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





During the autumn of 1903 and the winter of 1904, Sofia played hostess to numerous survivors of the Ilinden shipwreck who slipped across the frontier to rest and take stock of the situation. Of the top-rank leaders, Damé Gruev, Peré Toshev, Gyorché Petrov and Anastas Lozanchev had elected to remain with the stricken people in their areas, as had some of the voivodi. It was, nevertheless, a large and representative section of the Organization that now strolled the streets of the Bulgarian capital and sat about in cafés, beer-gardens and cheaper restaurants. The failure of the Rising had revived the factional differences which its outbreak had temporarily erased, and like-minded people came together in groups, seeking comfort in each other’s company, holding post-mortems, and making plans for the future.


Yané, Chernopeev and their supporters, would lunch together in the inner room of a butcher’s shop. The menu was monotonous: various kinds of gyuvech [1] or roast meats, very tasty and very peppery, washed down with Pazardzhik wine, and eaten with unusually large amounts of bread. Apart from those en pension, [2]  there would be passing guests, usually comrades from the frontier area, newly arrived in the capital, who enlivened the conversation with the latest news from the enslaved country. At these lunches, people would relate further new and interesting details about the kidnapping of Miss Stone, and other adventures in the interior, or recall memories of dear fallen comrades. There was also, however, one inevitable theme which would always be discussed in an ironic or sarcastic tone—and that was Supremism. The joint action in Pirin during the autumn had in no way blunted the antagonisms of the past, neither had it erased the ideological differences. On the contrary, in this milieu, there was now a further hardening of the conviction that it was Supremism which had forced the Ilinden Rising and which had, at all costs, to be rooted out in order to avoid new misfortunes for the people and the Organization. One also caught notes of hostility towards those internal people who had decided upon and organized the Rising in the Bitolya



1. Meat, potatoes and a great variety of vegetables baked together in an earthenware dish.


2. The Organization arranged free board and lodging for its down-and-out members in the Principality.





Region. Here, however, the Serchani and Strumichani [3] still exercised a certain restraint, and confined themselves to open and spiteful ridicule of Boris Sarafov’s ‘self-advertisement’. [4]


Boris Sarafov was, indeed, an inveterate showman and seeker of limelight. His visits abroad, his attempts to win for the Cause the patronage of foreign public figures as diverse and inappropriate as Prince Joseph Battenberg and the American Consul in St Petersburg, the notoriety which he had gained over the Mihaileanu case—not to mention his habitually extravagant behaviour—had all served to make him something of an international celebrity. [5] His was the name which usually appeared in the foreign press in connection with the Macedonian movement; his was the person that drew the crowds in Sofia. Whereas the other leading participants in the rising came to Sofia quietly and without fuss, Sarafov’s arrival was sufficiently bruited about to ensure that an enthusiastic multitude met him at Sofia Station, with flowers and cheers, while a band played the Bulgarian National Anthem. Speeches were made, a procession was formed, and he was carried shoulder high to his parents’ house. [6] During his stay in Sofia, Sarafov continued to bask in the sunlight of publicity: photos of his cheta appeared in shop windows; journalists, both Bulgarian and foreign, vied with one another to secure interviews; and everywhere his undoubtedly handsome figure—enhanced by a becoming rebel uniform and romantically long hair—inevitably drew the attention of enthusiastic patriots and curious foreigners alike. Sarafov was in his element, and the Serchani despised him for it.


Apart from the informal discussions that went on in the eating-houses and pensions, there were also general meetings called by Hristo Matov and Dr Tatarchev, the Organisation’s External Representatives. At these meetings, which continued for many weeks, voivodi and committee leaders from all the regions discussed the future of the Organization. The meetings were consultative and exploratory in character, not policy-making, since those participating were, of necessity, unmandated. All were agreed that the Organization should continue its work among the people in Macedonia and Thrace, but, in the course of the discussions on the



3. Serchani—people from the Serres Region; Strumichani—people from the Strumitsa Region.


4. See Hristo Silyanov, Osvoboditelnite borbi na Makedonia, Vol. II, Sofia 1943, p. 57. Silyanov was himself in Sofia at the time, and was present at some of the lunches.


