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Source: DK/RA-UM, /2-0355, Konstantinopel/Istanbul, diplomatisk repræsentation, 1914-1921. Kopibog, 1916 03 06 – 1919 09 22”
Edition: Danish diplomatic sources
Departure of telegram: 05/14/1916
Embassy/consular serial number: No. 25
Translated by: Matthias Bjørnlund
Last updated: 03/23/2012

The minister in Constantinople (Carl Ellis Wandel) to the Foreign Minister (Erik Scavenius)


No. 25

Constantinople, 14 March 1916.

Dear Mr. Foreign Minister,

As I brought up Ahmed Riza’s interpellations in the Parliament at the reception yesterday, the Foreign Minister [Halil Bey] said that the government tolerates him and has not wanted to take "disciplinary" (sic!) precautions against him due to his earlier merits. "Ahmed Riza considers himself to be a Young Turk," said the minister, "and believes that we are not." The last couple of days the members of the government have seemed worried and in low spirits, and they have not showed up in "Cercle d’Orient" since last Sunday, although they come there daily as regular costumers.

The interior political situation and Germany’s ambitions here, the military situation in Asia and Rumania’s attitude, the fear of a falling-out between Germany and America, the existence of French and English marines on Mytilene and Samos and of an English transport fleet by Rhodes, and Greece’s position regarding the Vurla question, etc., etc., mean they have other things on their minds, and the more territory they lose in Armenia and Mesopotamia, the stronger the inborn hatred toward the Bulgarians smoulders, as they ceded the Demotica district to them in order to gain compensations in the Caucasus, Georgia, and Egypt. Yesterday the Bulgarian minister here went to Sofia, and the Turkish minister in Sofia has at the same time arrived here.

The German embassy courts the Greek minister. "It seems that Germany does badly," the minister said to me today after he had had lunch with the ambassador, "they are so polite and they insist on supporting us in the Vurla question, which is a bad sign."

The thing is that the staff at the German embassy is worried about the many political mistakes made by the government here, and they find it highly inopportune that Turkey at the moment provokes Greece by expelling the Greek population from Vurla.

Enver Pacha and the German officers only see the "military necessities," but the German ambassador Count Metternich sees the political blunders they often commit, and he tries to prevent them, although with less energy than his predecessor, Baron Wangenheim, who possessed greater authority and often knew how to, in a critical moment, intervene in such a firm manner that both the Turkish government, the Committee, and the German officers here yielded to his superior understanding of the demands of the political situation.

The general opinion here is therefore that Count Metternich is not the man for his job and that the embassy only functions reasonably well because of its good organization. The Central Powers are now sending quite a few Muhammedan prisoners of war here – French and English soldiers from Algeria, Morocco, Tunis, India, etc. – who are considered here as subjects of the Caliph and are therefore enrolled in the Turkish army.

The Greek minister has lately bitterly complained to me because the Turkish and Bulgarian authorities will not allow the couriers of the local Greek legation, who bring the legation’s mailbags from and to Athens, to pass, and because they detain them and search them, with the result that he has not been able to receive mail from or send mail to his government for a long time.

However, the minister has not told me the reason for this strange treatment the Greeks are thus receiving, but I am now learning from a safe source that the reason is an ”affair,” which the minister himself knew nothing about, and he is understandably ashamed about it and unwilling to mention it. The Greek couriers and some minor officials at the legation have abused their positions to run an extensive and lucrative business where they got paid for receiving and sending letters from Constantinople, via Athens, to the countries who are at war with Turkey, and vice versa.

Each Greek courier brought large amounts of such letters, and it recently ended when it was found out and they were arrested. More than 25 local persons, who are implicated in this affair, have now been arrested here, and now I understand better where the many fantastical announcements that steadily flow via Athens to the English and French papers come from.

[Danish] "Court singer" Erik Schwedes [Schmedes] from Vienna arrived here on Saturday to sing at a concert Saturday evening. He paid me a visit immediately after his arrival and made me arrange with the Court that he could be permitted to sing for the Sultan at the castle as early as Monday afternoon. As he explained to me, his engagement in Vienna forced him to leave Constantinople again already on Tuesday, and he could therefore only stay here for 3 days. However, the day after he had sung at the castle I read in the papers: that Mr. Schwedes had had to postpone his departure "because the Sultan had sent for him" and that he therefore will be able to perform at another concert on Friday.

Yours truly

C. E. Wandel.

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