The Macedonian Question - Origin and Development, 1878-1941
Dimiter Minchev


 In 1912, the order of general mobilization for the conduct of a liberation war against Turkey stirred up universal enthusiasm in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian army was to bring off a general engagement with the age-long conqueror. An honest patriot couldn’t stay aside from the grand struggle. A larger part from the emigrants from Macedonia and Thrace in Bulgaria, about 30 000 in all, had been conscripted into the Bulgarian army and were its mobilization designees. Quite a few Macedonians and Thracians however had arrived in Bulgaria recently and had not seen service in the Bulgarian army. They were also eager to sign up. The Macedonian-Thracian societies in the larger cities and abroad avalanched the General Staff of the Bulgarian army with requests and telegrams. “The relatively numerous Macedonian emigrants in America and Europe, traveling via Serbia and Greece, were hurrying to the Bulgarian capital where their compatriots were preparing for the epic struggle”, the Central Committee of the Bulgarian volunteers from Macedonia and Thrace wrote in a Memorandum to the Allies and the US after the WW 1.

 Two days after the mobilization was decreed, on September 19, 1912, the Executive Board of the Macedono-Thracian charitable brotherhoods called up all emigrants who had not served in the army. More than 5000 men were mustered. Units started to be formed and military training began. People continued to pour in during the next few days: veterans, who had fought as volunteers in the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish War, voevodes, cheta members, teachers, students, and even priests. A large number of foreigners were also willing to join the Bulgarian army and to fight for the liberation of the enslaved Bulgarians: British, French, Czechs, Poles, Croats, Slovaks and Italians. There were reports of thousands volunteering in Russia. The Armenian refugees in Bulgaria rendered up a 231-men volunteer company.

 Two prominent activists of the Macedono-Odrin’s revolutionary movement, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Protogerov and Major Peter Drvingov, were ordered by the Chief of Staff of the Army Major-General Ivan Fichev to start organizing small guerilla units, to organize and arm chetas of the IMORO, and to send them for operations in Turkey ahead of the invading troops. The organizers established a “Guerrilla Units Headquarters”, which, along with Drvingov and Protogerov included other officers born in Macedonia and Eastern Thrace. Regulations for the volunteer chetas which would operate in Macedonia and Eastern Thrace were drafted. Under these regulations, the chetas were to take an oath of allegiance to the Bulgarian motherland and the Bulgarian Sovereign. The mission of a cheta included demolition of bridges, railways, telegraph lines, stored food and weapons and roads, attacks on supply trains, and denial of enemy communications and mobility. The chetas were expected to scout enemy operations, movements and strength, and report to the nearest headquarters.

 About September 23 the chetas were organized and sent into Turkish territory. Their importance was out of the question. The successes of the Bulgarian army that admired the world at that time are due to a great extent to the job, done by these well-trained men. Their activities are well-known from a historiographical point of view. Here is worth only mentioning the following document, found in the archives of Hoover Institution. Commander of the Army which was advancing in Macedonia sent a secret telegram to the Tsar, where he said that the chieftain Yane Sandanski had waited at a certain place (the exact place is not mentioned, perhaps it must be at the territory of the enemy), where he had to make a secret meeting with the Tsar. The meeting did not happen due to technical reasons.  The importance of this document and of this fact comes from the idea that Sandanski has won the ill-fame as “anti-Bulgarian struggler”. He was declared by the the Titoists to be the Macedonian symbol for the anti-Bulgarian struggle. This document comes to show that Sandanski, the strongest “anti-Bulgarian” chieftain was in fact Bulgarian, who at different times had opposed the line of directly unification with Bulgaria. Now - in December 1912 he did not oppose this idea, since he was convinced Bulgaria is on the right way.

 After the chetas were sent to the enemy’s disposal, the attention shifted to the formation of Macedono-Odrin’s battalions. Until the end of September six battalions were formed in Sofia. They were called on the names of famous towns in Macedonia and Thrace, which were inhabitted with strong Bulgarian population: Debr, Skopje, Solun, Bitolja, Odrin and Ohrid. In combination, they were called Macedono-Odrin’s Volunteer Corps of the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation “which had covered itself with unfading glory and exerted an irresistable and powerful hold on the hearts and minds of the younger generations”, Drvingov wrote. The Corps was reinforced with an engineer and workshop unit, a supply company, a subsistence transport and with an ambulance detachment. Volunteers were selected by a rigorous procedure because the available weapons were far fewer than those willing to be enlisted. The enlistment criteria were the same as established by the Armed Forces with the Realm Act.

