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





Spring came to Pirin, the joyous, prodigal ‘white spring’, when the streams froth and foam with melting snow, and the fruit-trees—plum, pear and cherry—adorn themselves from head to foot in bridal blossom. After the ‘white spring’ comes the ‘green’, when the grass sprouts and the forests burst into leaf, with foliage as bright and fresh as jade. Then flowers in their millions clothe the earth with rainbows, and flame-plumaged hoopoes flash from tree to tree. Gone is the dead, frozen silence of winter, broken only by the wolf-howls of the wind and the explosive crack of trees snapping under the weight of snow. Everything sings and twitters and chirrups—the nightingales in the trees, the swallows under the eaves, the grass-hoppers in the meadows. Together with the cuckoos, the Vlah shepherds returned to Pirin, and bells of differing sizes, tuned in octaves and honey-sweet in tone, added their music to the songs of the birds and the water, as their flocks moved across pastures where the pressure of every step releases the perfume of thyme and marjoram. Born in the season of flowers and nightingales, Yané was appropriately sensitive to the beauty of nature. The springtime moved him deeply and intensified his desire to resolve the contradictions that he saw around him. He did not ask why there was misery and suffering in a world that was so rich and beautiful. He knew why, and he also knew—in broad outline at least— what had to be done.


Sometime in late April or early May, 1908, he called a few of his closest colleagues, including Buynov, Ikonomov, Arnaudov, Chudomir and Panitsa, to a meeting in the southern foothills of Pirin, at a place called Papaz Chair—the Priest’s meadow, which is, in fact, a particularly lovely grassy clearing surrounded by pine forests. The main item for discussion was finance. Opening the meeting, Yané said that, since Prince Ferdinand was much to blame for the debilitating internecine strife which was consuming funds and energy urgently needed for other purposes, he should be made to provide the money for the struggle against his own agents. Yané proposed that they kidnap the Prince for ransom, and the meeting unanimously agreed to the idea. It was decided that they should ambush him while he was travelling by car to Chamkoriya (Borovets) in Rila, where he had a hunting lodge, and that Yané should make the necessary arrangements with their comrades in Dupnitsa, Rila and Samokov. [1]



1. Arnaudov, Opus cit., p. 21.





The idea that miscreants should be made to finance their own downfall was one that strongly appealed to Yané’s sense of justice. Frederick Moore, correspondent of the London Daily Graphic, describes how once he met Yané lying wounded in an unnamed village just inside the Principality. According to Moore, Yané had been shot in a fight with Turkish troops and had crossed the border at night, crawling part of the way on all fours. ‘When, lying in bed, he was told that I was an American, he raised his head and, smilingly, asked pleasantly after Miss Stone, and told me to say to my countrymen that he was most grateful for the £14,500 which they paid for her release. He said that he wanted them to know that every piastre of the money went for the purchase of arms and ammunition with which to fight the Turks. . . He said to me that he was disappointed that the American Government had not demanded from his ‘Sultanic Majesty’ the return of the money, a thing, he said, any European Government would have done, because the Sultan was responsible for the safety of foreigners in his dominions. Sandansky said that he wanted the Sultan himself to pay for the arms used against him.’ [2]


The plans for the kidnapping of Prince Ferdinand—an old ambition of Yané’s—do not seem to have gone very far, and soon they were to be overtaken by far more important events.


In May 1908, the Serres leaders gathered in Bansko to await the arrival of the Strumitsa comrades for their joint congress, and they occupied themselves with the preparation of a second Open Letter, which, like the first, was drafted by Buynov, signed by the Regional Committee and published in Kambana. [3] The Letter opens with a bitter attack on the Ilinden group and their supporters, who are described as ‘bureaucrats’ and ‘ultra-opportunists’ sitting in ‘comfortable offices’, and as ‘supporters of Bulgarian monarchism, creatures of the Crown, the scum of society’. As usual, the Serchani do not allow themselves to be sidetracked into arguments and denials over details (‘we can hardly be expected to answer all the fantastic inventions which the reactionaries around Ilinden scatter about with such energy’), but deal only with such fundamental political issues as what constitutes real, as opposed to pseudo, revolutionary activity; the implications of reliance on aid from a government of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie and how such aid would affect the Organization’s independence and its ultimate goal of autonomy. The Letter also attacks the character and decisions of the Kyustendil Congress, making the same points and drawing the same conclusions as the Strumitsa delegates had done. This part of the Letter ends with the words: ‘For the umpteenth time the renegades demonstrate that they have parted company with the Interior, where they have already forfeited all ideological and moral



2. Daily Graphic, 27.VIII.1908. Moore spent some time in the Balkans as a newspaper correspondent, and is the author of Balkan Trail, 1906. There is no indication of the date of this meeting with Yané.


3. Kambana, 31.V.1908.





worth.’ The final section of the Letter consists of the texts of the various letters written by Daev, which, in their first Open Letter, the Serchani had promised to publish.


While the Serchani were waiting in Bansko for the Strumichani to arrive, disaster struck the local District Committee. A man from Gorno Draglishté was murdered, and some of his fellow-villagers took it into their heads that the Razlog District cheta was responsible. One of them was so indignant that he betrayed the entire District Committee to the Turks, and, on May 11/24—the Feast of Cyril and Methodius—all the members were arrested, with the exception of the Chairman, Hristo Kirov, who, forewarned, had decided to go underground and join the Razlog cheta. [4] At the time, the latter was temporarily with Yané’s cheta in Bansko, since provisioning became easier if both cheti were in the same place.


Bansko was a great keeper of secrets, and its architecture was such that the men were able to amuse themselves on the wide verandas and in the courtyards without being seen or heard from the streets. Often Yané would ask those with a talent for humour to entertain the company with funny stories or sketches; sometimes he would lead them all down into the yard to play leap-frog and other games, and sometimes he would become quite serious and would give a talk on some topic, or recall past battles and adventures. At one point, four local lads came to Yané to tell him that they had killed a Turk, and, fearing lest the authorities should send troops to besiege Bansko, he moved the two cheti to the upper quarter of the town, nearer Pirin, as a precaution, but no siege materialized.


Instead, news came that Vasil Popov, a former Sandanist from Nedobŭrsko, a village in the southern foothills of Rila, had been won over by the Supremists and was in the Rila Monastery with an armed cheta, waiting for a suitable moment to invade the Razlog District. Yané decided to send the Razlog cheta, together with the four lads who had killed a Turk, to the frontier to give the intruders a ‘warm welcome’. The cheta made its way to a point above Dinkov Dol, set up camp just below the frontier line and waited. The Vlah shepherds who were grazing their flocks on the high mountain pastures treated the chetnitsi as honoured guests and daily brought them bread, meat and other provisions. During the period of waiting, the cheta also made friendly contact with the Bulgarian frontier guards, and succeeded in convincing them that the Razlog chetnitsi were by no means the ‘wild beasts’ that they had been made out to be by the men’s officer, Lt. Nastev, a former Supremist voivoda. Vasil Popov appears to have thought better of his ‘invasion’



4. Before he fled, Kirov, like a true teacher, went to the school to enter the marks in the register, because the Feast of Cyril and Methodius was the conclusion of the school year. He managed to write in the marks of one class before the arrival of five policemen sent him scuttling into hiding. Later, the headmaster sought him out in the cheta to obtain the other marks which he had failed to enter!





plan, for he dismissed his men and departed for the interior of the Principality, whereupon, the cheta also left the frontier and returned to Bansko. [5]


By now Chernopeev had arrived, together with Misho Shkartov (the Tikvesh voivoda), Petŭr Kitanov (the Gorna Dzhumaya voivoda) his deputy Ichko Boichev, and a number of other people, including a newcomer to the Macedonian scene—the Socialist, Pavel Deliradev. Born in Panagyurishté in 1875, Deliradev had studied history and geography at Sofia University, but had not been able to graduate because of political discrimination. (Later in life, however, he was to devote his energies to the study and popularization of Bulgaria’s mountains, and to the organization of mountaineering, hiking and other such associations.) In 1897, he had joined the Bulgarian Workers’ Social-Democratic Party, and subsequently attended several Party Congresses as a delegate. He had worked with Georgi Dimitrov during the founding of the General Workers’ Trade Union in 1904 and had been elected to its leadership, but, in 1905, he had left the Party with the splinter group known as Proletariy, and became one of the editors of its paper. During the same year, he had been in Bucharest, carrying out educational work among refugee sailors from the Battleship Potemkin, and he had been expelled from Romania for this activity. During the next two years, 1906-1907, he had been in the leadership of the general rail-workers’ strike in Bulgaria and had edited their paper Strelochnik (Pointsman) and Zheleznicharska Borba (Rail-workers’ Struggle).


