Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

IX. The problem of reform

8. Sketch of a Scheme for International Control

The forces which are making for a solution of the Macedonian question by some arrangement which would pave the way for its partition between Austria and Russia may prove triumphant, but there is enough evidence of a will to resist such a calamity among the other three Powers to make it worth while to discuss the alternative of an international control. The conditions which a solution at once practical and liberal ought to satisfy, may, I think, be set out somewhat as follows :

(a) It must, if possible, avoid war as a necessary preliminary. It must, therefore, give no evident and unfair advantage to any one of the rival Balkan States. At the same time it must not handle the Sultan so brusquely as to compel him to defy Europe. Some show of force will probably be necessary before Abdul Hamid accepts any genuine reform. But unless the conditions are too onerous, a bloodless naval demonstration before Salonica or Smyrna will be quite sufficient. The Turks on these occasions do not so much require compulsion as a pretext for yielding. They will submit to superior force, but the force must take a visible and obvious form. If, on the other hand, any attempt were to be made to drive the Turks utterly out of Macedonia, they would doubtless contest every stage of the retreat and cover their course with ruins.

(b) The solution must be promising enough, and final enough, to induce the revolutionary Committees to dissolve, or at least to transform themselves into innocent political organisations.

(c) The problem is not so much how to dispossess the


Turks of power, as how best to substitute direct European control for the personal rule of the Sultan and the Palace clique.

(d) A satisfactory scheme must commend itself to all the minorities concerned, Moslems as well as Greeks and Vlachs, as one likely to guarantee equality of treatment and even opportunity for growth.

To state these conditions is to rule two solutions out of court, for each of which some cogent arguments could be urged. Macedonia could not be partitioned among the neighbouring Balkan States unless the Turks had been utterly crushed by a disastrous war; nor would the Sultan readily consent to a nationalist autonomy of the Cretan type. This latter solution, indeed, would offer no adequate security to minorities. The Greeks would resist a Bulgarian hegemony and the Bulgarians would find it difficult to be tolerant. As for the Moslems, the unfurling of an autonomous national standard would be the signal for their emigration. Without further preface I will venture to suggest the outlines of a possible constitution which seems in my judgment to avoid some of the main difficulties.

1. Since the chief object of a reform of the administration is to withdraw the actual government of Macedonia from Constantinople, I am of opinion that the international authority should be a board of Delegates from the Five Protecting Powers, who would reside in Macedonia, enjoy a large independence of action and communicate with their own Governments directly without the formality of referring for instructions to the Embassies. This Board should enjoy all the authority of a Ministry in a constitutional country. If it were composed of the class of men who form the consular corps in Salonica I believe it would work harmoniously and well. [1]

2. It would, I think, be worth while to try the experi-

1. I assume that Germany would probably wish to stand aloof, as she did in the case of Crete. She has her own reasons for refusing to join in any concerted action to coerce the Sultan, and she cynically disavows any humanitarian concern as to the fate of Macedonia. She would not be likely to send more than a representative with a watching brief.


ment of appointing a Turkish Governor-General. He might be nominated by the International Board, though for form's sake the Sultan's approval should be obtained; or, vice versâ, he might be chosen by the Board from a list to be submitted by the Sultan. The Board would have to be armed with the right of dismissal. His appointment should be for a fixed term, which might be renewed indefinitely, and he should be guaranteed a pension which could be forfeited only by misconduct gross enough to bring about his dismissal. The Sultan must have no right to dismiss.

I believe that a reasonably intelligent and tolerant Turk elected on these conditions would govern sensibly and with dignity. He would not be in any real sense of the word a Turkish official, still less would he be an emissary of Yildiz Palace. Knowing that he could not be removed by the Sultan, and that he could rely upon an assured future, he would have every motive to serve Macedonia well. At the same time his duties should not be large, since the real work of administration should be performed by Europeans. But his appointment would serve two purposes. In the first place it would "save the face" of the Sultan and give a show of reality to his suzerainty. In the second place it would conciliate the local Mohamedan population, induce them to give the new régime a fair trial, and assure them that Europe intended to treat them not merely with justice but with consideration. To the old-fashioned Turkish country gentleman it would mean a great deal, that when he went in to Salonica or Monastir he would still find a Mohamedan seated in the konak enjoying the title of Governor, and treated with formal and ceremonious courtesy by the infidels who had been admitted to the administration. If the Governor were a wise and tactful man, and accepted the new order of things with a good grace, his personal influence on behalf of a policy of conciliation would be worth an army corps. He would earn his salary if he would merely repeat the sort of anecdotal and proverbial philosophy which the Turks love, to all who called upon him turning the moral on behalf of peace. One has to remember that the Moslem population will feel aggrieved and humiliated by the im-


position of European control, and an arrangement which would soften its regrets without endangering the success of the reforms would be well worth a trial. [2]

