FOR FREEDOM AND PERFECTION. The Life of Yané Sandansky
Mercia MacDermott





In the autumn of 1905, Yané went to the Principality for the long-awaited General Congress of the Organization. Almost two years had passed since the post-Rising discussions in Sofia, and the rifts within the movement were still as wide as ever. Everyone, however, was agreed on the necessity for a congress which would put an end to the chaos and discord, and restore the monolithic unity that had prevailed before the Rising. Such a Congress required careful preparation—hence the need for preliminary meetings in Sofia. Even the question of venue was the subject of much controversy. Yané wanted the delegates to meet in Pirin because he and the other Serres delegates—Todor Popantov, Lazar Tomov and Iliya Baltov—considered that the convening of the Congress on Organization territory would emphasize its sovereignty and independence. The majority, however, considered that, having safely arrived in the Principality, there was no point in a further risky crossing of the border. Lazar Tomov, one of the Serres delegates, then suggested the Rila Monastery, which was only just inside the Principality and had the additional advantage of isolation. Yané accepted the suggestion, and so did all the other delegates. The Rila Monastery is the largest in the Balkan Peninsula (excluding Mt. Athos). It lies in a deep valley, surrounded on all sides by mountains so thickly wooded with pines and beeches, and so high and steep, that, seen from above in summer, the red-roofed monastery looks like a rosy jewel in a vortex of green water. To the traveller arriving by the road which follows the swift-flowing Rila River, the Monastery presents a more formidable face. Designed to deter and repel all intruders, its massive walls of pinkish-grey stone, rising to five or more storeys in places, seem to be part of the very mountain, like a ring of lava thrown up by some benign volcano. The gates resemble those of a fortress; the windows within reach of the ground are few and heavily barred with iron, and numerous gun embrasures squint malevolently at passers-by. Unsuspected beauty and priceless treasures lie behind these walls. Here, the monastery looks in upon itself with a smiling face: all around the courtyard, paved with smooth stones and alive with murmuring fountains, there are tiers of galleries and verandahs, serenely joyous and dappled with shade and sunlight, flowing lines of white collonades and arches picked out in red and black, gay little bow-fronted balconies, painted friezes of flowers and animals, and carved wooden beams and balustrades. A maze of open





staircases leads from one gallery to another, like the gangways of a great ship with many decks. On every storey there are numerous cells and guestrooms, which are neither bleak nor austere, but are lavishly furnished in national style, with carved wooden ceilings and closets, painted friezes and frescoes, and multicoloured rugs and cushions. Many Bulgarian towns of note furnished and maintained spacious rooms for the use of citizens visiting the monastery as pilgrims. Each is in the particular style of the town concerned, and pilgrims were constantly enriching the monastery with gifts of towels, carpets, jewellery and apparel typical of the region from which they came. The main kitchen, equipped with a mighty cauldron, was capable of feeding between three and four thousand visitors a day. The high vaulted ceiling, which also serves as a chimney, is a technical marvel. Built by a local master mason, it resembles a fish turned inside out, being composed of some ten tiers of semi-circular blind arches, intersecting like scales and gradually decreasing in size and narrowing towards the ‘tail’, where the smells and heat escape through the windows of a ‘drum’ below a cupola crowned with a cross.


In the centre of the courtyard, a mediaeval tower, solid and sombre, with a claustrophobic, windowless dungeon in the lowest floor, stands sentinel beside a gorgeously flamboyant church—an architectural bird of paradise, expressing all the exuberance of the nineteenth-century national revival. Crowned with three large cupolas and two smaller ones, the church is horizontally striped—black and white at the bottom, and red and white further up, and every available inch of the open cloister surrounding the west front is covered with saints and sinners, devils and angels, all painted in clear, glowing colours which become even brighter when the sunlight slants upon them through the black and white arches of the collonade. Inside, the walls and ceiling are similarly painted with hundreds of scenes and thousands of individual images. The greatest wonder of all is the ikonostasis of carved and gilded wood—a veritable jungle of golden foliage, flowers and fruit, populated by tiny human figures and mythical beasts, which shine in the flickering light of the candles. Beside the ikonostasis stands a coffin containing the mummified remains of the monastery’s founder, Ivan Rilsky, who, a thousand years ago, sought tranquility and salvation in what was then a virgin wilderness.


