Macedonia. Its place in Balkan power politics

Elisabeth Barker





1. The Axis occupation of Macedonia, 1941-4  78

2. Relations between the Yugoslav and Bulgarian Communist parties  83

3. The Greek communist party and the Macedonian question, 1941-9  109





When the Axis Powers invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941, Macedonia was cut off by German columns operating from Bulgarian bases, and occupied within a few days. Bulgarian troops occupied the whole of Yugoslav Macedonia except the Upper Vardar above Skoplje, and except the north-western district round Tetovo, Gostivar, and Kicevo, which was allotted to Italian- occupied Albania, together with the Kossovo-Metohija area. On the conquest of Greece a few weeks later, the Bulgarians occupied Greek eastern Macedonia, except for the Salonika area, and a small part of western Macedonia. The rest of Greek western Macedonia came under Italian occupation until Italy’s collapse in 1943. The Salonika area was occupied by the Germans and later became the headquarters of General Loehr, the German Commander South-East.


The Germans did not allow the Bulgarians formally to annex the parts of Macedonia which they had occupied. The German paper, Neues Wiener Tagblatt, on 16 January 1943, said: ‘Although the Aegean provinces and northern Macedonia (which since 1913 has belonged to Yugoslavia) were placed under Bulgarian administration ... any definitive ruling was left for the future.’ The Bulgarian Government, however, appeared to act on the assumption that Yugoslav Macedonia was now part of Bulgaria; and they sent Bulgarian settlers to Greek Macedonia to replace Greeks who had been deported. They also—or so they claimed after the war—expended money on public works in Greek Macedonia, including the southerly extension of the railway from Sofia to the old frontier at Kula, which presumably they would not have done if they had not regarded their possession as lasting.


In 1943 there were minor changes in the north-western limits of Bulgaria’s occupation of Macedonia. Under an Italian- Bulgarian agreement of 30 March 1943, the village of Pestani, south of Ochrid, was transferred from Italian to Bulgarian





occupation. On the collapse of Italy in September 1943, the Bulgarians also occupied the southern tip of the Ochrid district, while German troops occupied Gostivar and Kicevo.1 At the same time the Germans took over Greek western Macedonia from the defaulting Italians.


Yugoslav Macedonia was divided by the Bulgarian occupiers into the Skoplje and Bitolj provinces. Bulgarian officials were sent in to administer these provinces, but aroused discontent: the Bulgarian press even criticized their tactlessness, and the Ministry of the Interior issued a warning that those who behaved as though they were in a foreign country would be punished.


Bulgarian elementary and secondary schools were set up, seventeen in the first year of the occupation, and by the end eight hundred. Six hundred teachers were trained at special courses in Bulgaria. Teachers were obliged to do at least one year’s service in the ‘New Lands’, while Bulgarian priests had to spend at least four months in ‘liberated territory’. A national theatre, library and museum were opened in Skoplje, and in December 1943 a ‘King Boris University’ was instituted there.


In July 1942 a law of citizenship was passed, by which all inhabitants were held to have acquired Bulgarian nationality on the occupation, except, theoretically, those who chose to opt for their former nationality. If they chose the latter, they had to emigrate. Many Serbs in fact fled to Serbia.


In September 1943 the Bulgarian Government detached certain eastern areas of the new ‘Skoplje Province’, including Carevo, Selo and Berovo, and united them with three districts of Sofia Province and two districts of Plovdiv Province to form a new province with its centre at Gorna Djumaja—one of the chief towns of Bulgarian Macedonia. [2]


In November 1943 the Bulgarian Minister of Justice, Dr Konstantin Partov, was appointed ‘Commissioner for the New Lands’. He had the task of bringing the administrative system in the New Lands into line with that of Bulgaria proper as quickly as possible. In March 1944 Partov announced that elections would be held in Macedonia for the Bulgarian Parliament; but this was never in fact carried out. [3]



1. Review of the Foreign Press, No. 218, 29 August 1944.


2. ibid.        3. ibid.





The population of Yugoslav Macedonia at first put up no resistance to the Bulgarian occupation, and many probably welcomed it. In return, the Bulgarian occupation authorities adopted a relatively mild policy. But the population seems gradually to have become disillusioned with Bulgarian occupation, perhaps because of the overbearing nationalism of the average Bulgarian officer or official.


From the end of 1943 onwards the Macedonian partisans, under Marshal Tito’s authority, started serious armed activity; the Bulgarian occupation forces therefore began to take reprisals and harsh retaliatory measures, including the gutting of villages suspected of aiding the partisans. But in 1944 Bulgarian troops began to desert to the partisans, and the Hristo Botev partisan battalion was formed largely of deserters. When in September 1944 Bulgaria changed sides and the Bulgarian army, under Marshal Tolbukhin’s supreme command, received the order to evict the Germans from Macedonia, or at least to speed their withdrawal northwards from Greece, it was possible for them to work with the Macedonian partisans without disastrous friction. There was, however, a good deal of mistrust and rivalry between the two forces, as was shown by the wide discrepancies and conflicting claims of successes in the Bulgarian and Yugoslav communiqués in the early weeks of the joint effort.


In so far as it is possible to generalize, it seems that the Bulgarian occupation of 1941-4 was sufficiently unpleasant to disillusion most of the population of Yugoslav Macedonia about the advantages of belonging to Bulgaria, but that it still left a large enough sediment of pro-Bulgarian or anti-Yugoslav feeling to make difficulties for Marshal Tito in the post-war Federal Yugoslavia.


With the Greeks, the story was different. The Italian occupation of western Macedonia, which was probably very thinly spread, was quickly forgotten. The German occupation of Salonika was remembered chiefly by the Jews: nearly all the large Jewish population was deported to concentration camps in Germany, where only those who were lucky enough to be able to claim the possession of Spanish passports survived to return home. But the Bulgarian occupation strengthened and embittered the old Greek hatred of the Bulgars.


The Bulgarian occupation forces undoubtedly behaved much





more ruthlessly in Greek eastern Macedonia, where there was only a very small Slav population, than in Yugoslav Macedonia. One British observer states that in the early months of the occupation, ‘the Bulgars were exterminating the Greek population of the north-east provinces’ [1]; and that at the end of 1942 they were ‘consolidating the Bulgarization of eastern Macedonia and western Thrace by confiscating the land of those Greeks who fled, and conscripting or deporting as hostages those who stayed’. [2] The Greeks also claimed later with justification that the Bulgarians wrought great material destruction before their withdrawal in 1944. The Fatherland Front Bulgarian Government, after Bulgaria’s change of sides in 1944, denied these charges.


After the Italian collapse in 1943, the Germans allowed the Bulgarians to intervene to a limited extent in Greek western Macedonia, which until then had been outside their sphere of activity. Bulgarian officers attached to German Headquarters in Salonika had the job of trying to organize the Macedonian Slav villagers into local home-guard units, usually called Ochrana, to defend their villages against the Greek Communist-led partisans (E.L.A.S.) and the Macedonian Slav partisans, organized in the ‘Slav National Liberation Front’ (S.N.O.F.) and allied with the Greek partisans. The Germans also seem to have permitted a certain amount of pro-Bulgarian propaganda in western Macedonia, presumably to draw the sympathies of the Macedonian Slavs away from Marshal Tito’s National Liberation movement over the border in Yugoslavia; but these efforts seem to have had little success.


Greek suspicion and anger were particularly aroused by the close links believed to exist between the Bulgarian occupation authorities, the Greek Communist Party or E.L.A.S., and the Bulgarian Communist partisans operating over the border in Greek territory. A man named Radev or Rhodhopoulos, said to be ‘a Greek by birth, a Bulgar by naturalization, and an international Communist by persuasion’, was believed to act as liaison between the three. [3] Radev, it is said, appeared as a partisan Commissar one day and a Bulgarian regular army colonel the next, and so when Bulgaria changed sides in September 1944, facilitated



1. C. M. Woodhouse, The Apple of Discord (London, Hutchinson, 1948), p. 123.


2. ibid. p. 129.        3. ibid. p. 91.





the change of sides of the Bulgarian forces in Greek territory and their rapid absorption of the Bulgarian Communist partisans. [1]


The Greeks also believed that the Greek Communists had made an agreement with the Bulgarian occupation authorities by which the administration of Macedonia was to be left in the hands of E.A.M. and S.N.O.F. when the Bulgarians and Germans withdrew, and that in return the Greek Communists agreed to Macedonian autonomy within a Slav federation. This agreement was supposed to have been embodied in a document signed by a Greek Communist and a Bulgarian regular officer on Mount Kaimaxillar in January 1944. The document is, however, of doubtful authenticity. [2]


The only Greek nationalist resistance group in Greek eastern Macedonia was led by Andon Tsaous, who aimed to preserve it, and also Thrace, for Greece and so was opposed to Bulgarians, Germans, and Greek Communists alike. He started action towards the end of 1943, and was supported by the British. [3]


When, at the beginning of September 1944, Bulgaria changed sides and the Communist-led Fatherland Front came to power, the situation in Greek eastern Macedonia was extremely confused. The Bulgarians wanted their forces to remain there to fight the Germans on their retreat northwards, or at least to defend the line of the River Struma against any German attempt to penetrate to the east of it. They could claim that Andon Tsaous was not strong enough to achieve this alone. The new Bulgarian War Minister, the non-Communist Damian Velchev, [4] invited a representative of the Anglo-American Military Mission in Greece to go to Sofia. It was agreed that the Bulgarians should support Andon Tsaous with heavy weapons. The Greek Communists confined themselves to attacking both the Allied Military Mission and Andon Tsaous—rather surprisingly, in view of their own earlier attitude—for collaborating with the Bulgarians. But by the end of October the Germans had withdrawn and an E.L.A.S. army corps had occupied Salonika. [5]


The main aim of the British Government had all along been



1. Woodhouse, op. cit. p. 208.


2. ibid. p. 297.        3. ibid. p. 91.


4. See pp, 28, 72. Kimon Georgiev was Prime Minister in the first Fatherland Front Government formed on 9 September 1944.


5. Woodhouse, op cit. p. 208.





to secure the withdrawal of the Bulgarians from Greek territory, and they refused to conclude an armistice until this had been achieved. Russia also brought pressure to bear on Bulgaria, and the last Bulgarian troops left on 25 October. Radev went to Sofia. [1] The Bulgarian armistice was signed on 28 October. By the end of December 1944, E.L.A.S. had eliminated the remains of Andon Tsaous’s forces. [2]


Although the Greeks were relieved by the belated Bulgarian withdrawal, they were left with an overpowering hatred of all Bulgars, whether pro-German or Communist. In fact the average Greek probably detested and feared the Bulgarian Communists, who represented the great Red Slav menace to Greece from the north, even more than he had hated their predecessors.


The Bulgarian occupation of part of Greek Macedonia therefore left the Greek population more violently opposed than before to the idea of a ‘United Macedonia’; and the Bulgarians had lost their influence over the Slavs of Greek western Macedonia to the Yugoslavs.





From early 1941 onwards the Yugoslav and Bulgarian Communist Parties were at loggerheads over Macedonia, apart from a few' months of uneasy agreement following the Bled Agreement of August 1947. The Yugoslav Party started on the defensive and gradually moved over to the offensive. The Bulgarian Party started on the offensive and was gradually pushed back on to the defensive. Tito’s minimum objective was to retain Yugoslav Macedonia within the frontiers of Yugoslavia. His maximum objective was to bring about the union of Bulgarian Macedonia, and possibly also part of Greek Macedonia, with Yugoslav Macedonia, under his own aegis. The Bulgarian Communist Party’s maximum objective was to create an independent Greater Macedonia closely linked with Bulgaria or, perhaps, quite simply to annex Yugoslav Macedonia. Its minimum objective was to keep Bulgarian Macedonia out of Tito’s hands, and inside Bulgarian frontiers.



1. Woodhouse, op. cit. p. 209.


2. ibid. p. 219.





There was also a parallel war-time dispute between the two Parties over methods of resistance to the Axis. It was chiefly Tito’s whole-hearted adoption of the policy of armed resistance and partisan warfare that won him Moscow’s support on the Macedonian question. This support seems to have been maintained fairly consistently until the break between Tito and the Cominform in June 1948. At that point Moscow appears to have reverted to its more traditional policy of support for Bulgaria.


The Yugoslav Communist leaders were suspicious of the Bulgarian Party’s intentions even before the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia. [1] They believed that when the Soviet representative, Sobolev, visited Sofia at the end of 1940 to propose a mutual aid pact, the Bulgarian Communist Party had conducted a campaign for the pact, promising that Bulgaria would thereby gain an outlet to the Aegean at Kavalla, and thus part of Greek Macedonia. [2] In the Spring of 1941 a leading Bulgarian Communist, Todor Pavlov (from 1944-6 Regent of Bulgaria), had written an open letter denying that there was a Macedonian nation and saying that the Macedonians throughout their history had always felt themselves Bulgarians. The reply to this letter, made by another leading Bulgarian Communist, Traicho Rostov, was regarded by the Yugoslavs as unsatisfactory. [3]


The Axis invasion also found the Yugoslav Communist Party’s regional organization in Macedonia in an unsatisfactory state. The central leaders mistrusted the local leader, Sharlo-Shatorov. He was obviously of Bulgarian Macedonian origin. He is said to have come to Yugoslav Macedonia just before the war, to have taken up the pose of an old and experienced revolutionary, assumed a strongly anti-Serb attitude, and refused to accept the directives of the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party. When the Yugoslav Party held its fifth Regional Conference in Zagreb in October 1940, Sharlo asked the Party to



1. The chief source for the dispute between the Yugoslav and Bulgarian parties is a book published in Belgrade in 1948, after the Cominform dispute, by Lazar Mojsov, The Bulgarian Workers Party (Communist) and the Macedonian National Question (Belgrade, Borba, 1948), hereinafter referred to as Mojsov. Other Yugoslav sources are speeches made after the Cominform dispute by Tito, Vukmanović (Tempo), Ranković, Nesković, and Pijade. Bulgarian sources are considerably fewer and consist mainly of speeches by Dimitrov, Madolev, and Delev. The following account is thus inevitably written mainly from the Yugoslav viewpoint.


