Greek soldiers drilling in Athens, 1913. Original photo and digital image from the private collection of author Peter S. Giakoumis.
During the summer of 1913 the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace set up a committee to investigate the cause and conduct of the Balkan Wars. The report was published in 1914 and although it was discredited for being biased and poorly researched, it remains a source used and quoted by many unsuspecting researchers with little if any question to its validity.
The Division of Intercourse and Education of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace selected a group of eight in July of 1913 to study the Balkan Wars under the guise of an International Commission. The working budget of the International Commission was no less than 10 million dollars, the equivalent of over $260 million dollars – a considerable sum. That level of funding was enough to establish a small army of support staff, including top interpreters, detectives, scribes, photographers, film makers, diplomats, foreign liaisons, and transportation to and from anywhere in the world. No obstacle could fend off that kind of capital if used appropriately. If the intention was to uncover the full story behind events surrounding a war-weary group of countries it is hard to believe such a well-funded group could not uncover every last detail. A high level of objectivity should be part of the prime directive when collecting unbiassed and meticulously vetted facts prior to making any conclusions.
In fact, the Commission was not able to accomplish its true purpose of finding out what actually transpired between the warring parties. The published report was far from scrupulous – it was heavily one-sided and subjective.
The expertise needed was never brought into play, and one nation, Bulgaria, was allowed to steer the outcome. Greece and Serbia did not actively support the Commission. Greece protested against certain members of the Commission, stating that certain members were firm supporters of Bulgaria. Particularly, two of the eight members were openly accused, Dr. H. Brailsford of Great Britain and Professor Paul (Pavel) Milioukov of Russia, the latter writing almost half of the final report. Both of them spoke Bulgarian and dominated the final report. None of the members spoke Greek, Serbian, or Turkish, nor did they have their own interpreters.
By withholding assistance, Greece sealed her fate. The Commission fully embraced Bulgarian support. Bulgaria provided their own evidence, multiple testimonies by questionable witnesses, and a variety of documents and letters.
While the Commission spent little time in Greece and Serbia, the members did not question directly or indirectly any Greek eye witnesses, nor did they visit any Greek sites that were previously reported upon as places of atrocities. The Bulgarian authorities even produced what they claimed were intercepted personal letters from Hellenic soldiers shamefully admitting to their war crimes – but those who studied photos of the various letters stated they appeared to be written by the same person; no one attempted to confirm the identity of the soldiers in question, verify the addressed individuals, or requested to speak to the commanding officers of the regiment in question, even though the information was provided and adequate funding existed for independent investigators to confirm the validity of the letters. Instead, they were accepted as factual and entered into the final report.
American and foreign journalists, government officials, world leaders, combatants, Greek-Americans and members of the intelligentsia the world over disputed the conclusions of the report to no avail. No redactions, adjustments, or appeals for additional investigations were ever entertained.
The most unfortunate outcome of the Commission was how the published report, full of erroneous findings, was held in high regard due in part to the Carnegie name. To this day the report is taken out of context, and although it was challenged and refuted, it still lingers and acts as a barometer on the behavior of combatant nations of the Balkans, mainly because the report was published in English in the United States, the contents widely reported by all newspapers throughout the United States, giving it a wide audience, placed in every major library and in every major institution of higher learning, even though it should have been summarily dismissed as a poor attempt at investigation by an unqualified committee that was ill-suited to carry out such an inquiry .
The report in whole is suspect, the statistical data presented, even the Bulgarian data, is questionable. In truth, the Carnegie Report has little worth as an objective representation of the events that took place during the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913.The Carnegie Commission did succeed in creating a lasting slur against Hellenism that lingers to this day. It is now up to a new generation of Hellenic champions to right this wrong.
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