May 1918

The Romanian way to the war

By Joachim Bürgschwentner

On 8th May 1918 one topic dominated the front pages of the Austro-Hungarian newspapers: the peace treaty signed the day before with Romania. This put a definitive end to the 1916/17 campaign, which the Central Powers waged successfully, though it did put their forces under strain, and which only the Russian Revolution managed to bring to an end.

The Romanian way to the war:

In 1883 Romania had joined the Triple Alliance of the German Empire, Austria-Hungary and Italy. However, relations between Romania and the Habsburg monarchy in the years prior to the war had clearly deteriorated due to Hungary’s nationality (Magyarisation) policy in Transylvania and diplomatic ill will during the Second Balkan War. Romania’s increasing proximity to Russia at this point did not please Germany, who wanted to bind Romania to the Central Powers on the basis of its strategic significance. Aside from the fact that the Kingdom of Romania had the strongest army in numerical terms in the region, it could, according to which allies it chose, represent a buffer or link between Serbia and Russia, as well as serve as an ideal starting point for offensives against either Ukraine, or Transylvania. Romania took advantage of the fact that the Triple Alliance agreement was an obligation to provide mutual support only in the event of a direct attack to declare itself neutral – just like Italy - after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28 August 1914. Subsequently both the Central Powers and the Entente attempted to get Romania to join on their side. The Government however decided to wait and see whereby it emerged – again similar to Italy – that greater territorial gains were to be expected from the Entente at the expense of the Habsburg Monarchy. As well as a “unification of Greater Romania “ with Bukovina and Transylvania, Rumania aimed at reclaiming the parts of Dobroja that had been lost to Bulgaria in 1912. The prospect of these regions, in combination with its rival Bulgaria entering the war on the side of the Central Powers in October 1915, led Romania to declare war on Austria-Hungary ten months later.
The offensive against Romania
Although Romania after August 1914 had endeavoured to effectively remain neutral, the Central Powers suspected, and not without good reason, that the Government was merely waiting for the right moment to enter the war on the side of the presumable victors. Especially in the first half of 1916, the Chief of the German General Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn awaited almost daily for Romania to declare war. The Central Powers were already working in advance on directives for a campaign to this effect. These were based on the assumption that Romania would launch a major attack against Transylvania, which needed to be blocked, as well as minor battles to defend areas along the Danube and Dobruja against Bulgaria, which would have been repulsed with their own rapid offensive. Despite these assumptions and preparations, Romania’s entry into war in August 1916 came as a shock to the Central Powers who, at this point no longer expecting it, found themselves in an extremely precarious position. Though the campaign, carried out according to the previously devised tactics, put their forces under strain and led to troops being withdrawn from other theatres of war, it was however, over the following months very successful. 
Due to the Army’s insufficient training and equipment however, as well as its poor artillery and inadequate infrastructure, after some initial success the Romanian offensive in Transylvania soon ground to a halt. The German-Bulgarian-Turkish offensive in Dobruja and the occupation of the region by the Danube Army under the leadership of August von Mackensen as well as the counter-offensive led by Falkenhayn, now Commander in Chief of the 9th Army in Transylvania, soon pushed Romania on the defensive. Despite quantitive inferiority, Falkenhayn’s mobile warfare methods and tactical-operational superiority enabled a breakthrough to be made on 11 November on the Transylvanian border, where the local mountain front collapsed within a few weeks. In the following month the Danube Army also occupied both the capital Bucharest and the economically important oil fields of Ploesti, at which point more than half of the country lay in the hands of the Central Powers. They did not succeed however in encircling and annihilating the Romanian army, which withdrew into Moldavia on the Russian border where the King and the Government had also fled. There the Army was able to reorganise and together with Russian units form a new front. Despite the difficult situation, which deteriorated even further as a result of the February Revolution, it was also possible to successfully mobilise the population. This maintained significant numbers of Central Powers’ forces tied up on the Romanian front.

From vanquished to victors
After the withdrawal of their Russian allies from the war, Romania’s situation appeared bleak. Two days after peace negotiations began in Brest-Litovsk on 7 December 1917, the Focşani Armistice was concluded, followed on 5 March 1918 by a provisional peace treaty and in May 1918 by the definitive Treaty of Bucharest. This forced Romania to transfer control of the Carpathian Mountain passes to Austria-Hungary and cede parts of Dobruja to Bulgaria; moreover the Central Powers also maintained access to Romanian resources. With the exception of the Salonica Front, the peace treaty brought the Central Powers “peace along the entire Eastern front“, as the "Illustrierte Kronen-Zeitung" on 8 May 1918 announced with delight. Parliament however delayed the ratification of the treaty and at the end of the conflict Romania re-entered the war. Romania finally emerged from World War I as a victorious power. The territories gained through the Treaties of Paris led to the Kingdom of Romania becoming known as România Mare (Greater Romania, 1919–1940).

