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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33

Preliminary Report on the Moslem Atrocities

Sir,—In reference to the atrocities and massacres committed by the Turks in Bulgaria, I have the honour to inform you that I have visited the towns of Adrianople, Philippopolis, and Tatar-Bazardjik, and the villages of Stenimakho, Kadi-Keni, Kritshma, Perustitsa, Peshtera, Radulovo, Batak, Kalaglari, Panagurishta (Otluk-kui), Koprishtitsa (Avrat-Alan), and Klissura (Persiden or Dervent), in the districts of Philippopolis and Bazardjik.

From what I have personally seen, and from the inquiries I have made and the information I have received, I have ascertained the following facts.

During the last winter and spring, agents of the Bulgarian Committee at Bucharest made an agitation in Bulgaria for an insurrection against the Turkish Government, and met with considerable encouragement among the younger part of the population. Owing to the betrayal of the plot, the insurrection broke out prematurely on the 1st and 2nd of May in the villages of Klissura, Koprishtitsa, Panagurishta, Novo Selo, Bellova, and, perhaps, one or two others. There was great alarm, and even a panic, at Tatar-Bazardjik and Philippopolis; numerous telegrams were sent to the Porte for regular troops, which after some delay were refused. The Beys of Philippopolis and Adrianople practically seized on the government, and armed the Mussulman inhabitants of the town and of the country, arms being sent for that purpose from Adrianople and Constantinople. These armed Mussulmans, called irregular troops or Bashi-Bazouks, were then, together with the few regular troops at hand, sent into a campaign against the Bulgarian villages, for the purpose of putting down the insurrection, and of disarming the Christian population. But few Circassians seem to have been employed at this time. Their settlements are east of Adrianople. It was a [unclear: levéc en masse] of the Mussulman villages against their Christian neighbours.

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The insurgent villages made little or no resistance. In many instances they surrendered their arms upon the first demand. Nearly all the villages which were attacked by the Bashi-Bazouks were burned and pillaged, as were also all those which had been abandoned by the terrified inhabitants. The inhabitants of some villages were massacred after exhibitions of the most ferocious cruelty, and the violation not only of women and girls, but even of persons of the other sex. These crimes were committed by the regular troops as well as by the Bashi-Bazouks.

The number of villages which were burned in whole or in part in the districts of Philippopolis, Roptchus, and Tatar-Bazardjik is at least sixty-five, of which the names are as follow :
District of Philippopolis.
Names of Villages. Houses. Churches. Schools.
Sindjerli 200 1 1
Staro Novo-Selo 300 1 1
Yuleshintsa 90 1 1
Krastovo 100 1 1
Uzun-geren 70
Ereli 200 1 1
Sary-Gul 45
Aivadjik 50
Pashtusha 20 1
Zdrebrtchka 90 1 1
Yasy-Koria 140 1 1
Kozarsko 110 1 1
Perustitsa 400 2 2
District Of Roptchus.
Boikovo 60 1 1
Dudovo 20 houses burned.
Sitovo plundered, but not burned.
District of Tatar Bazardjik.
Names of Villages. Houses. Churches. Schools.
Klissura (Persiden or Dervent) 700 1 2
Koprishtitsa (Avrat-Alan) plundered, not burned.
Batak 900 1 3
Vietrona 600 1 1
Strelcha (mixed) 440 1 1
Popintsa 1 1
Radulovo 160 1 1
Kara-musab 1 1
Slavovitsa 1 1
Akandjeivo 1 1
Tchanaktcheieivo 1 1
Doganovo page 91
Ilshitsa 1 1
Kalaglari (mixed 160 1 1
Jumaya 1 1
Syrt-orman 1 1
Bega 60 1 1
Oldjulan 1 1
Ellidere 1 1
Eshi-Kashli 80
Shiakhlaré 1 1
Kulata 1 1
Tserovo 1 1
Dinkata 1 1
Zlakatchen 1 1
Slchukovo 1 1
Kaloyerovo 1 1
Lusitchovo 1 1
Metchka 1 1
Panagurishta (Otluk-kui) 3000 2 3

This list may not be entirely correct, as many towns have both Turkish and Bulgarian names, and they may be repeated in one or two instances. Some villages, too, are probably omitted. Owing to the absence of statistics, it is impossible exactly to ascertain the population of each village, and in many cases I have not been able to learn the number of houses. In general, as long as the patriarch or father of a family is alive, his married sons live with him, so that there are frequently families of 15, 20, and even of 30 persons. The population of a village would be therefore larger than for the same number of houses in other countries. In the larger villages the lower stories of the houses are of stone, the roofs are tiled, the streets are paved, and there is a general air of comfort and well-being. Particular attention was given by the troops to the churches and schools, which in some cases were destroyed with petroleum and gunpowder. The altars were overturned, the pictures painted on the walls scratched and pierced, and the holy places defiled and desecrated.

