This work deals with the question of Croatian volunteers during World War I. The main part consists of an Interpellation which was submitted to the Croatian Sabor (Parliament) on 6 July 1918. Together with other documentation, it tells of Serbian misdeeds against those Croatian prisoners of war in Russia who were sent to Odessa in 1917. In a Conclusion I will add my own reflections.
In Croatian historiography from 1918 until the present, several cursory, fragmentary works have been published regarding the question of Croatian prisoners in Russia during World War I. However, the interpretations of this question in these works have contradicted the documentary material available. This is particularly true of the historiography published after World War II in Yugoslavia. The only exception is Milada Paulová’s work, Jugoslavenski odbor; povijest jugoslavenske emigracije za svjetskog rata od 1914. – 1918. (The Yugoslav Committee; History of the Yugoslav Emigration during the World War 1914-1918), published in Zagreb 1925.
None of these works, including Paulová’s study, has dealt with the “Interpellation” which was submitted to the Croatian Parliament in Zagreb on 6 July 1918, and which documents Serbian crimes perpetrated against the Croatian prisoners of war in Odessa during World War I. The Interpellation1 was not published in Yugoslavia under the monarchy (1918-1941) nor during the period of the Socialist regime (1945-1991).
We cannot know for certain why the interpellation was not published in other works. But to publish this document in its entirety in historical studies published in Yugoslavia after 1918 would have meant publicly accusing the Serbs of crimes committed against their fellow countrymen, and this could not be allowed in either Royalist or Socialist Yugoslavia. So, after more than 70 years, we are publishing it for the first time in the English language.
In order to better understand the Interpellation, we will begin with a documentary review of the question of Croatian volunteers, that is: those in Odessa, in Italy, and in North and South America during World War I. This work will be divided into two parts. Part one is composed of four units: (l) The Volunteers in Russia; (2) The Volunteers in South America; (3) The Volunteers in North America; (4) The Volunteers in Italy.
In Part One I shall discuss the views of Ante Trumbić, President of the Yugoslav Committee in London, and of Nikola Pašić, Minister President of the Serbian government-in-exile on Corfu. I will also try to explain the reasons for their opposing views on the question of volunteers. In Part Two I shall present the document of the Interpellation itself, with a short introduction. In the Conclusion, I shall add some reflections based on the documentary material.
ODESSA IN 1917
In 1914, shortly before the outbreak of World War I, a number of
South Slavs were in Italy, among them Ante Trumbić2 , a lawyer from Split, a town on the Croatian coast in Dalmatia, and Frano Supilo (1870-1917), a pre-war politician from near Dubrovnik.
Ivan Meštrović (1883-1962), a famous Croatian sculptor, was also in Italy, where he had exhibited his work in Venice. These three men became the leading figures on the Croatian side, as did Nikola Stojanović and Dušan Vasiljević on the Serbian side. They met in Florence between 22 and 25 November 1914 to discuss the formation of a Committee. The actual Committee was formed in Rome, but not officially announced until 30 April 19153 in Paris. Named the Yugoslav Committee (Jugoslavenski odbor), its headquarters was in London, presided over by Trumbić. However, the Entente Powers did not recognize the Yugoslav Committee as an official representative of the Croatians, Slovenians, and Serbians living the southern regions of the Dual Monarchy. In order to establish itself and be accepted as such, the Committee had to prove to the Entente Powers that it really represented and spoke for the South Slavs in the Dual Monarchy4.
It was therefore necessary to contact the leading politicians in the Slavic areas of the Dual Monarchy. But political activity was both difficult and dangerous for those residing in the country in wartime, owing to strict censorship and the risk of incarceration. In order to circumvent such difficulties, Ljubo Leontić submitted a formal proposal to the Yugoslav Committee during one of its sessions in Rome. He proposed mobilizing the large numbers of Slavic emigrants. To do so, it was necessary:
(a) To set up an organization of volunteers to be recruited from the prisoners of war from the Croatian and Slovenian countries, who had reluctantly fought in Russia and Serbia, and from among the “economic émigrés” of the Southern Slavs in North and South America;
(b) To carry out political organization among the Southern Slavs the Croatians, Slovenians, and Serbs in North and South America5.
Leontić’s proposal to recruit volunteers from among the Slovene and Croat prisoners of war in Russia was potentially significant, because if the Committee could use the volunteers for political purposes, it would strengthen the position of the Croatians and Slovenes. Serbian politicians, including Nikola Pašić, President of the Serbian Government in exile, did everything possible to preclude this possibility, as we will see later. Thanks to Trumbić’s indecision and, in our opinion, a misguided strategy which Trumbić, Meštrović, and others bitterly regretted later, the Serbs achieved their goal.
Worried over Italian pretensions to the ethnically Croatian regions of Dalmatia and Istra, the Committee was inclined to organize volunteer-troops, composed predominantly of Croatian prisoners of war in Russia. According to Franko Potočnjak, who was an active organizer during the war,
It was known that there were several hundred thousand prisoners of war from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, Serbs, Croatians, and Slovenians, from whom some were taken as lege artis prisoners, who could be said to be real prisoners of war, while the others had surrendered voluntarily. From these elements it endeavored to create legions which would have the duty to liberate [the homeland]…6
At its meeting on 11 January 1915 in Rome, the Committee decided to form a military unit from those volunteers in Russia under the name of “The Adriatic Legion” (Jadranska legija).
The Legion was called “Adriatic” because our Adriatic Sea symbolizes a synthesis of the ideals of all Yugoslavs who live along its shores or long for it, and because of the fact that the Legion could eventually be deployed in our territories along the Adriatic Sea…. The Legion would in any case come under a command provided by the Serbian Government7.
In early 1915, the Committee announced its intention to form an Adriatic Legion in Rome. Although its main purpose was to defend Croatia’s coast against Italian aspirations, this was naturally, not mentioned. Instead, the Committee presented the legion as an organization that would fight against Austro-Hungarian oppression and help the Serbian Army. However, the chief aim of the Legion was evident from its name, and the sensitive Italian press quickly guessed its real purpose and reacted quite sharply to it. The role of those volunteer troops became of even more importance after the signing of the Treaty of London on 26 April 19158. Potočnjak later noted that the volunteer troops had to execute one great, eminent national role; all their powers had to be consecrated solely for our national cause, regardless of anybody, including the Allies. … When the war ends, it will be necessary to drive out the German and Hungarian [military] units from our territories … [this will be] our tribute for the sacrifice of liberty: shedding blood9.
For political reasons, the name Adriatic Legion was obviously inconvenient, so after several months the Committee changed it to the Yugoslav Legion (Jugoslavenska legija), a name which grouped together the Croatians, the Slovenians and the Serbs — the South Slav peoples living in the Dual Monarchy.
Since Trumbić and the Croatian émigrée cooperated closely with Nikola Pašić and the Serbian government-in-exile, it is important to know both Pašić’s opinion of the Legion — which was shared by other Serbian leaders — and that of Trumbić and the Croatians. In order to understand Pašić’s stubborn and negative attitude toward the creation of a Yugoslav Legion, it is necessary to keep in mind the events of late 1915. Before the autumn offensive by the Austrian, German and Bulgarian forces, the Serbian army comprised about 300,000 soldiers. After the offensive and the Serbian army’s retreat through Albania and its transfer to Salonica, the Serbs counted only 130,000 troops in April-May 1916, including 6,000 officers10. Even this figure may be high, since only 122,000 troops had reached Corfu earlier11. Moreover, thousands of volunteers were included as members of the regular Serbian Army. Thus, the real number of Serbian troops was clearly less than the number claimed.
In order to replenish the ranks of the Serbian army, which had been reduced to less than half of its previous size, the Serbian Government-in-exile had two sources at its disposal: (l) volunteers from Slavic prisoners of war from Austria-Hungary in Russia, or (2) Croatian, Serbian, and Slovenian volunteers from among those who had emigrated in previous years to North and South America. A third possibility — to recruit refugees from Serbia, Montenegro, and the Croatian and Slovenian regions of the Dual Monarchy — did not seem very promising.
The Serbian Government sought to replenish the ranks of its army with volunteers from Russia and from North and South America by incorporating them anonymously. It simultaneously tried to prevent the Yugoslav Committee from creating a separate military force, which eventually could escape the control of the Serbian government and be used to secure Croatian interests, particularly along the Adriatic Sea. Eventually, such an independent force might even come into direct conflict with Serbian military forces, particularly if these volunteer-troops could be united with regular Croatian military forces in their own country after the dismemberment of the Habsburg Monarchy. These are the keys to understanding the attitude of Pašić, the Serbian Government, and the pro-Serbian politicians from the Dual Monarchy who were members of the Committee.
In short, the Serbian Government did not tolerate the idea of forming autonomous units of volunteers, because doing so did not serve Serbia’s interests. As Ante Mandić observed:
Persistently maintaining until the end of the war the attitude that Serbia was the only factor “which liberates,” it [the Serbian Government] jealously preserved the Serbian character of the Army and of all its actions. Even though its organs, when necessary, readily used phrases about Yugoslavism in its propaganda to recruit for the [Volunteer] Corps, [even then] the Serbian Government asked that the Army remain Serbian and exclusively Serbian in name as well as in reality, while the officers were asked “to imbue the volunteers with sound Serbian spirit”‘ and to inspire them for the Serbian cause…. the Serbian Government became afraid of the republican and federalist currents… (and) did not want to permit the formation of one large unit which later on ‒ under specific conditions ‒ might serve as a supporting base to the federalists as an army that could eventually escape its control12.
According to Trumbić and the Croatian wing of the Committee, the real purpose of the Adriatic Legion was to defend the Croatian Adriatic coast from the Italians. This goal also conflicted with Pasić’s political conception, because he constantly sought a separate agreement between Italy and Serbia; of course, to the detriment of the vital interests of Croatia.
The Adriatic Legion was objectionable to Pašić personally and [also] to the Radical [Party] majority in the government, and only for this reason did they constantly think about a treaty with Italy13.
We also can see clearly the same idea in Pašić’s statement to the Russian press, on the occasion of his visit to Petrograd, in the spring of 1916. His remarks drove a wedge between the Committee and the Serbian government, because, according to Novoe Vremya, a newspaper close to the Russian government and Court, Pašić had said that:
In Rome they are so convinced of the need to uphold the general interests of the Serbian and the Italian peoples, that the Government will certainly find a solution which will satisfy the Serbians. We will, of course, give Italy guarantees for its vital interests in the Adriatic Sea. What interests in the Adriatic Sea are necessary to Italy so that this guarantee can be realized, we will discuss later.14 (Emphasis added)
In other words, Pašić was ready to barter Croatia’s Adriatic coast to Italy for the purpose of acquiring and guarding Serbian interests. Of course, the Italian press warmly embraced the Serbian leader’s statement. Il Giornale d’Italia wrote: “The Serbian Minister-President accepts Italian hegemony in the Adriatic Sea15.
Such news from Italy caused great nervousness among some émigrés, increasing suspicions by some members of the Yugoslav Committee, especially by Frano Supilo, regarding whether Serbian politicians were sincere about the union of Croatia and Serbia as equals. The cause of this doubt was, as Supilo complained, “Serbian Orthodox exclusivism.” He seriously doubted the sincerity of the “Yugoslav program” and the intentions of the Serbian government and its Prime Minister. There were heated debates and reciprocal attacks within the Committee, particularly between the Croatian Supilo and the Serbians. The result was the resignation of Supilo from the Committee on 5 June 1916. After a long debate, Trumbić came to the conclusion that the Italian newspaper “tendentiously falsified” Pašić’s declaration in Petrograd, and so he shelved this crucial question.
