Turkey In Europe – Bulgaria

THE centre plateau of Turkey is still amongst the least-known countries of the Balkan peninsula, although it is intersected by the great highways which connect Thracia with Bosnia, and Macedonia with the Danube. This plateau, known to the ancients as Upper Moesia, consists of a vast granitic table-land, rising to an average height of 2,000 feet. Its surface is diversified by several planinas, or mountain chains, of small relative height, and by domes of trachyte, the remains of ancient volcanoes. Its numerous depressions were formerly filled with water, and the contours of the ancient lakes can still be traced. They have been gradually filled up by alluvium, or drained by rivers. The most remarkable amongst these ancient lacustrine basins are now represented by the fertile plains of Nish, Sofia, and Ikhtiman.

The superb syenitic and porphyritic mountain group of Vitosh forms the eastern bastion of the Moesian plateau. Immediately to the east of it the deep valley of the Isker pierces the whole of the Balkan Mountains, and, crossing the plain of Sofia, takes its course in the direction of the Danube. The upper valley of this river and the plain mentioned form the true geographical centre of European Turkey. From Sofia diverge some of the most important roads of the peninsula., one leading through the valley of the Isker to the Lower Danube, another along the Morava valley into Servia, a third by way of the Maritza. into Thracia, and a fourth down the Struma into Macedonia. It is said that Constantine the Great, struck by these important natural advantages of Sofia, then called Sardica, thought of making it the capital of his empire.

The Turks apply the name of Balkans to all the mountain ranges of the peninsula, but geographers restrict that term to the Haenius of the ancients. This mountain rampart begins to the east of the basin of Sofia. It does not form a regular chain, but rather an elevated terrace sloping down gently in the direction of the Danube, whilst towards the south it presents an abrupt slope, it appearing almost as if the plateau on that side had suddenly sunk to a lower level. The Balkan consequently presents the appearance of a chain only when looked at from the south. But its contours even there are only slightly undulating ; there are neither abrupt projections nor rocky pyramids, and the prevailing character is that of long-stretched mount tin ridges. The porphyritic mountain group of Chatal, which rises to the south of the principal chain, constitutes the only exception to this gentleness of contour. Though inferior in height to the summits of the Balkan, its steep precipices, slashed crests, and chaotic rock masses strike the beholder, and the contrast between this mass of erupted rock and the gentle slopes of the calcareous hills which surround it is very great.

The uniformity of the northern slopes of the Balkan is such that, in many places, a traveller is able to reach the crest without having come in sight of mountains. When the woods have disappeared from the Balkan, these undulating slopes will be deprived of their greatest charm ; but, as long as the forests ornament them as now, the country will remain one of the most delightful in Turkey. Running streams flow through each valley, bordered by pastures as brilliantly green as are those of the Alps ; the villages are built in the shade of beech-trees and oaks ; and nature everywhere wears a smiling aspect. But the plains which extend to the Danube are barren, and sometimes not a single tree is visible. The inhabitants, deprived of wood, are dependent upon cow-dung dried in the sun for their fuel, and they dig for themselves holes in the ground, where they seek protection from the cold of winter.

The core of the Balkan, between the basin of Sofia and that of Slivno, consists of granite, but the terraces which descend towards the Danube present every geological formation, from the metamorphic to the most recent rocks. The cretaceous formation occupies the largest area in Bulgaria, and the rivers rising in the mountains, in traversing it, form picturesque valleys and defiles. Ancient fortresses defend each of these valleys, and the towns have been built where they debouch upon the plain. Tirnova, the ancient capital of the tsars of Bulgaria, is the most remark-able of these old bulwarks of defence. The Y antra, on debouching there from the mountains, winds about curiously ; steep cliffs form an amphitheatre, in the centre of which rise two precipitous isolated rocks, crowned formerly by walls and towers. The houses of the town are built on the slopes, and its suburbs extend along the foot of the cliffs.

A singular parallelism has been noticed on the northern slopes of Balkan. The elevated mountain saddles, crests of secondary chains, geological formations, the faults which give rise to the meandering of the rivers, and even the Danube itself, all follow the saine direction, from west to east. As a consequence, each of the parallel valleys descending from the Balkans offers similar features ; the population is distributed in the same manner; and the towns occupy analogous positions. The valley of the Lom offers the only exception to the rule, for its direction is towards the north-west. It debouches upon the Danube at Rustchuk, and its green orchards and gardens are hemmed in by dazzling white cliffs of chalk rising to a height of about 100 feet.

