The Political Situation Prior to the Appearance of the Campaign Committees


To understand the role and the place of the campaign commit­tees, why they appear in such form and nature on the historical stage, what circumstances and reasons made them come to life, one should be reminded some moments from the situation on the Balkans in the beginning of 1941.

The population in Macedonia was unprecedentedly torn in big­ger and smaller groups. For that various linguistic-groups the Serbi­an rulers had taken good care. But the guilt was not only theirs. There is still animosity between Protogerovists and Mihaiiovists. Ser­bian national socialistic organizations as Chetnik, the organization of the retired officers, the organization of the pensioners and the Sokol organization existed also until the beginning of .the war. All of them suppressed and dispersed the Bulgarian population with the aim to make them Serbs. In Macedonia operated propagandists of the Great Powers who wanted to attract the population on their side promising to resolve the Macedonian question. So the English propa­ganda was led by Serbian clerks and the army. The French propa­ganda was led by the teacher in the French school Dr. Louise D. Voos. The Italian propaganda for accession to Italy was also well organized with the assistance of the locals. The Greek propaganda was well developed. The Greeks and their followers were tolerant to the Serbian (Yugoslav) authorities. Serb, Greek and Bulgarian followers of the Greeks worked together for their mutual cause - the English. The Turkish propaganda led by Akif Alilov was faith­ful to the Serbian authority and together they planted the Anglo­phile and the Francophile policy. Even one of the most insignificant groups in Macedonia led by Dr. Simeon Berber worked for the annihilation of the Bulgarian spirit. The Jews group, that enumerat­ed several thousand people affiliated with the ruling Serbs, carried out propaganda in favour of the democratic countries".1

All show how complicated was the situation of that time in Mace­donia. The political sympathies were intertwined with the national feelings. As a rule the non-Bulgarian elements were for the English-French block and the Bulgarians - for the power of axis. Besides, some of the former revolutionary activists were not far from the thought of solving the Macedonian question through accession of Macedonia or parts of it to Italy. The followers of Ivan Mihaylov fought for the independence of Bulgarian Macedonia. In this situa­tion the Bulgarian population was divided in different groups. It was powerless and without faith. Everybody ,,pulled the rug to himself". And time was crucial. The situation changed dynamically.

On January 4, 1941 Bogdan Filov was on the audience with Hit­ler and Ribentrop. The Germans insisted Bulgaria to join in the pact quickly as possible. They promised a guarantee against all complica­tions in international aspect. If Bulgaria entered the axis it would have their assistance for taking the Aegean Sea region. Bogdan Filov asked about Macedonia as well. The Germans however firmly re­fused. They convinced him that it was impossible everything to be solved at once, that some things should be left to the future genera­tions. Of course that was due to the fact that Yugoslavia was ready to enter the axis. That was why the Bulgarian government did not ask for Macedonia again and accepted the thought that Bulgaria had to enter the pact despite that the liberation of Macedonia was not en­sured.2

On March 1, 1941 in Belvedere Palace a protocol for the acces­sion of Bulgaria to the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis was signed. There was not a word about Macedonia in the protocol. On March 25 the same year the government of Tsvetkovich-Machek integrated Yugo­slavia to the pact. On the next day in the Serbian towns appeared demonstrators with slogans against the pact. Demonstrations with sim­ilar slogans were held in Skopje but they were rather feeble. The Bulgarian population here regarded the eventual defeat of Yugosla­via as the only way to the liberation. The Anglophile Serbian intelligentsia preferred to be loyal to patrons from Versailles and com­pleted a state coup with Dushan Simovich in the lead.3

The declaration of the new government and its denouncement of the Triparty Pact was the reason Yugoslavia to be treated as an en­emy by Germany. Hitler made a decision to attack Yugoslavia simultaneously with the raid in Greece. This created conditions the Bulgarian question for Macedonia to be brought up. On April 8 a telegram from Berlin was received, in which was proposed to Bul­garia three divisions to occupy Serbian Macedonia and to adminis­ter it so that the German troops remain free.4