Unlike Supilo, Trumbić failed to draw the necessary conclusions from Pašić’s declaration and the Serbian attitude vis-á-vis Croatia in general. This was the first, and fatal, psychological defeat of Trumbić by Pašić. In effect, Trumbić was trying to do the impossible ‒ to harmoniously unite two essentially different and opposing political conceptions. His attempt to realize a union of Croatia and Serbia as equals did not work then, and has not worked since.
Left alone, Supilo did as much as he could. He consistently and decisively maintained the seven points in his Promemoria, which he submitted to Sir Edward Grey on 30 September 191516. These points, summarized below, still have their importance:
If it is not possible to realize a common state in which Croatia and Zagreb will occupy an equal and comparable position to Serbia and Belgrade, and if Serbia would not be able to reform itself [that is, to reject its “Orthodox exclusivism”], then one has to work to assemble all the Croatian areas and unite them with Croatia proper, and a political union of all the Southern Slavs should be postponed until better times.
This view was shared and supported, particularly by Ivo de Giulli, a Croatian member of the Committee. In the summer of 1916, he gave the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs a Memorandum about the Croatian Question. De Giulli also sent a letter to Pašić, in which he resolutely defended Supilo and his political concept. But the Serbian members of the Committee, Vasiljević and Stojanovié, were decisively against Supilo, as were the Serbian government and Pašić. A year later, when Supilo died, there was no Croatian politician living abroad who could seriously challenge the exclusivist policies pursued by the Serbian government and Serbian leaders.
Even so, Pašić could oppose the Committee’s policy on the Adriatic Question only to a point. He had to support the Adriatic Question pro forma, as he noted on the back of a telegram to the Serbian Ambassador in Paris, Milenko Vesnić, dated 7 September 191617. Vesnić had advised “that all our people… abstain from giving statements about Italy’s posture toward us…18” However, when the time came to settle the question of the formation of the Adriatic Legion, Pašić defended Serbian interests to the detriment of the vital interests of the Croatian people.
Like Pašić, the Serbian Government and Serbian military authorities stubbornly stood by the idea that the volunteers had to be enlisted anonymously with the Serbian troops, and “. . .opposed the creation of such a separate [military] unit19.
Opposing conceptions of how the Legion was to be organized created tensions and difficulties between the Serbian government and the Committee that caused the postponement of the organization of the Yugoslav Legion. The Committee wanted a separate corps incorporated into the Serbian army. In the meantime, after their arrival from South America and from Russia, many volunteers were simply absorbed into existing Serbian units. As a result, “the number of volunteers who
actually fought in the Serbian army remains unknown.”20 At its meeting of 11 January 1915, the Committee decided to send Franko Potočnjak to Russia after he ended his mission in the United States. His main purpose was by “action and propaganda” to win over “influential Russian circles to our people’s cause.”21 His duty became even more important, because Supilo’s private mission there had failed.
Before going to Petrograd in the spring of 1916, Potočnjak interested himself in Supilo’s earlier actions in Russia. “I was told that he [Supilo] was met with suspicion, which contributed significantly to his… more than once visiting the Italian Consulate…”22
I. THE VOLUNTEERS IN RUSSIA
In mid-July 1915, after Franko Potočnjak’s departure for Russia, the Committee entrusted Ante Mandić, who had been in Russia since the beginning of the war, to open a branch-office of the Committee in Petrograd and to create a Volunteer Legion. Mandié began to work in this sense and when he arrived at the Serbian Embassy in Petrograd, he found “over 20,000, mostly very touching … letters and requests from prisoners-of-war…” who asked for help from the Serbian Ambassador.23 Mandić sent about 5,000 of those prisoners-of-war who had designated themselves as volunteers to Serbia, usually through Rumania, leaving to the Jugoslavenski Odbor and the Serbian Government the task of organizing a legion, as they wished, in Serbia. This work was continued until the autumn of 1915 when Serbia ‒ attacked by all sides ‒ underwent the collapse which [then] … cut off also the connections across the Danube and impeded the continued sending of volunteers.24
As noted earlier, in Serbia the volunteers were simply absorbed into the Serbian Army at the same time that the Serbian Government was postponing negotiations with the Committee in regard to the Adriatic Legion and negotiating with the Russian Government through Miroslav Spalajković, the Serbian Ambassador in Russia from 1913 to 1918, regarding the formation of military units in Russia using Slavic prisoners of war from Austria-Hungary. It was eventually decided to create an organization of volunteers in Odessa, so a Serbian consulate was established in the Ukrainian city. The Russian Supreme Command decreed that, from then on, all Croatian, Slovene, and Serbian officers and soldiers, prisoners of war from Austria-Hungary, who reported themselves ready to volunteer were to be sent to Odessa, the largest Black Sea port, where the Serbian consul, Marko Cemović, would oversee the national-political organization of this corps.
The military command was conferred on a Serbian Major, Z. Pejović.25 The Volunteer Corps also carried a Serbian name, “The Serbian Volunteers Corps,” which caused misunderstandings, repulsion, and opposition, particularly among the Croatian element.
The Russian Command began to send all prisoners of war from the South of the Dual Monarchy to Odessa, regardless of whether or not they were volunteers:
In about two months 19,700 soldiers had been collected… there, for whom neither the necessary accommodations, nor food, nor clothing, nor officer cadre were ready, in general nothing.26
More detailed data comes from Marko Marković, a Serb from Sarajevo who had access to the Archives of the Ministry of Defense of Serbia. He published his work in a Slovenian review, Misel in Delo in Ljubljana in 1938. There, he provided the following data:
…More and more volunteers were coming. At this time about 200 per day were arriving on average. On 15 March  there were 181 officers and 5,365 volunteers and on 1 April 263 [officers] and 6,312 [troops]. On 19 April, the 1st Serbian Volunteer Division was constituted with soldiers for two regiments, and officers for all four regiments. On 15 April, the Division counted 9,904 volunteers (3,812 from Bosnia and Herzegovina; 2,065 from Croatia and Slovenia; 3,778 from Vojvodina; 171 from Serbia; 78 from the rest of the regions; according to nationality, 9,751 Serbs [from the Dual Monarchy]; 84 Croatians; 14 Slovenians; 25 Czechs; 30 others. Fifteen days later there were [already] 12,563 volunteers (4,997 [from Bosnia and Herzegovina]; 2,272 [from Croatia and Slovenia]; 4,977 (from Voj[vodina]; 200 from Serbia; and 117 others. On 31 May the Division had 404 [officers] and 13,075 [soldiers], and on 13 June  there were 451 officers and 14,412 soldiers.27
As we can see from the above statistics, among the soldiers the Serbian element was absolutely predominant: 9,751 (15 April 1916) against 84 Croatians and 14 Slovenians. However, Croatian and Slovenian officers (137) exceeded the number of Serbian officers (116); in addition there were 36 Czech officers and a few others.28 Potočnjak saw the reason for the weak response of Croatian and Slovenian soldiers as due to the fact that the traditions and religion of the lower social strata predisposed them to reject the Yugoslav idea and union with Orthodox Serbia, which was something strange to them. The people, said Potočnjak, wanted a union of the South Slavs but within the framework of the old Monarchy. In other words, they saw their personal and national interests best secured within the boundaries of the Habsburg Monarchy restructured on trialist or perhaps federalist principles. Under the circumstances, these solutions were probably both sound and realistic. However, the more educated circles looked at the national and political question from a different position. The officers of the “Volunteer Corps” saw in the Yugoslav idea a union of equals with Serbia.
The prisoners of war were sent to Odessa without much trouble. There, a selection was made from among them and those rejected — often Hungarian or German soldiers — were sent back. But this selection was made very superficially. According to Potočnjak:
. . . many of our people extradited to the [Serbian] consul in Odessa said that they had not volunteered, but had been forced to go to Odessa [while] wanting to remain faithful to their tsar [Franz Joseph] and preferred [rather] to return to Siberia.29
Commenting on these cases, Potočnjak concluded that they were “clear proof that we were not yet nationally and politically mature for the work we undertook.”30
Calling the “Volunteer Corps” in Odessa “Serbian” was completely at odds with the wishes of the Yugoslav Committee. The name also rankled the Croatian and Slovenian officers, who concluded that, because of its composition of three nations as an entity, the Corps should be called “Yugoslav”. This [however] was not approved nor accepted . . .31
In 1920, Marko Cemović wrote that “this idea among Serbian circles was seen as heretical.”32 So, from its inception, the Serbian Volunteer Corps in Odessa was beset by disharmony, hatred, and dissension:
When there was something trustworthy to say in a separate group or cluster, it was asked: is there any Croatian, Slovenian, or Serb present — as occasion serves — depending on those who wanted to talk and to come to an understanding.33
In April 1916, a group of Serbian officers, led by Colonel Stevan Hadžić, arrived from Corfu, where the Serbian Government had established its headquarters after its defeat by the Central Powers. Conditions in the Corps now became much worse. For instance, the Serbian officers from Corfu received a war-allowance of 8 rubles per day, while the Croatian and Slovenian volunteer-officers only got 2 1/2, effectively putting them into a lower category vis-á-vis the Serbian officers from Corfu; they were also not treated equally in comparison with the Serbian officers in the leading of operational units. But the Serbian officers evidently did not grasp the fact “that the Corps was a political formation with a military organization, that the political idea bore it and determined its aim and purpose, and that the military organization was only instrumental to that.”34
Potočnjak believed that the Serbian officers viewed the idea of national union from an exclusive Serbian point of view. “From here [germinates] a disgust for the names Yugoslav, Croatian, and Slovenian, and threats that anyone who would speak about such things would be eaten by the darkness, or simply “shot down.”35
According to Mandić, the Russian Government did not wish a union of Catholic Croatians and Slovenians with Orthodox Serbians. “The Russian Government,” he wrote, “skillfully used this hostile atmosphere to try to provoke a clash in the Volunteers Corps among the Serbs, Croatians, and Slovenians … [over]… the idea of a federation between Croatians, Slovenians, Czechs, Hungarians… to prevent … the union of the Catholic Yugoslavs with [Orthodox] Serbia.”36
Conditions in tsarist Russia and in the Serbian Volunteer Corps were abominable by 1915, according to a report of October 1915 from Petrograd, sent by Mandić to the Committee in London. He warned that morale was low in Odessa:
…From our prisoners of war I am receiving most unpleasant news; some of them wrote me, the others let me know all kinds of things orally. All of them complain, complain, and complain [about] food, “lodging,” mistreatment, disorder, and hardships to which they are exposed for no reason… I know for certain that these complaints are not at all exaggerated… and the worst thing is that one can do absolutely nothing about them. [Russian] Headquarters is principally well inclined towards the Slavs and is helping them on the paper and does all that is possible; it does that honestly. However, the bureaucratic execution of the Headquarters’ orders, accustomed neglect and disloyalty, and the usual abuses on the side of the lower offices corrupt all… [The Russians], in consequence of their inborn laziness and inflexibility, quietly endure all these and do not show any compassion and pity, as they do not even have compassion for their own countrymen. …
Mandić considered living conditions uncomfortable and unhealthy:
It is necessary to mention that our [prisoners of war] suffer horribly from the cold… Living in shacks and stables where wind blows through the walls and rain comes through the roof…, dressed in those worn-out and shabby rags in which they were captured… half of them will die from this kind of life or because of it.…
So he urged immediate and drastic measures, including evacuation of the volunteers:
Because of this spiritual and moral misery, one cannot do anything here. The Russians are not in a position to understand the great misery of either our or their people, and even if they could understand it they would not do anything about it.… According to my understanding, two things should be done: first, collect some money in Europe and America and buy some coats and woolens and distribute them among the prisoners of war … You live among the people, try to collect some things… But one should do so carefully and not wound… Russian pride, otherwise ours would be even worse off. Second, one should take radical measures and, if possible, begin transportation of these unfortunates out of Russia, through Archangel… the Russians there would not make difficulties….
