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





The Turks called Dupnitsa Gümüs Deré—Silver Valley, not because there were any silver mines in the area, but because of the riches that passed through the town along the road that led from Salonika to Sofia and the north. Its Bulgarian name may have been derived either from dub, meaning an oaktree, or from dupka, meaning a hole, for the town is situated at the foot of the mighty Rila Mountains, where the valley of the River Dzherman—a tributary of the Struma—narrows into a gorge. Three other rivers also flow through Dupnitsa, helping to keep it clean and providing its citizens with ample water. Warm air, coming up the valley of the Struma from the Aegean, give it a pleasant climate without extremes of hot and cold.


Outside the town, there were excellent pastures for cattle, sheep and goats, and, to the south especially, where the valley widened, there were fields and gardens, where grain, vegetables, tobacco, grapes and other fruit flourished. Local cherries were much sought after in Sofia, and pears, too, were taken to the market there by donkey. The Bulgarian townsfolk practised a number of crafts, including tailoring, shoemaking, carpentry, saddle-making, tanning and rope-making, while the gypsies, who had their own quarter in the town, earned a living as blacksmiths, tinkers, musicians, horse-dealers, and makers of baskets, spindles, sieves and other oddments, which their womenfolk sold from door to door, as well as begging and telling fortunes.


Although most of the Turks had left, Dupnitsa did not change radically in outward appearance for the next twenty-five years or so. It was situated too near the frontier for comfort; trade was slack, and there was little money for grand reconstruction. Indeed, the town almost missed getting the teacher-training school which the Ministry of Education wanted to open for young refugees from Macedonia, because the Municipality was too poor to purchase the only suitable site—the so-called Kargali konak, a walled complex of buildings belonging to a rich Turkish family, and there was a real danger that the school, which was to include accommodation for boarders, would have to be opened in another town. The situation was saved by a philanthropic Turk, named Bekir Efendi, who had returned to dispose of his own property in Dupnitsa and that of the Kargali heirs, to whom he was related. Bekir made an outright gift of the konak to the town, before retiring across the frontier to Sveti Vrach (now Sandansky),





and the grateful citizens of Dupnitsa named a street after him, for this was not the first time that they had had cause to bless the name of Bekir Efendi. More than once, before the liberation, Bekir had managed to dissuade his more fanatical fellowcountrymen, as well as the wild Circassians, from engaging in open pre-emptive terror against the Bulgarians, especially after the April Rising, when many Turks wanted to attack everything Christian before the Christians could attack them. [1]


Thus, until after 1900, when Dupnitsa became a garrison town, and the population began to feel more secure, the town remained much as it had been in Turkish times, with its higgledy-piddledy lay-out, its narrow, twisting streets—some too narrow for two carts to pass each other, its one-storey houses, built of sun-dried bricks, reinforced with planks, and its tiny shops with wide eaves and shuttered glassless windows. The main street was cobbled with river stones, and had a gutter down the middle to carry away rain and the water from constantly flowing fountains, which were to be found outside mosques and rich houses. Only the business quarter—the cbarshiya—was in any way lit, and this only with tallow candles in tin lanterns, or kerosine lamps on wooden posts a hundred paces or so apart.


The new Bulgarian administration, however, soon changed the old Turkish names of the quarters, renaming them after Major Orlinsky, Tsar Alexander of Russia, the mediaeval Bulgarian Tsars Samuil and Boris, and so forth. Only the Beshik quarter—high up between the Bistritsa and its left branch, the Bokludzha, in the south-eastern part of the town-was left with its original Turkish name, which means ‘cradle’.


After the Kresna Rising, the Beshik quarter became a centre for Bulgarian refugees from Macedonia, who bought up houses left vacant by the Turks, and it was here that the Sandansky family established itself in a little house consisting of one single dark room, with wooden lattices barring the windows. The taverns of the Beshik were full of haramii [2] — colourful individuals, who, at best, were half-haidut half-komita [3] and, at worst, were almost wholly bandit. The wooden posts which supported the roofs of these inns were scarred and notched by yataghans which these characters would wave when they sang songs and told tales about heroic deeds. They would swagger about the streets, dressed in exotic costumes, and would swing their ornamental sleeves as they went from tavern to tavern, making plans for raids into Turkish territory. Each spring, they would cross the frontier in little bands to harry the Turks, and enrich themselves with booty—often at the expense of the population rather than



1. See Nikola Lazarkov, Opus cit., pp. 88-99 and 110-112.


2. Haramiya (pl: haramii) means a brigand, or an outlaw with little political motivation.


3. Haidut—an outlaw fighting the Turks, usually for motives of personal vengeance. Komita—a revolutionary belonging to a secret committee, and waging armed struggle against the Turks.





the oppressor. The citizens of Dupnitsa took little notice of them, but they doubtless made a great impression upon the children. With a chetnik father at home, and with haramii strutting along the street outside, it would have been strange if Yané had grown up to be anything else except a rebel. He himself says in his memoirs that, even as a small boy, when he and his playmates would throw stones at each other in mock battle, he always took the role of a komita. [4] One of his childhood friends remembers him as an ‘unruly, agile, sturdy’ boy, much admired and sought after by his peers, who deemed it a privilege to be accepted into his ‘gang’. [5]


Yané had inherited both his father’s sterness of character and his sense of justice, and, even as a child, he could not bear to see dishonesty go unpunished. There was a pedlar who sold halva and boza (a thick drink made from millet) in the school yard and frequently cheated the children by alleging that they had not paid when they had. Once the pedlar tried this trick on Yané’s class-mate Dimitŭr Angelov Kirov in Yané’s presence, and, when the man persisted in saying that Dimitŭr had not paid, Yané flew into a rage, seized the tray of halva, broke it over the man’s head, and then flung the metal can of boza at him. The gentler side of Yané’s nature found expression in the raising of doves, and, after school, when he was not fighting and playing at komiti, he would spend hours of his free time caring for his birds. [6] It showed, too, in his love for his parents. His letters to them, written in later life, are full of tenderness and concern for their well-being. A photograph of himself which he sent to them from Sofia in 1904 is inscribed: ‘To my unforgettable parents, I leave my likeness for consolation at the thought that I am far away from them. Sofia, 12.III.1904. From their eternally grateful son, Yanéto.’ [7] As soon as he was earning money, he began buying modest things for the home, such as proper cups, plates, spoons and forks, which his parents, as refugees scraping and saving in order to buy a little land and a couple of cows, had not been able to afford. Hitherto, the family had to make do with wooden spoons. [8] In time, the Sandanskys acquired a neighbouring two-storeyed house, with a shop on the ground floor. This house was used by Yané and the family of his elder brother, Todor, which consisted of his wife, Vangya, and their three children, Vesa, Slavka and Ivan. The old people continued to live in the one-roomed house, where the furnishings were of the simplest: wooden seats along the walls, hand-woven rugs and cushions, an iron stove and a few shelves. Both houses stood in a courtyard, scrupulously swept and clean, and decorated with box-trees and



4. Miletich, Vol. VII, p. 11.


5. Memoirs of Kostadin Zlatkov Stoyanov, OIM Blagoevgrad No. 547.


6. See Yurdan Anastasov, Spomen za Yané Sandansky, (kept in the Central Archives of the Bulgarian Communist Party in Sofia), pp. 9-10. The story of the pedlar was told to Anastasov by Kitov’s son, Krum. The Kitovs were relatives of Ilyo Voivoda.