In the autumn of 1907, Deliradev published a pamphlet entitled The Macedonian Question and Social-Democracy. [6] In it, he discussed whether the Macedonian movement should continue to follow the time-honoured path of the Balkan national liberation movements laid down when contradictions between the old and the new existed only in certain provinces of Turkey, thus precluding simultaneous struggle throughout the Empire and forcing revolutionary movements to break off pieces of the Empire rather than attempt to reform the whole. Deliradev concluded that the situation was now different to what it had been seventy, fifty or even thirty years previously, that, owing to the penetration of western capital, no part of the Empire was unaffected by change, and that, even in Asiatic Turkey, absolutism was an outgrown institution. He argued that the traditional slogan of ‘Macedonia for the Macedonians’ could not unite all who were ready to fight, because Macedonia was currently an arena of struggles, not between the subordinates and the masters, but between ‘subordinates and subordinates’. In Deliradev’s opinion, autonomy was as unrealizable as union with Bulgaria, because it, too, was an expression of



5. The account of Hristo Kirov’s adventures and the doings of the Razlog cheta is taken from Kirov’s memoirs. OIM Blagoevgrad, No. 1367.


6. The book was No. 1 in the Revolutionary Socialist Library ‘Alexander Antonov’, and was published in Sliven in 1907.





the consciousness and ideals of the relatively strongest element—the Bulgarians—and was, therefore, a solution unacceptable to the other national elements. Moreover, autonomy was out of tune with the general revolutionary trends within the Turkish Empire, of which Macedonia was only a part. A small Macedonian state might correspond to the needs of the peasants, but not to those of traders, industrialists and hired workers, who needed big towns, most of which would be outside the boundaries of an autonomous Macedonia. Like the Serchani, Deliradev considered that disorders intended to provoke outside intervention merely led to the ruin and demoralization of the population, and, in a caustic reference to Supremism, old and new, he wrote: ‘Beyond Rila, the Macedonian is an ardent fighter for the ideals of liberation, but here (i.e. in the Principality— M.M.) he becomes, consciously or unconsciously, a tool of reaction.’ [7] Deliradev believed that the Macedonian movement was unnecessarily forfeiting the possibility of real support from other democratic forces within the Empire, such as the Armenians and the Young Turks, and, while admitting that the latter represented ‘an extremely moderate liberal trend’, with a ‘conservative, even hostile’ attitude towards national movements, he stressed that one should take into account, not only what the Young Turks were, but what they could be, especially when strengthened with new revolutionary forces. Even though the Young Turks stood for the integrity of the Empire—and thus had common ground with the Old Turks—all revolutionary forces should unite in the struggle against absolutism and for democracy. The Macedonian movement had to get out of the narrow channel of national struggle and flow with the common revolutionary flood. The class principle should replace the national principle, and the chetnitsi should come down from the mountains and become citizens. Such were Deliradev’s main conclusions.


Early in 1908, Deliradev had joined the group which had formed around Odrinsky Glas, for which he wrote under the pseudonym of P. Bogdanov, and the paper came to adopt the policy outlined in his pamphlet, namely that, in view of the social and economic changes taking place in Turkey, the idea of Macedonian autonomy was outdated, and that the new situation required a struggle on a social, not a national, basis, for the abolition of absolutism and the modernization of Turkey on federal lines. While still in Sofia, the Strumichani had made contact with the group around Odrinsky Glas, and, after much discussion, had accepted their platform. Thus they had come to Bansko hoping to win the Serchani for their new ideas, and had brought Deliradev as their chief spokesman.


The Young Turk movement had its origins in Constantinople in the late 1860s, when a number of young writers, journalists, civil servants and officers, many of whom had studied at the capital’s new secular schools,



7. Deliradev, Makedonskiyat vŭpros i sotsialnata demokratsia, p. 24.





secretly banded together with the aim of doing something about the ruinous state of the Ottoman Empire. At one time or another, most of them were forced into exile in Paris, London and other western cities, where they founded newspapers and acquainted themselves with western literature, philosophy, sociology, constitutional government, etc. A few of them even participated in the Paris Commune on the side of the Communards. Most of these exiles eventually returned to Turkey and, indeed, were encouraged and coaxed to do so by their Government, which preferred to have them under observation at home. Their influence and agitation led to the overthrow of Sultan Abdul Aziz in 1876, and the granting by Sultan Abdul Hamid of a very moderate constitution, which guaranteed freedom and equality to all Ottoman subjects, regardless of nationality, and provided for a two-chamber Parliament, consisting of an Assembly, elected by male suffrage, and a Senate, appointed by the Sultan and invested with the right to overrule the elected chamber. The Sultan, in fact, succeeded in retaining almost unlimited powers, because, at the last moment, against the wishes of more progressive Turks led by Midhat Pasha, an addendum was added to Clause 113 of the Constitution, giving the Sultan the right to exile anybody whom he did not like.


It is one of the ironies of fate that the granting of the Constitution ushered in the most oppressive period in the history of the Turkish Empire, a period when not only Christian revolutionaries, but also the Turks themselves, were subjected to a nightmare regime of fear and repression. Abdul Hamid had not the slightest intention of putting the Constitution into practice. He soon disposed of Midhat Pasha, the Father of the Constitution, first by exiling him under Clause 113, and then by accusing him of murdering Abdul Aziz. The Constitution itself was not officially abrogated, but was quietly placed in cold-storage, and all the reins of government passed into the hands of the Sultan, whose sole aim was to protect his person and his power. To all the traditional ills of the ‘Sick Man of Europe’— economic and cultural backwardness, dependence on foreign loans and capital, trade deficits, lack of security for business and the individual, bribery, corruption, inefficiency, etc., etc.—were added measures of unbelievable obscurantism, and a network of spies and informers so extensive that people were afraid to speak openly even to their own kith and kin. The Press was muzzled and hobbled. Certain words were totally forbidden in print, among them ‘freedom’, ‘equality’, ‘rights’, ‘despotism’, ‘tyranny’, ‘strike’, ‘constitution’, ‘Socialism’, ‘republic’ and ‘revolution’. Even ‘spring’ and ‘rebirth’ were taboo, since they might evoke liberal thought. Chemical and algebraic formulae had hidden subversive meanings read into them by the censor, who banned text-books in which they occurred. H20, for example, was construed as an insult to the Sultan (Abdul Hamid II is a cipher!). Letters were taxed not on weight, but on the number of pages they contained, so that they had to be given unsealed to the post office to be assessed—and censored. No reference was allowed





to the violent death of royalty, either in the theatre or in the newspapers. Together with the works of the early Young Turk writers and poets, those of Rousseau, Voltaire, Shakespeare, Schiller, Racine, Corneille, Hugo, Zola, Tolstoy and Byron were forbidden. The Swiss Family Robinson was banned because their dog was called ‘Turk’, and dictionaries were not permitted to contain the words ‘elder’ and ‘brother’ because Abdul Hamid had usurped the throne from his elder brother, Murad, who had briefly succeeded Abdul Aziz. A special office censored plays, considering every word, both in and out of context, and the cuts imposed often gave the opposite meaning to a sentence, or made nonsense of the plot. And so on, and so forth.


Abdul Hamid employed some 30,000 spies and informers, and paid them regardless of whether the information which they provided was true or false. No one was ever called to account for fabricated or inaccurate evidence, and mass demoralization and suspicion began to corrode an Empire already ruined economically. Brother spied on brother for gain and for fear of being thought disloyal to the regime. There were spies in hotels, spies at weddings and other gatherings, and spies in theatres and restaurants, who reported who saw what play, and who drank what beverage. Even Ministers and Marshals of the Armed Forces were not immune from whispered accusations, sudden dismissal, exile, and death, without trial or explanation. Abdul Hamid ruled on the principle of ‘après moi le Déluge’, squandering public money, corrupting the nation, and deliberately setting individual officials and whole national committees at each other’s throats, solely in order to prevent the emergence of any group sufficiently strong and united to threaten his personal power. And when all was said and done, it profited him little. Nervous, dispeptic, and obsessively afraid of the dark, he lived the drab, monotonous life of a semi-recluse, without real friends, virtually imprisoned in the Yildiz Palace, the victim of his own system and intrigues, of his own birth and lineage. It would, in fact, have been hard, if not impossible, for any Turkish Sultan to be a normal, balanced person, for Turkish princes spent their early years in the lewd, petty, stifling atmosphere of the Royal Harem, and, if they were not murdered in childhood—a common enough occurrence in the Imperial Family, because every wife wanted her son to rule—they were then confined in some isolated palace and deprived of all contact with the outside world, with politicians, diplomats, etc., lest they conspire to seize the throne. Thus, if, and when, they succeeded to the throne, they were men with cramped intellects, ill-prepared for the tasks that faced them, and unversed in all the arts of statesmanship except the struggle to survive. Abdul Hamid had been thus confined in his youth, and he, in turn, kept his own brothers, Murad and Reshad, in preventative isolation.


