Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/150

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144

THE HELLENIC FACTOR IN THE EASTERN PROBLEM.

of the Slavs has been disposed of, the door shall be closed against others, whose equality of title she has herself asserted. Next as to Russia. It may be doubted whether her interests will render her anxious to widen the field of interposition. What generosity may prompt her to attempt, I dare not at present conjecture; but, as I believe she cannot always be exempt from the selfishness of which we ought sometimes to be very conscious in ourselves, so it has been well proved that the emperor and his people are open, certainly not less than we are, to the generous emotion which has recently, and I believe effectively, thrilled through this island.

With some very limited exceptions on the Austrian frontier, I apprehend it to be beyond doubt, that the hopes of the Christians in European Turkey have been directed either to this country or to Russia. As between the two, there are a variety of circumstances which might conceivably direct their hopes either to the one or to the other. It is too often and too hastily assumed, that they all work in the same line, the line leading towards Russia. My own belief is that these populations would all prefer aid from England, if it were to be had: all, even including Slavs and Wallachs. It is true that they both are united to Russia by a double tie; the Slavs by those of religion and of race, the Wallachs by the tie of religion and perhaps of recollection; for, though Russia may have used them in her own interest as tools against the Porte, it was to her power that they owed those local immunities, which put them in a condition to become, after the Treaty of Paris, a free state. But both even of these races have other ties with England: first, in the possession or desire of popular institutions; secondly, in that they have not to fear from her, even as possible, either absorption or aggression. But the Wallachs are happily out of the question; and as to the Slavs, I feel that it is vain to pursue the discussion with special reference to England, after the course which affairs have taken in 1875 and 1876.

The present inquiry is as to the Hellenic races; and here the matter stands very differently. Only in a single point have they sympathies which would lead them by preference towards Russia: it is the point of religion. Were these countries within the Latin Church, community of religion might greatly weigh, for it would imply some antagonism to all other forms of Christianity. Within the Greek Church this is not so, because it is constituted on the original principle of local distribution, rejects the doctrine and practice of supremacy, and claims no jurisdiction beyond its own borders. Mr. Finlay speaks of the strong leaning of the Ionian population to Russia, This may have been true, and with very good reason for it, in the time of Sir Thomas Maitland; or in the island which, according to Gordon[1] "groaned for years under the iron rod of a wretch, whose odious tyranny would have disgraced a Turkish pacha." But, by degrees, the treatment of the islanders by the English was greatly altered for the better. Eighteen years ago, I was engaged in a mission to the islands, and became convinced that the notion of the prevalence of Russian leanings there was altogether visionary; that the desire of the people was to be Greeks in polity, as they were Greeks in blood and feeling, but that as long as they could not be politically Greeks they preferred an association with the British crown to any other association whatsoever.

Since that time events most important in their bearing on the present inquiry have occurred in the department of ecclesiastical affairs. If, on the score of religion, there was then a qualified affinity with Russia, there is now a positive antagonism. The four or five millions of Bulgarians, who were then in their traditional intercommunion with the patriarchal see of Constantinople, are now severed from it by an ecclesiastical schism; and of that schism Russia is believed by the Hellenic race to have been, through its ambassador, General Ignatieff, the most active and powerful fomentor. And this although it has been alleged that, a master of the finesse of diplomacy, and knowing the blind hostility of Ali Pacha to everything proposed or supported by Russia, he put the Porte on the side of the Bulgarians by advisedly taking himself the side of the patriarch.[2]

It is remarkable that so little has been said or heard on this important subject in the West. The reason is that its direct consequences have been purely negative. The hundred eyes and hundred hands of the Curia were directed from Rome to the Balkan peninsula, in the hope of profiting by the quarrel; but in vain. It is hardily asserted that M. Bouree, the French ambassador, supported with all the influence, if not with the wealth, of his country, the papal operations; but in vain.[3]

  1. Vol. i , p. 318.
  2. Attention aux Balkans: Bucharest, 1876. p. 14.
  3. Ibid., p. 15.