THE BULGARIA OF TO-DAY.
AFTER the signature of the Treaty of Berlin, the Constituent Assembly of Tirnova had given Bulgaria a Constitution as free and democratic as that of Belgium.
Prince Alexander came to Bulgaria full of good-will and devotion to the country over which he was called to reign; but young, inexperienced, and timid as to the good results of the ultra-Liberal institutions that the Bulgarian people had adopted. From the first he gave his confidence to the Conservative party, represented by MM. Stoiloff, Grecoff, and Natchovitch. These men believed that the Constitution ought to be modified in such a manner as to strengthen the authority of the Government. But such was not the opinion of the people. Thus the elections of 1879 returned an opposition Chamber to sit in Sofia, where, from 170 deputies, the Ministry could'only count on 30 at the most. After ten days the session was closed and the Chamber dissolved.
Notwithstanding all the influence set to work by the Ministry, the new Chamber, which met at Sofia on April 4, 1880, was even more opposed to it than the preceding one. The Prince thought he ought to yield temporarily to the will of the country, and he accepted an openly Liberal Ministry, with two very distinguished and popular men, MM. Zankoff and Karaveloff, at its head.
The Conservatives, however, did not think themselves Page 254vanquished. They persuaded the Prince that the Liberal Ministry would endanger the future of the State both at home and abroad, and they hurried on a coup d'état. It took place on May 27, 1881, hardly two years after the promulgation of the Constitution of Tirnova, and before it was possible to really appreciate its effects.
The Prince asked the extraordinary Assembly to grant him plenary power for seven years, and the right of proposing a revision of the Constitution. The Russian General, Ehrenrooth, who was made Minister, managed by means of gens-d'armes and special commissioners to completely suppress freedom of vote. The Liberals, tracked like wild beasts, abstained from the poll. M. Hitrovo, Consul-General of Russia, brought the Czar's approbation. Notwithstanding, some Liberals were elected; amongst others a distinguished man, M. Balabanoff, at Sofia: they were excluded by the President of the Legislative Assembly, the Sobranje.
The rule which followed was a reproduction of that of December 2nd in France, an effective despotism hidden under a slight varnish of Constitutionalism. A Council of State was formed to replace the Senate, and MM. Natchovitch and Grecoff were recalled to the Ministry. The whole country was in a state of great excitement. Zankoff and Balabanoff, the eminent chiefs of the Liberal party, were received with applause wherever they went. The Ministry hoped to restore tranquillity by sending Zankoff away; he was therefore seized and sent to Vratza. But the end was not attained. This arbitrary conduct only irritated the Opposition. It is a fact very honourable to the Bulgarian character, recalling what happened in Hesse at the time of Hassenpflug, that the high officials headed the remonstrance. Thus, at Sofia, fifty-five of the higher employés, amongst whom were the President of the Court of Accounts, almost all the ministerial heads of departments, members of the Court of Appeal, Municipal Councillors, signed a petition to the Council of State asking for guarantees against the arbitrary power of the Government. This act of patriotic courage cannot be too much admired.
Page 255To ensure the success of the Ministerial candidates at the elections about to come off they needed Generals. The Czar saw that the situation had become embarrassing, and he sent two very able officers, the Generals Kaulbars and Soboleff. Again managed by the military, the elections were everywhere favourable to the Conservatives, the Liberals being compelled to keep away. But Natchovitch, Grecoff, and the Prince himself soon began a secret war against the Russian Generals. I was told many piquant details on this subject. At the Prince's dinners the Generals came with their aides-de-camp, without having waited for an invitation; at the soirées the Prince took no notice of them. He was irritated to see that his Russian Ministers considered him as under their protection. They acted like masters, and intended to manage everything in their own way. The Conservative Ministers endeavoured to force them to retreat by exciting the Opposition against them in the Chamber; but from St. Petersburg it was given to be understood that the mission of Generals Soboleff and Kaulbars was not considered to be completed until MM. Natchovitch and Grecoff had retired.
Exasperated, they pursued the struggle with more bitterness than ever; they even went so far as to join with the Liberals to compel the Russian Generals to leave the country, whilst the Prince steadfastly refused to receive the latter.
Russia understood then that she had made a mistake in favouring the reaction, and the Russian consul, M. Yonine, imposed the re-establishment of the Constitution of Tirnova (August, 1883) upon Prince Alexander. The Conservatives, seeing that there was no hope of success, did everything to obtain the support of the Liberals. M. Zankoff, lately proscribed, became master of the situation. He accepted the power offered to him by the Prince, on condition that the Constitution should be obeyed.