2. Mojsov, p. 58.


3. ibid. p. 72.





back his demand that all Serb colonists should be evicted from Macedonia and took what was described as a ‘national-chauvinist stand’, which was strongly criticized. In revenge, Sharlo is said to have sabotaged the Conference’s decisions on the local strengthening of the Party organization. When, on the eve of the Axis invasion, the Party called for demonstrations against the Tsvetković Government’s adherence to the Tripartite Pact, Sharlo sabotaged this appeal. Demonstrations were, however, organized in Skoplje. [1]


When the Axis forces invaded Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, the Yugoslav Communist Party issued an appeal calling on the peoples of Yugoslavia to prepare for armed struggle against the occupier and to maintain brotherhood and unity. The Party refused to recognize the dismemberment of Yugoslavia. Sharlo ignored this appeal. More important, the Bulgarian Communist Party decided to grasp the opportunity offered by the Bulgarian occupation of most of Yugoslav Macedonia. It set up a ‘Commission for the unification of the Party organization in Vardar Macedonia’, under Mitko Zaphirovski; and Anton Jugov, member of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Party, tried to establish contact with the Macedonian Regional Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party. The Bulgarian Party also worked out the convenient theory of ‘one territory—one party’, meaning that since Yugoslav Macedonia had come under Bulgarian occupation, the Bulgarian Communist Party had the right to take over the local Party organization as well. [2]


Sharlo played right into the hands of the Bulgarian Party. At the end of April he went to Sofia, partly for the personal purpose of obtaining an amnesty and ‘legitimizing’ himself. (He was presumably under sentence by a Bulgarian court.) Before leaving Yugoslav Macedonia Sharlo, as Secretary, had already dissolved the existing Regional Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party. [3] On arrival in Sofia, he proclaimed his adherence to the Bulgarian Communist Party. [4] He appears to have been welcomed. The Bulgarian Party, in a letter to the Yugoslav Party’s Central Committee (possibly at a slightly later date) justified its attitude by the ‘practical reason’ that leadership was easier from Sofia,



1. Mojsov, p. 92.


2. ibid. pp. 76—7.


3. Lazar Kolishevski, speech in Skoplje, 21 December 1948.


4. ibid.





since Macedonia had become a component part of Bulgaria. [1]


The Yugoslav Party was not prepared to accept this situation, or to let any part of its regional organization secede. At a meeting of the Central Committee in Belgrade in May 1941, it declared its determination to maintain the unity of the working classes of all the peoples of Yugoslavia and the unity of the Party. All party organizations throughout Yugoslavia, ‘independently of the barriers and barbed wire set up by the occupiers between the different parts of Yugoslavia’, were to keep uninterrupted contact with the Central Committee and obey its decisions. [2] Sharlo, in spite of repeated summons, refused to attend this meeting. [3]


At this stage the Yugoslav Party was chiefly concerned with getting people all over the country to conceal their arms from the occupying authorities. Sharlo returned to Skoplje, presumably with the mandate of the Bulgarian Party, some time in May. He refused to adopt the Yugoslav policy on the arms question, on the grounds that concealment would be a provocation to the occupier. Three months later, in August 1941, the Yugoslav Party’s Central Committee sent a letter to Party members in Macedonia saying: ‘He (Sharlo) gave a directive to surrender arms to the enemy, thus leaving the people empty-handed and betraying their interests. Why have you no arms today? Because you surrendered them instead of keeping them and waging the struggle, like all the peoples of Yugoslavia, against the hated oppressor’. [4]


At the end of May the Yugoslav Party made a positive move to save the situation. The Central Committee sent Lazar Kolishevski, a young Yugoslav Macedonian, to Skoplje, to expose Sharlo and prepare for a ‘national uprising’. Kolishevski took with him the appeal issued by the Central Committee after its Belgrade meeting earlier in the same month, calling on the peoples of Yugoslavia to ‘prepare for the struggle for freedom’. Sharlo refused to disseminate the appeal in Macedonia. [5] For the moment, there was deadlock.


On 22 June Germany attacked Soviet Russia. Tito acted immediately.



1. Svetozar Vukmanović, speech to Fifth Congress of Yugoslav Communist Party, 23 July 1948.


2. Mojsov, p. 56.


3. ibid. p. 96.        4. ibid. p. 96.        5. ibid. p. 97.





The Yugoslav Party’s Central Committee at once addressed a letter to the ‘enslaved peoples of Yugoslavia’: ‘Now the hour has struck for the struggle for your liberation from the Fascist oppressor. . . The struggle of the Soviet Union is your struggle. . . Your struggle is in the fighting ranks of the working class.’ [1] Three days later, Tito, in the name of the Central Committee, sent a special letter to the Macedonian Regional Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party (which Sharlo had nominally dissolved), denouncing Sharlo. The letter said: ‘The behaviour of the old Bulgar [i.e. Sharlo] ... is not only anti-Party, but also counter-revolutionary.’ After enumerating his sins, the letter said that the Yugoslav Party’s Central Committee relieved him of his duties as member of the Regional Committee for Macedonia and excluded him from the Party. Finally, the letter called on the Macedonians to carry out universal sabotage and immediately to start organizing partisan detachments, ‘because the struggle of the U.S.S.R. is our struggle’. [2]


Sharlo refused to take this lying down. On 2 July he issued his own leaflet, headed ‘To the Macedonian people, on guard’. In this he declared that the Macedonians must give nothing to the German and the Bulgarian Fascists. ‘Full boycott! There must be no war against the Red Army; you must surrender and go over to the side of the Red Army! Long live the great and glorious U.S.S.R.! Long live free Soviet Macedonia!’ The leaflet was signed ‘The Regional Committee of the Workers Party of Macedonia’. [3] Thus Sharlo omitted any reference to the Yugoslav Party, and adopted the term ‘Workers’ Party’ which was used by the Bulgarian Communist Party.


This leaflet was anathema to the Yugoslav leaders for two reasons. First, it did not call for armed struggle, but only ‘boycott’ and surrender to the Red Army. Next, it used the slogan ‘free Soviet Macedonia’, a conception presumably unrelated to Yugoslavia and akin to the old Comintern line of 1924.


Tito took the bull by the horns. Some time in July, he sent a letter to the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Party, complaining strongly of its attempt to get control of the Party organization in Yugoslav Macedonia and of its support of Sharlo,



1. Mojsov, p. 99.


2. ibid. p. 105.        3. ibid. pp. 101, 103.





particularly following his refusal to attend the Belgrade meeting in May. [1] It may have been in reply to this that the Bulgarian Central Committee sent a letter saying that in Bulgaria, and therefore also in Yugoslav Macedonia, conditions for an armed struggle did not exist, since the old State apparatus was not broken, as in Yugoslavia, and since the Germans had come as allies, not as occupiers. [2] In any case, the Bulgarian Party obviously refused to discard Sharlo.


At this point, one or other Party, more probably the Yugoslav, assuming that they had means of access, appealed to the Comintern for a ruling. In August 1941, the Comintern replied, condemning (according to the Yugoslav account) the attempts of the Bulgarian Party to bring the Party organization in Macedonia under its own leadership. The Comintern decision was that the fundamental task was the armed struggle and that the chief method of the struggle was the partisan movement. ‘This movement’, it said, ‘is now developing on Yugoslav territory under the leadership of the Yugoslav Communist Party’. It added that it was particularly important that the uprising of the popular masses should develop in Macedonia to the greatest possible extent. It was therefore obvious, said the Comintern, that for this end the Yugoslav and Bulgarian Communist Parties must have a clear attitude on the self-determination of the Macedonian people, and that the Bulgarian Party must help the development of the national liberation struggle of Yugoslavia. [3]


Although the Comintern ruling was by no means unequivocal on the long-term question of Macedonia, it did give Tito the first round, won because he had adopted the Stalinist policy of the partisan war. The Bulgarian Party declared that it accepted the ruling ‘without reserves’. This, however, meant only that, as it stated in a letter to the Yugoslav Central Committee, it would send a plenipotentiary to the Party Regional Committee for Macedonia (instead of trying to assimilate the Yugoslav Macedonian organization). It continued to defend Sharlo. Its letter said: ‘We agree that Comrade “Old” (Sharlo) committed gross political and organizational errors, for which we condemn him and for which he deserves punishment. But we consider, recognizing



1. Mojsov, p. 83.


2. Vukmanović, speech to Yugoslav Communist Party Fifth Congress.


3. Mojsov, p. 84.





his devoted work in Bulgaria, that it is rash to characterize him as a class enemy and a counter-revolutionary element. We intercede for milder punishment’. [1] According to the Yugoslav account, the Bulgarian Party subsequently rehabilitated Sharlo. On other issues also the Bulgarian Party maintained its earlier attitude.


Following the Comintern ruling, the Yugoslav Party sent its open letter to the Macedonian Party members again denouncing Sharlo and calling for the armed struggle. On 25 August, a new Regional Committee was appointed, under Kolishevski. [2] The new Committee set to work to fulfil the Yugoslav Party’s directive to start the armed struggle and organize partisan detachments. But it was hampered by the Bulgarian Party’s continued intervention in Yugoslav Macedonia, and also by the very genuine difficulties of local conditions and feeling. Vukmanović (Tempo) in a letter of 2 February 1943, referring to this period, said: ‘Everywhere the party organizations felt the unhealthy consequences of the fractionalist work of Sharlo’s leadership.’ [3] According to another Yugoslav account, there were ‘opportunist and liquidationist elements’ in the Party organization, who considered that conditions did not exist for partisan warfare. [4] In other words, Tito might have won the Comintern’s support, but he had not yet won the support of the majority of Macedonian Communists, let alone the mass of the people.


The first representative sent to Skoplje by the Bulgarian Party, Peter Bogdanov, [5] is said to have brought with him a resolution that Kolishevski should be excluded from the Party, that is, presumably, from the Macedonian regional organization—hardly a conciliatory gesture. He maintained the view that conditions were wrong for partisan warfare, and defended Sharlo’s ‘free Soviet Macedonia’ slogan. At the same time Sharlo is said to have started a ‘slander campaign’ against Tito, declaring him to be an Anglophil. After Bogdanov, in October 1941, came the Bulgarian Party’s second representative, Bojan Balgaranov,6 to continue the same policy.


By this time, the first Macedonian partisan detachments, at Kumanovo and Prilep, had been formed under the leadership of



1. Mojsov, p. 113.


2. ibid. p. 114; Kolishevski’s speech, 20 December 1948.


3. Quoted by Mojsov, p. 115.


4. ibid. p. 115.        5. ibid. p. 108.        6. ibid. p. 119.





Kolishevski’s committee. On n October the detachments first clashed with the occupation forces—the date is now regarded by Yugoslav Communists as a ‘historic turning-point’ in Macedonian history. The results were, however, disastrous. The Kumanovo detachment was destroyed, reprisals and punitive expeditions followed, and those who opposed partisan warfare were strengthened. [1] However, the Macedonian Regional Committee of the Yugoslav Party met in Skoplje in November and decided that new partisan detachments should immediately be formed. [2] Nevertheless they sagely proposed that the ‘base of the national rising’ should be moved to western Macedonia, which was under Italian, and therefore less rigorous, occupation. But immediately after the meeting Kolishevski and other members of the Regional Committee fell into the hands of the police, [3] and were imprisoned. Balgaranov immediately came forward and took control of the relics of the Regional Committee, which reverted to the Sharlo line. [4]


So at the end of the second round, the Bulgarian Party was left in sole, if illegal and temporary, possession of the field. The Yugoslav Party had suffered a very severe setback, from which it did not begin to recover until February 1943. The ramp Regional Committee, under Balgaranov’s influence, decided in December 1941 to disperse the surviving Prilep partisan detachment and to suspend work on the creation of fresh detachments. [5] At the beginning of 1942 something of a crisis arose over the Bulgarian Government’s decision to carry out mobilization to recruit troops for the occupied territories. The Macedonian Regional Committee, in a letter to the Bulgarian Party Central Committee, at first called for sabotage of the mobilization and for ‘flight to the woods’, that is, to the partisans. But it was reproved by the Bulgarian Party for its ‘incorrect attitude’, and in January 1942 accepted the Bulgarian Party’s line that Communists should if necessary enter the army, in order to ‘maintain contact with the masses’. [6]


In his political pronouncements, Balgaranov continued to use the slogan ‘Free Macedonia’, presumably meaning a Macedonia independent of Yugoslavia. He signed his leaflets merely



1. Mojsov, p. 115.        2. ibid. p. 118.


3. ibid.        4. ibid. p. 119.        5. ibid.


6. ibid. p. 134; Vukmanovic’s speech to Yugoslav Communist Party’s Fifth Congress, 20 December 1938.





