Country is practically provided by the State schools

In the towns there are a few teachers who give private instruction in foreign languages; but there may fairly be said to be no private schools. It follows that the whole education of the country is practically provided by the State schools. Americans are proud, and very justly proud, of their common school system; but as the United States have grown in wealth, and as the social distinctions which accompany wealth have developed in the Republic of the West, the children of well-to-do Americans are brought up more and more in private schools. Probably the same change will occur in Bulgaria when the same causes begin to operate. For the present, however, and for many years to come, the whole population of Bulgaria must be educated in the State schools. The children of professional men, tradesmen, and peasants receive exactly the same education, in the same schools, and pass their j’ears of learning sitting on the same benches, studying the same lessons, and playing the same games. This system must tend to perpetuate the absolute equality between all classes which now prevails in Bulgaria to a far greater extent than in the United States, or indeed in any civilized community I have ever heard of, either in the Old World or the New.

The public schools of Philippopolis

Some years ago, when I was travelling in America, I was always invited, by any acquaintances I might have in the towns I visited, to visit their cemetery and their common school. Happily the sort of ghoulish taste for graveyards, which is so universal amidst the Transatlantic branch of the Anglo-Saxon race, does not prevail in Bulgaria; and I fancy that the popular Bulgarian sentiment on the subject of burial-grounds very closely resembles that of the Moslem, namely, that a cemetery is a resort for the dead and not for the living. Anyhow in Bulgaria I never found myself expected to visit the cemeteries, but I was everywhere solicited to visit the educational establishments. The public schools of Philippopolis, of which I saw most, are reckoned some of the best in Bulgaria; and if, as I was assured by competent judges, they are fair specimens of the general run of the high schools throughout the country, the Bulgarians are certainly to be congratulated on the success of their scholastic experiment. The boys school is located in a very spacious, handsome building, which was built for the purpose at a cost of some  20,000, and which, in respect of class-rooms, galleries, and lecture-halls, is admirably adapted for the objects of an educational institution. The whole building was scrupulously clean; the rooms were well ventilated, cheerful, and commodious. There are six classes in the school, and each pupil is expected to rise from a lower to an upper class during each year of his sexennial curriculum. If he fails to qualify himself for the class next above his own during two successive years he is dismissed from the school as incapable of learning. The hours of study are from eight in the morning to midday, and from two to four in the afternoon. If, however, the parents can show valid cause for requiring the services of their children at home, the pupils are excused from afternoon attendance. The summer holidays are so arranged as to cover the period of the harvest, and thus to enable the boys to assist in the chief farming operations of the year.

 

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From the days of Juvenal

Probably the Phanariotes were not altogether so corrupt and so degraded as they were considered by their co-religionists. But they unquestionably displayed all the vices which, from the days of Juvenal, have characterized the Hellenic race, when in subjection to races of weaker intellect, but stronger will than their own. They were content to do the dirty work, which the Turks required doing, and were too indolent and too proud to do for themselves. One of the many sources of revenue, out of which the Phanariotes filled the Turkish Treasury, while at the same time levying toll for their own use, consisted in the sale of all the lucrative posts in the Bulgarian Church. For nearly five hundred years every piece of important preferment amidst the Bulgarian clergy, from the Patriarchate downwards, was put up to auction. As soon as the successful purchaser had enjoyed what the vendors considered a reasonable time in which to recoup himself for his purchase money, he was deposed by the Porte at the instance of the Phanar; and his place was again put up for auction. In the course of four centuries there are said to have been one hundred and forty Patriarchs of Bulgaria, so that the average tenure of the Patriarchal office did not amount to three years in duration.

Church was thus served by priests

The Church was thus served by priests of low character, men of disreputable if not infamous lives, who were at once servile and venal, and who—the worst offence of all in Bulgarian eyes—were, as a rule, of foreign race, I cannot learn that this scandalous state of things materially affected the attachment of the Bulgarians to their national creed Here, as in all Sclav countries, religion is a matter rather of ritual than of dogma ; and so long as a priest is competent to administer the sacraments and perform the required services, the personal respect or disrespect in which he may be held in his individual capacity hardly counts for anything in regard to his spiritual authority. The popular objection to the Phanariote clergy was not so much that they were wine-bibbers, loose livers, and a disgrace to their cloth, as that they were foreigners, the nominees and representatives of an alien and detested rule. The intensity of this dislike to a foreign priesthood was accelerated by the revival of the sentiment of nationality, which in Bulgaria, as elsewhere in Turkey, coincided with the decline of the Ottoman power. The earlier portion of the present century witnessed the birth of a national Bulgarian party; and the first efforts of this party were directed to removing the patronage of the Bulgarian Church from the hands of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who, up to that , time, had been a mere creature of the Porte.

