THE diplomat, the geographer, the archæeologist, I do not pretend to beable to teach. My aim is a far humbler one. I wish to give the general reader a somewhat truer idea of the position of affairs in the Balkan Peninsula than he usually possesses.
If he be interested in the affairs of Turkey-in-Europe at all, he almost always believes in a spot inhabited by Turks (all Moslems and bad) and ´Macedonians´ (all Christians and virtuous). He believes that the horrors of which he hears are caused by the rising of these same Christians against the tyranny of their Moslem rulers, and, thus believing, he hastens to offer them his sympathy and help, and to beg the British Government to intervene on their behalf.
I hope in the following pages to show him that these troubles are largely of racial, not religious, origin. The Christians who have revolted did not rise, as he fondly believes, on behalf of Christianity. Nor do they represent by any means the Christian population of the country. The revolt was purely political, and part of a long and complicated scheme to obtain a large additional territory for Bulgaria.
The truth of this is proved by the fact that the revolutionary party directs its attacks not only upon Moslems, but murders Christians of all the other Balkan races when opportunity occurs.
I have been begged by persons of these other races to tell all that I have seen and heard, to remind the British public that there are other peoples besides Bulgars whose interests should be considered, and to point out that the money given by well-meaning people, as they think, to support Christianity is likely to cause the Bulgar party to believe that it has England's support, and to encourage it to commit fresh outrages upon other Christians.
I have been begged by others not to tell all that I have seen and heard.
It is impossible to please everyone. Want of space naturally prevents my giving the details of this, my sixth, tour in the Balkan Peninsula, but I have tried to tell a plain tale of the main facts. Such success as I met with I owe entirely to the kindness of those who helped me on my way. The mistakes are all my own.
M. E. DURHAM.
THE STORY OF THE PEOPLE
'For thrones and peoples are but waifs that swing
And float or fall in endless ebb and flow.'
´You like our country. Will you do something for us ?´ said a Balkan man to me the first time I met him. I inquired cautiously what this odd job might be.
´Explain us,´ he said, ´to the new Consul. He does not underetand us;´ and he made this request as if the ´explaining´ of a nation were an ordinaryeveryday affair. Its comprehensiveness staggered me.
´But I do not understand you myself,´ I said.
´Our language not well perhaps yet, but usthe spirit of the peopleyes. Everyone says so. Now, if you would explain it to the Consul. We do not like him,´ he added.
´Why don't you like him?´ said I.
´Because he does not like us,´ was the prompt reply; ´and he does not understand.´
´When he has been here longer and knows you,´ I said, ´he will doubtless like you. You have very little to do with him. Why trouble about him? It is surely not necessary to like all the foreign Consuls.´
Then he gazed at me with surprise. ´One must either like or hate,´ he said simply; and he wanted me to ´understand´ and ´explain´ him.
And he is but one example of many, for thus it is with the Balkan man, be he Greek, Serb, Bulgar, or Albanian, Christian or Moslem.
´If Europe only understood,´ he says (and it should be remarked that he rarely, if ever, classes himself as European) ´if Europe only understood´ the golden dreams of his nation would be realized, and, as in the fairy-tales, there would be happiness ever afterwards. He is often pathetically like a child, who tells you what fine things he is going to do when he is grown up. That Europe cares no jot for his hopes, fears, sorrows, and aspirations so long as they are not likely to jolt that tittupy concern ´the Balance of Power´ never seems to occur to him.
Now, to ´understand´ him it would be necessary not merely to view things from his window, but to see them with his eyes (for what is seen in the landscape depends largely on the spectator), and this is impossible. It is doubtful, indeed, whether one race ever will understand another. It has certainly never done so yet. But the story of the past that has set him at that particular window and coloured his view is more easily arrived at, andexplains many things.
Without some knowledge of it, travel in the Near East is but dull work, for us in the West to realize. It is a land strewn with the wreckage of dead empires; peoples follow one another, intertangle, rise and fall, through dim barbaric ages bloodstained and glittering with old-world splendour, striving, each for itself, in a wild struggle for existence, until the all-conquering Ottoman sweeps down upon them, and for four centuries they are blotted out from the world´s history.
When after that long night they awokethe Rip Van Winkles of Europe, animated only with the desire of going on from the point at which they had left off they found the face of the world had changed and new Powers had arisen. Internally, there were the problems of the fourteenth century still unsolved. Externally, they were faced with those of the twentieth century, Western and insistent.
It is the fashion just now to attempt to simplify the problem of the Balkan Peninsula by limiting it to the ´Macedonian Question,´ and representing the miseries of the land as the result of a struggle between Moslem and Christian. But in truth it is nothing so simple. It is the question of the slow waning of Ottoman might and the consequent resurrection of, and struggle for supremacy between the subject peoples which began at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and has yet to be fought to its close. And the problem is not limited to any one spot; it extends not only over the whole of that part of the Balkan Peninsula which is still under the Sultan, but also over lands ruled by other nations.
When we first know it, the peninsula was inhabited by Thracians, Macedonians, and Illyrianswild folk, not Greek: a mass of savage tribes each led by its chieftain. They appear to have been closely allied in race. Their form of speech is unknown. ´If the Thracians,´ says Herodotus, ´were either under the government of an individual or united among themselves, their strength would, in my opinion, render them invincible; but this is a thing impossible.´ And his estimate of these people was a just one. Philip of Macedon welded the wild tribes into a power, and Thracians, Macedonians, and Illyrians formed the foundation of Alexander the Great´s all-conquering armies.
The Balkan Peninsula is a land of ´one-man empires.´Alexander´s did not long survive him. He died in the year 303 B.C., but he is still the talk of the town in his native land. There is a surprising amount of excitement about him, for the blood of the oldest inhabitants of the land is still with us. That the modern Albanian is the more or less direct descendant of the primitive savage people of the Balkans is a fact which, I believe, no one now disputes. Alexander the Great was a Macedonian, and Olympias, his mother, a Princess of Epirus (South Albania); therefore Alexander was clearly an Albanian. So far so good; but on his father´s side, according to tradition, he was of Greek originremote, it is true, but the Greeks admitted it. To-day Greek and Albanian alike claim him enthusiastically, and along with him, of course, his Macedonian lands.
Nor are they the sole claimants. There is no theory too wild to flourish in the Balkans, but this, perhaps, is the maddest of all. The Bulgarians, too, claim to be Alexander´s sons. Alexander, I have been told quite seriously, commanded his men, ´according to a well-known classical author´ (name not given), ´in a tongue that was not Greek, and was therefore undoubtedly Bulgarian!´ A song was sung during the late Macedonian insurrection, in which an eagle, who is soaring over the land, asks what is the cause of so much excitement, and is told that the sons of Alexander are arising. This annoyed the Greeks and the Albanians extremely, for the insurrection was being worked solely for Bulgarian ends.
´Georgie,´ we asked one of our hospital patients, ´do you know about Alexander the Great?´
Georgie cheered up; Alexander was clearly an ´old pal.´ Georgie believed himself to be a Bulgar and a son of Alexander beyond any doubt.
´We all are,´ he said.
Poor Georgie! he spoke a Slav dialect, and was possibly a mixture of all the races that have ever ruled the peninsula, and all he had gained was a Mauser ball through his right hand in the name of Alexander the Great.
Alexander died, but the aborigines had one other burst of glory.
Pyrrhus (Burri = the Valiant, Alb.), King of Epirus, is all their own; no other nations claim him. Gendarmes in South Albania to-day will tell you of Pyrrhus, ´the great King who beat the dirty Greeks and everybody else.´
History in the Balkan Peninsula repeats itself with surprising regularity. Its peoples have never yet fought their differences to an end, but have always been overpowered by a common foe. Rome swept down on the struggling mass of Thracians, Illyrians, Greeks, and Macedonians. They parcelled out the peninsula into Roman provinces and its fierce peoples, whose delight was in war, soon formed the flower of the Roman army. Laterfor they possessed not only physical, but mental, energy they rose even to the purple. Diocletian and Constantine the Great, to mention only the most celebrated, were of Illyrian blood.
There is nothing new under the sun. In our own time Illyrian blood has again swayed the fortunes of Rome; Crispi, Prime Minister of Italy, was of Albanian origin, and Italy once more looks covetously at the Illyrian coast.
Tacitus gives us a vivid snapshot of the ´savage genius´ of the Thracians of his day, who ´lived wildly upon the mountains, whence they acted with the greater outrage and contumacy,´ and ´were not even accustomed to obey their native Kings further than their own humour.´
The Roman has gone, and has left scant trace behind him save the bastard Latin dialect of the Vlahs. The ´savage genius´ of the aborigines is still unquenched.
Into this land of fierce tribesmen, dotted with Roman colonies and joined by Roman roads, came other wild peoples, who poured in from the strange dark lands beyond the Danube. It was the day of the shifting of thenations, and they moved in resistless thousands. Of the many who came and killed and plundered, but claim no territories today, we have no space to tell; but the coming of the Slavs is an all-important fact in the history of the Balkans. These early days are dim, and dates are uncertain; all that it is safe to say is that Slav tribes were drifting over the Danube probably as early as the third century A.D., and settling in the fat lands that form modern Servia and Bulgaria.
By the end of the sixth century this dribbling immigration became an invasion. Slavs poured in in irresistible numbers; they disputed the lands with the original inhabitants, driving them before them to the mountains, as the Saxons did the Britons, and settled as village communities on the undulating, well-watered plains.
These Slavs are described as an agricultural, herd-tending people. Like the people they displaced, they were divided into clans, which were ruled by independent chiefs (Zhupans), who quarrelled freely among themselves, but met and discussed matters of common interest, and were loosely held together by a headman elected by themselves, who recognised the suzerainty of the Byzantine Emperor. This tribal state, which is common to the childhood of most races, would not be noteworthy in this brief sketch were it not for the strange fact that neither Slav nor Albanian has yet quite outgrown it, and it has proved a source of weakness which has largely influenced the fate of each. By the end of the seventh century Slavs were settled as a far south even as modern Greece. They seem to have formed the rural population of the plains, while the Greeks inhabited the towns and the sea-coast.
From these Slav tribes are descended all the Servian-speaking people of the peninsulathe Servians, the Montenegrins, the Bosnians and Herzegovinians, and, as we shall see later, in a large degree the modern Bulgars too.
Thus at this very early date began the burning question of the present daythe enmity that rages between Slav and Albanian in the districts both claim.
'´Servian!´ said an Albanian to me but a month or two ago. ´Servian ! Yes, I have heard so much that I understand it, but I will not soil my mouthby repeating their dirty words!´
´Why do you hate them so?´ I asked.
´Because,´ he replied calmly, ´we are born like that. It is in our blood.´
´Like cats and dogs,´ said I.
´Exactly so, mademoiselle. It is like cats and dogs.´
Things look so different through other windows. When the Albanian loots or burns a Slav village, his act, in the eyes of Europe, is ´an atrocity.´ Seen through Albanian glasses it is quite another colour. The Albanian has fought for his land with all its invaders in turn, and is doing so still. He is at once the oldest and the youngest thing in the Balkan Peninsula. He and his rights and wrongs are at the bottom of most of its problems, and any scheme for the settlement of them which does not give him space to develope on his own lines is foredoomed to failure.
This is the first of the great Balkan hatreds. The second is not far to seek.
In the reign of Constantine IV., about 679 A.D., the Bulgars, who for some time had been harrying the frontiers and making raids into the peninsula so destructive that they threatened the safety of Byzantium itself, crossed the Danube in a body, and established themselves in the land still called Bulgaria. Who they were, and what tongue they spoke, is unknown. They came from the wild lands north of the Black Sea, and are believed to have been allied to the Huns and Fins. It is a noteworthy fact that the Albanian still calls the Bulgar ´Shkyar koke etrashé´i.e., thick-headed Scythian.
A ferocious race, not divided into tribes, but led by a Khan, whose rule is said to have been despotic, they burst into the land and poured over it, dealing death and destruction. They sacrificed their prisoners to their gods, and were noted even in those very unsqueamish days for their cruelty. Displacing such local chieftains, both Slav and Thracian, as they found in power, they rapidly mastered a large part of the lands already settled by the Slavs. The Timok River, then as now, was their western frontier. The separate histories of Servia and Bulgaria began, and it should be noted that by this time the Roman Empire of the East, inwhich the Greek element had been coming more and more to the front, was now become definitely Greek in character.
The Bulgars spread south at first, and aimed at Byzantium. Such was the terror they inspired that the weakly Emperors at first bought peace, but a peace of short duration. A long and bloody period of fighting began. The Bulgars seized Sofia, and outwitted the Byzantine army, and, having captured the Emperor Nicephorus, they beheaded him, and made a drinking-cup of his skull, a grim form of jest not unpopular in those days. They then took Adrianople, and forced their way even to the gates of Byzantium, were bought off at a heavy price, and only returned northwards after wasting all the neighbouring lands.
Such was the coming of the Bulgar, a foe alike to Greek, Serb, and the aboriginal tribes, and thus, as early as the seventh and eighth centuries, were sown the seeds of a plentiful crop of hatreds, from which the Balkan peoples reap an annual and a bitter harvest. The Bulgar to-day is hated even worse than the Turk; the grudge against him is an older one, and his present action impedes the settling of Balkan affairs.
The Bulgars, being the dominant race, poured southward and conquered both Greek and Slav. The detached Slavonic tribes fell an easy prey to the Bulgar Prince and his united army, and the Byzantine Emperors could do little more than protect their own capital. Then a notable thing happened. The Bulgar conquered the Slav, but the Slav absorbed him. He adopted Slav customs and the Slav tongue. Of his own language nothing is now known to exist, unless a few untranslateable words in an early list of Kings belong to it. But broad, flat faces, high cheek-bones, dark, straight hair, narrow eyes, and thick lips still show a large admixture of non-Slavonic blood in the folk of many districts.
