IV. BULGARIAN CAMPAIGN COMMITTEES IN MACEDONIA 1941
The Versaille Treaty System strongly affected the Bulgarian society and influenced all the major and minor steps in its further development. The bright expectations born in the Revival for liberation of the enslaved brothers were blighted. Instead of understanding the world had proved a bad will towards the just Bulgarian cause. The Powers needed a small Bulgaria, they were not interested of the needs of the population. Bulgaria was cut from all her sides. Territories of vital importance, populated with Bulgarian population, felt under foreign domination. Southern Dobroudja was given to Romania and a vast number of refugees entered Bulgaria (1913). A part of Eastern Thrace entered in Turkey the homes of the Bulgarians being put on fire (1913), many people murdered. Western Thrace was promised autonomy and the Bulgarian outlet to White Sea seemed to be secured, but after several years this promise of the Versaille makers was only a reminiscence: Greece simply grasped Western Thrace. But what happened with Macedonia captured all the minds again. The vast Bulgarian population was not recognized any minority rights, although promised by the peacemakers. Bulgarians were denied any rights to be Bulgarians. The schools were closed, the priests and all the intelligentsia was expelled to Bulgaria. Its already a rule for the historians nowadays to write about establishing Bulgarian schools in 1941; must not be forgotten that such schools were not established, they were renovated. As for their establishment, it happened during the Ottoman yoke, a Bulgarian state did not exist at that time to do that, to finance, and to organize that. It was the Exarchate to do that, and the Bulgarian population itself sponsored it. Now the population was forced to turn those schools into Greek and Serbian ones. The population was simply to be Hellenized and Serbianized, and it had to do that in a Balkan manner - with tortures, murders, expelling to Bulgaria, prison, forceful mobilization in the army. Nowadays many are asking a banal question: since they were strong Bulgarians, how was it possible that they recognized themselves as Greeks, as Serbians, and at last as Macedonians? A banal question, which needs a banal response: before the Inquisition people recognized themselves to be witches, people in Gestapo recognized things they had not done. And it was for the same reasons - torture. There was not a single larger Bulgarian family in Macedonia between the two world wars, to be not strongly suffered from the Serbian and Greek powers.
And what is mostly important - the hope towards Bulgaria had started to decline. Bulgaria did not happen to be the country to help them, being in disorder after the WW1. She was on her knees, being compelled to have good relations with Serbia, in order to cut the international isolation. Historians ordinarily are missing this very important period of time, when Greece and especially Serbians - these great politicians among the Slavs, took advantage of the situation. The population in Macedonia continued to be strongly faithful towards Bulgaria, but the soil for cutting its roots with this country and even nation, was prepared during that period.
The heavy situation in which Bulgaria found herself forced Prime-Minister Alexander Stamboliyski - an Agrarian, to look for way to escape the international isolation. This way passed through Serbia. In a statement before Serbian journalists in Belgrade he expressed the oppinion that “the Macedonians were not Bulgarians” . This was for the first time a Bulgarian Prime-Minister said such words. The second was the Communist Prime-Minister after WW2 Georgi Dimitrov. The Macedonians did not agree with these words and declared war on him, which, they said, has nothing to do with the political struggles in Bulgaria. Macedonian Organisation, which was the only authority in the Pirin Districy, captured and occupied for 24 hours the city of Kjustendil, 60 miles from Sofia. The chetniks arrested the authorities. This was not only declaration, it was the very war. After several months they murdered the Minister of the Intermal Affairs, and in the coup d’etat against Stamboliyski the Macedonians participated actively, a Macedonian being the one to kill Stamboliyski. Macedonians at that time strongly opposed anyone who did not recognise them to be Bulgarians. Nevertheless Stamboliyski’s activity in that direction gave their evil fruits.
As it was already said, from the very beginning of the Revolutionary movement in Macedonia and Thrace, there were two strategies: immediate unification with Bulgaria or Autonomy as a necessary stage. The supporters of the two strategies often had misunderstandings and even clashes among themselves (among and not between, because sometimes the wings were several). Anyway, one is sure, the history was generous enough towards them in giving them possibilities to try their strategy, and miser enough to render them success. The autonomous trend was most powerful at the beginning of the century: the Ilinden-Preobrajenje Uprising proved its inconsistency. The immediate incorporation with Bulgaria as a strategy was realized in the wars 1912-1918, and it happened to be not successful too. The supporters of the autonomy gained strength again. And more - some of the autonomists were influenced up to that moment by the socialist movement, which after the war bore the Communism. And the latter was not only ideas and theory, but a practice accompanied with strong pressure for activity.
Thus after the WW1 there was a strong diversity among the revolutionary movement. The strong IMORO was divided into Macedonian and Thracian, since the occupators were different and conditions differed. From the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) pieces were torn - the strong at the that time Agrarian Party, supporting good relations with Serbia, created a pro-Serbian wing, which soon began clashing in Vardar Macedonia with the IMRO’s chetas. Communists created a pro-Soviet wing, which did the same. Ideas for a Balkan Federation and dissolving the Macedonian question in maybe different ways spread all over Bulgaria and Macedonia and tortured the minds of the people and deepened their disorientation. Bulgarian politicians were divided in many different groups: Agrarians and some others wanted to be faithful to the Western Powers and to Versaille; former officers from the Army, the several Liberal parties and the King were inclined for a revision of the Treaty, the Socialists and the Communists divided the society into classes and predicted clashes among them, even provoking them. A June 9th Coup d’etat of the Army, in 1923, killing the Agrarian Prime Minister Alexander Stamboliyski, was followed by the provoked by Moscow Uprising in September the same year. Several years latter political murderings were a common thing. The bright times of the Revival were finally buried.
