The advancing Turk began raiding Bosnia and employed Serbian troops. The Ragusa archives record: "In January 1398, the son of Bajazet, with a great number of Turks and Slavs, entered Bosnia." Stefan Ostoja was now King of Bosnia, but he too seems to have been more intent upon annexing Ragusa than in organizing defence against the Turk. Nor can we stop to unravel the complicated series of quarrels of one Slav prince with another, of their intrigues with Venice, with Hungary, with Ragusa, each playing for his own hand, though the Turks were now established as near as Uskub, and in 1415 invaded Bosnia for the third time. Sigismund, King of Hungary, alone of the neighbouring princes, realized the gravity of the situation and sent an army against the Turks, only to find that the Herzegovina sided with the Turks against him. As a result, we learn from the Ragusa archives, "the whole of Bosnia is laid waste and the barons are preparing to exterminate each other."
Venice meanwhile crept down the coast and occupied much of Dalmatia, while the South Slavs fought each other.
Nationality is the craze of to-day. Religion, in the Middle Ages, played a similar part. Catholic, Orthodox, and Bogumil, hated each other more than they hated the less known Turk. Each was willing to use him against the other.
People of the same race and language then fought each other because they differed about religion. To-day, even holding the same religious views, they fight in the sacred name of nationality. But then, as now, there were a few people who recognized the folly of the fashionable differences. At the Council of Basel in 1431 an effort was made to induce the Balkan chiefs, Catholic, Orthodox and even Bogumil, to send delegates to Basel with a view to ending religious strife and opposing a united front to the Turk.
It was vain. The King of Bosnia, and Stefan, Despot of Serbia, declared war on each other and fought for several years. And Sandalj, Lord of the Herzegovina, sided with the Serbs and bought of the Sultan the right to take Bosnia. They failed to do so, but their efforts certainly helped the final destruction of Slav independence.
Sandalj's successor, Stefan Kosatch, assumed the title Duke of Sava (whence "Herzegovina" the Duchy), became Bogumil and consequently fought both the Orthodox of Serbia and the Catholics of Ragusa. And ever the Turk advanced slowly and always found a Slav chief ready to side with him against a neighbour. At Fotcha, in the Herzegovina, I bought a bracelet of a silversmith, who related that his ancestor was the man who had guided the Turks into the district.
Constantinople fell in 1453, and left the Sultan free to complete the conquest of the Balkans. The Hungarians, led by the great Hunyadi, opposed him. But the Orthodox Serbs, led by their Despot George Brankovitch, whose ancestor had deserted to the Turks at Kosovo, hated Catholicism more than Islam, and sided with the Turk against Hunyadi.
The end soon came. The last King of Bosnia, Stefan Tomashovitch, a Catholic, asked help of the Pope, and endeavoured to raise troops among the Catholics of Dalmatia and Croatia. This enraged his Bogumil subjects, who preferred the Turks. The Sultan's army met little resistance; Stefan was taken prisoner and beheaded by the Turks in 1463, and soon all Bosnia was included in the Turkish Empire. As in other Balkan lands, the rights of the Christians were recognized. The Franciscans were appointed as their spiritual head, and several Franciscan monasteries date from these early days.
The Bogumils in large numbers adopted Islam, with which, in its abhorrence of ikons and images, and in its Monotheism, they were in greater sympathy than with either of the Christian Churches, both of which had persecuted them. But Bogumilism lasted into the nineteenth century, possibly into the twentieth, for a case was reported to me in 1911.
Those Christians who objected to Turkish rule fled south into Montenegro, especially from the Herzegovina, which was finally overthrown by the Turks in 1484.
Nor did the enmity between the Bosniaks and the Serbs cease now that they were under a common foe. Throughout the histories of Serbia and Montenegro we find that the Moslems of Bosnia and the Herzegovina were their bitterest enemies and that the armies, sent against them by the Sultans were very largely recruited from these districts. The sense of nationality did not begin to develop until very much later.
Under the Turk the feudal system of the pre-Turk days continued. We get a clear idea of the pre-Turk social conditions from the laws of Tsar Stefan Dushan, which show the strongly marked class difference of noble and serf. The noble was almost tax-free, but had to supply troops. The serf was tied to the land, and could only leave it with his lord's permission. Different punishments were inflicted upon nobles and serfs, the nobles' being naturally the lighter. So independent was the noble that he could build his own church or monastery in his land and chose its bishop. The serfs were judged by the noble upon whose land they were. They paid taxes; had to give him two days' work a week, and three if he had vineyards; cut hay and corn for him, and so forth. In pre-Turk days the rule of the chieftain seems to have been severe. Under the Turk the system continued, and the "Turk" of many a ballad who oppresses his Christian peasant was in fact the Slav feudal nobleman who, having turned Moslem carried on the ancestral tradition, and to the tyranny of the feudal noble added religious intolerance.
There was little organized government under the Turks. The traditional ballads give us vivid pictures of the heyduks, or brigands. Highway robbery up till, and well into, the nineteenth century was both a lucrative business and a sport which well suited the lazy but adventurous spirit of the people. It perpetuated in fact the everlasting raids of one noble against another in pre-Turk days. To this day a Montenegrin "junak" delights in pillaging a village. But continuous work is abhorrent to him.
Armed Turkish patrols guarded the main trade routes between Ragusa, Constantinople and Vienna. They cleared the route from time to time, and then woe to the captured heyduk, whether Moslem or Christian. Heavy the ransom to buy his freedom. But brigandage was rampant before the Turk came, and, as we have seen, the history of the Peninsula was one of incessant bloodshed and disorder. The Turk, in fact, showed more toleration for his Balkan subjects than they did for each other. Each aimed at the extermination of the other. Probably, had not the Turk overwhelmed them all, one or other would have ultimately predominated, and absorbed or exterminated the rest. Under the Turk all survived. He slapped them each impartially and allowed no one to exterminate the other. Nor was their hatred of the Turk ever great enough to cause them to combine against him till 1912, and then they were at each other's throats again so soon as he was removed.
Though, as we have seen, Montenegro was recruited by refugees from Bosnia, the converse also holds good. Many a Serb and Montenegrin flying from blood-vengeance, many a Slav criminal flying from Austrian justice, refuged in Turkish territory and turned Moslem. Nor when, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Serbs struck for independence did Bosnia join them. The Slav Vezir and the Pashas of Bosnia led great armies against them. By then the whole situation had changed, however. The ebb-tide of the Turk had begun. Austria and Russia in the eighteenth century had already decided upon the partition of his lands. Russia thought and cared only for Constantinople and the way there. Bosnia was recognized as Austria's sphere. The long wars and the liberation of the Serbs had effects in Bosnia and the Herzegovina. Revolts, largely agrarian, of the Christians began to take place. The big landowners, though Slavs, were Moslems. Their peasants were largely Christian. In 1849 a great rising was followed by the flight of thousands of Christian peasants into Austria, who in time of stress has often been the South Slav's only friend. The Herzegovinians, encouraged and incited by the Montenegrins on their borders, rose frequently, and it was their great rising of 1875 which started the Russo-Turkish War of 1877.
Before declaring war, however, Russia came to an agreement with Austria about Bosnia. It was understood that Austria should receive Bosnia on condition that she took no part in the war. Russia did not include this in the Treaty of San Stefano, but the scheme received the strongest support at the Congress of Berlin. The aim of both England and Germany was to hold back the ever forward-pressing Slav forces. Great Britain pledged herself to Austria previous to the Congress. "Le Gouvernement de Sa Majeste Britannique s'engage a soutenir tout proposition concernant la Bosnie que le Gouvernement Austro-Hongroise (sic) jugera a propos de faire au Congres."
Austria was offered Bosnia without reservation, and could then and there have annexed it. It was only doubt on Austria's part which led her to choose "administration" in place of annexation. The decision of the Congress at once caused trouble. The mass of the Bosnian Moslems violently opposed separation from Turkey, and the Herzegovinians, who had risen with a view to union with Montenegro, were equally opposed to Austria. The Austrian Army in 1878 met with great resistance, and only after heavy losses and four months' fighting finally subdued the land. The Herzegovinians declared to me that they only laid down their arms at the request of the Prince of Montenegro, under the understanding that Austrian administration was to be but temporary, but under the terms of the Treaty no time-limit was mentioned.
That the arrangement was intended by the Powers to be permanent appears from the text now (1919) published from the Vienna archives under date June 18, 1881, whereby the Courts of Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary agree that "Austria shall annex these two provinces at the moment she judges opportune." This agreement was renewed in 1884. That the Powers considered the provinces as definitely annexed is shown by the fact that when in 1881 Austria introduced military conscription and recruited regiments for her own army no objection was made, nor did any Power intervene when Austria put down by force the resultant insurrection. On the contrary they most sternly ordered the Prince of Montenegro to prevent his men from rushing to the aid of the insurgents. Nor did Europe make any protest when the capitulations were abolished by Austria, though the land was nominally still a Turkish province. And Austrian coinage soon entirely replaced Turkish money.
Up till this time it is important to note that Russia, was taking no steps with regard to claiming Bosnia for her Pan-Slav schemes. Her immediate aim was Constantinople, and she had planned to obtain it by means of a large Bulgaria, which should be a vassal state. But Bulgaria soon struck for complete independence and showed that she would never be Russia's puppet, and elected Prince Ferdinand in defiance of the Tsar with the express intention of breaking away from Russian influence.
Russia therefore finally turned towards the Great Serbian Idea, which otherwise she would probably not have taken up till the annexation of Constantinople had been accomplished.