Acting to help the volunteers seemed urgent, owing to deteriorating conditions in Russia:
About the situation in Russia, I cannot tell you anything comforting: the state of affairs is becoming more and more difficult… It is beyond comprehension what is happening here. On the one hand, stocks of grain from last year still lie untouched in storehouses in this country which is famous for its wealth of forests and flocks, … on the other hand, there exist prohibitive prices and scarcity of grain, of flour, of sugar, of fuel, of fat and other basic commodities, so that the people have to wait for hours on the street… while huge quantities of these articles have lain unloaded in wagons at railway-stations in all larger cities since December 1914… About ten days ago or more, there was a strike in Moscow, which was suppressed in blood….
Mandić despaired of improvement, owing to a Russian society that was both selfish and obsequious:
Russian society had shown that it was rotten down to its roots, and poisonous, that it had neither honesty nor patriotism. Even the best individuals, who were independent and did not cringe before governmental authorities, became satraps and beasts of prey as soon as they came to power. These were people without any energy, without self-consciousness and pride, who lacked, in spite of all their Greek Orthodoxy, any ethical core. The only thing for which they were striving was to become by all means rich under any circumstances and with the least effort. The late Durnovo was right in saying, that one could only govern them with brutal absolutism….
Nor did Mandić see much hope, since he did not think the Russians were aware of how low they had sunk:
They stubbornly keep their traditions about the greatness of the State and the moral force of the Russian people, being protectors of the Slavs and of European culture and with this fiction they cover the reality of which they are really afraid…. This uncritical approach and the fear of the truth, which they cover with thundering phrases, does not only dominate the intelligentsia in the widest (Russian) sense, but all foreign policy is also based on it as well as the interior life of Russia. One cannot make them aware of the situation….
The best Mandić could imagine was to await better times, while striving to help those in Odessa:
Here we do not propagate our cause; Russia is now preoccupied with strategy and internal disorder and for this reason nobody would listen to us or read [our publications]. We are waiting for a better moment.37
This was the situation that greeted Franko Potočnjak when he arrived in Russia. Potočnjak arrived in Petrograd just before Easter 1916. Spalajković, the Serbian Ambassador in Russia (1913-1918), informed him about the situation there and about “our situation” in particular. He requested an audience for Potočnjak with Sazonov, but due to the Easter holidays, it was necessary to wait several days. In the meantime Mandić received a letter from Odessa written by Gjuro Kolumbatović, who described the terrible situation of the Serbian Corps there, a situation which was “extremely serious” and in serious danger of disintegration. Kolumbatović urged “somebody from the Yugoslav Committee come here at once and bring the situation under control.”38
So Spalajković, Mandić, and Potočnjak agreed that the audience with Sazonov should be postponed and that Potočnjak should promptly go to Odessa to try to settle the chaotic situation there. Mandić sent Trumbić Kolumbatović’s letter, together with earlier ones in order that the members of the Committee might better grasp the situation in Russia regarding the question of volunteers.
On his arrival in Odessa, Potočnjak saw that “the conditions in the Corps… were worse than I could imagine.”39 The problem went beyond the name of the Corps to fundamental differences over the intent of the formation:
The name Serb… designates one part of our people as do the names Croatian, … and Slovenian…. None of these names designates the whole people. And the [Serbian] Corps forms neither a part of it, nor forms a Serbian part alone. It [the Corps] has to include all three together: the Serbs, the Croatians, and the Slovenians…seek(ing) the common goal and power to create a common, united, consolidated, and liberated homeland…. Unfortunately such reasoning was not considered acceptable… but as an opposition to Serbian nationhood. Those who led the Corps, including several Serbian officers, … were one-sided and unable to understand the ideas which directed those who began the movement for the Legion and those [also] who responded to it. They still agreed completely with the Serbian exclusivism and looked with an evil eye upon all who merely dared to question the name of the [Serbian] Corps.40
In order to correct this situation, Potočnjak started to publish a paper known as the Slavic South (Slovenski Jug). Its purpose was to inform “the scattered brothers throughout all the Russian country” about political and military affairs, and to bring news from the homeland. The financial expenses were born by the Committee in London Had it not been able to pay them in full, Potočnjak had arranged with Pašić for the Serbian government to do so instead.”41
Pašić and the heir presumptive, Alexander, were both informed in writing of the whole situation concerning the tensions in the Corps in Odessa. Besides the “inner factors,” there was also an “outside influence” which affected the Corps’ situation. Such was the case, for example, of Krunoslav Heruc (or Geruc). Heruc who had lived in Russia for thirty years, presented himself as a Croatian representative and as such was accepted in Russian circles. Heruc also had connections with the Russian secret police. He and Ivan Gaparić established the Russian-Croatian Society, “Križanić,” in Moscow in 1915 which was pro-Frankist42, while the Yugoslavia Society — established in the spring of 1916 — followed the concept of the settlement of Yugoslavia upon a federalist principle that included Bulgarians among the South Slavs.
Heruc, who was in contact with the Russian authorities, worked to establish a separate Russian-Croatian Corps, similar to the Russian Czech Corps, but against the union of the Croatians and Slovenians with Serbia.43 Heruc had his people in the Serbian Corps in Odessa, whose work among the already highly dissatisfied Croatian and Slovenian officers contributed even more to aggravate the situation there. Only by the intervention of Potočnjak, Mandić, and Spalajković was Heruc’s influence on the Corps lessened.
As more and more volunteers arrived in Odessa, the Russian Supreme Military Command, by its decree of 10 October 1916 officially formed the Serbian Volunteer Corps (Srpski dobrovoljački korpus), which was split into two divisions — the 1st Serbian Volunteer Division (Prva srpska dobrovoljačka divizija) and the 2nd Serbian Volunteer Division (Druga srpska dobrovoljačka divizija). In September 1916, command of the Corps passed from the Serbian Colonel Hadžić, to General of the Serbian Army Mihajlo Živković. All administrative work was taken over by the 1st Division, apart from some troops who continued to use the name of the Serbian Corps. The 2nd Division still had to be completed.
When Rumania entered the war on the side of the Entente Powers in the autumn of 1916, the 1st Volunteer Division was hastily sent to Dobrudja to stop the Bulgarian advance. The plan of the Division was, in the event of success, to cross over the Danube and join the Serbian Army. The men fought well and their courage and persistence earned them an honored name. According to Mandić, the Division started the battle with 18,510 soldiers and received some 4,500 reinforcements during combat. The Division fought in the center with 30,000 Russians on its left, and five Rumanian divisions on its right.44 The battle lasted from 24 August until 12 October 1916. The Division succeeded in breaking down the Bulgarian-Turkish center, in capturing four batteries, and in seizing a considerable amount of military and war material. Its casualties were high: 42 officers dead and 208 wounded; 2,039 soldiers dead and missing, and another 6,047 wounded. According to the Bulgarian generals, Toshev and Kantardzhiev, their forces had lost 14,800 soldiers and officers. According to Paulova, the 1st Division’s losses were as follows: 32 of 500 volunteer officers (15 Serbs, 8 Croatians, 7 Czech, and 2 Slovenians), and seven regular officers from Serbia. Three hundred officers were wounded.45
The volunteer rank and file lost 1,939 men (l,810 Serbs, 41 Slovenians, 32 Croatians, 27 Russians, 26 Czechs, and 2 others), with 8,000 wounded. Tsar Nicholas was so satisfied with their performance that he ordered the immediate completion of the Second Division.46 But no one cared very much about the welfare of either the wounded or the Corps in general. Fifteen days after the battle, Mandić visited Odessa, where he found the wounded
…muddy, wounded, neglected; the officers lay in their bloody shirts, without dressings, without underwear, their clothes unchanged, without a penny in their pocket. They lay waiting… for the English lazarets, and… for their pay — from July [of 1916] onwards; and then to be transported into the interior of Russia, and — la commedia è finita! Nobody thinks any more about them, nobody cares about them…47
On 1 October 1916 the Serbians began a forced mobilization among the prisoners of war in the Odessa region. By the end of the month about 20,000 “volunteers” had been transported to Odessa, among them: 9,000 Croatians, 7,000 Serbs, and 4,000 Slovenians, most of whom “were included in the Legion against their will.”48 These volunteers completed the 2nd Division. Evidently, the forced mobilization was carried out by the Serbian captain Majstorović against the wish of the Russian authorities who wanted to select only those willing to volunteer and respect the wish of the prisoners-of-war, particularly the Croatians of the Roman Catholic faith, but apparently not of the Islamic faith. The Serbs informed the Russian authorities that the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina were apostates from the “ancestral Orthodox faith” and argued that it was necessary to return them to the Orthodox faith. This meant either extinction or acceptance of Orthodoxy, the same policy that the Serbs had carried out in Serbia and in Montenegro against the Muslims there during the time of the Vladika (Bishop), known as the istrebljenje poturica (extinction of the semi-Turks).
These volunteers filled out the 2nd Division, but their treatment was brutal. Those soldiers who did not want to wear uniforms were starved, cudgeled, and beaten with gun stocks. Their fingers were broken in doors, their heads forced into toilets, suffocating them. The result was a rebellion on 23 October 1916, that left 13 dead and 18 wounded.49 Some troops, as they fled the Corps, even shouted, “Long live Franz Joseph.” (Živio Franjo Josip!)50 By 20 November 1916, 44% had left the 2nd Division: 3,000 had deserted and 6,000 had been returned to Russian captivity. Of some 20,000 soldiers forming this Division, only 11,169 men remained.51 This massive desertion led General Živković to send a proposal to the Serbian government on 17 December 1916 declaring that the hated “Serbian name” of the Corps should be abolished among the Croatian and Slovenian deserters, and replaced by the name Yugoslav Volunteer Corps.52
However, apprehensive that the 2nd Division would be misused, as had the 1st, Potočnjak had already sent a letter on 1 December 1916 to Alexander, cautioning that:
The 1st Division of the Serbian Corps is completely broken, it can be said it barely exists. There is also a danger that the 2nd Division, just formed but not yet trained and not at all ready, could have been used in the same way and the same results reached. The wounded are greatly embittered [and] among the volunteer officers and soldiers [there is] a general discontent because they have been employed in the previous battles which did not solve [our] problem [and] on foreign territory; since they were gathered and responded to the call to fight for their national ideals and [national] interests for which they are still and always ready to sacrifice everything… [There exists] general discontent, bitterness, and revolt against the command of the 1st Division. It is extremely urgent to take steps which, possibly, will correct the first and prevent the second….53
When Potočnjak came back from Russia, he went to Corfu where he reported orally on the situation concerning the volunteers in Odessa and also in writing, giving the notes in person to Alexander on 30 May 1916. In his report, he noted the bad treatment meted out by the Serbian officers, particularly to the Croatian and Slovenian volunteers. He also reported that the Serbian officers beat them with “the kourbash, fists, and kicking, “cursing [their] father and mother,” and calling them a “herd of cattle,” and “Austrian swine.” 54Such atrocious mistreatment and torture of Croatian (and Slovenian) prisoners of war in Odessa over differences regarding the political purpose of the Corps, was a bad sign and boded ill for future relations between Croatians and Serbians.
