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





The year had begun badly. And as it began, so it continued. Conspiracy, treachery and bloodshed followed one upon another in a depressing sequence, with little light relief or constructive achievement.


One of the first black spots was the defection of Stoyan Dimitrov Pelteka, nicknamed Indzheto (the Thin One). Born in the Shumen district of northern Bulgaria, Indzheto knew Turkish well. He came to Macedonia in 1904 with Sarafov’s crony Lt Sotir Atanasov during the latter’s ill-fated attempt to sow dissention in the Serres Region, but after Yané had sent the lieutenant back to the Principality, Indzheto had remained in the Region as a chetnik. Apparently he made a good showing, for, when Stoyu Hadzhiev set out for Sofia to attend the 1906 Congress, Indzheto was chosen to deputize for him in the Demir Hisar District. During Stoyu’s absence, however, he was accused of an offence against a woman, and, presumably in order to avoid punishment, he defected to the Turks and became a Muslim. [1] He evidently gave his new co-religionists a great deal of valuable information, for the affair brought in its wake a heavy crop of searches, torture and arrests, which disrupted the work in a district where previously things had been going reasonably well. Numerous peasants were beaten, and in the process, two actually died, without divulging anything; twenty people were gaoled, and a quantity of precious arms, including twenty Manlicher rifles and 150 bombs, were discovered and lost to the movement. [2] The neighbouring Serres District was also adversely affected: a number of leading comrades were gaoled, among them the entire District Committee.


Indzheto was not the only problem in the Demir Hisar District. Serious quarrels had erupted among the District leaders, some of whom were opposed to Stoyu Hadzhiev. From the sparse, and often uncorroborated, evidence available, it is difficult to gain a detailed picture of the situation, but there appears to have been yet another attempt on the part of Supremist-oriented persons to take over the District. Demir Hisar had long been an object of Supremist attention, and its former voivoda, the illiterate ex-haramiya Dyado Iliya Kŭrchovaliyata, still had local supporters who



1. For details see memoirs of Stoyan Stoyanov, recorded by Ivan Harizanov, TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 2, pp. 51-58. Stoyanov was then one of the leaders of the Demir Hisar District.


2. Minutes of Regional Congress 1907. TRA, f. 226, op. 1, a.e. 279 and 280.





resented the appointment of Stoyu Hadzhiev. One of the trouble-makers was Georgi Zankov, who had come from Sofia on the invitation of Daev, and had been sent to help Stoyu in the Demir Hisar District. Here, according to Ivan Harizanov, [3] he became involved in local ‘civil wars’, and was sentenced to be disarmed and sent back to the Principality. The order was eventually rescinded, but Zankov went to Sofia of his own volition, together with another of Stoyu’s opponents—a woman named Tsveta Bozhova, who was the District Treasurer. In Sofia Zankov met Stoyu, who was still in the Principality buying arms and other supplies, and he also had discussions with Garvanov and Petŭr Gudev, who was then both Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior. [4] Zankov and Bozhova returned to Macedonia during the summer of 1907, together with Stefan Chavdara, who was Daev’s assistant in the Drama District, and a dozen or so chetnitsi sent by Garvanov and Sarafov. According to Ivan Harizanov, they were soon involved in fresh conflicts with the regional leaders, but were treated with comparative leniency and managed to avoid drastic punishment.


If the Demir Hisar District was in a far-from-satisfactory state, so also was the Drama District, owing to the equivocal behaviour of its voivoda, Mihail Daev, who had remained in the Principality for a prolonged period after the Pastra incident, and who, on his return, had been guilty of certain ‘irregularities’ and of ‘exceeding his authority’.


Mihail Daev was a very charming and handsome young man, with progressive views and a gay, artistic nature. Born of rich parents in Balchik, a small town to the north of Varna, he had participated in the 1903 Rising in Strandzha, and arrived in the Serres Region under the influence of Petko Penchev, who came from the same part of the country and was his friend. In Macedonia, Daev soon endeared himself to one and all, with his sunny disposition and unfailing courage. Yané himself was deeply attached to him, as, indeed, he was to most of those who offered their lives and services to the Cause. The bold punitive actions which Daev, together with Panitsa, Peyu Radev, Dimitŭr Zapryanov, Chavdara and others, carried out against Greeks who killed Bulgarians, did much to raise the prestige of the Organization. Thus it was Daev whom the Regional Committee sent to execute Sarafov at the beginning of 1905. But in Sofia, he had fallen under the influence of his victim and of Garvanov, and his friend Penchev had, without much difficulty, persuaded him to abandon the idea. [5] The amnesty voted by the Rila Congress had temporarily saved both Sarafov and Daev from being called to account for their several



3. TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 8.


4. See Zankov’s own statement recorded in the Minutes of the Third Congress of the Serres Region, TPA, f. 226, op. 1, a.e. 279 and f. 226, op. 1, a.e. 280. Zankov also mentions his meeting with Garvanov in an article written by himself, Bozhova, Chavdara and Zapryanov in Ilinden (No. 25, 27.II.1908), and says that it was at this point that he went over to Garvanov’s side.


5. Ivan Harizanov, TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 8, pp. 18-19.





offences. Further suspicion gathered around Daev when no action was taken against him by the authorities, either over the Pastra incident, or over a further incident in which he wounded a cavalry captain in a Sofia beer-house. Daev remained in the capital, but did not suffer the persecution meted out to the other Serchani.


When he finally returned to his District in the late spring of 1907, he aroused fresh suspicion by propagating ideas that smacked of Supremism, and he blotted his copybook still further with a disastrously unsuccessful attempt to kidnap a British colonel for ransom, undertaken without prior consultation with the Regional Committee.


On July 31, 1907, Daev and his comrades—who included Buynov and Panitsa—managed to seize Colonel Elliot as he was taking an early morning stroll in the village of Gyuredzhik. Unfortunately for the kidnappers, an Armenian lady, who was staying in the same house as the Colonel, saw what was happening through the window and she gave the alarm. Soldiers and gendarmes immediately gave chase and began shooting. In the ensuing confusion, Colonel Elliot broke free, drew his revolver, which his captors had neglected to remove, shot one chetnik dead, and wounded Panitsa and another man—the latter so badly that he became paralyzed, and his comrades, unable to carry him away, put him out of his misery with a bullet.


Seventeen peasants, including the village headman, were subsequently arrested and charged with complicity in the kidnapping. Elliot gave evidence at their trial in Salonika (August 13, new style), and eight of them were found guilty. The village headman and two others were each sentenced to twelve years imprisonment, while of the other five—who were found guilty solely on Elliot’s evidence that he had seen komiti leaving their houses—three were sentenced to five years, and two to three years only, in view of their advanced age (both were over seventy and very infirm, according to the British Consul-General). [6]



6. Colonel Elliot’s own report of the kidnapping is in the Public Record Office, London, P.O. 371/353, pp. 469-470. The trial is described by R.W. Graves, the British Consul-General in Salonika, who was present throughout. See Ibid., p. 493.


In his report, Colonel Elliot who was attached to the Turkish Gendarmerie in the Drama Sanjak, makes no mention of the reason for his presence in Gyuredzhik. A Bulgarian source says that, after Elliot had arrived in Kavalla to inspect the British officers serving with the Turkish Gendarmerie, Daev lured him to Gyuredzhik by sending him a letter describing the terror suffered by the inhabitants owing to the billeting of Turkish soldiers there. Elliot is said to have agreed to be present at an inquiry, and the arrangement for the two men to meet were made through the headman, who was the only villager privy to Daev’s real intentions. According to the same source, most of the persons arrested were peasants who had gone to Elliot’s quarters in good faith in order to lodge complaints against the Turks. On the subject of Elliot’s revolver, which the Colonel himself says remained undiscovered by the kidnappers, Panitsa’s wife records in her memoirs (presumably based on what Panitsa himself told her) that her husband thought that everything had been pre-arranged between Daev and the Colonel, and therefore he insisted that Elliot be allowed to





Yané took the problems and disasters in his stride. Undismayed, he continued to move about the Region, carrying out routine tasks of inspection and administration. In March, he allowed his cheta to rest for a while in the Vlah village of Lopovo. The highest and remotest of all the Pirin villages, it was a place of natural peace and beauty, surrounded by forests and meadows, and watered by a mountain stream as clear as glass. At that time of the year, most of the Vlah inhabitants were still far to the south, on the mild snowless pastures beside the Aegean, but what was unacceptable to shepherds and their flocks represented a comfortable haven for Yané’s spartan men, and they would frequently seek shelter and security in the half-deserted village.


