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The voice of an oppressed people/The problem of small nations in the European crisis

< The voice of an oppressed people






Your Excellencies, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Your kind reception, I am aware of the fact and I rejoice at it, is due to the cause which I represent as lecturer at this new chair; I am deeply sensible of the honor conferred upon me by London University in asking me to give the inaugural lecture of the new school.

Like the audience I deeply regret the illness which has prevented the Prime Minister from presiding to-day; I regret it all the more, because I know what interest on many occasions he has shown in the welfare of universities and other educational establishments. In this case it is very significant that the head of the British Cabinet was willing to preside at a lecture on the problem of small nations; several members of the Cabinet and British Government have frequently proclaimed that the idea and aim of this European Crisis is the liberation and freedom of the small States and Nations. Mr. Asquith's interest in these Slavonic studies is a good omen and an anticipation of what I shall bring forward in my lecture; I hope it even may be more, it may be a firm first step in the practical solution of the problem to be discussed.

In speaking thus, I must not be suspected of confusing science with politics; but science is not to be regarded as something merely abstract and in the clouds, science means methodical and exact thought about everything within the range of human life. No honest man can avoid thinking about the War; science, according to a French thinker who was the living antithesis to militarism and even to politics, has to foresee, to know beforehand, to antipate the future. The man of science does not give up his patriotism; but that patriotism cannot be blind or dumb; it must proclaim what he has found to be the truth. The highest aim of science is to understand the aims of life and to find the right means of realizing these aims. Science, then, however theoretical it may be, inevitably exists in order to be carried into practice. In a word, true science, both in morals and in politics, directs and hardens the will. The will—for it is not enough for men to wish and to imagine that we are already exercising our will—to will in morals and politics presupposes clear seeing, understanding and knowledge. This at least in my opinion is the aim of our new School of Slavonic studies: scientific work of this kind will help this country to understand not only the Slavs but also herself.


1.—It would help us greatly if I could show you a good map of the European nations; but no such map exists. This deficiency of ethnological geography is very significant of the scientific situation in this branch of sociological studies, which during this war and as a direct result of it, has become so important. Still more significant is the fact, that in spite of the war and the steady discussion of the different nationalities, you cannot buy a map showing the extent of the different nations; you will find political maps, maps of railroads, etc., but no ethnographical ones. Think of it, the very question of this war is graphically not represented, though day by day for over a year past endless discussions, alike in the press and on the public platform, turn upon the question of nationality! Only a few specialists realize the situation and give us in their treatises and books a few all too scanty ethnographical data.

So inveterate is the conception of the State as the only social entity which counts in the political world. But today we are forced to acknowledge the existence of nations and we are obliged to make a distinction between states and nations; and that of course involves a true grasp of the incongruity of political and ethnographical boundaries. An Englishman, speaking of his nation, identifies the nation and the state. Not so the Serb or the Bohemian, because to his experience state and nation do not coincide, his nation being spread over several states, or sharing a state with other nations. We Slavs very keenly discriminate the state from the nation; but the Englishman will do the same if he uses expressions such as "the spirit" or "the culture" of the German and English nations.

In the Statesman's Yearbook for 1915 we find in Europe twenty-eight states, if we treat Austria-Hungary and Germany each as a single state; we must count fifty-three states if we separate Hungary from Austria and divide Germany into her twenty-five federal units.

If we take one of the few better ethnological maps of Europe—alas, a German one—we find sixty-two nations or nationalities. In other words, in Europe we have more than twice as many nations as states, and that means that the existing states are nationally minced, and that states must be composed of more than one nation. And that means further that there are in Europe far more dependent than independent nations; only seventeen nations are independent, or rather possess their own state organizations; but portions even of these independent nations are dependent upon other states. In fact, there are only a few states which do not contain more than one nation—only seven out of the twenty-eight. But if there are seven national states, that does not mean that these seven states are formed by seven nationalities; for some states contain the same nationality, and in other cases the same nationality is divided among different states.