5. John MacDonald, correspondent of the London Daily News, who was better informed than many other journalists about Macedonian affairs, found it necessary to remind his readers on more than one occasion that, contrary to popular belief, Sarafov was not the main leader of the Macedonian revolutionaries, neither was his committee nor any other committee in Sofia, the society ‘which really counts’. See Daily News, February 17 and June 1st, 1903.


6. See Daily News, 16.XI.1903; Dnevnik (Sofia) 3.XI.1903. This newspaper gave almost an entire page to its report of Sarafov’s arrival.





practical details of the manner and direction of this work, three separate groupings could be distinguished. The first consisted of those who continued to believe that the Rising had been inevitable, who considered that it had produced certain positive results—such as greater international pressure for reform—and that there was no need to make any drastic changes in the structure or practice of the Organization. The main spokesman for this group was Hristo Matov. The second grouping consisted of left-wingers, who had been the strongest opponents of Supremism and of the Rising itself. Led by Yané and the Serchani, this group now advocated a policy of decentralization, with the Central Committee—which, to all practical purposes, had ceased to function as such—playing a much reduced role, and with the regions enjoying much greater independence of action. They also proposed that all officials and committees should be elected, and not appointed. Many of the left-wingers were strongly influenced by the Bulgarian equivalent of the Bolsheviks—the so-called Narrow Socialists, who derived their nick-name from their strict adherence to Marxist principles and their refusal to countenance any form of opportunism, or collaboration with bourgeois parties. [7]


At the beginning of 1904, the views of the Left were laid out in a document entitled Directive for the Future Activity of the Organization. [8] which was drafted by Dimo Hadzhidimov and another Socialist, Dimitŭr Mirazchiev. The first points made in the Directive are that a rising should not be ‘preordained and imposed by individual personalities’, but should be determined by internal conditions and the state of the Organization’s development and preparedness. In future, without fixing a date for a new rising, it is necessary to work for the consolidation and strengthening of the Organization. On no account must the population be deceived into hoping for outside help. It must rely on its own forces, and the Organization’s centre of gravity must be shifted from the cheti to the mass of the people, with the cheti acting chiefly as instructors and inspectors. All those who are ‘discontented with the existing regime’ must be brought into the Organization, and this must be understood as meaning not only Bulgarians, but all the nationalities inhabiting the Organization’s territory. Balkan Federation is indicated as an ultimate solution of the national problem, as ‘the sole way for the salvation of all’. The Directive lays much stress on the need for systematic propaganda work among the mass of the people, who must be made to realize the full enormity of their lack of rights, and the total inadequacy of educational, medical and other facilities, within the Turkish Empire. In connection with this, suitable literature



7. In the summer of 1903, at the Tenth Congress of the Bulgarian Workers’ Social-Democratic Party, the ‘Narrow Socialist’ majority had expelled the ‘Broad Socialist’ minority, because they had advocated winning ‘broad’ support by accepting almost anyone into the Party, by co-operating with bourgeois parties on certain issues, etc.


8. The greater part of the Directive, and its accompanying Instructions, are quoted in Hadzhidimov’s article Two Tendencies, in Revolyutsionnen List, No. 8, 27.I.1905.





must be made available. Behind all the points made in the Directive is the idea that the Organization should work towards turning the ‘slave’ into ‘a conscious citizen’: ‘There is nothing worse than artificiality in a revolutionary movement, but, at the same time, there is nothing harder than the creation of conscious revolutionary forces within the peasant masses. The village accepts the new with difficulty. It is easy to rouse the peasant to revolt in view of his oppressed position in Turkey, but to make the movement systematic and conscious is a difficult task. However, having in mind that this same population is being prepared not only to win rights, but also to preserve and use them, it is necessary to overcome this difficulty and to move slowly but surely toward the awakening of a political consciousness which will bring about a genuine collapse of tyranny.’