Christianity had already made some way among the Slavs who were in contact with the Greeks. The Bulgars were a pagan people. The final conversion of both Serb and Bulgar was brought about towards the close of the ninth century by Greek priests, of whom there are said to have been seven, under the leadership of the celebrated missionary brothers, Cyril and Methodius of Salonika. They preached and conducted the services in the Slav language, into which Cyril translated the Scriptures, using for this purpose an alphabet said to be of his own construction, which is the origin of the alphabets still used by all the orthodox Slav peoples of to-day.
As there is at this time no mention made of another tongue, it is safe to assume that the original Bulgarian one had dropped out of use, and that Slavonic was not yet differentiated into Servian and Bulgarian. This Slavonic tongue, into which the Bible was translated, is sometimes termed ´Old Bulgarian´; it is more correct to call it ´Old Servian.´
Boris, Prince of the Bulgars, was baptized in 866 with the Byzantine Emperor as sponsor. He hastened the conversion of his people by beheading the unwilling; and being desirous of more freedom in ecclesiastical matters than the Greeks were disposed to allow him, he sent an envoy to Pope Nicholas with 105 questions on Christianity and a request to be allowed a Bulgarian Archbishop. The Pope gave no definite answer anent the Archbishop, but solved the other difficulties. When I was at Ochrida two recurred to me very forcibly.
´When a thief was arrested and lied, it was our custom to hit him on the head with a stick, and poke him in the side with an iron spike till he spoke the truth. What must we do now ?´
´You must not do this. His evidence must be voluntary.´
´Before we were Christians we used to find a certain stone, parts of which we used to give to sick folk. Some were cured and some were not. What must we do with the stone now ?´
´Throw it away.´
Customs die hard in the Balkan Peninsula. Turkish officers still extract evidence by methods condemned in the ninth century, and local medicine has not advanced in any marked degree.
Boris obtained his Archbishop later from the Greeks, and in spite of waverings not a few, and many efforts on the part of many Popes, bothSerb and Bulgar, have to this day remained faithful to the Orthodox Church a fact which has had a strong influence on the fate of the Balkans.
Boris established Bulgaria. His son and successor, Simeon, led it to glory, and the Bulgarian patriot of to-day looks back fondly on those great days, and sighs for the time when the Bulgar shall ´have his ownagain.´ Simeon was victorious everywhere. He imposed his rule on Serb and Greek, fought his way through the wild tribes of Albania, and won to the Adriatic coast. Servia was his so far as the Drin; Byzantium paid him tribute and retained but a small slip of territory, and he held half Greece. He proclaimed himself ´Tsar´ of Bulgaria, and is said to be the first to use that mighty title. Nor did he confine himself to the arts of war. His capital on the Balkan slopes was, we are told, of surpassing magnificence; his nobles were trained in the schools of Byzantium; he encouraged literature, and books were translated from the Greek by means of the new Slavonic alphabet. Byzantine learning, customs, and ceremonial spread through the land.
It should never be forgotten that all the civilization of the Balkan Peninsula is Byzantine in origin, and that that civilization, worked on other lines from that of the West, had other aims and other ideals. The West has since evolved a civilization that it considers so perfect that it is in a hurry to impose it on all the world, and goes on striving, like the Old Man in ´Alice,´ to ´Madly squeeze a right-hand foot into a left-hand shoe.´
Most of the troubles of the small Balkan States of to-day arise from the fact that they have had Western ideas, which in no way fit them, forced upon them in a hurry.
Simeon built and embellished his empire. But throughout Balkan history the empires which to-day are looked on with such passionate enthusiasm, and give each people in turn a claim (which each thinks incontrovertible) to the greater part of the peninsula, are ´one-man empires.´ Simeon´s was no exception. He died in 927; it split almost at once into two states, and Servia fought free. Of the two Bulgarias, the Eastern was the first to fall before Byzantine arms; the Western survived another fiftyyears, ruled first by Sisman, a Bulgarian noble, and then byhis son Samuel, whose capital was latterly at Ochrida.
Bulgarian atrocities are no recent invention. Few things are in the Balkan Peninsula. Basil II., Emperor of Byzantium, nicknamed the Bulgar-Slayer and notorious even in those very liberal-minded days for his unparalleled brutality, made it his life´s work to restore the lost glories of Byzantium. Oddly enough, he was of Macedonian descent, so that his hatred of the Bulgar was modern and characteristic. In a forty years´ campaign, pursued with extraordinary doggedness, he annihilated all that was left of the great Bulgarian Empire. In 1017 his troops marched into Ochrida and sacked the imperial palace, whose ruins yet crown the hillsacked it of 10,000 pounds´ weight of gold and the imperial crownand Ochrida has never again attained to the glory of the eleventh century. The Bulgarian Archbishop was allowed to remain, but under the rule of the Greek Patriarch. Basil continued his conquering march, and subdued the whole peninsula. Serb, Bulgar, and Albanian alike lay under Greek rule. Byzantium avenged her past humiliation by trampling hard on her former conqueror.
But ´every dog has his day,´ and from the struggling mass of opposing peoples it was the Serb that now emerged. It is in 1040 that we hear again of Servia. Freeing themselves from Greek rule, the Serbs rose very steadily, and grew in power as Byzantium rotted. About 1150 appears the first of the line of Nemanja Princes, who made Great Servia. Early Servian history is a long war against Greek, Bulgar, and Hungarian, a dim, blood-stained, one-goes up-when-t´other-goes-down story, too long to tell here.
In 1203 Byzantium staggered under the shock of the fourth Crusadea shock from which it never recoveredand Serb and Bulgar at once grew in power. With the weakening of the Greek Empire came a resurrection of the Bulgars, under the leadership of the Asens, some 160 years after the ruin of their first empire. There seems little doubt that these Asens were not Bulgars, but Vlahs.
Of the Vlahs we have as yet made little mention. They are to this day rather a mysterious people, and their origin is not certain. They are scattered all through the Balkan Peninsula in isolated groups, and speak abastard Latin dialect which resembles, but is not the same as, Roumanian. Some consider them as descendants of the Roman colonists, others as the remains of native Thracian tribes who had adopted the Latin tongue. This latter theory seems very probable. Be this as it may, all contemporary writers refer to Kalojan (John Asen), one of the most distinguished of the line, as a Vlah. A priest, we are told, who was taken prisoner besought Asen in Vlah, ´which was also his tongue´; Pope Innocent III., with whom he correspondedfor he declared himself for the Roman Church, and was crowned by a Cardinal sent by the Pope addressed him as a Vlah or Roman; and Villehardouin, in his vivid account of the fourth Crusade and the establishment of the short-lived empire of the Latins at Byzantium, says ´Johannis etait un Blaque.´ He called himself Tsar of the Bulgars and Vlahs. His son, also a John Asen, almost succeeded in restoring Bulgaria´s lost glory. He re-established the Orthodox Bulgarian Patriarchy, this time at Trnovo, his capital; he reconquered all Macedonia, a large part of Albania, and part of Servia, and threatened Byzantium. But he died in 1241, and by this time the Serbs had to be reckoned with.
The big Bulgaro-Vlah Empire did not live fifty years. Servia now rose rapidly, established an independent Church, and became the dominant Power. Mediæval Servia was not, geographically, the Servia of to-day. Its heart was the land which is now called ' Old Servia,' and is still part of the Sultan's empire. Its line of Nemanja Princes who made the Servian Empire are said to have sprung from Docle (in modern Montenegro). Rascia (near Novibazar), Prishtina, and then Prisren, were in turn their capital. Their dominion spread over thepeninsula, and the Slav people were at last ruled, not by Bulgar nor by Greek, but by Slav rulers. All that remained of the Bulgarian Empire fell before the Serbs about l330, and no attempt was made to restore it till the Russians drew up the Treaty of S. Stefano, after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877.
We now come to a fateful chapter in Balkan history. While Serb, Greek, and Bulgar were struggling for supremacy, rising and falling, each in turn victor and vanquished, the Ottoman Turk, the foe that was to overpower them all, was approaching Europe, checked, it is true, by the Crusades, but ever steadily advancing. And here we must pause to consider another great Balkan hatredone which, as do all the others, rages to the present day. This is the great Christian hatred.
The long drawn-out and bitter doctrinal controversies which were in the end to sever Rome from Byzantium began at a very early date. Ostensibly they had to do with matters of belief and ceremonial; at the root of them lay the fact that ´East is East and West is West´; and though the actual blow of final separation between the Churches did not take place till 1054, they were already practically divided when the Serbs and Bulgars were converted to Christianity by the Greek missionaries from Salonika.
Nor was the split between East and West the only religious difference which weakened the Balkan Christians. Each race then, as now, strove to extend its power by means of an independent Church, and internally they were torn by the Bogomil heresy. The Bogomils (lit., ´dear to God´) differed on vital points from both the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches, and were persecuted by each with great cruelty; notwithstanding which they increased in number and obtained much power, especially in Bosnia, where their rude monuments, carved with grotesque figures of men and beasts, still stand on many a lone hillside. Having suffered much at Christian hands, they were prepared to hail the Turk as a deliverer rather than a foe, and a large proportion of the very numerous converts to Islam that were made in Bosnia are believed to have been originally Bogomils. But it is said that Bogomil rites were practised in parts of Bosnia down to fifty or sixty years ago.
When the Turk arrived in the Balkan Peninsula he found it divided by four race hatreds, three Churches, and a powerful heresy, and separated from Western help by a religious hatred that was perhaps the bitterest of all. But it must not be forgotten that this state of things was not peculiar to the Balkan Peninsula. All mediæval Europe was suffering from ´growing pains,´ and religious toleration is an invention of to-day. Nor is the hatred of the Balkan people for all things Roman to be wondered at, for the Crusaders, though they came nominally in the name of Christianity, and temporarily checked the Turk in Asia, came as enemies to the Eastern Churches, and by their barbarous conduct during the fourth Crusade undoubtedly aided largely infinally opening the gates of Europe to him. The unlearned Orthodox peasant of to-day looks shyly even on the Roman alphabet as possibly connected with the Pope and dangerous; and an Archimandrite who wished to be very friendly began by saying to me, ´We both dislike the Pope.´
It was in the palmy days of the Servian Empire that the Turk drew near. The coming danger was once actually realized by the Balkan people, and, for the first and last time, Greek and Serb united and routed the coming foe in Asia Minor. But this union was only temporary. We again find Serb, Greek, and Bulgar, blind to their coming doom, locked in a life and death struggle, and the Greek actually striving to enlist the Turk on his side.
But the Serb star was in the ascendant, Servian arms were everywhere victorious, and under the leadership of the mighty warrior Stefan Dushan (1337-1356) Servia touched her highest point of glory. Servia, Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia, all owned his sway. Bulgaria and Thessaly were his vassals. He is celebrated alike as warrior and lawgiver, and the elaborate code which he drew up for the regulation of his Empire is still extant. Prisren was his capital, and there he held his Court with great state and magnificence. You may see him now, stiff and gorgeous, frescoed upon the walls of his father´s church at Dechani, bearded, moustachioed, clad in a long, straight Byzantine robe, heavily bordered with gold, and crowned with the imperial diadem, from either side of which hangs a string of gems.
Tsar of almost the whole peninsula, he planned to add Greece and Byzantium to his Empire, and to keep the Turk from Europe. Dushan started with a fabulously vast army. Had his enterprise succeeded, and he lived long enough to consolidate his Empire, the fate of East Europe might have been very different, for he was undoubtedly one of the strongest men the peninsula has produced. But in the midst of his power and glory, on the very eve of his great undertaking, he died suddenly (treacherously poisoned, it is said) within a few miles of Byzantium.
Dushan is still a popular hero, and prances on a fiery steed in grotesquely primitive prints on many a cottage wall both in Servia and Montenegro, and in the name of Dushan many a Serb of to-day claims broad lands as his birthright. I remember the sudden joy of a gendarme who was laboriously deciphering my name, printed in Roman type on my passport case. ´It is Dushan,´ he cried, ´the name of our great Tsar!´
Alas for the briefness of Balkan glories Dushan´s Great Servia but added to the fatal list of one-man´ empires. His one son, Stefan Urosh, was very young, and the large and rapidly-formed State, having no strong hand to hold it together, split almost at once into separate groups under local leaders. Stefan Urosh was murdered, and with him ends the conquering dynasty of Nemanja Princes who had ruled Servia with ever-increasing success for over two hundred years.
The razzle-dazzle of empires that rise like rockets and fall like sticks is blinding and bewildering until we remember the stuff from which they were constructed. The bulk of the population that was continually changing hands was all divided into tribes with local chieftains. They all had petty quarrels with their next-door neighbours to attend to, and were easily conquered one after another by any bold leader with military skill and an army. When subdued they paid tribute to the conqueror of the day, and went on living as before, with their manners and customs unchanged. To the folk in the heart of the mountains it can have made little difference if an Asen or a Nemanja claimed them. Greek, Serb, and Bulgar each owned a little pied-à-terre; the populations between fell to whichever race evolved a Prince who was capable of driving a mixed team. The burning question of to-day is, ´Who shall drive them now?´
Between whilesthat is, while one empire was falling to pieces and the maker of the next had not yet arisen any local leader or foreign invader who was strong enough built up a little State. Thus, towards the end of the eleventh century the Normans occupied South Albania, and penetrated as far north as Ochrida and Skoplje, and also to Kastoria in the south. But their rule was fleeting, and was shortened by the hostility of Venice, who at an early date began to extend her trade along the shores of the Adriatic.