The symmetry would be almost complete in Northern Turkey if it were not for the detached arid hills of the Dobruja, which force the Danube to make a wide détour to the north. Rising in the low and swampy delta of the Danube, these hills appear to be much higher than they are. In reality they do not exceed 1,650 feet in height. It is possible that during some very remote geological epoch the Danube took its course to the south of these hills, through the depression which has been utilised for the construction of the first Turkish railway. Trajan, who feared that the Goths might obtain a footing in this remote corner of the Roman empire, constructed one of those lines of fortifications here which are known throughout the countries of the Lower Danube as Trajan’s Walls. Remains of walls, ditches, and forts may still be traced along the banks of the marshes, and on the heights commanding them. This country of the Dobruja is the ” savage hyperborean region ” where Ovid, exiled from Rome, wept for the splendours of the capital. The port of Tomi, the place of his banishment, is the modern Kustenje.

To the north of the Gulf of Burgas, which is the westernmost extremity of the Black Sea, rise the fine porphyry mountains which terminate in the superb Cape of Emineh. They are sometimes described as an eastern prolongation of the Balkan, but erroneously, for the ancient lacustrine basin of Karnabat, now traversed by a railway, separates them from the system of the Haemus. The granitic plateaux and mountains of Tunja and Stranja, which command the wide plan of Thracia on the north, are likewise separate mountain ranges. The Southern Balkan is, in reality, without ramifications or spurs, except in the west, where the mountains of Ikhtiman and of Saniakov, so rich in iron ore and thermal springs, and other transverse chains, connect it with the mountain miss of the Rhodope. The upper basin of the Maritza River, enclosed between the Balkan and the Rhodope, has the shape of an elongated triangle, whose apex, directed towards the plain of Sofia, indicates the point of junction between the two systems. The whole of this triangular depression, with its lateral ramifications, was formerly occupied by lakes, now converted into bottom-lands of marvellous fertility. The passes near the apex of this triangle are naturally points of the highest strategical and commercial importance. Through one of them, still marked by ancient fortifications, and known as Trajan’s Gate, passed the old Roman highway, and there, too, the railway now in course of construction will cross the summit between the two slopes of the peninsula. This is the true “gateway of Constantinople,” and from the most remote times nations have fought for its possession. The numerous tumuli scattered over the neighbouring plains bear witness to many a bloody struggle.

The spurs of the Rhodope intermingle with those of the Balkan, and the lowest pass which separates the two still exceeds 3,000 feet in elevation. The Rilo Dagh, the most elevated mountain mass of the Rhodope, boldly rises at its northern extremity, and, to use the expression of Barth, forms the shoulder-blade of junction. Its height is 9,580 feet. It rises far beyond the region of forests, and its jagged summits, pyramids, and platforms contrast strikingly with the rounded outlines of the Balkan. But the lower heights, surrounded by this imposing amphitheatre of grand summits, are covered with vegetation. Forests of pines, larches, and beech-trees, the haunts of bears and chamois, alternate with clumps of trees and cultivated fields, and the villages in the valleys are surrounded by meadows, vineyards, and oaks. Picturesque cupolas of numerous monasteries peep out amongst the verdure : to their existence the mountain owes its Turkish name of Despoto Dagh, Le. “mountain of the parsons.” The Rilo Dagh, likewise famous on account of its monasteries, has altogether the aspect of the Swiss Alps. The moist winds of the Mediterranean convey to it much snow in winter and spring, but in summer the clouds discharge only torrents of rain, and the snow rapidly disappears from the flanks of the mountains. These sudden rain-storms are amongst the most remarkable spectacles to be witnessed. In the forenoon the mist which hides the tops of the mountains grows dense by degrees, and heavy copper-coloured clouds collect on the slopes. About three in the afternoon the rain begins to pour down, the clouds grow visibly smaller, first one, then another summit is seen through a rent in the watery vapours, until at last the air has become purified, and the mountains are lit up in the sunset.

