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

 

21. CONSTANTINOPLE

 

 

While Yané was in hospital recovering from his wound, the elections for the new Ottoman Parliament pursued their ponderous, and largely fraudulent, two-stage course. To some extent, the original spirit of the Hürriyet was still in the air. The ballot boxes were carried about on triumphant cars decked with ribbons and garlands and escorted by little girls of various nationalities, who wore white dresses and held hands as a symbol of peace and amity. [1] But, while such picturesque processions may have satisfied the ordinary Turk who had never voted in his life and who was still happily dazzled by the absence of censors, spies and informers, they were a poor consolation for those who wanted real democracy on the basis of one person—one vote. Even had the letter of the law been observed, the elections could hardly be said to have reflected public opinion, since so many people were disenfranchised, including all women and all those men—chiflik peasants and proletarians—who owned no property in the shape of land or cattle registered in their name. In the event, however, the elections were made even less democratic by all manner of gerrymandering and infringements of the law, such as the arbitrary grouping of villages in such a way as to ensure a Turkish majority in wards where the Turks were in the minority, irregularities in electoral rolls, failure to honour agreements for electoral alliances, intimidation of voters, etc., etc.

 

Initially, while the Constitutional Clubs agreed to fight the elections on a common list with the Young Turks, the Serres Left proposed to boycott the elections in view of the limited suffrage, the two-tier system and the projected Senate. [2] When, however, the elections were already underway, the Serchani reversed their decision [3] and put forward as their candidates Yané himself and a lawyer named Hristo Dalchev. The latter, who enjoyed considerable popularity among all sections of the Bulgarian community for his defence of people accused of political offences, had originally been the choice of the Serres Constitutional Club, but had been won over by the

 

 

1. Charles Roden Buxton, Turkey in Revolution, pp. 185-188.

 

2. See Edinstvo, No. 1, 27.IX.1908. The Shtip Constitutional Club also boycotted the elections, not because they were protesting against the Election Law itself, but because they considered that it was being infringed. See TDIA, f. 225, op. 1, a.e. 407, pp. 85-86.

 

3. Edinstvo, No. 5, 11.X.1908.

 

 

381

 

Serchani. The change in the latter’s attitude followed discussions between Yané and Enver-Bey, who visited him in hospital and urged him to take part in the elections. [4] What arguments Enver used have not been recorded, but, in the end, Yané appears to have been persuaded that a ‘half-election’, or even the ‘smaller part of an election’ was better than nothing, and could lead to changes in the law. Even after the reversal of the decision to boycott the elections, Konstitutionna Zarya continued to criticize the Election Law and to voice the hope that the new Parliament would make it its business to amend it. [5]

 

In the end, only four Bulgarians were elected to the Ottoman Parliament: Hristo Dalchev (Serres), Dimitŭr Vlahov (Salonika), Pancho Dorev (Bitolya) and Todor Pavlov (Skopje). Of these four, the former two were left-wingers, while the second two were representatives of the Constitutional Clubs. Yané himself was not elected, although he received more votes than Paskalev, the Clubs’ replacement candidate in the Serres Sanjak. The results need little explanation, for the limited suffrage, two-tier system and widespread irregularities at the poll all combined to render the elections of little value as an expression of genuine public opinion. The new Parliament, with its Young Turk majority, was composed mainly of people from the propertied classes, with a sprinkling of clerics, lawyers, headmasters, etc., and its practical achievements, measured in terms of legislation passed during the first few months of its existence, were virtually nil, because no draft laws were prepared.

 

The conduct of the elections—inadequate though they were—took two or three months, and the new Parliament held its first session on December 17 (new style), 1908. The Sultan attended the opening and drove the four miles from the Yildiz Palace to the Parliament building in a great procession, which included the Greek and Armenian Patriarchs, the Bulgarian Exarch, the representative of the Holy See, and the Diplomatic Corps. The procession was watched, and, at times, brought to a standstill, by enthusiastic crowds, waving scarlet flags inscribed with the words ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’. [6] Francis McCullagh, who saw the Sultan at the opening of Parliament, described him thus: ‘a tottering old man, bent, ashy-faced, weary, and with a way of shuffling instead of walking which made him look ten years older than he really was. He wore his inseparable dark grey military overcoat, edged with red and provided with heavy epaulettes, but both his overcoat and his fez seemed too large for him and very much out of place. In fact, Shylock’s gabardine is the only dress that would suit Abdul-Hamid to perfection. ... He looked like some obscene

 

 

4. Report by Karayovov to Dobrovich, dated 22.X.1908. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1308, p. 10.

 

5. Konstitutsionna Zarya, No. 18, 28.X.1908.

 

6. Charles Roden Buxton, Opus cit., pp. 195-199. Buxton, who, as a member of the Balkan Committee, was invited to be present at the opening of Parliament, mentions that the flags proved to have been made in Bradford!

 

 

382

 

and treacherous beast of prey that, after having hidden in the bowels of the earth for years, is finally trapped, caged and brought forth, blinking and reluctant, into the blessed sunlight, while, afar off, the people shudder at the Horror.’ [7]

 

Not all saw him in the same light. Many Turks were still deceived by his hypocrisy and his guile, and believed him when he said that nothing had given him greater pleasure than the granting of the Constitution, and that he had laboured throughout his whole reign to achieve precisely this. [8] A beast he was, but a wily beast, and he continued to take the maximum credit for the Young Turks’ achievements and to make the maximum capital out of their faults and omissions. He celebrated the opening of Parliament by giving a gala-dinner in the Yildiz Palace for the deputies, who greeted his entry and his speech with cries of ‘Long live the Sultan!’. Among those who crowded around him to kiss his hand was the Constitutional Clubs’ candidate Pancho Dorev, who told him that the Ottoman Bulgarians were truly attached to the Sultan and Fatherland. [9] The Sultan for his part, informed his guests that he had never been so happy as at that moment, and amiably helped the veteran Young Turk, Ahmed Riza— now Speaker of the Ottoman Parliament—to water from his own special decanter, which was filled from a spring in Kagithané. [10]

 

Yané expected little from such a Parliament, but he was determined to make the most of the opportunities which it provided. Soon after he came out of hospital, in the second half of October, he left Salonika to consult with his comrades in the Melnik District, and spent five or six days resting in the half-Turkish, half-Bulgarian village of Levunovo, at the house of a woman named Yana Stoyancheva, who was an active member of the Organization. Her daughter, Paraskeva, had also helped the Organization since childhood by carrying messages hidden in her socks, etc., from village to village, under the noses of the Turks, for whom a little girl was beneath all suspicion. Paraskeva was one of the few children in Levunovo—and the only girl—who went to school. When she had finished the primary school, she was sent to Melnik to continue her education, and did so well that she would have gone on to the High School for Girls in Salonika, had not her father died.

