15 MAY 1880, Page 5

THE ALBANIAN REVOLT. T HE Albanian incident brings out in the

strongest way the central difficulty of the Eastern Question,—the absence of any trustworthy or powerful authority at Constantinople. Under the Treaty of Berlin, the Sultan agreed to cede certain districts to Montenegro, districts indispensable to the Moun- taineers, if they were to live henceforward by agriculture, and to abandon their position as a clan defying enemies on every side. The Porte, after its usual fashion, demurred to the sur- render of the lands, alleging publicly that, as they were occu- pied by Mussulmans, the Sultan could not bring himself to the sacrifice ; and privately, that the Palace could not risk any shock to the fidelity of the Albanian Guard, which protects the Yildiz Kiosk. Other lands were, therefore, sought, occupied by the Christian Albanians, or Miridites, and these the Sultan finally agreed to surrender and Montenegro to accept. The Mahommedan Albanians, however, were still discontented, con- sidering that the Montenegrins had won a victory ; they won over the Miridites and the Sultan's soldiers, they occupied the ceded districts in force, and when the decree actually arrived, the combined clans, in a scene of extraordinarily dramatic interest, at once defied the Montenegrins and threw off the authority of the Sultan. It is now alleged that the revolt is exaggerated, that the Miridites have shrunk back—which may be true, the influence both of the Montenegrin Prince and of Bishop Strossmayer being great in the clan—and that the Turks are not united; but the main points of the scene of 19th April, which is described by an eye-witness, cannot have been invented :— "The large court [in the Eski Sara' Scutaril, surrounded by arcades in ltalian-palace style, is sonic thousand square metres in size. Seats had been provided under the great balcony for some twenty specially invited guests, sheltered against the sun by a baldacchino, above which waved the flag hearing the Crescent. There sat the eighty-years-old Catholic Archbishop, Mgr. Pooten, and his two auxiliaries, Don Capuccio and Don Sciantoja, and the Grand Mufti of Skodra, Has Effendi. A handsome young man in gold-embroidered costume, resplendent with jewels, sat between the two ecclesiastical dignitaries. This was the Prince of the Miridites, Bib Prenk Doda, who had arrived the evening before from his resid- ence, Orosi. The appearance of the assembly was most pic- turesque. Besides European costumes one saw the long garments and coloured turbans of the Rojas, Turkish officers in their pic- turesque uniforms, Catholic priests in long cloak and broad-brimmed hat, men from Prizrend in scarlet and gold-broidered jerkins, and the Miridite clans in black, which they wear to this day in memory of their national hero, Castriota. Altogether, about 2,000 persons were in the court. At 11 o'clock all were assembled, and the doors guarded by tall Albanians, with well-primed muskets. Amid dead silence, Hodo Bey rose to speak. This old soldier of 74 years, with bronzed and scarred features, spoke as follows:—' Brothers of the Baschikini Skipetaris ! The Ministers assembled in Berlin, in real or pretended ignorance of our country, have given us, the noblest, purest race of the world, away to a coarse mountain people that stands on the lowest grade of civilisation, and lives on the alms of Europe. We, the direct descendants of the King of the Arnauts, Iskander (Alexander the Great), abandoned by the whole world, sur- rounded by a pack of greedy wolves, will know how to protect our- selves and the graves of our forefathers. We have felt it most pain- fully when our brethren in Podgorizza and Spucz were handed over to the enemy. We will take no step to change what has already been accomplished; but this is the last concession which we will grant. To-morrow our kinsmen—the Hotti, the Kastrati, and the Kelmeni- are to be delivered over unconditionally. Will ye, that this be done ?' A thousand-voiced 'To' (No) rose from the assembly, and the speaker continued,—' Now, I, too, will not have it. I, Hodo Bey, have served faithfully five Sultans through 50 years; but now I know the will of the present Padishah, I renounce him, and know no more either Padishah or Stamboul.' With these words the aged speaker tore the gold facings from his uniform, and threw his clasps and medals to the ground. A hundred and fifty Turkish officers followed his ex- ample, tore off their epaulets and medals and trod them under foot.

Rode Bey continued Now we have declared ourselves independent of the Padishah and those Effendis in Stamboul, let us show ourselves to the land as we really are. Bairaktar of the clan Hotti, do thy duty !' A lofty warrior-form appeared at this moment, yataghan in hand, on the balcony, and with one stroke cleft in two the pole which bore the banner of the Crescent. Like a gigantic bird of prey wounded to death, the standard of the Sultan fell slowly and heavily to the ground. And now the standard-bearer unfurled the new ban- ner of the nation, bearing the ruddy rampant Albanian lion on a red field. A frantic Se agalliemneenere !' resounded from the assembly-, and Hodo Bey gave now, in eloquent words, an exposition of the situation, and counted the chances which his party would have in the

shortly-ensuing conflict We have weapons enough, and hands enough to use them. We have ammunition for years; we are in want of money alone, for the Albanian is brave, but poor.' Immediately the senior of the Merchants' Guild rose, and declared that a synod of bankers—Pema, Bianchi, Summa, Paruzza, Nicolodjaba, and others —had pronounced themselves willing to hand over daily 500 gold napoleons to the head-quarters, for providing the soldiers with the necessaries."

