Macedonia and Bulgarian National Nihilism
Ivan Alexandrov


The sixth question concerns Ivan Mihailoff [29] and Mihailovism. This activist of the MLM is also related to the fifth question (concerning IMRO), because he was the last well known leader between WWI and WWII, when the BCP succumbed to the sectarian-dogmatic and nihilistic teachings with respect to the Bulgarian national question. However the issue of Mihailovism is treated separately here because of its numerous idiosyncracies. We observe that the terms Mihailovism, Mihailovists and Mihattovistki are often applied in different situations and with contradictory meanings. This confusion engenders an anti-Bulgarian concept amongst the uninformed but honest people, who only desire to understand the historic truth. The main allegation against Ivan Mihailoff concerns the Dbnishkite Sbitia (1925) where he ordered the execution of some 30 communists and other members of the MLM. Accordingly, these "Mihailovists" are accused of being murderers and "Monarcho-Fascist" instruments.

Unquestionably the communists were persecuted and executed by all regimes, including the Agrarian Party, because they opposed the capitalist-social order. If we thoroughly examine the Dbnishkite Sbitia we find an important difference. The historic record shows that not only communists, but also democrats were killed, not because of political affiliation but because they were agents for the foreign oppressors in Macedonia who opposed the national liberation struggle of IMRO. Placed in its proper perspective this evidence establishes the cooperation between the activists of the Left in the MLM and the foreign enslavers. In the end Mihailoff was sentenced to death (in his absence) after the coup d'etat in 1934 and IMRO and all other political parties outlawed.

But consider the actuality, that citizens labelled Mihailovists or having Mihailovistic inclinations were those who stubbornly resisted the authoritative pressure (after 9th September 1944) to declare themselves "Macedonians" and renounce their Bulgarian heritage. From this manifestation of Mihailovism the name and prestige of Ivan Mihailoff is raised to the highest standing, since he is shown as a stubborn and unrelenting champion whose followers defend their Bulgarian nationality, not only against all the oppressors, conquerors and assimilators, but also against Bulgarian national nihilism. These are then the second type of Mihailovists: genuine Bulgarian patriots.

Now, we also know the name Mihailovist was applied to anyone who defended the historic truth with respect to the Macedonian question and advocated union of Macedonia with Bulgaria as the only proper solution. Therefore if


Mihailoff’s position in our past is as claimed by our contemporary historians, then all patriotic Bulgarians should have the highest admiration for him. Mihailoff’s policy however was not union with Bulgaria but the formation of an independent, sovereign Macedonia, fully detailed in his book "Macedonia: Switzerland of the Balkans" (1950). From it flows the idealism to solve the national question, the very same idealism the communists felt after the victory of the Socialist revolution. Here we have what may be called contemporary Mihailovists.

The foregoing discussion leads to a conundrum for the term Mihailovist. Ivan Mihailoff has written his own memoirs in four comprehensive volumes, comprising thousands of pages. There are also numerous other texts and articles both in Bulgarian and other foreign languages. Accordingly, we must meticulously evaluate all this information pertaining to IMRO and its members, since in reality IMRO is an inseparable part of Bulgaria's national history.

Mihailoff’s contributions, both good and bad, are self-evident from various incidents. In the years immediately preceding WWII, IMRO did not organizationally exist, but its influence in Macedonia persisted and facilitated the formation of the Action Committees in Vardar and Aegean Macedonia. These groups in turn allowed Bulgarian rule to be installed even before the Bulgarian Army arrived in 1941. Thus the population itself, spontaneously, acknowledged its own Bulgarian nationality and called for unification as it hailed Bulgarian Army detachments as their liberators and as their sons. Nothing else in our Bulgarian history so conclusively showed what should have been the policy of our democratic forces regarding the Macedonian Question. This view must be indelibly etched into our history books.