And be it noted at once, these national states (national in the strict sense of the word) are all small, some of them the smallest states. Andorra, Denmark, S. Marino, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Holland, Portugal. The Papal state in Rome belongs to a category of its own.

The middle sized states and still more the large states, are all mixed, though they vary in type according to the proportion, the numbers and of course the cultural quality of the several national units of which they are composed.

As a rule, one—the ruling—nation is in the majority; in different states this majority is differently scaled. But we have at least one instance, where the minority tries to rule—the Germans in Austria, and side by side with them, the Magyars in Hungary.

Austria-Hungary represents a unique type of the mixed or polyglot state—a comparatively high number of different smaller and small nations forms a single state. The Balkan federation, of which so many idealists, and even politicians, have dreamt, would of course belong to the same type.


2.—For our present purpose it is not necessary to give an elaborate classification of the mixed states; any real sociological treatment of the problem requires exact description of the national units in each individual state; only then is fruitful comparison possible.

If we take the states directly involved in the war, we find that all of them are mixed, though in varying degree. Germany, in addition to her sixty million German inhabitants, has six other nationalities, two of them in considerable numbers (Poles—Frenchmen); the other four, Lusatians (Sorbians), Danes, Czechs, Lithuanians, only forming tiny minorities. Austria-Hungary contains ten nationalities; Turkey in Europe, three, and a few fragments of other nations in addition (Turks, Greeks, Bulgarians, Armenians, etc.; Asiatic Turkey is of course extremelymixed). Bulgaria is mixed, for there is a large Turkish minority, to say nothing of fragments of Roumanians, etc.

The states of the Allies also are mixed, but for the most part in a different manner. Great Britain has considerable remnants of non-English nations, and so has even France of races which are not French; even Italy which is often proclaimed as an example of a national state, contains a Serbia has few Slav, German and Albanian fragments. Serbian minorities (Bulgarian and Albanian); even Montenegro, the smallest state, is mixed.

Russia is ethnologically a unique state. I speak of European Russia; the British Empire of course contains in its various trans-oceanic dominions and colonies many more nations and fragments of nations and races, but Great Britain is in the main English, whereas Continental Russia, though the Russians are in an overwhelming majority, contains many nations, of which several are numerous, and moreover nations which possess their own culture and traditions.[2]

3.—Comparing the national composition of the European states, we perceive a striking difference between the East and the West of Europe. If we bisect Europe by a line drawn from the Adriatic to the Baltic and extended up to the head of the Gulf of Bothnia, we find in the West nineteen nations; nine are embodied in twelve states (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Great Britain, Belgium, Switzerland), the remainder are in the main, national splinters.[3]

The state-nations in the west are of all magnitudes: a few great, some of medium size, and the rest small ones; there is a kind of national equilibrium.

The East of Europe offers quite a different spectacle. There we have one great nation—in fact the largest nation in Europe, the rest are all smaller and small nations, some few possessing independent states of their own. But in Eastern Europe—and this applies especially to Russia—we have a very great variety of national and racial fragments.

The East and West differ also in respect of the number and size of states. Whereas the West has eighteen states, the East has only eight, two belonging partly to the West, partly to the East. For the West and East are not divided sharply and by a straight line; Germany and Austria belong both to the West and to the East.


4.—Speaking of the East and West of Europe and saying that both halves are not sharply cut, we find a peculiar ethnological zone in what is often called Central Europe. From Trieste—Salonica—Constantinople, up north to Danzig—Petrograd in a line not straight, but curved in the direction of Berlin, in whose neighborhood live the Slav Sorbs, is a greater number of smaller nations, which were and still are under the dominion of Germany, Austria, Turkey and Russia. This zone, composed of East Prussia, Austria-Hungary, the Balkans and the West of Russia, is the real and proper centre of national antagonism. Here the question of nationality and the language question are the political vis metrix. It was here that the present war broke out; here is the quarter from which come continual unrest and disburbance for the whole of Europe. This zone is the real kernel of the so-called Oriental question; this zone supplies the most urgent and clamant cause for remodelling the political organisation of Europe. In this zone the smaller nations are continually striving and fighting for liberty and independence. It is this zone which has confronted the statesmen of Europe with the problem of Small Nations; and it is the Allies more especially whom this war is forcing to apply themselves to its solution.

