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03.08.2016 20:55 - THE BULGARIAN ORTHODOX EXARCHATE AND ABOLITIONISM
Автор: vkolev22 Категория: История   
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The problem of slavery in the late Ottoman Empire during the Tanzimat reforms years (1839-1878) is a subject of comparatively recent interest in historical research. Still the several monographs of outstanding European, Turkish and Near Eastern historians have already created a complex and in depth reconstruction that outlines the general stream of events and analyses the characteristics of the slavery phenomenon usually in comparison with the slavery in the Arab world and in the Americas. As the research heavily depends on the lack of primary sources, the picture is somehow distorted with an emphasis on the Arabian provinces of the empire of the Sultan in Asia and Africa, while the situation in the capital Constantinople and especially in the European provinces is far more vague. Up to several years ago Bulgarian historians made no exception to that rule. The researches in the late 1950s were marked with the task of presenting scarce information, focusing on the classical period of the empire and imposing the Marxist approach and methodology. However, in the recent years a couple of new publications appeared that set the research on a new ground, trying to overcome the decades of silence. That renewed interest is in the context of the public discussion about the character of the Ottoman rule in Bulgarian lands, the situation of the Christian population and the legitimacy of the traditional and popular generalization term “Turkish yoke”. What the experts in the field of Ottoman slavery agree on is that the modernizing attempts to abolish the slave trade and slavery as an institution, were carried from the above, met little or no enthusiasm inside Ottoman society and were usually made under foreign and mainly under British pressure. It is constantly being repeated that Ottoman society knew no abolitionist pressure groups, organisations and initiatives unlike West European and North American societies. The purpose of this article is to oppose exactly this predominant concept and to reveal the role of the biggest and most important Bulgarian public institution, i.e. the Bulgarian Orthodox Exarchate or the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, that preserved its leading role after the establishment of the Bulgarian nation state not only on its territory, but also in the European provinces of the Ottoman Empire. *** In the second half of the 19th century chattel slavery was a well-established and stable social phenomenon within the empire of the Sultan, that no person or institution opposed or even questioned. Its existence was deeply rooted in a century-long tradition and both the sharia sacred law of Islam and the state legislation of the canuns, based on it. The predominant view of the ulema class of religious scholars and of their leader the sheikh-ul-Islam was that it is equally wrong to permit what Allah has abolished and to abolish what Allah has permitted, thus justifying slavery on the grounds of Islamic religion. At the same time the British diplomats in Constantinople reported the clear picture of Ottoman refusal to engage with abolition of slavery: “I have mentioned the subject and I have been heard with extreme astonishment, accompanied with a smile at the proposition for destroying an institution closely interwoven with the frame of society in this country, and intimately connected with the law and with the habits and even the religion of all classes, from the Sultan himself, down to the lowest peasant… I think that all attempts to effect your Lordship`s purpose will fail, and I fear they might give offence if urged forward with importunity. The Turks may believe us to be their superiors in Science, in Arts and in Arms, but they are far from thinking our wisdom or our morality greater than their own.” In this context sharia law continued to be the basis of Ottoman slavery and it prescribed the military clash between Islam and the other religious or pagan communities as the main source of acquiring slaves. On one hand this could be a formal war between the empire and some of its non-Muslim neighbours and on the other hand, an internal unrest during which the non-Moslem population opposed the rule of the sultan with arms. Thus, at least in theory, the non-Muslims broke the dhimmi pact with the Muslim authorities over them and became formal enemies of the state and of Islam. The usual practice, denoting this situation, was through issuing a fetwa by the sheikh-ul-Islam but under concrete circumstances this judgement could be officially transferred or usurped by the local religious or administrative authorities. Thus every interior disturbance became a possibility for recruiting slaves from within the borders of the empire as every war became a source of captives that were sent to the slave markets. This major source was complemented by the slave trade, which brought an annual influx of about 15 000 slaves from Asia, Africa and the European dominions of the empire. The rise of Balkan nationalism and the activation of Balkan insurgencies in the 19th century created sufficient opportunities for the rise of the slave trade as well. Thus during the first Serbian revolution and after capturing Belgrade, more than 1800 Serbian captives were publicly sold into slavery at the improvised slave market at Kalemegdan in a sole day on October 5th, 1813. Serbian