A lasting and noteworthy rule was that of the Despots of Epirus. When Byzantium was attacked by the Latins, Michael Angelo Comnenus, vaguely related to the imperial family, put himself at the head of the people of South Albania at the beginning of the thirteenth century, and founded a large State called theDespoty of Epirus, which ultimately included Epirus, Thessaly, the Ochrida districts and part of North Albania. At this time most of this land, together with Corfu and the Ionian Islands, was allotted to Venice as her share of the loot of the fourth Crusade; but when the Venetians came to take possession, they found Michael Angelo already established, and not inclined to go. Coast-land aud ports were all that Venice really desired, and to turn out Michael Angelo would have been a useless labour. They contented themselves with the islands, Durazzo, and a strip of coast-land, and left him to rule inland, he paying a small tribute and promising to curb the wilder mountain tribes and prevent their harrying the coast towns. Durazzo was Venetian and the seat of a Roman Catholic Archbishop, but not for long.
Michael Angelo was murdered in 1214, and his brother and successor, Theodore, evicted the Venetians altogether. His rule was then interrupted by the invasion of John Asen, who was hard at work building the second Bulgarian Empire. Asen fough Theodore and took him prisoner (about 1230), but, as seems to have been often the case with these large mushroom empires, local rule was not greatly disturbed.
Theodore´s brother Manuel succeeded to the Despoty, and married Asen's daughter, and Asen himself made quite a family party of it by himself marrying Theodore´s daughter. The Despots of Epirus outlived Asen´s Bulgarian Empire, and in due time fell into the hands of the Serbs.
Meantime, another curious complication had ensued: Manfred, King of the two Sicilies, had married the daughter of a Despot of Epirus, and several important Albanian towns were included in her dowry. Charles of Anjou overthrew Manfred and claimed all his realms, the Albanian coast towns along with the rest, and set out to take them. He seized Durazzo, and even reached Berat, in the interior. The Despot of Epirus then thought well to swear fealty to him; but swearing fealty in those days does not seem to have amounted to much more than saying, ´Look here, I don´t want to play just now ;´ and the Despot, fealty forgotten, succeeded shortly in retaking all but Durazzo, which remained Angevin through the reign of the Serb Tsar, Stefan Dushan, and was one of the few places he did not subdue. The rest of the Despoty owned Dushan´s sway as it had done Asen´s, but the Comnenus line survived him, too, and the Despoty of Epirus was finally absorbed by George Balsha, a Serb noble, and by various Albanian chieftains, of whom more anon.
With this slight sketch to illustrate the slender nature of the threads that bound the big Balkan Empires together, we must pass on to the state of the Peninsula after Dushan´s death.
Within a few years it was a mass of separate principalities. Bulgaria and Bosnia both broke loose; the latter, indeed, showed signs of becoming a power under a King of its own, but they were not fulfilled. The district known as the Zeta (which includes modern Montenegro and a large part of North Albania) was ruled by George Balsha, whose capital was Skodra.
Notably this is the beginning of the history of modern Albania. We hear of powerful Albanian chieftains; of the Topias, lords of Durazzo and Kruja; of Musaki, whose rule reached as far as and included Kastoria, and who still gives his name to the land near Berat; and of Gropa, Lord of the Ochrida district. The power of Byzantium was dead, and the Albanians spread rapidly over the land from which they had been formerly driven by the Slavs. Serviaa much diminished Serviawas ruled by the usurper Vukashin, one of Dushan's Generals, who murdered young Stefan Urosh
and seized his throne. Last and direst fact of all, the Turks had entered Europe, and had come to stay.
Neither Greek nor Bulgar appear at first to have greatly dreaded them, but to have each looked on them rather as a possible ally against the other. No organized opposition was made; the Turks took Adrianople in l361 and Philippopolis the year after. Bulgaria soon became a vassal State, and furnished soldiers to the Turkish army.
The Serbs perceived the coming danger, and Vukashin, with a large force, tried to check Turkish advance, but was completely routed, and was murdered, it is said, by a Serb noble, who thus avenged the death of young Urosh.
Meanwhile George Balsha, Prince of the Zeta, was extending his rule. Part of his State lives to-day as Montenegro, the one unconquered survivor of Dushan's Great Servia. Many of the Albanian chieftains were Balsha's allies, andthe Balsha family was connected with several by marriage. There was undoubtedly much Illyrian blood in the Serbs of this district, and at this point it is not easy to understand the hatred which subsequently sprang up between Albania and Montenegro. But while Balsha was building up a Serbo-Albanian State the Turks were steadily advancing. No great leader opposed them, and they marched onward with little difficulty. By 1380 they had pressed into Macedonia, and in 1386 reached and took Nish. When face to face with the enemy, the Serbs sought a King who should join their scattered forces, and chose Lazar Grebljanovich, the luckless hero of the great ballad cycle which tells of the downfall of Servia. It was in 1389a fateful year for all the Balkan peoplesthat the Serbs made their last stand as a united people.
Lazar summoned his chieftains, and they flocked to his standard from Bosnia, from Albania, the Zeta, and Syrmia, from every fastness and stronghold, with all the heroes of the landa list of doughty warriors well known to every Serb child of to-day.
Sultan Murad and his Turks were encamped on the broad plain of Kosovo, in the heart of Old Servia. He swore to slaughter the giaours and to mark out the frontiers with their heads. His tents spread all over the plain; the lances of his warriors were like a black forest, and their banners like clouds in the sky. So vast was his army that, had God sent rain, it would have fallen, not on green grass, but on horsemen and horses, spears and banners. A desperate fight ensued; Murad was stabbed in his tent on the morn of the fight by a Serb chieftain, Milosh Obilich, who had sworn to kill him, but the Turks were led by his son Bajazet. Lazar and his men fought fiercely against heavy odds; the waters of the Sitnitza ran red, and the horses splashed knee-deep in blood. The Turks wavered before the wild onslaught, and were falling back, when the divided state of the Serb people was their own undoing. Lazar was betrayed. His son-in-law, Vuk Brankovich, coveted for himself the crown of the Nemanjas; he deserted to the enemy with 12,000 followers, and the ground on which they stood has been barrenevermore. Then fell Lazar and his heroes thick around him; and the Turks, though they suffered very heavily, remained victors in one of the decisive battles of the world-a battle from which the Balkan peoples still suffer, and whose consequences still threaten the peace of Europe.
Murad´s body was buried with great pomp at Broussa, and the precious relics of Lazar rest at Vrdnik, in Syrmia; but the bones of Milosh Obilich, the best beloved hero of that bloody drama, lie buried on the battlefield. ´Come with me to Kosovo and I will show you the grave of´ the hero Milosh Obilich that killed Sultan Murad!´ cried a gendarme to me. He was a Moslem, and in the Sultan´s service; but he was a Bosniak, and, in spite of the apostasy of his forbears, the traditions of his race still loomed large in his imagination.
As for Vuk Brankovich, the accursed, he was buried at Krushevatz, the capital of Tsar Lazar, by the Turks, who are said to have piously burnt lamps upon his grave till the Servian uprising at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the Serbs dug up the traitor´s bones and scattered their ashes to the four winds.
Kosovo is still in the enemy´s hands, and the defeat still rankles. Yearly, on June 15, the fatal day, a solemn service is held in the churches throughout Servian lands, and the crimson and black cap worn by the Montenegrins represents blood and mourning.
Kosovo was the last attempt at a combined defence. But the Turks did not follow up their hard-won victory at once. In most districts the local Prince continued as nominal ruler under Turkish suzerainty, but had to pay the Sultan a heavy tax, both in money and men, and a tribute of children, to be brought up as Moslems and trained for the celebrated army of the Jannisaries. The cruellest foe of the subject people was thus shaped from their own flesh and blood; and at the same time the withdrawal of their finest boys for this purpose very much weakened their own power of resistance.
As yet, however, they were unaware of the fate in store for them, and in the outlying parts petty princelings continued to war on one another, for still the idea of each was to form a ´one-manempire´ at the expense of everyone else. Of these suzerain chiefs, the most celebrated is Marko Kraljevich (Mark, the King´s son), son of the usurper Vukashin. He ruled a large part of Old Servia and Macedonia, and had his capital at Prilep. He was one of the chiefs who fought for Servia at Kosovo, and after the defeat ruled as a Turkish vassal. The popular hero of a mass of Servian ballad poetry, his exploits, as there chronicled, belong often to the realm rather of mythology than history. He is blood-brother (´pobratim´) to a fairy (Vila), rides upon a magic horse, Sharatz, and serves in countless fights under the Sultan. His doughty deeds did not actually affect the fate of his nation, but, handed down in popular song, they have undoubtedly helped largely to keep alive the tradition of Servian nationality through the dark centuries of Turkish rule, and the memory of him is still fresh in the lands that he swayed. After his death these for the most part fell again to the Albanians.
The suzerain Princes soon sealed their own fates, and Turkish Pashas took their places. The last of the Bulgarian princelings was overthrown about 1398; Servia, with the help of Hungary, survived till 1459, but the distrust of the Orthodox Serbs for the Catholic Magyars killed all chance of the alliance being a lasting one. Such was their horror of Catholicism, that when Helena, the widow of the last of the local Princes, wished to save Servia by putting it under the protection of the Pope, they made little or no resistance to Turkish invasion, and Servia was wiped out from among the nations.
Bosnia fell a few years later for similar reasons. The Turk was hailed not only by the Orthodox as a protection against the Pope, but also welcomed by the very many followers of the Bogomil heresy as a protection against both Orthodox and Catholic.
Of all the Balkan Peninsula, two districts alone maintained any independenceAlbania and Balsha´s principality of the Zeta. Here the Turks met with far more resistance. Nevertheless they penetrated the land, and George Balsha II., after hard fighting, was reduced to selling Skodra to the Venetians, who already held Alessio and Durazzo, and falling back upon the mountains of Montenegro. The Turks seized the plains, but the natural fortifications of the mountains were too much for them. Balshawas followed by Stefan Crnoievich, and the mountains of Montenegro have never owned Turkish rule.
Meanwhile the whole of the mountain tribes of Albania defended themselves. Lek Dukagin and his brother Paul remained independent in the highlands between the Drin and the sea, where their tribe and that of the Mirdites still dwell untamed, and ruled by the unwritten ´law of the mountains,´ which bears Lek's name to this day, but is rumoured to have come down from a remote antiquity, and to be the oldest existing law in Europe. And so it may be, for it would be hard to find a cruder code. It contains no provision for the trial or punishment of murder. The relatives of the murdered man are left to avenge him when and how they please. The Topias defended the neighbourhood of Tirana. We hear, too, of the Shpatas, the Musakis, and the Dushmans in the districts where their names are still known, and Venice held most of the coast towns.
WE have now seen the pageant of the passing of the nations; have seen each in turn decked in brief glory, and all in the end overwhelmed by a foreign conqueror. It is time to consider how far they had reached in the history of a nation's development; for peoples, like individuals, must all pass through certain phases of growth. All Europe, it should be remembered, was at this time busy growing up. As in the Balkan Peninsula, so everywhere else was the struggle carried on by Prince against Prince, Duke against Duke; one-man empires rose and fell, peoples worked out their salvation or destruction, and the modern Powers of Europe gradually came into being by a long and uninterrupted process of evolution.
With the Balkan peoples it was otherwise. While still in an early stage of national development their growth was arrestedarrested with extraordinary completeness. Till the period of the arrival of the Turks they had been growing. Trade routes had been opened by Greek, Bulgar, and Serb, and considerable traffic took place with Venice and Ragusa. The arts were cultivated; national literatures were beginning. Judging by the buildings that remain and the frescoes that adorn them, the people of the great Servian Empire were very little behind the average of the rest of Europe, were full of vitality and growing.
The Turks when they came to Europe were a great peoplea great military people. In manners and customs they were probably not more cruel or barbarous than the peoples they conquered; in the Middle Ages everywhere folk were cruel beyond belief. In point of power of organization and military skill, however, they were very greatly superior, and they were led by Sultans who, in many cases, had a genius for generalship. But beyond conquest they had no ideas. They camped on vanquished territory, and forced the people to feed them; and they have pursued this policy up to the present day. I have travelled from village to village, and town to town, through the lands which they held and those that they yet hold, and nowhere have I ever seen one monument of Turkish greatness. They have in all these centuries done nothing for the lands which they devastated, and they remain to this day encamped. Public safety is no better where the Turks rule than it was in the Middle Ages, possibly not so good, for Dushan made strict laws on the subject. Now those who travel without an armed escort do so at their own peril, and in case of attack the Government takes no responsibility. It is a wild mediæval land. As the Turks found it, so will they leave it.
In many ways there is little doubt that the subject peoples indeed retrograded. Their primitive customs they clung to instinctively as a means of self-protection. Their acquired knowledge and progress in the arts of peace and war they lost, for they had no chance for the exercise of either. The wholesome exercise of fighting their quarrels out to the end was denied them, and the Turkish policy of making means of communication as difficult as possible to this day prevents the growth of any trade or manufacture. Heavy and irregular taxation, then as now, made the gathering of any capital hopeless. The subject people lay helpless, and suffered bitterly. All travellers who visited these lands draw painful pictures of the state of the wretched inhabitants.
Dr. Brown, writing in 1673, says: ´I could not but pity the poor Christians, seeing under what fear they lived in those parts, when I observed them to make away as soon as they perceived us coming towards them. In Macedonia the men and women would betake themselves into the woods to avoid us.´ And Lady MaryWortley Montagu, travelling across Servia in 1717, writes: The oppression of the peasants is so great that they are forced to abandon their tillage, all that they have being a prey to the Janissaries whenever they chose to seize on it.´ The mass of the people were no better than slaves. Disarmed and systematically robbed by their conquerors, they were powerless to resist.