The Russian Generals, Kaulbars and Soboleff, being left without support, sent in their resignation and left Sofia. The Conservatives who had brought them openly rejoiced Page 256over their departure, whilst the Radicals showed them the warmest sympathy.
Russia, evicted, manifested her displeasure by recalling two of the Prince's aides-de-camp, without even telling him; he, deeply wounded, sent back all the Russian officers of his suite, and recalled the thirty-one Bulgarian officers who were studying in Russia. This was open hostility. M. Balabanoff, the best man to fairly represent Bulgaria, was sent as a delegate to the Czar; he was well received at St. Petersburg, and peace was made. The Emperor recalled Colonel Kaulbars, and it was decided that for the future Russian officers in Bulgaria should give their attention exclusively to military matters. To sum up, the result obtained was important; Bulgaria had definitely escaped from the guardianship of Russia, like Western Roumelia.
The union between the two parties who formed the Coalition Ministry did not last long. The Conservatives tried, by influencing the Prince and the Russian Consul, to force M. Zankoff to withdraw; but he was too strong and too popular, and his adversaries were compelled to leave office. Nevertheless, this eminent statesman, who had been the idol of the country when he was sent to Vratza, was defeated at the last election. The advanced Liberal party won the day, and a Karaveloff Ministry was formed. The Prince accepted it unhesitatingly, and loudly declared that he wished to govern only in conformity to the will of the country. The causes of the ebb of M. Zankoff's popularity are said to be his former accordance with the Conservatives, and the pledge he gave to modify the Constitution of Tirnova by creating an Upper Chamber. The people are strongly attached to their Constitution—and rightly so. Since M. Karaveloff's accession to power he has kept the favour of both Prince and people,—a rare thing!
How many overturned Ministries, how many outside alterations, how many sudden changes during the five years that have passed since the birth of Bulgaria! Truly it is too much! it might be said, to be one of the Palais Royal comedies, where the actors are constantly coming in at one Page 257 door only to go out at the other. Steadfastness and fixity of purpose is absolutely wanting; and yet these are indispensable, especially when a country is being endowed with a new organization. The fault lay first with the Prince and his counsellors, who, in spite of the democratic tendencies of the country, meant to govern autocratically. This could have succeeded only if supported by a large army from Russia. The Czar refused to assist this ill-timed attempt at despotism, and he was right, both for the sake of his own popularity among the Slavs of the Peninsula and for the peace of Europe.
I have endeavoured to show how Leopold I. has succeeded in establishing liberty in Belgium, in gaining the admiration of the whole of Europe, and becoming the most popular sovereign of his time, simply by allowing the Belgians to govern themselves."Etudes et Essais," par Emile de Laveleye. I cannot help believing that the Princes who are called to rule in the young States recently formed on the banks of the Danube would do well to study his career, and would gain benefit from his example. It seems to me that this is what the King of Roumania has done, and with the greatest success.
It is absolutely necessary to guard against the method of deprivation practised by some Bulgarian Ministers. The change of the principal officials with each change of the President of the United States is generally admitted to be so serious an evil, that it destroys in a great measure the advantages of democratic institutions. In France, notwithstanding many crises and revolutions, the Administration has always remained excellent, because the officials have generally been retained in their posts. In Belgium, Leopold I. has never consented to dismissals. He had a certain drawer, well known to his Ministers; it was an oubliette from which all the propositions of which he disapproved never returned. Numerous are the detestable consequences of the system of replacing the former officials by the friends of the Minister who has just succeeded to power. It necessarily makes the officials political partizans, more anxiousPage 258to secure the triumph of their party than to work for the public good. It does away with all the benefit which the experience of its officials brings with it to the Administration. Two different parties dispute for power—not that they may better direct the affairs of the country, but rather that they may enrich themselves with the spoils of victory, paid for by the nation. In exchange for the security that you grant the officials, demand from them absolute honesty, assiduous work, the exact fulfilment of their duties, but no political services. Pay them well, rather than increase their number.
In Germany and Austria the Government officials, except only those who have a political character, such as governors of provinces, cannot be deprived of their posts, nor even removed against their will, except as the consequence of an adverse judgment after trial.See Ulbrich, "Lehrbuch des OEster-Staatsrecht," pp. 203-234.
In Spain, after each change of Ministry, thousands of officials are sent off on half-pay, or without any indemnity, to make room for the friends of the successful party, and those thus dismissed begin immediately to agitate and intrigue until they bring back their own leaders to power.