3. The same reasoning which tells in favour of a Mohamedan Governor-General should induce us to accept a number of Moslem prefects (Caimakams). I doubt if it would be necessary to have any Valis at all, but some of the Caimakams might rank as Pashas. In districts mainly Greek or Bulgarian the Caimakam should be of the faith of the majority, but where the Moslem minority is at all considerable it would be wise to appoint a Turk. The Governor-General should have the right to appoint these officials, after consultation with the International Board. Their functions, like his own, should be mainly formal and personal to act as local representatives of the idea of conciliation, and not to attempt, as the old Caimakams did, to concentrate every imaginable function of government in their own hands. In a very few peculiarly turbulent and difficult districts the prefect ought perhaps to be an experienced European preferably an ex-consul or vice-consul.

4. Whatever arrangement may be made, it is to be foreseen that the Palace will attempt to maintain its old system of espionage and interference. To obviate this and to emphasise the fact that the Governor-General is not responsible to the Sultan, it might perhaps be well to allow Abdul Hamid to nominate a special Imperial Commissioner of

2. It is more important that the Governor should be a Moslem than that he should be a Turk. It might be possible to find a really well-educated candidate in Egypt, Tunis, or Bosnia, if the jealousy of the Powers permitted. I have adopted this suggestion of a Mohamedan Governor-General only after a good deal of reflection and hesitation. There is much to be said in favour of driving out the Turks altogether, and appointing some European Prince to preside over an autonomous State. But such a solution could hardly be attained without war. If war does come, the problem will be vastly simplified. But even in that event there is something to be said for a policy that would conciliate the local Moslems. The plan of nominating a Turk, however, could scarcely be final. It would bridge over a period of transition, and pave the way for a more natural and durable arrangement. I have tried here to suggest the minimum of change consistent with any real reform. But if the crisis becomes violent, and a catastrophe cannot be averted, we may as well solve the whole question at one stroke by appointing a European.


his own, who would enjoy no executive powers whatever, but would have right to speak to the International Board in the Sultan's name. Such an arrangement, though apparently a concession to the Palace, would really give the new Macedonia the character of a quasi-foreign State. The other officials might then be cashiered immediately if detected in any direct correspondence with Yildiz Kiosq.

5. The present system, consecrated by the Mürzsteg programme, by which each Power is responsible for a special area, is a thoroughly mischievous arrangement. It is objectionable, because it tempts the Powers to treat their districts as spheres of influence, and to employ themselves in securing their own position instead of executing reforms. There ought to be uniformity so far as local circumstances permit, and it is manifest that the methods of English and of Russian officials will show a very wide divergence. A better plan would be that each Power should assume responsibility for one department of the Administration. In this way the International Board would be a genuine Ministry, though necessarily of a bureaucratic type. [3] Austria, which has done such excellent economic work in Bosnia and Herzegovina, might take charge of the Public Works and of Agriculture. Russia, as an Orthodox Power, would be peculiarly fitted to manage education and the Churches. France, which is already interested in the Ottoman Bank, might take charge of Finance. Italy, as the Power which organised the Cretan gendarmerie, might be made responsible for Public Order. England, utilising her Egyptian experience, might control the Courts and the local administration. These, of course, are tentative suggestions and are put forward merely to illustrate the main idea. What is important is that the European Minister should enjoy absolute and untrammelled authority, subject only to the general approval of his colleagues and his Government. He should have complete freedom to choose his own staff from his own or other European States (including those of the Balkan peninsula), or from native elements.

3. The Board of Financial Control would require very little remodelling to become such a Ministry as I propose.


6. It would, I think, be a mistake to attempt at the beginning any imitation of Parliamentary Government. Under actual conditions a Parliament would merely be a battlefield between rival races, and would do no useful work. On the other hand, even the peasants have an ancient tradition of local self-government. In each village there should be, as at present, a small council of elders and a headman elected by a manhood suffrage. [4] This Council would stand between the peasants and the Administration, arrange the details of taxation, manage the school and the local communications, act as a tribunal of the first instance in small disputes, and assist in the preservation of order.

For all these concrete offices the peasants in their humble and practical way are quite competent. It would be natural and easy to group the villages in Districts corresponding more or less to the present Nahiés, and to form District Councils composed of one or more elders from each village. To preside over the Districts, I think the Council might be trusted to elect a local President, [5] instead of the Mudir, usually some insignificant clerk, who at present represents the Turkish bureaucracy. The President would act as a sort of police magistrate. The Macedonian peasant has as yet no developed national outlook, but he is keenly concerned about the affairs of his own district, and an arrangement of this sort would satisfy his wish for self-government, and educate him in the real affairs which ought to be the concern of Governments.

