Macedonia and Bulgarian National Nihilism
Ivan Alexandrov


The fifth question concerns, in the post-Balkan wars period, the nature of IMRO, the Macedonian Federative Organization [25] (MFO), and IMRO-United [26] (IMRO-U). Without any critical analysis of how each supported the national liberation ideal, their influence amongst the masses (both in Pirin and occupied Macedonia), the support for each from the oppressed people, or their respective deficiencies, we come to a single outlandish conclusion. IMRO is declared a fascist organization, while MFO and IMRO-U, which both isolated themselves from the people, are claimed as progressive.

Bulgarian ethnic territory lost at Treaty of Neuilly (1919). Given to Serbia - [1] Timok, [2] Tsaribrod, [3] Bosiligrad & [4] Strumitsa. Given to Greece - [5] Western Thrace.

After the end of WWI and the signing of the Treaty of Neuilly (Paris, 27th November 1919) we witnessed the second and even more devastating partition of Macedonia. This national catastrophe evoked hopelessness and desparation throughout the whole Bulgarian people from Ohrid to Prespa to Tulcha and from the Danube river to the Aegean sea. Waves of refugees from Macedonia, the Western Provinces, Western Thrace and the whole of Dobrudja streamed into Bulgaria. This pitiful spectacle elicited an emotional response which focussed on the failings of the ruling-class leadership and its continual quest for national unification. Unfortunately, this ultimately led to criticism of national unification as an endeavour detrimental to the future development of the present Bulgarian state. Instead the Bulgarian people were


influenced (directed) to believe that a worker-peasant Government was the supreme goal.

The most progressive occurrence of this era was the restoration and struggle of IMRO under the leadership of Todor Alexandroff [27]. We note that even some authors in Skopje (1950), who contemptuously call IMRO, "Vrhovist", and its leader a "villain", begrudgingly admit that prominent delegates of the USSR and Comintern (and in the time of Lenin!) regarded IMRO as

"the sole revolutionary force in the Balkans, if not the whole of Europe"
and spoke affectionately of its leader. IMRO's uncompromising daring and readiness to battle against the new national oppression in Macedonia could be perceived from their own revolutionary hymn "Rise Dawn of Freedom" (Izgrey Zora Na Svobodata). Within its lines we hear the following
O, tyrants, we will perform a miracle.
We cannot stand a foreign yoke,
We will drown you in our heroic blood.
And again we will be free

Because of this very essence of IMRO, the Bulgarian people from both the liberated and enslaved lands, spontaneously created and sang a song dedicated to its leader and known throughout the country from its opening words, "I will ask you something grandma" (Neshto Ke Te Pitam Babo). There are many versions, some longer, some shorter, but all with only one indisputable message - praise for Todor Alexandroff. At national celebrations and important family gatherings (weddings, baptisms, name days and other occasions) during the 1920s and 1930s this song was either played or sung with patriotic fervour and emotion. The song epitomised hope and joy within the people, that IMRO had been restored as their protector, and that the goal of Bulgarian unification remained.

Bulgaria's historic misfortune was that the revolutionary parties - the BCP, Agrarians and IMRO - could not achieve a consensus. At the time of the September Uprising (1923) it was not possible for the ideologies of BCP and IMRO to merge - that is the struggles for class liberation and for national unification to forge a common united front. The subsequent recriminations between these factions was the beginning of the political entrenchment and national nihilism which so ravages us today.

The records of IMRO, the MFO and IMRO-U must be viewed with respect to their adherence to the national liberation ideal. Applying this criterion we plainly witness how MFO and IMRO-U discarded the notion of unification to promote Macedonism, the Greater-Serbian ideology. And this is why we need to not only clearly separate IMRO from fascism, but to also understand the true nature of MFO


and IMRO-U. Moreover when we survey the people's support for these groups, IMRO is the undisputable favourite. How can we possibly declare, that a mighty national revolutionary force, such as IMRO, which unceasingly fought using all means against an oppressive foreign regime, comprised bandits, fascists and terrorists? In 1920 IMRO supported the YCP in the election for the Skupstina as a protest against no Macedonian candidates being permitted and succeeded in electing 17 communist deputies from Macedonia alone [28]. Surely this one incident constitutes undeniable proof of IMRO's immense popular support.