 

Paraskeva recalls [11] that although Yané joked with the young people in the village, he looked ill and emaciated, and had to keep to a special diet consisting of milk, saltless bread, saltless chicken, and apples baked with sugar. Yané’s stay in Levunovo evoked great interest among the Turkish

 

 

7. Francis McCullagh, The Fall of Abd-Ul-Hamid, 1910, pp. 11-12.

 

8. Buxton, Opus cit., p. 23. Buxton commented that, in a sense, the Sultan was right, because the real author of the revolution was, indeed, Abdul Hamid!

 

9. Vreme, 22.XII.1908.

 

10. Sir Edwin Pears, Life of Abdul Hamid, 1917, p. 304.

 

11. The information concerning Paraskeva and the Potskov family is taken from oral memoirs related to the author by Paraskeva herself in 1977, and from material written by her and made available by her family.

 

 

383

 

population of the village, who had heard of him, but never previously seen the great ‘Sandan-Pasha’. Now they came, their curiosity mixed with awe, to shake his hand and bring him presents of banitsi and halva. Paraskeva, who was then seventeen years old, evidently made a favourable impression upon Yané, because, when he went on to Hotovo for a meeting with local leaders of the Organization, he suggested to one of them, Georgi Potskov— that the girl would make him a good wife. The Potskovs were one of the wealthier and more influential families in the village of Vranya. Both Georgi and his father had acted as district treasurers for the Organization, and they had kept the money in glass containers buried in their stock of unpolished rice. Tragedy had overtaken the family in September 1906, during the period when the Kaimakam of Melnik had been recruiting Albanian thugs to help the Turks terrorize the Christian population. One such group of thugs, in army uniform, came to Vranya and attacked the Potskov house, looting it and setting it on fire. Most of those inside, including Georgi’s mother, uncle and aunt, were either burnt to death or shot as they attempted to flee, but Georgi, wounded and with his clothes ablaze, had jumped into the yard, dowsed the flames in the basin of the fountain, and managed to escape in the confusion. Yané’s part in the aftermath of the Potskov fire vividly reflects two of his outstanding characteristics: his uncompromising strictness in matters involving the Organization, and his genuine concern for the welfare of all who served it faithfully. He first insisted that Georgi’s father account for the money that had been kept in their house, notwithstanding the extenuating circumstances of the fire. Most of the gold was rescued from the slow-burning rice, but, when it was weighed, it proved to be less than was written in the books. Yané then insisted—and Georgi’s father agreed—that the family borrow money to make up the difference. Later, in fact, the rest of the gold was recovered from the ashes. In contrast to this severity, Yané took a personal interest in the fate of young Georgi and wanted to see him happily married.

 

Paraskeva and Georgi took to each other, and were married on January 26, 1909, with Yané as their kum, or sponsor. Yané drew up the guest list and made all the arrangements; thus, it was a wedding in accordance with the Organization’s laws, with plenty of merriment, but no unnecessary expenditure. No gifts were given to the guests; neither did the bride have silken clothes nor the traditional necklace of gold coins. Yané had forbidden the hiring of drummers from outside, and the music was provided by a local bagpiper. Since Georgi had, as yet, no animals of his own, the bride rode on a fine mare, lent for the occasion by a rich Turk, named Ali Bey.

 

This was not the only occasion on which Yané engaged in matchmaking. He had a phenomenal memory which had eased his way through school, since he would remember his lesson from class and did not have to study it again afterwards. He was able to remember faces and names, even

 

 

384

 

of people whom he had met only once; he remembered their families as well, and would ask after them at subsequent meetings. Public health was one of his major interests, and he was concerned about the long-term effects of prolonged inter-marriage within a static community; thus, on his travels from village to village, he would take note of unattached eligible boys and girls, and would suggest marriages which would both bring new blood into a given village and create good, stable families devoted to the Organization.

 

And yet, perhaps the real reason for his fondness for match-making went far deeper than his avowed interest in genetics, so deep that even he had never admitted its existence or analyzed its origin. By his own insistence on seeing every undertaking through to the end, he had condemned himself to a celibate, childless life, and his suppressed, unfulfilled longing for a family found an outlet in the creation of families which were ‘his’ by reason of his mediation and kumship. He took delight in visiting them, in standing godfather to their children, and in thinking up suitable names for them. He would often spend Christmas and Easter with Georgi and Paraskeva, and he christened all their sons, departing from the tradition that a boy should bear his grandfather’s name by calling them Goran, Leonid and Strahil. Soon after the Hürriyet, in September 1908, Buynov married his Mara, and they both went to live in Nevrokop. In due course, a daughter was born to them, and Yané, whom they invited to be godfather, named the child Pirinka, in honour of the mountain.

 

In the case of the Potskov children, Yané not merely chose their names, but also laid down the law as to how they were to be bathed and fed, passing on the knowledge which he had acquired from watching Mrs Tsilka care for Elena in the manner then favoured by New York paediatricians. When he arrived for Goran’s christening, in February 1910, an old woman was bathing the baby in Bulgarian style, with very little water, in case it caught cold. Yané explained that a baby should be bathed in a deep trough with lots of warm water, reaching three fingers’ span above its navel, and, rolling up his sleeves, he insisted on giving a demonstration, despite horrified protests on the part of those present that he would surely drown the baby. In fact, he managed perfectly, for he had greatly gained in practice and self-confidence since the time when Miss Stone had thrust the helpless, wriggling, new-born Elena into his arms. Yané told Paraskeva that she must not allow old women to bathe her children, but must do it herself in the way that he had shown her. Moreover, he advised her to feed the baby at definite times, regardless of whether it cried or not, and to iron its freshly laundered clothes and nappies with a hot iron in order to destroy bacteria. All that Yané had learnt from Mrs Tsilka and Miss Stone became as binding on Paraskeva and the other young mothers of Vranya as the Statute of the Organization itself.

 

Since the main purpose of Yané’s presence in the Melnik District was to discuss the political situation, he organized meetings in all the towns

 

 

385

 

and bigger villages. At a final gathering in Marikostinovo, it was decided to form a legal political party, and Yané and several of his comrades were charged with the task of going to Salonika to discuss the question with the leaders of the Salonika and Strumitsa Regions. [12]

 

