« AnteriorContinuar »
European admirals, to whom the government of the country was intrusted. Therefore the Cretan Assembly adopted a constitution of the island on the lines indicated in the proclamation, which met with the approval of the Powers.
After the Greco-Turkish war of 1897 and the forcible ejection of the troops of the Sultan from the island, on account of the massacres at Candia and particularly of the murder of British soldiers by the Turks, the four protecting Powers (Prince Bülow having in the meantime withdrawn" with his flute from the Concert," dragging also Austria with him), at the suggestion of Russia, appointed Prince George of Greece as their High Commissioner to govern the island in lieu of the admirals.
That step was taken against the will of Turkey, the Powers claiming to have the right of delegating their authority to whomever they pleased. As a matter of fact Prince George was not governor of the island, but only a delegate of the Powers.
Now the question may be asked what was the status of Crete, after that arrangement. Did she become a semi-sovereign state ?
De jure, the island was only an autonomous Turkish province, because the Sultan had not consented to make Crete a separate state, and the Powers left that point unsettled.
But de facto and tacitly the island acquired the attributes of a semi-sovereign state, under the suzerainty of the Sultan, being temporarily placed under the protection of the four Powers.
In fact, in 1900 the Powers concluded a convention or an agreement with the Cretan Government in regards to the application of the capitulations in the island; and, furthermore, Turkey treated Crete as a foreign country by imposing on importations from the island the ordinary customs duties, which measure implied her tacit assent to the status of Crete as a separate state.
On July 23, 1906, the protecting Powers, through their consuls in the island, informed the Cretan Government that " as they wished to enlarge the autonomy of the island in a more national sense,” they had asked King George of Greece to send to Crete officers of the Greek Army to be placed at the head of the local police and militia, promising to withdraw their troops from there, and added that
every forward step ” for the realization of the national aspirations of the Cretans was conditional upon the maintenance of order in the island.
After the resignation of Prince George, the protecting Powers took the forward step which they had promised, and on September 14, 1909, made the following significant declaration to the Cretan Government:
The protecting Powers in order to show their wish to take into account, as far as possible, the aspirations of the Cretan people and to recognize in a practical manner the interest that His Majesty the King of the Hellenes shall take always in the prosperity of the island, they agreed to propose to His Majesty that in future, each time the position of the High Commissioner would be vacant, His Majesty after consultation with the Representatives of the Protecting Powers at Athens, should nominate a candidate capable of executing the mandate of the Powers in the island and notify officially his choice to them.
This “forward step” left no doubt in the minds of the Cretans and of the Sultan that the incorporation of the island with Greece was very near and expected to be accomplished on the withdrawal of the international troops from Crete.
The appointment of Mr. Zaimis, an ex-Greek Premier, as High Commissioner, proved very successful, satisfying not only the Cretans, but also the Powers.
But in the meantime the question of the status of the island was left where it was before, Mr. Zaimis being also not a governor, but a High Commissioner, namely, a delegate of the Powers on whose behalf he administered the island.
In September, 1908, Turkey, for the second time, declared itself to be “a constitutional country.” Theoretically the Constitutional regime was only revived, because Sultan Hamid had in 1877 simply prorogued the “ Parliament” sine die.
In October, 1908, Emperor Francis Joseph by a stroke of the pen incorporated into the Dual Monarchy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the two Turkish provinces which were under his administration, Bulgaria having preceded him by declaring her independence.
The Cretans, the very next day, namely, on October 17, 1908, proclaimed also their union with Greece, and appointed an Executive
Committee to administer the island in the name of King George, giving notification of that fact to the foreign consuls in Crete. Mr. Zaimis, being at that time fortunately absent from the island, escaped the dilemma with which he would have been confronted had he been in his post, of being faithful to the Powers or to his country. He now resumed his duties in the Greek Chamber, this being another anomaly, because he never resigned his Cretan post.
The protecting powers in answer to the Cretan communication, which does not seem to have disturbed them in the least, said that “they would consider favorably the discussion of the question with Turkey, if order was maintained in the island and the security of the Mussulmans was secured.” On the other hand, in their joint note to the Porte, they reassured the Turkish Government that the status quo and the supreme rights of the Sultan would be maintained in the island. This dubious expression of “supreme rights” was subsequently explained by the Powers as meaning sovereign rights, although the Powers in their previous dispatches to the Porte referring to their resolution to make Crete a separate state under the suzerainty of the Sultan used the words supreme rights as equivalent to suzerain and not to sovereign rights.