The military operations against Yugoslavia started on April 6, 1941. On April 10 Zagreb fell, on April 13 - Belgrade. On April 15 the seven­teen years old King Petar II and the government emigrated in Greece and from there to Egypt. On April 17 - only for 11 days - the artificial Versailles creation endured serious defeat.5 Kingdom Yugoslavia, that dungeon for the nations, fell apart in several days as a result of its mili­tary failures as well as because of the unwillingness of the peoples and the national minorities to live under "one roof" in the Versailles state community, that symbolized social exploitation, denationalization and assimilation,. Great Serbian chauvinism and hegemonism.6

The Bulgarian population in Macedonia met with open joy the defeat of Kingdom Yugoslavia. It saw in it the end of the 23 years of enslavement. That is why it was not surprising that the Bulgarians from Vardar Macedonia, mobilizated in the Yugoslav army refuse to fight.7 Similar was the situation in the World War I when the Macedonian Bulgarians forcibly mobilized in the Serbian army in large numbers surrendered to the Austro-Hungarian army.

On April 18, 1941 the Bulgarian government received a telegram from Ribentrop in which specified the regions to be taken by the Bulgarian army units. According to this telegram the Bulgarian units could occupy: l) Western Thrace, limited by the dividing line of Moustafa Pasha (todays Svilengrad) - Kiupriuliu-Dedeagach as well as Eastern Macedonia - between Strouma and Mesta rivers. 2)Vardar Macedonia - to the river Vardar and the Western Territories (Zapadni Pokrainini) - to the line Pirot-Vrania-Skopje. Ribenstrop's telegram said that the line was temporary, i.e. that it could be moved to the west of the river Vardar as well. Berlin promised soon to start negotiations about the interim settlement of the territorial issues, arisen from the dissolution of Yugoslavia which actually happened. The movement of the Bulgarian army started in Vardar Macedonia on April 19, and in the Aegean region - on April 20.8

The independent state of Croatia was established in the territory of Versailles Yugoslavia Part of the Croatian seaside, Monte Negro and Dalmatia were taken by Italy. The Reich took Northern Slove­nia with the town of Maribor. Southern Slovenia was occupied by Italy. Serbia was put under the direct control of Germany. Hungary received Bachka, Barania, Intermurie and Crossmurie. Bulgaria got back Tsaribrod, Bossilegrad, Pirot, Vrania and 4/5 of the territory of Vardar Macedonia, The remaining 1/5 - the western part with the towns of Tetovo, Gostivar, Debur, Kichevo, Storuga and some villag­es south from Ohrid - were occupied by Italy.9

The fast advancement of the German army in Macedonia created a possibility for rejection of the hated Serbian and Greek regime in the region. The lack of Bulgarian troops and authority led to a cer­tain political vacuum in which appeared the campaign committees. The idea for the creation of similar committees did not appear at once. It was born during talks between some of the representatives of the former Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), (united). Those were the famous Pavel Shatev, Alexo Martoulkov, Hristo Ampov, Stephan Stephanov and Vassil Hadzhikimov. The break of World War II on September I, 1939 inspired the whole Bulgarian community, at the first place the refugees from the occu­pied parts, to seek ways for the liberation of Macedonia. The time was dynamic and everyday new things happened. On March 1 it became obvious that this time Bulgaria would try to solve the national question with the help from Germany. On March 27 as a result of the coup of General Simovich, Yugoslavia left the Thiparty Pact. The above mem­bers of the former IMRO (united) started more frequently to meet and exchange thoughts about the future of the occupied territories. Their meeting point was the Tsar Osvoboditel coffee shop and the confectionery ,,Ohrid". The main theme was what to be done about the Bulgarian cause in Macedonia. According to them the followers of Mihailov would strive for independent Macedonia and the follow­ers of Gerov - for Macedonia in the limits of Yugoslavia. The latter would lead to needless complications if not to fratricides.10

In the course of the talks it became obvious that the task of orga­nizing the Bulgarian population in .Macedonia had to be assigned to two energetic people - Stephan Yanakiev Stephanov and Vassil Dimitrov Hadzhikimov. The two of them had endured the unbear­able terror in Vardar Macedonia. Both of them had suffered and would suffer in future for the freedom of their native land.

