Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

I. Characterictics of Turkish rule

2. The Doubtful Benefits of European Influence
     Superficial Imitation of Civilisation. Ineffectual Interference of the Powers

While the fabric of the Turkish State has been profoundly modified from within during the past century, the pressure


of Europe has also made itself increasingly felt. The results have not been happy. Some scanty knowledge of French is now expected from the educated Turk. It is for conversational purposes rather than for study. The censorship admits few books save the baser type of novel, and only the most superficial conceptions of Western culture filter in through the strange vocabulary of unassimilated ideas. But in a vague way the bureaucracy has learned that certain institutions utterly foreign to its own civilisation exist among the greater Powers, and for ends of its own it has attempted to imitate them. There is a modernised system of law which attempts to compromise between the Code Napoléon and the Koran. The Ministries in Constantinople repeat at least the names familiar in the West. There is even a Ministry of Mines and Forests, which has its officials in the interior. Only the mines and forests are lacking. Minerals there are in plenty in Macedonia and Albania, but in the absence of roads, security, and justice, they cannot be worked at a profit. The forests are what the goats and the charcoal-burners have made them, and if the Turks have had a policy, it was to destroy them as dangerous cover for brigands and insurgents. But the inspectors of this singular Ministry abound. It is as good a pretext as another for multiplying offices for the benefit of the ruling caste. This imitation of the West even extends to the adoption of purely humanitarian institutions. Every town in Turkey has its municipal doctor, who is supposed to watch over the public health and visit the poor without payment. But he is usually a graduate of Constantinople, and his salary is always in arrears. There are also military doctors attached to every battalion. There was one of these at Ochrida, but since surgery was the one branch of his profession which he did not profess, wounded soldiers were attended by a local bone-setter, who kept an oil and candle shop. This comical anxiety to ape Europe has no other result than to confuse the minds of the official class, to burden the treasury, and to distract the Government from humbler work less hopelessly beyond its competence, and an inconceivable element of sham and unreality is thus


added to the normal atmosphere of Oriental corruption and intrigue. It may be instructive to give an illustration.

Early in December of 1903 I went to Castoria to ascertain what kind and measure of relief would be necessary in the burned and devastated villages of the populous Bulgarian region round this Graeco-Turkish centre. Turks and Greeks were alike complacent. Shut up in the quaint city, isolated amidst its lake, they knew little and cared less about the misery beyond them. Riding out to visit the villages, I came first to Aposkepo, barely three miles from town. Every house but five or six had been burned, and the villagers had an unmistakable air which told of want, disease, and ebbing vitality. I asked for the priest, the teacher, and the head-man, only to be told that all of them had died within the past two weeks. Further inquiry, family by family, showed that since the return from the hills after the insurrection, practically every household had lost an inmate from disease, and in almost every one of the wretched shelters which the peasants had built among the charred ruins of their homes one person at least lay ill. The prevalent disease was a sort of maglignant influenza which resembled typhoid in its symptoms. Had the municipal doctor been to see them ? Yes, he passed once along the high-road, and they induced him to come in. He did nothing, and had never come back. I then rode on to a group of four villages further within the mountains (Posdivichta, Tcheresnichta, and the two Drenovenis). Before the first of them was in sight a peasant from the fields, seeing a European on horseback, came running to meet me, and inquired if I were by chance a doctor. His child was stricken with smallpox. In the village there was no other subject of discussion. Here, too, nearly every household had its patient, and the children, with the skin peeling from their faces, were running about in the lanes. The old priest fumbled over the pages of his funeral register, but the task of counting the dead was a work which demanded time. In the other villages the same conditions prevailed. There was no doctor, no isolation, no suitable food, and the sick lay groaning beneath filthy blankets, on


the wet earthen floor under a dripping roof of improvised thatch suspended over crumbling and blackened walls. The prospect was appalling, and an epidemic throughout the whole hungry province seemed almost inevitable. When I got back to Castoria I visited the prefect (Caimakam) and the municipal doctor. Both professed to be totally ignorant of an epidemic which had been raging at their doors for three weeks. I obtained the prefect's permission to engage a doctor on behalf of the Relief Fund and to start a hospital. A building was easily found, and a telegram to Mr. Graves, our Consul-General in Salonica, brought a prompt promise of aid from the nursing Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul.