The nations of this danger-zone have been free, but deprived of their independence; some are highly cultivated and their extent is considerable, they are the greatest among the small nations. Finally, it is necessary to emphasize the striking fact, that three of these nations are dismembered in different states; the Serbo-Croats are divided into four states and seven administrative bodies; the Poles into three states; the Czechs and Slovaks into two states; this dismemberment explains the special significance of the Serbo—Croatian, Polish and Bohemian questions.




5.—We are always speaking of smaller and greater, of small and great nations—what then is the proper definition of a small and of a great nation? What makes a nation great? What is the problem of a small nation and how does such a problem come to exist?

The very notion of greatness and smallness is relative and correlative; the more so, if the number of the population, or the extent of the territory of a state or a nation is taken as the principle of the classification.

The most numerous population is in Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary, and the Russians and Germans are in this sense the greatest nations; the English, French, Italians and Spaniards (we are not considering the nations outside Europe) are smaller. Some sociologists will perhaps put the Russians, Germans and English as one class (eighty-six—forty-five millions), the French, Italians, and Spaniards (forty—twenty millions) in a middle class. A third category would be formed by nations under twenty millions, say the Poles, Roumanians, Serbo-Croats and Czechs; then would follow the Portuguese, Swedes, etc., and finally would come what might be described as the fragments or splinters of nations.

I hardly need point out that such a classification is based upon mere numbers and their effects; nor will anyone seek to minimize the decisive material value of these mathematical calculations. We all know now what a greater or smaller army means.

But the numerical greatness of a nation is variable and changing. Since the nineteenth century almost all nations have been growing in numbers. All nations then, are getting larger and statisticians can calculate when the population of the various nations will be doubled. Through this process of growth the numerical relation of the different nations will be changed, owing to the fact that some increase more rapidly than others. The most striking instance, and one which provides a partial explanation of this war, is the slow increase of the population in France compared with its quick growth in Germany. Till 1845 France had a larger population than Germany; indeed, at the end of the eighteenth and at the beginning of the nineteenth century the Frenchmen were practically the largest nation. A good deal of the French history of that time can be explained by this fact, just as recent German history will become clear if we consider the numerical increase of the population. The Germans themselves boast of this increase as one of their claims to greatness.

We touch here upon the intricate problem of decadence and degeneration; the fact that the annual birth-rate in many countries or parts of countries has been falling in recent years, the fact that changes in the development of the birth-rate are experienced very often and often very suddenly, these facts, I say, force every thinking man to abstain from general indictments and condemnations.

The German extreme nationalists have no right to condemn France and other countries in which the increase of the population is slower than in Germany. For not merely is the birth-rate falling in Germany also, but it should be remembered that the overwhelming majority of German economists accept in their theory of population the leading ideas of Malthus, and are not inclined to see in this precipitate augmentation of the population an undoubted proof of physical and moral vigour.

But let us assume for a moment that the increase of the population, the surplus of the birth-rate over the death- rate, can be applied as a standard to physical and even moral health and strength. In that case the population principle applies as much to Germany as to other countries. Students of the question know that England during the nineteenth century is the only instance of a country where the population was trebled; and it is equally worth noting that in the Bohemian countries the Czech population increased more rapidly than the German population. Will the German ultra-nationalists admit the consequences of their own logic in these and other cases?

To sum up the argument: Physical greatness and strength, being ipso facto always relative and correlative, is no warrant, no foundation of right and of prerogatives; seventy is certainly far more than ten, but have the seventy the right to deprive the ten of their bread? Have they the right to use force?