 Another six battalions were added to the Volunteer Corps in the following months: 7th Koumanovo, 8th Kostour, 9th Veles, 10th Prilep, 11th Syar and 12th Lozengrad. The battalions were grouped by four into three brigades, each with a headquarters. Brigade commanders wielded regimental commander authority. Order No.31 to the Regular Army dated October 11, 1912, appointed Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Protogerov Commander of 1st Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Anton Pchelarov Commander of 2nd Brigade and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Protogerov Commander of 3rd Brigade. The Corps was authorized with a headquarters, three Macedono-Odrin’s Brigades of four battalions each, a musisian chorus, an infirmary, a supply company, a gun park, a subsistence transport and an engineer and workshop unit. Major-General Nikola Genev, a Russo-Turkish War volunteer veteran, was appointed Commander of the Corps, and Major Petr Drvingov became Executive Officer. The total strength of the Corps was 16 470 men.

 Initially, the battalions and brigades were decentralized. First brigade guard railways and pursued Turkish units. Second brigade advanced in the direction of Mustafapasha (Svilengrad) - Dimotika. Its mission was to disperce the clustered bashi-bozouks and pockets of defeated regular troops, and to capture Dedeagach. Dedeagach was vital because Odrin, through which the East Thracian railway ran, was in Turkish hands and blocked the supply rout of the Bulgarian troops which at that time were deployed before Tsarigrad. Overcoming the resistance of the Gjumurdjina Group of Turkish forces, this brigade was assigned to the Kourdjali Detachment, which incorporated the 3rd Macedono-Odrin’s brigade. After a series of hard, but glorious battles, 2nd and 3rd brigades forced Aver Pasha’s Corps to surrender in the area of Merhamli on November 15 1912. The 10 000-strong Corps paraded before the victorious volunteers. Aver Pasha presented himself to General Genev and offered him his sward. The General declined to take it, with the words that the Pasha had fulfilled courageously his duty as a military.

 The volunteer Corps was ordered to guard a stretch of the Sea of Marmara coast line at Sharkjoy and to defend it against a possible enemy landing. Savage battles were fought there with the erstwhile conqueror on January 26 and 28, 1913, in which the volunteers again came off with flying colors.

 The Macedono-Odrin’s volunteers performed feats of valor, endurance and discipline. They realized that they were contributing to the liberation of their native lands. The command of the Bulgarian army highly commended the services of the volunteers from Macedonia and Thrace during the First Balkan War. Three thousands and one hundred and ninety eight servicemen received orders and medals. Their participation was praised by the Commander-in-Chief of the Bulgarian Army Lieutenant-General Mihail Savov: “With their glorious deeds in the area of Kirdjali, Mastanli, Balkantoressi, at Saranli, Dedeagach, Merhamli, Malgrad and Sharkoy they have justified the sacrifices which Bulgaria is making for the freedom of our brothers in Macedonia and Thrace..”

 Serbia and Greece took advantage of the Bulgarian Army’s victories over Turkey in Eastern (Odrin’s Thrace and occupied Vardar and Aegian Macedonia. Their approach towards the Macedonian question has never been accompanied with respect towards the population. Their approach has always been a territorial - The territory has belonged in the past to Serbians, or to Greeks. The very first Serbian units that entered Skopje in 1912 were followed by the Serbian king, who was acclamated as wecomed in the “Dushan’s Capital”.  Dushan is a successful Serbian king, the only one, who has occupied five centuries ago the district of Skopje for a certain time. This territorial approach is expressed in nowadays as well. The Greeks remind us about the deeds of Alexander the Great and the Serbians have forgot that Kossovo is populated with Albanians, they think about it with historico-geographical terms.

 The Serbian and Greek occupation soon stirred up widespread discontent among the Bulgarian population. Under the leadership of the revolutionary activists, the population launched an armed struggle which grew into two uprisings against the tyrannical Serbian regime in 1913: the Tikvesh and the Ohrid-Debur uprisings. At the same time in the territories held by the Bulgarian Army the population enjoyed freedom and actively cooperated with the Bulgarian authorities. Not a single Bulgarian changed his or her name, none joined the Greek or the Serbian Army. The locals substantially assisted the Bulgarian Army during the Second Balkan War.

 On June 10, 1913, the Commander of the 4th Army, who had the Macedono-Odrin’s volunteer Corps under his orders, sent a telegram to the division commanders asking them to report the state of morale in their units. The commander of the volunteer Corps, Major General Genev, answered without hesitation: “The volunteer Corps can be counted on in any offensive action. It will fight with the utmost ferocity.”

