"Epilogue." by Edith Durham (1863-1944)
"For the surest way to prevent Seditions is to take away the Matter to them. For if Fuell be prepared it is hard to tell whence the Spark shall come that shall set it on Fire. The Matter of Seditions is of Two kindes–Much Poverty and Much Discontent."
EVENTS moved fast. Already the Moslems suspected that Constitution was an attack on their religion. Throughout Ramazan they ran through the Christian quarters at night, yelling, beating on doors, breaking lamps. The Young Turk Committee when appealed to was powerless. The old troops had all left. Their pay, by the way, was "borrowed" from the Christians, who "lent" it lest their shops be looted. The new recruits had but just come in, and were all undrilled. Police force there was none sufficient. A crowd of Moslems demanded the closing of the club the Christians had just opened. The Young Turks admitted the club's right to exist, but ordered its closure, unable, in truth, to protect it.
Austria annexed Bosnia. This still further incensed the Moslems both against the Catholics (who are nominally under Austrian protection) and against the Young Turks for submitting to it.
Three times rumours came in that war had begun. "Let it come," said every one, "no matter where or with whom." War might smash up the new regime. On one point Christian and Moslem agreed; Albania had never yet entirely accepted Turkish rule, and would not be cheated out of its rights by Young Turks. "It would be a second Turkish conquest."
It was hoped at first the Constitution really meant some reform. When the Christians found things worse than before, their hopes faded. One special "reform" hoped for was that among those to be arrested and made to disgorge their plunder, would be Ezzad Bey, called the "tyrant of Tirana," of whom in the neighbourhood of Tirana I heard much complaint. He was "abroad for his health." Folk said he would not dare return. When the revolution had been effected, however, he returned and announced that he was on the Young Turk side, and was put on the Committee of Union and Progress. This shook folks' faith as to the beneficial nature of the progress to be made.
The elections drew near. The electoral district of Scutari includes nearly all the Christian tribes, and, at a moderate computation, there are two Christians to one Moslem. When this transpired, the authorities proceeded to disqualify Christians in numbers. The mountain men then sent deputies to the Archbishop. He called a large meeting of town and mountain Christians, which debated two days. He then telegraphed to the Grand Vezir and the Djimiets at Constantinople, Saloniki, and Monastir, asking only for a fair count. He received no reply at all. But a telegram was sent to the Vali, bidding him proceed with the election. The Archbishop asked to see the telegram, and was refused. He called to speak with the Vali, and was not admitted.
Next day a ballot-box was sent to the Cathedral grounds, and the Christians were told to vote. They replied that as the result was a foregone conclusion, and the electorate had not been chosen according to the rules of the Constitution, they would not. Also all notices about the election had been given out in Turkish–understood by very few, and not in the language of the people, as set forth by the rules. Two Moslems were elected. I asked why further protest had not been made, and was told: "This is the first election, and will be the last. Why trouble?"
Others lamented bitterly, saying, "But a few weeks ago we were so happy. We thought at last justice would be done. Fools that we were. Cursed be he that putteth his faith in a Turk. The wolf can change his hair, but not his habits."
National development and fair play had been hoped for. But when Dervish Hima, a well-known Albanian literary man, returned to Scutari after a long absence in Europe, he was arrested for speaking of the hopes of Albania and thrown into prison. There was no Albanian nation, said the new Government; all were Ottomans.
No Albanian will call himself an Ottoman. Dervish Hima made such an admirable defense that the court could not convict him. He was sent to Saloniki for re-trial, and finally, after much delay, acquitted. But the affair made a very bad impression.
About this time the Greeks pointed out that, according to the broken Berlin Treaty, certain lands round Janina should be Greek. The Turks then called on the Albanian nation, whose existence they had before denied, to defend their lands.
Meanwhile the unlucky fifteen Shala and Shoshi men, arrested in the first week of the Constitution, had been over two months untried in prison. Appeals to the Djimiet, pointing out they had broken no law, elicited only the reply, "No time to attend to it."
Finally the mountain men, furious, threatened to descend on the town and force their release. They were then set free. But it was too late to restore the shattered faith of the tribes.
"Why," I was asked on all sides, "do the English people, who have a hundred times declared the Turk unfit to rule, believe he has changed his whole nature in twenty-four hours? Why, after holding out hopes to the Balkan peoples, do they now rejoice to nail us once more under the Turk? Why should we suffer because it suits British politics that the Turk should remain?"
"Give us a protectorate such as Crete has, under which we can become autonomous," said Albania eagerly. (Crete was then reckoned free and safe.)
"The Constitution is but a temporary affair that will not ultimately upset our plans," said Bulgaria sweetly.
"We shall support it till we are quite ready to move, and not a moment longer," said Greece decidedly.
"Its existence would be the ruin of all our national hopes," said Servia and Montenegro sadly.
"England has betrayed us!" cried all the Balkan peoples aghast: "where are those Liberal friends in whom we believed, and who urged each of us in turn 'to go in and win'?"
"We have the whole German army behind us, and shall take what we please. You (England) can do nothing!" cried Austria jubilant.
It was not until I came to London in December (1908) that I met people who really believed in "Konstitutzioon."
In the Balkan Peninsula, as elsewhere, the fittest survive in the struggle for existence. The next few years should be interesting.
I cannot write
for the END is not yet.
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