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





As the months and the years went by, it became increasingly clear that those who sincerely supported the Hürriyet were fighting a losing battle. The Bulgarian Court and bourgeoisie had long favoured war as the solution to the Macedonian problem; their opposite numbers in Greece and Serbia were not averse to the idea, while the Young Turks, with their shortsighted nationalism, were alienating the sympathies of the national minorities and playing straight into the hands of the war-mongers. No small role in the general deterioration of the situation was played by irresponsible provocation on the part of the Right Wing of the Organization.


While Yané had experienced little difficulty in making the transition from an outlaw chieftain to a peaceful politician and diocesan councillor, there were others who proved less amenable to change. The Hürriyet had created a large body of redundant professional chetnitsi, unaccustomed to working for a living, and incapable of adapting to the new conditions. This was especially true of chetnitsi from areas dominated by the Right Wing, who were accustomed to being maintained at the expense of the Organization, both on Turkish territory and in the Bulgarian Kingdom. Yané had never allowed his men to remain idle, and those who had to spend any length of time in the Kingdom were set to work, not only for reasons of economy, but also to protect them from the demoralization that comes from aimlessly hanging around cafés and taverns. Even after the proclamation of the Constitution, cheti organized in the Kingdom continued to cross into Macedonia to disturb the fragile peace established by the Hürriyet. The activities of these cheti increased the Turks’ mistrust of the Bulgarian population, and, in the autumn of 1909, they retaliated by drafting a draconian Law Against cheti, which in its original form would have allowed the authorities to take action against the families of chetnitsi and ‘suspicious persons’, as well as the actual offenders, and to imprison those who circulated poems and song-books of an inflammatory nature. The Law was finally presented to the Ottoman Parliament in March 1910, in a somewhat watered-down version: the families of chetnitsi were no longer liable to prosecution, but anyone who failed to arrest or betray chetnitsi was himself, ipso facto, regarded as a participant in the cheti. Thus, in the areas where cheti operated, the peasants found themselves between the Devil and the deep blue sea,





since, if they betrayed the cheti, the Organization would punish them, and if they did not, the Turkish authorities would. The Left took the view that the time for cheti had passed, and that their continued activity was harmful and unjustified. Narodna Volya laid the blame squarely on Austria, whose plans to reach the Aegean could be furthered by anarchy in Turkey, and on Ferdinand, ‘the little Tsar with the morbid ambitions’, [1] whose foreign and domestic policy also required that the Macedonian question be kept constantly on the boil. While agreeing that, in the interests of public order, a law against cheti was necessary, the paper considered that the proposed law was a bad one, which would evoke general discontent and which could have the opposite effect to that intended. It suggested that good government and a multi-national militia would be the best antidotes. [2] This, however, required mutual confidence of a kind that was sadly lacking. The Turks both feared and distrusted the Bulgarian population of Macedonia; official Bulgarian policy did nothing to allay their suspicions, and thus both Turks and Bulgarians found themselves trapped in a vicious spiral of ever increasing repression and ill-will.


During 1910, the Turkish Government began a campaign to disarm the Bulgarian population in Western Macedonia, i.e. where the influence of the Right Wing was strongest. In some places this led to people being arrested and beaten up. In the Melnik area, on the other hand, the authorities appeared either unable or unwilling to protect the Bulgarian population from robbery and murder at the hands of Turkish and Albanian armed bands, and Yané organized a protest petition, signed by the mayors of thirty-four villages, describing in detail 22 cases which had occurred in the past few months, and complaining that, whereas they had fulfilled their duties as citizens, the Government had failed to do what was expected of it. The petition, dated August 16/29 1910, was translated into Turkish by Dalchev and was presented to the Grand Vizir. A French translation was also released to the foreign press. The petition immediately provoked an article critical of Yané’s action in the Salonika newspaper Yeni Asir, and a second article in the Constantinople paper Tanin, which tried to make light of the crimes, attributing some of the murders to jealous husbands, and alleging that, since the crime-rate in Melnik was far below that in Anatolia, there was no cause for complaint! [3] For its part, the Turkish Government ordered the Vali of Salonika—Ibrahim-Bey—to investigate the allegations contained in the petition and to prevail upon Yané to surrender the arms of the Serres Region. This Yané had not the slightest intention of doing. Indeed, he was currently engaged in superintending the concealment of the Region’s guns in secret stores all over Pirin. When the authorities in Melnik summoned him to the post



1. Narodna Volya, 26.IX.1909.


2. Ibid., 3.IX.1909 and 6.III.1910.


3. TDIA, f. 176, op. 2, a.e.766, pp. 1-6. Reports from the Bulgarian consulates in Salonika and Constantinople to Paprikov.





office to communicate with the Vali, who wanted him to go to Salonika, Yané took the precaution of sending people to bring the militia from the villages around Melnik to surround the town and to be ready to free him, should the Turks be planning a repetition of the previous post-office incident. When the militia was in position, Yané boldly told the Vali that if he wished to discuss anything with him, he must come to Melnik. The Turks stood in awe of Yané and handled him with kid gloves, even when they considered him obstreperous. Thus the Vali meekly agreed to travel to Melnik, whereupon Yané left the town, and, when Ibrahim-Bey arrived there some two days later, Yané sent word that the Vali and his suite, which included several Young Turks and the correspondent of the French newspaper Le Temps, should come to Lopovo, high in Pirin. After some negotiations, it was agreed that they should meet in the more accessible village of Rozhen. [4] There, under the watchful eye of the Organization’s militia and former chetnitsi, who ringed the village, the Vali of Salonika and Yané discussed outstanding problems at length. Yané had previously informed the Melnik authorities that, if any attempt was made to disarm the population, he would return to the mountains with his cheti, and now he openly told the Vali that he would not surrender so much as the sling of a single gun. Yet, while remaining adamant on the question of weapons, Yané conducted the negotiations with such tact and persuasion that it was the Vali who made all the concessions. He agreed that the Serres Region should be neither disarmed nor settled with Turkish refugees; that the area be cleared of Turkish and Albanian bands; that more Bulgarians be appointed to posts in local government; that more Bulgarian children be accepted into Turkish secondary and higher schools; that Bulgarians, as well as Turks, be given loans from the Agrarian Bank and that the problems of the chiflik peasants be dealt with.


Thus the negotiations ended amicably and apparently in victory for Yané, but the latter was too experienced a politician to imagine that his victory was anything other than temporary. The Turks had ever been more generous in their promises than in their deeds, and even the Vali’s promises applied only to part of Macedonia. Elsewhere, the situation was going from bad to worse, with the arrest and ill-treatment of those who resisted disarmament, with the forcible eviction of Bulgarians to make room for Turkish refugees, and with every sign that the Turks were determined to maintain their privileged position. The ‘shadows of the ancient prison house’ were, indeed, beginning to close once more, and the ‘dazzling light of liberty’ had all but failed.


In this situation, it was only to be expected that an increasing number of Bulgarian voices should be raised in favour of a ‘war of liberation’ as the only possible solution. During the first half of 1910, a number of former members of the Organization, from areas where the Organization



4. TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 25, pp. 52-54.





had been dissolved following the Hürriyet, had met to discuss what should be done, and had decided to revive the Organization and to renew revolutionary armed struggle. As a result, a new Central Committee, consisting of Todor Alexandrov, Petŭr Chaulev and Hristo Chernopeev, [5] was formed ‘by written agreement’ early in 1911. Through Chernopeev— who, after despairing of the Hürriyet, had gone to Sofia [6]—efforts appear to have been made to persuade Yané to join the new group, as shown by a letter written by Chernopeev to Yané on October 2, 1910, i.e. about five weeks after the meeting between Yané and the Vali of Salonika. In this letter, Chernopeev refers to various occasions when Yané is said to have indicated that he was thinking of going ‘underground’, and then continues: ‘A month ago, you had run away, but after your meeting with the Vali you became "legal". How is all this to be explained? There are two suppositions: either you are playing at being a komita in order to bamboozle the Melnik population into supporting you without your accounting for the sums which you spend, or else you are an agent provocateur. Accusations which, as you see, are very cruel, but I can find no other supposition, though you, if you like, can repudiate them.’ Chernopeev concludes his letter by asking Yané a number of questions connected with his present attitude towards resuming clandestine activity, and says that, if he receives no answer, he will conclude that his suppositions are correct, and will act accordingly.