The third group was based less on ideas than on personal loyalty to Boris Sarafov. Few could remain neutral in their attitude towards this vigorous maverick of a man. Those aspects of his character and activity which irritated and repelled the Serchani attracted others, and he deliberately sought to increase his personal power and prestige by surrounding himself with a collection of influential admirers. Sarafov stayed a relatively short time in Sofia, and he was soon off on a European tour, in the course of which he visited Belgrade, Vienna, London, Paris, Rome and Geneva, to raise money in whatever way he thought best, alleging that he had been mandated to do this by the comrades in the Bitolya Region. The announcement of his plan caused some alarm among those gathered in Sofia, and, because of his unpredictable and often irresponsible conduct, there was violent opposition to his going, especially from the Left. In the end, having been unable to prevent Sarafov from leaving the country, the External Representatives sent Mihail Gerdzhikov after him, with a mandate to act jointly with Sarafov in the name of the Organization. In this way they hoped to exercise some control over his doings and to curb his wilder manifestations of initiative. This was easier said than done. In Vienna, for example, Sarafov slipped away on the pretext of visiting an old flame, but apparently went to a secret meeting with the Austrian Foreign Minister, Count Goluchowski. In London, in Gerdzhikov’s presence, he attempted to raise a loan of two or three million pounds, and, when asked for some firm guarantee, he offered the right to exploit Lake Ohrid after Macedonia had been freed! [9] In Rome, he declared in a ‘sensational interview’ with the newspaper Giornale d’Italia that slavery under Turkey was preferable to slavery under Austria or Russia. [10] He was even reported to have entered into negotiations



9. See Mihail Gerdzhikov’s memoirs, Miletich, Vol. IX, pp. 86-87.


10. Vecherna poshta (Sofia), 3.I.1904.





with the Vatican for a Uniat [11] between the Catholic Church and Orthodox Christians in Macedonia, although later reports indicate that the Vatican was not prepared to entertain either him or his ideas. [12]


Eventually, the discussions in Sofia became repetitive and began to pall. One by one, the voivodi and other leaders of the Organization returned to their districts, and Chernopeev and Yané were the first to go. They went via Dupnitsa, where Chernopeev was detained by the police in connection with a shooting incident involving Captain Yordan Stoyanov. The latter alleged that, as he was returning to Dupnitsa from Sofia in a carriage with a Dupnitsa judge named Semerdzhiev, they were fired upon by a gang of men, among whom he claimed to have recognized Chernopeev and two other friends of Yané’s. Semerdzhiev, however, declined to identify Chernopeev as one of the assailants, and, since Stoyanov’s accusations remained without corroboration, Chernopeev was duly released. [13] Yané himself was not, in fact, arrested, although rumours of his arrest reached Dimo Hadzhidimov in Sofia. [14]


All things considered, the situation that Yané found in Macedonia was more encouraging than might have been expected. In the areas which had not risen, the Organization had remained more or less intact and was functioning normally. Even in the worst affected areas, it still retained



11. Ibid., 4.I.1904. Such Uniats had been negotiated in the past as, for example, in Kukush in 1859, where, after the Greek Patriarch had refused to appoint a Bulgarian bishop, the townsfolk had turned to Rome.


12. Ibid., 7.I.1904.


13. Stoyanov’s own account of the incident appears in the Sofia newspaper Dnevnik, 28.XII.1903. Other reports of the incident can be found in Den, 4.I.1904, and the memoirs of Konstantin Zlatkov Stoyanov, OIM Blagoevgrad, No. 547. According to Konstantin Zlatkov Stoyanov, Yordan Stoyanov’s assailants were, indeed, the Organization’s men. Yordan Stoyanov was said to have given orders for the killing of Georgi Hristov, a local pharmacist, who was a member of the Organization, and Hristo’s comrades had responded with the attack on Yordan Stoyanov. Hristov was the Chairman of the Dupnitsa Charitable Commission, whose job was to assist those who had fled from Macedonia after the Rising. Contemporary newspapers carry accounts of bad blood between various Macedonian factions, and between Supremist cheti and the Charitable Commission. Doncho’s men, in particular, were dissatisfied with the relief which they received, and because of their intolerable behaviour towards the Commission all its members, led by Hristov, resigned in corpore. See Den, 17.I.1904. In an earlier issue of Den (8.I.1904), Anton Strashimirov reminded those who complained of the unruliness of feuding ‘Macedonian’ factions that, in the celebrated Stoyanov case, neither the victim nor the accused was a ‘Macedonian’: Yordan Stoyanov and Hristo Chernopeev both came from northern Bulgaria. Georgi Hristov was actually killed not at this time, but on January 9, 1909. (See Narodna Volya, 17.I.1909). The murder was said to be the work of Supremist officers led by Yordan Stoyanov, who had been arrested. The murderers were named by Doncho Zlatkov, who alleged that Stoyanov had promised them 1000 leva and protection if arrested. (See Narodna Volya, 31.I.1909.)


