Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

VI. The Vlachs

2. Place of the Vlachs in the Economy of Macedonia.

If the nomad pastoral Vlach has a bad name, the carrier (Kiradji) Vlach is a synonym for honesty. Their wandering habits, their international distribution, seemed to mark them out for this trade. Little by little, as they developed it, their mountain-nests, apt sites for sheep-cotes, became commercial centres, and it is no, small proof of their mercantile genius that Klissoura, for example, perched on the precipitous slope of a weary mountain, its streets mere ladders cut in the rock, the roads that approach it so many toilsome spirals, should have become a place of shops and bazaars, with two market-days in the week. The railways, I fancy, have somewhat diminished the trade of the carrier Vlachs. The older men of Kruchevo and Klissoura remember the days when a caravan went twice a year from their village to Vienna and brought back with it all that Macedonia needed from the West. But these were the days before Baron Hirsch had bribed Constantinople to allow him to build his railway. Now Klissoura has something of the air of a decayed town, which dreams amid its daily mists and infrequent suns of a glory that is departed. Half its houses are empty, and their architecture, solid, roomy, and with some incipient tendency to ornament, speaks of a greater trade than any that survives. Its comfortable shopkeepers, seated at ease on their heaps of cushions within the stout walls that defy the incessant rains of the mountain-top, will tell you that when they were boys Klissoura was the second city of Macedonia, hardly distanced by Salonica. In those great days there were even families which had pianos and German governesses ! Pisodéri had a more romantic history of a great past. It is a modern village enough on its present site, for it dates only from the second decade of last century, when its ancestors, fleeing from the tyranny of Ali Pasha, found a refuge among these arid and inaccessible rocks which no cupidity would envy. Ask the average Vlach why his people have perched their homes in these undesirable sites, and he will answer, with a frankness which is eloquent of Balkan conditions, "Why, of course


from fear." "Apo Phovon" is the monotonous response to so many questions in Macedonia. "The coneys are a feeble folk, but they have their dwellings among the rocks." The people of Pisodéri came from Moschopolis, one of those semi-independent and relatively civilised Christian communities of Albania which preserved a Hellenic culture among the Highlands until Ali Pasha crushed them. Moschopolis was ruined, but its inhabitants escaped with their lives. Half of them settled at Pisodéri; the other half fled as far north as Prizrend, where to this day they still preserve their identity and their traditions. Moschopolis was an eager centre of that stirring of ideas which preceded the Greek insurrection. It became a nest of culture when the learned Greeks of Constantinople found a refuge in it after the capture of their city by the Turks. It had in its great days a population of sixty thousand or more. It boasted a famous school, a public library, and a printing-press; and among the treasures of the Vlach colony in Prizrend are still to be reckoned a little store of books which issued from it. I have seen, too, at Koritza, a stained-glass window, coloured with no contemptible art, which came from Moschopolis. Relics like these, seen in a background of empty houses and decaying streets, lead one to suspect that, despite railways and reforms, Macedonia has actually retrograded in civilisation during the past century. There are printing-offices in Salonica which issue semi-official newspapers in French for a Jewish public under Turkish censorship, and there is even a little hand-press in Monastir which can strike off visiting-cards in five or six languages. But in all Macedonia there is certainly at this moment no press which publishes books. To-day the Turk is stronger than he was in 1820, and the elaborate machinery of paralysis and strangulation which he calls a Government has organised itself with the aid of the telegraph into a penetrating and omnipresent system.

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