Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

IX. The problem of reform

1. Revival of the Macedonian Question in 1902
 

IT was towards the close of the year 1902 that European diplomacy rediscovered the Macedonian question. General Tzoncheff's incursion over the Bulgarian frontier, followed as it was by an outburst of official ferocity and the flight of some thousands of peasants, was certainly an agitating incident. It is not probable that diplomacy was greatly exercised over the fate of the peasants whose homes had been burned; the disturbing thing was the proof it afforded that the Macedonian Bulgar had at length been educated and organised to a point at which he felt himself capable of fighting for his liberty. It is always at this point that enslaved populations begin to interest diplomacy. So long as they can only bend their backs to the lash they cause no disquietude and excite no concern. What happened on a small scale in autumn might well repeat itself on a large scale in spring, and a Macedonian revolt, fostered by Bulgarian sympathy, might end by provoking a war between Turkey and the vassal Principality, and this, in its turn, might involve the European Powers. There was for a time considerable stir in the Embassies. The facts were investigated and chronicled; the refugees were relieved; the semi-official press of Russia and Austria began to talk of the duty of forestalling events, and suddenly in December Count Lamsdorf visited Vienna. Russia was of the two Powers the more alert and enterprising. She had just been celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the War of Liberation by a demonstration in the Shipka Pass, at which an imposing Imperial deputation joined hands


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with the Russophil Bulgarian Government of the day, while the aged General Ignatieff was allowed to deliver a speech which revived the Panslavist watchwords of an earlier generation. The fraternisation in the Shipka Pass was followed by a further development. Madame Bakmetieff, the clever American wife of the Russian Diplomatic Agent in Sofia, organised the relief of the Macedonian fugitives who wintered in Bulgaria, and under the influence of reports of atrocities, which certainly did not err on the side of moderation, the Russian press began to concern itself once more with the affairs of its enslaved race-fellows in Turkey. The probabilities are that it was an artificial movement, for when Bulgaria got rid of the Russophil Daneff Cabinet, and installed a nationalist (Stambulofist) Government in its place, and the Macedonian Bulgars made their revolt without waiting for the word of order from St. Petersburg, a sudden chill overtook charitable hearts in Russia, and the rouble played no part in succouring the villagers of the devastated Monastir region. These signs of the times were not lost upon the Sultan. It seemed as though Russian interest in the Balkans was awakening, and in the hope of averting intervention he declared his purpose of introducing spontaneous reforms. In December, 1902, he promulgated his own reform programme. It contained one clause of importance that which appointed Hussein Hilmi Pasha to the post of Inspector-General of the three Macedonian vilayets. Meanwhile Count Lamsdorf was elaborating the first Austro-Russian scheme at Vienna, and the assent of the other European Powers was readily obtained. The scheme itself was feeble and half-hearted. It remained a dead letter. It was obliterated by the insurrection of August, 1903, and superseded by the Mürzsteg programme. But it embodied one principle of vital and enduring importance. It recognised the right of Austria and Russia as the two "interested" Powers, to devise a scheme of reform and to superintend its execution. Their consular staffs acquired a privileged position, and exercised a sort of nominal control, ineffective indeed, but none the less sufficient to ensure


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them precedence over the representatives of the Western Powers. This meant that four of the six Powers which signed the Treaty of Berlin abdicated their responsibilities and their rights. To be sure it was carefully explained that Austria and Russia were only the "mandatories" of Europe, which controlled their action and invested them with its authority for a specific and limited purpose. But such formal reservations are apt to be ignored in practice. Nothing that has happened since the granting of this mandate is to be compared with it in importance. In a moment of haste and levity the Western Powers declared in effect that since they are disinterested they are also indifferent. Public opinion in England and France was uninstructed and unorganised. France was glad to oblige her ally; official England under Mr. Balfour felt no anxiety to make her moral influence felt. The fatal mandate was given, and looking calmly at the forces involved, I see small hope that it will ever be completely withdrawn. Between the formulation of the first and second Austro-Russian schemes the humane parties in England, France and Italy marshalled their ranks, concerted their action and shaped their demands. They insisted that the fate of Macedonia was a European concern, and intervention a European duty. They protested against the abandonment of its struggling races to the cold patronage of two selfish and interested guardians. They formulated a plan for an international control with a European Governor as the source of authority. But, despite the adherence of Lord Lansdowne to this proposal, the second reform scheme repeated with some modifications the essential features of the first, in so far as it recognised the principle of the dual control. Later, as the war in the Far East and the constitutional movement at home demonstrated the utter incapacity of Russia to carry out her mission in the Balkan peninsula, a fresh opportunity arose of revising her mandate. There was truth in the argument that two Powers, if they were unanimous, sincere, and well intentioned, might achieve more in the way of far-reaching reform and vigilant control than the cumbersome machinery


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of the Concert. Events have proved that Austria and Russia are slow, apathetic, and irresolute. They care only for their own Imperial interests, and one member of the partnership has lost her prestige and her freedom of action. No sincere mind can suppose that Russia, incapable of setting her own house in order, bankrupt, defeated, and preoccupied, can spare the energy or command the authority necessary for a reforming mission in Turkey. The Grand Ducal clique is absorbed in anxieties more intimate than the anarchy in Macedonia. But despite a renewed attempt by Lord Lansdowne, undertaken very quietly in January, 1905, to place the Western Powers on terms of equality with Austria and Russia, the mandate of 1902 is still formally valid, and has even been renewed. It is obvious that England, Italy, and unofficial France are aware of the fatal error they committed in a moment of apathy, but their concern, though real, is not sufficiently keen to overcome the interested obstinacy of the two Eastern Empires.
 

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