An Open Plea for a Small Nation.
From THE O'MAHONY to The Right Hon. L. HARCOURT.
St. Patrick's Orphanage,
23, Rue Gladstone,
October 26th, 1914.
My Dear Harcourt,
No one will I think be bold enough to assert that the present state of affairs in the Balkan Peninsula is either satisfactory or permanent. The history of Modern Europe teaches us that even Mighty Empires cannot trample on the national feelings of the smaller races with impunity. What but the deep and unquenchable desire to win the union and the freedom of her race could have nerved Bulgaria to hurl back the Turkish legions and to win those glorious victories which though almost fruitless have won for her undying honour.
In this present gigantic war the regard for national feeling has shown itself to be an exceeding great strength, the disregard of it an unending weakness.
What but the spirit of nationality could have braced Belgium to her splendid resistance to German aggression ? What but the undying desire to regain her lost territories and people could have enabled France to fight as she is now fighting ?
What but the concession of self government to Ireland could have brought her so unreservedly to the side of Great Britain ? What but the recognition of nationalities within the Empire and the freedom of its various states, could have produced the enthusiastic devotion with which every portion of our Empire has rallied to the flag? As freedom has grown within its borders so has the power and security of the Empire increased, until in this war we see a mighty union of free peoples of many races and of many beliefs, vying with one another to show the strength and force which freedom gives.
No proclamation promising future liberty, religious or political, has been needed to win the support of any race within the British Umpire. Has Russia really gained by taking Bessarabia from Roumania in 1878 ? Has Roumania gained strength by taking so unjustly from Bulgaria the richest portion of her territory the Dobrudja, in the moment of her isolation and her weakness? Has Greece gained strength by seizing portions of Macedonia, rightly Bulgarian, although she has almost exterminated by massacre the Bulgarians who did not fly?—territory conceded to Bulgaria by the Treaty of Sao Stefano and absolutely necessary to Bulgaria for her economic development. Is Servia stronger now in the hour of her trial, because she broke the Treaty solemnly made before the war with Turkey, and seized territory inhabited by Bulgarians and acknowledged by solemn treaty to be rightly Bulgarian ? Has Europe gained by allowing Turkey to take advantage of the unprovoked invasion of Bulgaria by Roumania to break the Treaty signed in London only a few months before under the auspices of Sir Edward Grey ? Is not the present state of Europe chiefly due to the disregard of treaties, especially during the last few years, and to the utter unconcern shown towards the feelings of the people of the territories dealt with?
Where was the sense of justice when Europe allowed, without a protest, Bulgaria to be deprived of nearly all the fruits of victory in spite of the magnificent services she had rendered to the cause of liberty, in spite of her awful sacrifices of blood and treasure ? The sense of justice was clouded by the ambitions of Great Powers, and by the campaign of lies so unscrupulously conducted during the time of her isolation, when she was cut off from all communication with the west of Europe. The war which commenced as a war of liberation became a war of subjugation owing to the intervention of Roumania, who had taken no part whatever in the work of liberation. The larger portion of the Bulgarian race, put back under the Turkish yoke by the Treaty of Berlin, for whose freedom Bulgaria worked so incessantly, and fought so nobly, is now subject to yokes more galling, more hated, and more oppressive than that of the Turks, and in addition a portion of her race freed from the Turkish yoke in 1878 has been placed after 36 years of freedom under the unsympathetic and oppressive yoke of Roumania.
The deadly misrepresentations which so clouded the judgment of Europe in 1913 have been fully and impartially dealt with by the Carnegie Commission. Sooner or later, if there is to be a lasting peace in the Balkans, the injustice of the Treaty of Bucharest will have to be remedied. The sooner the better. Already Roumania is playing the same game that served herduring the Balkan War, and again Greece and Servia are carrying on the campaign of misrepresentation that so clouded the judgment of Europe in 1913. With the earnest desire to secure fair treatment for a people amongst whom I have worked for the best part of ten years, a people amongst whom I have lived, and learnt not only to admire but to love, I venture to put before you some facts which I trust will enable you to realize how much Bulgaria did for her race in Turkish territory, since the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate, that is in the forty years preceding the War of 1912-13.