Lest it appear that Mandić and Potočnjak exaggerated the mistreatment of the “volunteers” by the Serbian officers, we offer an opinion by Ivan Meštrović (1883-1962), the well-known Croatian sculptor, who was also actively involved in politics and was a founding member of the Yugoslav Committee in London. Here is what he had to say about the Bosnian Croatians of Islamic faith who were deported to Odessa:
The Second Corps was soon formed… For this Corps the Serbian flag was also ordered, for [they say] there is no other flag. The selection was strange. The Russians were of the opinion that only those who wished to fight should be separated and they particularly insisted on this for the Croatians who were put apart, asking each one who each one was. The Serbs were asked: “Which of the Serbs are Greek-Orthodox?” and those who reported themselves as such were at once set apart and registered as volunteers. The Croatians were asked whether they wished to join the Legion or not. For the Bosnians another procedure was used. The Catholics were set apart and the rest were asked: “Are you Bosnians?” if so, then all should be volunteers. When; the Muslims started to protest that they were not Serbs, they were separated and “in a special way persuaded.” What kind of persuasion this was, a certain Semez, a Greek Orthodox from Bosnia, to whom this “mission for Bosnians” was entrusted, told me one month later. ‘Each “Turk” who did not agree (and there were few of the uneducated who did agree), was beheaded and the others, when they saw them, said ‘so help me God’ (Boga mi), they then agreed….55
In the meantime, Russia was experiencing great internal changes. In March 1917, the Tsar abdicated and a provisional government was established, headed by Prince Lvov (1861-1925). The Foreign Office now came under the control of Professor Miliukov, who favored the idea of “Yugoslav union.” In those stormy days the spreading of liberal ideas also reached the Volunteer Corps in Odessa. Throughout these events a large group of officers, almost exclusively Croatians and Slovenians, expressed their wishes to the Command of the Corps. They asked that:56
l) the name of the Corps — “The Serbian Volunteer Corps”… be changed to the “Yugoslav Volunteer Corps;”
2) the political and juridical constitution of the future common state organization… be defined precisely in advance, based upon the federal principle of equality;
3) the Volunteer Corps… be preserved for the purpose for which it was created, namely, the liberation of the homeland;
4) the juridical and material status of the volunteer officers and soldiers… be clearly defined;
5) among the Corps’ command a special elected committee… be formed, composed of the volunteer officers and chosen from amongst them, which — like those in Russian military units — would work together with General Živković and take care of the political, juridical, and agitational side of the Corps’ work, that is, the formation of a “political commissariat.
The same group of officers forwarded a declaration to the Russian authorities, in which they declared that they wanted:
… Yugoslavia based upon the principle of democracy and equality for all three nations. We consider any other platform for our union impossible and harmful for each of the three nationalities…. A federation of the Serbian, Croatian, and Slovenian countries — after the pattern of Switzerland or the United States of America — can only be realized through a strict conduct of the principle of equality. Our ideal, thus, is: a federative Yugoslavia… that…will be… an element of peace in the Balkans…. We wish for liberty and union so that our unhappy and exhausted nations can devote all their capacities, in a peaceful common life, to work for the promotion of material and spiritual cultures…. The “Greater Serbian” idea is not suitable to the Serbian people and is a product of fantasies and a state of mind of the military group which desires an armed clash in the Balkans and which, in the name of democratization, forced all Yugoslavs to serve the idol of crude power. “Greater Serbia” is opposed to our ideal of work and peaceful development; it signifies parasitism which is linked to expansionism, and is an external threat to all its neighbors.”57 (Emphasis added.)
In its reply to the demands of the Croatian and Slovenian officers to the Command of the Corps, the Serbian government accepted the requests regarding salaries and the status of volunteer officers, but it remained obdurate in its opposition to adding “Yugoslav” to the Corps’ name. However, it did rename the Corps, the “Volunteer Corps of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes” (Dobrovoljački korpus Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca). Other problems remained completely unsolved, and even the change of name was more of a tactical ploy than a real change of spirit. All other demands were rejected or ignored. Pašić and Serbia’s government-in-exile continued to reject the idea that the Volunteer Corps was a political formation with a military organization, and that its main purpose was the liberation of the Fatherland.
The Serbian Government also did not want to commit itself to a federal political and juridical arrangement of any future South Slav state. In other words, the Serbian government retained its exclusive and limited view.
Given the negative response of the Serbian government to demands for change, a group of volunteer officers sent a memorandum to the Russian Military Command in which they requested their integration into the regular Russian Army, stating why they had joined the Corps and why they wanted to leave it. Because of its importance in describing the officers’ state of mind and the Serbian attitude, we cite the main parts of this Memorandum to Velihov, from the Slovenski Jug (The Slavic South) issue of 1 June 1917, No. 17.
Odessa, 7 April/ 25 March 1917
THE VOLUNTEER OFFICERS TO VELIHOV
Memorandum of the conditions in the [Volunteers] Corps.
The undersigned officers of the “Serbian Volunteer Corps,” we have the honor to present to you the following
[Our desire for] the liberation and union of Serbs, Croatians, and Slovenians in one independent state, in which each would enjoy complete equality in every aspect, attracted us to the “Serbian Volunteer Corps.” We have not and will not recognize any hegemony or supremacy of one nation over another,… No Greater Serbia, no Greater Croatia, no Greater Slovenia. Our ideal was and will remain a federative Yugoslavia. From the very beginning of the existence of the volunteer troops, we have endeavored to conduct our political program through [it], as the only possible and justifiable basis in order that the three hitherto separate nationalities come closer together in the geographical, political, cultural, religious, and historical fields. Our endeavors have been futile. Deceived from the beginning with various promises, we are finally convinced that we do not serve our ideal but the imperialistic and conquering aims of Serbian megalomania.
This is the primary reason why we cannot stay any longer in the Serbian Volunteer Corps. This megalomania did not stay in the framework of differences of ideology and principle; it has also been reflected in the hostile attitudes toward us and our soldiers, and it has assumed concrete forms of animosity,… tyrannies and crimes have been committed: robberies, beatings, tortures, even killings, the perpetrators of which have remained unpunished…. With regard to us, the volunteer-officers, our stay in the Corps is filled with humiliation and insults from the side of the so-called “proper Serbs”, that is, the officers who came from Serbia. All these [facts] led to…crises in the Corps….[Therefore] we have come to the conclusion that it is better that we shed blood… in the ranks of the Great Russian Army for Russian liberty — which we consider as a guarantee for our liberty — and for the just, rather than for the new enslavement of our people and the unjust. For this reason, we request our transfer to Russian service… [and ask] that proper measures be undertaken [to see] whether they are [really] volunteers of the Serbian Volunteer Corps or not….58
During the months of March and April 1917 the dissident process was in full swing. Once again it seemed that the Corps might disintegrate. So General Živković asked Mandić and Jambrišak, both members of the Committee in London, to come from St. Petersburg to Odessa in order to try to alleviate tensions in the Corps. They arrived around Easter. On their advice and under pressure from the local Russian military authorities, the Command of the Corps in Odessa finally accepted the idea of dividing “loyal” volunteers from the “dissenters.” As a result, 12,741 soldiers left the Corps (7,352 Serbs, 3,787 Croatians, 1,241 Slovenians, and 361 others), as did 149 officers (4 Serbs, 98 Croatians, 42 Slovenians, and 5 others). This amounted to 38% of the soldiers and officers of the Corps. By the end of May 1917, the Corps — which now included the 1st and 2nd Divisions with a Support Battalion — numbered 19,472 soldiers and 779 officers.59
Paulova’s data agrees in general with those of Marko Marković. However, Marković either did not explain the causes of the Corps’ crises, or did so with a few general phrases, putting the word “crises” between quotation marks, as if it were a small misunderstanding, or an innocent quarrel. He did not enter into the essence of the question — the basic difference in understanding of the political purpose of the Corps and the structure of a future South Slav state, owing to the opposing cultures and national characters — one a western-occidental and cosmopolitan culture, the other eastern, Orthodox and exclusivist. According to Marković:
At that time, the March revolution  broke out, causing an evolution of events and nations. Soviet Military Committees were formed by the volunteers. One Russian Commission examine those who did not wish to remain as volunteers, and various commissars and members of the Soviets persuaded them to leave the Corps. The ranks of the volunteers were shaken. A “crisis” arose. 149 officers left the Corps (4 Serbs, 96 Croatians, 42 Slovenians and 7 others) as well as 12,741 soldiers (7,352 Serbs, [from the Dual Monarchy], 3,787 Croatians, 1,241 Slovenians and 361 others); there remained 779 officers (411 Serbs, 98 Croatians, 39 Slovenians, 98 Czechs, 125 Russian, and 8 others) and 19,472 soldiers (16,562 Serbs, 668 Croatians, 243 Slovenians, 90 Czechs, 1,847 Russians, and 62 others.60
The small number of Croatian (668) and Slovenian (243) relative to Serbian (16,562) volunteers from the Dual Monarchy who were left in the Corps confirms our thesis that most Croatians did not accept the Yugoslav idea and an unequal union of Croatia with Serbia. According to the intellectuals who diffused and worked for this idea, such a union was envisaged on an equal level in all aspects of life. Their political idea ignored the problems uniting the two different cultures, religions, and histories involved. When this “union” of Croatia and Serbia was actually proclaimed in 1918, many Croatian champions of the “Yugoslav idea” were deeply disappointed, for its fruits were bitter then, and have been bitter for the Croatians ever since.
After the Russian military authorities approved the request by Croatian and Slovenian officers to serve in the regular Russian Army, many of them left the Corps. In the Russian Army, they had the same rights as the Russian officers and soldiers, and some formed a separate battalion in Kiev; others were absorbed by Russian military units. Some later joined the “Red Army” and later still surfaced as political leaders of the Croatian left wing, among them Vladimir Čopić, called “Senjko” (1891-1937 ), who was liquidated in the Stalinist purges in 1938 .
The 1st Division of the Corps, after having absorbed part of the Second, was sent to the Rumanian Front together with the First Brigade —in all, 482 officers, 1,355 non-commissioned officers, and 12,095 soldiers. After the disintegration of the front, the Serbian Government succeeded in transferring the 1st Division, less the 2nd Brigade, to the Salonica front so it could join the Serbian Army. The remnants of the 2nd Division (184 officers and 2,875 soldiers) received permission (on 16 August 1917) to leave Odessa for Murmansk, where they embarked for England through the Arctic Ocean, eventually arriving in Salonica via France and the Mediterranean Sea.
The 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division was the last to leave the Odessa region for Archangel, in November 1917. On the way, they met Bolshevik military units, who wanted them to return to the Rumanian front. But Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) let them proceed. They reached Manchuria by means of the Siberian railroad. From there, they went south to the town of Dalnyi, near Port Arthur, where they were transported by British and French ships through the Suez Canal. They arrived in Salonica in the middle ofApril 1918.
II. THE VOLUNTEERS IN SOUTH AMERICA
Following the defeat of Serbia by the Central Powers, the Serbian Army was reduced to less than half its original size. This made the Serbian Government-in-exile on Corfu weaker both militarily and politically. Its situation became even worse after the fall of Serbia’ s main supporter ‒ the Romanov dynasty in Russia. As a result, Pašić was compelled to make tactical concessions to the Committee in London. In order to rebuild the Serbian army, as well as prisoners of war in Russia from the southern countries of the Dual Monarchy, Pašić also recruited Croatian, Slovenian, and Serbian volunteers from North and South America, where several hundred thousand people had immigrated before 1914.