The Turks themselves dubbed his reign the era of zulüm—an expressive Turkish word which combines the concepts of ‘wrong’, ‘oppression’ and ‘cruelty’. Yet, in spite of Abdul Hamid’s spies, young liberally-minded





Turks—mainly students in the capital’s military and elite secondary schools, where foreign languages were taught—secretly read forbidden literature and formed themselves into conspiratorial groups. In 1889, one such young intellectual—Ibrahim Temo, an Albanian from Struga, who was studying at the military medical school, and had become acquainted with Freemasonry while on holiday in Italy—formed a secret group called ‘Ottoman Unity’, and made contact with other school groups in Constantinople. About the same time, an emigré group was formed in Paris around Ahmed Riza Bey, who was much influenced by the French Positivists. Contact between the various groups at home and abroad was maintained through the independent foreign postal services which operated within the Turkish Empire and were not subject to censorship.


In 1894, following the Armenian terrorist attacks on the Porte and the Ottoman Bank, and the ensuing massacres of Armenians by Turks, Temo and his comrades published a leaflet in the name of the ‘Ottoman Society for Union and Progress’, [8] in which they criticized the Armenians for taking independent action and called for a united struggle against despotism. The distribution of the leaflet in Constantinople led to numerous arrests. Many liberal Turks were exiled, and many emigrated, among them Temo, who went to Romania. In spite of this severe blow, secret cells continued to proliferate in Constantinople, especially in the military schools. Their basic aim, according to a statute dating from 1895-1896, was ‘the awakening of all our fellow citizens of the Fatherland—Muslim and Christian—for the changing of the mode of action of the present Government, which harms such human rights as justice, equality and freedom, hinders the progress of all Ottomans, and hands our country over to foreigners’. [9] Membership was open to all ‘Ottomans’, i.e. subjects of the Empire, both men and women, and an essential feature of their programme was the preservation of the integrity of the Empire.


From time to time, fresh ‘affairs’ and repressions forced members to flee abroad and swell the growing ranks of the Turkish emigrés in Paris, London, Geneva, Cairo, etc. The activity of these emigrés consisted chiefly in publishing newspapers, brochures and reports. In December 1895, Meshveret (Consultation), the newspaper founded by Riza Bey as the organ of the ‘Ottoman Society for Union and Progress’, published a programme containing the following main points: the preservation of the integrity of the Empire, no Great-Power interference in Turkish affairs, and reforms which would ensure the progress of the whole country



8. The new name was, in all probability, the result of contact between Temo and Riza Bey, and was inspired by the Positivist slogan ‘Order and Progress’.


9. Quoted in Y.A. Petrosyan, Mladoturetskoe Dvizhenie, Moscow, 1971, pp. 174-175. Much of the material about the history of the Young Turks is taken from this work, and from G.Z. Aliev, Turtsia v periods pravlenia Mladoturok (1908-1918), Moscow, 1972.





and all subjects, regardless of nationality and religion. [10] Some eighteen months later, in August 1897, the same paper called for the restoration of the suspended Constitution of 1876, with amendments, the equality of all before the law, an independent judiciary, freedom of conscience, and the continuation of the dynasty. These points formed the basis of Young Turk policy during the coming years. It will be noticed that republicanism was not part of their creed. Although they attacked Abdul Hamid personally (‘This is not a Sultan, it is Satan himself on the throne’; ‘Not the Ruler of the Universe, but a yellow scorpion’; ‘By what right do you reign over us, drink our water, eat our bread, and, what is more, unashamedly call yourself our Lord?’), [11] they were not, in the main, against the Sultanate as an institution, and most of them took great pains to square their ideas with those of Islam. As regards methods in their struggle against despotism, Riza was against the use of force, while other groups, including those in Constantinople and Cairo, favoured a coup d’état.


Until the turn of the century, there were no real organizational links between the various groups. In 1899, however, the Cairo group proposed that a Congress be held in Brindisi, and, although nothing came of that particular suggestion, the idea of holding a Congress caught on. In 1900 All Fahri published a brochure in Geneva, calling for a Congress and appealing to all the revolutionary organizations within the Turkish Empire not to fight solely for their own rights, but to unite with the Young Turks in a common struggle against Abdul Hamid and his regime. This was followed by a second brochure, in a similar vein, by two brothers, Prince Mehmet Sabaheddin and Prince Ahmed Lütfullah, whose mother was Abdul Hamid’s sister, but who had nevertheless found it politic to flee their uncle’s realm. Addressed to ‘all Ottoman fellow-citizens of the Fatherland’, and calling for a united front of all nationalities against despotism, in the name of a better future, the princes’ brochure did much to arouse fresh support for the convening of a Young Turk Congress, while their wealth, freely placed at the disposal of the cause, made it possible for indigent delegates to attend.


The Congress took place secretly in Paris, during February 1902, and the delegates included not only Turks, but Armenians, Greeks, Arabs, Albanians, Circassians, Kurds and Jews. The princes’ father, Damad Mahmud Pasha was elected honorary chairman, Sabaheddin as chairman, and a Greek and an Armenian as vice-chairmen. The discussions revealed considerable divergence of views among the delegates, and the resolution adopted was an attempt at compromise. Riza Bey, for example, favoured a centralized state, while Prince Sabaheddin, who was a follower of such French sociologists as Edmond Demolins and Frederic Le Play, favoured decentralization and the free development of private enterprise of the



10. See Petrosyan, Opus cit., pp. 172-173.


11. Quoted in Petrosyan, Opus cit., pp. 183-184.





kind prevalent in Britain and the U.S.A. The Prince also believed that it would be necessary to seek help from the Great Powers, while Riza was against any such approach. After the Congress, the movement split into two groups: the Society for Union and Progress, led by Riza Bey, and the Society for Personal Initiative and Decentralization, led by Prince Sabaheddin. Relatively little activity was undertaken by either until the Russian Revolution of 1905-1907 shook not only the Tsarist Empire, but also many lands beyond its borders, including Iran and Turkey. The mutiny on the Potemkin is said to have greatly alarmed the Sultan, but the revolutionary events on the Black Sea were greeted with admiration by many of his officers and most of the Young Turks. Twenty-eight Turkish officers, for example, signed a letter of sympathy to the family of Lt Pyotr Schmidt, who led the rising in Sevastopol, raised the Red Flag on the cruiser Ochakov, and was shot by the Tsarist authorities in March 1906. During 1906-1907, dissatisfaction with feudal oppression in Turkey led to a series of anti-government risings and demonstrations in Erzurum, Diarbekir and other places in eastern Anatolia. There were also risings in the Yemen and on the part of the Kurds, who were supported by the Armenians.


The year 1906 saw the rapid expansion of Young Turk activity within the Empire, including the founding in Salonika of a secret ‘Ottoman Society for Freedom’, whose members were mainly young officers. These set themselves the task of taking over the Third Army Corps, which was stationed in Macedonia. The Salonika Society made contact with the Paris Society for Union and Progress, and, in the autumn of 1907, the two societies merged to form a single organization with two centres. Fresh approaches were made to non-Turkish revolutionary groups, including the Armenian organization Dashnaktsutyun, on whose initiative a second Congress was called in Paris at the end of December 1907, after a number of preparatory meetings and discussions. The Congress was chaired in turn by the Armenian leader, Malumyan, Prince Sabaheddin, and Riza Bey. Again some difficulty was experienced in reconciling the varying points of view held by the delegates, with the result that all really thorny questions were shelved in favour of maximum agreement on a minimum programme. By now, however, even the non-violent Riza Bey had realized that, since all other means, including loyal appeals to the Sultan to act to save the Empire, had totally failed to produce results, it would be necessary to take revolutionary action. The Declaration of the Congress, which was signed by the organizations of the three chairmen, the Egyptian Jewish Committee, the editors of several emigré newspapers, and the Committee for Ottoman Concord (based in Egypt), called on all nationalities to work together to overthrow Abdul Hamid and radically to change the regime through the establishment of a parliament. After the Congress, the centre of gravity shifted from Paris to Salonika, as preparations began for an armed uprising in support of the Congress demands.