‘The Regional Committee of the Communist Party’, without any reference to the Yugoslav Party. When, in the course of 1942, there was a renewed move for the creation of partisan units, he revised the earlier Bulgarian line to a certain extent, but said that the units should be limited to ten or fifteen men, should concern themselves mainly with political work among the people and preparations for a general rising, and should avoid provoking counter-action by the occupying forces. [1] These limitations were of course quite contrary to Tito’s general policy, and were close to the Bulgarian Party’s current directive. They were, however, if anything in advance of Bulgarian policy: in August 1942 a circular letter of the Bulgarian Party still called primarily for ‘mobilization of the Party forces’, sabotage, and prevention of delivery of supplies to the Germans. [2]


It was not until the beginning of 1943 that Tito again tried to retrieve the position in Macedonia. On 16 January he sent a letter to the Macedonian Regional Committee. He said:


It must be clear to you that the national liberation struggle is the significant form through which will be decided the question of the existence, freedom, and independence of all the peoples, and equally of the Macedonian people. . . The question of the securing of the unhampered development after the war of all the peoples, and equally of the Macedonian people, and the securing of future peace, is inconceivable without the brotherhood and equality of the peoples. Only under these conditions can the question of self-determination have real meaning. [3]



Tito went on to reprove ‘an outworn and liberal attitude towards autonomist tendencies of a national character’ (an obvious reference to the traditional pro-Bulgarian ‘autonomist’ solution). ‘The posing of the question of “autonomy” or alleged specific Macedonian conditions falls outside the framework of our standpoint’, he added. He stressed the leading role of the Yugoslav Communist Party in the ‘united struggle for the liberation of all our peoples’, and said: ‘You must not be afraid to emphasize openly the cause of our Party.’ [4]


This somewhat abstract message was obviously meant to convey that Tito was prepared to grant ‘self-determination’ to Macedonia,



1. Vukmanović, loc. cit.


2. Mojsov, p. 145. It is interesting to view this dispute over the mobilization problem in the light of the attitude to it taken in the 1929 resolution of the Balkan Communist Federation (see p. 71, above).


3. Mojsov, p. 150.        4. ibid. pp. 168, 173.





provided that it remained within the framework of his new Yugoslavia. He did not make it clear whether the frontiers of his new Yugoslavia could be extended to embrace the other two parts of Macedonia. The message paved the way for the arrival, at the end of February 1943, of Svetozar Vukmanović, known in the partisan movement as Tempo. This was the real turning-point in Macedonia. Tempo was a Montenegrin, not a Macedonian; but he was energetic, a good organizer, adventurous, and apparently tactful. He spoke some Macedonian, and had worked underground in Skoplje before the Axis invasion. [1] As the special emissary of the Yugoslav Party’s Central Committee and of the General Staff of the National Liberation Army, he had considerable prestige. He immediately addressed a letter to Macedonian Party members calling for the creation of partisan detachments and of the ‘National Liberation Army of Macedonia, which shoulder to shoulder with the National Liberation Army of Yugoslavia and the whole Balkans will fight for the full national freedom of the Macedonian people’. [2]


It seems likely that Tempo let it be known that Tito would at least not object to the unification of all three parts of Macedonia within the framework of Yugoslavia. At any rate, in a letter which he addressed to the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Party on 8 August 1943, he gave advice on which he may well already have acted, at least in private conversation: ‘Because the National Liberation movement has developed most strongly in Macedonia on the territory of Yugoslavia, and because this movement is the centre of the gathering of the whole Macedonian people, it is necessary that we should issue the slogan of the liberation and unification of the Macedonian people in brotherly unity with all the Yugoslav peoples’. [3]


After Tempo’s arrival, a series of partisan detachments were formed, especially in the Debar, Tikvesh, and Kumanovo districts. Tempo also established liaison with the Greek and Albanian Communist-led partisans, before returning to Tito’s headquarters, and so strengthened the position of the Macedonian partisan movement.4 Of greater practical help was the collapse of Italy in September 1943. A number of Italian units were disarmed



1. Stephen Clissold, Whirlwind (London, Cresset Press, 1949), p. 135.


2. Mojsov, p. 152.        3. ibid. p. 178.


4. Clissold, op. cit. pp. 143—4.





in western Macedonia, where the partisans acquired a considerable area of ‘liberated territory’. Soon after, demoralization began to set in among the Bulgarian occupation troops; the first deserters came over to the Macedonian partisan detachments. The Hristo Botev battalion, and later other Bulgarian partisan units, were formed in Macedonia and subsequently handed over to Bulgarian command.


The era of Bulgarian Communist Party influence ended soon after Tempo’s arrival. Balgaranov and Sharlo left the scene. (Later the Fatherland Front Government of Bulgaria was to make the former a Lieutenant-General and the latter a Colonel. [1]) Tito had at last won political control of Yugoslav Macedonia.


On Ilinden, 2 August 1943, the ‘Central Committee of the Communist Party of Macedonia’ (promoted from the former ‘Regional Committee for Macedonia of the Yugoslav Communist Party’) met in the Prespa district. It drew up a programme for the creation of a ‘National Liberation Front’, such as already existed in the other Yugoslav lands, and started preparations for calling the first ‘Anti-Fascist Assembly of National Liberation of Macedonia’. [2] Early in October, the newly formed ‘General Staff of the National Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Macedonia’ met at Tsrvena Voda and issued a stirring ‘Manifesto to the Macedonian People’. This said: ‘For the first time in our glorious history we have today our own young People’s Army... The decisive hour has struck. . . The coming days will decide your fate. . .’ It declared that the Macedonian people had all the conditions for winning their freedom and independence, for gaining, on the basis of the right of self-determination, its true equality, and for building up its statehood in brotherly unity with the Yugoslav peoples, in the new Tito Yugoslavia. It added that within the framework of this unity, the Macedonian people had ‘all the conditions for realizing their age-long dream, unification’. [3]


Thus the Macedonian General Staff was expressing in much more explicit form the somewhat ambiguous implications of Tito’s letter of 16 January and Tempo’s letter of February 1943, and was using the slogan proposed in Tempo’s letter of August



1. Mojsov, p. 154.


2. ibid. p. 158.        3. ibid. pp. 160-1.





1943. But this theme was not developed when the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia met at Jajce on 29 November 1943. Although the Council for the first time formally defined Macedonia’s future status in Yugoslavia, it gave no hint of the enlargement of Macedonia.


Both then and later, it was difficult to tell which was Tito’s real policy—the retention of Yugoslav Macedonia, or the pursuit of a new enlarged Macedonia. The first was the line he followed in pronouncements addressed principally to the outside world, particularly the western Powers, as were the Jajce decisions. The second was the line he followed in pronouncements addressed more specifically to Macedonians. The two were not necessarily inconsistent: the former could represent his minimum, short-term, policy, the latter his maximum, long-term, policy. On one thing he was quite clear: if there were to be a greater Macedonia, it was to be based on Yugoslav Macedonia, not on either of the other parts of Macedonia. Never at any time after 1941 was there the slightest hint that the Yugoslav Communists were prepared, in practical terms, to grant the Yugoslav Macedonians the Stalinist right of ‘secession’.


The Jajce ‘Decision of the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia on the Federative Organization of Yugoslavia’ said:


On the basis of the right of all nations to self-determination, including the union with or secession from other nations, and in accordance with the true will of all the nations of Yugoslavia, tested during three years of common national struggle for liberation which has cemented the indissoluble fraternity of all the people of Yugoslavia, the Anti- Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia passes the following decisions:


1. The peoples of Yugoslavia do not recognize and never have recognized the partition of Yugoslavia by Fascist imperialists, but have proved in the common armed struggle their firm will to remain united in Yugoslavia.


2. In order to carry out the principles of sovereignty of the nations of Yugoslavia and in order that Yugoslavia may be the true home of all its people, and no longer an arena for the machinations of reactionary influences, Yugoslavia is being built up on a federal principle which will ensure full equality for the nations of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Hercegovina.


3. In accordance with this federal organization of Yugoslavia, which is based on the fullest democratic rights, it is accorded that already,





during the national liberation war, organs of the people’s authority have been established in the different lands of Yugoslavia in the form of National Liberation Committees and Provincial Anti-Fascist Councils of National Liberation. The Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia as a Central Body of National Liberation of Yugoslavia is the Supreme Legislative and Executive Representative Organ and the Supreme Representative of the sovereignty of the nations of Yugoslavia as a whole. . .’ [1]



Thus Macedonia obtained equal status with the five other federal units of the new Yugoslavia. But it received no wider autonomy than, for example, Bosnia-Hercegovina. In certain respects, Macedonia was still behind some of the other federal units: for instance, it only had a Central National Liberation Committee, while others already had full-blown Anti-Fascist Councils of National Liberation; and it was thinly represented on the central bodies of the Federal Yugoslavia. There was no Macedonian on the supreme executive body, or provisional government, called simply the ‘National Liberation Committee’, which had seventeen members. Of the five vice-presidents of the Praesidium of the central Anti-Fascist Council, one was a Macedonian: Dimiter Vlahov who, after several years in Moscow and several appearances as a Macedonian representative at the wartime All Slav Congresses in Moscow, had abandoned his old theory of ‘Independent Macedonia within a Balkan Federation’, and adopted Tito’s Macedonian solution. Of the fifty-six ordinary members of the central Anti-Fascist Council, only three were Macedonians. These were Mihajlo Apostolski, a former Major of the General Staff of the old Yugoslav army, who had by this time become Chief of Staff of the National Liberation army of Macedonia; Vladimir Poptomov,2 described as a ‘journalist’; and



1. The Second Session of the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia (Izdanje Avnoj-a, 1943).


2. At the time of writing it seems beyond doubt that this is the same as the Vladimir Poptomov who became Bulgarian Foreign Minister in August 1949. If so, it would explain why Tito attacked the Foreign Minister so bitterly in his speech of 2 August 1949: from Tito’s point of view, he was worse than an enemy—he was a renegade. However, the Foreign Minister was a Bulgarian Macedonian by origin, who became a Communist after the First World War and directed the Bulgarian Communist rising in the Razlog district of Bulgarian Macedonia, after which he fled to Yugoslavia. Later he became a close follower of Georgi Dimitrov in Moscow. Thus his association with the Yugoslav Anti- Fascist Council of National Liberation could only represent a Yugoslav concession to the Bulgarian Communist Party—or to Moscow. In any case by September 1944 Poptomov appeared on the Bulgarian side of the fence: see p. 99 below.





Metodije Antonov-Tsento, [1] a former politician, who had become a member of the Headquarters staff for Macedonia. Kolishevski was presumably not included because he was still interned by the occupation authorities.


The Jajce decisions were publicly approved by Moscow. A statement by the Soviet Information Bureau of the Peoples’ Commissariat of Foreign Affairs said that the establishment of the federal principle of the organization of Yugoslavia was ‘regarded by the Government of the U.S.S.R. as a positive fact contributing to the further successful struggle of the peoples of Yugoslavia against Hitlerite Germany’. It added: ‘It also speaks of the major successes of the new leader of Yugoslavia in uniting all the national forces of Yugoslavia.’ It announced the Soviet Government’s intention to send a military mission to Yugoslavia.


The Jajce decisions therefore brought Tito a notable diplomatic success, including, it could be assumed, Soviet backing for his (minimum) solution of the Macedonian problem. But this solution was not accepted passively by the Bulgarian Fatherland Front—the coalition of resistance groups in which the Bulgarian Communist Party played a leading, though at that time not a dominant, role. The public pronouncements of the Fatherland Front and its spokesmen had always been unacceptable to the Yugoslav Communists. When the Front broadcast its programme on 17 July 1942, it called for the withdrawal of Bulgarian occupation units from Serbia, but made no mention of Macedonia. Broadcasts to Bulgaria from the Soviet-sponsored ‘Hristo Botev’ station, which boosted the Fatherland Front, took the same line.


When the Macedonian General Staff issued its manifesto in October 1943, a group of Skoplje intellectuals, calling themselves the ‘National Liberation Action Committee’, who obviously had strong Bulgarian connexions, replied with a letter denying the General Staff’s right to make any pronouncement on Macedonian self-determination. It said that the Macedonian question could not be decided within the framework of Yugoslavia, but only after consultation of all three parts of Macedonia, and that the aim must be Balkan Federation.



1. Antonov-Tsento was arrested and imprisoned in Skolpje by the Government of the Macedonian People’s Republic in the summer of 1946. See p. 101.





Then came the Jajce decisions. In the following month, December 1943, a document was issued called ‘The Fatherland Front on the Macedonian Question’. This declared:


Macedonia is an apple of discord. Rivers of blood have been shed for it. . . It is the cradle of the Bulgarian renaissance. . . To avoid new historic mistakes and to give Macedonia lasting pacification, the Fatherland Front proclaims the watchword ‘Macedonia for the Macedonians’. By this watchword, an end will be made to the rivalry between the Balkan States. Neither a change in the present cleavage of Macedonia by its enemies, nor its full annexation to any one of the Balkan States. The only saving solution is an integral, free, and independent Macedonia. Only thus can it cease to be an apple of discord and become a healthy unifying link between all the Balkan peoples.. . Citizens of all the Balkan lands . . . through the Fatherland Front the Bulgarian people calls on all its neighbours to unite around this single saving watchword. [1]



This document provoked the wrath of the Yugoslav Communists. It completely ignored the Jajce decisions: by opposing Macedonia’s ‘annexation to any one of the Balkan States’ it implied rejection of Tito’s Macedonian solution. It was in fact a return to the old Vlahov-Comintern line of the mid-nineteen-twenties. Bulgarian Communists later claimed that the Party had been compelled to agree to it to preserve the unity of the Father- land Front; but this apology was not accepted by the Yugoslavs.