In December 1915, Pašić’s attempt to win the Entente Powers over to the idea of volunteers did not bear fruit because of the question of their transportation from South and North America to Europe. In July 1916, Pašić tried again, and on 18 October 1916 the French Government granted Serbia a loan of two million francs, promising further loans, in order to cover transportation expenses, support, and training of the volunteers.61 The Tunisian port of Bizerta was chosen as their “concentration point.” The Serbian government sent two military missions to the Americas to spread the idea of voluntary military service, hoping to exploit feelings of ethnic solidarity among the emigrants from the Southern Slavic countries. The mission to South America was entrusted to Captain Spiro Poznanović, a personal and family friend of Nikola Pašić. The mission to North America was given to Milan Pribićević, a colonel in the Serbian Army and a brother to Svetozar Pribićević, leader of the governing Croatian-Serbian Coalition in Zagreb during the war years.
The Committee in London was not informed of all the initiatives undertaken by Pašić, nor of the convention between the Serbian Government and France. So once again the question of volunteers and of the formation of the Yugoslav Legion surfaced as a problem, especially when volunteers began to arrive in Bizerta, Tunisia, and were directly incorporated into regular Serbian army units, as had been the case with volunteers in Russia and those who had come to Serbia before Rumania entered the war. Trumbić faced a pressing task — to solve once and for all with the Serbian Government the matter of the Yugoslav Legion. Unfortunately, he fell ill and went to Cannes to convalesce, leaving Hinko Hinković and Josip Jedlovski to act on his behalf. Hinković, who was closer to the Serbian Government than Trumbić, sent a proclamation in November 1916 to the Americas in the name of the Yugoslav Committee, but without Trumbić’s knowledge and without consulting Jedlovski or other members of the Committee. In it, Hinković asked that all emigrant volunteers should put themselves “under the Serbian banner.”62 When Trumbić and the other members learned of this step, a very critical clash followed in the Committee, because the proclamation contrasted with the opinion of the majority and was directly opposed the Committee’s intentions.
Hinković’s letter arrived in South America at the beginning of January 1917. The central organization of the Jugoslavenska Narodna Obrana (Yugoslav National Defense) published it in the papers Jugoslavenska država (Yugoslav State) and Domovina (Fatherland), calling for the mobilization of all volunteers and designating Antofagasta as the main “concentration point,” with the town of Punta Arenas as a temporary center.63
By the end of January 1917, 475 had volunteered in the Republic of Chile alone.”64 This seems a relatively small number, but in a state which counted only five to six thousand Croatian colonists, it amounted to almost of the emigrants. On 7 January 1917, Hinković’s manifesto was sent to Argentina (Buenos Aires). By the middle of February the South American contingent of volunteers was ready. On 25 February the volunteers should have left Antofagasta for Bizerta, but did not do so, because, in the midst of the general enthusiasm among the emigrants, the Yugoslav National Defense received an urgent telegram from Trumbić. Writing from Cannes on behalf of the Yugoslav Committee, he said not to send volunteers to Bizerta and to stop the mobilization. The Yugoslav National Defense replied with a telegram asking for an explanation. The Committee replied that the reasons could not be cabled and ordered the Yugoslav National Defense to wait for written instructions.
At the same time, a Serbian captain, Poznanović, was urging the contingent of volunteers to leave Antofagasta. So the situation became muddled, leaving the volunteers stranded. The central office of the Yugoslav National Defense was confused, because it believed that the Yugoslav Committee and the Serbs were working together.65 Pašić held that the Committee had no right to stop the mobilization or the movement of volunteers, even though they were mostly Croatians and therefore of more concern to the Committee. He argued that he had obligations towards France, which had granted a loan to Serbia for this purpose. It was thus that, finally, the Committee learned of his deal with the French.66
Trumbić reiterated the point of view of the Committee in regard to volunteers:
The standpoint of our Committee was ‒ since the beginning of the war ‒ that our volunteers have to fight as a separate unit under the Supreme [Serbian] Command, and not anonymously, as we have several times informed the [Serbian] Government. It is the right and benefit of the whole cause that one knows where they are from and why they fight. This [attitude] we retain today….67
Pašić answered by letter on 18 March 1917, referring to a telegram from Antofagasta of 23 January 1916. In this telegram the delegates of the Congress sent their greetings to the old Serbian King, Peter. The sentence which Pašić stressed read that the participants of the Congress “greet with enthusiasm their king and their government, putting at his disposal their property and their lives.”68
Trumbić countered by referring to the resolution of the same Congress as a more authentic account of their loyalties. The resolution read, in part,
…We put ourselves at the unconditional disposal of the Serbian Government, expressing our complete trust in the Yugoslav Committee in London, which we consider our lawful representative for all Southern Slavic countries under the rule of Austria-Hungary….69 (Emphasis added.)
This disagreement over the fate of American volunteers occurred at the same time that dissidents were emerging among the volunteers in the Corps in Russia and after the tragedy of Dobrudja had already passed into history. All these events led the Committee to act decisively against the opposition of the Serbian Government concerning the already wearisome question of volunteers, and of the creation of the Yugoslav Legion. On 23 March 1917, Trumbić convened a plenary session in which the Committee unanimously decided to stick by the principles enunciated in 1915, adding the following new points:
(1) that the mobilization of the volunteers will only be effected among the emigrants from the Southern Slavic countries under Austria-Hungary, forming the already mentioned Yugoslav Legion;
(2) that the Serbian Government will not accept into its Army those volunteers who do not want to join the Legion but are from the Southern Slavic countries.
Trumbić sent the minutes of the session together with a long private letter to Pašić, at the end of which he complained that “from the Serbian side, in spite of all proposals by our Committee, nothing was done positively to create a Yugoslav volunteer unit….70
After receiving Trumbić’s telegram, mobilization in South America was stopped and everyone waited impatiently to receive directions from the Committee. These finally reached Antofagasta on 20 March 1917, signed in the name of the Committee by Mića Mičić, who had previously championed the idea of volunteers. But, again, no reason was given for stopping their mobilization and for delaying their transportation to Europe. This time the Committee asked the Yugoslav National Defense “whether the Yugoslavs of South America,” the greatest majority of whom were Croatians, “could organize one volunteer airborne unit with at least six airplanes and the necessary number of men.71 The expenses for this project were enormous, but not too long after, the Yugoslav National Defense answered that it was ready to do so, and would assume the entire expenses of the Committee.72 Trumbić then wrote to Pašić on 10 February 1917, asking the Serbian Government for its agreement to the creation of an airborne squadron. Pašić did not answer. On 10 April 1917, Trumbić tried again:
If you think that you can agree in principal to this idea, the Committee will give instructions for the realization of this project. The squadron would be the Aeronautic section of the Yugoslav Legion,… under the guidance of the Serbian Supreme Command.73
Pašić did not answer this letter either. Because of the Serbian Government and its official attitude, this project never materialized. Even so, the great patriotic feeling of the small Croatian colonies — which in South America were labeled “Yugoslavs” — was impressive. They could not have succeeded in securing the complete financial independence of the Committee, but they were willing to do what they could. As Paulova wrote:
It can be said that no other nation, nor any other part of the world, nor any other political alliance was ever so [well] organized and ideally devoted as the Yugoslav National Defense in South America.74
III. THE VOLUNTEERS IN NORTH AMERICA
The situation in the United States regarding this question of volunteers was quite different from the one in South America. There was no serious attempt to recruit volunteers in the U.S.A. until the arrival of the Serbian military mission headed by Colonel Milan Pribićević in November 1916. One of the reasons for this lay in the neutrality of America in the war until 1917. But the main reasons were the political divisions and antagonisms between the Croatians and the Serbs. Milan Pribićević, personally quite popular and very energetic, had marked success among the Serbs, yet among the Croatians and Slovenians his mission failed, and in the end he asked to be discharged from his duty. Writing to General Rašić, the Serbian military delegate to the French Supreme Command, Pribićević said:
… It is known that I have a good reputation among them [i.e., the Croatians and Slovenians], yet I was not able to send more than 200 Croatians and Slovenians among the 3,000 volunteers I recruited. This small number is negligible. When one takes into consideration that there are three or four times more Croatians and Slovenians than Serbs, then it means I should have sent a minimum of 10,000. If this situation remains as it is, the volunteers’ engagement will result in the same situation as ended the one in Russia; today this result with the Croatians and Slovenians is already disgracing us, for it shows quite evidently that they are not with us in the movement.75
A similar report was also sent to Ljuba Mihailović, the Serbian Ambassador in Washington. In the report it was stated that the military mission of Milan Pribićević “was only restricted to the Serbian milieu,” while “the Croato-Slovenian element remained indifferent and a large part also inimical.”76 Milenko Vesnić, the Serbian Ambassador in Paris for many years (1904-1921 commented later on this Serbian failure in North America:
Our Yugoslav question in America — until the coming of the Serbian mission there — remained much worse than we thought in Europe. Except for the Serbs, whose patriotism remains undoubted, our other two peoples [i.e., the Croatians and the Slovenians] hold themselves in great reserve, … The Croatian and Slovenian priests, with the exception of several shining examples, were until recently opposed to this new [i.e., the Yugoslav] movement. [It is a pity that] at the very head of the Yugoslav movement in the United States there is no consensus; it can be said that we encountered an open split there.77
On the part of the Committee in London, there was no serious attempt at mobilizing the volunteers in North America. On 24 January 1915, Frank Potočnjak, a member of the Committee in London, arrived in New York, accompanied by Luka Smodlaka, a student at Oxford. The purpose of this trip was to acquire from the Croatian emigrants the necessary approval for the Yugoslav Committee to lead the liberation of the Southern Slavs from the Dual Monarchy, to work out their union with Serbia, and to gather funds.78 However, it was hard to accomplish these tasks, because in no other region of the world were Serbs and Croatians less ready for that union than in the United States.79
According to Paulova’s information, at that time around 90,000 Serbs from Croatian regions lived in the U.S. — but only a few thousand were from Serbia. Some 200,000 Slovenians and about 400,000 Croatians also resided in the States, and approximately 20,000 lived in Canada.
Almost all of these emigrants were working — some were coal miners, some businessmen, hostlers, and a small number of farmers…. Most… were without any political sense: their national consciousness was not developed; [general] education was low…. some colonies were 90% Austrophile….80
Commenting on the political conditions among the Croatians, Slovenians, and Serbians in North America, Potočnjak concluded:
In one word… our situation in America was a living reflection of the conditions in the old countries…. Among the Croatians some understood the Yugoslav idea, but these were rare; among the Slovenians they were almost non-existent, while among the Serbs, there were none. The Serbian element was educated with a Serbian national sense and was conscious [of the political situation]; they well knew their duty towards Serbian nationhood and Serbia itself, and would not budge an inch further from that. They [i.e., the Serbian element] listened with pleasure to the national union and expansion towards Croatian or Slovenian nationhood, but for them this meant à tout prix and exclusively Serbian nationhood, which they eo ipso identified with a powerful Greater Serbia.81
In Croatia, comparing the idea of “union and unity” of the Southern Slavs with Serbia to the one in America, Potočnjak stated:
Neither here [i.e., in Croatia] nor there [i.e., in America] did the full and strong idea of union and unity govern, neither here nor there did [people] think or yearn for the creation of this and such a state [i.e., Yugoslavia] … Yet, there was something…: devotion and loyalty towards the Habsburg dynasty and the Monarchy, as well as a readiness for any sacrifice for them.82 (Emphasis added).