 Scouts were the first to join the fray. Back in May Lieutenant Colonel Protogerov was assigned to observe and reconnoiter the combat order of Greek and Serbian troops, using the IMORO’s chetas. Protogerov detailed a total of some 200 former cheta members and voevodes from the Macedono-Odrin’s Volunteer Corps for reconnaissance missions behind enemy lines. As Major Drvingov wrote: “Seldom has an army been better informed of enemy strength and enemy deployment than the Bulgarian Army: all Macedonia was at its service.”

 Early in the morning of June 17 eleven volunteer battalions and ten batteries mounted a decision attack on the Paradli - Redki Bouki heights, and four battalions and two batteries pinned the Serbs holding Sultan-tepe and Kamenitsa Cheshma. All these heights, of an altitude approximating 2000 m, were ringed by the Serbs with several rows of heavily manned trenches. The volunteers fell fiercely over the new enemy. After heavy and sustained fighting, they overran the Serb’s entire fortified position on the Paradli from the Redki Bouki Heights to the road to Kratovo west of the village of Emiritsa. Some 150 enemy soldiers were taken prisoner. The main column carried on the offence in the fortified Serbian area and reached the Skalisti Vrh above Kriva Palanka, threatening Sultantepe from the west. The right column approached the barbed wire fences in front of the enemy lines in that site. The attack was advanced on June 18, 1913. A cease-fire was ordered at the height of fighting. The volunteer Corps was entrusted with the rear guard of the retreating Bulgarian troops. By their heroic fighting the Bulgarians from Macedonia and Eastern Thrace demonstrated that they were a reliable force which could be assigned serious missions.

 The 1913 Bukurest Peace Treaty left the districts of Macedonia and Thrace under foreign control: Turkish, Serbian, and Greek. It was logical to expect an active involvement of Bulgarians from Macedonia and Thrace in a future war for liberation. The outbreak of WW1, the upheaval among Bulgarians in the newly liberated parts of Macedonia, the steady influx of refugees from Serbia and Greece and of deserters from those countries’ armies gave Macedono-Odrin’s revolutionary theoretists food for thought. To avoid the mistake of the improvised formation of the Macedono-Odrin’s Volunteer Corps in the course of the First Balkan War, the revolutionary theoretists assumed that no matter what group of powers Bulgaria would join, plans should be promptly worked out for mobilization of Macedonians and Thracians into a new volunteer formation. In January 1915 Todor Alexandrov and Alexander Protogerov, in their capacity as representatives of IMORO, sought assistance from the Minister of War for the formation of a large military unit, consisting of Bulgarians, born in Macedonia and Thrace. The documents mention “military unit” rather than “Macedono-Odrin’s Volunteer Corps”. This shows that the idea of having a fundamentally new army unit rather than an enlarged-strength Volunteer Corps was already ripe in early 1915.

 One important aspect of the arrangements for the new division was its manning. Soldiers were to be recruited from among the approximately 15 000 Bulgarians from Macedonia and Thrace, who had found refuge in Bulgaria from the attrocities of the Serbian, Greek and Turkish authorities in their native lands. The ex-servicemen of the Macedono-Odrin’s Volunteer Corps were another manpower pool. It was also planned to induct into this division the Bulgarians from Macedonia who had deserted from the Greek and the Serbian Army, as well as those released from Austro-Hungarian captivity. (When hostilities against Austria-Hungary broke out, a lot of Bulgarians from Macedonia, mobilized into the Serbian Army deserted and yielded themselves prisoner to the Austro-Hungarian Army. Thanks to the activities of the Macedono-Odrin’s revolutionaries, their release and transfer to Bulgaria began back in 1914). As a result, in early 1915 more than 25 000 men were available as potential members of the planned unit.

 The former chief of staff of the Macedono-Odrin’s Volunteer Corps Major Peter Drvingov compiled a list of officers to assume command of the Macedono-Odrin’s division, and specified their appointments. The list included all officer positions except the division commander. Major Peter Drvingov was named Chief of Staff.. Colonels Grigor Kjurkchiev, Dimiter Mourdjev and Alexander Protogerov were nominated for the brigade commanderships. The list contained 184 officers, most of them born in Macedonia. Some of them were active participants in the Macedono-Odrin’s military brotherhoods and in the Macedono-Odrin’s revolutionary struggle, especially in the 1902 Gorna Djoumaja Uprising and in the 1903 Ilinden-Preobrajenje Uprising: Lieutenant Colonel Boris Drangov, Lieutenant Colonel Dimiter Zhostov, Lieutenant Colonel Nikola Danailov, Major Dimiter Atanassov, Major Boris Strezov, Major Ljubomir Stoenchev, Major Vladislav Kovachev, First Lieutenant Nikola Lefterov, First Lieutenant Konstantin Kondov, First Lieutenant Dimo Ayanov, Major Ivan Pozharliev, Second Lieutenant Nikola Danailov, Second Lieutenant Ivan Popov, Dr. Hristo Tatarchev, and Dr.Dimiter Vladov. The inclusion of officers with a revolutionary background was only logical. There was good reason to believe that they belonged in that very division. The strategists counted on their popularity with the enslaved population and with the soldiers of the division.