Reinforced by the Jajce decisions, the partisan movement in Macedonia won fresh successes in the spring and summer of 1944. The work of political organization was also carried forward. On Ilinden, 2 August 1944, the Anti-Fascist Assembly of National Liberation of Macedonia met for the first time. (For Assembly, it used the word ‘Sobranje’, identical with the Bulgarian word, instead of the word ‘Vece’, or Council, used in the other Yugoslav lands.) The formation of a Macedonian People’s Republic, within Federal Yugoslavia, was proclaimed. Yugoslav Communist Party representatives attended the meeting; and Tito sent a telegram: ‘By its own heroic struggle and through the brotherly fighting help of all the peoples of Yugoslavia, the Macedonian people has laid the indestructible foundations of its freedom and equality. This is yet another testimony that the new Yugoslavia



1. Mojsov, p. 195; Vukmanovic’s speech to the Fifth Congress, 20 December 1948.





remains true to the principle of the full equality of all its peoples’. [1] Thus the Yugoslav connexion was formally endorsed by a body claiming to represent the Macedonian people.


In the same month, the first Macedonian divisions of the National Liberation army were formed; and in the following month, the first Macedonian Corps. As Bulgaria’s collapse approached, the Macedonians were able to disarm a number of Bulgarian army units. By this time they had also stimulated the Pirin Macedonians, in Bulgaria, to action, and several Pirin Macedonian partisan units had been formed, working in close liaison with the Yugoslav Macedonian units.


This was the situation when, on 9 September, the Fatherland Front seized power in Bulgaria, and the Bulgarian army changed sides and was ordered to join with the Yugoslav partisans in attacking the Germans, then retreating from Greece. Many of the Yugoslav Macedonians apparently thought that the moment had already come for the immediate incorporation of Pirin Macedonia in their own newly formed political unit. Their first step was to try to incorporate the Pirin Macedonians militarily. The Pirin Macedonians seem to have responded readily: they disarmed the sentries of a Bulgarian army divisional depot, seized weapons, and formed a ‘Macedonian Brigade’. [2]


The Fatherland Front and the Bulgarian Communist Party were evidently seriously alarmed. They were not prepared to let Pirin Macedonia go by default, which would have been a disastrous blow to their prestige in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian radio, in the name of the Fatherland Front Government, proclaimed the Macedonian people’s right to self-determination, but made no reference to the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Macedonia or to Yugoslavia. As Tempo said later: ‘It appeared to us that the leaders of the Bulgarian Communist Party closed their eyes to the facts and yearned for some change of the decision taken at the first session of A.S.N.O.M. proclaiming a Macedonian People’s Republic within the Yugoslav Federation’. [3]


Tito himself was apparently opposed to moving too fast over Pirin Macedonia. Soon after 9 September he met Dobri Terpeshev, the new Bulgarian Commander-in-Chief, and discussed



1. Mojsov, p. 197.


2. Speech by Georgi Madolev, Pirin Macedonian delegate to Bulgarian Communist Party’s Fifth Congress, 21 December 1948.


3. Mojsov, pp. 220—1; Vukmanović, loc. cit.





general military collaboration against the Germans. He may also have discussed the Macedonian question. In mid-September, Kolishevski (now at liberty again [1]) and Tempo attended a meeting of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Party in Sofia, to straighten out the Macedonian tangle. Kolishevski and Tempo made a number of accusations about the Bulgarian Party’s wartime activities, and demanded that it should ‘correct its attitude’. But they agreed to postpone the union of Pirin Macedonia with the new Macedonian People’s Republic. The Bulgarian leaders on their side agreed to give Pirin Macedonia administrative autonomy, not only cultural autonomy, and to work to develop national consciousness among the Macedonian people and thus to prepare for the final union of Pirin and Vardar Macedonia ‘when conditions were right for it’. [2] At the same time the Pirin Macedonians were warned by the Bulgarian Communist leaders against Yugoslav aspirations: at a Party Regional Conference in Sofia, also in September 1944, the Bulgarian Macedonian Communist, Poptomov, gave ‘a serious warning concerning the intention to incorporate Pirin Macedonia in the People’s Republic of Macedonia and Yugoslavia’. Lyubcho Arsov, a member of the Central Committee of the (Yugoslav) Macedonian Communist Party, who was present at the meeting, protested. [3]


The situation was thus temporarily stabilized by means of an uneasy compromise between the Yugoslav and Bulgarian Communist Parties. Perhaps neither side meant seriously to maintain it. In any case, the Bulgarian Party did little to fulfil its promises. Pirin Macedonia was not granted administrative autonomy; and until the end of 1947 there was little sign of any cultural autonomy. Early in October 1944 the first district conference of the Bulgarian Communist Party was held at Gorna Djumaja, chief town of Pirin Macedonia: according to the Yugoslav account, none of the Central Committee’s promises was communicated to the conference. [4] But at the same time the Bulgarian leaders continued to try to soothe the suspicions of the Yugoslav leaders. Traicho Rostov, one of the most prominent younger Communists, wrote a letter to Tito in November 1944 in which he spoke hope-



1. See p. 90 above.


2. Vukmanović, speech to First Congress of Communist Party of Macedonia, 21 December 1948.


3. Madolev, loc. cit.; regarding Poptomov, see p. 95 above.


4. Mojsov, p. 251.





fully of ‘the brotherly union between the Bulgarian and Yugoslav peoples and the union of the Macedonian people on the basis of the People’s Republic of Macedonia within the framework of Yugoslavia’. [1]


The two Parties then made a fresh attempt to solve the problem within the wider framework of Yugoslav-Bulgarian federation. The initiative came from the Yugoslav side. In November 1944 the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Party drew up a proposal for federation which was sent to Sofia. In December Edvard Kardelj, Tito’s chief foreign policy adviser, went to Sofia to negotiate. He soon found out that the Bulgarians, notably Traicho Rostov, would prefer an alliance or mutual aid pact to federation. They obviously feared that, since Tito was at the height of his international prestige, federation would mean the engulfment of Bulgaria in Tito’s Yugoslavia. In the negotiations the Yugoslavs proposed that Bulgaria should form the seventh federal unit of Federal Yugoslavia, and so should be merely on a level with Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and the rest. A ‘Commission of South Slav Union’, they said, should be set up in Belgrade, on which the six existing Yugoslav federal units and Bulgaria were to be represented, to draft a constitution for the United Federative State.


The Bulgarians, on the other hand, wanted a federation between Yugoslavia, as one unit, and Bulgaria, as another unit, so that Bulgaria would retain a more independent status than the existing Yugoslav federal units. The federation was to be realized through a ‘temporary council of the South Slav Union’ with its seat in Belgrade, on which the two Governments were to be represented, ‘on the principle of parity’. [2]


In this deadlock, an appeal was made to Stalin. At first Stalin inclined to the Bulgarian thesis, in view of Bulgaria’s ‘traditions as a separate State’. But finally (according to the Yugoslav account) he accepted the Yugoslav point of view. [3]


Nevertheless, the federation negotiations came to nothing. Even a treaty of alliance which was drafted as a substitute, omitting any reference to federation or customs union, was laid aside—



1. Pijade, article in Belgrade newspaper, Borba, 6 March 1949.


2. ibid.


3. Aleksander Ranković, speech to Serbian Communist Party Congress, 19 January 1949.





according to the Communist account, owing to Anglo-American intervention. [1]


Thus by the end of January 1945 the attempt to solve the Macedonian problem through federation had broken down. Although superficially there was now the closest friendship between the new Yugoslavia and the new Bulgaria, both parties remained suspicious and unsatisfied.


For the next year and a half, however, the Yugoslav leaders had sufficient Macedonian problems of their own to leave the Pirin Macedonian question alone. The young Macedonian People’s Republic was extremely short of experienced politicians and administrators. Many of its more prominent men were probably still tainted, from the Yugoslav point of view, with pro-Bulgarian ‘autonomist’ leanings. In the early summer of 1946, a latent crisis within the People’s Republic came to a head. Antonov-Tsento, who in 1943 had been elected a member of the central Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia, and who in August 1944 had become President of the new Anti-Fascist Assembly of National Liberation of Macedonia, resigned from the Macedonian Government. He was alleged to have been a former member of I.M.R.O., and was now accused of working for a ‘completely independent Macedonia’. In July it was reported that he had been captured when trying to cross the frontier into Greece, with the aim of laying his plan for Macedonia before the Paris Peace Conference. His arrest may well have been followed by a number of other arrests in the People’s Republic of those suspected of favouring a ‘completely independent’ Macedonia. In November 1946 Antonov-Tsento was tried and sentenced to eleven years’ hard labour.


Meanwhile the leaders of the Macedonian People’s Republic, having cleared up their internal crisis, had returned to the attack on the subject of Pirin Macedonia. On 2 August 1946 the First Congress of the People’s Front of Macedonia was held in Skoplje. Kolishevski told the Congress:


The strivings of our people from Pirin Macedonia for union with the Macedonian People’s Republic are a clear fact, and from day to day show themselves more clearly. We are convinced that the responsible factors see this fact, and that they will make it possible for our people



1. Pijade, loc. cit.





in Pirin Macedonia to have those conditions for free national development which the Bulgarian national minority enjoys in Federal Yugoslavia. We hope that the Fatherland Front Government will introduce the teaching of the Macedonian language and history, and that it will prevent the placing of obstacles in the way of the free development of a Macedonian national anti-Fascist democratic organization within the framework of the Fatherland Front.



Kolishevski said that the Macedonian question must not be regarded as a ‘world question’ to be decided by the great Powers: Communists were in power both in Federal Yugoslavia and in Bulgaria, and they, following Marxist-Leninist teaching on the national question, would decide it in the spirit of mutual agreement without any referendum, plebiscite, or the like, because for Communists the most just plebiscite was that which occurred when the popular masses, through their struggle, through their everyday actions, clearly demonstrated their wishes.


In connextion with the question of the union of Pirin Macedonia [Kolishevski said] we consider that this must not be decided by any third party. It is above all a question for the Macedonian people itself and for friendly agreement between Federal Yugoslavia and Father- land Front Bulgaria. To raise the question of the union of Macedonia outside the borders of Yugoslavia means common provocation, and is against the independence and interests of the Macedonian people. [1]



This was, of course, intended as a criticism of the Bulgarian Government’s failure to grant autonomy to Pirin Macedonia, as the Bulgarian Party had promised in 1944. It also suggested that the Yugoslav Macedonians suspected the Bulgarians of reverting to the old idea of an independent Macedonia, not attached to any Balkan State. Other Yugoslav Macedonian speakers at the Congress criticized the Bulgarian Communist Party more openly. A number of delegates from Pirin Macedonia was present.


The Bulgarian Communist Party, possibly under strong Yugoslav pressure, promised to reform its ways. The Tenth Plenum of the Party, held on 6 August 1946, passed a resolution on the Macedonian question which almost satisfied Yugoslav wishes. The resolution said that the Bulgarian Party considered that the fundamental part of the Macedonian people was organized as a State, within the framework of Federal Yugoslavia, in the Macedonian People’s Republic; the unification of the remaining parts



1. Mojsov, p. 262.





of the Macedonian people was to be fulfilled on the basis of the Macedonian People’s Republic within the framework of Yugoslavia. The Party considered that the preparation of the essential conditions for the unification of Pirin Macedonia with the Macedonian People’s Republic was the affair of the Macedonians themselves and the united task of Fatherland Front Bulgaria and Federal Yugoslavia. In the period before union, there must be systematic work for the cultural rapprochement of the Macedonian population of the Pirin with the population of the Macedonian People’s Republic. Unification must be achieved on the basis of a Treaty of Alliance between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria defining the exact frontiers of the Pirin region. The resolution, however, contained two points less satisfactory to the Yugoslavs: inhabitants of Pirin Macedonia were to be allowed to opt for Bulgarian citizenship; and no customs barrier or other frontier should exist between Bulgaria and Macedonia. [1] The resolution also failed to promise administrative autonomy to Pirin Macedonia in the interim period.


However, this resolution, an obvious concession to the Yugoslavs, was never published, and does not appear to have been communicated to the ranks of the Bulgarian Party. The Bulgarian Party leaders still could not face the blow to their own prestige in Bulgaria which any abandonment of Pirin Macedonia would deal. No change was made in Pirin Macedonia for another year.


Then, in August 1947, the Yugoslav and Bulgarian Communist leaders met in Bled. The published terms of the Bled Agreement provided for virtual abolition of formalities on the Yugoslav- Bulgarian frontier, elimination of entry and exit visas, and arrangements for ownership of joint properties along the frontier. There was also to be preparation for a later Customs Union. Behind the scenes, a fresh attempt was made to solve the Macedonian question. The Yugoslavs again demanded self-determination for the Pirin Macedonians—or, in other words, their union with the Macedonian People’s Republic. But the Bulgarians again opposed immediate union: union, they said, must be postponed until Yugoslav-Bulgarian federation had been realized. Tito (obviously reluctantly) had to agree. He insisted however that ‘the Macedonian people in Pirin Macedonia should have all



1. Mojsov, p. 267.





rights for full cultural development, as in Vardar Macedonia, and that they should be spiritually united with their brothers in Vardar Macedonia’. [1] The Bulgarian leaders finally agreed. [2]


Three months later, in November, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria signed a Treaty of Friendship; Tito visited Sofia and was enthusiastically received. During his visit, Tito said: ‘We shall establish co-operation so general and so close that federation will be a mere formality’.


