Henry Fanshawe Tozer.

Researches in the highlands of Turkey; including visits to mounts Ida, Athos, Olympus, and Pelion, to the Mirdite Albanians, and other remote tribes (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryHenry Fanshawe TozerResearches in the highlands of Turkey; including visits to mounts Ida, Athos, Olympus, and Pelion, to the Mirdite Albanians, and other remote tribes (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 31)
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mission either to the Patriarch of Constantinople on the
one hand, or the Russian Synod on the other ; even with
the Servian Church, notwithstanding the strong feeling
that binds the two together, they have no closer connec-
tion than that of sympathy. When a new bishop is
appointed he is sent for consecration either to Russia, as
has been the case on the last two occasions, or to Austria,
where there is a large body of orthodox Christians,
composedjof Servians and others who migrated from the
interior of Turkey, under the Bishop of Ipek, about
the year 1690, at the invitation of the Emperor Leopold,
and were settled partly in Slavonia, between the Save and
Drave, and partly in other parts of the Austrian domi-
nions. There are about 400 churches in Montenegro, and
500 or 600 priests. What is most wanted is an eccle-
siastical seminary, for at present the clergy have no
education ; war, they said, had left them no time to turn
their attention to such things. But an increase of intel-
ligence among the priests, M. Vaclik remarked, would

Chap. XII. Ecclesiastical Viezvs. 263

tend more than anything to raise the tone of the people ;
for though they observe the Sunday and the fast days
carefully, and attend regularly at church, and are more-
over a very moral people in their general conduct, yet
their ideas on the subject of Christianity are very vague,
and vital religion has but little hold on their hearts. Re-
ligious toleration is fully established in the country ;
there are two or three Mahometans now living amongst
them, and a few Roman Catholics, one of whom is M.
Va^lik himself; and he assured me that no suspicion or
prejudice had ever existed against him on account of his
creed. At Rieka, the port by which they communicate
with the Lake of Scodra, a weekly market is held on
Saturdays, to which thousands of people resort ; and
though numbers of these are Mahometans, not even a
policeman is required to keep them in order. And the
Archimandrite added, that their desire was that all
the inhabitants of Turkey, whether Christian or Ma-
hometan, or of any other creed, should have equal rights,
and full power of exercising their religion freely.

With a view of ascertaining their feelings towards the
Greeks, I turned the conversation towards the monas-
teries of Athos, expecting that at least the Slavonic
convents there would have some interest for them. But
I found that they knew but little about them, and cared
still less ; nor did they manifest any regard for the Con-
stantinopolitan Church in general, or for the independent
Church of free Greece. But when I touched on the rela-
tions of the Bulgarians to the Patriarch, and the questions
pending between them, the feeling of nationality was at
once roused ; they protested strongly against Fanariote
interference with a Slavonic people, and maintained that
the Bulgarians ought to have their own metropolitan, as
they had in former days. Fanariote influence, they said,

264 Montenegro. Chap. XII.

was only another name for Turkish influence. When the
Bulgarians were independent, they would themselves be
perfectly friendly with the Greek Church ; but not till then.
With regard to their political relations, and the possibility
of a community of action between Slayes and Greeks,
they thought it quite possible to unite them under one
common head, provided only that they might be allowed
severally to retain their respective institutions. But it
was easy to discover how strong the antipathy between
them is, and how difficult it would be for the two races
to combine in any matter where rival interests were at
stake, or where vigorous and harmonious action was
required. Both in this conversation, and in others which
we held with some of the senators, we could not fail to
remark the intimate knowledge which they seemed
to possess of what was said in England about them and
the South Slavonic peoples generally, and of the persons
who espoused or opposed their cause. Not only the
names of Lord Palmerston and Mr. Layard, in whom
they recognised the chief supporters of the Turks against
the Christians, and those of Lord Russell and Mr. Glad-
stone, were familiar to them, but they spoke gratefully
also of Mr. Gregory, Mr. Denton, Mr. Cobden, and
others, for having espoused their cause ; and reminded us
that when the news of the last-named statesman's death
reached Belgrade, a funeral mass had been said in honour
of his memory. The truth is, that whatever is spoken in
Parliament or published in England about these nation-
alities, is at once reproduced in the Servian newspapers,
which pass as a matter of course into Montenegro ; thus
we found that they were acquainted (and pleased) with
Lady Strangford's account of this country, in her 'Eastern
Shores of the Adriatic,' which had appeared not very
long before our visit. They expressed most kindly

Chap. XII. National Songs. 265

feeling towards our country and Church, but thought the
English generally, or at least our government, were mis-
informed with regard to the condition and views of the
Christians in Turkey ; otherwise they would not dis-
courage them on every occasion, and provide the Turks
with money to subjugate them.