 It became gradually clear that Bulgaria was taking the side of the Central Powers, hoping to regain its irredenta with their help. In the historical works there is often mentioned that Bulgaria has entered the war on the side of Germany, against the Western democracies, and against its Liberator - Russia.  What is most important, Bulgaria is blamed for aggresive intentions towards Macedonia. There were found documents in the Hoover Institutions, which show that prominent Macedonian revolutionaries actively insisted on making Union with Austria-Hungary and Turkey. The reason was that the Macedonian Turkish population suffered from the Serbians and Greeks together with the Bulgarians and a common struggle against the occupators was already being waged. At the same time the Macedono-Thracian revolutionary Organization had already established pretty good relations with the Austr-Hungarians - the enemies of their enemy the Serbians. They even made several teroristic actions on the Serbian railways coordinating their efforts with the needs of the Austro-Hungarian army.  In a document, found from the secret archives of Ferdinand in Hoover Institution, a prominent Macedonian revolutionary Apostol Dogramadjiev wrote a letter to Ferdinand, advising him that Bulgaria must go together with Turkey against the Balkan states. So that the Bulgarian politics of the time was strongly influenced by the Macedono-Thracian Organization.

 On August 20, 1915 Prime Minister Vassil Radoslavov notified the Austro-Hungarian Minister Pleinipotentiary to Sofia Count Adam Tarnovski, that the manuscript of the Bulgarian version of a treaty of alliance approved by the Tsar was now drafted. On the same date the Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Clement Boyadjiev circulated a cryptogram to the chiefs of the divisional districts, ordering that all males aged between 25 and 45 born in Macedonia and Eastern Thrace, who had not been conscripted and had not passed through any training, be called on September 4,1915 for a 45-day training muster. Along with that, it was ordered to call for a 21-day training muster the former volunteers of the Macedono-Odrin’s Corps, on record at the regimental draft registration offices, and “all Macedonians and Thracians from the newly liberated territories, who served in the former Drama and Syar brigades.” Under this order, the draft applied to these and all those who for some reason were missing from the records of the registration offices or municipal councils. A later Ministry of War order, No.419 dated August 22, 1915 endorsed this instruction, changing the age bracket to 20-40. The idea was to extend the manpower pool to the refugees from Vardar and Aegean Macedonia. With the start of training of Bulgarians from Macedonia and Eastern Thrace, the Commander of the Division Colonel Krustyo Zlatarev, and the Chief of Staff Lieutenant Colonel Peter Drvingov drew up a mobilization directive. The unit was tentatively designated as Cadre Division. A Royal Decree No.7 dated September 9, 1915 ordered general mobilization in Bulgaria. The mobilization day began at 01.00 a.m., September 11, 1915. The army mobilization order found the Cadre Division at a stage of organization and formation, with its elements almost fully manned to wartime strength. About the end of the first M day the following report was sent to the Army Chief of Staff: “General, I humbly report that to date 33 745 enlisted men have reported for duty at the division in my charge.” The letterhead reads “11th Macedonian Division Headquarters”. This is the first document identifying the cadre division by its new name.

 The news about the formation of a division out of Bulgarian refugees from Macedonia spread fast to the foreign dominated lands. more and more young able-bodied men arrived from Macedonia, wishing to join the division. The War Ministry was avalanched with dozens of requests from POWs in Austria-Hungary. Learning about the formation of the division, the grandson of Vojvode Ilyo Maleshevski arrived from Berovo and signed up. Speaking seven languages, he was appointed telegrapher at the headquarters of the 3rd Macedonian Infantry Brigade. Most members of the division were Bulgarians from the irredenta in Macedonia and Eastern Thrace. Later on, when refugees from Dobroudja appeared, they were included also in it. The Western Thrace, being a part of the Bulgarian territory, all the men, born there entered the newly formed 10th Division (territorial). All the divisions were organized on a territorial principle. Only the 11th was on ex-territorial. Thus the division continued the natural tradition of forming military units of Bulgarians, born in foreign controlled lands, who wished to fight for the Bulgarian national idea. Earlier examples included the Bulgarian Volunteer Corps during the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War of Liberation, the Macedonian Battalion in the Serbo-Bulgarian War 1885 and the Macedono-Odrin’s Volunteer Corps in the 1912-1913 Balkan Wars. The division of Bulgarians from Macedonia was one of the first Bulgarian formations to engage the Allied invaders in the area of Krivolak, sending a clear signal to the whole world that the enemy forces were unwanted in the former’s native lands.