The men who came to the Rila Monastery in the autumn of 1905 were also seeking tranquility and salvation, though of a somewhat different kind. It was not for themselves that they sought tranquality, but for their Organization, rent by personal animosities and political dissent, and it was not for their own souls that they sought salvation, but for the tormented land of Macedonia. They were, for the most part, unbelievers—men whose heaven and hell were of this earth, and yet, with the odd exception, they were no less chaste and self-denying than the monks of Rila.


They assembled in the spacious suite of rooms once occupied by Neofit Rilsky, [1] the first Bulgarian teacher to use modern methods of



1. Neofit Rilsky (1793-1881) was born in Bansko.





instruction, who spent his last years in the monastery, writing textbooks. Between them, the six regions of the Organization had elected twenty-two delegates, but one or two of them, including Hristo Chernopeev (Strumitsa), were prevented from attending. The Congress lasted a whole month, and most of the sessions were held in St Luke’s Hermitage, an isolated building a mile or two from the monastery itself. At the first session, the delegates elected a chairman and two secretaries to conduct the affairs of the Congress. As Chairman, they chose Damé Gruev (Skopje), who, as a member of the Central Committee from the very foundation of the Organization, was the most senior person present, and, as secretaries— Iliya Baltov (Serres) and Argir Manasiev (Salonika).


The agenda of the Congress covered every aspect of the Organization’s policy and work: reports on past activity and the present situation in each region and district; future activity; the structure and management of the Organization, including administration both civil and military, and the departments of justice, finance, culture and economics; literature and the press; the attitude and behaviour of the Organization towards all outside propaganda, both peaceful and armed, towards Bulgarian state nationalism and the Exarchate, towards the Supremists, the emigré community and the general public in the Principality, towards the various Organization groupings both within and without; the tactics of the Organization, and, finally, a report on the activity of the Central Committee and the External Representatives.


The main item on the agenda concerned the structure and management of the Organization, and twelve days—nearly half the total time of the Congress—were devoted to the subject. As a result of the discussions a new Statute and set of Rules [2] were drawn up, and each individual article was debated in a strictly parliamentary manner and was voted on after the third reading.


In the course of the debates, it became clear that the Organization was still divided into left and right. Dimo Hadzhidimov, the chief ideologist of the Left, was not present at the Congress, but the call for radical reform was strongly championed not only by Yané and the Serres delegates, but also by such veteran and highly respected leaders as Gyorché Petrov and Peré Toshev. The conservatives, too, were without their chief spokesmen, Dr Tatarchev, Hristo Matov and Ivan Garvanov, who had not been elected as delegates by any region. Damé Gruev himself was a moderate conservative, but his approach was pragmatic, and, preferring reconciliation to head-on collisions, he sought to achieve agreement through mutual concessions. In fact, it was the conservatives who made most of the concessions, and the Congress represented a definite turn to the left. Two of the radicals’ cardinal principles—that all bodies and officials be elected and



2. A copy of the Statute and Rules can be found in the National Library, Sofia. BIA NBKM, f. 309, a.e. 173, pp. 29-72.





that there should be less centralization—were accepted by all the delegates and were embodied in the new Statute and Rules.


The election of officers by secret ballot also reflected the leftward trend. The new Central Committee consisted of Damé Gruev, Peré Toshev (Bitolya), and Todor Popantov (Serres); and the External Representatives were Gyorché Petrov, Petŭr Poparsov and Dimitŭr Stefanov (all Leftists), while Dimo Hadzhidimov became editor of Revolyutsionen List. Damé Gruev was the only moderate among them, but his ability and prestige were such that his inclusion was never in any doubt. He was also elected to the commission charged with preparing a circular informing the membership of the most important decisions of the Congress and giving guidance on the implementation of the new Rules. The other members of the commission were Gyorché Petrov, Peré Toshev and Georgi Pophristov.