To the south of the Rilo Dagh rises the mountain mass of Perim, hardly inferior to it in height. This is the Orbelos of the ancient Greeks, and the rings to which Noah made fast his ark when the waters subsided after the deluge are still shown there, and even Mussulman pilgrims pay their devotions at this venerated spot. It is the last high summit of the Rhodope. The mountains to the south rapidly decrease in elevation, though the granitic formation to which they belong is spread over a vast extent of country from the plains of Thracia to Albania. The extent of the hilly region connected with the Rhodope is still further increased by numerous groups of extinct volcanoes, which have poured forth vast sheets of trachytic lava. The rivers which flow from the central plateau of Turkey into the AEgean Sea have cut for themselves deep passages through these granites and lavas, the most famous amongst which is the “Iron Gate ” of the Vardar, or Demir Kapu, which formerly figured on our maps of Turkey as a large town.

The aspect of the crystalline mountain masses to the west of the Vardar is altogether of an Alpine character, for the peaks not only attain a high elevation, but snow remains upon them during the greater portion of the year. The Gornichova, or Nije, to the north of Thessaly, rises to a height of 6,560 feet; and the Peristeri, whose triple summit and snow-clad shoulders have been likened to the spread-out wings of a bird, and which rises close to the city of Bitolia, or Monastir, is more elevated still. The mountains of ancient Dardania enclose extensive circular or elliptical plains, and the most remarkable amongst these, namely, that of Monastir, has been compared by Grisebach, the geologist, to one of those huge crater lakes which the telescope has revealed to us on the surface of the moon. In most of these plains we meet with swamps or small lakes, the only remains of the sheets of water which at one time covered them. The most extensive of these lakes is that of Ostrovo. The Lake of Kastoria resembles the filled-up crater of a volcano. In its centre rises a limestone hill joined to the shore by an isthmus, upon which is built a picturesque Greek town.

According to Viquesnel and Hochstetter, traces of glaciers do not exist in any of these ancient lacustrine basins, or on the flanks of the mountains. It is certainly remarkable that whilst other European mountains—as, for instance, the Vosges and the mountains of Auvergne—have passed through a glacial epoch, the far more elevated Peristeri, Kilo Dagh, and Balkan, under about the same latitude as the Pyrenees, should never have had their valleys filled by moving rivers of ice.

All the large rivers of European Turkey belong to the Bulgarian regions of the Balkan or Haemus. In Bosnia there are merely small parallel rivers flowing to the Save; Albania has only turbulent torrents forcing their way through wild gorges, like the Drin; but the Maritsa, the Strymon or Karasu, the Vardar, and the Inje Karasu, which descend from the southern flanks of the Balkans, or originate in the crystalline mountain masses of the Rhodope, are large rivers, which bear comparison with the tranquil streams of Western Europe. As yet we know but little about their mode of action. The volume of water discharged by them has never been measured, and they are hardly made use of for purposes of navigation or irrigation. They all traverse ancient lake basins, which they have filled up gradually with alluvium, and converted into fertile plains. This work of filling up still goes on in the lower portions of these fluvial valleys, where extensive marshes, and even gradually shrinking lakes, abound. One of these lakes, the Takhino, through which the Strymon flows before it enters the AEgean Sea, is said to be the Prasias of Herodotus, and its aquatic villages were no doubt similar to the pile dwellings discovered in nearly all the lakes of Central Europe.

The Danube, to the north of the Dobruja, performs an amount of geological work, in comparison with which that of the Maritza, the Strymon, and Vardar sinks into insignificance. That mighty river annually conveys to the Black Sea a volume of water far in excess of that which is carried down the rivers of all France, and the solids which it holds in suspension are sufficient to cover an area of ten square miles to a depth of nine feet. This enormous mass of sand and clay is annually deposited in the swamps and on the banks of the delta, and the slow but steady growth of the latter is thus sufficiently explained. Even the ancients anticipated a time when the Black Sea would be converted into a shallow pond abounding in sand-banks, and it must, therefore, afford some consolation to our mariners to be told that six million years must pass before the alluvium carried down the river will fill the whole of the Black Sea.

The large triangular plain which the Danube has conquered from the sea has not yet fully emerged from the waters. Lakes, and the remains of ancient bays, half-obliterated branches of the Danube, and the ever-changing beds of rivulets, have converted this delta into a domain, half land, half sea. More elevated tracts, consolidated by the attack of the waves, rise here and there above the melancholy mire and reeds, and bear a dense vegetation of oaks, olives, and beeches. Willows fringe most of the branches of the river which take their winding course through the delta. Twenty years ago the Danube had six months; it has now only three.