Between the Serchani, on the one hand, and the Strumichani and Solunchani (members of the Salonika Regional Organization), on the other, there existed certain differences of opinion which led them to publish separate newspapers after the Hürriyet. The differences did not go very deep and were basically the same as those which had appeared at the joint congress in Bansko. Chernopeev, with his impulsive enthusiasm, was ready to merge the Organization with the Young Turk Committee and other democratic groupings in order to work for the extention of constitutional rights. He therefore wound up the revolutionary organization in the Strumitsa Region, and the Solunchani had done the same. Yané, with his superior political understanding and natural caution, had his reservations about the Young Turks, and, since he did not exclude the possibility of counter-revolution, he had, accordingly, kept the Serres Organization in full fighting trim and continued to collect funds for its maintenance. A further, subjective, reason for the division within the Left appears to have been a feeling among some of the lefter Socialists that Yané was apt to dominate everyone else, and that an individual leader was undesirable. Much later, one of these Socialists—Angel Tomov—admitted that they had been mistaken, that, in fact, the situation called for a leader as a focus for public attention, and that Yané was the natural choice. [13] Apart from Tomov, the Socialists who joined Chernopeev’s group included Pavel Deliradev, Dimitŭr Vlahov, Hristo Yankov, Nikola Harlakov and Stoyno Stoynov, none of whom had much direct experience of working in the Organization. Chudomir, alone of the leading Serchani, also attached himself to this group, while Dimo Hadzhidimov remained with Yané. Chernopeev and his group also published a paper, the name of which—Edinstvo (Unity)—reflected its policy of seeking maximum unity with the Young Turks. The relations between the two groups were perfectly amicable and comradely, and Konstitutsionna Zarya offered its good wishes to Edinstvo when it first appeared in October 1908, [14] and also gave favourable mention to Nachalo (Beginning), a monthly review edited by Tomov, Harlakov and Deliradev. [15]

 

Discussions between the two left groups were held at the end of December 1908 and the beginning of January 1909, and they agreed to unite in a Bulgarian People’s Federative Party (B.P.F.P.), and to merge Konstitutsionna Zarya and Edinstvo into a single new paper called

 

 

12. Arnaudov, Opus cit., p. 24.

 

13. Memoirs of Angel Tomov. TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 23, pp. 66-67, 83. Also Angel Tomov, Yané Sandansky i Mladoturskiya rezhim. Vŭzspomenatelen list, 2.IV.1945.

 

14. Konstitutsionna Zarya, No. 14, 10.X.1908.

 

15. Ibid., No. 20, 4.XI.1908.

 

 

386

 

Narodna Volya (People’s Will). The paper appeared for the first time on January 17, 1909 (old style) with Angel Tomov as its editor.

 

In its last issue for 1908, Konstitutsionna Zarya had carried a leading article on the need for political parties based on the economic interests of the various classes. The paper declared that the State must serve the people, and that the people must be the masters and not the slaves. Formerly, the most urgent need had been for unity in the struggle against absolutism, but since society is based on class and the state is also a class state, the time had now come for the formation of parties based on class.

 

After the Young Turk Revolution, two specifically Socialist organizations were founded in Macedonia. One of them had its centre in Skopje and was led by Vasil Glavinov, from Veles, who started a newspaper entitled Rabotnicheska Iskra (Workers’ Spark). The other group, which was known as the Socialist Federation, had its centre in Salonika, and was led by a Broad Socialist named Avram Benaroya. Benaroya was a Jew from Vidin, and his group found support primarily among the Jewish workers in Salonika, Kavalla, Serres, Drama and Xanti. They published a paper called Lavorador (Worker), mainly in the Castillian Spanish dialect spoken by the Jewish population of Macedonia, but also with some articles in other languages, including Bulgarian. The two Socialist groups were at daggers drawn, since Glavinov’s Narrow Socialists regarded the Federation as opportunist and lacking in revolutionary constancy.

 

The new Bulgarian People’s Federative Party (B.P.F.P.) considered that the interests of the working class would be sufficiently taken care of by the Socialists, [16] whom its founders saw as colleagues, and therefore, as a leading article in the first number of Narodna Volya explained, the Party and its paper set out to represent the interests chiefly of ‘that section of the Bulgarian population, which comprises the majority and which is the most important element in the Party—the small-holders, chiflik peasants with insufficient or no land, small proprietors, craftsmen and traders, who are deprived of state care’. [17]

 

According to Narodna Volya, the interests of those sections of the population require the consolidation of the constitutional regime, the extention of liberties and the introduction of more far-reaching reforms in the structure of the State and the economy. These goals will be achieved only through organized pressure on the part of all nationalities, united in appropriate political parties. After warning its readers against the danger of reaction and of a resurgence of national animosities encouraged from outside, Narodna Volya summarizes its main slogans as follows: the provision of land for peasants with insufficient land or none; the promotion of occupations through the creation of accessible credit, convenient and

 

 

16. It should be mentioned that, at this time, the Bulgarian Socialists, including the Narrow Socialists, had not yet reached the Leninist conception of the union between the workers and peasants.

 

17. Narodna Volya, 17.I.1909.

 

 

387

 

cheap communications, and the provision of technical and business know-how; the introduction of the principle of democratic rule, through universal suffrage, direct and secret voting, with proportional representation, freedom of the Press, freedom to combine in associations and to hold meetings; the introduction of local self-government; education to be conducted in the pupils’ mother tongue, and, under the overall control of the State, to be organized by bodies elected by each nation; each national department in the Ministry of Education to have at its disposal the taxes collected for the purpose from the nation in question; the existing spiritual bodies to concern themselves solely with spiritual matters, and not with education, which is to be placed under the direct control of the people. These demands, the paper points out, are of a character which will unite and not divide the democratic forces of the various nationalities within the Turkish Empire, and they have been specifically chosen for this reason: ‘We see the unification of the Bulgarian people and their cultural development neither in the secession of parts of the Empire to Bulgaria, nor in the ruin of any of the neighbouring states or of any nationalists within the Empire, but, on the contrary, only in their common prosperity, and in their common brotherhood, which will be achieved in the realization of an Eastern Federation.’ [18]

 

Another article in the same issue of Narodna Volya attacks the Constitutional Clubs for adopting a largely passive, wait-and-see policy towards the Young Turk Revolution, instead of actively engaging in battle for greater rights and freedoms. The Clubs are also attacked for not giving sufficient attention to the problems and sufferings of the other nationalities in the Empire, as though ‘of all the 38 million Ottoman citizens only the one million Bulgarian Exarchists were being ill-treated’. Such a policy merely isolated the Bulgarians from the other peoples, so that ‘impious hands’ could manipulate them. [19]

 

It was the intention of the founders of the B.P.F.P. that the Party should become the rallying point for the ‘vast majority of the Bulgarian people within the Empire’, and that in time the other peoples should take up the same demands, so that the Party would then become a section of a general People’s Federative Party which united all nationalities.

