"Residence in Bulgaria", St. Clair and Brophy



The cause of humanity - Sham civilization - Bad material in the Rayah - Good material in the Turk of the country - Constantinople a school of vice - Discipline for the Rayah - Self-defence.

HAVING already depicted both Turk and Rayah conscientiously and truly, though in very different colours from those used for the purpose in Europe, we ask permission to glance at the Eastern Question as it is seen by attentive observers who have studied it in its birthplace, and lived with and amongst the two races whose cause is being now judged by the tribunals of the West, and who have not formed any opinions but such as are based upon and supported by facts of which they have a personal knowledge.

This question presents itself under three distinct phases: -

1. As a pretext for aggression leading to territorial aggrandisement; this is the view taken by Russia.
2. As a political expedient, Turkey in her disorganized state being used as a counter to incline the balance in favour of him who can make the best use of her weakness; this is the view taken by certain Powers calling themselves the friends of Turkey.
3. As a serious question affecting the cause of humanity, of civilization, and of progress; this is the view taken by public opinion as represented hy honest men of all nations, and is also the political thema upon which temporizing or aggressive statesmen execute their most brilliant variations, profiting by the general ignorance of the true state of things and the perversion of public opinion, which has formed its conclusions on falsehoods which by (lint of continual repetition have attained the dignity of axioms.

In other chapters we have touched upon the first two phases, and shall now occupy ourselves only with the third, which, as it is now handled by the skilful artificers who are engaged upon its manufacture for the foreign market, is in reality more dangerous to-we will not repeat that hackneyed phrase, “the dignity of the Ottoman empire," but - the cause of civilization, humanity, and progress throughout the whole world, than the Russian bayonet, or even the mania for reforms and innovations fashionable amongst the statesmen of the present day, inasmuch as on it depends the verdict of the civilized world upon this question.

We have been asked. what would become of the fragments of Turkey if once the Ottoman empire ceased to exist; but we have never beard the infinitely more important question, what would become of the chances of civilizing the East if the Turkish element ceased to exist, or even if it were modified by the vague ideas of vague reformers/

To these questions we reply Socratically.

Is civilization based upon the material progress of a country? Certainly not, for it is but the outward sign of the strong vivacity and powerful constitution of society.

In what then does civilization consist, and what is its indispensable principle?

In our opinion it is this powerful organization and tenacious vivacity which form the only fruitful germ of real progress; all civilization grafted upon a society of which the foundations are unstable, or which is corrupt at heart, and unguided by a healthy and practical public morality, can be, but superficial, and will produce no results tending to the advance of the human race towards that goal which is marked out for it, and which is general amelioration or progress.

When it is once admitted (and it is difficult to deny) that where no strongly organized society and no practical public morality exist, and where the population is brutish and idle, no civilization useful to humanity can spring up - the Eastern Question is at once solved, as far as its third phase is concerned.

Even the mere tourist who has passed through Russia, whirled along by a locomotive manufactured in one of the great centres of European industry, has surely not been able to help observing that the civilization he sees around him is exotic and assimilates ill with the country itself; the Mougick in a railway carriage is an anomaly. The gold laced uniforms of Wallachia or the brilliant toilettes of the ladies of St. Petersburg are equally out of place, and we wonder at the presence of the French kepi or the Parisian salon so many hundred miles from France.

Those who know Russia with the experience of years can easily account for the new institutions which seem to be destined always to remain foreign to the true nature of the country, and it is not necessary to remember the old muddy roads nor the perekladnyje, the Post Britshkas which travelled along them, to know that the railroad is there not in answer to the wants of the country, but by virtue of an ukase.

If we examine the populations which inhabit Turkey, and submit them to such a powerful test as the question of their respective adaptability to civilization, it is difficult to avoid giving a verdict very different from that which has hitherto been pronounced in Europe upon false testimony or none at all.

Taking the Bulgarian Rayah as we have painted him from the life, brutish, obstinate, idle, superstitious, dirty, sans foi ni loi - in short, the degraded being amongst whom we have dwelt so long and for the accuracy of whose picture we hold ourselves responsible - can any one say that he is capable of being civilized without a long and difficult course of preparation?

If we take the well-to-do classes, we fall into the gulf of Oriental commerce, and if the civilization which these gentlemen are supposed to call for so loudly were suddenly to appear amongst them followed by a figure bearing a balance and a sword, many of them would be compelled to exchange their counting-houses and their cafes for the less luxurious abode of a prison.

Not knowing much of the mass of the Armenian people, and not having studied them in their own country, we can pronounce no opinion upon them; for their own sakes we trust they are better than the other Christians of the East; as for the Greek Rayah, he is, unfortunately even worse than the Bulgarian.

If the Rayah be as we have described him, how is it possible to plant any genuine civilization in such a soil, and what element can we find fitted to receive it?

