VII. The Greeks
6. The Greek Alliance with the Turks
It is a sorry transition to turn from this dream of a revived Hellenism which is to civilise the Near East once more, to the actualities of Greek politics. One may say of the Greeks with equal truth that they are capable of superb devotion to an idea, or that they are the ready victims of any catch-word or abstraction. "The Slav is the enemy" is a phrase which their journalists have been repeating to them for the last thirty years, and at length it has
obsessed them so powerfully that they have almost forgotten their own past and their heroic struggles against Turkish tyranny. They have been taught to believe that all Turkey south of the Balkans is theirs by right, and they can think of the Macedonian movement only as a sort of invasion of their inheritance planned by the enemy in Bulgaria, if not by Russia herself. That it can be a spontaneous Macedonian movement, that it is a real revolt against Turkish tyranny, they will not for a moment believe. It is for them only a plot by the foes of Greece against the sacred cause of Hellenism. It is from that egoistic standpoint that they hold themselves justified in combining with the Turks to resist "the Slav." For them these miserable peasants, taking arms under any leader who will promise them deliverance from the tax-collector and the bey, have no concrete existence. They are Slav, and "the Slav is the enemy." It is part of the Greek temperament that it does nothing by halves. They flung themselves into the new alliance with enthusiasm. In 1903 deputations of Greek officers actually visited the Turkish Minister in Athens to offer him their swords, and the Greek press wrote of Abdul Hamid as though he were a philosopher-king and a pillar of Hellenism. Bulgarian refugees captured in Thessaly were handed over to the Turkish police to be tortured in Turkish dungeons. The Patriarch issued an encyclical ordering his Bishops and priests to denounce the insurgents and their sympathisers to the Turkish officials. Every Greek consulate in Macedonia became a department of the Turkish secret police, and the work of espionage went on unchecked, even while the Turks were slaughtering the Hellenised Vlachs of Kruchevo. For to the Turk all Giaours are one. "There are white dogs and red dogs, but all of them are dogs." In fairness to the Greeks we must admit that this policy has been followed by their rivals in times past. M. Stambulov worked steadily for a Turco-Bulgarian entente, and undoubtedly he meant to use it against the Greeks. I have never heard that he carried it to such an extreme as this — the circumstances hardly arose — but there is a nasty story
which accuses him of encouraging M. Tricoupis to develop his plan for a Balkan coalition against Turkey, only to carry the scheme to Constantinople on the eve of its execution.  No sense of chivalry prevented the Bulgarians from profiting by the reverses of Greece in 1897. But apart from the morality of this Greek policy or the amount of provocation which might be held to justify it, it is an extremely foolish venture. It had no doubt a certain brief and superficial success. It was easy to force a Bulgarian notable to call himself a "Greek " by threatening to denounce him to the Turks, and the Archbishop of Castoria won many villages for the Patriarch in this way. When that failed, a Bishop had only to go on tour among the villages with an immense "escort" of Turkish troops, as the Bishops of Serres and Florina did, "converting" them by force. As a last resort, in one case at least, the Bishop of Serres even arrested a Bulgarian priest and kept him a prisoner in his own palace, only releasing him when he renounced the Exarch. But these are ephemeral triumphs. The "converted" villages still maintain their sly commerce with the Committee, still harbour "bands," still talk Bulgarian. And assuredly they do not love "Hellenism" the more. Worst of all, the loyal Greek and Vlach villages are puzzled and impatient. They saw their Slav neighbours marching out to fight the traditional enemy, and they wished to join them. "You know we too have rifles, and we want to use them," said a young man of Klissoura to me one day. "Against whom?" I asked. "Why, against the Turks, of course. We are only waiting for Greece to tell us to move." And he went on, in the same tongue, the same accents that the mountaineers of Crete have used so often in my hearing, to explain how intolerable life was under Turkish rule. The policy which prompted Greece to use the occasion only to weaken Bulgaria while the chance of freedom slipped by, was quite beyond his comprehension. He, too, wanted autonomy, and he could not understand
1. This tale may be a calumny. M. Tricoupis always denied that he had attempted to bring about an alliance with Bulgaria (see Nicolaides, La Macedoine," p. 203).
