the Principalities and so the Principalities were effectively Turkish protectorates which were also Russian protectorates. Romania is therefore in some senses not part of the Balkans. 

Romania's small 'Turkish' Muslim minority was acquired, along with other minorities, only after independence, when the  Northern Dobrudgea was awarded to Romania. Before independence Muslims had been forbidden to settle in the Principalities. No pogroms were therefore carried out by Muslims on Christians or vice versa, as happened in Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece and, worst of all, with the massacre of the Armenians in Anatolia by the Young Turk government. Romania's large minority at the time were her Jews, who had immigrated in the preceding two generations from Russia and the Hapsburg Empire. Their position was only affected by independence insofar as the Great Powers were not prepared to recognise independence without the Jews being granted civil rights, something the Romanians, both the politicians and public, resisted fiercely but unavailingly. 

It was perhaps a pity in some ways that, from 1917, after the Tsar was overthrown and the USA entered the First World War, 'democracy' was suddenly adopted by the Allies as an agreed standard for good government in the white world. This, in time, came to be applied to colonies in Africa and Asia, regardless of whether developing societies were ready for one man one vote. Universal suffrage in the twentieth century has become seen as the sine qua non for political legitimacy, even though the UK only got manhood suffrage in 1918. In fact, a property franchise made very good sense in early 20th century Romania and a household franchise worked well in early 20th century England. An electorate confined to graduates or to the literate or to property owners would lack legitimacy nowadays but in the Arab world and elsewhere it would, in itself, make good sense.

Disraeli's attitude to Romania's war of independence in 1878 was very different from Gladstone's or Salisbury's twenty years earlier.  Disraeli was a conservative of the school of Metternich and Kissinger, whereas the heirs of Gladstone are Woodrow Wilson, whose fourteen points were disastrous for Central and Eastern Europe, and, ultimately, George W. Bush and the Neo-Cons. 

Disraeli had no love for Russia and publicly claimed Romania was amply compensated at the Congress of Berlin for losing Bessarabia, but he had told Queen Victoria in a letter that  "the compensation allotted to the rebellious tributary states for their alliances with Russia would be as meagre as possible." Dizzy promised Bessarabia, among other things, to Russia in return for Russia's giving back to Turkey the Greater Bulgaria created by the Treaty of San Stefano, yet when he returned to England 'with peace in our time' he 'hoodwinked' (Seton-Watson) British public opinion by complaining (accurately but disingenuously) that  the Tsar had broken international law by annexing Bessarabia. 

Disraeli sympathised with Turkey as a legitimate monarchy and a force for stability. Seeing what chaos, bloodshed and ethnic cleansing resulted from the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and in the Middle East it is not easy to say he was wrong about this though it partly cost him the 1880 election. He had no sympathy for Romania and tried to ensure she received as little as possible in return for rebelling against the Sublime Porte. Disraeli was a true legitimist and a higher conservative than Lord Salisbury. I am a legitimist too, but to Romanians and to me Gladstone and Salisbury emerge out of Romanian history much better. 

Disraeli was a Protestant convert but perhaps his Jewish background, as well as his happy memories of 'the pleasure of being made much of by a man who is daily decapitating half the country' when he was the guest of Ali Pasha in Albania as a young man in the 1830s,  made him less biased in favour of Christians and against Muslim Turkey than other statesmen. On his deathbed, he was said to have been heard to mutter Hebrew prayers. During the Eastern Crisis, Gladstone wrote of Disraeli to the Duke of Argyll, "He is not such a Turk as I thought. What he hates is Christian liberty and reconstruction."

How interesting it is that events almost never have the consequences clever statesmen think they will have. Napoleon III worked for the unification of Italy and Romania, which both became the allies of Austria and Germany (secretly in Romania's case) and therefore enemies of France. Russia nearly caused a  European war in 1878 by trying to create an independent Greater Bulgaria. The other powers, though not Gladstone, feared Bulgaria would be a Russian poodle, which is why Disraeli was prepared to fight. In London, the hit song in the music halls, sung by The Great MacDermott, went:

'We don't want to fight,
'But by jingo if we do,
'We've got the ships,
'We've got the men,
'We've got the money too.'

Yet in the two world wars Bulgaria fought against her Russian elder brother and against England and France. Other examples are legion.

