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M. Gennadius to the Earl of Derby.-(Received November 1.)
My Lord, Greek Legation, October 29, 1877. WHEN I had the honour to communicate to Mr. Lister M. Tricoupi's note of the 22nd September, I offered, in conformity with the concluding instructions of that document, to produce a long succession of incontrovertible facts, demonstrative of the actual state of the provinces next the Hellenic frontier.
Mr. Lister having desired me to make that statement in writing, I have compiled, from the many and voluminous reports received from His Majesty's Consuls, a résumé of recent events in those provinces, endeavouring to compress the mass of evidence and to mitigate, as far as possible, the repulsiveness of the incidents, without detracting from the fidelity of the recital.
I have now the honour to submit to your Lordship the result of this painful inquiry, and I believe it will be found to fall considerably short of a full and adequate description of the unprovoked martyrdom which continues to be mercilessly inflicted upon the Greek people of Thessaly.
THE acts of massacre, pillage, and rapine now raging throughout Thessaly are due to the irregular Mussulman levies-the Gheghs from the north and the Zeibeks from the south-poured into that unhappy province with the avowed mission of striking terror into the Christian population and of exhausting their resources, so as to render them prostrate and helpless.
About three months ago, some of the more fanatic Mussulmans of Thessaly sent a deputation to Constantinople demanding that measures should be taken to strengthen their hands in view of events in the neighbouring parts of the Empire, and towards the end of August the authorities at Larissa communicated to the Faithful a telegram from Bekir Bey and Bendrendi Bey announcing their return with the desired auxiliaries.
In fact, a few days later, a contingent of 1,200 Zeibeks was conveyed in a Turkish transport from Smyrna to Volos. They were under the orders of a Bey from Asia Minor, ormerly President of the Court of Justice at Scio, but who had now undertaken to recruit these irregulars, choosing from amongst them his officers, and engaging to supply them with nought but what they might levy on the Giaours. A large proportion, about a sixth, of these men were criminals of the worse class, released from prison on the express condition of enlisting, so as to assist, they themselves boasted, in carrying fire and sword into Greece. Indeed, their officers promised them rich booty on the frontier being crossed. They were armed with long pistols, yataghans, and knives, but breech-loaders were to be distributed to them on reaching Larissa.
Landing at Volos, they first spread into and plundered the vineyards, and, on their return to town later in the day, rushed through the Christian quarter with war-cries and yataghans drawn; yet they molested no one until the evening, when they entered indiscriminately every house on the pretext of obtaining beasts of burthen for their departure. Besides horses and mules, however, a large quantity of furniture and clothing was collected. The Zeibeks coming from Asia Minor barefooted, shoes were also in request; accordingly, many a passer-by was lifted off his feet by two men, while a third released him of his shoes. The booty was next gathered in the barrack-yard, and owners were invited to redeem their property by paying its value," according to custom in Turkey," adds the report. The Zeibeks had thus obtained already a large sum of money, when the Consular Agent for Italy, M. Borrell, expostulated with the Kaïmakam, and some of the unredeemed property was restituted. At nightfall they left, to the great relief of the inhabitants, who had received timely warning that the more fanatic portion of the Mussulmans sought to persuade the Zeibeks to set fire to the Christian quarter.
At the village of Gherli, a short distance from Volos, a body of regular troops awaited to escort them to Larissa, but failed to protect the hapless villagers, who were despoiled of all they possessed, beaten, and exposed to the most revolting indignities. It is believed
that few women here or clsewhere escaped this savage onslaught. In such cases, however, it is impossible to ascertain the full extent of suffering, for the women, knowing they can hope for no redress, refrain from owning to a shame which would expose them to a lifelong reproach.
Next day they proceeded through the district of Armyros, gathering what they declared to be "unpaid taxes." Such sums as the poorer inhabitants failed to produce were extorted from the richer ones, in addition to the quota fixed upon them. They were also beaten, in order to avow they meditated a rising, and to point out future leaders. Meanwhile the regular troops looked on calmly and approvingly, and distributed breechloaders to the Tatars and Circassians settled in this neighbourhood last year.