slaves, both male and female, were exchanged as presents side by side with cattle among Ottoman nobility in the Serbian lands. During the uprising of Hadji Prodan in 1815 Prince Milosh Obrenovic ransomed more than 100 Serbian slaves from the Ottoman governor of Belgrade Suleiman pasha Skopljak. According to Serbian historians, Serbian slaves could be found in Egypt, Asia Minor, Damascus, Smirna, Constantinople and even in the autonomous Christian Principality of Wallachia. Up to the Eastern crisis of 1875-1878 Christian slaves could be easily obtained on the clandestine slave markets of Bosnia. The same picture of a thrilling slave trade is depicted by the travellers and the European press during the Greek national revolution. The mass massacres of innocent Greeks in Constantinople and in Asia Minor in April-July 1821 only under the suspicion of sympathizing with the insurgents, were combined with their abduction and selling into slavery. After the famous massacre on the island of Chios in April 1822 the official permission tickets issued by the authorities for the trade in Greek captives abducted on the island, were more than 47 000 and turned out to be insufficient to the exceeding number of slaves. The massacre at Missolongi in mainland Greece in April 1826 brought another 4000 Greeks to the slave markets of the empire. Slavery and the restoration of the abducted Christian insurgents to their homelands constituted a major part of the negotiations about the evacuation of the Egyptian armies from Greece between the British admiral and the Egyptian viceroy in 1828. During them the ruler accepted the existence of the problem and promised to release all Greek slaves owned by the state from the Egyptian galleys and the arsenal in Alexandria. At the same time he insisted that the numbers in the European press were exaggerated and many of the slaves originated from Candia in Crete, where slavery was legal as in all lands of the Ottoman Empire. Still he promised to release as many Greek slaves as possible on the condition that it should be done in the form of exchange of war prisoners, which was an established practice under sharia law. This settlement was formalized in the Convention of August 6th, 1828. It is often emphasized that some of the male children sold into slavery in these years rose to prominent positions in the central Ottoman administration or in the courts of the Maghreb autonomies. The problem of slavery was reflected in the first Serbian constitution of February 14th, 1835. Its article 118 declared that every slave becomes immediately free after stepping on Serbian soil, being brought on it or fleeing. The Serbians could buy but could not sell slaves. Similar articles existed in the constitutions and Organic statutes of Greece, Wallachia, Moldova and later of the unified Romanian principality. The defeat of the Russian Empire in the Crimean War (1853-1856) and the exodus of the Circassians from the Caucasus gave a new impetus to the flourishing slave trade. The domination of the allied British and French navies in the Black sea created favourable opportunities for increased activities of the Ottoman slavers who managed to engage a considerable amount of the European steamers in the business. This trend became widely popular due to the parliamentary interventions of several members of the House of Commons and of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, who pressed the government to react. According to the traveller Emile de Girardin, at the beginning of the Crimean War only in Constantinople the number of the slaves was about 52 000, of whom the women were 47 000 and the servile population was more than 12% of the inhabitants of the capital. Those conservative numbers were discussed in the House of Commons as well, based on the diplomatic reports. The rising negative European attitude to the Ottoman slaving practices led to a temporary prohibition of the slave trade in white Caucasian slaves in October 1854 by the Grand Vezir of the Ottoman Empire, but immediately after the war the trade was resumed. The efficiency of the ban was discussed by the British officers and diplomats both on the frontline and in Constantinople. What was not doubted, was the increase of slavery in the European provinces of the Ottoman Empire after the war, mainly because of the massive emigration of the Circassians from their native lands, occupied by the Russians into the Ottoman Empire. According to the Ottoman high authorities more than 1 million Circassians emigrated between 1857-1867 and about 150 000 of them were slaves. Almost half of them were transported to European Turkey. This dramatic increase was not only noticed by the European consuls in the area, but was also led to the increase in the numbers of the abductions both of the local Ottoman subjects and of the clandestine trans-border activities. Thus in 1859 the second wife of the famous African explorer Sir Samuel Baker, Florence Maria Szasz from Hungary was sold at the age of 14 on the slave market of Vidin. As almost all of the Ottoman white slaves were Christians, the different Christian churches within the empire were active in opposing the tradition of abducting and enslaving of their kin. Although this practice is not well documented, it was routine and the climax during severe social crises within the empire can easily be traced. The codices of the different Christian artisan organisations from the 19-th century contain texts about collecting money for charity among Christian slaves or for their