The new Statute clearly reflected the ideology of the Serres Left: ‘I.M.A.R.O. aims to unite in one whole all discontented elements in Macedonia and the Adrianople region, regardless of nationality, for the winning of full political autonomy for these two provinces’ (Article 1); ‘The Organization opposes attempts on the part of any state whatsoever to divide and conquer these provinces’ (Article 2); ‘In order to achieve this aim, the Organization strives to eliminate all chauvinistic propaganda and the national quarrels which divide and weaken the population in its fight against the common foe; it works for a revolutionary spirit and consciousness in the population, with everything necessary for a common, nationwide uprising. It concerns itself with the cultural and economic advance of the population and assists its legal struggle against the Turkish authorities’ (Article 3).


The ‘internal’, independent character of the Organization is further emphasized by Article 5, which offers membership to ‘every person living in European Turkey, regardless of sex, religion, nationality and conviction’, thus implicitly excluding from membership persons domiciled outside the Organization’s territory. Moreover, according to Article 3 of the new Rules, ‘Every member who leaves the Organization’s territory, be he an official or not, loses his rights as such as long as he is outside.’ The Organization’s External Representatives, who, of necessity lived outside the Organization’s territory, were permitted to chose one of their number to attend the General Congress with a consultative voice only.


The new Rules were lengthy and detailed, and consisted of no less than 216 articles. The most striking innovation was the introduction of the elective principle at all levels, with greater freedom for the individual member. In the early stages of its development, the Organization had been extremely centralized and authoritarian in character—an inevitable corollary of the conditions under which it worked. Later, when it reached mass proportions, often embracing the entire adult population of a given village, it became more democratic in character; leaders at village level were elected instead of being appointed from above and more local





initiative was permitted. The higher bodies, however, continued to be appointed, and the Central Committee itself was, in fact, a self-appointed, self-perpetuating body, accountable to nobody and simply taken on trust by thousands of ordinary members. This state of affairs may have been tolerable and even justified in the days when a handful of teachers were trying to instil self-confidence into the oppressed peasants, but it was no longer acceptable to the Serres Left and their sympathizers—not after their bitter experience with the Central Committee of Garvanov, not in view of the deepening ideological differences within the Organization.


The new Rules provided for the annual election of all committees, including the Central Committee, which was to be elected by an annual General Congress. Financial control commissions at village, district and regional level were also to be elected, and all accounts were to be audited at least four times a year. Those elected to town and village committees had to have been members of the Organization for at least one year, and three-quarters of the electorate had to take part for the voting to be valid. While groups of ten persons continued to be the basic unit of the Organization, members were now to be allowed to choose their group, instead of being assigned to one. They were also to be allowed to dismiss their group-leader, if two-thirds of the members so desired, and, instead of being obliged—on pain of punishment—to carry out all duties laid upon them, members were now given the right to appeal against instructions, acts, and orders on the part of the leadership which they considered unlawful or unjust. Members were also given greater freedom for individual initiative, although, for actions involving joint responsibility, they still had to obtain the explicit agreement of their immediate leader. Among their various duties, the group leaders were to see to ‘the raising of the mental and moral standards of their groups through the reading of various revolutionary, social and literary books, newspapers and journals, through lectures, etc.’, while the town and village committees were ‘to concern themselves with raising the cultural standard of the population and with the supply of revolutionary and other literature, journals and newspapers’.


Several articles of the new Rules were designed to prevent individuals or bodies from committing the Organization to some course of action without prior consultation. For example, all letters received by a committee were to be read by all its members and answered according to a joint decision. On all matters touching activity not covered by decisions of the Regional Congress, the Regional Committee ‘must sound out the districts and comply with the opinion of the majority’. On the subject of a future rising, the Rules stated: ‘The final decision for a rising shall be taken by the General Congress with the consent of three-quarters of the delegates present. On this question the delegates shall have an imperative mandate. The district delegates shall bring to the Regional Congress minuted decisions of the District Congress on this matter, giving reasons. The date of the rising, by decision of Congress, may be fixed by the





Central Committee.’