7. The photograph referred to is in the Blagoevgrad Museum, archive number 853.


8. See Yurdan Anastasov, Spomen za Yané Sandansky, p. 7.





roses. There was also a garden, full of flowers and vegetables, kept fresh and green with water from a runnel which flowed beside it. Drinking water was brought from a public fountain on the nearby square, where the whole neighbourhood would gather on high-days and holidays to dance the horo. A barn, with a stable for a cow or two, completed the family ‘estate’. [9]


Poverty forced Yané to leave school after completing only two years of post-elementary education, and he was apprenticed to a shoemaker. In 1892, he was called up for the two-year period of military service which then, as now, was a compulsory feature in the life of every Bulgarian boy. [10] He spent his two years in the Thirteenth Regiment, which was siationed in Kyustendil, and he was demobilized in 1894 with the rank of corporal.


It was not long before Yané put his military training to practical use. Most big towns in the Bulgarian Principality had among their population a fair sprinkling of refugees from Macedonia, and all Bulgarians—regardless i if where they were born—still felt strongly about the injustice of the Treaty of Berlin. In the spring of 1895, this public concern led to the setting up of a Macedonian Committee [11] in Sofia, with branches in other towns, and during the summer the new committee organized a number of cheti, which crossed into Macedonia to harass the Turks and prepare the ground for an eventual uprising. The action received temporary approval and even encouragement from the Bulgarian Government and Prince Ferdinand, for whom unrest in Macedonia served as a convenient lever in their current diplomatic moves to achieve international recognition for Prince Ferdinand, and other political objectives involving Turkey and the Great Powers.


In Dupnitsa these developments aroused much excitement. A local Macedonian committee was set up, with Kostadin Zmiyarev, a lawyer from Strumitsa, as its chairman, and committees were also formed in the local villages. People of all kinds—haramii, seasoned rebels, and young people—flocked to join the cheti, and dressed themselves up in rebel garb—white fustanelli (Greek-style kilts), jackets with trailing ornamental sleeves, and black fur hats with golden lion emblems.


Yané joined a large cheta, [12] consisting of some 200 men, under the command of twelve officers and a veteran haramiya—Stoyo from the village of Skrizhovo (Drama district)—who, after nine seasons’ experience



9. Information taken from the written memoirs of Stefan Stoyanov Bozhdovsky, kept in the Museum in Stanké Dimitrov (formerly Dupnitsa).


10. Boys were then called up at the age of 20, not 18 as today.


11. In the present volume, the history of the foundation and development of the Macedonian committees is only briefly sketched. A more detailed account can be found in Mercia MacDermott, Freedom or Death. The Life of Gotsé Delchev, The Journeyman Press, London, 1978.


12. The Macedonian Committee in Sofia organized four large cheti and several smaller ones, with a total of about 800 men, with forty officers and a number of voivodi.





as an outlaw in Macedonia, had settled in Dupnitsa. Haramii like Stoyo were included in the cheti because of their intimate knowledge of the areas to be entered, but, in other respects, they proved to be a liability rather than an asset, for, in spite of solemn vows to the contrary, they frequently forgot themselves and reverted to banditry in defiance of the Committee’s injunctions to pay for all food taken from the population and to respect the lives and property of peaceful Turks.


Stoyo’s cheta set off via the Rila Monastery for the frontier, which then ran along the high ridges of the Rila Mountains. Officially the cheta was named the Serres cheta, since its objective was the Serres district, which lay well to the south of both Rila and Pirin, but the officers showed little inclination for venturing into the interior of Macedonia, and the cheta dawdled about in the frontier area, and then set out for the village of Dospat (Yanakli), which they burnt. Since the village was inhabited by Muslims (albeit of Bulgarian origin), the Turkish authorities made much international capital out of the incident, and horror stories appeared in Western newspapers, alleging the indiscriminate massacre by Bulgarian officers of hundreds of defenceless villagers. According to Yané’s own memoirs, only a few Muslims were killed incidentally, and there was no question of mass slaughter. [13] James Bourchier, the Times correspondent, who carried out an on-the-spot investigation, confirms Yané’s statement. He established that, while the greater part of the village and a large number of cattle had been destroyed by the fire, only some forty of the 1,500 inhabitants had actually died. [14]


After this pointless and inglorious operation, the cheta disintegrated, and its members returned to the Principality, where it was officially disbanded. According to a Times report, it was pursued by troops from Devlin and civilians from neighbouring Muslim villages, who killed 30 chetnitsi and captured a further 13. (The Times—September 12 1895). Another cheta was less fortunate and lost almost half its number killed in clashes with the Turks. A third, under Lt Boris Sarafov, went as far as the southern foothills of Pirin, and attacked the town of Melnik, after which the haramiya element in the cheta broke away and went off separately to plunder a Greek monastery. This cheta, too, clashed with Turkish regulars and had to fight its way back to the Principality.


Despite the disappointment caused by the undisciplined behaviour of the haramii and the lack of any real positive result, the returning cheti were greeted with great enthusiasm by the Macedonian Committee. Those who had taken part were each given an impressive certificate, decorated with the lion emblem, banners, portraits of Traicho Kitanchev (the Chairman of the Committee) and others, a drawing of an armed rebel, the



13. Miletich, Vol. VII, p. 12.


14. The Times, 10 and 12.XI.1895.





slogan ‘Freedom or Death’ and the seal of the Committee in Sofia. [15]


Yané returned to Dupnitsa somewhat bewildered, but more determined than ever to inform himself in detail about what he called ‘the Cause’. But although, during the following year, 1896, he learnt that, in addition to the Supreme [16] Committee in Sofia, there was some kind of revolutionary organization in Macedonia itself, he was still unable to gain a clear picture of what was going on and what had to be done. Thus, in 1897, following the outbreak of war between Greece and Turkey, he again joined a cheta, lured by two officers, Captains Venedikov and Morfov, who said: ‘You go into Macedonia now and then we will move.’ By ‘we’ Yané understood the Bulgarian Army. A cheta was formed under the leadership of Krŭsto Zahariev, a close friend of Stoyo’s. Krŭsto was from a village near Serres and had fled to Dupnitsa, where he worked as a butcher. The cheta, numbering between 25 and 30 men, was armed with ‘martinki’ and ‘bedanki’ rifles provided by the two officers. Yané, however, bought his own rifle from the Ivanov Brothers—arms merchants who were active in the Macedonian movement in Sofia—and he joined the cheta as it left Dupnitsa.


