THE BULGARIAN PEOPLE AS SOLDIERS AND CITIZENS.—THE PARLIAMENT.—SCHOOLS.—THE TOLERATION OF ALL RELIGIONS.—TESTIMONY OF CATHOLIC AUTHORITIES.
In my first letter I described the Bulgarians as the bravest, most liberty loving, most progressive, most tolerant race in the Balkans. To prove their bravery it is only necessary to refer to the conspicuous courage shown by the Bulgarian volunteers in the war of liberation in 1877. Six battalions of Bulgarian volunteers held in check 40,000 Turkish veterans under Suleiman Pasha at Stara-Zagora from morn till night, the carnage on both sides was great; the Bulgarians retreated to the Shipka Pass, and there they held the same Turkish Army in check for five whole days, where, without water and with their ammunition exhausted, they were relieved in their last extremity by a Russian force. No finer deed was done during the whole war of liberation. Then in 1913 we have the splendid victories of the Bulgarian Army over the main Turkish Army in Thrace, at Lozen-grad, Sule, Bourgas, Boulair, Adrianopole, Chataldja— victories won at enormous cost in accordance with her treaty of alliance with Serbia, whilst her ally, Serbia, was already engaged in dishonestly breaking that treaty in Macedonia. To demonstrate her love of liberty one has to consider her action ever since she obtained her freedom in 1877. She established then her system of peasant proprietorship, which has won for her the title of Peasant State and which has undoubtedly produced a feeling of absolute equality which has no equal in Europe. Her Constitution had to be finally sanctioned by the National Assembly to be held at Tirnovo, the ancient historic capital of Bulgaria. The Constitution placed before that Assembly, which consisted largely of young and wholly of untried politicians, emanating as it did from Bureaucratic sources, contained all the many devices called safeguards, which are so dear to antidemocratic minds. All these devices were swept aside, and the Constitution was formed on the broad foundation of universal suffrage of all males of 21 years of age inhabiting Bulgaria, without any restrictions whatever regarding racial origin, religion, property, or poverty. A broader • basis can scarcely be conceived. On that basis it still rests. Outside influence induced Prince Alexander of Battenberg to suspend the Constitution in 1881, just as outside influence compelled him to abdicate in 1886, three years after he had restored fully the Constitution.
This Constitution was immediately extended to Eastern Roumelia, when she joined Bulgaria in 1885, and has also been extended to the small new territory left to Bulgaria by the ill-starred Treaty of Bucharest.
The present Sobranie (House of Assembly) consists of 244 Deputies, of which 41 are from the new territory left to Bulgaria by the Treaty of Bucharest. The number of Turkish deputies is 14, of which n come from the new territory. No other country in the Balkans has established such a democratic constitution. No other country has extended her constitution to newly acquired territories. As regards progress it must be remembered that 37 years ago Bulgaria was a Turkish Province. Sophia, the capital of Bulgaria, a mere Turkish village in 1878, with a population of about 20,000, is now a fine modern city with electric trams, electric light, good water and modern drainage, with many beautiful public building's, including a large mineral bath establishmentsupplied by a hot mineral spring unequalled in any capital in Europe. The population is now over 120,000. The total population of Bulgaria as constituted by the Treaty of Berlin was in 1880 2,007,919, the population of Eastern Roumelia in 1884 942,680, in 1887 the population of United Bulgaria was 3,154,375. In the period from 1887 to 1910 the population increased by 601,296 males and 581,842 females—total, 1,183,138. In 1912 the population was 2,253,699 males, 2,178,778 females— total, 4,432,427. In 1878 there were only 528 kilometres of railway lines, in 1888 there were 637 kilometres, and in 1914 there were 1,949 kilometres.
In 1879 her importations amounted in value to 32,137,800 francs, her exportations to 20,092,854 francs ; in 1886, after her union with Eastern Roumelia, her importations were 64,285,309 francs and her exports 50,404,314 francs; in 1911 her importations had risen to 199,344,808 francs and her exports to 184,633,945 francs.
