THE POLITICAL PARTIES OF TURKEY.
Bulgarian politicians - The project of independence -The project
of auto-nomy - Young Turkey - Old Turkey.
THERE is perhaps no country and no capital in the world where there are so many political parties (many of them, it is true, only styled so by themselves) as in Turkey and Constantinople; every nationality and every shade or phantom of a nationality constitutes itself a party, and is divided according to the most approved European principles into various sections differing in their opinions, and distinguished by colours, black, blue, green, or yellow. But, from the party of the Armenians to that of the Bulgarians, they are agreed upon no single point except the one which, thanks to their conscientious agitation, is so constantly repeated in Europe, that Turkey has no future before her, and can hope for nothing save from their magnanimous toleration and assistance.
These little revolutionary parties of the divers nationalities under the rule of Turkey have no real force but that which consists in the total ignorance of Europe upon the real state of the country, and the misrepresentations by which Eastern Christianity has obtained an ill-deserved sympathy from that of the West; and if the eyes of Europe were once opened to the true condition and character of the subjects of Turkey, and the action and influence of Eastern Christianity made widely known, the proceedings of such committees as those of Belgrade and Bucharest would be merely laughable, because they would have nothing to expect from the public opinion of Europe, whilst at present they are painful from their effects, and revolting from the audacious falsehood of their statements.
It is curious and amusing to hear two gentlemen in Pera doing all they can to make their language incomprehensible to one another by torturing Russian into all sorts of impossible forms, and making the bystanders believe that they are talking Bulgarian. Both of them understand Russian thoroughly; but this comedy is not without design, and produces the desired effect, for the wonder-struck Perotes repeat, and the newspapers publish, that "yesterday, at such and such a place, two of the most eminent Bulgarian politicians (or literary men) had an interview which in the present crisis is not without its signification." What neither the Perotes nor the journalists know is, that the two eminent Bulgarians are in reality two Russian Vice-Consuls of two tumble-down little towns somewhere in Bulgaria.
Rich Bulgarians there certainly are, remarkable by the glossiness of their clothes, by ear-rings, and by half-a-dozen rings on each finger, but perhaps the most eminent literary man of the nationality is a Choban of our acquaintance who has composed and set to music (to the gaida, of course) a threnodia on the death of one of his herd of pigs; as for politicians, they may be judged by their works, which chiefly consist in magniloquent incendiary proclamations written at Pera and printed at Bucharest.
These Bulgarian proclamations form a good example, by their respective effects in this country and in Europe, of the difference between the true state of affairs as it exists in Turkey, and the false ideas conveyed to foreign nations; all these inflated pamphlets and terrible threats excite Europe, affect even the Funds, and are the cause of various sapient diplomatic notes from the great Powers to the Porte, who orders the mobilization of the Reserve, at great expense to the exchequer and still greater loss to agriculture and the poor Turkish peasant, and grants a new concession to the Christians in addition to the previous 750. But Bulgaria does not share this alarm, and the Turk, confident in his own courage and the cowardice of the Rayah, goes to his work in the fields humming an “Aman;" the Rayah drinks his wine and mastic as usual, listens with many signs of the cross (to prove that he is a Christian) to the emissary who reads the proclamation of the representatives of the oppressed, but in his heart he thinks, "not if I know it."
A Bulgarian revolution, or even serious agitation, is impossible without the consent, and even aid, of the Turkish Government, and the presence of a large Russian army in these provinces; not, as certain newspapers affirm, because the Rayahs are devoted to the Sultan, but because they are cowards. A Bulgarian, even when drunk, will never dare to lift his hand against a Turk unless the latter is disarmed and wounded, and even then only if there are a dozen Russians ready to back him; and if those who have formerly seen the Rayahs commit nameless atrocities under the protection of a foreign invasion hope the same results from the present agitation, they are, thank Heaven! mistaken; the Bulgarians will never renew the scenes of 1827, and the eyes of their disinterested friends will never again be gladdened by the pleasing spectacle of old men, women and children burnt alive, [In 1827 more than 2000 old men, women, and children (Turks) were burned alive, in the village of Akdere alone by the Bulgarians, whilst a Russian corps d’armee looked on.] so long as Russia remains a peaceable spectator on the other side of the truth, for the Rayah's valour only appears when it is rendered perfectly unnecessary by the presence of powerful allies.
The Armenians, the Greeks, and the Servians, have a history, the Bulgarians have none, [The Bulgarian Rayahs are the descendants of the serfs of' the old Bulgarian nobility, which was exterminated by the Turks.] but does the possession of a history constitute a nation or a people? One example is sufficient; Europe took tip the cause of the modern and (Eastern) Christian Greeks on account of their very doubtful descent from the ancient and pagan Greeks; the result is Modern Greece; but not content with the triumphant success of this experiment, she hit upon the brilliant idea of autonomy, and created Servia and the Moldo-Wallachian Provinces!