But there was still the spreading epidemic to be thought of, and in an evil moment I telegraphed to Hilmi Pasha in Monastir, suggesting the placing of a cordon round the infected villages. It was a disastrous inspiration ; for it implied a tacit criticism of the Imperial Government. The reply was decisive and characteristic. The Government, in its ceaseless care for its subjects, would do all that was necessary, it would even establish a hospital of its own, and our hospital would not be required. In all the centuries that the Turks have held Castoria they had never yet dreamed of founding a hospital. The motive was obviously to forestall us. Hospitals in Turkey are supposed to be a peculiarly dangerous form of political propaganda, and to found one it is necessary to purchase an Imperial Firman from Constantinople, a process which implies a banker, an ambassador, and a skilful go-between. I hurried to Monastir and saw the Pasha in person. When I represented that the hospital was already an accomplished fact, that we had rented a building and engaged a doctor, and that this terrible institution would only be temporary, he gave a reluctant consent on condition that we eschewed the dangerous word "hospital " and bound ourselves solemnly to say " infirmary" instead. But as to work in the villages he was firm. There the Government would do everything, and a high Turkish medical officer with the rank of a colonel, one Fuad Bey, was despatched in hot haste to Castoria. A fortnight later


I returned. Our " infirmary " was in working order under the Sisters from Salonica. An ambulance which we had started at Aposkepo had been handed over to the Turkish sanitary authorities. Fuad Bey had come and gone, but the Mutessarif (Governor) of Koritza, a Pasha in rank, was on the spot to watch developments. This exalted personage called upon us with the municipal doctor in his suite and an edifying conversation followed. A stringent military cordon, he assured me, had been placed round the infected villages, so that no one could come out or go in. They were completely isolated. The epidemic, so Fuad Bey declared, had nearly spent itself, and the doctor had been able to find only six patients for his hospital at Aposkepo. "How were they doing ?" "Thank God, very well indeed, except one dear little boy who would probably die." (There were tears in the doctor's voice.) One of the Sisters was anxious to spend her afternoons at this hospital; would the Pasha permit it ? The Pasha smiled and nodded, but the doctor sternly objected that she would carry infection through his precious cordon.

" But," said I, " surely that applies also to your own visits ? "
" I never go."
" And who looks after the patients ? "
"A male infirmary nurse."
" Is he from Monastir ? "
" No, a peasant of the village."

Next day, with some fear in my mind of that impassable cordon, I went to Aposkepo to supervise the giving of relief in kind. I had no thought of visiting the hospital. The cordon was oddly invisible, and as I passed the door of the hospital peasant women and children were going in and out. I asked them if they were the attendants of the hospital. They stared blankly. They had never heard of a hospital. I went in and found the place tenanted by the usual refugee families. One room, however, was empty, and on the floor lay six diminutive mattresses. That was the hospital. The patients were a myth, the cordon was a myth, the nurse was a myth, and the little


dying boy was the embroidery of a myth. That same afternoon a deputation arrived from the four smallpox-stricken villages to fetch the blankets which we had promised them. We inquired how they had contrived to evade the military cordon. It was the first they had heard of its existence.

Some days later I was again in Monastir. This time I had decided to keep silence. But Hilmi Pasha, seizing a moment when his audience-chamber was well filled with a miscellaneous assortment of visitors, including two other Europeans, expanded upon all he had done to cope with the epidemic, and appealed to me for confirmation. He listened grimly, thanked me with an effort, and promised to send back Fuad Bey and to dismiss the municipal doctor. From that moment our hospital, and indeed our whole work in Castoria, became the object of a systematic persecution, fostered, it should be explained, by the Greek Archbishop. More than once the decree went forth that our hospital was to be closed, and once a policeman actually called to expel the patients. Fuad Bey was now a fixture in Castoria, and with the aid of a competent Greek physician he did at last establish a Turkish hospital on a small scale. The only trouble was that none of the peasants would go near it, and they always replied, in answer to our recommendations, that the place was merely a prison. In point of fact it had from first to last some five or six patients, who were seized by force at the gates of the town as they were coming in to our hospital. Patients coming in and out to us were on several occasions searched and cruelly beaten by the soldiers and the police. Our doctor was at first forbidden to make his rounds in the villages, and then grudgingly permitted, after a consular protest, to make them accompanied by Fuad Bey. This gentleman was nothing loth, for he received an extravagant travelling allowance for every mile he covered. His function was, of course, the primary duty of every Turkish official - to spy. But he was as unfit for this work as for doctoring, since he knew neither of the languages of the country, Bulgarian and Greek. His linguistic equipment beyond