Only in the mountainous districts were the fiercer spirits able to defend themselves. These fortified their strongholds, and waged a ceaseless guerilla warfare on the Turks, whom they waylaid and plundered at every opportunity. The Herzegovina sheltered many of these Heyduks, whose deeds of daring form the subject of a mass of ballad poetry, which is grim reading enough, and has cast a halo of glory round brigandage which has but lately faded away. A large number of Serbs fled over the Save, and sought refuge in Hungary, where their descendants still live, and others sheltered in the fastnesses of Montenegro.
Nor did the conquered Slavs suffer only from Turkish oppression. The Turks had promised to tolerate the Christian religion, and not to interfere in ecclesiastical matters, and they gave the control of the Christian Church into the hands of the Greek Patriarch at Constantinople, who had also power to deal with many of the civil affairs of the Christians. The enormous power attached to the office of Patriarch made it of extreme value, and at an early date we find it being sold by the Sultan to the highest bidder. Huge sums were paid, and these were exacted by the ecclesiasts from their unhappy flocks, who dreaded the Church tax-gatherer as much as they did the Turkish one. Gradually the whole of the power was absorbed by the Greeks, and the two autocephalous Slav - Churches, Ochrida and Ipek, whose power had gradually shrivelled, were disestablished, and fell into Greek hands in the latter half of the eighteenth century. No Slavonic clergy were allowed high posts under Greek rule; and so eager were the Greeks to get rid of all traces of the previously existing Slavonic Churches that they destroyed a great part of the Slavonic Church books and documents in the monastery libraries. The hatred between Greek and Slav was not only kept alive, but waxed fiercer. Montenegro alone kept a free and independent Slav Church, which survives to this day.
Eaving briefly sketched the fate of the fallen peoples, we must now follow the fortunes of Albania. The case of Albania is a strange one. At the time of Kosovo we may say of them, as Herodotus said of the Thracians,to whom they are probably allied, ' Were they either under the government of an individual or united among themselves, their strength would, in my opinion, render them invincible.' They allied themselves with the Serb Prince, George Balsha, and, attacking the neighbouring Serb Prince, Marko Kraljevich, they took from him Ochrida, Ipek, and white Prisren, the home of mighty Dushan; for Mark now owned Turkish suzerainty, and, it appears, was treated as an enemy by Balsha. Albanian blood was reasserting itself, and Albanian chiefs ruled as far as Kastoria; but there was still no great leader who could gather the tribes and mould them into a whole, and when the Turks broke into the land many of the Albanian chiefs accepted Turkish suzerainty. But not for long.
In 1403 was born Albania´s great man, George Kastriot, called Skenderbeg. Into the vexed question of his ancestry we have no space here to enter. His father has been variously described as Lord of Kastoria, of a village near Dibra, and of Kruja. The latter tale is the most popular. Portents, of course, foretold George´s greatness, and his mother dreamed she had been delivered of a dragon. George´s career began dramatically: his father, so the story runs, fell into Turkish hands, and had to yield all his four sons as tribute children to be reared as Moslems and trained for the Turkish army. George alone survived. He showed great ability, rose in rank, and was given the name and title of Iskender Bey and the command of the Albanian soldiery, tribute children like himself. He covered himself with glory fighting for the Turks, not only in Asia, but also against the Serb Prince, George Brankovich, the first, but by no means the last, of his race to joyfully aid Turk against Slav.
The victories won against the Turks by the Hungarian champion, John Hunyades, first seem to have inspired George with the idea of fighting for his own nation. Entering into a pact with Hunyades, he secured his ends by a trick. Giving the Turks no sign that he meant to betray them, he appeared suddenly before the Sultan´s secretary and demanded that the post of Lord of Kruja be given him in the Sultan's name. He was backed by his Albanian soldiery; the secretary must either write the order or die, and he wrote it. Off rode George to Dibrayou can fancy him and his men singing as they went in true Albanian fashion.
At Dibra he was hailed joyfully by the chieftain, Mois Golem, who strengthened his forces. Arrived at Kruja with his troops, George presented his official letter to the Turkish Governor, who at once yielded up his post. That night, he and every Turk in the town was slain, and George proclaimed himself the champion of Christendom and of free Albania. This was in the year 1443.
As Skenderbeg, Prince of all Albania, Georges success was phenomenal. The Albanians had found their strong man and were invincible. Topias, Musakis, Dushmans, Dukagins, all flocked to his standard. Stefan Crnoievich, of Montenegro, with whom he was connected by marriage, was his ally; so, too, were the Venetians, who held some of the coast-towns, and the Turks were beaten everywhere. Vainly they hurled armies on him; they were either cut to pieces on the plains of Dibra or trapped and massacred in the mountain passes. Skenderbeg took few prisoners. Europe rang with his name, and he was called on by the Pope to aid John Hunyades and Vladislav, King of Poland, who were marching on the Turks from the north. Had he succeeded in bringing up his troops in time, the history of the peninsula might have read very differently; but religious differences and the old hatred that lay between Slav and Albanian then, as now, kept the Turk in Europe. Skenderbeg, on his way to help the Catholic troops of Poland and Hungary, was opposed near Belgrade by his old enemy the Serb and Orthodox Prince, George Brankovich. He arrived too late: the field of Varna had been already fought and the Catholic army completely routed.
But Skenderbeg remained invincible in his own lands. Two Turkish Sultans in turn swore to destroy the Albanian rebel; but though they forced a way into his lands more thaIl once with huge armies and artillery, and besieged Kruja itself for many months, they always had in the end to retreat with very heavy losses. So long as Skenderbeg lived, Albania was unsubdued. He died of fever in 1467, after twenty-four years of victory, and with him died united Albania. He was buried in the cathedral at Alessio, but it has been wrecked by the Turks, and his grave is unknown. They are said to have worn fragments of hisbody as amulets to make them invincible. ´Such a lion will never again appear on earth´ was the verdict of his old enemy, Sultan Mahomed II. His people still wear mourning for him, and his deeds form the topic of popular songs, where the heathen recoil from the light that flashes from his eyes and fall dead in heaps beneath the sword that he alone could swing.
The champion of Christendom was dead; there was none to take his place and hold the tribes together, and the Turks now advanced rapidly. They tore the coast-towns one after another from the Venetians, and took Skodra after two severe sieges. Montenegro, ' the castle God built for us,' as its people say, remained impregnable and ruled by its Crnoievich Princes. The Albanians made terms with the Turks. Fiercely independent by nature, they were as yet in too early a stage of a nation's development to form a body politic. Roman, Byzantine, Bulgar, and Serb alike had each in turn called them vassals, and run off them like the proverbial water from a duck´s back. The strong individuality of the people had never been modified. They had acknowledged a nominal master, and had followed the devices of their own hearts. They now continued to do so.
´We Albanians,´ said an Albanian kaimmakam to me recently, ´have quite peculiar ideas. We must have freedom; we will profess any form of religion which leaves us free to carry a gun. Therefore the majority of us are Moslems.´
The object of each chieftain was to keep his position and widen his lands. Some few in the more remote districts remained Christian, but the majority professed Islamism, and within a short time of the Turkish ´conquest´ Albanian power spread. Fighting has always been the Albanians´ joy. They now fought for the Turk whenever called upon, and were well paid, for their services were very valuable, and they retained the right to manage their own internal affairs. The heads of noble families were made Pashas or Beys, and given the governorships of the larger towns: Skodra, Ipek, Skoplje, Janina, Prisrenall were ruled by hereditary Albanian Pashas; and the Albanian, as the ally of the Turk, once more spread his rule over lands wrested from him by Greek and Slav. The history of Montenegro is one long fight against Turko-Albanian forces. Albanians penetrated Greece, and settled there in large numbers, and spread up into Bosnia and Servia. As their power increased, they resolutely opposed the Slav on all occasions, and never to this day have they ceased to look on him as a recent foreign invader.
The Turks were all this time spreading into Europe. They even crossed over into Italy, and swore they would banquet in the Vatican. In Italy they were baffled; in Hungary their advance was steady. Finally they reached even to Vienna, where the Crescent was placed above the Cross on the spire of the cathedral to protect it from attack. But they won no further.
In 1683 they were completely routed outside its walls, and this is a turning-point in Balkan history. They were never again a terror to Europe; their power was waning, and they began that slow retreat from the conquered lands which even yet is not accomplished.
From this time onward the history of the Balkan Peninsula is that of the decay of Turkish might, and the consequent resurrection of the subject peoples.
The Turks weakened slowly but steadily. Austria lost little time in turning the tables upon them, and from being the attacked, became the attacker. We now arrive at modern history, and both Russia and Austria appear upon the scenes as players in the Balkan drama. Austria began to aspire to be a Balkan State. The Emperor Leopold marched into Turkish territory, and made a bold attempt to annex Servia. He forced his way even to the historic field of Kosovo, opposed both by Turk and Albanian, but was unable to hold the large tract of land he had taken, and had to withdraw again across the Save. Nor has Austria yet succeeded in annexing those lands, though she desires them greatly, and is still striving.
Every quarrel in a Servian market becomes a revolution in the hands of the Vienna journalists; Austria mobilized troops near the frontier, and was ready to march over, when King Alexander was murdered; she industriously circulated reports of possible riots at King Peter's coronation, but, much to her disappointment, she has so far failed to construct an occasion on which, for the sake of the peace of Europe, she would be obliged to occupy Servia. I believe it is no exaggeration to say that every piece of Balkan news that comes via Vienna is ´cooked´ to suit Austrian plans.
Austria has plotted, and is plotting with as much industry as is Russia, to secure territory in the Balkan Peninsula, and so far with much greater success. Her methods are more finished.
Leopold could not hold Servia, but he did not wish it to become an independent country. The large Servian colony already settled in Syrmia had proved of great use to him, and he now invited the inhabitants of Old Servia to join them. In 1689 Arsen Crnoievich, Archbishop of Ipek, migrated to Hungary with a following of 37,000 familiesfamily groups, that is, in the Servian sense of the word; uncles, brothers, cousinsa vast mass of people; and the Serb claim to Old Servia has never recovered from that loss. It is doubtful if it ever will in our time, for the wholesale emigration of the Serb left the greater part of the land to the Albanian, and in the event of a new delimitation of frontiers it will probably be found impossible to give the whole of it to Servia.
The Turk still further weakened the Serb position in 1737 by putting the Church of Ipek under Greek instead of Serb rule. Another Serb migration then took place, but the Turks, who wished to prevent the Serbs from massing in the north and forming a power, checked it by killing a number of the would-be emigrants and selling many as slaves abroad. The land was thus still further depopulated.
But the Austrian invasion had shaken Turkish power badly. It had shown the subject peoples that the Turk was not invincible. Moreover, the Turkish Sultans were no longer the militant heroes of the old days. They had become weak, luxurious, and corrupt. The Turkish nation was on the down grade. The weaker and more corrupt the Government became, the worse was the state of the subject peoples. The local Pashas were free to work their will upon them, and the Janissaries, quite unrestrained, ravaged the lands like wild beasts. Austria made another attempt at the taking of Turkey, this time under the leadership of the brilliant Prince Eugène, and the Turk reeled from the shock, not conquered but permanently weakened. The subject people arose and attacked him, and the first to do so were the Serbs, under the leadership of Karageorge. Whatever weakness the Serbs may have since displayed, it must always be remembered that theirs is the glorv of being the first: to struggle for and obtain freedom from the Turkish yoke. Their example was followed very shortly by the Greeks, who, aided by the South Albanians, beloved of Lord Byron, fought free not long afterwards.
Meanwhile Albania, too, had struck out for independence. Had the whole country risen, liberty would then have doubtless been obtained; but the tribal divisions were too strong. There were rival powers within. The north was ruled by the Bushatlis, Pashas of Skodra. There was the powerful Christian tribe of the Mirdites, under Bib Doda; Kurd Pasha ruled in Central Albania, and in the south was the redoubtable: Ali Pasha, one of the most remarkable men, after Skenderbeg, that Albania has produced. Ambitious, indomitable, unscrupulous, and possessed of military genius, he overthrew all the local chieftains of the South, and set himself to obtain supreme power.
Victorious wherever he went, in a short time he was lord of the whole of South Albania, and quite independent. He held his Court with great splendour at Janina, and tried hard to enlist the friendship and support of England. His lands included Ochrida, Berat, Permeti, Avlona, Arta, and Suli. He planned to attack Bushatli, Pasha of Skodra, and seize North-Albania. By way of weakening Turkish power he aided the rising of the Greeks, and Greeks and Albanians made common cause.
Ali's rule, however, was brutal. He was deserted by many of his officers; many of his Christian subjects fled from his persecutions; Bushatli turned against him, and he was attacked by the Turks in great force. But the grim old man kept them at bay. Finally besieged in his castle at Janina, fighting to the last, he fell into the enemy's hands in 1822, in the eightyfirst year of his age. They promised to spare his life, but slew him as soon as captured. His head was sent to the Sultan at Constantinople, and exposed on one of the gates. His cruelty was such that his followers showed little ardour in the end in defending him. By his wild and reckless career he freed South Albania and ruined it, for he aimed only at personal power, and thought nothing of the future. He had destroyed the old feudal system by sweeping the local chiefs from his path. He had torn land from the Christians to give it to his own family. On his death the land was leaderless. The Turks massacred his sons, seized their territories, andSouth Albania fell again largely under Turkish rule.
The independence of Greece was recognised in 1829. It had been obtained largely by Albanian aid, and the Albanians have since been enraged to find that, far from recognising that aid, the Greeks have lost no opportunity to extend their power at the expense of Albania. Lands which the Albanian regards as his birthright the Greeks plan to absorb, by working a ceaseless propaganda which aims at the suppressing of the Albanian tongue and the substitution for it of Greek. Consequently, when the Greeks declared war in 1897, the Albanians flew to arms. They do not admit that it was a Greco-Turkish war at all. It was, they say, an attack by the Greeks, whom they had formerly helped, on Albanian liberty. They drove the Greeks before them like sheep, and the present enmity between the two peoples is a source of weakness to each.
