Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

IX. The problem of reform

7. Arguments against Partition of Macedonia between Austria and Russia
 

It is clear that the Mürzsteg scheme holds the field only because the two Powers responsible for it are unwilling to face the patent fact of its failure. They may extend it and even strengthen it, but so long as they hesitate to demand executive powers, it is vain to hope for any real progress. While the Sultan is master of Macedonia, there will be neither reform nor peace. Through whatever further phases of transition the crisis may pass, it must be solved in the end by the imposition of direct European control. The only question about that control, is whether it shall be exercised by two Powers or by five whether, in other words, Macedonia is to be partitioned between Austria and Russia, or whether under one disguise or another it is to be raised into an autonomous province under international protection. To suppose that Austria and Russia sincerely believe that the status quo can be maintained for ever, is to accuse them of an incredible imbecility. But they stoutly oppose any form of autonomy. The inference is that the ultimate solution to which they lean is that Macedonia should be absorbed by themselves. They may not seek to provoke the catastrophe they may even wish to postpone it. But they are not blind to what Mr. Roosevelt would call their "manifest destiny."

It is difficult to discuss the consequences of the partition of Macedonia between Austria and Russia, because both these Empires seem to be approaching a period of transformation. If Austro-Hungary should in any sense of the word "break up" after the death of the Emperor Francis Joseph, if the Germans should detach themselves or even cease to be the dominant race in Austria, and if at the same time the Magyars should achieve a completer independence, the Austria of the future will become in character if not in name a Slavonic federation. In such a union the Serbs, the Montenegrins, and the Western Macedonians might ultimately find a place side by side with the Poles, the Czechs, and the Croats, without any sense of incongruity or any


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consciousness of submitting to an alien domination. Nor is it otherwise with Russia. If the present movement of liberation realises the hopes of the more resolute and enlightened wing of the Zemstvo party of reform, the Russian Empire will become a liberal Union, in which Poles, Finns, Ruthenians, and Armenians will enjoy a measure of national freedom, while sharing in the larger life of a great Slavonic Federation. To such an Empire the Bulgarians and Macedonians might safely confide their liberties, with every prospect of gaining by a close association with kindred races which boast an older and more developed civilisation. To some minds such a solution would present great attractions. It seems to offer all the guarantees for liberty and for a healthy variety of types which the system of small nationalities possesses, while it is free from the taint of parochialism and racial egoism. The exaggerated and militant nationalism of the Balkan peoples is undoubtedly a curse to themselves, and an obstacle to civilisation. It is preferable only to the brutal uniformity which the present Russian tyranny imposes. The middle course of federalism presents a hopeful escape from the present choice between nationalism and imperialism. But these after all are remote chances. Austria in all likelihood will not "break up"; and Russia, when she obtains a genuine constitution, will doubtless have to pass through a long and troubled evolution, before she attains the ideal of a tolerant and liberal federation. We have to deal with Austria and Russia as they are.

The first question, so far as Austria is concerned, is whether, on the whole, the interests of the Macedonians would be best served by their incorporation in the Empire on the terms which Bosnia and Herzegovina enjoy. Undoubtedly they might meet with a worse fate. They need above all things a period of repose and education. Under Austrian rule they would enjoy a fair measure of personal liberty, and every opportunity for material development. The roads and the railways would be improved, the police organised, the courts purified, the schools fostered and agriculture encouraged. Capital would flow


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in, and before a generation had passed, the present anarchy and poverty would be a remote memory, and Macedonia with its broad plains under drainage and tillage would support three times its present population in comfort and even in affluence. The peasants are materialists, and for a time at least they would ask for nothing better. But after twenty-seven years of Austrian rule, the Serbs of Bosnia are far from being contented or loyal, though undoubtedly they have much to be grateful for. They enjoy no more freedom than the Italians did under Austrian rule two generations ago. There is no liberty of speech or of the press. Von Kallay, who invented the system, used to relate with a grim smile that the first book which he placed on the censor's index was his own "History of the Serbs"! Every symptom of national feeling is repressed, and there is one direction in which the excellent new roads do not lead to Servia. The Bosnian Serbs are cut off from their race-fellows of the kingdom as completely as if a sea divided them, for the Austrian police watch the frontier. The administration is at great pains to prevent faction fights between its Moslem, Orthodox, and Catholic subjects; but those who know anything of its methods are wont to accuse it of undisguised favouritism towards the Moslem and Catholic minorities. The more numerous Orthodox Serbs who remember their gallant struggle against the Turks, and their ambition to join the Servian kingdom, have to be repressed, discreetly and humanely no doubt, but still repressed. There has been as yet no real development of free local government; such municipal institutions as exist are entirely dominated by the bureaucracy. Austria, in short, has done more to develop Bosnia than to educate the Bosnians. She would doubtless follow the same methods if she were allowed to assume the guardianship of Macedonia. For five years, perhaps even for ten, it would matter little; but the Bulgarians and the Vlachs have too much virility and too keen an instinct for organisation, to accept the position of minors indefinitely. The revolutionary Committee has fostered the democratic spirit, and sooner or later they would begin to resist a too paternal government. Moreover, they have


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now acquired the consciousness of nationality. They would resent an arrangement which threatened to cut them off for ever from the eastern half of Macedonia and from the Bulgarian principality. The Exarchist Church would provide a link between the three severed limbs of the Bulgarian people as the Catholic Church knits the Poles together, and Austria would maintain her ascendancy only by making incessant war upon the sentiments of her subjects.