La pace di Bucarest

di Wojciech Łysek

"Sconfitta la Russia e la Bulgaria in attesa di ritorsioni - era troppo pericoloso per la Romania rinunciare alla neutralità",

Sir Edward Gray, ministro degli Esteri della Gran Bretagna (1905-1916).

 

Con il trattato segreto del 30 ottobre 1883, la Romaniaaveva stipulato un'alleanza di carattere difensivo con l'Impero austro-ungarico e della Germania. Tuttavia, allo scoppio della guerra, trovandosi in una situazione simile all'Italia, dichiarò la propria neutralità. La vittoria a Verdun e l'offensiva del generale Alexei Brusilov del 1916 convinsero la Romania ad unirsi all'Intesa. Il 17 agosto 1916 fu firmato a Bucarest un accordo con Francia, Russia, Gran Bretagna e Italia. In base ad esso la Romania si unì alla guerra; in cambio l'Intesa le promise la Transilvania fino alla linea Debrecen-Szeged, il Banato, gran parte della Bucovina e i territori ungheresi fino al fiume Tisa.

La Romania dichiarò guerra all'Austria-Ungheria il 27 agosto 1916 e nei giorni seguenti a Germania, Turchia e Bulgaria. Dopo i primi successi in Transilvania, le forze rumene furono travolte dalla controffensiva degli imperi centrali sotto il comando del generale August von Mackensen. Bucarest fu conquistata il 4 dicembre 1916. Il re e il governo si trasferirono a Iași  (Moldavia rumena). Nel gennaio del 1917, il fronte si stabilizzò lungo il fiume Seret.

La presa del potere dei bolscevichi in Russia dopo la rivoluzione di ottobre, gettò la Romania in una situazione critica. Le perdite ammontavano a circa 800.000 persone, il 10% della popolazione, la produzione agricola era crollata e la popolazione afflitta dalla fame, dalla disoccupazione e dall'inflazione. Con il consenso dell'Intesa, il governo rumeno firmò un cessate il fuoco il 9 dicembre 1917 a Fokshan.

Le intenzioni tedesche riguardo lo sfruttamento della Romania erano limitate all'accesso ai gacimenti petroliferi e dei prodotti agricoli. A sua volta, l'Austria-Ungheria non aveva una politica coerente nei confronti del vicino sconfitto. Da una parte gli austriaci condividevano gli obiettivi dei tedeschi riguardo lo sfruttamento economico della Romania. D'altra parte, gli ungheresi cercarono di correggere la linea di confine nei Carpazi, prendendo possesso delle foreste e delle materie prime.

In vista del passaggio delle élite polacche all'opposizione, a seguito alla consegna dei territori del Chełm all'Ucraina con il trattato di Brest, gli austriaci dovettero supportare le istanze ungheresi per mantenere un controllo stabile entro la duplice monarchia, provocando l'insoddisfazione tedesca. La Bulgaria, a sua volta, richiese tutta la Dobrugia, provincia persa nel 1913, insieme al porto di Costanza.

Alla fine di gennaio 1918 iniziarono i colloqui non ufficiali. Il governo di Ion Bratian rifiutò di accettare le condizioni e si dimise il 9 febbraio. Il nuovo gabinetto fu guidato dal generale Alexandru Avarescu il 10 febbraio. Il ​​24 febbraio ebbero inizio i negoziati presso il castello del principe Barbu Ştirbey, a Buftea, vicino a Bucarest. Dopo turbolenti negoziati con Richard von Kuhlmann, il conte Ottokar Czernin e il generale Avarescu, questi firmò gli accordi di pace a Buftea, il 5 marzo 1918. I negoziati sugli accordi finali furono condotti dal conservatore e filo-tedesco Alexandru Marghiloman, nominato il 19 marzo. Durante i negoziati tra il 6 e il 29 marzo 1918 nel castello reale, vicino a Bucarest, a Cotroceni, gli austriaci rinunciarono alle proprie mire sulle città di Turnu-Severin e Ocna. I colloqui sull'accordo definitivo richiesero cinque settimane, a causa di una serie di divergenze tra gli imperi centrali.