With the recognition of the freedom of Servia and of Greece we enter into the chapter that is not yet finishedthe tale of tottering Sultans supported from without. And we must look back a little, that we may understand the part played by Russia in the still unfinished struggle for their lands.
Russian hordes, it is true, had appeared and given trouble in the Balkan Peninsula in the days of the first Bulgarian Empire, but it was not till the days of Peter the Great that Russia constituted herself the champion of the Slav against the Turk, and planned to extend her power to Constantinople. In 1711 Peter made the still existing alliance between Russia and Montenegro. The local contemporary ballad gives us the key to Russia's great power over the Slav peasants of the Balkans.
´Lo !´ says Peter, ´I send you my envoy! I trust myself to Almighty God, and to the strength of the Servian nation, most of all to the brave Montenegrins, to help me to free the Christian peoples and to glorify the Slav name, to break the yoke of the Agas, and to raise up temples to the true faith. Together will we wash out the shame that has been brought by the Turks, the foes of all who will not lick the dust under their feet. Ye are of one blood with the Russians, of one faith, of one tongue! Arise like heroes, oh ye Christians! cry out like falcons! Lift up your weapons and rush upon the Turk! Together let us go to Stamboul!´
Since that day experience and a wider outlook have taught many leaders of the Balkan Slavs that Russia's labours on their behalf are not entirely disinterested, and some have worked hard to thwart her plans.
Diplomatists who know will tell you how fatal it would be to fall under Russian rule, but so far as my own experience goes, the heart of the people is everywhere with Holy Russia as opposed to Austria. Politicians may plan and argue; ´one faith and one blood´ has more power than all the reasoning in the world. That the saying is not strictly true is of no moment, for the peasant believes it. But the shadow of Austria rests on Servia, and Russian propaganda have been far more actively worked in Bulgaria and Macedonia.
Peter the Great´s attempt in 1711 failed, but the Russians did not cease their efforts, and in 1768 beat the Turks and assumed the right of protecting Wallachia and Moldavia, i.e., Roumania. Austrian jealousy was then aroused, and Russia had to withdraw; but she had obtained a footing in the Balkan Peninsula. These lands were, it is true, beyond the Danube, but on their behalf Russia, in 1774, obtained permission to erect a church in Constantinople, and the following engagement was made:
´The Porte promises to protect the Christian religion and its churches, and it also allows the Court of Russia to make upon all occasions representations as well in favour of the new church as on behalf of its ministers, promising to take such representations into consideration.´
Thus arose Russia´s claim to the right of protection over all the Christian subjects of the Sultan, though the right of intervention was originally only accorded for the affairs of one church and its ministers. The Protectorate over Wallachia and Moldavia lasted but a year or two; Russian influence in the affairs of the Churches under the Sultan's rule is paramount. It was directed from the beginning, as it is now, to obtaining power over the Slavonic Christians by freeing them from the tyranny of the Greek priesthood which had been placed over them by the Turks, and re-establishing the Slavonic Churches. It has now reached such a pitch that the Bulgarian Bishops plot revolution, and the Sultan is powerless to remove | them.
Austria, as we have seen, made violent efforts to enter and become possessed of Balkan lands by way of Servia. Russia struggled similarly by way of Roumania, and each strove to outwit the other. But the cry of ´one blood and one faith´ is a potent one to conjure with, and when the Serbs needed help in their fight for freedom, it was on Russia, not Austria, that they called. Nor did they call in vain. Russian influence grew stronger, and we come to the year 1829, the year when the freedom of Greece was recognised, and one that was near proving fatal to Turkish rule in Europe.
Servia had fought free, but her Prince, Milosh Obrenovich, was not yet recognised by the Sultan. Milosh demanded recognition, and his demand was backed by Russia.
Mustafa Bushatli, Pasha of Skodra, the chief ruler in North Albania, then thought, as other people were obtaining recognition of freedom, it was a good opportunity for him, too, to strike. Albanian power at this moment was very great. Mehemet Ali, an Albanian, had made himself master of Egypt, and threatened daily to yet further curtail the Sultan's power. It is said that he not only encouraged Bushatli to rise, but supplied him with funds.
Bushatli waited till Russia had commenced the attack. When the Russian troops had reached Adrianople, and were ready to march on Constantinople, he hurried up with a large army and captured Nish. The Sultan was in a parlous position; he was saved from destruction by the intervention of France and England. Russia had to make terms and withdraw, and Bushatli withdrew as wella fact that has been much deplored by his compatriotsbut a fatal blow had been dealt at the Sultan´s throne.
From that day to this Turkish Sultans have ruled in Europe only because the various parties that covet their lands have not yet decided who is to have them. But no external aid has succeeded in doing more than propping a decaying Power. Not all the wits of all the diplomatists have availed to remedy matters. Slowly and steadily the fabric has crumbled and is crumbling. It has now reached a point when no repair ispossible, for there is not one inch that is sound in the whole rotten mediceval structure. On paper Turkish laws seem fair enough, but, so far as I can learn, not one of them is honestly administered. As for the treaties, conventions, and promises to reform that have been drawn up and ratified, they have only been made to be broken. No lesson has taught the Turk. He has continued working on the old lines, and has never retrieved a single one of his losses.
Had the Albanians at this period produced a second Skenderbeg, their independence would have been assured. Both the North and the South rose in revolt, but their want of unity brought disaster. They did not rise together, and Reshid Pasha, with a large army, gained a victory over the South before the North was ready. He then offered to make terms, and invited the heads of the noble Tosk families to a banquet of reconciliation at Monastir. They came, and during the feast were surrounded by Turkish troops and slaughtered almost to a man. The South was now hopelessly crippled; Turkish Governors were appointed in the chief towns, and the South lost all its independence.
The Northern revolt was nearer success. Albanian troops occupied Sofia and the heights round Monastir, but Mustafa Bushatli proved an incompetent leader. He fled back to Skodra, was pursued thither by the Turks; a four months´ siege ensued, Skodra fell, and Bushatli was only saved from the fate of Ali Pasha by the intervention of Austria, who was already beginning to spread nets for the final capture of Albania. Intertribal quarrels prevented the North from coming to his assistance en masse, he was taken prisoner, and Turkish governors have since ruled nominally in Skodra. It is true that they may have been shot, besieged, hunted away, and have had no power at all over the surrounding mountain tribes; but in spite of the hatred which Albania bears any interference with her liberty, there is still a Turkish Vali at Skodra. Events so fell out that the Albanians thought fit to play again on the Turkish side.
The Slav, the blood-enemy of more than a thousand years, was gaining powerRussia's great struggle for the peninsula had begun. Albania supplied troops for the Crimean War and the Mirdites, themost independent of all the mountain tribes, led by their Prince, Bib Voda, fought side by side with the Turks against the hated foe.
The tale of the Crimean War needs no retelling. Russia's advance was checked, but in appearance only. Up till this time the Bulgarians alone of all the subject peoples had scarcely shown a sign of life. They had produced no leader, and they aided neither the Servian nor the Greek rising. Russia conceived the plan of constructing a Russo-Bulgarian State which should lead to Constantinople, and set to work with admirable skill. Bulgarian students were welcomed at the University of Odessa, and a national movement was started. Not to be outdone, Austria began a similar game on the other side of the peninsula, and planted Jesuits in Skodra.
Everything is interesting in the Balkan Peninsula, the great game played by Austria versus Russia with human chessmen not the least so. I do not wish either of them to succeed. I should like each of the Balkan peoples to be left to work out its own salvatior in its own national way, with fair play and no favour. Each has an individuality which is worth developing, and may in time evolve a civilization more suitable to itself than that which any outsider can thrust upon it.
Nevertheless, when travelling in Balkan lands the subtlety, the skill, the endless patience and perseverance, the extraordinary attention to detail with which Austria and Russia play that game, force my admiration. It is a marvellously fine game to watch. In all the land there are few villages too insignificant for one or the other to manipulate. No less beautiful is the calmness with which each looks forward to ultimately attaining its object.
The British Consul is a solitary thing, who bravely wrestles single-handed with circumstances. Tethered to his lonely consulate, he has little or no chance of even exploring the neighbourhood. The Austrian lives in a palace and has a whole staff of lively youths, whose principal business in life appears to be taking holidays for shooting expeditions, and whose knowledge of the land is minute and exhaustive. When not thus pleasantly occupied they swagger about the town to which they are attached, and try to look as if it belongs to them. They will even take you out for a walk and tell you the improvements which their Governmentmeans to introduce in a few years time. ´We are going to do it very much on the same plan as Bosnia,´ they say affably.
I remember one who was great on le sport. By asking him about the birds and beasts obtainable in various parts, I soon learned that he knew most of the lands that lie within Austria´s ´sphere of influence.´ He rattled off the names of towns and districts, and said he had amused himself very well.
´Have you been to X?´ I asked.
No, he had not.
´I have been there,´ said I.
´You have! Mademoiselle, what are you making in this country?´
´Like you, monsieur, I amuse myself very well.´
The Austrian man is ubiquitous in his own ´sphere,´ and his assumption of authority is a sight to see. In one place he appeared suddenly upon the scene, and told the Turkish Commissary of Police, who was about to inspect my passport, that Mademoiselle's passport did not require inspecting. As a matter of fact, his was not the consulate that protected Great Britain's interest in this particular district. He, however, gave his orders with a fine air, and told me in German, a tongue unknown to the Police Commissary, that a word from ´us´ had more effect on these animals than anything. The Police Commissary obeyed like a dog. According to my interpreter, he said he had not come to see my passport at all, but only to say good-morning, and hope I was quite well. Everyone was sweetly able and polite; but when young Austria was safe in his office at the consulate that Police Commissary returned. He was brave and commanding; he saw my passport, stamped it, charged the usual fee, and asked all the usual questions about my sisters, and cousins, and aunts.
´Is that only a consulate you are building? It looks large enough for a Governor's palace,´ I once remarked.
´Then it will be very useful to us in a few years´ time,´ said a cheerful Austrian ´sportsman.´
Russian representatives, too, are very pleasant to meetvery cultured, very polite, but they usually ask questions and do not answer them. When one whose discretion I had admired told me suddenly that the British relief work in Macedonia was a great pleasure
to ´us,´ for it showed that there was a party in England on ´our´ side, I felt grieved that he had so far forgotten his diplomatic self. When in the ´Russian sphere,´ however, he is apt to forget himself, and think the place is really his. There was one I was told of who thought he was in Russia. You may do almost anything you like in the Sultan´s territories (provided, of course, that you are a foreigner), but there is one thing you had better not: you should not strike an Albanian if you wish to preserve a whole skin. As a Consul of another nationality once said to me, ´Absolument il ne faut pas cravacher ces gens-la!´ The Russian Consul struck an Albanian, and the Albanian shot him dead.
One beautiful trait in the operations of both Russia and Austria is their desire to save people´s souls. It is purely on this errand that Austrian ´frati´ congregate in Albania and Russian monks are planted in ´Old Servia.´
Churches are the most powerful political engines in the Balkan Peninsula, and the raw primæval passions of the Balkans find their bitterest expression under the cloak of religion. When Russia started the Pan Slavonic propaganda the Servians were free, and had already re-established an independent Church, but it had power only over free Servia. The Bulgarians were still ecclesiastically under Greek rule. Their first sign of reviving national existence was shown in their wish to re-establish the Bulgarian Church. They appealed for clergy of their own. This caused great wrath in the Greek Church. But it has always been the policy of the Turkish Government to foster differences between the subject peoples, and by so doing to lessen all chances of their rising in a body.
The Greeks were now a political power, the Bulgars an unknown quantity. A split in the Christian camp would be useful, and the Porte raised but little objection to the scheme. The Bulgarian Church was re-established in 1870. Its head, called the Exarch, still resides in Constantinople. The Greek Patriarch almost at once pronounced the new Bulgarian Church schismatic, and a war to the death startedbetween the two Churches, which is at present raging, and the Moslems look on at the edifying spectacle of the two Christian parties, who, by slaying one another in the name of the dear God, help to keep the Sultan on the throne.
Russia, though she failed in her immediate object in the Crimean War, continued to follow up her plans, with the tireless persistence of a wolf of the steppes. Bulgarian patriots were trained in Russia, and the building of Bulgarian schools and churches in Turkey aided by Russian money. The Servian Church had jurisdiction only over free Servia, and free Servia was not so easily tampered with. All Servian rights and claims were therefore ignored, and every Slavonic district under Turkish rule was therefore pronounced Bulgarian, and no expense was spared to make it so.
Servia had welcomed Bulgars into her schools, and had supported the creation of the Exarchy, only to find it used as a weapon against herself.
Then came the fateful years of the Herzegovinian insurrection, which began in 1874 and was followed shortly by a declaration of war by Servia and Montenegro. Russian-trained patriots, including Stambulov, then quite young, tried hard to rouse the peasants of Bulgaria, but in vain. Bulgaria alone of the subject peoples was to owe her ultimate freedom entirely to foreign aid. As in the recent Macedonian insurrection, no well-organized and simultaneous rising took place. Scattered villages alone answered to the call and attacked their Turkish neighbours. Turkish methods are mediæval and Oriental. The Turk knows no other way of quieting a district but that of mastacring all its inhabitants. The villages in question were annihilated. Nothing was left to tell the tale but corpses and blackened ruins. Even the Turkish Commissioner sent to report on the affair perceived that the results of the punishment would probably be more fatal to Turkish rule than any insurrection, and is said to have remarked bitterly to the responsible Bey, ´What did the Russians pay you for this day´s work?´
The ´Bulgarian atrocities´ became a by-word through Europe, and Bulgaria learnt that the most effective way of advertising her rights and wrongs was upon bloody posters. The state of things in the Balkan Peninsula was very shortly afterwards taken by Russia as a reason for declaring war and constructing her Russo-Bulgarian province.