The case against a Russian occupation is incomparably stronger. Whatever sentiment of fraternity may now unite Bulgarians and Russians is no guarantee against the usual proceedings of the Russianising party. They would make war upon the Bulgarian language, subject the now independent Exarchist Church to the Russian Holy Synod, and foist upon an essentially manly and democratic race a system of personal government as reactionary as that of the Turks. The non-Slavonic races would fare even worse Jews and Greeks would be treated as are the Armenians in the Caucasus, and the Turks might be used against the Christians as are the Tartars round Baku and Tiflis. But, indeed, all this is so obvious that one need not insist upon it. The Macedonians have not struggled to throw off the yoke of the Turks in order to court the fate of the Finns and the Poles.

It must not be forgotten that the destiny of Macedonia involves the future of most, if not all, of the other Balkan States. [1] If Austria and Russia were allowed to divide Macedonia between them the independence of Servia and Bulgaria would become the merest fiction if it were even so much as that. If Austria obtains Salonica she will certainly wish to control the railway which links it with Vienna, and that railway runs through Nisch and Belgrade. Already Servia finds herself elbowed and jostled by too many neighbours. A rather domineering Austria holds the gates of the West, a jealous Bulgaria faces her on the East.

1. This aspect of the question has been overlooked by the Spectator and the Standard, which are now inviting Russia to come down to Constantinople.


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Only the road to Salonica is open. With Austria entrenched along her southern frontier and camped across the Vardar, she would be virtually throttled; and if she wished to escape complete absorption, she could do so only by adopting an attitude of submission and humility that would be scarcely less degrading than actual conquest. The case of Bulgaria, with the Black Sea Fleet commanding her ports and a Russian army of occupation settled in Eastern Macedonia and Adrianople, would be no better. If she dared to assert her independence she would be crushed, if she bowed to superior force her independence would be merely nominal. Servia, though her peasants are prosperous and contented, is not exactly a credit to civilisation, and one cannot say that her political extinction would be a serious loss to Europe. But Bulgaria is a vigorous and progressive State, whose public and official life moves on an incomparably higher plane than that of Russia. Her absorption in an autocratic Empire would be a loss to Europe and a defeat for freedom. Should Servia and Bulgaria be confounded with Albania and Macedonia in the two illiberal Eastern Empires, one may even doubt whether Roumania, Montenegro, and Greece could maintain more than a feeble and precarious existence as the vassals and parasites of their all-powerful neighbours.

In Disraeli's day the prospect of Russia and Austria establishing themselves upon the shores of the Aegean, and dividing the Balkan Peninsula between them, would have sent our navies to the Dardanelles and brought our armies from India. To-day we should view such a development with displeasure perhaps, but hardly with alarm. Indeed, our passion for remote adventures has almost brought us to forget that we are a European people. It is well that the Jingo of our modern music-halls is less interested in Turkish affairs than he was in 1878. We are happily too enlightened to argue to-day that we are necessarily injured because Russia may be aggrandised. From the old half-barbarous standpoint of the "balance of power," such an increase of territory and population as the partition of the Balkan Peninsula would bring to Russia and Austria, would


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have been thought a disaster of the first magnitude to ourselves. But if such reasoning no longer appeals to civilised people, there is a point of view of which we need not be ashamed, from which such a change in the map of Europe would seem deplorable and even monstrous. To the three liberal nations of the West it ought not to be indifferent that races capable of liberty, and eager to share in the general life of the freer half of Europe, should be smothered within the reactionary systems of two conservative Empires. It is worth an effort to keep them within reach of the humaner influences which are building up a kindlier and juster society undisturbed by the ambitions of hired soldiers and professional ruling castes. By surrendering the Balkans to Austria and Russia we should condemn their peoples to a retrograde political life, and at the same time strengthen the forces of militarism and despotism in Europe. It may be objected that the little States of the Balkans have given as yet few proofs of enlightenment or capacity. At least they have shown themselves as capable of parliamentary government as Austria, and more zealous for freedom than the dominant classes in Russia. But the Balkan peoples have not yet had their chance. With a liberal settlement of the Macedonian problem these little communities will acquire for the first time in their history the possibility of a free life of their own. Nothing so much as this disastrous question retards their development at present.

Loaded with armaments, honeycombed by the secret intrigues of Austrian and Russian agents, preoccupied by external questions, obsessed by the shadow of massacre and the dread of war, overrun by refugees and disturbed by the violence of the revolutionary Committees which find a haven and a base within their borders, Bulgaria, and in a less degree Servia and Greece, lack the leisure to pursue their own development. The grossest Chauvinism runs riot among them; and while a chaos of barbarism lies at their doors, civilisation and the ideas for which it stands seem remote and irrelevant. They are partisans in the rivalries of populations less developed than themselves; and although a frontier holds him at arm's length, the Turk


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has still the power to haunt and degrade their lives. We are often impatient at the comparatively slow progress of the Balkan States towards stability and enlightenment. But so long as we condemn them to live the turbulent life of borderers, we have no right to our disappointment or surprise. They can have no worthy or tranquil career until the question of Macedonia is solved; as they can hope for no permanent or independent existence if it should be absorbed by Austria and Russia.
 

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