It might be well to summon the District Presidents two or three times a year for a few days at a time to a sort of national Deliberative Assembly. Their experience would be useful. They would gain fresh ideas by contact with their colleagues and their superiors. They would have the right to speak for the peasants who elected them. But since they would be chosen primarily to act as judges and local administrators, they would probably not be drawn

4. The Turkish plan of a property qualification is to be avoided, for it merely makes in every hamlet a close and corrupt oligarchical clique.

5. The Slav communes before the Turkish conquest were grouped in this way under elected chiefs called Djupans.

A village conclave in the Ochrida district


from the agitator type, which might come to the front if any system of direct election for a purely parliamentary purpose were to be attempted too early. [6]

7. The maintenance of order would be in the hands of highly disciplined gendarmerie consisting of native elements both Christian and Moslem, officered by Europeans. It would be an expensive force, and for that reason should not be too large. To supplement it, it might be useful to expand the traditional system of rural guards (bekchi) into a kind of non-professional auxiliary force. Every village might select five to ten of its young man, who will be armed with rifles and possibly required to undergo some elementary training. [7] They should not be expected to perform ordinary police duties, or indeed, to act at all on their own initiative; and they should remain peasants and civilians, busied with their fields. But until the country is quite settled , its feuds appeased, and brigandage suppressed, they would form a useful and inexpensive local force, which might be called upon by the headman to resist a sudden inroad of brigands or to repel an invasion of bashi-bazouks, or summoned by a patrolling gendarme to assist him in any perilous duty. Apart from these village guards, the population, whether Moslem or Christian, should be forbidden to own or carry rifles.

8. The Turkish army should be reduced to modest proportions, and should consist entirely of local levies. Its commander should be subordinated to the civil Governor-General, and it should be paid and provisioned at the expense of Macedonia an arrangement which might take the place of an Imperial tribute. If Macedonia paid its own share of the army and met its existing obligations to the Ottoman Public Debt, it ought not to be required to the more for the Empire.

With these restrictions the army would be useful. It

6. The discontent in Crete under Prince George`s bureaucratic administration is warning against the risk of refusing local self-government.

7. The Turks themselves maintained a force of this sort under the name of Aratoles up till the Greek War of Independence.


would give confidence to the local Moslems, and save the Sultan from too galling a loss of prestige. At the same time, if it were mainly employed to watch the Albanian border, it would contribute to the prevention of raiding and brigandage.

9. It is unnecessary to say much about the actual reforms which a European Ministry would find it necessary to carry out. The system of tithe-farming would be abolished at once. Some very drastic agrarian legislation would be inevitable, and if funds could be obtained, the best plan would be to buy out all the landlords and settle their estates upon peasant-proprietors before the price of land has time to rise. Many of the beys have no title-deeds, and nearly all of them obtained their lands by violence. They are not capitalists the peasants supply not only the labour but the beasts and the implements. It would be equitable to buy out their rights at a comparatively low figure. Another difficult problem is raised by the position of the Churches, which exercise many of the functions that belong to the Civil Courts in any developed State. The Churches are the great forcing-beds of racial intolerance, and the more they can be restricted to purely spiritual duties the better will it be alike for religion and for social peace. A university college where young men of all races and creeds could be trained together under European professors might do much, as Midhat Pasha saw, to break down the barriers which at present divide Moslems and Christians, Greeks and Bulgarians. That the young men of promise should be caught up by one national propaganda or the other, and encouraged to study in Sofia or in Athens, is an arrangement which tends to intensify local feuds. It is by its success in grappling with such questions as these that an International Control will be judged. If it fails to solve the agrarian question, the men who are fighting to-day to destroy Turkish rule will find no difficulty in converting their revolutionary Committee into a formidable Land League, which will make war upon the beys with all the old violent methods boycott, arson, and murder.


On the whole, I think this the most formidable danger which Macedonia has to face. The racial feud will tend to disappear as soon as the Turks cease to ferment it. Moreover, it must be remembered that the "Greek" faction is, except in the South, a wholly artificial party. It consists of Slavs, Albanians, and half-Hellenised Vlachs, who favour it largely because the Turks treat it with partiality. If it were perfectly safe and perfectly respectable for these people to profess themselves Bulgarians, Albanians, or Vlachs, few of them in the long run would hesitate to do so. The Greek interest will tend to dwindle, save in the South and in the towns, with the disappearance of the old type of intriguing and persecuting Pasha. When that happens, the Bulgarians will be, in all the northern and central districts, in a position of uncontested predominance. If they display a reasonable amount of tact and tolerance the feud will die of itself.