In this situation, IMRO tryed to do its best to be faithful to its philosophy not to meddle in the political matters in Bulgaria, but to do its job in Macedonia. But in the conditions after the WW1 it was almost impossible. A part of Macedonia, which was liberated, the so called Pirin district, was turned into a main basis of the revolutionary movement. This was the territory where in fact the different wings of the Organization, the fractions and groupings found their combat field among themselves. IMRO of course was the most powerful and their leader Ivan Mihajlov was in fact a factor in the Bulgarian policy. (Macedonians have always been an important factor in the Bulgarian politics). The supporters of an anti-Bulgarian trend among the Macedonian population between the two world wars should have to research the situation in the Pirin district between the wars. There they would find enough material for their theses. Pirin was not declared to be autonomous and was not declared to be for the Macedonians. Nevertheless it was for them, and the Power of the Bulgarian Governments there was only nominal. But researching this is not at the same time a thankful job for this purpose. It would express that at a time, when the Serbian and Greek police and Gendarmerie were occupied with a denationalization, the Bulgarian Government gave in fact a full possibility for a full self-determination of the population in the Pirin district. Only people born in Macedonia had in fact the right and the possibility to arrange their matters. And the population there, as well as the Revolutionary Organizations, did not recognize any other nationality, except the Bulgarian one. Nowadays many people, in this number inexperienced historians, try to seek the appearance of the “Macedonism” as opposed to “Bulgarism” before the WW2. Of course some pro-Yugoslavian pro-Agrarian groups existed, and also pro-Soviet pro-Communist, which were opposed to the strongly nationalistic Bulgarian IMRO, but those groups were small, and were not of importance, at least at that time. Anyway, what happened in 1941 is pretty enough evidence for the feelings of the Bulgarian population in Macedonia in 1941.
x x x
The Bulgarian population in Macedonia accepted with satisfaction the defeat of Versailles Yugoslavia in 1941. In the demolition of Yugoslavia those people saw the end of their 23-year long slavery. No wonder then, that the Bulgarians from Macedonia, mobilized in the Yugoslav army, refuse to fight, lay down arms, and surrender to the Germans. The situation was similar to WW1, when Bulgarians from Macedonia, mobilized in the Serbian army surrendered en masse to the Austro-Hungarian army.
The hostilities against Yugoslavia began on April 6, 1941. The fast advance of the German troops in Macedonia created possibilities for overthrowing the odious Serbian and Greek power in the district. But the lack of Bulgarian troops and official Bulgarian powers caused certain political vacuum, in which the so called campaign committees (CC) arose.
The idea for creating such committees did not emerge at once. It arose in conversations among some representatives of the former Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (united). These were the historical figures Pavel Shatev (the only one alive at that time from the Solun’s outrages), Alexo Martulkov, Hristo Ampov, Stephan Stephanov and Vassil Hadjikimov. The outbreak of WW2 on September 1, 1939 forced the whole Bulgarian society, and particularly the fugitives from Macedonia, to seek more actively ways for the liberation of the country.
In the course of the talks it became clear that the problem of organizing the Bulgarian population in Macedonia could be solved by two active figures - Stephan Yanakiev Stephanov and Vassil Hristov Hadjikimov. They had both suffered, and would suffer again for the liberation of their native territories. Like many other Bulgarians from Macedonia, they were to be imprisoned after the war. Hadjikimov stayed in prison for more than 11 years. Stephan Stephanov perished in an attempt to escape from prison. They worked down the following plan: first, if the conditions required that Bulgaria should not engage in the war, they would struggle for the autonomy of this region; second, if there were a plebiscite for joining any of the neighboring countries, they would urge the people to take part in campaigns, demonstrations, petitions for joining Bulgaria.
According to them these political goals could be achieved only by following two basic missions: destroying the Serbian and Greek authorities in Macedonia, and uniting the people in an organization.
The Versaille Yugoslavia was destroyed in a short time. Negotiations were conducted for joining a part of Macedonia to Bulgaria. Having in mind the changes in the political situation Stephanov and Hadjikimov decided that their mission was to form a Central Committee with a network of committees in the towns and villages. Such an organization would be able to assist the Bulgarian authorities, which were to be established there and which supposedly, would not be familiar with the local conditions.
The atmosphere at that time in Macedonia was suitable for creating an organization of the kind that Stephanov and Hadjikimov had mind. The Bulgarian troops were expected with impatience. In that situation local authorities were created in some places in Macedonia even spontaneously, long before any instructions were given. The necessities of the historical moment always call for the right men. The arrival of Stephanov and Hadjikimov appeared to be just the spark, which enflamed the hearts of the people for patriotic activities. In Skopje they found their old friends - the lawyer Blagoy Popankov and the merchant Illiya Attanassov. The latter informed them that a session with representatives of different organizations would be held. The purpose of this session, where a German representative was invited, was to create an independent Republic of Macedonia. Of course they had in mind some kind of a Bulgarian Macedonian Republic. But assuming that such a republic would be under German protectorate, which would not be desirable, Stephanov and Hadjikimov rejected this idea.