The Turk was now attacked by all the Slav peoples at once. Had Greece and Albania risen, too, there would possibly have been an end of Turkey in Europe. But neither race wished to do anything to aid the Slav cause. The Greeks did nothing; the Albanians supported the Turks with enthusiasm. In all the world there is nothing an Albanian hates so much as a Russian. The Russian conquered, and, drunk with blood, crowned his victories by atrocities which rivalled those of the Turks at Batak; and, with the Turk at his feet, cast all diplomacy to the winds and set to work to construct a huge Bulgaria, which was to be under Russian control. To attain this end, Vlah, Bulgar, Serb, Greek, and Albanian, were to have been swept willy-nilly into a Bulgaria almost as large as the fleeting mediaeval onea Bulgaria which was to have included the great lakes of Ochrida and Presba, spread away beyond them into South Albania, and in the South-East to have extended as far as the Ægean Sea, with a large frontage thereon; a Bulgaria which was, moreover, to be occupied by 50,000 Russian troops. It was an extraordinarily bold scheme, but it was too old. The Russian Treaty of San Stefano was overthrown by the Powers of Europe in council at Berlin, new frontiers were delimited, and Russia´s Great Bulgaria reduced considerably.
Before travelling in the district most immediately concerned I held the rather popular theory that the overthrowing of the San Stefano Treaty was a mistake. When living in the heart of the disputed territory, I learnt that to have supported it would have been a most grievous injustice; the Bulgars, and the Bulgars alone, lament the death of that scheme. Whatever may be the faults of the Berlin Treaty, it does not favour one race at the expense of all the others, though the races dealt with were not entirely content with their new borders; for it is very difficult for any set of diplomatists to map out peoples of which they have little or n personal knowledge, in a land which they have never explored. And, moreover, they had themselves, as well as the races more immediately concerned, to consider.
Like other human inventions, it was not perfect. Its immediate result was an Albanian rising. Up till now the Albanians had been willing and ready to help the Turks against a common foe; they now suddenly woke to the rude fact that Europe classed them in with the Turks, and did not recognise their existence as a people. Worsethan this, as someone picturesquely put it, ´the Turks not only remained landlord of the house, but Austria put her foot on the doorstep.´ Austria had virtuously remained neutral throughout all the struggle, and now had to be rewarded. She had played a neater, quieter game than Russia, and so obtained a firm footing in the peninsula. Bosnia and the Herzegovina were handed over to her by Europe to be ´administered.´ This was a most bitter blow to the Serb-speaking peoples and their aspirations. The indisputably Serb lands were given to Austria; Servia and Montenegro were extended over lands which were Albanian, and Albanian land in the South was awarded to Greece. The newly-formed Albanian League at once protested.
The Committee for the Defence of the Albanian Nationality came into being so soon as the terms of the Treaty of San Stefano were made known. It was at the beginning supported by the Turks, who hoped that it might stem the oncoming Slav tide, and its first act was to present a memorandum to the Berlin Congress, which asked for the recognition of Albanian rights. As soon as the decision of the Congress was made known, the Albanians took up arms to defend the territories which were to be given to Slav rule. They refused obstinately to cede either Gusinje or Plava, both well-known Albanian strongholds, over which it is doubtful whether any other people but the Albanians have ever had any but a nominal power, for they are in the heart of a wild mountainous land and the home of one of the most fiercely independent tribes.
The Powers insisted on the terms of the treaty being fulfilled, and the Turkish Government was placed in an unpleasant position. It had to offend the Powers or the Albanians. A Turkish General was sent to Djakova to reason with the Albanian League, which promptly killed him, and fighting began on the Albano-Montenegrin frontier. Finally it was realized that other arrangements must be made, and Dulcigno was substituted for Gusinje and Plava.
The population of Dulcigno, also, was almost entirely Albanian,and flew to arms and was aided by bands formed by the Albanian League. The natural and proper port for Montenegro was Spitza, with its Slav population, identical in blood with the Montenegrins; but this the Powers had given to Austria along with a strip of coast. They now insisted on the cession of Dulcigno and its Albanians to Montenegro, and called upon the Porte to see it done.
The Turkish Government, which had at first supported the Albanian League, discovered that Turkish safety depended on its speedy suppression. To enforce the cession of Dulcigno and stop the rising at Gusinje, a large Turkish army was sent to Albania. Some heavy fighting took place, and the Albanians, with Europe and the Turks against them, were forced to cede Dulcigno in June, 1880, but the point is still a very sore one. Spitza and Montenegro still wish to be united, and the Albanians still wish to regain their lost town.
The Greek frontier was not arranged till the following year, and here, too, the Albanians lost land, though they did not yield all that was asked of them.
It is not to be wondered at that, as the game stood, no Albanian rights were recognised by the Berlin Congress; but it was a pity. The Albanians have great capabilities, and in mother-wit are second to none in the Peninsula. Had they been given such chances as was Bulgaria of developing on their own lines under European protection, their advance would certainly have been rapid. Nor, as it is, have they stood still. The Albanian League was suppressed, but the national spirit, which then found voice, has been growing steadily stronger in spite of Turkish efforts. The printing of the Albanian language is forbidden by the Government, but papers published abroad in it find their way to every town. The teaching of it in the schools is prohibited, but the people learn to read and write it; perhaps it is better not to explain how. The knowledge of reading spreads, and with it Albanian propaganda.
Ever since the Treaty of Berlin Albanian patriots have been hard at work, and Moslem and Christian alike are working for Albanian autonomy. One result, and a good one, of the Berlin Treaty was that, so soon as the various frontiers were drawn, a shifting of population began to take place. Anything that causes the mixture ofpeoples to sort itself out a little works towards the solution of the Balkan problems. A mass of Albanians left South Servia and Montenegro, and conversely a quantity of Serbs flowed into the newly-acquired Serb territory. A great exodus of Moslems took place from Bosnia and Bulgaria; a certain amount of Christian Herzegovinians left their homes and settled in Servia and Montenegro in order to escape Austrian rule.
Had Albania been given a definite territory, a still further sorting-out would have taken place. The present tendency to recognise only a strip of mountain-land along the coast as truly Albanian can but lead to disaster; a people so individual and so full of vitality must have sufficient fat plain-land to make a living on. If they are not given it they will take it. This is one of the things that lie at the root of the present difficulties. As long as Albania remains vague and frontierless under so-called Turkish government, so long will it be in a state which is practically anarchy, and improvement in the Balkan situation will be almost impossible.
At present the Albanians regard, and with justice, the Slav peasant as a tool in the hands of an external power which is working for the destruction of Albanian rights. Were these rights defined and recognised, much of this enmity would disappear with the necessity of struggling for them. ´The Slavs,´ says an Albanian paper, ´are a brave people; they may have all sorts of other good qualities too. That is no the question. Our hatred does not extend to individuals, nor even to national groups, but to that spirit of aggression, of religious fanaticism and low political swindling, known under the name of Pan-Slavism.´
That there is much truth in this statement I believe to be a fact, for I have on several occasions seen gangs of Slav workmen in the heart of Albaniamen who had voluntarily come on building jobs from districts much further East, and who were working hard and cheerfully among Albanian fellow-workmen.
It is in the no man´s land that the acts of aggression take place. As things at present stand we have a free Servia, a free Bulgaria, a free Greece, a but half ruled and wholly disaffiected Albania with no Eastern frontier, and a no man´s land of mixed population, which each race hopes ultimately to possess, and over which the Porte has yearlyless and less control. The Turk´s death is now considered so imminent that the chief concern of each race is how to keep him alive until it has made its own claim clear to Europe.
´My grandfather,´ said a man to me, ´did not have my father taught Turkish. He said that by the time he was grown up Turkish rule would be a thing of the past; but the sick man is really dying now.´
´He has been a long time about it,´ I said.
´Ah! but it is phthisis that he suffers from. Sometimes they live a surprising time. Every now and then, as with this sick man, there is a great hæmorrhage, even very great. Then all say he is dying, but he recovers. But one thing you must always remember with such cases: the disease may be arrested a little while, but they never recover; each time they are a little weaker. So it is with the sick man. We live and hope.´
Russia´s plan for a Russo-Bulgarian State was baffled, but Russia continued to work in the same direction with the perseverance that wrings admiration even from her enemies. She found, however, unexpected difficulties. Bulgaria, having been set free, recognised by Europe, and provided with a German Prince, wished to be independent. National salvation was worked for by Stambulov, the most remarkable man Bulgaria has produced. He toiled not only to thwart Russian influence, but to construct the great Bulgaria as sketched by the Treaty of San Stefano. To this end he spent much time in Macedonia. ' Macedonia,' be it observed, is a conveniently elastic term, which is made to include all the territory anyone wishes to annex. It is a loose, and therefore mieleading term. I have even met people who believe there is a special race which they call ' Macedonian,' whose ' cause ' they wish to aid. The truth is, that in a district which has no official frontiers, and never has had any stable ones, there are people of six races, who, as we have seen, all have causes to be considered.
I shall not attempt to give statistics here or elsewhere; they and the ethnographical maps are all compiled for party politics. I have examined a number. None correspond. I do not believe in any of them. Even could a census be taken by that impossible being, a quite impartial outsider, who possessed an intimate knowledge of all the dialects and customs of thedifferent races, a certain proportion of the people would ´belong to other nations´ before he could get it printed. The best example of this Balkan peculiarity which I have met was a man who told me that he was a Greek, but he was born in Bulgaria, his father was a Servian, and his children Montenegrins.
Local types differ much, and the remarks that apply to one district do not fit another. I shall speak only of the parts I have stayed inthe districts of Lakes Ochrida and Presba. Here there are Greeks, Slavs, Albanians, and Vlahs. Of Turks, except officials and such of the army as may be quartered on the spot, there are few. The Albanians, I believe, are all Moslem. Should there be any Christians they would be officially classed as Greeks. A large part of the land near Lake Presba is owned by Moslem Albanians as ´chiftliks´ (farms). These are worked by peasants, and the profits are supposed to be halved between the owners and the workers.
It is hardly necessary to say that this is not enforced by law. I was often told that all the taxes came out of the peasants' half. Nevertheless, so long as the landlord stayed away, they said they got along pretty well. The 'chiftlik' peasants did not suffer during the insurrection in the same way as did the peasant proprietors, for their houses, being the property of the landlord, were not burnt.
One third of the villages I visited were mixed Christian and Moslem. Some of the Moslems, I was told, are Slavs, but this I had no time to investigate. The Christian peasantry is mainly Slavonic, but presents very different types in different villages, caused by the greater or less admixture of Greek, Bulgar, or Albanian blood.
The bulk of these peasants speak a Slav dialect, which is not the Servian of Belgrade or Montenegro. Neither is it, I am told by the people themselves, the Bulgarian of Sofia. It contains, as is only natural, a large number of Turkish, Greek, and Albanian words, and has some grammatical peculiarities. The third person singular of the present indicative ends always in a ´t´ (e.g., ' kazat 'he says '), a form which does not belong to either literary Servian or Bulgarian, but is used by illiterate Serbs in Servia; and the definite article placed after the nouna characteristic of Bulgarian, and also of Roumanian and Albanian isby no means generally employed. The noun is often inflected as in Servian, but, on the other hand, the adjective is compared not by inflection, as in Servian, but by prefixing ' more' and 'very,' as in Bulgarian and Albanian. Many genuine Serb words are used with distorted meanings, and the endings of proper names are often clipped off (e.g., ' Danil,' not ' Danilo '). Some words are forms used in Bulgaria and not Servia.
The truth is that the dialect of the Macedonian Slav is neither Servian nor Bulgarian, but ' betwixt and between,' as he is himself, but I doubt if the dialect of Ochrida differs more from literary Servian than does broad 'Zummerzet' from literary English. Much that was incomprehensible at first I found later to be not so much a difference of word as of accent and pronunciation.
Writing of his travels in 1673, Dr. Brown says, ' Schlavonian is spoken in Servia, Bulgaria, and a great part of Macedonia,' which seems to point to the fact that, until they were crystallized into literary form later, Servian and Bulgarian were not markedly differentiated into two tongues.
Standard Bulgarian has, in fact, only been evolved in the last twenty-five years. Previous to that time the language seems to have been as inchoate as is now Albanian. The author of 'The Peoples of Turkey,' writing in 1878, says: 'The difference between the written and spoken language is so great that the former can scarcely be understood by the bulk of the population. No less than seven grammars are in existence, but they agree neither in general principles nor in details. Some impose the rules of modern Servian or Russian on the language. Others attempt to reduce to rule the vernacular, which is variable, vague, and imperfect.'
So much for the language. These Slav-speaking peasants in the districts I visited are the lowest and least intelligent of all the folk I know in the Balkan Peninsula or elsewhere. They are truly pitiable examples of the human race. Less capable than the other peoples, they have fallen undermost of all in the struggle for existence, though in many districts they are numerically superior. Some attribute their degraded condition entirely to oppression. This I believe to be only partially true. They have probably suffered the most because they are theunfittest. Were it not for the fat lands that they inhabit, it is doubtful whether the other nations would hasten to claim kindred with them. The honest, intelligent, and capable with whom I had to do in that no man's land were all either Greek, Albanian, or Vlah. Of the Albanians and Greeks who worked for us I must speak very highly.
It is this mass of ignorant, low-typed population that politicians struggle to manipulate, and from them that the Russo-Bulgarian State was to have been largely wrought. An enormous amount of money has been spent on making them into Bulgarians. A similar sum otherwise applied could have just as easily made them into Servians. To begin with, they had no ' patria,' and the propagandists failed to move them. Even Stambulov, with his fiery patriotism and genius for organization, was baffled. ' He grew to dislike the Macedonians,' Beaman tells us in his life of Stambulov, 'on account of their treachery and want of any real sense of patriotism and honour, never feeling sure when he lay down at night whether he would rise again next morning, and being aware that almost any Macedonian, if he found the chance, would murder him to secure the reward on his head.