liberation. During the Greek revolution the Orthodox church in Plovdiv organised numerable mass actions for collecting money for buying Greek slaves in the city and liberating them. Thus the Christian denominations and the biggest of them, the Orthodox church, were the only societies within the Ottoman empire that opposed slavery on a practical base. The foundation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Exarchate with an imperial firman at the end of February 1870 marked the official recognition of the Bulgarian nation by the Ottoman authorities within the traditional millet system. Despite the complicated formal relations between the Bulgarian Exarchate and the Greek Ecumenical Patriarchate, they usually acted together defending the Orthodox cannons and general humanitarian principles. One of them was their negative attitude towards the enslavement of Christians. The beginning of the Eastern crisis of 1875-1878 saw a lot of opportunities for those common actions, especially between the followers of the two churches if not at the top of the clergy. The well documented atrocities during the crushing down of the big Bulgarian April Uprising of 1876, were among those opportunities. Thus the Dutch honorary Consul in Varna, who was himself a Greek from the Aegean islands and was well acquainted with the slavery practices of the Ottomans used all his authority among the local authorities and his superiors in Constantinople to stop a cargo of 825 abducted Bulgarians ready to be transported to the slave markets of the capital. That humanitarian intervention was awarded by the Russian Empire and by Bulgarian state with the high state decorations. The case was made popular by the European liberal press and that pressure made the Ottoman authorities more careful and the slaving actions more clandestine. Still a rich Greek banker was able to buy 4 Bulgarian youngsters to save them. The case of a Bulgarian father who found out his son on the open slave market in Adrianople but was not allowed to claim him, because he was a Christian, demonstrates the policies of the local authorities in the province quite near to the capital. After the end of the uprising it was the Bulgarian Exarchate that took the leading role in the campaign for returning the enslaved Bulgarians in exchange of financial compensation to their new owners. As the accumulated actives were not enough, the Exarch Antim I addressed the issue to the attention of the Russian Orthodox Church, trying to receive financial and diplomatic support for the campaign. The repulsive enslavement of formally Ottoman subjects was strongly condemned in the European press and in the House of Commons. This condemnation was considered by the Russian Chancellor Count Gorchakov and his Ambassador in Constantinople Count Nikolay Ignatiev as one of the main issues on the agenda of the international conference that was summoned in December 1876. It was not brought forward only because it could have led to disagreement between the Great Powers and the Porte and having in mind how slavery was deeply embedded in the everyday life of the Ottoman society, in the Sultan`s court and in the retinues of the high officials. There the conflict between the British representatives, supporting the Sublime Porte and their Russian counterparts resulted in a remarkable incident. Some of the Russian aides and the American journalist Januarius Macgahan bought a little Bulgarian girl on one of the numerous clandestine slave markets of the city and brought her in front of the diplomats. That demonstration played a crucial role for the consolidation of the European diplomats who tried to impose a peaceful solution of the crisis on the Ottoman Empire. During the subsequent Russia-Ottoman War the abductions of civil population and slave trade received a new impetus. Besides the thousands of individual cases, there was at least one large scale abduction of Bulgarian population in the middle of July 1877 in Eski Zaara (today Stara Zagora). After the city was reconquered by the regular army of Suleiman pasha, it was set on fire and the entire male population of about 14 000 was massacred. Most of the women and children (about 10 000) were driven in a camp out of the burning town and after a march of several hundred kilometres reached Adrianople. There they were led under an arch of bare swords and rifles, an act demonstrating that they were war captives and could be legally sold as slaves. The new outburst of abductions and slave trading led to the collaboration of the Bulgarian Exarchate not only with the co-religious brethren from the Greek Patriarchate, but also with the representatives of the American Bible society in Constantinople. The Exarchate had to act very carefully and under cover because of the constant suspicions on behalf of the authorities of being a Russian agent. That suspicions led to the dismissal of the first Bulgarian Exarch Antim I and his replacement with the new Exarch Josef I. Being young and open minded, he established connections with a Greek merchant someone Stamatio Spanudis, a zelous abolitionist and acted through him. The Exarch managed to console the traditionally hostile Russian and British Embassies. Having the support of the British Aborigenes Protection Society St. Spanudis managed to establish close ties with George Washburn, the Head of the famous Robert College and managed to receive his financial and influential support. After the Russia-Ottoman war of 1877-1878 the situation with the enslaved Bulgarians rapidly deteriorated. The