A number of articles deal with the activities of the External Representatives, who were ‘to strive to attract and win for the benefit of the Cause the sympathies of the outside world, especially those of the neighbouring Balkan countries’, and to supply the interior with revolutionary literature, including fiction. The Representatives were prohibited from belonging to other organizations or political parties, from taking part in polemics with ‘extreme national or political tendencies’, and from entering into diplomatic relations with any state in the name of the Organization. With the special permission of the Central Committee, they might, however, enter into negotiations with foreign revolutionary movements.


In an effort to purge the Organization of haramiya influence, the Rules laid down that voivodi should as far as possible be ‘literate and educated’, and the Rules for the Cheti forbade the wearing of gold and silver ornaments and embroidered clothes. Everything in a cheta was to be shared and the voivodi had no special rights.


On matters of morality and ethics the Organization was still as strict as ever. Article 10 of the Rules stated that ‘members are required to be exemplary in their private lives and in their relations vis-à-vis the Cause. Fornication, drunkenness, and abuse—for personal gain or caprice—of the position of a worker for the Cause, will be prosecuted and punished. (Note: The above article applies to leaders as well.)’ Judicial power was in the hands of the committees, and cases concerning members of committees were to be tried by the committee above. Death sentences passed by committees were to be confirmed in a similar manner, while those passed by the Central Committee had to pass through the appropriate Regional Committee and be confirmed by the district concerned. This procedure could be waived if the person sentenced represented an immediate threat to the Organization.


According to the Rules, all persons were equal before the Organization’s Law, and trials had to take place in the presence of the accused and witnesses. Persons could, however, be tried in their absence, if necessary. The Organization had no prisons, and therefore punishments consisted of reprimands, fines, beating, loss of voting rights, removal from duties, expulsion from the Organization, or death. The Rules stated that ‘punishment must always have a corrective aim’; reprimands were prescribed for, among other crimes, boasting and many first offences; fines were levied for some second offences, and beatings for many third offences. The Rules expressly stated that beatings must not be administered by those who imposed the sentence, and that those who beat offenders in such a way that they were maimed, or even killed, would themselves be prosecuted. Expulsion from the Organization was recommended for ‘incorrigible persons, no matter what their position in the Organization, who are deemed to be such by the Committee, after all relevant measures for their reform have been exhausted, and who, through their debauched





behaviour, discredit the authority of the Organization’. The Rules forbid mockery or disfigurement of the bodies of those killed, as well as deliberate torture during the carrying out of death sentences. The latter were prescribed for spies, traitors, rapists, Turkish officials who tormented the people and actively opposed the Organization, members of the Organization who persisted in certain offences after being reprimanded, thrice-convicted thieves who did not respond to corrective measures, ‘the leaders of any other body with an aim identical to that of the Organization who refuse to stop working against the Organization’, ‘dissenters who, without permission, join the ranks of another internal body with the same aim as the Organization, after having been warned three times’, ‘anyone who attempts to split the Organization, and to seize part of it’, ‘those who hinder the implementation of the Organization’s laws out of autocracy or insubordination’, and ‘all non-Organization cheti, whether robber or belonging to another organization’. Specially elected civil courts at village, town and district level were to deal with non-criminal cases, free of charge, basing their decisions on local unwritten law, fairness, agreement between the parties, etc. The Rules also recognized the right of persons disabled in the service of the Organization to be cared for by the latter.


There is a curious parallel between the rules drawn up by the delegates and the cautionary, hell-fire frescoes in the narthex of the Monastery church. Here one can see black devils seizing and devouring all manner of sinners, including drunkards, fornicators, thieves, robbers, false-witnesses, traitors, arsonists, traders who give short measure, and those who fail to show hospitality to strangers. Here the Archangel Michael—a magnificent winged warrior in golden classical armour—’tortures the soul of the rich man’, as the inscription explicitly states. With a drawn sword in one hand, and his foot firmly planted on the body of the well-attired deceased, the Archangel drags out the man’s soul—a wretched, miniature, semi-naked figure—and holds it up by the hair in front of a jubilant waiting devil, who is saying gloatingly: ‘Ours, ours art thou, O Silver-lover!’