 

In the course of the discussions between the Serchani and the others, a Salonika People’s Federative Organization was established, and, in its second number, Narodna Volya explained that, although the Party did not yet exist as such, its programme would be similar to the views expressed in Edinstvo and Konstitutsionna Zarya, and, now, in Narodna Volya, and that, where there were groups of more than ten persons holding such views, they should form themselves into Clubs of the Bulgarian People’s Federative Party and maintain contact with the Salonika organization

 

 

18. Narodna Volya, 17.I.1909.

 

19. Ibid.

 

 

388

 

until a foundation congress could be held. [20]

 

Branches of the B.P.F.P. rapidly sprang up in many towns and villages, where they organized public meetings to discuss outstanding problems and to send petitions to Parliament. On January 24, 1909, a meeting in Melnik, attended by 1,500 people, heard speeches by two Bulgarians and a Turk (the President of the Court), after which they sent a resolution to Parliament complaining of exploitation by beys and usurers, unjust taxes, etc. [21] On January 30, 1909, a meeting was held in Strumitsa, under B.P.F.P. auspices, to protest about Christians not being allowed to serve in the Army, as befitted citizens, and being forced to pay bedel, the exemption tax, as formerly. [22] On February 21, 1909, a B.P.F.P. protest meeting in Demir Hisar drew up a list of sixteen demands, including land reform, tax reform and election-law reform. [23] A similar mass meeting in Nevrokop drew up a list of fourteen demands, including improvements in education, the repair of roads and bridges, the organization of proper postal services, the substitution of military service for bedel, and the utilization of the national resources of the country. [24] In Razlog, on March 1, 1909, a meeting of 3,000 persons passed a resolution calling for tax reform, state medical services, inter-village postal services, measures to protect the forests, etc. [25]

 

During February and March 1909, again on the initiative of the B.P.F.P., a petition on behalf of the chiflik peasants—the most poverty-stricken and under-privileged section of the population—was prepared for presentation to Parliament. [26] In connection with this, the Salonika Buro of the B.P.F.P. approached the Central Buro of the Constitutional Clubs with a request for co-operation in gathering information about conditions on the chifliks and the organization of the petition to Parliament, since the B.P.F.P. had as yet no local people in certain areas, such as the Bitolya Region. Sad to relate, the hatred felt by Karayovov and his colleagues for the Left was stronger than their concern for the welfare of their landless, exploited compatriots, and they left the B.P.F.P.’s request unanswered. [27]

 

If the Constitutional Clubs failed to understand the importance of th agrarian question for the Bulgarian cause, the Greeks understood it all too well. The demands of the protest meetings in Melnik, Demir Hisar and Nevrokop, and the organization of the Petition were reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens by the Greek Consul in Serres, who,

 

 

20. Narodna Volya, 24.I.1909.

 

21. Ibid., 7.II.1909.     22. Ibid., 14.II.1909.     23. Ibid. 28.II.1909.

 

24. Ibid., 7.III.1909.      25. Ibid., 21.III.1909.      26. Ibid., 7.III.1909.

 

27. Ibid., 21.III. and 28.III.1909.

 

 

389

 

in a report dated February 28, 1909, wrote with alarm about the growing charisma of the Sandanisti, owing to their championship of the chiflik peasants. [28] A week later, the Consul was expressing the opinion that the agrarian question was more important than the Church question, and was describing the economic policy of the Serchani as ‘a truly great and Satanic plan’, the success of which would be ‘an excellent victory’ for the Bulgarians, while for the Greeks, it would represent ‘final defeat’, since the majority of the peasants on chifliks owned by beys and Greeks were Bulgarians, and the ‘Greek centres would remain scattered and isolated minorities’. The only suggestion that the Greek Consul could make for averting the triumph of the Bulgarian cause in Macedonia was for the Greeks themselves to compete with the Serchani by going into the land-reform business themselves, buying up chifliks, giving part of the land to Bulgarians on a hire-purchase basis, and settling Greek-speaking refugees among them, so that ‘the present unmixed population will become mixed’. [29]

 

By February 1909, the extremely unsatisfactory state of affairs in the villages, and the recurrence of arrests, harassment and ill-treatment of Bulgarians by certain Turks, prompted Yané and Panitsa to go to Constantinople to warn the Young Turk leaders of the dangers inherent in such a situation, and to consult with the Bulgarian deputies in the Parliament. [30]

 

While Yané was in Constantinople, his mother died in Dupnitsa on March 8, 1909. Yané’s father was already dead, having died in 1907 at the age of seventy-six. Yané had been in the Rila Monastery at the time, and Nikola Maleshevsky had sent for him. Yané had gone at once to his home, bowed to his father’s body, kissed his hand, and then slipped out into the town. [31] This time, his nephew, Ivan (Vanche), who was studying in the Turkish capital, brought the sad news to Yané in the form of a telegram, and began weeping for his departed grandmother. In an attempt to conceal his own feelings, Yané gruffly reproved his nephew for his tears, saying that there was no point in crying. But Ivan was not deceived, for it was obvious that his uncle was himself close to tears. Yané adored his mother, and he must have felt not only natural grief, but also torturing regret that, throughout the years, he had been able to do so little for his parents’ comfort. It is not only the proverbial haidut who fails to feed

 

 

28. Y. Popgeorgiev and S.N. Shishkov, Bŭlgarite v Serskoto pole, pp. 30-34. Report dated 28.II.1909. Both the Greek original and a Bulgarian translation are given.

 

29. Ibid., pp. 34-37. Report dated 6.III.1909.

 

30. Memoirs of Yané Bogatinov, who was in Constantinople at the time, quoted by Yurdan Atanasov, Spomen za Yané Sandansky, p. 469.

 

31. Ibid., pp. 8-9. The exact date of Ivan Sandansky’s death is not known.

 

 

390

 

his mother: [32] those who deny themselves wealth in the name of a cause are willy-nilly forced into the same position.

 

Three weeks later, Yané’s sorrow was still clearly visible. He had gone, all by himself, to spend Easter with the Potskovs in Vranya, and Paraskeva immediately noticed how silent and sad he was. Because as yet she hardly knew him, she concluded that he was dour by nature, and it was only later that she realized that, on the contrary, he was of an extremely merry disposition and loved to sing and dance. When the family understood the reason for his low spirits, they too became sad, and none of them went to join the open-air horo which was a central feature of Bulgarian Easter celebrations. They spent the holiday at home, keeping Yané company and trying to console him.

 

And then, suddenly, a day or two after Easter, in April 1909, there occurred the counter-revolution which the Serchani had foreseen and feared.

 

A revolution cannot stand still. It must run in order to remain in the same place, and it must run twice as fast in order to outdistance its enemies. But, having cast out the devils of reaction, the Young Turks had rested on their laurels and had stood aside, thus creating a vacuum, swept and garnished, into which the devils speedily returned.

 

The Turkish opposition to the Party of Union and Progress came from two main sources—the Ahrar (Liberal) Party and the Muslim League. The former had been set up in September 1908 by supporters of Prince Sabaheddin, as an opposition party. Its members included feudal landowners and businessmen who acted as agents for European firms and whose interests were affected by the Young Turk opposition to the entry of foreign capital. Young Turks who had failed to get into Parliament or receive lucrative appointments, and who blamed the Party of Union and Progress for their misfortune, also tended to gravitate towards Ahrar. Prince Sabaheddin himself was not a member of Ahrar, but he worked with it, as did the Grand Visir, Kyamil-Pasha. Ahrar was based solely in Constantinople and had no branches elsewhere. The Muslim League represented religious fundamentalists, who regarded the Young Turks as ‘Jacobins’ and worse, and who set out to defend the traditions of Islam and the rights of the Sultan as Caliph.