After the Crimean war the Western powers determined that the Kilia branch, which conveys to the Black Sea more than half the volume of the Danube, should thenceforth form the boundary between Romania and Turkey. The Sultan thus possesses not only the whole of the delta, which has an area of about 4,000 square miles, but also the only mouth of the river which makes the possession of that territory of any value to him. The mouth of the Kilia is closed by a bar of sand, which does not even permit small vessels to enter it.

The southern mouth, that of Khidrillis, or St. George, is likewise inaccessible. The centre branch, that of the Sulina, which has served the purposes of commerce from time immemorial, can alone be entered by vessels. But even this channel would not be practicable, in the case of large vessels, if our engineers had not improved its facilities of access. Formerly the depth of water on the bar hardly exceeded a fathom during April, June, and July ; and even at times of flood was at most two or three fathoms. But by building convergent jetties, which guide the waters of the river into the deep sea, the depth of water has been increased to the extent of ten feet, and vessels drawing twenty feet can enter. Sulina is now one of the most important commercial ports of Europe, and a highly prized harbour of refuge on the Black Sea, which is so much dreaded by mariners on account of its squalls. We are indebted for this great public work to an international commission, which enjoys almost sovereign rights over the Danube as high up as Isakcha.

The Bulgarians inhabit the country to the south of the Danube as far as the slopes of Mount Pindus, excepting only certain detached territories in the occupation of Turks, Wallachians, Zinzares, or Greeks. In the Middle Ages their kingdom was even more extensive, for it included the whole of Albania, and had Okhrida for its capital.

The origin of the Bulgarians has been a theme of frequent discussion. The Bulgarians of the Byzantines, who laid waste the plains of Thracia about the close of the fifth century, and whose name became a term of opprobrium, probably were a Ugrian race, like the Huns, and spoke a language akin to that of the Samoyeds. The name of these savage conquerors is sometimes derived from the Volga, on the banks of which they formerly dwelt ; but their manners and appearance have undergone a singular change, and nothing now indicates their origin. Originally Turanians, they have been converted into Slays, like their neighbours the Servians and Russians.

This rapid conversion of the Bulgarians into Slays is one of the most remark-aide ethnological phenomena of the Middle Ages. Even in the ninth century the Bulgarians had adopted the Servian language, and soon afterwards they. ceased to speak their own. Their idiom is less polished than that of the Servians, and, possessing no literature, has not become fixed. The purest Bulgarian, it is said, may be heard in the district of Kalofer, to the south of the Balkan. The gradual transformation of the Bulgarians into Slays is ascribed by some authors to the prodigious facility for imitation possessed by that people ; Lut it is simpler to assume that, in course of time, the conquering Bulgarians and the conquered Servians became amalgamated, and that, whilst the former gave a name to the new nation, the latter contributed their language, their manners, and physical features. Thus much is certain, that the inhabitants of Bulgaria must now be looked upon as members of the Slavonian family of nations. Together with the Servians, Croats, and Herzegovinians, they are the most numerous people of European Turkey ; and, if the succession to the dominion of the Turks is to be decided by numbers alone, it belongs to the Servo-Bulgarians, and not to the Greeks.

The Bulgarians, as a rule, are not so till as their neighbours the Servians ; they are squat, strongly built, with a large head on broad shoulders. Lejean, himself a Breton, and others, consider that they bear a striking resemblance to the peasants of Brittany. In several districts, and notably in the environs of Philippopoli, they shave the head, a tuft of hair alone excepted, which they cultivate and dress into a tail as carefully as the Chinese. Greeks and Wallachians ridicule them, and many proverbial expressions refer to their want of intelligence and polish. This ridicule, however, they hardly deserve. Less vivacious than the Wallachian, or less supple than the Greek, the Bulgarian is certainly not deficient in intelligence. But bondage has borne heavily upon him ; and in the south, where he is oppressed by the Turk and fleeced by the Greek, he looks unhappy and sad ; but in the plains of the north and the secluded mountain villages, where he has been exposed to less suffering, he is jovial, fond of pleasure, fluent of speech, and quick at repartee. The inhabitants of the northern slopes of the Balkan, perhaps owing to a greater infusion of Servian blood, are better-looking, too, than other Bulgarians, and dress in better taste. A still finer race of men are the Pomakis, in the high valleys of the Rhodope, to the south of Philippopoli. Their speech is Bulgarian, but in no other respect do they resemble their compatriots. They are a fine race of men, with auburn hair, full of energy, and of a poetical temperament. We almost feel tempted to look upon them as the lineal descendants of the ancient Thracians, especially if it should turn out to be true that in their songs they celebrate Orpheus, the divine musician.