If the Treaty of Berlin had not deprived her of Kavala, a port on the Egean Sea, her trade with the west of Europe would have become much more important, as it is she takes the bulk of her imports from Austria and Germany. This may partly explain the action of the German Emperor last year when he fought '' like a lion'' to prevent Bulgaria obtaining the Egean port of Kavala. In 1879 there were 1,088 schools in Bulgaria with 1,379 teachers and 56,855 pupils. In 1881 there were in Eastern Roumelia 846 schools with 1,084 teachers and 48,094 pupils, giving a total of 144,949 pupils, of which only 19,144 were girls. A curious but not unnatural result of five centuries of Turkish rule. In 1886, after the union of Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia, there were 2,410 schools and 160,000 pupils. For the year 1911, the year before the war, there were 5,400 educational establishments, including national schools, intermediate schools, and high schools and private schools. There were 13,461 teachers and 520,818 pupils, 309,582 were boys and 311,236 were girls.
These educational establishments were carried on at an expense of 25,372,472 francs, of which the State contributed 71-93 per cent, and the Communes 20 per cent. Of this sum 524,172 francs went to Mohammedan schools, 209,754 francs to Jewish schools, and 567,710 francs to Catholic schools, i.e., to schools belonging to special religious bodies, including those under foreign management. The effect of this educational work is strikingly shown in the education of recruits. Military service is compulsory amongst all classes. In 1898 48-7 per cent, of the recruits were illiterate ; in 1909, 20-6 per cent, were illiterate.
All are entitled to free education in all primary schools. In the higher schools those who are able to pay are charged small fees. Class distinctions in the schools are unknown. Rich and poor are educated together. I have also said that the Bulgarian race is the most tolerant in the Balkans. Bulgaria has accorded to all her subjects equal political and religious rights. The 602,000 Moslems under her rule for 35 years have never been persecuted. They are organised in religious communities administered by muftis, who are chosen by the communities and receive salaries from the Government. The Mohamedan schools are also subsidized by the Government, their management being left entirely to the committees chosen by Mohamedans. The Jews are religiously represented by the Grand Rabbi, who is elected by the Jewish population and receives a salary from the Government; through him the Jews are organised into special communities in the various towns. The Jewish population of late years has been increased by refugees from Russian persecutions. In 1887 there were 24,352 Jews, in 1910, 40,139. There are two American Protestant Missions carrying on their work with perfect freedom. Bulgaria has more than once during the past few years been accused of oppressing the Catholics. I have frequently pointed out that Catholics in Bulgaria enjoy perfect freedom and equality. The two letters which I now give will, I trust, finally answer these untruthful accusations.
15th November, 1914.
In reply to your letter of the 12th I herewith give my opinion regarding the liberties accorded to Catholics in Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian Constitution, actually in force, was adopted at Tirnovo in 1879. Although it was elaborated at the moment, when Bulgaria was entirely in the power of Russia, it is one of the most liberal in Europe.
In virtue of chapter ix. (articles 37 and following) the Orthodox Christian religion is the religion of the State. Nevertheless, according to articles 40, 41, and 42, all other religions professed by aliens or subjects of the State, are entirely free on the sole condition that they shall not conflict with the laws of the State. Their religious affairs are managed by their respective ecclesiastical heads, without interference, but under the control of the State. If in a country where national feeling is very acute foreigners have a difficulty in establishing themselves, that is due to their being foreigners. As regards religion, however, Bulgaria exhibits a rare tolerance ; so that the Orthodox clergy, the ministers of the different religions of the country—Catholics, Armenians, Jews, Mohamedans—all receive a fixed subvention from the State. Amidst religions and races so various has the Orthodox State of Bulgaria given to the Catholic Church a position of inferiority? No. The Catholics possess the benefits of the same tolerant constitution, and enjoy the same rights as all Bulgarian subjects. Above all the adherents of other faiths, they have the inappreciable advantage, not only of being Bulgarian subjects of a different race united under the national flag, as the Armenians, the Greeks, the Jews, the Turks, but of belonging to the Bulgarian race and of passing in the eyes of all for Bulgarians, in addition the Catholic Church, represented by the Latins, comprises also Bulgarian Uniats, whose liturgy, ceremonies, prayers and language is Slav and differs in no particular from the liturgy of the Orthodox Bulgarians.