We also have to be aware that within this period an event of extreme self-sacrifice and bloody struggle occurred in the Western part of Aegean Macedonia. There in the Kostur-Lerin-Voden districts during 1941-4 were formed the Ohrana [30], who constituted some 12,000 fighters and volunteers from Bulgaria charged with protection of the local population, particularly in the summer of 1944. Most regrettably, these events are not recorded by our historiography and comprise some of the important "blank" pages of our history, which we allowed the Greater-Serbian Macedonists to distort and degrade.

While we respect the feelings of relatives of those who suffered at the hands of IMRO, the continual references to "Mihailovist bands of killers" is not only false but also politically damaging. We know that the first arguments in the MLM which started between the Vrhovists and Centralists began from the beginning of this century. Furthermore the fratricide and killings of the leading IMRO activists were directly connected with Yane Sandanski [15, 17]. Even a part of these bands (the militia


of IMRO) engaged and defeated the Greek Army which entered the Petrich district under the regime of Pangalos in 1925 [31]. In his book "Confessions of a Macedonian Bandit" (1909), the American Albert Sonnechsen recounts that despite the victims, the destruction and suffering of the Bulgarian-Macedonians after Ilinden (1903), no-one betrayed or condemned the leading activists of the revolt. This is the reason why, in all of Western and Central Macedonia, the Bulgarians there, the refugees who fled, and all their descendants have only contempt for the name of Yane Sandanski. Today Sandanski's legendary stature there is just an unwanted imposition by the anti-Bulgarian propagandists and that originated with the insanity of Macedonism in those first years of the national rule.

The time is fast approaching when our historic record will have to indicate that, in over 87% of enslaved Macedonia between the two World Wars, IMRO had great influence amongst the masses, and opposed by all and any means the foreign policies of Serbianization, Hellenization and Macedonism. The finest representatives of the people regarded themselves as Bulgarian patriots, protecting the national cause. At the same time prominent Left-Wing members in the Pirin region, where there was no national oppression, waged war against IMRO and sanctioned Macedonism.

The national liberationist character of IMRO between WWI and WWII is exemplified in Dimiter Gotsev's text "Youth National-Liberation Organizations of the Macedonian Bulgarians (1919-1941)" published in 1988. The book establishes the truth for the period when Bulgarian sectarian destructiveness raged out of control. With a vast array of documentation Gotsev rigorously establishes the Bulgarian national essence of Macedonia, in what is undoubtedly the most progressive Bulgarian historic text published for decades.

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29. Ivan Mihailoff (1896-1990) succeeded as leader after Todor Alexandroff s assassination. He became an internationally known Balkan revolutionary, forging strong links with Macedonian emigrants in America and also Ante Pavelic's Croatian nationalist movement. It was one of Mihailoff’s men, Vlado Tchernozemsky, who assassinated King Alexander in Marseilles while working with Croatian nationalists. Mihailoff was forced to flee Sofia in 1934 when the military outlawed IMRO. Towards the end of WWII the Germans asked Mihailoff to govern a Macedonian State that they would proclaim. He travelled to Skopje, but after conferring with his associates, he decided against such an undertaking. In his latter years he wrote many articles and texts, and gave numerous interviews on the "Macedonian Question".

Stalin and the Macedonian Question (pseudonym Macedonicus). Pearlstone Publishing Co., St Louis (1948).

Macedonia: A Switzerland of the Balkans. Pearlstone Publishing Co., St Louis (1950).

• ÑÏÎÌÅÍÈ. (in Bulgarian) Volumes 1-4, Western Newspaper Publ Co., Indianapolis.

30. Armed security units charged with maintaining "law and order". They were organized and directed by Bulgarian liaison officers attached to the German and Italian occupying forces.

31. During the Greek dictatorship of General Pangalos, a border incident led to Greek troops crossing the Bulgarian border at Kula and shelling the town of Petrich (20th Oct 1925). The local IMRO militia resisted the Greeks who withdrew some 8 days later. A subsequent League of Nations Inquiry found the Greeks had violated the League Covenant.