Mr. Schuyler to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Athens, May 10, 1883. (Received May 31.)
Sir: The Prince of Bulgaria arrived here on May 3 and left on May 5. He arrived somewhat later than he expected, having gone to Jerusalem from Constantinople in order to avoid being in Athens during Holy Week, and his visit was cut short by the necessity of going to Cettigne to confer with the Prince of Montenegro before going to Moscow for the coronation of the Czar. While here he was treated by the Greek Government with the honors usually given to sovereigns. Unquestionably his visit here was to a certain extent brought about by political reasons, and it is to be hoped that it will serve to establish a better feeling than now exists between Greeks and Bulgarians. The causes of distrust on the part of the Greeks are even older than the war of 1877, and arise from their fixed idea that they should be the ultimate heirs of the provinces in Europe now under Turkish rule. It is a rivalry of race. They fear the extension of Bulgarian influence in Macedonia, and refuse to admit that this large Turkish province is inhabited chiefly by Bulgarians and not Greeks.
The church question is the consequence of these ideas, for although the church of the Hellenic Kingdom is independent of the Greek patriarch at Constantinople, yet the Hellenes look upon the patriarch as the representative of Greek political as well as religious influence in Turkey. When, therefore, the Bulgarians demanded a separate church for themselves with only a nominal dependence on the patriarch, and insisted that Greek priests and bishops should no more be sent to strictly Bulgarian communities, this excited great opposition on the part of the Greeks. The Bulgarian church, through the influence of Russia and France, was, nevertheless, constituted under an exarch living at Constantinople, who has spiritual rule not only over Bulgaria proper, but over Eastern Roumelia, portions of Macedonia, and some villages in the province of Adrianople, which are still under direct Turkish rule.
As the Hellenic point of view, although plainly contradicted by facts, is that the population of Eastern Roumelia and Macedonia is entirely Greek, chiefly on the ground that they have hitherto been included in the Greek church, and that any exercise of authority by the Bulgarian exarch is calculated to diminish Greek influence in Turkey, the Bulgarian church was declared schismatic by the patriarch. The Bulgarians are now desirous of restoring the friendly relations between the two branches of the Eastern church.
There are unquestionably towns and small districts both in Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia where the population is chiefly Greek, although [Page 540]not Hellenic subjects, and the Hellenes claim that these Greeks are oppressed by being subjected to Bulgarian laws and placed under Bulgarian influences. Certainly in some cases the Greeks have been badly treated. Schools, for instance, have been closed which they had the right to keep open. These difficulties, however, are gradually growing less. Personally the prince has made a favorable impression on the King and on the leading Greek statesmen, and it is therefore to be believed that his visit will have good results. This is also the opinion of the semi-official press, though some more ardent newspapers think it impossible to come to any modus vivendi with the Bulgarians unless they entirely yield to the Greek demands.
I have, &c.,