Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

V. The Bulgarian movement

5. Ideal of a neutral Autonomy

It is true that without the friendly refuge of Bulgaria the Macedonian patriots could have achieved little. But the fact that their bands are often equipped in Bulgaria, and sometimes led by Macedonians long resident in Bulgaria, in no way robs the Committee of its local character. The Greek and Servian movements in Macedonia are, on the other hand, the creation of the Greek and Servian Governments, and they are directed, with very little disguise, from the Greek and Servian consulates. The unique feature of the Bulgarian Committee is that it is a democratic organisation, whose policy and programme are dictated by Macedonian opinion.

In its original idea I am ready to believe that the Macedonian Committee had no exclusive racial ambition. Its leaders were Bulgarians by race and language, but their programme has never been the annexation of Macedonia to Bulgaria, and I see no reason to doubt their sincerity when they say that their aim was to create a free neutral State under the suzerainty of the Sultan, in which all the races of their distracted country might meet on a footing of equality, and conduct their common affairs without regard to national ambitions. They were not at first on the best of terms with the hierarchy of the Bulgarian Church, nor did they entirely trust the Bulgaria across the border. The Slavs of European Turkey have even yet no highly-developed consciousness of race, and what little they possess is of recent growth. Their passion is not for their race but for their country. They are a people of the soil fixed in their immemorial villages, with a limited range of sentiments which play piously around their mountains, their rivers and


their ancient churches. A nation of peasants which starts with these conservative qualities will readily develop a genuine local patriotism. And this indeed has happened despite adverse circumstances. Their ballads of revolt, in which the word "Macedonia" recurs in every chorus, prove that they have already a fatherland. If the other races of Macedonia had started with the same spiritual equipment a joint movement of revolt would have been feasible, and from this cooperation a genuine Macedonian Commonwealth would have evolved quite naturally. Macedonia is little more chaotic in its races and languages than Switzerland. But the other Macedonian stocks are not peoples of the soil. The Albanians are recent invaders. The Vlachs are nomad herdsmen, wandering carriers and cosmopolitan merchants, whose families are scattered all over the Levant. The Greeks are townsmen, reared on abstractions, who care nothing for the soil of Macedonia, and very much indeed for "Hellenism." They are, moreover, an aristocracy of talent, whose chief interest is the Church they govern, and they have ingrained an Imperial tradition which knows nothing of local patriotism. To the Slav, Macedonia is simply so much land which his ancestors have tilled for twelve centuries. To the Greek it means the country of Alexander and the hearth of a great Empire. Their "Great Idea " demands the extension of the little modern kingdom of Greece to Constantinople and the Straits, and Macedonia is essential to that ambition, because through it lies the road to the sentimental capital of Hellenism, which is not the Athens of Pericles but the Byzantium of Constantine. In the Macedonian insurgents they refuse to see peasants fighting for a minimum of liberty. To their romantic imagination these simple rebels of the villages are the vanguard of the Slav hosts, the hired agents of Russia and Panslavism, an army which is already attempting to occupy the road to Constantinople and to bar the advance of Hellenism. That is, of course, the extreme Athenian view. But Athens dominates the Greeks of Macedonia, and they follow their Bishops and their consuls with a docility which is destructive of any local opinion. Left to themselves, the Macedonian Greeks would probably


have come to terms with their Slav neighbours long ago. But just because they are the weaker element in Macedonia they do not wish to be left to themselves. It would have needed much grace to forget the secular feud, to renounce the inborn contempt of the barbarian, and to pardon the crime of the Exarchist schism. This grace the Greeks do not possess, and the Bulgarians were not sufficiently patient and tactful in their efforts at conciliation. Certainly the two peoples have never found common ground. To the Greeks who have the consciousness of race in an extravagant form, and to whom their language and their culture is dearer even than liberty, the ideal of a neutral Macedonian commonwealth presented no attractions. As little was it possible to come to terms with a view to a partition of the country, and a delimitation of spheres of influence. The inevitable result of the hostility of the Greeks was that the Macedonian movement became more and more definitely nationalist, until to-day it is as decidedly anti-Greek as it is anti-Turk. All attempts at cooperation and conciliation have long since been abandoned.

The Committee still uses in its official documents language which implies that the basis of its propaganda is not racial, and that it does not aim at a Bulgarian ascendancy. But these, I am afraid, are no more than pious memories of a better state of mind. The atmosphere of Macedonia is so poisoned with nationalism that the most enlightened patriot becomes corrupted against his will. And yet, with all these reservations, it remains true that the Committee does not desire the annexation of Macedonia to Bulgaria, that its ideal, in form at least, is still an international commonwealth, and that it gives proof of its sincerity by asking Europe for a European Governor. This seems to me an important point, for if the secret intention of the Macedonian Bulgars was to obtain autonomy as Eastern Roumelia did, merely as a preliminary to a coup d'état and a sudden annexation to Bulgaria, they would ask not for a European Governor, but for some native Christian, who could easily be removed. Indeed, I believe that so far as the Bulgarians, whether in Macedonia or in Bulgaria,


speculate about the remote future at all, their dream is that Macedonia should be certainly a Slav, but not definitely a Bulgarian, country, and that it should eventually form the central state in a Balkan federation which might unite all the Southern Slavs. [1] A big Bulgaria which included Macedonia would be so overwhelmingly powerful that Servia and Montenegro would shrink from joining her. A neutral Macedonia, on the other hand, would be a point of union which might conciliate the jarring interests of Servia and Bulgaria, since to both it would offer access to the Aegean, a new commercial outlet, and a fresh window to the world.

1. The Committee, or some sections of it, even contemplates (1905) the policy of imposing the Macedonian Slav dialect in place of literary Bulgarian as the language of all the Exarchist schools in Macedonia. Grammars are said to have been printed for this purpose. This seems to me to prove the sincerity of the local autonomist patriotism.

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