Besides the villages, four monasteries were burned—St. Teodor, near Perustitsa; the Panagia and the Bezsrabrinitsa, near Kritshma; and St. Nicolas, near Kaloyerovo.

The Turks allege that many of these villages were burned by the insurgents for the purpose of compelling the Bulgarian inhabitants to join them. I am unable to find that such was the case in more than two or three instances, and even here the proof is very weak. At Bellova the insurgents burned the railway station, in which some Zaptiehs had taken refuge.

It is very difficult to estimate the number of Bulgarians who were killed during the few days that the disturbances lasted, but I am inclined to put 15,000 as the lowest for the districts I have named.

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The manner in which the troops did their work will be seen from a few details gathered on the spot from persons who escaped from the massacre.

Perustitsa, a town of 400 houses, and between 3,000 and 4,000 inhabitants, took no active part in the insurrection. Becoming alarmed at the attitude of the Turks in the neighbouring villages, the inhabitants sent a deputation to Aziz Pacha, the Mutessarif of Philippopolis, for regular troops to defend them. He returned them a written message that he had no troops to send, and that they must defend themselves. When the Bashi-Bazouks appeared before the town they therefore refused to surrender, entrenched themselves in a church, retreating finally to another, and held out for five days, until they saw the regular troops under Rashid Pacha, when the remainder gave themselves up. Many of the inhabitants escaped at the beginning of the struggle; but many were shot down. The church was bombarded, and about 1,000 in all were killed—many of them women and children. The town was pillaged and completely burned; not a single house being now standing. Many women were violated. The floor of the church, the churchyard, and many of the gardens were dug up afterwards in search for buried treasure. The Bashi-Bazouks here were commanded by Ahmed Aga of Tamrysh, who was subsequently rewarded with a silver medal.

Klissura was nearly twice the size of Perustitsa and proportionately richer, as many of the inhabitants were engaged in the manufacture of attar of roses, and many were merchants travelling through the country. The insurrectionary movement began here on the 2nd of May, but it was not until the 12th that the Bashi-Bazouks, under the command of Tussum Bey of Karlovo, attacked the place. A few shots were fired, when the villagers surrendered and fled to Koprishtitsa, and to the mountains. More than 250 Bulgarians were killed, chiefly women and children. The Turks claim that fourteen Mussulmans (in part gipsies) were killed before and during the fight. As soon as the Bashi-Bazouks entered the town they pillaged it and burned it. Among other things, 450 copper stills used in making attar of roses were carried away to the Turkish villages. Subsequent parties carried off all that was left, even to the nails from the doors, and the tiles from the roofs. The church was desecrated and blown, up. Tussum Bey for this exploit was decorated with the Medjidié.

Koprishtitsa (Avrat-Alan), although one of the first villages to rebel, was one of the last to be attacked. Warned by the fate of Klissura and Panagurishta, the leading inhabitants themselves arrested the ringleaders of the insurrection, and sent to Philippopolis for regular troops. In spite of this the bearers of submission were fired on, and one, the priest Dontcho, was killed, the town was several times pillaged, many of the women were violated, and about thirty persons were killed. The town was not burned, and a general massacre was avoided by large presents of money paid by the leading inhabitants to the Turkish commanders. Three shots were, however, fired at the church, but did little damage. The villagers admit having killed ten Turks and forty gipsies, the latter being suspected of an intention to plunder the town. The Turks claim a total loss of seventy-one.

Panagurishta (Otluk-kui) was attacked by a force of regular troops, together with Bashi-Bazouks, on the 11th of May. Apparently no message to surrender was sent. After a slight opposition on the part of the insurgents the town was taken. Many of the inhabitants fled, but about 3,000 were massacred, the most of them being women and children. Of these about 400 belonged to the town of Panagurishta, and the others to nine neighbouring villages, the inha- page 93 bitants of which had taken refuge there. Four hundred buildings, including the bazaar and the largest and best houses, were burned. Both churches were completely destroyed, and almost levelled to the ground. In one an old man was violated on the altar, and afterwards burned alive. Two of the schools were burned, the third—looking like a private house—escaped. From the numerous statements made to me, hardly a woman in the town escaped violation and brutal treatment. The ruffians attacked children of eight and old women of eighty, sparing neither age nor sex. Old men had their eyes torn out and their limbs cut off, and were then left to die, unless some more charitably disposed man gave them the final thrust. Pregnant women were ripped open and the unborn babes carried triumphantly on the points of bayonets and sabres, while little children were made to bear the dripping heads of their comrades. This scene of rapine, lust, and murder was continued for three days, when the survivors were made to bury the bodies of the dead. The perpetrators of these atrocities were chiefly regular troops commanded by Hafiz Pacha. The Turks claim and the villagers admit the death of fourteen Mussulmans, two of whom were women who were killed with arms in their hands during a conflict with a party that refused to surrender to the insurgents.