On April 13, 1941 a session was held in Stephan Stephanov’s house in Skopje. According to the N1 minutes, a “Central Committee of the Macedonian Bulgarian Committees” (CCMBC) was founded. Its official name was: Bulgarian Central Campaign Committee for Macedonia (BCCCM). The Committees that would be formed in the different places throughout Macedonia were called Local Bulgarian Campaign Committees (LBCC).
The BCCCM consisted of 32 persons. It chose an executive Committee: President Stephan Stephanov, Deputy (Vice-President) Spiro Kitinchev, Secretary Vassil Hadjikimov, cashier Kroum Organdjiev and advisors Blagoy Popankov, Ivan Piperkov, Dr. Alexander Gueorgiev and Illiya Attanassov.
One of the main tasks of the BCCCM was to publish a declaration: “BULGARIANS, Macedonia is liberated! Macedonia is liberated for ever. The end of the slavery has come... The centuries-old slavery in Macedonia - Greek, Serbian and Turkish, mental and political, economic and social as well, in the 20th century, is abolished. The great ideal - l i b e r t y - for which Macedonia waged century-long struggles with an unprecedented heroism and with a lot of sacrifices, is already a reality.” Along with this, the declaration briefly declared the program before the people: unification with Bulgaria. Although the Bulgarian authorities were not established yet, the BCCCM announced in the declaration: “Macedonia is free and is already in the Bulgarian national unity”.
Bulgarian press was founded in Macedonia too. After 24 years Bulgarian words began to appear in a Bulgarian newspaper. It was called “Macedonia” and published most of the documents and the decisions of the BCCCM. Stephan Stephanov was the director of the newspaper. Radiostation Skopje was restored too.
One of the first problems the BCCCM faced with, was to take the power away from the Serbs. Paradoxically, the power was still Serbian - the Germans did not abolish the administrative authorities from the beginning. The German commandant in Skopje answered the delegation of the BCCCM that he would give the power to the Bulgarians, if only they could give him proofs that the Bulgarians predominated to Skopje.. This became a pretext for a special referendum,. Only half a day appeared to be enough for the BCCCM to prepare Bulgarian flags and to hang them outside all Bulgarian houses. All over the city there were Bulgarian flags although there was no official Bulgarian representative in it. Like any pedantic German, the commandant of Skopje drove along the streets in order to see for himself that the city was a Bulgarian one. Afterwards the administrative power of the city was given to the Bulgarians. Spiro Kitinchev was appointed the first mayor of the city.
This success showed that to establish Bulgarian rule was not an easy thing, and that a struggle should be waged for it. At the same time people got convinced that this struggle could be successful only if it was well organized, and if there was unanimity among the supporters of the different tendencies and groups. The struggle for overtaking the power in Skopje showed that in other Macedonian towns the Serbs might also have strong positions; that is why the immediate formation of local committees was necessary. This was the task of the organizing secretary - Vassil Hadjikimov - the most energetic of the workers. He traversed the whole Macedonia and organized LBCCs in towns and bigger villages.
On April 14, 1941 Vassil Hadjikimov arrived in Veles. Several persons in the town were wounded or murdered, several houses were ruined by the German bombings. Unlike in Skopje, Serbian powers in Veles had been evacuated before the arrival of the Germans. The town-hall was in the hands of the Bulgarians. The new mayor - Konstantin Vanev - was elected by the people. In the hall of the town’s cultural house, in the presence of many townsmen a long discussian took place. The townsmen decided to create a local CC, which would have to follow the directives of the BCCCM for Macedonia’s unification with Bulgaria. According to the protocol, the purposes of the Committee were: to serve as a representative of the town of Veles, to keep contacts with all the foreign powers, and to defend the townsmen’s economic, political and cultural interests.
The newspaper “Macedonia” was not late in announcing the event. This was the first LCC and its creation was also a historical event. After WW2 the town of Veles was called Titov Veles, although the Bulgarian national liberation movement in this town had long history.
The LCC in Veles immediately undertook actions for investigation and restoration of the graves of Bulgarian soldiers and officers killed in WW1. The townsmen had hidden the crosses from the graves, because the Serbs would violate them. So, on May 4, 1941 - Sunday, the CC organized a memorial service before the mortal remains.
On April 17, 1941 Vassil Hadjikimov arrived in his native town of Shtip. Here, as it was the case with many places in Macedonia, the citizens had organized Bulgarian power immediately after the Serbs had abandoned the town. Well-known to his fellow-citizens, Hadjikimov called a meeting, where he explained the directives and the positions of the BCCC. The people applauded him. In course of 23 years of Serbian slavery the best Bulgarian town in Macedonia was burried under the Serbian hatred. In his reminiscences Vassil Hadjikimov wrote: “ He, who wants to get an idea of what the Serbian slavery is, must come here and get familiar with something else: the real face of the Bulgarian spirit. The townsmen of Shtip seem to be the toghest Bulgarians. Despite sufferings and assimilations that took place, they have preserved their language. They have not only kept the awareness of their national identity, but also of the great role they had played in the past for the liberation of Macedonia.”
