« AnteriorContinuar »
Rumania, and Servia, whose spokesmen complacently refer to “savage Bulgaria,” have systems of public education several generations old. Moreover they have an insignificant number of Moslems, illiterate or otherwise, to queer their illiteracy statistics. Yet according to the U. S. Census Report (quoted in Paul Monroe's Cyclopedia of Education, Vol. 3), 30 per cent of the Greek army recruits are illiterate and the illiteracy of the Rumanian army recruits is 64.5 per cent. The Rumanian army, which in the summer of 1913 brazenly claimed the praise of Europe for pacifying savage Bulgaria, is in fact the most illiterate army in Europe, more illiterate indeed than the army of the Czar. Even in Bulgaria the Rumanian residents are today the most ignorant non-Moslems (84.9 per cent illiterate). I have no statistics about the Servian army recruits, but the Serb population over eleven years of age shows an illiteracy of 78.9 per cent.
In one brief generation, the free Bulgarian people has made a cultural advance which challenges a parallel. In twenty years the enrollment in the Bulgarian schools trebled, and the percentage of girl pupils almost doubled. There are as few men who cannot read and write in the Bulgarian regiments formed today as there were men who could read and write in the Bulgarian regiments of thirty-five years ago.
Neither has Bulgaria's astounding progress been limited to public education. During the twenty-five years preceding the war, without augmenting her territory, she increased her railroad mileage over 883 per cent, the number of her telegraph offices more than 255 per cent, the miles of wire over 162 per cent, and the number of messages sent 343 per cent; the number of her post-offices has increased 2,149 per cent, and the pieces of mail matter handled 2,136 per cent; her imports have increased over 223 per cent, her exports almost 400 per cent, and her total foreign trade over 280 per cent; the number of vessels entering and clearing her ports has increased 2,915 per cent and their tonnage almost 1,000 per cent. What Balkan country, or indeed what country anywhere, can even approach such a record of rapid all-round progress during an equal period of time?
Nor has the Bulgarian overreached himself in his cultural endeavor. Bulgaria has shown good economic sense; she has invested her resources well. Expressed in round figures Greece had, before the war, a public debt of 162 million dollars; Servia, 132 millions; Rumania, 313 millions; Bulgaria, 122 million dollars. This means a debt of approximately 60 dollars for every Greek, 45 dollars for every Servian, 42 dollars for every Rumanian, and 28 dollars for every Bulgar. Bulgaria has outdistanced her neighbors culturally without wrecking her credit.
Bulgaria's progress has been the progress of the mass, and has only emphasized the innate democracy of the nation. Rumania is a land of wealthy landed gentry and down-trodden serfs; Greece has rich merchants and povertystricken peasantry. Five-sevenths of Bulgaria's sons own the farms which they cultivate. Bulgaria has no rich classes and no poor masses. In spite of the fact that Bulgarian industry is still young, the nation has sought to anticipate the dangers and evils incidental to industrial life and so safeguard the coming generations. Woman's toil and child labor in Bulgaria have been regulated by the sort of legislation which reformers are still trying to put on the statute books of the United States. Bulgaria has no aristocracy of birth or of wealth, and it is no unusual thing for the sons of farmers to hold cabinet portfolios in Sofia.
The energetic democracy characterizing Bulgaria's education and Bulgaria's economic and political life finds also a clear expression in her racial and religious tolerance. Bulgaria is the only Balkan country in which tolerance is more than a word. The 250,000 Jews in Rumania, forming 4.3 per cent of the total population, are without any political or social rights; they are oppressed as systematically as their brothers in Russia. Religious freedom is a dead letter in the lands of Bulgaria's neighbors. Protestant missionary work is outlawed in Servia; the Bible may not be read in Greece in the vernacular, and Queen Olga precipitated a riot in Athens, which endangered the Hellenic dynasty, when she circulated the New Testament in modern Greek among the soldiers during the war of 1897.
In Bulgaria the Jew is a citizen in regular standing and can hold any office; Moslems are, and Protestants have been, members of the Sofia National Assembly; the representatives of the various religious bodies in Bulgaria (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Moslem, Jewish) are all received on the same basis by Tsar Ferdinand. Bulgaria is the only Balkan country which has treated its Mohammedan population in such a way as to retain it, and today over half-a-million Moslems enjoy the benefits and protection of the Bulgarian government, while the Turk has fled from free Greece, Rumania, and Servia.