14. See Dimo Hadzhidimov’s letter to his wife, dated 26.I.1904, TPA, f. 151, op. 1, a.e. 408, p. 25.





the people’s loyalty—a fact which was attested by foreign relief workers. [15] Destitute, homeless, tormented and bereaved, they still looked to their Organization for leadership, offering it the same unchanging trust and ilevotion that the defeated Highland clansmen offered Bonny Prince Charlie when they besought him in song to ‘come back again’. Unlike the fugitive Stuart Prince, the leaders of the Organization had no intention of abandoning either their people or their Cause. All of them were soon back at their posts, busily repairing the damage and preparing to continue the fight for human rights and freedom.


Public opinion abroad was deeply and genuinely shocked by the events in Macedonia, and ordinary citizens in Britain, France and many other countries reacted swiftly with expressions of indignation and offers of material support. For months on end, Macedonia was constantly in the world’s headlines; for months on end, newspapers carried reports of atrocities, of the plight of refugees, of protest meetings and of contributions to relief funds. Britons did not hesitate to point out their country’s special responsibility as the initiator of the Berlin Treaty. A typical example is the letter written by John Gifford to the London Daily New: ‘Who tore up the Treaty of San Stefano—a treaty by which Bulgaria would not have been restricted within its present boundaries, but would have embraced the area in which the "unspeakable Turk" is now engaged in quelling, in characteristic fashion, what he is pleased to regard as a rebellion? Was it not Lords Beaconfield and Salisbury who got rid of that treaty and put the Berlin Treaty in its place? It was those same lords who insisted on Armenia and Macedonia being kept in bondage to the cruel Sultan, and placed us in the hateful position of championing the government of the "throned assassin of Europe". Let us face the facts. We have carried a people struggling for liberty into a deeper and darker prison. Macedonia ought to have been at this hour the home of a free and self-governing people. It is Aceldama; and the skirts of England are red with the blood of the Macedonian field.’ [16]


Not only in the Press, but also from the pulpit was the same idea expressed. In an address given in Bristol Cathedral, the Bishop of Worcester reminded those present that they ‘must not forget their responsibility as Englishmen, nor that it was England that interposed to prevent the



15. See H.N.B. Brailsford: Macedonia—its races and their future, 1906, p. 166. Brailsford was in Macedonia during the winter of 1903-1904, acting on behalf of the British Relief Fund. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Balkan Committee founded in London in 1903. The Committee’s aim was: ‘To educate public opinion in the knowledge that grave responsibilities were incurred by Great Britain in 1878 at the Treaty of Berlin, when she secured the restoration of Macedonia to the Turk. Had it not been for English action in 1878, the whole of the area of the massacre and outrage in 1903 would have been part of a free and prosperous Balkan state.’ (Noel Buxton, Europe and the Turks, London, 1907, p. 136.)


16. Daily News, 16.IX.1903.





execution of the Treaty of San Stefano’. [17]


The Portsmouth Liberal Association passed the following resolution: ‘That as loyal Englishmen we remember that this country was one of the principal signatories to the Treaty of Berlin, and therefore England is largely responsible for the long-continued misrule of Turkey in the Balkan States, and we therefore urgently call upon his Majesty’s Government to take action to stop the massacres in accordance with the terms of the Berlin Treaty.’ [18] The Trade Union Congress, meeting in Leicester, suspended standing orders to consider a resolution on Macedonia, calling on the Government to take steps to prevent the continuance of outrages. The resolution was passed with only two votes against. [19]


Comparisons were made between British policy in South Africa and in Macedonia: ‘If there were gold and diamond mines in Macedonia, should we not even now rush into the fray—nay, should we not have found an excuse for annexing it years ago? But since there are only defenceless women and children to be protected—and protecting women and children is not our forte—the cry from Macedonian appeals to us in vain.’ [20]