This life could not last long, and though in after-years Stambulov worked hard for Macedonia, he always retained a strong antipathy and contempt for the people of whom he had had so unpleasant an experience.' His estimate of them proved but too just. His strenuous and ceaseless efforts to set Bulgaria free from Russian influence led to his brutal murder in the streets of Sofia, and the hired assassins were Macedonians. One of them, a Resna man, has been lately executed. The others are still at large, I believe, and are said to have been employed also in the murders of Stambulov's friends, Beltchev and Vulkovich.
After Stambulov's death Russia regained some of her lost influence. Prince Ferdinand had his son and heir baptized into the Orthodox Church; Russia smiled once again upon the land; and on the twentyfifth anniversary of the taking of the Shipka Pass Russia and Bulgaria, who for some time had not been on visiting terms, celebrated a sort of family party. To-day Russian influence is at work in Macedonia, and Russia, it would appear, still looks to the peasantry there to help extend her power. The newly-made Bulgars there will do anything for money, and Russia gives it with no mean hand. They are, as Stambulov found them, very untrustworthy, and in this respect compare most unfavourably with my previous experience of Serbs and Montenegrins.
The depressing part of them is that the so-called 'intelligence,' the more or less educated, are the worst of all. If in trade, their only idea was to make money out of the results of the insurrection. Far from showing any desire to help the wretched refugees, the provision dealer and pharmacy man not only presented us with most extortionate bills which had to be beaten down weekly, but the former strove, by sending bad stuff and short measure, to cheat the wretched sick and wounded of his own race. None ever gave me any useful suggestions when I consulted them about the work, but many were anxious to hire out saddles and suchlike. I thought that out of all the lot we had hit on one honest man, and then learnt he was stopping our flour ration from some wretched burnt-out peasants who owed him money. The 'Bulgar' of this district is, I fear, the sow's ear from which no silk purses are made.
I trust that Bulgaria will not succeed in making him a reason for obtaining the land he inhabits.
As an act of treachery the capture, a couple of years ago, of Miss Stone, the American missionary, a lady who had spent a large part of her life and her money helping the Bulgarian cause, cannot easily be surpassed. It was a political job, engineered, not by peasants, but by men of education, for the purpose of raising money with which to buy rifles for the insurrection; and the terrors and hardships to which the unfortunate woman, who had trusted them, was subjected I found regarded by them only as a great joke. 'What do we want with her Protestantism? Now, she has really been of use to us, and she ought to be pleased!' Moreover, those who had had the brilliant idea of capturing her were envied by the others, who pursued the victorious band in hopes of retaking her and securing the coveted ransom themselves.
One of her captors is by profession a barber at Ochrida, a heavy, stolid-looking man, who cut my hair very crooked. His tale was that he had had orders to go with some others and take a European lady to a house. They meant to keep her there and give her nice things to eat, but they were hunted by the others, and were afraid of the gendarmes, and so had to rush her about. He came down to a village one day to buy bread, forthey were hard up for food, and was caught by the Turkish police and imprisoned. He thought himself very badly used, for all the others had got off scot-free.
Ostensibly, the engineers of little affairs of this sort are working to free the people from Turkish rule; actually, they are the chief obstacles to the improvement of the state of things. They direct the attacks of their bands not only against the Greeks, but against the Serbs, and by exciting new quarrels and fostering old ones among the Christians, they strengthen the hand of the Turk. They claim everything, and do not recognise that any other race has rights. As for their system of provoking massacres for the purpose of persuading Europe that the land should all be Bulgarian, it cannot be too strongly condemned. The fact that Greek, Serb and Vlah stood aloof and gave no support to the last revolution is in itself sufficient to prove that they were well aware of its true character.
Fortunately there is a brighter side even to the blackest things. The great difficulty in dealing with the problems in the disputed lands is the fact that the various races are so entwined and entangled. Anything that tends to sort them out will help in the end. The late rising, disastrous as it has been in many ways, appears to be working in this direction. There is room enough and to spare for everyone in the Balkan Peninsula. It could carry double the population. The trouble is that everyone wants the whole; and so long as there is land with a mixed population it will be struggled for. Unless the Peninsula is going to be divided by Austria and Russia (which may Heaven forefend !), the territories for each race will have to be delimited at no very distant date. Every time a frontier has been drawn a large emigration and immigration has taken place, and there will have to be yet more before the present difficulties are settled. Bulgaria has lost much population by emigration of Moslems. It is earnestly to be hoped that a large number of the refugees who fled into Bulgaria will not return, but will rermain and aid the slow process of sorting out that seems to be gradually taking place. It will cost no more to settle them there than to transport them back and rebuild their houses, and it will tend in the long-run towards peace.
The re-settling of Slav peasants in markedly Albanian districts is, for example, strongly to be deprecated. The Albanians as well as the Bulgars must have land to live on. There is, I am aware, a political party in Bulgaria which wishes to resettle every peasant in the spot from whence he came, but this is more from a desire to establish a claim on the land than for the sake of the villagers. And in spite of this it seems to me that there is a tendency for these people to migrate.
For instance, up to the year 1870 travellers comment on the flourishing condition of the Christian quarter of Ochrida, which they contrast with the Moslem one, greatly to the latter's disadvantage. Ochrida then carried on a large trade in furs and hides with Leipzig, Vienna, and Trieste. In thirty years it almost doubled its population. Its trade route was mainly by way of Durazzo and the Adriatic. With the appointment of the Bulgarian Exarch in 1870 came the Bulgarian propaganda throughout this district. The Christian population, which till then had been united, and called itself Greek, was torn in twain and thereby weakened. The money and energy of the people was used up on party quarrels and political plots. Now the trade is practically dead the Christian quarter is full of empty and ruined houses, is squalid and poorer than the Moslem Albanian one. The Christian population has largely emigrated, and, from what I heard when there, I gathered that only the inability to sell their houses tied many to the spot.
In Turkey you cannot travel without permission, and this is not given to a householder unless a resident in the town will guarantee all the taxes due on a house during the owner's absence. But a good deal of 'flitting by night' takes place nevertheless. I assisted one poor wretch to get away. I thought at first of taking him along with me through Albania, and shipping him off on the Adriatic, but was afraid he would be turned back by the police, as he had been refused a permit. We decided that Servia was the better route. He got successfully across the frontier, and wrote me a pathetically grateful letter from Belgrade. He had never before known, he said, what it was to be in a free and civilized land. There are people in England who believe that Servia is a wild and dangerous place. They are those who do not understand what it is to be a subject of the Sultan.
IT is a terrible thing to live in a land which is in a state of anarchy, for 'anarchy' means that the wicked rulea land where officials buy their positions and make what they can on them; where the salaries of minor employes exist mainly on paper, and they pay themselves by extorting money from those beneath them; a land where there is no law, order, or justice. Law, like salaries, exists mainly on paper. Whether it is enforced depends entirely upon who has broken it. Every man, if he is strong enough, can be his own policeman.
I once had a curious example of this. Native Christians are, with very few exceptions, forbidden to carry arms, but the Turkish 'Government' kindly permitsnay, encouragesforeign Christians to hire armed Moslems to protect them from the possible consequences of its own inability to govern, and there is no difficulty in finding a stalwart Moslem who is happy to do nothing, in a cartridge-belt, at your door. They are always ornamental, but I am glad to say I have never had occasion to test their powers. I had such a man in my employ, when my interpreter came in one morning with an anxious face. Being a Christian subject of the Sultan, he had naturally inherited a tendency always to expect the worst.
'I think I had better tell you,' he said, 'that something a little unpleasant has happened last night. As I was on Turkish territory this did not surprise me, but, though I 'had been there before,' I was unprepared for the sequel. 'Djaffir,' he went on, 'has been having a trouble with a Turkish soldier. It was like this: Djaffir went home to see his wife last night just after sunset, and he found her in a very bad fright. She said that a soldier had come in to rob the house, but she had screamed very loud, and he ran away; but still, she was afraid, for she thought he was hiding somewhere near, and he would come back soon and steal things. Then Djaffir was very angry, for it is a great crime to go into a Moslem house when there is only a woman in it. He went to search, and there he found the soldier hiding in the stable.'
I expressed surprise that the soldier should have been so foolish as to enter a Moslem house when there were plenty of Christian ones which he could have doubtless burgled with impunity.
'Ah, but you see, that soldier, he was drunk ! Of course he must have meant to go to a Christian house, but most likely he was too drunk to know where he had gone. So Djaffir seized him, for he was too drunk todefend himself, and beat him and beat him till he was quite tired. Then he just threw him out in the street in the dark and came back here. This morning he told me.'
This was a pretty beginning. Djaffir was a stolid, tough-looking individual, with a singularly inexpressive countenance. He was usually a very unemotional being, but this morning he was the picture of selfsatisfaction.
'Would it not have been possible to have handed the soldier over to justice?'
Quite possible, but he preferred inflicting the punishment himself. We suggested that the punishment had been excessive; and he admitted that when he had once begun he forgot everything, and went on hitting the man till he could not hit him any more. Then he had thrown him into the street, so covered with blood 'that no one would have known him.' He did not stay to see if he were alive, but just came home and went to sleep, for it had made him very tired. Thus Djaffir, cheerfully.
The night patrol picked up the poor wretch and took him to the military hospital. I had visions of arrests and trials, law-courts and other unpleasantnesses, complicated by unknown tongues and interpreters, and did not feel particularly happy. Djaffir, however, explained that we need be under no fear, 'for I hit him very hard on the head, and he cannot speak.' This circumstance gave general satisfaction, and we returned to our usual occupations.
Two days afterwards my interpreter appeared with a long face.
'You know that soldier? Well, to-day it is very bad. He has come to his senses, and he has given Djaffir's name. Now, Djaffir has been sent for and questioned, and he has sworn: "How can I have beaten a soldier when I was with the English 'madama' all the time ?"
This is very bad. Now we shall be asked if it is true. I do not wish to tell a lie if I am asked, but if I tell the truth Djaffir will, perhaps, be punished, and then afterwards he will be revenged on me, and perhaps also on my people. What shall we do?'
The situation was indeed an awkward one for him.
'We have not been asked yet,' said I. 'We will wait and see.'
So we waited. Djaffir, who was well aware that he held all the trump cards, remained calm, and another day passed. Then both men became quite cheerful.
'You know about Djaffir's soldier ? Well, it is all right now. He is dead !'
'All right !' said I, amazed, for it seemed to me to be rapidly getting worse. 'Surely now some sort of an inquiry will be made?'
'Oh no. You see, it is like this: this soldier, he was not a man from these parts. If he had been one of the Albanian regiment it would be different; but he came from a long wayfrom Asia or somewhere. Here he has no friends to ask questions or avenge him. His people will never hear when or how he died. But Djaffir has many friends; they would not like anything to be done to him. Besides, a great many Turkish soldiers die every year; one more or less makes no difference. The man is dead. What use to make a fuss?'
There was much force in his argument. After all, most things in this world are ruled by expediency. Life is as cheap to-day in the Near East as it was anywhere else in the Middle Ages.
Europe, it is true, was somewhat agitated about Christians, but cared very little what Moslem did to Moslem.
So the unknown soldier went to his unknown grave. Had he been a Christian, his death would have been an 'atrocity' with which to swell consular reports; but he was a mere Moslem, and 'what use to make a fuss?'
Neither was Djaffir the savage that you imagine. He was a very honest man, and could be trusted with large sums of money. The assault, brutal as it was, was in defence of his wife's honour. He was very fond of his child, and was much distressed when it met with a slight accident. He tried to be friendly according to his lights, and gave me unpleasantly sticky little cakes upon Moslem feast-days. Had he been brought up in a land where the Government can be trusted to attend to the police department, I do not suppose he would have been more murderous than other people. As it was, his training made him set a high value on the power to take life. I fired at a pigeon one day when with him, and, to my disgust, missed it; but the shot raised dust from the ledge where it had been perched.
' Quite near enough,' said Djaffir. 'If it had been a man you had shot at, he would be dead.'
The Turkish 'Government's' extraordinary inability to maintain law and order in the districts which are painted Turkish on the maps is the thing that has struck me the most forcibly in my wanderings; nor is there anything odder than the calmness with which it admits the fact. The Government does not hold itself in any way responsible for outrages on travellers who are without a Government escort. To this day it has never punished the gang that took Miss Stone. I have met with plenty of instances of this.
The following, which I will call the story of Marko, is the more striking, because it has nothing to do with revolutionaryschemes or politics. It is merely an episode of ordinary village life. It was a village in the South of Albania. In the town but a few miles away was a Turkish Governor and the usual staff of officials, who write for dear life all day and stow the papers in bags. It was a well-to-do Christian village, very clean and tidy. The inhabitants are industrious, intelligent, and physically a very fine-looking set. I stayed several days, and was treated with great hospitality and courtesy at a number of houses, all of which were well built and comfortably fitted.
'What did you think of Marko?' I was asked by my host as we were riding away.
I had some difficulty in disentangling Marko from the many to whom I had been introduced. Nor did I ever, to my regret, succeed in calling up a mental picture of his wife when I had heard the tale of her courage and devotion. She had been married to Marko some ten years ago. They were very fond of one another. He had land, they were comfortably off, and all went well. Soon, to their great joy, a child was born to them.
Then the Devil came into Paradise in the shape of Mrs. Marko's cousin. He was a very bad mana drinker, a gambler, and a doer of the things he should have left undone. He was also clever and amusing. In a short time he gained a very strong influence over Marko, and led him quite astray. Markoleft his land unworked, and dissipated his savings. In one year he spent no less than £50 (a huge sum in such a place) on his pleasures. His wife became anxious and deeply distressed, and could not separate him from her cousin, who was a demoralizing influence to all the village.