Turning its attention to future policy, the Congress was unanimous in its decision to continue the fight against the Supremists, both those who came to Macedonia and those who led and inspired their activities from Sofia. It was decided, however, to send the Supremists a final ultimatum, which would also be made public in the Principality for the information of all interested parties. Addressed to ‘the group of Macedonian activists known as the Supremists’, the ultimatum demanded that the Supremists cease their activity and dissolve their organization forthwith, or face the consequences. At the same time, it offered membership of the Organization to all who wished to take part in the struggle for the liberation of Macedonia and Thrace through revolution.


No one at the Congress imagined that the ultimatum would have any effect other than on public opinion in the Principality. Everyone was, therefore, completely taken by surprise when, a few days after the end of





the Congress, General Tsonchev sent a conciliatory answer, chiding the Internal Organization for not inviting his group to the Congress, but nevertheless acceding to its demands. He was, moreover, as good as his word. Even though many Supremists were still eager to avenge their defeat at Kashina, the officers obeyed their general and withdrew from the territory of the Organization. Doncho and the other Supremist voivodi followed suit.


It was a wise decision, but it had come too late to be of much practical value, for the Organization’s right wing was by now sufficiently infected with Supremist notions to make General Tsonchev’s retirement from the field of little more than passing significance. [3]


The delegates’ fear of a repetition of Ilinden was reflected in a resolution which began: ‘1.... The Organization continues to regard a nation-wide armed struggle against the Turkish authorities as an ultimate means in its struggle for the abolition of the Turkish regime. 2. The rising is seen as the final result of more or less prolonged revolutionary preparatory activity on the part of the population, and as a final and broad expression in a series of separate actions by the organized population. 3. The Organization continues, as before, to be against rebellious actions, of no matter what proportions, occasioned by outside instigation and political considerations. . . 5. In rejecting actions of this kind, the Organization adopts in its activity a more active line of behaviour than before the Rising, in order to demonstrate a more vigorous life, to awaken the population and thus to steel it in the struggle. The conditions of life are such that the struggle must be based on the preparation of the population; it must proceed from it and not have a personal character nor proceed solely from the cheti.’


The resolution recommended that the Organization should strike back and avenge every manifestation of repression on the part of the Turkish authorities, and gave individuals freedom to carry out actions of this kind.


The Congress also considered the new situation created by the Mürtzsteg Reforms, which had been announced two years previously, but, although Damé himself, as a moderate, believed that the possibilities opened up by the Reforms should be exploited to the full, the Congress dismissed them as totally irrelevant and ineffective. [4]


The delegates postponed until the very end of the Congress the delicate and unpleasant question of accusations against leading members of the Organization. It was Boris Sarafov who was the main target of criticism,



3. The Supreme Committee and all its provincial societies had been dissolved by the Bulgarian Government in January 1903 in response to Russian diplomatic pressure, prior to the announcement of the Russo-Austrian plan for reforms in Turkey. Since then, the Supremists had continued their activity, without holding Congresses or elections, and General Tsonchev was considered to be their leader, although at no time had he been elected Chairman of the Supreme Committee.