The next places where Hadjikimov created Ccs were Kochani, Vinitsa, Pehchevo, Tsarevo selo (Delchevo), Berovo, Radovish and Stroumitsa. Up to the arrival of the Bulgarian troops in Macedonia, Ccs were created in most of towns of the region. But they were not united in a net. This did not happen untill Vassil Hadjikimov passed through the whole region and unified the documentation and the oppinions for the work of those committees.
At the same time the Albanian population in Kossovo also created committees. Its aim was to prepare this this region, as well as some towns in Western Macedonia, for annexation by Albania. That is why in the towns of Tetovo, Gostivar, Debar, Strouga and Ohrid, Bulgarian and Albanian Committees were created and the struggles between them began. The Islam pushed the Albanians against their interests: the region of Tetovo was economically connected with Macedonia, while its western area was surrounded by high mountains.
At the time of Hadjikimov’s visit in Gostivar, this town was full of German, Albanian and Italian flags. Bulgarian and Albanian committees were struggling between themselves. On April 23rd a meeting was held, where the Bulgarian committee was reorganized as a local Bulgarian Campaign Committee. The Albanian Committee in Debar was most active. It organized demonstrations and meetings on the occasion of the liberation. There were slogans for unification with Albania. The Albanian committee here was in connection with the one in Prizren, so that the behavior of the Italians and of the Albanians expressed self-confidence. That is why here there were neither Bulgarian meetings, nor the Bulgarian simbolical shout “hurray” (the Serbian one is “zhivio”). A secret conference in a house of a Bulgarian teacher on April 24th was everything that could be done. That committee in fact could function only illegaly. The purpose of the CC was not illegal activities, but the mobilization of the whole nation.
The Italian occupational powers did not approve the activities of Vassil Hadjikimov. They arrested him for several hours. So he did not succeed in organizing Ccs in Strouga and Ohrid. However, such committees arose and were among the most active ones in Macedonia.
In one of the biggest towns of Macedonia - Bitolja, the Bulgarian population has had to wage a struggle to seize the town-hall from the Serbian administration. In fact the struggle was not against the Serbian administration, but a problem of obtaining proofs about the ethnical picture of the town, which the population had to present before the German powers. The Bitolya townsmen had organized a committee before the arrival of Hadjikimov. Such was the case with other towns in Macedonia, too. This shows that the organizations of Bulgarian Ccs in Macedonia in 1941 was a spontaneous activity of the Bulgarian nation for its self-determination, and not the initiative of several hot-hearted patriots. The fact that the Bitolya committee was not called a “Campaign Committee” was of no great significance.
Bulgarian women from Macedonia have always possessed a strong national consciousness and have always played an important part in the revolutionary struggles. In those critical days they were loyal to the tradition: on April 30, in the hall of the musical school in Skopje, a women’s CC was organized. It’s president became Maria Ivanova Shaleva.
At that time a Bulgarian club functioned in Aegean Macedonia. Vassil Hadjikimov visited some towns in Aegean Macedonia, including Salonica. He organized CCs only in some towns, such as Vodena and Lerin
Thus the whole Vardar and a part of the Aegean Macedonia were covered with CCs. Nobody could account for the exact social characteristics and the power of this movement - the Bulgarian Ccs. At the head was the intelligentsia, followed by merchants, industrials, handicraftsmen, agrarians. So, in the process of organizing the Ccs in 1941 the basic part of the population was participating actively. This testifies to their democratic character.
The creation of the Ccs should not be regarded as the isolated efforts of a small number of intellectuals. All Bulgarian in Vardar Macedonia were involved in this patriotic deed during the critical times of 1941. This was a process of whole nations self-determination, an expression of the will of the people to join Bulgaria after being liberated from the Serbian rule. Without any underestimation of the work of the organizers, it must be emphasized that their success was due to the fact that all the Bulgarians in Macedonia were ready to work for that cause; they were only waiting for the signalm. In many places Vassil Hadjikimov found organized committees, so that his problem was to only standardize the documents, titles and the directives of the work to be done by the committees. There were several places where Vassil Hadjikimov did not have the possibility to go. The population of these places formed committees nevertheless.
The main task of the Ccs was to abolish the Serbian rule and to establish a Bulgarian one. At a time when no power existed in Vardar Macedonia, before the establishment of the official power of the Bulgarian state, this rule of the people took care of everything that concerned the population: food supply, order, relations with the German and the Italian powers; liberation of captives - Bulgarians from Macedonia, who had been soldiers in the Yugoslavian army; preparation of the population to welcome the Bulgarian troops; organization of industrial and agricultural activities; education and culture, etc.
It would be an unpleasamt task to make a clear difference between the activities of the Ccs up to the arrival of the Bulgarian troops in the district, and after it. BCCC was created on the 13th April and only a week later - on 19th April, the Bulgarian troops entered the region. Certain LCCs were organized even after 19th April. Some of them were in the Bulgarian zone, others in the Italian and in the German ones. At the same time the arrival of the Bulgarian troops did not mean that Bulgarian administrative powers were organized automatically. The latter were being organized throughout a longer period of time.