On July 27 of the present year the international troops were withdrawn from the island, notwithstanding the efforts of the Porte to postpone their departure. The protecting Powers have, however, decided to station some gunboats in Suda Bay in order to protect the Turkish flag, floating on a barren islet in that bay, as the emblem of the supreme rights of Turkey on the island, and at the same time notified again the Cretan Government that they would maintain the status quo in Crete, meaning thereby that its political status shall not be changed.
On July 27, 1909, as soon as the international troops retired from the fortress of Chanea, the Executive Committee hoisted there the Greek flag
This action gave rise to a serious incident. The protecting Powers considering that the Greek emblem on the fortress was a violation of the status quo, which they agreed to maintain in the island, demanded from the Cretan Government the lowering of the flag. The answer of the Executive Committee to that peremptory demand was that since their declaration of union with Greece, namely, in October, 1908, the Greek flag was hoisted on all their public buildings, and what was more significant, that it was hoisted on the fortress of Rethymno, after the evacuation of that place by the Russian troops some months ago, and that the Committee did not see the difference between the two cases.
But the Powers in their rejoinder explained to the Cretans that when the Greek flag was hoisted at Rethymno and the other public buildings they had not sent their note in regards to the maintenance of the status quo, and that, therefore, whilst all the flags hoisted before their joint note could not be objected to, on the contrary that hoisted after the note on the Chanea or other fortress should be lowered.
On the refusal of the Cretans to acquisce in the demand of che Powers, blue-jackets from the international fleet, landing at Chanea, proceeded to the fortress and at an early hour, before the flag was hoisted, cut the staff, thus giving a technical satisfaction to Turkey.
It is really difficult to understand why the hoisting of the Greek flag at Rethymono and the public places was not considered by the Powers as a violation of the status quo, since long ago they had assured the Porte that they would maintain in the island the supreme rights of the Sultan. Can it be said that their last note was more sacred than those of previous dates ?
The recent political upheaval in Greece brought again into prominence the Cretan Question, on account of the declaration made by many Cretan leaders that the inhabitants of the island were firmly resolved to send deputies to Athens as soon as the “ Boule” would reassemble after the next elections, which were to take place in the
beginning of this year.
Sensitive “Young Turkey,” considering such an act as an croachment upon her imprescriptible sovereign rights ” — whatever those might be — threatened to thunder again from Mount Olympus (in Thessaly) her inveterate enemies the Hellenes.
Greece, on one hand, unprepared to receive such a shock, and, on the other, perceiving that Europe, for one reason or another
, was not
yet willing to take the promised “ forward step” in regards to Crete and would probably leave her, the Hellenic Kingdom, to its fate in case of an invasion of Thessaly by the Turks, was trying to devise means to ward off the incoming danger, when, the Military League in its perplexity resorted to a measure which the Athenians of nearly 2,500 years ago applied in their moments of despair.
In fact, it was over five centuries B. C. that the citizens of Athens, having incurred the “ wrath of the Gods” for violating the sacred right of asylum by murdering in a temple some insurgent citizens, were visited by a terrible pestilence, and “oppressed with sorrow and despondency saw phantoms and heard supernatural menaces, and felt the curse of the Gods upon them without abatement.”
It seems that the Athenians in their plight having consulted the Delphian oracle, were told to invite“ a higher spiritual influence from abroad, and at their solicitation Epimenides, the famous Cretan sage, came to Athens, from the island in order to save the city of Minerva from the consequences of the divine wrath. The celebrated Cretan, who was nicknamed Purifier and Medical Prophet, so the story goes, succeeded “to restore both health and mental tranquility at Athens,” paving besides the work of his contemporary Solon the law giver, and departed, “ carrying with him universal gratitude and admiration."
The modern Athenians, therefore, in imitation of their forefathers, turned also their eyes on the island of Minos for help and assistance, and thus brought to Athens the well-known Cretan patriot Mr. Venizelos, who seems, so far, to have achieved not less success by extricating, be it temporarily, Greece from a dilemma, by suggesting the convocation - in violation even of the constitution -- of a National Assembly, thus putting off for another year the danger which would have resulted from the incoming elections of sending Cretan deputies to the Boule. There is no doubt that Greece will utilize the services of Mr. Venizelos until the end of the crisis, who will very probably, like his compatriot, Epimenides, win later on the "gratitude of the Athenians."
But the ever-watchful “ Protecting Powers," not satisfied with this arrangement, gratified their rebellious wards, the Cretans, with