Thus they proceeded, scouring the country, spreading terror and rapine all round, and gradually breaking up into small bands of marauders, under whose feet, it is added, the very grass withered. On their approach to Larissa the army and the Mussulman population turned out to meet them, and their entry was attended by wild war-cries of defiance, brandishing of yataghans, and firing of pistols. What followed on their meeting here the Gheghs will be stated further on, it being here necessary to chronicle the progress of these latter on their descent from the north.
The Gheghs, reputed to be a mixture of Albanian, Serb, and Bulgar renegades, who about a century and a-half ago embraced the Islam, are reckoned as the most cruel and barbarous of the tribes inhabiting Northern Albania. Living in a mountainous country, and considering indolence the distinctive privilege of their sect, they pursue neither trade nor agriculture, but exist by cattle-lifting and rapine. Their larcenous propensities are proverbial, and the brigand bands, so long the scourge of the GrecoTurkish frontiers, are mainly recruited by Gheghs. Their other leisure is taken up by intestine feuds, which are traditional amongst them; but some, when driven by extreme poverty and want, descend into the plains of Thessaly and Macedonia and seek employment during the summer months as harvest gatherers. This, coupled with their roaming habits, gives them a thorough knowledge of the country, and renders them formidable as marauders.
This fierce, hungry, and lawless rabble has now been called upon to exercise by authority that mode of existence which, as outlaws, they had formerly carried on in a less systematic manner; and a silent resentment of the comparative prosperity of their more industrious neighbours and former employers, lends an additional impetus to their rapacity.
Their armament, which it is promised them will be also supplemented by breechloaders, is similar to that of the Zeibeks; but many carry bunches of keys and crow-bars, the implements of their calling of predilection. Most of them started bare-footed and half-naked, but had liberty to provide for their wants at discretion, the Government allowing them only bread. They are to receive no pay, but they have stipulated with the Sublime Porte to be allowed "pljatchka," free booty, the privilege enjoyed, ab antiquo, by Ghegh mercenaries.
The chief recruiting agent and their principal leader is Salih Bey, formerly Kaïmakam of Castoria. He had enlisted in all 1,400 men, of whom 250 are on horse from Rioroni, Drakova, and Ipek; the rest are on foot, 400 from Mati and 750 from the Sandjak of Dibri (or Debra). Another 1000 of mixed horse and foot, having no recognized chief, but under the guidance of about ten Bimbashis followed, mostly of their own accord, and in the expectation of plunder. As, however, they were all told that the Giaours had risen and were to be put down, they loudly expressed their surprise and their unfeigned satisfaction at finding the country to the south perfectly quiet, and the people unprepared to offer any resistance to their exactions.
Thus constituted, they proceeded in a southerly direction, viâ Prespa, through the Sandjaks of Castoria and Anaselitza. Although their mission was intended to commence only after crossing the Vistritza, the country to the north did not escape. Indeed the excesses committed at the very outset were such that the authorities at Monastir considered for some time the advisability of calling upon Salih Bey to give explanations, but such a course was deemed inexpedient, and the country about Lake Ochrida was the first to feel the effects of the descent of the Gheghs. The townships of Lipsavopoliz, Galeska, Reica, and twelve other villages, were more or less sacked; the inhabitants of some preferring the lesser hardship of abandoning their homes altogether and betaking themselves to the woods. Some of Salih Bey's following, found themselves already sufficiently enriched so as to retire upon their spoils and return to Debra. Others branched off into independent parties of twenties and thirties, soon degenerating into actual brigand bands. But the inain body proceeded steadily southward, and on Augumber entered Kozané (or Kojani).
A detailed account of the horrors perpetrated in each case would fill volumes; but
as a uniform system guided the invasion of every town or village, a brief sketch of the modus operandi followed, with but few variations, may save iteration.
