Back Paris - Next 

1919: Mushrooms and Lies

Paris - The Pantheon from the Jardin du Luxembourg - Copyright © by Alan Grant
The pantheon from the Jardin du Luxembourg

Margaret MacMillan's book on the 1919 Paris Peace Conference is a fascinating and highly readable account of those months, which were to shape history for the rest of the century. Of course, the book covers the world but unsurprisingly there is a fair bit about our corner of the planet here. What is interesting is to hear the echoes of what she writes about 1919 in our own time.

"To all the Balkan nations the disappearance of Austria-Hungary was as exhilarating an opportunity as the defeats of the Ottoman empire before the war. Each wanted as much as it could get; self-determination for itself but not for its neighbours. Already during that confused period in October 1918 when Austria-Hungary sued for peace and then vanished from history, Balkan governments had started to stake out possession, moving their armies in. New bodies popped up like mushrooms after a storm: workers' councils, soldiers' councils, councils of Croats, Macedonians, Greeks. It was not clear who was behind them but there seemed no end to them and no limit to their demands."

"Greece wanted the rest of European Turkey; so did Bulgaria. Both Greece and Yugoslavia contemplated a division of Albania. Rumania and Bulgaria could not agree on ownership of Dobrudja, which stretched along the west coast of the Black Sea. Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria all wanted more of Macedonia. There was fine talk of saving civilization and fighting for right and honour; underneath were calculations of realpolitik. In the heady atmosphere of 1919, when lines on so many maps were flickering, when negotiations about almost everything seemed possible, it was madness not to grab as much as possible. Balkan statesmen claimed to admire Wilson; they talked the language of self-determination, justice and international co-operation and produced petitions, said to represent the voice of the people, to bolster their old-style land grabbing. They showed beautifully drawn maps. "It would take a huge monograph", wrote an American expert, "to contain an analysis of all the types of map forgeries that the wear and peace conference called forth...It was in the Balkans that the use of this process reached its most brilliant climax."

Peacemakers: The Paris Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War. Margaret MacMillan. 2003.
[p. 131 / John Murray]

April 2007
Tim Judah

 Back Paris - Next 
  1. Istanbul: Pamuk's City
  2. Istanbul: Swimming across the Bosphorus
  3. Salonika and the Jews
  4. Salonica: Slaves and Trade
  5. Thessalonika: 1923
  6. Ohrid: Rise and Fall
  7. Tornado of Dust - 1944
  8. Awake Romania - 1989
  9. Novi Sad: Nest of the Serbian nation
  10. Nis: War Capital, 1915
  11. Belgrade and the Selenites
  12. 1996: Serbia Calling
  13. Belgrade Train Station - 1964
  14. Srebrenica: Vengeance
  15. Srebrenica: Blood
  16. Srebrenica: July 1995
  17. Mealtime - Interwar years in Travnik
  18. Dayton: The Napkin Shuttle
  19. London Buses in Sarajevo
  20. The Museum and Bosnian Identity
  21. Foča: The Bosniak
  22. Kosovo: The Swiss Front
  23. Mitrovica: 1908
  24. Pristina: Kosovo like Namibia?
  25. City without traffic - Pristina 1966
  26. Durham in Pristina - 1908
  27. Tirana: 1962
  28. Zog's Tirana
  29. The Kotor - Constantinople Express
  30. Kotor and the Montenegrins
  31. The Rabbi of Stolac
  32. Dubrovnik: England, Wine and Wool
  33. Cetinje: Nikola Under the Elm
  34. Cetinje: 1858
  35. Dalmatia: Ships & Grapes
  36. Prophet of Yugoslavism
  37. The head of the world
  38. 1919: Mushrooms and Lies
  39. Sofia: Bulgaria's Jews during WWII
  40. Zamfirovo: Rural livelihoods in the mid-1990s
  41. Kosovo
  42. Romania: 1914
  43. Istanbul: Food and the frugal Turks
  44. Micklagard: Surprising, cosmopolitan Constantinople
  45. Sukhumi: The history of the region became ashes
  46. Black Sea: The coming of steam and rail
  47. Mestrovic: Motherhood and the Victor
  48. Rizvanovici, Bosnia: Gnashing
  49. Down the Danube with Magris: Ruse
  50. From Pristina to Tskhinvali
  51. Serbia, Historians and Hitler's War
  52. Balkan Strongmen: Bulgaria's Zhivkov
  53. Sarajevo: The Siege Within
  54. Turkey: Osman's Dream
  55. Durres 1961: Beijing on Sea
  56. Cetinje: Eggs for the Ladies
  57. Bosnia: Land of Immigrants
  58. Ottoman Croatia
  59. Harem: All the Sultan's Women
  60. Sibiu: Regime Change, European Style
  61. 1929: The Balkans and the Great Crash
  62. Rumeli and how the Balkans became the Balkans
  63. 1948: Stalin, Kosovo and Swallowing Albania
  64. Transforming Turkey: the 1950s
  65. McMafia and the Balkans
  66. 1916: Serbia in Corfu
  67. Princes Amongst Men
  68. Limp Shevardnadze
  69. Knin: War and Suburbia
  70. In the Mountains of Poetry
Share: What are these?