 

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Living Room

The fact of the cottages being more or less hidden behind walls renders it difficult to look inside the houses. The Bulgarians, too, do not like strangers to come within their dwellings. But the houses in the one narrow, winding street which runs through the village, face the roadway, and, as their doors generally stand open, you can form, by peeping in as you pass, a fair impression of what a Bulgarian peasant’s cottage is in reality. The floors are of mud; the kitchen fronting the street is also the living-room.

Sleeping Room

Behind there is a sleeping-room, with a bedstead in it for the head of the house, while the sons and daughters sleep upon mats stretched on the floor. The furniture consists of wooden tables, benches, and chests. The crockery and household utensils of every sort seem of the commonest and coarsest kind. I should doubt if there is a single house in the whole village in which any English labourer or artisan, earning good wages, would not deem it a hardship to be obliged to live in. At the same time, there was no single dwelling which, given the habits and customs of the country, could be fairly described as unfit for human habitation. A similar remark applies to the dress of the villagers. The day on which I visited Panscherevow happened to be a Sunday. In Bulgaria, though work is done in the fields on Sunday to some extent, the day is more or less of a holiday, and there are more people to be found in the villages than would be seen there on an ordinary week-day. Possibly, on a Sunday, a native might detect some little extra care or adornment in the dress of the peasants, but to a stranger the difference in attire between work-days and holidays is utterly imperceptible. The men had certainly made no change in their shaggy sheepskins and their woolen leggings. The women’s stiff skirts and flannel petticoats may have displayed a trifle more embroidery than usual, and the white linen skull-caps, with their pendent tails, were obviously fresh from the wash-tub. In most cases, however, the dress of men, women, and children alike was frayed, soiled, and tattered. The clothing was warm and stout enough to keep out the cold, but it was generally so old and so worn that, in other lands, the wearing of such attire would have stamped the wearer as a pauper. The women are fair-haired, fair-complexioned, slatternly creatures, somewhat resembling the Scandinavian type, stout and strongly built, and fairly clean in appearance. The men not at work seemed to be gathered mostly in the liquor-shops or to loaf outside its doors; but, in as far as I could notice, they drank very little, and were certainly quiet, well- behaved, and, for the most part, silent. Every now and then a woman in passing by would exchange a remark with the crowd of men gathered around the liquor-store; but there was no general conversation of any kind, either inside or outside the doors of the tavern. When I visited Panscherevow the violets and primroses were just out, and, as there is a considerable demand for flowers amidst the townsfolk of Sofia, our carriage was surrounded with village children bearing nosegays in their hands. They never, however, asked you to buy, or begged or thrust their wares upon you with the importunity of the Eastern mendicant. They held out their flowers stolidly; but, if you showed no wish to purchase, they went away equally stolidly, and left you in peace without asking for anything. The children were one and all ragged, ill-shod, unkempt, but for all that they looked healthy and well fed, while the general lack of beauty in their features and figures was redeemed by a pleasant smile. When the attempt to do a trade in flowers had been discontinued as useless the children returned to their games. After the wont of Bulgarian children they played quietly and silently, without screams and without disputes.

 

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Mahommedan population

This rapid decrease in the Mahommedan population is a subject of deep regret to the Bulgarian authorities. The north-east comer of the country, the triangle contained between the Danube, the Black Sea, and the northern slopes of the Balkans, is almost exclusively occupied by Tomaks. Every inducement in the way of remission of taxes and of exemption from military service has been held out to keep the Tomaks from deserting their homes. But so far all these inducements have failed to overcome the half-social, half-fanatical influences which render a land where the Giaour holds sway no fit dwelling-place for a true follower of Islam.

The Land Tenure

I have endeavoured in the foregoing chapters to explain the general course of events which preceded the conversion of Bulgaria into an independent State. I have now to deal with its present position. The population of the country nowadays is, in round numbers, three and a half millions. Notwithstanding the large exodus of the Moslem Bulgarians, and the great mortality among infants, due to the absence of midwives, to bad sanitary arrangements, and to the fact of the mothers going back to work in the fields almost immediately after their confinement, the population increases annually by about two hundred thousand. The peasants, as a rule, marry soon after they come of age. Large families are very common, and a household in which there are only four or five children is the exception. The material conditions of life have improved greatly—and notably amidst the poorer classes—since the declaration of independence; and if the present rate of increase continues, it is calculated that the population will be doubled in the course of the next decade.

