The Servian propaganda in Macedonia was at a disadvantage in comparison with the Bulgarian because it had not a separate ecclesiastical organization. As we have already seen, the orthodox Serbs owe allegiance to the Greek patriarch in Constantinople. And at first they did not push their propaganda as zealously or as successfully as the Bulgarians. In fact the national aspirations of the people of Servia had been in the direction of Bosnia and Herzegovina; but after these provinces were assigned to Austria by the Treaty of Berlin, a marked change of attitude occurred in the Servian government and nation. They now claimed as Servian the Slavonic population of Macedonia which hitherto Bulgaria had cultivated as her own. The course of politics in Bulgaria, notably her embroilment with Russia, inured to the advantage of the Servian propaganda in Macedonia, which after 1890 made great headway. The Servian government made liberal contributions for Macedonian schools. And before the nineteenth century closed the Servian propaganda could claim 178 schools in the vilayets of Saloniki and Monastir and in Uskub with 321 teachers and 7,200 pupils.
These Slav propagandists made serious encroachments upon the Greek cause, which, only a generation earlier, had possessed a practical monopoly in Macedonia. Greek efforts too were for a time almost paralyzed in consequence of the disastrous issue of the Greco-Turkish war in 1897. Nevertheless in 1901 the Greeks claimed 927 schools in the vilayets of Saloniki and Monastir with 1,397 teachers and 57,607 pupils.
The more bishops, churches, and schools a nationality could show, the stronger its claim on the reversion of Macedonia when the Turk should be driven out of Europe! There was no doubt much juggling with statistics. And though schools and churches were provided by Greeks, Servians, and Bulgarians to satisfy the spiritual and intellectual needs of their kinsmen in Macedonia, there was always the ulterior (which was generally the dominant) object of staking out claims in the domain soon to drop from the paralyzed hand of the Turk. The bishops may have been good shepherds of their flocks, but the primary qualification for the office was, I imagine, the gift of aggressive political leadership. The Turkish government now favored one nationality and now another as the interests of the moment seemed to suggest. With an impish delight in playing off Slav against Greek and Servian against Bulgarian, its action on applications for bishoprics was generally taken with a view to embarrassing the rival Christian nationalities. And it could when necessary keep the propagandists within severe limits. The Bulgarians grew bold after securing so many bishoprics in the nineties and the bishop at Uskub thought to open new schools and churches. But the Turkish governor—the Vali—summoned him and delivered this warning: “O Bulgarian, sit upon the eggs you have, and do not burst your belly by trying to lay more.”