Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

VI. The Vlachs

8. Feud with the Greeks
 

For some years to come, Greece and Roumania are likely to continue their battle for the possession of the Vlach villages. [1] The conflict rages mainly around the Church like all conflicts in the Balkans and both sides show a ghoulish tendency to make the graveyard their chosen battle-ground. No Vlach can die in Monastir without a free fight between pro-Greeks and pro-Roumanians as to which language shall be used to dedicate his soul to God. Greeks and Catholics never fought with more ardour for the keys of the Holy Sepulchre than do Greeks and Roumanians for the corpse of a dead Vlach. An extract from an official Greek publication [2] gives a lively idea of one of these encounters :

"A Vlach belonging to the Greek-Orthodox Church having died at Monastir, his brother, who had been won over to the Roumanian propaganda by methods familiar to us all, actually dared to form the project of having him buried by a Roumanian priest not recognised by the Patriarch, and to refuse the (Greek) Bishop of Pelagonia entry into the mortuary.
"These proceedings aroused the liveliest irritation among the Greek-Orthodox population of Monastir and among the friends of the dead man. There was clearly an intention to create a prece-
1. For the later developments of this feud, see Chapter. VII., p. 218, note.

2. Bulletin d'Orient, Athens, July I, 1904.


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dent which would soon permit the Roumanian propaganda to have its own priests, and to build a church at Monastir, in defiance of the canons of the Orthodox Church and of the clearly expressed will of the Vlach population. Moreover, the suspicions of the public were confirmed by the fact that the said propaganda is building a house which has a strange resemblance to a chapel.

"The Greek Bishop having fulfilled his duty, which was to forbid the celebration of the funeral rites by an unrecognised priest, the Turkish authorities had the body embalmed, and announced that the burial must be postponed until the arrival of instructions from Constantinople.

"But in spite of this declaration they decided shortly afterwards to have the dead man buried by the Roumanian priest. At this news the exasperated populace went to the mortuary, unharnessed the hearse, assaulted Pinetta, the notorious son-in-law of Apostolo Margariti, with several other prominent pro-Roumanians, and refused to obey the armed force which summoned it to disperse. The whole town was in disturbance, and the market was closed for three hours.

"The Vali, greatly impressed by the decided attitude of the Greeks, whom two charges of cavalry had failed to disperse (?), telegraphed directly to the Sultan to lay before him the gravity of the situation, and to ask for instructions. In reply he received the order to surrender the corpse neither to the Greeks nor the pro-Roumanians, and to entrust the local authorities with the burial."


This glorious victory for Greece is a significant commentary both on the habits of the Greek mind and the methods of the Turkish Government. These Thermopylaes of the mortuary are the triumphs to which modern Hellenism aspires. Every detail is a satire in itself the inability of the local authorities to bury a corpse without consulting Constantinople; that delicious touch of the embalming of the poor body while Constantinople tardily replies; the final appeal to the Sultan himself, and the rough justice of the decision that since the Christians were quarrelling, the body must have a secular burial. Nothing could be more Turkish, and nothing could be more Greek.
 

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