In pursuance of the Bled Agreement, the Government of the Macedonian People’s Republic, with the blessing of the Bulgarian Government, sent ninety-three teachers to Pirin Macedonia ‘to assist in the correct teaching of the Macedonian literary language and Macedonian history’. The teachers, however, did not confine themselves to this task. They gave courses for illiterates and courses for adults in Macedonian language and history. They gave lectures on life in the Macedonian People’s Republic. They founded a Macedonian National Theatre at Gorna Djumaja, to present Macedonian plays. They established a publishing concern called the ‘Macedonian Book’, which in a few months issued over 80,000 copies of books, brochures, and journals. Macedonian booksellers disseminated the Skoplje newspaper, Nova Makedonia. A special paper for Pirin Macedonia, Pirinski Vesnik, was established. Youths from Pirin Macedonia went to serve in youth brigades on building projects in the Macedonian People’s Republic. The Government of the Macedonian People’s Republic gave 149 scholarships for students from Pirin Macedonia, and established teachers’ courses attended by 135 teachers from Pirin Macedonia. [3]


All this intensive cultural activity was, in spite of the Bled Agreement, intensely irritating to the Bulgarians, including the Communists. Even the Communists in their heart of hearts probably felt, like all Bulgarians, that the Macedonians were really Bulgarians, that Macedonian was only a dialect of Bulgarian, and that the written language of the Macedonians had traditionally been Bulgarian. The w'ritten language which had now been established in the Macedonian People’s Republic had originally been based on the spoken tongue of northern Macedonia, and so



1. Tito, speech in Skoplje on fifth anniversary of foundation of Macedonian People’s Republic, 2 August 1949 (Tanjug, Yugoslav Telegraph Agency).


2. Tito, loc. cit.


3. Mojsov, p. 271.





had contained some ‘Serbisms’ (although the Macedonian leaders later decided that the dialects of the Bitolj-Veles area were a better basis, so that their literary language became more akin to Bulgarian). In any case, the Bulgarian leaders felt that there was something artificial and ‘invented’ about this Macedonian cultural drive.


At the same time, it is most unlikely that the teachers and booksellers from the Macedonian People’s Republic confined themselves to strictly cultural work. They would have been less than human, or less than Macedonian, if they had not seized a golden opportunity for eulogizing life in the People’s Republic and Tito’s Yugoslavia. Moreover, their propaganda seems to have had a good deal of success among the Pirin Macedonians.


The Bulgarian Communists’ feelings about the teachers and booksellers were not publicly disclosed until after the break between Yugoslavia and the Cominform. Then they were expressed in forcible terms. Georgi Dimitrov, addressing the Fifth Congress of the Bulgarian Party on 19 December 1948, accused the Yugoslavs of attempting to incorporate the Pirin region in advance of South Slav federation, and said:


Our country, in good faith, allowed a great number of Macedonian teachers and booksellers to come to the Pirin region. Soon, however, it became evident that we had been betrayed, for the teachers and booksellers turned into Tito agents, and under the pretence of fighting ‘Greater Bulgarian’ chauvinism, and with the aid of the State apparatus and all the political and cultural organizations, they began a systematic campaign against everything Bulgarian, against the Bulgarian people, their culture, the people’s democracy, and our Communist Party. In the Macedonian Republic no Bulgarian newspaper was allowed, not even Rabotnichesko Delo, the organ of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The family names of the population were altered so as to have no resemblance to Bulgarian names. For instance, Kulishev, Uzonov, and Cherkov, became Kolishevski, Uzonovski, and Cherkovski. . .



Ivan Delev, a Pirin Macedonian delegate to the same congress, said that ‘Tito’s emissaries’ had torn Bulgarian revolutionary pictures from the walls of Bulgarian schools and administration buildings and replaced them by pictures of Tito and Kolishevski. He claimed that they had ordered the Communist Party organizations to take an oath of loyalty to Tito.


Georgi Madolev, another Pirin Macedonian delegate who had





obviously earlier taken a pro-Tito line, also attacked the ‘Skoplje leaders’ for trying to introduce their Macedonian language. ‘Instead of using a language which could be understood by everybody, they are imposing in Macedonia an artificial language which they also wanted to introduce in the Pirin region,’ he said. ‘I must declare before the Party that our population speaks Bulgarian very well; it is the language which is most dear to them . . .’


Madolev, however, in confessing the ‘serious mistakes committed by the Party in the Pirin Region’, gave a strong indication of the initial success of the Macedonian cultural drive. He quoted the following errors:


(1) Our attitude towards the Skoplje Communists was uncritical, thus allowing them to do what they wanted in the Pirin region, with the result that the Pirin region became a State within a State. (2) We were carried away by the nationalistic ideas of the Skoplje leaders, as a result of which we applied forcible measures for the study of the Macedonian language. (3) We did not take into consideration the will of the masses of the Party and the population of the Pirin region. Thus we tried to solve the Macedonian question à la Kolishevski... (4) We actually assisted the Skoplje traitors in their aim of incorporating the Pirin region in the Macedonian Republic. . . My own mistakes are especially grave. . . I had doubts whether the Central Committee (of the Bulgarian Party) was capable of solving correctly the Macedonian question. Finally I wrote a letter to the Central Committee in which I openly expressed my disagreement with the Central Committee’s policy on the Macedonian question. . . [1]


The Yugoslav point of view was expressed, after the Cominform split, by Blagoje Nesković. He said:


Soon after the Bled Agreement it became obvious that the old policy towards Macedonians in the Pirin region was being continued in Bulgaria. It was shown clearly that some responsible Party and State leaders in Bulgaria did not recognize the Pirin Macedonians as a separate national group. Moreover, there was increasing proof that many responsible leaders in Bulgaria did not even recognize the nationality of Macedonians in the Macedonian People’s Republic. . . [2]



In this atmosphere of mutual suspicion and hostility, it was not surprising that the First Congress of the Fatherland Front, at the beginning of February 1948, carefully avoided the question



1. Madolev, speech to Fifth Congress of Bulgarian Communist Party, 22 December 1948.


2. Blagoje Nesković, member of Politburo of Yugoslav Communist Party, speech to First Congress of Communist Party of Macedonia on 19 Dec. 1948.





of Pirin Macedonia. At a Communist Party conference of Pirin Macedonians held on 25 April 1948, the prominent Bulgarian Macedonian Communist, Vladimir Poptomov, is reported to have attacked the teachers from the Macedonian People’s Republic and opposed the dissemination of Macedonian newspapers. Shortly after, the visits of Pirin Macedonian delegations to the Macedonian People’s Republic were suspended. [1]


Then, at the end of June 1948, came the open break between Tito and the Cominform. The Bulgarian Communist leaders could heave a sigh of relief and denounce the Bled Agreement on Pirin Macedonia. Very soon after the break, the sixteenth Plenum of the Bulgarian Party passed a resolution saying that all question of South Slav federation must be deferred.


In view of the newly created situation in Federal Yugoslavia, it must be stressed that the federation of the South Slavs and the eventual union of the Pirin region with the Macedonian People’s Republic are only possible in relation to a Yugoslavia which will remain loyal to the common socialist and democratic international front [the resolution said]. Because of the policy of the Yugoslav leaders and the leaders of the Macedonian Communist Party, there was in practice created in the Pirin region the intolerable situation of a State within a State because various secret emissaries of the Macedonian People’s Republic were permitted, without control, to rule in the Pirin region and to disseminate hostility towards the Bulgarian people, the Bulgarian State, and the Bulgarian Communist Party.



The resolution went on to say that the policy of the cultural autonomy of the Pirin Macedonians would be maintained; instruction in the Macedonian literary language ‘by local Macedonian teachers’ was, however, to be voluntary (instead of compulsory, as under the Bled Agreement). The resolution finally carried the war into the enemy’s camp by accusing Kolishevski of denying national rights to ‘the Bulgarian element in the Macedonian People’s Republic’. [2]


Within a few weeks of the Cominform resolution, the Macedonian teachers and booksellers were evicted from Bulgaria at twenty-four hours’ notice. The Bulgarian and Yugoslav Parties started a campaign of accusations and counter-accusations. The Bulgarian leaders accused the Yugoslavs of trying to incorporate Pirin Macedonia in advance of South Slav federation [3]; the Yugoslavs



1. Mojsov, pp. 284-5.


2. ibid. p. 284 ff.


3. e.g. Georgi Dimitrov to Fifth Congress of Bulgarian Communist Party, 19 December 1948.





accused the Bulgarians of breaking their promise to grant autonomy to Pirin Macedonia. [1]


In Pirin Macedonia itself, there was no sign that the pledge of cultural autonomy given by the Sixteenth Plenum of the Bulgarian. Party had been put into effect. Georgi Dimitrov told the Fifth Congress of the Party in December 1948 that the population of Pirin Macedonia felt it had close political, economic, and cultural ties with the Bulgarian people, and had not hitherto felt the need for administrative autonomy. [2]


By spring of 1949 there were signs that both sides were starting political warfare directed at each other’s Macedonian population. The Yugoslav leaders saw a Bulgarian-inspired threat to Yugoslav Macedonia in the proclamation by N.O.F., the Slav Macedonian. Communist organization of Greece, of ‘the union of the Macedonian people in a single uniform independent Macedonian State in the framework of a Federation of Balkan People’s Republics’. [3] The Yugoslavs also saw Bulgaria’s hand in the establishment, in the early summer of 1949, of a ‘Communist Organization of Aegean Macedonia’, which they believed to be directed ultimately against Yugoslav Macedonia. At the end of June 1949, a number of Bulgarians were tried at Skoplje on charges of sabotage; one was alleged to have crossed into Yugoslavia as the member of a clandestine ‘Macedonian organization’. [4]


Tito himself, speaking in Skoplje on 2 August 1949, accused the Bulgarians of ‘starting a dangerous game’ by setting up ‘a certain new Macedonian League which is very much like the former Macedonian terrorists who were in the service of King Boris’, for oppressing not only Pirin Macedonians but also progressive Bulgarians. The principal role in this League, Tito said, was played by Poptomov, ‘today the main standard-bearer of the struggle against the Macedonian People’s Republic and Macedonia as a whole’.


The Yugoslavs, on their side, sponsored a ‘Cultural Club of Macedonians from Pirin Macedonia’, based on Skoplje, which.



1. e.g. Blagoje Nesković to First Congress of Macedonian Communist Party, 19 December 1948.


2. Sofia newspaper Novini, quoted by Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, 17 January 1949.


3. Pijade, article in Borba, 6 March 1949. See also below, p. 121.


4. Belgrade radio, 30 June 1949.





agitated against Bulgarian oppression of the Pirin Macedonians. In the summer of 1949 Skoplje radio was broadcasting a daily quarter-hour programme addressed to the Pirin Macedonians. The Yugoslavs produced their own newspaper, Pirinski Glas, for propaganda to the Pirin Macedonians. [1]


Tito, on Ilinden, 2 August 1949, took up the tale. In Pirin Macedonia, he said, all Macedonian bookshops had been closed, books in the Macedonian language confiscated, and all cultural life for the Macedonian people made impossible. ‘Nothing’, he said, ‘can prevent the Macedonians from fully realizing their great idea: to build their country as a real socialist republic in alliance with the other people’s republics of Yugoslavia and to work tirelessly in order that the Macedonian people may be united at some future date.’


Thus in the summer of 1949 relations between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria over the Macedonian question were as acrid as they had ever been, even if there was considerably less open violence than in the earlier days of komitadji warfare. The arrival of Communists in power in both countries had not solved the question.


The reasons for this failure are several. First, neither Communist Party was prepared to risk its own position and prestige in its own country by abandoning national territory. Second, it is likely that neither the Yugoslav nor the Bulgarian leaders had really freed themselves from the nationalism which had obsessed their non-Communist predecessors in power. Third, Moscow never seems to have given a precise ruling on the final settlement of Macedonia. Thus both the Yugoslav and the Bulgarian Communist leaders had latitude to interpret the rare and somewhat sphinx-like pronouncements of Moscow as they chose. The final touch to the confusion was added when Moscow, in June 1948, abandoned the tactical support which she had given Yugoslavia over the Macedonian question in August 1941, and over South Slav Union in January 1945.





The Greek Communist Party, which had partly freed itself from the Macedonian burden in 1935, managed to avoid resuming



1. Tanjug, 20 July 1949.





it until the summer of 1943. Nevertheless, memories of the Party’s earlier support of Macedonian autonomy seriously hampered its work in the first two years of the Axis occupation. When the Party, through E.A.M.-E.L.A.S., tried to organize resistance in Greek Macedonia, it met with prolonged resistance from nationalist-minded Greeks. Its chief opponent was Y.V.E., or the ‘Protectors of Northern Greece’, a nationalist organization which sought to protect the integrity of Greece, and which later re-christened itself P.A.O., the ‘Panhellenic Liberation Organization’. However, E.A.M. accused this potentially dangerous rival of collaboration with the Germans, attacked its armed bands, and by the end of October 1943, had eliminated it.1 E.A.M. also speedily eliminated lesser rivals in Greek Macedonia, whom it accused with more justice of collaboration.