 x x x

 Thanks to the combat experience amassed in earlier wars, it was possible to adopt a new approach to the organization of the IMORO chetas. Judging by this experience, the chetas could be invaluable to the army, especially in reconnaissance - provided their operations were well organized and several other conditions were met: operation of the Bulgarian troops in the Macedonian theater of operations; close coordination between troops and chetas, effected by a single coordinating center which assigns the missions, monitors and enforces their accomplishment and processes the information feed; treatment of cheta members and voivodes as servicemen with all rights and duties appertaining to this status.

 To meet all these requirements, when mobilization was decreed in September 1915 IMORO with all its bodies and chetas transferred under the direct orders of the army and placed itself entirely at its service. The permanent IMORO chetas were formed into a “Guerrilla Detachment”, just as Headquarters of Guerrilla Detachments had been formed at the beginning of the First Balkan War. As one of the IMORO leaders Hristo Matov put it, the organization assumed a “military shape” during the war. IMORO Central Committee members Todor Alexandrov and Peter Chaoulev were at the disposal of the detachment headquarters. The enlistment of cheta members and voivodes had legal implications: the revolutionary activists would be court-martialled for any arbitrariness, crime, marauding, feuding or, what was a common thing - factionalism. Besides, cheta members, captured by the enemy during the Balkan Wars were treated as bandits and summarily shot. In their capacity as Bulgarian army regulars, they were supposed to qualify for POW treatment. Some chetas engaged the Serbs without formally identifying themselves as Bulgarian servicemen. There were quite a few such chetas, and the war strength of the Guerrilla Detachment varied throughout the war depending on operational needs. Some chetas were not enlisted at the outbreak of the war because chetas fighting the Serbian Police and Gendarmerie kept emerging spontaneously in Macedonia, and not all could be promptly registered in the turmoil.

 The Guerrilla Detachment was formed by Ministry of War Order No.421, dated August 22, 1915. It was authorized with a detachment headquarters, intelligence gathering posts, a separate guerrilla company and guerrilla platoons. The headquarters of the detachment consisted of an executive officer, a reconnaissance section and an administration section. The administration section, a real innovation, consisted of 20 clerks and was set up to man the civil service of the territories held by the Bulgarian army in Macedonia until the Quartermaster General’s Corps would organize an administration and take over. The personnel of this section was recruited from among the most intelligent Macedonian-born soldiers in the division. Thanks to a population devoted to the Bulgarian liberation cause and to an to active revolutionary organization (IMORO), it was possible to organize a smoothly operating intelligence service on the Salonika Front. During its long history of revolutionary struggle, the organization had trained people capable of coping with this highly responsible task. In this, it was also helped by underground railroads, organized in the course of revolutionary struggle and by an established network of supporters and helpers. Such a successful and efficient intelligence and counterintelligence service would have been impossible to organize without these advantages.

 After the formation of the 11th Infantry Macedonian Division and of the Guerrilla Detachment, quite a few combat-fit men remained in Macedonia. That is why, when the Bulgarian administrative authorities were established in this area, all Bulgarians aged between 20 and 40 were mobilized. Men under 20 and over 40 had to serve as ‘citizens-in-arms”.

 The idea of setting up citizens-in-arms, i.e. of arming the entire combat-fit Bulgarian population, was nothing new. It had been put into practice during IMORO’s struggle against Turkish domination and developed in the course of the sustained and sanguinary struggle against Turks,Serbs and Greeks. By the time the Bulgarian forces liberated Macedonia, the population of most Bulgarian villages had long been organized into local militia chetas. This militia system only had to be switched from underground under the foreign regimes to above ground. Of course the militia also needed a tightening of discipline and increase in strength and reliability to be an efficient arm of the Bulgarian administrative authorities in mopping up the Serbian remnants and isolated gangs of Serbian deserters and cheekiness and Albanian brigands. The establishment of citizens-in-arms, consisting of the popular masses previously organized by IMORO, enhanced the army and the police capacity of enforcing law and order in Macedonia. The arming of the population is convincing proof of the high measure of confidence which the Bulgarians in the area enjoyed with the military authorities. This confidence was motivated by the same objectives and tasks pursued by the population and its vanguard, IMORO. Judging the documents on their formation and from their performance, the citizens-in-arms in Macedonia during WW1 carried on IMORO’s pre-war national revolutionary traditions.