An in some ways comparable mistake was made by President Eisenhower in 1956 in not backing Britain and France's admittedly duplicitous invasion of Nasser's Egypt. This enabled America to take from Britain and France the leading role in the Middle East but left the region the source of grave instability that it has remained and led to Egypt, Libya and Syria becoming Soviet allies.It also precipitated the overthrow of the pro-British Iraqi monarchy and the eventual emergence of Saddam Hussein. Three years later Eisenhower, who had opposed Anglo-French imperialism in Egypt, was faced with his own rebellious vassal state in Castro's Cuba. British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who had been 'first in and first out' of the Suez venture, expressed much sympathy with Eisenhower, but then Macmillan was the greatest beneficiary of the American sabotage of his predecessor, Sir Anthony Eden.

The Conservative Disraeli was pro-Turkish and the Liberal Gladstone pro-Christian but the Conservatives, in opposition from 1905 till 1915, gave up their preference for Turkey over Russia. From 1914, allied to Russia and ruled from 1915 by an all-party coalition, England fought the Ottoman Empire. The consequence is today's Middle East. 

In the First World War and the early 1920s Lloyd George retained enough of his previous radicalism to be a passionate pro-Hellene.  Lloyd George and Clemenceau very nearly succeeded in killing, but only with very great difficulty, the allegedly Sick Man of Europe (Kemal later administered the coup de grace). Lloyd George then encouraged Greece in her ambitions to create a Greater Greece in Anatolia. This proved a fatal mistake for the Greeks who were driven out of their ancestral homes in Anatolia by Kemal bag and baggage, to use the phrase Gladstone, the Liberal leader, used a generation and a half earlier to describe his hope for the ethnic cleansing of the Turks (i.e. the Muslims) from Bulgaria and Macedonia. In the early 1920s, the Turks were driven out of Greece at the same time as the Greeks were expelled from Turkey. Interestingly, in view of later British history, the Conservative British Foreign Secretary, Sir Austen Chamberlain, took the view that ethnic minorities never lived happily side by side and were best separated by force.

Had we remained friendly to the Sublime Porte and avoided allying with France or getting drawn into war with Germany in 1914 the history of the world might have been very different and much happier.

How different nineteenth century diplomacy was from that of our day, made in secret and concerned with realpolitik and not principles or the interests of the common man. And yet was it so very different? I just finished reading Victor Sebestyen's book Revolution 1989. I read, though it was not news, how George H.W. Bush tried to shore up Jaruzelski, Gorbachev and the USSR against Solidarity and the reformers in Poland and Russia on the ground that Gorbachev provided stability. He also offered Gorbachev a free hand in Romania but, at least ostensibly, Gorbachev allowed Romania to go her own way.

Stability sounds a sell-out but it has its virtues. The last nine years in Iraq have taught us how valuable stability is, more valuable perhaps than almost anything else. 

For forms of government let fools contest
Whate'er is best administered is best.


  1. ... not sure Romania was created in the 1850s ... that is the '48-ers legend that everything began with them, but if that were true Rumania would not have some unsettled legal issues with the Mount Athos monasteries (and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, if I am not mistaken) originating as early as the 16th century ...

    independence ... the relationship with the Ottomans could not be translated directly into Western terms ... the Principalities were "Dar al-Amn" ... "house of treaty/safety", which was translated as "not independent", but imagine Ireland in the 18th century having it's own army and signing legally binding international agreements ... late 18th century and early 19th century diplomatic manuals described the Danubian principalities as "semi-sovereign"

    most of what was published since the 1900 is self serving bullshit sponsored by the national-liberals, or the "reds", how they fancied themselves when it was convenient "the compensation allotted to the rebellious tributary states for their alliances with Russia would be as meagre as possible."

    mmm ... in fact the Ottomans broke the treaty, their new constitution ... from 1876 if I remember right ... claimed Rumania was a privileged province, not a "Dar al-Amn" country Emil Perhinschi

  2. Sounds good but my tiny brain is too small to take in such an intelligent article...I need the Twitter version. All I want to say is that I too read that fantastic tome "The History of the Romanians" and consider it the best thing to read if you want to understand these fascinating people. That was back in my pre-Twitter days when my brain did function...

  3. Paul,

    An interesting and readable account although I do not agree with all your statements and interpretations.

    If written quickly, as you say, then a very commendable opinion piece.

    Mathematicians are said to produce their best work while they are still young.

    While historians ..... if they do improve with age perhaps you have discovered your metier :).


  4. Paul, I answered here, there is length limit on blogspot

    1. I do like this - Mr Wood, you have good informants, there is a chance :-)

  5. I shall read this slowly and reply. My source is Seton-Watson who like Nagy-Talavera and other historians talks about the influx of Jews and says nothing about Germans. There were large numbers of Germans in the Regat? Did people object as they did to the Jews? Interesting to learn you were once a historian.