This time, the Turks got wind of Yané’s presence, and army units set out from Nevrokop, hoping to catch him in his lair. Yané, however, was more than a match for them. He positioned his men, reinforced by local militia, at all the key points leading to the village, so that the advancing Turks were surprised and beaten back. Vlah carriers, hauling logs down to a sawmill, further lowered the soldiers’ morale by advising them to go back at once because the village and the heights above were full of komiti who would not allow even a bird to fly over them. After two days fighting, the Turks gave up and withdrew to the more congenial plain. [7]


Another of Yané’s strongholds was the village of Kashina, which was a few miles down-stream from Lopovo, on the sunny, southern slopes of Pirin, low enough to be clear of the dark forests, and yet high enough to be hard of access for the Turkish authorities. The name of the village was derived from Kashik, the Turkish word for ‘spoon’, for there was little fertile land in the vicinity and the inhabitants supplemented their meagre income by making and selling wooden spoons. There was a great variety of wood available, for walnuts, plums, pears, apples, mulberries, elms, oaks, willows, hornbeams and hazels grew in profusion on either side of the channel which diverted water from the river to the village, and above it there were mixed forests of beeches, pines and other trees. The valley of the Lopovo River above Kashina was Yané’s special kingdom and retreat. No one could surprise him there because the valley is so narrow and its sides so precipitous that there is, in effect, only one way in, and a couple of sentries posted on a rock could ensure complete security and hold an army at bay. The path, carpeted with the rustling copper of fallen beech leaves, follows the river ever higher and higher, crossing and re-crossing its swift, clear waters in search of a foothold on the steep banks. At one place the river plunges sixty or more feet over the rocks in a water-



keep his weapon. See Plenyavane na angliiskiya polkovnik Eliot (The capture of the English Colonel Elliot), Ilyustratsia llinden 8 (38), 9 (39), 1934. Article by Stefan Avramov, based on the memoirs of Toncho Hadzhi Stoenchev and Vasil Shumenkov. See also memoirs of Ekaterina Izmirlieva-Panitsa, Izvestiya na Instituta za Istoriya, Vol. 12, 1963, pp. 144-145.


7. Filyanov, Opus cit., pp. 53-54.





fall known as Skoko— the Leap, whose spray floats down like mist onto a carpet of vivid emerald moss. Beyond the waterfall, the ravine widens into a little meadow, on which the cheta used to rest, and where, according to local people, Yané and his men held a solemn memorial meeting for Gotsé on the first anniversary of his death. Nearby is the Raven’s Rock, an awesome cliff, which rises out of the zdravets-scented [8] shadows of the forest to a height of some eight or nine hundred feet, and, near the base of the Rock, there is a cave, difficult to reach and barely discernible, in which the cheta would store their guns and ammunition.


When Yané came to Kashina, he always stayed in the house of an old woman named Zdravka, on the edge of the higher part of the village. From here, in the event of an emergency, he could easily slip away into the wilds of his beautiful ‘kingdom’. Zdravka was a great character. Black-eyed and merry, she was so diminutive in size that people called her ‘Kunda’ [9] Zdravka, but she was full of spirit, and she would chaff Yané, call him names, and even swear at him in a way that nobody else would dare to do, and he would take it all in good part, while his comrades split their sides with laughter. When he arrived, she would say: ‘What, you again? Anyone would think I was dying to see you, or needed you. Brother Yané, I can’t stand it any more. Either kill me, or go to another house.’ When Yané explained that her house suited him, she retorted: ‘Is it made of gold then, or smeared with honey?’ He replied that she would have to put up with him until Macedonia was free, and then he would take her to see Salonika, but she declared that she would never live to see the day. Once, when Yané inquired what she was cooking for him, she called him ‘a plague’, and said that she had not even cleaned her house, and there was he asking about food. Yané suggested that she ask her daughter-in-law to help her, but Baba Zdravka replied that Yané had filled her house with serpents and that no girl would consent to live in a den of snakes. Often she would upbraid him for undertaking a seemingly hopeless task: ‘You shoulder your gun and go from village to village, with a sword in your belt, like some beggar. If you were sensible, you’d have a wife and children.’ ‘I have lots of children,’ Yané protested, referring to his chetnitsi, ‘not only these, but lots.’ ‘These children of yours are also off their heads!’ the old woman snapped. Once she pressed him further: ‘Yané, if you free Macedonia, will you get married? Who knows what fine lady from Salonika you’ll choose.’


‘I’m already married to two,’ Yané answered.


‘Bring them for me to see,’ Baba Zdravka demanded.



8. Zdravets (geranium macrorrhizum) is a form of scented cranesbill, which grows wild, in great profusion, in the forests of S.E. Europe. The Bulgarian name is derived from a word meaning ‘health’, and zdravets is widely used in folk rituals as a symbol of good luck.


9. From a Greek word kontos—meaning ‘short’.





‘They’re here—here they are,’ he said, pointing to his gun and his yataghan.


‘The devil take both your brides!’ cried the old woman, and so the sparks would fly, half in jest and half in earnest.


One Sunday in June, 1907, Yané and his ‘children’ were in Kashina, dancing the horo, together with the villagers, on a threshing floor, to the music of a drum and bagpipe, when a sentry reported that large numbers of Turkish soldiers were approaching Kashina from several directions. Yané was all for standing his ground and giving battle, but Baba Zdravka, who had been busy cooking for the cheta, ran up and addressed him without ceremony: ‘The devil take you, Yané! Go break your head! Off with you, because the troops are on the ridge, and you’ll burn down the village if you don’t make yourselves scarce!’


Yané obeyed the tiny spitfire, abandoned his intention of fighting, and led his men up along the water channel towards the river. Some of the women and girls went with them to collect dry sticks outside the village. A sudden mist came down, hiding the cheta from Turkish eyes, and the women returned to the village. They were met by soldiers, who asked them where they had been, and they said that they had been taking food to shepherds. The Turks let them go, but seized twenty or thirty of the men, and began to torture them in an attempt to discover where Yané was. It was Baba Zdravka who saved the situation. She boldly demanded to see the most important Turk, and spoke to him as directly and cogently as she spoke to Yané, telling him that there was no point in torturing innocent people so that they would not be able to work and pay taxes, that Yané had been in the village an hour and a half previously, but that he had left and was now on the heights above, with a vast quantity of men, watching what the Turks would do. Complaining that the Sultan was powerless to deal with the komiti, she invited the Turks to come and eat the food which she had prepared for the cheta, and their officer took the line of least resistance and agreed. After they had eaten, the Turks set out for Melnik, and the cheta returned to the village. [10]


On August 22, 1907, the annual Regional Congress met in the village of Lovcha. After a few days, it moved to Libyahovo and then to Beltuntsi, presumably for security reasons. Earlier in the year, the Turks had surprised the Strumitsa Regional Congress, scattering the delegates and arresting many of them, and therefore Yané had brought his whole cheta to guard the Serres Congress, lest a similar disaster occur when the ‘flower of the Region’s intelligentsia’ [11] was gathered together in one place. There were 21 delegates [12] in all, and the Congress was opened, according to traditional



10. See Memoirs of Georgi Panchev, OIM Blagoevgrad No. 2984; see also Filyanov, Opus cit., pp. 32-35.


11. Arnaudov, Opus cit., p. 18.


12. They included Yané, Chudomir, Kazepov, Dimitŭr Ikonomov, Dimitŭr Arnaudov, Panitsa, Buynov, Stoyu Hadzhiev, Panitsa’s wife Ekaterina and Taskata Sersky, who





Bulgarian practice, by Yané, who, at the age of thirty-five, was the oldest person present. The meeting then elected, by a show of hands, a bureau consisting of Yané (Chairman), Dimitŭr Arnaudov (Vice-chairman) and five secretaries, including Chudomir, whose signature appears with Yané’s on the minutes of every session. The Congress began by paying homage to comrades who had died during the past year, and then elected two commissions—one to examine the delegates’ credentials and one to prepare an agenda.


