Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

VII. The Greeks

7. Conduct of the Greek Bands

This armed Greek propaganda, planned in the spring of 1904, has since been developed with much energy and a total disregard for humane scruples, and its result has been


that, despite the self-restraint of the Bulgarian Committee and the reforming efforts of the Powers, Macedonia has passed during some eighteen months through a period of anarchy without parallel in its recent annals. Officially, the object of the Greeks in establishing bands was defensive: they intended to reply to Bulgarian violence by a counter terrorism, to maintain their footing in the country and to protect the lives and property of their adherents. In point of fact they have conducted an aggressive warfare against all the other Christian elements, Bulgarians, Vlachs, and even Albanians, with the object of checking every national movement save their own, and of conquering for Hellenism as much of the country as they can overrun. Their methods have been assassination and even massacre, while their task has been facilitated by the tolerance and the connivance of the Turks. Unlike the Bulgarians, they have established no local organisation. Their work is controlled by the "Macedonian Syllogos" of Athens, which enjoys within certain limits the approval of the Greek Government; and its agents in Macedonia have been the Greek Bishops and consuls. Their bands consisted of mercenaries, well paid and well armed, recruited in Crete, in Smyrna, and in the Greek kingdom. Few of them were composed to any large extent of Macedonians, but in some cases, even by the admission of Greek newspapers, they enrolled local Turks. The leaders were often officers of the Greek army, but the more successful among them seem to have been brigand-chiefs from the mountains of Olympus and the Greek frontier. In two instances they were old Bulgarian leaders who had quarrelled with the Committee and accepted Greek pay. They have worked on a large scale, passing the Greek frontier without difficulty, and even effecting a descent by sea upon the coast of Chalcidice. Sometimes they came into conflict with Bulgarian bands, but as in these cases the newspapers of both sides have usually claimed the victory, it is difficult to ascertain the truth. Their instructions were to avoid encounters with the Turks, and usually there has been no difficulty on this head. Sometimes the Turkish officers were bribed; in two


cases they received the Greek decoration of the Order of the Redeemer. A few skirmishes have none the less taken place (notably one in which Captain Melas was killed), but usually by mistake, and these ended for the most part in the surrender of the Greeks, and a trial for form's sake, followed by a few months imprisonment.

But the aim of these bands is not military: they are engaged in "propaganda," and here they have achieved a very considerable success. They murdered the Albanian priest of Negovan for the crime of translating the Greek liturgy into Albanian. They have executed a fair number of Vlach priests and teachers because they attempted to say Mass or teach the children in Roumanian. The Bulgarian population has been reduced by some hundreds, and a large number of Vlach (Roumanian) villages have been "converted" from their schism and enrolled once more in the Greek Church. [1] To employ violence against Bulgarians was, after all, only to adopt the law of retaliation, but the Vlachs have done nothing to provoke such usage. They, at least, have never enrolled bands or essayed terrorism.

An extract from a Greek newspaper Empros, September 5, 1905, which happens to be edited by the acting president of the Macedonian Syllogos, describes with a naïve euphemism the evangelical methods which the apostles of Hellenism and Orthodoxy have employed to convert the Bulgarian peasantry.

"We have just learned a most important piece of news from an entirely reliable source. A Hellene-Macedonian band, composed of eighty men commanded by the chiefs Vlakouris and Thiaphis, arrived last Saturday in the schismatic village of Mokreni. It carried off twenty-five schismatics and took them to a place near Mount Kouri. From this centre the two chiefs despatched an order to the villagers of Mokreni commanding them to send the priest and the headman of the village, under a threat to massacre the twenty

1. “Captain Boukovala has caused several Roumanising villages in the Caza of Yenidje to return to Orthodoxy" (the Skrip, Athens, August 31, 1905).

"Thanks to the action of the Chief Akridas and his band, the Roumanising population of Selion, Vlacolivadon and of the villages round Vodena has rejected the alluring propositions of the Roumanian propaganda and returned to Orthodoxy" (the Athenai, August 31, 1905).

five hostages unless their order was instantly obeyed. The priest and the headman arrived shortly afterwards in the camp. Captain Vlakouris made them a long speech in which he required them to return to Orthodoxy with all their flock. The priest, the headman, and the prisoners were fired with such enthusiasm by the words of Captain Vlakouris that they swore to renounce their schism. On receiving this assurance the captain released them all. Next day the Greek band returned to the village and was received with the utmost cordiality. A Te Deum was sung in the Greek Church, which up to that moment had been closed, and at the end of the ceremony all the villagers swore an oath of fidelity to Orthodoxy. Captain Vlakouris, after leaving twelve of his men in the village of Mokreni, set out with the rest of his band for Zelenitch and Aetos, two villages which he also proposes to bring back to Orthodoxy."