  6. I do wonder how much any nation in Eastern Europe benefited from the model of the Washington-Paris-London axis. Stephen M. Borthwick

  7. I mean that I wonder how much has really improved for Eastern Europe (Germany included) since the introduction of British/French/American forms of liberal democracy began in the 1840s.

  8. Washington did not have anything to do with it, The French Revolution did. A great deal improved between the 1840s and the 1920s. I shall think about this and comment at length.

  9. I'll be happy to give you a more detailed response as to why I would include Washington this evening (I'm working on Eastern Standard Time). Excellent article, by the way.

  10. Only you could equate Lord Robert Cecil’s concerns over Wallachia in 1859 to today’s Arab Spring, but curiously is works well as an intellectual construct!
    Come & have a drink when next you’re in NYC

  11. "Washington did not have anything to do with it, The French Revolution did. A great deal improved between the 1840s and the 1920s. I shall think about this and comment at length. But I would much prefer to continue if you don't object the conversation on my blog! :)"

    I am terribly sorry for having waited so long to do this, but I promised that I would give you some more details as to why I am suspicious of efforts on the part of what I have dubbed a Washington-London-Paris axis to introduce democracy into those portions of the world that have historically regarded as "the fringe" such as Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

    I should, I suppose, first say why I include "Washington" in this - especially since for the majority of the 19th century, our little project in Gracchian politics accomplished little in the way of foreign affairs. I include it because of the ideological and spiritual role played of a colony rebelling against a colonising force. In Hungary and Romania especially, the idea of nationhood and the self-identity of the people who started the independence movements (much like in Ireland) were couched in terms of "colony v. colonisers", making the social milieu of the American or (much later) Algerian revolutions a closer comparison than the French Revolution.

    I also have political reasons, however. I would assert that for the majority of the 20th century, Washington has by and far eclipsed London as the chief exporter of liberal ideology throughout the world, especially to places like Eastern Europe. Your article highlights how Romanians might not have been "ready" for democracy -- I might take this a step forward and say that culturally, liberal democracy is foreign to the Eastern Europeans - Slavs, Magyars, Vlachs, and Bulgars alike. Washington has, however, seen fit to make moves in support of establishing Anglo-American-style democracies (because, let's be honest, the heritage of liberal democracy does not begin in America) in lands where they are neither welcome in nor compatible with local customs, histories, and religious proclivities.

    I believe, as a student of Spengler, that this is a sort of "soft imperialism" which is a remnant of a vibrant imperialist West in the late stages of its Civilisation. However, the soft imperialism is failing and faltering -- we are seeing more vibrancy in the East than what was formerly Occidental Civilisation. For this reason I ask the question, "what good does it truly do to introduce Western forms into the Slavic and Mohammedan spheres?"

    I hope this clarifies my position somewhat, and, again, I was impressed by the article and apologise for being so slow to respond.

  12. Like Rupert in his comment above, I'll have to read this a couple of times for I am a Bear of Very Little Brain and can't cram it all in at once. Jos Palaria for such a dedicated and well-researched, thought out post.

    I too have read "The History of the Romanians" and agree that it is one of the very clearest routes to understanding the people, the country and the psychology - along with other authors such as Codrescu and his Mioritic Space (for the psychology), St John's 'Foreign Correspondent (for more recent history around WW2) and Olivia Manning's trilogy whivh is must less intellectual than The History of the Romanians but lends itself to remarkable insight and historical documentation.

    Good job, Paul :)


  13. Emil and S.B. I shall reply to you both when I find a moment. Thank you, Sarah, for the compliment. I did about five minutes' research actually. I am shocked at how little I know about Romanian history after almost 14 years here. I have had Seton-Watson for more than ten years and never read it from cover to cover until now. Kurt Treptow gave me his History of Romania in 1999 and I only started it just this weekend. I had thought it looked lightweight and indeed I have spotted three outrageous mistakes that a good proof reader would have eliminated and yet I find it more stimulating than Seton-Watson and clearer. Treptow's disgusting crimes i suppose do not mean he is a bad historian though he sounds pretty doubtful - I am not sure he has a doctorate.

    1. Do we talk about this guy

      Beyond his disgusting crimes, this guy's "historical" career started with a book on Dracula. And the he wrote a book "from Zamolxes to Jan Palach" - I am sorry, don't mean to offend, but from pedophily to Dracula and history, there seems to be an obvious problem with this guy's realizing borderlines. I bet he makes history very simple to digest - just like Dracula in the American history-fiction. There are "historical clubs" researching on that. Sorry, don't mean harm, but since you claim being interested in real rumanian history, it may help to recall that Vlad Tepes existed in real life, and Dracula was born more than 300 years later, in Ireland, in the mind of an honnest citizen with live phantasy, who certainly never dreamt that one day his phantasies will be boiled in the same pot with reality and history.