The first sessions were devoted to reports on the situation in each of the six districts. The reports were very frank, and often critical, and they revealed all kinds of problems and irregularities, such as unaudited accounts, unfulfilled decisions, buck-passing, squabbles between local workers, non-functioning committees, villages without an effective militia, difficulties arising from the influx of Albanian thugs into the Melnik area, Supremist influence in Vlahi, Ploski and Lyubovka, excessively long absences of certain voivodi—Daev, in particular—from their districts, the adverse consequences of ‘affairs’, shortcomings in the courier services and frontier posts, the lack of educated cadres in the Region, the inordinate prevalence of theft and smuggling in the village of Obidim, etc., etc.


The Congress discussed all these problems and irregularities, and took decisions aimed at their elimination. One of the questions on which Yané himself spoke was the unsatisfactory state of the village militia. He considered that military training should be obligatory for all able-bodied members of the Organization, and recommended that all the districts should appoint instructors for the purpose, and that a special independent Regional military council of old and tried comrades be set up to organize military training. Chudomir agreed with him, but expressed doubts as to the wisdom of having two independent bodies in the Region, and recommended that the military council should be attached to the Regional Committee, but should have autonomous rights. The Congress accepted Chudomir’s amendment, and two members of the Regional Committee were charged with forming a military council to organize compulsory training. They were to act autonomously and were accountable only to the Congress.


Cultural, economic and educational questions did not receive as much attention as they normally did at Serres Congresses, because the delegates considered that they had been sufficiently discussed and clarified at the previous Congress, and they voted for all the old decisions to remain in force. According to one of the delegates, Stoyan Stoyanov, from the village of Krushevo, Yané talked at some length on the question of how chetnitsi should be dressed and how they should comport themselves. Some delegates were in favour of the chetnitsi dressing like peasants and



was the sole representative of the Serres District, although it was entitled to four delegates.





being indistinguishable from them. Yané took the opposite point of view: according to him, the chetnitsi should set an example of neatness and cleanliness, and should not wear beards. This last remark evidently turned all eyes to Yané’s own black beard, carefully groomed and forked like that of a Russian General. Sensing their amusement, he said: ‘Don’t look at me. I’m already an old man; the people are used to my beard, and they’ll think me a demagogue if I shave it off.’ [13]


The Congress was critical of the Bulgarian Government, which it accused of using the liberation movement for its own interests and those of the monarchy, of trying to undermine the independence of the Organization, and of sowing dissention within its ranks. These accusations were, of course, not directed against the general public in Bulgaria, and when, in view of the ever-pressing problem of funds, Buynov proposed that the Congress consider how to take full material advantage of the emigré community in the Principality, Yané did not oppose the idea, for there was a world of political difference between accepting aid from a government and aid from individuals. Nevertheless, he reminded the delegates of the need to be very cautious in all relations with emigrés: ‘Such relations must be very formal, because any intimacy can lead to harm. Let us make use of the emigrés materially, but let us not enter into intimate relations with them. They are always weak-willed and much influenced by the Bulgarian Government, and can very easily become a channel for the furtherance of its interests.’


At the end of the discussion, the Congress empowered the Regional Committee to ‘utilize the emigrés materially, while dealing with some of them who hindered the Organization, and while being very cautious and formal in its relations with them’. The main resolution on finance stated: ‘The Congress stresses the principle that the Organization must have its own financial means, as the guarantee of its independence. It creates sources by purely revolutionary means, and utterly rejects all material aid given by interested states which defile its independence."


Under the item ‘external policy of the Organization’, Buynov made the following statement: ‘The Organization must determine its attitude towards the European powers, on the one hand, and towards the neighbouring Balkan States, on the other, and, in particular, towards Bulgaria. For some time now, the European powers have been intervening in the affairs of the Turkish State with actions for reforms. In order to assess the significance of the reforms and our attitude towards them, we must make a separate analysis of the reasons for European intervention. It would be very naive to imagine that the European powers have engaged themselves in the affairs of Turkey out of good will and humanitarian feelings towards the tormented enslaved population. The reasons for this



13. See memoirs of Stoyan Stoyanov, recorded by Ivan Harizanov, TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 2, p. 49, and f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 8.





are of another order. From every point of view, Turkish territory represents a rich field for the investment of European capital, which is trying to break through with all the means at its disposal. In other words, European capitalists are much interested in Turkish affairs, and it is well known that the policies of states are dictated by their capital. This is the reason for the intervention—the purely economic interests of the states concerned. The capital invested in Turkey will, of necessity, find itself in opposition to the interests of the population, and, when it feels itself threatened, it will use all means through its states to defend its own interests. The Organization must properly define its attitude to the reforms, it must study the aims which they pursue, and it must determine the means which it will have to use against them. And thus, the measures for reform, under the veil of humanity and good-will necessary to deceive the enslaved population, pursue purely selfish aims. These aims are to maintain affairs in Turkey in apparent order, since order is an essential condition for the success of enterprises, and, at the same time, through this apparent order, to keep the dying Turkish state going for as long as possible, so that their capital can be well established, so as to have full economic power over the population after the disappearance of Turkey. In order to avoid the ugly economic slavery which Europe is preparing for the population, the Organization must oppose European capital with all the means at its disposal and take firm positions against it. It can only do this by explaining the significance and aims of the reforms as widely as possible, by strengthening the spirit of the population and by firmly leading the economic struggle. This requires the Organization to penetrate as widely as possible into the urban working population and intelligentsia, since they are in the places where capital is first invested and it is they upon whom the Organization must lean.’


A delegate from Demir Hisar (referred to in the Minutes by a pseudonym) said: ‘It is well known that not all the Powers are equally interested in Macedonian matters, and that they have conflicting interests here. The interests of Britain, for example, are directly opposed to those of Germany, thus preventing the latter from carrying out all it would like to here. The tangled interests of the European Powers are cleverly exploited by the Sultan for his own long-term consolidation, but, on the other hand, they represent a factor which is very favourable to the Organization, because they slow down the penetration of the directly interested states, and give the Organization time to prepare itself for the struggle against them. The Organization, however, must not pin hopes on anyone but itself. International relations on Macedonian questions are conditioned exclusively by the interests of various states, which will always defend them to the end, without the Organization being able to influence them in any way. Consequently, as a revolutionary organization, its work is to endeavour, using all available means, to consolidate itself in the struggle against foreign capital, by tightening up the organization of





the population, by strengthening the links between the Organization’s separate districts and regions, so that they form one common whole, with well understood common interests, and by making all possible efforts to penetrate deeply and firmly predominantly in the most vital centres of the country.’


The views expressed by the two speakers quoted above formed the basis of the resolution adopted by the Congress after others had contributed to the discussion.


At the morning session on the following day, the delegates considered the problems of national propagandas. It was generally agreed that, since all national propaganda had an acquisitive character, it fanned national hatred among the enslaved population and hindered the proper development of the cause of liberation. Buynov again took the floor, and his speech was minuted as follows: ‘The development of the revolutionary movement considerably threatens the peace of Turkey. She does not feel sufficiently strong to wage a struggle to enforce order. Turkey studies all the surrounding factors interested in the solution of the problem, and seeing the involvement of Serbia and Greece, she provokes and encourages national hatreds. Here we can already see the clever policy of Hilmi Pasha, which seeks to deflect the Organization from its purely revolutionary path and supports foreign armed propagandas as long as they dissipate their energies in internal civil strife. For the Organization, having in mind the interests of the cause of liberation, there is only one road—to deal most categorically with all armed national propagandas, giving them what they deserve. The propagandas are not a temporary phenomenon in the interior—they are dictated by the deep-seated economic interests of the states concerned, which are not over-particular in their choice of means. These national hatreds have tormented the western areas for more than three or four years. They absorb our energies and hinder the proper development of the Organization. These struggles are being waged under conditions which are extremely awkward for us: the proximity of the frontiers, large cheti with haramiya tactics, relatively little pursuit by the Turkish army—these are conditions sufficiently favourable for their existence.’


Taskata Sersky recommended relieving some of the better and more active comrades of their district duties and sending them to work in the threatened western areas of Macedonia. He suggested speedy consultation with the Strumitsa comrades about filling the gaps in the Salonika and Skopje Regions.