Strange as it may seem, in all these meetings the Internal Organization had no part, although the Young Turks were eager to enlist its support. Indeed, one of their leaders, Enver Bey, told Charles Roden Buxton, a prominent member of the Balkan Committee in London, that the Young Turks had studied the Internal Organization, which they admired and which had, unwittingly, given them many hints as to how to organize themselves. He said that they had seen—alas, all too correctly! —that the Organization’s worst enemies were its rival leaders, and that they—the Young Turks—were therefore doing their best to work collectively and thus avoid having leaders. [12]


Memoir material suggests that Yané had been approached by the Young Turks as early as 1905, and that he had actually been in contact with them, although it is not clear whether he met individual sympathizers or some organized committee. [13] There is also evidence to support the view that the Serchani were willing to attend the Paris Conference, but had not sent delegates because they were preoccupied with the execution of Garvanov and Sarafov and its aftermath. [14]


The Right Wing were certainly informed of the Congress, but Matov rejected out of hand the idea of going himself or sending a delegate. [15] After the Paris Congress, the Young Turks made fresh approaches, and their invitation for joint negotiations was discussed at the Kyustendil Congress, which decided to send no reply. Matov was the chief speaker in the debate and argued that there was no common ground between the Young Turks and the Organization, since the Young Turk ideal of preserving the integrity of the Empire under a constitutional government ruled out autonomy for Macedonia. No contrary opinion was expressed. [16] The fact that no voice was raised in favour even of exploratory talks without commitment is a further indication of how far the Right Wing had moved away from the Organization’s traditional principles embodied in the Statute written by Gotsé Delchev, which stated that its mission was to ‘unite in one whole all discontented elements in Macedonia and the Adrianople Region’. Even though their aim was autonomy for the two provinces rather than a constitution for the whole Empire, they would have lost nothing by at least making contact with a group of Turks who shared their abhorrence of the existing regime and represented all that was positive and forward-looking within Turkish society itself. They might



12. Charles Roden Buxton, Turkey in Revolution, London, 1908, pp. 134-135.


13. See Memoirs of Andon Kyoseto, TDIA, f. 771, op. 1, a.e. 102. Andon Kyoseto was against such meetings, and resigned from his duties in the Serres Region on finding that all the Serchani were in favour of them.


14. From an answer given by Pavel Deliradev to a question put to him by the Young Turk newspaper Ittihad ve Terakki, quoted in a report by the Bulgarian Commercial Consul in Salonika to Paprikov, Bulgarian Minister for War, dated 27.VII.1908. TDAI, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 293, p. 65.


15. Hristo Matov, Za svoyata revolyutsionna deinost, 1928, p. 53.


16. Silyanov, Opus cit., Vol. II, p. 565.





even have gained a great deal by early negotiations with the Young Turks, for, although they were not as yet aware of it, the movement was rapidly gaining strength on the Organization’s territory, especially in the Bitolya and Salonika Regions, and in less than four months it would seize power.


A new wind was already stirring the fusty atmosphere of the Turkish Empire. Deliradev and the Strumichani felt its breath as they crossed the frontier between the Principality and Macedonia, for, although they had been betrayed, the frontier officer, Major Ismail Faki, who was a Young Turk sympathizer, chose to allow the Bulgarian enemies of Abdul Hamid to continue on their journey to Bansko unmolested.


Deliradev was deeply impressed by Yané, of whom he had heard much—not all of it complimentary. On meeting him, he discovered that ‘he was not the sullen trouble-maker that his enemies made him out to be. There was nothing demonic in his character. On the contrary, Yané had a sunny personality, brimming over with love for justice and freedom’. [17] Deliradev’s detailed description of the leader of the Left has much in common with that given by Mrs Tsilka: ‘A fine, upstanding thirty-six-old, with an open brow and an old-time Slavonic beard. No posturing, no showiness in dress and weapons of the kind affected by many of his "comrades in arms". A child-like smile sprang from his heart through the gap of his chipped tooth and spread all over his face which radiated strength and faith. A piercing but warm gaze, ready every instant to become stern, or even bad-tempered, but warmth was his habitual, normal state. In no way did he parade his superiority over the others. He maintained the same easy sense of equality and comradeship even during the discussions. Like a diligent pupil, he heard out all opinions, even those of his youngest comrade. Outside the meetings, in the ordinary setting of cheta life, you see only the man, great indeed, but still a man wholly without repellent self-importance. Here was no monster of the kind described at length in the venal Sofia press and the "reports from the Interior" cooked up in its editorial offices. Instead of the terrible phantom, before us there stood or sat, joked, chatted, ate or sang, the most good-natured "Old Man" from the tales of Dickens or Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy. A peasant from the Pirin village of Vlahi, spiritually matured and steeled in unequal battles. Modestly proud; consciously self-assured; profoundly believing in the success of the hard yet glorious struggle.’ [18]


The Congress, which lasted nearly two weeks, sat for four days in the Todev house, and then moved to the house of Nikola Razlogov, where it sat for a further two days, before moving to a secluded clearing in Pirin, called Echmishte, where it completed its work in the open air. Yané opened the proceedings in a dark, lamp-lit storeroom in the Todev house, with a speech which, according to Pavel Deliradev, [19] began thus:



17. Memoirs of Pavel Deliradev, p. 174.


18. Pavel Deliradev, Yané Sandansky, Sofia, 1946, pp. 25-26.


19. Memoirs of Pavel Deliradev, pp. 91-122.





‘Comrades! From the formal point of view, our present congress, at which only two regions of the I.M.A.R.O. are represented, does not confirm strictly to the letter of the Organization’s Statute, which provides only for general and regional congresses; on the other hand, nowhere in the Statute or Rules are joint congresses of neighbouring regions forbidden. In point of fact, however, we no longer have a united Organization; it has already been buried by those who have betrayed it. All our concern and efforts to maintain unity within it have been fruitless, as were our efforts in the past to achieve unity of action between the Internal Organization and the Supreme Committee; always have they ended to the detriment of the people’s revolutionary cause.


‘Our persistence in trying to maintain the unity of the Organization and to make its ideological position known, rested and rests on the realization that without unity there can be no successful struggles, just as without unanimity of thought on fundamental issues there can be no united action. And, as long as there was unanimity of thought regarding the independence of the Organization and its aims and means, its unity was assured.


‘In order to preserve the independence of the Organization from the sneaking ambitions of external factors, we have to fight on several fronts: against Supremism in Bulgaria, against the andartism of Greece and the chauvinistic cheti of Serbia. And all of you know why we have all participated in these struggles, and what efforts and sacrifices our regions have made in the struggles against Supremism.’


Yané went on to speak of the invidious role that Garvanov had played, and of the growth of Neo-Supremism, which, he said, had accelerated after the death of Damé Gruev. The Neo-Supremists, Yané declared, ‘do not possess even the few positive qualities of real Supremists’, and ‘not a dram of the idealism of a Traiko Kitanchev’. [20] Yané reviewed the Rila Congress and the quarrels over where the Congress should be held; he spoke at length of the Daev affair (Daev’s letters were read out to the Congress) and castigated the Ilinden group for transferring the Organization’s centre of gravity, including the Central Committee, to Sofia, when the Statute demanded that everything be based in Macedonia. Ruling out any possibility of unity with the Right Wing, Yané said that to work for unity with the Ilinden group meant working for unity with the Bulgarian court. Against unity of that kind they would fight with might and main; they would never sell the Organization, or become the tools of the Coburg Prince and his political supporters, who, as Yané hastened to point out, had nothing in common with the Bulgarian people.


When speaking of the various renegades, such as Zankov and Zapryanov, who had offered their services to the Right Wing, Yané also referred to Yavorov, and asked what the great poet was doing in such bad company.



20. Traiko Kitanchev was the first Chairman of the Supreme Committee.





Yané had genuinely loved Yavorov for his talent and his willingness to suffer hardships cheerfully, and clearly that love had not entirely died, even after their fateful quarrel, for Yané ended his remarks about Yavorov with the following words: ‘We know that he is one of the editors of Ilinden, the paper most hostile to us; we know that he is a member of the Ilinden External Representation, which organizes plots against us, but, in spite of everything, we still sing his songs and recite his revolutionary verses. He may have renounced them, but we have not, because they are already ours, the property of the enslaved people. And, from here, from the slopes of haidut Pirin, let us send him, not our lashing contempt, but some friendly and cordial advice: if he can no longer serve the revolution with songs and deeds, then let him at least not help its enemies! Let him not squander his valuable revolutionary capital.’


Yané’s words evoked general approval, and he went on to deal with various pressing problems, such as the desperate plight of the landless peasants, the need for a proper policy vis-à-vis the Young Turks, the incursions of Greek and Serbian armed propaganda, and the particularly deplorable state of affairs in the Vardar districts of western Macedonia.


Chernopeev then reported on the situation in the Strumitsa Region, where land-hunger and incursions by foreign cheti were also among the main problems facing the Organization. He spoke of the Strumicbani’s bitter experiences during the Kyustendil Congress, and, although he still did not altogether approve of the way in which the Serchani had dealt with Garvanov and Sarafov, he, too, rejected any possibility of compromise or agreement with the Right Wing.


