Saturday, September 06, 2008

Macedonia and the preliminary treaty of San Stefano (1878)

by Konstandinos Vakalopoulos
abstract from the book "Modern History of Macedonia 1830-1912", 1988
Barbounakis Publishing

On the same day as the forming of the provisional revolutionary government on Mount Olympus, that is to say, on 21 February/3 March 1878, the preliminary peace treaty of San Stefano was signed between Russia and Turkey [1] The end of the Russo-Turkish War was a great disappointment to the Greeks of Macedonia, who never ceased to hope for a more active involvement of the Greek state in the Macedonian problem, and to expect much from the presence of the Greek army in the Ottoman provinces, not to mention the international situation created by the Russo-Turkish conflict. Their conviction that the Greek armed forces would take armed action (with Macedonian support) was so deeply rooted that they could hardly bring themselves to believe that the Russo-Turkish armistice had already been signed [2].

Regardless of the fact that Macedonia had not been occupied by the Russian army during the war, Ignatiev took as his basis the agreement reached between the Great Powers at the Conference of Constantinople, and de­manded that the greater part of Thrace and Macedonia, including Thessaloniki, should be handed over to Bulgaria. In the event, when the boundaries of the projected Bulgarian principality were plotted, they did enclose many Greek towns, such as Monastir, Kastoria and Edessa in the West, Kavala in the East, and other Greek centres on the Black Sea coast. Only part of Thrace (south of Rhodope and east of Porto Lago), Chalkidiki, the city of Thessaloniki, and the districts south of the Kastoria - Veria axis were to remain Ottoman. Thus the preliminary treaty of San Stefano constituted, in the opinion of F. Adanir, 'the reward of the Exarchist communities of Macedonia for their long endeavours in the cause of religious and national independence [3]. In reality, however, the treaty ignored the numerical superiority of the Greek population of Macedonia, whether Greek-speaking, Slavonic-speaking, Vlach-speaking or Albanian-speaking, flouted its legitimate rights, and contributed to its substantial shrinkage [4]. Indeed, with a view to forestalling any violent Greek reaction that was likely, Ignatiev intended to establish Russian civil and military authorities in the disputed areas as soon as possible. To this end he appointed Hitrovo, the Russian consul, civil commissioner for Macedonia at Monastir [5]. As a sop to the ethnic minorities of the new Bulgarian state, the treaty provided that their interests should be taken seriously into account in areas of mixed population under the organization of the proposed Bulgarian principality [6]

All Greeks were shocked by the provisions of the preliminary treaty of San Stefano. As at the time of the Conference of Constantinople, the Greek associations at Constantinople led the field in placing the issue before international public opinion. A coordinating committee, consisting of Thracians A. Psycharis and V. Sarakiotis, and Macedonians M. Papadopoulos and I. Krikotsos, took strong action to support a fair deal for the Greeks, collaboration with other Constantinopolitan literary associations. They published statistical and ethnological charts and amassed innumerable written protests from the Greek communities in the Ottoman provinces. The principal purpose behind the Greek efforts was to ensure that the diplomatic representives of the Great Powers in Constantinople, as well as the Euro-journalists, were kept properly informed. With this object in view, distin ished Greeks from Macedonia and Thrace were given the task of travelli round the European capitals so as to make on-the-spot contacts wi important government figures and to put forward the Greek case[7].

In Athens the Association for the Propagation of Greek Letters tried, the instigation of Professor Konstandinos Paparrigopoulos, to draw attention of the Austrian geographer, Heinrich Kiepert, to new statistics the ethnic composition of the Macedonian population which had b carefully garnered by Greek consuls and metropolitans throughout the regio (Kiepert was the geographer on whose ethnological data the Russians h based their demands at the Conference of Constantinople). The Austrian ' not, however, appear much disposed to alter his original views. Neverthele in his new work of cartography, which was published in 1878 and bore title Notice explicative sur la carte ethnographique des pays helleniques, slav. albanais et roumains, dessinee par M. Henri Kiepert, he did recognize predominance of the Greek element in Epirus, Southern Macedonia Thrace, from the Illyrian coastline to the shores of the Black Sea [8]. The G viewpoint was vividly promoted in Stanford's ethnological map, published London in 1877, which depicted Macedonian Hellenism as extending up to Sar (Skardu) and Balkan Mountains, on the basis of the Association's data [9] Two further maps were drawn up that year in a similar spirit by F. Bianc and A. Synvet[10].