Comparisons were also made between Disraeli and Balfour, the then Prime Minister, whose assertion that the ‘balance of criminality lay with the rebels rather than with the Turks’ was likened to Disraeli’s dismissal of reports of Turkish atrocities during the April Rising of 1876 as ‘coffee-house babble’. Both remarks were described by the Daily News as ‘an indelible blot’ on the page of English politics. [21]


While Balfour emulated Disraeli, Herbert Gladstone M.P., son of William Gladstone, donned his father’s mantle and told his constituents in West Leeds that ‘if ever on earth a revolt was justified, it was the revolution in Macedonia". For his part, he wished all success to those who had revolted against the abominable rule of the Sultan. [22]


Of all the statements of sympathy with the Macedonian population, one of the most touching came from Miss Stone: ‘I confess I was not so sorry to read this morning of Chamberlain’s accepted resignation as I should have been had he not taken such a cold-blooded position relative to our terribly suffering Macedonians. Can he not understand that the letters of special correspondents in Macedonia which have been published for months past in "The Daily News" are the true accounts of people struggling against fearful odds for the bare right to live and be free? I am no apologist for rash and outrageous acts by whomsoever committed but I know that when done by the Christians of Macedonia it has been from the frenzy of their desperation at seeing all Christian (?) Europe



17. Ibid., 16.X.1903.


18. Daily News, 5.X.1903.


19. Ibid., 13.IX.1903.


20. Ibid., letter from the Rev. Silas Hocking.


21. Ibid., 2.IX.1903.


22. Daily News, 16.X.1903.





standing passive, telling the Turk he has a "free hand", another word for inconceivable cruelties, to put down the insurrection. Would to God that Great Britain, who is so largely responsible for the terrible sufferings and loss of life in Macedonia, as well as in Armenia, for the last twenty years, would unite with France and Italy, and put down this blot upon history’s fair pages, in this third year of the twentieth century.’ [23]


Yet, contrary to the optimistic predictions of the congresses which prepared the Rising, no real improvements were achieved. Initially there was much diplomatic to-ing and fro-ing, and much talk of reform, but, in the final analysis, the results were meagre and totally inadequate, since the Great Powers were in favour of maintaining the status quo. [24] It was left to the two ‘most interested powers’—Russia and Austro-Hungary—to work out a programme of reforms. This programme, known as the Mürtzsteg Reforms, was prepared and negotiated with Turkey during the autumn of 1903, and was put into practice during the spring of 1904. The main provisions were that the Sultan should appoint an Inspector-General to ensure law and order in the three vilayets that comprised Macedonia, and that he should be assisted by two civilian agents—one Austrian and one Russian. Furthermore, the Gendarmerie was to be reorganized by a foreign general who would be in the service of the Turkish Government. This general—in the event, an Italian—was to be assisted by foreign officers, who, stationed throughout Macedonia, would instruct and inspect the Gendarmerie, without, however, being in command of its local units. The programme of reforms also obliged the Turkish Government to provide funds for the resettlement of refugees, and for the repair of damaged houses, schools and churches.


All the foreigners appointed were well-intentioned, well-qualified persons, who did their level best to cleanse the Augean stables of Sultan Abdul Hamid, but, in fact, their task was an impossible one, since the Inspector-General was none other than the Sultan’s faithful and cunning steward—Hilmi Pasha. The gendarme officers had no real power in the districts assigned to them and the whole programme was totally without ‘teeth’, in the sense that, as before, everything depended on the goodwill of the Sultan and his local representatives, who, in practice, did everything possible to block any changes. Hilmi Pasha was a man full of charm and apparent sweet reasonableness, a man who showed willing, yet succeeded in wriggling out of any real action to improve conditions in Macedonia. Reginald Wyon, correspondent of the Daily Mail, described



23. Ibid., 28.X.1903.


24. Britain, who, in the past, had played the leading role in bolstering up the Turkish Empire, was now the chief advocate of reforms in Macedonia, because of her opposition to increasing German influence in Turkey. Russia—deeply engaged in the Far East—and Austro-Hungary—biding her time for expansion towards the Aegean— both favoured maintaining the status quo, as did France, who had considerable investments in Turkey. Britain thus found herself in the minority.





