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ON THE SOUTH SLAVONIC COUNTRIES IN AUSTRIA AND TURKEY IN
The nature and object of this pamphlet will be best expressed in the opening paragraph of the Editor's Preface.
“During a tour on the Danube last year I made the acquaintance of two English ladies who had spent many months in learning the language of Serbia, and in collecting information of the most valuable kind concerning that country and the neighbouring Slavonic provinces of Turkey and Austria. On my return to England, these ladies told me that they were preparing an account of their travels. They also showed me a paper containing notes such as would interest persons disposed to a practical study of the subject, besides answering several questions now afloat as to the nationality and disposition of the Slavonic peoples south of the Danube. They have done me the honour to ask me to edit this paper, adding to it some political remarks of my own; a request to which I gladly accede, in the hope that those interested in the condition of Turkey and her dependencies may find in the following pages material that will be of use in forming a just appreciation of the state of the Danubian provinces of the Ottoman Empire, and in obtaining a clear view of British policy in Southeastern Europe."
These “Notes”—which, by the way, form a very compact, consistent, and most interesting paper--are the result of journeys made in the years 1861-62-63-64; and we run no risk in strongly recommending them to the notice, not only of the politician and geographer, but equally, and perhaps especially, to that of the ethnologist ; for, though the expressly ethnological details which they furnish are but few and brief, yet the incidental information is more considerable, and it receives an additional value from the fact of its relating to countries so little known and yet so deserving of being better known.
It would be easy to expatiate on a point like this, on the important section of Europe to which these countries belong, on the vagueness that overshadows its ethnic subdivisions, and on the causes, historic and physical, on which this vagueness may be supposed to depend; but our space forbids
1 Notes on the South Slavonic Countries in Austria and Turkey in Europe, containing Historical and Political Information, added to the substance of a Paper read at the Meeting of the British Association at Bath, 1864. Edited, with a Preface, by HUMPHREY SANDWITH, C.B., D.C.L., author of "The Siege of Kars," &c. Blackwood and Sons, 1865.
us to enter on such a tempting theme, and we must be contented with barely calling attention to it by a few hasty remarks.
When we speak of Western Europe we can at once divide and subdivide it by sharp, broad lines. Its Teutonic, and what might be termed, in a wide acceptation, its Celtic sections, are unmistakeably distinct, and the latter especially divides, nationally, with an equal, if not even a greater sharpness. Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Britain, Ireland, if they have not the breadth of line, have all the ethnic definiteness presented even by the great continents themselves; nor does history or tradition point to a time when this distinctness did not exist. Even geographically these countries are distinct; while, ethnologically, no one can confound the striking individuality of their peoples, taken as aggregates. There are external differences, but they are comparatively nothing : it is in the mind, in the genius of the several types, that the individuality is mainly discoverable. The mind grows after the grosser portions of the physical structure have comparatively stopped ; and what is true of the individual is true equally of races. In a gallery of Greek or Roman sculpture, where portraiture has been aimed at, we see our very selves of this nineteenth century; and yet how different the minds of the two eras, making all allowance for education, knowledge, &c., &c. ! The nationality of a modern Frenchman and an Italian, or of an Irishman and an Englishman, is often all but indistinguishable, physiognomically, and yet see these indeterminate beings in action, trace their history, probe their hearts and their minds, and at every turn their nationality comes forth clear, unmistakeable, perhaps even with startling distinctness.
This is one of the great points which the ethnologist has carefully to study, and which hitherto he has too much neglected. He knows it all very well “out of doors,” but he has
“ official knowledge
of the fact. Indeed, as an ethnologist, he often denies it point-blank; but we may be sure that a science which does not square with outside experience is a science which is very apt to require mending, and which, at all events, ought to be looked sharply after.
But when, after this glance at these Atlantic and Mediterranean races ; when, after considering what Greece and Italy were, each and together, in the days of their glory, what France was in medieval times and is now, what Spain was in her brief day, what Britain is ; to say nothing of those mysterious, and assuredly most mistaken ages, whose only mark is the rude but gigantic cromlech, and mound and stone circle—when we look from these broad individualities to the east, and meet the great Slavonic family, how wonderful is the contrast ! A European people, and from that fact alone a people of high destiny and importance, yet a vague, indeter
minate people, here and there distinct provincially, yet rarely so nationally, a people without a past, historically or monumentally, and with a present and a future singularly indefinite. At the dawn of tradition there were Scythians, in Europe as in Asia : there are Scythians still, et voilà tout. Always a great power, neither to be despised nor ignored, but always a great vagueness. Whence these wonderful contrasts ; contrasts, too, that strangely repeat themselves in Western and Eastern Asia, though with some curious and important exceptions? Do they speak of relative infancy? are they geographical? or do they depend on inherent peculiarities of race? and, if the latter, what is their import, and what their promise ? Whatever be the answer, we have here to deal with an important family of man; a family which, ere now, has brought night upon Europe, and may do so again. All these considerations make this family an object of serious interest both to the politician and the ethnologist; and the work before us brings ns into contact with one of its least-known portions, and gives as large a mass of varied information as can well be compressed in the space of some sixty or seventy pages. The work, too, is accompanied with two maps one of the Principality of Serbia, and another, and larger one, of the South Slavonic countries generally. This map is ethnographically coloured, and therefore has a special interest.
