Preliminary Notes (1923)

excerpts On July 27th, we had an excursion by automobile to the petrol fields down in the valley leading from Bucharest to Sinaia. Mr. Lecca was with us. Just before lunch, he introduced me to another man who was visiting the petrol fields, and who was the Romanian Minister for Bucovina affairs. I had a long and very interesting talk with him during luncheon. He told me that the Cabinet had special Ministers for Bucovina affairs, for Transylvanian affairs and for the affairs of the Banat. He himself was of Bucovina origin. The Bucovina population was somewhat over one million; of these, about 10,000 were Magyars. The Magyar Minority were very good citizens, absolutely loyal and appeared very satisfied with their position. No irredentism existed. These Bucovina Magyars had never been in close contact with the Magyars of Transylvania. Another Minority, which also seemed to be quite happy in Bucovina, was the German one. These Minorities received preliminary instruction in their own language, and public instruction was now quite well developed in the country, but as the result of previous conditions, only about 60% of the population could read and write. In the years to come, when the children grew up, the position would of course be quite different. The Church issue did not give rise to any real difficulty in Bucovina. Sufficient funds for the needs of the Church were available. The Jewish population, which was quite considerable, namely about one-seventh of the total, had monopolised commercial life. A certain part of the population was of Ruthenian origin, and some of them had wished the country to be incorporated in a greater Ukraine, but generally the Ruthenians of Bucovina were satisfied with their present position. As for the economic conditions of Bucovina, the country had suffered considerably during the war, having been occupied by different armies in succession. A serious effort had however been made to put things straight, and the present outlook was very good. The main occupations of the inhabitants were agriculture and wood industries. Incorporation into Greater Romania brought considerable economic advantages for Bucovina, because even though her agriculture was quite well developed, she was unable to feed herself and needed to import a considerable amount of cereals every year. This she could now get from Bessarabia without being hampered by differences in currency or customs formalities. On the other hand, the main export article of Bucovina – products of forestry – was needed in Bessarabia. The country was very densely populated, – indeed more so than any other part of the present Romanian State, – but only about one-quarter was cultivated. Another quarter was covered by forest. The oil industry did not as yet exist in the country, but investigations were now being made to find out whether any oil existed, and could be exploited. The agrarian reform had been applied in Bucovina as elsewhere in Romania, but very few large agricultural estates had existed there. The press of Bucovina consisted of a number of papers in different languages. Newspapers were not read much outside the towns, and much had still to be done to arouse the interests of the population to participate in affairs outside their own immediate sphere. The same evening it had been arranged that we should dine at the Casino with Mr. Lecca and Diano, but just before dinner Mr. Diano told me that Mr. Duca, who had arrived from Bucharest, invited us to dine with him and Mrs. Duca and a few officials from the Foreign Ministry. This we did and conversation was still more unreserved than on previous occasions, and absolutely friendly. I sat between Mrs. Duca and Mr. Arion, and Mrs. Duca spoke of the great sufferings of Romania during the war, and of the great effort made to re-establish better conditions. Mr. Arion, on his side, told me of the great satisfaction he felt with the opinions I had expressed on Minorities problems in general. Mr. Hoden later on told me that Mr. Arion had also expressed to him his great satisfaction, and said that they had thought in Bucharest that the League of Nations had quite another conception of the Minorities problem than they had learnt from me was the case. Mr. Duca told Mr. Hoden during dinner that Mr. Titulesco had agreed to represent Romania at the Assembly. I also reminded Mr. Duca of the great desirability of his coming to the Assembly, and when Mr. Hoden said that it would not be necessary for him to stay the whole time of the Assembly, I said that I thought that perhaps from about the 10th to the 15th or 18th September might be the best time, if Mr. Duca could not afford to give his personal attention to the whole period of the Assembly. After dinner I met M. le Comte de Manneville, French Minister to Romania, whom I had previously met at the Quai d'Orsay about a year ago. I had then tried to impress upon him the necessity of the French Government taking more interest in the Minorities problem of Eastern and Central Europe. He had heard of my presence in Sinaia and had sent me his card. He reminded me of what I had told him at the Quai d'Orsay, and said that I was right in attaching great importance to the Minorities problem. I said that of course he reported on these problems to his Government, but if I might be allowed to say so, it would be desirable in making his reports if he would consider in particular the need of the French Delegation to the Council and the Assembly of the League of Nations to be informed on these delicate questions, so as to be able to represent France with the fullest possible understanding and in possession of all relevant facts. Mr. de Manneville seemed to appreciate this point. He asked whether we would receive copies of his reports at Geneva. Mr. Hoden, who was present at this conversation, said, – and I agreed with him, – that of course this was not necessary. The important point was that France's own representation on the League should be well informed, so as to be able to give the most efficient collaboration to the other Members of the League. After dinner I also had a talk with Mr. Filodor, Secretary-General of the Foreign Ministry. He was very friendly and I believe that reports have been brought to him every day of what the members of the Secretariat have said during the last couple of days. He felt sure that I should see everything possible to see and hear everything possible to hear during the few days at my disposal. He mentioned the Bessarabian problem, and he joined in the desire expressed by the Foreign Minister that I should go there as soon as possible.E. C. 28 / 7 / 23

by Erik Colban