When we examine the Bulgarian political philosophy during the last 60-70 years, despite the contradictions and apparent irreconcilable positions, there remains a deep-seated association between the national liberationist and the socialist. Until 1923 communists were active members of IMRO with no suggestion of discrimination. The IMRO constitution allowed membership independent of political affiliations. This demonstrates that the sole concern of IMRO was national liberation. Further, no matter what political doctrine ruled in Bulgaria, IMRO always sought the assistance of that State. As IMRO represented an unified Bulgarian cause, no regime could refuse it support. It was the influence of IMRO in Vardar Macedonia during 1941-44 that resulted in the acceptance of the liberating Bulgarian Army not only by the people, but also by the MCP.

Lack of political dialogue and constant hostility between the BCP and IMRO resulted in the BCP failing to establish any support amongst the refugee masses, while IMRO struggled within Pirin. This impasse was a major contribution to the sectarian dogmatism and irrationality on the Bulgarian national question and, ipso facto, the Macedonian Question. The heroism and patriotism of IMRO is epitomised by the fact that in 20 years between WWI and WWII 22,000 (14,000 in Vardar Macedonia, 8,000 in Aegean Macedonia) of its members gave their lives for the liberation of the enslaved lands. Contrast this to the epitaphs of MFO and IMRO-U: not only did they not conduct any struggles against the Serbians and Greek regimes, but many of their followers either collaborated with or accepted high ranking appointments from the foreign oppressors. By its own sheer determination and resilience, IMRO, and IMRO alone, for 30 years resisted the forced denationalization of the Bulgarian-Macedonians.

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25. Established in 1921 to support the creation of an autonomous Macedonia within a South Slav Federation, a concept very similar to that advocated by the communists in the early 1920s. The initial leaders were Philip Athanasov, Todor Panitza and Vlahov. The group organized a number of armed forays into Vardar Macedonia where they also attacked the IMRO fighters. In the aftermath of the failed rapprochement between IMRO, MFO and Communists (July 1924) Vlahov split from the Federalists to form IMRO-U, because he favoured a more communist-oriented political stance. After Alexandroff’s murder a number of key Federalists, including Panitza, were assassinated by IMRO and the organization more or less disappeared as a viable entity.

26. Founded in Vienna on 1st April 1926 by Dimitar Vlahov. Vlahov was an original member of the PFP (see ref. 17). During WWI the Bulgarian Government appointed him as District Governor of the Prishtina region in Kosovo, then as King Boris's Consul-General at Vienna. The IMRO-U statutes were published in an issue of Fédération Balcanique with the same date, and supported the establishment of an united and independent Macedonia within a Balkan Federation - an identical policy to that advocated by the Balkan Communist Federation (BCF). IMRO-U never had popular support because most viewed Vlahov as a communist agent, an accusation he strenuously denied. In April 1929 however the BCF openly recognized IMRO-U and 5 years later Vlahov was writing for Communist publications. Vlahov dissolved IMRO-U in 1936 and departed for Moscow, returning in 1943 as part of Tito's YCP and a major architect behind the subsequent construction of a Macedonian ethnic identity and its associated Republic. He became the first Premier of the Socialist Federal Republic of Macedonia and a vice-President within the Yugoslav Presidium.

27. Todor Alexandroff (1881-1924) was born in Shtip and as a youth took an active part in the komitadji campaign against Turkey. In 1903 he was gaoled by the Turks in their Skopje prison, Kourshoumli-Han, but he managed to escape in 1904. By 1911 he had become a member of the IMRO Central Committee. During the Balkan War he organized a volunteer regiment of 15,000 Bulgarians from Macedonia and Thrace to support the war effort. In the devastation that followed the 2nd Balkan War and WWI he rebuilt IMRO to oppose the Serbian and Greek denationalization policy towards the Bulgarian-Macedonians. When the Stamboliski Government sought a Bulgarian-Yugoslavian rapprochement, which also required elimination of IMRO and the Macedonian problem, Alexandroff openly challenged the Bulgarian government's authority. Alexandroff was assassinated on 31st August 1924 in the aftermath of active negotiations between IMRO, MFO and the Communists which failed to appease Socialist ambitions. In 1928 Mihailoff had General Protogerov executed for complicity in Alexandroff s murder.

28. In Nov 1920 IMRO asked the Macedonian people to vote for the Communists (the most unpopular party at that time) as a poignant protest against the Paris Treaty and at their classification as Serbs. The resulting election figures provide clear proof of IMRO's popular support. Although the Vardar Macedonian population was only 1 million, compared to 15 million for the whole of Yugoslavia, Macedonia returned 17 of the 50 elected Communists in a Parliament of 238 delegates. Thus the Communist vote in Macedonia was some 5.1 times the national average, a fact reported by many foreign journalists.