6.—The German jingoes appeal to history. History, they argue, shows that small states are slowly but surely disappearing and serving as a material for the big ones. Compare the hundreds of small states in the Middle Ages and even in modern times—they are absorbed and swallowed up by the bigger ones; Prussia herself is an instance of such absorption, but France, Italy, England also—in a word, all big states were formed out of small ones. History then proves that the law of political development makes the formation of great states and nations unavoidable. Small nations and states, under the most favourable circumstances, have only a temporary duration, historical development favours and promotes the growth of big nations and states; Germany is big, bigger than the rest, with one exception, which is more apparent than real; therefore her legitimate aim is World-Policy, World-Power!

Let us probe to the bottom this Pan-Germanic imperialist theory. It is quite true, that many hundreds of small states—city states—were absorbed by one state growing bigger and bigger. But in France, Italy, etc., partly even in Prussia, this process was a gathering of the same people, of the same nation, not a subduing of foreign nations. Though of course Prussia and other states subjugated foreign nations too.

If history proves that small states and nations are ephemeral, it proves the same of big states—remember the Oriental empires, Alexander the Great, the Greeks and Romans, the Franks, the old German Empire, Napoleon. All these states—not nations—were temporary also. The real meaning of these political, un-national formations is misunderstood by the pan-Germanists, and the arguments which they are based upon are false.

History is a process of integration, but at the same time of disintegration; the double process appears as the strengthening of individualism and the simultaneous growth of collectivism. History tends not towards uniformity, but towards variety, towards organized variety, which very often is misrepresented as barren, monotonous, indiscriminate uniformity.

Speaking politically, the centralising tendencies in social life are steadily counterbalanced by the striving for autonomy and federation in all its variety; centralized absolutism is everywhere checked by freedom, the centralising tendencies of aristocracy are weakened by the individualistic tendencies of democracy. This double process pervades all departments of social life.

History then refutes the Pan-German argument. History shows that national states develop in Europe. And History is in favour not only of big, but also of medium-sized and small national states.

History is in favour of all individuals, of individualism in general; nations are natural organisations of homogeneous individuals, and states being more artificial organisations, are more and more adapted to the nations. So general is this tendency that the numerical strength of the nations does not play a decisive part.

History shows that since the eighteenth century the principle of Nationality has grown stronger, and received more and more political recognition. National individualities, their language and culture have steadily gained ground all over Europe, and linguistic rights have been gradually codified. These rights have been and still are advocated by Italy, by the Austro-Hungarian and Balkan nations; they are advocated by Germany herself. How then can Germany or any other nation claim for herself this right and at the same time refuse it to others.

How strong and how far-reaching national feeling and ideas have become in modern times, is proved by the revival of oppressed nationalities in all states. The Renaissance of the Bohemian nation is a specially striking instance, and a confirmation of the general national principle. The social unit of conscious nations, breaking the all-comprising social unit, the old state being the organ of political and military conquest. The function of the state changed, therefore, and changed in accordance with the development of culture. Austria and Prussia are classical instances of the antagonism of state and nationality. The state is autocratic, ruling and domineering, the nation is democratic, administering, social, developing from within. The states therefore are adapted to the nations.

History farther shows that the strengthening of national feeling does not prevent the growth of internationalism and internationalisation. I am not playing with words when I draw a sharp distinction between inter-nationalǐsm and inter-statism. (I hope that philologists will pardon the word.) True nationalism is not opposed to internationalism, but we abhor those nationalist jingoes who in the name of nationalism oppress other nations, and we reject that form of internationalism and cosmopolitanism, which in fact recognizes only one—its own nation—and oppresses the others. True internationalism is not oppression, but neither is it a-nationalism nor anti-nationalism.

We learn from history that the warlike spirit tends to diminish, that militarism is getting more and more defensive after having been offensive; we learn from history that peoples and nations are more and more ready to work for themselves, without depending on the labour of others. Idleness, the oppressive form of aristocracy, whether in individuals, in classes, in nations and in races, is diminishing. History finally shows that brute force and quantity is less and less esteemed. In all nations the best men are agreed in prizing spiritual and moral forces; humanity is the effective watchword of the champions of all nations.