In conclusion, the delegates adopted a resolution which ran as follows: ‘Congress considers that the chief reasons for the worsening situation in the western areas are the constant internal, internecine strife and the absence of sensible organizational activity. It sees the constant replenishing of these provinces with new, educated forces, with firm discipline as a guarantee for an improvement in the situation. The need for united





collective action is more than imperative. Taking note of the recent shocks and storms provoked by the indiscriminate entry of mass cheti into these areas, it lays sole responsibility upon the Bulgarian Government and those workers from the ranks of the Organization who have fallen under its influence. Perplexed by the situation created, and having regard for the integrity of the Organization, it considers that the Region has a duty towards the population, which is constantly being subjected to ruin. It proposes that help in the form of people and means be sent speedily and in good time. It instructs the Regional Committee, in conjunction with the Strumitsa comrades, to consider methods and plans for the realization of the above decision according to the forces available.’


Under the heading ‘the unity of the Organization’, the Minutes contain one short and categoric decision: ‘The Congress considers unity within the Organization as the chief guarantee of its success. It regards all externally inspired factional groupings as the fruit of alien interference, harmful to the independence and integrity of the Organization, and it appeals to all those active in the interior highly to value this independence.’


When the delegates turned their attention to the Higher Institutions of the Organization, Yané spoke on the role and activities of the Central Committee and the External Representatives, and stated that hitherto these institutions had done nothing because they had not acquired the necessary authority. He said it was a fact that everyone—both legal and illegal workers—turned for everything to the External Representatives, so that they had become a factor which had usurped the rights of the internal Higher Institutions, and therefore he proposed that they be abolished. Chudomir voiced the opinion that even if there were no External Representatives, there would still have to be people who would link the Internal Organization with the outer world. Yané insisted that there was no need for anything of the sort, and that, when necessary, special people could be sent from the interior, and that the need could partly be met by the editors of the Organization’s newspaper. The Congress accepted his arguments, and passed a resolution blaming the External Representatives for the non-functioning of the Central Committee. The current External Representatives were, of course, the three right-wingers Matov, Garvanov and Sarafov.


Among the other more important decisions of the Congress was a resolution stressing the need for closer relations with other revolutionary organizations, in particular with Armenian and Russian organizations, and calling on the Regional Committee to take the necessary steps. Another matter which engaged the attention of the delegates was the lack of a newspaper to propagate the aims and ideals of the Organization. They decided to publish a regional organ and earmarked a considerable part of the Region’s annual budget for the purpose.


Experience had shown that the Right-Wing ‘Consultative Meeting’ had not been entirely off the mark when it had criticized the Statute and





Rules adopted by the Rila Congress as unworkable. The Serres Congress also decided that their provisions were, in many respects, impracticable, and it empowered the new Regional Committee to appoint a commission which would prepare revised drafts for submission to the next General Congress. It is significant that, even in the face of the widening rift between the two wings of the Organization, the Serchani continued to think in terms of a future General Congress of the whole Organization, and optimistically elected seven delegates and three reserves to represent the Region in the event of such a Congress taking place.


After hearing the report of the delegates to the ill-fated General Congress of 1906, the Congress passed the following resolution: ‘The Congress approved the behaviour of the delegates. By their conduct, they prevented the legalization of a course contrary to the spirit of the Organization and its independence. It lays upon its future mandated representatives the obligation to be more categoric and to value the independence and purity of the Organization."


On September 1st, at the fifteenth session of the Congress, the delegates considered the troubles in the Demir Hisar District, and listened to various explanations from the District Chairman and from Zankov and Bozhova. [14] Almost everyone came in for criticism. According to the Minutes, Yané severely criticized the behaviour of the District Committee during the Indzheto affair and in relation to Zankov. The latter he criticized for trying to undermine Stoyu’s authority during his absence, and he also condemned the meetings between Zankov, Bozhova, Garvanov and Gudev as undesirable in view of the position in which the Organization found itself. Chudomir, who had recently been in the Demir Hisar District, also criticized Zankov’s behaviour in relation to Stoyu. Stoyu himself admitted that he was partly to blame for the state of affairs in his district, and said that he had prolonged his stay in Sofia because Zankov and Bozhova had put him in a very awkward position.


At the end of the discussion, the delegates adopted the following



14. According to Panitsa’s wife, Ekaterina Izmirlieva, Zankov and Bozhova were brought to the Congress under arrest, but, after long explanations, they had been allowed to remain as observers. See Memoirs of Ekaterina Izmirlieva-Panitsa published by Boyan Mirchev in Izvestiya na Instituta za Istoriya, Vol. 12, 1963. Ekaterina Izmirlieva was a delegate to the Congress and figures in the Minutes under the pseudonym ‘Kovalevska’, while Bozhova is referred to as ‘Skot’. In an article in Ilinden, (No. 25, 27.II.1908) Zankov and Bozhova allege that they arrived at the Congress without credentials because too short notice was given, and that this was why they were accepted only as observers. In general, they describe the Congress as a piece of gerrymandering on Yané’s part. They do not, however, mention that they were censured by the Congress, and there are other discrepancies between what is contained in their article and what is recorded in the Minutes signed by twenty-two delegates. As regards the accusation that too short notice was given, there is evidence that Yané told the Razlog District Committee as early as June 24, 1907, during a visit to Bansko, to convene a district congress to elect delegates for the Regional Congress. See Memoirs of Hristo Kirov, p. 38.





resolution: ‘The Congress censures the District Committee for its extreme inactivity, and it censures Zankov for his unseemly behaviour towards Stoyu, punishes him with a written reprimand and deprives him of the right to remain in the Demir Hisar District. It censures Stoyu with a written reprimand for not returning on time to his district.’ [15]


Daev, who had not been elected as a delegate to the Congress, also came in for considerable criticism, not only because he had been the chief instigator of the Elliot affair, which had already been condemned by the Regional Committee as irresponsible and harmful, but also because of his general conduct and the state of his district. Dimitŭr Zapryanov and Stefan Chavdara informed the delegates that Daev had been urging them to go over to Garvanov and Sarafov because the Organization had insufficient funds and needed the financial help of the Bulgarian Government in order to buy arms. [16] A commission, consisting of Yané, Chudomir, Skrizhovsky and Taskata Sersky, was elected to examine the situation in the Drama District, and, having found Daev in the village of Kalopot, the commission confronted him with their criticisms and suspicions. Daev immediately admitted his guilt, begged for forgiveness, and promised, with tears in his eyes, that in future he would adhere strictly to the principles of the Organization. Exploiting his histrionic powers to the utmost, he gave so emotional a display of contrition that the commission was also moved. Yané, however, hardened his heart and asked for a guarantee of his sincerity. Daev offered his solemn word as a revolutionary, and, when Yané said that it was not enough, he offered a written guarantee, and wrote the following declaration:


‘I, the undersigned Mihail Daev, Drama District Voivoda, in the presence of the commission charged by the Regional Congress to examine the situation in the Drama District, and the members of the Regional Committee, declare the following: I admit the mistake made last year at the time of the General Congress, and my bad behaviour towards my comrades of the Serres Region, whose standpoint I have deviated from and abandoned; I admit that I am directly responsible for the disorderly situation in the Drama District, by



15. Stoyu seems to have taken his reprimand gracefully, and he remained Yané’s comrade to the end. Zankov and Bozhova left the Serres Region for Sofia in the autumn of 1907. On the way they met the American Journalist, Arthur Smith, in Kovachevitsa, and travelled with him to the Principality. Zankov remained an opponent of the Serchani, but Bozhova eventually made it up with them, and, in July 1908, she went to live in Series and appeared to be on excellent terms with such people as Taskata, Panitsa, Skrizhovsky, Yané and Buynov. See TDIA, f. 176, op. 2, a.e. 1068, pp. 51-52. (Report of Bulgarian Consul in Serres to Geshov, dated 12.VI.1911.)


16. From written comments made on Miladin Apostolov’s book, Yané Sandansky by Kocho Pavlov and Kostandin Tityanov, of the town of Gotsé Delchev, former comrades of Yané, Panitsa, etc.





reason of my long absence, which, I realize, had an adverse influence on discipline and on good control over my comrades the chetnitsi. ‘In conclusion, taking note of the above and being conscious of my duties and responsibility, I make the following declaration: in future I accept and associate myself with the views of my comrades in the Region. I will endeavour to correct my errors and weaknesses, while, at the same time, striving to satisfy the needs of the District.