why Greece should claim it for Crete and oppose it in Macedonia. It is only the official or the educated Greek who prefers anarchy and the status quo to any surrender of the grotesque territorial claims of Hellenism over the Bulgarian interior. The average Greek official vowing in one breath that all the Macedonians are Greeks, and declaring in the next that he would rather have them massacred than governed by a Bulgarian majority, is painfully like the false mother in Solomon's judgment, who was quite ready to allow the other woman's child to be cut in two.
The immediate result of the Greek policy of espionage and denunciation, so lightly planned in Athens and Constantinople, was to expose the Greeks of Macedonia — or, to be more accurate, the villagers of the Greek party — to the fury and revenge of the Bulgarian Committee. If a Bishop had frightened a village into joining the Patriarchist Church by holding the fear of the Turks over its head, it was always possible for the next Bulgarian band which came that way to compel it to return to the Exarchist schism, by threatening to burn it to the ground. The one method was as legitimate as the other, and quite as efficacious. If a Greek priest in obedience to his Bishop's instructions had betrayed a group of insurgents to the Turks, there were always comrades left to come round and hang him from the nearest tree. The next stage in the evolution of party feeling was naturally that the Greeks came to think of the Bulgarians as wild beasts, who slaughtered from mere lust of blood. Legitimists always, they seemed to regard their own work of denunciation as an unexceptionable use of the weapons of law and order. The Bulgarians, after all, are rebels, and the Greeks as loyal subjects of Abdul Hamid were only setting the machinery of justice in motion. The Turks, however, have failed to protect them, and they had to devise some more effective plan for defending themselves. The scheme was to organise counter-bands to hold the Bulgarians in check. I had the chance to meet in Monastir in March, 1904, the emissary from the Greek Government who was preparing this scheme. He was travelling as a
cattle-dealer under an assumed name, but I had known him first in a European university where we were undergraduates together, and again in the East. He comes of an influential family, and is himself a man of a certain magnetism and wayward talent, who has had some experience as a guerilla chief. The climate of Macedonia seemed to have transformed him. He talked his French, his English, and his German as fluently as ever, but the ideas he expressed — as far as the pale vocabulary of these languages would allow him — were the ideas of his Phanariot ancestors. In the name of Hellenism he proposed to make of Macedonia a shambles and a desert. Where the Bulgarians had murdered one man, he declared, he would slaughter ten. He shrank only from one thing — he would not imitate what he described as the "anarchist" methods of the Committee. He would not arm his men with dynamite. But all manner of straightforward bloodiness with lead and steel came into his programme. And yet he was firmly convinced that he was fighting for "culture," for "ideas," for "a superior civilisation," against the Bulgarian "wolves.”  The earth might be a very tolerable place to live in, if every abstract word could be eliminated from human speech. Mephistopheles must have been fresh from a visit to the Balkans when he told Jehovah that mankind have used the reason which He gave them to become more beast-like than any beast.
2. As a matter of history the
Greeks have been neither more nor less humane than other Balkan people.
The War of Independence was a dialogue of massacre in which outrage answered
to outrage. The Cretans perpetrated a wholesale massacre at the expense
of the Moslem minority in the eastern (Sitia) districts of the island in
1897. I saw with my own eyes young Moslem girls who had escaped mutilated
from these horrors. During the Thessalian campaign of 1897 I was present
when an Evzone regiment strung up a Turkish prisoner by his heels from
a tree, and proceeded to lay a fire of wood and straw under his head. Fortunately
he promised to give them valuable information before the fire was actually
lit, and at that moment some Italian officers of the Foreign Legion appeared
on the scene.
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