In the early summer of 1943, however, the Greek Communists had to face a more serious problem: their attitude towards the Slavo-Macedonian minority of Greek Macedonia. Hitherto the only activity of these Slavo-Macedonians had been to let themselves be organized, under Bulgarian sponsorship, in home defence units, mainly to protect their villages against the Greek Communist-led partisans, E.L.A.S. These units had, however, caused E.L.A.S. relatively little trouble. [2]


Then Tempo, Tito’s special emissary, having reorganized the partisan movement in Yugoslav Macedonia and made contact with Enver Hoxha’s Albanian partisans, crossed the frontier and made contact with the Greek Communists. [3] His object was to get the Greeks to recognize the potentialities of the Slavo- Macedonians and to organize them in partisan units under Communist leadership. The Greek Communists, probably reluctantly, agreed, and S.N.O.F., the Slav National Liberation Front, was formed, although its name was not publicly heard until many months afterwards. [4] Either then or later, a Macedonian called Gochev8 or Gotsi became military leader of the S.N.O.F. units; and a Greek Communist of Macedonian origin, Andreas Tsimas,



1. Woodhouse, Apple of Discord, pp. 92-3.


2. ibid. p. 94; see also p. 81, above.


3. Clissold, Whirlwind, pp. 143-4.


4. Woodhouse, Apple of Discord, p. 64.


5. The New York Herald Tribune (European edition) on 20 August 1949 published a dispatch from its correspondent Gaston Coblentz giving the following account of Gochev’s career, said to be based on ‘non-communist intelligence files’: Gochev, now aged about forty-five, was born Elias Dimachis in a village near Fiorina in Greek western Macedonia. In September 1944 he was in charge of a Slavo-Macedonian battalion of E.L.A.S., which was reinforced clandestinely by Bulgarian security police who switched over from occupation duty in western Macedonia. On 4 October 1944, several battalions of S.N.O.F., headed by Gochev, proclaimed the independence of western Macedonia. The proclamation was disowned by the Greek Communist Party and Gochev, with 800 men, crossed into Yugoslavia. He returned to Greece with augmented forces to take part with E.L.A.S. in the Greek civil war in December 1944. but went back to Yugoslavia when the revolution failed. In Yugoslavia his force grew to 4-5,000 men, and was called the ‘Brigade of Aegean Macedonia’.





seems to have acted as chief liaison officer between S.N.O.F. and the Yugoslav partisan movement. It is not yet clear what part, if any, the Bulgarian Communists played in the formation of S.N.O.F.


From the first, the exact degree of subordination of S.N.O.F. to the E.L.A.S. command seems to have been questionable. The Yugoslav Communists, with a weather eye on the possible eventual southerly extension of Yugoslav Macedonia, obviously took a keen interest in S.N.O.F. It is said that as early as November 1943 Tito’s radio, Free Yugoslavia, broadcast a message of adherence from a south Macedonian leader.1 When, however, Marshal Tito himself addressed the second session of the Anti- Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia at Jajce on 29 November 1943, he used terms which could not give offence to the Greek Communists. After speaking of partisan successes in Yugoslav Macedonia, Tito said: ‘The partisan movement in Macedonia is closely linked with the partisan movement in Albania and Greece and at the same time is giving considerable support to the development of the partisan movement in Bulgaria itself.’


The existence of S.N.O.F., together with wider differences over the strategy of resistance, presumably explain why war-time relations between the Yugoslav and Greek Communist leaders were difficult. When Greek Communist emissaries arrived at Tito’s headquarters, they were treated without any great respect; Yugoslav partisan representatives, when speaking in confidence, were apt to be critical of the methods by which the Greek partisans conducted resistance. The Greek Communists, on their side, must always have been suspicious of Tito’s presumed aspirations to Greek Macedonia and Salonika.


By the spring of 1944, when Greece was approaching liberation,



1. Woodhouse, Apple of Discord, p. 64.





relations between S.N.O.F. and the Greek Communist Party had become severely strained. Emissaries from Yugoslav Macedonia had by this time become active in the work of both political and military organization among the Slavo-Macedonians of Greece. The leaders of S.N.O.F. looked over the frontier to the Macedonian Communist Party in Yugoslavia, rather than to the Greek Communist Party, for leadership. In fact, in the summer of 1944 the S.N.O.F. formations commanded by Gochev clashed with E.L.A.S. on at least three occasions. [1]


The proclamation of the Macedonian People’s Republic on 2 August 1944 made the Yugoslav power of attraction doubly strong. On the other hand the Greek Communist Party, which by then was participating in the internationally recognized Greek Government and had hopes of winning power in a liberated Greece, was obviously unwilling to ruin its chances by ceding Macedonian territory to Yugoslavia or even by sponsoring Macedonian autonomy inside Greece. Tito at this time seems to have decided that it was more important that the Greek Communists should win the whole of Greece than that he himself should win Greek Macedonia. When the liberation of Greece began in September 1944, Tito must have restrained his enthusiasts in the Macedonian Communist Party, just as he restrained them over Pirin Macedonia. Gochev and his S.N.O.F. battalions broke with the Greek Communist Party and crossed into Yugoslav Macedonia. Gochev himself went to Skoplje; his units were disbanded and later enrolled in the Yugoslav army.


Little of these difficulties between the Yugoslav and Greek Communist leaders came into the open until the break between Tito and the Cominform had led to a break between Tito and the Greek Communists. Speaking just after the break with the Cominform, but a year before the open break with the Greek Communists, Tempo still gave a rosy if somewhat one-sided view of war-time relations between Yugoslavs and Greeks. Addressing the Yugoslav Communist Party’s Fifth Congress in July 1948, Tempo said:


The Yugoslav Central Committee pursued a policy of brotherly co-operation with the heroic Communist Party of Greece throughout the liberation war. . . Macedonian partisan detachments very often crossed to the territory of Aegean Macedonia and developed lively



1. Woodhouse, Apple of Discord, p. 64.





political work among the local population. Thanks to the correct political work of our partisan detachments, the Macedonian masses in Aegean Macedonia realized that the liberation struggle of the Greek people was at the same time their own struggle, that not only the freedom of the Greek people, but also the freedom of the Macedonian people depended on the success of that struggle. . . Our Party activists during the liberation war acquainted their Greek comrades with the experiences of our Party in organizing a regular army. . . They acquainted their Greek comrades with their experience in organizing the people’s revolutionary authority on the ruins of the old State apparatus. . . Our Party activists conveyed to their Greek comrades their experience in the struggle against the imperialist tendencies of the western allies. . . Military and political co-operation between our national liberation army and units of the Greek Army was exemplary throughout the national liberation war. Macedonian units always met with great hospitality whenever they had to withdraw to Greek territory before enemy offensives. . . [1]


Tempo’s account does of course unwittingly betray two inevitable causes of war-time irritation to the Greek Communists. The first was the somewhat superior and patronizing attitude of the Yugoslavs, which must have been nearly unbearable to Greeks, even if they were Communists. The second was that the Yugoslav Macedonians considered themselves entitled to conduct ‘political work’ on the Greek side of the frontier. Although there is no evidence that this implied a definite pledge by the Greek Communist Party to cede Aegean Macedonia to the Macedonian People’s Republic, it was a fact which, if widely known, would inevitably cause serious damage to the Greek Party’s prestige inside Greece.


Greek Communist resentment was, however, not allowed to find an open vent until Tito had decided to close the Yugoslav- Greek frontier in July 1949. Then Nikos Zahariades, Secretary General of the Greek Communist Party, wrote an article in the issue of 1 August of the Cominform journal, For a Lasting Peace, for a People's Democracy, in which he bitterly attacked the Yugoslav Communists’ war-time policy. Zahariades had himself not been in Greece during the occupation, since he was in a German concentration camp. Much of his article consisted of fantastically exaggerated charges against Tito designed to fit in with the general Cominform campaign against him; nevertheless it probably



1. Vukmanović, speech to Fifth Congress, reported by Tanjug, 23 July 1948.





expressed a good deal of the long-suppressed war-time fears and antagonisms of the Greek Communists. He said:


The people’s democratic movement of our country has never, since the times of the first occupation, known such a cunning and foul enemy as the Tito clique. The Great Serbian chauvinism of the Tito-ites in relation to the resistance movement in Greece was evident as far back as 1943, when the leadership of the Yugoslav Communist Party declared that the people of Aegean Macedonia could only win their liberation with the framework of Yugoslavia. The corollary of this was that it was the prime duty of all Macedonian patriots to fight against the Communist Party of Greece and E.A.M. and instead to collaborate with the Tito agents.


This [Zahariades continued] was the directive followed by Tito’s man in Aegean Macedonia, Tempo (Vukmanović). This was the directive applied in practice by their chief agent, Gochev. . . During all these years the Tito clique sent thousands of its agents into the Communist Party of Greece and into E.A.M. with the job of undermining the Communist Party of Greece and splitting the unity of the people’s liberation movement.



Zahariades then told the following startling story to illustrate the alleged ‘alliance’ between Anglo-American imperialism and the Tito clique:


In October 1944, when the British landed in Greece, Tempo, at the head of the provocative movement directed against the Communist Party of Greece, informed the Communists of Aegean Macedonia that he had asked Tito for two divisions to occupy Salonika. This was before the December events [1]; the British were not sure that they could hold Greece. Preferring to see Salonika occupied by Tito than in the hands of E.L.A.S. the British parachuted weapons on to the aerodrome at Grupitsa. These were sent on to Vapsori by Tito’s agents—Tempo, Gochev, and Pios—to be used against E.L.A.S. . . In December 1944 Tito, who dreamed of snatching Salonika from the people’s democratic Greece, did nothing to help us to fight the British, in spite of all his earlier pompous statements. . .



Zahariades declared that ‘the Tito clique and its executive organ, the Gochev-Keramidjiev [2] gang’ had, ‘and still has’, hundreds of Yugoslav intelligence men in Aegean Macedonia. Time and again, he said, the Greek Central Committee had drawn the attention of the Yugoslav Central Committee to the



1. i.e. the Greek civil war of December 1944.


2. Gochev was presumably the war-time leader: see p. 110 above. Keramidjiev had not received publicity until July 1949, when he was accused by ‘Free Greece’ radio of having served, first ‘Bulgarian Fascism’, and later O.Z.N.A., the Yugoslav secret police. See below, p. 126.





counter-revolutionary actions of these agents, ‘proved by irrefutable documentary evidence’, and had demanded that their activities should be stopped. The Yugoslav Central Committee, however, ‘did not do a thing about these provocative actions.’ [1]


The point which Zahariades did not disclose was, of course, the extent to which the Greek Communist leaders had ever pledged their consent to these Yugoslav activities in Aegean Macedonia. There is in fact no evidence available about any formal war-time agreement between the two Communist Parties on the Macedonian question, although there was quite obviously a working agreement on war-time collaboration.


On war-time relations between the Greek and Bulgarian Communist Parties there is very little reliable evidence. A document was produced towards the end of the war, known as the Tetrich Agreement’. This purported to be an agreement signed by Greek and Bulgarian Communists in July 1943, pledging the Greek Communist Party to co-operate in the establishment of an autonomous Macedonia. [2] The authenticity of this document was accepted by most non-Communist Greeks but denied by the Communists. On grounds of general probability, it seems unlikely that the Greek Communists would have ceded such a vital point to the Bulgarians at a period of the war when the Bulgarians had very little to offer in exchange, and when Moscow was presumably known to be backing the Yugoslavs, rather than the Bulgarians, in Macedonia.


Nationalist Greeks also accepted the authenticity of the supposed Mount Kaimaxillar Agreement, by which the Greek Communists were alleged to have agreed to Macedonian autonomy within a Slav federation. [3]


Finally, there is the curious character known as Rhodopoulos or Radev who, at the beginning of 1944, presented himself to the Allied Military Mission in Greece as liaison officer between the Mission and the Greek and Bulgarian Communists. In September 1944 he reappeared as a Colonel in the Bulgarian Army, and engineered the Bulgarian army’s sudden change of front in Greek Macedonia. [4]


It seems a reasonable guess that although there were undoubtedly



1. For a Lasting Peace, For a People's Democracy, 1 August 1949.


2. C. M. Woodhouse, broadcast in B.B.C. European service, 14 March 1949.


3. See p. 82 above.


4. Woodhouse, loc. cit.; see also p. 82 above.





war-time contacts between the Greek and Bulgarian Communist Parties, in the course of which the Macedonian question must inevitably have been raised, these contacts were of far less importance than Greek-Yugoslav Communist relations. It seems in fact probable that during the war the Greek Communist Party managed to avoid committing itself on the ultimate settlement of the Macedonian question. At the time of the liberation Professor Svolos, a non-Communist member of E.A.M., denied that E.A.M.-E.L.A.S. has any interest in Macedonian autonomy. [1] No statement was, however, officially made by the Greek Communist Party, as such.


The Greek civil war of December 1944 led to the flight of a number of Slavo-Macedonians, and also Greek Communists, to Yugoslav Macedonia. This gave the newspapers of Skoplje and Belgrade the occasion for repeated outbursts, from 1945 onwards, about Greek ‘monarcho-Fascist’ persecution of the Slavo-Macedonians. A Soviet spokesman gave 30,000 as the total of Slavs who had fled from Greece at this period.


Zahariades, in his article of x August 1949, gave a strange interpretation of this flight: ‘Tito organized the mass emigration of Macedonians to Yugoslavia, thus depriving Aegean Macedonia of its Macedonian population.’ ‘Incidentally’, he added, ‘the Greek monarcho-Fascists have been trying to do the same thing for many years, hoping to change the ethnical composition of Aegean Macedonia.’ Zahariades added that the ‘Tito-ites’ tried to recruit agents from the refugees who, after the necessary training, were sent to Greece to operate against the Greek Communist Party. [2]


In March 1949, when relations between the Greek and Yugoslav Parties were nearing an open break, a delegation from ‘free Greece’ asked permission to visit these refugees and help them to return home. This, according to the Greek account, [3] was refused; probably the Yugoslavs declared that the refugees did not wish to return.


