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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