In any case, undoubtedly of most important significance is the fact that in a powerless state the people succeeded in organizing a power and in declaring unification with Bulgaria. So that the mission, which the Ccs were fulfilling could be divided into: revolutionary, organizational, economic and protocol. The revolutionary mission consisted in destroying the remnants of the administrative power of the former Versaille Yugoslavia. Closely connected with the revolutionary one was the organizational mission. It consisted in organizing LCCs, which had the right and the task to provide for the life and the food for the population. The Ccs were also responsible for the cultural, educational, economic and political needs and rights of the population.
In a short time all the administrative Serbian functionaries, as well as those working in the economic, cultural and other spheres were dismissed. Thanks to the activities of the Ccs soon the factories and enterprizes began to function. This seemed to be of a vital importance for the workers, who have only their salaries to live on. Only in Skopje several days appeared to be enough for ensuring job for 3000 persons.
An important part of the activities of the Ccs was the organization of the guard in front of the shops, stores, etc. Guards were also put in front of buildings of historical, ethnographical and cultural significance of Macedonia - museums, libraries, etc.
Of a great importance was the restoration of the reading clubs. Their significance for the education of the nation during the Revival period and later on is well-known. The Serbs never had at their disposal a similar cultural institution; so their hatred towards these clubs is understandable. That is why they simply destroy them. In a short time, with the help of the Bulgarian powers the Ccs restored them. In a short time, with the help of Bulgarian powers, the CC restored them. On 9th June in Prilep the Bulgarian reading club “Nadezhda” (Hope) was restored, on 16th July - the one in Kumanovo called “Ekaterina Simidchieva”, names simbolically connected with the Bulgarian Revival, etc.
A teacher’s committee was formed too, as a department of the BCCC. Its most important task was to inform the administrative authorities about the problems connected the Bulgarian education in the liberated Macedonia. The BCCC ordered to all the LCCs to invite all the Bulgarian teachers from the primary and secondary schools in Macedonia anmd together with the former Exarchate teachers to form educational committees at every place. Through the newspaper “Macedonia” the BCCC appealed to the LCCs to make contacts with the administrative authorities and to undertake all the possible measures to preserve from plunder and anihilation their property - buildings, furniture, libraries, collections, cabinets, etc. BCCC assigned to the teachers’ communities the task to organize courses for studying the literary Bulgarian language. In the very first days the volunteers in these courses in Skopje outnumbered 800.
Of a great importance was the preserving of the public order. The functionaries of the Ccs did not allow personal revenge over the enslavers. Having in mind that the character of the Serbian regime was a forcible one, acts of revenge would have been logical. In many places the population had isolated the Serbian families in camps, although most of them were innocent. The notorious villains Vassilie Trbich, Mihail Kalamatiev, Kirkovich, Grigor Tsiklev and many others had escaped immediately after sensing the activisation of the Bulgarian population. That is why the BCCC ordered that all the Serbs and Montenegrins should be freed from the camps and prisons immediately. They were proposed to go back to their native places in Serbia and Montenegro.
A heavy situation happened in Prilep. The Serbian powers had colonized Serbians and Montenegrines in Pelagonia on the most fertile land, which was taken by force from the Bulgarians. Now the population has gathered in a camp all the colonized Serbs. According to Vassil Hadjikimov: “If I had not come on time, about midnight, the camp, where the colonists were gathered would have looked like butchery.”
What were the relations between the German military powers and the Ccs? Some Bulgarian newspapers of that time contained announcements of a propaganda nature that the administrative bodies in the Mairies had been appointed by the German powers. That was not true: they were appointed by the Ccs. Of course the German powers allowed the population to freely express their Bulgarian nationality and were tolerant towards the Ccs. The Germans accepted them as representatives of the population and as an intermediary between them and the population. So that they accepted them. At the same time it is worth noting that the German military powers allowed Albanian Ccs to be formed, which appealed for unification with Albania and for “Great Albania” under Italian protectorate. This deteriorated the relations between Italia and Bulgaria. Thus Germany worked for its own hegemony over the Balkans. So, whatever the considerations were, it looked like the German army gave the Macedonian population the possibility and the right to freely express its nationality. Thus the Bulgarians, outnumbering the other nationalities, gained the possibility to overthrow the Serbian administrative powers and to establish their own ones, corresponding to their nmational character.
That is why the very first number of the newspaper “Macedonia” published in a BCCC’s telegram to Hitler. It said that in WW1 Macedonia had been liberated with the combined heroic efforts of the German and Bulgarian troops. But after the war, according to the decisions in Versaille, Macedonia was left in slavery once again. The telegram also said that all the Macedonians (having in mind the Bulgarians from Macedonia) blessed the Germans and wished them further victories. A similar telegram was sent to Goering too, and a similar answer was received. Those relations were in conformity with the events of March 1941. The demonstrations in Macedonian towns against the Axes were feeble. This also explains why the partisan movement here was weaker in comparison with the other regions of Yugoslavia. In the face of the German troops of that time the Bulgarians from Macedonia saw their liberators.
From the very beginning of its existence the BCCC established friendly relations with Croatia’s government. One of its first tasks was to send a telegram to Dr.Ante Pavelich. Gratitude was expressed towards him, as well as to the whole Croatia’s nation for their help in the liberation of the Bulgarians from Macedonia. It is well-known that during the 1927 trial in Skopje, the Zagreb lawer Ante Pavelich was the only one to defend the accused students - Bulgarians from Macedonia.