  14. I'd catch one idea from the article:

    "How interesting it is that events almost never have the consequences clever statesmen think they will have."

    Indeed! Inasmuch, thank goodness for voting... if it doesn't help with predicting consequences, at least it gives frequent opportunities for this lot to change their minds.

    There are quite a few studies and a couple of indexes following the mistakes in macroeconomic predictions... I hadn't seen a similar collection for diplomatic assumptions regarding political systems... especially not regarding RO [and not that there weren't any to count, as you write].

    Nice read !

  15. I think there are some very important differences though between 19th century realpolitik and 21 century realpolitik, although both largely eskew the interests of the common man. And the main difference is that money is so much more important now than ever. Furthermore, international politics has money. China and Brazil are probably the most illustrative examples of this. Nowadays, the West seems to fear that if a country with resources is not on their side, it can easily turn against it. We still live in a bipolar world, you're either in or out. As for the Middle East, altogether it has about three times as many proven oil resources as the rest of the world altogether. Not easy to ignore.

    Instead of comparing the Middle East now with the Balkans in the early 20th century, I would draw a line between the Balkans in 1989 and the Arab Spring. Democratization is no easy feat, and even less so in a Muslim country. And Romania has had it tough, it is far from a real democracy mainly because of corruption and lack of transparency. It could as easily turn into a dictatorship tomorrow, its neighbors Ukraine and Bielorussia further north would welcome it into the club.

  16. Romania did not have a majority Islamic population in the 19th century (or now).

    And what is "moderate Islam"?

    Someone either supports the life (the actions) and the teachings of Muhammed (as written down by his followers) as an example to be followed, or they do not.

    If they do hold the life and teachings of Muhammed as things to be followed they stop being nominal Muslims (people who are called Muslim because their parents were) and become Islamists. And that can happen suddenly - without real warning.

    It is a bit like dealing with an unexploded bomb. One can live with it for many years - and then one day.....

    For example, Tunesia (before the evil known as the "Arab Spring" came) was held up as a example of "moderate Islam" - it was nothing of the kind, it was just a country where Islam was under cover (or was asleep), and then it woke up......

    In Turkey and Iran Islam was kept down by secular governments - and not it is not kept down.

    It is the same elsewhere.

    How can one have "democracy" without a demos - or, rather, where the demos has a belief system (even if the belief system is asleep for awhile) that is evil? And make no mistake - the life (the deeds - the actions) and teachings of Muhammed are evil. Rape, murder, treachery (promising peace and then attacking), lying to and enslaving "infidels" - all these things were both taught and practiced by Muhammed.

    For constitutional government (civil society) to have a real chance in the long term it is not enough for Islam to sleep - the population must REJECT Islam.

  17. By the way - Britain made vast efforts to avoid becomming an enemy of Germany, it was the German government (and elite generally) who insisted on becomming an enemy of Brtiain. The entire German Imperal policy (German colonies made losses - they were not an economic benefit) and Naval policy (the building of the High Seas Fleet - a short range fleet, the ships did not contain enough space to carry the coal to "protect German colonies" thousands of miles away) was designed to provoke Britain - as German plans were about REPLACING Britain.

    There is a habit of the British whipping themselves over the First World War - but it is a habit that is based on a total misunderstanding of the situation. The war was faught very badly (a blood soaked comedy of errors by the British army - I am not part of the Haig apologist squad) - but the war itself was not the fault of Britain (or of France).

    The First World War really was the fault of Germany (it really was) - for the attitudes and beliefs of the ruling circles in Germany at the time see Ludwig Von Mises "Ominpotent Government" (not just under the National Sociailists - but reaching back to Imperial Germany and "War Socialism") and F.A. Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom".

    The ruling desire to make Germany the leading power of the world led Germany to follow an anti British policy - yet some British people insist on believeing that if only..... the First World War could have been avoided (it could not have been).

    For example, France at first refused to declare war in 1914 (a fact that seems to appear in no standard school text in Britian) - the German government simply staged a "French attack on Germany" (much as Hitler staged a "Polish attack on Germany in 1939) as a excuse to declare war on France.

    This does not the the "war could have been avoided if only we had...." cult, but it is the truth. Germany (or rather the ruling elite) wanted war - it declared war on Russia, ir declared war on France, it did not "just" want Europe. German statesmen and their academics openly desired to take over Latin America - and on and on.

