Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

IX. The problem of reform

6. Failure to Pacify Macedonia
 

The Mürzsteg programme aimed at something more than the improvement of the Turkish administrative machinery. It has done a very little in this direction, and when it is


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complete it may do more. Its chief aim, however, was to bring some measure of appeasement, to restore order, to re-establish confidence, to repair devastation, and, in a word, to remove the motives for rebellion. Here it has failed, and the failure is so conspicuous that it has actually aggravated the normal anarchy. The Macedonians were encouraged to hope; the loss of their hope has deepened their despair and increased their recklessness. The reforms left the Turks supreme in all administrative matters. They used their liberty to resort to all the old devices of repression and provocation. They still seemed to contemplate an eventual war with Bulgaria, and to make a pretext, they tried to drive the Bulgarians to desperate courses. They were for ever mobilising their troops, calling out the reserves, and accumulating armaments. The troops lived on the peasants and drained the exchequer. Mutinies were frequent and discipline was lax. Under the plea of searching for arms they harried the villages and carried on their perquisitions, with the usual accompaniments of rapine and brutality. A typical outrage occurred in February, 1905, at the Bulgarian village of Kuklish, where, according to the report of a Russian gendarmerie captain, 64 houses out of 105 were burned, 38 unarmed peasants killed, including two women and a baby, five persons wounded, and eleven women violated. The whole place was pillaged, and the officers made no attempt to check the savagery of their men. It is worthy of note that the "reformed" gendarmes who were present behaved exactly like the unregenerate soldiery. [1] As in 1903, the migratory Macedonian labourers who annually visit Constantinople in search of work were confined to their villages and forbidden to travel. A curfew ordinance was enforced, which renders any peasant abroad after sundown liable to be summarily shot. Half the refugees from the Adrianople region have been unable to return, and their lands were occupied by Moslem "squatters." In the Monastir vilayet nothing has been

1. Similar affairs occurred during the spring and summer of 1905 at Zervi, Konopnitsa, Mogila, and elsewhere.

A Bulgarian village near Ochrida a year after the insurrection, showing how little had been done to repair the devastation. (October, 1904)


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done beyond the distribution of a grant, which averaged £1 per family, to rebuild the burned villages. Nearly all the rural Bulgarian schools are closed because the teachers, as political suspects, are forbidden to give instruction. Lastly, with the evident intention of fomenting the feud between Greeks and Bulgarians, Hilmi Pasha has handed over a large number of Bulgarian village churches to the Greek faction. But the worst feature of all is the complicated racial strife, a sort of furtive civil war, which devastates the country. The Turks watch this internecine contest, not merely with tolerance, but with satisfaction. The rayahs are at war among themselves, and the master may fold his arms. But the real responsibility lies with the Government, which connives at the vendetta and seeks to profit by it. The Turks, despite their vast armaments, have proved once more their total incapacity to maintain even an outward semblance of order.

The Mürzsteg programme has failed, largely because it attempted to reform Macedonia without reckoning with the Macedonians. It was an advertisement to all the world that the Near Eastern Question was open at last. It bore on its surface the marks of transition. No one could imagine it to be final, and no one could suppose that, having recognised the impossibility of Turkish rule, the Powers would ultimately shrink from drawing the logical conclusion. It announced to every race in the Balkans that the end was approaching, and inevitably it accentuated their latent rivalries and hostilities. The Turks, wounded in their prestige and restricted in their authority, were tempted to prove that they still possess a certain vigour and some capacity for resistance. "If we must go," said they, "we will go fighting"; and while they opposed a sullen and passive resistance to the reforms, they prepared for the decisive struggle with the Bulgarians, partly by the usual measures of repression, partly by cementing their alliance with the Greek faction, and partly by making ready for a war with the Principality a war for which the preoccupation of Russia seemed to present a golden opportunity. As for the Christian races, the nearer the decisive


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moment approached, the acuter became their jealousies. [2] If the Turks were going to be elbowed out, each wished to secure its own foothold in advance. The insurrection of 1903 had left Europe with the impression that the Bulgars are the dominant element. Inevitably the Greeks were tempted to assert themselves. The Mürzsteg scheme showed signs of drawing over again the old boundaries of the San Stefano Treaty. Hence the zeal of the Greeks in loosing their guerilla bands over all the debatable country where the Greek party has a footing. Europe might not like their methods, but at least it would be compelled to recognise the vitality of "Hellenism." All this was natural, and might have been foreseen. As little can the Bulgarians afford to disarm. They can trust neither Europe, nor the Turks, nor their fellow-Christians. Their revolutionary Committee, with all its bloody and violent methods, is the one weapon they possess. Quiescence would be interpreted as satisfaction, and with these outlines and tentatives of reform they cannot possibly be satisfied. Their battle is only half won, and until they realise that Europe has taken up their cause in earnest it would be folly for them to disband their organisation. Nothing less than an anarchy so intolerable that it threatens to develop into formal war, ever induces the Concert to act with decision. The ability to create such an anarchy at will is the only effective means which the subject races of Turkey possess of recalling Europe to her pledges and her responsibilities. The Committee will not dissolve until we impose some solution which has an air of finality; and until the Committee dissolves, there is no hope of peace in Macedonia. It is futile to talk of suppressing it. The Turks are incapable of such a task, for it has behind it a dour and virile race, a race which is ready to make sacrifices to win its freedom. When once a serious European control is imposed it will be

2. Several Servian bands appeared in the North, while the Greeks ravaged the South. They were less successful than the Greeks, because they had to meet the hostility not only of the Bulgarians but also of the Turks.


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superfluous to suppress it. It will disband of its own free will.
 

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