Yané obviously realized that this letter was not, in fact, a personal message from his old comrade, and, treating it with the contempt that it deserved, he chose to ignore it. [7] The true character of the letter became plain when the ‘Head Committee of the Bulgarian People’s Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization’ published the text in the Sofia newspaper Dnevnik, [8] as part of a circular, addressed to the members of the said Committee and the ‘population of the Serres Revolutionary Region’, and aimed at undermining Yané’s prestige and influence in that Region.



5. See Dimitŭr Gotsev, Nationalnoosvoboditelna borba v Makedonia 1912-1915, p. 15. The new External Representatives were Todor Lazarov and Pavel Hristov, while Dr Tatarchev, Dr Kushev and Yavorov were elected as reserve members of the Central Committee.


6. News items connected with Chernopeev’s arrival in Bulgaria were printed in Kambana, 25 & 26.I.1910.


7. There is, in fact, no evidence that Yané ‘ran away’, i.e. went underground, and then went back on his decision, unless his absence from Melnik while collecting the signatures of the 34 mayors was misinterpreted. That secrecy had to be observed until the document was ready is clear from a report from the Salonika consulate to Paprikov, which describes how Dalchev had informed the consulate in secret and had asked that nothing be said until the signatures had been collected. This would be done by Yané himself, who was staying in ‘mountain hamlets not far from Melnik and was considered to be semi-illegal’. See TDIA, f. 176, op. 2, a.e. 766, p. 1. Report dated 28.VI1.1910.


8. Dnevnik, 13.I.1911.





The circular begins with a commentary on the political situation, and argues that, in view of the fraudulent character of the Hürriyet, the only way open to true revolutionaries is that of underground struggle—anything less represents betrayal and is tantamount to support for Turkish panislamic aspirations. The writers then express their desire to ‘draw the attention of the Serchani to the two-faced behaviour of certain former leading revolutionaries, because this duplicity could have a disastrous effect on the struggle for true freedom’. Chernopeev’s letter follows, and Yané’s failure to answer it is interpreted as proof of the accusations contained in it. The Head Committee then adds a number of additional accusations, the purpose of which is to ‘warn’ the population of the Serres Region that ‘Yané Sandansky has completely surrendered himself to the service of the Turkish Government and is an enemy of the revolutionary struggle’. Yané is accused of a whole series of questionable deeds and is generally made out to be a man ready to do anything for money. He is, for example, said to have deposited 70,000 leva of the Organization’s funds in Dupnitsa for his personal use. (In fact, he never touched a penny of this money, and it was still intact at the time of his death.) He is also said to support the Turkish policy of disarming the Bulgarian population, when, in fact, his was the only region which never, at any point, gave up its arms.


The Head Committee’s offensive had as little effect on the population of the Serres Region as Chernopeev’s letter had on Yané. It was not until the mid-1920s, after all the leading Serchani had been murdered, that the Right Wing of the Organization was able to establish itself in Pirin, and, even then, the victory was a hollow, impermanent one, for the hearts of the people remained true to Yané, and, in new struggles, under new circumstances, it was precisely those whom he had led and educated, and their children, who formed the new generation of fighters for freedom and social justice.


Thus Serres remained unrepentantly Left, but, during the painful and complicated months which led up to the Balkan War, it became clear that Chernopeev—ever volatile in his enthusiasms, and now impetuous in his rejection of Turkish half-measures and deceptions—had fallen under the influence of elements whose tactics had more in common with those advocated by Ilinden and the Right-Wing Kyustendil Congress than the time-honoured policies of the Serchani and their Strumitsa allies. Under its new leaders, the Organization undertook a series of spectacular acts of terrorism known as the ‘donkey outrages’—an earlier version of the car bomb. Infernal machines were concealed in bags of flour, grain, etc., loaded onto donkeys, which were left on the market squares of Shtip, Kochani, Doiran and other towns, at peak trading hours, so that large numbers of innocent people were killed and maimed. Still more innocent people suffered when the infuriated Turkish authorities retaliated by indiscriminate massacres of the Bulgarian population. The only purpose





which the ‘donkey outrages’ served was to inflame public opinion on both sides, and to hasten the outbreak of war.


The Serchani were totally opposed to such actions. They still regarded war as the greater evil, and one which, moreover, would not produce the results intended by its advocates. Yet, however much they deplored the policies of the Bulgarian Government and the new Organization, the Serchani could not afford to ignore them and risk being overtaken by events for which they were unprepared, for, in the final analysis, if it really came to war between Bulgaria and Turkey, they, as Bulgarians, would throw all their weight into helping the Bulgarian Army. Thus, in 1911, Yané began to seek clarification on the intentions of the Bulgarian Government and on the role which the Serchani could play in the event of war. In January 1911, he had two meetings with Mustakov, the secretary of the Bulgarian Consulate in Salonika, who sent a report of their conversation to the Chief of General Staff in Sofia. [9] The meetings were arranged through Dr Tenchev, in whose house the first meeting was held. According to Mustakov, Yané asserted that, in spite of believing in the possibility of Turkey’s regeneration, he was still a pure Bulgarian at heart, and he spoke bitterly of those who ‘accused him of lack of patriotism, of hostility towards Bulgaria, etc., when he had done nothing for Turkey which had harmed his own people, when he had protected them against what they had suffered in other regions, when he had preserved his arms (and even increased them) and was always ready, when necessary, to win something through revolution. He alone was ready to help Bulgaria in a war (in spite of the fact that people considered him to be her enemy), firstly because his organization was as intact as ever, and, secondly, because his area was the most important for Bulgaria in the event of a war’. Later, Mustakov had a second talk with Yané in the latter’s lodgings, as a result of which the diplomat appears to have become convinced both of Yané’s sincere desire to make himself useful and of the strategic importance of the Serres Region, and he asked the C.G.S. for instructions as to how to proceed.


In March 1911, Yané sent a message via Naumov to Malinov, who then held the posts of both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. The message, which was forwarded by the Salonika Consulate, read as follows: ‘I hear that a number of persons from Bulgaria have recently entered the Series sanjak. These people are the tools of the Sofia United Revolutionary Macedonian-Adrianople Committee and aim to win my region through clandestine actions and through sowing discord among my people. I declare that, if it is a question of organizing and preparing my region for some action or other, it is already sufficiently prepared and equipped with people and with means. I am ready at a moment’s notice to go into



9. Military Archives in Veliko Tŭrnovo. f. 23, op. II, a.e. 163, pp. 1-5. Report dated 21.I.1911.





the mountains and to give sufficient proof of the preparedness of my people to undertake resolute actions. If, on the other hand, the Sofia revolutionary circles—inspired and incited, not by the Government of Mr Malinov, but by the people of the Sofia War Ministry, including first and foremost a certain Captain Kostov or Kosta Nikolov, and by those of the Court—aim merely to annoy me, then I shall be obliged to go to undesirable extremes, and will not be responsible for the dismal consequences. I consider that I can still work legally for a certain time. My comrades will also do the same as long as they are able. But, if the time has come for me to cease my legal activity, then tell me so, instead of sending people into the Serres Region to work against me, thereby provoking me to go to undesirable extremes.’ [10]


Although Yané took the precaution of ordering a grey Caucasian burka (a thick felt cloak) to protect himself from the cold and damp, should he once again be forced to become an outlaw, [11] he continued to work legally in every direction that was open to him, and, indeed, much of his most fruitful work as a diocesan councillor was done precisely during this period when the shadows of war were beginning to gather. He also did his best to reason with the Young Turk leaders in order to persuade them that, for their own good, they should adopt more progressive policies. He went, for example, to Salonika and argued with one of the Union and Progress leaders that, by bringing in draconian laws, the Turkish State was more likely to destroy than save itself. When the Turk took offence, Yané bluntly told him that the Bulgarians would be forced to take up arms in order to put an end to an intolerable situation. The Turk retorted that their guns would be little use against Turkish artillery, whereupon Yané pointed out that Turkish artillery had not prevented the loss of Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, and that, if the Young Turks continued their present course, they would lose Macedonia and Thrace as well. ‘If you really love this land,’ Yané told him, ‘give freedom to the people who inhabit it, and thus, in this way, it will be preserved from decay, and you yourself will the better fulfill your duty as a son of this country.’ [12]


Yané still enjoyed the respect and goodwill of the Vali, and when his old friend, Captain Angelov, was arrested after creating a scene in a café chantant, Yané persuaded the Vali to release him. [13] His relations with the Young Turks in the Serres Region were, however, becoming less happy, for many of them were land-owning beys who objected to his constant agitation for agrarian reform. A few of the Serres Young Turks, on the



