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BY CHRISTIAN L. LANGE
It is only too natural that Scandinavia appears a unity when looked at from the other side of the Atlantic. The distance suffices to efface, more or less, the rather important divergencies between the three nations making up Scandinavia: Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Nor can it be denied that they are very closely related: the same anthropological type is prevailing; the three small peoples have succeeded in maintaining a high level of economic efficiency and cultural development; their languages, though each of them is possessed of a distinct individual character, are so nearly related that no interpreter is needed between them: a Dane, a Norwegian, a Swede can speak each his own language in a common assembly, and the others will understand easily enough. The same capital facts have influenced the historical development of the three nations, though in different degrees of intensity: the expeditions of the Vikings; Protestant Reform; the constitutional and parliamentary movements of modern times.
The capital fact of geographical proximity must needs draw these three national communities together during the overwhelming crisis of the world-war. A feeling of solidarity of interests, which was considerable already before the war, has been intensified by the aspect of the universal calamity. One object has been common to the policies of governments and statesmen in the three countries: that every effort should be made to avoid internecine warfare in Scandinavia.
On August, 16, 1914, a fortnight after the Black Sunday on the morning of which the world awoke to the news of the German declaration of war against Russia and realized that Armageddon had opened, a noteworthy ceremony took place on the frontier between Norway and Sweden. A monument was unveiled to commemorate a centenary of unbroken peace within Scandinavia, and an undertaking was entered into, all the more solemn because of the surrounding conditions, that no more should any of the Scandinavian peoples carry arms against another.
It was realized very clearly even then that it would be an essential condition of success for such a policy that none of the three nations should become implicated in the world-war: a policy neutrality for all was indispensable. As a review of the situation will show, the outlook on the war and on the problems it raises, is far from identical for all the three nations. Looked at from afar, they may fade into unity. When we examine their situation more closely, we shall soon see that the geographical position, no less than the economic interests of each, tends to impose on them considerably divergent policies. Their historic antecedents, in part also a somewhat different political and social organization, are likewise likely to give a somewhat different tinge to their conception of 'Neutrality.'
It is perhaps a big question whether in this war, raising problems so grave as to force everybody to a thorough searching of heart, neutrality of feel
ing is possible. There is great strength in the sentiment prevailing on both sides, which proclaims in no uncertain voice, that whosoever is not with me is against me. Personally I am inclined to believe that no one, in his heart of hearts, is really neutral. But it is certainly possible — though not an easy or a grateful task- to be neutral in action and public declarations. If the Scandinavian nations have adopted a policy of strict neutrality, the chief reason is to be found in the fact just mentioned, that every other policy would in all probability have brought about inter-Scandinavian war; at any rate, this was so during the first three years.
Another potent motive for such a policy of abstention is that none of the three kingdoms is possessed of territorial ambitions. It is true that there is a Danish irredenta in North Slesvig, and to a certain extent there may perhaps be said to be a Swedish irredenta in Finland; but in neither of these two countries is national sentiment prepared to take a war in order to obtain satisfaction for these desires - in so far as they exist. War would entail perpetual enmity with powerful neighboring empires; the consequence of liberation of these territories through war would be to impose on Denmark and Sweden respectively enormous burdens for military expense, and probably their permanent allegiance to a certain group of powers; and, what is of paramount importance, the two countries would then belong to different groups of powers, and Scandinavian solidarity would become compromised beyond remedy. I propose now to review the dominant sentiments in each of the three countries separately.
That the Danish national feeling is overwhelmingly anti-German can sur
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prise nobody: North Slesvig is Danish land. It is true that sober historical judgment puts severe blame on the then Danish government for its handling of the situation as against Prussia and Austria in 1864; and there can hardly be any doubt that Denmark might have preserved, at any rate, the part of Slesvig where the Danish language is spoken. This, however, cannot acquit Prussia and Bismarck of their responsibility: territory was taken from another state, the possession of which is of no economic or strategical importance to Prussia; the promise given in 1866 of a consultation of the inhabitants in North Slesvig by plebiscite as to their wishes was highhandedly canceled without Denmark or the Danes in Slesvig being asked their opinion;1 and some 200,000 Danes have been subjected for more than fifty years to an exceedingly hard and illiberal rule-Prussian administration in its most odious form.
