페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

Whiague, Abdnstantinopleide mysteriou hemlock, ation still int

little capable of resisting the temptation of bribery as are the Turkish pashas; and the Sultan, by showering honours, decorations, and lucrative posts upon them, succeeded in detaching many of the principal chieftains, such as Turkhan Pasha, who was made ambassador in Rome and represented Turkey at the Hague Conference. Others were banished to distant parts of the empire under the guise of promotion ; while not a few were put to death. The leader of the League, Abdul Bey Fraseri, the rebel, was captured and taken to Constantinople, where he soon after died, it is supposed, by means of the mysterious cup of coffee, which reminds one of the classical cup of hemlock, and is a vast improvement on the inartistic forms of execution still in vogue in the barbarous countries of the West. But in point of fact the League, though officially defunct-killed by promotion and poison-is very much alive. Its spirit walks

abroad,' and its influence may be felt, if not seen, in every fresh outbreak, of which there are in Albania as many as, to use a local phrase, there are days in the new year. These disturbances are quelled sometimes by main force, but more frequently by promises of amnesty and of remission of taxes to the rank and file, and by the offer of tempting posts to the ringleaders.

The creation of that League seems to have supplied a want deeply, though dimly, felt by the Albanian people. Their history had hitherto been a series of petty squabbles among themselves or of robber expeditions against their neighbours. They had never acted as one race, with a common national end in view. At the first appearance of the Turk many of them had hastened with unseemly alacrity to come to terms with the invader, and, by patching up an early peace with him and embracing his religion, to secure for themselves a privileged position at the expense of their brethren, who preferred to remain faithful to the creed of their fathers. Since the Ottoman conquest their annals have been signalised by no effort worthy of the name of a national movement. The last struggle against Islam ended in the fall of Kroïa in the fifteenth century. Beneath the ruins of that town all concerted activity towards national independence may be said to have found a tomb, in which patriotism slept for centuries. Yet all along the feeling of nationality existed in a subconscious state, waiting for an opportunity of awakening into full consciousness. This opportunity was presented to it, partly by circumstances and partly by the Sultan himself, and it seized it with an enthu

siasm which might well have alarmed and astonished the man who broke its long slumbers. Nor is it likely to resume its dormant attitude. We live in an age singularly favourable to the growth and dissemination of ideas. Though the Albanians are as yet very far from that unity and tenacity of purpose which is indispensable for the recovery and maintenance of political independence, they are daily progressing towards the fulfilment of that condition. The ranks of Albanian patriots are swelled by fresh recruits year after year; books and pamphlets and journals are published, meetings are held, and, in a word, a well-organised up-to-date agitation, provided with all modern appliances, is in full swing. It is true that the books and pamphlets and journals are printed abroad, and that comparatively few copies find their way to the mountain fastnesses of Albania. It is equally true that the meetings are held in Bucharest, Rome, Brussels, and indeed everywhere except in Albania itself. Yet an echo, however faint, cannot but reach the rocky strongholds of the Albanian chiefs, and in Albania, with its feudal régime still flourishing, the chiefs not only represent but actually lead and form public opinion. How strong is the loyalty of the Albanians to their hereditary chiefs is shown by the fact that even the name of Ali Pasha, in spite of lapse of time and the man's incredible cruelty, is to this day on the lips of the descendants of those whom he oppressed in his life. His crimes are forgotten, but his fame lives in many a popular ballad. One of these begins with the following words :

• O renowned Albanians,
And ye haughty Tchams,
Where is Ali Pasha,
O ye wretched ones ?
Where is the pride of Albania,

The head of all Roumeli ?' The poem may be taken as the plaint of a race mourning the last of its great men and longing for a leader.

Endeavours to satisfy this longing are not wanting. We have lately heard of several candidates for the Albanian throne, which as yet exists only in the dreams of ambition. All these sanguine gentlemen appear to count entirely on the well-known attachment of the Albanians to the memory of George Castriot, and therefore strive to establish a more or less direct descent from the great national hero. Two of the pretenders in question are natives of Naples. In Neapolitan society they are known as Marquis Auletta and Baron Fossacena respectively. But beneath these Italian

titles of nobility we really have, genealogically speaking, two Albanian chieftains whose names are John and Philip Castriot. They both base their claims to the glorious patronymic on documentary evidence. A third claimant, a middle-aged Spanish diplomatist, rejoices in the sonorous appellation of Don Juan Aladro. He also calls himself a Castriot, though his rivals say he has no right to the name, and, consequently, none to the phantom throne, as his descent is in the female line. Nothing daunted, however, the enterprising grandee is at present ransacking the library of Montecassino in laborious search of documents which will place his title beyond doubt and confound his rivals utterly. The final decision will rest with the Albanian congress, which is to be held at Naples in the near future, and lovers of the comic are eagerly looking forward to an interesting and possibly exciting scene.

