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To these 292,000 Christians and 45,300 Mussulmans must be added some 6000 Jews, thus forming for Thessaly a grand total of 343,300 souls.
The Christians of Thessaly, with the exception of about 20,000 Wallachs in the district of Elassona, as many in the district of Trikala, and a sprinkling of the same race in the northern villages of the district of Larissa, are all Greeks, and they exhibit most of the qualities as well as most of the defects of the Hellenic race. Especially in the towns, they are intelligent, industrious, pushing, and gifted with a rare commercial instinct. The whole commerce of Thessaly, which even now exceeds £600,000 per annum for imports and exports alone, apart from local trade, is in their hands. The few native industries of the province, such as cotton and woollen tissues, dyed stuffs and prints, shawls, and carpets, many of them showing fairly good taste and workmanship, are almost without exception Greek or Wallach. The schools, which have been founded and developed throughout Thessaly principally by patriotic donations from without, have already begun to
rouse among the younger generations that innate love of learning which is one of the best features of the Hellenic race. At the present moment there are seventy-eight higher schools and sixty-one elementary schools in the province, where instruction—albeit of a very rudimentary nature—is given to upwards of 10,000 children. It is at least a commencement, and many parents among the wealthier classes are thereby induced to send their children to complete their education in Greece, whence they return as doctors, engineers, architects, merchants, schoolmasters, &c., to stimulate others by their example and successes. Why is it that the Greek peasant of the plains, in spite of his indisputable material prosperity, seems to be stricken with a sort of moral and mental paralysis ? No doubt misgovernment weighs heavily upon him, but it does not suffice to account for the phenomenon. The clue is to be found in the fact that “the rich and fertile plains of Thessaly, which are almost without exception chiftlik—i.e., freehold property of beys and others—were formerly village communes, confiscated and sold by Ali Pasha of Yanina at
the end of the last century; and the peasants, who cultivate them now as tenants, are the descendants of the former proprietors, whose names have still adhered to many of their fields.”—(Notes by Colonel Synge respecting the state of the Peasant Farmers in Thessaly. Parliamentary Blue-book — Greece, No. 1: 1880.) It is the memory of recent spoliation, not the oppression of the present landlords, which weighs down the peasant, which makes him treacherous, slothful, and vindictive, careless of small improvements, and impatient for a radical change. It is easy to denounce the despotism of Mussulman landowners. But religion has nothing to do with the question. At the present day nearly a third of the land in Thessaly is owned by Christians, and up till lately the Turkish beys were better liked as masters than the Christian landowners. Possessing generally enormous estates, from which they derived far larger revenues than they required for their expenditure, the chief items of which arose from the profuse hospitality they exercised, they were not inclined to infringe upon the share of the profits which accrues under the métayer system
to the farmer. If the peasant was wronged or oppressed by Government officials, the influence which the beys enjoyed with the local authorities was generally exercised on his behalf to procure redress, and not without success. The beys, in fact, knew full well the value of the hen which laid them golden eggs, and took proportionate care of it. Of course, much depended upon the personal character of the bey; but as a rule, and within certain limits, he was an easy-going master. The Christian landowner, on the other hand, especially when an absentee, was harder to deal with. He had larger wants, and was therefore more grasping; he was more intelligent, and therefore more fond of pestering for improvements; he was more exposed to the extortions of the Government, and therefore more anxious to recoup himself upon the peasantry, while he was powerless to defend them against the abuses of those in authority. But of late years a great change has come over the attitude of the Turkish bey. Increased taxation, the constant demands of the Government for fresh loans, war contributions, and so-called voluntary gifts, the rapacity of officials intensified by long arrears of pay, have weighed heavily upon him, and his hand has in turn been heavier upon the peasantry. Then recent political changes, the assertion of the rights of the Christian populations of Turkey, and especially the Greek claim to Thessaly, have induced him gradually to look upon his Greek peasant as an impatient heir to his estates, and therefore as an enemy. Last year the cattle disease ravaged Thessaly ; more than 30,000 head of oxen were carried off ; and the peasants, already reduced by two successive bad seasons, were unable to replace the oxen, without which their fields must lie fallow. But the bey, who had hitherto been generally ready to advance money to his farmers on reasonable terms, hardens his heart against them, and declines to loosen his purse-strings. “Who knows,” he says, “what is going to happen? You will repay me next year? But perhaps by next year we may all have been turned out of Europe : will you follow me then to Asia to repay my loan? My estates suffer ? Let them suffer ; who knows how long they may yet be mine?” There are, however, indications that