10. TDIA, f. 176, op. 2, a.e. 1068, pp. 1-2. Report dated 7.III.1911.


11. See letter from Yané to Tasko Stoilyov (Kocherinovo) dated 13.XII.1910. OIM Blagoevgrad, No. 238.


12. Arnaudov. Unpublished Opus cit., p. 25.


13. Military Archives, Veliko Tŭrnovo. f. 23, op.II, a.e. 163, pp. 4-5. Report from Mustakov to C.G.S., Sofia, dated 7.I.1911.





other hand, sided with Yané, because they, too, realized that only a radical programme of reforms, such as that proposed by the P.F.P., could save the Ottoman Empire. A certain Dr Ahmet Bey even suffered for his support for the P.F.P. He was summoned to Serres, shut up in the barracks and threatened by the beys before being allowed to return home. After this, he was more circumspect, but he still sided with the Serchani. [14]


As the international situation grew more tense, fresh attempts were made at disarming the population in the Serres Region, but once again Yané’s categorical opposition and persuasive arguments forced the Turks to desist and to make other concessions as well. The disarmament action was renewed after the ‘donkey outrages’, and plans were laid to ambush Yané and Buynov. These, however, were thwarted, thanks to warnings from Dr Ahmet and other friendly Turks. [15] Another attempt on the part of reactionary Turks to kill Yané was made when he was a guest at a Turkish party in the so-called Pashova house in Melnik. Thanks to his sang-froid and resourcefulness, Yané escaped unscathed by walking out arm-in-arm with the most important Turks present, so that the assassins could not shoot at him without hitting his companions. [16]


It was not only conservative Turks who threatened Yané’s life. His enemies within the Organization continued their attempts to kill him. In a letter written to Buynov on November 16, 1911, Yané speaks of an abortive attempt on the part of Chavdara to ambush him near Moshtanets, when he was visiting the Gorna Dzhumaya area, of an earlier, abandoned plan to throw bombs at him in a café, and of a proposed ‘expedition against us’. [17]


Yané’s constant study of the wider political situation was also reflected in his correspondence. In a letter dated November 19, 1911, he wrote: ‘Recently, it seems that the outlook is for the political atmosphere to thicken badly; on the one hand, the successes of the Chinese revolutionaries have given European diplomacy a great fright; the current confused situation in Persia, and Russia’s involvement in it, the Turco-Italian War—all this appears to suggest that Austrian diplomacy could hardly find a better moment than the present for an aggressive policy here in the Balkans. And, indeed, it is not sleeping. So far, some 300,000 Austrian soldiers are massed on the Bosnian frontier, so that, as you see, all this goes to show us that important political events are fast developing on the political horizon. Whether we will be able to interpret them aright and take up the necessary position in time—this we will leave the future to



14. Arnaudov, Opus cit., p. 25.


15. Ibid., pp. 25-26.


16. Accounts of this incident can be found in Pirinsko Delo, 14 & 17.I.1967, and TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 25, pp. 49-50. There is considerable variation in detail, but the basic facts tally in all accounts.


17. TDIA, f. 1508, op. 1, a.e. 927. This letter was published by Tsocho Bilyarsky and Iliya Paskov in Literaturen Front, 7.VIII.1980.





answer. Write to me from there how the situation is seen there by the various factors.’ [18]


To the last possible moment, the Serchani attempted to work constitutionally through the Turkish Parliament, and when, during the spring of 1912, chronic unrest in Albania caused the resignation of the Turkish Government and the calling of new elections, Yané himself personally campaigned on behalf of Buynov and Stoyu Hadzhiev, who were both elected to the Turkish Parliament, together with four other Bulgarians. That Yané himself did not stand was probably due to his desire constantly to be on the spot in his region, in order to be able to respond to every new development as the crisis deepened.


Yané’s practical achievements during the period of constitutional government in Turkey, and especially during the latter years of disillusion and despair, show how much can be wrung from even the stoniest ground with effort and the right approach.


*  *  *


From 1910 onwards, the Bulgarian advocates of war with the Turks had been making their final preparations. As a first step, Ferdinand urged the Government of Malinov to prepare amendments to the Constitution which would give him the right, without reference to the National Assembly, to enter into alliances with other countries. Bulgaria’s relative weakness (4.5 million inhabitants, as opposed to Turkey’s 25 million, and a potential army of 300,000 against the Turks’ 500,000 in south-east Europe) necessitated the formation of an anti-Turkish alliance which would include Greece and Serbia, and at the same time it was considered politic to secure the support of one or other of the Great Powers. Although in the period immediately after the Hürriyet, Austria, who regarded Serbia as a deadly enemy, had been favourably disposed towards Bulgaria, her foreign policy soon came into line with that of Germany, whose plans for expansion into Asia Minor required a sound Turkey under German influence. In the event, Russia appeared to be the most suitable power, and, at the beginning of 1910, Ferdinand, accompanied by Malinov and Paprikov, visited St Petersburg, but no concrete agreement was reached, since the Russians were not over-keen on an actual war in the Balkans, or on letting Bulgaria have Salonika and Adrianople, as Ferdinand demanded.


At the same time, negotiations were conducted at legation level between Serbia and Bulgaria, but, after some time, the talks foundered, owing to Serbia’s growing insistence on having an outlet to the Aegean and the unwillingness of Malinov’s Government to cede any part of Macedonia. Ferdinand then decided that he required a Government which



18. Letter to a friend referred to by the pseudonym Dopisniché. Yané always signed his letters to this friend with the pseudonym Chovekŭt (The Man). The letter is in OIM Blagoevgrad, No. 1048.





was manifestly pro-Russian and which would be prepared to compromise on territorial arrangements with Serbia. He therefore forced Malinov to resign, and, on March 16, 1911, he replaced him with Ivan Geshov, leader of the Narodna Party, who formed a coalition with the Progressive Liberals of Dr Danev.


At the beginning of July 1911, a specially convened Grand National Assembly amended the Constitution, despite opposition from all the lefter and more progressive parties, including the Agrarians, Narrow Socialists, Radicals and Broad Socialists. Thus Ferdinand was given a free hand to play fast and loose with the fate of millions of human beings. Russian diplomacy now began to take a more positive attitude towards the idea of a Balkan alliance, mainly because Austria was once again wooing Bulgaria with honours for Ferdinand and economic carrots for the bourgeoisie. [19]


Negotiations between Bulgaria and Serbia were renewed under the aegis of Russia, who now saw an alliance between the two small Slav states as the best barrier to the German Drang nach Osten. This time, the two states were eager to exploit the difficulties in which Turkey found herself as a result of the war with Italy in North Africa, and, on March 13, 1912, they signed a Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, which at first glance appeared to be mainly a defensive arrangement in case of attack by Austria or Turkey. In fact, the main purpose of the Treaty—and especially the secret clauses attached to it—was to arrange for the division of the territory gained in a future victorious war against Turkey. In their haste and greed for conquest, Ferdinand and his Government abandoned one of the nation’s most sacred articles of faith, namely, that Macedonia was an integral part of Bulgaria, and that, if it could not be reunited with the rest of the country, then it should become autonomous, but remain whole. According to the provisions of the secret clauses, the territory north and north-west of the mountain known as the Shar Planina was recognized as being indisputably Serbian, while all the territory to the east of the Rhodope and the lower reaches of the Struma was recognized as Bulgarian. If Macedonia did not become autonomous (and the signatories did not appear convinced of this possibility, since they devoted much attention to the details of its future partition), then it should be divided between Bulgaria and Serbia in the following manner: the territory south of a line running between Kriva Palanka and Ohrid was to be given to Bulgaria, while the territory between this line and the Shar Planina, including such towns as Kumanovo, Tetovo, Debŭr, Kichevo and Kochani, was designated as ‘contested zone’, the future ownership of which was to be decided after the war, with the Tsar of Russia acting as arbitrator.


In May 1912, again under the aegis of Russia, Bulgaria and Greece signed a treaty for a ‘defensive alliance’, which contained no territorial



19. The Emperor Franz Joseph finally decorated Ferdinand with the Order of the Golden Fleece, Austria’s highest honour, which he had long coveted. Austria also made Bulgaria a loan and other economic concessions.





arrangements, and, in August 1912, Montenegro joined the Balkan Alliance. This Balkan Alliance was, however, not the defensive union that it claimed to be; it was an aggressive union, in which each partner secretly aimed to grab as much as possible for himself.