Turkish was perhaps some hundred words of French, and, since Turkish is not a language affected by writers of medical books, the sources of his science and the motives of his promotion were something of a mystery. The municipal doctor, whose salary was seventeen months in arrear, was not dismissed—that would have been too much good fortune. Lady Thompson, who had meantime arrived from England to take charge of the relief work in the Castoria District, was surrounded with spies in uniform, who took their seat in the passages of her house, and insisted on accompanying her even when she went for health's sake for a sail on the lake. Our sealed letters were opened in the post, and one of them was seen by a Greek friend of mine in the possession of the Greek Archbishop. From first to last the episode was an elaborate object-lesson in Turkish conceptions of government. Their absolute neglect of public hygiene is the normal condition. Confronted suddenly with European standards, the incompetent administrative machinery for aping civilisation is set in motion. It results in sham and unreality, of which Hilmi Pasha, arch-bureaucrat that he is, is himself a victim. But so slack is discipline, even in reformed Macedonia, that none of the guilty officials are punished or removed; they contrive, on the contrary, to make money by espionage. The spies are as useless as the imitators of civilisation, and for all their activity their superiors know nothing of the real state of the interior. National jealousies make themselves felt, and the Turks lend themselves readily to a scandalous Greek intrigue. A pitiable humanitarian farce ends in an outburst of sheer brutality. The suspicion of some political motive sits rooted in every mind, and Greeks, Turks, and Europeans move through a fog of deception in an atmosphere poisoned by race-hatred and "propaganda"

*   *   *

Ineffectual Interference of the Powers

So far as it has succeeded since the Crimean War in imposing upon the Turks an illusory pretence of civilisation, European influence has made for weakness and disruption. It has had another and more important action by creating for the subjects of civilised Powers a State within


a State. The origin of this humiliating system goes back to Byzantine times, when colonies of Genoese and Venetian merchants were allowed to settle in quarters of their own within Constantinople, and to enjoy the privileges of self-government. These privileges, much valued by the "Frank" traders, rested upon treaties which came to be known as the "Capitulations. They were continued by the Turks, who had no wish to compete with Italian trade, at a time when they neither feared nor respected the West, and probably welcomed an opportunity of encouraging the "Latins" at the expense of the Greeks. As the Dutch and the English built up a trade to Turkey, these immunities were gradually extended to all Christians who were not Ottoman subjects. They were not very scrupulously observed, and the consular records of the seventeenth century show that the English Levant Company adopted a very humble attitude towards the Grand Signior, defended its rights rather by bribery than by arms, and never dreamed of resorting to naval action, as the Great Powers do to-day, even when its agents were publicly insulted and deforced. The modern attitude towards Turkey rests upon Turkish weakness and Turkish defeats, and that fact is sufficiently understood by Moslem opinion. Protected by his flag, subject only to the jurisdiction of his consul, the European in Turkey is completely independent of Turkish authority. He is absolutely immune from direct taxation, and though he alone enjoys security for life and property, he alone pays nothing for the privilege. His Government will assist him to obtain "concessions". He has in the consular courts not merely a fair but, I am afraid, sometimes a partial tribunal. The consequences of a diplomatic dispute, with ironclads in the background, are so onerous that the Turks will frequently submit to sharp practice where a European is concerned. He can make money where a native, whether Moslem or Christian, would succumb to the burden of taxation and the rascality of the Turkish courts. He uses his privileges to the full, and not infrequently abuses them. International finance, moreover, since the Russo-Turkish War, has turned the humiliation


of Turkey and the powerfulness of diplomacy into occasions for wringing a steady and considerable revenue from a bankrupt anarchy. The railways, the tobacco monopoly, and the public debt are the largest developments of this practice. The same system prevails in China, and there, as Sir Robert Hart has shown, it provoked the Boxer rising. Before civilisation destroys a decaying Empire, it first exploits it. One could hardly exaggerate the sense of degradation and injustice which the self-seeking of Europe creates in the Turkish mind. This irritation cannot often be satisfied upon the sacred persons of Europeans, but, as in China, the native Christian, taken in quantities, provides an acceptable substitute. Of the futilities and hypocrisies of the humanitarian side of European action in Turkey it is hardly necessary to speak. The failure of diplomacy in this direction is now a commonplace. We have seen the French fleet sail to Mitylene to collect the debts of a pair of usurers, but no ironclad moved through the two years of the Armenian agony. [1] And the Turks also have seen it. They are hardly to be blamed if they refuse to believe that Europe is disinterested when she protests against massacre and devastation. To us this reasoning seems to lack subtlety. It is precisely because we are disinterested that we are content with inaction. But the Turks laugh at our professions of humanity, and argue that if we care at all about the fate of their Christian subjects it is because we regard them as our instruments and the servants of our policy. Behind the Armenians they see England, and behind the Slavs, Russia. It is not so much from fanaticism that they indulge in excesses. It is rather because they wish to wreak upon defenceless allies and abandoned proteges of Europe the fear and the indignation with which the Great Powers inspire them. It is sometimes said that it is the sympathy and the encouragement which the humane parties in England and France have shown towards disloyal

1. Compare, too, our own action in Crete. We did nothing effective after the repeated massacres of native Christians. When our own troops were shot down and our consul murdered we expelled the Turks.