 Back when the Cadre Division was being organized in Knyazhevo, a “Replacement Battalion of the Cadre Division” was formed with Lieutenant Colonel Clement Krustev as commander. This battalion was the initial destination of Macedonian Bulgarians harassed in captivity or in service in the Serbian Army. Upon their arrival they were examined and deloused at the border checkpoints and then inducted. However, they were too many, and the battalion was soon overmanned and had to be augmented into a regiment. Order No.6 to the 11th Infantry Macedonian Division, dated September 11, 1915 recognized the replacement battalion, based in Knyazhevo into a replacement Macedonian Regiment. Because of the peculiarities of its formation, employment and missions, the regiment was under the concurrent authority of the High Command, the 11th Infantry Macedonian Division and the First Sofia Divisional District. The Regiment was billeted at the reserve sub-lieutenants’ school in Knyazhevo, and another part in Gorna Banya. A large part of the soldiers were in private accommodation. Because of the influx of men from Macedonia and for lack of premises, Company H was accommodated in dug-outs made by the soldiers themselves to the west of Knyazhevo. The commander of the Battalion Lieutenant Colonel Clement Krustev from Ohrid, was appointed commander of the Regiment.

 In March 1916 the Regiment was transferred to Skopje, where it bivouacked about 1 km to the northwest of the town. The Bulgarian military and political leadership, as well as the IMORO activists, realized that the right way to employ the Regiment, which consisted mainly of Bulgarians from Macedonia, was its assignment to garrison and guard duty in the new lands. This is precisely why the Regiment was incorporated into the 2nd Occupation Brigade in 1917. On May 31, 1917 the 2nd Occupation Brigade was ordered by the Chief of the Macedonian Military Inspection District to relieve the units of the Mountain Division which until then had served as occupation troops in Macedonia. The Headquarters of the Replacement Macedonian Regiment remained together with the 1st Battalion in Skopje for garrison duty. The 2nd Battalion was assigned to guard the demarcation line with Austria-Hungary north of the Prishtina-Mitrovitsa railway to the old Serbian-Turkish border and garrisoned Prishtina, Giljani and Poduevo; the 3rd Battalion took over guard duty of the demarcation line to the south of the Shar-Planina mountain range, garrisoning Prisren, Orahovats and Ferizovo. The deployment by company was as follows: 2nd Battalion: Headquarters and Company E garrisoned Prishtina, Company F was in Poduevo, Company G in Guilyani, and Company H guarded the demarcation line with Austria-Hungary; 3rd Battalion: Headquarters and Company I garrisoned Prizren, Company K was in Ferisovo, and Companies J and L guarded the demarcation line, relieving Company A which rejoined its Battalion back in Skopje. On June 20,1917 Company K was moved by rail to Tetovo and on by road to Strouga and Pogradets. It was stationed in those two towns for garrison duty and maintenance of law and order in the post. Company K was replaced in Ferisovo by a platoon of Company I. The 3rd Battalion companies were constantly redeployed. March 1918 saw the following stationing: Company I in Orahovats, guarding the demarcation line; Company J garrisoning Suha Reka, Prizren and Ferizovo; Company K in Prizren, guarding the demarcation line; and Company L garrisoning Prizren.

 The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Replacement Macedonian Regiment were to maintain law and order in the areas of Prizren and Prishtina, assume sentry and escort duty and guard the demarcation line. The Albanian population was friendly to the Bulgarian army and especially to the units composed of Macedonian Bulgarians. It saw them as liberators rather than occupationists and was ready to fight by their side.

 The positive attitude of the Albanian population to the Bulgarian troops was rooted in the joint struggle of IMORO with the Albanian and Turkish population in Macedonia against the Serbian authorities. IMORO’s ideology itself had always been international in character, although it had seldom succeeded in rallying other ethnic groups. The formation of the Mountain Division out of Bulgarians, Albanians and Turks was indicative in this respect and exemplified the implementation of IMORO’s international policy.

 The integration of the Albanians and Turks in Macedonia was a Bulgarian idea, espoused by the IMORO leaders. For its part, the German Command was also interested in the possibilities of organizing the Albanian population. Around mid-1916 the German military plenipotentiary in Sofia, von Massow held negotiations with Dr. Tochkov, an IMORO activist, about organizing the Albanian population.. Von Massow suggested that the IMORO activists take up this task. On the front Dr. Tochkov met with Colonel Protogerov, consulting with him on the objectives, the resources and the manner of organizing the Albanian population. Dr. Tochkov was also instructed on the matter by the High Command. The Bulgarian High Command and IMORO agreed to organize the Albanian population with German resources and funds. To lend a military character to that organization, it was suggested to form a new division composed of Macedonian Bulgarians and to recruit Albanians into it. Both the German and the Bulgarian high commands realized that the new organization would pursue the following objectives: winning over the Albanian population in Macedonia and Kosovo to the Bulgarian cause; checking the growing influence of the Allies in Albania; fighting against Allied organized chetas; delivering rear and flank attacks on Allied units.