Till now, Russia had recognized the Montenegrin dynasty as the leader of Great Serbism. She now turned towards Serbia. It was in a far better geographical position and could supply a much larger army, and Montenegro could still be used as a tool.
The result of this was that when in 1897 the Emperor Franz Josef and Goluchowski went to Petersburg and asked for a confirmation of the agreement of 1881, "that the territorial advantages recognized to Austria-Hungary by the Berlin Treaty are and remain acquired by Austria-Hungary and therefore the possession of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Sanjak of Novibazar cannot form matters of discussion; the Austro-Hungarian Government reserving to itself the right of substituting for the actual title of occupation and garrisoning, that of annexation."
Russia had now other plans and replied "the annexation of the two provinces would give rise to more extensive questions which would necessitate a special examination in time and place."
And in the summer of that very year the Tsar received Petar Karageorgevitch, the exiled claimant to the Serbian throne, and started upon her Great Serbian intrigue.
BOSNIA IN 1906. THE PLOT THICKENS.
In the summer of 1906, when I visited Bosnia, the plot was already far advanced. Petar Karageorgevitch was on the throne of Serbia, and Russia, who had had a bad set-back in the Far East, was again turning Balkanwards.
To visit Bosnia a visa was necessary, a sure sign that a land suffers from "unrest." To obtain it I went to the Austrian Embassy. The young gentleman who attended to passports was out, and I was bidden sit on a bench with a number of rather poverty-stricken Austrians. When the gentleman appeared he was vexed to find so much work, and refused most of the applicants roughly. Their papers were incorrect or he was dissatisfied with their reasons for wishing to return home. One "cheeked" him considerably in German, and I laughed. It therefore never occurred to him that I was English. I am in fact, when travelling, rarely taken for English, which is often convenient. He addressed me sharply in German: "You want to go to Bosnia?"
"Yes, please." He took me for a Bosnian, and I let him do it.
"When did you leave Bosnia?"
"In the summer of 1900."
"What have you been doing in London?"
"Writing and other things."
This alarmed him and he said sternly: "You must tell me exactly why you left Bosnia."
"Because I am English," I said politely, "and it was time to come home."
I pressed my passport upon him, which he had been too haughty to look at before. Then there was hurrying and scurrying and orders and abuse of the doorkeeper and much confusion, and I was conducted to a drawing-room and apologized to (for having been treated as an Austrian subject) and given the visa. I enjoyed the episode immensely, and incidentally learnt how the official mind regarded Bosniaks. My previous experience in Serbia caused me to go in search of a new-laid Serbian visa also, in case I wished to cross the frontier. Militchevitch this time was very friendly, joked about the awful bill for cypher telegrams which I had run up for the Serbian Government in 1902, and promised to send me some introductions to leading Bosniaks.
At Trieste great events were in progress. The Emperor Franz Joseph was to hold big military manoeuvres at Trebinje in the Herzegovina and a naval review at Ragusa. The air was full of political electricity, flags and decorations, and the coasting steamer was full of police spies. All papers and passports were scrutinized carefully at each landing-stage. The Kaiser had not visited Dalmatia for very many years, and the populace was delighted. Dalmatia complained bitterly that money was poured into Bosnia and nothing done for her. Now things no doubt would look up.
Then we touched at Lesina and learnt that the Kaiser was unwell and that his heir presumptive, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, would replace him.
"I know what is the matter with him," said the captain to me: "he has political fever. Something has happened."
The tale ran round that the Kaiser had intended after the manoeuvres to announce the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. But that Abdul Hamid, apt at expedients, had learnt this fact, and had sent Franz Josef a polite message regretting that he was unable in person to receive His Majesty on this, his first visit to a Turkish province, but assuring him that his reception should be in every way suitable. Se non vero, ben trovato. Possibly true, for it came out later that Goluchowski actually broached the subject to Russia in the summer of 1906 and Russia raised objections, and may very probably have informed Abdul.
The news caused great disappointment. The old Kaiser was genuinely respected and even loved. Towns that were poor had spent much to do him honour. Perhaps this was one of the "tides in the affairs of men" and nations, that can be taken once and once only. The change of feeling was marked at all our stopping-places. It was very late when we reached Ragusa, and a gauntlet of police had to be run. The town was crammed. Next day the great grey warships lay off the coast and the army was arriving, disembarking and marching up to Trebinje. No stranger might go there without a special pass. I did not ask for one, as in such cases one sees only what one is meant to see, which is misleading. So I got up at 4 a.m. and went to look at the army. It was put to an unusual test in Europe, as it had to rely largely on mule transport. Having done much pack-saddle travel myself, I noted with interest that the Bosniak regiments were the only ones who knew how to "pack-saddle." With most of the others the saddles rolled under at once, or halfway up the road, which is worse. The army marched off early. I then made the acquaintance of a pretty girl, who was engaged to one of the officers, and from her later heard all that happened. This I supplemented by sitting in the cafe when the officers came back and hearing their curses. The men were dead-beat. The water supply had broken down, so had the food. The burning limestone karst had been too much for the men from the plains, and they broke down badly. Only the Croats and Bosniaks had stood the test. The manoeuvres were a failure.
The arrival of the Archduke and suite was very quiet. Ragusa was decorated entirely with Slav colours. Only on the Government offices did the yellow and black of Austria appear. At three in the afternoon the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was to drive through the town, whose broad main street is a fine background for a procession. It was crammed with a gay throng, and the national dress of Ragusa can be very gay indeed. All were talking and laughing.
Then came the solemn strains of "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser," the finest of all national anthems, and a sudden hush fell on the crowd. A silence absolute and unbroken that continued till the unhappy man, who sat motionless and erect, his face as blanched as a corpse, drove out of the further gate of the town. Then the crowd burst into one huge laugh. So complete was the demonstration that it was certainly pre-arranged.
"Write to the papers! write to the papers!" cried several who knew me, in high glee. Then Prince Danilo passed, and the crowd cried "Zhivio!"
I met The Times correspondent and said: "Well, that was a display. You have something to write about now!" But he replied that as we were on friendly terms with Austria he should certainly not report it. Nor did the papers to which I wrote think fit to publish this highly significant affair. Thus is the trend of Foreign Affairs hidden from the public.
Editors might as well often do without their correspondents, for they tell them beforehand what to emphasize, or cut the important news out of their telegrams.
The Archduke arrived with a portmanteau full of medals, and took them all away with him again. His only enthusiastic reception was from the deputation of Albanian Bishops and other ecclesiasts who came from Scutari to greet him. He was a brave man, for after the demonstration he went into the town on foot almost unescorted, and during the drive, though he must have expected a bomb every moment, he showed no loss of self-control save the blanching of his face. From Ragusa I went to Serajevo. I took the phonograph to collect songs, and wished specially to collect tattoo patterns and see the Bogumil and all other local historical remains, but was badly hampered, nor is it my purpose here to describe things anthropological. Had I been left to my own devices I should doubtless have made larger collections and seen less of the political situation. But the Austrian police, like the Serbian in 1902, insisted on rubbing my nose in it.
Travel in the interior was forbidden without a special pass. The British Consul was absent, and had referred me to his Italian colleague who muddled the business badly, whether because he was stupid or for reasons of his own, I did not find out. A little of both, I think. I was asked to call at a certain hour on the Governor of Serajevo. He was a Croat, spoke German to me and told me it was the wrong time of year to travel in Bosnia. Much surprised, I said I had wintered in Macedonia and could stand anything. He then spoke Serb, and I foolishly replied in the same tongue. I told him all I wanted was the permit, and that I could shift for myself. He objected that the food was bad; native houses dirty; winter near —such a journey as I proposed among the people in short impossible. I replied I was used to bugs, lice and fleas, could sleep on the ground and eat anything. All I wanted was a pony and a respectable guide. He stated that unfortunately there were no guides in Bosnia, so I said if I could have a pony I would find the way myself by map. Remembering my trump card at the Serb Legation, I asked if the country were in too dangerous a state. He hastened to say it was not. At last, countered at every point, he offered to lend me his man-servant for a fortnight; could not spare him longer. I should then have seen enough and could return to England. I said I could not so inconvenience him; that I could not get any work done in the time and that I thought of staying months not weeks. He said he would think it over and I was to call again. Next time he was all smiles and had a map ready. "Here," he said, "is your route. Here is a letter"—he pointed to a large pile—"for the Bezirksvorsteher of every place. You will present it on your arrival and do nothing till the authorities have arranged for you. The tour will take three weeks, and then you will go back to England." It was a great disappointment to me. You cannot get a native to tell you folk-tales while you draw the interior of his hut, if a policeman is sitting waiting till it is done. Nor can you live with a family and see its habits. Just as I had plodded round Serbia in spite of the police, so I would not be put off Bosnia, but to this day I regret the great amount of most interesting material that was there at my hand and which I could not gather. Bosnia was a mine of old-world lore and belief. As in Serbia, however, it was obvious that there was something the authorities wanted to conceal. And as "DORA" had not yet been born in England the affair seemed to me unutterably silly and tiresome. The first part of the journey I was, for all practical purposes, under arrest. Met on arrival everywhere by a most polite young official, who told me his whole time was at my disposal. "This is a mosque," he said, "this is a Turkish coffee-house. We will have a cup of coffee. This is the Catholic Church, or Orthodox, as the case might be." We inspected the school, and took a walk in the environs. "Now you have seen all. I will go with you to the post office and get a place for you on the diligence to-morrow. It starts at eight." The evening was spent in the hotel where all the Beamters had their meals. I tried to get information about local customs. Sometimes my hosts supplied them. More often the topic bored them. We talked of Vienna and London. After a good deal of this I reflected I was losing time and money. Every one was politeness and kindness itself. But I missed the long evenings in Albanian or Montenegrin huts round the fire; the talk and the doings. The Austrian official who sighed only for the Opera or the Ringstrasse and thought himself an exile wearied me. But as I was not allowed to study the native I had to study him. I startled some of them one night when they asked me as usual, how I liked Bosnia, by telling them that so far I had seen none of it, nothing but the Austrian occupation. This sort of thing went on a bit longer. Then on the Herzegovinian frontier I accidentally picked up an official to whom I had no letter of introduction. A cheery, enterprising individual who said he did not know to which of the many races of the Empire he belonged—and did not care. Was a geologist and a bit of an antiquarian. Took me up an 8,000 foot mountain and incidentally almost killed me. For on the desolate summit we surprised a chamois at close quarters, which snuffed us, gathered its feet and jumped over what looked like a precipice, though it had footholds for chamois. My new friend insisted on following it, as the shortest way down. When we were on a slippery grass slope so steep I could see the bottom of the valley a thousand feet below between my own boots, and the native servant lad refused to further risk his life, I too struck, and the chase was given up. When we arrived at a gendarmerie outpost on the night of the second day, and I was nearly dead-beat after seventeen hours' continuous struggle over many rocks and other obstacles, he confessed he had had no idea of the way. The stolid gendarmerie captain was appalled. "But if the Fraulein had died?" he asked. "Ah, but I knew she was English!" cried the other, "they can do these things. She will be all right to-morrow." He was delighted with the exploit, and suggested all kinds of places I should go to. I told him about my route and my previous experiences. He roared with laughter. Said it was silly nonsense. Some of the Serajevo people were too stupid for words. "Have you a passport? And it is in order. Very well. You are a British subject. They dare not stop you. Why should they? They ought to be glad to get tourists, and they won't if they go on like this. Burn all those letters and go where you please."