The effect of this declaration, if it is acted on heartily, is that the Treaty of Berlin is menaced in its efficacy at two most important points. The cession to Montenegro is annulled, unless Prince Nicholas can conquer the ceded districts at the sword's point,—a most serious and doubtful operation ; and the rendition of Epirus to Greece is distinctly endangered. It is not the larger Albania, which almost covers Epirus, but Northern Albania, which has revolted ; but the seceders are powerful down to Jannina, and may protest against Greece as fiercely as against Montenegro. This, indeed, is probably the calculation of the Porte, which undoubtedly fanned the movement, and sent troops into the disputed territory with secret orders ; though it is possible, or indeed likely, that the Albanian Mussulmans, never very obedient, have gone much farther than the wily politicians of Constantinople either expected or desired. Be that as it may, it may be taken as certain that neither Greece nor Montenegro will undertake the conquest, if they can help it, the Albanians being able to place 30,000 men in the field, though of course not to move an army approaching to that number. They are among the bravest men in the world, occupy a territory which is a natural fortress and one of the finest bits of Europe, and might, if attacked by inadequate forces, make a terrible defence.

It remains, therefore, if the Treaty is to be carried out, to apply means greater than any upon the spot, and whence are they to be obtained ? They do not exist at Constantinople. Supposing the Powers to be sincerely in accord, which, as regards Austria, may be doubtful, and to be ready to apply irresistible pressure to the Turkish Government, what will be the result ? The Sultan will plead want of money, want of men, and dread of the Albanian Guard, and will either sit sullenly inactive, or send forward troops which will either be half-hearted or openly favourable to the Albanian cause. They will take months over their work, thereby driv- ing the Montenegrins to despair, or, perhaps, fail in it after all, the Turks never having thoroughly sub- jugated the Albanian clansmen since their first over- throw. The Sultan, in fact, is not strong enough to carry out his own treaties, even if he were willing ; and he is not willing, though he may submit to extreme pressure. Yet the Powers cannot allow the Treaty of Berlin to fall through on its first application in difficult circumstances, and must either carry out the Montenegrin provisions, or submit to see Prince Nicholas declare war on Turkey, as he has already threatened, and so reopen the whole Eastern Question. They will not submit, we may be sure, but where is the necessary force to be obtained? Austria might consent to be the mandatory of Europe in the matter, but would the Austrian troops retire, when the work was done, from the finest position on the Adriatic? Italy could despatch a force across the Adriatic, but would Austria agree to the proposed Italian reward—the election of an Italian Prince of Albania—or would the fierce Arnauts obey such a Prince, when his countrymen had defeated them ? A composite force is hard to form, difficult to manage, and exposed to the danger of strife among the different nations of which it is composed ; and the neutral force, say of Swiss, so often talked about in the discussions which preceded the war, is unattainable. It is said, by writers on the spot, to be possible, by isolating Albania—forbidding her, that is, all communication with Epirotes, Montenegrins, Bulgarians, and Turks—to reduce the clans to reason ; but that would be a lengthy process, and would require, what is not to be obtained, the hearty good-will of all the States, including Turkey, engaged in maintaining the cordon sanitaire.

What is really required is a Suzerain at Constantinople who could be trusted, and whose order as Commander-in- Chief would move regiments belonging to all the States of the Balkans. Thirty thousand Servians, Bosnians, Montenegrins, Bulgarians, and Greeks would accomplish the task easily enough, and could be trusted to re- tire on receiving the order from Constantinople, which, under the circumstances supposed, would have no interest in crushing any State, or in neglecting the special interests or prejudices of any clan. It is a power like that which the Indian Government exercises over its vassal Princes which is needed to settle all such questions, and which it is vain to seek in the Sultan, who, nevertheless, is, both in theory and fact, the universal referee. He has to carry out arrangements of the last importance to millions who, in Thessaly, Epirus, Macedonia, and Armenia, are now living under a reign of terror, kept up by Irregulars nominally in his pay ; and he is not only unwilling to carry out his agreements, but unable to execute any provision requiring a display of force. He will not do anything when obeyed, and cannot do anything when defied. In Macedonia, he is re- quired to sanction the formation of a separate Government, which at first will have no troops at its disposal ; and in Armenia, to put down the Kurds and Circassians, who torture the Christians as ranch in defiance of him as of the ordinary rules of human intercourse. He has no means, when resist- ance begins, of applying the needful force; yet, as things are at present arranged, no working substitute for him can be so much as suggested. The Powers are in the position of men com- pelled to deliver blows through a curtain which at once obscures their vision and deadens the impact of their strokes. Before they can do anything effectual, they must remove the curtain, and the feat will demand all the diplomatic skill at their dis- posal. They have to place at Constantinople a power, either overt or veiled, which both will and can honestly and swiftly carry out the Treaty ; and the creation of such a power, with the Sultan still in Constantinople, seems, to human eyes, quite hopeless. A Grand Vizier might conceivably be found who would do it, and who would not be assassinated ; but where could such a man find force, in a capital where no one is now paid, and where the monarch has the greatest difficulty in inducing the butchers to supply sheep for palace consumption ?