The Bulgarians, and especially those of the plains, are a peaceable people, recalling in no respect the fierce hordes who devastated the Byzantine empire. They are not warlike, like their neighbours the Servians, and do not keep alive in their national poetry the memory of former struggles. Their songs relate to the events of every-day life, or to the sufferings of the oppressed; and the “gentle zaptieh,” as the representative of authority, is one of the characters most frequently represented in them. The average Bulgarian is a quiet, hard-working peasant, a good husband and father; he is fond of home comforts, and practises every domestic virtue. Nearly all the agricultural produce exported from Turkey results from the labour of Bulgarian husbandmen. It is they who have converted certain portions of the plain to the south of the Danube into huge fields of maize and corn, rivalling those of Romania. It is they, likewise, who, at Eski-Za’ara, at the south of the Balkan, produce the best silk and the best wheat in all Turkey, from which latter alone the bread and cakes placed upon the Sultan’s table arc prepared. Other Bulgarians have converted the noble plain of Kezanlik, at the foot of the Balkan, into the finest agricultural district of Turkey, the town itself being surrounded by magnificent walnut-trees and by rosaries, which furnish the famous attar of roses, constituting so important an article of commerce throughout the East. Amongst the Bulgarians between Pirot and Turnov (Tirnova), on the northern slope of the Balkan, there exist flourishing manufactures. Each village there is noted for a particular branch of industry. Knives are made at one, metal ornaments at another, earthenware at a third, stuffs or carpets elsewhere ; and even common workmen exhibit much manual dexterity and purity of taste. An equally remarkable spirit of enterprise is manifested amongst the Bulgarians and Zinzares of the district of Bitolia, or Monastir. The town itself, as well as Kurshova, Florina, and others in its vicinity, are manufacturing centres.

The Bulgarians, peaceable, patient, and industrious as they are, are beginning to grow tired of the subjection in which they are held. They certainly do not as vet dream of a national rising, for the isolated revolts which have taken place amongst them were confined to a few mountaineers, or brought about by young men whom a residence in Servia or Romania had imbued with an enthusiasm for liberty. But though docile subjects still, the Bulgarians begin to raise their heads. They have learnt to look upon each other as members of the same nation, and are organizing themselves for the defence of their nationality. The first step in this direction was taken on a question of religion. When the Turks conquered the country a certain number amongst them turned Mohammedan to escape oppression ; but though they visit the mosques, they nevertheless still cling to the faith of their forefathers, venerate the same springs, and put their trust in the sanie talismans. A few joined the Roman Church, but a great majority remained Greek Catholics. Greek monks and priests, not long since, enjoyed the greatest influence, for during centuries of oppression they had upheld the ancient faith. Their presence vaguely recalled the times of independence, and their churches were the only sanctuaries open to the persecuted peasant. But the Bulgarians, in the end, grew discontented with a priesthood who did not even take the trouble to acquire the language of its congregations, and openly sought to subject them to an alien nation like the Greeks. Nothing was further from their thoughts than a religious schism. They merely desired to withdraw from the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and to found a National Church of their own, as had been done by the Servians, and even by the Greeks of the new Hellenic kingdom. The Vatican of Constantinople protested, the Turkish Government proved anything but favourable to this movement of emancipation, but in the end the Greek priests were forced to retire—precipitately in some instances—and the new National Church was established.

This pacific revolution, though directed against the Greeks, cannot fail to influence the relations between Bulgarians and Turks. The former have combined, for the first time since many centuries, for the accomplishment of a common national object, and this reawakening of a feeling of nationality cannot but prove detrimental to the rule of the Osmanli. The latter are not very numerous in the country districts of Western Bulgaria, where they are met with chiefly in the towns, and particularly in those which are of strategical importance. Eastern Bulgaria, however, is for the most part peopled by Turks, or at all events by Bulgarians who have adopted the language, dress, manners, and modes of thought of their conquerors. No Christian monastery exists in this stronghold of Turkish power, though there are several Mohammedan places of pilgrimage held in high repute for their sanctity.