The Greek Communist Party, for the first four years after the liberation, did its best to keep silent on Macedonia. In the early spring of 1946, Zahariades visited Prague and Belgrade, and must



1. C. M. Woodhouse, broadcast in B.B.C. European service, 14 March 1949.


2. For a Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy, 1 August 1949.


3. Statement by Greek Communist Party Central Committee, 31 July 1949.





almost inevitably have discussed Macedonia with the Yugoslav Communist leaders. A few months earlier, on 11 October 1945, Tito had made an uncompromising statement in Skoplje: ‘We have not denied the right of the Macedonian people to unite. We shall never deny that right. That is our principle. We do not lay down principles for some passing sympathy. We shall stand on this aim, that all Macedonians shall be united in their country.’ [1] Nevertheless, it seems likely that Tito informed Zahariades that the first priority was that the Greek Communists should win Greece, and that only after that had been achieved need the Macedonian question be settled.


At all events Zahariades, when he returned to Athens, said in an interview to a British correspondent in May 1946: ‘Territorial questions between Greece and Yugoslavia do not arise.’ He added that the population of Greek Macedonia was 90 per cent Greek and only 10 per cent Slav, and that E.A.M. stood for the territorial integrity of Greece. [2] At that time there was at least no open change in the Greek Party’s Macedonian policy.


However, the Greek Communist Party must then already have laid its plans for the new Greek civil war: these in fact may have been the main subject of Zahariades’s talks in Belgrade. On 8 June 1946 the Greek Ministry of Public Order announced that ‘roaming Communist bands had created a desperate situation in Macedonia’. [3] By the end of the year the new guerrilla movement had started operations, led by the Moscow-trained Greek Communist and former Communist organizer in Macedonia, Markos Vafiades. (Markos was born in Asia Minor and came to Salonika in 1922; his natural sympathies would therefore be with the Greek ‘patriotic’ wing, rather than the Macedonian autonomist wing, of the Greek Communist Party.) On 24 December 1947 the formation of the ‘Provisional Democratic Government’, headed by Markos, was proclaimed. The Greek Government in Athens replied by outlawing the Greek Communist Party.


From the start, the Markos army had relied more heavily on Yugoslav support than on support from Albania or Bulgaria. Geographical conditions did not favour guerrilla action in the areas near the Bulgarian frontier. The mountains near both the



1. Mojsov, p. 179.


2. Elisabeth Barker, Truce in the Balkans (London, Marshall, 1948), p. 189.


3. Woodhouse, Apple of Discord, p. 268.





Yugoslav and Albanian frontiers gave good ground for guerrilla operations; but the Yugoslavs were more powerful allies than the Albanians. The area near the Yugoslav frontier was, apart from the towns, largely populated by Slavo-Macedonians; so that the Greek Communist leaders had to revive Slavo-Macedonian enthusiasm for their own Greek cause. From statements made after the open break between the Greek and Yugoslav Communist leaders in July 1949, it appears that Tito’s price for his support for Markos must have been the Greek Communists’ permission for a fresh influx of military and political organizers from the Yugoslav Macedonian People’s Republic. Gochev himself seems to have been among them. Thus S.N.O.F. reappeared, under the slightly modified name of N.O.F., the ‘National Liberation Front’, operating at least nominally under the command of Markos, as early as 1947.


The close liaison between Markos and the Yugoslav Communists at first survived the Tito-Cominform break in June 1948. In Yugoslavia the Central Committee of the Macedonian Communist Party, on 12 July, passed a resolution strongly condemning the Bulgarian and Albanian Communist Parties, but making no mention of the Greek Party. The ‘Free Greece’ radio, propagating the news and views of the Markos movement, continued to operate from Yugoslav territory until early 1949, and so naturally did not attack Tito. Even if they did not receive more active support, the Greek guerrillas continued for some months to use Yugoslav territory for purposes of retreat and transit, and their wounded were cared for in Yugoslav Macedonia. On the Greek side, the rank and file of the guerrilla movement were taught to side with the Cominform against Tito; but the Greek Communist Party made no open official pronouncement against Tito.


Nevertheless the Tito-Cominform quarrel appears to have been one of the chief factors in the internal crisis within the Greek Communist Party which came to a head in January 1949. During the preceding six months, it seems likely that the wing of the Party which eventually triumphed had been working to create a new anti-Tito N.O.F., which would wean the Slavo- Macedonians from the Yugoslav connexion and would possibly be the spear-head of a Cominformist drive to wrest the Macedonian People’s Republic from Tito. With the creation of such





an anti-Tito N.O.F., the Greek Communist Party could then achieve relative military independence of Tito and openly join the Cominform bloc against him. At the same time, probably, preparations were being made to transfer the ‘Free Greece’ radio from Yugoslavia to Cominform territory.


These, at least, seem the only hypotheses which will explain the decisions announced at the fifth plenary session of the Central Committee of the Greek Communist Party held on 30 and 31 January 1949. First, the Central Committee relieved Markos of ‘all Party work’, allegedly on grounds of ill health. This allegation was repeated in what purported to be an ‘open letter’ from Markos, broadcast by ‘Free Greece’ radio on 8 February, in which he laid down his premiership of the ‘Provisional Democratic Government’ and the command of the ‘Democratic Army’. It seems highly probable, however, that Markos was really removed because he differed from the dominant wing of the party, led by Zahariades, both on the strategy of resistance and on the question of relations with Tito and on Macedonian tactics. Nothing was heard of Markos in the following months, except that in the summer of 1949 ‘Free Greece’ radio alleged that he had protested against an article by the Yugoslav Communist, Djilas, who included him in a list of ‘national deviationists’. Zahariades succeeded to undisputed control of the Greek guerrilla movement.


At the same time the Fifth Plenum of the Greek Central Committee proclaimed the following decision on the Macedonian question:


The Macedonian people are distinguishing themselves, and there must be no doubt that after the liberation, they will find their national restoration as they wish it. Various elements which are trying to break the unity between the Slav-Macedonian and Greek peoples should be guarded against. This unity should be presented as ‘the pupil of the eye’ and should be reinforced and strengthened firmly and continuously. [1]



This was, of course, a deliberately vague statement. It did not specifically commit the Greek Party further than its 1935 declaration, when it abandoned the ‘united Macedonia’ slogan, but undertook while aiming ultimately at ‘the self-determination of the oppressed peoples’, to fight for ‘the complete equality of



1. ‘Free Greece’ radio, 6 February 1949.





rights of the national minorities’. (See p. 76 above.) On the other hand, the phrase ‘national restoration’ could equally be taken to imply an independent Macedonia.


On 1 March, however, ‘Free Greece’ broadcast a far more explicit resolution by N.O.F., passed by the Second Plenum of the N.O.F. Central Council on 2 February. This, it seems fair to suppose, represented a decision of the reorganized anti-Tito N.O.F. It said:


The N.O.F. must arouse still further the people of Macedonia. It should concentrate and mobilize all its available resources against the Monarcho-Fascists. With the object of enabling itself to face its difficult tasks the N.O.F. has decided to increase its three-man Secretariat with another two members. Comrades Pavlo Rakovski and Paskal Mitrovski are the two members who are to join the Secretariat. The N.O.F. also calls upon those officers who deviated and took the easy route to keep steadily on the right road because otherwise they will not be entitled to the rank of officer of the N.O.F. It also decides to call the Second Conference of the N.O.F. during March 1949.


The Second Conference of the N.O.F. will declare the wholesale participation of the Macedonian people together with the Greek people in the common struggle. The N.O.F. will mobilize all its available resources, social and human. The Second Conference will also declare the new programmatic principles of the N.O.F. It will declare the union of Macedonia into a complete, independent, and equal Macedonian nation within the Popular Democratic Federation of the Balkan peoples. This constitutes the justification of its prolonged and bloody struggles. The Second Conference of the N.O.F. will declare the complete rising of the Macedonian people and will call upon all the resources of the Slavo-Macedonians and will unite them around the N.O.F.


The Second Conference will appeal particularly to the Slavo- Macedonians in such Macedonian towns as Fiorina, Kastoria, Edessa, Giannitsa, Goumenitsa, and others. It will call upon the Slavo- Macedonians to join in a general uprising against Monarcho-Fascism and the Anglo-American occupiers with the purpose of liberating the Macedonian people and fighting for the People’s Democracy of Macedonia.



This naturally seemed a fairly uncompromising statement in favour of an independent united Macedonia, which, since it was broadcast by ‘Free Greece’, could only be assumed to have been approved by the Greek Communist leadership. It immediately caused a strong reaction in Yugoslavia and alarm among the rank and file of the Greek Communist Party.





In Yugoslavia suspicion and resentment were expressed by Mosa Pijade, in his Borba article. Pijade linked the decisions of the Greek Party Central Committee of 30 January and of the N.O.F. Central Council of 2 February with the supposed Bulgarian extension of the idea of South Slav Federation to the idea of a Balkan Federation. Sofia, he said, was now preaching a Balkan Federation in which united Macedonia would be an equal and independent State. ‘This would not be worthy of attention if it were not that somebody had succeeded in transferring the whole intrigue to democratic Greece. In this combination, made to harm Yugoslavia, grave dangers for the democratic liberation and anti-imperialists’ movement of the Greeks and for the Macedonians themselves are concealed.’


At the same time Pijade distinguished clearly between the Greek Central Committee’s resolution and the N.O.F. resolution. In the former, he said, the Greek Central Committee had ‘adopted a correct point of view as regards the self-determination of the Macedonians’. He merely blamed the Bulgarians for trying to exploit this resolution for anti-Yugoslav purposes. It was the N.O.F. resolution which he castigated, hinting strongly that it had been directly inspired by the Bulgarians, who, since they had refused to grant autonomy to Pirin Macedonia, could not use it as the basis for a future United Macedonia, and who were therefore seeking to use Greek Macedonia for the purpose.


Today [he added], when the Aegean Macedonian people are struggling for their physical existence, when their first task is to struggle with the Greek people for the victory of the people’s democracy in Greece, . . . there is no need to suggest to these people the making of a declaration which not only does not mobilize the forces of the Macedonian people but, on the contrary, can only provoke superfluous discussions and confusion in the united front of the Greek and Macedonian fighters. [1]



Inside Greece, the Greek Central Committee was clearly seriously embarrassed by the reaction which its resolution had provoked, and tried to smooth things down by a series of mollifying statements, which, however, evaded the real issues. On 3 March Mr Rendis, Minister of Public Order in the Athens Government, had made a statement on the resolutions of the Greek Central Committee and N.O.F., and said: ‘This is the



1. Borba, 6 March 1949.





first time that the Greek Communist Party has clearly specified as an objective of its armed struggle the severance of Greek territories which are to be handed over to Bulgaria and other Balkan States.’ On the following day, ‘Free Greece’ radio said that Rendis had lately been making various statements ‘to justify the mass executions of Greek patriots’; ‘but the Greek people, side by side with the Slav-Macedonian people, are struggling for freedom and democracy’. ‘And’, the radio added, ‘when victory comes the national restoration of the Slavo-Macedonians will be completed as the Slavo-Macedonian people wish it.’


Five days later, ‘Free Greece’ quoted a denial by the Greek Communist Party of ‘reports in Athens and London that the Party has agreed to the setting up of a Balkan Communist Federation and a Macedonian State’. The Party’s view was that the two peoples, Greek and Macedonian, who were struggling for their liberty, should each decide freely, and without outside influence, on their future. After victory the Macedonian people would ‘decide by itself the manner in which it wishes to live and the way it wants to be governed’.


On 10 March a much modified statement by N.O.F. itself was broadcast by ‘Free Greece’. This denied ‘allegations’ that the Second N.O.F. Congress intended to proclaim the creation of a United Macedonian State which would be incorporated in Yugoslavia, Greece, Bulgaria, or the Balkan Communist Federation. ‘Today’, the N.O.F. statement said, ‘the two peoples [Greek and Macedonian] hand in hand are pursuing a common struggle for their freedom. The result of victory will be that each people will decide in a free and sovereign way its future line.’


When finally the Second Congress of N.O.F. was held in the last week of March, almost the only news of it which reached the outer world was an apparently cautious speech made by the Greek Communist Karagiorgis, who spoke on behalf of the ‘Provisional Democratic Government’ of Greece. After recalling the persecution which in the past Greek Communists had suffered because of their sympathies with the Macedonian ‘struggle for freedom’, Karagiorgis said that the Greek Party had laid down ‘its correct line on the national question’ in the resolution of January 1949. The Slavo-Macedonian people, he said, had ‘won the right to be free’; and a practical expression of ‘the complete unity and fraternity which has been attained’ would be the





‘participation of N.O.F. itself in the G.H.Q. of the Greek Democratic Army’.


A few weeks later the Bulgarian press revealed a further, and probably more far-reaching, decision which had also been taken at the Second Congress of N.O.F. The Bulgarian Communist Party newspaper, Rabotnichesko Delo, on 19 May, reported that the Congress had ‘decided to create its own Communist Organization, with organizational independence, as a part of the Greek Communist Party’. It had also elected an Organizational Committee of eight people who were to form and guide this new ‘Communist Organization in Aegean Macedonia’, pending the preparation of an all-Macedonian conference to elect the Party leaders. The Bulgarian paper added that this step was ‘a decisive gain for the Macedonian Communists and the whole Macedonian people, who will rise decisively to solve all their social and national problems and press on in the struggle for national liberation, a people’s republic and Communism’. The Bulgarian paper thus at least hinted that this ‘Communist Organization in Aegean Macedonia’ might be a stepping stone on the way to an independent Communist Macedonia (not, presumably, under Tito’s aegis).