It was easy for the Bulgarian politicians to whip up public enthusiasm for a war against Turkey. Few were the Bulgarian hearts which did not bleed for Macedonia; few were the men of military age who would not gladly had died for Macedonia; few, indeed, were the Bulgarian families who had no blood link with Macedonia, for every town in the kingdom numbered among its citizens refugees or descendents of refugees from Macedonia. The massacres of Bulgarians by Turks which followed the bomb outrages in Shtip (November 1911), Kochani (July 1912) and Doiran (August 1912) evoked universal public indignation, and soon it was the nation which seemed to be leading the Government to war, and not vice versa. People flocked in their thousands to mass meetings at which resolutions were passed urging speedy action to deliver their brothers from bondage, and patriotic sentiments of the noblest kind swept all other considerations aside.


Few were prepared to listen to the discordant voice of warning raised by the Narrow Socialists, who, like Cassandra, were fated to prophesy truly and be disbelieved. This Party could not be accused of lack of sympathy for the ‘brothers beyond Rila’, for its leadership, like every other group of Bulgarians, contained its fair share of men from Macedonia, including Dimitŭr Blagoev himself, whose native village had suffered pillage, murder and arson at the hands of Turks and Greeks andartes, and Georgi Dimitrov, whose parents had fled from Razlog, after the suppression of the 1878 uprising. Yet, while condemning Turkish tyranny in the harshest possible terms, the Narrow Socialists had always seen the Macedonian problem as part of a wider problem, soluble only in terms of the struggle of the working people of all nationalities against exploitation, both feudal and capitalist. Year in and year out, the Narrow Socialists had consistently campaigned for peace, international understanding and a Balkan federative republic, and now during the long hot summer of 1912, when nationalist euphoria was reaching explosion point, they continued to speak with the still small voice of calm, warning the nation that it was being deluded and misled by the monarchy and the bourgeoisie, and that war would not and could not achieve the desired result, but would merely result in national catastrophe. But theirs was a voice crying in the wilderness, and thus, when the reservists were finally called to the colours, they came joyfully, singing songs and carrying flowers, and all over Bulgaria men who had fled from Macedonia formed volunteer detachments and cheti to help the Army in its war of liberation. None of them, of course, knew of the secret clauses to the treaty with Serbia.


In all the states of the Balkan Alliance, mobilization was ordered on September 17-18 (September 30-October 1, new style), 1912. On





September 26/October 9, Montenegro declared war on Turkey and attacked the fortress of Shkodra. On September 30/October 13, the Balkan Alliance sent a note to the Turkish Government demanding the latter’s consent to the autonomy of the European vilayets, and, in reply, Turkey declared war on the Alliance on October 4/17. On the following day, October 5/18 1912, the Alliance declared war on Turkey.


From the Bulgarian point of view, it was indeed a just war, since it was fought to liberate Bulgarians from foreign bondage, but from the very beginning, it was conducted in a manner which seriously jeopardized the Bulgarian cause. Before a single shot had been fired, the Bulgarian Government had, in effect, partially nullified the whole purpose of the war by conceding that Macedonia could be partitioned and that some areas inhabited mainly by Bulgarians could be given to Serbia. Once the fighting had started, the Bulgarian Army put its main effort into a drive on Constantinople, while the liberation of Macedonia was left to the Serbian and Greek Armies. This division of labour may have been acceptable to Ferdinand for whom Byzantium meant more than Macedonia, but a more glaring example of wolves being invited into a sheep-fold could scarcely be imagined. For decades the Bulgarian population in Macedonia had been plagued by Greek and Serbian priests and teachers, and latterly this ‘peaceful’ propaganda had been reinforced by the activity of armed cheti, which, in Western Macedonia, especially, had engaged the attention of the Organization to the virtual exclusion of all other activity. At the Rila Congress in 1905, Boris Sarafov had narrowly escaped a death sentence for his part in assisting a few Serbian cheti to enter Macedonia, but his indiscretion pales into insignificance beside that committed by the Bulgarian Government when it formally agreed that Greek and Serbian armies should occupy almost all Macedonia. It is true that the Treaty with Serbia provided for a ‘condominium’ over liberated territory until a final settlement was reached, but possession is nine-tenths of the Law, and the arrangement was fraught with risks that should have been apparent to anyone with an ounce of political acumen.


On the eve of the Balkan War, during the summer of 1912, the Serchani gathered in Salonika to discuss the situation. Buynov came specially from Constantinople, and Taskata and Panitsa were also present. Chudomir was, however, missing, because he was finishing his education in Switzerland. At the same time, there appear to have been in Salonika emissaries from Bulgaria, who informed the Serchani of the imminence of war and were anxious to know what line they would adopt. When the Serchani voted unanimously to participate actively on the side of Bulgaria, these emissaries gave them assurances that those involved in the murder of Garvanov and Sarafov would receive a free pardon. This question was





now of vital concern to the Serchani, whose leaders were still technically outlaws in the eyes of the Bulgarian State, and, as such, were liable to be arrested or shot on sight. Various contemporary sources bear witness to Yané’s anxiety to regularize his status in view of the new situation, and to become a normal Bulgarian citizen once more. [20] Yet, in spite of repeated assurances that everything was in hand, the Government continued to keep Yané on tenterhooks for more than two years.


A few days before the mobilization, the Serchani met again, this time in Melnik, and decided that the time had come for them to go underground and to make final preparations for armed struggle, each in the area allotted to him. Yané himself remained a little longer in Melnik, and then, a few days before war was declared, he, too, quietly slipped away into Pirin, where he had already prepared huts to shelter refugees from the plains and supplies of food to feed them. After the actual outbreak of war, Yané called a further meeting of his people from the Serres and Drama Districts. They conferred for a day and a night near Lopovo; and confirmed their decision to participate in the War, since, from the wording of the declaration of war, they concluded that the aim was to achieve autonomy for Macedonia. They also agreed to do what they could to protect both the Christian and Muslim population from pillage and slaughter. [21]


There then began for Yané a period of feverish activity, in which the organization that he had built in the Serres Region was tested to the full and not found wanting, either in Bulgarian patriotism or in efficiency. The main task of the cheti and militia was to assist the Bulgarian Seventh Rila Division (part of a joint Serbian-Bulgarian army under the Serbian General Stepanovic) in its passage down the valley of the Struma towards Salonika. This included providing the Army with information on Turkish troop movements, clearing the Turks from the Kresna Gorge, guarding the bridges over the Struma, and providing food for an army moving through an area devastated by the retreating Turks. Yané maintained contact with Major-General Georgiev, Commander of the Third Brigade, and his name is mentioned in many of the General’s dispatches:


‘Sandansky has twice reported during the last four days that the enemy, on withdrawing from the Kresna Gorge, has taken up positions in the Rupel Pass and has dug himself in on the Marko Pasha Heights.’


‘Sandansky reports, through our squadron, that the barracks in Demir Hisar have been burnt together with 200 arrested Bulgarians.’



20. These include a report from Mustakov (Salonika Consulate) to the C.G.S. (Sofia), referring to a conversation with Captain Angelov, who had told him that Yané had showed him a letter from a deputy to the Bulgarian National Assembly about efforts to introduce a Bill to secure a pardon for him (see Military Archives, Veliko Tŭrnovo: f. 23. op. II, a.e. 163, pp. 4-5. Report dated 7.I.1911) and a report from Major General Fichev to the Ministry of the Interior and National Health, referring to three letters written by Yané to a friend in Bulgaria which had come into his hands. (TDIA, f. 176, op. 2, a.e. 1307, p. 69. Report dated 15.V.1912.)


21. Arnaudov, Opus cit., p. 26.





‘With Sandansky’s help, transport consisting of Vlah horses has been formed to carry vast quantities of food and forage for the Brigade, which suffered great privations in the Kresna Gorge and Pirin.’


‘We ordered Sandansky to store bread and forage in Melnik. The bridge over the Struma for Petrich is intact. He was told to see that it was very well guarded and kept under observation by the militia.’ [22]


The extent of Yané’s help in provisioning the Army is revealed in a dispatch, dated 20.X.1912 (old style), in which General Georgiev writes: ‘Sandansky is providing 5,000 loaves a day.’ [23] That Yané could find the wherewithall to perform such a miracle of emergency baking is eloquent proof of the excellence of the Organization’s network in the Serres Region. In addition to feeding the Army, Yané was also caring for civilian refugees who fled into Pirin.


