Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

I. Characterictics of Turkish rule

5. Absence of Civil Order : Illustrations

While one might find some faint parallel to this spirit of ascendancy among the English in Ireland or the Magyars in Hungary, its manifestation in Turkey is completely Oriental. The Turks brought with them into Europe no conception of civil order, and they have remained so much a military caste that they have hardly felt the need of public security. They alone have the right to go armed, and while that is so, even the police is one of those superfluities which have been borrowed uncomprehended from Europe. The average landowner, at least in the more disturbed districts, has a keep beside his country house, and a bevy of armed retainers, who wear their revolvers even while they wait at his table. He would think it undignified to go abroad unattended, and his name is usually a terror, which protects him. For the dwellers in towns there is another system. If they visit

The main street, Ochrida


the country they hire a mounted gendarme to accompany them. You take your safety about with you. The conception is amazingly primitive, but it is thoroughly characteristic of the workings of the Turkish intellect. The mail-cart which labours once or twice a week over the ruined road between Ochrida and Monastir is always escorted by four or six mounted gendarmes. To understand an arrangement by which an organised police and a reliable criminal court would make an attack upon the mails unthinkable would puzzle the concrete Turkish mind. [1] As for criminal violence, the law of private vengeance is still supreme. We had in our employment at Ochrida an Albanian cavass, whose duty it was to guard the relief depôt and carry money or messages. He was recommended to us by the prefect as a quiet, middle-aged, respectable man. And certainly anything more intensely respectable it would be difficult to imagine. He slept all day, he was sometimes tired - sure traits of respectability. He had regular habits. He dined every evening with his wife. He always left his rifle beside his boots in the same corner. Pie went out one day to dine as usual. He came back at the usual hour, and curled up on his mattress beside the wood fire. He seemed normal and at ease, and in his calm accents of everyday he told how he had just'committed a murder. He had found his wife in some alarm. A drunken Turkish soldier had mistaken his house for that of a Christian, and proceeded to rob it. Drunkenness was a venial offence, robbery natural; but the mistake was an unpardonable insult. Our respectable servant caught the intruder, beat him unmercifully, and flung him for dead out of his window into the street. He then dined comfortably, and strolled up to our depôt to smoke his cigarette before turning in for the night. It was only when the news came that the soldier was not quite dead that he betrayed any concern. But next day the expected event happened quietly, and all risk of a vendetta was over. We supposed in our innocence that our cavass would be arrested, but nothing so uncomfortable happened.

1. See note at end of chapter.


It was afterwards explained to us that he was a popular local man, with many friends. The soldier was a stranger from Asia Minor. When the murder of a Turkish soldier in uniform in the midst of a town can be regarded as an event beneath the notice of the law, it may be imagined how little is thought of an attack upon a Christian peasant in some remote village. An incident occurred near Ochrida which illustrated this aspect of the matter. An Albanian went by night into a Bulgarian village and fired into the house of a man whom he regarded as his enemy. He wounded his wife, his daughter, and an infant son. They were carried as patients into our hospital, and this naturally brought the affair prominently before the prefect, an able and enlightened man in his own way, rather sensitive to European criticism. He endeavoured to arrest the murderer, but the village took up his cause, and the gendarmes returned empty-handed. The prefect now decided to go in person, and marched upon the offending village at the head of three hundred regular troops. This display of force was overwhelming. The village did not resist, but it still refused to give evidence against the guilty man. The prefect returned to Ochrida with forty or fifty prisoners, kept them in gaol for three or four days, and then released them all. The incident was instructive, for the crime itself was gross. The prefect was the best Turkish official I have ever met. He was acting, moreover, under the eyes of Europeans, and during an epoch of "reform." And yet to punish a simple outbreak of private passion in which no political element was involved he had to mobilise the whole armed force of his district, and even then he failed. In a country where nothing short of an administrative earthquake can set the machinery of justice in motion, it is no matter for surprise that it is usually left to rust.

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