“The Burden of the Balkans” By M. Edith Durham 1863-1944

 

Page 29-30

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…the actual blow of final separation between the Churches did not take place till Io054, they were already practically divided when the Serbs and Bulgars were converted to Christianity by the Greek missionaries from Salonika

Page 34

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When Byzantium was attacked by the Latins, Michael Angelo Comnenus, vaguely related to the imperial family, put himself at the head of the people of South Albania at the beginning of the thirteenth century, and founded a large State called the Despoty of Epirus, which ultimately included Epirus, Thessaly, the Ochrida districts and part of North Albania

Page 75

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To this end he spent much time in Macedonia. ‘Macedonia,’ be it observed, is a conveniently elastic term, which is made to include all the territory anyone wishes to annex. It is a loose, and therefore misleading term.

Page 76

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I have even met people who believe there is a special race which they call ‘Macedonian,’ whose ’cause’ they wish to aid. The truth is, that in a district which has no official frontiers, and never has had any stable ones, there are people of six races, who, as we have seen, all have causes to be considered.

page 76

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I shall speak only of the part I have stayed in- the districts of Lakes Ochrida and Presba. Here there are Greeks, Slavs, Albanians, and Vlahs. Of Turks, except officials and such of the army as may be quartered on the spot, there are few. The Albanians, I believe, are all Moslem. Should there be any Christians they would be officially classed as Greeks. A large part of the land near Lake Presba is owned by Moslem Albanians as ‘ chiftliks ‘ (farms).

page 80

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These Slav-speaking peasants in the districts I visited are the lowest and least intelligent of all the folk I knew in the Balkan Peninsula or elsewhere. They are truly pitiable examples of the human race. Less capable than the other peoples, they have fallen undermost of all in the struggle for existence, though in many districts they are numerically superior. Some attribute their degraded condition entirely to oppression. This I believe to be only partially true. They have probably suffered the most because they are the unfittest. Were it not for the fat lands that they inhabit, it is doubtful whether the other nations would hasten to claim kindred with them. The honest, intelligent, and capable with whom I had to do in that no man’s land were all either Greek, Albanian, or Vlah. Of the Albanians and Greeks who worked for us I must speak very highly. It is this mass of ignorant, low-typed population that politicians struggle to manipulate, and from them that the Russo-Bulgarian State was to have been largely wrought.

Page 85

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With the appointment of the Bulgarian Exarch in I870 came the Bulgarian propaganda throughout this district. The Christian population, which till then had been united, and called itself Greek, was torn in twain and thereby weakened. The money and energy of the people was used up on party quarrels and political plots

 

Page 102

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Bulgarian Bishops, under Russian protection, are still able to plan brigand bands to raid Serb and Greek villages, under the noses of the reform officers, and Greek and Serb organize rival bands to defend themselves. And while Austria subsidizes Albanian Beys in Kosovo Vilayet, Russian officers ride round Greek villages and swear they shall have no help unless they say they are Bulgar.

Page 103

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As for the alternative plan, which is favoured by some, and greatly disliked by others of the Christian peoples whose interests are concerned that of appointing a Christian European Governor to a State to be arbitrarily mapped out and called Macedonia-it might stave off for a time the partition of the territories that must ultimately take place, but as it would rest on no historical, geographical, or racial basis, it would do little more. For the crux of the whole matter is not Turk versus Christian any longer. The question now is, how much of the Turk’s land shall be occupied by Serb, Bulgar, Greek and Albanian respectively.

Page 122

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And all the time the priest’s long, yowling intonation rose above the general talk, the congregation crossed itself, we bowed our heads, were censed and splattered with holy water, and nobody showed the smallest reverence or devotional feeling. Nor was there anything to distinguish the ‘Greek’ congregation from the ‘Bulgarian.’ The attendance at one or the other is merely a case of party politics

Page 203

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When Von Hahn visited Ochrida in I868 he found one Slav school and four Greek, and the people expressed their preference for the Greek party

Page 204

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Maria, told me triumphantly that it had consisted of no less than 250 men, who had all escaped. Talk turned on ‘ chetas.’ ‘Do you know what they are doing? [Bulgars] ‘ asked Achilles bitterly. I did not. ‘They are killing Greeks,’ he said fiercely. ‘ Killing Greeks! ‘ said I in amazement. ‘ Yes,’ he replied; ‘they are not fighting Turks, but Greeks. They go armed to a village, and they offer the people a petition to sign. It is to ask for a Bulgar priest, and to say they are Bulgars. They do not wish to change their priest, but if they do not sign they will be shot We Greeks have had enough of this. I myself have had to give money to them. Otherwise I should have been shot from behind a wall the first time my business took me outside the town. Now we have sworn an oath we will stand it no longer. We shall organize Greek bands, and for every Greek that is shot we shall kill ten Bulgars.’

 

Page 205

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Nor has there been another attack upon the Moslems, but the Bulgars have occupied themselves throughout the summer by making attacks upon Greek villages, which the Greeks have continued to avenge

Page 205

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I tried to get it in the Greek, the Bulgar, and the Turkish edition; also in the Albanian and Serb if possible, and there was a perfect library of tales all quite different

Page 207

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But having lived now with the Montenegrins, the Serbs, and the ‘Bulgarian Macedonians,’ I clung to the idea that somehow or other I must get right into Albanian territories,

Page 208

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That, being Bulgar, neither Serb, Greek, nor Albanian had a good word to say for him was a matter of course

Page 221

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The European intervention which they demanded was to support only Bulgarian claims; ‘autonomy for Macedonia’ was to be a half-way house to Great Bulgaria.

Page 222

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Maria rushed in: ‘ The Bishop, the Bishop I ‘ His Grace entered solemnly, Maria kissed his hand humbly, and retired, so did one widow; the other sat firm and ignored His Grace completely. She was a stout, elderly party, with a good deal of presence. I perceived she intended to sit the Bishop out. The Bishop looked at her. She gazed over his head. For a little while he ignored her. Then he said suddenly to the child: ‘ What school do you go to? ‘ ‘ The Greek,’ said the widow. ‘ That is a pity,’ said the Bishop. ‘No, it isn’t,’ said the widow. ‘Greek is more useful.’ ‘ Children should learn the language of their father and their nation,’ said the Bishop severely. ‘This child’s father was an Armenian,’ retorted the widow triumphantly. ‘It is my daughter’s child, and I am Greek.’

Related posts:

Want more of this? See these Posts:

  1. The Nationalities of Europe, Robert Gordon Latham ,1863
  2. Edward J. Erickson – Defeat in Detail: The Ottoman Army in the Balkans, 1912-1913″
  3. William Milligan Sloane – The Balkans : a laboratory of history – 1914
  4. The outgoing Turk : impressions of a journey through the western Balkans (1897)
  5. John Van Antwerp Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans: a critical survey from the sixth to the late twelfth century

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