10.  It would obviate much injustice, and help to disentangle the present confusion of races, if a Land Commission were instituted to facilitate exchanges. All the Balkan races, save the Bulgarians, have the migratory habit. Albanians dissatisfied with the new régime might prefer to return to Albania. Slavs left stranded in an unreformed Albania would certainly wish to emigrate to Macedonia. Within Macedonia itself, and even within the Bulgarian principality, there are, doubtless, Greeks who would like to leave a Slav district and settle in an area where they could speak their own tongue and be governed by men of their own race. The more such exchanges were encouraged the less risk would there be of racial friction. There is certain to be a stampede of the worse type of Turks from a reformed Macedonia. It is important to save them from selling out at an unjust price, and at the same time to fill their places with immigrants whose case will be bettered by the transference.

The outline sketched above would be applicable with a few modifications to the whole of European Turkey and, for that matter, to the more advanced regions of Asia Minor as well, more particularly the provinces where Armenians are numerous. But if we are to regard Macedonia as in


any sense a unit, there are certain regions which would lie outside it, for which something ought to be done without delay. The Bulgarian districts of the Adrianople vilayet are in a peculiarly pitiable position at present. They stand outside the scope of the Austro-Russian reforms, and have suffered cruelly from the campaign which Abdul Hamid has directed of late against the whole Bulgarian race. At the same time since they do not adjoin Macedonia, and are separated from it by a tract of country inhabited mainly by Mohamedans, it is difficult to include them for administrative purposes in Macedonia proper. These districts are not very extensive or very wealthy, and cannot be of any great value to the Turkish Empire. The simplest solution, since they march with the Bulgarian Principality, would be to persuade the Sultan to sell them to her in return for a fair price, which the Powers might guarantee.

The case of "Old Servia" might be treated in the same way, i.e., the district lying between the Servian frontier and the Uskub-Mitrovitza railway might be bought by the Servian kingdom (see pp. 280-1).

Greece would then have a claim to purchase the Sandjak of Serfidje, which adjoins Thessaly, the coast district of Catcrina, the peninsula of Chalcidice, and the island of Thasos regions where the population is almost wholly Greek by race, language, and sympathy.

If the Sultan manifested an insuperable reluctance to these alienations of territory, these three districts might be included provisionally in Macedonia under the general supervision of the European Ministry and the Turkish Governor-General. But they ought to have a separate and more or less autonomous administration, modelled upon the plan adopted in Macedonia proper. Their Governors should be respectively a Bulgarian, a Serb, and a Greek, subject to the control of junior European officials in each, who would act as the delegates of the Supreme International Board of Control.

The result of these rearrangements (excluding for the moment these minor districts) would be to divide European


Turkey into three great areas, in each of which the population would be fairly homogeneous.

I. Macedonia, which would be mainly Bulgarian, with an infusion of Albanians in the West and a smaller Greek element in the towns of the South, and a sprinkling of Vlachs everywhere.

II. Albania, including the present vilayets of Jannina and Scutari, with the Albanian districts of the Monastir and Uskub vilayets, would remain for separate treatment. It is too soon to decide whether the Albanians are capable of autonomy, and if they are, they ought certainly to have a decidedly monarchical and almost feudal form of government (see Chapter VIII. p. 285).

III. A third area, Thrace, including the southern and western portions of the Adrianople vilayet, with the peninsula of Gallipoli and the metropolitan area of Constantinople. Here the majority of the population is Mohamedan. There is a large Asiatic (Turkish) element. The Bulgarians are nearly all Pomacks i.e., Moslems. The Christians are mainly Greeks, merchants and fishermen, who do not suffer very grievously from the domestic tyranny of Turkish landlords, and betray no active disloyalty. The destinies of this area may well be postponed to some more distant crisis. It is possible that the district of Drama, which belongs ethnologically rather to this third area than to Macedonia proper, ought to be included in it. The lapse of a few years will enable us to judge more clearly than is possible to-day what the ultimate fate of these three areas should be. It seems to me probable that in the course of a generation there will be a considerable movement of emigration from one area to another. Macedonia will probably become fairly homogeneous and overwhelmingly Bulgarian. Its Turks will move eastward to the third area, some of its Albanians may possibly drift westwards to Albania proper though this is doubtful its Greeks southwards to the Greek reserve. If that happens, its bureaucratic international constitution might be gradually modified, so that it would become more popular and more national,


ultimately evolving into a charter of a genuine autonomous state. The Turkish area seems to have no satisfactory future, unless after Abdul Hamid's death there should occur some revolution at Constantinople repeating Midhat Pasha's Coup d'état under happier conditions. Albania, before many years have passed, will either be an Austro-Italian protectorate or an independent principality. But whatever the future may hold in reserve, there is some reason to hope that the evolution of the Balkan Peninsula may proceed from stage to stage without violence and without war provided that the Powers can agree to isolate the Macedonian problem and to solve it upon international lines.

[Previous] [Next]
[Back to Index]