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medans, genuine as well as counterfeit, about four-fifths of the whole race, are the descendants of Christian communities who at various periods renounced more or less sincerely their religion in order to share the privileges of the ruling caste, and be able to defend themselves and to oppress their neighbours with impunity. Conversion was all the easier because it really involved little change in doctrine, and still less in conduct. How superficial it was has been shown already. Vestiges of the old religion are still discernible in the patronymic designations of many Albanian Mohammedans, which are Greek, while their first names are Turkish. The bizarre nature of the combination can be realised by the reader who has heard of such names as Hadji-Abdullah Brown and Mohammed Russel—British and American philological phenomena due to analogous causes. Broadly speaking, Christianity has displayed greater vitality in the north than in the south, owing chiefly to the physical configuration of the country. The northerners, dwelling as they do in more inaccessible regions, were allowed by the conqueror to retain the use of arms, and consequently their religious as well as political freedom, while in the less mountainous south the people, in order to preserve the latter—perhaps too readily —sacrificed the former.
So far as it is possible to locate the rival creeds in Albania, we find the Mohammedan element mainly preponderating in the towns, and the Christian in the open country. Thus in the north Skutari, Dibra, Durazzo, and Elbassan are chiefly inhabited by Mohammedans, while the surrounding tribes are mostly Christian. The same observation applies to Berat and Jannina in the south. So strong is the Mohammedan element in all these centres that during the month of Ramazan—the Mohammedan Lent—no Christian, native or European, dares walk out in the street smoking. Such an act is apt to be construed into a deliberate insult to those who are not permitted to break the fast by smoking, and it is punished in the national method, which, albeit somewhat summary, has the merit of being expeditious—an Albanian marksman seldom misses his aim.
With regard to the Christians themselves, those of the north are mostly Catholic, the only important exception being offered by the inhabitants of Rekka—a score of villages to the north-east of Dibra—who are almost the only Ghegs who have kept up the orthodox religion, and are therefore exposed to the constant attacks of the Mohammedans of Dibra on one hand and of the Catholic Mirdites on the other. An occasional permission granted by the authorities to bear arms does not go very far to better their condition. On the other hand, we find that in the south all those Albanians who profess the Christian religion at all belong to the Orthodox Church. The distinction between Roman and Greek Christians is emphasised by the difference in the alphabets used by the two sects: the first employ the Latin; the second preserve the Greek, which formerly was in universal use. The introduction of the Roman letters is due to the influence of Western religious and political propagandas, of which there are two—Austrian and Italian —each competing for the favour of the Ghegs and the Tosks. Both these foreign propagandas possess a great ally in the contrast which the better-class Albanians, who visit Austria and Italy for commercial purposes, observe and report to their friends at home, between the state of their own country and that of lands under enlightened administration. Commercial intercourse thus facilitates the political discontent which both those Powers endeavour to foster and to exploit.
The Austrians have hitherto proved more successful. The Roman Catholic Church in Albania is under the protection of that Power, and the northern part of the country is inundated with prelates and priests of Austrian nationality, while Jesuit and Franciscan missions are established in various centres, under the auspices of the same government. The Italians exercise their influence mainly through the Albanian populations settled in Southern Italy and Sicily— a colony counting over sixty thousand members, and dating back to the fifteenth century. George Castriot, for his valour and manly beauty surnamed Scanderbeg, or Prince Alexander (the Great), is the reputed founder of this settlement. When worsted in his last struggle with the Turks he accepted the invitation of Pope Pius II. to cross the Adriatic and assist the King of Naples against the Count of Anjou. As a reward for this service he received grants of land, and brought over a number of his countrymen to settle on it. These early emigrants were subsequently joined by bodies of mercenaries who were employed by various Italian States in their wars against each other, and notably by the Venetian Republic. In the course of time the colony has grown in wealth and importance, and has produced several distinguished men, among whom the late Signor Crispi will long be remembered as the most eminent. Italian influence,
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however, is not entirely satisfied with indirect means. In South Albania, where its sphere chiefly lies, it is gaining ground. According to the latest intelligence the staff of the Italian consulate at Jannina has been reinforced. Italian ships visit the Albanian ports with a frequency which is in direct ratio to the decrease of commerce, and it is whispered that, in spite of the opposition of the Turkish authorities, the Italians contemplate the establishment of a post-office at Jannina, in imitation of the British post-office established under similar circumstances at Salonica. Indeed, the ambitious activity of the Italian Government in Epirus, coupled with the alleged preparations of a pretender to invade the country from Italy, is beginning to inspire serious anxiety to the Turks, and has induced them to strengthen their military position in the province. A few weeks ago a staff officer was sent from Constantinople with orders to concentrate troops at various points on the coast, and the Vali of Jannina is said to have already supplied him with three battalions of infantry.
