THE HELLENIC FACTOR IN THE EASTERN PROBLEM.
The eighty or ninety millions of the Oriental communions, though partially severed in communion, and even to a very small extent in doctrine, among themselves, form an united and impregnable phalanx as against the claims of the papacy.
In the original outbreak of the Bulgarian quarrel we may recognize, on the part of that people, a genuine aspiration of nationality. Under color of obtaining more learned and competent men than could be found among an uninstructed population, a practice had grown up, dating from about a century and a half ago, of appointing Greek Fanariote bishops to Bulgarian sees. The demand of Bulgaria was, to take into its own hands the appointment of its bishops, and of a chief prelate with the title of exarch. If I am correctly informed, it happened in the course of this controversy, as of many others, that right changed sides as it went on. The patriarch offered that the Church of Bulgaria, like that of Russia and of Greece, should become an independent national Church; but stipulated that, like them, it should be limited within local boundaries. On the Bulgarian side it was contended that wherever there were Bulgarians, constituting a local majority, the jurisdiction of the national Church should extend. This claim directly traverses the principle of local distribution, on which the Oriental Church claims, in conformity with the Ante-Nicene Church, to be founded. The claim was refused. Excommunication followed. The Russian Church declined to support the sentence of the see of Constantinople. Another of the patriarchs took the same view, and was deposed. Russia, having the means in her power, took an active part against the successor who was appointed. In a word, although the religion of the Bulgarians remains in doctrine and rites precisely what it was before, the tranquil East has been thrown into the abyss of ecclesiastical disturbance; and with a chief share in producing such a state of things the Russian influence is, whether justly or unjustly, credited. It is even stated that, by confiscating the proceeds of estates in Bessarabia, Russia has deprived the patriarch, and the Greek establishments in Roumelia, of a large part of their means of subsistence; not to mention the crowning allegation of this fierce Hellenizing adversary, which is that she desires to define an ecclesiastical Bulgaria reaching beyond the Balkans, in order that she may thus herself eventually control the mountain passes.
Now it is with Constantinople that the whole Hellenic race feels itself in matters of religion to be inseparably associated; it is in the strictest sense, notwithstanding the undue subserviency to the overweening pressure of the Porte which has at tunes and in certain respects lowered the dignity of that great see, an ecclesiastical centre to the Hellenic race, which resents every disparagement inflicted on it. So far therefore as religion is concerned, it is at this moment a ground of real and strong revulsion from Russia, not of attraction to it.
No full and accurate view of the questions connected with the Christian subjects of Turkey can be obtained without taking into count the dualism that subsists among them, as between Hellene and Slav. They are sharers in a common religion, and this bond of sympathy is primary. They are also sharers in their sufferings; but they are to some extent rivals in their dreams. Between them, they conceive themselves to have the heirship of eastern Europe, and have some tendency to clash about the inheritance before the day of possession has arrived. The Slav is stronger in numbers: the Hellene feels that, during the long and rough night of the great calamity, the remaining genius of his race supplied the only lamps of light which flickered in the storm and in the gloom. As between Hellene and Turk, the czar has borne the aspect of a champion: as between Hellene and Slav, he has rather the position of a possible adversary; and all the circumstances of the present moment accentuate and sharpen the outlines of that position. Only when the place of advocate has been altogether vacant, has the Hellenic race been disposed to give to Russia that position. The prospect of Russian predominance in the Levant is just as oppressive to their rising hopes, as that of a Greek empire at Constantinople is distasteful even to the mighty and wide-ruling emperor of all the Russias.
I am arguing for others, rather than myself. I find abundant reasons, altogether apart from those which I have last advanced, for desiring that the opportunity of the present crisis should be used, after meeting its primary necessities, to act
- Attention aux Balkans, p. 21.
- The Greek conception of Russian policy is pointedly expressed by Tricoupi, in reference to the project of 1823. -— Hellenikè Epanastasis, iii. 189, chap, xii. Also in. 263.