4. Damé’s plan for exploiting the Reforms can be found in Ilyustratsia Ilinden, January 1932, 7 (37). The plan was circulated to the committees in the Bitolya Region.





and the charges against him were very grave: that he had taken money from the Serbs, assisted a Serbian cheta to enter Macedonia, and sent cheti of his own to sow discord and disruption in order to make himself leader of the Organization. Demands that he be made to answer for his more questionable activities had already been raised in a number of quarters: the Salonika Regional Committee had passed a resolution demanding that he be put on trial, while the Serres Regional Committee had actually sentenced him to death, but the sentence had not been carried out. Hristo Uzunov, the Ohrid District Voivoda, also felt so strongly about Sarafov that, when he and his men were surrounded by the Turks and he knew that they had only a short time left to live, he specifically called for Sarafov’s death in a farewell letter dated April 11, 1905: ‘My final advice to all comrades is this: let all those who serve the Cause be devoted to it, because devotion and purity of heart alone raised the Internal Organization, and they will also save it from the abnormality into which it has now been driven by our unscrupulous comrades. See to it that you annihilate as soon as possible those hitherto leading forces in the Organization who have inflicted damage upon the Cause, like Sarafov, and don’t punish only simple workers.’ [5]


There were plenty of other people, both at home and abroad, who were not taken in by Sarafov’s dash and charm, and who regarded him as a menace rather than as an asset to the movement. K.D. Spisarevsky described him as ‘a puppet revolutionary, with a weak, pliable character, incapable of resisting temptation’, and alleged that he received money from the Court, money which did not pass through the Committee’s books. [6]


Popular as Sarafov was with foreign journalists, the more serious ones among them were far from enchanted by him. Reginald Wyon of the London Daily Mail described him as ‘a danger to the Cause’, [7] while Brailsford was even more damning in his assessment: ‘His influence makes for rash decisions and violent methods. He stands, indeed, to the main body of the revolutionary party much as the less intellectual anarchists used to stand towards the orthodox Socialists in the days of the "International". When they are for regular warfare, he is for dynamite. When they believe in a truce he is apt to kick over the traces. But his importance is very much exaggerated in Europe. . . M. Sarafov understands the uses of advertisement, and his fame is dear to sensational journalists. But in Macedonia he is merely the rather irresponsible ally of much stronger men. The real brain of the revolt is Damyan Gruev, the President of the Internal Organization, whose name, I suppose, is quite unknown beyond the Balkans. He thinks in years, while M. Sarafov sees no further than tomorrow’s newspapers, and spends his winters among the Macedonian



5. BIA NBKM, f. 583, a.e. 54, pp. 1-2 (original letter) and p. 6 (deciphered typed transcript).


6. BIA NBKM, f. 626, a.e. 106, pp. 50-52.


7. Reginald Wyon, The Balkans from Within, 1904, p. 155.





villages, while the heroes of the movement are posing in Paris and London. It is a pity that M. Sarafov has captivated the journalistic imagination, for he represents everything that is bloody and unscrupulous in the war of liberation.’ [8]


Writing somewhat later (he was in Bulgaria during 1906), the American journalist A.D.H. Smith described Sarafov as ‘indubitably nothing more than the paid spy of the Bulgarian Government, used by Prince Ferdinand as a lever to control the progress of the revolution.’ Smith also knew Garvanov, Matov, Tatarchev, Poparsov and Yané, and was fully aware of the threefold division within the Organization into Left, Right, and Sarafov. He found ‘the insurgent leaders of all parties invariably clever and pleasant to get along with. . . I never heard adverse moral criticism made of one, except Sarafov’. [9]


Sarafov himself was well aware of his misdeeds. Indeed, he displayed considerable courage, or possibly it was effrontery, in appearing at the Congress at all, and the weeks of waiting must have been very hard on his nerves. He made no bones about admitting that, in some respects, he had indeed transgressed the laws of the Organization, and even insisted that his case be judged at the earliest possible moment. At the same time, believing that attack is the best form of defence, he flung accusations at other people, including Damé Gruev, whom he accused of giving himself up to Mitso’s Serbian cheta. Yané was taxed with alleged non-participation in the Rising, but he hotly defended his position, reminding delegates that Gotsé Delchev had been against the Rising, and his arguments were supported both by his fellow Serchani and by the delegates from the Strumitsa Region.