He made me a list of places where I should find Bogumil monuments, tattooed people, Roman remains and so forth. Told me that in his opinion Austria was wasting time and money in the provinces. The changes were too quick for the people; they preferred the old Turkish tracks and pack beasts to carts and the new roads, and that they suspected everything new. He himself got on with the people excellently, took me into several houses where they had portraits of Prince Nikola of Montenegro, and chaffed them about wanting to join that land. "They are all of them plotting across the border," he said, laughing. "They would far rather pig along like the Montenegrins. I've tried hard to persuade them to use iron ploughs. Our government supplies them at less than cost price. But they won't. They say, 'No, it is a Schwab thing.' We have spent no end of money trying to improve the live stock: bulls, stallions, rams, boars of the finest breeds. We sent a splendid boar last year to a village in charge of a man who was supposed to be reliable. And when Christmas came he killed it, roasted it and asked all the village to a feast. It was worth a lot of money. He only said that there was so much meat on it, it seemed a pity to let it live! It will take them several generations to get new ideas. Why worry. All this talk of going to Salonika is folly. This place is too much for us." His own job were beautiful irrigation works which kept a whole district fertile through the heats of summer. "But," he laughed, "the people are not a bit pleased. They say that in the old days it rained when it was God's will. They have quite forgotten they lost most of their crops every year from the drought. This is a Schwab thing, so they think it bad." On parting with him I took his advice and went where I liked. I was "shadowed" a good deal and my correspondence was generally ten days late, but otherwise was not interfered with. Living in native houses and going as guest to festivities, weddings, etc., as I had done in other Balkan lands was, however, impossible. It would have got my hosts into trouble. As it was, the wife of an official was very angry when I said I could get a meal in any village. For she declared she and her husband had even been refused coffee, the people all vowing they had none.
The reason for all the fuss was that the authorities were trying to hide the fact that the country was going through a very bad crisis, which was further exacerbated by the rumoured annexation; the open talk of an advance towards Salonika; and the renewed political activity of Russia and Serbia, which had now got England installed again at Belgrade.
Speaking Serb, I found without difficulty that there was a very strong Serb propaganda being worked from Belgrade among the Orthodox, who at that time formed nearly two-fifths of the native population. Next in number were the Moslems and after them the Catholics, lastly several thousand Spanish Jews. Orthodox, Moslem and Catholic native populations were entirely Slavonic. There was an acute division between the Orthodox and the other two parties.
The Catholics and even some of the Moslems called themselves Croat, and hated the term Serb. I had heard a report that in Croatia a reconciliation between Serb and Croat had taken place. None was to be seen in Bosnia. Only in the Herzegovina did the Catholic natives wish union with Montenegro.
The bulk of the Moslems looked longingly towards Turkey. The Orthodox, on the other hand, were violently pro-Serb, and feelings between Austria and Serbia had risen to fever heat.
Towards the end of 1905, Pashitch, then Prime Minister of Serbia, though already working hard against Bulgaria in Macedonia, signed a secret commercial convention with that country providing for the free interchange of goods with the exception of certain specified objects, and binding the two to a monetary convention and assimilation of weights and measures. As both countries produced much the same articles the arrangement did not appear to be likely to stimulate trade and as the racial hatred and rivalry of the two over the unsettled Macedonian scheme was extreme, the permanence of the arrangement was in any case doubtful.
Serbia was in dire need of a loan, and was on the point of concluding one for 70,000,000 francs. Part of this was to be supplied by the Vienna Bank, and both Serbia and Bulgaria were negotiating new commercial treaties with Austria. Serbia thought best therefore to keep the transaction with Bulgaria quiet. But just as business was almost concluded with Austria, a Bulgarian newspaper blurted out the Bulgar-Serb convention. The Austria-Hungarian Government demanded at once to see the document, and all business came to a standstill. Nor was this surprising, for Petar I, Pashitch and the regicide group were notoriously Russia's proteges, and any secret arrangement on their part was likely to be directed against Austria.
Austria closed her frontier to Serbian live stock.
Serbia was on the bubble. England had stipulated that the regicides were to be retired from power, as a condition of resuming diplomatic relations. (A stipulation that showed either that the Foreign Office little knew the Balkans, or that it knew very well that the treaty was a farce and did not care.) The regicide gang was infuriated and plotted the assassination of their opponents who wished by legal means to settle the question. But, as was delicately expressed by The Times correspondent, "it is stated that the police authorities refused to afford facilities for the execution of the plot, which consequently failed." Pity indeed that the police of Serbia did not remain "conscientious objectors" to plots of assassination. And about the same time when Vladan Georgevitch was sentenced to six months' imprisonment for "revealing state secrets," in The End of a Dynasty, the author in court denounced King Petar as the humble instrument of Russian policy.
Austria insisted on modifications to the Serbo-Bulgar convention; Turkey too demanded an alteration.
But by the time I arrived in Bosnia this affair was thrown quite into the shade by a new step on Serbia's part. She decided to purchase the artillery for her reconstructed army from the Creusot works in France. This so infuriated Austria that she declared a complete boycott of all Serbian goods. Serbia retorted and the frontiers were absolutely closed; so tightly indeed that along the Serbian frontier I found the officials complained of a meat shortage, and a great trade in smuggled fowls was run at night.
Feeling ran very high. Bosnia being under military occupation naturally bristled with officers and men. The officers talked very freely. Not once did I ever hear the Serbo-Bulgar convention mentioned. It was always the guns. They said it was not a question of trade in armaments. That did not matter. It was the question of policy. Serbia showed plainly now to all the world that she was ranged on the side of Russia and France against the Central Powers. "She has joined the Franco-Russian combine against us." They were quite right too, though being then unaccustomed to war, I thought their suspicions unreasonable. And neither I nor they knew that this step had followed immediately on the commencement of "military conversations" between France and England. But that this arming of Serbia was directly connected with the ringing-in policy of France and Russia is now obvious. Poor Edward VII may have thought he was peace-making, when he let Petar Karageorgevitch's gory past be forgotten and forgiven, and agreed to give up his visit to Montenegro so as not to wound that monarch's sensitive feelings—but he little knew the Balkans.
Scarcely one of the Austrian military or civil authorities I spoke with had ever visited Serbia or Montenegro. They all regarded the two as semi-savage lands used as tools against them by Russia. When I arrived at Vishegrad, close on the Serb frontier, feeling was running high. Serbia showed no sign of giving way as had been expected. I told the officials their boycott was bound to fail, as you cannot starve out a people whose main assets are maize and pigs. "You will see I am right. They will simply go on eating pigs till you are tired." The Bezirksvorsteher was annoyed at this, but interested. I said "Get me a horse and a guide, and I will go into Serbia and see." He retorted It was impossible as the frontier was closed, but he hired me the horse and a very black gypsy, a wild enough creature, and I went.
Was halted at the border blockhouse, which the black gypsy thought unpassable, but the Serbs were rather pleased to be inspected, telephoned through to Uzhitza, and I rode on. An amusing sidelight was the surprise of the gypsy at finding the same language both sides of the border. "But they talk Bosniak!" he cried.
An aged peasant on horseback joined me and asked so many questions about London that I thought he knew something about it till he asked "Is it a free country?"
He was puzzled when I said, "Yes."
"But it is under Austria," he protested.
"No, no," said I, "it is a free country."
"Thank God," said the old boy, "and I believed it was under Austria. Bogati—so many people are under Austria. But London is not."