Bulgaria is not only a country where tolerance prevails; her truly representative electoral system places her in the vanguard of democracies. The Bulgarian voter is assured of representation in the National Assembly even if he does not choose to vote for the ticket of the strongest individual party. An electoral system, based on the principle of plurality, makes the relative predominance of a party at the polls absolute, since it delivers the total representation to the ticket receiving the largest number, but not necessarily the majority, of votes cast. This system virtually deprives the several individually weaker minorities of representation, depriving the country also of their direct contribution to its legislation. The number of Republican and Democratic representatives in Congress is not proportional to the number of Republican and Democratic voters in the land, to say nothing of the Progressives, while the million odd Socialists are without any representation in Congress at all. Bulgaria, whose political leaders have ever been inspired by America's democratic ideals, has now an electoral system which assures the proportional representation of minorities. The partisan complexion of the Bulgarian National Assembly represents with almost mathematical accuracy the actual political complexion of Bulgaria. Socialist, Agrarian, Radical, Democrat, Liberal, Nationalist—all have their representatives in the Sobranje, proportionate in number to their numerical strength. The Bulgarian citizen has no fear of "throwing away his vote," and therefore can vote as his political convictions urge him.
These are facts: any study at all careful of Balkan affairs will show beyond a doubt the superiority of Bulgaria's culture and Bulgaria's ideals to those of her neighbors. The Bulgarian is better educated, economically more solid, and more progressive than either the Serb, the Greek, or the Rumanian. He alone in the Balkans is truly democratic and tolerant. Can there be any doubt that Rumania's theft of the most prosperous corner of Bulgaria is a step backward from the point of view of human progress, and that the forced denationalizing of Bulgarian Macedonia by Servia and Greece is culturally a Balkan disaster? United with the Bulgarian kingdom, the Bulgars of Macedonia would have repeated during the next twenty years the record of their kinsmen sketched above. Under the oppression of Serb and Greek, their choice is either exile or supine acceptance of a régime of intolerence and exploitation. For this reason, the summer of 1913 is a black chapter in the history of Balkan civilization, no less than in the history of the Bulgarian struggle for unification.
Obviously, then, Bulgaria cannot regard it as the final chapter. The least penetrating student of Balkan affairs should realize the provisional, the impossible character of the present Balkan settlement. The Greek arm which is stretched eastward from Salonica in front of Bulgaria's face and body outrages geography, ethnography, economics. Will it be withdrawn or will it be severed? How will Servia fare, battling on the north with the tireless Austrian, and on the south pressed between the Bulgarian anvil and the Albanian hammer? Macedonian and Albanian revolutions bankrupted the Ottoman Empire; will the despots of Belgrade and Athens prove more successful than the Sublime Porte? Will Servia and Greece manage to assimilate the 1,000,000 Bulgars whom they have just devoured, to say nothing of the Albanian multitudes of Kossovo and Epirus? The Bulgar natives of Macedonia are proving a fairly indigestible lot.
These questions and thoughts dominate Bulgaria's mind today, while she is doing her best to attain her belated national unification without embroiling herself in the warwhirlpool in which her neighbor to the west is gasping. Bulgaria would regulate her conduct during the present conflict in accordance with the same conception of her rôle which sent her armies against the Turk two years ago—the rôle of an ethnically homogeneous center of Balkan democracy. To that rôle Bulgaria is predestined by her geographic position and her racial and political record. Bulgaria must bring together her folk from Ochrid to the Danube, and from Dobrudja to the Aegean, and in the life of her national unity realize the democratic ideals which she has championed throughout her history as an independent state. When the Bulgarian body, which the Berlin Congress dismembered, is once more united and healed, Bulgaria will become one of those happy states which have no history of wars and diplomatic imbroglios.
For those who know the Bulgar well, know well that he is not a conqueror by choice. The Bulgar desires so ardently what is ethnically his own simply because he desires nothing further. He is too much of a realist to entertain any illusions as to the part that, in the nature of things, he can play in the world drama. In that respect he is indeed a prosy rustic alongside of his neighbors, or perhaps he is better endowed with a sense of humor. For long years Rumania believed that her rapprochement with Austria had transformed the Triple Alliance into a Quadruple Alliance. The bards of Belgrade sang and sing to the tune of a dozen-millioned Serbo-Croat empire, in poetic scorn of the pertinent Viennese realities, disregarding as well the fact that the Croats of Agram speak of Belgrade as a pig-sty. And this very day, while Russ battles with Teuton for control in the Balkans, and while German submarines are challenging Britain's naval supremacy, in this war of Titans, the Nestors of Athens, without the semblance of a smile, are urging the “glorious sons of a glorious mother” to maintain the balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean with special respects, not only to Constantinople, but precisely to Rome!
The real Bulgaria (as distinguished from the Bulgaria of the newspaper correspondents) is strangely out of tune