Such an element is to be found amongst the Turks alone; not the kid-gloved loungers in official ante-rooms but the Turkish peasantry, who not only believe in the doctrines but practise the precepts of their creed, whose word is ten thousand times more valuable than the bond of the Rayah. The Turks of the country possess all the force, vitality, and uprightness of character necessary to form a basis for a national civilization; for Turkey can boast of an element which is entirely wanting in Russia and in those nationalities which have been detached from the parent stem of the Ottoman empire, a vigorous and honest people who would be always ready and able to aid the right and to punish any violation of the principles of true justice.

Western Europe, after long years of struggle, has obtained a public morality such as is innate in the Turkish peasantry, and she has been obliged to create an organized force to protect the first basis of society, property and family; the police has been formed in Europe, it exists ready made amongst the Turks of the country. [See, for instance, the history of Kara Kostia in the Chapter on Brigandage.]

Granting that the “civilized Turks" are incapable of civilization, the "uncivilized Turks" are already in a great measure civilized by nature, by instinct, and even by taste. But to civilize Turkey this element must be used as an aid, and no attempt made to destroy it; the Turkish peasants ask for nothing better than to have civilization introduced among them, but they have the right to demand that the new system shall be opposed neither to their religion, their habits, nor their customs, and they will not be induced to co-operate in the great work if they find that insults are lavished upon all these three.

How is it possible for the village Turk to think well of a civilization under whose auspices Greek and Rayah traders buy and sell with false weights and measures unpunished, and false witness is admitted in the mixed tribunals of the towns?

Another serious question now arises, whether or no Islamism is compatible with civilization.

This point has been often discussed, and even Fuad Pasha appears inclined to think that the two are compatible; as for us, we are of opinion that a religion which produces such fruits as that of Mahomet is quite as fit to serve as the basis of civilization as that faith which condemned the discoverer of the earth's rotation. [Of course no comparison is intended between Islamism and Christianity proper, but between Islamism and such spurious Christianity as alone is practically taught in the East, and therefore alone comes in question.]

The Hodja will not deny an astronomical truth, nor would he have condemned the disciple of Copernicus, but he will certainly stigmatize the ingenious inventor of a corn measure with a sliding bottom.

See with what eagerness the Turkish villagers, from the Hodja to the Choban, will flock round you as you speak of the great conquests of science over the realms of space, or that bold calculation by which Leverrier, armed with the single weapon of reasoning, wrested a planet from the void of the unknown; you would almost think that they were listening to the history of Amurath II., or Sultan Selim the Gentleman, and you feel that your audience have almost as much interest in science as love for their country; unfortunately the weapons necessary to enable them to benefit either are wanting.

If at the colleges of Constantinople something better were taught than depravity of conduct and a contempt for their own religion and all others, how many Turks would be anxious to drink it the pure springs of learning! As it is the surrounding mud keeps them away.

Some days since, a friend said to us, “I shall send my son to England, to study in London." (The son he alluded to is an intelligent, bright little fellow of eleven years old, who can already read and write eleven different Turkish writings).

“Why not to Constantinople?”
“Because there he would learn to despise his religion and his country."
“But are you not afraid that in England he might be converted to Christianity?”
"Listen, Dostum (my friend); I would rather see my son a really good Christian and an honest man, than a Constantinople Turk alla Franca and a Pasha."

It is a great misfortune that the Turkish reformers do not seek the aid of this honest and upright element, and perhaps a still greater that it does not assert its rights ; its present silence is, however, caused by a consciousness of its own strength, and if the lion once puts forth his power he will do so to some purpose: to the chain of a national civilization he will submit willingly, any other he will break through as easily as if it were a spider's web.

With this element, then, civilization of the East is not only possible but easy, for with an Osmanli police force it will be possible to civilize even the Rayah; change his clergy, make severe laws which will teach him that robbery is a crime and prove practically that crime is punished, which last may be done by the assistance of the Turkish people, and civilization will spring up and grow without the necessity of forcing it in the alla Franca hotbeds of Constantinople whose foundation is - that of most hotbeds.

But here intervenes another question, that of the force necessary to do this; an honest man will never be able to do honest good to Turkey until two millions of Turkish bayonets are ready to support the just cause of infant civilization from the enemies, and even from the friends, of the Sultan; for until a Prime Vizier can answer a Russian Bommbastes Furioso or Menchikoff by a million of rifle balls, or a Western Doctor Sangrado by a statement of the forces of his Imperial Majesty the Sultan, civilization will never develope itself nor even germinate in Turkey, and statesmen will go on reforming and deforming without any effect but that of producing a sanguinary intestine conflict.

For the good of Turkey, and the world, let Europe study this country, and then judge it, but not on the evidence of Philhellenic tourists or newspapers.

[Previous] [Next]
[Back to Index]