In Serbia I found I had guessed right. "In spite of the horrible curse, nobody seemed a penny the worse." Uzhitza was in high spirits and reminisced my visit of 1902. They referred with triumph to the murder of Alexander. Since that, everything had been going splendidly. The army was everything and all possible money was to be spent on it. If Alexander had lived he would have made an alliance with Austria and have stinted the army. The army and Great Serbia was the cry. They were all for Russia. As for the wretched Draga, the ladies told me that she had received them at some function or another with powder all over her face. Imagine having to kiss the hand of such a fallen woman! (Fashions have changed now, or England would be a female slaughterhouse.) All the officers killed in her defence were stated to have been her paramours. Nothing was too bad for her. King Petar was described as one who would never interfere with the army. There was much enthusiasm over the resumed relations with England. It was obvious that no one believed that the regicides would really go; their departure was a mere matter of form. As for the boycott, they laughed and told funny tales. A bride had ordered her whole trousseau at Vienna. The wedding was fixed. But the frontier was closed. Her girl friends gallantly went to Vienna in their oldest garments; changed and came back, rather stout but triumphant, clothed in the whole trousseau. As for export, by the aid of France and England they would export to Egypt and Marseilles via Salonika. The French artillery would come in by the same route. French artillery they intended to have.
I was much interested, but as I had brought no baggage could not go further into Serbia. The Mayor gave me a mounted gendarme as escort to the frontier.
This impressed the Vishegrad authorities much, as did the fact that I had got across the frontier at all. The Bezirksvorsteher asked at once what I had learnt in Serbia, and if the frontier would soon be open.
"I do not know," said I.
"What do you think?" said he.
"I think not."
"Our Minister at Belgrade is of the same opinion," he replied. In truth the officers who had protested that Serbia had now openly joined the Russo-French combine were right. And what is more, through our Entente with France, we too now, consciously or not, were tools used by Russia for the making of Great Serbia and furthering Pan-Slav ambition. Serbia began to feel it safe to pull long noses at Austria. That the Austrians on the other hand regarded their occupation of Bosnia as permanent was clear. No nation merely on a temporary job of "putting things straight" would have expended the vast sums and effort needed to bring a half-wild Turkish province in twenty-eight years up to a high state of material well-being. The mountain roads are second to none in Europe. Mines, agriculture and every possible industry were being developed regardless of expense, by up-to-date methods.
"The officials," I noted in my diary, "give one the impression of being overworked." Everything was centralized and had to go through the Konak. They wrestled with a mass of detail and mostly felt like exiles in a wild land. The large majority were Slavs—either Poles, Croats or Bosniaks, and these got on much better with the populace than the Magyars or Germans, of whom I met a few. The mistake of the Government was in trying to go too fast. A leap in twenty-eight years from the twelfth century or thereabouts to the twentieth was too much. The peasant intensely conservative by nature resented every change. "Better that a village should fall than a custom" is a South Slav proverb which I have heard quoted with approval. An astonishing amount of work had been done and admirably done. Future generations will profit by it. But the peasant who had had all his ideas and habits upheaved had had time to forget the oppression of the Turk, but remembered, with kindness, his slop-dawdle tolerance, This happens, I believe, in every land "freed" from the Turk. The people vaguely expect an earthly paradise where every one will do as he pleases, and find to their dismay that you can no longer evade the sheep-tax by tipping the hodja to let you put your flock on "vakuf" land. The Christian loses his privilege and has to serve in the army which he hates. He cannot run to a foreign consul for support against his Moslem neighbour, nor earn good pay by acting as spy for one Power or another. He complained bitterly that the Turkish Government never made roads or mended bridges, When he finds, however, that the new foreign government expects him to contribute to their making by giving labour, or paying tax, he is furious. "Liberty" for most Balkan Christians means liberty to massacre Moslems and take their property. The Bosnian Orthodox peasant found precisely the same law applied to him and the Moslems. The strict impartiality observed by the Austrian Government towards all three sects caused the wrath of all. "What," said a Catholic fiercely, "can you think of our Government when I tell you that a priest baptized and converted three Moslem lads, and the Government actually made him send them back to their parents and censured him because they were not of age? Not of age, if you please, and so their souls are not to be saved!"
The Moslem was equally furious with the equality treatment, for he was no longer top-dog.
The most remarkable work of the Austrian Government gave perhaps the most offence. It was the medical. The Bosniak, in appearance, is often a giant. But his appearance is deceptive. Stripped of his numerous waistcoats his chest measurement, as the military doctors informed me, is so poor that a larger percentage of Bosniaks were rejected from the army than in most of the other recruiting districts of Austria-Hungary. As in all South Slav lands, tuberculosis raged. "Thirty per cent, affected, without counting an apex" as a Bosnian doctor told me. And scattered over the country, but especially virulent on the eastern districts along the Serbian frontier, was syphilis. In some parts this was so rampant that the Government posted on the village walls and in the schools, notices warning persons never to drink from a glass after some one else, or wipe with the same towel, and other advice. All of which went against the custom of the people. Against tuberculosis the schools waged an anti-spitting war. A child who spat on the floor had to clean it up, which was considered a great indignity and gave great offence. Compulsory cleaning of streets to a population who regarded the street as the proper receptacle for all garbage was a further source of trouble. That the medical work produced a great improvement, that malaria, by drainage, petroleum on the ponds, and quininizing of the Population was stamped out in some districts and got in hand in others counted for nothing. They "were not our custom," they were "Schwab."
The forests also were a source of friction. In old days the peasant cut what he pleased, where he pleased. His goats browsed the saplings and they grew up crooked. But they made firewood and it did not matter. No replanting ever took place. When all the wood was cut on a hillside the winter rains washed away the whole of the soil and left bare rock. A pity—but the will of God, sighed the peasant, and he went on to fell the next wood.
Forestry laws infuriated him, and his disregard of them infuriated the forestry officer. A goat-tax (slight for the poor owner of a couple of goats) was instituted, rising according to number, to a sum which made the keeping of a large herd impossible. An official, to whom I remarked on what seemed to me the paucity of flocks, said, "We do not let them keep goats and they won't keep sheep. For my own part I should relax the goat laws for a while at least; they cause such resentment. But the central authorities will not do it. We have to rely largely on the sale of timber to run the country. It is one of the most valuable assets."
All officials agreed in finding the people very difficult to move; very childlike in their ideas and very slow to adopt new ones. A few hated and loathed them.
It was, however, not the officials but the private residents who were on bad terms with the native population, families who had come for business purposes from civilized and comfortable Austrian towns, and who would not take the trouble to learn Slav except just enough for their marketing. I had never before been in a land under foreign occupation, and commented on this attitude to some officers. They jeered at me and said, "You have evidently never been to Egypt. Wait till you have seen your own people there."
I was annoyed at the time. But when some years later I went to Egypt I found the English attitude to the native worse and repented of my comments about Bosnia. One race in truth cannot see with the eyes of another.
The Austrian official really tried to adapt the law to native ideas, and when unable to unravel complicated questions of native usage, even summoned the ancient council of "the good men" to decide according to local custom. A good deal of blood-vengeance still went on, but with the knife; firearms were strictly forbidden, and very few licences for them issued. This was a source of great discontent, for the carrying of arms to the South Slav peasant means manhood. The Christian's idea of liberty is to carry arms. And the fact that the Moslem also was debarred from so doing in no way consoled him. In one respect the lack of firearms was a real hardship, for Bosnia swarmed with wild pig which devastated the crops. When the corn was standing, peasants sat up all night drumming on petroleum tins around the fields to drive off beasts. There were enough wolves also to harry the flocks. An Austrian official killed ten in one night with strychnine during my visit. But the natives complained bitterly that the Government did not permit them to shoot wild beasts and did not keep them down itself.
There was, I was told, very little stealing but, in the forest districts where the woodcutters all carried long handled hatchets, a blow with which was invariably fatal, there was a good deal of slaughter, as in a quarrel a man struck with whatever was handy. Only if the attack proved to be cold-blooded and pre-arranged was capital punishment inflicted. Otherwise imprisonment up to twelve years according to the circumstances.
Wages were low. The peasant was very poor. Very high wages were obtainable in America, and thousands emigrated thither. They ascribed this to Austrian rule, but the same thing was happening in Montenegro, where the Government was vainly trying to stop emigration by refusing passports. It was simply an economic question of supply and demand. Labour was wanted in America at any price. The emigration had the same effect in Bosnia as in Montenegro. A large surplus of women remained behind, and the birth-rate of illegitimate children rose high and, as is perhaps inevitable with a military occupation, prostitution was common. This, though, was not the only cause of immorality in both Montenegro and Bosnia. In old days all the women of the family were the property of the men of the family, who had the right to shoot at sight any man tampering with a wife or daughter of a family group. A blood vengeance so started might mean twenty lives. The risks were not to be lightly taken. The emancipation of women and the restriction of firearms produced new complications.
The Austrians were rather pleased to see emigrants leaving the land, and said they hoped they would never come back, so that they could be replaced by a better population. They were anxious to consolidate their position in Bosnia as fast as possible, so as to be ready for a forward move. "Nach Salonik" was a favourite topic of conversation. A friendly chemist at Fotcha even invited me to have tea with him under the Austrian flag at Salonika, that day three years, that is October 1909, by which time he fully expected to be established there. He considered the Government had been shamefully slow. They ought already to be well on the way there. I travelled by train from Ragusa to Mostar with a General and his daughter. She, who had just arrived, looked with wonder at the bare grey rocks we passed and asked, "Why ever did we take all these stones, father?"
