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TURKISH OPPRESSION OF SLAVS

It is impossible to give any adequate description of the horrors of Turkish rule in these Christian countries of the Balkans. Their people, disqualified from holding even the smallest office, were absolutely helpless under the oppression of their foreign masters, who ground them down under an intolerable load of taxation and plunder. The culminating cruelty was the tribute of Christian children from ten to twelve years of age who were sent to Constantinople to recruit the corps of janissaries. It is not surprising that for the protection of wives and children and the safeguarding of interests the nobles of Bosnia and the Pomaks of Southeastern Bulgaria embraced the creed of their conquerors; the wonder is that the people as a whole remained true to their Christian faith even at the cost of daily martyrdom from generation to generation. Their fate too grew worse as the Turkish power declined after the unsuccessful siege of Vienna in 1683. For at first Ottoman troops ravaged Bulgaria as they marched through the land on their way to Austria; and later disbanded soldiers in defiance of Turkish authority plundered the country and committed nameless atrocities. Servia was to some extent protected by her remote location, but that very circumstance bred insubordination in the janissaries, who refused to obey the local Turkish governors and gave themselves up to looting, brigandage, and massacre. The national spirt of the subject races was completely crushed. The Servians and Bulgarians for three or four centuries lost all consciousness of a fatherland. The countrymen of Simeon and Dushan became mere hewers of wood and drawers of water for their foreign masters. Servia and Bulgaria simply disappeared. As late as 1834 Kinglake in travelling to Constantinople from Belgrade must have passed straight across Bulgaria. Yet in "Eothen," in which he describes his travels, he never even mentions that country or its people.

It is easy to understand that this history of Turkish horrors should have burned itself into the heart and soul of the resurrected Servia and Bulgaria of our own day. But there is another circumstance connected with the ruthless destruction and long entombment of these nationalities which it is difficult for foreigners, even the most intelligent foreigners, to understand or at any rate to grasp in its full significance. Yet the sentiments to which that circumstance has given rise and which it still nourishes are as potent a factor in contemporary Balkan politics as the antipathy of the Christian nations to their former Moslem oppressors.



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