him thus: ‘By far the cleverest of the Turks I met was Hilmi Pasha, the Inspector General of Reforms. His perversion of the truth was simply superb, and we used to say of him that he could make a man believe that Paris was really the capital of England and prove it by statistics.’ [25]


The Times’ Special Correspondent obtained an interview with Hilmi Pasha, which he ironically reported, in part, thus: ‘He informed me that only seventeen churches had been burned in this vilayet, but, as each village, he impressed upon me, had its own church, five out of the twenty-two ruins I saw must in reality have been merely colossal dustheaps. The resemblance was certainly very striking. The peasants, he said, were being induced by the authorities to return to their villages, and agricultural implements and tools were being distributed everywhere. The former statement is probably correct; the distribution of the tools is, perhaps, being carried out secretly.’ [26]


While the Great Powers were busy with their largely abortive programmes for reform, the Bulgarian Principality was striving to normalize its relations with Turkey. Negotiations between the two countries had begun before Ilinden, and, curiously enough, continued throughout the Rising and its aftermath, until final agreement was reached on March 26, 1904 (old style), on the following basis: the reforms proposed by Russia and Austro-Hungary would be implemented, and the Sultan would declare an amnesty for all Bulgarians suspected or convicted of revolutionary activity, with the exception of dynamiters, in return for which the Bulgarian Government undertook to prevent the formation of cheti on its territory, and their passage, together with that of explosives, poisonous substances, etc., into the neighbouring Turkish villages. There were also clauses providing for the minimization of customs and passport formalities between the two states, and for the normal running of trains. [27]


This Treaty led to two of the few positive achievements of international diplomacy during the period 1903-1904, namely, the release of more than four thousand Bulgarians held in Turkish prisons, and the return of thousands of refugees to their homes in Macedonia and Thrace. The news of the amnesty reached Macedonia at Easter 1904, and in many places it became known to the people during the actual service, so that the traditional proclamation of Christ’s resurrection was followed by emotional scenes of indescribable joy.


As early as October, a Turkish proclamation had invited the Bulgarian population to return to the villages and resume normal work. The pro-



25. Reginald Wyon, The Balkans from Within, 1904, p. 38.


26. The Times, 17.XI.1903. Report from Monastir (Bitolya).


27. The negotiations are described in detail by Tushé Vlahov in Kriza v bŭlgaro-turskité otnosbeniya 1895-1908, Sofia 1977. Turkey’s interest in pursuing negotiations which were more to the advantage of Bulgaria was dictated by the idea that, if agreement could be reached with the Principality, there was less likelihood of unwelcome interference by the Great Powers.





clamation assured the people of the Sultan’s constant care for their welfare, and attributed the Rising to a small minority of ‘evil-minded ones’, who had deceived the inhabitants and committed ‘repulsive transgressions’. [28] In fact, many peasants who took advantage of this proclamation and went home found that the local authorities were not prepared to honour their Government’s invitation. Searches for arms continued, and people were tortured to produce guns which they did not possess. Needless to say, virtually nothing was done about repairing damaged Christian houses and other buildings, or about financial assistance for returned refugees.


One of the most sickening aspects of the defeat was the way in which the Greeks openly took the side of the Turks against their Bulgarian fellow-Christians. The Greek Government went so far as to issue a circular to Greek consuls in Macedonia, inviting them to recommend to the Greek population not only that it abstain from participation in the insurrection, but also that it help the Turkish authorities in securing its rapid suppression by denouncing refugee Bulgarian insurgents. [29] Germanos Karavangelis, Greek Archbishop of Kastoria, carrying a gun, and accompanied by a band of armed Cretans, followed the Turkish troops round the Bulgarian villages, threatening the population with worse disasters if they persisted in their rebelliousness, and promising them protection if they would renounce the Exarchate and recognize the Greek Patriarch. Both Reginald Wyon—the Daily Mail correspondent—and H.N. Brailsford—representative of the British Relief Fund—mention that the Greeks refused to admit Bulgarians to their hospital in Bitolya. ‘They are our enemies,’ the Greek Bishop of Krushovo explained to Brailsford. [30] The latter also had an audience with the Greek Archbishop of Kastoria, who spoke to him seated beneath a photograph of the severed head of a Bulgarian voivoda. Brailsford was told that the murderers had brought the head to the Palace and that the Archbishop had given them fifty pieces of gold for their pains. [31] The killer was, in fact, a Bulgarian renegade—Koté, the veteran recidivist haramiya, whom Gotsé Delchev had repeatedly pardoned and vainly tried to reform, before he was finally outlawed by the Organization, after which he had entered the service of the Greek Archbishop. At the time of the Rising, when all old wrongs were forgiven and forgotten in the name of the common struggle, Koté, too, had been received back into the Organization, ironically enough, mainly thanks to the insistence of the same voivoda— Lazar Traikov. During the Rising, Traikov had been wounded and had taken refuge with Koté, who had then repaid the voivoda’s magnanimity by murdering him and presenting his head to the Greeks. [32]