The Catholic Church in Bulgaria consists of 30,000 faithful; the two Dioceses of Sofia—Philipopolis and Nicopolis, maintain flourishing works which develop without hindrance, parishes and works of education and charity.
I beg you to accept, Sir, my respectful regards,
Archeveque Vic. Apost.
A Monsieur O'Mahony,
23, Rue Gladstone,
November 11th, 1914.
The undersigned, Director of the French Catholic School in Sofia, declares that we have always, since the commencement of our work in 1881, enjoyed the great kindness of the public authorities. They have notablyallowed us full liberty of organisation according to our methods and programme. The inspectors on their visits to our school have always shown the greatest sympathy with and approval of our procedure. The French schools (boys and girls) at this date in Sofia consist of 950 pupils, of which the great majority are Bulgarian subjects. Bulgaria is undoubtedly the country in the Balkans where foreign schools, especially our own, enjoy the fullest liberty. This testimony I render with pleasure to a nation so hospitable as is Bulgaria.
To the truth of which I subscribe my name.
A Monsieur O'Mahony,
In 1887 there were in Bulgaria 18,505 Catholics, in 1910, 32,132.
The Armenians, who belong to the Gregorian Church, also enjoy perfect religious and political freedom. In 1892 there were 6,643 Armenians, in 1910, 12,270.
During the Turkish war of 1912-13 the Turkish population of Bulgaria was subjected to no ill treatment. Though liable to military service, they were not asked to fight against their own race, and in many instances farms were cultivated for absent Bulgarians by their Turkish neighbours. During the war of liberation in 1877-78 a massacre of Christians by Turks took place in the town of Stara-Zagora. Thousands were shot down in a church in which they had taken refuge. The church was burnt. Its ruins still remain. Yet in the streets of that town I have seen Turkish and Bulgarian children playing togethei. I have visited Turkish mosques and Turkish schools, mid I could find no trace of ill-feeling between the Christians and the Turks.
The most terrible massacre of Christians that took place at that period was the massacre of Batak, where 5,000 were slaughtered in cold blood ; that massacre was organised and carried out by a Turk named Hadji Alish. Hadji Alish was still alive and residing in the town of Tatar Pazardjik, within a few hours journey of the scene of the massacre, up to 1912, when lie emigrated with his family to Turkey before the war. Verily the Bulgarians are by nature a most tolerant people. They are the only Balkan nation that can be said to govern justly a Mohamedan population. They are the only Balkan people who appear to understand even the rudiments of equality. From a disorganised, turbulent, ill-governed Turkish province, they have made a progressive, orderly and well-governed, peaceful realm, where a stranger may travel through valleys and mountain passes by day or night with as much safety as he can travel from one end of Great Britain to the other.
This is the Nation that was betrayed, deserted in 1913, and then despoiled at Bucharest by a treaty founded on the dishonourable breach of two solemn treaties which the nations that broke them had willingly entered into and which they broke with infinite dishonour in order to further their own selfish interests.
International confidence in the Balkans can only be restored by enforcing these two broken treaties. Mr. Lloyd George, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, has described treaties as the bank-notes of International relations, and has stated that to allow them to be repudiated in the interest of the repudiator is to march straight on the road to barbarism. Judged by this standard the Treaty of Bucharest was not only a long march on that evil road, but a direct incentive to othersto march along the same road, straight to barbarism. Is the expressed desire to stop this march a guiding principle with the allies of the Triple Entente? If so it must be applied to great powers and little nations equally, to allies, to neutrals, and to foes. They are now put to the proof in the Balkans, and by their action there they will ultimately be judged.
Sofia, December 7th, 1914.