The Ccs prepare the population for welcoming the Bulgarian troops, which were allowed to enter the district on 19th April 1941. Everywhere the troops were heartily welcomed. The population went out in the streets and squares, carried flowers and sang Bulgarian songs. The establishment of the Bulgarian administrative authorities was an official act. The German powers gave over the administrative power of the towns in the presence of the population organized by the Ccs. The German flag was taken down and the Bulgarian one was raised.
The Bulgarian tsar Boris III visited the liberated territories. He visited first the town of Shtip - this strongest Bulgarian fortress, and then - Stroumitsa, Gumurdjina, Dedeagach, Ksanti, Kavala and Drama. Two districts were formed in Vardar Macedonia - Skopje and Bitola, while in Western Thrace and Eastern Macedonia - there was one district - the Ksanti. Pirot, Tsaribrod and Bosilegrad entered the Sofia district. The governor of the Bitola district was Todor Pavlov, and in Skopje - Anton Kozarov.
Bulgarian power was established, but still many missions were to be fulfiled by the Ccs, providing food for the people, reviving of the production and the market, functioning of the administrative boards and schools - all that had to be organized by the functionaries of the Ccs. Great quantities of food were sent from Bulgaria on the request of the BCCC. Only in June a hundred railway carts with food came from Bulgaria to Skopje. The participants in the struggles against the Turks, the Greeks and Serbs were given pensions. Arable lands, which were taken from the Bulgarians and given to the Serbian colonists, were given back to their owners.
The BCCC insisted on increasing the educational work in Vardar Macedonia; they insisted on establishing one more faculty in Skopje - an agricultural one, which was necessary for Macedonia, having in mind the agricultural character of the district. The functionaries of the Ccs prompted the contacts between students from Bulgaria and Macedonia.
One of the main missions, which the BCCC started to fulfil was to help free the Bulgarians from Macedonia who were captured in the German army as soldiers in the Yugoslav army; as well as all the political prisoners from the prisons in Versaille Yugoslavia. This of course was a task for the whole Bulgarian society, and mainly for the General Staff. For this purpose a special service for prisoners of war was created. The Ministry of War contacted the German and Italian High Commandings and insisted to solve the problem with the Bulgarian prisoners of war. The Ccs prepared lists of the prisoners, which were sent to the Ministry of War. The latter sent detailed information to the BCCC: Up to the end of May 1941 were freed as follows: from the Slivnitsa camp - 3101 men, from the Vidin camp - 120, from the Petrich camp -487, from the Nikopol camp - 2361, and from the Rousse camp - 812 men; totally, up to the end of May, 10 475 men were freed and sent to their native places.
The Central Military Archives of Bulgaria kept a great number of applications for freeing of captives - Bulgarians from Macedonia, former soldiers in the Yugoslav army. Here is only an example. The father of the well-known general from the Yugoslav army - Mihaylo Apostolski - Mite Apostolov Matevski from Shtip said in his application that his son Mihail Mitev - a major on active service in the Yugoslav army, had been captured by the Germans during the war, and at that moment was in the camp near Milano, Italy. Matovski asked that his son, who, “is a Bulgarian, born from Bulgarian parents in Shtip”, be freed. “I allow myself to add that I am one of the honest Bulgarians in Shtip, I have worked for Bulgaria and for the Bulgarian idea, and during the World War 1 I used to be a volunteer in the Bulgarian army, I was wunded at the Albanian border by a bullet, and as a result I became an invalid.” And he explained that his son had begun his service in the Yugoslav army not because of any love towards this state, “but being from a poor family, he needed to find there temporary subsistence, with the hope that our country will be one day a part from the Motherland, and he would be able to serve to our dear Bulgarian Tsar and State.” On the application there was a resolution: “Rome! To be freed!”
In the course of these activities the representatives of the Ccs gave the possibility to soldiers from other nationalities to be freed from German camps. Even some Serbian soldiers were freed, with the lie that they were Bulgarians. At the same time there were Serbian officers who were not willing to be freed on such a lie, so they declared themselves true Serbians and did not want to change their nationality, not even formally. But what was most interresting - there was nobody declaring himself a Macedonian as contradicted to Bulgarian.