One of those who benefitted at this time from Yané’s catering was Hristo Markov, whom he had not seen since he had shared his last two levs with him in the barracks in Tsaribrod. Markov had then wisely used his spare time to prepare for an examination set by the Military School in Sofia, and had managed to pass, so that, when war broke out he joined the Army as an officer. On October 20, 1912, Markov arrived in Marikostinovo, and was surprised to learn that the building occupied by the Brigade H.Q. belonged to Yané, whose chetnitsi were engaged in distributing to the hungry troops vast quantities of freshly-baked bread, good quality kashkaval cheese, grapes, Melnik wine and rakiya. Yané himself soon appeared and there was a moving reunion between the two friends, who later had supper together. Markov enjoyed the Melnik wine, but noted that neither then, nor, indeed, on subsequent occasions when they met on the battlefield, would Yané touch a drop of alcohol.


Melnik had been freed on October 14/27 1912, when Yané had entered the town, accompanied by chetnitsi and militia, in response to an urgent appeal from the Bulgarian population. It was not, however, the joyous occasion that it should have been, for, the day before, some twenty-five Bulgarians held in prison had been taken out and shot by the retreating Turks. According to some sources, [24] Yané had agreed with Major Rashid-Bey, commander of the reservists in the district, that these prisoners should be released in exchange for a promise that the Bulgarians would not harm the local Turks. Unfortunately, the procurator and Kaimakam, without consulting the major, had given orders for the prisoners to be killed. A few of them, including Georgi Kotsev, had managed to escape on the way to the so-called ‘Grim Valley’, where the others were slaughtered, but, ironically enough, among those who perished was Manolis Kordopoulos, one of the few Greeks to grasp the importance of Yané’s call for international brotherhood.



22. Dispatches quoted in Pirinsko Delo, 19.X.1982.


23. Military Archives, Veliko Tŭrnovo, f. 46, op. II, a.e. 7.


24. Yurdan Anastasov, Spomen za Yané Sandansky, pp. 488-489.





On the whole Yané managed to prevent indiscriminate vendettas in his area, and no vengeance was taken for what happened in Melnik. Only in the village of Petrovo was the Turkish population massacred, and that without Yané’s knowledge. There, feelings of hatred and resentment which had accumulated over the years boiled over, and local Bulgarians, apparently with the aid of certain cheti, rounded up the Turkish population, and, having locked the women in the so-called ‘tower’, and the men in the café, they drenched the buildings with kerosine and set fire to them. Only the children were spared. Yané learned what was happening too late to prevent the tragedy, but he collected the orphaned Turkish children and had them cared for. [25]


The other Serchani and their cheti were equally active in helping the Bulgarian Army, working either separately or in combination, according to the circumstances. After clearing the Turks from the Kresna Gorge, Yané, Kazepov, Buynov, Stoyu Hadzhiev and Dimitŭr Arnaudov proceeded to clear them from the Rupel Pass, through which the Struma enters the Serres Plain. Yané, with a large part of his detachment, succeeded in capturing a peak named Kalé, which dominates the path through the Rupel Pass. Twice the Turkish garrison from Tsŭrvishté was sent to dislodge them, and twice it was driven back. The Turks then withdrew to Tsŭrvishté with the intention of returning with fresh forces for a third assault on the peak, but the Nevrokop comrades, reinforced by some of Yané’s men, attacked Tsŭrvishté and the Turkish garrison fled to Demir Hisar. That same night, the Turks abandoned the Rupel Pass. [26]


The Serchani then continued their journey southwards, via Demir Hisar, Lahana and Negovan, ahead of the Bulgarian Army, freeing villages as they went and moving ever nearer to Salonika. Yané and his cheta were working in co-operation with the regiment in which Markov was serving, and, during the fighting for Demir Hisar, Markov’s soldiers begged Yané to allow them to carry his cheta’s banner. Yané gladly agreed, and, when he and his cheta left Demir Hisar for Salonika, ahead of the regiment, he allowed the soldiers to keep the banner, a gesture which greatly raised their morale. It was not, however, to everyone’s liking: a passing colonel indignantly asked Markov why his men were carrying ‘that bandit



25. I was able to speak to one of these orphans, Atanas Abdulov, in Petrovo in 1981, and recorded what he remembered of the events. Information was also given to me by Ventsislav Udev, in Sandansky, during 1980, whose grandmother was one of the orphans. On the question as to who was responsible for the massacre, local people in Petrovo told me that the main motive was a desire to grab the land owned by the Turks, and that the population was egged on by what they loosely termed ‘Supremist’ cheti, i.e. not Serres cheti.


26. See Arnaudov, Opus cit., p. 26. Buynov was severely wounded in the battle for Tsŭrvishté, and Dimitŭr Arnaudov took over the command of the Nevrokop detachment.





Zandansky’s [27] rag’. Markov boldly let fly with a speech in which he pointed out that the name was Sandansky, not Zandansky, that the object in question was not a rag, but a silken banner, that his men had heard that the Tsar himself had amnestied Yané, and that what was good enough for the Tsar was good enough for them, and, in conclusion, he reminded the colonel that Yané’s banner had, for decades, fought for the freedom of Macedonia. Markov’s reference to an amnesty was—alas!—premature, but his argument silenced the colonel, who departed without more ado. Later, in Lagadina, Markov almost came to blows with Dumbalakov, a former Supremist, who also made disparaging remarks about Yané’s banner. Markov returned the banner to Yané in liberated Salonika, where he found the abstemious voivoda drinking tea in the Olympia Palace Restaurant.


Already the first signs of inter-allied discord had appeared, for although the Bulgarians had arrived in the vicinity of Salonika at more or less the same time as the Greek Army, the Greeks had contrived to enter Salonika first, on October 26/November 8—the Feast of the city’s patron saint, St Dimitrios—and they refused to let the Bulgarian Army in. Thus the Bulgarian Crown Prince Boris and his brother Kiril were obliged to sleep under a bridge, as the Bulgarian Army was kept waiting outside Salonika in mud and rain for twenty-four hours until a threat of force persuaded the Greeks to abandon their opposition. [28] Dimitŭr Arnaudov describes how, when the Serchani were close to Salonika, they met a Turkish officer and two cavalry-men with a white flag. The officer said that they had a letter for the Commander of the Bulgarian Army, and Yané conducted them to the proper place. On his return, Yané told his comrades that the letter contained a plea from the Turkish commander in Salonika that the Bulgarians remain outside the city until the following day when the Turks would surrender. In the meantime, however, the Turks surrendered to the Greeks. [29]


Exactly when and how Yané himself entered Salonika is not clear, for the evidence is contradictory. He may even have entered more than once, first with an advance-guard, and later with the main forces. Tushé Vlahov, then a pupil in the Bulgarian High School, describes how the pupils of all the schools were lined up to greet the Greek Crown Prince, and how, instead, Yané appeared on a horse at the head of a group of Bulgarian chetnitsi, to be acclaimed with shouts of ‘Long live Sandansky’ in Greek and Bulgarian. [30] Hristo Ampov, then also a pupil, describes Yané riding into the city together with the Bulgarian Princes Boris and Kiril. [31] The correspondent of the London Daily Express saw Yané enter the city on



27. ‘Zandan’ means ‘dungeon’ (from the Turkish zindan). The implication is that Yané is a ‘gallowsbird’!


28. The Times, 20 and 26.XI.1912.


29. Arnaudov, Opus cit., p. 27.


30. Yurdan Anastasov, Spomen za Yané Sandansky, p. 491.


31. TPA, Memoirs, 2252.





November 13 with 200 men, and he heard some of them shout: ‘We must do something!’ Yané then led them to the St Sophia Mosque, on which they hoisted the Bulgarian flag. [32]


Salonika was no longer the city of international brotherhood that it had been a mere four years earlier. The victorious armies failed to fraternize, and several soldiers, both Greek and Bulgarian, died of knife wounds in quarrels over who was to occupy certain barracks. [33] Not only were relations between the Allies far from amiable, but the general conduct of the Greeks left much to be desired. Reporting that the Greeks were behaving ‘very badly’ in Salonika, the correspondent of the London Daily News and Leader described how Greek soldiers picked the pockets of detained Turkish gendarmes and used the pretext of house-to-house searches for arms to steal. [34] The correspondent of The Times also observed Greeks robbing Turks in the course of searching them for guns, and reported that Ottoman Jews were also being robbed by the Greeks, whose local press had started an anti-Semitic campaign. [35] In contrast, the western correspondents spoke highly of the discipline and conduct of the Bulgarian troops. The correspondent of The Times saw a Bulgarian officer rescue a Turk whom three Greek soldiers and a civilian were trying to rob of his ass. Only three times did this correspondent see Bulgarian soldiers molesting Turks, and in every case an officer ‘sent the would-be thief sprawling in the mud with a well-directed blow for his pains’. [36]