It is true, and history confirms it, that mankind strives for unity, but it does not strive for uniformity: World-federation, not world-power, Consensus gentium—not slavery of nations and races; the Organisation—not the Conquest of Europe.

If I am not mistaken, this war is a revelation of this historic truth. No Herrenvolk, but national equality and parity: Libertè, Egalitè, Fraternitè among nations as among individuals. These political principles, proclaimed in France in the name of humanity, are the foundation of democracy within the single nations, and they are the foundation of democratic relations between states and nations, of democratic internationalism.

The Pan-Germans appeal in vain to history; the facts are against them. History most assuredly is {{lang|la|vitae magistra}}, the teacher for life; but there is history and history. In fact, history does not prove anything, for all facts are equally historical—history gives us many examples of brutality as of humanity, of truth as of falsehood. The Huns also are historical. The real question has always been, and always will be, whether we are to bow unquestioningly before all historical facts, or whether we are resolved to master them. I am an adherent of realism; but the spiritual and moral forces in society and their growth are not less real than the Prussian generals; we can and must accept political realism, but we never can approve of the Realpolitik of Treitschke, Mommsen, Lagarde, Bernhardi, etc., who have converted anthropology into zoology. I say that, though I am speaking in the country of Darwin and his theory of the so-called fittest.




7.—Smaller and Small National States could exist very well; in fact, they do exist—out of the twenty-eight states at the very most seven can be classified as great or greater; in other words, the small states outnumber the great by three to one. On a basis of mere size then we are not surprised to hear that there is only one great state, only one great nation entitled to world-power.

The conditions of political independence for smaller states are the same as for the bigger ones. Small and big states have the same natural frontiers: mountain-chains (the Pyrenees—the Bohemian mountains), great rivers, etc. The big and almost all small states are on the sea; only Switzerland and Serbia are land-locked, but then it is just Switzerland which provides eloquent proof that a small state can flourish without a coast line. Many of the smaller nations (Czechs, Magyars, etc.) are without the sea.

On the whole, the so called national frontiers are political, they were chosen by the states for strategical reasons. The nations spread regardless of natural frontiers; these frontiers are losing more and more their political importance, for culture and the progress of culture means the control and mastery of nature and her blind forces.

States and nations, even when small, have been able to protect their independence; take, for instance, small Montenegro and the other Balkan nations against Turkey, Holland against Spain, Switzerland (in its smaller size) against Austria, etc. The biggest states have been unable to resist small but determined nations, whose spirit is expressed in the famous words of the Bohemian patriot, Dr. Rieger: "We won't give in!"

The physical, mental and moral qualities of smaller nations are just as good as those of their greater neighbours and oppressors. Are the Serbians less brave than the Austrian-Germans? the Czechs less energetic and strenuous for having conserved and strengthened their nationality against the Germans? Denmark is probably the most cultured country in Europe, Bohemia has fewer illiterates than the Austrian-Germans.

Such instances could easily be multiplied; but I am ready to concede that on the other hand small nations labour under certain disadvantages. A small nation has a more limited number of hands and heads: the division and organisation of labour, physical and mental, is less adequate. There is a smaller number of specialists, wealth and comfort are more restricted. But here, too, there are exceptions: take Holland, Switzerland, Bohemia, etc. Some small nations are apt to acquire a peculiar form of timidity, a lack of daring and enterprise; occasionally even a kind of cringing want of frankness. But are these qualities not due to the effect of prolonged oppression? To be sure, these and other drawbacks, in so far as they exist, exist only under given circumstances, under the pressure of the existing system of rapacious militarism and economic exploitation. Let the smaller nations be free, do not interfere, leave them alone, and these drawbacks will soon disappear.

But small nations have also some advantages over greater nations; both drawbacks and advantages are relative.