"Part of the price we paid Europe for Salonika, my dear!" he replied.
I wintered at Serajevo, and by taking my phonograph to the Moslem coffee-houses gained some popularity, for there was but one other such instrument in Serajevo, and you had to pay to hear it. The Moslems, I soon learnt, wanted only the Padishah and hoped for the return of the Turk. Several had lived long years in Egypt. But when I told them I meant to go there they very earnestly begged me not to. All the English were very soon to be driven out or done away with, and the company unanimously agreed that it would be a very great pity that I, who had been so kind as to play the "monogram" to them for nothing, should be killed out there. I asked them to tell me truthfully what it was that the English did that was so bad. They replied very reasonably: "Everything. Nothing you do is as we do. You make yourselves fine houses and streets in Cairo. Why do you not make them in your own land and leave our land to us? We hate your things. The land is now not our land. It is all Alia Franga." You do not like our ways. We do not like yours. Go and leave our land to us."
We should say just the same thing, only less politely, were we "occupied" by the Japanese. They were kind enough to say that the English were not so bad as the Schwabs, but I fear this was only out of gratitude for phonograph favours.
In a private room upstairs they sang me a special ballad of the Greco-Turkish War of 1897, which began by describing how Prince George of Greece and the British Consul and some other European officials drank beer together and when they had drunk too much, planned a treacherous attack upon the Turks. It was a long song and took four hours to sing—with refreshments in the middle. I did not stay to the end. Every one, of course, believed in the guilt of the British Consul.
At Serajevo I got, too, into a very Nationalist Orthodox set through the Nationalist school kept by Miss Irby. The pro-Serb party was all Orthodox, wildly anti-Turk and furiously anti-Catholic. All that was Latinski was abhorrent, and every vice and crime was imputed to the Catholic clergy. They were represented as fiends in human shape, who stole people's children and baptized them into the Roman Church. I had found similar fanaticism among the Montenegrin peasants, but did not expect it among the educated Bosnian officials and their wives.
They made no secret of being in communication with Serbia, told of their expedients to smuggle in papers and dodge the police authorities. And when the windows were carefully shut used to sing "Onamo, onamo," and other forbidden Nationalist songs. In one respect I found the Orthodox exactly like the Moslems. They wanted to be top-dog and suppress the others. A pretty school mistress complained to me bitterly of the authorities who had put her to teach in a purely Catholic district, "where I can do no propaganda at all." She wanted a Parliament for Bosnia, and assured me that as the Orthodox party Was the largest they would then be able to shout the others down, from the gallery, and was naively surprised When I told her that this was forbidden in England, which she had thought was a free country. She had been taken once to the Budapest Parliament for the express purpose of screeching all the time certain members spoke. The debate ended in a free fight, and she had been hoarse for days.
This idea of freedom is, of course, not unknown in England. It is the only one existing across the Adriatic. An ardent Great Serbian once explained: "When Great Serbia is made we mean to have religious equality everywhere. For instance, in Ragusa there are two monasteries, both Catholic. This is unjust. When it is ours, one will be Orthodox and one Catholic."
"Which do you mean to rob then, the Franciscans or the Dominicans?" he was asked. "Rob!" he said, much hurt. "We are going to make religious equality. One must be Orthodox and one Catholic." And this he continued to repeat, though it was urged that in this case one or the other order must be deprived of its monastery, and that, moreover, the vast majority of Ragusa is Catholic.
But Liberty is a glorious thing, and I found the Orthodox heartily approved of Alexander's murder as one step towards it.
By now I had learned that even officials in Austrian employ were working against the Austrian Government. A friend of mine, who was also much interested in things South Slavonic, wrote at this time and suggested I should join the Slovenski Jug Society then recently formed. But as it was made clear to me that these so-called patriotic associations were plotting against the Austrian Government I decided that I, as a British subject, should steer clear of them, more especially as one could not tell to what lengths they would go. I had been on the brink of the plot for the destruction of Alexander Obrenovitch, a sufficiently alarming precedent, so I declined to become a member of the Slovenski Jug, preferring a front seat at the drama to being possibly dragged onto the stage.
As one of my objects in this journey was to see Christmas customs in a peasant house I determined to leave for Montenegro, where I could do so easily, and left the tense political atmosphere of Bosnia with some relief.
Blindly and bloodily we drift.—MASEFIELD.
The thirteen days' difference between the Old and New Style enabled me to spend Christmas 1906 at Serajevo, and celebrate it a second time in old Serb fashion in Krsto's hut at Nyegushi in January 1907. Montenegro lay deep under snow, all mountain tracks buried. Life in the villages was rough and severe. We celebrated Christmas, the New Year, the Blessing of the Waters, and St. Sava. But by leaving Bosnia I had not found peace. The undercurrent of discontent with the government was more marked than last year. Even in Nyegushi, the birthplace of the Prince, there were growlings. What was done with all the money? The most hateful and wearisome work in all the world was guarding flocks on the mountain. Therefore a herdsman should be paid more than a chinovnik (official). Nevertheless every youth aspired to be a chinovnik, because then you could retire early with a pension. Many men had lately returned from America with pockets full of cash. They preached that the duty of a government was to make "jobs." They used the English word, and their audience had not the least idea what "jobs" meant, except that it was a highly desirable something which brought in money. America was a republic, and in America there were "jobs." Therefore, if you had a republic you would have "jobs." The new Parliament roused no enthusiasm. The Prince could veto its decisions, and its members had but childish notions. The old idea of local soviets was not extinct, nor their rivalry with the tribe next door. Many a member consequently thought it his duty to his constituents to veto a road for another district, until his own had been supplied, without seeing that at this rate nothing could be done. Dr. Marusitch was clamouring to remove the capital to Danilovgrad, and make other sweeping changes. Tomanovitch, the Prime Minister, and his son, aide-de-camp to the Prince, were hated and reported to have sinister influence. Those still faithful to the Gospodar blamed him for giving up his official power. Cetinje, however, was excited over a new subject. A manager from Earl's Court had come to invite Montenegro to take part in a Balkan States Exhibition. Highly flattered, Montenegro had signed the agreement without the ghost of idea what to do or how to do it. The show was to open in May. Montenegro, of course, could not possibly be ready by then, so I was asked by the committee to write a letter informing the management that the exhibition must be postponed till July, or whenever Montenegro was ready. I explained that this was no use in England. Montenegro must be ready—or drop out. They argued: "But when the London people hear there is going to be an exhibition they will change their season to suit it." I retorted: "Whenever I want you to do something you say: 'Nije nash obitchaj!'" (It is not our custom). "Now we say this to you." And I hustled them. Petar Plamenatz was the Secretary for Home Affairs. He was to give me facts—imports, exports, education, post, telegraph, etc.—for an article on Montenegro for the catalogue. Every morning he said: "To-morrow without fail I will give you all the figures." And every evening: "Mon Dieu, it is impossible. I am tired!" He had two hours free at midday and all his evenings. At the last minute, when told the thing must go to press, he said: "But why all this anxiety about facts, Mademoiselle? Write what you please. I am sure it will be charming!" I wrote an essay, which necessarily contained no point of commercial importance, and insisted that he must hear it before it was sent as an official Montenegrin production. "But I have a headache," said Petar. "What does that matter?" said I, and I made him hear it. He said it was admirable, and added no single fact. And he was one of the Intelligentzia upon whom the fate of Europe later depended.
At this time I was daily teaching English to one of the schoolmasters, an interesting task, as it showed me the total lack of discipline there is in the education of the average Near Eastern. He had a good deal of brain power and a certain amount of information, but was totally unable to make himself do anything he disliked, even when he knew it to be necessary. Would not begin with simple things because he was not a child. And when he could not understand difficult ones, flung the papers on the floor and stamped on them, vowing he would never do English again. I smiled and said: "Very well. Don't. It does not matter to me. Goodbye." To which he would exclaim: "Good God, what fish blood. But with your sangfroid you are a born Professor. I lose my temper with my class twenty times a day." He had the impossible Near Eastern ideas of Liberty. Briefly: "Do as you please, and damn the rest!" Was an ardent "Great Serbian," but was not a Montenegrin, and when "freedom" was attained hoped to force Montenegro into the correct path. His idea of education was primitive. He despised every form of game, exercise, and gymnastics as waste of time, and had never done any himself. "That is why you are so absurdly neurotic and you have never learnt to keep your temper." I chaffed him. He retorted: "Fishblood, fishblood." An interesting specimen of the Intelligentzia.
Meanwhile Prince Nikola became anxious about Earl's Court. He sent for me, took a gold medal from his breeches pocket, and gave it to me with the request that I would go to England, see the managers of the exhibition, and keep an eye on the exhibition when opened. A staff of Montenegrins was to come over and manage the section. Meanwhile, in order that it should become widely known, he thought it would be a good thing if I told all my friends there was going to be an exhibition, and ask them to tell theirs. Thus the news might be spread through London.
That exhibition would take a volume in itself. Briefly, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro were represented. Montenegro, with characteristic laisser faire, never appointed a commissary at all, and the work all fell on me. Fortunately, in fact, for I was the buffer state between Serbia and Bulgaria, who were at daggers-drawn. At the necessary meetings the Serb Commissioner talked German and Serb into one of my ears, while the Bulgar shouted French and Bulgar into the other, and the English manager at intervals begged me to "tell him what was the matter." Even when invited out for a day in the country the Serb and Bulgar peasants refused to dance together. John Bull did his best to work up an anti-Serb demonstration more than once. But though we balanced on the edge of hostilities, the Balkan War did not break out at Earl's Court.