The young Danubian States are inclined to take Belgium or France for their model. This is a mistake. Society with them is of a rural democratic character, as in Switzerland and Norway. They should imitate the institutions of these countries. Let not the Prince be afraid. Democracies of peasants are ultra-Conservative, always on condition that their pockets are guarded and the taxes not increased.
That which inspires a feeling of sorrow and blame in the history of these six years in Bulgaria is the way in which the aspirants for office have received the help of foreign agents to oppose or overturn their adversaries. Popular opinion ought to condemn such conduct with the greatest severity. To call in the interference of the Great Powers is to betray the country. Any man who is guiltyPage 259of this crime of high treason against his nationality ought to be branded as a traitor.
I cannot pass silently over the statesman who takes just now such a prominent part in Bulgaria. We may be assured that the dignity and the money of the country will be well guarded as long as he holds power, and this is not a small thing when we approach the Black Sea.
The name of Karaveloff is held in the greatest respect throughout Bulgaria. The two brothers, Lubin and Petko, were born at Kopritchitza, a village near Philippopolis. This village gave the signal for the insurrection of 1876.
The eldest, Lubin, was writer and poet; he worked all his life to stir up Bulgaria against the Turkish authority, but he is especially venerated as an ornament of the national literature. His works, novels, romances, poems, which reflect the contemporaneous life of Bulgaria, have become classic; every man who can read studies them or learns them by heart. Many of his expressions have become household words. In his publications, Svoboda (Liberty), Nesavicimost (Independence), Znanié (Science), &c., which were published at Bucharest, he was the first who advocated here the Confederation of the States of the Balkan Peninsula.
He lived in Roumania and Servia as an exile for the greater part of his life, and he only returned to Bulgaria just before the meeting of the National Assembly at Tirnova, at the time of the establishment of the Constitution. He did not live to see Bulgaria free, he died at Rustchuk, at the time of the Russian occupation in 1878. Last year the students of both sexes held demonstrations in his honour. A subscription was opened to raise a monument to his memory.
Petko Karaveloff gave his attention to economic and financial questions; he completed his studies at the Faculty of Philosophy in Moscow in 1871. Being unable to return to his country, then under Turkish rule, he taught history and geography in a higher school at Moscow until the beginning of the last war. He also gave private Page 260lessons in good Moscow families; he knows Russian, French, German, and English, but he speaks the two last with difficulty.
During the Russian occupation he returned to Bulgaria, and was also appointed Vice-Governor of Widdin. In 1879 several divisions elected him as member of the first National Assembly, where he took an active part in the discussion of the Constitution, and we may rest assured that he was the originator of the Constitution of Tirnova, which he defended with zeal and decision by means of the paper which bears that name. After the overthrow of the first Bulgarian Ministry, M. Karaveloff took part in all the Cabinets till 1881; then came the coup d'état. He retired to Philippopolis, from whence he continued to direct the National party. During the two years that he spent in that town he filled the office of mayor, and was also Professor of Natural History at the Gymnasium. Thanks to his tact and his varied knowledge, he exerted great influence over Aleko Pacha, which gave a new turn to affairs in Roumelia. He considered Roumelia as called, more certainly than the Principality, to preserve free institutions.
After the Constitution was re-established the elections were in favour of the advanced Liberal party. At the opening of the Chamber Karaveloff and Slaveikoff had a large majority. The Prince decided to entrust Karaveloff with the formation of a new Cabinet. At their first interview the Prince said to him—
"My dear Karaveloff, for the second time I swear to thee that I will be entirely submissive to the will of the people, and that I will govern in full accordance with the Constitution of Tirnova; let us forget what passed during the coup d'état and work together for the prosperity of the country."
And he embraced him.
M. Karaveloff, since his appointment to office, has been able radically to reform all the ministerial departments weakened by the coup d'état; the various laws which he has proposed have been carried unanimously. We may Page 261say therefore, without exaggeration, that the present state of things in Bulgaria is due to the initiative of Karaveloff, and that nothing was accomplished except under his inspiration, as later events have proved. His uprightness is acknowledged even by his political adversaries; he is a Liberal Democrat. He loves the Russians; he remembers the sacrifices they made for the independence of his country, but he will not allow any foreign agent to intermeddle with the home affairs of the Principality. He has taken for his motto, "Bulgaria for the Bulgarians," that is to say, Bulgaria free and independent of any foreign influence.
