Littell's Living Age/Volume 130/Issue 1682/Resources of Servia and Bosnia

Littell's Living Age, Volume 130, Issue 1682
Resources of Servia and Bosnia

From Nature.


The small extent of country upon which the eyes of Europe are now centred lies too far out of the beaten tracks of travellers for much to be generally known as to its capabilities or natural resources; nevertheless the country is described in the few existing works as being very fertile, and the soil might be made much more productive were it not for the idle and dirty habits of the people. In these days of "special correspondents," the breaking out of a war, even in the remotest parts of the world, is a signal for the despatch of men of observation, whose duty it is to chronicle the movements of the opposing parties, and in some cases — we wish it were more often so — to give us glimpses into the habits of the people and the natural features of the country. Thus, we may in the course of a few weeks learn from the public press more about these matters in connection with the small districts now at war with Turkey than we are able to gain from books. The mines of Servia and the forests of Bosnia are two of the principal sources of revenue to the countries. Both iron and copper can be obtained, not only in large quantities, but also of excellent quality. The best Bosnian iron resembles that of Sweden, and is largely used in the manufactories of Gratz, in Styria; quantities also pass into Dalmatia and Servia. These mines are mostly worked by English companies under concessions from the authorities. In the forests are several species of oak, including the evergreen, or holm oak (Quercus ilex), the Turkey oak (Q. cerrus), Q. ægilops, Q. infectoria, and others. The first two are of little or no use economically, except perhaps for their woods, and these are not so highly valued as those of other species; the Q. ægilops, however, which produces large acorns seated in very large cups, is valuable for the sake of these cups, which contain a large quantity of tannin, and are extensively used by tanners and dyers, being imported to a considerable extent from the Levant under the name of valonia. Q. infectoria is also a valuable species, producing, most abundantly, the large shining brown galls known as Mecca galls, used for dyeing purposes, in the manufacture of ink, and in the preparation of tannic and gallic acids. The principal value of the oaks in Bosnia seems to be in their timber, the staple use of which is in the manufacture of staves for casks, immense quantities of which are exported. Amongst the pines occurring in the forests are Pinus laricio, P. maritima, P. halepensis, and others, as well as the Scots fir, P. sylvestris. Besides these are other forest trees of more or less value, so that if the forests were properly worked, they would not fail to prove of great value. At present, however, the right of cutting timber is held chiefly by foreign speculators, and has proved a source of wealth to many Austrians and Frenchmen who have embarked in it.

One of the most valuable products, both of Bosnia and Servia, as at present developed, lies in their plum-crops, many of the peasantry depending entirely on these fruits as the means of subsistence through a great part of the year. The plums, after being gathered, are mostly dried in the form of prunes, the secret or art of drying being known only to themselves. The Bosnian plums are considered of a better quality than those either from Servia, Croatia, or Austria. A quantity of spirit is likewise prepared from these fruits. Amongst other vegetable products of the country may be included tobacco, potatoes, flax, hemp, walnuts; and amongst cereals, wheat, maize, barley, oats, rye, millet, etc. Wheat and maize are the principal food-plants consumed in the country, some of the other products being exported in comparatively large quantities.

A notice of the resources of Servia, however brief, could not be closed without a reference to the remarkable traffic in pigs, the value of which amounts to nearly one-half of that of the entire exports of the country. In one year 472,700 of these animals were exported from Servia, the bulk of which are fattened at Steinbruch, near Pesth, in Hungary, where more than 500,000 pigs from various parts are fattened yearly. Their value is not on account of their flesh as an article of food, but exclusively for melting down for their fat.

From these notes it will be seen that in Servia and Bosnia are numerous undeveloped natural resources, and, under a different system than that which now prevails, both forests and mines might be made much more productive.