I have often thought since it was a pity the Foreign Office did not study our methods.
The five Montenegrins who came "to help" were far too proud to do any work at all, or associate with any of the others. They looked on the Bulgars as foreigners, and despised the Serbs.
Montenegro's attitude was shown by Petar Plamenatz, who arrived for a week's visit as special Commissioner for Montenegro just in time for the opening ceremony, when I had done the whole preliminary work of arranging the show.
Lord Fitzmaurice invited all the Balkan representatives to lunch. I translated the invitation to Petar. "I shall not go," said he. "I have a headache."
"That makes nothing," said I, "you are here to represent Montenegro. This invitation is an honour, and I accept it for you." Petar was surprised. He had naively imagined that as Commissioner for Montenegro it was he who conferred the honour upon Lord Fitzmaurice. He went, however. I asked how the party had gone off.
"It was really extraordinary," said Petar. "Do you know that of all the Balkan representatives, I was the only one who knew how to conduct myself in a comme il faut manner!" The next invitation, a dinner, he flatly refused to accept. I was still more resolved that if I had to "run" the exhibition for Montenegro, Petar should continue to behave comme il faut. He dodged and excused vainly. I wrung the truth from him. He had no clean shirt. It is the only time I ever bought an evening shirt for a gentleman.
Petar left after the most strenuous week of his life. Nothing, however, would induce his five compatriots to do anything at all, and just as they thought they had demonstrated that as the finest representatives of the South Slav stock, their mission in life was to exist and look beautiful, to their intense surprise the management sent them home.
Meanwhile, our inability to obtain any reply to business questions from Montenegro was explained by the sudden news of the discovery of a plot to assassinate Prince Nikola, and, it was said, his family, too. Our five Montenegrins received letters from home full of the wildest details, which they all believed, showing that the country was in a whirl, and that the Exhibition must be steered! without any further aid from the homeland. Numbers! of arrests had been made. Russia was said to be implicated in the plot, for the girls of the Russian Institute had trampled on the Prince's portrait at the bidding of Sofia Petrovna, its head!
After this the whole work of the Montenegrin section was wasted. Not one of the trade openings we found—some very good—were taken up, and no letters were replied to.
Montenegro, though she did not realize it, had in truth reached the turning-point of her history. She was no longer the recognized leader of the Great Serbian movement. During the years when Serbia was "in Coventry" Montenegro had done nothing to strengthen her position, save some futile posing to journalists as "the one good boy." Now Serbia, with Russia behind her, was to the fore. Montenegro's tide was about to ebb. I wrote strongly to the Montenegrin Government that it was most necessary to appoint a representative in London. I would not myself go on doing the work of a consul Without authority or pay. Preferably they should send a Montenegrin. If not, I suggested two Englishmen willing to do the work, one of whom they appointed next year.
It was a step in advance, but it was too late. Serbia, completely whitewashed, re-established a Legation and a commercial agency, and began an energetic propaganda.
Meanwhile an event of world-wide importance Took place. On August 31, 1907, the Anglo-Russian agreement was signed. The Anglo-Russian difficulties of the Middle East were arranged, and Russia was free to turn all her attention towards Constantinople.
She was lavishly supplied with French gold, and could count on French military support. France was already arming and aiding her Balkan ally, Serbia. And Russia, without doubt, was aware of the "military conversations" of France and England. Possibly the agreement with Russia was one outcome of them. It is noteworthy that though England had "agreed" with Russia, so little did she realize the possibilities of the Near East, that we were the only Great Power which had no permanent representative in Montenegro, and no representative at all on the East of the Balkan peninsula, save Mr. Summa, our Albanian Vice-consul at Scutari.
Austria retorted to the steps being taken by the Russo-French group by obtaining from the Sultan permission to build a railway from Uvatz, on the Bosnian frontier, to Mitrovitza, which would link up Serajevo with Salonika.
The Balkan railway question had been rankling for years. The Slav wanted an east-and-west line to connect with the Adriatic. The Teuton a north-south one to reach the Aegean. Neither would allow the other's plan to mature. I used to get much amusement in mixed company by proposing various railway lines and hearing the violent denunciations or applause that followed, according to the political aims of those present.
The Turks have been freely blamed for neither constructing railways nor allowing others to do so. But to be fair, one is bound to admit that they knew very well such lines would be used for strategical purposes, and they lived in terror of the Slav Adriatic line. Before judging Abdul Hamid harshly, let us consider at what period we should have allowed Russia to build and control a line across India "to advance trade."
The year 1908 opened with the railway question. Russia and Serbia furious about the Uvatz-Mitrovitza scheme. The Morning Post, it is of interest to note, was markedly pro-Austrian.
I remembered four points: (1) The Austrians' boast that they would be in Salonika by 1909; (2) The Pasha of Plevlje's statement that Austria had more troops in the Sanjak than she was entitled to; (3) The oft-repeated statement of Serb and Montenegrin that the Austrian gendarmerie officers superintending "reforms" in Macedonia smuggled in arms; (4) That Serbs and Montenegrins were also arming and carrying on a sharp Great Serbian propaganda in Bosnia, the Herzegovina, and the Sanjak.
In the great race Austria now seemed a neck ahead, riding Uvatz to Salonika.
1908. A FATEFUL YEAR
Europe was now definitely divided into two camps, each arming against the other. Plots thickened, and events crowded on one another. So knotted did the Balkan threads become, it is hard to untwine them. One thing must be remembered, and that is that at the centre of the knot was always Constantinople. To which Power or group should it belong?
I arrived in Cetinje at the end of April to find things about as bad as they could be. Depression was general, and the place in a hush of terror. Every one hastened to warn me against every one else. The Prince was due next day on his return from Petersburg, whence great things were expected, and a general holiday was proclaimed in honour of the event. Mourning added to the general gloom, for the two infant sons of Prince Mirko, the only direct heirs to the throne, had died within a month or two of each other of tubercular meningitis. Baby Stefan had been playfully called Stefan Dushan II, with the hope that he would reign at Prizren—and he was dead. All hope of a child to Prince Danilo had been given up; much had died with Baby Stefan. Some even hinted at foul play, but this suspicion was quite groundless, for tuberculosis was rapidly spreading in the land; it is worth mentioning only as showing the mental state of the country.
On the other side were murmurs deep and sinister against the Prince and his line, the first growl of a storm. The prisons were full. Folk whispered of many untried prisoners. Some Who had befriended me in former years were not only in prison, but in heavy irons —Gjurovitch, who had been a minister, and poor garrulous Dr. Marusitch. His wife had snatched her husband's revolver and fired at the gendarme who arrested him. The peasants of Drobnjak had tried to prevent the arrest of Serb agents who were distributing revolutionary leaflets, printed in Belgrade. Soldiers were sent to enforce the arrests. Some had refused to act, and had had some heavy sentences inflicted on them. It was all part of the Great Serbian movement. The Montenegrin Government would send no more students to Belgrade to be corrupted.
The very morning after my arrival Tomanovitch, the Prime Minister, sent for me. He was extremely anxious and nervous, and asked what the English papers said about the plot against Prince Nikola. I told him the English Press had said little beyond reporting unrest in Montenegro. He hurried to deny there was any, and said he wished me to know the truth. Prince Nikola had behaved with the greatest moderation, and had even permitted Dr. Marusitch to visit his sick child. The plot against the Prince had been planned by wicked enemies from outside. What did I intend writing to the papers on the subject?
I had been but a few hours in Cetinje, but perceived the affair was a bad one, and as I knew people on both sides it would be hard to avoid being dragged into it. I replied therefore that I had written nothing, and intended writing nothing to the papers, and wished to take no part in Montenegro's internal affairs. He was visibly relieved and thanked me. We parted on friendly terms, he assuring me that he wanted me to know the "truth." So did every one else. And it was always different. One side said that so soon as the people had had a voice, a wild scramble for place and power had ensued; that "freedom of the Press" had loosed such a flood of scurrility, abuse, and libel that it had to be suppressed by force; that finding themselves thwarted, a gang of malcontents had plotted to assassinate the Prince—some said Prince Danilo, too—and to seize power themselves; that they had been in communication with Russia and Serbia, and had arranged the affair in the latter country; that severe example should be made, and wholesale executions take place.
On the other hand, folk said that the Prince, furiously jealous of power, had offered the "Constitution" merely as a pretence to Europe that he was up-to-date, and had so arranged as to retain autocracy; that he purposely suppressed knowledge, kept out literature, and encouraged only the narrowest education in order to retain power and keep folk ignorant; that those arrested were the cream of the land, all the most advanced spirits, all those who were for civilization; that even schoolboys had been hunted down like wild beasts and thrown into prison as political offenders; that no one's life was safe; that spies were everywhere, who curried favour with the Petrovitches by the numbers they arrested; that the prisoners were miserably maltreated. The more moderate declared the Prince to be helpless in a "ring;" that by rashly giving the Constitution he had deprived himself largely of power, and no longer knew what went on; that, till he gave up administering justice eight years before, he had been "the father of his flock," and knew all about everything. Now he had lost touch and would never regain it. They hoped for a general amnesty of all prisoners. The Prince's return from Russia was melancholy. He was reported to be suffering from a feverish attack, and the Princess, too, was very unwell. His journey was believed to have been a failure.