Yané himself did everything possible to ensure that his own men did nothing to disgrace the Bulgarian flag. On the way to Salonika, he would not allow them to rob the bodies of dead Turks, and, on arrival, he assembled them in the High School for Girls and had all of them searched. A few were found to possess stolen watches, which Yané confiscated and smashed to pieces by hurling them onto the floor. Those found guilty of robbery were not allowed to go out into the town. [37]


Yané did not remain in Salonika for very long. The Seventh Rila Division was soon posted to the East-Thracian theatre of war, around Keshan and Malkara (north of the Gallipoli peninsula), and on November 11/24, 1912, Yané left for the same destination. He travelled by the evening train for Demir Hisar, and, in the morning, before his departure, he visited the British cruiser Medea, in the company of some Bulgarian officers, including Hristo Markov. The latter managed to find a French-speaking British officer, who courteously took them on a tour of the great warship, demonstrating the manipulation of its huge, revolving



32. Daily Express, 19.XI.1912.


33. Daily News and Leader, 21.XI.1912.     34. Ibid.


35. The Times, 26.XI.1912.     36. Ibid.


37. Yurdan Anastasov, Spomen za Yané Sandansky, p. 491 (Memoirs of Georgi Gutsev).





guns, and showing them other wonders, including the wireless telegraphy system. [38]


By the beginning of November 1912, the Turks had lost the war: Macedonia was in the hands of the Allies, and the Bulgarian Army had reached Chataldzha, within twenty miles of the Turkish capital. Yet Ferdinand refused a Turkish request for an armistice, because he was still mesmerized by the idea of a triumphant entry into Constantinople, and wanted to continue the offensive. When, however, it became clear that the Bulgarian Army was, in fact, bogged down at Chataldzha, unable to break through, and when cholera broke out, the Allies agreed to begin peace negotiations. These took place in London during December 1912, with a great deal of back-stage interference on the part of the Great Powers. In January 1913, there was a coup d’état in Turkey; the new Government, under Mahmud Shevket, broke off negotiations, and hostilities were resumed. Towards the end of February 1913, Hristo Markov met Yané in Keshan, in the Officers’ Club of the Fourth Army, and a week later they went together to the hospital, because Yané wanted to have a finger bandaged. While they were there, they visited the crowded cholera wards, having first been sprinkled with carbolic solution by orderlies. Soon they were joined by Takev, the former Minister of the Interior, who had once tried to seal the Bulgarian frontier against Yané. One of the patients was in a state of hysteria, howling, weeping and throwing himself on the floor, and Takev shouted: ‘Calm yourself, my boy, you’ll soon be well and out of hospital!’ At this, the wretched soldier jumped up, smashed a lamp, extracted some papers and notebooks from his pocket and hurled them in Takev’s face. Takev was much put out, and Yané cheerfully reproved him: ‘Calm yourself, Mr Takev! We are much more certain of getting out of here.’


On March 13/26 1913, the Bulgarians finally succeeded in capturing Adrianople, which had remained, encircled and by-passed, in the rear of their Army. In April, the peace talks began again in London, and on May 17/30 1913, a Treaty was signed between the countries of the Balkan Alliance and Turkey, by which Turkey surrendered all her European possessions west of a line between Enos and Midia, and Albania gained her independence.


Throughout the War, a spontaneous truce prevailed between Left and Right within the Organization. Everyone who had ever taken part in Macedonian affairs—from incorrigible rogues, like Doncho, to intellectual romantics, like Yavorov—rushed to form cheti, and all managed, temporarily at least, to co-exist on Macedonian soil without coming to blows with each other. Once again, as in 1903, Yané allowed people whom he would previously not have tolerated in his Region to operate as they pleased in the name of the common cause. Around Nevrokop, for example,



38. Memoirs of Hristo Markov, TDIA, f. 1508, op. 1, a.e. 514, p. 20.





there were cheti led by two veteran opponents of the Serchani—Stoyan Filipov and Stoyan Mŭlchankov. On the very first day of the War, cheti commanded by Chernopeev, Georgi Zankov, Andon Kyoseto, Mihail Chakov and others, had freed Bansko. Two days later, Yavorov and Yonko Vaptsarov had arrived with their cheti, and Yavorov had made an emotional speech from the pulpit of the Church of the Holy Trinity during a joyous service of thanksgiving. Afterwards, Yavorov had led his cheta south to Nevrokop and became the first mayor of the liberated town, a post which he held for about a week, before continuing south with Chernopeev, Vaptsarov and Chakov to Kavalla, where the Kaimakam surrendered the town without firing a shot. [39]


Foreign observers were lavish in their praise for the bravery of the Bulgarian Army. At the end of an article devoted to certain Bulgarian generals, the correspondent of The Times went on to say: ‘Honour to those to whom honour is due, but when all is said the real hero of the hour is the Bulgarian infantry soldier. Few of those who have noted the quiet and almost submissive demeanour of the Bulgarian peasant as he sows his fields or guides his oxen along the furrow can form any conception of the martial spirit which lies hid beneath this tranquil exterior. Patient, enduring, good-humoured, implicitly obedient, the Bulgarian soldier seems a model of the less conspicuous military virtues, and it is only when bayonets are fixed and the cry "Hurrah" is raised that he appears in a new and surprising light. To him beyond all others the meed of victory is due.’ [40] The correspondent of the Daily Mail, also writing when the Turks were suing for peace in November 1912, was even more generous in his praise: ‘Centuries after Sulieman the Magnificent thundered at the gates of Vienna, Austrian mothers were wont to quiet their fractious children with the cry, "The Turks are coming!" A month ago few men thought they would ever live to see the day when Turkish hearts would turn to water at the words "The Bulgarians are corning!" In the memory of people still of middle age the Bulgarians were a race of harried slaves. A miracle has been wrought. The greatest victory of modern times is amblazoned upon their triumphant banners. They have penned in the Turks in their last corner between the narrow seas. They have flung back a race of nomadic swordsmen to the land whence they emerged. They and their allies in one swift, overwhelming onslaught have avenged the wrongs of centuries. The poor and lowly nations of the Near East, rendered invincible by the memories of all they and their forebears had endured, have accomplished this marvellous achievement unaided. What the might of Europe could not compass they have brought to completion. Europe must see to it that they are not robbed of their victories.’ [41]


Everywhere in Macedonia, the cheti and the liberating armies—



39. See article by Zlatana Hlebarova, Narodna Kultura, 15.X.1982.


40. The Times, 6.XI.1912.


41. Daily Mail, 4.XI.1912.





Bulgarian, Serbian and Greek alike—were given a rapturous welcome by the population, and, at first glance, no one would have disagreed with the Daily Mail journalist who described the Balkan War as ‘a war of peoples rather than of kings’. [42] Yet, the flowers with which the Bulgarians had greeted the Serbian and Greek armies had hardly faded before grave doubts and anxieties began to assail their minds. At the end of October 1912, the Greeks and the Serbs began disarming the Organization’s cheti and the civilian population and persecuting those who said that they were Bulgarian. At the beginning of November 1912, the Serbian and Greek authorities in occupied Macedonia issued decrees ordering Bulgarian revolutionaries and chetnitsi to leave within twenty-four hours. [43] This was followed by a systematic campaign against Bulgarian schools and churches. Some of the most heartrending documents relating to the tragic history of Macedonia are those in which the Bulgarian communities describe their sufferings at the hands of their Greek and Serbian ‘liberators’. One letter, sent to Geshov, the Bulgarian Prime Minister, by the Bulgarian community in Bitolya, which was in the zone designated indisputably Bulgarian in the Treaty signed between the Serbs and Bulgarians, reads, in part, as follows: ‘While the valiant Bulgarian Army was thrashing the main Turkish forces in the eastern theatre of war and covering the rear of the allied forces, the latter, easily and without many casualties, occupied the whole of Western Macedonia. There would be nothing disturbing in this in an allied war, were it not for other indications which force us to ask with alarm: are we free, or have we been flung under a new slavery? Both the behaviour of the Serbian and Greek troops, and that of the Serbian and Greek administrative organs have aroused in us serious fears for the future. Both of them behave towards us as though they were conquerers and not liberators. The whole Bulgarian population, especially in the villages, is being robbed: the allied armies neither pay nor give requisition chits. Objects and goods which are not needed to supply the army itself are being taken away to Serbia and Greece; Bulgarian property is being devastated without reason, and Bulgarian houses are being burnt. But this is still nothing. What troubles us most of all is the violence of a purely national character. The Serbs cannot calmly hear the word ‘Bulgarian’, and the first thing they said on arriving in these parts was: "What are you?" As soon as they hear the reply "Bulgarians", they start cursing as only Serbs can curse. They abuse the Bulgarian name and force the population to give up their national identity. This is happening especially in the villages. The Serbs, whether troops or administrative organs, express surprise, in strong Serbian language, that there should be Bulgarian schools in a Serbian land! The same is happening with the churches. . . The Serbian administrative authorities are hampering the movement of Bulgarian