These are the main reasons for the failure of the Serbian military mission to recruit volunteers amongst the Croatians and Slovenians in North America, not the economic factor, as Dragoslav Janković wants us to believe:
However, the main reason [for the failure of the Serbian military mission in North America, G.G. ] it seems was the one of which the Serbian consul-general in New York M[ihailo] J. Pupin [1857-1934] informed [Nikola] Pašić (22 September 1916): “Today the Yugoslavs in America [are] so prosperous economically that [only] a small number [of them] would leave a permanent job in America which is well paid today and go to the Balkans to fight there,” Dragoslav Janković said.83
The experience of disillusioned volunteers may also have discouraged potential volunteers. For example, early in the war, a large group of Montenegrins left the U.S. for Serbia to fight. But they were deeply disappointed, both with the rude and primitive Serbian officers who treated them in the same way as those in Odessa did the Croatian and the Slovenian volunteers, and with the conduct of Serbian foreign policy. So they demanded to return to the United States of America after Serbia’s defeat. Janković also noted this:
Many of the volunteers who served in the Serbian army, came to [Pašić] with complaints that their superiors cudgeled them, boxed them on the ears, cursed, and insulted them. For this reason some of them wished to return to [the United States of] America, where they even wrote to their acquaintances discouraging them from coming here.84
It seems most probable that the main reason for the failure of the Serbian military mission to recruit volunteers among the Croatians and Slovenians in North America was the existence of a political division between the immigrants and an actual antagonism between the Croatians, on the one hand, and the Serbs, on the other.
Milan Pribićević, to a certain extent in agreement with the republican idea, and personally popular and agile, was quite successful in his military mission amongst the Serbs in North America. But amongst the Croatians and Slovenians his mission was a total fiasco, so that in the end, he requested to be discharged from his obligation.
It was thus due largely to the attitude of the Serbian Government that the question and formation of the Yugoslav Legion never materialized in the sense that the Committee had envisaged, even though conditions favored such a venture. Mandić reported that 100,000 to 120,000 soldiers, mostly volunteers, had surrendered to the Russians. All were Croatians, Slovenians, and Serbs from the Dual Monarchy.85 Therefore, the political capital that the Committee had wanted to acquire to strengthen its standing with the Entente — as the Czechs had done was lost. In addition, the military significance that the Legion would have had, if deployed to liberate Croatia and Slovenia, was permanently lost. But this was exactly what official Serbia wanted: Not to permit that the Yugoslav Committee in London become an independent and important political factor, supported by a military force while negotiations to resolve the Croatian Question were underway. The Serbian Government succeeded completely in its goals of isolating the Yugoslav Committee. Only after it had done so did it form the Yugoslav Legion.
Following the events of the spring of 1917 in Odessa, all the discontented “Croatian federalists” left Odessa. Those South Slavs who remained were more or less devoted to the idea of a Greater Serbia. When these volunteers reached Salonica, Regent Alexander, with his decree of 29 December 1917, officially formed the Yugoslav Division (Jugoslavenska Divizija), dissolving the Vardar Division, whose men were transferred to other divisions while its military material was taken over by the new division.
In this way the wearisome question of the creation of the Legion that the Committee wanted to form at the beginning of 1915 was finally resolved.
Statistical data on the number of volunteers is contradictory and was hidden by Serbia. But it seems that the proportion of volunteers in the Serbian Army was about the same as when action began on the Salonica front on 14 September 1918. The report transmitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 30/17 September 1918 to the Minister of War, General Rašić, put the total number of volunteers at 20,947.86
But, if we take into consideration the fact that the Serbian Army on the Salonica front numbered a maximum of 55.000 officers and soldiers, and that included, besides the Montenegrin and other volunteers from America, the men from the “Volunteer Corps of the Serbs, Croatians, and Slovenians” from Russia, which consisted of 19,472 soldiers and 779 officers on 30 May 1917, and to which were added until 1 August 1917 2,008 more soldiers and 112 officers, [we] could rightly affirm that the liberation of the whole [Southern Slavic] territory, as well as of Serbia proper, was effected with the aid of the Allies.87
These figures were later confirmed by Serbian Duke [Vojvoda], Živojin Mišić (1855-1921). Svetozar Pribićević (1875-1936), after his disappointment with Belgrade, and the Karadjordjević dynasty, declared on 23 January 1928 in a public meeting in Zagreb that:
According to the information of the Serbian headquarters given to me by Duke [Vojvoda] Mišić, there were on the Salonica front 28,000 Yugoslav volunteers, a number equal to the number of Serbian soldiers; [while] the total amount of our military power consisted of one fifth of the total power on the Salonica front. And should there be a decision in Belgrade about Kajmakčalan it is a necessary to know that the Kajmakčalan-[victory] [is] as much ours as it is theirs.88
This statement brought strong protests from Belgrade as well as in the Serbian press. Regarding this problem, Ljubo Leontić said:
From the emigrant colonies and war prisoners’ camp, there were probably a total of fifty thousand Yugoslav volunteers in World War I. (The Volunteers Corps of the SHS [Serbs, Croatians, Slovenians] in Russia alone numbered ca. 42,000 fighters). Their number would probably have been] increased until a whole army of a minimum of one hundred thousand first-class fighters [would have been assembled], if human reason and the feelings of the Austro-Hungarian prisoners and Yugoslav volunteers had been respected. [However], the Greater Serbian officers forced the assembled volunteers into dissidence [through] brutal treatment and the obligation of an oath to the [Serbian] king, while they integrated the Yugoslav volunteers from the emigrant colonies into the Serbian troops in the same way [as the volunteers from Russia]. From all the prečani89 (without any differentiation between them) they wanted to conceal the number and, for political reason, they decreased the precise ratio and also for the main reason that the regular [Serbian] army with its reserves [being active] in continuous battle (and [through] disease after the retreat across the narrow Albanian passes) was reduced to some twenty thousand “effective guns.”90
At the same time, Leontić stated:
M. Vesnić, chief of the diplomatic-military mission of the Kingdom of Serbia, affirmed before the Executive Committee of the JNV [Yugoslav National Council] in Washington, that the Serbian Army was reduced to nineteen thousand fighters. With my own ears I heard this declaration of his.91
Although the Yugoslav Division was formed at the end from those elements which remained in the Corps after the dissidents had left, even those elements more or less faithful to Serbia were prevented from returning to their liberated homeland as victors.
…in accordance with the plan of the [Serbian] Supreme command… [the Yugoslav regiments] were only permitted to enter through Albania ‒ through the “back-door” ‒ Montenegro and Boka [Kotorska], where they were retained as long as possible. Also, owing to unscrupulous treatment [during] demobilization, they were almost completely blocked from influencing political events immediately after the war.92
IV. THE CROATIAN VOLUNTEERS IN ITALY
Apart from the volunteers in Russia and those in South and North America, there were also thousands of Croatians in Italy who were ready to defend Croatian national interests. These had deserted from their units on the Isonzo (Soča) front toward the end of the war and had surrendered to the Italians. Until then, they had fought against the Italians to defend Croatia’s frontiers and the Dual Monarchy.
In order to comprehend this apparent change of heart on their part, it is necessary to understand the situation in 1917 and 1918. During 1917, there were drastic changes in the field of international diplomacy. With the coming to power of the Bolsheviks in Russia, the situation was transformed not only with regard to the governmental form and regime in the country, but also in the attitude towards its Allies. Unlike the Provisional Government, the Bolsheviks did not wish to continue the war with Germany and Austria-Hungary. On 28 November 1917, Lenin sent a note to all governments engaged in the war, asking them to stop the war and to begin negotiations for a “peace without annexation and indemnities on the basis of self-determination of peoples.”93 (Emphasis added.)
Germany and Austria-Hungary responded to this note, and on 22 December started negotiations at Brest-Litovsk.
In England and France, the opinion prevailed that the old Habsburg Monarchy should be preserved, even if in a smaller size, because of the European balance of power. It was simply necessary to reorganize it. Moreover, British and French policymakers saw Austria in the postwar period as a rampart against both German and Russian expansion in this region of the world, because their main enemy was Germany. Only Italy saw Austria-Hungary as its main enemy, as it sought to complete its national unification, secure its predominance on the Adriatic Sea, and prevent Slav expansion.94
The maximum Entente objective in regard to the Habsburg Monarchy was therefore its territorial weakening, not its destruction. At this point Italian diplomacy wished “to organize a bloc of anti-Slavic states from the territorially weakened and reorganized Habsburg Monarchy…[and] the Hungarians and Rumanians.”95 Such a bloc would, in an alliance with Italy, keep the Balkans under control and facilitate Italy’s penetration of these territories. Italy could then build a rampart against further Russian expansion towards the Mediterranean Sea. Since France and England considered Germany as their main enemy, the separation of Austria-Hungary from Germany was the main aim of the Entente’s diplomacy. The young Emperor and King, Karl I, who ascended to the throne after the death of Franz Joseph on 21 November 1916, sent a secret mission to the Entente Powers using the Prince of Parma, and his wife’s brother, Sixtus Bourbon. Unfortunately, his mission was unsuccessful.
Another attempt at a separate peace with Austria-Hungary was made by General Jan Smuts, a member of the British Imperial War Cabinet, and Count Albert Mensdorff-Pouilly, the ex-Austrian Ambassador in London. The talks were held on 18 and 19 December 1917 in Geneva, on the initiative of Count Czernin, the Austrian Foreign Minister. General Smuts informed Mensdorff that Great Britain had decided to destroy Prussian militarism, but that it wished to preserve Austria-Hungary under the condition that the Monarchy separate itself from Germany and be reorganized into a federalist state which would give to its people the widest autonomy. After explaining his conception of the League of Nations and of the British Empire’s destiny as a Commonwealth of Nations, Smuts said to Mensdorff that a similar destiny awaited the Austro-Hungarian Empire, once it broke free from German domination.
The best way to strengthen the bonds of sympathy between the British and Austro-Hungarian people was to liberalize as much as possible the local institutions in Austria-Hungary. We had no intention of interfering with her internal affairs, but we recognized that if Austria could become a really liberal Empire in which her subject peoples would, as far as possible, be satisfied and content, she would become for Central Europe very much what the British Empire had become for the rest of the world. She would become a League of Free Nations, very largely free from the taint of militarism, and she would have a mission in the future even greater than her mission in the past.96
Mensdorff excluded the possibility of a separate peace-treaty for Austria-Hungary, but — according to the Serbian Ambassador, Slavko
Grujić, in his dispatch of 3 November 1917 to Pašić — Mensdorff said “that, in order to strengthen the positions of the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Count O. Czernin, in his negotiations with Berlin, Great Britain should clearly declare its war-aims, including its benevolent attitude towards the Dual Monarchy.”97 However, Mensdorff missed this “God-given” opportunity to conclude a separate peace-treaty between the Allies and Austria-Hungary.
The Entente gave Austria-Hungary a third — and final — opportunity in early January 1918. Great Britain and the United States publicly declared and guaranteed that their war-aims were not the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, but were only intended to secure considerable autonomies for their peoples. These declarations were made in the well-known speech of Lloyd-George (on 5 January 1918) and Wilson’s address a few days later to the U.S. Congress (on 8 January), where the latter outlined his Program for World Peace in the famous Fourteen Points.
In his address, Lloyd George said:
The division of Austria-Hungary is not our war-aim [but] we consider that it is impossible to eliminate the cause of trouble in this part of Europe, … until real autonomy, on evident democratic principles, is given to those Austro-Hungarian nations, for which they have been striving for a long time….98
A similar guarantee was also given to Austria-Hungary through the Fourteen Points. Points ten and eleven, dealing with the destiny of the Southern Slavic people in the Monarchy, declared that:
X: The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity of autonomous development.
XI: Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied territories [by the Central Forces] restored; Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the relations of the several Balkan states to one another determined by counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be established.99
The declarations by Lloyd-George and Wilson were of great political importance. In fact, the two Great Western Powers, namely Great Britain and the U.S.A., did not accept the principle of self-determination for the peoples, but did accept the federalist principle. Through this attitude, America, as the strongest power, deeply involved itself with the question of the form of the solution of the South Slav question.