Italy is expected to back the Neapolitan Marquis, while Spain does not seem disposed to bestir herself in favour of the Castilian Don, or, if she does, her exertions are not likely to be of great avail. Don Juan is, therefore, obliged to do his own canvassing. He has already issued a proclamation to the Albanian people of South Italy, exhorting them to rally round his standard, and to follow him in a crusade against the infidel. The Albanians do not appear to have been very deeply impressed by this manifesto. On the contrary, a great many of them are said to have appealed to General Ricciotti Garibaldi to head an army of liberation, and the General is reported to have expressed his willingness to fight for the cause, if they will only supply him with the necessary means. Nevertheless, Don Juan has assumed the title of Prince, and is presumably rehearsing the part of royalty in prospect. All this to the disinterested spectator forcibly suggests the premature outlay of energy which the inhabitants of the Near East describe as putting the 'frying-pan over the fire while the fish are still in the sea,' and which we in more homely language express as counting 'one's chickens before they are hatched.' But the parties interested in the contest evidently take a more serious view of the matter. At all events, this barefaced bidding for the throne of a province which, in appearance at least, forms an integral part of the Ottoman Empire, and the alleged preparations for an invasion, augur nothing good for the solidarity of that empire. They clearly indicate that the Albanians have arrived at the conclusion that they have

VOL. CXCVI. NO. OCC0I.

served an alien master too long, and that it is time for them to set up on their own account.

If anything, it is surprising that this movement has been so long in coming ; that the Albanians did not sooner follow the example of the Greeks, the Roumanians, the Servians, the Bulgarians, and, above all, that of their next-door neighbours, the sturdy inhabitants of the Black Mountain, who so well deserve our poet's eulogy :

"O smallest among peoples ! rough rock-throne

Of Freedom !! The Albanian mentally is as well endowed as most races of the East, and not inferior to some of the best races of the West. Like the Scot, he seldom fails to make his way in the world. Once out of sight of his barren highlands, he displays a marvellous susceptibility to civilisation; he easily adopts the ideals and adapts himself to the modes of more highly cultured peoples. The Turkish Civil Service, both in the past and in the present, owes as much to Albanian intelligence as the military owes to Albanian valour. Many of its most distinguished members both in the administrative and in the diplomatic branches are sons of the great families (odjaks) of North and South Albania. At this moment Abdul Hamid is surrounded at Yildiz Kiosk by Albanian secretaries and Albanian bodyguards. Nor should it be forgotten that Mehmet Ali, the progressive pasha of Egypt and founder of the princely house still reigning there, undoubtedly one of the greatest geniuses that the Ottoman Empire has produced, was a native of Albania. By his fellow-countrymen he is regarded as only second to Scanderbeg in ability, while far superior to Ali Pasha in personal bravery. Lack of opportunity at home has hitherto checked the developement for which the Albanian is so eminently fitted by nature, and he seems determined to create that opportunity. The task is not an easy one. Apart from the dangers which threaten Albania from outside, at the hands of those who look upon the country as the firstcomer's prey, the Albanians will have to surmount enormous obstacles before they can become an independent and selfsufticing political unit. The poverty of the country is one of these obstacles. It has been computed that more than fifty thousand Albanians, heads of Albanian households, are at the present moment employed in the Turkish Imperial service, both at home and throughout the Sultan's dominions. All these men are in the pay of the Imperial Government. Once Albania has gained its autonomy, this vast revenue

will be lost to it. The country will be thrown upon its own resources, and, besides finding employment for all these men and food for all these mouths, it will also have to provide for the defence of its frontiers and to defray the cost of internal administration. By comparing the expenditure of Greece, which is little larger than Albania in population, and even less in territory, and of Crete, which is scarcely one-fifth of it, experts have come to the conclusion that a free Albania will find itself under the necessity of improvising an annual budget of some two millions sterling, a sum which can hardly be realised out of maize and tortoises alone. According to a sanguine calculation, the independent principality of Albania that is to be will enjoy a deficit of one million a year, increasing with accelerated velocity as years roll on.* It is not a cheering outlook. Pessimistic critics eren go further, and maintain that there is no future for Albania apart from the Ottoman Empire. They are convinced that the Albanians, by their ready, though superficial, conversion to Islam, have identified themselves irreclaimably with the fortunes of Turkey, and will have to stand or fall with it; they are chained to the conqueror's chariot, and whithersoever that is driven, though it be to the brink of the bottomless pit-by no means an unlikely contingency-thither they must needs follow. It is reassuring to turn from these gloomy forebodings to the late Signor Crispi's prognostication. Albania,' said the eminent Italian statesman in a letter published not long before his death, possesses all the elements requisite for 'autonomy in a far greater measure than either Servia or • Bulgaria possessed them, and if Europe would grant it . a similar administrative autonomy, she would do an ex

ceedingly politic thing. These are, however, the words of an optimist, and, besides, of one whose personal feelings for the land of his forefathers may have biassed his judgement. And yet we cannot but share his hope that the efforts and the sacrifices of Albanian patriotism will not be in vain, and that when the day comes for unholy Ilios to be laid low it may find Albania waking and prepared.

* The economic side of the Albanian question is discussed with great ability and knowledge by M. Christovasilis, a distinguished Athenian publicist, in the . Acropolis' of October 14 (O.S.), 1901. The same writer has dealt with other aspects of the problem in a series of interesting and instructive articles contributed to the monthly review “Hellenismos,' between August, 1899, and September, 1901.

« 이전계속 »