The Greeks, next to the Turks, are the most important element of the population of Bulgaria. They are not very numerous to the north of the Balkan, where their influence hardly exceeds that of the Germans and Armenians established in the towns. To the south of the Balkan, though not numerous relatively, they are much more widely distributed. One or two Greeks are met with in every village, carrying on trade or exercising some handicraft. They make themselves indispensable to the locality, their advice is sought for by all, and they impart their own spirit to the whole of the population. Where two or three of these Greeks meet they at once constitute themselves into a sort of community, and throughout the country they form a kind of masonic brotherhood. Their influence is thus far greater than could be expected from their numbers. There are a few important. Greek colonies amongst the Bulgarians, as at Philippopoli and Bazarjik, and in a valley of the Rhodope they occupy the populous town of Stanimako, to the exclusion of Turks and Bulgarians. The ruins of ancient buildings, as well as the dialect of the inhabitants, which contains over two hundred Greek words not known to modern Greek, prove that Stanimako has existed as a Greek town for upwards of twenty centuries, and M. Dumont thinks that it is one of the old colonies of Euboea.

The initiatory part played by the Greeks in Southern Bulgaria is played in the north by the Romanians. The right bank of the Danube, from Chernavoda to the Black Sea, is for the most part inhabited by Wallachians, who are gradually gaining upon the Turks. Other colonists are attracted by the fertility of the plains at the northern foot of the Balkan. The Bulgarians are careful cultivators of the soil themselves, but the Romanians nevertheless gain a footing amongst them, as they do with the Servians, the Magyars, and the Germans. They are more active and intelligent than the Bulgarians, their families are more numerous, and in the course of a generation they generally succeed in “Rumanising” a village in which they have settled.

Bulgarians and Turks, Greeks and Wallachians, isolated colonies of Servians and Albanians, communities of Armenians and of Spanish Jews, colonies of Zinzares and wandering tribes of Mohammedan Tsigani, have converted the countries of the Balkan into a veritable ethnological chaos ; but the confusion is greater still in the small district of Dobruja, between the Lower Danube and the Black Sea. In addition to the races enumerated, we there meet with Nogai Tartars, who are of purer blood than their kinsmen the Osmanli, and exhibit the Asiatic type in greater purity. Although they cultivate the soil, they have not altogether abandoned their nomad habits, for they wander with their herds over hill and dale. They are governed by an hereditary khan, as at the time when they dwelt in tents.

After the Crimean war several thousand Nogai Tartars, compromised by the aid which they had rendered the Allies, joined their compatriots in the Dobruja. On the other hand, about 10,000 Bulgarians, terrified at the approach of these much-maligned immigrants, fled the Dobruja, and sought an asylum in Russia, where they were assigned the lands abandoned by the Crimean Tartars. This exchange proved disastrous to both nations, for sickness and grief carried off many victims. More deplorable still was the lot of the Circassians and other Caucasian tribes, who, to the number of 400,000, sought a refuge in Turkey in 1864. It was by no means easy to provide accommodation for so large a host. The pasha intrusted with the installation of these immigrants sent many of them to Western Bulgaria, in the vain hope that they would cut off all contact between Servians and Bulgarians. The rayas were compelled to surrender to them their best lands, to build houses for them, and to supply them with cattle and seed-corn. This hospitable reception, compulsory though it was, would have enabled these immigrants to start in their adopted country with a fair chance of success, had they but deigned to work. This, however, they declined. Hunger, sickness, and a climate very different from that of their mountains, caused them to perish in thousands, and in less than a year about one-third of these refugees had perished. Young girls and children were sold to procure bread, and this infamous traffic became a source of wealth to certain pashas. The harems became filled with young Circassians, who were a drug in the market at that time, and the human merchandise not saleable at Constantinople was exported to Syria and Egypt. These Circassians, after thus suffering from sickness and their own improvident laziness, have now accommodated themselves to the conditions of their new homes. Though of the same religion as the Osmanli, they readily assimilate with the Bulgarians amongst whom they dwell, and adopt their language.

Other refugees, more kindly treated by fate, have found an asylum in the Dobruja. They are Russian Cossacks, Ruthenians, and Muscovites of the ” Old Faith,” who left their steppes towards the close of last century in order to escape persecution. The Padisha, more tolerant than the Christian Empress of Russia, generously received them, and granted them land in various parts of his dominions. The Russian colonies in the Dobruja and in the delta of the Danube have prospered, and one of their settlements on the St. George’s branch of the river is known as the ” Cossacks’ Paradise.” Most of these Russians are engaged in the sturgeon fishery and the preparation of caviare. They have proved grateful for the hospitality extended to them, and have always fought valiantly in defence of their adopted country. They retain their national dress, their language, and their religion, and do not mix with the surrounding populations.