The reports of the two leaders took three days to deliver, and, when they had concluded, the discussion of the problems raised lasted for a further ten days. No time limit was set on contributions from individuals, or on the time allotted to any one topic, for the delegates wanted to consider everything properly and in detail. Deliradev, the newcomer, followed the statements of the two Regional leaders with interest and with pleasure: ‘As you listen to the reviews of recent happenings and well-known events, you feel as though you are listening to a story. A story without cliches and haranguing. A simple, heartfelt and absorbing story. It flows like a mountain torrent. And in it you can feel concern, sincerity, faith and firmness, the firmness of Pirin’s granite.’ [21] Although both leaders spoke about similar problems and reached similar conclusions, Deliradev was repeatedly struck by the contrast between them: ‘One and the same thoughts, yet, in the semi-darkness, they vibrate differently. From Yané’s lips they come more chiseled, sharper and more austere, while with Chernopeev they bubble out, ever accompanied by a spontaneous child-like smile. In the soul of the one there lurks the rugged-ness of Pirin, while in that of the other-the radiance of the Danube Plain.’ [22]



21. Memoirs of Pavel Deliradev, p. 126.


22. Ibid., pp. 126-127.





Undoubtedly the most important question to be discussed at the Bansko Congress was the ‘federative idea’, which was the subject of the longest and most lively debates. The idea of a Balkan Federation was, of course, far from new. In past centuries its advocates had included the most far-sighted and progressive representatives of the Balkan peoples, among them Rigas Velestinlis (Fereos) of Greece, Svetozar Marković of Serbia, Vasil Levsky and Hristo Botev of Bulgaria. As long ago as 1761, Paisi Hilendarsky, in his Slavonic-Bulgarian History, had pointed out that ‘had there been love and concord between the Greeks and the Bulgarians, the Turks would in no wise have succeeded in worsting them’. In 1885, before the Organization had even been thought of, Dimitŭr Blagoev had written: ‘A Balkan Federation should have as its aim the liberation of Macedonia and the granting of wide freedom of self-government to the peoples of the Balkan Peninsula and the socialization of their material and moral resources—here lies salvation from the misfortunes that can overtake the Balkan Peninsula.’ [23] The ‘federative idea’ was undoubtedly in the minds of the creators of the Organization, and, thereafter, in those of its leading members. Dr. Tatarchev, for example, describing the proceedings of the Foundation Congress in January 1894, said: ‘We could not accept the position of "direct unification of Macedonia with Bulgaria", because we could see that this would involve us in great difficulties, owing to the opposition of the Great Powers and the aspirations of the small neighbouring states and Turkey. It occurred to us that an autonomous Macedonia could be united with Bulgaria more easily, and, if the worst came to the worst, and this could not be done, it (Macedonia—M.M.) could serve as a unifying link within a federation of Balkan peoples.’ [24] Gotsé Delchev’s famous saying, ‘I understand the world solely as a field for cultural competition between the peoples’, presupposes a world without political and economic conflicts, and thus, if not a formal federation, then, at least, a very high degree of mutual friendship and co-operation on an international level. In the Directive issued by the Left in 1904, Balkan Federation was stated to be the ‘sole way for the salvation of all’, and their whole subsequent policy stemmed from their recognition of the fact that, in order to solve the Macedonian problem in a manner satisfactory to the Bulgarian population, it was necessary for the Organization to win the goodwill and trust of all the nationalities who lived there. More recently, the escalation of chauvinist activity on the part of the Greeks and Serbs, inspired and financed by their respective governments, had led a number of people to the realization that, since an autonomous Macedonia



23. Dimitŭr Blagoev, Balkanska federatsia i Makedonia, Makedonski Glas, Year 1, No. 16, 20.IV.1885. See also, Blagoev, Sŭchineniya, Vol. 1, pp. 46-54. Blagoev had in mind that the small Balkan countries on their own were not strong enough to resist the Great Powers and international capital. He ends the article with the words ‘Peoples of the Balkan Peninsula! Unite, before it is too late!’


24. Memoirs of Dr. Tatarchev, Miletich, Vol. IX, p. 102.





would, to all intents and purposes, be a Bulgarian Macedonia, the Greeks and Serbs would never countenance its establishment, and therefore the achievement of autonomy for Macedonia—however desirable from the Bulgarian point of view—was not a practical possibility, unless it were to come about as part of a much wider progressive political process involving the whole Turkish Empire and the other Balkan states. The view that significant changes could be on the way was encouraged by the fact that, during the past year or so, the Young Turk Movement had ceased to be merely a talking-shop for emigré intellectuals, and was already active in Macedonia, subverting the Sultan’s army.


The idea of a Balkan Federation had long been in the air, especially in Bulgarian Socialist circles, but, although it was written into the Directive, it was not officially discussed either at the General Congress in Rila, or at any Regional Congress prior to the Joint Serres-Strumitsa Congress in Bansko. Here, the discussion was introduced by Pavel Deliradev, who, in the course of his statement, spoke of the historical and other factors which favoured such a union, such as the wide internal market created by the Turkish Empire, the various classes and strata, including the young proletariat, which were in conflict with the old repressive political forces, and the centuries-old common experience of the Christian Balkan peoples under the Turkish yoke, which could serve as an initial moral basis for the idea of a Balkan alliance. Within such a union, Deliradev told the delegates, the frontiers of cultural differentiation would reach their natural limits; every member of the family of federated peoples would feel united with his brothers by blood and language, and would, at the same time, participate in the general cultural progress of the allied peoples. He assigned an especially important role to Macedonia, which would cease to be an Apple of Discord, and become the main link in a Balkan alliance, the conciliator of hitherto hostile nations.


In conclusion, Deliradev urged his listeners to work towards the creation of a ‘Great Eastern Federative Republic’, which, he optimistically believed, would do away with national antagonisms and ensure favourable conditions for the future political, economic and cultural development of all the Balkan peoples. [25]


There followed a long and detailed discussion lasting several days, during which the delegates considered not only the basic ideological question of whether they favoured the ‘federative idea’, but also a number of closely related political and practical questions, such as whether the time was ripe for the Organization openly to propagate the ‘federative idea’, and, if so, whether it should opt for a Balkan Federation or a ‘Great Eastern Federative Republic’, and what corresponding changes would have to be made in the Organization’s structure, activity, etc.



25. See Pavel Deliradev, Razvitieto na federativnata ideya, Makedonska misŭl, Book 5-6, 1946, pp. 203-208.





No official minutes of the Congress have come to light, and memoirs are the main source of information about the proceedings and the decisions. It appears that, while everybody agreed that the ‘federative idea’ should be added to the political programme of the two Regions, in the hope of its being adopted by the Organization as a whole, the Serchani and the Strumichani differed in their assessment of certain practical matters. Chernopeev and his comrades, for example, had totally accepted the idea that autonomy for Macedonia was an outdated slogan which should be immediately replaced by a call for the liberation of the entire Turkish Empire from absolutism and for the creation of a Great Eastern Federative Republic, and they argued that, in the new situation, the cheta system was an anachronism which should be liquidated. [26] The Serchani, however, while accepting many of the points made by the Strumichani, felt that, in some respects, they were being over-hasty and were allowing their enthusiasm to run away with them.


Again Deliradev noted the difference in approach between Chernopeev and Yané. While the former, ‘with his powerful physique and youthful extravagances, reminded one of an aspen tree with a stout trunk and constantly quivering leaves. . .. Sandansky was like a heavily-laden wagon which was hard to divert from its way. The first tlew with ease from one idea to another, providing that they were not in conflict with the basic revolutionary law; the second moved from position to position only after ample discussion with his comrades. The one tugged, the other held back, and thus they complemented each other. Chernopeev was a revolutionary fury, Sandansky—a revolutionary system’. [27]


Yané, indeed, gave a great deal of thought to the various proposals and all their ramifications. As Deliradev put it, ‘for him the new idea was not a novel piece of finery, but a foundation stone in the ideology and revolutionary practice of a movement to which he had dedicated his whole life’. There was nothing that Yané held dearer than the Organization, nothing that he guarded more jealously from taint and error. For days on end, first in Bansko and later in Pirin, he considered the situation and weighed up the arguments before arriving at his final conclusions. He accepted the ‘federative idea’, but in the form of a Balkan Federation; he was also in favour of making immediate direct contact with the Young Turk committees, with the Albanians and with any other nationalities who had



26. The idea of disbanding the cheti was not a new one. Three years previously, Mihail Gerdzhikov had made the same suggestion in Revolyutsionen List (12.VI.1905), following an earlier article in which he had criticized certain aspects of the cheti, such as the quality of recruits, the slovenly behaviour of some chetnitsi, and the high-handed conduct of some voivodi (15.IV.1905). He had argued that without cheti there would be less Turkish troops in the countryside, less attacks on villages and less civilian casualties. (Both articles are signed ‘Michel’.) At his meeting with Yané in the summer of 1905, Gerdzhikov had suggested that the cheti be replaced by individual ‘apostles’.