42. Ibid.


43. Dimitŭr Gotsev, Opus cit., p. 26.





merchants from one place to another, by refusing to give them travel documents on various pretexts, and those who do get them have their names written with Serbian endings. They also hinder the opening of Bulgarian schools in the towns and villages by chasing out the teachers in a most brutal fashion, and by declaring that in a Serbian land they will not allow Bulgarian schools. In Ohrid they have given the streets Serbian names. . . All this goes to show that the Serbs are systematically trying to give a Serbian character to the areas which they have occupied. In their attitude towards the allegedly liberated Bulgarian population, the Greek military and civil authorities are no better than the Serbs. . . The present war, which was undertaken, according to the Royal Manifesto of His Majesty, the Tsar of the Bulgarians, in order to liberate the enslaved Bulgarians, has so far, in compact Bulgarian centres like ours, brought us a new bondage.’ [44]


Right from the very beginning of the War, the Serbs had been destroying and trampling upon the Bulgarian flags with which the population had decorated their shops and houses; they had been closing Bulgarian schools, forcing clergy to pray for Serbian bishops and the Serbian Royal Family to the exclusion of their Bulgarian opposite numbers; they had been introducing their own administration even where Bulgarian local authorities had been established, and were persecuting, beating, torturing and even murdering those Bulgarians who refused to say that they were Serbs. That this was not merely a case of underlings exceeding their authority can be seen from the fact that, on the day after Serbian troops entered Skopje, Crown Prince Alexander slapped a seven-year-old girl, named Vaska Zoicheva, because, in answer to his question ‘What are you?’ she had replied that she was Bulgarian. He then offered her a coin if she would say that she was Serbian, and slapped her twice more when she still averred that she was Bulgarian. [45] By such actions and many more, the Serbs demonstrated, right from the very beginning, that they had no intention of honouring the Treaty which they had signed, but were adopting the principle of uti possidetis. In fact, official Serbian documents, such as Government instructions to diplomats, show that, even before hostilities had begun, Serbia was aiming to annex territory in the ‘non-contested’ zone. [46] In February 1913, the Serbian Government sent a note to the



44. Miletich, Dokumenti za protivobŭlgarskite deistvia na srŭbskite i na grŭtskite vlasti v Makedonia prez 1912-1913, Sofia, 1929, pp. 248-250.


45. K. Pŭrlichev, Srŭbskiyat rezhim i revolyutsionnata borba v Makedonia (1912-1915), Sofia, 1917, p. 42. Quoted in Gotsev, Opus cit., p. 31. Gotsev’s work contains many documentary examples of Serbian efforts to terrorize and denationalize the Bulgarian population of Macedonia. See also Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars, 1914. (Hereafter referred to as the Carnegie Report), pp. 49-56.


46. Gotsev, Opus Cit., pp. 37-39.





Bulgarian Government officially pressing for a revision of their Treaty.


*  *  *


During the first months of the War, Yané was so busy, fighting, scouting, policing, and organizing supplies of bread, information and other necessities, that he had little time to think about anything else. He appears, however, to have regarded events with considerable optimism, despite his long-standing objections to a policy of war. In his Region, everything was going reasonably smoothly, and the territory liberated by the cheti was being handed over to Bulgarian authorities, albeit those owing allegiance to Tsar Ferdinand. Before leaving Salonika for the eastern front, Yané probably knew nothing of the dismal events in western Macedonia, since, for several weeks, they were not even reported in the Bulgarian Press, because of censorship and the desire of the Bulgarian Government not to create tension within the Alliance. [47]


Eventually, however, Yané realized with pain and bitterness that all was not well. The Russian journalist Viktorov-Toparov, who met Yané in May 1913, wrote: ‘At the beginning of 1913, when the Serbian and Greek occupation regime forced the Macedonian Bulgarians once again to consider the fate of their country, serious doubts had assailed Sandansky. And I shall always remember that evening in 1913 when Sandansky came to me to confide his doubts and vacillations. "There, look," he said, "this always happens when someone is freed by force of arms! . . . How fine it would have been if Macedonia could have freed herself! But now it’s happened, our duty is to fight alongside Bulgaria, and for Bulgaria". [48]


When the war was over, Yané returned to Melnik, and he and Sofia moved into the Pashova house, which had been left empty by the fleeing Turks. The Pashova house was one of the loveliest and most luxurious houses in Melnik, erected in 1815 by Bulgarian master-builders for a Turkish lord. It was in this house, according to Paraskeva Potskova, that the local Serchani celebrated the wedding of Bozhin Popantonov, at which Yané acted as kum. Bozhin, who was one of Yané’s most faithful chetnitsi, came from a village near Enidzhe Vardar and eventually settled in Petrovo. He was skilled in folk medicine, and had, for many years, acted as ‘doctor’ to Yané’s cheta. Yané appears to have been in particularly high spirits, and led the singing and dancing, which lasted all night. During the brief interlude of peace and quiet which he spent in the beautiful Pashova house, Yané did not forget those unfortunate victims of war—the Turkish orphans of Petrovo. Several of the older girls had been sent to Kalimantsi to work as servants in various families, and Yané had them brought to Melnik,



47. Ibid., p. 28.


48. Sŭvremena Misŭl, 15.V.1915, pp. 24-25.





where he questioned them about the conditions under which they were living, and asked them if they were happy and satisfied. All of them complained of being exploited, if not positively ill-treated, so Yané took them into his home and gave them into the care of his sister until other arrangements could be made for them. One of them became a servant in Georgi Kotsev’s household, and, when she eventually married Haralambi Udev, Kotsev himself acted as her kum. [49]


Yané had little time to enjoy a well-earned rest, for the political situation was rapidly going from bad to worse. The Treaty of London had settled the frontiers between Turkey and the countries of the Balkan Alliance, but not those between the latter, which were steadily approaching a state of war with each other. The Serbian Prime Minister, Pasić, was claiming all the territory occupied by Serbian troops, while the Greek delegation to the London talks was already claiming Salonika, Bitolya, Serres and Kavalla for Greece. Geshov, who at the beginning of 1913 had been succeeded as Prime Minister by Danev, was in favour of conceding Salonika to Greece, in order to prevent Greece lining up with Serbia against Bulgaria, but Ferdinand took a belligerent attitude, and the Bulgarian Press exacerbated the situation by following suit. At the beginning of June 1913, in Salonika, Greece and Serbia signed a treaty of alliance aimed at achieving a common frontier between the two countries, i.e. through the division of western Macedonia between themselves, without allowing Bulgaria to have even the ‘uncontested’ zone agreed in the Serbo-Bulgarian Treaty. The new treaty provided for mutual military assistance in the event of Bulgaria’s offering armed resistance to the arrangement.


Morally, Bulgaria was in a very strong position. She was being double-crossed by her former allies, especially the Serbs, with whom she had definite territorial agreements. The behaviour of the Greeks and the Serbs towards the Bulgarian population in Macedonia was outrageous, and would soon have earned them the same international opprobrium that had formerly been attached to the Turks. Militarily and economically Bulgaria was weaker than Greece and Serbia combined, and no matter how just her cause for complaint, she did not possess the strength to right her wrongs unaided. It was a situation which called for strong nerves, restraint and statesmanship of the highest order. Ferdinand and his generals, however, did the worst thing possible: an order was given for the Bulgarian Army to attack the Greek and Serbian armies in Macedonia on June 16/29 1913. Thus Bulgaria ceased to be the injured party, cheated by her own allies, and assumed the role of a treacherous aggressor.