Drama District Voivoda:


M.T. Daev.’ [17]


22 September 1907


Yané then left Kalopot and went to the Nevrokop area, where he had left part of his cheta. One evening, after they had supped and sung some songs, they set out from Libyahovo on their way back to Melnik. They had intended to rest during the day in Lŭki, but, as they approached the village, the last men in the column ran into a Turk, who took fright, fired at them and fled into the darkness. Since the man was from Lŭki, Yané decided to change his plans, and the cheta set out for Lovcha where there were no Turks. They had not gone far, when they saw some Turkish soldiers, and immediately released the safety catches of their guns. The Turks heard the clicks, but were so taken by surprise that they could not even unsling their guns before they saw the komiti in the moonlight, with their guns at the ready. The Turks merely said: ‘Who are you?’ The Bulgarians calmly replied that they were travellers, whereupon the Turks said: ‘Since you are travellers, go on your way,’ and lined up at the side of the road, with their guns still on their shoulders. The Bulgarians then said: ‘Well met, comrades’ and the Turks returned the greeting. The cheta moved off into the night, and it was the Turks who went to sleep in Lŭki.


The cheta arrived safely in Lovcha, where they heard a suit involving the exploitation of a forest situated between Lovcha and Gaitaninovo. Interim judgement was given as follows: both villages could use the forest for water and pasture, but neither village was to cut wood, since there were other adequate sources. Both sides were to appear before the Macedonian courts after the country was free for a final settlement of the case. [18]


Daev had, in fact, escaped very lightly, without punishment and without demotion. It was, indeed, a case of a soft answer turning away wrath. All further investigation was suspended, and the commission had left with the happy feeling of having gathered a lost sheep into the fold. The ‘sheep’, however, had managed to pull the wool over their eyes. Daev had readily



17. From the Second Open Letter of the Regional Committee of the Serres Revolutionary Region. Kambana, No. 221, 31.V.1908. The originals of this and other letters said to have been written by Daev and quoted in the two Open Letters of the Series Regional Committee published in Kambana have not so far come to light.


18. Arnaudov, Opus cit., p. 19.





confessed to the charges brought against him because they were relatively minor in comparison with the secret that the commission had not yet discovered: namely, that Daev was plotting to kill Yané. [19]


After the commission had departed, Daev wrote the following letter to Garvanov and Penchev:


‘Dear Ivan and you, Petko,


I sent a person specially to the consul in Salonika—that is, I did what was necessary on my part. You, too, do your part. The reason for my lack of success up till now was Panitsa’s refusal to accept our ideas. Now it’s already a fait accompli—he is with us. As for that, do you know what it means for me? A victory over our adversaries.


They got me in a real tight corner this time. They were within an inch of trapping me, but again I escaped by making a declaration that I was a loyal subject of the Region. If you are thinking of helping this people, then you must first and foremost weaken the Serres Region, which will always be a thorn in your flesh as long as it is in Sandansky’s hands.


‘I repeat—if Sandansky is not crushed, there can be no question of unifying the Organization, and the success of the cause of liberation depends on this.


‘Listen carefully to what Panitsa will tell you. The plan which he will expound is the best thought-out. For the good of this people, do what you will, but help me in the work I’ve started upon. By crushing the minority, let us become the uniting link in the whole Organization. We shall succeed better if we act without the knowledge of Matov and Sarafov. If you help us in time, then know that our success will be complete. The people are with us.


Accept my cordial greetings:

M.T. Daev.’ [20]


Drama District,



On the same day, Daev sent a letter to Buynov justifying the departure of Panitsa for Sofia: ‘Panitsa has expressed a desire to go to Bulgaria because of his wound. He tells me that it was not properly cleaned, and, as a consequence, causes him a lot of pain. Aware of the seriousness of complications, in the sense of gangrene, I agreed that he should go and gave him ten liri towards the cost of treatment.’



19. Confirmation of this fact comes not only from documents later published by the Serres Regional Committee, but also from Silyanov, who was told by Penchev that Daev had approached him in Sofia with a proposal that Yané be killed, and that Penchev had not approved of the idea, and had referred him to Sarafov, Garvanov and Matov. Silyanov, Opus cit., p. 492.


20. From the Second Open Letter. . . Kambana, No. 221, 31.V.1908.





Daev was, however, mistaken in his man: Panitsa was not with them. He was a true Serres supporter, and remained so to the end of his life. As Daev’s deputy, he had taken part in many actions and had won the admiration of all by his daring. His prestige in the district rose still further, when, in the winter of 1906, he went to the Principality and sold what remained of his property and bought 24 Manlicher rifles and a number of pistols, which he presented to the district chetnitsi. Daev had attempted to win Panitsa for neo-Supremism, but Panitsa had initially paid little attention to him, supposing that the voivoda was merely testing his loyalty. When Panitsa decided to marry his school-teacher fiancée shortly before the Elliot affair, Daev had acted as kum (sponsor), and in the evening a large number of chetnitsi came to greet the bride and bridegroom with bunches of wild flowers.


According to Bulgarian tradition, a young couple hold their kum in the highest honour, and he is considered, by virtue of office, to be a close relative. Tradition, however, counted for nothing when Daev’s letter to Garvanov and Penchev came into Panitsa’s hands, and he realized that his kum was indeed conspiring against the Serchani. Without hesitation, he took the letter to Yané, and on October 10, the Regional Committee sentenced Sarafov, Garvanov and Daev to death.


This terrible decision was not made lightly. More than one of Yané’s contemporaries [21] have borne witness to the reluctance and sorrow with which he and his comrades came to the conclusion that the three must die. In the Rila Monastery, Yané had saved Sarafov from almost certain death, and he had subsequently been criticized by many for so doing. He had given Daev a second chance, and the latter had promised loyalty on one day and planned murder on the next. For too long the Right Wing had been filling the vacuum left by the withdrawal of General Tsonchev. For too long it had been meddling in the affairs of the Serres Region, corrupting activists and sowing dissention. Now there could be no more patience, no more forgiveness, no more second chances.


The three men were condemned to death ‘by virtue of the decisions of the General Congress, recorded in the circulars, and Article 205 of the Rules, paragraph ‘d’, combined with paragraph ‘zh’ of the same article, and on the basis of the documents and facts relating to the uncovered plot’. The ‘decisions of the General Congress’ refer to the conditional amnesty, according to which nobody would be tried for offences committed before November 1, 1905, but, if these offences were repeated, the persons concerned must answer for both old and new offences. Paragraph ‘d’ of Article 205 allows death sentences for ‘leaders of any other body with an aim identical to that of the Organization who refuse to stop working against the Organization’, while paragraph ‘zh’ (the 7th letter of the



21. Pavel Deliradev, Yané Sandansky, 1946, p. 23.

Ivan Harizanov. Article in Izgrev, No. 170, 26.IV.1945.





Cyrillic Alphabet) provides the same penalty for ‘anyone who attempts to split the Organization and to seize part of it’. [22]


If the sins of Sarafov and Daev in the eyes of the Serchani are obvious, those of Garvanov, though less glaring, were equally mortal. Yané regarded Garvanov as a man who, at heart, had always been an enemy of the Organization, who had not substantially changed his views since the days when he had created the Revolutionary Brotherhood in opposition to it, having succeeded in reaching its highest echelon, had proceeded to undermine its policies behind the back of Gotsé Delchev, and who was still continuing to do so. [23]


Daev was the first of the three to die. He was arrested at the end of October, and, in the presence of Buynov and Chudomir, with his usual flamboyant candour, he admitted everything, expressed penitence and asked to be allowed to shoot himself. He was given time to write a number of farewell letters—to the Drama District Committee, to his parents, to Gerdzhikov, and a number of other friends. [24] All of them are dated October 30, 1907; in all of them Daev states that he is going to shoot himself, and in most of them he expresses a realization of his guilt and an acceptance of the justice of the sentence. He was then given his own revolver with one bullet in it, and, before shooting himself, he gazed dreamily at the moon, like the true romantic that he was. Chudomir, who was present, later told Ivan Harizanov that all of them were relieved that he wanted to shoot himself, and they readily agreed to his request, although they ran the risk of his turning the gun on one of them instead. It was for all of them a harrowing and traumatic experience, because they loved him for his many good qualities and his personal charm, and they all genuinely regretted that he had been so led astray. [25]


Of Daev’s guilt there is no question. His farewell letters are superfluous



22. The original death sentence, signed by Yané, Buynov, Chudomir and Skrizhovsky, is preserved in the archive of Ivan Harizanov (TDIA, f. 1508, op. 1, a.e. 469). It is a fairly lengthy document, running to more than 600 words, and contains an explanation of the reasons behind the decision.