27. Memoirs of Pavel Deliradev, pp. 174-175.





appropriate committees, but he was not prepared at this stage to disband the cheti. He agreed that some of the criticism levelled against them was justified, but maintained that the fault lay with individuals rather than with the institution as such, and he favoured reform rather than abolition. The Young Turks were still an unknown quantity; the population might yet require the protection that only the cheti could give, and, in a situation full of uncertainty, he was unwilling to be over-optimistic and dispense prematurely with an institution which had proved its value in the past. The other Serchani took Yané’s side against the Strumichani and no decision could be taken.


The Congress was already sitting in Pirin, amid the alpine grandeur of the mountain scenery when, after prolonged and exhaustive discussion, the delegates unanimously approved the ‘federative idea’, apparently in the form of a Balkan Federation, and agreed to convene separate congresses in both Regions for the review and ratification of the decisions of the Joint Congress. Among the decisions unanimously adopted was a proposal to collect and publish data relating to the chifliks and the peasants that worked them. (Yané was always particularly concerned about the fate of the landless peasants, and Pavel Deliradev jokingly called him ‘a Macedonian agrarian-Socialist’.) [28] Another resolution dealt with the need to make contact with workers in factories, tobacco warehouses, on the railways, etc., since such people could be valuable allies in the struggles that lay ahead, and the fact that all workers have common interests could be a factor for reducing national antagonisms in Macedonia. The delegates also agreed that, for the time being, the Organization should avoid armed clashes with Turkish army units, i.e. with possible Young Turks.


While the days were spent in serious discussion, the evenings, with their campfires, stars and moonlight, were given over to relaxation in the form of stories, songs, dances and improvized recitations. Here Buynov, the ex-actor, was in his element. In Bansko, he had constantly had to be reminded to keep his voice down, lest the Turks heard him, for, as he waxed eloquent on some topic, he would, as it were, aim his words at the last row of the gallery, so that the whole house—nay, the whole neighbourhood—would ring with his powerful orations! The first evening in Pirin was dedicated to the memory of Gotsé Delchev, and those who had known him personally recalled their impressions of him. Yané said: ‘Gotsé was a Socialist, but he correctly differentiated between the immediate tasks and the long-term ones. Gotsé would often repeat: "Our first task is to turn the virgin soil, to clear away the thorns and roots of political and economic slavery, to drain the swamps of national animosities, and to gather together in one whole the working people and all democratic forces. It is for the next generation to sow the seeds of brotherhood and equality. We are the heirs of the men of the National Revival—the Socialists will be our heirs".’ [29]



28. Memoirs of Pavel Deliradev, p. 156.


29. Ibid., p. 163.





Chernopeev spoke of Gotsé’s humanity, of his pity for the poorer Turks, who were economically and culturally far behind the Bulgarians, and, when one rather shy chetnik, named Dzhemo, ventured the opinion that Ivan Vazov’s poem about Levsky was largely applicable to Gotsé as well, Buynov immediately obliged with a recitation, and followed Vazov with Hristo Botev’s triumphant affirmation of the immortality of those who die for freedom: ‘He is alive!’


Another evening, having sung songs by Mickiewicz, Botev and other poets, the lads began to sing Yavorov’s Haidut Song, and Yané again returned to the vexed topic of why Yavorov had not merely left the Serres Region, but had joined the Ilinden group. And, indeed, one might well ask what Yavorov—the erstwhile Socialist and friend of Gotsé Delchev— was doing in the company of men who were openly anti-Socialist and whose policies were the opposite of Gotsé’s. Obviously still puzzled and grieved, Yané turned to Deliradev and asked him to give his explanation of the matter. Deliradev attributed Yavorov’s behaviour to feelings of disillusion following the defeat of the Rising, and he drew a parallel between him and those Russian writers who had withdrawn into mysticism, symbolism, etc., after the failure of the 1905 Revolution. If Yané’s question of ‘Why? Why?" remained without a conclusive answer, there was no doubt as to the esteem in which Yavorov the poet was still held by the Serres revolutionaries, and Buynov launched himself into a recital of Yavorov’s masterpiece The Armenians.


At the end of one session of the Congress, some of the more agile lads went clambering up the cliffs in search of edelweiss, and returned with enough for all the delegates to have one each as a souvenir. Yané stuck his in his cap, and took the occasion to remind all present that the beautiful flower was a rare gift of nature and must be protected. Buynov, as always, was ready with a contribution—this time, a Swiss legend about the origin of the edelweiss and the red rhododendron. It concerned a tragic love-affair between Heinrich, a poor Swiss hunter, and Margarita, the daughter of the local feudal lord. Her father wanted her to marry a certain rich suiter, and, in the hope that the girl would bow to his wishes if her unsuitable sweetheart was out of the way, he sent the young man to shoot a wild goat on a cliff so inaccessible and dangerous that even if he managed to climb it, he would never be able to get down again. The intrepid hunter reached the top, but fell and expired in the arms of Margarita, who, unbeknown to anyone, had followed him disguised as a boy. She, too, perished on the mountain, and, on the spot where the two lovers died, two new flowers appeared: from Margarita’s heart there sprang the first edelweiss, and from Heinrich’s blood—the first red rhododendron.


Buynov told the story with great artistry and pathos so that his listeners were much moved, and when he finished speaking there was dead silence. Then Yané, whose sympathies were ever with the oppressed peasantry and with star-crossed lovers, said: ‘All lords and robbers are birds of a feather.





Sometimes honest young people are born among them, only to perish like Margarita because of their brutal parents.’ [30] Buynov then entertained the company with an impassioned rendering of Rosselman’s speech from Schiller’s William Tell—lines so appropriate to the occasion that they might have been written with the Serchani in mind:

‘Yet, by this light, which greets us with its ray

Long before those who far beneath us dwell,

And, slumbering deep, breathe heavily the smoke

Of noisome cities—let us here repeat

The oath of this our new confederacy.

A faithful band of brothers will we be,

United still in danger and distress.

We will live free as did our fathers—swear

Rather to die than live in slavery. . .’ [31]


The evening ended with folk songs, sung in turn by the representatives of the various districts: Razlog, Strumitsa, Maleshevia, Melnik, etc. The Melnik group included in their repertoire one of Yané’s favourite songs about a young man who tells his sweetheart to rise early in the morning, for they will go out into the forest to meet the cheta; he will be the voivoda, and she will carry the banner.


It was, in fact, Buynov’s last evening in Pirin before he went down to Bansko under cover of darkness to take over as Regional Secretary in place of Chudomir, who was going to help Chernopeev make contact with the Young Turks. Buynov had other reasons for hastening down to Bansko after the conclusion of the Congress, for, during the delegates’ stay in Lazar Todev’s house, he had secretly fallen in love with Lazar’s daughter, Maria, a teacher, who, five years previously, had embroidered a banner for the Ilinden Uprising.


On the next day, the rest of the delegates began to disperse. Yané and Chernopeev, with their respective cheti, went part of the way south together, and they spent the first night below El-tepe, Pirin’s highest peak. With Buynov gone, there were fewer dramatic recitals, but still plenty of entertainment. Chernopeev and Deliradev, accompanied by a few more enthusiastic ‘mountaineers’, climbed to the summit of El-tepe in order to admire the view, and, on their return to the camp at evening, they persuaded a local chetnik to tell them some of the legends connected with places in Pirin. One of them was Popovo Ezero—the Priest’s Lake, or, as the Turks called it, Papaz Gyol—which is the subject of more tales and superstitions than almost any other place in Pirin. It is here that the clouds tend to gather for the violent electric storms which can make Pirin



30. Memoirs of Pavel Deliradev, pp. 200-201.


31. The English text is taken from Samuel Robinson’s translation of William Tell, which was published in London in 1892.





as terrifying as a battlefield during a bombardment. For this reason, people considered the lake, and especially the island in the middle of it, to be the home of Perun, the Thunder God, and shepherds would offer sacrifices and light fires in order to placate him, lest, in his wrath, he should cause the waters to overflow and the cliffs to crumble. Because of the absence of fish in the lake, people believed that it was inhabited by evil spirits, and it is said that when a priest was summoned to exorize the spirits, a terrible storm arose, and the water boiled as legions of phantoms rose from its depths. The whole mountain was once considered to be the lair of malignant supernatural beings, and was called not only Pirin, but also Yudenitsa (from Yuda—an evil fairy). Pirin can, indeed, be a very eerie place, even in broad daylight. There are silent, sinister forests where all the trees are hung with grey-green, beard-like, deathly lichens, and there are ancient pines with roots and limbs so scaly, thick and tortuous that they look more like gigantic reptiles than like trees, as though they were motionless zmeyove, from the under-world of Pirin’s lakes, drowsing away the day and waiting for the dusk.


