Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

VII. The Greeks

3. "Bulgarophone Greeks"
 

The ecclesiastical pretensions of the Greeks are ludicrous enough, but they are not to be dismissed with a laugh. They have introduced a savagery into the relations of official "Hellenism" and the Bulgarian peasantry, which makes for something more than comedy. Early in the winter which followed the Macedonian rising it became obvious that epidemics might prove more fatal to the houseless villagers than either hunger or the Turks, and there were, moreover, wounded women and children to be cared for. It seemed desirable to provide some sort of hospital for their use at Monastir. There are, it is true, two Turkish hospitals, one civil and one military, but the average peasant would rather die than trust himself within them. There is also a Greek hospital which is spacious and well-managed. Hearing that its two upper storeys were vacant, it occurred to me that if the British Relief Fund paid the expenses, the Greeks might consent to set apart these unoccupied rooms for the benefit of the Bulgarians. I went accordingly to the Bishop of Kruchevo, who was then acting for the Metropolitan of Monastir, to propound this scheme. A priest was standing in the doorway, and in my innocence I asked him in Greek if the Bishop was within. He looked blankly at me, and then answered in Bulgarian, "Nesnam Girkski" ("I don't know Greek"). I suppose he would be officially known in the language of controversy as a "Bulgarophone Greek." Upstairs the Bishop was seated on a species of throne, surrounded by laymen, in what was evidently a kind of council-room. He was an elderly man, ample and stately, with a solid, comfortable, unintelligent dignity, which suggested a rather holy seal. I made my proposition, which seemed to take the poor man's breath away, and then followed this dialogue :

The Bishop. The thing is utterly impossible. Our hospital is only for Greeks.

Myself. That surprises me, your holiness. I am told that the English Consul's cavass is at present a patient. Now he is an Albanian Moslem.

The Bishop. Perhaps. Perhaps. I don't know. We might accept Europeans or Catholics or even Turks as paying


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patients, but never a Bulgarian certainly never a Bulgarian.

Myself. May I ask why ?

The Bishop. They are our enemies.

The answer was so frank, so primitive, that I found myself asking him whether his hospital was a Christian or a pagan institution, when a gentleman who was sitting in the circle turned the uncomfortable subject by enunciating the startling proposition that there are no Bulgarians. There are only "Bulgarophone Greeks." I inquired how it happened that they came to speak Bulgarian. And then, more or less in chorus, the Bishop and the laymen proceeded to develop a theory which is to be found even in the works of some Greek apologists, who profess to write as scholars and historians. Originally, so runs this theory, the population of Macedonia was Hellenic, but it won so many victories over the Slavs, and took so many prisoners of war, that linguistic difficulties arose. The Slavs being then, as now, notoriously stupid, would not learn Greek, so the Greeks were forced to learn Slav in order to have a means of giving orders to their servants. Little by little they forgot their own language, and the "Bulgarophone Greek" of modern Macedonia is the result. [1] "Well," said I, "if these people

1. This theory, even if it had a basis in fact, manifestly defeats itself. For if the Greek landed gentry learned Slav to oblige their serfs and labourers, the inference surely is that these latter were in the majority. But there is no basis of fact. The modern Greek finds it no trouble to speak three or four languages at once. He would not have forgotten his own tongue, even if he had been obliged to acquire Slav, Moreover, at the time of the Turkish conquest, Western Macedonia was in the hands of the Serbs, and the landed nobility were Slavs. Then, as now, the Greeks were probably confined to a few fortified centres like Melnik (Melenikon). Melnik, though it is completely surrounded by an aggressively Bulgarian rural population, is one of the most unmistakably Hellenic centres in all the East. Hidden in a cleft on a mountain side it has defied time, the Bulgarians, and the Turks with equal success. It is still a Byzantine town. Its people up till a very few years ago were rigidly divided into plebs and patricians who did not intermarry and had little social intercourse. Among the patricians such names as Lascaris, Comnenos, and Palaeologos are still to be found. If there had ever been a Greek population in inland Macedonia one sees no reason why it should have been less successful in maintaining itself than this Byzantine colony at Melnik. The conditions there isolation, distance from the sea, and alien neighbours seem sufficiently unfavourable. Its survival seems to suggest that there cannot have been much else to survive.


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are really your brethren, why should you hesitate to receive them in your hospital ?"

The Bishop. They are all criminals.

Myself. In what way, your holiness ?

The Bishop. They have seized our churches, driven out our priests, and even erased the Greek inscriptions on the walls.

Myself. But, after all, I suppose these churches were built by the money and labour of these same peasants ?

The Bishop. They belonged to the Patriarch.

Myself. Perhaps the men have done regretable things, but surely you will not reject the women and children ?

The Bishop. I would rather they all perished than admit one of them to the hospital. They can all come in if they will only acknowledge the Patriarch.

This was not the utterance of religious fanaticism. It was the voice of the dispossessed aristocrat, the dethroned legitimist.
 

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