There is no doubt that America took this attitude primarily because of strategic reasons: to facilitate the conclusion of a separate peace treaty with Austria-Hungary was to weaken Germany. American military experts also thought it better not to declare war on Austria-Hungary, since doing so would diffuse their military power across the European continent. They preferred to concentrate on Germany, because “Germany was the enemy. It had to be crushed first; all the rest will follow….”100
Besides these two reasons for the American approach to the Monarchy, there was, in ultima linea, also an economic reason. The leading
financial American circles considered Austria-Hungary an economic unity best left whole.101
There was one further political-strategic reason to seek a separate peace with Vienna — to prevent Russia ‘s further expansion towards the Mediterranean Sea. This reason was later pushed aside after the unsuccessful attempts at a separate peace-treaty with Austria-Hungary as more immediate strategic interests took priority. In our opinion, this was a cardinal and catastrophic mistake of World War I so far as its short-term and long-term consequences were concerned. Instead of restructuring the old Monarchy as a (con)federal state of equal parts, it was dismembered and the fragments were later easy prey for Hitler’s Germany and, after his defeat, for the Soviet Union, which occupied areas of the former Habsburg empire after 1945.
For many months, Entente diplomacy tried to separate Austria-Hungary from Germany and to conclude a separate peace. When all hopes were lost, as well as that of finishing the war in the near future, no other alternative remained to the Entente Powers other than that of accepting the idea of Henry Wickham Steed, the foreign editor of the London Times, that it was necessary to destroy Austria-Hungary.
Steed believed that the German-Austrian power block could be destroyed not through separation of the one from the other, but only through the destruction of Austria. An instrument to this end was the unsolved nationality question in the Dual Monarchy, particularly the Croatian Question, or the South Slav Question, as it was known. So Entente diplomacy sought to exploit the concept of self-determination. But it was a concept that proved itself to be extremely powerful and “explosive,” all the more so because the Dual Monarchy had surrendered its freedom to act to Germany and could no longer take independent decisions. Under these conditions, internal dissatisfaction led to demoralization on the Italian front, which rapidly deteriorated. Not only individual soldiers, but whole units rallied to the Italian side and in about six months, Austria-Hungary founded itself totally ruined. This process of internal decay was the reason why suddenly tens of thousands of Croatian soldiers surrendered during the last months of the War.
Ivan Meštrović was an eye-witness to these events, and his lucid account of the problem of the Croatian volunteers is of particular interest:
Many of our prisoners-of-war were in Italy. There were thousands of applications at the Serbian legation, requesting permission to join the volunteers and during the Congress — [held in Rome in April 1918] — and right after it there were more than twenty thousand [additional] soldiers and officers who registered themselves as volunteers…. Our prisoners of war, as well as we ourselves [the members of the Yugoslav Committee in London], requested that they may join the Salonica front, or create a specific Yugoslav unit in Italy, which would be led by our officers.
The Serbian Government wished them to go to the Salonica front, while the Italians were excusing themselves because of technical difficulties…. On the very day of Vidovdan [28 June], we, Trumbić and I, went to Nocera Umbra, where the officers of Yugoslav (sic!) nationality gathered, who demanded their separation from the Germans and the Hungarians. There were somewhat more than two hundred officers, of which one hundred and eighty declared themselves in a written form ready to go and fight against Austria. The soldiers, who declared themselves volunteers were about thirty thousand and said that there would be even more…. [Their head was a staff-officer], Colonel [Stanko] Turudija, who told us that he had not succeeded, in two attempts, in surrendering to the Italians with his soldiers…102
Apparently, the troops increasingly saw the Dual Monarchy as captive to Germany. Here is how Colonel Turudija explained it to Ivan Meštrović:
We were fighting like lions with the conviction that we were fighting for our land and (our Croatian) people, as you were fighting over there, and I would rather commit suicide than surrender to the Italians. Then, as a rumour started that the Emperor tried to make a (separate) treaty with the Entente (but without success, G.G.), they sent us the Germans and, when we saw the Prussian helmets, we thought: There is no more Monarchy, Wilhelm (the German Kaiser) commands now. From that time on, I wished to surrender but did not succeed, for, whenever I tried to surrender, the Italians surrendered to us.103
Then Turadija said:
If the London Treaty (of 1915) is abolished, we will all come over to this side. I spoke with Borojević.104 He thinks as I do. He was trembling all over because of relentlessness for action – (says Meštrović) – like a hound which is tied and hears yelping. He was saying that he is thinking day and night about action, that he has a complete plan in his head by which all our regions would be liberated in one month.
The Allies do not need to give us a single soldier, only weapons, and transport us from Ancona to central Dalmatia. Where and how, I will tell them, for I know where every single cannon is located, how many of them there are and of which kind. If the Allies do that, in twenty days all the maritime and mountain regions will be in our hands and the Austrian fleet will come to our side; in one month (also) the Italian fleet will not exist.
(Meštrović noted that Turudija had) asserted this in a fanatic way, indicating with his finger on a map, explaining it in a soldier-like manner; I, of course, did not disguise the fact that I do not understand it.105
We have now dealt, to a certain extent, with the problem of Croatian volunteers in World War I, those in Russia and South America, as well as in Italy. We must still present a short introduction to the Interpellation on this subject. As we said at the beginning, we will later present some reflections which may serve as conclusions to this subject.
1Interpellation (Lat. Interpellare), to interrupt the order of the day by demanding an explanation from the Minister concerned; to submit a written request to the concerned Minister regarding a particular subject. The author of this treatise published this Interpellation with an extensive introduction, in the Croatian weekly Danica (The Morning Star), Chicago, Illinois, from vol. 54, No. 40 (12 October 1984) through vol. 55, No. 28 (26 July 1985). The editor’s introduction was in vol. 54, No. 39 (5 Oct. 1984)
2Ante Trumbić was born on 17 May 1864 in the town of Split. He studied Law in Zagreb, Vienna, and Graz, then worked as a lawyer in Split. After joining the influential Party of Rights (Stranka prava), he was elected to the Dalmatian Diet. From the mid 1890s, Trumbié was active in the Dalmatian Diet. He was one of the main creators of a “new political course” and the Rijeka resolution (Riječka rezolucija). In 1908 he began to edit a daily newspaper, Velebit, at Split. During World War I he lived abroad and led the Yugoslav Committee (Jugoslavenski odbor) in London. After the war, when the state of the Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians was created, Trumbić became its Minister of Foreign Affairs. He participated in the Versailles Peace Conference and the negotiations with Italy over the “Adriatic Question”. Deeply disappointed with the political structure of the new state, after the proclamation of the Vidovdan Constitution in 1921, Trumbić left the government to work for a federalist restructuring of the state. He did not belong to any political party, but in 1924 Trumbić jointed the Croatian Association (Hrvatska zajednica) and in 1925 he worked with Stjepan Radić (1871-1928), the most prominent Croatian politician Of the time. In 1926, Trumbić created the Croatian Federalist Peasant Party (Hrvatska federalistička seljačka stranka), and the following year, he was elected to the Parliament. In 1928, after the assassination of Stjepan Radić and his colleagues in the Parliament in Belgrade, Trumbić collaborated with Radić’s Croatian Peasant Party (HSS, Hrvatska Seljačka Stranka) In 1932, Trumbić created a political program for the Peasant Democratic Coalition (Seljačka demokratska koalicija), the Zagreb Points (Zagrebačke punktacije). Trumbić was a decisive opponent of the Serbian unitarist-centralist policy implemented by the Yugoslav regime. He died on 17 November 1938. His last years were spent in poverty.
3The date of the Committee’s establishment and constitution is still a matter of controversy. Ljubo Leontić, a political émigré in Italy from the beginning of World War I, one of the most active leaders of the younger émigrés, and a founding member of the Committee, claimed that the Yugoslav Committee in London was already de facto established in November 1914, and then constituted de jure at the plenary session in Rome on January 24, 1915.” See Ljubo Leontić, O Jugoslavenskom Odboru u Londonu: Jugoslavenska Narodna Obrana u Južnoj Americi i Jugoslavensko Narodno Vijeće u Washingtonu. (Zagreb: Jugoslavenska Akademija Znanosti i Umjetnosti (JAZU), 1961), p. 22.
4The other members were: Frano Supilo, Ivan Mešrović, Milan Marjanović, Jovo Banjanin, Milan Srškić, Dr. Bogumil Vošnjak, Dr. Gustav Gregorin, Dr. Hinko Hinković, Dr. Franko Potočnjak, Dr. Julije Gazzari, Dr. Dinko Trinajstić, Dr. Mića Mičić, Dr. Nikola Stojanović, Dušan Vasiljević, Niko Župančić, Ivo De Guilli, and Josip Jedlowski. Several months later Dr. Ante Mandić, Dr. Ante Biankini, Rev. Niko Gršković, Ćiro Kamenarović, Paško Baburica, Vjekoslav Mitrović, Franjo Petrinović, Mihailo Pupin, and Pavle Popović joined. See Franjo Tudjman, “Jugoslavenski odbor i stvaranje zajedničke države jugoslavenskih naroda” in Vaso Bogdanov and others, eds., Jugoslavenski Odbor u Londonu: O povodu 50-godišnjice osnivanja. (Zagreb: JAZU, 1966) p. 396; and Milada Paulova, Jugoslavenski Odbor; povijest jugoslavenske emigracije za svjetskog rata od 1914.-1918. (Zagreb: Prosvjetna Nakladna Zadruga, 1925), p. 73.
5In our opinion, the term South or Southern Slavs is misleading, given that we do not refer to Northern Slavs. We speak about Poles, Czechs, and Slovaks. The South Slavs include nations with their own distinct names, histories, national characters, and separate national awareness, e.g., Bulgarians, Croatians, Montenegrins, Slovenians, and Serbs. This term was a creation of the 19th century and is used in this study only for convenience and should be abandoned as both obsolete and inexact.
6Franko Potočnjak, Iz Emigracije, IV: U Rusiji (Zagreb: Tisak Narodnih Novina, 1926), p. 4.
7Potočnjak, Ibid., p. 88.
8The Treaty of London was signed 26 April 1915 by Italy, England, France, and Russia. It assigned Italy, as an inducement to leave the camp of the Central Powers and come over to that of the Entente, Istria, Gorica, Trieste, Northern Dalmatia to the outskirts of Trogir, and almost all of the islands from Krk to Korčula. Owing in part to the objections to it by the President of the United States, this pact was not taken into consideration at the Paris Peace Conference. The borders of the newly created Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians, and Slovenians were only fixed in a separate treaty with Italy, signed at Rapallo on 12 September 1920.
9Potočnjak, op. cit., pp. 89, 102.
10Dragoslav Janković, “O odnosima Jugoslavenskog odbora sa srpskom vladom u 1916. godini,” Historijski zbornik, Zagreb, Vol. XXIX-XXX (1976-77), p. 456.
11Janković, op. cit., p. 456, Note 5.
12Ante Mandić: Fragmenti za historiju ujedinjenja. Povodom četrdeset godišnjice osnivanja Jugoslavenskog odbora (Zagreb: Jugoslavenska Akademija Znanosti i Umjetnosti (JAZU), 1956) p. 40.
13Ljubo Leontić: “O Jugoslavenskom odboru u Londonu; Jugoslavenska narodna obrana u Južnoj Americi i Jugoslavensko narodno vijeće u Washingtonu,” Starine, Knjiga 50 (Zagreb: JAZU, 1960), p. 25.