This was bound to leave a profound mark in the Danish mind. The reports from the brethren in the South, of their sufferings and their hopes for the future, of their unremitting struggle to preserve, for themselves and for their children, the use of the Danish language, contributed to hold open the sore: it was never forgotten, and literary and scientific documents of high quality bear witness to the intensity of this sentiment, no less than to the conscientiousness with which the problem has been treated by the Danes.
On the other hand, intimate economic relations had been developed with Great Britain. During the last generations, in consequence of the competition created by the imports to Europe
1 It should be said that two thirds of Slesvig is pure German. The Danish grievance, therefore, applies only from the racial point of view to a third of Slesvig, called by the Danes South Jutland. - THE AUTHOR.
of sea-borne cereals, the Danish peasant, with high ability, has transformed his country from a cornfield into a dairy-farm. He has industrialized agriculture, and instead of breadstuffs, Denmark is now exporting butter and meat. This has opened up new routes of trade. Denmark has become the pantry of London and of industrial North England. This, of course, has influenced the ways of thinking too; ties of sympathies and of financial connections unite Denmark with the West.
The outbreak of the war fanned the anti-German sentiment in Denmark into hot flame. The tragic fate of Belgium intensified the feeling of antipathy against the military oligarchy of Prussia, under whose heel Denmark had found itself fifty years before.
But there was no question of taking part in the war. On the contrary, 'absolute neutrality' became the watchword. It so happened that a Radical government, supported by the Socialists, was in power when war broke out. Within these parties new ways of thinking had developed as to the foreign relations of Denmark.
In the years following 1864, the feeling that Germany was too strong for Denmark to think of entering the lists against her on account of the Slesvig question was consciously developed by the Radical and Socialist parties, both of them frankly anti-militaristic. But, because the Radical party was in power when war broke out, it was itself, so to speak, forced by the popular feeling of anti-Germanism prevailing in the country to observe a less pronounced attitude, in order to keep up a certain balance.
The Danish government has shown high ability both in its interior and in its foreign policy. With great foresight it effected an arrangement at the very beginning of the war with the two leading antagonists, England and Germany,
which allowed the Danish export to each of these two countries to continue according to the same ratio as before the war. The blockade policy and the more and more stringent rationing of the neutrals on the part of England and America has of course caused great inconvenience to Denmark, but there are no signs that this has modified the dominant feelings with regard to the war. On the contrary, the cruelty of German submarine war has rather intensified the anti-German sentiment.
Much stress has been laid on the somewhat curious fact that Danish socialism seems decidedly pro-German. It is, however, more so in appearance than in reality; and at any rate the phenomenon can be easily explained. More or less Continental Social Democracy is of German origin, and in no country is this so evident as in Denmark: the Danish leaders have almost exclusively their relation in Berlin. The Vorwärts is the source of their inspiration. The pronounced anti-Germanism of the 'classes' in Denmark brought these leaders of the 'masses' to consider it their duty to lay before the Danish public the 'other' point of view, and imperceptibly they have perhaps been carrying this to rather extreme manifestations. Common to Radicals and Socialists is a certain disillusion as to the sincerity of the representatives of the Great Powers. It is a favorite say ing among them that the chief difference between the Central Powers and the Entente is that the former have not yet acquired the consummate ability of the latter to use fine and high-sounding phrases. Nay, the brutal sincerity of German statesmen is even a merit in their eyes: there is no 'hypocrisy' about it. This is a kindred feeling to the one which found expression in Georg Brandes's reply to Clemenceau's appeal for sympathy from Denmark. 'Denmark fifty years ago appealed to England
At bottom there can be no doubt as to dominant feeling in Denmark on the war: it is on the side of the Allies. But the exposed situation of the country, its weak military defense, would make it so easy a prey to an attack from the south, that there is practically no disposition whatever to take part in the war. The trophy that might seduce the Danish nation, the re-union of 200,000 Danes, hardly any one thinks it possible to obtain by war. South Jutland won through war would mean enduring enmity with Germany. This Denmark cannot risk. Her hope is that the settlement after the war might entail, as an application of new principles of International Law, the reëntry of the Danes of Slesvig into the Danish political community. Denmark has received abundant proof that the conditions during the war of the youth in Slesvig called to German colors have been so dreadful and tragical that they have only two alternatives before them: reunion with Denmark, or emigration. In Prussia they can no longer stay.