After the legends, Yané added his contribution to the stories about Papaz Gyol by describing how, more recently, a European scholar had made himself a raft and had succeeded in reaching the little island in the lake. The shepherds, however, had taken him for a magician and had refused to sell him bread, no matter how much money he offered them! Yané then asked one of his own chetnitsi—a boy of about seventeen, called Tancho—to tell the company ‘about the red flag’. Apparently in April 1907, the cheta had gone up to the lake, with Tancho carrying a red flag, inscribed with the words ‘Freedom or Death’, wrapped around his waist, and Yané using its pole as a walking staff, the water was still frozen, and they had had no difficulty in reaching the island. When they were about to leave, Yané had told the cheta that it would soon be May Day, and he had proposed that the red flag be hoisted on the island in honour of the working people’s holiday. The flag had been duly placed on Perun’s fortress, where, at the time of telling, it was still flying, despite attempts by a group of Turkish gendarmes and a French officer to shoot it down during the previous summer.


‘Bravo, Tancho!’ cried Chernopeev, at the conclusion of the story. ‘All the mountains, villages and towns shall become red, and then there will be neither slaves nor tyrants!’ [32]


The final story showed how unbridgeable was the gap between the Left and the Right in the Organization. The Serchani and their allies indeed saw the Socialists as their heirs, and time was to prove the correctness of this view, as well as its converse—that their enemies were also the enemies of Socialism. The time was to come when Yané’s opponents would torture Communists and burn them alive in the mini-Auschwitz



32. Memoirs of Pavel Deliradev, pp. 222-223.





of Dŭbnitsa near Nevrokop, and when the partisans of Rila and Pirin would name their detachments after Yané as they joined battle with Bulgarian fascism and its German masters.


That day was still far in the future, but the Congress and its decisions had further widened the gulf between the two sides. Everything that the Ilinden group rejected and despised had found reflection in the Bansko Congress: the ‘internationalist evolutionaries’ had voted to join forces with the Young Turks, in the name of a Balkan Federation; they had discussed land reform and other economic problems unconnected with ‘pure revolution’; they had displayed their ‘Kulturträger’ tendencies by reciting Schiller in the dews and damps of Pirin, when they could have been living comfortably in Sofia, and, worst of all, Yané had demonstrated that he indeed desired to see the triumph of Socialism in his Pirin kingdom.


*  *  *


After Chudomir and Chernopeev had left for the Strumitsa Region, Yané, Deliradev and Stoyu Hadzhiev continued their journey southwards into the Melnik District. In Gorna Sushitsa, the new line approved by the Congress was, for the first time, explained to ordinary members of the Organization. Yané assembled the entire population, including the women, on the village square, and, introducing Deliradev as a comrade from Sofia, he asked him to address the people. In his speech, Deliradev spoke of the struggles of the Bulgarian working class and landless peasants in the Principality, about Supremists old and new, about the existence of progressive people among all nationalities in the Turkish Empire, including the Turks themselves, about the example of Russia and Austro-Hungary, where many people were also down-trodden and oppressed, and about the need for a Balkan Federation. The inhabitants of Gorna Sushitsa were somewhat surprised by the new elements in his speech; they glanced at Yané to see how he was reacting, and appeared reassured by his evident approval. When Deliradev had finished, Yané asked the people to think over what he had said and discuss it among themselves, and he promised them that, on its way back, the cheta would again visit the village to hear their considered opinions. After the meeting, the chetnitsi danced the horo with the youth of the village, so that the day became a real holiday for everyone. Some of the villagers did not even wait for the cheta’s return, but came immediately to the house where Yané was staying in order to express their approval.


According to one source, [33] while the cheta was in Gorna Sushitsa, news came that the Greek bishop was urging all make Greeks to kill a Bulgarian and bring him an ear, for which they would receive a reward of three gold liri. Outraged, Yané decided that the Bishop must be killed, and he



33. Memoirs of Atanas Karadzhata. TDIA, f. 1508, op. 1, a.e. 520, p. 4.





gave orders for a cheta of six men, including Georgi Kazepov, Petŭr Govedarov, Mitso Vransky and Atanas Karadzhata, to go towards Melnik, where the Bishop was currently in residence. The plan was to ambush him on the road near the village of Kromidovo, as he journeyed south from Melnik. Unfortunately, the plan was upset by unforseen circumstances: Turkish troops, moving from Melnik to Demir Hisar, appeared at the same time as the Bishop’s entourage, and the assassins were not able to get near him.


From Gorna Sushitsa, Yané went to Doleni, where, for the first time, Deliradev was confronted with the appalling poverty that prevailed in the semi-serf chiflik villages. The houses were in a state of extreme dilapidation, verging on collapse; the roofs leaked, and when it was raining—as it was when the cheta arrived—it was difficult to find a dry spot on which to sit. Most of the families owned little more than a few tattered rugs and cushions, a sieve for flour, and a couple of wooden troughs for kneading dough. On this occasion, the troughs were being used to catch the water that dripped through the inadequate roofs onto the floor. The landlord— a Greek, who owned the entire chiflik—did nothing to improve his property, and the peasants themselves were unwilling to repair their homes, since they might be evicted at any moment without compensation. Telling them that the land should belong to those who till it, Yané urged them to fight for their rights, and to use locally available wood and stone to build themselves decent homes, and he promised that, if they did this, the Organization would deal with any monkey-business on the part of the landlord.


Yet, damp and ramshackle though they were, the houses of Doleni were now much cleaner than they had been before the Organization had started its campaign against dirt. Previously, Yané told Deliradev, the filth and the vermin were such that the cheta would be forced to sleep outside even on frosty nights. However much Ilinden might scoff at Yané’s preoccupation with pharmacies and hygiene, he remained convinced that ‘people who are used to living like cattle are also incapable of fighting for a better life’. [34] Far from being a digression from revolutionary activity, hygiene was an essential first step towards the transformation of the slave into the freeman.


Deliradev could not help noticing how everywhere the ordinary people regarded Yané with obvious love and respect, despite the reports circulating in Sofia about his reign of ‘bloody terror’ in the Melnik District. Doleni was, indeed, one of the villages whose entire male population, according to Ilinden, had been wiped out, or dispersed, by Yané’s ‘terror’.


While they were in Doleni, they were visited by a Greek, who kept a shop in Melnik and who, like Manolis Kordopoulos, was well disposed towards the Organization and towards Yané personally. He arrived on a



34. Memoirs of Pavel Deliradev, p. 256.





mule with his saddle-bags bulging with bread, olives, salami, cheese and other good things, which he produced at lunch time in order to treat his ‘hosts’. Yané received him warmly and discussed with him the possibility of discovering whether any of the Melnik Turks were connected with the Young Turk movement.


From Doleni the cheta went via Sugarevo to Kŭrlanovo. Here, at a well, some of the chetnitsi unexpectedly came upon a number of gypsy families, who had just arrived from town. The gypsies took fright and attempted to flee, so that the cheta was obliged to give chase and round them up. A chetnik went to report to Yané, and shouted: ‘Comrade Pavel! Come and make a speech about the brotherhood of nations, because these "Copts" may betray us, and it wouldn’t be right to kill them—look how nice they are, the gypsy kids, the women, and the men, too.’


Yané sat the terrified gypsies down and calmed them by distributing the remains of the tobacco which the Greek had brought. After some hesitation as to the proper way to address them, he settled on ‘arkadashlar’, the Turkish word for ‘comrades’. Deliradev then made his speech, laying stress upon the bravery and other merits of those gypsies whom Taskata Sersky had recruited for the Organization and, indeed, for his own cheta, and, in the end, a ‘union’ was concluded with the gypsies; the cheta promised not to harm them, while the gypsies promised to remain in the village for two days (i.e. until the cheta was well away), and not tell anybody about the meeting.


The next port of call was Rozhen, where they stayed with the parents of Tancho, who had told the story about the red flag, and they then went to Chereshnitsa. Yané was suffering from a bad attack of rheumatism, and was so lame that he was obliged to ride on a mule. For eight years, on and off, he had been living in the mountains in all weathers, wearing wet clothes and sleeping on damp ground, and, if his spirit was as strong as ever, his body was beginning to protest at the ordeals which he forced it to endure. On the night when the legends of Pirin were told, Yané had already been in such pain from his left leg that he had had to ask his chetnik, Mitso, to treat his ailment ‘haramiya fashion’. Mitso had spread hot embers from the fire over an area the size of a bed, and when the ground was properly warm (the grass was still too lush to burn), he had swept the ash away, and laid branches of pine scrub over the spot, together with a few heated stones, and Yané, wrapped in his cloak, had slept on this improvised ‘hospital bed’, which smelt pleasantly of turpentine.


