Trouble in the Balkans,
J. Booth

"There'll be trouble in the Balkans in the Spring."
         The Nilghai

To my two trail-mates.
Guy H. Scull
.. and ..
Frederic Moore


THE Bulgarians five hundred years ago were a great nation. When the Turks swept up into Europe from the Mediterranean and conquered them they were put under the Greek Church for their religious discipline and education, and the influence of the Churchman in the life of Eastern countries is immense. So that by degrees the Bulgarian institutions, literature and everything that made them a nation, vanished. Their very name dropped out of use, and as a people they were abolished.

Not till the middle of last century did they make any effort to throw off the Greek Patriarchate yoke and reestablish their own ancient Church. About forty years of petitioning led at last to the Sultan granting the appointment of an Exarch by Firman in 1870, and under this Exarch the new Bulgarian Church was established. The people, having got their name back, now began to feel their feet a little, and ventured to kick back at the Turks who had been kicking them for five centuries. The immediate result of this temerity was the descent of troops on the disturbed districts and the massacres of 1876, in which about twenty-five thousand Bulgarians - men, women, and children - were done to death. This was a little too much for Europe, and the Powers protested. The Sublime Porte, however, refused to listen to them, which so incensed Russia that she declared war. Having thrashed the Turks, she gave them their orders in the treaty of San Stefano (March, 1878), by which the Bulgarians were to possess and enjoy practically the whole of Macedonia, with a port on the Mediterranean, and their present Principality.

At this the Powers grew uneasy, knowing the hungry habits of the Bear and fearing that he might eventually


absorb this large mouthful of Eastern Europe. So four months later they assembled at Berlin, and under the Treaty of that name overthrew Russia's arrangement, leaving to the Bulgarians only that tract of country which now bears their name. The province of Eastern Rumelia, on their south-eastern border, added itself to the Principality in 1885 without any opposition from the Turks. On this Servia declared war.

In six years the Russians had built and trained an army out of the Bulgarian peasantry, and the higher ranks - including company commanders - were filled by Russian officers. Owing to a huff about the union of Rumelia, these were now recalled and the young troops and their subalterns left to fight the Servians. But they soon showed themselves able to "stand upon their feet and play the game." They drove the Servians headlong out of Bulgaria, followed them into their own country, and chased them to death.

Nowadays there are no Russian officers in that little army, and in the twenty years since its baptism it has developed at a most amazing pace. And so has the country. Parliament, courts of justice, schools, national and municipal institutions - like infant prodigies - are "marvels for their age." The peasant-farmer is still a long way behind the times, but he is a hard worker and improves his position year by year. The Bulgarians have an abundance of energy that, turned in the right direction, will take them far; but they are also immense talkers, and are filled mostly with an amount of dramatic feeling that impels them rather to declamation than execution.

Still, by the light of what they have done one sees a prosperous future for their country.


** The chapter headings throughout the book are quoted from Rudyard Kipling's poems.

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