Shortly before the new war began, the Bulgarian Government sent Yané—still technically an outlaw—on an important mission to Albania. His task was to negotiate with the Albanian leaders and win them for joint



49. From information given to me by her grandson, Ventsislav Udev.





action with Bulgaria in the event of a war. A curious feature of the mission is that Yané was not given adequate expenses in advance. A letter of his, written in Dedeagach on June 10, 1913, and addressed to ‘Gosho’ (Georgi Kotsev) begins: ‘I’m off on a job that’s pretty important from a public point of view, but the money which I’ve got at the moment isn’t nearly enough. That’s why I’m sending Stoyu back to save money on him and also for him to bring me 15 liri.’ Yané goes on to ask Gosho to lend him some money, or borrow some from Potskov, or some one else. [50]


Very little is known about this mission. According to a report in a Bulgarian newspaper of an interview given by Yané to the Italian newspaper Secolo, he succeeded in reaching an agreement with the Albanian chieftains, [51] but other sources indicate that the mission was a failure, mainly because the Serbs and Greeks got wind of it and hastily promised to cede the Albanians the towns of Debŭr, Dyakovo, Korcha and Argirokastro. [52]


Yané returned from Albania via Vienna and Sofia. The Second Balkan War had already started, and, hastily collecting a number of chetnitsi, he went straight to Pirin to help the Bulgarian Army as best he could. The situation was already disastrous. The Bulgarian Government had immediately ordered a halt to the offensive, but it was too late. This was the moment for which the Greeks and the Serbs had been waiting, and they counter-attacked along the whole Macedonian front. A few days later, Romania, who had been given Silistra under a special agreement to compensate her for alleged loss of land populated by Vlahs in Macedonia, stabbed Bulgaria in the back by invading the Dobrudzha, and the Turks completed the encirclement by attacking across the Enos-Midia line. What followed was a shambles. The Government of Danev resigned in despair, and Radoslavov formed a new cabinet on July 17. Appeals were made to the European powers, but they either could not, or would not, assist, and Bulgaria faced complete catastrophe.


When Yané arrived in Pirin, he found that part of the population had fled, part had been captured by the Greeks, and part—the inhabitants of remoter villages, such as Kashina, Lopovo, Belyovo and Sugarevo—had stayed put in the hope that the Greeks would not venture so high into the mountains. The Greeks were already in Melnik and Rozhen, where



50. OIM Blagoevgrad (no archive number).


51. Utro, 20.VII.1913.


52. ABAN, f. 175, op. 1, a.e. 51, pp. 6-7. Report by Petŭr Chaulev to Nikola Genadiev, the Bulgarian Foreign Minister, dated 2.X.I913. Chaulev says that Yané was not well received by the Albanians. In a letter to Georgi Kotsev, Mihai Popescu describes a meeting between his father, Shteryu, and Yané shortly after the latter’s return to Pirin. Yané said: ‘I have come from Albania where I was sent for joint resistance. The Albanian leaders, having found themselves free, practically turned their backs on me. Macedonia was not populated by one nationality like Albania, I was told, and so autonomy won’t come easily. On every side deception, which should again be a lesson to us.’ See OIM, Blagoevgrad, No. 1708.





they had put out the eyes of an old man, named Georgi Dzhevilekov, as they had once put out the eyes of Tsar Samuil’s defeated soldiers. In Melnik, they had seized all the Bulgarians whom they had found in the town, including Yané’s sister, Sofia, and had taken them away to Demir Hisar. The Potskovs had attempted to persuade Sofia to flee with them, but she had refused, saying that someone had to look after the animals, including Yané’s mare, Mitsa, her daughter Pobeda (Victory), another foal and some poultry. Even when Petŭr Govedarov took the horses away to safety in the mountain, Sofia, had, for some reason refused to leave Melnik. Yané was naturally very concerned about the fate of his sister. He seized a local Greek merchant, a man of some consequence, and sent word that he would hold the man prisoner in Belyovo until his sister was released. The Greeks sent Sofia to an intermediate point where Georgi Manolev collected her—tattered and dishevelled—and took her to Belyovo, whereupon Yané released the Greek. [53]


Once again Yané and his followers were in touch with the Bulgarian Army, doing reconnaissance work, attacking the Greeks, and trying to save what they could from the wreck of the Bulgarian cause. This time Yané worked with Lt. D. Zografov, commander of the Seventh Company of the Fifty-seventh Infantry Regiment, who passed on the information collected to General Delov, of the West Rhodope Detachment. Lt. Zografov recalls in his memoirs [54] that one day Yané told him that he had definite information that the Greek king was in the village of Levunovo, [55] and he proposed kidnapping him, adding that he ardently desired to bring a crowned head into Pirin! Yané’s idea was to hold the king hostage and thus force the Greek Army to withdraw. In order to carry out the plan, Yané required re-inforcements from the Army, and Lt. Zografov sent a message to General Delov, who admitted that it was a ‘good idea’, but refused to provide the necessary troops, because he considered that morale was too low. After hearing this reply, Yané spat on the ground in disgust, muttering ‘melon-heads’—his favourite term of abuse, and, calling his men together, he went off to the Vlah village of Lopovo, where, in the confusion and hurly-burly of the Bulgarian Army’s retreat, the Vlahs were being unjustly accused of killing Bulgarian soldiers and taking their guns in order to join the Greeks. In fact, the Vlahs had merely retrieved guns abandoned by retreating soldiers whom they had loyally guided through Pirin, and Yané was able to take steps to prevent the Vlahs from being punished for something of which they were innocent. At the time, two weddings were in progress, and the women were wearing their finest clothes and richest ornaments. Fearing lest they be robbed by undisciplined soldiery, Yané suggested that they give him their jewellery



53. Memoirs of Paraskeva Potskova.


54. OIM, Blagoevgrad, No. 1511.


55. An article in Kambana, 14.IV.1915, states that Yané himself entered Levunovo in disguise to acquire this information.





for temporary safe custody, and such was the Vlahs’ confidence in him as a protector that they agreed. He made a list of all the items, and later returned them to their owners. [56] If one bears in mind Yané’s negative attitude towards jewellery, this must be seen as an act of great kindness and understanding. He probably realized that, in the uncertain conditions then prevailing, the Vlahs might lose all their flocks and would need their women’s jewellery to save them from starvation.


*  *  *


An armistice was concluded on July 18/31 1913, and a peace treaty was signed in Bucharest on July 28/August 10 1913. Greece and Serbia divided most of Macedonia between themselves, leaving only Pirin Macedonia and the district around Petrich and Strumitsa in Bulgarian hands. Romania grabbed the South Dobrudzha, one of Bulgaria’s richest grain-growing areas, and Turkey took back much of eastern Thrace, including Adrianople. Bulgaria retained an outlet to the sea in Aegean Thrace, between the mouths of the Mesta and the Maritsa, which she was to lose a few years later in her third vain attempt to achieve her ethnic frontiers.


The war had lasted only a month, but in terms of human suffering and wanton destruction, it was to have no end. All wars are barbarous and full of acts of bestial reprisals, and this one was no exception. Atrocities against the civilian population were committed by all sides. In addition, as far as the Greeks and Serbs were concerned, it became a war of genocide, in which those with territorial ambitions endeavoured to destroy either physically or spiritually all those whose presence gave the lie to their claims. Letters written by Greek soldiers and made available to the Carnegie Commission clearly reveal that they had orders to burn Bulgarian villages and to massacre the population. [57] Moreover, the Greek soldiers clearly ‘wished to believe that they and their comrades perpetrated bestial cruelties’. [58] The Commission saw Greek soldiers eagerly buying prints entitled The Bulgarophagos (Bulgar-Eater), which show ‘A Greek evzone (Highlander) holding a living Bulgarian soldier with both hands while he gnaws the face of his victim, like some beast of prey.’ [59] Another popular print shows a Greek soldier gouging out the eyes of a living Bulgarian. The Carnegie Report comments: ‘A print seller who issued such pictures in a western country would be held guilty of a gross libel on its army.’ [60]


The pictures and the reality would have come as no surprise to the Serchani, who had long suffered the harassments of the andartes and of bishops who paid good money for severed Bulgarian ears. The national



56. See OIM Blagoevgrad, No. 1708. (Letters from Mihai Popescu to Georgi Kotsev.)


57. Carnegie Report, pp. 104-105.     58. Ibid., p. 97.     59. Ibid.


60. Ibid. The prints in question are reproduced on pp. 96 and 98.





catastrophe would have come as no surprise, either, for year in and year out they had warned against war as a means of solving the Macedonian problem, and they had been abused and persecuted for their pains. It had happened as Yané had feared: only Pirin was left to Bulgaria.



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