 The Headquarters of the Regular army planned to recruit what was now called the Mountain Division in the following manner: two battalions from the Replacement Macedonian Regiment, one battalion from the 3rd Volunteer Regiment, one infantry company (to serve as machine-gun company) from other regiments, and one four-company Turkish battalion.

 The formation of the units was planned as follows. The first to be set up were six battalions grouped into three regiments. Each battalion was augmented by 200 Turkish reservists and 200 Albanian volunteers. A battalion thus added up to 913-914 men, and the division totaled 3330 Bulgarians, 1200 Turks and 1200 Albanians. A German mountain artillery regiment from the 6th rapid-fire Mountain Battery was to be attached to the division.

 By an order of the Commander-in-Chief of the Regular Army, Lieutenant General Nikola Zhekov, dated December 28, 1916 the Deputy Chief of the Macedonian Military Inspection District, “Colonel of the Reserve Protogerov Alexander Nikolov”, was appointed Commander of the Mountain Division. The Chief of the Regimental Draft Registration office in Shtip Lieutenant Colonel of the Reserve Ivan Stephanov Stephanov was appointed Commander of the 1st Infantry Mountain Regiment; the Commander of the 14th Replacement Battalion Lieutenant Colonel of the Reserve Raycho Nikolov Tananov was appointed Commander of the 2nd Infantry Mountain Regiment; and Lieutenant Colonel Mircho Petrov was appointed Commander of the 3rd Infantry Mountain Regiment. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Simov was appointed Executive officer of the Division.

 The High Command resolved that the Mountain Division be treated as a “local occupation force in Macedonia on a special military-administrative assignment”, placing the Division under the direct orders of the Headquarters of the Regular Army. The immediate subbordination of the Division to the strategic leadership suggests that just as the 11th Infantry Macedonian Division, being composed of Bulgarians from Macedonia, it was intended for some future political role. In the performance of its military-administrative mission, the Division also reported to the Chief of the Macedonian Military Inspection District “for the maintenance of law and order in the area”. In the course of the war, however, the Division also performed combat missions on the Salonica Front.

 The successful formation of the Mountain Division increased the numerical strength of the Bulgarian Army. At a time, when the Salonica Front was starved of manpower, its formation added one more division to the combat capability of the Bulgarian Army. The importance of this division grew, bearing in mind that it performed not only combat but also law-enforcement missions. This is further evidence that most of the occupation forces in Macedonia during WW1 were composed of soldiers born in Macedonia. This fact was positive morale motivator too. The Mountain Division demonstrated the commitment and devotion of the Bulgarians in Macedonia to the liberation mission of the Bulgarian Army. It also demonstrated that the Turkish and Albanian population in Macedonia accepted a solution of the Macedonian question in favor of Bulgaria.

 The successful formation of the Mountain Division proved that IMORO’s international policy was right. On the other hand, the creation of this division through integration of the Muslim population would hardly have been possible if the Internal Organization had not implemented precisely this policy in the pre-war period. Thus the Mountain Division may be described as an embodiment and materialization of IMORO’s international ideas.

 It is difficult to say exactly how many Bulgarians from Macedonia fought in WW1. Quite a few of them were not members of the army proper, but policemen, civil servants, teachers, priests, taxmen, etc. Judging from available documents, more than 120 000 Bulgarians from Macedonia were involved with the Bulgarian army during WW1.

 Qualification of the service of Bulgarians from Macedonia in the Bulgarian army during WW1 is far from sufficient to characterize their performance. A substantial number of Bulgarians were mobilized in the Serbian and Greek armies as well: some 50 000 in the former and 20 000 in the latter. The Bulgarian recruits, however, fiercely resisted the forced mobilization and deserted when mobilized. The important thing is that the tens of thousand of Macedonian Bulgarians not only fled the alien armies, but also wholeheartedly sought their place in the Bulgarian army. This was the most important distinctive feature of the involvement of Bulgarians from Macedonia in the Bulgarian army in WW1. They were defecting from the Serbian and the Greek army not simply to shirk military service, but to join the Bulgarian army. They felt this army as their own, fighting for their own liberation from foreign yoke, and they saw their service in this army as quite natural, legitimate, and desired.