The Russians of Cetinje received me with extraordinary enthusiasm. Filled with joy for the Anglo-Russian agreement, Sofia Petrovna, of the Russian Institute, kissed me over and over again. The Institute was a feature of Cetinje, and Sofia Petrovna was its queen. It was the Pan-Slav centre of the whole district, where Slav girls, brought in from Turkish and Austrian districts—girls from Prizren, girls from Bosnia and Dalmatia, as well as Montenegrin girls, were brought up to Serbism and belief in Holy Russia. Mademoiselle was stout, ruddy, And amazingly energetic; autocratic, but good-natured. Her lean, restless-eyed subordinate, Alexandrovna, however, drove the pupils the way they should go with pitiless severity, and perhaps as a result the girls of the Institute were all said to leave it finished intriguers.
The glory of Holy Russia was what Sofia Petrovna lived for. Russia and England were now united, and she dreamed dreams and saw visions. Russia's path was clear. Her dominion over all Europe and all Asia merely a matter of time. Sofia was enchanted. "Ah, my dear! What is your Empire? Your ambitions are nothing to ours. Nothing, nothing. Till now you have stood in our path. Now we shall march together. Russia is God's agent. You will give us your practicalness. We shall give you our beautiful religion. For at present you know you have none!" Borne on a wave of enthusiasm, she pressed me to spend Good Friday and Easter Sunday at the Institute and take part in the celebrations.
The gathering was very Russian. I was astonished at the difference made by the Anglo-Russian agreement. Hitherto the Legation had been distantly polite. Had sometimes asked questions, but never supplied information. Now nothing could exceed their friendliness. Together England and Russia were to fight Germany, and I said in vain I had no wish to. "Your commerce necessitates it," they declared. They considered Austria's railway scheme to Salonika as a direct insult "which we shall never permit." About Montenegro they despaired. The Prince was riding to ruin. All Russians who visited him were pained to find him surrounded with Austrian Slavs, Gregovitch, Tomanovitch, Ramadanovitch, even his doctor, Perisitch—all from Austria. The very servants in the palaces often Austrian or German. The arrests had been directed by senseless fear; he had alienated the sympathy of the best in the land; could brook no rival; had quarrelled with his Petrovitch relations; listened only to flatterers who directed him against Russia. Finally, they blamed him severely for the Constitution, which he had promulgated! without consulting Russia.. Even she—Sofia Petrovna—who had given twenty years of her life to Montenegro and spared no pains; even she was now the victim of anti-Russian intrigue, and accused of the childish folly of bidding her girls trample on the Prince's portrait! Her girls—in a school paid for largely by the Dowager Tsaritsa! Oh, it was too much. And the Prince had believed it, and informed her that never again would the Royal Family visit the school (nor, in fact, did they). Tears stood in the poor lady's eyes. Her school had been the meeting-place of the intelligentzia. Ministers, priests, and officials had sought her advice. Now persons wishing to curry favour with the Prince had maligned her.
A lying, treacherous race, said one of the Russians. But poor Sofia, through her tears, said they were foolish and misled. Both she and the Secretary of Legation wanted me to ask, for an audience with the Prince, but I decided not to be mixed in anybody's plots, so merely left a card at the Palace, where I learnt that the Prince was still very unwell. A report of a conversation between Vesnitch, Serbian Minister in Paris, and Izvolsky, October 1908 (see Bogitchcvitch, xvii), throws light on what had occurred. "You must," said Izvolsky, "however, soon come to an understanding with Montenegro. The scandalous discord which exists between Belgrade and Cetinje must be cleared off the carpet. We have most urgently pressed this on Prince Nikola when he was in Petersburg." The Prince, we may surmise, went to ask Russian support, received no sympathy, began to realize he was no longer Russia's "only friend," and was filled with sick anxiety.
The Montenegrins, too, were much excited about the Anglo-Russian agreement. Vuko Vuletitch said cheerfully: "Now you can fight Germany." And the usual group round the hotel door cried: "Of course you will. For what else is this Entente? You must fight soon, or you will lose all your trade." They looked forward to an Anglo-Russian Paradise, where the Teuton ceased from troubling. I fear it is not so joyful as they anticipated.
Vuko Vukotitch was as sore as Sofia Petrovna. He, too, had been accused of anti-Petrovitch sympathies, and threatened with the boycott of his hotel. He was seeking influential marriages for his many daughters. The eldest, Madame Rizoff, as wife of the Bulgarian diplomatic agent, was already playing a part in politics. Rumour said he had been on the point of affiancing another to one of the men now in prison.
I decided that Cetinje was no place for me, and that I would carry out my long deferred plan of a tour in the Albanian mountains. Sofia Petrovna pressed upon me an introduction to M. Lobatcheff, the Russian Vice-Consul at Scutari, and thither I went, leaving Cetinje to stew in its own juice. It was anthropology I wanted, not plots.
My work and travels in High Albania I have told elsewhere. I shall here only indicate the political happenings, for I did not escape them by going from Montenegro. In the Balkans you may change your mind any number of times, but you never change your sky full of Power-clouds.
All Europe was represented at Scutari, as in Cetinje, but by Consuls, not Ministers. A difference mainly in name, for they were there for the same purpose, and in Turkish territory even a Vice-Consul, if of an energetic and bullying nature, had almost as much influence as a Minister Plenipotentiary. For the Turks lived in terror of the Great Powers who squatted round the edge waiting an opportunity to pounce, and allowed consuls to do things unthinkable in any other land. During the late war America was roused to frenzy because the German representatives there tried to work a German propaganda. But for over a century the representative of every Power that wanted a bit of Turkey, not only worked ceaselessly by similar means, but had a private post office by which to convey and distribute the correspondence of any revolutionaries his country was supporting; had spies everywhere, and could, should any of his minions be caught red-handed by the Turkish authorities, obtain and demand their release, if not by fair means, then by foul. The Turks could not even close a brothel, if protected, as it frequently was, by a Great Power.
In Scutari, in 1908, Austria and Italy were both working strenuously to obtain influence over Albania. Austria had had a long start. Italy was now a good second. One made a hospital, the other replied with a home for the aged. One played a dispensary, the other an infant school, and so on, regardless of expense. Russia, who hoped ultimately to obtain Albanian lands for the Serbs, made a very bad third, for the Slav element in Scutari and its district was so small as to be practically negligible, and she could not work, as did her rivals, by means of churches and schools. There were but a few Slav families, mainly those whose ancestors had fled from Montenegro or the Herzegovina to escape from bloodvengeance, with a sprinkling of late comers who were "wanted" by the Montenegrin police. A tiny school and church were all they could fill. M. Lobatcheff and Petar Plamenatz, however, gave all their energies to working on this element and keeping it as discontented as possible.
Lobatcheff was very friendly to me. Being introduced by the Russians in Cetinje, I was expected to supply and convey information. The politics of the little consular world are funny. I found that the fact that he—Lobatcheff—representing All the Russias, had as a mere Vice-Consul to walk behind Petar Plamenatz, representing All Montenegro as a Consul-General, rankled most bitterly. He, too, like the Russian Legation at Cetinje, made no concealment of his belief that Montenegro had taken the wrong turning, and was on the down grade; said the Prince, after the wholesale arrests of last summer, would never regain his position and popularity. But I would not be attached to the Russian consulate, nor to any other party, and made the acquaintance also of the attache to the Austrian Consulate, a charming and cultivated Viennese, who was my very good friend.
Austria was represented by an arch-plotter, Consul-General Krai, who worked the pro-Austrian propaganda; the same man who was in Monastir when I was there in 1903-4, and he did not like my reappearance in Scutari. Count Mancinelli represented Italy. France had not in 1908 begun her pro-Slav intrigues in Albania, and had but a feeble representative, who picked quarrels with the Austrian attache over the latter's bulldog. But as in the Near East even a consular dog is suspected of politics, this may, for all I know, have been the first sproutling of France's subsequent conduct.
The Austrian Consulate-General, with Krai at its head, was easily top-dog in Scutari then. The Slavs punned on his name: "Krai hoche bit' Kralj!" (Krai wants to be king). Especially he looked on the mountains as an Austrian preserve, and sent parties of Austrians there. The Turkish Government, acutely suspicious of "tourists," consequently forbade all strangers to travel inland—pretending danger. Just before my arrival, an Englishman, who arrived with letters to the Vali from our Embassy at Constantinople, had been refused a permit to travel inland, and had gone for a tour in Montenegro instead.
Our dear old Albanian Vice-Consul, M. Nikola Summa, however, said that if I would go without permission the tour could be easily managed. And so it was. The now notorious Essad Pasha, then Bey, was head of the Scutari gendarmerie, and I dodged his patrols successfully in the grey dawn.
Essad, known through the land as "the tyrant of Tirana," had till recently commanded gendarmerie at Janina. By his unscrupulous extortions and his quarrels he had made the place too hot to hold him, and had been transferred to Scutari, where he was very unpopular. The tale current about him was that he had married a second wife because his first had not borne him a son; that he lived in terror of being poisoned by the discarded lady, and Scutari cheerfully wished her speedy success.
Head of the family of Toptani of Tirana, he was known to be very ambitious, and was therefore employed by the Turkish Government, who thought it safer to make a friend than a foe of him. His elder brother, Gani Bey, had been murdered in Constantinople some years earlier, by a son of the Grand Vezir by order, it was said, of Abdul Hamid. The murder had been dramatically avenged by Gjujo Fais, one of Gani's serving men, who shot the assassin in broad daylight on the Galata bridge. A spirited ballad, one of the most popular in the land, describes this feat. Gjujo's life was spared, but 'in 1908 he was still in prison, and Essad was despised for having left his brother to be avenged by a servant. Essad took vengeance later, as we shall see.