Each house is appropriated by a number of Gheghs, who, on entering, order a sumptuous meal, generally six dishes, irrespective of the means of the hapless villager. If he fail to provide the menu complete, he is beaten, and an indemnity is exacted for the deficiency. By a time-honoured custom of Ghegh mercenaries, the host is also required to depose by the side of each cover the "diss-parassi," or teeth money, expected for the trouble and honour of eating and drinking at an infidel house; this varies, according to circumstances, from one medjdiéh to five liras, else the Ghegh will not touch his food, and the tortures of his presence are protracted. The next step is to search the house lest arms be concealed, and in this process the very floor of the rooms is torn up. This search, however, invariably results in the discovery of clothing, money, and small jewels, which find favour in the eyes of the Gheghs, and are consequently declared to be unbecoming in the possession of mere Giaours. If the owner be ill-advised enough to expostulate, he is soundly beaten, and fresh exactions follow. It is useless to apply for redress, for on such emergencies the Governor is not visible; he is ill or angry, and not to be spoken to. The Khadi (Judge) is amused by what he sees going on, but when appealed to refuses to believe that the "Imperial Army" is capable of any act of injustice, and it must surely be calumniated. At last the Gheghs, being convinced that the place can yield nothing more, signify their intention to leave. The indispensable condition, however, is that they should be furnished with some prodigious number of beasts of burthen. If this number does not exist in the place, a price is fixed and exacted for each horse or mule not forthcoming. The rest are "borrowed," but as most are sent on to Ghegharia with the booty they never returu. Some articles, such as books, church furniture, &c., proving superfluous or useless, an auction is held previous to departure, and the rayah is offered a chance of redeeming his property. Finally, a general tax is levied "for the expenses of the troops of the Padishah." As most of the Gheghs know the country, and are acquainted with the means of their former employers, they regulate their exactions accordingly. The richest inhabitants are, as a rule, carried off as "dangerous "; they cease, however, to prove such so soon as they offer to buy themselves off. Lastly, a written acknowledgment is obtained setting forth that all they requisitioned has been paid for in full, and that no claim whatever is to be made on the Imperial Government. To crown all, by a stroke of cruel mockery, as the wretched villagers are ready to concede almost anything in order to get rid of their ravenous guests, they are required to sign a petition expressive of their gratitude for the exemplary conduct of the Padishah's warriors during their sojourn in their midst. Such documents can serve but one purpose, for the Gheghs can apprehend no punishment for so effectual an execution of their mission. They are kept ready to be produced if required as evidence to foreign agents of the utter flimsiness of the complaints of the Christians.
This terrible programme was faithfully carried out at Kojani; and thence crossing the River Alkakmon (Vistritza) they commenced a systematic pillage, having now entered a urely Greek and, as they declared, the enemy's country. After a sojourn of four days the 600 Gheghas who entered Kojani left on the th September, demanding 150 horses and obtaining an indemnity of 3 silver medjdiehs (about 12s.) for each defaulting horse, which was to be used, as they stated, only as far as Servia-a distance of four hours. They had hardly left, however, when the contingent from Mati entered Kojani, remaining there until Saturday, theth The behaviour of the Matiotes was less oppressive here, partly because there was little left to plunder, and partly owing to their Chiefs, Riza Bey and Djemal Bey, who, taking pity upon the exhausted villagers, exhorted their men to forbear.
Thence they proceeded in two columns, the one towards Servia (Selvidshi), and the other in the direction of Velvendos, to the east. Servia contains 400 Mussulmans and 100 Christian houses. Nevertheless, the Christians alone, although in extreme poverty, were ordered to lodge all the Gheghs who arrived. They did so, offering them the best food and accommodation at their disposal, attending upon them and their horses, and endeavouring to appease their ferocity. But all to no purpose. The Gheghs were determined to treat the Serviotes as enemies, and the more fanatic of the Mussulman inhabitants soon set up a cry that the Church of St. Nicholas contained arms. No arms were found, and none existed; but the church was pillaged all the same, the candlesticks, calix, robes, gospel, &c., being hawked about in the market-place, and, finally, the old and venerable Priest Demetrius, who sat at the Medjliss as representative of the Bishop, was forced to wash the feet of the savages billetted upon him. In a neighbouring cottage, consisting of but one room, the only child of a most worthy Christian was lying dead, the parents wailing their recent loss. The Gheghs entered this, the only roof that had not
been offered them, and demanded that "the dirt should be thrown out." By dint of supplications, and on payment of 300 piastres as indemnity for the unoccupied house, they desisted. They remained at Servia six days, devouring everything they could lay hands upon, and at last swept the place clean of money, copper and metal ware, carpets, clothing, and all valuables. These proceedings were witnessed by a Kaïmakam and a company of Mustaphiz without so much as a word of remonstrance. The wretched villagers, however, found some protection in their neighbour the venerable Reshid Bey, his son Ibraïm Bey, and his son-in-law Mustapha Bey, a well-to-do and liberal_family, as well as in Sherif Effendi, who had for many years acted as Secretary to Ch. Zographos, the well-known Greek banker at Constantinople. These good men interceded and saved some of the poorer people; but their coreligionists disavow them, and declare that henceforth they also are numbered amongst the Giaours.