23. See Yané’s speech at the Joint Serres-Strumitsa Congress, 1908, reported by Pavel Deliradev, Pŭtepisi iz romantichnoto minalo na Pirin, quoted in Pirinsko Delo, 20.IV.1957. Yané’s view was largely shared by Gyorché Petrov. See Miletich, Vol. VIII, pp. 127-132.


24. The letter to the Drama District Committee and certain letters to private persons in the District were delivered by Panitsa when he went to take over the post of Drama Voivoda in January 1908. (See Statement by ‘Yavorov’ and ‘Doichin’ of the Drama District Committee, dated 4.V.1908, TDIA, f. 1508, op. 1, a.e. 473). Some of the letters, however, including the one written to his parents, were apparently never delivered to the addressees. In its Open Letter, dated December 1907, the Serres Regional Committee promised to publish the letters and other documents later in facsimile form, saying that, for technical reasons, they could not do so then. In its second Open Letter, dated May 1908, the Regional Committee published the text of the letters, saying that they were still unable to give facsimiles.


25. See TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 8.


Silyanov (Opus cit., p. 495) is not correct in assuming that Daev was arrested immediately, and in accusing the Serchani of keeping him ‘between life and death’





as proof, because none other than Petko Penchev himself describes in an article in Ilinden, [26] how Daev approached him and Garvanov with a request that they provide him with a big cheta and arms to struggle against Yané. Penchev praises Daev’s intentions, but says they refused his request and told him to wait for Congress to decide. Daev wrote to him on April 15, 1907 from Lŭdzhene, on the frontier, saying, ‘One of these days you will very much regret that you would not arm me a cheta.’ [27]


Daev’s death did not become generally known until some two or three months later. [28] In the meantime the Serres Regional Committee organized the execution of Garvanov and Sarafov with the meticulous planning characteristic of Yané’s style of work. The actual task of shooting them was entrusted to Panitsa—an ambidextrous marksman, able to hit a watch at a distance of 30 metres—who accepted the assignment ‘with the conviction that he was carrying out a punishment well deserved’. [29] In due course,



for twenty days, during which they used ‘moral torture’ to force him to write farewell letters for them to use as ‘justifying documents’. Daev was still definitely free on October 25-26, when he chaired the Drama District Congress. See Minutes of Drama District Congress. October 25-26, 1907, ODA Blagoevgrad E.P. 30. Pavlov and Tityanov were both at the Congress, and they describe how Daev proposed that the Congress elect a new voivoda in view of his having been censured by the Organization. He suggested that Panitsa take over, but the Congress considered that since Panitsa was now married, it would be difficult for him to lead the cheta. Daev then proposed the names of Stefan Chavdara, Dimitŭr Zapryanov and Dr Astardzhiev, but nobody voted for them, and in the end, Daev was unanimously re-elected voivoda, since it was generally accepted that his declaration of loyalty was sufficient proof of his repentance and good will.


Silyanov’s comments on Daev’s death are extremely tendentious and clearly aimed at whipping up feeling against the Serchani and making them out to be inhuman brutes. In fact, not only did the Serchani not keep him between ‘life and death’ for three weeks, but even from their point of view, there was no need for further ‘justifying documents’ since they already had Daev’s letter to Garvanov and Penchev as proof of his treason. Silyanov and other opponents of the Left also make great play over whether Daev shot himself or was shot. This point is also irrelevant, since there is no question of the Serchani trying to fake an ordinary suicide: they announced to the world that they had sentenced Daev to death, and, whether they allowed him to carry out the sentence himself, or shot him themselves when his hands were bound, his death remains an execution. Memoir material suggests that the second bullet hole established at the exhumation of his grave in 1913 was the result of a coup de grace administered by one of those present.


26. llinden, No. 23, 20.II.1908.


27. Penchev mentions that this letter cannot be reproduced in facsimile for technical reasons, namely, that it was written in pencil. Daev’s request for a cheta and his letter were also mentioned by Penchev to Ivan Harizanov, TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 23, pp. 89-90.


28. The first reports of his death were printed in llinden, No. 7, 18.XII.1907. It was then rumoured that he had been killed in an ambush by Taskata Sersky. Confirmation of his death was given in llinden, No. 19, 6.II.1908, together with a report that, according to rumours current among the peasants, he had seized a revolver from a chetnik and shot himself when he realized that things were hopeless.


29. From the First Open Letter, Kambana, No. 123, 17.II.1908. Legend has it that the assignment was given to Panitsa as a punishment for getting manned. (The





he departed for Sofia, where he made contact with the Right Wing, pretending that he was disenchanted with Yané, and alleging that he was under a cloud, as far as the Serchani were concerned, because of his marriage and his part in the disastrous Elliot Affair. Yané, too, went to Sofia so as to be on hand for last minute consultations. There he met many of his friends, including Anton Strashimirov, Dimitŭr Stefanov, Chernopeev, Petŭr Poparsov, Dr Spisarevsky, Dimo Hadzhidimov, Gyorché Petrov, Peré Toshev and Stoyno Stoynov, as well as his cousin, Ivan Harizanov, with whom he discussed a number of vital questions, including the possibility of publishing a periodical, which he wanted Anton Strashimirov to edit. None of these knew the true reason for Yané’s presence in Sofia. Panitsa was, of course, not invited to these meetings because he was seen by everybody in the company of Sarafov and Garvanov, and was already regarded by the Sofia Sandanisti as a turn-coat.


The Left would often gather in a large private room over the Café Battenberg, and it was here that the American journalist, Arthur Smith, recently returned from his trip with the Nevrokop cheta, met Yané: ‘A table ran down the middle, with almost every chair occupied. The men who filled the seats were tall, limber fellows, hairy, bearded to the eyes, usually, and hard as nails, with the keenness of glance which comes from a life in the open, where ability to see means everything. At the head sat the most picturesque man of the company.


‘He was not very tall, but his broad shoulders and well-proportioned frame made him look extremely powerful. His hair was a reddish shade, as was his rough beard, and his eyes had a strange wild light in them that gave his face a cynical air at times. Yet those same eyes could kindle with the light of kindness, and there was no mistaking the whole-hearted friendship of his hearty grip.


‘ "Sandansky," said Poparsov, introducing us.


‘Yané Sandansky rose to his feet, courteously, and stood until I was seated. So this was Sandansky, I said to myself. The great Sandansky, kidnapper of Miss Stone, the man upon whose head two governments had set a price, the man who had more enemies and more devoted friends than any other in the Balkans. At that very moment, Sandansky was proscribed in Bulgaria—had been since the Stone episode. I had heard much concern-



Organization preferred its ‘illegal’ members to be unmarried, since family ties would prevent their total commitment to the Cause.) Panitsa was indeed censured for his marriage by the Regional Committee, which declared his action to be ‘a bad principle and incompatible with the morals and customs of the country, and impossible under the conditions of our revolutionary life’. The Committee also forbade ‘such things within the Organization’s territory’, and expelled Panitsa’s wife from the Region. The original document, dated 10.IX.1907 and signed by Chudomir and Buynov, is in the Central Archives of the Communist Party in Sofia, (TPA, f. 226, op. 1, a.e. 281, p. 21). Nevertheless, it seems extremely unlikely that Yané would have entrusted so important and tricky a task to an agent acting under compulsion. Panitsa’s whole behaviour, both at the time and subsequently, indicates that he was, indeed, a volunteer convinced of the justice of what he did.





ing him, much that was unfavourable, and much, too, that tended to make him a demi-god. It has always been my personal opinion that Sandansky was more sinned against than sinning. Certainly, by the poor Bulgarian peasants, he was fairly idolized.


