Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

IV. The Races of Macedonia

7. Albanian Immigration into Macedonia

While it is true that the main elements of the rural population are only two in number, Slavs and Albanians, the real Macedonian complication lies not so much in the multiplicity of its warring races as in the difficulty of isolating them. It is comparatively easy to say what Albania proper is. It is the mountainous home of an unconquered race which faces the Adriatic from the Gulf of Arta in the south to Montenegro in the north. It includes the greater part of Epirus with the town of Jannina, the regions round Koritza and Elbasan as far east as the Lake of Ochrida, and the wild northern highlands on whose fringe lie the towns of Dibra, Prizrend, Ipek, and Scutari. Within these limits, save, indeed, within the walls of these four towns, there are few Slavs, and the population is the most homogeneous which can be found anywhere within the Turkish Empire. But for the Jews and Greeks in Jannina town, and some scattered villages of Vlachs, it is purely Albanian. But, on the other hand, one cannot say that the rest of the country is Slav. Physically, the limit


between Albania proper and Macedonia is abrupt and well defined. It is the Pindus range, which also divides Thessaly from Epirus, skirts the Lake of Ochrida on its western shore, and runs northward to the plain of Kossovo. It is a stately range of glorious snow-clad summits, and it forms a wall so impenetrable that, as one looks at it from the plain, the peaks seem to run north and south in a continuous and gently undulating line, and one feels as though there must be some pathway of the giants connecting them, along which one might walk, hardly descending between the summits, from Montenegro to the Gulf of Corinth. And, indeed, this fancy is not very far from the truth. The Pindus range is really a continuous mountain-wall. There are only two practicable passes in all its northern extent. The first is the road from Elbasan to Ochrida, which follows the track of the Roman Via Egnatia. The second is the road from Uskub viâ Tetovo (Chalcandelen) to Prizrend, which winds over the shoulder of the Schar (Scardus). The latter, indeed, can only be called a pass by courtesy. Its summit was snow-clad when I crossed it in a blazing June, and gentians and Alpine roses flourished along the pathway. A "pass" suggests a road to the European mind, but these great Imperial highways are little more than sheep-tracks, along which one may lead, but hardly ride, a mule. So unbroken and virginal is this great chain, which ends not timidly or gradually, but in the superb conical peak of Liubotrn ("the lovely thorn"), that dominates the plain of Uskub and the fields of Kossovo, as Olympus dominates Salonica. Here, one would have thought, was a natural frontier which ought to have separated Albania from Macedonia. But political conditions have made sport of geography, and there is to-day an Albania beyond Albania. It is probable that in the earlier centuries, before the Turkish conquest, the Pindus and Schar did divide the Albanians from the Slavs. Indeed, such encroachment as there was was rather in an opposite sense. It was the Slavs who invaded Albania. Since the Turkish conquest, however, the Albanian race has more than recovered its own. There has been, particularly in


the last two centuries, a steady movement of the Moslem Albanians eastward. Under the Crescent they are winning back more than all that they lost under the Cross. It is difficult to obtain statistics, and the country-folk will not generalise on the subject, but they will tell you that such an Albanian village settlement was made some eighty years ago, or that a village which used to own its own land, and was inhabited only by Bulgarians, came under the yoke of an Albanian chief a matter of fifty years back. This sort of thing has been going on steadily throughout the western half of Macedonia for two or three centuries at least, and the process is not yet complete. It is most noticeable in the north, and the country which was once the headquarters of the Servian race, and still bears the name of Old Servia, has now a population that is two-thirds Albanian. Elsewhere the emigration has been much less considerable, but it is still noteworthy. The whole province (Vilayet) of Monastir is studded with Albanian settlements. One finds them in enviable positions surrounded by three or four Bulgarian villages, over which the Albanians exercise a sort of semi-feudal terrorism. But the Albanian colonies are not mainly village communities. More often a chief (perhaps an ex-brigand who bought his peace with the Turks) has settled down in a big, rambling farm, with a fortified keep and a few retainers, and gradually acquired the position of landlord and the title of bey, with all that these things imply in economic servitude to the Slav peasantry. It is naturally in the more desirable districts, and, above all, in the fertile plains, that this has taken place. [1] The odd result follows that the wealthier Bulgarian villages are those on the lower slopes of the mountains, or even in rugged and isolated glens, since these have often been left more or less unmolested. The villages on the plains are mere collections of huts and cabins inhabited by serfs who work for an Albanian master. This movement of population was naturally welcomed and encouraged by the Turks. It tended to enslave and weaken their Slavonic subjects, and it helped to base their own

1. See Note B. at the end of the chapter.


political ascendancy on a "garrison," as an Irishman would call it, consisting of men whose material prosperity was involved in the continuance of Mohamedan rule. The Albanians have now become so much a Macedonian race that their shepherds regularly invade even the Central Vardar valley in winter. There are also Albanian villages deliberately planted by the Turks for obvious strategic regions along the frontiers of free Bulgaria. Indeed, there was even some talk of planting Albanian colonies in the Adrianople region after the late insurrection.

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