The limits of the South Slavonic countries are thus determined :
“Bounded on the north by the rivers Danube and Drave; on the west by the Adriatic; on the east by the Black Sea ; and on the south by the frontiers of ancient Greece,-lies a region not one-third smaller than France: its inhabitants, numbering from ten to twelve millions, form the southern division of the Slavonic race. Throughout the greater part of the country this population is homogeneous; but to the south and east it dwells interspersed with about half a million Albanians, and some hundred thousands of Turks, Tartars, Greeks, and Tzinzars.
“Classed according to their dialects of one language, the Southern Slavs may be divided into two nearly equal parts. The eastern call themselves Bulgarians, the western Croato-Serbs. Classed according to their creeds (we give the result of such imperfect statistics as exist), from two to three millions are Romanists, seven hundred and eighty thousand Mussulmans, and all the rest belong to the Slavonic branch of the Eastern Church.
“ Their political divisions are various. The Bulgarians live directly subject to Mohammedan officials, and their land is meted out in Turkish pashaliks. Of the Serbo-Croats, some are included in the Austrian, some in the Ottoman empire, and two small states govern themselves. Thus, we have the Dalmatians, Slavonians, and Croats proper, forming what is called a triune kingdom, whose king is the Emperor of Austria ; we have the Bosniacs and Herzegovinians, whose countries are Turkish provinces ; the Serbs of the autonomous principality of Serbia; the Serbs of independent Montenegro" p. 25.
After a brief sketch of the history of Bulgaria, and of its sufferings under Turkish rule, we are presented with the following remarks on the people themselves :
“Under circumstances so disadvantageous, it is surprising how far the Bulgarian has been preserved from the vices of a conquered population in the East. His village is withdrawn from view of the high-road, to elude, if possible, the intrusion of Turkish violence. Even in the towns, his house is of insignificant exterior, for fear of attracting Turkish cupidity; but within his humble dwelling all is order and cleanliness: his field and his flower-garden are carefully tended, and his modest, virtuous helpmate is as praiseworthy for her tidiness and thrift as he is himself for honesty and diligence. The Bulgarian is of dark complexion, large and strong limbed, but with a down-look and a slouch; the women are comely, with fine teeth and hair. In manner, the Bulgarian is reserved and shrinking, and to those whom he does not trust he opposes a shield of dogged stupidity; but
persons who have instructed him, either in his own country or abroad, bear witness that his understanding is excellent, and that he is eager and apt to learn. A great number of young Bulgarians are now studying, at their own cost, in Paris, Prague, St. Petersburg, and Constantinople. On their return home many will become schoolmasters; and thus it is hoped that education may make its way in spite of the jealousy of the Turkish Government and Greek priesthood, which does not suffer a college, or even a printing-press, to be started in any Bulgarian town” p. 29.
The people of the Herzegovia, we are told, “ are considered the handsomest men among the Southern Slavs, and their dialect is the most beautiful in the language: as such, it has been selected for the modern translation of the New Testament, and for the published version of the national songs ” p. 34.
The Serbo-Croats are thus contrasted with the Bulgarian section of the country :
"As to disposition, the Serbo-Croat shares with the Bulgarian his sentiments of nationality and tenacity of purpose ; but, unlike the Bulgarian, he is warlike, and, whether Christian or Mohammedan, Austrian borderer or janissary, Bosnian Bey or Montenegrīne, he has secured respect for his stubborn valour. The Christian tribes are still more honourably distinguished by their deference to the defenceless,—a woman is to them inviolable, and the stranger under her protection safe. The gifts of eloquence and improvisatory poetry are generally diffused among the Serbs. Their struggle for national existence is recorded in a series of ballads sung from hearth to hearth down through five centuries to the present day. Hanging to the door of the wayside inn, we often found a small guitar (Slav. gusla), and, in absence of the professional blind singer, it was handed to the eldest man present, or to him most distinguished for warlike deeds.
“But those qualities which render the Serbo-Croat more interesting than the Bulgarian are balanced by serious practical defects. He is averse to labour, impatient, careless, and, though quick at learning, is troublesome to teach. Especially he differs from the Bulgarian in this, that nothing can be got out of him by oppression. The Croatian peasant was, the Dalmatian Morlack and the Bosnian rayah still are, the laziest, sulkiest, most intractable, most implacable of mortals. Such merchants as succeed in Bosnia come not of the crushed Christians in that province, but from the insurgent districts in Herzegovina. In free Montenegro theft is all but unknown, and in Serbia every man wears arms without danger to the public peace; but in Dalmatia not all that Austrian police and soldiers can do will keep down brigandage or root out the Vendetta.
“We have alluded to the fact that traces of old communal organization yet survive among the Serbs. It will be a sad mistake if, in haste to be civilized, they should blot these out, and squeeze their sturdy little principality into the strait-waistcoat of a bureaucracy. No doubt, however, some of the good old ways are somewhat embarrassing to a modern Administration. For instance, up to the present hour the Serbian yeoman has successfully resisted the intrusion of the tax-gatherer ; his poll-tax, nominally one pound per householder, being collected and apportioned by the elders of each Commune. Lately the Prince of Serbia declared the revenue thus raised to be unequal to the expenses of the State, and proposed the substitution of a regular tax on property. In the National Assembly held the other day, he announces that this measure has as yet proved impracticable. It is not to pay more that the people refuse, but they choose to raise it in their own way” p. 39.
For the political and geographical details given in these pages, as well as for the incidental light thrown upon ethnology, we must refer the reader to the work itself; nor would it be fair, while necessarily concentrating our chief attention on the body of the work, to forget the great additional interest which has been given to it by the able Preface of the editor, who has mainly directed his attention to the political bearings of the subject.
We need only remark, in conclusion, that we look forward with much pleasure to the work of which these “Notes” are the foreshadowing. The