VI. The Vlachs
7. The Roumanian Propaganda
From another quarter the Greek connection is seriously threatened. Thirty years ago a clever Hellenised Vlach of Monastir, Apostolo Margariti, once a teacher in a Greek school, invented the Roumanian propaganda in Macedonia. Servia and Bulgaria and Greece each had their foothold in Macedonia. By standing aloof Roumania virtually renounced her position as a Balkan State. Doubtless the Vlachs are nowhere in a majority, and Roumania can never hope for the reversion of any portion of Macedonian territory. But in these poor relations, a kindred people speaking the same tongue, she obviously has the means of making her influence felt. Could she but detach the Vlachs from their allegiance to Greece, she would have at once her pieces in the game. Should she wish to acquire the friendship of Bulgaria, she could throw the Vlachs into the balance on the Bulgarian side, and demand her price for the favour in any re-arrangement of territory — the Bulgarian district of Silistria, for example. Should she be on bad terms with her Bulgarian neighbour, she can coquet with Greece, talk of the common interest of the Greek and "Latin" races of the Balkans in opposing the common barbarian enemy, and forthwith direct the Vlachs to assist their old allies once more. Indeed, the situation seemed to lend itself to endless combinations, any one of them fruitful of advantage.  The Vlachs are, in a sense, the pivot of the Macedonian question. They are not numerous in comparison with the Bulgarians, or even with the Albanians. But without them the Greeks would cut a sorry figure. North of Castoria there is not so much as a single Greek village.
1. A Vlach-Albanian alliance is also a much-discussed possibility (see Chapter VIII., pp. 286-87, note).
It is only the Vlachs who give Hellenism a foothold. Withdraw them from their Greek alliance, and Greece must disappear from Macedonia. Group them with the Bulgarians, and the Slav supremacy will be unquestioned and unchallenged. This reasoning appealed to Roumania, and Margariti obtained the funds he demanded. Roumanian schools were opened in all the more important Vlach centres. Villages were bribed to declare themselves Roumanian, and priests here and there began to say Mass in Roumanian. The Turks were delighted. It meant one rift the more among the Christians. The Greeks naturally fought the new movement with their familiar weapons. No calumny was too gross for poor Margariti himself, and probably he was no better than the average Levantine adventurer. The Patriarch showed himself, as usual, more Greek than Christian. The idea of nominating a Vlach Bishop was scouted, and the few priests who dared to say Mass in Roumanian were promptly excommunicated. For a generation the movement made little progress. The schools had more teachers than pupils, and every pupil had to be paid to learn. None of the larger and wealthier Vlach villages abandoned Hellenism, and for a time it seemed that the Greeks could afford to laugh.
But within the past two or three years a change has become apparent. The strain of the Greek connection will bear no more, for Greece is too clearly a weak protector. Roumania has redoubled her efforts. She now votes 600,000 francs annually for the propaganda — a sum which will buy many adherents. She has opened a Consulate as far south as Jannina. The consul at Monastir has won the ear of Hilmi Pasha, who sees the policy of weakening the Greeks. Through the consul's influence any Vlach of moderate parts can be sure of obtaining a Government appointment, and there could be no more powerful bribe than that. Village after village has accepted a Roumanian school, and only the wealthier centres hold out.
In May, 1905, the Vlach question came to a crisis. The Vali of Jannina, who was under Greek influence, did violence to the sanctity of the Roumanian Consulate and
to the persons of some Roumanian school inspectors. A violent diplomatic
conflict followed, which ended in a complete victory for Roumania. But
indeed it suited Turkish policy to yield. The Vlachs are now formally organised
as a separate nationality (Millet), with the right to possess officially
recognised schools and churches of its own. From the Turkish standpoint
this can only tend to weaken the Christians. The Greek Patriarchate protested,
as it always has done wherever a Balkan race has won the right to worship
in its own tongue. The only result was to drive the Vlachs towards the
Exarchist fold. They know that the Bulgarians will respect their language
and their racial identity — the Bulgarians are not Imperialists. The murderous
violence of the Greek bands has done the rest, and the Vlachs, too weak
to stand alone, are now the allies of the Bulgarians.
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