The national instrument of these parts is the gurJa, a
parent of dismal sounds, but as dear to a Slavonic ear as
the bagpipe is to a Highlander. In shape it is like an
elongated pear cut in half, and it is something between a
guitar and a violin ; the smaller kind, which the Bulgarians
generally use, being more like the former, while the
larpfer, which is in use in the Black Mountain, resembles
the latter in having a bridge and being played with a
bow, though it has only one string. As we were
walking after nightfall, with the Secretary, up and down
the main street of the village, we heard the sound of
this instrument issuing from one of the cottages, accom-
panied by a human voice, which was droning out what
seemed a kind of recitation. The movement was slow
at first, but when we returned, after the lapse of a quar-
ter of an hour, it had become rapid and excited. As
it was evidently a popular entertainment, from the
number of people who had gathered together to listen,
we enquired what it meant, and were informed that it
was a piesma, that is, one of the national songs, or ballad
narratives, which form the literature of the country, and in
which their annals and the deeds of their great men are
enshrined. When they are of a martial character, as is
usually the case, all the events which precede the battle
are chanted in measured time, while the fast and furious
conflict is accompanied by corresponding rapidity of
recitation. The number of these pieces is very great, and
they are handed down orally from father to son, the

266 Montenegro. Chap. XI L

blind man being, as of yore, the professional minstrel,
though the art is not confined to any class. They are
continually being added to, for the poetic art, such as it
is, never fails. At the present time Mirkho, the Prince's
father, is the principal composer of them ; and it was
described to me by one who had to pass a long winter's
evening at the palace, how enthusiastically the old war-
rior recited his own compositions for hours together, and
how difficult it was for some of his audience to avoid
falling asleep during the proceeding.

In the neighbourhood of Cetinje there are extensive
meadows, without hedges, and divided from one another
by hardly distinguishable landmarks, so that the level
plain is unbroken. In consequence of its cold climate
the grass was only now being mown, and from the same
cause there are but few trees, only a few poplars, and a
walnut or two, being seen here and there. The moun-
tains rise on both sides, range behind range, those towards
the east being completely bare, while those opposite are
prettily interspersed with bushes and other mountain
vegetation. In a commanding position on one of the
lowest of these heights, just above the monastery and
overlooking the village, stands an old ruined tower, over
the gate of which in more barbarous times used to be
hung the gory heads of Turks killed in battle. We had
mounted to this point the next morning, and were on
our way down, when a cave in the hill-side attracted our
attention, on entering which we found it inhabited by a
family, consisting of a mother and two boys, who had
lost their father in the late war. They were compelled
by poverty to seek refuge in this place, but what sur-
prised us most was that the boys had books in their
hands, and on enquiring we found that they could both
read and write, an evident proof that the schoolmaster is

Chap. XII. The Senate. 267

abroad in the country. Descending again to the plain,
we came to the open place in front of the palace, where
the senate holds its sittings. We found them in full
conclave, and it was a sight not easily to be forgotten,
and one which impresses the spectator most forcibly with
the patriarchal and primitive condition of things. Their
parliament house, as they are never tired of saying, is
the largest in the world, being the open air of heaven ;
they meet under the shade of a spreading tree, round the
foot of which two rows of seats are built. On the upper-
most of these Prince Nicolas was seated, and below him
the senators in their grand costumes were ranged in
order. They were engaged in hearing a case of justice ;
the plaintiff and defendant were before them, and the
witnesses and others standing round. From the warmth
with which the discussion was carried on, and the demon-
strative gesticulation used, the case appeared to excite
considerable interest, until the Prince rose and gave
judgment, and then walked away, followed by two of his
guards, to the palace, while the senators retired to the
village with their secretary, who afterwards wrote out
the verdict.

