Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

VI. The Vlachs

6. Weakening of the Greek Connection
 

Twenty years ago there was nothing in Balkan politics so inevitable, so nearly axiomatic, as the connection of the Vlachs with the Greek cause. They had no national consciousness and no national ambitions. Scattered as they are, it was obviously impossible for them to dream of a Vlach nation. They were unmoved by the secession of the Bulgars indeed, it only confirmed them in their rooted belief that the Bulgars belong to an inferior order


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of creation. With some of them Hellenism was a passion and an enthusiasm. They believed themselves to be Greek. They baptized their children "Themistocles" and "Penelope." They studied in Athens, and they left their fortunes to found Greek schools and Greek hospitals. With the mass of the Vlachs, however, this loyalty to Greece was a more calculating and interested attachment. This sparse and furtive race is of necessity opportunist. It seeks to merge and conceal itself in some larger organisation from the same timid and unobtrusive instinct which causes it to build its villages on the mountains. So long as Greece held an undisputed primacy among the Christian peoples of the Balkan Peninsula it was obviously the interest of the Vlachs to shelter under the Greek name. She was the eldest of the independent states, she claimed the reversion of Constantinople itself, and, what is perhaps more important, she controlled the Church. And so the Vlachs attached themselves to the Greeks as the Jews attach themselves to the Turks. But the recent misfortunes of Greece have thrown some doubt on the wisdom of this connection. The war of 1897 not only exposed the Greeks of Turkey to the hostility of the Government, but it demonstrated the hopeless weakness of the Greek army. The Bulgarian Committee, on the other hand, is a real and very present force, which no prudent race of timid principles can affect to despise. Moreover, behind the Committee the Vlachs can discern the efficient Bulgarian army and the overwhelming power of Russia. They feel that the Greek idea of a revival of the Eastern Empire on a Hellenic basis is a very remote chimera indeed, and being practical politicians they are beginning to reconsider their place in the new scheme of things. The stronger force has an attraction for the Vlach mind, which sometimes finds a naïve and frank expression. "Greece has no army," as a Vlach storekeeper in Klissoura said to me, "and Roumania is very far away. Bulgaria is both near and powerful." Unwilling, on these sound if somewhat unromantic grounds, to excite the animosity of the Bulgarians, who are after all their best customers as well


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as the masters of a dangerous secret organisation which shows little mercy to its enemies, the Vlachs have found the present Hellenic policy a very sore strain on their loyalty. It is very well for the Greek Patriarch in Constantinople and Greek Ministers in Athens to conclude an alliance with the Turks against the Bulgarian "wolves," and to exhort all the faithful to denounce and betray their Bulgarian neighbours to the Turkish authorities. But isolated Vlach villages like Pisodéri and Klissoura have after all to live among these "wolves," and they find their friendship more profitable than their vengeance. And without attributing to the Vlachs any high or chivalrous motives, which scarcely form a part of their character, they are certainly "good neighbours," whose native kindliness has not been undermined by a "cultured" devotion to political abstractions. When the Bulgarian villages round Klissoura had been burned by the Turks with the blessing of the Greek Archbishop of Castoria, and the assistance of a Greek band, the Vlachs gave the homeless refugees a welcome and a shelter, and housed nearly two thousand of them for the winter. In significant contrast was the attitude of the genuine Greek town of Castoria, which received barely a score of Bulgarian fugitives. Another Vlach village, which I will call X, was on even more intimate terms with the rebels. It had no scruple about supplying Tchakalároff's band with provisions. It had quietly armed itself, moreover, for all eventualities, and assured me that it had its five hundred rifles in a safe but convenient place. At the outset of the insurrection it even had some thoughts of joining the Bulgarians. But with true Vlach caution it waited to see how matters would go. If the rising had promised success, then, for all its Greek school, its Greek priests and its Philhellenic traditions, it would have joined the stronger side. But not all the Vlachs temporised. Sixty young men from a group of Vlach villages near Monastir actually joined the bands. Others from Florina and Monastir swelled their ranks, and while the Greek officers in Athens were offering their swords to the Sultan, these lads were marching against

the Turks to the rhythm of a Greek war-song. But despite this Vlach legion, and the fact that the Vlach, Pitou Goulé, who led the Kruchevo bands, and one of Tchakalároff's most trusted lieutenants, Mitri Vlacho, did their best to rouse their kinsmen, it would be a mistake to suppose that any great number of them joined the Bulgarians openly. That will happen only when the Bulgarians are on the eve of victory.
 

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