This time the cheta went deeper into enemy-held territory, and thus Yané—adult but still relatively inexperienced—returned to the land of his early childhood and saw again his native Pirin.


Never was mortal queen so sumptuously attired as this queen among mountains. Never was brocade so rich as the wondrous foliage of her lorests, nor lace so white and intricate as the cascades that foam amid her rocks. Never had mortal queen jewels that were brighter than the rainbow flowers of Pirin, nor diadems that could match her lightning and her stars. Yet for all her beauty, it is a feeling of awe rather than admiration that Pirin awakens in the heart of man. Soaring pinnacles of rock, wraith-like in swirling mist, or standing sentinel against a sapphire sky; stone-strewn precipices plunging into crystal lakes that feed on snowdrifts; high valleys that resemble battlefields where giants have fought a war of attrition hurling trees and boulders at each other until all were slain; winds that ran now down forest trees in swaths as though they were blades of grass; storms that can turn dry hillsides into raging torrents and bury summer meadows inches deep in hail: heights, depths and forces that dwarf the works of man—this is Pirin, ineffably beautiful and inexorably stern. Here all is pure and stark. Here all pretence is stripped away, and men are seen for what they are: stalwarts or weaklings, egoists or comrades, wisemen or fools. And, according to their separate characters, they leave the mountain chastened and spurned, or strengthened and enriched.


Krtisto and his cheta criss-crossed the wooded ridges of central Pirin



15. See Asen Medzhidiev, Istoriya na grad Stanke Dimitrov (Dupnitsa) i pokraininata inn ot XIV vek to 1912-1963, 1969, p. 87.


16. At its Congress in December 1895, The Macedonian Committee had added the word ‘Supreme’ to its official name.





above the village that bore the mountain’s name. Twice they clashed with Turkish troops and waged day-long battles without loss of life on the side of the cheta, first against some 150 soldiers and then against a larger force of some 250. In the next engagement, they were not so lucky: near the village of Lopovo, they were surprised by Turks, who killed one chetnik and wounded Yané in the arm below the left elbow. It was decided that he should be sent back to the Principality for treatment, and his older brother, Todor, who was also a member of the cheta, was asked to escort him. Todor, however, had been against Yané’s joining the cheta in the first place, and refused, saying, ‘Let those who brought him here take him back.’ [17]


On his return to the Principality, Yané was arrested as a haramiya, and, after he had admitted having been in Turkey carrying arms, an order was issued for him to be interned in the interior of the Principality, away from the frontier, as an unreliable person. The Dupnitsa police, however, took pity on him, and allowed him to remain in hospital on bail, until he had completely recovered, lest his arm be permanently affected. [18]


So Yané settled down again in Dupnitsa, to nurse his wound and to take stock of the situation. He had been well and truly initiated into the ways and rigours of cheta life, even to the point of shedding his own blood, and he now possessed the scars without which, according to Bulgarian proverbs, no would-be yunak [19] can be taken seriously. Yet, when he considered what the cheta had actually achieved in terms of the struggle for freedom, he found himself more bewildered than ever. The whole exercise seemed pointless and even suspect. There had been no response of any kind from Bulgaria, other than the unwelcome attentions of the police, and the positive results had been nil. Yané’s conclusions took the form of a decision: ‘Until I have understood how the Cause stands, whether or not there is an organization in the interior, and so forth, I am not going to be anyone’s tool—I am not going to budge from now on. [20]


During this period of waiting and wondering, Yané turned his energies to cultural affairs. Despite his humble background and scanty formal



17. See memoirs of Georgi Kotsev. OIM (Regional Historical Museum) Blagoevgrad. Archive number: 1680, p. 35.


18. See letter from Dupnitsa District Police (Dupnisbko okoliisko upravlenie) to the First Dupnitsa Justice of the Peace (Pŭrvi dupnishki mirovi sŭdiya), May 6 1898. OIM Blagoevgrad, Archive number 1108. The unpublished diary of Alexander Mladzhov contains the following entry for Sept. 30 1898: ‘I went to the station for Sofia with Sandansky, who is going there so that the doctors (military) can examine him and release him, because his left arm was crippled during the rising of 1896.’ Presumably, Yani was seeking release from further military service in the Reserve. The date of the ‘rising’ should be 1897. The diary is in the possession of Engineer Stefan Miloshov, in Sofia.


19. Yunak has no single-word English equivalent. It means a ‘brave young man’, who is usually a fighter against injustice and oppression.


20. Miletich, vol. VII, p. 13.





education, Yané was essentially an intellectual, and it was to other intellectuals and to intellectual work that he was drawn. Indeed, his real education began after he had left school, for he became a voracious reader and a lover of books. Thus, when he left the Army, he abandoned his half-learned trade of shoemaking and went to work as an assistant scrivener in i he office of his lawyer uncle, Spas Harizanov, and, after two and a half years, he set up on his own, still as a scrivener. For part of the time, he acted as parish clerk in the nearby village of Balanovo, and his signature appears on a number of birth-certificates issued in 1895. [21]


Yané’s personal library came to include such varied books as Moliere’s Tartuffe; Leo Tolstoy as an Artist and Thinker by A. Skabichevsky; The Origin of Language by Ernest Renan; The Eighteenth of Brumaire, by Karl Marx; Anarchism and Socialism, by Plehanov; Lectures in Economics (a popular account of political economy by G.F. Fichev and others); Ada Negri by M.V. Watson; Raphael—His Life and His Artistic Activity, by S.M. Briliant; N.V. Gogol—His Life and Literary Activity, by A.N. Annenska; Manon Lescaut; Confessions of an enfant du siècle, by Alfred de Musset; and Considerations on Representative Government, by John Stuart Mill. There were books on education and medical matters: On Self-culture, Intellectual, Physical and Moral, by J. Blackie; The Significance of Authority in Upbringing by N.A. Dobrolyubov; Upbringing and Training in the Family and School by Elitsky, and two volumes—a novel and a scientific work—dealing with venereal diseases.


At an early age, like most young Bulgarians of his day, Yané read Under the Yoke—Ivan Vazov’s classical novel about life in a small town on the eve of the April Rising of 1876, as well as Zahari Stoyanov’s Notes on the Bulgarian Risings—an equally lively documentary account of the same period, including the Rising itself. But the book which made the greatest impression upon the adolescent Yané was Zahari Stoyanov’s biography of Vasil Levsky, the creator of the organized internal movement for national liberation. Anyone who has read the book can easily visualize the impact which it must have had upon a boy growing up in an atmosphere of poverty and rebellion a few miles from the artificial frontier which had made him a refugee. Zahari Stoyanov’s book is not merely the biography of a revolutionary; it is in itself a revolutionary book, breathing hatred not only for the traditional Turkish oppressors, but also for the rich Conservative Bulgarians and for the older generation that stands in the way of the young. It is written in a racy, conversational style, with interpolations in which the author addresses the reader directly, inciting him id struggle against everything that is false and outmoded, be it Turkish or Bulgarian in origin.