No cadaster in Bulgaria

Of the existing population five-sevenths, or two and a half millions, are engaged in agricultural pursuits, and the overwhelming majority are small landed proprietors. The proportion of labourers, who work for wages on other men’s lands, is extremely limited. At harvest time, a certain number of foreigners, chiefly Macedonians, come into Bulgaria to seek employment; and the poorer peasant farmers of the country, when their own crops are gathered in, are ready to work for wages on the lands of their wealthier neighbours. But it may safely be asserted that, throughout the rural districts, there is no important section of the community depending for its means of livelihood on any other source of income than the produce of its own lands. There is as yet no cadaster in Bulgaria, though one is shortly to be undertaken. Nor is there, so far, any very satisfactory system of agricultural statistics. It is not, therefore, easy to say what are the average holdings of the present proprietors. According to the estimate of residents well acquainted with the country, the average is about six acres, taken all round, though in many instances the holdings are very small, only amounting to a single acre or even less. According to the law, which is still mainly based upon the old Turkish legislation, the father of a family has only a qualified liberty of testamentary disposal. If he has only one child, he is obliged to leave that child not less than one-half his property; if he has two or more children, he can only alienate one-third ; and, in default of children, his other relatives, including his parents, if still living at the time of his death, have a legal claim to a certain share in his estate. Of course, this system tends to promote the indefinite subdivision of landed property, though, in the case of very small farms, this tendency is modified by voluntary arrangements between the different heirs to the property, in virtue of which one of them is allowed to keep the farm for himself in consideration of his buying out the other claimants, either by paying cash down, or by assigning them a charge on the profits of the farm. There are obvious disadvantages to the State in this continued multiplication of small farms; and there has been some talk of legislation, with the view of checking the further subdivision of estates. The passion, however, for owning land, and the preference for agricultural labour, are so universal amidst the people, that, no matter what legislation may attempt, Bulgaria, for many generations to come, will remain a land of small proprietors.

 

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 Highly Developed Civilization

Development of the Chalcolithic Culture

The question quite rightly arises why a highly developed civilization, based on agriculture and cattle-breeding and whose main settlements were in Thrace, should be discovered here. An explanation can be put forward after the part played and the place taken by the Varna lakes in the development of the Chalcolithic culture are elucidated. In the last few decades, as the result of construction works of the shores of the lakes, traces have been found of about a dozen settlements which existed at that time on the Varna Necropolis. Up to the present day they are from three to eight metres below the present level of the water. For a long time it was assumed that they were the so-called pile dwellings, similar to those in Switzerland, France and Germany. But submarine excavations and researches have shown that it is a matter here of sunken settlements as a result of the rapid rise of the level of the sea. The exceptionally favorable position of the complex of settlements was a pre-condition for an active life. Being the best part of the region and with a deep bay on the western shore of the

Black Sea, the Varna lakes and their vicinity were also the most suitable place for contacts with the nomadic tribes in the northern areas bordering on the Black Sea and the steppes. The growth of metallurgy and brisk trading made it possible for the region to rise to a higher degree in social and economic respects. Along the valleys of the local rivers it was possible to penetrate dozens of kilometers inland, and through these valleys the raw materials of metal and flint to reach the coast of the Black Sea. There, in specialized workshops tools and ornamental objects were produced. Then, by means of coastal navigation these goods started on a long voyage to the valleys of the northern rivers and to areas lying on the Mediterranean Sea. Then the products of the local population also began to come along the valley of the Danube and gave a spur to the development of Central and Western Europe.

Varna Necropolis

In throwing more light on the place of and the part played by the Varna Necropolis and on the appearance of the first European civilization, a parallel should be drawn with the already familiar Near East cultures in Asia Minor and Egypt. Relations with the region of Asia Minor date to the beginning of the sixth millennium BC, but later they were interrupted and the cultures developed independently.

It is difficult to compare the data, because of certain differences in the methods of dating, but according to the data obtained with radioactive carbon, in the present-day Bulgarian lands the pre-state form of organization took shape earlier than in Shumir and Egypt. The abrupt climatic and geographical changes that occurred at the end of the fifth millennium BC checked the natural development of the first highly developed human civilization by hundreds of years, and then it developed elsewhere, to the south of the Balkans and in the countries of the Western Mediterranean.

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