He has, at present, only published one work, " Commentaires et discussion critique sur la Constitution," published in the Journal Naouka ("Science"), of Philippopolis. The numerous quotations in different languages that he gives in the notes prove how thoroughly he knows the facts and theories of political science.
Formerly he was very negligent as to his appearance; he wore long hair and an untrimmed beard, which gave an excuse to his enemies to denounce him as a Nihilist to the Russian Government. Since his marriage this is altered, and the fear now is lest he should lose by too much elegance.
He is forty-six years of age. His wife has had a thoroughly good education in the Institute for the Daughters of Noblemen, in Moscow. The English language is as familiar to her as her mother tongue. She has recently published a translation of Stuart Mill's "Logic." The Bulgarian papers and reviews are also indebted to Madame Karaveloff for articles upon the education of women, and it is said that she often comes to the help of her husband. She fulfils the duties of teacher to the Girls' College in Sofia without payment. During the recent war she devoted herself to the help of the wounded, both Servians and Bulgarians.
It was Karaveloff who headed the movement in favour of the union of the two Bulgarias. He had been long preparing them to take this view. In 1884 petitions to the Page 262Great Powers to this effect were signed in the principal Bulgarian towns, both north and south of the Balkans. It was a wholly national movement. No foreigner had either known of it or encouraged it. The Prince suspected nothing of what was taking place in Roumelia. He was quietly enjoying sea-bathing at Varna when Karaveloff came to see him and explained that they had to confront an irresistible outburst of national feeling. Alexander understood this, and trusted his Minister: he saw that he was about to place himself at the head of a legitimate popular movement, which needed to be guided and moderated. For the honour of Karaveloff we must record that this revolution cost no single drop of blood, nor one act of severity. Even the Mussulmans made no opposition, and they have had no reason to complain.
I am told that it is one of Karaveloff's great merits that he has will, decision, ability to ensure obedience. When the Russian officers were obliged to leave, Prince Cantacuzène, Minister of War and Russian General, was rejoicing in the thought of the embarrassment which would be caused in Bulgaria. Karaveloff instantly decided to replace them by Bulgarian captains. "Impossible!" said Cantacuzène: "I will not sign these appointments." "But we must have them." "Never; I would rather send in my resignation." "As you like," answered M. Karaveloff; "I will take your portfolio also." Both hurried to meet Prince Alexander, who had returned from Vienna; he continued his confidence in Karaveloff, who had his way. We know how these captains have fought at Slivnitza, Dragoman, Tsaribrod, and Pirot. I am told that the Prince's conduct was admirable in the terrible crisis he has just passed through. Isolated, without a staff, he ordered everything himself at once by the telegraph at Philippopolis; he knew every officer individually. He is a true soldier, formed in the Prussian school.
The peasants also showed unbounded devotion to the national cause. They received acknowledgments and cheques for the horses and food which were requisitioned, Page 263and tore them up. In the poor villages near the seat of war they fed the soldiers freely, and each man contributed what he could. The men of the militia arrived, cold, resolute, without flourish of trumpets or songs, but with the determination to do their duty. The women accompanied them, and saw them start without a tear. All the officials, including the Prince, who received a salary of more than a thousand francs, gave up half. The Conservative party also behaved very well. In the face of national peril they made a truce with internal divisions, and unreservedly supported Karaveloff. It is said, however, that some statesmen would have continued to support Russia, and would even have attempted a manifestation against the Prince. This fact would be so horrible that it is almost impossible to believe it.
It is certain that the Czar's attitude has been a supreme mistake, and that the Russian agents at Sofia act in a manner as mischievous as it is blind. They desire that everything shall proceed under their direction, and when the sentiment of national dignity resists they attempt to embroil everything, to upset the Ministers, to thwart the Prince, and to prove that they are necessary. The only result will be that they will make the Bulgarians forget all the help given them by Russia, and will stifle every feeling of gratitude.
Russia ought to play a very different part, she should protect and counsel, but never command or intrigue. She has made Bulgaria, let her help it to act like an independent State. Why should she stunt the growth of the child she has brought into the world? Let her resume the attitude which formerly gained for her the sympathies of all Slavs, that whatever happens she will raise her voice on behalf of the rayas, at Constantinople and in the European councils, in a simple appeal to the rights of humanity and the interests of Europe, to see the Balkan Peninsula free and prosperous: it is thus only that she will regain her influence. Otherwise she will have no more chance of retaining it in Bulgaria and Macedonia than in Servia and Croatia.