While pillage reigned supreme at Koprishtitsa, and lust at Panagurishta, at Batak the Turks seemed to have no stronger passion than the thirst for blood. This village surrendered without firing a shot, after a promise of safety, to the Bashi-Bazouks, under the command of Ahmed Aga, of Burutina, a chief of the rural police. Despite his promise, the few arms once surrendered, Ahmed Aga ordered the destruction of the village and the indiscriminate slaughter of the inhabitants, about a hundred young girls being reserved to satisfy the lust of the conqueror before they too should be killed. I saw their bones, some with the flesh still clinging to them, in the hollow on the hill side, where the dogs were gnawing them. Not a house is now standing in the midst of this lovely valley. The saw mills—for the town had a large trade in timber and sawn boards—which lined the rapid little river, are all burned, and of the 8,000 inhabitants not 2,000 are known to survive. Fully 5,000 persons, a very large proportion of them women and children, perished here, and their bones whiten the ruins, or their putrid bodies infect the air. The sight of Batak is enough to verify all that has been said about the acts of the Turks in repressing the Bulgarian insurrection. And yet I saw it three months after the massacre. On every side were human bones, skulls, ribs, and even complete skeletons, heads of girls still adorned with braids of long hair, bones of children, skeletons still encased in clothing. Here was a house the floor of which was white with the ashes and charred bones of thirty persons burned alive there. Here was the spot where the village notable Trandafil was spitted on a pike and then roasted, and where he is now buried; there was a foul hole full of decomposing bodies, here a mill dam filled with swollen corpses; here the school house, where 200 women and children who had taken refuge there were burned alive, and here the church and churchyard, where fully a thousand half-decayed forms were still to be seen, filling the enclosure in a heap several feet high, arms, feet, and heads protruding from the stones which had vainly been thrown there to hide them, and poisoning all the air.

Since my visit, by orders of the Mutessarif, the Kaimakam of Tatar Bazardjik was sent to Batak, with some lime to aid in the decomposition of the bodies, and to prevent a pestilence.

Ahmed Aga, who commanded at the massacre, has been decorated and promoted to the rank of Yuz-bashi.

These atrocities were clearly unnecessary for the suppression of the insurrec- page 94 tion, for it was an insignificant rebellion at the best, and the villagers generally surrendered at the first summons. Nor can they be justified by the state of panic, which was over before the troops set out on the campaign. An attempt, however has been made—and not by Turks alone—to defend and to palliate them on the ground of the previous atrocities which, it is alleged, were committed by the Bulgarians. I have carefully investigated this point, and am unable to find that the Bulgarians committed any outrages or atrocities, or any acts which deserve that name. I have vainly tried to obtain from the Turkish officials a list of such outrages, but have heard nothing but vague statements. I was told by Kiani Pacha that the insurgents killed the wife and daughter of the Mudir of Koprishtitsa; but this Mudir had recently gone there, and had left his wife at Eski Saara, where she still resides, and had no daughter. I was also told of the slaughter of the wife of the Mudir of Panagurishta, but at the time mentioned that village had no Mudir. I was referred for information to Hafiz Nuri Effendi, a leading Turk of Philippopolis. In a very careful statement made by him, he sets the number of Mussulmans (including gipsies) killed during the troubles at 155, of whom twelve are women and children—the word children taken to mean any one under twenty years of age. I have been able to obtain proof of the death of only two of these women—at Panagurishta—who certainly were not intentionally killed. No Turkish women or children were killed in cold blood. No Mussulman women were violated. No Mussulmans were tortured. No purely Turkish village was attacked or burned. No Mussulman house was pillaged. No mosque was desecrated or destroyed. The report of the special Turkish Commissioner, Edib Effendi, contains statements on this point, as on every other, which are utterly unfounded in fact, and the whole report may be characterised as a tissue of falsehoods.

I am, Sir,

Yours very truly,

Eugene Schuyler.

The Honourable Horace Maynard, &c.

Bradbury, Agnew, & co., Printers, White Friars.