The rivalry between Austria and Italy in Albania is all the more difficult for the ordinary man to comprehend because Albania is far from being a desirable possession. It is hard to believe that Austria, already vexed by the internal antagonism of many and various nationalities, is anxious to add to her troubles by the annexation of so turbulent and uncontrollable a district. Nor is it more probable that Italy, who has scarcely yet recovered from the severe lessons in colonisation and conquest inflicted upon her by Abyssinia, seriously meditates colonial expansion in so unproductive and unpromising a field. Besides, Italy can hardly boast a superabundance of the means of conferring on Albania the ordinary blessings of settled government and material developement of which the country stands in such sore need. And yet mutual jealousy forces both Powers to a policy of conquest in order to prevent each other from acquiring a footing in Albania. The Hapsburgers in particular seem to keep up the family traditions of Kudolf, the indigent and greedy lord of the 'gray Hill-Castle.' Like another of their ancestors, the ' one-eyed, loose-lipped, unbeautiful' Albert I., 'a Kaiser dreadfully fond of earthly goods,' they appear to be still actuated by the desire to grasp all round them, at property half theirs, as Novi Bazar, or wholly not theirs, as Albania, thereby 'getting endless quarrels' on their hands, and much diplomatic defeat mixed with an occasional victory. The wishes of the Albanians themselves are, of course, consistently ignored. The material benefits to be expected from Austrian rule are undoubtedly great, as is shown by the example of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but equally great is the moral loss entailed in a regime which systematically aims at the obliteration of the national sentiment. In the estimation of the recipients themselves the blessings conferred by the Austrian occupation are more than neutralised by the blow which that occupation has dealt at their independent developement as a national entity. The result does not commend itself to the Albanians. It would perhaps serve the ends both of Austria and Italy better should they agree in building up an independent Albania. Instead, they agree to differ, and, while solemnly disclaiming all designs of conquest, they each act as if the conquest of Albania was the one thing nearest their hearts. Their action is for the present decorously veiled, and each Power tolerates the other's efforts so long as these do not lead to an open disturbance of the status quo, the maintenance of which, in the words of Signor Prinetti, Minister for Foreign Affairs, is 'the best guarantee of their mutual interests.' The same Minister, however, in the course of the same speech—made in the Chamber of Deputies on May 23—significantly alluded to the possibility of the status quo being disturbed, and in that event, he added, Italy, thanks to the Triple Alliance,' would be sure of finding no one to bar the way to 'her legitimate aspirations.' It is no easy thing to interpret diplomatic language with perfect accuracy. But the Italian Minister's words seem to point to the existence of some definite understanding between Italy and Austria as to an ultimate partition of the country in a mutually satisfactory manner.
The opposition between Austrian and Italian interests extends beyond the limits of Albania. The north-eastern coast of the Adriatic has for ages been an apple of discord between these two singular 'allies.' Their rivalry in those regions affords the astute Prince of Montenegro a constant opportunity of playing the perilous comedy once so adroitly performed by the kings of Navarre in Western Europe. But, happier than they, he enjoys the staunch support of a monarch more powerful than either of his immediate neighbours. Nevertheless, as the White Tsar—whose 'only 'friend' he had the distinction of being until Servia and Bulgaria joined the group—is a considerable way off, Prince Nicholas finds it advisable to cultivate cordial relations with Italy, as the less formidable of the two rivals, and to use her friendship as a shield against Austria, a Power whose proximity and pushfulness constitute much greater dangers to the peace of his Lilliputian dominions.
The political situation in Albania is so intimately connected with the general network of Balkan politics that the slightest disturbance of the latter is apt to affect it. So long as the Russo-Austrian entente of 1897, entered into with a view to preserving the status quo in the Balkan Peninsula, was in full force, Austria was allowed a free hand in Albania. But as soon as this contract virtually ceased to control the Near East policy of the two parties, Russia adopted the attitude of open opposition to Austrian interests in that province. Both unofficially, through the Panslavistic societies, and officially, through the Holy Synod of Russia, the Tsar's Government is—or until quite recently was—working with might and main towards the conversion of the Ghegs. In fact, so far from exhibiting any anxiety to conceal its aims, it carried them out by its official representatives in the most obvious manner imaginable. The funds derived from the above-mentioned sources were distributed by the Russian Consul at Skutari, and the same functionary ostentatiously assisted at the restoration of old Orthodox churches or at the inauguration of new Slav schools. It is true that the slight amelioration in RussoAustrian relations, which has lately been brought about by their common antagonism to Germany, has tended to moderate the zeal of Russian representatives in Albania. But is it to be conceived that agents, who have for years been accustomed to devote themselves heart and soul to a cause, will relinquish it—except in outward appearance—at a moment's notice? Besides, the Russian campaign in Northern Albania forms part and parcel of the great Panslavistic movement which slowly tends to swallow up South-Eastern Europe. One of the immediate objects of this movement is the absorption of Macedonia, and no Power can be secure in the possession of Macedonia whose flank is left exposed to a free Albania. Hence the feverish activity of the Slavs in the latter province—an activity which is too much the result of vital interest to be permanently checked by the improvement of diplomatic or dynastic relations between the two Powers, whom the very nature of things forces into political rivalry.
Were further proof needed of Russia's determination to promote the Slav cause in Albania, it is supplied by an attempt lately made by that Power, in concert with Servia,