Preliminary treaty of San Stefano from February 19th, 1878 postulated the returning of all war prisoners and the abolitionists tried to encompass in their number the enslaved civilians. The temporary Russian civilian administration made the first steps for the returning of the enslaved Bulgarians due to the initiative of the Starа Zagora Municipality. They engaged several persons to track the fates of the Bulgarians abducted from the region and sold as slaves. With the support of the district governor Nestor Markov, emissaries were sent in Adrianople and Constantinople and their vicinities to track the fate of the enslaved Bulgarians, but the action remained without success due to the boycott of the Ottoman administration. Despite of that, sufficient and concrete information was gathered about no less than 2200 Bulgarians who were sold in different regions of the Empire. About 700 were abducted in the Gallipoli peninsula, 200 in the region of Chanakkale, 300 in Nicomedia, 100 near the island of Samos. About 450 of them had been sold in Beirut, another 100 in Hartut in Mesopotamia, and 150 in Egypt. They originated mainly from the regions of Stara Zagora and Plovdiv, but a sufficient number were also from Tirnovo. Most of the enslaved were women and children but young men at the age of 20-21 were not an exception as well. They were openly sold at the improvised slave market at Atmeidan in front of St. Sofia in Istanbul and in Adrianople. A peculiar case occurred with the slaves, sold in Egypt. Besides the ones that accidentally reached the Egyptian coast at Alexandria, some of them were purchased in Constantinople under the explicit order of the court of the viceroy Ismail. The notorious slave trader Al Zubair Rahma Mansur, who had occupied the position of governor of the Bahr al Gazal province in Egypt and despite of his conflict with the newly appointed governor of Sudan the British General Charles Gordon, was sent to exile in Constantinople and there he organised the white slave traffic to Egypt. A special ship was sent by the court in Cairo and 30 Bulgarian slaves were purchased and transported to the Egyptian capital. No one of them returned back. After the war the efforts of the Bulgarian society were concentrated around the constitutional arrangements of the Bulgarian principality and of the autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia. The Constituent Assembly of the Principality in Tirnovo was aware of the formal possibility of reintroduction of the Ottoman slavery practices and acted accordingly. On March 24th 1879, the deputies discussed and voted the two paragraphs of article 61 of the Tirnovo Constitution: “Nobody in the Bulgarian Principality is allowed to purchase or sell human beings. Every slave gets his freedom, stepping on Bulgarian soil.” The text of the article is an original creation of the Bulgarian “founding fathers”. It did not existed in the 2 preliminary version of the initial Lukianov project of the constitution or in the amendments made in St, Petersburg during the “Special Consultation” in November 1878. It was based upon the ideas of the Report of the Parliamentary Commission on the Basic Principles of the Constitution, which brought forward the principle of freedom as its constituent characteristics. The metropolitan bishops of the Bulgarian Exarchate were among the most active members of that Commission and of concrete proposal. The person, who moved forward and defended that proposal was Marko Balabanov, a leading factor in the creation of the Exarchate and Secretary of its first Constitutive congress in 1871. The text followed the standard two stages in European abolitionism as they emerge in the domain of British public opinion: banning of the slave trade (Abolition of the Slave Trade act of March 25th 1807) followed by a general abolition of slavery (Slavery Abolition act of August 23rd 1833). The proposal led to an intense debate, during which the clash between the Conservative and the Liberal fractions was renovated. The leader of the extreme Liberals Petko Karavelov acknowledges the first paragraph about banning slavery as a principle and rejects the abolition of the slave trade, trying to degrade it to a simple judicial procedure and compared it to the system of life long obligations such as the British systems of apprenticeship and indentured servitude, which were terminated in the British Empire in 1838. Similar was the attitude of Jacob Gerov from Varna, who declared that the introduction of a that text in the constitution would be an “ugly thing”, and unsuccessfully tried to support his position with the constitutional texts of the neighbouring countries. In opposition to them, other prominent extreme Liberals like Petko Slaveikov and Andrei Stoianov seconded the formal proposal with new argumentation. Slaveikov emphasized upon the current situation in the empire of the sultans, where chattel slavery still existed on a large scale and was thriving during the crisis. He stated that the problem was a pressing one and that certain influential circles in the Ottoman Empire were strongly interested in the restitution of chattel slavery in the country. Andrei Stoianov brought forward not only the activisation of the slave trade during the crisis but also the system of hereditary slavery. The Conservative fraction firmly supported the proposal and Marko Balabanov insisted that “It should be engraved with unalterable letters in the Constitution”. In his opposition to the Liberal criticism, he brought forward the example of the