The Balkans- a history of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Rumania, Turkey
Excerpt from the introduction
The authors of this volume have not worked in conjunction. Widely separated, engaged on other duties, and pressed for time, we have had no opportunity for interchange of views. Each must be held responsible, therefore, for his own section alone. If there be any discrepancies in our writings (it is not unlikely in so disputed a field of history) we can only regret an unfortunate result of the circum- stances. Owing to rapid change in the relations of our country to the several Balkan peoples, the tone of a section written earlier may differ from that of another written later.
It may be well to state that the sections on Serbia and Bulgaria were finished before the decisive Balkan developments of the past two months. Those in Greece and Rumania represent only a little later stage of the evolution. That on Turkey, compiled between one mission abroad and another, was the latest to be finished. If our sympathies are not all the same, nor given equally to friends and foes, none of us would find it possible to indite a Hymn of Hate about any Balkan people.
Every one of these peoples, on whatever side he be fighting today, has a past worthy of more than our respect and interwoven in some intimate way with our history. That any one of them is arrayed against us today is not to be laid entirely or chiefly at its own door. They are all fine peoples who have not obtained their proper places in the sun.
The best of the Osmanli nation, the Anatolian peasantry, has yet to make its physical and moral qualities felt under civilized conditions. As for the rest the Serbs and the Bulgars, who have enjoyed brief moments of barbaric glory in their past, 6 Preface have still to find themselves in that future which shall be to the Slav. The Greeks, who were old when we were not as yet, are younger now than we. They are as incalculable a factor in a political forecast as another Chosen Race, the Jews. Their past is the world's glory: the present in the Near East is theirs more than any people's: the future despite the laws of corporate being and decline, dare we say they will have no part in it?
Of Rumania what are we to think? Her mixed people have had the start of the Balkan Slavs in modern civilization, and evidently, her boundaries must grow wider yet. But the limits of her possible expansion are easier to set than those of the rest. We hope we have dealt fairly with all these people. Mediaeval history, whether of the East or the West, is mostly a record of bloodshedding and cruelty; and the Middle Age has been prolonged to our own time in most parts of the Balkans, and is not yet over in some parts.
There are certain things salutary to bear in mind when we think or speak of any part of that country today. First, less than two hundred years ago, England had its highwaymen on all roads, and its smuggler dens and caravans, Scotland its caterans, and Ireland its moonlighters. Second, religious fervour has rarely mitigated and generally increased our own savagery.
Thirdly, our own policy in Balkan matters has been none too wise, especially of late. In permitting the Treaty of Bucarest three years ago, we were parties to making much of the trouble that has ensued and will ensue again. If we have not been able to write about the Near East under existing circumstances altogether sine ira et studio, we have tried to remember that each of its peoples has a case.
The whole of the Balkan peninsula, bounded on the north by the rivers Save and Danube, on the west by the Adriatic, on the east by the Black Sea, and on the south by a very irregular line running from Antivari (on the coast of the Adriatic) and the lake of Scutari in the west, through lakes, Okhrida and Prespa (in Macedonia) to the outskirts of Salonika and thence to Midia on the shores of the Black Sea, following the coast of the Aegean Sea some miles inland, is preponderatingly inhabited by Slavs. These Slavs are the Bulgarians in the east and centre, the Serbs and Croats (or Serbians and Croatians or Serbo-Croats) in the west, and, in the extreme north-west, between Trieste and Laibach, the Slovenes, which three nationalities compose the southern branch of the Slavonic race.
The other inhabitants of the Balkan peninsula are, to the south of the Slavs, the Albanians in the west, the Greeks in the centre and south, the Turks in the south-east, and, to the north, the Rumanians. All four of these nationalities are to be found in varying quantities within the limits of the Slav territory roughly outlined above, but greater numbers of them are outside it; on the other hand, there are a considerable number of Serbs living north of the rivers Save and Danube, in southern Hungary. Details of the ethnic distribution and boundaries will of course be gone into more.
The Balkan Peninsula fully later; meanwhile, attention may be "called to the significant fact that the name of Macedonia, the heart of the Balkan peninsula, has been long used by the French gastronomers to denote a dish, the principal characteristic of which is that its component parts are mixed up into quite inextricable confusion. Of the three Slavonic nationalities already mentioned, the two first, the Bulgarians and the Serbo-Croats, occupy a much greater space, geographically and historically, than the third.
The Slovenes, barely one and a half million in number, inhabiting the Austrian provinces of Carinthia and Carniola, have never been able to form a political state, though, with the growth of Trieste as a great port and the persistent efforts of Germany to make her influence if not her flag supreme on the shores of the Adriatic, this small people has from its geographical position and from its anti- German (and anti-Italian) attitude achieved considerable notoriety and some importance. Of the Bulgars and Serbs, it may be said that at the present moment the former control the eastern, and the latter, in alliance with the Greeks, the western half of the peninsula.
It has always been the ambition of each of these three nationalities to dominate the whole, an ambition which has caused endless waste of blood and money and untold misery. If the question were to be settled purely on ethnical considerations, Bulgaria would acquire the greater part of the interior of Macedonia, the most numerous of the dozen nationalities of which is Bulgarian in sentiment if not in origin and would thus undoubtedly attain the hegemony of the peninsula, while the centre of gravity of the Serbian nation would, as is ethnically just, move north-westwards. Political considerations, however, have until now always been Introductory n against this solution of the difficulty, and, even if it were solved in this sense, there would still remain the problem of the Greek nationality, whose distribution along all the coasts of the Aegean, both European and Asiatic, makes a delimitation of the Greek state on purely ethnical lines virtually impossible. It is curious that the Slavs, though at several times, as indeed now, masters of the interior of the peninsula, have never made the shores of the Aegean (the White Sea, as they call it) or the cities on them their own.
The Adriatic is the only sea on the shore of which any Slavonic race has ever made its home. In view of this difficulty, namely, the interior of the peninsula being Slavonic while the coastal fringe is Greek, and of the approximately equal numerical strength of all three nations, it is almost inevitable that the ultimate solution of the problem and delimitation of political boundaries will have to be effected by means of territorial compromise.
It can only be hoped that this ultimate compromise will be agreed upon by the three countries concerned, and will be more equitable than that which was forced on them by Rumania in 1913 and laid down in the Treaty of Bucarest of that year.
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