At Velvendos similar excesses were committed by another band. George HadjiAntoniades, the wealthiest inhabitant, who had rendered great services to the Porte, and who, for his proved fidelity, had sat for twenty years as Councillor or Aza at the Mixed Court, was completely ruined.
Thence they repaired a little to the north and entered Kataphygion, a purely Christian town of 400 houses. Fifty men appeared at first bearing an order from the authorities to the effect that they were "Imperial troops" on their way to the Greek frontier, and should be cared for. The Primates of the borough went out to meet them, and received them in their houses with every mark of good-will and hospitality. Later in the evening, however, 250 more rushed into the town demanding quarters. They were offered food and were requested to manage and bivouac, the night being fine, as every family had now turned in. This was the signal for an indiscriminate assault on the Christians, those who had been hospitably lodged replying to the shouts of their comrades by firing from inside the houses. What followed cannot be described. Every house was pillaged, and the church of Prodromos was completely gutted. Next day, on entering the house of a certain Daniel, a man of the worst antecedents, and distrusted by the other Christians, for he acted as spy to the authorities, they discovered one of their countrymen, a Mussulman Albanian, Fezo by name, who had for some time past resumed the natural Ghegh vocation of a brigand. This was at once declared to constitute a proof positive implicating the whole population. The sacking having therefore been completed, seventy-two mules were laden with chattels and sent off to Debra, while Fezo was instructed, on the promise of a free pardon, to declare against the notables of Kataphygion, who were sent on with him to Larissa for trial. One of them, Sergios Dalanis, was killed on the spot.
Servia offering no attraction after the first raid, the marauders were directed by the Mussulman Serviotes to Vlacholivadon,-a town of 500 Christian houses, and situated a little to the south-east,-as to a rich field for operations. The instructions furnished them were so minute, that the Gheghs demanded to be shown to the houses of the principal inhabitants by name. Their ferocity was increased by the expectation of rich booty, and, driving away the inmates with their yataghans, they broke open cupboards and tore up the floors in the hope of hidden treasure. The booty was packed on fifty horses and sent to Debra. A variation, however, was practised here. Ten of the Primates were laden with furniture, &c., on the pretext that there were not enough beasts of burthen. The wretched men had to make a further payment of 40 liras before obtaining their release. The Yusbashi of the Mustaphiz stationed here remained an impurturbable spectator of the proceedings until most of the inhabitants had fled to the woods. He then proceeded to secure his share of the spoil, which he forwarded to his native village of Saridjol, on the other side of the river.
From Vlacholivadon they descended toward Elassona in bands, roaming about the country, pillaging and imposing taxes at will on such misguided villagers as had not already taken to the mountains. Elassona, being principally inhabited by Mussulmans, did not much attract the Gheghs, who settled on the adjacent monastery of Olypiotissa and some smaller villages. The inhabitants of Tsaritzané (Charichena), half an hour distant from Elassona, being warned by what happened elsewhere, sent a deputation in advance of the Gheghs, and actually concluded a convention with them, whereby, on consideration of a lump sum paid down, they promised not to enter the place. The monastery, however, was pillaged, the monks beaten mercilessly, and the Metropolitan church escaped only on payment of a heavy fine by the Bishop of Elassona. Many of the villagers were again used as beasts of burden, two of them being actually led away by a bridle, and with a bit in their mouths, as a practical illustration of their actual status under Ghegh rule. It is not surprising to learn that one of the hapless victims went mad under the treatment.
