THE CONDITION AND CHARACTER, MANNERS, CUSTOMS, AND LANGUAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN AND MUSSULMAN POPULATIONS, WITH PREFERENCE TO THE EASTERN QUESTION
S. G. B. ST. CLAIR, CAPT.,
Later 21st Fusiliers,
CHARLES A. BROPHY.
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET
We dedicate this book to J. A. Longoworth, Esq., Her British Majesty’s Consul-General in Servia, as an expression of respect for the long experience which has enabled him to judge accurately between the different races and creeds of European Turkey, and especially for the courage with which he has expressed (in his Report to the Foreign Office, dated Belgrade, April 7th, 1867) opinions entirely contrary to the general prejudices of Western Europe, but none the less founded on truth and justice.
IN justification of the Authors' attempt to describe something of a country, which although but five or six days distant from England, is almost as little known as the interior of Africa, it is incumbent upon them to set forth such qualifications as they possess for the task.
One of them has lived in Bulgaria for nearly three years, and, besides many years' experience of Eastern Europe and its peoples, knows Turkish well, and is thoroughly acquainted with all Slavonic languages and dialects, amongst the latter of which Bulgaria is of course classed; the other has spent eighteen months in the same village, and has a fair knowledge of Turkish.
The Authors' head-quarters are a Christian village amongst the hills of the Balkans, where they have learnt to know the Bulgarian Rayah better than if they had resided for twenty years in a town. In the course of many shooting excursions in this and the neighbouring provinces, they have been thrown into close, and in most cases very pleasant, relations with the Mussulman populations - Turks, Tartars, Circassians, and Arnaouts. Not requiring the aid of an interpreter, and trusting to their guns as escort, they have had opportunities of hearing the unvarnished truth from Mussulman and Christian, such as would scarcely fall to the lot of a traveller accompanied by a dragoman or an escort of soldiers.
As an excuse for the many shortcomings and defects of their book, the Authors must state that it was written without the possibility of access to any works of reference, either historical or statistical, and amidst many interruptions from illness and other causes.
When this work was commenced some months since, it was intended to be merely a description of the manners and customs of the people, but as it proceeded, the Authors found themselves irresistibly compelled to allude to the many grievances and defects of organization which distinguish this country above all others. and thus the book has assumed a more political character than they at first intended.
The Authors have certainly no claims to be considered either politicians or political economists, but what they have written is the plain and literal truth, and the inferences drawn therefrom are such as must strike any disinterested person who knows the country districts of Turkey in Europe. In all that they have stated there is not a single instance of mere hearsay, nor have they ever received the allegations of either Mussulman or Christian without inquiring into and satisfying themselves of their accuracy.
The names of individuals which are screened by initials can be given to any one, Philhellene or other, who may be sufficiently interested in the subjects to desire them. as also those of the persons whom the Authors have designated under fictitious names; there is not an anecdote nor an assertion in the book which the Authors are not prepared to prove and substantiate.
What is written about the Eastern Church will probably shock the preconceived ideas of many people in England, but what foundation have these ideas beyond the imaginary tie of a common religion-imaginary, for the Greek religion as practised has nothing in common with our national faithand sympathy for a people who are falsely supposed to be suffering and oppressed? It is but eighteen mouths ago that one of the Authors landed in Bulgaria, bringing with him the usual English prejudices in favour of Oriental Christianity and Eastern Christians; how far those opinions have been modified by experience, may be judged from the book itself.
The Rayah has been too much whitewashed by his numerous interested
or disinterested admirers, political or sentimental, whilst the Turk has
been too much blackwashed by his enemies, or those who know nothing about
him, and is very much in the condition of the Scotch minister's client,
“Naebody prays for the puir de'il.” If the Authors should succeed in convincing
their readers that both Christian and Mussulman have been greatly misrepresented
in Western Europe, and that the country which they inhabit might and would,
if left to a genuine Turkish administration untrammelled by foreign influence,
become one of the most flourishing and powerful in the world, the object
of this work will have been attained.