The Greeks of Macedonia and Thrace also reacted strongly to t provisions of the preliminary treaty of San Stefano. They were swift to exp in every quarter their strong sense of indignation at this blatant and unj violation of the principles of international law, by sending one petition af another to the Greek government, the Great Powers and the Patriarchate, petitions flowed in from all the Greek communes of Greater Macedonia, fr speakers of Greek, Slavonic, Vlach and Albanian alike, and expressed th absolute opposition to the terms of the treaty. Their national consciousness they proclaimed, was Greek; and they demanded union with Greece or, failing that, the continuation of Ottoman rule in Macedonia [11]. The written protest the Greek commune of Skopje alone ran to about 14,000 signatures [12]. Especially perturbed were the Greeks of Northern Macedonia, who saw themselves being annexed by the Bulgarian principality[13]; so they continued to publicize wherever they could their sense of being Greek and to emphasize their presence in the north of the region. In March 1878 an envoy of the British embassy at Constantinople, Captain Synge, visited Macedonia on an ethno­graphic fact-finding mission. There he met many Greek inhabitants who protested to him in the bitterest terms about the treaty of San Stefano and the ethnological contours of the Kiepert map [14]. At Siatista the local population categorically declared to him that they would fight with every means at their disposal rather than allow their territory to be merged with Bulgaria. They even asked Synge for advice as to what other steps they should take in the context of European diplomacy to bring about the vindication of the Greek side. He urged the people of Siatista to send a petition to the Greek delegate at the Congress of Berlin. At the village of Leipsista (Neapoli) in the Vo'ion province near Kozani, Synge encountered the local beys, who informed him that they would never become Bulgarians and that they would prefer Greek to Turkish rule [15]. In truth, the Turkish government officials in Macedonia did appear to be in the grip of strong fears arising from the probable loss of Turkish territory in Europe. Pressure was put on the metropolitan of Thessaloniki, Ioakim, by Turkish circles who endeavoured to induce him to support the signing of joint petitions by Greeks and Turks opposed to the Bulgarian annexation of Macedonia. Yet the Greek communities in Macedo­nia were totally opposed to this proposal as long as these written protests contained no supplementary request for change in the existing system of administration. [16]

One of the most striking protests by Macedonian Greeks against the preliminary treaty of San Stefano was that passed on by Konstandinos Vatikiotis, Greek consul at Thessaloniki, to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 2 April 1878 [17]. This document, which originated with the members of the Educational Association of Strumica, included the following passage (composed in the educated Greek idiom of its time):

We, the inhabitants of Stroumnissa [Strumica] do not wish to suffer any form of subjugation to the Slavs, because we are and wish to be Macedonians and permanent members of the great Greek Family. We detest and abominate the Slav yoke more than we do the Turkish yoke. For the Turks showed respect to our ancestral manners and customs, left our religious system almost untouched and our traditional communes unaffected, did not hinder in the slightest our efforts on behalf of progress, and above all did not persecute our nationhood. Russia, on the other hand, will respect none of these things, as we are fully persuaded when we consider the dreadful fate of unlucky Poland. Anyone who thinks otherwise is to be pitied for his wilful self-deception or sheer ignorance. The remains of the antiquities in our country are all Greek; our way of thought is friendly, commercial, family-minded, and Greek; in our holy churches we conduct our ceremo­nies in Greek; in our schools only the Greek language is taught, nor has a Slav school ever existed in Stroumnissa; and, further­more, in the schools and in the churches of almost all the villages in our province only the Greek language exists;...[18].



[1]-Β. Η. Sumner, Russia and the Balkans 1870-1880, pp. 402-5, 627-36.
[2]-E. Kofos, op. cit., pp. 91, 304.
[3]-F. Adanir, Die Makedonische Frage, p. 83.
[4]-C. Naltsas, Der San Stefano Vertrag und das Griechentum, pp. 42-3.
[5]-E. Kofos, Greece and the Eastern Crisis, pp. 185-7, for bibliography and a detailed description of the diplomatic machinations, and pp. 188-90, for the Russian attitude to the fate of the remaining unliberated Greek provinces and to the Patriarchate. See also the precise limits of the Bulgarian principality as defined by the preliminary treaty of San Stefano in Documents diplomatiques: Affaires d'Orient, Congres de Berlin, 1878 (Pans, 1878), p. 24.
[6]- Documents diplomatiques, p. 25. See the text of the San Stefano treaty in G. Noradounghian, Recueil d'actes internationaux deI 'Empire Ottoman (Paris, 1903), pp. 3, 509-21. Cf. E. Kofos, Ο Ελληνισμός κατά την περίοδο 1869-1881 ρ. 123.
[7]-C. Naltsas, op. cit., pp. 44-5; Ε. Kofos, Greece and the Eastern Crisis, pp. 192-4.
[8]-K. Svolopoulos, Ο Heinrich Kiepert.., p. 4. Cf. Francuski dokumenti za istorijata na Makedonskiot narod (Skopje, 1969), series VI, vol. I (1878-1879), pp. 226-7.
[9]-E. Kofos, Greece and the Eastern Crisis, p. 194; for archival information about the repercussions of the San Stefano treaty, see op. cit., p. 191, note 4. Cf. also N. Garpolas, Πώς η Μακεδονία παρέμεινεν ελληνική, pp. 126-8; Η. R. Wilkinson, Maps and Politics, p. 71.
[10]- H. R. Wilkinson, op. cit., pp. 71-4.
[11]-E. Kofos, op. cit., p. 193 for details; idem, Η επανάστασις της Μακεδονίας, p. 38.
[12]-Ε. Kofos, op. cit., pp. 201-2, note 2.
[13]-Op. cit., pp. 197, 207.
[14]- Op. cit., pp. 111-12, 130.
[15]- I. Notaris, Αρχείον Στεφάνου Δραγούμη, pp. 305-6. Cf. Ε. Kofos, op. cit., p. 307.
[16]- E. Kofos, op. cit., pp. 130, 137-8.
[17]-E. Kofos, op. cit., pp. 130, 137-8.
[18]- Op. cit., p. 318. Cf. also the report by an anonymous inhabitant of Strumica dated 16 January 1878, pp. 304-7.

1 comment:

  1. Please see Saturday September 6, 2008 for the rare document of Greeks Protesting Agaisnt the Exarchy (14000 signatures) from Bitolia.


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