Jovan Zametica


In the Spring of 1927 a major European crisis was developing in the Balkans. It concerned the rivalry between Mussolini’s Italy and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes over Albania in which, though a small and backward country, both Rome and Belgrade claimed to have legitimate political and security interests. At the time, the Italo-Yugoslav crisis was seen by many observers as containing the potential of turning into a war, the Italian government in particular insisting that Belgrade was engaged in military preparations in order to launch an invasion of Albania. An important factor that made the Italo-Yugoslav rivalry over Albania possible in the first place was the country’s perennial political instability. Thus the crisis attracted considerable attention in Europe. Given the fact that France and Italy experienced strained relations, and that the Weimar Germany had only recently returned to the mainstream of the affairs of Europe following the treaties of Locarno, it was Great Britain that emerged as the chief player in attempts to defuse the emergency. Historians have paid relatively little attention to this, by now largely forgotten, episode in the diplomatic history of interwar Europe. The existing literature, however, mistakenly tends to interpret the efforts of Great Britain as favouring the Italian claims in Albania. This article, which makes extensive use of primary sources from the Foreign Office, demonstrates that Foreign Secretary Sir Austen Chamberlain and all his relevant officials handled the crisis in an even-handed manner throughout and that, at times, if London exhibited any sympathy and understanding at all for either side, it was towards Belgrade rather than Rome.