The liberation of Bulgaria had, alas, not led to the creation of the ‘Pure and Sacred Republic’ of which Levsky had dreamed. Not only had



21. See article by Slavcho Tasev, Pirinsko Delo, 27.V.1982.





the Great Powers torn the Bulgarian nation limb from limb, but they had imposed upon that part which had achieved independence a foreign monarchy, with its roots outside the country and its thinking at variance with the national spirit. Most of the active idealists had fallen in the struggle for freedom, and, under Alexander of Battenberg and Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, the political and economic life of Bulgaria was dominated by go-getting careerists from the ranks of the nouveau-rich bourgeoisie-bankers, merchants and industrialists. Politics became an increasingly violent and dirty game, as the Liberals split into several warring splinter parties, and friends—and even families—fell out over the question of Russian influence versus German and Austrian influence in Bulgaria. [22] In Dupnitsa, where most people supported one or another branch of the Liberal Party, politics were particularly violent and dirty. In September 1886, during the elections for a Grand National Assembly (to elect a new Prince, following the abdication of Alexander), Dupnitsa witnessed scenes of appalling violence, culminating in the murder of the Russophobe Government candidates and the district chief of police. [23] Of the 164 people arrested, 71 were later put on trial in Kyustendil, and 58 of these received sentences for their part in the outrage. [24]


During the premiership—or rather dictatorship—of the Russophobe Stefan Stambolov (1887-1894), political terror intensified. Some citizens of Dupnitsa were forced to emigrate; one leading Russophil politician even fled over the Turkish border to Gorna Dzhumaya. In the Dupnitsa area, the situation was exacerbated by banditry, which produced a crop of robberies, kidnappings and murders. Some of those responsible were bandits pure and simple, while others were haramii. After the fall of Stambolov, power passed into the hands of the Russophil Conservatives, led by Konstantin Stoïlov, whose supporters—pledged to restore constitutional rights, law and justice—flung themselves into the twin tasks of combatting and even physically eliminating their political opponents, and of making personal hay while the sun of office shone upon them. It was during Stoïlov’s administration that Prince Ferdinand, taking advantage of the partisan rivalries that existed among Bulgarian politicians, con-



22. After the settlement in Berlin, the struggle between the Great Powers for influence in the Balkans continued unabated. In Bulgaria, the rising capitalist class tended to look to the West, for economic reasons, and an additional factor in the case was the choice of first a German Prince, Alexander of Battenberg, and then an Austrian one—Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg—as rulers of the Principality. On the other hand, some conservatives, as well as most of the peasantry and petty townsfolk remained pro-Russian, since Tsarist Russia—objectively one of the world’s most reactionary states—was revered as a liberator by the ordinary Bulgarian, who, though democratic and even republican in outlook, was, for subtle historical reasons, prepared to overlook the darker side of Tsarist policy.


23. He had previously arrested the Opposition leaders, who had attempted to prevent the elections taking place.


24. See Asen Medzhidiev, Opus Cit., pp. 132-135.





solidated his personal power and began to play an increasingly important role in shaping policy both at home and in foreign affairs.


In Dupnitsa, Stoïlov’s party was represented by Dimirŭr Radev, who, as the town’s mayor and deputy to the National Assembly, proposed and disposed in all municipal matters, assisted by a loyal caucus of wealthy citizens, whose disregard for democracy rivalled his own. Dupnitsa was not a prosperous town, but the relatively few rich—some of whom were refugees from Gorna Dzhumaya—were getting richer, while the poor were getting poorer. Under Stambolov, some citizens had succeeded in accumulating capital, which they invested mainly in the tobacco industry, cruelly exploiting both producers and processing workers; others, both Bulgarians and Jews, went in for usury, while still others had become large-scale land-owners. In Turkish times, the land had been mainly in Turkish hands, and it had then passed into the hands of rich Bulgarians. There was thus insufficient land available to the Bulgarian peasants, who were forced to seek jobs as hired labourers, or to move into the town, where they swelled the ranks of the urban poor. The traditional handicrafts, together with the old forms of guild organization, were disappearing in the face of capitalist development, and the general misery was made worse by a number of natural disasters, such as the floods of 1897, several years of bad harvests, phyloxera, cattle disease, etc. The first workers’ strike in Dupnitsa took place in 1898, when tailors employed by Samuil Levi struck for higher wages. There were as yet no trade-unions in Bulgaria, and the strike failed because there was a shortage of tailors able to make western-style garments, as opposed to the traditional costumes, and thus there were plenty of old-style tailors eager to ‘black-leg’ and re-qualify themselves at the expense of the strikers.


The concentration of power in the hands of aging, conservative forces was deeply resented by the young people of Dupnitsa, who began to demand a voice in public affairs. The most active among them were strongly influenced by the ideas of the Russian Narodniks, who laid great stress on the role of the revolutionary intelligentsia and the ‘critical individual’ in the struggle for political freedom and social justice. For this reason, the fight was waged primarily in the sphere of cultural activity. At first, the young people concentrated their efforts on trying to gain control of the town’s chitalishté, or reading-room club. [25] The Dupnitsa chitalishté was the of the oldest in Bulgaria, and had been founded in 1858, only two years after the prosperous citizens of Svishtov [26] had pioneered the whole idea. Around 1875 the Dupnitsa chitalishté had fallen on hard times, and



25. The chitalishté is a unique Bulgarian institution, supported by voluntary contributions in money and services, and combining the functions of a library and  community centre, where all kinds of activities from lectures to amateur theatricals are organized.


26. Svishtov is a town on the Danube, and was then a particularly thriving commercial centre.





its activity more or less ceased until after the Liberation, when it was revived and its original name—Zora (Dawn)—was changed to Napredŭk (Progress).


The influx of refugees from Macedonia—many of them energetic and genuinely public-spirited people—had stirred and revitalized the town, but, despite its name, the chitalishté had failed to move with the times, and it did not meet the needs of the wide-awake youth—which was not surprising since its chairman was none other than the ubiquitous conservative, Dimitŭr Radev. The young people attempted to gain control of the chitalishté, and, having failed to do so, they finally set up a society of their own in the summer of 1897.