In the Albanian mountains, as in Bosnia, it was impossible not to wonder at the great work done by Austria. Every Catholic tribe had its neat and usually well-caredfor church, whose priest lived hard by in a house rough, it is true, but superior in its arrangements to the average native dwelling.
Europe had entrusted Austria with the care of the Catholics of North Albania. She had trained priests, built and maintained churches and hospices, had built the Cathedral of Scutari, and established and protected the first Albanian schools of the North. Austria had carried out Europe's behest well.
With but few exceptions all the mountain priests were Albanians, and almost all had had part of their training in Austria. In knowledge and intelligence they were much ahead of the almost untrained "popas" of Montenegro, who had never been beyond their own borders. In the case of the higher ecclesiastical orders the difference was even more marked, for they included many very cultivated and able men.
The Catholic quarter of Scutari had greatly advanced since my first visit in 1901. New shops and businesses had been opened, and the streets repaved. I made the acquaintance of many of the townsfolk, and was struck by-the far higher standard of cleanliness to be found here than in Cetinje.
The idea that the Montenegrin could teach civilization to the Albanian was patently absurd.
Scutari was hotly excited over the bomb affair of Cetinje. The trial of the prisoners, who had been in close confinement for nearly a year, came on in May. Scutari, as a whole, expressed disgust for the Montenegrins: "Nikita," folk said, "is our enemy. But he has done well for Montenegro. If God had given us a Prince like him we should have known how to value him." Petar Plamenatz left Scutari to defend the prisoners, and his consular colleagues—including Lobatcheff —foretold that all would receive heavy sentences, for they had no great opinion of Petar's powers.
The trial proved highly sensational. The fact that a good deal of evidence was given by a Bosnian journalist—one Nastitch—who was proved later in the Frledjung trial to be a discreditable witness, has led to the erroneous opinion in some quarters that the plot was a bogus affair. But the plot was a very genuine one, as I learnt beyond all doubt from my own observations, from details given me by relatives of some of the men implicated, and other Montenegrin sources. It was, in fact, the first round in the death-or-victory struggle for supremacy between the Karageorgevitches and the Petrovitches, the prize for which was to be the headship of Great Serbia.
I had learnt already in 1905 the growing ill-feeling against Prince Nikola, and had remarked that his most bitter critics had lived in Russia or Serbia.
There was also talk of a widespread secret society, known as the Club. A club in the Near East means something revolutionary. The people of Andrijevitza, who told me later on in hushed whispers about the "Clubashi," were amazed to hear that in London the police permitted clubs to exist in the best thoroughfares. The Clubashi went round the country spreading Great Serbian propaganda. Its headquarters were in Belgrade, where it worked by inciting the numerous Montenegrin students to revolution. The brother of one of these students, and the son of one of the arrested men, both gave me details. The students met in an eating-house at Belgrade, since notorious, "At the sign of the Green Garland" (Zelenom Vjencu). Great Serbia could not have two heads. The Petrovitches were therefore to be rendered impotent. All the powder and ammunition magazines of Montenegro were to be simultaneously seized, and the Prince was to be killed, or—and many preferred this—terrorized into abdication. Nikola was represented by the propagandists as the tyrant that stood in Great Serbia's path. Any one who has passed hours and days in Near Eastern eating-houses and cafes knows the ceaseless political altercations which go on and the violence of the sentiments habitually expressed, heightened ever by one glass more of rakia, "josh jedan!" The South Slav is a born orator, and sweeps away himself and his listeners on a flood of eloquence. I have seen livid wrath over mere trivialities. Had our Foreign Office but graduated in a Balkan pot-house its outlook on things Near Eastern would have been greatly extended.
The plot against Prince Nikola failed, for one of the said students had doubts about it and wrote to his brother, who held an official position in Montenegro, hinting at sinister events. The recipient told me that he feared at first that his brother was mixed in the affair, and wrote a very strong remonstrance. In return the boy supplied the Montenegrin Government with full details as to the routes by which the conspirators would enter the country with their bombs.
They were all arrested on arrival. Some came via Cattaro, others overland to Andrijevitza, for the Vassojevitch tribe, together with the Bratonitchitch and the Drobnjaci, were deeply dipped in the plot, and in touch with the propaganda worked by Serb komitadjis in the district between Serbia and Montenegro. Vassojevitch paid heavily. Three of her finest youths were condemned to be publicly shot. The whole population, including even the mothers of the condemned, were ordered to witness the execution, and to the further anguish of the relatives the bodies were buried "like dogs" by the wayside.
Such was the plot. The question was: Who was behind the Montenegrin students in Belgrade, and who supplied the bombs? These came from the Royal Serbian arsenal at Kraguyevatz, where, in 1902, I had heard so much of Karageorgism. It was asserted at the trial that Prince George of Serbia had been concerned in obtaining them. That they were brought from Serbia by Montenegrins was proven. It was then clearly the duty of the Serbian Government to investigate into a conspiracy planned on its own soil against a neighbour state and punish the supplier of Government bombs. It not only, however, refused to extradite certain Montenegrin students, who were suspect, but it made no arrests, asserted violently it knew nothing of the plot, took no steps to obtain information, and withdrew its representative from Montenegro.
To one who, like myself, knew from personal experience that you cannot even draw a cow or buy a carpet in Serbia without the knowledge of the Serbian police, the conduct of the Serbian Government was entirely unconvincing, and the obvious reply to Serbia's "We know nothing," was "But it is your business to know and to take such steps as to make it impossible in the future for a gang of students in a pot-house in the capital to plot the murder of a neighbour sovereign, and to obtain Government bombs for the purpose. Who superintends the foreign students in your capital?"
Pashitch, when interviewed on the subject, replied only that Montenegro had made demands for extradition "completely incompatible with our constitution and laws, and so they could not be fulfilled." He was Prime Minister during part of this troublous time, but did nothing to make peace between the two rival Serb nations.
Montenegro claimed that even before the discovery of the plot Belgrade knew that something was happening, as Serb papers had been carrying on an anti-Petrovitch propaganda openly, and had reported that the Montenegrin students of Belgrade University had read a proclamation calling on Montenegrins to revolt.
Of the accused, several turned informers against others, and asked for pardon. Others begged for light sentences, but did not deny guilt. The ex-Minister Gjurovitch denied all complicity, and so did poor Marusitch, but his wild and loudly expressed plans for turning Montenegro upside down and inside out went hopelessly against him. Both men got heavy sentences.
Lobatcheff, the Russian Vice-Consul, was furious at the arrest of Marusitch, the ex-Russian military surgeon, declared him a harmless chatterbox, and said Prince Nikola had lost his head. So had all Montenegro. Neither party knew which would come out "top-dog"; each suspected the other, and spies and treachery were rampant. Prince Nikola leapt at any evidence that would help him crush his enemies, and Nastitch, the spy, took advantage of his terror to help widen the gap that already yawned between Serbia and Montenegro. The Prince was terrified. Not only was his life threatened, but even if that were spared he dreaded losing the one thing for which he had lived and striven—the throne of Great Serbia. That Austria, as some have stated, should have planned the coup is very improbable. For one thing, its object was to strengthen Serbia by joining the two states under one dynasty. Not even Sofia Petrovna nor Lobatcheff, both red-hot believers in Holy Russia and haters of Austria, ever even suggested to me that Austria was the cause: they ascribed it all to Nikola's own folly, and were pro-Serb. That Austria should try to take advantage of the complication was but natural.
Among the accused who got crushingly heavy sentences of imprisonment in irons was Radovitch, since well known as one of Nikola's fiercest opponents. He was known as a "Clubashi," and as an engineer had built the prison at Podgoritza, to which he was now doomed. "My God, why did I build cells like this?" is said to have been his cry on entering, for the prison was inhuman in its arrangements.
"True or false," I noted in my diary at the time, "the charge against the Crown Prince George of Serbia will probably split Serbia and Montenegro. ... I hope old Nikola's reign won't end in fiasco."
By the time the trial was ended much else had happened. In June King Edward and the Tsar had met at Reval. England and Russia had indeed "agreed." And things were acute in Morocco. The junior staff of the Austrian consulate chaffed me, and asked when we meant to fight Germany. I declared "Never." My friend the attache assured me that if we went on in the way we were going we should be obliged to have military conscription. The Macedonian question now was acute. England was believed to have arranged with Russia to take active steps in Turkey. We discussed it endlessly. The attache used to dine with me, and we agreed that our respective countries were guilty. If the Powers wished, they could establish order easily. No Power wanted order. Each was seeking its own interests. Never has there been more hypocritical humbug talked by both great and small Powers than over Macedonia. They handed moral letters about law and order to the Turk with one hand, and with the other distributed revolutionary funds to effectually prevent the establishment of either. Each group preferred to burn up the whole place rather than let the other get a bit of it.
The ethics of the situation were illustrated by Lobatcheff, who asked me whether I thought Montenegro safe for tourists. On my replying that I had had no difficulties, he told me that a Czech had very recently been murdered there for his money, and his body cut to pieces and hidden. The Montenegrin peasants had declared that, contrary to their advice, he had gone over the Albanian frontier, and the remains had only been accidentally discovered. Lobatcheff had had the details from Dr. Perisitch, the Prince's physician, who had made the post mortem.