One of the most important missions which the Ccs fulfilled was to organize the celebration of Bulgarian public holidays in liberated Macedonia. Of course celebrations were organized by the administrative authorities, but having in mind that the members of the Ccs participated actively in them, they also took part in their organization. The celebration of 24th May in Skopje was most important. Many guests from Sofia had arrived: a great number of members of the organization “Yunak”; the President of the Macedonian Scientific Institute in Sofia, Professor Nikola Stoyanov, was among the guests too. The guests were welcomed by a brass band, the latter being trained with the initiative of the BCCC in playing Bulgarian military marches. The Mayor Blagoy Popankov read a salutatory address on behalf of the citizens of Skopje. All the people were happy, some of them were crying with joy. Brothers, sisters, relatives reunited with each other after a long separation. A little later about 100 representatives of the Macedono-Odrin’s legionaries arrived in Skopje. They were led by the member of the National Assembly, Andro Lulchev. At the railway station they were welcomed by the members of the local organization of the former volunteers - about 200 men headed by Pane Shosholchev and the secretary Hristo Gligorov. Simultaneously with the welcoming of the guests, representatives of the Bulgarians from Macedonia were sent to Sofia. A great number of children - students from Skopje, Veles, Prilep, Bitola, Ohrid, Kroushevo, Negotin, Kavadartsi and Guevgueli were going to Sofia to take part in the celebration in Sofia. There was a meeting at the railway station. Salutatory adresses were presented by the governor of the district Anton Kozarov and the Vice-Prezident of the Macedonian Women’s Union - Ekaterina Voinova. In order to participate in the celebration of 24th May in Skopje, the veteran of the revolutionary struggles Lazar Tomov - President of the Illinden Organization in Bulgaria had arrived. He carried with him the flag of the association “Vardarski Yunak”, which he had taken to Sofia after the catastrophe in 1918.
The demonstration was an impressive one. It left in the consciousness of the people the impression that the years of the slavery had already passed in history and that Bulgarian society was unanimous before the ideal for liberation and unification of the enslaved territories. In a similar manner, celebrations in honour of 24th May were also organized in all towns and villages in Macedonia.
x x x
On July 7, 1941 thje district governor Anton Kozarov issued an order N248 through which the activities of BCCC were dismissed.
The energy of Stephanov and Hadjikimov was not crashed. They started organizing the so called popular banks, whose mission was to help the small producers. Despite the heavy economic situation in Macedonia at that time, their work in this direction was useful. The only change this time was that Hadjikimov was the director, and Stephanov was the deputy. In a short while a bank was built in all major towns of Macedonia. This activity was also a successful one. And it is the most important proof that it was not up to a couple of adventurers, assisted by the case and the situation, but that both of them were Bulgarian patriots who had given much of their energy in the name of a whole nation’s benefit.
And again - towards August-September 1944, Bulgaria was facing a new catastrophe. In Macedonia there was an interregnum again. The time that needed Stephanov and Hadjikimov had come again. Several thousands of Albanian nationalists, with Albanian flags in their hands were approaching Skopje, aiming to occupy and hold the town until the treaties for the possible new borders were signed. Vassil Hadjikimov immediately summoned all the active citizens in the Chamber of Industry and explained the new situation and the new dangers for the Bulgarian population to them. He promised them that he would not hurry to run to Bulgaria and hide himself from the Serbians, but would stay with the population and help it. He created a “Central Committee of the National Militia of Macedonia.” On the head of the Committee was the secretary - Vassil Hadjikimov; members - Dr. Nikola Andonov and Stephan Stephanov - responsible for the relations with the German authorities, and Mihail Domazetov - responsible for the relations with the Bulgarian military and civil authorities.
Thus, raising the slogan “For a self-dependant Macedonia”, Hadjikimov gave the citizens armament from the depot of the Regional Police Directorate.
The German Powers appeared to be against such a committee and its activities. That is why, on September 10 a new one was found to replace the former. It was called “A Local Committee for Skopje and the neighbourhood”. The Germans tended to diminish the functions of the Committee in order that the latter should not be turned eventually into a government of the self-independent Macedonia. The activity of the Local Committee was easier to be controlled. The members of the Committee were Dr.Kosta Chohadjich - President; Vassil Hadjikimov - secretary, responsible for the administration and for the radio; members - Nikola Pavlov and Reshid Djavid - responsible for the finances, Georgi Kisselinov, Feta Raouf and Georgi Poptrayanov - for the education, Stephanov and Emin Yashar - for the National Militia, and Dr.Alexander Georgiev - for the sanitation.
A proclamation was published in the “Macedonia” newspaper towards the population of Skopje and the neighbourhood. This newspaper started to be edited again, as a continuation of the tradition of the Ccs “Macedonia” newspaper of 1941. It was announced that the Committee was formed with the purpose of preserving the order and the security in Skopje and the neighbourhood. With the same reason the National Militia was organized - to gather and arm the Bulgarians for preserving the peace and the order. It was said that this organization is not a political one, but a means for guaranteeing the national security.
As it could be observed, the Committee could be seen like some kind of continuation of BCCC’s activities of 1941. The newspaper was called “Macedonia” - as it had been called three years earlier. The same was the title of the editorial. At the time Stephan Stephanov used to write it under the heading “Our Word”. In September 1944 it was again St.Stephanov who titled it in the same way. Having in mind the new conditions it once again rose the slogan for “self-dependent, or autonomous Macedonia”.
x x x
The courts in Tito’s Yugoslavia did not forgive the freethinking and patriotism; they did not allow anybody in Macedonia to call himself “a Bulgarian”. In February 1946 a trial was held. The President of the Skopje regional court was Panta Marina, and the members were Dimiter Toplichanets and Philimena Mihailova. This court sentenced V.Hadjikimov to death, and Stephan Stephanov to 16 years of prison. They were guilty for organising the BCCC. Very soon the Supreme Court Martial replaced Hadjikimov’s punishment with 20 years of prison. After 11 years and 3 months Hadjikimov was freed. He used to live in Sofia and I had the chance to often meet him. He closed eyes on December 20, 1992, in his native town of Shtip, thus having the possibility to meet the Liberty of Macedonia from the Yugoslavia’s chains.
