THE TURBULENT BALKANS

When the Macedonian Committee announced last winter that an uprising would take place in Macedonia in the spring the diplomatists of Europe hastened to arrange means fur preventing the outbreak. Their efforts were crowned with so much success that the Sultan premised reform and the committee called off the dogs of war. Thereupon Europe settled down with quiet satisfaction, gave due credit to the diplomatists and looked forward to a springtime undisturbed by anything more serious than a labor strike. There was, however, one factor in the problem that was not counted in the solution, and now that factor is making more trouble than the Macedonian Committee itself. 

Long ago a wise man said that the Eastern question is in its last analysis a religious question, and that in comparison with the religious complications politics and pan-Slavism cut very little figure. The present disturbances go far to confirm that theory. The promise of reform in the interest of the Christians of Macedonia has stirred the ire of the Moslems and also of the Albanians. The Albanian hatred of Macedonia is one of the mysteries of the Eastern question which has never been fully understood by western students of the situation, but of the existence of the hatred there can be no question. We are having a proof of it at this time. The dispatches announce that no sooner was the reform programme made known than the Albanians started on the warpath. Several thousand of them surrounded Mitrovitza, and it was only after a severe fight that they were repulsed by the Turkish garrison. 

The situation of the Sultan’s Government is by no means enviable. The concert of Europe has demanded of him the institution of various reforms in Macedonia and he has agreed. Now come his Albanian subjects and declare he shall not carry out the reforms without a fight. His Moslem troops are trying to reform Macedonia with one hand while holding off Albania with the other, and are achieving but little result with either! The reports state that the Albanian uprising has caused a panic among the Christians of Old Servia, who are fleeing out of the country, and that while the Turkish troops in the province are doing what they can to suppress the insurrection the Albanian bodyguards of the Sultan’s palace are jubilant over the action of their countrymen. 

It is to be borne in mind that while Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria are distinct as geographical expressions and are clearly delimited on the map, they are after all only a huge district populated by various peoples who differ in race, language and religion. The Bulgarians wish to annex Macedonia, and the so-called “Macedonian Committee” is really a body of Bulgarian agitators. The committee asserts that the Macedonians desire separation from the Turkish empire, but a good many travelers in the country assert that the bulk of the Macedonian population desires nothing more than peace and good government, and are more opposed to the Bulgarian agitators than to the Turks.

For a long time there have been stories that the Russians are backing up the Bulgarians, and the Albanians evidently believe it, for when they rose in arms their first attack was made upon Russian consulates. There appears, however, every reason to believe that the Russians are as eager as any one else for the maintenance of peace at this time and have done all in their power to keep the Bulgarians quiet. Meantime Bulgarians, Macedonians and Albanians alike seem determined to fight, and it appears the Turks are not at all unwilling to take a hand. Thus we are getting reports of all kinds of atrocities committed by bands of one party or the other. 

The one clear feature of the situation is that the Sultan is unable to carry out peaceful reforms and no other power is willing to undertake the task. It is a bad muddle all round, and in the end Europe may be forced to give the Sultan a free hand to send an army into the country to make a desert and call it peace. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85066387/1903-04-09/ed-1/seq-6/

SOURCE: San Francisco Call, Volume 93, Number 130, 9 April 1903