 The Bulgarians from Macedonia were happy with the Liberation. In August 1918 they prepared to celebrate the 15-th Anniversary of the Ilinden-Preobrazhenje Uprising. The prominent leaders of IMORO Todor Alexandrov and Alexandr Protogerov invited kindly as a guest at the celebration the Tsar. In the invitation that was found in the Hoover Institution nevertheless is written something that was not known up to now: they asked that some 20-30 revolutionaries, who were in Bulgarian prisons for political reasons be amnestied in order to fill the rank and files of the Macedonian Division.

 Among the many interesting documents that were found in the Archives of Hoover Institution was a very interesting personal letter from the Bulgarian Ambassador in Bern Andrey Toshev, to the Bulgarian King, which shows to what extent the Bulgarians from Macedonia were present in the Bulgarian society. Andrey Toshev, who was a prominent diplomat, proposed to the King, in the course of developing the idea for proving the just struggle of the Bulgarian nation, to advise the politicians to make possible conditions that in the Government more Macedonians should enter. “Having in mind, he said, that the Chief of the General Staff is a Macedonian, one of the Army Commandants is a Macedonian, it would be suitable that in the Cabinet more prominent Macedonians should enter, no matter what Party are they members in... Let the world, and espacially Russia, see that in our country the Macedonian element is a mighty factor.”  The proposal of Toshev was interesting, although it remains only a theoretical, since politicians in Bulgaria always find their Party interests more important than the national ones. But nevertheless this letter is important because it shows how much really the Macedonians influenced the Bulgarian politics and it was not the case only at that time. Again in document, found in the Hoover Institution was said the in Bulgaria in 1918 a Masonic lodge was established already, and its first Grand Maitre was selected Majot General Alexander Protogerov , a prominent Macedonian leader.

 The Bulgarians in Macedonia did not reconcile themselves to the settlement of the Treaty of Bucurest, a repeat of the Treaty of Berlin. They fought fiercely against their conquerors: Turks, Serbians and Greeks, to eliminate the consequences of these treaties. They fought not only for the liberation of their native lands but also for the incorporation of these lands into Bulgaria. There are numerous proofs of this, but one of the most important is their mass involvement during the irredentist wars, waged by the Bulgarian State.

 x x x

 What was the attutude of USA towards Bulgarian participation in the WW1 could be seen in a document, found in the archives of the Hoover Institution. The document is titled “THE UNITED STATES AND BULGARIA’, and dated May 3, 1918. The information is about the recent discussion in the Senate the subject of American relations with Bulgaria: “The incident is of interest, as it proves that President Wilson still holds to his contention that no purpose would be served by a declaration of war on Bulgaria by the United States, but that on the contrary, his Government, by avoiding a fomal breach, may be able to further the interests both of Bulgaria and of the Allies... Perhaps the most difficult part of any scheme of action that President Wilson may have in contemplation will be to secure complete acquiescence from the countries in the Balkans that are our Allies in the settlement that will meet Bulgaria’s legitimate aspirations. In this question, however, the guiding principles are clear and unmistakable. The widest scope must be given to the claims of nationality, and the future harmonious development of the Balkans as a whole must be kept sedulously in mind.” The principle of nationalities was very well formulated by the US policy, but the ambitions of Serbia and Greece did not coincide with it. The US policy was divided between the nationality principle and the ambitions of its Allies. That was why, on the Peace Conference in Paris later on, although the American diplomacy strongly supported the right of the Bulgarians for unification, the need to make Rumania, Serbia and Greece comfortable took supremacy.

 There were also other documents that are to be found in Hoover Institution and that are connected with the eventual declaring war to Bulgaria by the Unuted States. In July 1918 the Bulgarian ambassador in Bern sent a report to the Prime-Minister, where he said about the efforts of the Serbian propaganda to make the US declare war on Bulgaria. “The traditional simpathies of the Protestant Congregations towards Bulgaria have helped to neutralize the Serbian activities. The very much reswpected American missionaries Haskel and Markom were asked by the Bulgarians to go in the US and act in favour of Bulgaria, which they did successfully.

 The very warm attitude of the American politicians of that time towards the Bulgarian interests could be seen also from another document. This is a secret letter to the chief of the Secret Cabinet of the King Dobrovich from the secretary of the American Consul in Sofia Murphy. The secretary was a Bulgarian from Macedonia and was fascinated with the pro-Bulgarian position of the Consul. He has secretly rewritten a letter that Murphy sent to his Government (the letter was not found in the records). The letter has to be a proof that there were many Americans on highest positions who understood the Bulgarian problems and although in some way enemies, they justified the Bulgarian position in the war.

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