Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

VII. The Greeks

2. Grounds of Greek Claim to Macedonia
 

Happily for the Greeks their Church reckons only one Borgia among its Bishops. The man has a quick wit, a restless will, a nervous, well-knit body which have all gone to the making of an exceptional temperament. But about his attitude there was nothing at all unusual. The Greeks of Macedonia are before all else legitimists. The Bulgarian will assert that in point of fact the Macedonians are Slavs. The Greek takes higher ground. His mind moves among abstractions. He talks not of Greeks, but of Hellenism, not of fact, but of right. That Hellenism has a right to Macedonia is his thesis, and he is never at a loss for an argument. He begins of course with Alexander. It does not trouble him that in classical times the Greeks possessed only a few isolated colonies on the Macedonian coast. He waves aside the objection that for the ancients, Alexander and his Macedonians were no better than barbarians. Aristotle won the country for Hellenism when he gave lessons to Philip's son, and all Macedonia is in consequence a sort of legacy bequeathed by the Stoa to King George. Object that even the Macedonians vanished, and the Greek changes his ground. Hellenism, which had meant Athenian culture, now stands for the Byzantine Empire. But in the interval between Aristotle and Constantine Macedonia was more or less Romanised. In the dark ages it was ruled by Servian krals, by Bulgarian tsars, and even by Frankish kings, but still its legitimate overlord was Byzantium, and Byzantium had become Greek. One may answer that the Byzantine Empire has after all gone under, and that it had lost Macedonia to the Slavs long before it was driven from Constantinople. But once


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again the old elastic abstraction re-appears. "Hellenism" claims these peoples because they were civilised by the "Greek Orthodox" Church. That is a conception which the Western mind grasps with difficulty. It is much as though the "Roman" Catholic Church should claim the greater part of Europe as the inheritance of Italy. To make the parallel complete we should have to imagine not only an Italian Pope and a College of Cardinals in which Italians predominate, but a completely Italian hierarchy. If every Bishop in France and Germany were an Italian, if the official language of the Church were not Latin but Italian, and if every priest were a political agent working for the annexation of France and Germany to Italy, we should have some analogy to the state of things which actually exists in Turkey. So it has been ever since the Turks took Constantinople, and so it is still. While the first Sultans destroyed the Byzantine Empire they gladly tolerated the Orthodox Church. The Patriarchate was sold at frequent intervals and at a steadily rising price to any Greek adventurer who could buy his nomination. He recouped himself by selling the consecration of Bishops, and they in turn, regarding this outlay as a legitimate investment of capital, proceeded to farm their dioceses. Out of this system there grew up a new Greek aristocracy in Constantinople, grouped round the Phanar as the Patriarch's seat was called. The lay members enjoyed the confidence of the Porte, and bought offices of much profit and power. Phanariots were always chosen to govern Moldavia and Wallachia, and they usually filled the positions of Dragoman of the Porte and Dragoman of the Fleet. The clerical members exploited the Church, and between them they set themselves to crush the Slavs and the Roumanians with the authority of the Turks behind them. They extinguished the Servian Patriarchate of Ipek, and the Bulgarian Patriarchate of Ochrida. The hierarchy by the middle of the seventeenth century was a close preserve for Greeks, and their power was unchecked until in the early decades of the nineteenth century the Greek Wars of Independence caused the Turks to suspect the loyalty of their Phanariot


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civil service. The Slavonic Churches had disappeared from Macedonia, and everywhere the Greek Bishops, as intolerant as they were corrupt "Blind mouths that scarce themselves knew how to hold a sheephook" crushed out the national consciousness, the language, and the intellectual life of their Slav flocks. It is as a result of this process that the Eastern Church is a Greek Church. The sanctions of Hellenism so far as they rest on the Church, are the wealth of the Phanariots and the venality of the Turks. But it is after all a barren title. The Greeks had their chance. For three centuries they monopolised the culture of the Near East. The very names of Slav and Bulgarian persisted only as terms of abuse. Slav letters were forgotten, and even the Slav libraries in the old monasteries were burned by the Greek Bishops. But while they alone had learning, riches, or influence, they never rose to the height of their position. Had they played their part as elder brothers in civilisation towards their Slav parishioners, under the common oppression, the Balkans would have been Greek to-day. Their thoughts were all of the rights they had bought, and the profits they might make. They acknowledged no duties, and Macedonia in consequence was never Hellenised. But today, when the Bulgarian revolt is an accomplished fact, and even Vlachs and Albanians are growing restless under the old intolerant dominion, the Greeks can see in the situation only a rebellion against their own immemorial privileges; the sense that their own profits, their own prerogatives are at stake, blinds them to the most obvious facts, and hardens the racial conflict into something worse than a national feud. It is the revolt of a peasantry against a privileged aristocracy, as well as the clash of two competing races. To the Greek Bishops all Macedonians are Greeks because they are by right the tributaries of the Patriarch. True, they are at present in schism, but a schism is an offence against the rational order of the Universe. A Greek can never bring himself to regard the Bulgarians as a race with the same right and title as his own. They are simply excommunicated schismatics whose contumacy must be reduced by any