 

In February 1909, a Government crisis was triggered off by the dismissal of the Army and Navy Ministers, who were Young Turk supporters. Other ministers resigned, and Parliament passed a vote of no confidence in Kyamil-Pasha, who was replaced as Grand Visir by Hilmi-Pasha. This Young Turk victory led to even more bitter struggles with Ahrar, and the situation was exacerbated by the murder of the editor of the Ahrar newspaper Serbesti (Liberty). The assassin was never discovered.

 

 

32. ‘A haidut does not feed his mother’ is a well-known Bulgarian proverb. The Bulgarian word for a ‘ne’er-do-weal’ is nehranimaiko, which literally means ‘one who does not feed his mother’.

 

 

391

 

Matters finally came to ahead on April 13, 1909 (new style), when troops stationed in Constantinople mutinied and gathered on the square in front of Agia Sophia, shouting their support for the Sultan and the Sheriat (Islamic law). The soldiers were joined by thousands of ignorant, ill-informed and disgruntled inhabitants of the capital, among them, no doubt, some of the Sultan’s out-of-work spies. The main cause of the mutiny was bribery and misinformation. [33] It was not a spontaneous expression of dissatisfaction or religious fanaticism, but was engineered from above and paid for with Hamidian gold. For some time, agitators had been haunting the barracks, telling the soldiers that the Young Turks would oblige the whole Army to adopt Christianity, that their officers were bad Muslims, that the Parliamentary deputies were traitors to Islam, and other things of this kind. They also played on the discontent felt by some soldiers over the measures taken by the Young Turks to tighten up discipline and efficiency in the Army and to give military duties priority over prayers.

 

The mutineers demanded the dismissal of all officers except those who had risen from the ranks (i.e. the dismissal of graduates of military schools which had been Young Turk centres); assurances that the Government would act in accordance with the Sheriat; the dismissal of Hilmi-Pasha and the War Minister, and, in general, the ousting from power of the Party of Union and Progress; and, finally, an amnesty for all taking part in the mutiny. The demonstrators then took control of the Parliament building and the War Ministry, and sacked the offices of the Party of Union and Progress. Hilmi-Pasha’s Government, which had done nothing to avert the calamity while in power, now took the line of least resistance and resigned. The only Parliamentary deputy who attempted to protest was Pancho Dorev, from Bitolya, but no one would listen to him. Most of the Young Turks fled—many of them to Salonika—and the remaining deputies chose the Ahrar leader, Ismail-Kemal-Bey as their Speaker. The Sultan graciously accepted the mutineers’ demands, and appointed Ahmed Tevfik-Pasha as Grand Visir, at the head of a cabinet which consisted almost solely of persons devoted to the Sovereign.

 

The mutineers celebrated their victory by firing about a million and a half rounds of ammunition into the air during the night and all the next day. Although some people had been killed in the storming of Parliament, the mutineers were, on the whole, orderly, and did not molest civilians or foreigners. They appeared to have a great deal of money to spend, which further strengthened suspicions that they had been bribed. Later some officers were killed, and, at Adana, in Asia Minor, Muslim fanatics massacred thousands of Armenians.

 

With the influx of fugitives from Constantinople, Salonika once again

 

 

33. See Sir William Ramsay, The Revolution in Constantinople and Turkey, pp. 11-12, and Francis McCullagh, Opus cit., pp. 45-64. Both men were in Constantinople at the time.

 

 

392

 

became the centre of Young Turk activity. Whereas many people in the capital and in Anatolia still suffered from the carefully fostered delusion that the Constitution had been the generous, unsolicited gift of their Sultan and Caliph, there was no such confusion in Macedonia, where the Young Turks had been seen to take power before the Sultan had published his proclamation. Here things were seen in truer perspective, and, in spite of widespread dissatisfaction with the practical results of the Hürriyet, there was still much support for the Young Turks and for the Constitution. The Salonika Young Turks decided to form an Army of Action, based on the Second and Third Army Corps and civilian volunteers, and to send it to Constantinople to deal with the counter-revolution. Its commander was General Mahmut Shevket-Pasha, and its Chief of General Staff was Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk).

 

Yané was in Melnik when the news of the counter-revolution reached him. A protest meeting was held in the town, and a telegram was sent to Parliament. Yané instructed Kazepov to call their former chetnitsi together in Kapatovo and then to take them to the station in Demir Hisar, while he and Chudomir went to Salonika to confer with the Buro of the B.P.F.P. and the Young Turks. [34] At first, various points of view were voiced within the Left: some wanted to use the crisis as an opportunity to wring some concessions from the Young Turks in return for support, while others were in favour of full, unconditional support.

 

The discussion ended in victory for those who thought that the situation was too dangerous to warrant bargaining, and that it would be in the best interests of the Bulgarian population actively and unconditionally to help the Young Turks crush the counter-revolution. The Party also issued an appeal to Bulgarians in the Principality, which they sent to chosen newspapers for the publication: ‘Dear fellow-countrymen! Give your moral support to the revolution in Turkey. Its cause is yours—it brings peace and democracy to the Balkans, its road leads to the happiness of the Balkan peoples, and to their becoming allies.’ [35]

 

The first of the Serchani to leave for Constantinople was Panitsa, who set out for Drama with a group of volunteers whom he had collected from the surrounding villages; then Chernopeev set out from Salonika with a detachment which included men from Salonika, Strumitsa, Kukush and Tikvesh, [36] and finally Yané and Chudomir travelled to Demir Hisar, where Kazepov and Stoyu Hadzhiev were waiting for them with volunteers from the Melnik and Demir Hisar districts. Nikola Spasov, a volunteer from Vlahi, recalls how the Melnik volunteers had left Kapatovo armed with Manlicher rifles, but in Demir Hisar they were issued with Mausers,

 

 

34. Memoirs of Georgi Kotsev, OIM Blagoevgrad, No. 1594.

 

35. Narodna Volya, 6.IV.1909. The appeal was sent to the following newspapers: Mir, Bŭlgaria, Kambana, Recb, Rabotnicheski Vestnik, Rabotnicheska Bulgaria, Demokrat, and Den.