In addition to the above, we meet in the Dobruja with colonies of Germans, Arabs, and Poles, and, in the new port of the Sulina, with representatives of many nations of Europe and Asia.

There are few countries where the great international high-roads are as plainly traced by nature as in Bulgaria. The first of these roads is formed by the Danube. The Turkish towns along its banks—Viddin, Shishtova, Rustchuk, and Silistria—are taking an increasing share in European commerce. This highway is continued along the shores of the Black Sea, where there are several commercial harbours, the most important being Burgas, a great grain port. This natural highway, however, has become too circuitous for purposes of commerce. A railway has therefore been built across the isthmus of the Dobruja, from Chernavoda to Kustenje, and a second line connects Rustchuk, on the Danube, with Varna, on the Black Sea, the latter line crossing the whole of Eastern Bulgaria, and touching the towns of Razgrad and Shumna. A third line, now in course of construction, will cross the Balkans by a depression to the south of Shumna, and traversing the plain in which the towns of Yamboly and Adrianople are built, will connect the Lower Danube with the AEgean Sea. A third route, still farther to the west, passes Turnov, or Tirnova—the ancient capital of the tsars of Bulgaria—Kezanlik, and Eski-Za’ara.

These railways, already opened for traffic or approaching completion, certainly shorten the journey between Western Europe and Constantinople; but it is proposed now to avoid the circuitous navigation of the Lower Danube altogether, by joining the railway system of Europe to that of Turkey. One of these pro-posed railways will pass through Bosnia, and down the valley of the Vardar to Saloniki ; another will follow the ancient Roman road, which connected Pannonia with Byzantium, and which was paved in the sixteenth century as far as Belgrad. The principal cities along this great highway are Nish, on a tributary of the Morava, close to the frontier of Servia ; Sofia, the ancient Sardica, on the Isker, a tributary of the Danube ; Bazarjik, or ” the market ; ” and the fine town of Philippopoli, with its triple mountain commanding the passage of the Maritza. These towns, on the completion of the railway, cannot fail to become of great commercial importance. A hideous monument near Nish will, perhaps, be pointed out to tourists attracted thither on the opening of the railway. It was erected to remind future generations of a deed of ” glory.” This trophy of Kele-kalesi consists of a tower built of the skulls of Servians, who, rather than fall alive into the hands of their enemies, blew themselves up together with the redoubt which they defended. A governor of Nish, more humane than his predecessors, desired to remove this abominable piece of masonry, which no raya passes without a shudder, but Mussuhnan fanaticism forbade it.

The influence of commerce cannot fail to modify largely the manners and customs of a nation as supple and pliable as are the Bulgarians. War has brutalised the Albanians, and slavery degraded the Bulgarians. In the towns, more particularly, they have sunk very low. The insults heaped upon them by Mussulmans, and the contemptuous manner in which they were treated, rendered them abject and despicable in their own eyes. Demoralised by servitude and misery, given up to the mercy of their rich compatriots, the chor bajis, or ” givers of soup,” they became shameless and low-minded helots. The Bulgarian women, in the towns more particularly, presented a spectacle of the most shameful corruption, and their want of modesty, their coarseness, and ignorance fully justified the contempt in which they were held by their Mohammedan sisters. Even as regards education the Turks were in advance of them : not long ago their schools relatively were more numerous, and the instruction given in them was of a superior order. Christian villages, moreover, were never so clean or pleasant as those of the Turks.

But, whatever may have been the case in the past., things have already begun to mend. The Turks, as a body, may still be the superiors of the Bulgarians, as regards probity and a respect for truth, but they work less, and become impoverished by degrees. In the country the land gradually passes into the hands of the rayas, in the towns the latter monopolize nearly all the trade. The Bulgarians, moreover, have learnt to appreciate the importance of education ; they have founded schools and colleges, have set up printing presses, and send their young men to be educated at the universities of Europe. The young Bulgarians in the mixed colleges of Constantinople invariably make the most satisfactory progress in their studies. This revival of learning is a most hopeful sign of vitality. If persevered in, the Bulgarian race, which has been dead, as it were, for so many centuries, may again play its part in the world’s history. The atrocities of which Bulgaria has recently been the scene may retard this regeneration, but they certainly cannot stop it.