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means available. The patent fact that they are not Greeks and do not even know the Greek language in no way disturbs him. The Bishop of Florina, when he wishes to address a sermon or exhortation to his flock in the Cathedral, is obliged to preach in Turkish. They are all Bulgarians: few of them know Greek, but most have been compelled to pick up a certain knowledge of Turkish. And yet Florina figures in the Greek imagination and in Greek statistics as a Greek town. It belong to "Hellenism" a Hellenism that expresses itself in the dialect of an Asiatic tyranny.

There is yet another development of the Greek theory which deserves a rather more respectful handling. It is politically sound, but the range of its application is not large. I have never heard it in the East: it is due rather to a few cultured Greeks domiciled in Paris, who have come under the influence of Radical Philhellenes of the type of M. Clemenceau. It is an adaptation of Mazzini's idealistic nationalism. Race on this view is a mere invention of pseudo-science, and language is an accident. A man may talk what dialect he pleases and still possess "a Greek heart." The anthropologists may invent what classification they choose for his skull; if "Hellenism" is the vital force of his life, of what importance is his facial angle ? The folk of Alsace may be Germans by race and talk a German patois in their homes, but on any Liberal view of nationality they are French. Nationality, in short, is a spiritual and not an ethnological fact; it rests on common ideals, a common history, common strivings in the past and common ambitions for the future; its test is neither race nor language, but consent. For my part I agree warmly, but I fail to see the application. In the first place I have my doubts whether the "Hellenism" of a Macedonian Slav peasant who cannot speak a word of Greek has any meaning at all. What is its ideal content, where are the common traditions and aspirations which Mazzini's theory requires ? With the educated Vlachs of Monastir the case is different; intellectually they are Greeks, whatever language they may talk at home; but unfortunately their numbers are relatively


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inconsiderable. One might admit perhaps that a Vlach, and even a Slav village, however slight its culture and however scanty its knowledge of Greek, is for political purposes to be reckoned as Greek, provided that its adhesion to the Greek national propaganda (which means in practice the Patriarchist Church) is permanent and voluntary. But of how many villages north of Castoria and Vodena could this be asserted ? The Vlach villages are passing through a transition stage, and if they were freed from the spiritual terrorism of the Greek Church, which holds them by a threat of excommunication, and the physical terrorism of the Greek bands which assassinate their notables and teachers, it is possible, though by no means certain, that the majority of them would declare themselves Roumanians. Over most of the Slav villages which are still Patriarchist I imagine that the hold of the Greek propaganda is even more slender. They shift their allegiance year by year according as they think they have more to fear from the hostility of the Greek Bishops or the Bulgarian Committee. So far as there is a real Greek party among them it consists mainly of the wealthier peasants priests, moneylenders, storekeepers, and innkeepers and even these men are "Greek" largely because the existing entente between Turks and Greeks procures them the favour of the authorities. With a Greek band and an energetic Bishop to back them, they may succeed at present in retaining the mass of the peasants in certain villages within the Greek fold. But my impression is that the more democratic Bulgarian movement really has the sympathy of large numbers of these peasants who are "Greek" from fear or from calculation. Under an impartial European control which reformed the Turkish administration and suppressed the bands, I fancy that a plébiscite would show that even in the districts of Vodena, Morichovo, and Serres, where Greek influence is still strong among the Slavs, the vast majority of the peasants would prefer to enrol themselves as Bulgarians rather than as Greeks. The Liberal Mazzinist theory of nationality can be applied to the Balkans only after liberal conditions have been created.
 

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