Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

IV. The Races of Macedonia

9. Eclipse of the Slav Races after the Turkish Conquest
 

It is small wonder that a history so troubled and so uncertain has borne its fruit in endless political controversies. One hundred years ago it would have been hard to find a central Macedonian who could have answered with any intelligence the question whether he were Servian or Bulgarian by race. The memory of the past had vanished utterly and nothing remained save a vague tradition among the peasants that their forefathers had once been free. I questioned some boys from a remote mountain village near Ochrida which had neither teacher nor resident priest, and where not a single inhabitant was able to read, in order to discover what amount of traditional knowledge they possessed. I took them up to the ruins of the Bulgarian Tsar's fortress which dominates the lake and the plain from the summit of an abrupt and curiously rounded hill. "Who built this place ?" I asked them. The answer was significant "The Free Men." "And who were they?" "Our grandfathers." "Yes, but were they Serbs or Bulgarians or Greeks or Turks ?" "They weren't Turks, they were Christians." And this seemed to be about the

On the shore of lake Ochrida; Medieval castle at Ochrida


100

measure of their knowledge. I think the lads, who had just seen an insurrection, had their own romantic notions of politics. The old fortress did mean something to them. It reminded them that they had a free past. But obviously Tsar Simeon's Empire and all its ephemeral successors had quite faded from the popular consciousness. [1] It is sometimes said that even the name Bulgarian was forgotten. That is, I think, an exaggeration. But neither Bulgars nor Serbs were officially recognised by the Turks as a distinct race, as the Greeks always were. In Europe, it is true, they were hardly so much as a memory. Voltaire writes in Candida of an imaginary "Bulgarian" army which performed amazing "Bulgarian" exercises as though the name meant no more than Cloud-Cuckoo-Land or Ruritania. The Serbs fared somewhat better. Their Empire, though no more solid or enduring than the Bulgarian, came later in time, and round its destruction at Kossovo lingered a passionate and sentimental legend enshrined in a cycle of interminable ballads. Certainly in the real Servian country of Kossovo the past was never forgotten. Then, too, while both the Bulgarian Patriarchate of Ochrida and the Servian Patriarchate of Ipek were suppressed as early as 1570 through the machinations of the Greeks, the Archbishopric of Ipek which succeeded the Patriarchate, partially contrived to retain its national Servian character until 1767. Finally, the Serbs had in the free Republic of Ragusa a centre which, despite its Catholicism and its thoroughly Italian character, none the less did much for the Servian language and issued from its presses many volumes of Servian verse. The Servians in Hungary also profited by European culture; while the liberation of modern Servia in the first decades of the last century was facilitated by its distance from Constantinople. The Bulgarians enjoyed none of these advantages. Their ecclesiastical autonomy was more completely suppressed. They had no free sister like little Ragusa. They had no exiled brethren in Europe. They were within easy striking distance of the capital. Inevitably, then, their awakening

1. See Note C. at end of chapter.


101

came later, and but for the patronage of Russia it might never have come at all.
 

[Previous] [Next]
[Back to Index]