The upper surface having thus been swept clean of all substance, some of the fresher graves were dug open, the dead exhumed, divested of their clothing-for even those were needed by the Imperial troops-and the bodies cast to the dogs.
Crowned with the glory of such deeds, the fame of which had preceded them, the Gheghs made their entry into Larissa, and at once signalled their objective point. A body of 200, under the command of an officer of the regular army, but employed in the police, passed the Greek Consulate on September, and shouting oaths and insults to the inmates, endeavoured to force an entrance. They were with difficulty restrained by the cavass, but they knocked at the gate with the butt-ends of their guns and insulted the flag. M. Palamides protested against this unprovoked assault; but, to his surprise, he received on the following day an official communication whereby the Governor flatly denied any such occurrence having taken place. The denial, it was said, was supported by the officer of police the accused-and the cavass of the British Consulate. Mr. Sutar, the only other European Representative there, on being appealed to, sent to M. Palamides the written deposition of his cavass, who, on the contrary, fully confirmed the act complained of, although he, being a Mussulman, and of the most fanatic type, had endeavoured, when called upon by the local authorities, to mitigate some and pass over in silence other of the occurrences, of which he had witnessed only the close. This mortifying deposition of facts, which had re-echoed in the whole town, being communicated to the Governor, he sent for the Consular dragoman of Greece, requesting him to compromise the matter by the police officer apologizing to M. Palamides, who, however, was to understand that this step had no official character attached to it. The offer was naturally declined, and orders have since been given to the Vali at Joannina to investigate a matter respecting which only the authorities entertain doubts.
The Gheghs in the meantime continued their depredations, and two Italian subjects, who had suffered at their hands, receiving no redress, M. Borrell, the Italian Agent at Volo, was ordered to repair to Larissa and demand satisfaction. The authorities at first denied, "according to established usage," says the report, the very grounds of the complaint. Subsequently, however, they promised to adopt stringent measures, and having failed, as they said, to discover the culprit, gave a written apology to M. Borrell.
At last the Governor aroused himself from his self-imposed lethargy; but this was due to the fact that the Gheghs had gradually extended their operations to some Mussulmen, one of whom was wounded. They were consequently informed that spoliation and violence was allowed indeed, but only when Giaours were concerned; the Faithful were to be respected. The hint was taken, and Larissa was made the central "entrepôt " of the plunder from the country around, its market-place presenting the aspect of a continuous auction, church and house furniture figuring very prominently at the sales. Trade having thus received a healthy impetus, the Jews were prevailed upon to re-open their shops, the Governor now promising cash payments. Plundering, however, went on unchecked, and with this difference, that complainants were warned that sterner treatment would follow further appeals; and, in fact, several Jews were beaten on demanding payment for their goods.
On Saturday, September 19, the Zeibeks who landed at Volos arrived at Larissa, and at once entered into a brisk competition with the Gheghs in the way of plunder and violence. The shops were again shut on their approach, therefore twenty men were laid hold of in the market-place and beaten, eight, including the parish Priest and the Archdeacon, receiving yataghan-wounds. A Greek subject was, without the slightest provocation, stripped naked in the street, and pricked with the points of yataghans, and the Secretary and Dragoman of the Greek Consulate were again publicly insulted. On the latter making representations, the Governor replied "that nothing could be done." Consequently Greek subjects are all the more eagerly sought after, the Mussulmans pointing them out to the Gheghs as "Younan Giaour"-Greek Giaours.
The quarrelsome tendencies of the Gheghs, however, soon reasserted themselves, and numerous disputes arose between the Chiefs. Therefore, in order to avert the armed encounters which seemed impending amongst them and the Zeibeks over the plunder, numerous bands were again sent off on fresh expeditions.
They were not long gone when the most heartrending reports of their doings arrived from the surrounding country, and more especially from the towns of Turnavo and Ambelakia. The last named is famous in modern Greek history for the unparalled industry and thriftiness of its inhabitants, and their marvellous system of co-operation. The sad tidings were soon confirmed by the arrival at Larissa of three Ambelakiotes, who, accompanied by the British Vice-Consul and M. Borrell, laid their sad tale before the Governor. His Excellency had no knowledge of the event; in fact, he was quite