Seldom can the Rila Monastery have been the scene of such prolonged and passionate dispute. Not since the days of mediaeval heresies can so much heat and venom have been engendered within its holy precincts, for the bitterest quarrels are not those between sworn enemies, but those between people who profess the same creed and accuse each other of apostasy. The most vehement and unbridled in their speech were Yané and Sarafov. The rest of the delegates were scarcely less enflamed, and thus the tension in the normally peaceful hermitage built up until it neared explosion point. It was obvious that no proper decision could be reached until every one had cooled off and calmed down, so the meeting was adjourned. This adjournment may have saved Sarafov’s life, for, during the interval, Gyorché Petrov managed to prevail upon Yané to spare Sarafov at least temporarily. Gyorché was a first-class advocate, endowed with a logical mind and tireless energy. He was prepared to argue for hours on end, if necessary, in order to win an argument, and, supported by Peré Toshev, he eventually succeeded in persuading Yané



8. H.N. Brailsford, Macedonia—its races and their future, 1906, pp. 171-172.


9. A.D.H. Smith, Fighting the Turk in the Balkans, pp. 28-30.





that no useful purpose could be served by killing Sarafov, and that peace could best be restored if Yané himself spoke in favour of a general amnesty.


Thus, when the delegates reassembled, it was Yané who opened the discussion with a speech, the general tenor of which was as follows: ‘We have all made mistakes. The Organization, however, is going through a decisive period and calls us all to unite. Let us draw a veil over the past and join hands in order to work together.’ [10] Gyorché followed him with a speech in a similar vein, and their arguments were favourably received by Damé and a number of other delegates. In the end, the following resolution was passed: ‘Because of higher considerations, mainly in view of the pressing need to strengthen unity within the Organization, the Congress decided: not to examine the cases and not to proceed against persons and groups guilty of breaches of the existing laws of the Organization as a result of activity prior to November 1, 1905. If, however, such persons and groups are found guilty of the same thing after this date, they will be made to answer not only for their new actions, but also for their old ones.’ [11]


After the felicitous conclusion of the Rila Congress, most of the delegates went to Sofia. The news that the Congress had ended in unity and reconciliation had a very favourable effect on public opinion in the Principality. Earlier in the year, on September 14, a group of citizens from Varna had called a conference in Sofia to discuss how they could aid their brothers in Macedonia, but the attendance had been very disappointing. Only Varna, Vidin, Dobrich (now Tolbukhin), Pleven, Tŭrnovo and Stara Zagora were represented. The main reason for the lack of enthusiasm was the quarrels within the Organization, and a general feeling that any money and arms collected were more likely to be used for civil war between the various factions than for fighting the Turks. The conference did little more than elect a three-man committee, headed by Andrei Lyapchev, a veteran member of the now defunct Supreme Committee, who called a new conference on December 4. In the meantime, news of the Rila concord had spread, scattering the gloom and despondency which had previously paralyzed the émigrés, and two hundred and fifty delegates of all shades of opinion were elected to attend the conference. They included General Tsonchev, Dimo Hadzhidimov, Ivan Kepov, Stoyan Mihailovsky, Professor Agura, Hristo Matov, Dr Tatarchev and Yanko Sakŭzov (leader of the so-called ‘Broad’ Socialists). The conference, which lasted four days, set up a new organization called the Charitable Union, the aim of which was to ‘give moral and material support to the oppressed Bulgarians in Macedonia and Thrace’. It also voted in favour of autonomy for Macedonia, and appealed to the Bulgarian Government to do everything possible to stop the incursions of the Greek and Serbian bands.



10. Memoirs of Boris Monchev, quoted in Silyanov, Opus cit., Vol. II, p. 380.


11. Silyanov, Opus cit., Vol. II, p. 381.





In Sofia Yané was agreeably surprised to find himself the centre of friendly attention. In the cafés people crowded around him, and the homes of the people with whom he stayed—the writer Anton Strashimirov, Boyan Biolchev, and Stoyno Stoynov, who was a Socialist—were always full of activists from all over Macedonia, who engaged him in long and cordial conversations concerning their future plans. For once, all campaigns against Yané ceased; neither the Press nor the public abused him; Hristo Matov waxed enthusiastic about him, and even Government ministers regarded him with favourable interest.