The new society was called Mladost [27] (Youth), and, according to its Constitution, membership was open to all young people under 36 and over 20. It had its own budget and opened a reading-room club, where lectures and social evenings were held, and which soon became a meeting place for the young men of Dupnitsa. The Society announced that it would work to raise both the intellectual and moral standards of its members, and to develop solidarity among them, and that it would give material help to poorer members and those in financial difficulties through unemployment, illness, military service, etc. One of the most striking undertakings of the Society was the drawing up, in the autumn of 1897, of a set of rules for betrothals, weddings, etc., the main aim of which was to do away with archaic customs which no longer had any significance for young people, and to limit expenditure to the purchase of essentials, so that families were not ruined by over-lavish weddings. When all was said and done, the members of Mladost declared, the future happiness of a married couple depended upon their mutual love and personal qualities, and not on extravagant wedding customs. Thus, the engagement ring was not to cost more than 50 stotinki, and, between the engagement and the wedding, the bridegroom was to limit his presents to the bride to a modest quantity of fruit. There were to be no silken dresses, with expensive accessories, such as white shoes and gloves, but, instead, brides were to wear serviceable woollen dresses and leather shoes, which they could subsequently use again. Various unnecessary preliminary customs and processions, which entailed the hiring of musicians, were also outlawed, as was the traditional presentation of gifts from the bride to all the wedding guests, and certain silly or humiliating post-wedding customs, including the serving of ‘sweet rakiya’ to visitors after the bride had proved to be a virgin. All the members of Mladost agreed to accept the new rules and to encourage young people throughout Bulgaria to follow their example.



27. Details about the Society and its activities can be found in the Archive of Ivan Harizanov, in the State Historical Archives in Sofia, TDIA f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 17. Also see Vŭzpomenatelen sbornik ‘Druzhestvo Mladost’ (Memorial Anthology, Mladost Society), 1858-94-1936. Article by P. Gyoliev.





The prime mover behind these proposals was Ivan Dimitrov, [28] a teacher much influenced by Narodnik-style Socialism, but they at once received the support of most of the young people of Dupnitsa, including some of the spoilt children of the richer citizens. Ivan Dimitrov, was a gifted orator, and, when he spoke against the regime and the town council, even quite young children would go to hear him. Although the Society was not party-political most of its members were radically minded and fell increasingly under the influence of the Socialist teachers who were its driving force. This state of affairs was typical of Bulgaria at that time, and for many years to come. Everywhere, school-teachers enjoyed immense prestige in the eyes of the community, and the majority of them were Socialists of one kind or another. [29] In Dupnitsa, teachers formed the backbone of the town’s first Socialist circle, set up in 1896.


Yané was a keen participant in all the activities of Mladost, including the preparation of the Society’s rules governing engagements and weddings. He personally gave three books to its newly-formed library, [30] and, at one time, even acted as its librarian. In the beginning, however, he was the manager and cashier of the buffet at the Society’s premises, having been unanimously elected to the post as ‘a most trustworthy person’. [31] Yané was a born organizer, and did an excellent job, providing first-class refreshments at moderate prices for the people who crowded the club every Saturday evening to listen to lectures, which were followed by discussions, poetry recitals, comic sketches, musical entertainments, etc. Yané also participated in the club’s amateur dramatic presentations, among the first of which were Gogol’s masterpieces The Inspector-General and The Marriage. Later he usually played the role of a voivoda or a rebel of some kind. [32]


The formation of the new society was greeted with marked hostility by Radev and his clique, who were further enraged when citizens deserted the old reading-room club for the new one, with its lively programmes and well-run buffet, and it was not long before the mayor began to use his power to harass and persecute the leaders of Mladost.


In November 1897, following the discovery of guns and dynamite in the village of Vinitsa, the Turkish authorities embarked upon a campaign of mass arrests and torture, and a flood of refugees left Macedonia for



28. Ivan Dimitrov’s younger brother, Stefan (Stanké) became a leading Communist, and Dupnitsa is now named after him.


29. The American writer, A.D.H. Smith, noted the growth of Socialism both in Macedonia and the Principality, and wrote: ‘As soon as the younger generation secured the rudiments of a modern education, they usually became ardent socialists.’ See Fighting the Turk in the Balkans. 1908.


30. Other people did likewise, and, within a year, 283 books had been collected in this way.


31. See Memoirs of Hristo Markov, TDIA f. 1508, op. 1, a.e. 514. All the incidents relating to Markov are also taken from these memoirs.


32. Memoirs of Kostadin Zlatkov Stoyanov, OIM, Blagoevgrad, No. 547.





the Principality. Mladost immediately came to their aid by setting up a commission, headed by Yané, to provide clothes, food and accommodation for those who came to Dupnitsa. Again Yané proved his worth as a thorough and competent organizer, who even took the trouble to provide suitable headgear for destitute fugitive priests. But, while the members of Mladost were busy assisting the refugees, the Bulgarian press carried reports of Prime Minister Stoflov’s visit to Constantinople, where he was received by Sultan Abdul Hamid, who loaded him with gifts and honours, including a jewelled star. The coincidence of this news with the arrival of refugees fleeting from Turkish terror provoked indignation in Dupnitsa, where there was already considerable feeling against the Government of Stoïlov and its local supporters. Mladost called a public protest meeting, at which Spas Harizanov, acted as chairman. Refugees from Macedonia were invited to sit on the platform, and unprecedented numbers of citizens came to support the meeting and to hear speeches from Spas Harizanov and one of the Socialist teachers, Hristo Markov, who was chairman of Mladost. Radev and his clique, which included Markov’s headmaster, were beside themselves with rage, and sent telegrams to the authorities in Sofia accusing Mladost of incitement to rebellion. A Ministry of Education inspector descended upon Dupnitsa, and Hristo Markov was summarily dismissed. His departure was the occasion for further public demonstrations: a vast crowd of citizens, pupils and members of Mladost accompanied him to the bridge on the outskirts of the town, where both he and Yané made speeches, and a photograph was taken of the great assembly. Since teachers’ salaries were low and irregularly paid, Markov was virtually penniless and had resigned himself to leaving Dupnitsa on foot. Yané, however, had realized his predicament and had collected enough money from well-wishers for the hire of a carriage to convey the popular teacher to his next destination. When the moment of parting came, Yané embraced his friend, and, as Markov himself relates, ‘with his muscles of steel and great stature, he lifted me high into the air and deposited me in the carriage as though I were a feather’. Many of those present were in tears, especially the pupils, who later refused to study without their beloved teacher and demonstrated until they were dispersed by police and firemen armed with hoses.


Markov’s sacking was only the beginning of his sufferings at the hands of reaction. He was soon drafted into the Army and sent to Tsaribrod, where his commanding officer—popularly known as ‘the disciplinarian’— deliberately discriminated against him, treating him as a ‘rebel’ and a ‘criminal’, issuing him with the oldest, most worn-out kit, confining him to barracks, and burdening him with the most menial duties, of a kind that no other conscript with higher education [33] was ever expected to perform. Markov managed to send a letter to Yané, telling him of his



33. Markov not only had a Sofia degree, but had also done post-graduate work in Switzerland.





misfortunes, and Yané—ever a loyal and loving friend—came all the way from Dupnitsa to look for him, apparently on foot, for he, too, had no money for travelling. On seeing the pathetic figure of the former teacher in his dirty, ragged uniform, Yané was so upset that he began to weep ‘like a mother who had found her lost child, or brother, in direst bondage’. His tears soon changed to anger, and Markov had the greatest difficulty in persuading him not to ‘stick the two-hundred-kilo carcass of that wild pig’, as Yané picturesquely put it, when he saw the commanding officer in the distance! Yané then opened his purse, which contained only two levs and twenty stotinki, and gave Markov one of the levs, insisting that he could get all the way back to Dupnitsa with the other lev—again on foot!