For the moment, hbwever, N.O.F.’s object was yet closer collaboration with the Greek Communists. On 5 April, ‘Free Greece’ radio announced a reshuffle in the ‘Provisional Democratic Government’, by which Paskal Mitrovski, President of N.O.F., became Minister of Food, and Stavro Kotsev, of N.O.F., became Director for National Minorities in the Ministry of the Interior. On 16 May the radio reported two fairly mild speeches made by these two Ministers at the time of a visit by a ‘Provisional Democratic Government’ delegation to Grammos. Mitrovski said that thanks to their common successes with the Greek Democratic Army, the Macedonian people ‘would consolidate their national rights, their own freedom, and their popular democratic future’. He added that the resolutions of the Greek Communist Party Fifth Plenum and of the N.O.F. Second Congress constituted ‘a guarantee for the liberation conquests of the Macedonian people’. Kotsev said that the rights of the Slavo-Macedonian people had been ‘recognized’ by the ‘Provisional Democratic Government’.


Thus for the moment the Greek Communist Party seemed to





have smoothed over its Macedonian troubles and to have established control of its reorganized anti-Tito N.O.F. There are at least two possible explanations of what had really happened between January and May 1949. Either the Greek Communist leaders, to win over the Slavo-Macedonians from Tito and comply with a Cominform directive for agitation against Tito over Macedonia, may really have committed themselves to the full ‘united independent Macedonia’ policy, later retreating hastily to the ‘self-determination’ formula of the 1935 resolution. Or alternatively, the Greek Communist leaders may merely have recommitted themselves to the ‘self-determination’ formula, but the reorganized N.O.F. may have interpreted this in its widest sense as permission for immediate Slavo-Macedonian agitation for a ‘united independent Macedonia’. On this second theory, N.O.F. may have been brought hastily into line either by the Greek leaders, or even by Moscow itself, to prevent further damage to the Greek Communist cause.


Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Communist Party had been at pains to deny any interest in the matter. Vasil Kolarov, now Bulgarian Foreign Minister, had given an interview in Budapest on about 18 March in which he denied ‘western press reports’ that Bulgaria wanted to create a Balkan Federation and to lay hands on Macedonia. Kolarov added: ‘We have many times declared and declare again that for us the slogan “Balkan Federation” does not exist. . .’ He added that it had existed twenty years ago among ‘the Social Democratic Parties of the separate Balkan States’, but said ‘but we have outgrown this’. (This was, of course, a curious reference to Kolarov’s own role as leading member of the Balkan Communist Federation in the nineteen- twenties, when it had most ardently sponsored Balkan Federation.)


A few days later, on 31 March, the Bulgarian Communist Party newspaper, Rabotnichesko Delo, commenting on a recent debate in the House of Commons, said:


Mr McNeil and others spoke about a supposed plan to create a Macedonian Federation [sic] under Bulgarian leadership. Of course, such a project was invented in the diplomatic couloirs to justify intensified military intervention by the United States and Britain in Greece. Another aim was to build a bridge between the Tito-ites and the Greek monarcho-Fascists.


The Yugoslav Communists, however, obviously did not believe





Bulgarian disclaimers of interest in the slogan of an Independent Macedonia in a Balkan Federation. On 11 May Kolishevski told a congress in Skoplje that the leadership of the Bulgarian Communist Party had openly dropped .the slogan ‘only after it had been unmasked by the Yugoslav Communist Party’.


However [Kolishevski said], public renunciation of this slogan does not mean that it is not being exploited to create confusion among the Macedonian masses and to wreck Yugoslavia. The recent Sofia conference of certain Macedonians, presided over by the traitor Hadji Panzov, discussed this slogan of an independent Macedonia. This proved clearly that. . . the leaders of the Bulgarian Communist Party do not renounce this slogan.



The confusion of the ‘Macedonian masses’ at this moment must indeed have been extreme. It is not at all clear what either the Greek or the Bulgarian Communist Parties were aiming at in Macedonia, except that both were bitterly hostile to the Yugoslav Communists. Both also seemed afraid of the strength of pro-Tito feeling still surviving in their own sections of Macedonia.


This was the situation when it became clear that Tito had decided to cease supporting the Greek Communist guerrillas and to close the Greek-Yugoslav frontier. ‘Free Greece’ radio first denounced his ‘treachery’ on 6 July, although Tito himself did not openly indicate his intentions until his speech at Pola on 10 July. The ‘Free Greece’ denunciation was followed the next day, 7 July, by a long resolution by the Executive Committee of the newly-formed ‘Communist Organization in Aegean Macedonia’, signed by Mitrovski and Kotsev, attacking the ‘subversive work’ of ‘Tito-ite agents’ in Greek Macedonia, especially Gochev and Keramidjiev.


The Organization’s resolution said that the ‘Keramidjiev-Gochev clique’ was attempting a new offensive against the Greek people’s democratic struggle, with the aim of breaking the fighting unity of the Greek and Macedonian peoples. This subversive activity had begun before 1944, and had been organized by the Yugoslav Communist Party. Tito and his clique, aiming at the incorporation of Aegean Macedonia, had organized a ‘huge, subversive, and slanderous campaign’ against the Greek Communist Party, accusing it of having betrayed the revolution. It had created its own Party organizations in Aegean Macedonia,





had attempted to split the unity of the Greek Communist Party and of E.A.M. and had sent hundreds of agents ‘with the object of implementing the aims of a greater Yugoslavia at the expense of our national liberation movement’.


Gochev, the resolution said, had never been a Communist; he had always been a nationalist ‘who had put himself in the service of the Yugoslav chauvinists working for a greater Yugoslavia’. Keramidjiev, it added, had been an open collaborator with Bulgarian Fascism in Sofia in 1943, had become a Communist at a later date, and had served with O.Z.N.A. (the Yugoslav secret police). He had worked as an O.Z.N.A. agent inside N.O.F. and the Greek Communist Party. Both men had ‘betrayed and deserted’.


The Communist Organization of Aegean Macedonia therefore appealed to all Macedonians ‘to see their error and to sever all connexion with the treacherous Yugoslav Communist Party’. [1]


A Yugoslav Communist spokesman, Dugonjic, speaking in Belgrade on 18 July, claimed that this resolution ‘was in fact written far from Greece or Macedonia, and sent to all Cominform radio stations’. ‘This’, he added, ‘is how documents are fabricated in the attempt to present Yugoslavia as having passed over to the imperialist camp.’ He linked the resolution with the recent Soviet advocacy of free elections in Greece (an obvious reference to the Gromyko proposals of spring 1949) which, he said, meant that the popular uprising was threatened with liquidation. The Soviet Government, however, would not admit that this was its policy and preferred to throw the blame on Yugoslavia. [2]


The resolution of the Communist Organization in Aegean Macedonia was also strongly condemned, on 29 July, by a Skoplje conference of delegates from the 30,000 Aegean Macedonian refugees in the Macedonian People’s Republic. The conference said that the resolution aimed at harnessing the Aegean Macedonians to the ‘counter-revolutionary campaign against the new Yugoslavia’, and would only lead to the shattering of the brotherhood and unity between the Macedonian and Greek peoples. The conference also declared that the refugees wished to remain in ‘the free homeland of the Macedonian people, the Macedonian People’s Republic’, until ‘conditions



1. ‘Free Greece’ radio, 7 July 1949.


2. Tanjug, 18 July 1949.





were created for their return to their country’. [1] A spokesman at the conference said that since 1945 the Yugoslav Government and the Government of the Macedonian People’s Republic had granted 312,885,000 dinars to the refugees. A few days later Tito himself, together with Djilas, Kolishevski, and other prominent Communists, received representatives of the Aegean Macedonian refugees. [2] It seemed clear that Tito intended these refugees to play a special political role on the Macedonian front of his struggle with the Cominform.


On 2 August, in Skoplje, Tito made his Ilinden speech and for the first time openly attacked the Greek Communist leaders (while praising the rank and file) for their role in the Macedonian dispute. He also hinted darkly at mysterious forces at work behind the scenes—presumably, Moscow or the Cominform. ‘Comrades’, he said, ‘I am so deeply concerned about the situation in Greece and the liberation struggle of the Greek people that I cannot speak about the background of all this, about what and who are exerting all their efforts to besmirch the new Yugoslavia as much as possible and to liquidate the Greek movement.’ The Greek Communist leaders, he continued, should realize that it was only out of consideration for the Greek liberation movement that Yugoslavia could not publish things ‘which would under no circumstances represent Zahariades and others in a good light’.


Towards the Aegean Macedonians, Tito said, the attitude of the Greek Communist leaders was similar to that of the Bulgarian Communist leaders towards the Pirin Macedonians, ‘only it is worse, because we do not know on whose account the most progressive Macedonians are today paying with their lives for loyalty to their national convictions’. The Greek leaders had never had ‘the correct attitude with regard to the Macedonian question’. Proof of this was the fact that in their army, ‘the greater part of which was composed of Macedonians’, Macedonians were unable to become senior officers. Today they were even expelling from N.O.F. those who really represented the aspirations of the Macedonians of Aegean Macedonia. Finally, there were no schools in the Macedonian language in liberated territory in Greece. [3]



1. ibid. 29 July 1949.        2. ibid. 4 August 1949.


3. 8 ibid. 2 August 1949; see also p. 108 above.





Kolishevski followed up Tito’s speech by referring to the Macedonian People’s Republic as the Piedmont of the future Macedonia and declaring that ‘the entire Macedonian people’ saw in Tito’s Macedonia the realization of its aspirations towards freedom. The Macedonian people looked forward to the moment when it would be possible to ‘enjoy the same freedom’. ‘Our brothers’, Kolishevski said, ‘are fighting together with the heroic Greek people against the monarcho-Fascists in order to win the right of self-determination.’ [1]


Thus the Yugoslav Communists still seemed committed to their maximum policy: that the three parts of Macedonia should be united under Tito’s aegis. Bulgarian and Greek statements on Ilinden 1949 were much more obscure. The Bulgarian Government newspaper, Otechestven Front, in the course of a bitter attack on Tito’s ‘aggressive nationalist policy’ towards Macedonia and his attempt to cut off the Macedonian Communists from any organizational connexion with the Bulgarian or Greek Communists, nostalgically recalled the old slogan of a Balkan Federation including Macedonia as an equal member. This in spite of Kolarov’s renunciation of the slogan in the previous March. A Sofia radio broadcast on the same day also recalled the ‘old ideal’ of a Balkan Federation, but said that it had now developed into a stronger one—that of a world democratic front headed by the Soviet Union. This, the radio said, was the only way the nationalities problem in the area could be solved. [2]


It was, however, perhaps an indication that the Bulgarian Communist Party was planning a fresh forward Macedonian move that a few days later Vladimir Poptomov was appointed Foreign Minister in succession to Kolarov. Himself a Macedonian, he was regarded as one of the Bulgarian Party’s leading Macedonian experts, and held by the Yugoslav Communists to be their chief enemy in the Yugoslav question. According to some accounts, he had earlier been associated with Vlahov’s ‘United I.M.R.O.’ [3]


Greek pronouncements on Ilinden 1949 were evasive. An announcement made three days earlier by the Greek Communist Party Central Committee had merely attacked the ‘Tito clique of



1. Belgrade radio, 2 August 1949: New York Herald Tribune, 10 August 1949.


2. Sofia radio, 2 August 1949.


3. See p. 95 above.





imperialist agents’ for pursuing the ‘old plan’ for the annexation of Greek Macedonia and attempting to produce an atmosphere of hatred between the Greek and Macedonian peoples. [1] On Ilinden itself, the N.O.F. Central Committee issued a strongly pro-Greek message. The forty-sixth anniversary of Ilinden, it said, found the Macedonian people once again in the trenches side by side with the Greek people, who were fighting against monarcho-Fascism and Anglo-American imperialism for the establishment of peace ‘in our troubled country’, and for freedom and democracy. The impregnable castles of freedom over which fluttered the Greek Democratic army’s flag were also shared by ‘our people’, to the eternal glory of Ilinden. The agents of international imperialism were trying to disrupt this unity, and were employing traitors to do so, just as had been done in 1903. But the Macedonian people would crush these enemies. [2] (These ‘enemies’ were presumably the surviving pro-Tito elements in Greek Macedonia.)


Thus the forty-sixth anniversary of the 1903 Macedonian rising found the Greek and Bulgarian Communist Parties waging a full-scale political war against the Yugoslav Communist Party, and in a curious kind of temporary alliance with each other. The Yugoslav Party was still propagating the long-term solution of a united Macedonia under Yugoslavia’s aegis. It was quite obscure what long-term solution was envisaged by the Greek and Bulgarian Parties, though there were faint signs that the Bulgarians were reverting to the old ‘Balkan Federation’ solution of the nineteen-twenties. What Moscow envisaged was even more obscure. Possibly, as in the past, Moscow found itself in a dilemma over Macedonia: to promote an open campaign for an independent Macedonia might gravely weaken Tito, but would even more gravely weaken the Greek Communist Party’s guerrilla movement. Thus unless or until the Greek guerrilla movement were demonstrably doomed, Moscow might think it advisable to hold its hand over Macedonia; and the Greek and Bulgarian Party leaders would presumably await a final word from Moscow before taking a positive stand.



1. ‘Free Greece’ radio, 31 July 1949.


2. ‘Free Greece’ radio, 2 August 1949.



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