Three notes from the diary of the British ambassador to France.
Today Russia is again present in the Middle East. The Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate work together to protect the Middle Eastern Christians. At the same time, French Catholicism is concerned about the threat to Francophonia and Francophilia in the Middle East, while French presidential candidates Francois Fillon and Marin Le Pen return religion to the public life of the country. Will it be possible to find a general consensus for Moscow, Paris and the Holy See in the region, it is difficult to say for the time being. But as another challenger to the French presidents, a graduate of the Jesuit school Emmanuel Macron says, politics is mysticism. So, the impossible is possible. Interest in the Middle East is also evoked by interest in the historical heritage associated with the region, including the events of the First World War. Much here for various reasons has not yet been written. And even more attracts attention even today.
28 March 1915, the British Ambassador to France, Sir Francis Berti, left the following entry in his diary: "I was informed about the clarifications made in the foreign affairs commission. More than a week ago, Delcasse (French Foreign Minister from August 1914 to October 1915 - SS) informed the commission that France had "accepted formal circumstances" in relation to Russia and her wishes for Constantinople. The commission showed signs of serious discontent. Two members of the commission, one of them - Denny Koshen (a member of parliament representing the Catholic party - SS), stated a strong protest - the last, perhaps, in part from the Catholic point of view - against the Hagia Sophia in the hands of the Orthodox ... In the autumn Delcasse spoke to the deputies about Palestine, but for the last time he did not mention it; from this the deputies concluded that Russia is putting obstacles at this point ... There is an authoritative opinion that having Russia in the Caucasus, on the Bosporus and at the northern end of the Baghdad railway, England will be extradited to Russia's arbitrariness in Mesopotamia. "
So the British ambassador designated a famous slogan about the transfer of Russia to the Black Sea straits of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, which at that time belonged to the Ottoman Empire. As noted by Russian historians, the purpose of seizing the straits was voiced in the first month since the outbreak of hostilities in the so-called memorandum of Sazonov, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire. And the predecessor of the "dream of the straits" was the idea of "bringing back to St. Sophia an Orthodox cross," which "appeared in the Moscow princes as far back as the sixteenth century, but began to play a role in practical politics only from the middle of the next century-in the reign of Alexei Mikhailovich ". However, 23 December 1917 in the diary of Sir Bertie appears: "Miliukov told Maklakov that the British government incited the Russian government to demand Constantinople, which the Russians, with the exception of individuals, did not want, because they knew that the possession of Constantinople would cause difficulties and make it impossible any reconciliation with the Turks. " It turns out that the leader of the Cadet Party, Pavel Milyukov, a supporter of the "war to the victorious end", nicknamed "Milyukov-Dardanellsky" for demanding that Russia be given control over the straits after the war, was not completely sincere in his speeches, adhering to a different foreign policy concept.
Some researchers believe that Miliukov was associated with the imperial General Staff. If so, the forecast of the military geopolitics, that the possession of Constantinople will cause difficulties and make any reconciliation with the Turks impossible, was completely prophetic. This was shown by subsequent events, when the Greeks, in alliance with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, themselves decided to seize the straits and the capital. In the days of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the struggle of the Entente-controlled Sultan government in Constantinople with the Kemalist revolutionists in Angora (Ankara) represented by the Great National Assembly (ANC) government, Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos unleashed a war with the Turks, relying on the support of his nephew, the future the Patriarch of Constantinople Meletius IV, and at that time the archbishop of Athens and all Hellas. So, 16 March 1919 year in the temples of Constantinople was promulgated on the "Union with Greece," after which the patriarchy and the local Greeks, hoping for the support of British troops, refused to recognize the Sultan's government. At that time in Constantinople lived about 150 thousand Orthodox Greeks. At the same time, wishing to gain the support of all non-Turkish forces in the region, the patriarchate began actively establishing links with other faiths - inside the country with Armenians and abroad - with the British.
But the Armenian patriarchs were already burned at the "support" of London. Published by the All-Russian Scientific Association of Oriental Studies, the magazine "New East" reminded in 1923: "For the first time the British government began to resolve the Armenian issue before the Berlin Congress ... In this short period the British host the delegates of the Armenian patriarch Nerses, make the latter an ill-fated promise to restore Armenia within six vilayets of southern Kurdistan and Sivas region, though without access to the sea ... True, Armenians did not live up to the secret hopes cherished by the British government and clerical circles; they did not agree to the combination of the Anglican and Armenian-Gregorian churches suggested to them. " And in 1921, the Paris, which concluded a separate agreement with the Angora government, jumped off the "train" for the protection of Christian minorities. The newspaper Le Temps, close to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, justified the agreement to "destroy" the paragraph on the creation of "privileged minorities" by the fact that otherwise France would have to "defend doubtful and controversial rights". As a result, for the Greeks who lived in the Ottoman Empire, everything ended badly, and the two countries, Turkey and Greece, still can not communicate peacefully even with NATO.
Hence the question arises, what other interests could the Russian empire pursue in the Middle East? In April 1918, in the sermon at the Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Savior on the first Sunday of Lent, Metropolitan Anthony of Kharkiv (Khrapovitsky) told the assembled Orthodox people: "Russia should have occupied the straits of the Black Sea, but not to conquer the holy capital of Great Byzantium, and restore this sacred state our fathers and teachers on the saving faith of Christ, that is, the Greeks, and to ourselves to acquire the fatherland of all true Christians, that is, the Holy Land, Jerusalem, the Coffin of the Lord, and by combining it with a broad strip of land with the South Caucasus, populate those holy places with voluntary Russian settlers who would rush in such abundance that in a few years they would convert Palestine and Syria to some Vladimir or Kharkov province, of course, having preserved all the advantages of that half a million Christians and their pastors who Until now, still survived there from Turkish violence. "
The shift of interests towards Syria had several advantages. First, historically with the Syrian patriarchs Moscow, and then St. Petersburg, it was possible to negotiate better and easier than with the patriarchs of Constantinople, jealously following the activities of the Russians in the Middle East. Secondly, by giving Constantinople to the Greeks, Russia excluded itself from the undercover struggle of the Constantinople and Hellas Churches for primacy within the "Great Byzantium" and outwardly in the Balkans, where the Orthodox Greek, Serbian and other bishops challenged the canonical territories and the influence of each other. In addition, the Roman Curia could be calm, which did not like the penetration of the Orthodox Russian Church into the Balkans. Thirdly, it was possible to try to play on the traditional French-British contradictions, to break the alliance between Paris and London, which occurred in the case of Russia's attempt to establish itself in Constantinople.
And here is the third note in Sir Bertie's diary from 2 January 1919: "Pichon (French Foreign Minister from November 1917 to January 1920 - SS) spoke in the Chamber of Deputies about the historical rights of France in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine and said that the United Kingdom will undoubtedly honor its commitments to France with honor. I warned Lloyd George (Prime Minister of Great Britain from December 1916 to October 1922 - SS) that no matter how absurd the demands of France - namely the unbelieving government, supported by the French Roman Catholic schools and priests, which requires because of this right - nevertheless, no French government dares to do otherwise, as the confidence in these rights lives in all the priests and Catholics of France, as well as among politicians who are not themselves Catholics, but ducks to the public mood. "
Of course, Russia agree with Paris and the Roman Curia would have to be difficult, but it was worth it. Let's see if that would happen today.