Though Yané himself was not well, his main concern in Chereshnitsa was for the children, most of whom, for some unaccountable reason, were perpetually ailing. Yané had noticed this phenomenon on previous visits and had even sent bottles of the local water to Sofia for analysis, but the results had been negative—there was nothing unusual about the water. Neither was there anything unusual about the village: it was no poorer than the others, and indeed, since the peasants there were independent,





they lived in rather better houses, and some people even had oil-lamps in their homes. Yané discussed the problem with Deliradev, who could only suggest that it must be the malaria which affected so many villages further down on the plain.


The cheta spent the next two days in Kalimantsi, the native village of Petŭr  Govedarov, where they celebrated his name-day and that of Pavel Deliradev (the Feast of St Peter and St Paul, June 29), in unwonted luxury, with a menu of roast kid, offal soup, sweet-meats made from sugar and semolina, and Melnik wine. This time Yané relaxed his strict rule about not drinking, and allowed his men to sample the excellent wine. Panitsa, however, was a rigid total abstainer, who would not even drink tea and coffee.


The group which had been sent to kill the Greek Bishop had rejoined the cheta in Kalimantsi; Kazepov did not continue with Yané, but took his cheta up into the mountain above Kovachevo. The rest of them left Kalimantsi for Belyovo, on a bright moonlight night. Stoyu Hadzhiev was leading the file, and Yané, who was still suffering from rheumatism, brought up the rear, mounted on his mule and chatting to Deliradev. As they approached the threshing-floors near Belyovo, they were challenged, first in Turkish and then in Bulgarian, by invisible, unidentified persons. The cheta halted, and those in front fell back. Strangely enough, nothing happened. There was no further noise, and no firing—nothing. Yané suspected that the enemy was preparing to encircle them, so he ordered the cheta to withdraw immediately. Unfortunately, at the first alarm, he had dismounted from his mule, which took the opportunity to bolt into the surrounding maize fields with a tremendous roar, taking with it Yané’s kebe (goat’s hair felt cloak) and Deliradev’s light European cloak, which were lying on its back. [35] There was nothing that could be done about the animal, or the cloaks, and Yané was compelled to walk. By dawn, safe but exhausted, they reached the place above Kovachevo where Kazepov’s cheta was bivouacking. They spent the day resting, and, after lunch, to their great surprise, the village watchman from Belyovo arrived, carrying the cloaks, with a message from the commander of the Turkish company which had challenged them in the maize fields. The watchman had been with the Turks at the time, and the commander—an Albanian—had found the mule, and had given him the cloaks, telling him to return them: ‘And give Sandansky-Efendi many greetings, but ask him to keep this to himself, because we have been sent to hunt him down, and if they find out



35. The Strumichani and the Serchani favoured different types of outer garment, each with its advantages and disadvantages. While the Strumichani wore lighter, rainproof cloaks, which were convenient to carry on the march, but which left them shivering at night in the open, the Serchani wore heavy goat’s hair felt cloaks, which kept them warm, but were cumbersome. Both groups made jokes at each other’s expense: the Serchani called the Strumichani ‘Garibaldi’s men’, while the Strumichani retaliated with: ‘Tortoises!’





what I am doing, they will shoot me like a dog.’


This unexpected demonstration of friendship and solidarity was rapturously received by the men who had recently voted for Balkan Federation, and who now broke into cheers for the Albanian and all other Balkan peoples. [36]


In the evening Yané left for Goleshevo, with the intention of arranging a meeting with those comrades, such as Taskata Sersky, Dimitŭr Arnaudov and Dimitŭr Ikonomov, who had been unable to attend the Congress. He sent a message to Arnaudov, telling him to arrange a suitable place and to invite ‘leading, educated’ people from every section of the Nevrokop District.


On July 3, 1908, the meeting opened in Lovcha, with a report on the Congress, the decisions of which were discussed and approved. [37] In the evenings, Yané, Panitsa and Deliradev would engage in gymnastics and wrestling, and found themselves fairly evenly matched, each with his share of victories and defeats. As a wrestler, Yané was hampered by his partially crippled left arm, but, as Deliradev put it, he made up for this handicap by his ‘tenacity and his will to win’. [38] Sometimes they just talked, and once Yané told them the epic tale of ‘the first and last time’ that he got drunk in Sofia: of how he and Chernopeev had visited the offices of the Organization’s External Representatives; of how Yané had slapped the caretaker, taken his keys and locked the offices, because the man had told them that there were separate waiting rooms for voivodi and for chetnitsi; of how the caretaker and one of the Representatives (Tushe Deliivanov) had trailed Yané to a beef-garden, where he had gone to drown his anger; of how Yané’s democratic susceptibilities had been further wounded by the sight of the caretaker standing by the door when Tushé joined them at the table; of how he had invited the man to sit down and drink with them, and had returned the keys; of how, when thoroughly drunk, he had made an exhibition of himself by standing up and calling loudly and insistently for a currently popular piece of music called Doina, which the orchestra had, in fact, been playing all the evening, and of how the other clients had hastily called for their bills and left, for fear of what the ‘drunken Macedonians’ would do next! All this time Chernopeev had been completely sober, because the Serchani, who seldom drank in Macedonia, had an agreement that in Sofia, where they allow themselves greater latitude, one of the company should remain sober, just in case. The ‘apartheid’ at the



36. Archive of Pavel Deliradev. TDIA, f. 526, op. 1, a.e. 1203, pp. 29-30.


37. Memoirs of Pavel Deliradev, p. 317. Dimitŭr Arnaudov mentions that the meeting discussed a proposal by Deliradev that Socialist ideology be introduced into the Organization but does not say if definite decision was arrived at (Arnaudov, Opus cit., p. 22). Deliradev, however, does not mention the matter in his account of the meeting.


38. Memoirs of Pavel Deliradev, p. 328.





offices was, however, abolished as a result of Yané’s ‘action’. [39]


The Lovcha meeting had just ended when news came that the Nevrokop voivoda, Petŭr Milev, together with two of his comrades, had been killed in Kovachevitsa by Dinkata Drobenov Tŭrliisky, one of his former chetnitsi, who in 1906 had been sent to the Principality for a number of offences and had fallen under Supremist influence. It was now necessary to avenge the murdered men, and Yané organized a cheta for the purpose and sent for the chetnitsi, including Atanas Karadzhata, whom he had left in Kovachevo. The meeting had also decided to proceed with the assassination of Hilmi-Pasha, the Sultan’s Inspector of Reforms, and a group charged with this task set out for Demir Hisar. [40] Yané himself, together with Panitsa and Dimitŭr Ikonomov, remained for a while in Lovcha, presumably to await the arrival of the chetnitsi from Kovachevo, before setting out for Kovachevitsa.


Before either group could reach its destination, even more startling events dictated the postponement of their tasks.


On July 3, 1908, a Young Turk officer, Major Ahmed Niazi Bey, [41] had taken to the hills near Resen with nearly two hundred of his men. Other officers and men had followed suit, and all attempts by the Sultan to quell the rising had merely ended in the troops which he had sent against the rebels going over to their side. On July 22, Niazi Bey captured Bitolya, and, on the following day, the Young Turks took power in other Macedonian towns, including Skopje, Serres and Salonika. Telegrams were sent to the Sultan informing him, that, if the Constitution was not restored within twenty-four hours, the Army would march on Constantinople. In Macedonia, however, the population did not even wait for the Sultan’s answer, but took to the streets, singing the Marseillaise, and celebrating their victory over despotism. When the Grand Vizir telegraphed Salonika requesting Hilmi-Pasha to inform him about the number of rebels, Hilmi replied: ‘This morning they were fifty, by noon they were 50,000, by this evening they will be 100,000, and the more they are repressed, the more the movement will grow. I beseech you to give orders for measures to be taken!’ [42] Thus, on the night of July 23-24, in order to save his throne, Abdul Hamid gave way and, in the morning, telegrams went out all over the Empire announcing the restoration of the Constitution and the holding of elections.



39. Memoirs of Pavel Deliradev, pp. 322-325. Tushé Deliivanov was External Representative during the period 1901-1902.


40. The Serres Regional Committee had decided to kill Hilmi-Pasha even before the Bansko Congress. The Strumichani were agreeable, provided the Young Turk Committee in Salonika also gave their consent. See Memoirs of Pavel Deliradev, p. 233.


41. Niazi Bey was an Albanian by extraction and a native of Resen, well acquainted with the district. Albanian support for the Young Turks proved an important factor in ensuring their easy victory in Macedonia.


42. Quoted by V.I. Shpilkova, Mladoturetskaya Revolyutsia, 1908-1908, Moscow, 1977, pp. 112-113.


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