We also visited the offices of the press, and of the
Credit Mobilier. At the former a second edition was
being printed of some poems by the priest, who lives
in the convent, and is said to have great poetic taste.
The type of this was excellent, and we saw also that
which was put up for printing Montenegrin passports.
With regard to the other office, I anticipate that my
readers will exclaim, What can be the Credit Mobilier
of a country like Montenegro .'' Well, it is a sort of
public pawnbrokers' establishment, where people can
borrow money from the State, either for domestic pur-
poses, or to improve their lands, or for any other object,

268 Montenegro. Chap. XII.

by depositing any valuables which they have in their
possession. In this way it gets an additional interest to
a stranger, for a finer collection of handsome weapons
cannot easily be seen. Most of them are yataghans and
pistols taken from the Turks in battle, which are richly
wrought in silver and ornamented with agates and
precious stones. The workmanship of one set of car-
touche boxes attached to a military belt was superb —
filigree work on solid silver. There were also several of
the wide heavy belts which the women wear, set with
large cornelians ; and one very curious deposit — an
elaborate miniature likeness of the Sultan in a case, one
of many similar ones which have been sent from time
to time to the Montenegrins by the Turkish Government,
when it was their purpose to conciliate them. These
objects are sold after a time, if they are not reclaimed ;
but in the case of more wealthy persons, in whose hands
the money lent is supposed to be safe, the deposit is
only a nominal guarantee ; thus we were shown one
dagger which was a receipt for 120/.

In the afternoon we had an interview with Prince
Nicolas. The palace is built on two sides of a court,
the opposite sides of which are enclosed by high walls,
and, like all the other houses in Cetinje, it is of two
stories. It is simply, but comfortably arranged, the
rooms on the first floor opening out from a passage
which runs the whole length of the building ; in one
part of the passage a swallow had been allowed to build
its nest. M. Vaglik ushered us into a handsomely fur-
nished room, round which were hung portraits of the late
Prince Danilo, and of the Emperors and Empresses of
Russia, Austria, and France, all presented by themselves :
here the Prince joined us., He is a handsome man, but
old looking for his years ; for though he was only

Chap. XII. Prince Nicolas. 269

twenty-five years of age, he looked certainly eight years
older. He has a very agreeable countenance and fine
aquiline features ; his hair is jet black, and his com-
plexion very dark, in which respects he differs from
his subjects, who have usually light hair and eyes. His
tall, well-built figure was shown off" to advantage by his
magnificent dress, — an elaborate specimen of Montenegrin
costume, though differing only from those we had seen
before in its superior richness, and in his wearing Hessian
boots, and carrying no arms. He talks French admirably,
and we conversed with him for some time partly about his
own country, and partly about subjects relating to
England, among which he referred to Speke's discovery
of the source of the Nile. At last he withdrew to pre-
pare for a ride to Niegush, where he was to meet his
aunt, the Princess Darinka, Danilo's widow, who had
been passing the previous winter at Zante, and was now
expected from Cattaro. He is said to be extremely
fond of her, and is now building her a house nearly
opposite the palace. As she is a well-educated and
clever woman, her influence over him is great ; and she
is regarded by some as the good genius of the country,
as she sees the danger of war, and is able to counter-
balance the fiery counsels of his father Mirkho : it is
consequently to be regretted that she is so much absent
from the country.

We waited outside the palace gates to see the caval-
cade start. First came the Prince, mounted on a
prancing steed, and after him Mirkho, who was followed
by the rest of the company. Mirkho is a man of about
forty-five years of age, and short for a Montenegrin : like
his son, he is very dark, and has a prominent nose
and strongly marked features ; his countenance is very
lively, and looks as if it could on occasions be very

2/0 Montenegro. Chap. XI I.