 

36. Narodna Volya, 6.IV.1909.

 

 

393

 

so the Manlichers were sent back to Gorna Sushitsa to be stored for future use. [37] Another volunteer, a man named Bizhev, has recorded his memoirs of Yané on the journey to Constantinople: ‘Yané Sandansky, with his characteristic proud gait, with his head held high, and his piercing eagle’s gaze, inspired us with faith in success as he talked to us on various topics. In the person of Yané we saw an unusual man—the son, not of a woman, but of a whole people. At the station in Demir Hisar, Yané spoke to us briefly. At the end of his speech, loudly and at the top of his voice, he told us: "We are going to help the Young Turks bring down the despot, and we will not consent to another’s coming in his place!" Yané laid great stress on order, propriety and discipline, especially among the volunteers under the conditions then prevailing. On his orders, we did not smoke, drink, gamble, accept gifts from strangers, or go round in groups in populated places, and so forth.’ [38]

 

The train—one of several, so packed with soldiers and singing volunteers that there were men even on the roofs of the carriages—passed through Serres, Drama, Dedeagach and Dimotika, and everywhere the Army of Action was well-received by the population. Finally the train stopped at a station not far from Constantinople, where it was met by a military band, playing a march, and by large crowds, including official representatives of the Young Turks, who immediately directed their steps towards Yané. He looked them over, and then shouted: ‘I don’t want music, I don’t want ceremonies! I want to fight! Give me a battle-line!’ [39]

 

He had enjoyed the music and the celebrations during the Hürriyet, but now they merely irritated him. It was a time for action, and not superfluous courtesies. Yet, willy-nilly, he was again the centre of attention; leading Young Turks, such as Talat-Bey, Niazi-Bey and Enver-Bey, constantly invited him to be their guest, and wherever his men went, they were pointed out by the populace as people from Sandan Tabur (Sandansky’s battalion). Yané’s wishes were, however, soon granted. Indeed, Panitsa’s men, who had arrived earlier, had already seen action and suffered casualties. Little resistance was offered by the Chataldzha garrison, and, by April 22, 1909, Constantinople was ringed by units of the Army of Action, reinforced by volunteers, who, apart from the B.P.F.P. detachments, included a group from Bitolya under Niazi-Bey, Socialists from Veles and Kavadartsi, and from Avram Benaroya’s Federation in Salonika. Nominally, the soldiers at the Sultan’s disposal greatly outnumbered the forces from Macedonia, but many of their officers were Young Turk sympathizers, who, when it came to the point, went over to the Army of Action. Abdul Hamid was no soldier. As one journalist put it, ‘his only weapons are diplomacy, the poisoned bowl and the assassin’s dagger.’ [40]

 

 

37. Memoirs of Georgi Kotsev, OIM Blagoevgrad, No. 1594.

 

38. Memoirs of Bizhev, recorded by Mitso Stoyanov, Pirinsko Delo, 25.IV.1949.

 

39. Memoirs of Bizhev.

 

40. Francis McCullagh, Opus cit., p. 244.

 

 

394

 

When these failed, he adopted a ‘jellyfish attitude’, playing the part of a poor, old, helpless, benevolent man. On this occasion, he sent emissaries to the besiegers, offering presents of cigarettes, Turkish Delight, and even money, and assuring the Macedonian forces that the Sultan awaited them with fatherly joy and would receive them well. This time the bribery and hypocrisy failed, and the attack on Constantinople began.

 

The Golden Horn divides Constantinople into two parts. To the south is Stamboul, the old walled city, with its Byzantine relics, its superb mosques and ancient palaces; Galata lies along the northern water-front of the Golden Horn, and beyond it, to the north is Pera (Beyoglu). Galata and Pera then formed the European quarter, where most of the foreign embassies were to be found. Still further to the north was the Yildiz Palace, separated from Galata and Pera by a number of barracks.

 

When the Army of Action began to storm the city, Shevket-Pasha left the Yildiz Palace until last, choosing to attack and capture the barracks first of all, so that when it came to the final assault on the Yildiz, there would be no reinforcements to come to the Sultan’s aid. In this action, Yané and his men were on the left flank, which approached the city from the north, via Kagithané, and they were always in the forefront of the battle. One by one, the barracks were attacked and captured. The most obstinate resistance came from the troops in the Tashkishla Barracks. After the July Revolution, these had been transferred to the Yildiz, ostensibly to overawe the Sultan, but they had succumbed to Hamidian gold and had become the ringleaders of the mutiny.

 

Towards the evening of April 25, only the Yildiz itself remained untaken. Yané’s men were already in the front line, enthusiastically preparing to storm the last bulwark of autocracy and obscurantism, when Bizhev noticed that Yané had turned black with fury and was grinding his teeth. Bizhev went over to him, and Yané said, in a tone of utter disgust: ‘That dog is surrendering! He’s raising the white flag.’ Bizhev then remembered how just before they had taken their positions, their Turkish comrades had told them: ‘They say that when the Sultan heard of the arrival of Sandan Tabur, he said that he would surrender.’ [41] And he had done so, thereby saving his worthless life, for, had the Serchani entered the Yildiz, they would have shown him no mercy whatsoever, and, indeed, he deserved none.

 

After the victory, the Bulgarian volunteers, led by Yané, Panitsa and Chernopeev, marched triumphantly to Stamboul through the streets of Pera and Galata, singing as they went. Flowers were thrown from the houses along the route, and the Manchester Guardian added its own bouquet with these words: ‘Their gallant bearing and swinging stride evoked tremendous applause all along the line, at least in the European quarters, where the various detachments sang patriotic songs as they

 

 

41. Memoirs of Bizhev.

 

 

395

 

marched along keeping step to the tune.’ [42] Indeed, the Bulgarians made an excellent impression on all, not only because of their songs and their smart appearance, but also because of their disciplined, orderly conduct—the result of constant exhortation on the part of the three voivodi that they behave properly and not besmirch their Bulgarian name. [43]

 

In that hour of triumph, the tarnished image of the Hürriyet regained its pristine brilliance, and the hearts of Yané and his comrades soared as never before on wings of hope and exultation. This was not Nevrokop, or even Salonika. This was Constantinople itself! Constantinople—the Tsar-City, [44] the age-old imperial capital, which, through all its changes of name and religion, had remained a perpetual magnet for ambitious rulers great and small, from east and west. During her long history, Bulgaria had produced her share of contenders for the possession of the ‘Second Rome’: Khan Krum, who, in 813 AD, had marched his armies down to its very walls, from which its pious inhabitants had watched with mounting horror as he sacrificed to Tangra, pagan god of the Proto-Bulgars; Tsar Simeon, who, five generations later, had converted the prestigious city, where, as a youth, he had been educated for the Church in the most elite of Byzantium’s learned schools, [45] and finally, after a thousand years, Tsar Ferdinand, the petty princeling, who, not content with the acquisition of a minor crown, was now besotted by the mirage of an emperor’s throne. None of the royal rulers of Bulgaria was destined to see his soldiers within Byzantium’s walls. The only Bulgarian commanders ever to parade through the streets of Constantinople as victors were Yané, Panitsa and Chernopeev. And they had come, not to make, but to break the power of tsars and sultans, in the name of the working people of all nations. Thus, as the flowers showered down upon them, they sang Botev’s song in praise of those who die for freedom, and Georgi Kirkov’s Socialist Song of Labour, and then, as they passed the Embassy of Imperial Russia, they broke into the well-known Russian revolutionary song, Boldness, Friends! Do not lose heart in the unequal fight. The Yildiz had fallen, and the days of the Winter Palace were numbered.