Markov’s dismissal was just the beginning of the battle between the teachers and the Town Council in Dupnitsa. In December 1899, the teachers came out on strike, because, small though their salaries were, the administration failed to pay them regularly, and they were often as much as five or six months in arrears. The Town Council was forced into paying part of the arrears, whereupon the majority of the teachers returned to work, but six of them—all Socialists—continued the strike for full payment of arrears. The strikers won, but were later dismissed. The campaign against Socialist teachers continued throughout 1900 and many of them were forced to leave Dupnitsa.


After the expulsion of the teachers, Yané became chairman of Mladost. By now, as a participant in two cheti, and with a wound to show for it, Yané enjoyed considerable prestige among his contemporaries. In public, he would appear impeccably dressed, with a clean, white collar, an elegant beige overcoat, and a stout walking-stick—just in case. The young men of Dupnitsa, however, took few chances, and they would escort their leaders about town in a manner which enhanced their heroic image.


Among the teachers who had been dismissed was a young man named Dimo Hadzhidimov, who was one of Yané’s closest friends and exercised great influence over him. Dimo was the son of Hadzhi Dimko Hadzhiivanov, an energetic patriot, who, as mayor of Gorno Brodi, a village not far from Serres, had been tireless in his struggles against Greek domination of school and church in an area where the population spoke Bulgarian and felt Bulgarian. Arrests and imprisonments had failed to dampen his ardour, but after the Kresna Uprising, in which his son-in-law, Georgi Zembilev— Zembil Voivoda— had commanded a cheta, the family’s position became untenable, and they fled to Dupnitsa, to settle, like the Sandanskys, in the Beshik quarter. Unlike Yané, who was three years his senior, he had no memories of his native village, but he learnt much from his father and from his elder sister, wife of Zembil Voivoda, who had contracted tuberculosis as a result of being imprisoned on her husband’s account. In 1894 Dimo Hadzhidimov graduated from the Teacher Training School in Kyustendil and received an appointment in Dupnitsa. He and Yané became very close friends, working side by side in Mladost and in the local





Macedonian society— Edinstvo (Unity). Dimo Hadzhidimov was already a Marxist, with a considerable library of revolutionary literature, and, seeing in Yané a future revolutionary of great potential, he was eager to raise the level of his friend’s political education. Dimo was a very skilled teacher, able to direct and influence without putting any obvious pressure on people. Even after he had been expelled from Dupnitsa, he continued to write to Yané, and the latter used to share Dimo’s letters with his schoolboy cousin, Ivan Harizanov. They would read them together when on excursions in the foothills of Rila and would discuss the contents, which were generally political. Ivan Harizanov notes that they were much impressed by the ‘high style" of Dimo’s communications, and only much later did he realize that the ‘high style’ and concise presentation were all part of Dimo’s care for Yané’s development. [34] One of his postcards to Yané was, however, written in a very popular style indeed. Sent in 1899, after the fall of the Stoïlov Government, it consisted of a formal photograph of Stoïlov and seven ministers on which Dimo had simply written ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!. . . Long life! [35] With immense respect.’ [36]


To what extent Yané himself became a Socialist is difficult to gauge. What is certain, however, is that, throughout his life, he continued to read Socialist literature, and that most of his close friends and comrades came from the ranks of the left. One of his favourite books—his ‘political gospel’, as Nikola Razlogov, [37] who knew him personally, put it—was Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s famous novel What Is to Be Done?, with its rejection of accepted modes and values, its call for women’s emancipation [38] and marriage based on love and equal rights, its detailed account of the organization of a dress-making workshop on a cooperative basis, without exploitation of labour, its vision of a happy new society, inhabited by transfigured men and women, and its appeal to readers to strive towards this bright and beautiful future, bringing as much as possible of it into the present.



34. TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 17.


35. Literally ‘For many years’—a traditional Bulgarian greeting on birthdays, at New Year, etc.


36. This postcard is in OIM, Blagoevgrad, No. 1109.


37. See Pirinsko delo. 24.IV.1955. Article by Nikola Razlogov.


38. The women of Dupnitsa, too, were taking their first timid steps towards emancipation. A woman’s place was still very much in the home, and in 1888 only about 12% of the women in the town were literate. In 1890, the first women’s organization was set up under the name of Maika (Mother). Its aim was modest enough—to set up a school where women with elementary schooling could obtain further training, and such a school, offering a one-year course in dress-making, began functioning in 1894. The more progressive women felt that this was not enough, and, on January 2, 1896, the anniversary of the town’s liberation, a new women’s organization was formed on the initiative of a group of teachers. The new body was called Nadezhda (Hope), and had as its aim the ‘intellectual self-development’ of its members and support for a vocational school in the town. The foundation members declared: ‘We seek the destruction of all power and the reign of equality and freedom.’ See Medzhidiev, Opus Cit., pp. 72-74.





One of the most striking features of Chernyshevsky’s novel is the portrait of the revolutionary Rahmetov, one of that tiny but vital minority who, in relation to the great mass of good and honest people, represent what Chernyshevsky calls ‘the tannin of the tea’, ‘the bouquet in the noble wine’, ‘the moving forces of the moving forces’, and ‘the salt of the salt of the earth’. An aristocrat by birth and upbringing, Rahmetov disposes of the greater part of his estates, and, living on a fraction of his remaining income, supports several students, in addition to engaging in mysterious activity, which Chernyshevsky leaves unspecified, since he was writing in a Tsarist prison and had to reckon with the censor. Rahmetov is distinguished by his total dedication to the service of others, by the iron self-discipline with which he develops his mind and body, and by his rational and economical use of money, time and effort. He abstains from wine and women, not from motives of puritanism, but because, as he says, since ‘we are demanding that people have full enjoyment of life, we must demonstrate with our own lives that we are demanding this not for the satisfaction of our own lusts, not for ourselves personally, but for men in general, that we are speaking only as a matter of principle and not out of partiality, from conviction and not from personal need’. Rahmetov, indeed, does fall in love with a woman and she with him, but he tells her that he has no right to link anyone else’s fate with his, and therefore that marriage is out of the question. Moreover, he cannot even be her lover, as she suggests, since love would tie his hands, and he must therefore stifle it within himself. A gourmet by upbringing, he subsists on the simplest, cheapest diet when at home, his only extravagance being best-quality beef, which he eats in order to develop his physical strength. When invited out, he consents to eat foods which he normally denies himself, providing they are of a kind eaten at least on high days and holidays by the ordinary people, but food that is completely beyond the reach of the people he never touches under any circumstances. And lest he seem too impossibly perfect, Chernyshevsky endows his hero with one human weakness: Rahmetov cannot give up smoking, and suffers fits of conscience over what he calls his ‘odious weakness’, although he tries to justify himself by saying that he cannot think unless he smokes. Moreover, having aristocratic tastes, he cannot bear bad cigarettes, and thus spends more than a third of his income on cigars!