La pace di Bucarest tra Romania e Germania, Austria-Ungheria, Bulgaria e Turchia, che pose fine ufficialmente allo stato di guerra, fu firmata a Cotroceni il 7 maggio 1918. Secondo i 31 articoli dell'accordo, la Romania cedeva la Dobrugia meridionale alla Bulgaria insieme al porto di Costanza. L'impero Austro-Ungarico ricevetto una striscia di confine da Turnu-Severin alla riva del Prut e il controllo dei valichi dei Carpazi. La Romania ricevette dalla Russia la Bessarabia, l'odierna Moldavia. Gli Imperi centrali e l'Intesa approvarono questa annessione per timore della diffusione della rivoluzione nei Balcani. Al contempo, tedeschi e austriaci si aspettavano che l'occupazione della Bessarabia avrebbe minato i rapporti tra Romania e Russia. L'esercito rumeno fu costretto a smobilitare al di fuori delle armate in Besserabia, causando il rientro in patria della missione militare francese.

In base a ulteriori accordi, la Germania richiese riparazioni di guerra tali da assicurarsi i profitti dallo sfruttamento economico della Romania. Negli anni 1918-1926 gli stati centrali avrebbero dovuto ricevere le eccedenze agricole e dall'allevamento. Inoltre la Romania concedeva in locazione alla Germania i propri pozzi petroliferi per 30 anni, grantendo il rinnovo per tre volte (90 anni in totale).

Il trattato provocò un'ondata di risentimento nella società rumena, nei confronti soprattutto delle annessioni da parte dell'Austria-Ungheria e della Bulgaria. In seguito all'accordo, il re e il governo si trasferirono a Iași controllando il nord della Moldavia rumena e la Bessarabia, mentre il resto del paese fu posto sotto l'occupazione degli imperi centrali. Inoltre a Romania fu costretta a mantenere un esercito di 480 mila uomini sul suo territorio. A seguito delle requisizioni, 2 milioni di tonnellate di grano e altri prodotti agricoli e bestiame furono prelevati nell'ottobre 1918.

Il trattato di Bucarest fu approvato dal parlamento del Reich con una vasta maggioranza di voti il 4 luglio 1918. Il socialista Gustav Noske riconobbe il controllo sul petrolio come una misura di difesa necessaria per la Germania,criticando solo l'arricchimento delle imprese tedesche a spese dei lavoratori rumeni.

Nell'autunno del 1918, con il precipitare della situazione militare ad occidente, la Germania accettò i 14 punti di Wilson, venendo costretta ad evacuare la Romania nell'arco di 15 giorni.

La Romania entrò nuovamente in guerra il 10 novembre 1918. Approfittando della dissoluzione dell'Impero austro-ungarico, occupò la Bucovina entrando in conflitto con l'Ungheria.

Con il trattato di Trianon del 4 giugno 1920 furono stabiliti i nuovi confini: la Romania ricevette la Transilvania, la Bessarabia e la Bucovina, mentre il Banato venne diviso tra con il neonato Regno dei serbi, croati e sloveni.

Bibliografia:

Barbara Jelavich, Historia Bałkanów, t. 2 – Wiek XX, Kraków, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, 2005.

Janusz Pajewski, „Mitteleuropa”. Studia z dziejów imperializmu niemieckiego w dobie pierwszej wojny światowej, Poznań, Instytut Zachodni, 1959.

Mieczysław Tanty, Bałkany w XX wieku. Dzieje polityczne, Warszawa, Książka i Wiedza, 2003.

Małgorzata Willaumee, Rumunia, Warszawa, Wydawnictwo Trio, 2004.

TheTreaty of Bucharest

di Wojciech Łysek

"Defeated Russia and Bulgaria awaiting retaliation - it was too dangerous for Romania to give up neutrality",

Sir Edward Gray, Foreign Minister of Great Britain (1905-1916).

 

With the secret treaty of 30 October 1883, Romania had entered into a defensive alliance with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany, however, at the outbreak of the war, finding itself in a situation similar to Italy, declared its neutrality. The victory at Verdun and the offensive of General Alexei Brusilov of 1916 convinced Romania to join the Entente. On 17 August 1916 an agreement was signed in Bucharest with France, Russia, Great Britain and Italy. According to it, Romania joined the war; in exchange, the Entente promised Transylvania to the Debrecen-Szeged line, the Banat, most of Bucovina and the Hungarian territories to the Tisa River.

Romania declared war on Austria-Hungary on 27 August 1916 and in the days following to Germany, Turkey and Bulgaria. After the first successes in Transylvania, the Romanian forces were overwhelmed by the counter-offensive of the central empires under the command of General August von Mackensen. Bucharest was conquered on December 4, 1916. The king and the government moved to Iaşi (Romanian Moldavia). In January 1917, the front stabilized along the river Seret.

The seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in Russia after the October Revolution threw Romania into a critical situation. Losses amounted to about 800,000 people, 10% of the population, agricultural production had collapsed and the population was plagued by hunger, unemployment and inflation. With the consent of the Entente, the Romanian government signed a ceasefire on 9 December 1917 in Fokshan.

The German intentions regarding the exploitation of Romania were limited to access to oil and agricultural products. In turn, Austria-Hungary did not have a coherent policy towards the neighbor who was defeated. On the one hand, the Austrians shared the objectives of the Germans regarding the economic exploitation of Romania. On the other hand, the Hungarians tried to correct the border line in the Carpathians, taking possession of the forests and raw materials.

In view of the passage of the Polish elites to the opposition, following the surrender of the territories of Chełm to Ukraine with the Treaty of Brest, the Austrians had to support the Hungarian authorities to maintain a stable control within the double monarchy, provoking German dissatisfaction . Bulgaria, in turn, requested the entire Dobrugia, a province lost in 1913, together with the port of Constance.

At the end of January 1918 unofficial talks began. The government of Ion Bratian refused to accept the conditions and resigned on 9 February. The new cabinet was led by General Alexandru Avarescu on 10 February. On 24 February negotiations began at the castle of Prince Barbu Ştirbey, in Buftea, near Bucharest. After turbulent negotiations with Richard von Kuhlmann, Count Ottokar Czernin and General Avarescu, he signed the peace agreements in Buftea on 5 March 1918. The negotiations on the final agreements were conducted by the conservative and pro-German Alexandru Marghiloman, appointed on 19 March. During the negotiations between 6 and 29 March 1918 in the royal castle, near Bucharest, in Cotroceni, the Austrians gave up their aims on the cities of Turnu-Severin and Ocna. The talks on the final agreement took five weeks, due to a series of divergences between the central empires.

The peace of Bucharest between Romania and Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey, which officially ended the state of war, was signed in Cotroceni on 7 May 1918. According to the 31 articles of the agreement, Romania ceded southern Dobrudia to Bulgaria together with the port of Constance. The Austro-Hungarian Empire received a border strip from Turnu-Severin to the bank of the Prut and the control of the Carpathian passes. Romania received Bessarabia (today Moldova) from Russia. The Central Empires and the Entente approved this annexation for fear of the spread of the revolution in the Balkans. At the same time, Germans and Austrians expected that the occupation of Bessarabia would undermine relations between Romania and Russia. The Romanian army was forced to demobilize outside the armies in Besserabia, causing the return of the French military mission.

On the basis of further agreements, Germany required war reparations to secure profits from the economic exploitation of Romania. In the years 1918-1926, the central states should have received agricultural and livestock surpluses. In addition, Romania leased its oil wells to Germany for 30 years, granting renewal three times (90 years in total).

The treaty provoked a wave of resentment in the Romanian society, especially against the annexations by Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. Following the agreement, the king and the government moved to Iaşi by controlling the north of Romanian Moldavia and Bessarabia, while the rest of the country was placed under the occupation of the central empires. In addition, Romania was forced to maintain an army of 480 thousand men on its territory. Following the requisitions, 2 million tons of wheat and other agricultural products and livestock were taken in October 1918.

The Treaty of Bucharest was approved by the parliament of the Reich by a vast majority of votes on 4 July 1918. The Socialist Gustav Noske recognized control over oil as a necessary defense measure for Germany, criticizing only the enrichment of German companies at the expense of the Romanian workers.

In the autumn of 1918, with the fall of the military situation in the West, Germany accepted the 14 points of Wilson, being forced to evacuate Romania over a period of 15 days.

Romania entered the war again on 10 November 1918. Taking advantage of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it occupied Bucovina entering into conflict with Hungary.

With the Trianon treaty of 4 June 1920 the new borders were established: Romania received Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bucovina, while the Banat was divided between the newborn Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

Bibliography:

Barbara Jelavich, Historia Bałkanów, t. 2 – Wiek XX, Kraków, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, 2005.

Janusz Pajewski, „Mitteleuropa”. Studia z dziejów imperializmu niemieckiego w dobie pierwszej wojny światowej, Poznań, Instytut Zachodni, 1959.

Mieczysław Tanty, Bałkany w XX wieku. Dzieje polityczne, Warszawa, Książka i Wiedza, 2003.

Małgorzata Willaumee, Rumunia, Warszawa, Wydawnictwo Trio, 2004.

 

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