There is now some talk of conferring this latter benefit upon Bulgaria, but it never will be conferred, for the Turkish people have had enough of hostile autonomies and will tolerate no extension of the system; as, however, this is one of the questions in which Europe is interested at the present moment, it may be worth while to examine it.
The Bulgarian agitators are divided into two parties, both tending to one common object, the spoliation of Turkey; of these, one, hatched under the wings of the Russian eagle, sees no chance of salvation for the Slavonic Rayah save in revolution and a separation, by force of arms, of the Balkan and the plains between that chain and the Danube from Turkish rule. This party talks loudly of war, massacre, and revenge for centuries of oppression, but it will do no more than threaten unless Russia risks a war against the Porte; we say "risks a war" because in Russia there exists a hostile element widely different from the subjected races of Turkey, a nationality which has proved its rights by courage and by martyrdom, and a national spirit which, unaided from without, lately shook the foundations of Russian rule during nearly three years, and forced the victor to revenge himself. If a child strikes a strong man, he does not "revenge himself," except perhaps in some such manner as would suffice for the vengeance of Turkey upon her naughty children in Bulgaria, and which need not exceed a wholesome use of the birch rod; but Russia has thought it necessary to ruin a whole people, and to redden her scaffolds and her dungeons with Polish blood to avenge herself for the insurrection of Poland.
If, then, in the case of Turkey being attacked by Russia, the Sultan, unaided by those so-called friends whose assistance has generally done nothing more than envenom the question at issue, appealed to his people, and, following the example set by his enemy, availed himself of an unfriendly nationality in the midst of Russia to permit the white eagle of Poland to accompany the crescent, what chance would Russia have if an army of only 100,000 Turks seconded an insurrection such as that of 1863?
These questions of nationality are like double-edged tools, dangerous to play with, and resemble the proverbial stick “with two ends."
If Russia is wise, she will leave Turkey alone, for there may not always be found traitors amongst the Pashas nor heroes amongst the Bulgarians, whilst there will always be Poles in Poland and Turks in Turkey.
The other Bulgarian party takes the hint given by the Eastern policy of France, which consists in advocating national autonomies, demanding unlimited concessions from the central Government, and strongly recommending liberty and equality; acting upon this system, the second party proclaims loudly and constantly, through its organ, a newspaper printed at Constantinople in French, the unalterable loyalty of the Bulgarians to the Sultan, and endeavours to prove to Europe at large that it is owing to the efforts of its members that the great Bulgarian nation perseveres in its fidelity to Turkey, and that to this fidelity the Ottoman empire is indebted for its present existence. As a recompense for so much devotion, it demands merely a Bulgarian autonomy, declaring that "Bulgaria, free and independent, but owning H.I.M. the Sultan as its suzerain, will always be faithful to him, and like Roumania (!) will repel Muscovite influence," &c. Such, neither more nor less, is its programme.
The slight difficulty caused by the presence of some millions of Mussulmans in Bulgaria seems to be as completely ignored by the authors of this ingenious plan as it is by Europe in general; but, nevertheless, this obstacle is sufficient to render the success of the project impossible, as it is hardly likely that the Turks will consent to a wholesale migration, and, although unrepresented at Constantinople, they have sufficient strength in their own provinces to prevent Bulgaria ever becoming a second Servia; for this reason the party of which we are speaking would infallibly collapse if the “friends" of Turkey would leave that empire to itself, or even if they really desired the welfare of all its inhabitants “without distinction of religion or of race."
The Christian subjects of the Sultan have already obtained all that, and even more than, they can in justice demand; now the Mussulmans begin to ask that some attention should be paid to their claims, and hence has arisen the gradual formation, amongst the Turks themselves, of various parties of reform which, however (with the exception of that of " Old Turkey”), have, as yet, unfortunately, neither settled convictions nor a definitive plan of action, and are consequently powerless for the present, although the day is approaching when the destinies of Turkey will be in their hands.
These parties are numerous, and agree only in the well-founded conviction that Turkey, ill-governed, and on the high road to ruin must effect sensible and radical reforms if she wishes to avert her entire destruction; but what is to be reformed, or how the necessary reforms we to be carried out, is still a blank in their programmes.
There are of course the two parties to be found in all organized States, the "ins" and the “outs," both of whom the Sultan has criticized in the words “they promise, and that is all;" what they promise is civilization and progress. The Ministers, addressing themselves to Europe, say "We are doing all in our power to civilize; " the opposition say “But we could do better," and the end of either party is merely the retention of or attainment to power.