Chernyshevsky describes Rahmetov’s spartan way of life and unconventional behaviour in some detail, and they have provided inspiration and a model for countless young revolutionaries in Russia and elsewhere, including Bulgaria. There is much both in Yané’s character and his attitude to life that reminds one of Rahmetov, although how much this was due to coincidence of temperament and how much to conscious imitation is now hard to determine. Yané’s outstanding quality was his strength of will, which enabled him to cope with every difficulty and disappointment without deviating from his chosen path. In one respect, he was even more





strong-minded than Rahmetov himself, for he did not smoke, although in later life he drank wine on occasions, but sparingly. He did not, however, have to overcome the taste for luxury and the physical softness that Rahmetov had inherited from his refined upbringing. Coming from a hardy highland family, used to poverty and physical labour, and having passed through two years’ military training and two military expeditions, Yané was as tough and healthy a young man as one could wish to meet, above average in height, strong, broadshouldered, and well able to endure all kinds of hardships and privations. Even when he had money and the possibility of greater luxury, Yané remained frugal in his habits, and thrifty to the point of fanaticism.


The year 1899 was in many ways a turning point in Yané’s life. In February 1899, he gave up being a scrivener, and set out on a new career as Governor of the local prison. Very little is known about how Yané, who less than two years earlier had been described by the police as an ‘unreliable character’, now came to be appointed to such an unlikely post. The indications are that, at this stage, he must have been an active supporter of the Radoslavov Liberal Party, which, following the fall of the Stoïlov Government in January 1899, became the leading force in a new coalition Government. As far as corrupt practices were concerned, the Radoslavov Liberals represented no improvement on the previous administration, but Radoslavov himself was personally connected with many of the leaders of the Supreme Macedonian Committee in Sofia, [39] and generally encouraged activity directed towards the liberation of Macedonia and Thrace. In the new Government, Radoslavov held the key post of Minister of the Interior, and therefore, it is not so extraordinary that Yané, active both in Macedonian affairs and in the fight against the local supporters of the previous Government, should receive a civil service post in the Minister’s gift.


But the most important event of the year was his final clarification of how things stood with the Cause. The man from whom he received his initial enlightenment was Nikola Maleshevsky, the Dupnitsa agent of the secret Internal Organization, of whose existence Yané was already dimly aware. Nikola Maleshevsky had obviously been observing Yané’s activities with interest, and, having detected in him the material of which reliable revolutionaries are made, had decided to recruit him for the Organization. It was not long before one of the Organization’s leaders, Gotsé Delchev, came personally to Yané’s home and completed the process of his conversion: ‘Delchev enlightened me about the aims of the Internal Organization. . . I immediately understood that Delchev was indeed a man who knew in fine detail about the Organization and everything that it was



39. The Macedonian Committee in Sofia had added the word ‘Supreme’ to its name at its Congress held in December 1895. Thereafter it was generally referred to as the Supreme Committee and its supporters were known as ‘Supremists’.





striving for.’ [40]


Briefly, what Yané learned was this: at about the same time as the Macedonian Committee had been formed in Sofia, a group of teachers had met independently in Salonika to set up an organization which would work towards an armed uprising in Macedonia and the Adrianople district (Thrace), using the method employed by Levsky, i.e. the creation of a network of secret committees which would prepare and arm the population as a whole. For tactical reasons, because of the complicated national problems in the Balkans and the Great Powers’ refusal to countenance the frontiers of San Stefano, the Internal Organization raised the slogan of autonomy for the regions concerned, rather than immediate reunification with the Principality. During the four or five years that had elapsed since its foundation, the Internal Organization had grown rapidly: already there were committees in towns and villages all over Macedonia and Thrace; the whole area was subdivided into regions and districts, and, at the head of everything, stood the Organization’s Central Committee. The Organization, too, had its cheti, but they were entirely different in character from those of the Sofia Committee. They did not go rampaging about the land, burning, fighting and generally provoking the Turks. They were small in size, and their main task was to educate and prepare the people. They moved from village to village, explaining the aims of the Organization, assisting the peasants to form committees, training them to use arms, and settling disputes, so that the people need not resort to the slow, corrupt procedures of Turkish courts. Although, from time to time, they punished traitors and wiped out tyrants, the Organization’s cheti avoided clashes with the enemy, and preserved their forces for the future rising.


The relations between the Internal Organization and the Supreme Committee in Sofia were complicated and inconstant. The two bodies were one in their desire to see the Bulgarians of Macedonia and Thrace liberated and reunited with their brothers of the Principality, but they were divided on tactics, on matters of hegemony within the movement, and other vital problems. The Supreme Committee, for example, had tended to work for a solution of the Macedonian problem through international diplomacy, and therefore looked upon the revolutionary activities of the Internal Organization not as a primary means of liberating the country, but merely as a means of goading the diplomats into action for the implementation of the reforms promised in Article 23 of the Treaty of Berlin. The Internal Organization needed the material help—in the form of funds and supplies—which the Supreme Committee could collect through its branches and supporters in the Principality, but it jealously guarded its right to sovereignty within the territory on which it operated. Since the autumn of 1896 Gotsé had been acting as the Organization’s representative in Sofia, charged with the task of maintaining proper



40. Yané’s memoirs. Miletich, Vol. VII, p. 14.





liaison with the Supreme Committee and other possible allies in the Principality, and of arranging for the purchase and transport of arms and other material, much of which passed through Dupnitsa on its way to Macedonia.


It was small wonder that even Yané, twice burnt and thrice shy, was instantly captivated and convinced by Gotsé Delchev. Gotsé was not merely intelligent, well-educated and tireless in his efforts to advance the Cause: he was also a man of rare humanity, who radiated warmth and sympathy, and whose utter sincerity immediately communicated itself to his interlocutors. All those whose hearts and minds were at all open to persuasion he charmed and galvanized into action, and so powerful was the combined magic of his personality and his message that few of his recruits ever became deserters.