 

The tumult and the excitment were followed by a few days of rest and sightseeing. Soon after the victory, Yané and half a dozen of his chetnitsi visited Dimitŭr Brŭzitsov, editor of the Exarchate’s newspaper Vesti (News), at his home in Pera. Here a table, loaded as though for

 

 

42. Manchester Guardian, 27.IV.1909.

 

43. Memoirs of Yané Bogatinov. Quoted by Yurdan Anastasov in Spomen za Yané Sandansky, p. 471.

 

44. The Slavs call Constantinople ‘Tsarigrad’, which means ‘Tsar-City’.

 

45. Simeon’s father, Prince Boris, who had adopted Christianity as the state religion of Bulgaria, had intended him to be Bulgaria’s first Patriarch. When, however, his eldest son reverted to paganism, Boris was obliged to change his plan and make Simeon his successor.

 

 

396

 

‘ten Easters’, was set before the guests, and Yané at once took Brŭsitsov’s seven-year-old son, Hristo, on his knee. Dividing his attention between the parents and the child, he told Hristo that he would live to see the real life of the Balkans—a life of brotherhood and love, without sultans. After the meal, the visitors began to sing, this time the folksongs of their native regions, and it was not long before the chetnitsi were on their feet, dancing the horo. Hearing the sounds of merriment, the family’s Greek neighbours and a Turk came in, and Yané jokingly said: ‘There’s a Balkan Federation for you!’ [46]

 

Even now, Yané had little time for relaxation. He visited the Exarch, and had a number of meetings with Turkish leaders, in the course of which he obtained their consent for the Bulgarians to have their own cemetery in the Shishli quarter of Constantinople. Up till then all efforts in this direction, over the past thirty years, had proved fruitless, and Bulgarians had perforce been buried in the Greek cemetery. Now those few volunteers who had been killed in the fighting were reburied in the new Bulgarian cemetery.

 

The central topic in Yané’s conversations with the Young Turks was, however, the future of the monarchy, and he impressed upon all the leaders whom he met that now was the time to get rid of the monarchy and to replace it with a democratic republic. But everywhere he received the same answer: the mass of the Turkish people were accustomed to having Allah and a sultan. [47] In other words, once again there were to be half-measures instead of a clean sweep.

 

After the surrender, Abdul Hamid was treated with the utmost courtesy by the Young Turks. On April 27, a fetva was obtained from the Sheikh-ul-Islam authorizing his deposition, and the same evening he was sent by train to the revolutionary capital, Salonika, where he was installed in the Villa Allatini—a fine house built by a Jewish banker. With him were his official wives, two small sons, a number of concubines and domestic servants, and a small amount of luggage. Later he was allowed to send for things, including his favourite Angora cat. In the hour of his downfall, despite the courtesy shown to him, the man who had been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of human beings, became the complete pathetic ‘jellyfish’: he was obviously frightened of the motor car which took him to the station, and became even more terrified when the engine started, since he took it to be some new-fangled instrument of death! In spite of repeated assurances to the contrary, he remained convinced that he was about to be killed, and kept repeating verses of the Koran and a parrot-like formula: ‘I fed my brother on bird’s milk, and this is my reward. Allah’s will be done.’ [48]

 

 

46. Memoirs of Hristo Dimitrov Bruzitsov, Pirinsko Delo, 10.VII.1975.

 

47. Memoirs of Bizhev.

 

48. Daily Chronicle, 29.IV.1909. ‘Bird’s milk’ is an expression meaning ‘impossible to find’, i.e. the last word in luxury.

 

 

397

 

Having pensioned off the ‘Red Sultan’ in the most gentlemanly way, the Young Turks proceeded to place his brother on the throne as Mehmet V. A hundred-and-one-gun salute was fired and the city was once again illuminated.

 

Yané was utterly disgusted. He did not prolong his stay in Constantinople, but took his men home on the first available ship—a cargo vessel which altered its route in order to take them to Salonika more quickly. They arrived early in the morning on Sunday May 2, to an enthusiastic welcome. Salvoes were fired and they were greeted on the quay by large crowds. Preceded by a military band, the three detachments, led by Yané, Panitsa, Chernopeev, and welcoming Turkish officers, marched four abreast through the town. On the Square of Freedom in front of the Hotel Angleterre, they paused to hear a speech of welcome from the editor of Narodna Volya. Then they marched through the covered market towards the headquarters of the B.P.F.P. On the way, an unfortunate misunderstanding occurred: the band halted in front of the building of the Constitutional Clubs, and some of the leaders came out onto the balcony, evidently preparing to make speeches. Panitsa, however, immediately told the band to move on, for, while it was true that some rank and file members of the Constitutional Clubs had participated in the overthrow of Abdul Hamid, the leadership had avoided involvement and had even discouraged people from volunteering. After this embarrassing moment, the procession went on to the B.P.F.P.’s headquarters, where the Socialist Stoyno Stoynov spoke from the balcony. The next stop was at the Young Turks’ Club, where the volunteers were offered refreshments and heard speeches by a Turkish lawyer and a Serbian student of Law. Georgi Todorov, who had recently announced his engagement to Nevena Izmirlieva, a sister of Panitsa’s wife, replied on behalf of the guests. After calling at the Officers’ Club, the whole procession marched through the main street of Salonika to the barracks. [49]

 

Thus the great march on Constantinople ended in another ‘half-victory’, and Yané went back to his district to make the best of things and to do what he could to improve the lot of its inhabitants.

 

On May 27, 1909, he again set out for Constantinople, where he had further discussions with Turkish leaders, including Hilmi Pasha, on problems touching the interests of the Bulgarian population in Macedonia. [50] Among other things, he sought Turkish help in securing the return of Bulgarian schools and churches appropriated by other nationalities. ‘The churches don’t interest me personally,’ Yané told the correspondent of Dnevnik, ‘but unless they are returned, it is out of the question to expect the population to settle down to peaceful develop-

 

 

49. Narodna Volya, 25.IV.1909.

 

50. Some of these matters may have already been raised when Yané was in Constantinople in April, but his meeting with Hilmi Pasha probably took place in May/June.

 

 

398

 

ment.’ [51] In some areas of Macedonia, the Bulgarians had taken the law into their own hands, and had forcibly reoccupied churches taken from them by the Greeks. The Serres leadership, however, wishing to avoid further national conflicts, urged the population to have patience and wait for disputes over buildings to be settled by law. Yané also brought very forcibly to the attention of the Turkish leaders the fact that foreign propaganda gangs (mainly Greeks) had killed at least sixty Bulgarians since the Hürriyet, and he declared: ‘If a stop is not put to this, we will commit 600 murders in a few days without batting an eyelid. Murder and the Hürriyet are incompatible—either one, or the other!’ [52]

 