Vassil Dimitrov Hadzhikimov was born on October 29. 1903 in one of the biggest strongholds of Bulgarian spirit in Macedonia - Shtip's area Novo Selo. There every home gave at least one famous revolutionary. Every home gave a sacrifice for the liberation of Macedonia - at first from Turkish and later from Serbian rule. His mother was a student of Gotse Delchev, when he was a teacher in Shtip. Even more - the house of Hadzhikimov was near to the house where the famous revolutionary used to live. In the Shtip's area Novo Selo the men rarely died out of natural death. So there was no won­der that Hadzhikimov grew as a tireless fighter for the liberty of Macedonia. His life - from the youth - started in Yugoslavia. There he graduated a Serbian high school. As an eight grade student he became -a member of the Yugoslav Communist Party (YCP). The police arrested him for spreading the book ,,Land to the Peasants - Macedonia to the Macedonians" from Kosta Novakovich. After some time he started disapproving the position of Yugoslav Communist Party about the national question and became a member of the Macedonian Youth Secret Revolutionary Organization (MYSRO). In it Hadzhikimov worked until 1925 when he went to Bulgaria and joined IMRO (united). In Sofia he studied law for four years. And besides he enrolled and finished the Open University, “Consulate” specialty."

Stephan Yanakiev Stephanov was born in Kratovo. He graduat­ed law and worked as a lawyer in Skopje. In the case against the students in Skopje in 1927 he defended the accused students from MYSRO. After the process Stephanov was attacked and beaten by Serbian volunteers. He went to Zagreb but the Yugoslav police ar­rested him under false pretence. He was sent to Belgrade, but man­aged to escape in Austria from where after some time he went to live in Bulgaria. He maintained close relations with the activists of IMRO. Stephanov spoke German and French, After the closing of the BCC he worked as a clerk in Skopje.12

The plan developed by Stephan Stephanov and Vassil Hadzhiki­mov consisted of the following: they consider that the conditions might force Bulgaria not to participate in the war for the liberation of Macedonia. In that case their task would be to lead the struggle for the autonomy of Macedonia. The Germans were not strangers to the idea of creating a new Macedonia under their patronage. They needed it mostly for the good communication Nish-Skopje-Salonica and because of the ore deposits. The second task was to prepare the people react if the question to which country Mace­donia should be integrated was raised - to Bulgaria, Serbia (Yugo­slavia), Greece, Albania or Germany the people to be prepared for actions, demonstrations, petitions and manifestations for acces­sion to Bulgaria.

That political goal could be achieved only if two main tasks were accomplished: abolishing the Serbian and Greek police machine in Vardar and Aegean Macedonia; unification of the people in one organization. Both of them considered the second task most impor­tant and basic. The practice later proved that the old machine could be relatively easily destroyed with the entering of the Germans. The established campaign committees took the administrative power, but the unification of the people, who for one reason or another were forced to serve to the Serbian (Yugoslav) administration, turned out to be a hard, despite not unaccomplishable task.

Yugoslavia was defeated in short terms and dissolved. Negotia­tions were held on governmental level for the accession of Mace­donia to Bulgaria. Under the changed political situation Stephanov and Hadzhikimov decided that their task would be reduced to for­mation of a Central Committee (CC) with a network of committees -in towns and villages - where they should take power and announce accession to Bulgaria.

Such organization of the people would be helpful for the Bul­garian authorities that would probably be established there and which would not have idea of the local conditions. The fulfillment of that task would enjoy the understanding of the Bulgarian com­munity in Macedonia as it proved later. However Stephanov and Hadzhikimov went to Macedonia without the blessing of the gov­ernment.13

On April 6, 1941 the war against Yugoslavia began, that brought liberation for the greater part of Macedonia. Stephanov and Hadzhiki­mov obtained travel permits for which later they would be formally convicted. In the night of April 8 they traveled from Sofia to Skopje through Deve Bair with a German truck. In Skopje they learned that not only they had travel permits, but hundreds of other citizens engaged in the commercial and administrative network for normalization of the life and the order had. Later in court in 1946 the pub­lic prosecutor based his arguments on their permits as some essential “corpus delicti” to which the accused Hadzhikimov replied that in Lenin had also received similar permit to travel from Europe to Russia. He also asked if that meant that Lenin was a German spy. “Politics and conspiracy", said Hadzhikimov, “often did not select the means to achieve the set goals."14

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