To reconstruct this scene it is necessary to remember that Mokreni is a purely Bulgarian village, that its men proved their devotion by taking a share in the Bulgarian rising of 1903, that it was then burned to the ground by the Turks, and that it lies at the foot of the mountain on which stands Klissoura, in sight of a Turkish garrison and a Turkish sub-prefect. It would be possible, no doubt, to parallel such performances as this from the annals of the Bulgarian bands, but they, after all, confined themselves to "converting" their own compatriots; they have never attempted to terrorise genuine Greek villages in this fashion. Moreover, the Greeks have resorted to wholesale massacre as the Bulgarians have never done. There are few Bulgarian villages in the debatable central districts which have not been visited during the year 1905 by some Greek band which has left behind it its twos and threes or its ten or a dozen of schismatic corpses, [2] sacrificed in the process of the ceremony of conversion. The chef d'oeuvre of this Hellenic campaign was achieved at Zagoritchani, a large Bulgarian village near Klissoura, which, like Mokreni, took a leading part in the rising of 1903, and like Mokreni was burned by the Turks. A Greek band, which is said to have numbered over two hundred men under three Greek officers in uniform, surprised it by night (April 6-7, 1905) by using

2. Seventeen were massacred at Kladorobi, eight killed and fifteen wounded at Zelenitch.


bugle calls which led the villagers to suppose that Turkish regulars were manoeuvring in the neighbourhood. They burned ten houses, and twenty-eight of the temporary homes erected amid the ruins of the last conflagration. They wounded seven persons and killed no less than sixty, among them seven women, twenty-two persons over sixty years of age, and five children under fifteen. [3] There was a good deal of evidence to show that the local Turkish authorities were privy to this massacre, and some circumstances seemed to inculpate the Archbishop of Castoria. It is quite clear that no conflict or provocation preceded what was simply a deliberate massacre, and the only reason for choosing Zagoritchani was that it is an eager and patriotic Bulgarian centre, and that it had disobeyed the summons of the Greek Archbishop to return to the Patriarchist fold. [4] The programme of the Greek organisa-

3. I have had corroboration of these figures and of the other details given above in a private letter from a gentleman who had seen the reports of the Italian gendarmerie officer and the Civil Agents.

4. The Roumanie of Bucharest has published the text of a circular found by the Turks in some documents seized on the person of a Greek prisoner. It reads like a genuine Greek document, and its authenticity has  not  been questioned by the Greek organs. It is said to bear the seal of the Greek Committee.
" Brave defenders of Hellenism, I address you to-day in order to express the gratitude which the entire nation feels for all you have done and will yet do on behalf of the Fatherland. Continue the struggle against the Bulgarian assassins, and neglect no means of proving to the whole world that Macedonia is purely Greek. Exterminate the priests, the teachers, and the notables who compose the Bulgarian Committees. It is at length time to put in practice the saying: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. When it is a question of taking vengeance we must not spare the Bulgarians, even when they hide under the robes of a priest. Burn, shoot, assassinate, and purify the soil of Macedonia from all that is Exarchist. The Supreme Panhellenic Committee has decided to intensify the struggle by making use of your arms, O valiant combatants, and if for some time past the Committee has hardly seemed equal to the occasion, the reason is that official Greece hesitates. But what is official Greece to us, when we have the approbation of the whole Hellenic world ? Forward, then, until you have wiped out the last Bulgarian in our Macedonia. Your names will be inscribed in letters of fire in the annals of the race. May Heaven grant that the day be near when the sun of Hellenism will shine on Macedonia; then there will be peace for us and for the Turks, with whom we stand on the best of terms. Let our motto be: Purge Macedonia of the Bulgars." I quote from M. Gaulis' admirable paper, La Macédoine.


tion is clearly to prove that Macedonia is Greek by exterminating the Bulgarians. The worst of this practical ethnography is that it leaves so many corpses to testify to the contrary thesis. Both sides have resorted on occasion to Machiavellian tactics; both sides have been guilty of savagery. But the Bulgarians at least have not committed the crime of lèse-liberté; and the Greeks alone, strangers and mercenaries engaged in the conquest of an alien people, have imitated Turkish methods of massacre. [5] It is as always the peasantry who suffer. By the autumn of 1905 a reign of terror had settled down on the whole of Central Macedonia. Tillage was interrupted, the roads deserted, and round Vodena the population of no less than nine Bulgarian villages had abandoned their homes and flocked into the town in search of some refuge from the Greek bands. Were these people martyrs and fanatics by choice, their miseries might have their ideal compensations. But half the men and most of the women would welcome tranquillity beneath any flag, and call themselves Manchus or Hottentots if under these names they might plough their fields undisturbed and tramp to market without fear of assassination.

5. The assassination of Vlachs by the Greek bands aroused the most violent indignation in Roumania. The Roumanians are not quite so much inured to blood as the Greeks and Bulgarians, and they have always conducted their propaganda by the clean and benevolent method of bribery. They retaliated by expelling some Greek subjects from Roumania. A diplomatic conflict followed, and in October, 1905, peaceful relations were broken off. Happily a war is physically impossible, but Greek commerce in Roumania is certain to be very heavily punished. Some good has come already from this situation, since orders have been issued from Athens forbidding the Greek braves for the future to murder Vlachs.

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