four Greek constitutions and the leader of the extreme Conservatives added the international ban upon the slave trade. They considered the constitutional texts as an active practical legislation that would transform the problem from judicial into administrative and of the law enforcement : “The police will be obliged to immediately liberate without bringing the matter to the court of these creatures, wherever they are to be found”. Finally the Constituent assembly backed Marko Balabanov and voted the proposal with the argument that “it would be a matter of honour to implement this prohibition in our constitution”. The Bulgarian Exarchate played a leading role in dealing with slavery and the slave trade in the autonomous province of eastern Rumelia as well. The metropolitan bishop of the capital city Plovdiv, Panaret was a driving force in the Special Parliamentary Commission of the Provincial assembly. On October 24th 1880 that Commission under the chairmanship of Dr. Georgi Yankulov discussed a draft of a Bill for the abolition of slavery. It was proposed by a group of 13 distinguished deputies, bishop Panaret among them. The Commission unanimously supported the draft and declared it to be “a grave stain upon the freedom loving principles on which our present government is based” trying to distance that government as much as possible and even to oppose it to the system of administration and to the social realities of the Ottoman Empire that preserved and supported chattel slavery. The trade with human beings was declared to be “the meanest and most disgusting trade” The motives to the draft cut a clear picture of the current situation in the province and in the empire: “As it is well known that some of the Moslem refugees on their return into the province had brought slaves and as it is almost sure that there are slaves in many of the Moslem houses and to avoid the reestablishment of the hideous trade in human beings in the province”. Formally the draft was based upon articles 30 and 100 of the Organic statute of the province, that proclaimed the personal freedom of the population and banned every limitation of this fundamental principle except for the cases and procedures, established in the laws. The draft itself had an elementary structure of 3 separate articles. It started with the general abolition of slavery on the entire territory of the autonomous province. It implied the possession, selling, purchase and transportation of slaves of both genders. The violators of that prohibition were to be fined with 1000 to 1000 groshеs (10-100 TL) in the benefit of the slave, who should be liberated on the spot and with or sentenced to 1-6 months imprisonment . In the case of a second violation, the perpetrator should be punished by the same fine, combined with 6-24 months of imprisonment and postponing his civil rights for 5 years. In the case of a third violation, besides the same fine, the punishment should be permanent extradition and in every single case, the slave should be immediately liberated. Due to tactical reasons, to the obvious need of maintaining good relations with the empire and the fact that every provincial bill should be approved by the sultan, the draft was never submitted to parliamentary debates. Thus the administrative and police practices were to amend the lapsus in the legislation. It was considered that the texts of the Organic statute gave enough guarantees against the reinstitution of slavery especially in combination with integral anti-slavery politics of the provincial executive. The abolitionist mood in Eastern Rumelia could easily be followed again at the end of 1883, when the Czech barrister Count Rudolph Turn-Taxis drafted a number of new bills, aiming to definitely separate the provincial judicial system from that of the Ottoman Empire. Central role in this construction was determined for a new Criminal Code. The constant threat about the reinstitution of the Ottoman chattel slavery can easily be traced in several of its articles. Article 189 of the draft emphasised upon the slave trade in the spirit of the Ottoman criminal code and amended and enlarged its stipulations, thus reaching the essence of the phenomenon: “Whoever gives a person as a slave to another one or uses himself as a slave and whoever is engaged into slave trading by any means, or takes part in their bringing (to the province) or their holding, is entitled to heavy imprisonment of 3-12 years”. This respectable abolitionist manifestation is included into the second chapter of the draft entitled “Crimes and Violations against Individual Freedom”. The upper limit of the punishment is quite near to the maximum possible imprisonment of 15 years in the Code. Closely related to this article are the following , which dealt with different variants of abduction. To the end of the existence of the province, the biggest and most complete provincial draft did not managed to go through all the stages of the complicated process of legislature and to came into force, thus giving full guarantees against the restoration of the slave practices in this privileged Ottoman villayet. *** Besides actively participating in the legislature of the Bulgarian principality and of the autonomous province, the Bulgarian Exarchate was engaged in its traditional activities of ransoming the abducted Bulgarians sold as slaves in the vast Ottoman Empire. In the year after the war, the Exarchate was operating the dangerous activity through its agent Stamatio Spanudis and his established network of informers. The formal