‘During the several hours which I had to observe him, he showed to remarkably good effect. He was polite, talkative and friendly. There was constantly about him, though, that weird, wild look of the eyes which, when it was caught unawares, seemed almost insane. I could not fathom it; I have not been able to fathom it, to this day. But it was there. It made you feel uncanny, like looking into something mysterious you knew you had no right to see. Perhaps, I have thought, sometimes, it was the clue to Sandansky, to all the bloody deeds charged against him by his enemies; perhaps it was the cause of the assassination of Sarafov and Garvanov, a month later. I have often wondered.’ [30]


When Poparsov had been conducting Smith from the Café Macedonia to the Café Battenberg, they had seen a bulletin board with a headline announcing Yané’s reported presence in Sofia and a Turkish request for his arrest. When they left, they saw large numbers of police and soldiers moving about the city in the darkness. In the morning Smith received a lurid account from the concierge of how police and soldiers had attempted to arrest Yané, and how the latter had slain seven and made his escape: ‘A terrible fellow, m’sieur, a terrible fellow. A brigand, m’sieur, no less! There is no knowing how many murders he has on his conscience. They do say, m’sieur, that he is blood crazy. He has shed so much blood, he craves it; he cannot live without it. They say he cannot sleep, and his familiar spirit is always with him. He has the evil eye, m’sieur. Ugh, a terr-rr-ible fellow.’ [31]


Smith found this account ‘somewhat exaggerated’. From other, more reliable sources, he learnt that the raid had been merely for ‘show’, to appease the Turkish authorities, that Yané had been forewarned by a gendarme officer, and had slipped quietly away before the cordon was complete.


Yané remained in Sofia for another month, and left for the Rila Monastery shortly before Pahitsa fulfilled his mission.


Apart from Panitsa and the members of the Serres Regional Committee, no one was privy to the plot, not even Chernopeev, who later took offence at Yané’s failure to confide in him.


On the evening of November 29, Panitsa went to Sarafov’s home, No. 36, Osogovo Street, ostensibly for a farewell supper before leaving to join Daev in his mission against Yané. Garvanov was also present, and so was the rest of the Sarafov household, which included his parents, brothers, sister and sister-in-law. After the meal, the family withdrew, leaving the



30. Smith, Opus cit., pp. 348-350.


31. Ibid., pp. 352-353.





three men to talk about the affairs of the Organization, which in practice meant the liquidation of Yané. Around 11 p.m. the two guests rose to leave, and Sarafov escorted them to the door. There, Panitsa paused, turned round, and was heard by the servant-girl to say: ‘There’s just one more question. . .’, and then he shot Sarafov and Garvanov dead. Their bodies fell against the door, so that he could not open it, and he had to go back, past the affrighted servant-girl, through the kitchen door into the yard, and from there into the street.


Panitsa did not make the mistake of trying to leave Sofia at once. He spent the night with relatives, disguised himself in the morning and lay low for most of the day in the Boris Gardens on the eastern outskirts of the city. Having discovered from the newspapers that the police had assumed that he would try to escape into Macedonia via Dupnitsa, he decided to travel in the opposite direction. He took a train to Varna, and went on to Mesembria (Nesebŭr), where his wife had recently obtained a teaching post. He stayed with her for a couple of days, and then walked to Burgas, and took the train for Sofia. He alighted at Saranbey (now Septemvri) and went to Lŭdzhene, where the Organization’s representative, Georgi Vasilev, sent him safely across the frontier.


The murder was, of course, immediately discovered by the family; there was uproar throughout the city, and the police began scouring the country for the killer and his accomplices, both real and imagined. Between five and six hundred people were questioned, and many were flung into gaol, including not only Yané’s obvious friends and associates, such as Chernopeev, Andon Kyoseto, Petŭr Poparsov, Krŭstyu Bŭlgariyata, and Anton Strashimirov—whose Parliamentary immunity was suspended to allow his arrest—but also people whose links with Yané were of the most tenuous. For example, a policeman was arrested simply because he had attended the funeral of Yané’s father, [32] while a photographer named Apostolov was held on suspicion because he had once photographed Yané, and had been hunting a few days before the murders with a chetnik named Petŭr Gluhiya, who had connections with Sarafov. [33] An actor named Lisichev, said to be the ‘brother of Komita Lisichev’, was arrested for trying to obtain a wig and false beard from the National Theatre in Sofia: it was suspected that he might have wanted them for Panitsa. [34] The abbot of the Rila Monastery and two monks were questioned by the police, and said that Yané had been in the Monastery several days before the murders and had left on the day after. [35] Tsveta Bozhova, the ex-Demir



32. Grazhdanin, 23.XII.1907.


33. Ibid., 5.I.1908. According to Vecherna Posbta, Apostolov was a relation of Sarafov’s but a friend of Yané’s, and had been hunting with Petŭr, here referred to as Petŭr Rostov, on the day of the murders (Vecherna Poshta, 12.XII.1907).


34. Vecherna Poshta, 7.XII.1907.


35. Grazhdanin, No. 211, 16.XII.1907. They also stated that Yané had never taken anything by force from the Monastery, No. 213, 18.XII.1907. The pro-Sarafov





Hisar District Treasurer, was detained for a number of days in a police station, together with her daughter, a child of 10 or 12. [36] Panitsa’s wife was arrested and taken to Sofia, but she was released after a few days. The Organization’s representative in Lŭdzhene, Georgi Vasilev, who had helped Panitsa to cross the frontier into Macedonia, was arrested and later he was reported to have committed suicide in custody. The Serchani however, were convinced that he had been murdered, especially since a Supremist supporter took his place as frontier agent.


Quite early on in the investigations, Yané, Panitsa, Chudomir and Buynov were officially declared to be ‘bandits’, and a reward was offered for them dead or alive. [37]


Having left Sofia just in time, accompanied by several chetnitsi, including Mitso Vransky and Petŭr Govedarov, Yané made a brief stop in the house of Ivan Lazarov, who was a bank clerk in the village of Rila. Here all the more educated people—teachers, clerks etc.—were Yané’s faithful friends and supporters. Lazarov’s colleague, S. Chukurov, mentions that Yané was much loved by the local people, who would boast of having met him, and gives the following description of him: ‘always cheerful, smiling, welcoming, talkative, and a great joker, he radiated charm and captivated all those whom he met’. Even during those days of tension, Yané managed to maintain his sunny exterior, and, when Ivan Harizanov’séŭ fiancée, Katerina Nencheva, who was a teacher in the village, asked him if he was not afraid of the wolves in the mountains at night, he laughingly replied: ‘We are their brothers, and we get along with them very well.’ And, after midnight, as if to prove his point, he left the village for the Rila Monastery, where he remained until he had confirmation that Panitsa had fulfilled his mission. The monks were divided in their sympathies between the two wings of the Organization, and the telegraphists were Yané’s friends, so that he was informed of the murders almost immediately. [38]


He then slipped across the frontier to the village of Hŭrsovo (near Gorna Dzhumaya) where he was met by the Gorna Dzhumaya deputy-



Vecherna Poshta (15.XII.1907), however, alleged that Yané terrorized the Abbot and cost the Monastery 20-30,000 leva annually!


36. Grazhdanin, 31.XII.1907.


37. Vecherna Poshta, 7.XII.1907. The failure of the police to capture either Yané or Panitsa was interpreted in various ways. Grazhdanin states that the police were not seriously looking for Yané, because, if they caught him, the Government would have to hand him over to the Turks, something which they were unwilling to do (2.XII.1907). When rumour reported that Panitsa had gone towards Dupnitsa, the army took over the search because the Dupnitsa police were said to be mainly controlled by Yané’s supporters! (Grazhdanin, l.XII and 2.X1I.1907), Vecherna Poshta (2.XII.1907) makes similar allegations, saying that Yané controlled the police, etc., in the area south of Radomir, and that all orders for hunting Panitsa in Dupnitsa were immediately communicated to Yané’s supporters by the telegraphists. The same paper (10.XII.1907) alleges that Yané terrorized the Dupnitsa police, without, however, explaining how this was done.


