Paris Peace Conference and the “Corpse” from Neuilly (1919)


Macedonian review, XLII, 2019, 2. Assoc. Prof. Aleksandar Grebenarov, PhD Paris Peace Conference and the “Corpse” from Neuilly (1919)... 13-20

However, with few exceptions, they were not favorable to the Bulgarians. Most of the publications presented in a negative light the actions of the Bulgarian governments during the war period. Bulgarians were accused of mass murders and torture in Moravia and Drama regions, subjecting to famine, robbing or forcibly mobilizing foreign ethnic population, killing prisoners of war, etc. Some French newspapers took advantage of the fear of Bolshevik revolution in Europe and circulated the news that the ruling authorities in Sofia were secretly inciting the masses to social unrest.

Also a result of this campaign was the renaming of Paris Boulevard named “Sofia” into the Boulevard of the Portuguese. Not only did the French hatred of the military adversary contribute to the campaign against the Balkans’ “troublemaker”. It was reinforced by the increased propaganda efforts of Belgrade, Athens and Bucharest. Books, brochures, and materials from the three countries spread news of ‘Bulgarian atrocities’ over the population in the occupied lands during the war.

Some of the articles were published in Western newspapers and set up public opinion in Paris against Bulgaria. Sofia’s counterarguments remained muted. Such was the fate of the large-scale exhibition “The Truth about the Accusations against Bulgaria”, prepared in French by the Foreign Ministry in Sofia. The Bulgarian delegation deposited this well-reasoned work shortly after their arrival in Paris. The exhibition remained without consequence and resonance.

The fate of all the propaganda materials of the Bulgarian delegation was similar. At that moment, the Bulgarian state felt the lack of a lobby, which it had failed to create in either Western Europe or America. Episodic contacts with members of the Western public had little impact. In Switzerland, at the beginning of World War I, a Bulgarian propaganda center had been set up to clarify the Bulgarian national issue.

However, after our country’s involvement in the hostilities, the Swiss press gradually restricted the center’s appearances. Belgrade took advantage of the helplessness of the Bulgarian state and in the summer of 1919 intensified the pressure against it by sending a memoir to the French Prime Minister and Conference Chairman George Clemenceau. It insisted that the entire Bulgarian-Yugoslav border from the Danube to Belasitsa be moved from 20 to 70 km inland in Bulgaria. Serbian claims affected more than 13,000 square kilometers (including the towns of Vidin, Kula, Belogradchik, Tran, Tsaribrod, Bosilegrad, Kyustendil, Strumitsa and Petrich), inhabited by approx. 500,000 Bulgarians. Belgrade’s arguments distorted the history and ethnic character of the population living in these areas, presented as ‘purely Serbian’. Strategic security considerations were cited as additional arguments for the requested border change.

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