14DASIP; MID; PO [Diplomatski arhiv Državnog sekretarijata za inostrane poslove; Ministarstvo inostranih dela Srbije; Političko odelenje. Diplomatic Archives of the State Secretariat for Foreign Affairs; The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Serbia; Political Division]. 1916, f.[fascicule] IX, d. [dossier] VI. Srpske novine. (The Serbian Newspaper) No. 14, 10. 5. 1916, Pregled strane štampe, Pisanje ruskih novina, Ruskoe slovo, Reč, Birževye Vedomosti. Cited by D. Janković, p. 461.
15DASIP, MID, PO, 1916, f. IX, d. VI, Letters of 24.4.1916 and 27.4.1917 from Ristić in Rome to the (Serbian) Government on Corfu and to Pašić in Petersburg. Cited by D. Janković, Ibid., p. 461. See also Pašić’s declaration to Renzo Larco, Corriere della Sera, 9 May 1916. Cited by Mandić: Op. Cit., pp. 222-223, Document No. 149, Petersburg, 6/5, 23 April 1916.
16Edward Viscount of Falladon Grey (1862-1934) Minister of Foreign Affairs of Great Britain (1905-1916), leader of the Liberals and an opponent of Lloyd George, succeeded in entering into an agreement with Russia. In 1904 Great Britain and France came to an agreement regarding the colonial question in Northern Africa and from it developed a political Alliance (Entente), which received a semi-official name Entente cordiale (Germ. Herzliches Einverständnis, Croatian Srdačni savez. From this Alliance there developed (1907) the Tripleentente (Dreiverband, Trojni savez) between Great Britain, France and Russia, which remained in force during World War I. The smaller Powers later joined the “Tripleentente”, also known as Alliés et associés (Saveznici i Pridruženi). A general term was Entente Powers (Sile Antante) which defeated the Central Powers composed of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy (which during the war joined the Entente Powers for the price of the Croatian territories and colonial compensation, stipulated in the London Treaty 1915) and some other smaller Powers.
17Janković, op. cit., p. 463, Note 29.
18Ibid., p. 462, note 28, for Vesnić’s telegram from Paris to the Serbian Government on Corfu of 18. l. 1916.
19Mandić, op. cit., 40.
20Ibid., p. 40.
21Potočnjak, op. cit., p. 3.
22Ibid., p. 2.
23Mandić, op. cit., p. 43.
24Ibid., p. 43.
25Potočnjak, op. cit., p. 104.
26Mandić, op. cit., p. 44
27Marko Marković, “Udeo dobrovoljaca u oslobodilačkom ratu,” Misel in Delo, Kulturna in Socijalna revija. (Ljubljana, 1938) No. 12, pp. 68-80.
28Potočnjak, op. cit., p. 108.
29Ibid., p. 104.
30Ibid., p. 105.
31Ibid., p. 1 10.
32Marko Cemović: Domovina, Zagreb, 1 January 1920. Cited by Potočnjak, op. cit., p. 110.
33Potočnjak, op. cit., 110.
34Ibid., p. 111.
36Mandić, Fragmenti, p. 46.
37Mandić, op. cit., pp. 206-213. Document No. 141: “Mandić Odboru o situaciji i o radu u Rusiji” (Mandić to the Committee about the situation and work in Russia). (Petrograd [Petersburg], 30/17 October 1915). AJO-JAZU (Arhiv Jugoslavenskog Odbora Jugoslavenska Akademija Znanosti i Umjetnosti. The Archives of the Yugoslav Committee, Yugoslav Academy of Science and Art), fascicle 84-I- Dr. Mandić.
38Potočnjak, op. cit., p. 7.
39Ibid., p. 9.
41Ibid., p. 14.
42A Croatian politician of Jewish background, Dr. Josip Frank was born in Osijek, Croatia, in 1844 and died in Zagreb in 1911. Frank collaborated closely with Ante Starčević (1823-1896), founder of the influential Party of Rights (Stranka prava), which sought an independent Croatia within the boundaries of the Habsburg Monarchy — a form of trialism, dividing the Monarchy into Austro-German, Hungarian, and Croatian areas. A close collaborator of Ante Starčević was Eugen Kvaternik (1825-1871), co-founder of the Party of Rights. After the death of Starčević, the Party of Rights split into two factions: the Croatian Party of Rights (Hrvatska stranka prava) led by Josip Frank, known as “Frankovci” (Frankists); and Starčević’s Party of Rights (Starčevićeva stranka prava) led by Mile Starčević, a nephew of Dr. Ante Starčević; it was therefore also known as “Milinovci” (The Followers of Mile [Starčević]).
43Potočnjak, op. cit., p. 7-8, 20.
44Mandić, op. cit., p. 48.
45Milada Paulova, Jugoslavenski odbor; povijest jugoslavenske emigracije za svjetskoga rata od 1914.-1918. (Zagreb: Prosvjetna nakladna zadruga, , pp. 249-250).
46Paulova, op. cit., p. 253.
47Mandić, op. cit., p. 48.
48Ibid., p. 233.Doc. 155 (pp. 231-237), AJO, Fasc. 84 -1- Mandić. Original. (“Supplement to Mandić’s letter to Hinković about Volunteers.” [Petrograd?] 18/5 November 1916).
49Mandić, op. cit., p. 46.
50Paulova, op. cit., p. 254.
52Ibid., p. 255.
53Potočnjak, op. cit., pp. 34-35.
54Ibid., p. 39.
55Ivan Meštrović, Uspomene na političke ljude i dogadjaje. (Buenos Aires: Knjižnica Hrvatske Revije, 1961), p. 70.
56Paulova, op. cit., pp. 318-319.
57From the Declaration of the Croatian and Slovenian Officers of the Volunteer corps. (Odessa, March 1917) See Mandić, op. cit., pp. 238-239, Doc. 158, AJO, Fasc. 8, Jugoslavenski odbor in Russia.
58Mandić, op. cit., pp. 239-240, Doc. 159, Slovenski Jug, Odessa, 1 June/19 May 1917, No. 17. (Italics in original)
59Paulova, op. cit., pp. 320-321.
<sup60Marković, op. cit., p. 77.
61Paulova, op. cit., p. 238.
62Ibid., p. 241.
63Ibid., p. 256.
64Ibid., p. 233.
65Zorka Stefanović-Djačić, “O ulozi naših iseljenika u Južnoj Americi za vrijeme Prvog svjetskog rata,” in Jugoslavenski odbor u Londonu; u povodu 50-godišnjice osnivanja. Editor, Vaso Bogdanov. (Zagreb: JAZU, 1966), p. 533.
66Paulova, op. cit., pp. 259-260.
67Paulova, op. cit., p. 260. (emphasis in the original)
68Ibid., p. 231.
70Paulova, op. cit., p. 269; Paulova also gives the minutes as well as a larger part of Trumbić’s letter: pp. 264-270.
71Ibid., p. 263.
72Ibid., p. 271.
73Cited by M. Paulova, Ibid., p. 272.
74Paulova, Ibid., p. 271.
75Gradja o stvaranju jugoslavenske države (1.I – 20.XII.1918), (ed., Dragoslav Janković and Bogdan Krizman) (Belgrade, 1964) 2 vols. Vol. I, p. 85, Doc. 66: M. Pribićević to M. Rašić,. New York, 5. II.[February] 1918.
76Gradja, op. cit., p. 129, Doc. 101, Vol. I, Mihailović to Pašić, Washington, 14/1 March 1918.
77Ibid, pp. 136-7, Doc. 107, Vol. I, Vesnić to Pašić. Paris, 20/7 March 1918.
78This journey was financed by the Serbian Government with 5,000 liras – the minimum that could cover his basic expenses. See Potočnjak, op. cit., p. 25.
79Paulova, op. cit., p. 66.
80Ibid, pp. 66-67.
81Potočnjak, op. cit., pp. 34-35.
82Ibid., pp. 35-36.
83Janković, op. cit., p. 459.
84Ibid., p. 459, note 12, Diplomatski arhiv Državnog sekretarijata za inostrane poslove (Diplomatic Archives of the State’s Secretariat for Foreign Affairs) and Političko odelenje (Political Division), 1916, f. IV., d. 1.: Pašić 27.I.1916.
85Mandić, op. cit., pp. 217-218.
86Gradja, op. cit., p. 337, Doc. 267, note 2, Vol. I.
87Mandić, op. cit., p. 74, note 26.
88The Salonica front extended from the Adriatic to the Ionian Sea, about 500 km. wide. The Allies’ Operative Forces counted 600,000 soldiers on the whole front against about the same number of soldiers of the Central Forces. The battle began on 14 September 1918 at 8 o’clock in the morning. Of particular importance was the peak of the mountain Kajmakčalan (2,521 m. above sea level) as the main defense point of the Bulgarian forces. See Svetozar Pribićević: Diktatura kralja Aleksandra. (Beograd, 1952) p. 64, cited by A. Mandić, op. cit., p. 74, note 26.
89The term prečani refers to the Serbs in Croatian areas, i.e., on the other side of the Drina River, which was seen as dividing the Occidental and Oriental civilizations and thus marking the historical boundary between Croatia and Serbia.
90See Ljubo Leontić, “O Jugoslavenskom odboru u Londonu; Jugoslavenska narodna obrana u Južnoj Americi i Jugoslavensko narodno vijeće u Washingtonu,” in Starine, Book 50 (Zagreb: JAZU, 1960), p. 79.
91Ibid., note 85. (Emphasis in the original).
92Leontić, op. cit., p. 80.
93Victor S. Mamatey: The United States and East Central Europe, 1914-1918; A Study in Wilsonian Diplomacy and Propaganda. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1957), p. 96.
94Dragovan Šepić: “Politika rušenja Austro-Ugarske i Južni Slaveni,” in Vasa Čubrilović, et al., Naučni skup; u povodu 50-godišnjice raspada austro-ugarske monarhije i stvaranja jugoslavenske države, Zagreb, 27-28. prosinca 1968. godine. (Zagreb: JAZU, 1969), p. 112.
95Ibid., pp. 112-113.
96W. K. Hancock, Smuts; the Sanguine Years, 1870-1919. (Cambridge: University Press, 1962), Vol. I, p. 467; see also: David Lloyd-George, War Memoirs (Boston: Little Brown, 1936), Vol. 5, pp. -36, and Vol. 4, pp. -261.
97Notes, Ante Trumbić, London, 8. I. 1918, in Gradja, op. cit., p. 20, Doc. 8, note 5, Vol. I; see also Hancock, Smuts, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 466-468.
98Gradja, op. cit., p. 14, Doc.2, Vol. I.
99Robert J. Wexler, ed., Woodrow Wilson, 1856-1924; Chronolou, Documents, Bibliographical Aids. (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana Publications, 1969), p. 92.
100Mamatey, op. cit., p. 74.
101Milorad Ekmečić, “Stavovi Nikole Pašića prema američkim planovima pretvaranja Austro-Ugarske u federativnu državu,” in Naučni skup, op. cit., p. 161.
102Meštrović, Uspomene, op. cit., p. 109.
103Ibid., p. 110.
104Svetozar von Borojević (1856-1920), a Croatian of the Orthodox faith from the Lika region, was the supreme Austro-Hungarian commander on the Carpathians (1914-1915) and on the Italian front (1915-1918).
105Meštrović: op.cit. p.110 (Emphasis added).
This work deals with the question of Croatian volunteers during World War I. The main part consists of an Interpellation which was submitted to the Croatian Sabor (Parliament) on 6 July 1918. Together with other documentation, it tells of Serbian misdeeds against those Croatian prisoners of war in Russia who were sent to Odessa in 1917. In a Conclusion I will add my own reflections.