38. See Memoirs of S. Chukurov, TDIA, f. 1508, op. 1, a.e. 506.





voivoda, Ichko Boichev. On the next day, they moved a little further south to Marulevo, where Yané, Buynov, Chudomir, Ichko and one chetnik—Georgi Penkov—stayed in the house of a man named Georgi Tyufekchiev. Here they were regularly supplied with newspapers from the Principality, brought to them by a courier, and were able to keep in touch with the latest developments in connection with the murders. They would have stayed there some time, had not spies in Gorna Dzhumaya noticed that their host was buying unusual quantities of tea, sugar, lemons and other goods that were considered to be luxuries. Troops were sent to surround the village, but fortunately most of the chetnitsi were billetted in other houses which were outside the cordon, and thus, together with the village militia, they were able to help the surrounded leaders. Yané personally attacked a group of Turks with great courage and ferocity, smashing his way through, and the whole cheta escaped without suffering a single casualty. The Turks lost a man called Pomaka Ali, whose death was the occasion for general rejoicing, since he was considered by all to be the worst man in the district, and had previously terrorized Bulgarians and Turks alike. [39]


From Marulevo, Yané went to Bansko, where he was joined by Panitsa, newly arrived from the Principality, and they all went down the valley of the Mesta to Banichan. Here they met Dimitŭr Arnaudov and crossed the river to spend the day in Marchevo. In the evening they set out for Libyahovo, and, as they passed through the village of Hisarlŭk, some forty inhabitants spontaneously gathered in the church and begged the cheta to hold a meeting, if only for half an hour. Yané agreed, and Buynov took the floor with a morale-boosting speech. This was followed by an effusive oration by the former village leader, who had been demoted for drinking too much. His speech was sufficiently unintentionally funny to provide the cheta with amusement and consolation in recollection when they later sank into bogs, etc., during their hard night’s march.


After coming down onto the Nevrokop plain, the cheta planned to spend the day resting in Libyahovo, but, in the early afternoon, Turkish troops were sighted, coming from the direction of Nevrokop, and the men were obliged to prepare for battle. The Turks arrived, inspected the village in a perfunctory manner, and asked the mayor about komiti. When he replied that there were none, and that the village would certainly not accept such people, the Turks took him at his word and set off to look for komiti elsewhere.


Next day, in the evening, the cheta left Libyahovo for Lovcha. Here the Regional Committee met to consider the new situation and they decided to issue an Open Letter explaining why they had executed Daev, Garvanov and Sarafov. The text was drafted by Buynov, and it was signed by all the



39. This account of the battle in Marulevo is taken from Ichko Boichev’s memoirs, recorded by Ivan Harizanov. TDIA, f. 1508, op. 1, a.e. 593, pp. 8-12. See also TDIA, f. 1508, op. 1, a.e. 541.





‘illegal’ members of the Committee: Yané, Chudomir, Buynov and Skrizhovsky. The ‘legal’ members, whose names were never made public, did not sign it, so that they would not be penalized. The Open Letter began by outlining the political background to the murders—the disastrous consequences to the Organization of interference on the part of the Bulgarian Government and the Supremists; the decisions of the Rila Congress, and the failure of Sarafov and Garvanov to abide by them; the transfer by Garvanov and Sarafov of the centre of gravity from the interior to Sofia, and the sending of Government-financed cheti into the Organization’s territory, etc., etc. It refers to Sarafov as ‘a personality with no ideological views or revolutionary consciousness whatsoever, alien to the interests and fate of the enslaved population, and guided solely by egoistic considerations’, and it accuses him of using Government funds to corrupt people in the interior and to buy personal supporters. The letter also deals with some of the common accusations made against the Serchani, of being ‘internationalists’, and of hating Bulgaria and refusing her help: ‘We do not hate Bulgaria, but we oppose her policy, which is at variance with our ideals and interests, because in the present century such "help" is of doubtful character.’ The Serchani deny that it is they who are the splitters, and state that they have in no way departed from the basic regulations of the Organization, but have, on the contrary, observed them faithfully.


Having dealt with basic political matters, the letter then outlines the history of the plot against the Serres Region, describing the roles played by Penchev, Daev, Garvanov and Sarafov, and the subsequent passing of the death sentences (complete with motivation). With reference to the killing of Garvanov and Sarafov, the letter comments: ‘While planning our death, they themselves became the victims of their own tactics and means. . . B. Sarafov, I. Garvanov and M. Daev were Organization workers; as such they committed a crime, and the Organization had the right to deal with them according to its laws. Consequently, from our point of view, this cannot be considered as revenge or as a criminal act—and we will answer for it only before a general congress of the Organization. On the other hand, however, the Bulgarian Government completely gave away its involvement, and confirmed our thoughts, with its monstrous and cruel measures against innocent people who had nothing to do with it, because, in cases of conspiracy, wide circles of people, other than the immediate participants, are never initiated into the secret.’ [40]


In fact, the numerous arrests and questionings produced no results at all. Until the publication of the Open Letter there was little evidence that anyone other than Panitsa was involved, and no evidence of a plot. [41]



40. The Open Letter, although written soon after the executions, failed to see the light of day until late in February 1908, because no paper would publish it. It was finally published in the Broad Socialist paper Kambana on February 17, 1908, and on the next day Grazhdanin re-printed part of it.


41. Grazhdanin, No. 223, 1.I.1908.





Early in January, the investigating magistrate ended his investigations with the conclusion that only Panitsa, Yané, Chudomir, Buynov, Petŭr Poparsov and Krŭstyu Bŭlgariyata were involved. Since the first four had gone to Macedonia, only the last two were kept in gaol, together with Chernopeev and Andon Kyoseto, who were accused quite separately of killing Supremist chetnitsi in Macedonia. [42] By the end of January, almost all those arrested had been released.


From Lovcha, Yané returned to his own Melnik District, and he and his cheta spent much of the winter in huts near the village of Pirin. It cannot have been a very comfortable time, neither was it entirely peaceful, for Turkish troops were constantly touring the area, looking for the cheta, and the latter was forced into a number of battles with them. The newspaper Grazhdanin reported two such engagements, one between Spanchevo and Chereshn-tsa, [43] and the other near Bozhdovo, in which Yané was said to have been wounded in the leg, [44] although there is no confirmation of this elsewhere, and it does not seem to have affected his mobility.


Sometime in March, he organized a training session for village militia near Lopovo, and was discovered by the Turks. Fighting continued until evening, when Yané gave orders for the men to withdraw towards Bansko, but, above Lopovo, in an area known as the Three Rivers, the snow was so deep that they could not get through, and were forced to turn back towards the village of Pirin. The Turks followed them, and Yané decided to give battle. He stationed his men and waited for the Turks to arrive. In the meantime, however, darkness fell, and the Turks went by without noticing them. [45]


About this time, Yané uncovered yet another plot against his life. The central figure was a teacher named Bozhin Petrov from the village of Pirin, to whom the Turkish authorities had offered a considerable sum of money to kill Yané and Kazepov. He had recruited a number of confederates and was covertly propagating Supremist ideas among the peasants, in an attempt to undermine Yané’s prestige. Before the plot had gone very far, a minor indiscretion on Bozhin’s part aroused Yané’s suspicions about the man’s relations with the Turks; Bozhin was arrested, a full inquiry was held, and finally, in the presence of representatives from all the Melnik villages, he and his chief confederates were sentenced to death. [46]


Once again Yané had been too quick for his enemies, and had neatly buried them in the holes which they had dug for him.



42. Ibid., No. 222, 31.XII.1907; No. 249, 29.I.1908.


43. Ibid., 16.III.1908.     44. Ibid., 31.III.1908.


45. TDIA, f. 1508, op. 1, a.e. 521 (letter dated 18.II.1945, to Ivan Harizanov from Atanas Stoyev Kaftanov and Anton Georgiev Korichkov. Both were from Kovachevo and both were in Yané’s cheta at the time of the events described).


46. Accounts of the case are to be found in the letter written by Atanas Kaftanov and Andon Korichkov (TDIA, f. 1508, op. 1, a.e. 521); in Arnaudov, Opus tit., pp. 20-21; in the memoirs of Georgi Panchev (OIM, Blagoevgrad, No. 2984); in the memoirs of Apostol Popstamatov, and in Filyanov, Opus cit., pp. 48-49.


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