Then the child fell very ill. Marko's wife prayed him to fetch a doctor, but the nearest one lived in a distant town, and Marko told her angrily that he would not waste his money upon it. The child died. This was more than Marko's wife could bear. She saw that she must save her husband from her cousin. There was only one way to save him: she killed her cousin.
I think I reined up my horse with astonishment.
'Yes, she killed him. Naturally, she did not kill him herself: she paid a Moslem to do it. It is very easy.'
' And how much does one have to pay for such a thing?' I asked.
'For about forty piastres (six-and-eightpence,) it can be done.'
' But what happened ?'
' Nothing. What should happen ? He was dead.'
' But did the village know how he died ?'
' But certainly. They were glad. He was a very bad man. He taught wicked things to the boys. He was a very dangerous person.'
' You said Nikola was very fond of him. Does he know what his wife has done?'
' Of course. How should he not know? It is true that he was rather angry with her at first, but he soon saw it was all for the best, and now they are very fond of each other again, and quite happy, as you have seen. You see, she saved him from a great danger, and it was the only way. But God has never given them another child.'
I explained to my companion that in England there would have been no difficulty probably in getting Marko punished for gambling in public, for being drunk and disorderly, or, from the details he gave, for obtaining money under false pretences.
'Ah, if we had a government like that!' he said. ' But here, even if there were such laws, what would be the use to go to a Turkish law-court? The cousin had money. He could have paid someone, and have escaped.'
To those who have never lived in Turkey this tale may seem incredible. My own experience leads me to believe that it is not only true, but not at all exceptional.
This is a tale from the Christain point of view, but from the Sultan's own men I have heard singular reflections on the state of the country, not merely from gendarmes or cormmon peasants, but from men in official positions, who all professed Mohammedanism. One discoursed to me a long while before he came to the point. I wondered what he was staying for. Finally he got up to say good-bye.
'You have travelled much,' he said. ' I believe you have come as a friend to the people. You have seen the state of the country under this Government. You will understand that in my position it is impossible for me to speak more plainly. What I came to say is this: If you will report truly all you have seen and heard to the English people, you may do a great service to a most unhappy land.'
And he retired in a hurry. The belief in the power of a casual stranger to remedy the state of affairs is extraordinary and rather pathetic.
Another manand he, too, was a Moslem official spoke out to an extent that astonished me.
'This unhappy land,' he said, 'is given over to the Devil. You see his work everywhere. The Moslems are breaking the commandments of the Prophet, and the wrath of God is Upon them. They are drunken; they kill one another as well as Christians. In your Empire there are more Moslem subjects than there are under the rule of the Sultan, but with you they are good subjects, and practise their religion properly, and live in peace with others. Here there is no law, no peace. You cannot imagine how ignorant our Moslem peasants are. They are taught nothing. It happens that they attack a Christian. I speak to them like this: '" If a man struck your fez off in the street, what would you do?" "' I would shoot him dead." " Why did you strike this man ~ He did nothing to you." "' I struck him because he is a 'kaur´" (unbeliever).' "' Why do you strike a 'kaur' ?" '" Because I wish to kill all 'kaurs '." "'Do you wish the land to be all Moslem?" ' ' Of course I do."'
Then I say to him: " Do you not understand that what you do is contrary to the will of God? Do you think you are more powerful than He? If every Christian were killed the land would be almost without people. Who are you, that you think you can arrange the world?" Then I give him a large handful of clay and say: " Take that and make it into a Moslem-make it into a Moslem, I say, at once !" He is astonished, and says he cannot do it. And I say to him: " The Lord created all the peoples of the world thus with clay by a miracle, and you, you cannot make of it even one Moslem, yet you would destroy the Lord's work!" Then he is ashamed. It is thus that one must speak to such men. The clay and the wordsthat they understand. This land is full of bad men and evil. In Egypt there is peace. It is my belief that one day this land, too, will be under Christian rule, and it will be better so.'
On another occasion I was told: I have been among the Arabs and the black people in Africa, but I tell to you that here in Europe, in this country, there are people more wild, more ignorant, less cared for than any in Africa. The Government has not done well by this miserable land.'
So much for law and order. The gendarmerie, whose business it is to maintain it, have recently leapt from obscurity to frequent notice in the 'Latest Intelligence' column. A few notes about them as I found them before the advent of foreign officers may be of interest.
There are two classesthe mounted police (suvarris) and the ordinary police (zaptiehs). Until lately, except in certain Albanian districts, only Moslems have been eligible as gendarmes. Now Christians are enlisted in all districts. Both classes are armed with Peabody-Martini rifles of American pattern, which they call 'Martinas' and cherish dearly, and usually carry a sheath-knife and a revolver as well. The zaptieh is supposed to receive ten shillings a month, which is always in arrears, his rifle, ammunition, and uniform. The suvarri has to provide his own horse, but is supplied with arms and uniform. His pay is £30 a year, and out of this he has to keep his horse. This is considered the best paid of all the lower services, and until lately was fairly regularly paid, and rarely more than two months in arrears. But owing to the expenses of the Bulgarian insurrection, which have fallen very heavily on the other peoples, none of the Moslems who served me had been paid for five or seven months. They used to give their names and that of their officer and regiment, and pray me to ask the British Consul to help them.
The newly-enlisted Christians were in better case, as they had received a month's pay and their uniforms were new. In barracks these men are fed, but when, as is constantly happening, they are sent to patrol outlying districts, or on messages, they have to cater for themselves. Penniless, heavily armed and quite irresponsible, the fact that they do not loot the whole country is greatly to their credit. That they take the food they require if not given to them is not surprising. Our own police, if thus let loose, would not be immaculate. One youth admitted to me quite frankly that he had appropriated the white woollen gaiters he was wearing, but his uniform was long overdue, and his trousers were all in rags. He was, in fact, barely decent. Another man I had, was reduced to wearing his great-coat in order to be presentable. The very evident poverty of many of them was fair proof that their levying of forced contributions on the villages was usually limited to the bare necessities of life. During the insurrection those in the insurgent districts had, of course, looted, and no wonder.
Out of the very many I had to do with I met with but one surly one. He, a Moslem Albanian, strongly disapproved of me, and said so with engaging frankness. He hated all the English, and knew all about them, for he had lived ten years in Egypt. Had it not been for the English interference Mehemet Ali would have ruled all the Turkish Empire, and all would now be Albanian. He feared now that England would rob them of Macedonia. I was surprised at his knowledge of history. He was very bitter. Everything was spoilt in Egypt, he said; disgusting English customs introduced. But even there it was better than where he was now in Macedonia, which was a beastly place. According to my interpreter, he used naughty language. The situation was a humorous one, for we were in a wild and lonesome spot near Lake Presba, and he, who hated my nation, was my only official protector. He refused all my overtures of friendship the first daywas a Moslem, didn't eat with Christians, sulked and drank cold water. The second day, however, he unbent, accepted my invitation to dinner, was festive, and consumed 'rakija' freely. On my wondering what the time was, he dragged from his tunic a handsome gold watch. His sharp eyes caught my glance at it at once. He dangled it carelessly, and announced with great effrontery that a wealthy Englishman had given it him as backshish ! He had, I fancy, done very well for himself in Macedonia.
Nor is it only the villager who loses because the gendarme is unpaid: the Government also loses. One handsome young dare-devil, who served me very well and rode a very beautiful little horse which he loved dearly, explained that he did not depend on his pay for a livingthat merely served to fatten his horse. He ran contraband tobacco and did very well. Before he had the brilliant idea of enlisting, he had led an exciting and very adventurous life, as he had to dodge the gendarmerie as well as the local brigands. As we filed through a thick wood he was much excited. Here, a few years back, he had fought hard for his life. With eight friends and a kirijee he was escorting two pack - mules, loaded with tobacco, to the coast, where, under cover of night, he meant to ship it on a fishing-boat. Some other fellows got wind of the enterprise: ' As we came round the corner here, piff-paff a bullet from behind that tree. The kirijee was hit; he ran all along the path and dropped just over there. We got the mules under cover. We fought for two hours. My God, I did not think we should get through ! I wasn't hit, but one of my friends was, badly. We hita lot of the others; I
don't know how many. We dodged about behind the trees on either side the path, firing at each other. At last they gave up and let us through.'
He burst into a merry laugh. 'It makes me sweat to ride along here now. I didn't think then I should be here again. We picked up the kirijee. He was quite dead, so we buried him. There is his grave.' He pointed to a long heap of stones by the path-side. 'We sold the tobacco very well, but he did not get much good out of it.'
This little affair was rather more than he cared about, so he enlisted, and, under cover of his uniform, found smuggling lucrative and comparatively safe.
The gendarmerie may be reformed before this is printed, and when next I meet it may be as dull and respectable as our own police; but that reckless young swashbuckler, courteous and dashing, with a rose stuck over one ear, upon whom crime sat so lightly, who enjoyed his life, bubbled with mirth, sang songs, and lavished caresses on his little chestnut horse, showed me the live Middle Ages.
With one exception, all my men were Albanians. Of their patience, kindness, and endurance, I cannot speak too highly. They are not all the brutes some have represented them; they are the stuff of which fine armies are made, and only require to be properly officered and led. Their faults are those of their training and surroundings. Their virtues are all their own.
The moral of everything is that it is not the Christians alone that would be the better for a change of Government. I have wandered many miles in these lands, I have come in contact with all the various races, and I have failed to see or hear of any benefit which Turkish rule has conferred upon any one of them. It has, on the contrary, often emphasized and brought out their worst qualities. Its promises of reform have never been carried out. In the nature of things it is unable to carry them out, for it has never been a living, growing organism. It was a machine constructed in the Dark Ages, and is now a worn-out mediæval affaira museum specimen that cannot be adapted to the needs of to-day. If left to itself it will, in the natural order of events, fall to pieces. Nothing can be hoped for from it; nor can anything much be expected of the reform scheme. It set at liberty most of the imprisoned revolutionaries, and has failed to grapplewith the results, and the Macedonia Committee has been very inadequately muzzled.
The plan for the reorganization of the gendarmerie, if honestly worked, is the most reasonable scheme yet propounded; but the Sultan whittled most of it away to begin with, and, if only half of rumour be true, the Powers most interested are using what is left of it to work their own propaganda. Bulgarian Bishops, under Russian protection, are still able to plan brigand bands to raid Serb and Greek villages, under the noses of the reform officers, and Greek and Serb organize rival bands to defend themselves. And while Austria subsidizes Albanian Beys in Kosovo Vilayet, Russian officers ride round Greek villages and swear they shall have no help unless they say they are Bulgar. So runs the tale.
Theoretically, the plan to maintain order with a well-organized police force is admirable. I fear it has been started twenty-five years too late. As for the alternative plan, which is favoured by some, and greatly disliked by others of the Christian peoples whose interests are concernedthat of appointing a Christian European Governor to a State to be arbitrarily mapped out and called Macedoniait might stave off for a time the partition of the territories that must ultimately take place, but as it would rest on no historical, geographical, or racial basis, it would do little more. For the crux of the whole matter is not Turk versus Christian any longer. The question now is, how much of the Turk's land shall be occupied by Serb, Bulgar, Greek and Albanian respectively. I met no one on the spot who was in favour of this plan, except inasmuch as it would give him the chance of working out his own propaganda without risk of interference from the Sultan, and of 'nobbling' that Christian Governor, and making him understand the 'real truth.' And the little propaganda of the little Powers will continue to be worked by the big propaganda of the big Powers.
The problems of Turkey in Europe are not confined to one spot, and to'cultivate a cabbage-garden' in the middle of it with quite artificial boundaries is likely to create as many new difficulties as it cures old ones, and to still further subdivide the already much divided peoples.
Nationalities, like individuals, must save their own souls. It is little short of impertinence on the part of others to pose as Salvation Army to them. None of the Balkan people are so black as they have often been painted. They all possess many fine qualities which only require opportunity to develop, and their faults in most cases are but those of extreme youth. The atrocities which they will all commit upon occasion are a mere survival of mediæval customs once common to all Europe. 'Humanity' was not invented even in England till the beginning of the nineteenth century; up till then punishments of the most brutal description were inflicted for comparatively trivial offences. In dealing with the Balkan Peninsula, far too much 'copy' has been made out of 'atrocities' for party purposes, and the supply of them has been thereby stimulated. Nor are they presented in proper perspective.
When a Moslem kills a Moslem it does not count; when a Christian kills a Moslem it is a righteous act; when a Christian kills a Christian it is an error of judgment better not talked about; it is only when a Moslem kills a Christian that we arrive at a full-blown 'atrocity.'
When the circumstances under which the Balkan peoples have lived are considered, the wonder is not that they are so behindhand, but that they are so advanced. Their friends hope for them liberty to develope each on their own natural lines. Those who blame the lands already freed, because in a few years they have not reached a pitch of civilization which it has taken the West five centuries to evolve, are unjust to them. And some of their worst enemies are the friends who wish to hurry them up. Their civilization, if it is to be firm and lasting, and suited to their own peculiar needs, must be a solid structure slowly built, and not a mere jerry-built affair hastily run up and smeared over with cheap Western varnish.
To grow up, the Balkan people must pass through certain stages of development and do it for themselves. It is of no use to hurry on events. You cannot change a tadpole into a frog by snipping off its tail.
The present difficulties are no mere struggle of Ottoman against Christian. They are the continuation of the struggles of pre-Turkish days for supremacy in the Balkans. When the Balkan people as a whole wish the Turk to go, go he will, and must. He survives only so long as he is useful to any one of them by preventing the others from expanding, and he knows it.