fierce. As we saw him, however, his appearance was
peaceful, not to say comical, for he wore a straw hat,
with a red fez stuck on the top of it to keep off the sun,
and in his hand he held a long chibouque, at which
he puffed away vigorously as he rode along. In a kiosk,
or summer-house, attached to the palace there is a
speaking likeness of him by a Bohemian artist named
Czermak, the first Slavonic portrait painter of the day,
which has been exhibited and much admired in London
and elsewhere in Europe. After their departure we were
taken to see the collection of trophies in the billiard-
room of the palace, where in the winter the senate holds
its sittings. This consists of swords and standards,
which are hung along the walls ; and of medals, which
are arranged in a case. Of these latter a considerable
number were English Crimean medals, which had been
presented by the English to the Turks who served in
that campaign, and afterwards lost by them to the

About four o'clock in the afternoon we left Cetinje for
Rieka, on our way to Scodra. One of the persons that
accompanied us to bring back our horses was a Mon-
tenegrin woman, who would willingly have carried our
baggage for a consideration, if we had consented to that
arrangement ; but, like most of the women of the country,
she appeared not to have had her spirit at all broken by
hard work, for anything more independent cannot well
be conceived. Almost all the tillage of the ground is
performed by the weaker sex, as manual labour is con-
sidered degrading to men. When we reached the
southern end of the plain, we mounted the heights that
bound it on that side, from the summit of which, looking
back, the best view of the little town is obtained,
together with the mountains which surround it, and the

Chap. XII. Descent to Rieka. 271

mass of Mount Lovchen magnificently towering over all.
On the other side, the Lake of Scodra is finely seen at no
great distance off. Descending from this point in the
midst of grey rocks, interspersed with trees of a singularly
bright green, we came at last to a fertile valley, dotted
with thriving villages, where the eye was refreshed by
the sight of vineyards, maize plantations, and other
vegetation. This side of the country is generally more
productive than that towards Niegush ; but the part
towards the northern and north-eastern frontier is said to
be the softest and richest district. During the first part
of the descent the path had been very steep and stony,
but from this upland valley down to that of Rieka it
was still worse, and walking was preferable to riding ;
the whole journey, however, only occupied three hours,
and from this, and the short time it took us to reach
Cetinje from Cattaro, it may be gathered how narrow
the territory of the Black Mountain is in this part. The
village of Rieka lies at the foot of the mountains, in a
bend of the river of the same name, — a stream of con-
siderable size, which is joined by another and larger
tributary a little way below. In front of the houses is
a well-built quay, and the river is spanned by a lofty
bridge: it is altogether a more imposing place than
Cetinje, though it has hardly yet recovered from having
been burnt by the Turks in the last war. Close to the
bridge is a house belonging to the Prince, and in this,
at his request, we took up our abode. Our original
intention was to start the same evening for Scodra, in the
hope of arriving there at an early hour the next morning,
and thus avoiding the heat of the day, which would have
been intolerable in an open boat on the lake ; but as the
boats were few, and the men unwilling to leave at once,
we were compelled to wait till the following afternoon.

2/2 Montenegro. Chap. XI I.

The impression produced on us by our visit to the
country was an agreeable one, and notwithstanding some
circumstances which I have yet to mention, and with all
due allowance for our information being derived from
a not wholly unprejudiced quarter, was decidedly favour-
able to the Montenegrins. Their appearance is certainly
prepossessing, from their dignified yet natural bearing,
and the composed and peaceful look which distinguishes
them, notwithstanding that they all carry arms ; and
their noble faces, strongly marked features, and tall, well-
built figures, impress you with a sense of character and
power. Throughout the country, also, everything wore
an appearance of quiet and industry, which, as well as
the frank character of the people, especially attracted
our attention from the contrast it presented to the
restless life and wild, cruel look of the tatterdemalion
Albanians whom we had last seen on the eastern shores
of the Adriatic. At the same time, we could not but
feel that their position would be improved, both in the
eyes of strangers and in the opinion of European States,
if they showed a little more modesty, and a somewhat
less exalted opinion of themselves and their position : as
it is, they are for ever striving to keep themselves before
the world, and never contented unless they have some
new project in which to distinguish themselves. That
their political importance is considerable no one will
deny who understands their position, forming, as they
do, a strong keystone to support any movement on the
part of the south Slavonian races towards asserting their
nationality. And such a movement, in all probability,
will not be long in coming. It is not only among the
Servians and Montenegrins, who are closely bound
together both by historical associations and by present
sympathy, that the desire of political union exists, but