No wonder that Denmark is looking with wistful eyes to the future. With the coming of peace a great problem will lie before the nation. During the war democracy has come into its own: electoral reform has been accomplished, but the new rules have not yet been put into practice. It will therefore in part be a new parliament which will have to decide the Danish attitude toward this grave question, if ever it is raised.
In Norway the situation is perhaps simpler than in any other neutral country: public opinion is decidedly proAlly. None of the political parties has had any inclination toward the Central
Powers, as may in a certain sense be said about the Danish Socialists; nor has any other important body of public opinion rallied to the German cause. The practical unanimity of Norwegian sentiment is all the more striking as Norway, perhaps with the single exception of Spain, finds itself in a more detached position toward the war than any other European nation. It is more removed than most of the small European nations from the area of hostilities. It has no outstanding difficulty with any of the Great Powers. Its territorial integrity had been guaranteed (in 1907) by France, Germany, Great Britain, and Russia, — that is to say, by powers in both camps, and Norway could boast of excellent relations with all of them. Intimate economic connections existed, not only with the Western countries, but also with Germany: Hamburg was the emporium for Norwegian commerce in colonial produce; and shipbuilding, one of the staple industries of Norway, got its chief material, the iron plates, from German factories. If Norwegian political and intellectual life for the last century was under the influence of impulses from England, America, and France, religious feeling and scientific life got their inspiration from Germany.
Norway is the most pronouncedly democratic country in Europe, democratic not only politically, but — what is much more important and far-reaching also in a social and economic sense. And Norway is a small country, the smallest, so far as population goes, except Luxemburg and Montenegro.
The wanton attack on Belgian neutrality by the Prussian military oligarchy determined Norwegian public opinion. It revealed what a little country could be exposed to at the hands of a state in which power, military and political, belongs to a caste. Norwegian democracy in no uncertain voice
declared against Prusso-German oligarchy and its military policy.
But, as in the case of Denmark, there was no disposition to enter the war. Norway is absolutely without any territorial ambition, so its participation would have been exclusively an expression of its conviction as to the rights and wrongs of the conflict. Bigger powers hesitated before such a decision. There is no doubt that in the case of Norway entry into the war would have entailed terrible hardship and misery on the country, while no appreciable advantage would have accrued to the Allies.
Public opinion, therefore, absolutely approved a policy of neutrality, in favor of which, besides, was a motive already mentioned the consideration of inter-Scandinavian relations.
Of course, Norway has not been altogether without its pro-German elements. In certain cases, family connections, financial or business ties, have been too strong to permit a pro-Ally attitude. To some persons Germany and German civilization have been so important a ferment of their spiritual development; they feel themselves so indebted to inspiration from German philosophy or literature, from German science or industrial skill, that they cannot refuse their sympathy to the German nation or to German policy. The strongest incitement to wholehearted sympathy, at any rate with some persons of a conservative and skeptical outlook on life, has perhaps been a subtle feeling that Germany is after all the chief pillar of the principle of authority in political and social affairs; that with the overthrow of Germany democracy and insubordination would reign supreme in Europe.
It is perhaps necessary to mention also that some few literary men (best known among them the author Knut Hamsun) have expressed strong pro
German sympathies. Perhaps the explanation nearest to the mark with these personalities would be a certain love of paradox and of opposition à tout prix to average opinion, to the views of the man in the street.
Various as are the motives of this proGerman attitude, it would be a mistake to believe that this section of Norwegian opinion is numerically important. I have heard pro-Germans themselves estimate their number at five, or even at two per cent! And the development of German policy as against Norway has inevitably tended to reducing their number and making them less loudvoiced.
Norway has learned during the war how difficult is the path of neutrality. The extensive shipping trade, which has made Norwegian sailors the carriers of the world, has created many problems for the leaders of Norwegian foreign policy, and at different times rather serious conflicts have arisen both with Germany and with England. The stringency of the blockade declared by the latter power has entailed serious inconvenience both to exports and imports, no less than to the shipping interests. This could hardly but create irritation against the blockading power, at any rate in the circles most concerned, shippers and merchants. But this feeling never spread to the people at large, although they felt the consequences of the long delays of Norwegian ships in foreign ports, in the form of inflated prices on all foreign goods a most serious fact in a country so dependent on oversea imports as Norway. The pro-Ally sentiment was not abated, even when England, in consequence of some disagreement with the Norwegian government, stopped the import of coal and coke to the country, certainly a drastic measure during the cold season.
On the other hand, difficulties have