A smaller nation develops a certain many-sidedness; every individual force and talent is valued and used, labour and effort and indeed the whole working system are intensified. It is a well known fact that the lands of small farmers produce relatively much more than do large estates. The whole nation is, so to speak, well-kneaded. Palacký, our great Bohemian historian, exhorted his nation to treble and even to increase ten-fold its labours; small nations are indeed nations of workers. In a smaller community there is a more intensive inter-communion of men, ideas and feelings; people know each other, they can more easily be united, though of course this intimacy also has its drawbacks, Dr. Fisher, the Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield University, in his essay on the value of small states, brings out the fact that democracy, the direct participation of the people in the government, can be better developed in small states. He adduces many instances; and it was certainly this idea that inspired Rousseau's proposal to divide the big states into small communities. Sociologists and historians know that the administrative machinery of the modern state grew out of the small administration of cities. The great cities in big states are a remedy against indefinite expansion. I will not conceal the fact that small nations also can be decoyed by tempting imperialist ideals; notable instances are the Magyars, and perhaps the Bulgarians. The poet Kollar, the great apostle of humanity and national reciprocity, rightly observed that small nations can be very intolerant.

The German Imperialists often tell us that small nations cannot produce great men; great men require, we are told, a great environment, the communion of many and great spirits. I do not believe it, and I take the instance of my own country; the whole world knows and esteems John Huss; the whole world has learnt from the educationalist Comenius; the religious community of the United Brethren is a marvel of history, as historians say; the founder of this church, Peter Chelcicky, the great predecessor of Tolstoi, is more and more appreciated; our nation was the first to break the spiritual centralisation of the middle ages, and to dare the Reformation. Žižka, the leader of the Hussites, is the founder of modern strategy.

The bravery and the heroism of small nations has been mentioned; Hussite Bohemia faced the whole of Central Europe; historians report that the Germans fled on hearing the Hussite battlesong. (Would that the Allies could compose a similar song!) But whatever shortcomings or even faults small nations may have, they love their country and their people, and this love prompts them to energetic action in the field of politics and culture.

I speak of culture. That is a difficult and intricate sociological factor. I will only express my point of view. Culture is not the product of any one nation, big or small; there are various types and different degrees of culture. I am no blind follower of Rousseau or mere admirer of the primitive stages of culture, but it is a very great disability not to accept the various forms and degrees of culture as represented by the many nations and parts of nations, and not to understand that each nation must work out its culture alone and independently, and not simply take that of another nation, even if it be called a higher culture. Passive acceptance of this kind may be convenient, but it is dangerous and detrimental.

Culture cannot be knocked and drubbed into nations. If the Germans speak of their being supporters of civilisation—"Kulturtrager"—it is only a pretext. A Polish politician is absolutely right in denouncing forced denationalisation as one of the great social evils.

Dr. Fisher, speaking of the rude and valiant Serbian peasant, very aptly alludes to the ballads which sing of the battle of Kosovo, and to their great educational influence on the Southern Slavs. During the last war against the Turks I happened to be in Serbia, and a Serbian officer told me his experience on the battlefield. When at the head of his regiment of peasant soldiers he reached the plain of Kosovo, the famous "Field of the Blackbirds," a death-like silence seized the whole detachment; men and officers, without any command, uncovered their heads, crossed themselves, and each of them tried to tread softly, so as not to disturb the eternal sleep of their heroic ancestors. (Here my friend, quite lost in the remembrance of that great experience, unconsciously imitated their gait, and his voice fell to a whisper as he recalled the silence of his soldiers.) Many of the weather-beaten faces were bedewed with unconscious tears, as was my friend's face while he spoke. I, too, was deeply affected by the recital of his experience. How many of the German professors, who today are raving against Serbia, do you think are worth one tear of these illiterate peasants?