Chap. XI I. Political Iniportaiice. 273

throughout the Herzegovina also, and Bosnia, the same
feehng is widely spread, so much so that though the
inhabitants of the latter country are to a great extent
Mahometans, yet, it is said, if they had to choose
between the conflicting interests of religion and race,
they would readily sacrifice the former to the latter, and
assist their brethren in overthrowing the dominion of
the Turk. Again, in all the cities of Dalmatia the
inhabitants are divided into an Austrian and a national
faction, which are usually about equally balanced in
respect of numbers ; the Austrian party relying on the
numerous families intermarried with Austrian officers,
or themselves supplying officers to the army ; the national
party on the widespread sympathy with the neighbouring
Slavonic races. These parties are very jealous of one
another, and a strong line of demarcation is drawn
between them, so that they have separate clubs and
cafes, and the national party is carefully watched by the
military authorities. The Bulgarians, too, who form so
considerable a part of the population of European
Turkey, though, from their natural inertness and de-
pressed condition, they have few political ideas, are
beginning to be leavened with the same sentiment, and
their leading men, at all events, look in the same direc-
tion. In the case of a general rising, the Black Moun-
tain would be a point a'appid of the very greatest import-
ance. As an asylum for refugees it is still, as it always
has been, serviceable to the neighbouring Christians.
Though M. Va^lik assured me that there were no refugees
at present in the country, and that Prince Nicolas would
not receive them if he knew it, yet there can be no
doubt that in case of a persecution or insurrection in the
Herzegovina, or other neighbouring districts, fugitives
would be received with open arms ; indeed, the right

2/4 Montenegro. Chap. XII.

of asylum is one of the provisions of their constitu-

With regard to their general policy, I had some doubts
before visiting the country whether Mirkho's warlike
views were not really the wisest, and whether a more
peaceful policy, having for its object the internal develop-
ment of the people, would not tend to undermine that
love of liberty and resolute independence which alone
has made them what they are. But this idea was dis-
pelled by what we saw and heard. So strong is the
national feeling, so instinctive their love of daring deeds,
so traditional the determination to resist all external
force, that there seemed to be no danger of these being
undermined by the introduction of commerce and
civilization. On the contrary, the most useful function
of the Prince seemed to be that, which to the best of his
ability he is endeavouring to carry out, —

" by slow prudence to make mild

A rugged people, and, through soft degrees,
Subdue them to the useful and the good."

Before leaving Rieka we heard of an occurrence which
illustrates the wilder side of the Montenegrin character.
While we were at Cetinje Ave had seen a procession of
fifteen women accompanied by three of the guards leave
the place, chanting, as they went, a shrill wailing dirge,
and in the course of the evening they returned in the
same fashion. On inquiring the meaning of this we were
told, that they had gone to Rieka to attend the funeral of
a relative ; but of the circumstances no further informa-
tion was given us at the time. On arriving at the spot
we learned that an atrocious murder had been com-
mitted, the history of which was as follows. A Monte-

* See an article in 'Vacation Tourists for iS6i,' p. 406.

Chap. XII. Atrocious Murder. 275

negrin of the lower class had, from some unexplained
cause, conceived a violent hatred against one of his
countrymen at Rieka, an officer in the army, and deter-
mined to compass his destruction. Accordingly he re-
paired to the Prince at Cetinje, and in a private interview-
laid information against the officer, saying that he had
formed a plot to take the Prince's life. The Prince dis-
credited the whole story, and refused at first to take any
notice of it : but at last, when the man became very
importunate, he consented to send some of the guards
to bring the accused for examination. The informer
insisted on accompanying them, and when they reached
Rieka, seeing his enemy standing on the bridge, went on
in front of the others, pulled out his pistol, and shot him
in cold blood, exclaiming at the same time, " There, now
he is punished ! " This had happened a few days before
our visit, and the murderer was to be executed on the
day after we left, that being market day, when a great

Online LibraryHenry Fanshawe TozerResearches in the highlands of Turkey; including visits to mounts Ida, Athos, Olympus, and Pelion, to the Mirdite Albanians, and other remote tribes (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 31)