The Balkans eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 396 pages of information about The Balkans.

Many spectators of recent history will dismiss the suggestion as Utopian.  ‘Nationality’, they will say, ’revealed itself first as a constructive force, and Europe staked its future upon it; but now that we are committed to it, it has developed a sinister destructiveness which we cannot remedy.  Nationality brought the Balkan States into being and led them to final victory over the Turk in 1912, only to set them tearing one another to pieces again in 1913.  In the present catastrophe the curse of the Balkans has descended upon the whole of Europe, and laid bare unsuspected depths of chaotic hatred; yet Balkan antagonisms still remain more ineradicable than ours.  The cure for nationality is forgetfulness, but Balkan nationalism is rooted altogether in the past.  The Balkan peoples have suffered one shattering experience in common—­the Turk, and the waters of Ottoman oppression that have gone over their souls have not been waters of Lethe.  They have endured long centuries of spiritual exile by the passionate remembrance of their Sion, and when they have vindicated their heritage at last, and returned to build up the walls of their city and the temple of their national god, they have resented each other’s neighbourhood as the repatriated Jew resented the Samaritan.  The Greek dreams with sullen intensity of a golden age before the Bulgar was found in the land, and the challenge implied in the revival of the Hellenic name, so far from being a superficial vanity, is the dominant characteristic of the nationalism which has adopted it for its title.  Modern Hellenism breathes the inconscionable spirit of the emigre.’

This is only too true.  The faith that has carried them to national unity will suffice neither the Greeks nor any other Balkan people for the new era that has dawned upon them, and the future would look dark indeed, but for a strange and incalculable leaven, which is already potently at work in the land.

Since the opening of the present century, the chaotic, unneighbourly races of south-eastern Europe, whom nothing had united before but the common impress of the Turk, have begun to share another experience in common—­ America.  From the Slovak villages in the Carpathians to the Greek villages in the Laconian hills they have been crossing the Atlantic in their thousands, to become dockers and navvies, boot-blacks and waiters, confectioners and barbers in Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha, and all the other cities that have sprung up like magic to welcome the immigrant to the hospitable plains of the Middle West.  The intoxication of his new environment stimulates all the latent industry and vitality of the Balkan peasant, and he abandons himself whole-heartedly to American life; yet he does not relinquish the national tradition in which he grew up.  In America work brings wealth, and the Greek or Slovak soon worships his God in a finer church and reads his language in a better-printed newspaper than he ever enjoyed in his native village.  The surplus flows home in remittances of such abundance that they are steadily raising the cost of living in the Balkans themselves, or, in other words, the standard of material civilization; and sooner or later the immigrant goes the way of his money orders, for home-sickness, if not a mobilization order, exerts its compulsion before half a dozen years are out.

Project Gutenberg
The Balkans from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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