    As for the Ottomans........

    The centuries of Ottoman raiding and slaughter in Europe seem to have been left out of this article.

    In the 19th century there were repeated slaughters of the Christian populations in South Eastern Europe by the Ottomans and their local allies (converts to Islam - i.e. traitors to their own people).

    This also seems to have been missed out of the article.

    Perhaps independent nations in the Balkans were a mistake.

    Perhaps it would have been better if the Hapsburgs and Romanovs had remained friendly (as they were till the Crimean War - when Russia held that the Hapsburg Empire had broken their treaty of alliance by not comming to Russia's aid against Britian, France and the Ottoman Empire), and had overseen the Balkans between them - I do not know.

    But the idea that Britain could have remained an ally of Turkey just does not work - the behaviour of the Ottoman Empire (the repeated slaughter of the subject populations) made that impossible.

    Indeed, with the benefit of hidesight, Britain's comming to the aid of the Ottomans in the 1850s appears to have been a terrible error.

    It might (perhaps) have been better if Constantinople had been returned to Orthodox hands (either those of Greece or Russia) and Jerusalem gone under British protection.

  18. "The Eastern Question ('Eastern' meaning the Near East, European Turkey or the Balkans) bedevilled international politics between 1821 and 1914, rather as the Middle Eastern question has done in the last sixty years, and ended in dragging the world into the devastating war which, in many senses, was the end of civilisation."

    Mr. Wood, I was taught in school, both in Switzerland and in Romania, that WW1, which was the end of an episode of european civilization (but is not the end of european civilization, which is just one minuscule civilization of less than 1000 years in the history of mankind), I was tought that it started in Sarajewo with the killing of an Austrian heir, and it was the problem of the dying Habsburg monarchy and not at all one of the dying otoman empire. The west couldn't have cared less about the Otomans, like they had not cared in 600 years of history, in which five Christian nations had been under Turks like a living wall, protecting them from getting wet. But they did care about Austria, Germany's problem of having come too late for getting its share of colonies, which had brought richness to France, England, and even Portugal, Netherlands and other small countries. Do you want the poor Balcan serve as your scape goat to whatever you wish?

    Frankly, what is happening with you, are you rediscovering grammar school under the hot sun of Bucharest, or are you trying to give history a new meaning, under the impact of your new experience? Be nice to us and we shall be nice to you!

  19. The blog is fascinating Paul. Unfortunately, I am not history literate so I can’t make any substantial comments. However, I think that you very correctly point out that “Islam and parliamentary systems cannot co-exist”. Islam appears to be more of a political system a lifestyle than something that has spiritual substance.

  20. complicated but a very good material

  21. Liberty and democracy is always paid for with revolution and blood.

    “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

    Thomas Jefferson


  23. The Ottoman Empire did not provide "stability" in the Balkans - unless by stability one means tyranny (including slave taking) and continual wars with the Hapsburgs (perhaps the most bureaucratic state in Europe - but still better than the Ottomans). As for moderate Islam - a difficulty it faces is the basic question of its philosophical foundations, or rather its lack of such foundations. The life and teachings of Mohammed are a matter of common knowledge to his modern followers. When most people could not read (they just recited the Koran by rote - without any idea what they were actually saying) it was possible for tribal elders and so on to teach the young that Mohammed was a man of peace (and that the Moon was made of Green Cheese - and so on). This is not practical now - young people can read, or look up on the internet, the life and teachings of Mohammed - and so even the relatively civilised nature of the Ottoman Empire is no longer possible. The message to young men that they can rob, rape and murder and still go to paradise (indeed that robbing, raping and murdering is the way to get to paradise - as long it is in the context of fighting to spread Islam against infidels and "hypocrites", what Mohammed called moderates) is just too strong. I repeat the deeds and teachings of Mohamed are just a "click" away for the young - so carefully constructed myths that he was basically a nice chap, simply will not work.

  24. Salisbury rightly said in 1877 in cabinet that Russia at Constantinople would do us (GB) no harm.

  25. He also said, in 1865: "A Government which is strong enough to hold its own will generally command an acquiescence which with all but very speculative minds, is the equivalent of contentment."

  26. It is not really a matter of "Arabs" - it is a matter of Islam, the doctrines of Muhammed. At least that was the opinion of Gladstone. He, like Lord Salisbury, regarded the Orthodox Christian farmers of what is now Romania as "ready for Parliamentary government" with a few provisos - such as that the voters be literate and have at least some basic property, but then the so called "Levellers" of the 17th century (who were not really Levellers at all - that was a smear from their foes) held the same view about the English.