Another problem which Yané raised with the Turks was the return of Bulgarian lands and forests wrongfully taken from their owners. The Turks, who had promised to help over the schools and churches, said that the lands and forests would also be restored, if a list were provided of the properties in question. Yané at once went to the Exarchate to ask for a list, only to find that nobody there had troubled to make one. ‘I then left, grieved and in despair that Bulgaria’s money was being thrown away, although I am in favour of the Exarchate as an institute, with the present state of affairs in Turkey.’ [53] Hilmi Pasha promised Yané that the State would provide 1,500,000 liri for the purchase of beys’ estates, which would then be sold off cheaply to the peasants on the basis of installments paid over a number of years, and the two men even prepared a draft law giving effect to this plan. Hilmi Pasha had always been gifted with the blarney and generous with empty assurances; thus, most of his promises to Yané were never honoured. Yané made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the Grand Vizir, and in an interview published in the Turkish paper Ittihad, he said: ‘The Bulgarians had no love for Hilmi Pasha before, and they have none now. They have no faith in his actions. But, if he succeeds in his actions and is just—and that needs time—then they will change their opinion. For the time being, they are not satisfied with the Cabinet.’ [54]

 

In May 1909, a Parliamentary commission investigated the Yildiz and made an inventory of its contents. Their findings revealed a truly nightmarish establishment, reflecting the fear-ridden, selfishly extravagant personality of its creator. Within the double walls that surrounded the park, there were several buildings housing the royal household—secretaries, chamberlains, aides, ladies, slaves, relatives, cooks, servants, guards, etc.—amounting to several thousand persons. The relatives of the Circassian harem women were requested to come and take them home, and the unclaimed ladies were allowed to live at state expense in the Top Kapi Palace. The Kyuchyuk Mabeyin, where the Sultan had normally lived,

 

 

51. Dnevnik, 18.VIII.1909. Interview with Yané conducted by Ivan Kolarov.

 

52. Ibid.     53. Ibid.

 

54. TDIA, f. 176, op. 2, a.e. 451. Report from Bulgarian Legation in Constantinople with text of interview. Report dated 2.VI.1909.

 

 

399

 

was built on rock and had no cellars, because Abdul Hamid feared both earthquakes and dynamite. It was a labyrinthine building, with an air of having been constructed so as to render pursuit along corridors impossible. The distribution of the rooms was haphazard and did not correspond to the windows in order to mislead would-be assassins. The Sultan was continually walling up doors and windows, and opening new ones, and narrowing passages by placing furniture in them. There was, in fact, so much excess furniture in the palace that, as one journalist put it, the place resembled an auctioneer’s showrooms. [55] The table and chair in the Sultan’s study had insulated legs as a precaution against lightning, and the building, comprising no more than a dozen or so rooms, contained over a thousand revolvers!

 

There were vast collections of superfluous objects, such as gramophones, pianos, clocks, shirts, collars and keys, and everywhere there was great disorder and carelessness. Valuable and sacred books were found in the stables, lying about among saddles and bridles. There was a room full of parrots which constantly shrieked: ‘Long life to my Sultan!’ Abdul Hamid had made a practice of ordering animals and birds from abroad and then forgetting about it, so that foreign keepers would arrive and be paid a salary for years on end without ever handing over their charges. The Sultan would order rare specimens of pedigree dogs and then allow them to interbreed, so that the Parliamentary commission found the ‘sorriest collection of mongrels they had ever seen’. The royal stables were found to contain some five hundred horses, most of them pure Arab thoroughbreds. Since the new Sultan never rode, it was considered that two hundred would be more than sufficient for his needs, and the remaining three hundred were presented to people who had played a leading role in saving the revolution.

 

Tradition has it that one of these Arab horses was given to Yané, although the truth may be that he purchased it himself. [56] Yané was not motivated by personal gain, and, for him, the inner satisfaction which he derived from his activity was reward enough. He was a man unencumbered by possessions, and with little taste for luxury. Apart from his books and his weapons, he owned little more than the poorest chiflik peasant, and his

 

 

55. Francis McCullagh, Opus cit., p. 258. Most of the information about the interior of the Yildiz is taken from this work.

 

56. Yané himself, in an interview published in Dnevnik (18.VIII.1909), denied that the stallion was a gift. He showed the journalist a receipt and said that he had bought the animal. Asked where the stallion was, Yané replied that it was in Melnik, at the disposal of the population for breeding purposes, in order to improve the local strain. Bozhin Yakimov, who remembered Yané and his various horses clearly, told me that the stallion was called Alcho, and that it was ‘red’ (chestnut), with white ‘socks’ and a white blaze on its forehead. He also told me that Mitsa, Yané’s mare, which is popularly believed to have been the ‘gift-horse’, was in fact, bought by Yané in Salonika about 1911. Alcho and Mitsa had a number of foals.

 

 

400

 

favourite food was beans and pastŭrma. [57] He liked to be scrupulously clean and modestly well-dressed, but he wanted nothing more. Gold had no attraction for him except in terms of how many guns it could buy, or how many young people it could educate, and he despised all forms of privilege. There was all the difference in the world between the ‘Tsar of Pirin’, who had marched through the streets of Constantinople as a conqueror, in the name of an ideal, and the other Tsar—the would-be conqueror—who dreamed and schemed in the name of a personal ambition. Ferdinand the gourmand, the lover of the exotic and the luxurious, with his preference for complicated dishes, his penchant for exaggerated court ceremonial, his interest in the occult, and his passion for precious stones—Ferdinand would undoubtedly have been perfectly at home in Byzantium. Even in poverty-stricken, peasant Bulgaria, he cultivated Egyptian lotus-flowers, sent to Japan for thousands of butterfly chrysalids to gratify his sense of the aesthetic, and kept elephants because their trunks reminded him of his own huge Bourbon nose. Even in Bulgaria, he would carry priceless gems loose in his pockets, and loved to sit alone in the semi-darkness, robed in black velvet, letting rubies, sapphires, emeralds, pearls and diamonds cascade through his pale, ring-encrusted, long-nailed fingers. [58] This secret pastime, described by Ferdinand himself as ‘truly voluptuous’ was something which Yané would have neither enjoyed nor understood. Like the Roman mother of legend, Yané found children—even other people’s—more pleasurable than jewels, and, if beauty were the sole criterion, then Pirin had ‘jewels’ of her own, which she openly displayed and freely bestowed on all comers: forests of jade and malachite, like vaulted treasure caves, through which shafts of sunlight fell on floors of burnished copper, scattered with the ruby brilliance of wild strawberries under emerald leaves; pastures of chtysoprase strewn with sapphire gentians; scintillating flowers of every shape and hue, that become even tinier, brighter and more jewel-like the higher they grow; salamanders of gold and jet that crawl through rain-drop diamonds; grasshoppers with scarlet-lacquered legs, and iridescent scarabs of bronze and opal.

 

Yané fought for the welfare of the whole Turkish Empire, the whole Balkan Peninsula, and, indeed, the whole world, but he had no ambition to live, let alone rule, in great cities like Constantinople, or even Salonika. Pirin was all that he needed, and it was to Pirin that he always returned.

 

 

57. Pastŭrma is dried salted meat, usually prepared from older, thinner animals, especially sheep and goats.

 

58. See Marie, Queen of Rumania, The Story of My Life, London, 1934, Vol. II, p. 251.

 

 

 

[Previous] [Next]
[Back to Index]