Older than Yané by only a few months, Gotsé came from as different a background as was possible among Macedonian Bulgarians. He was the eldest son of a reasonably well-to-do family from Kukush, [41] and he had been educated in the famous Bulgarian High School in Salonika, where academic standards were high and the pupils were all afire with patriotic dreams of liberating their people from the obscurantist tyranny of Sultan Abdul Hamid. He had then spent three years in Sofia as a cadet at the Military School, but had been expelled as a Socialist shortly before he would have been commissioned. He had gone back to Macedonia to become a teacher, with the idea of following Levsky’s example by setting up secret committees. In Shtip, he had met Damé Gruev, another teacher with the same idea, and from him he had learnt of the existence of the Internal Organization, whose members at that time could then be counted on the fingers of two hands. Gotsé was not one of the founders of the Organization, but he rapidly became one of its outstanding builders and leaders, occupying a unique position in the hearts of those whom he sought to liberate.


Gotsé had been born and brought up in the kind of atmosphere which had prevailed all over Bulgaria before the Liberation, a situation where things were black and white, where Bulgarians fought the corrupt Greek clergy for the right to use the Bulgarian language in church and school, and the Turks for the right to rule their own country. He had first encountered post-liberation Bulgaria, with its dirty grey struggles between opposing political factions—Bulgarian against Bulgarian—when he had come, full of idealism and dedication, to train at the Military School. As the Organization’s representative in Sofia, negotiating with politicians and arms merchants, he had seen more of the none-too-savoury political and business world of the Principality, and he had been utterly revolted by it.


Yané, on the other hand, had grown up in the free Principality as one



41. Kukush (now Kilkis), a town some fifty kilometres from Salonika was then inhabited almost exclusively by Bulgarians.





of its more underprivileged citizens. The ugly world of bourgeois politics had made itself known to him, not as a sudden, traumatic revelation, but as part of his expanding environment. He did not like this environment any more than Gotsé did, but whereas Gotsé, coming into it as a child of a different era, avoided as far as possible all contact with things that upset and revolted him, Yané felt himself to be part of the local community, and had joined with others in opposing the establishment, and had, indeed, achieved certain successes.


Gotse’s coming had, however, effectively turned his life upside down. Now that he knew how the Cause stood, it was the liberation of Macedonia, not local affairs, which once again became the centre of Yané’s attention. Together with Dimo Hadzhidimov and some others, he helped to reorganize the Macedonian Committee [42] in the town. Originally Georgi Panicharevsky (a teacher) was Chairman, Yané was Vice-Chairman, and Dimo Hadzhidimov was Secretary. Later, when the teachers were dismissed, Yané became the Committee’s Chairman. Soon, however, he abandoned the urban comforts of home and family to become the voivoda of one of the Organization’s cheti.


Of all the numberless converts that Gotsé brought to the Cause, none was so undeviating in his allegiance, none so faithful unto death, as Yané. There was in Yané’s character a powerful mixture of integrity, vision and sheer obstinacy, which, once he had set his mind to the plough, forbade him to turn back, no matter how interminable the task, or how arduous the conditions. And, because he could never be content with half-measures, or lull his conscience into accepting a fraction for the whole, it was with an act of searing renunciation that he now re-dedicated his life to the service of the Cause. Like every normal young man, Yané had found time between his various public interests to fall in love, and he had lost his heart to a girl named Elena Kyoseva, who shared his feelings. Yané’s parents approved of the match, and were even making preparations for the wedding, when their son began to have second thoughts. His real mother might be ready and eager to welcome Elena as her daughter-in-law, but his spiritual mother, the mountain, had chosen a different bride, and, in his heart of hearts, Yané knew that no mortal woman could vie with her—the other bride—in his affections. She was no stranger to him; indeed, they had been childhood sweethearts, right from the moment when Yané had seen his father with the banner of the Kresna Rising, and, for her sake, he, too, had twice donned rebel clothes and set forth with a gun. Different people called her different names: to some she was ‘Macedonia’; to others ‘Svoboda’, [43] or ‘Pravda’, [44] but for Yané she was more than any one of



42. This Committee, like all the Macedonian Committees in the Principality, as opposed to those in Macedonia itself, was affiliated to the Supreme Committee in Sofia.


43. Svoboda—Freedom.


44. Pravda—Justice.





these—a nameless, tantalizing vision of universal light and beauty that revealed herself ever more clearly as the years went by, only to vanish every time she seemed to be within his embrace.


Gotsé and Nikola Maleshevsky had, as it were, come as match-makers, tacitly forcing Yané to choose between Elena and the vision. And Yané followed the example of Rahmetov: in the name of the vision, he stifled his love for Elena and gave up all thought of marrying her. Today, his action may appear needlessly cruel and drastic, but, in fact, it has to be seen as a demonstration of his genuine love for her. Then the home was the woman’s universe, where she lived dependent on the man. Few women— apart from a handful of teachers—could earn any kind of living outside their homes, and the plight of a family temporarily, or, worse still, permanently deprived of its man could be tragic in the extreme. Yané was no stranger to poverty, and he loved Elena too much to condemn her to the hardships and humiliations that must inevitably be the lot of a komita’s wife—or widow. He acted responsibly and honourably, but at the cost of much mutual suffering. His love for his vision did not deaden his feelings for Elena, and thus the final break came as an agonizing wrench leaving wounds that were slow to heal. Yet he was adamant in his resolve. And, so that she, too, would cherish no false hopes, and could more easily build a new life without him, he never went to see her on the occasions when he returned to Dupnitsa from Macedonia.


Elena eventually married Toman Zlatkov, whose brother, Doncho, was a notorious haramiya, destined to become one of Yané’s enemies. From time to time, Toman, too, would leave Dupnitsa with some cheta or other, but his principal occupation was smuggling contraband goods across the border with Turkey. In this way he provided a somewhat precarious living for Elena and their nine children, while she supplemented their income by dress-making.


Yané never married. Once, when he was already a voivoda, a woman relative happened to notice him at a window of the Harizanovs’ house in Dupnitsa, intently watching a passing wedding procession from behind the lace curtains. She was both surprised and disconcerted to see that there were tears running down his cheeks, and she later told her daughter that Yané must surely have been feeling oppressed by the hard way of life that he had chosen. It is tempting, however, to postulate that the wedding which had upset him so much was no ordinary wedding, but Elena’s. [45]



45. I am indebted for this story to Nadezhda Malinova-Veleva, granddaughter of Stoil Prosyakov (a relation of Yané’s on his mother’s side). It was her mother who witnessed the incident described.


I am also indebted for information about Elena Kyoseva to her daughter, Agna Tomanova, to Zdravka Vasileva Simeonova, granddaughter of Yané’s paternal uncle, Aleksi Sandansky, and to Maria Mezhdurechka (formerly of Vlahi and Dupnitsa). Elena Kyoseva is also referred to in an article by B. Kalaidzhiev, based on the memoirs of Ivan Sandansky (Yané’s nephew), in Pirinsko Delo, 20.IV.1957.




The road which Yané had chosen was, indeed, a hard one, but no other could have offered him the same degree of personal satisfaction and fulfilment. He had lost his Elena, but he had found his true vocation.



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