If time permitted, I might analyze the drawbacks of great nations. Germany herself, who claims to be the greatest of all, is tormented by a perpetual unrest. Greatness imposes a duty—to protect the smaller brothers and at least to help them to join and organize their federations. The Balkan peoples tried it, but no help came to them from Europe. In all nations the need of social reform is recognised; the weak are to be protected by the strong and by the state. An analogous principles holds good in the relation of big to small states and nations. As there is no Super-man, so there is no Super-right of great nations. The great nation has no right to use its smaller neighbours as the tools of imperialistic fancy and of an inordinate craving for power. On the other hand, the small nations must not try to imitate the great; they must be satisfied to go their own way.

8.—Pleading for the independence of small nations, I am not ignorant of the sophistical objections masquerading as arguments, that the Lapps cannot form a state and the Kalmucks cannot have a university. The question is, whether nations, conscious of their nationality, and proving the possibility of political independence by their economic and cultural progress, and by their claims and efforts for liberty, can be independent. Take, e. g., the Poles, Serbo-Croats and Czechs; these nations are the biggest of the smaller nations (twenty to ten millions), they have been independent, they reached a high degree of culture, they strive and even fight for liberty, for they are thoroughly conscious of their nationality and are determined not to abandon their historical and national rights.

It is a matter of course that there are different degrees and forms of independence. Sovereignty is relative, for the economic and cultural interdependency of all nations is growing. Even the greatest states are dependent on other states; the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente are the very proof of it. Europe is getting more and more federalised and organized. And it is in this given situation and development that the small nations reclaim the right of being peaceably inserted in the growing organisation of Europe. The degree and the form of independence—autonomy within a state—federation—suzerainty—personal unity, etc.), in every individual case will easily be found and formulated according to constitutional rules and laws, when once the principle has been acknowledged.

9.—Great Britain came into this war to protect little Belgium, and now with her allies she is faced by the task of protecting Serbia. This evolution of the war is almost logical, for Germany's aim is and was Berlin—Bagdad—the employment of the nations of Austria-Hungary as helpless instruments, and the subjection of the smaller nations which form that peculiar zone between the West and East of Europe. Poland, Bohemia, Serbo-Croatia (the South Slavs), are the natural adversaries of Germany, of her Drang nach Osten; to liberate and strengthen these smaller nations is the only real check upon Prussia. Free Poland, Bohemia, and Serbo-Croatia would be so-called buffer states, their organisation would facilitate and promote the formation of a Magyar state, of Greater Roumania, of Bulgaria, Greece and the rest of the smaller nations. If this horrible war, with its countless victims, has any meaning, it can only be found in the liberation of the small nations who are menaced by Germany's eagerness for conquest and her thirst for the dominion of Asia. The Oriental question is to be solved on the Rhine, Moldau and Vistula, not only on the Danube, Vardar or Maritza.

Great Britain protecting the liberty of Belgium was led by the right feeling of justice; all nations, especially the unfree, appreciated the noble decision of the English nation; the fact that Great Britain in protecting Belgium protects herself and Asia, does not impair her merit. Justice is not only noble, it is quite sensible and useful too.

I will conclude with a confession. I prepared this lecture at the very moment when Serbia was about to be attacked by Germany and her baggage-porters, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. But more than once the sceptical thought has struck me: is this the time for talking about small nations, when the vital thing is simply to afford protection to one of them? Feeling this incongruity, I will comfort myself with the saying of a Slav thinker: "A good word is a deed also." I can at least promise that all the lecturers at the new school of Slavonic Studies will spare no effort to make it a success and through it to contribute, however imperfectly, to drawing closer the relations between Britain and the Slavonic world.

  1. Inaugural Lecture at the University of London, King's College.
  2. On a special ethnographical map of Russia (Aïtoff, Peuples et Langues de la Russia, Annales de Géographie, 1906), one can enumerate eighty-five nations of some different races, and besides the author mentions nameless nationalities.
  3. Basques, Bretons, Welsh, Irish, Gaels, Romansch, Lapps—to be added to the Slavs, Albanians and Germans in Italy.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.

The author died in 1937, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.