Besides these, there is another party whose head-quarters are not in Turkey; this consists of Turkish political exiles who, adopting the system in favour with refugees from European States, can find no better weapon than personalities with which to attack the Government, and no other political programme than such vague Utopias as are in fashion amongst the unhappy class to which they belong, whose members regenerate Europe and decide the destiny of a country between a couple of cigarettes in a Leicester Square cafe by means of a newspaper printed in London on rose-tinted paper, and largely, though privately, circulated at Constantinople, this party has, it is said, excited the anger of the Sultan against a Minister of great talent on whom they have made a virulent personal attack, but who has cleared himself most successfully from their accusations. These persons cannot have the least chance of doing any good to Turkey since they err in the same manner as those they accuse, and are equally ignorant of the real grievances of the country as of the remedies to be applied; we do not deny their patriotism any more than that of the present Ministry, but we are constrained to admit that the ideas of the one party are as powerless as the efforts of the other to open a new and prosperous era for Turkey.
The above parties take the generic name of "Young Turkey," and their policy may be compared to that of the Liberals in England; whilst "Old Turkey" represents the extinct English Tories.
Having said enough upon the action of Young Turkey, we will sketch its principles; these, like the ideas of the present Ministry, consist in advocating a copy of French institutions, varying, it is true, from absolutism to absolute democracy, but always keeping to a French model; mistaking effect for cause, they imagine that by building seven-storied houses of pretentious architecture, and dressing the army as Zouaves, or by proclaiming the principle of universal suffrage and the civil rights of the citizen, they will at once change Turkey into France and Turks into Frenchmen.
The one party forgets that civilization, arising from the requirements of a people, cannot be established by a decree, like a new street or a new uniform; the other, that the Turks have neither the same aspirations nor the same class of ideas as the peoples of Europe, and least of all as the French; quote to a Turk of the country Prudhon's well-known maxim, “La propriete c’est le vol," and he will tell you that it is just by the application of this principle that the foreign trader grows rich, and that the Rayah holds lands which belonged to his (the Turk's) ancestors.
In Europe certain social questions exist which are entirely unknown in Turkey, but nevertheless everybody seems to think that they ought to exist, takes their existence for granted, and agitates accordingly.
The youth of Turkey educated in France (we do not here allude to the vast majority whose only study is fashionable vice, but to the few who have endeavoured to make the most of their opportunities and talents) having merely gone through a course of study unsupplemented by the practical appreciation of the life of a citizen in a civilized country, know nothing of France except as represented by the student world, and import into Turkey ideas in vogue in the Quartier Latin but impossible in practice, ideas emanating from young brains and hearts filled with good and noble feelings but unpractical as the principles they profess. Arrived at Constantinople, these young men struggle, or fancy they struggle, against the current for a time, then yielding to it, accept some Government appointment.
Young Turkey preaching a Parliamentary system of unlimited liberty, the Government decreeing civilization alla Franca and progress according to law; each party preaching or acting against the two principles most sacred to the Turkish people, the religion of Mahomet, and Ottoman nationality - what wonder that the one is not more listened to than the other is obeyed!
The letter of Prince Moustapha Fazyl Pasha to the Sultan, in spite of the laconic criticism of his Majesty (“deli," “a madman”) contained by chance a vital and important question, that of military service. This letter has been read, and has produced a certain effect amongst the Turks of the country, but if you ask them what they think of the plan proposed by the Prince for the regeneration of Turkey, all, from the Bey or Hodja to the Choban, will answer in the words of the Sultan, "the man is mad."
Young Turkey is powerless because it falls back upon the democracy of the Quartier Latin and seeks no assistance from the strong arms and stout hearts of the Osmanli people.
Old Turkey, of which the majority of the members belong to the Ulema, and which unfortunately numbers a few fanatics amongst its ranks, is in reality the only party with which the Ministry, backed though it be by all the embassies, must needs come to an account; for though the Sultan's voyage to Europe was hardly in accordance with the wish of the Grand Mufti, his Majesty was at least obliged to obtain from him a Fetva in toleration if not in approval of the journey. Through this party only is there a chance for Turkey, but unhappily it is more than conservative, it is retrogressive, and though the old state of things may have been in some respects better than the new, it is impossible to return to it. The Beys, Timars, and Ziamets are ruined, and their fiefs destroyed beyond the possibility of reconstruction; the Turkey of Mahomet II. is fallen, never again to rise to the same pinnacle of power; new laws, good or bad, are in force, and must remain so, but Old Turkey is still able to better the condition of the country, to save it from total destruction and to revive some species of justice in the land, if this party make a proper use of its influence and position.
Might not the Mufti say, "Padischah! you have despoiled the Ulema, create order amongst the Greek Clergy; you have ruined the Turks, tax the Rayahs as well; robbery is contrary to the law of God and the Prophet, abolish Eastern commerce; the whole world will be against you, but the Prophet has said 'When the world is in arms against you, on that day shall you fight and conquer in the name of God and of the law.'“
The gravest questions might thus be submitted to the Sultan, who is not only a just but a brave man, and if this were done Turkey might with reason hope something from the Tories of Turkey; and such bold champions of their country's cause would have nothing to fear, for there is not a heart amongst the brave Turkish people, or even against the European lovers of justice, which would not go with them in the great work of doing that justice which is one of the attributes of God himself.
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