Pleasant as it was to be lionized instead of reviled, Yané had no illusions about the character of the change in the official attitude towards him. It was clear to all that neither the Supremists nor Sarafov could take over the Organization, and therefore it was natural that all those with axes to grind should woo the strong man of the victorious Left. Yané basked in the sunshine of popular and official approbation, but he kept his weather eye open. In the cafés where he spent much of his time in conversation, he always sat as far as possible from the entrance, with his back to a protecting wall. [12] He also avoided all deals and transactions, however tempting, that would link the Organization to the Bulgarian Government and thus tarnish its internationalist image. He was, in fact, approached by a number of politicians with various propositions, which he usually delicately declined or parried with polite evasion, but once he went as far as to tell a former minister that it would be more helpful if, instead of trying to take over the Organization, the Bulgarian Government founded banks in Macedonia to support the population. When, however, he heard that none other than Dimitŭr Petkov, Minister of the Interior, would like to meet him on an informal, friendly basis, Yané became convinced that the heat was being turned on, and that the Government was making an all-out effort to win him over and gain control of the Organization. He therefore hastened to complete his purchases of arms before the Government, realizing that it was getting nowhere, changed its attitude and began to harry the Serchani.


Most of the members of the Serres Regional Committee were already in Sofia, and Yané told them to write to the District Committees, asking for representatives to come to the capital with all available funds, and to borrow additional money from richer members of the Organization. The secret channels were to be prepared for the non-stop transport of guns. Yané himself approached Ivan Chaprashikov, a rich friend from Dupnitsa, for a large loan, and Chaprashikov, who had often ‘obliged’ him in this way, brought the money to Sofia.


Within a few days, the money began arriving, and arms were purchased and dispatched. Some were brought from the well-known arms-dealers,



12. See Memoirs of Ivan Harizanov, then a student in Sofia. TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 18.





the Brothers Ivanov, and were tested in a thistle field on the outskirts of Sofia in Yané’s presence. In addition, friendly officers assisted the Serchani to steal 60 rifles from the Military School, where both Gotsé and Sarafov had once been cadets, and 130 from the arms depot at Knyazhevo. Yané did not consider it immoral to steal in the name of the Cause, but he would not accept gifts offered at government level, because of the political implications, and the interpretations which might be placed upon such an action.


Soon after the buying, stealing, testing and transportation of the guns had been completed, Yané was informed by a student named Panayot Panov, who was a nephew of the Prime Minister but supported the Serres Left, [13] that he had heard the Sofia chief of police vilifying and uttering threats against the Serchani. [14] This was precisely the turn of events which Yané had been expecting ever since he had declined to meet the Minister of the Interior, and he decided that it was time to return to Pirin. The Serchani left by different routes, and Yané, together with Petŭr Govedarov and Georgi Moadzhira, went to the Rila Monastery. Here they were to realize how timely their departure had been: a telegram arrived from Sofia addressed to the police officer stationed at the monastery instructing him to arrest Yané and send him to Sofia under strong guard. Fortunately for Yané, both the monk who acted as the monastery’s telegraphist and the local police officer were friends of his, and together they concocted a plan by which Yané could escape without ill-consequences for the others. Two guards were to be sent to the room where Yané was lodged to carry out the order, but Yané and his two companions would disarm them, lock them in the room and disappear. Thus, as the Bulgarian saying goes, the wolf would be replete, while the lamb would remain whole.


The plan succeeded, and, while the wretched guards hammered on the door of their prison, Yané and his two companions slipped out of the monastery into the icy freedom of winter’s night. [15]



13. Panov had gone to Macedonia in 1905 to join Yané, together with Mihail Daev, Chudomir Kantardzhiev, Todor Panitsa and some others. He had returned to the Principality with Gerdzhikov and Penchev. See Memoirs of Panayot Panov, recorded by Ivan Harizanov. TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 23, pp. 9-10.


14. Arnaudov, Opus cit., p. 14.


15. Ibid. See also Ivan Harizanov’s account, TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 18.


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