Christian races in Turkey which provoke massacre. The ineffectual but ostentatious protection accorded by the various consulates is a much more potent cause. The Turk is unimaginative and ill-informed. His newspapers, rigidly censored, do not tell him when a mass meeting of pro-Greeks or pro-Armenians has been held in St. James's Hall. But he does see with his own eyes the courtyards of the consulates thronged with petitioners and complainants, his own liege subjects, who stand there under a European flag, upon inviolable soil, to pour out their grievances and their accusations against him into sympathetic alien ears. I have sometimes tried to imagine, in face of such a spectacle as that, how an average Englishman or a nationalist Frenchman would feel if such things were done in London or in Paris. The fires of Smithfield would be smouldering still if we had had to endure such treatment in our persecuting clays, and Saint Bartholomew's would be a modern institution.

It seems to me not an extravagant conclusion that the weak but irritating intervention of Europe has caused more suffering to the native Christians than it has prevented. This system is not occasional, nor is it reserved for large and grave crises. It is followed daily in the interior; and in such places as Monastir and Uskub, where few of the Powers have any subjects of their own, the consulates are maintained solely for the purpose of hearing grievances which they are impotent to redress. In some directions they succeed. It is notorious, for example, that most if not all of the Bulgarian bishops and their lay secretaries are involved more or less directly, and more or less voluntarily, in the rebellious activities of the Macedonian Committee. The Turks know this very well, but they never dare do more than place a Bishop under a sort of courteous and temporary arrest within his own palace. In one Macedonian town I was on good terms with the Bishop, his secretary, and the Turkish prefect. The prefect one day explained to me in great detail the exact shades of revolutionary opinion which the Bishop and his secretary affected. The cleric was a Russophil and a Panslavist. The layman


was an ardent Macedonian nationalist, rather distrustful of Bulgaria, and profoundly hostile to Russia. The description was good and accurate. But knowing this, and knowing the overt practices to which these opinions led, the prefect has still to receive the Bishop at his council board, and to treat him with an elaborate and ceremonial courtesy. Why ? Because the Powers, and more particularly Russia, maintain him in his place, and would treat any attempt on the part of the Turkish authorities to punish or even to remove him as an occasion for serious diplomatic action. This is not a humanitarian intervention. There would have been no inhumanity in removing the Bishop. On the other hand, when the same prefect filled his noisome prison with peasant women arrested on trumped-up charges as dangerous revolutionaries, no Embassy stirred a finger to release them. This intervention is political. In effect and perhaps in intention its sole result is to weaken the Turks, to sap their self-respect, and to hasten the day when the rotting fruit will drop into the mouths of the interested Powers. I was present one day in Hilmi Pasha's audience room at Uskub, when the acting Russian consul, a member of the Embassy staff, called on political business. It was in May of 1903, three months before the general Macedonian rising. The machinery of "reform" was in full swing. The Pasha sat among a litter of papers. His orderlies went to and fro in stockinged feet with cat-like tread carrying warrants and despatches. One heard the click of the telegraph, and felt that the bureaucratic machine was moving. The great man scribbled orders on the palm of his hand while he talked, and interrupted his conversation every few minutes to hurl some telegraphic thunderbolt. At last the Russian had his cue. He had come to protest against the wholesale arrests of suspected revolutionaries which the Pasha was carrying out all over Macedonia. It was indeed a veritable reign of terror, but indiscriminate though the arrests were, I doubt whether even a very malevolent Turk could make many mistakes. The Bulgarian movement is a national conspiracy, and it would be hard to find in all Macedonia a hundred professed Bulgarians who have not


contributed willingly or otherwise to its fortunes. But the Russian would admit no such arguments. To arrest a man upon mere suspicion was illiberal. To retain him in prison without a trial was unconstitutional. To propose to banish the heads of the movement by administrative decree, as Hilmi Pasha did, was an offence against the rights of man. The Russian was a jurist of some note. His pleading was eloquent and moving, and one only wished that it could have been addressed to the ears of the late M. Plehve. Hilmi Pasha was too polite or too ignorant to administer the obvious tu quoque. The argument was after all only a diplomatic circumlocution for something much more cogent—something about the arrears of the Russo-Turkish indemnity, or the movements of the Black Sea Fleet. The result was that the suspected leaders were not banished, but released. They went back to their villages. They worked very quietly for three months, and on the appointed day Macedonia rose in arms. This Russian action [2] would have been defensible if it had been consistent. To make a revolution possible by such methods would be a relatively moral policy, if one meant that it should achieve its goal of liberation. But that Russia did not intend. She used the revolution, and—at least indirectly—promoted the revolution, only in order to weaken Turkey. And that indeed has been the total effect of European intervention since the Treaty of Berlin. The Christians are not better situated but rather worse, because their oppressor is weak— and for ever reminded of his weakness, angry, suspicious, and afraid—and for ever confirmed in his suspicions. Knowing that the Turk cannot govern, Europe permits him to govern, and renders his task impossible.

2. Russia took the lead, but she had the support of most if not all of the other Powers.

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