Before the establishment of the Exarchate the Greek Church was the only Orthodox Church acknowledged by Turkey. As in Turkey all education is carried on by the Churches, the education of the Bulgarians was in the hands of the Greeks. The Turkish Government regarded the Bulgarians as Greeks, and the Greeks encouraged this fable, so conveniently in accordance with their dreams. When after a long struggle the Bulgarian Exarchate was revived and acknowledged b}' the Turks, the Greek Patriarch declared the Bulgarian Church to be schismatic, and excommunicated it. This will enable you to appreciate better the bitterness of the position of Bulgarians in Greek and Servian Macedonia, where all their Churches and Schools have been seized, where they are now not allowed to be educated in their own language, and are only allowed the ministrations of Priests of a Church that regards them as schismatics. The work carried out by Bulgaria for the members of her race outside the borders assigned to her by the Treaty of Berlin will show how intimately she was bound up with the life of the people in that greater portion of Macedonia, now so cruelly separated from her, and will help to explain the presence in Bulgaria at the present time of over 160,000 refugees who have fled from their " liberators " !
Number of Bulgarian Exarchate Churches, Chapels, Metropolitan Bishops, Priests, Schools, Teachers and Scholars in Macedonia and Thrace in year 1911. Showing the number in Territory accorded to Greece and Servia respectively by the Treaty of Bucharest.
Speaking recently in Dublin, alluding to one of the main objects for which the present war is being waged, Mr. Asquith said: "It means that room must be found and kept for the independent existence and the free development of the smaller nationalities, each with a corporate consciousness of its own." The above list of Churches, Priests, Schools and Scholars in the territoryliberated by the Allies is the measure of the Corporate Consciousness of the Bulgarian race in those territories, and the enslavement of that corporate consciousness in the portions of that territory given to Greece and Servia respectively by the treaty of Bucharest. To judge the value of this list it must be, however, borne in mind that as Bulgaria increased in power after her liberation, Turkey took every means to stop her progress in Macedonia, and closed many of her Schools and Churches, a persecution which culminated in the massacres of 1903, directed solely against Bulgarians, and aided, alas! in many instances by the Greeks. But in addition Turkey has regained a large portion of the territory left to Bulgaria by the treaty of Bucharest, a portion that was served by 83 Priests, 81 Churches, 184 Teachers, 99 Schools with an attendance of 5,597 Scholars. From that portion all Bulgarians except a few in Adrianople and Kirk Kilisse fled when the Turks reconquered it, and they have not been allowed by the Turks to return. Thus, of the territory freed by the treaty of London in which the Corporate Consciousness of the Bulgarian race was shown by 1,310 Priests, 1,331 Churches, 294 Chapels, 1,373 Schools, 2,266 Teachers and 78,854 Scholars, Bulgaria has been despoiled of territory in which the Corporate Consciousness of her race was represented by 1,029 Priests, 1,058 Churches, 147 Chapels, 67 Monasteries, 1,035 Schools, 1,778 Teachers and 60,549 Scholars.
In Turkey there is practically no Bulgarian race left. In Greece and Servia the Churches and Schools have been seized, the people are no longer ministered to by their own Priests, and the young are not allowed to be taught in their own language.
In addition to all this, when after the war of liberation Bulgaria's treacherous allies turned against her, Roumania, who had taken no part whatever in that war, seized the richest portion of Bulgarian territory, the Dobrudja. This territory, Bulgarian since her liberation in 1878, contains portions of two Bulgarian Dioceses, 67 Churches, and was ministered to by 53 Priests. The Priests have been compelled to hold services alternately in Slavonic and Roumanian, though neither they nor their congregations understand Roumanian. Those who have refused to do this have been expelled. The Priests have been placed under the jurisdiction of a Roumanian Bishop, and Bulgarian Priests are being continually replaced by Roumanians.
At the time of the seizure of the Dobrudja there were two High Schools with 17 Teachers, 11 Secondary Schools with 79 Teachers, and 175 Communal Primary Schools with 320 Teachers. All the School Buildings have been seized and the teachers dismissed, with the exception of one Communal School in each of the following towns: Silistra, Baltchik, Toutrakan, Dobritch, and Kavarna. This is the freedom accorded to the Bulgarian nationality in that portion of Bulgaria seized by Roumania. If the result of the present war is to be the realization of Mr. Asquith's views as expressed in Dublin, the Treaty of Bucharest will require a very complete revision. Nothing short of this will enable Bulgaria to obtain room for the independent existence and free development of its Nationality.
Yours very sincerely,