ground was the stipulation of the preliminary San Stefano treaty about returning the war prisoners as the Ottoman legislation made no difference between active participation in the belligerent armies and civil population abducted during the time of war. The case in Stara Zagora that we already discussed, is a clear illustration of this tradition. The network of Spanidis operated mainly in Constantinople and the coasts of the Marmara sea, but gathered information from a far wider region. The archive of the Bulgarian Ministry of Finance keeps three official letters issued by the Bulgarian Exarchate to Spanudis, which are evidence of his efforts and of the close relations between him and the Bulgarian ecclesiastical authorities in ransoming and subsequent transportation of the Bulgarian slaves. At the end of August 1879, the Minister of Finance Grigor Nachovich addressing an official report to Prince Alexander I summarised the achievements of Stamatio Spanudis and his anonymous brother. Underlying the strong religious Christian motives in his abolitionist actions, the Minister revealed that because of them and the constant threat for their lives they had to abandon the Ottoman capital and to emigrate to the Principlaity. Their efforts resulted in ransoming and liberating of more than 200 Bulgarians and collecting information about more than 1000 other individual cases. The Bulgarian government reimbursed their financial losses. In February 1883 the Third Ordinary National Assembly reimbursed them with another 10 000 leva for the ransoming of a total of 558 Bulgarian slaves. After the Bulgarian Exarchate moved back its seat from Plovdiv to Constantinople in January 1880, it restarted its ransom policy. At first the main target were Bulgarian children from Stara Zagora, that were sold in the region of Balikesir in Anatolia. In the next year with the support of the Exarchate, the agents of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry were successful in ransoming Bulgarians from the region of Gyumyurdzhina. The archive of the State Council from 1881-83 reveals part of this activity and the common ransoming activities of St. Spanudis and someone Vasil Doichov from Chirpan. They have left their flourishing commercial businesses to explore Asia Minor and especially the islands of Cyprus, Rhodes, Samos and their respectable vicinities collecting information about Bulgarian slaves. Most of them were later clandestinely ransomed by the agents of the Bulgarian Principality. The two zealous abolitionists were provided with letters of recommendation from the Russian Consulate in Constantinople and the Bulgarian Exarchate. A replica of such a letter reveals that that activity was organised through the traditional Orthodox channels. In May 1881 the Orthodox Parish of Chirpan issued a letter to the Orthodox Parish of Diarbakir in Eastern Asia Minor and explicitly underlined the purpose: “to investigate and ransom the enslaved persons during the last Russia-Turkish War, girls, boys and children, a job for which he was sponsored by the government”. The letter was signed by the chief parish priest and the subsequent money were taken from the special fund of the “Poborniks”, the active participants in the Bulgarian liberation movement and in the War of liberation. The supporting documents reveal that several other letters of recommendation were confiscated by the Ottoman authorities in the same year in their attempt to stop the action and especially to prevent it from being documented and publicised in European and North American press. Those efforts continued well up to the end of the 19th century with less and less results as most of the Bulgarian slaves were gradually amalgamated into the local societies, following the general trend in the empire. The Bulgarian Orthodox Exarchate played a leading role in the emergence and development of abolitionist ideas and activities in Bulgarian society in the last years of Ottoman rule and during the restoration of the free Bulgarian state. This position was based both upon the Christian principles of brotherly love and compassion and the general liberal lay ideas of the time and in cooperation with the other Christian churches in the Ottoman Empire and with the diplomatic and consular representatives of the European Christian states. They were not centred on challenging the legality of the institution or of the slave trade. That was impossible in a Moslem state, where slavery was considered a sacred institution created by Allah and confirmed in the lay state law. The activities were more of a practical character and were mainly related to ransoming of the enslaved Bulgarians during the troubled times after the Crimean War. Having in mind those circumstances, we can truly say that opposition to slavery in the Ottoman Empire existed in the face not only of the Exarchate, but also in all of the Christian churches. After the War of Liberation, the metropolitan bishops of the Exarchate assumed a new role in the abolition legislation of the two Bulgarian states and continued its traditional ransom activities. They were far more fruitful due to the administrative, diplomatic and financial support on the side of the governments of the Bulgarian Principality and of the autonomous Province of Eastern Rumelia. Thus the Bulgarian Orthodox Exarchate played a pivotal role in dealing with one of the main issues of European civilisation in the 19th century, the abolition of slavery and of the slave trade.



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