x x x
The lack of any interference on the part of any organized political powers at the time when the Ccs were organized, outlines the contours of a large white field over which the Bulgarians from Macedonia wrote with capital letters their will to be incorporated within Bulgaria. The Ccs were an organization which could be joined by everybody, no matter what his convictions were. The most important conclusion, which could be made about the CC is that it was in only that single case after the catastrophes at the beginning of the century, that history gave the opportunity to the Bulgarians from Macedonia to make their self-determinatiuon without any pressure. Bulgarians from Macedonia - representatives of all professions - workers, farmers, village people, townsmen, handicraftsmen, merchants, intelligentsia, members of all parties, availed of their historical chance. On this referendum they gave their vote for Bulgaria.
At the same time it must be taken into consideration that this
organization is not a single and isolated form of a self-determination
of the Bulgarians from Macedonia. It is only a link in the whole chain
of the National liberation struggles after the Berlin Treaty.
x x x
The American authors Stephen E.Palmer, Jr and Robert R.King in their book “Yugoslav Communism and the Macedonian Question” are giving the scientific explanation of the quick formation of a Macedonian nation in Tito’s Yugoslavia, under the strong influence of the Soviet Union. While in 1941 the population in Vardar Macedonia strongly expressed its Bulgarian feelings, only several years were enough to change the direction of development of the Macedonian Question. What were the factors that both authors thought to be the most important.
First, here was the recognition that those people were not Serbians. This in fact was some kind of retreat from the Serbian traditional nationalism. This recognition came, since after the partition of Yugoslavia during the Second World War the Yugoslav Communist Party could hardly retain control over Vardar Macedonia, which was cruicial for her having in mind the strategic position of the district. Second, this kind of policy was useful to justify the retention of Vardar Macedonia within the Yugoslav federation. “An area inhabited by a population seventy percent of which was Bulgarian should justifiably belong to Bulgaria.” And since the people there strongly opposed being called Serbs, it would be impossible after the war to use this method of legalizing their retention as a part of Yugoslavia. But a non-Bulgarian, non-Serbian population of Slavs could belong to a federation of Slavic peoples as one of the fraternal nations. A third reason for recognizing the Macedonian nationality was “to eliminate the Bulgarian consciousness of the vast majority of Vardar Macedonians. Thus the party has not only recognized the nationality, but also has taken and still undertakes vigorous steps to encourage its culture to differentiate Macedonian from Bulgarian. Republican political and economic “autonomy”, the Macedonian language, reinterpretation of history, the Macedonian church, and all other attributes of a distinct nationality have played a major role in de-Bulgarizing the Macedonian population.”
That the Macedonian language didn’t exist up to the WW2 and that it was elaborated after the war, the US strategic leadership was well aware of. In a document titled ‘SITUATION IN MACEDONIA’ prepared for the Office of Strategic Services, Research and Analysis Branch, dated March 7, 1945, is said that there is not up to that time a Macedonian Alphabet, and the creating of a such was expected. “It is rumored in Skoplye that Russian linguists will assist in the formulation of a standard Macedonian language. At present little except newspapers and pamphlets is being printed in Macedonia. Textbooks for the schools will not be printed untill an alphabet has been officially adopted.” The involvement of the Soviet politics in the formation of the new nation was not only rumours. It was in 1934 when the decision of the Comintern was taken for the formation of the Macedonian nation. Nevertheless what the real purpose was, it is understandable, and this is also the conclusion of the above mentioned two American authors, that Soviet Russia needed friendly Bulgarian nation, but not a too strong and self-confident one.
The formation of the Macedonian nation was accompanied with a strong anti-Bulgarian propaganda. “No Macedonian in Yugoslavia would admit openly that he considers himself Bulgarian - it is neither wise nor safe to do so.” After the war the Tito’s propaganda machine, helped by the Bulgarian “anti-fascist” one, flooded the people with the devastations inflicted by the Bulgarian army over the territory of Vardar Macedonia. Very important document to show the opposite appears to be the above cited document: “During the occupation the Bulgarians laid road beds for two new railroad lines: one running from Kumanovo to Kriva Palanka and thence to Gershevo, the other from Kochane to Gorna Djoumaya. No work on these lines is being carried on at present.” And more: “Before the war, Macedonia, although the principal Yugoslav tobacco producer, did not have a single tobacco factory. During the occupation, the Bulgarians established plants in Shtip and Skoplye. Both are now the property of the Macedonian government. The Skoplye plant processes 1000 kgs of tobacco daily and employs 130 workers, mostly women.” Occupied nations during the WW2 would be glad to have such an occupator, to build roads and plants.
The hipocricy of the new regime entered in the everyday life of
the people. In April 1946 a Congress of the Macedonian emigrants was held
in Sofia. In those times all the institutions were directed to serve the
policy of the Soviet Communism. The decision of Moskow coincided with the
one of Belgrade. That is why the Bulgarian one had to coincide too. According
to the decisions of the Macedonian Congress: “The emigrants must stress
their policy of solidarity with the Yugoslav peoples to strengthen the
Yugoslav Federation; and solidarity with Slavdom for the strengthening
of the Slav idea led by the USSR.”
[Back to Index]