28. See Daily News, 6.X.1903.


29. The Times, 17.XIII.1903.


30. Wyon, Opus cit., p. 100, and Brailsford, Opus cit., p. 200.


31. Brailsford, Opus cit., p. 193.


32. Nemesis finally overtook Koté in 1904. Not content with the money which he received from the Greeks, Koté kidnapped Petko Yanev, a Bulgarian recently returned from America, and tortured him and his family until he had extracted all the savings





Even before the Rising, Greek bands had begun to function on the territory of the Organization in opposition to its cheti. With a few exceptions, the andartes (Greek chetnitsi) were not local men, but were recruited and formed into bands in Greece itself by a committee in Athens, and were sent into Macedonia, as were individual under-cover Greek officers, who were planted throughout the province in the guise of consular clerks, headmasters of schools, abbots, traders, etc. [33] Motivated by a patriotic fervour so warped by hatred of every thing Bulgarian that it had degenerated into a destructive racism, the andartes chose to forget that the Bulgarians were fighting for freedom, that their fight was the same as that of their own forefathers and of their Cretan brothers, and, voluntarily making common cause with the Turks, they attacked Bulgarians wherever and whenever possible. [34]



which Yanev had brought back from the New World. Yanev, however, complained vigorously to the vali, to Hilmi Pasha himself, and to the foreign consuls. The British consul pressed the vali to act, and eventually ‘Captain Kotas’, as the Greeks called him, was arrested and hanged in Bitolya.


33. Makedonikos Agon 1903-1908—K.I. Mazarakis Enian, Athens 1937, p. 56. (Quoted by Silyanov, Osvoboditelnite Borbi na Makedonia, Vol. II, p. 142. Hristo Silyanov’s mother was Greek, and since his father—a Bulgarian from Ohrid—died young, he was initially brought up as a Greek. He received his secondary education at Bulgarian High Schools, first in Salonika, and then in Bitolya, and, as an adult, he was wholly Bulgarian in his outlook. His knowledge of Greek enabled him to use Greek sources for the chapters devoted to Greek armed propaganda in his book.)


34. The Greeks made no attempt to conceal their motives, and the Greek newspapers of the time, the personal letters and memoirs of the andartes openly acknowledge the anti-Bulgarian character of the bands in a manner which is frequently shocking in its blatant racism. Ion Dragumis, one of the ideologists of armed anti-Bulgarian propaganda, refers to the brutal blinding by Basil II of the fifteen thousand Bulgarian prisoners-of-war in 1014 and says: ‘Instead of blinding so many people—which is barbarous—Basil would have done better if he had killed them all. Thus, on the one hand, these people would not have been tormented by living blinded, and, on the other, the number of Bulgarians in the world would, at a stroke, have been diminished by 15,000—which would have been a beneficial thing.’ (Martiron kai iroon aima, Athens, 1907, p. 110. Quoted by Silyanov, Opus cit., p. 132-133.)


When Pavlos Melas—Ion Dragumis’s brother-in-law and one of the most famous commanders of andartes—was killed by a Turkish bullet due to a misunderstanding, the Athens newspaper Esperini (20.X.1904) wrote: ‘Infamous and base Turks, you have killed a hero-Greek, who had come not to fight against you, but to co-operate with you and to help you in the struggle against Bulgarian murderers and evil-doers.’ (Quoted by Silyanov, Opus cit., p. 155.)


Greek racism was even expressed in poems. One poet, Stratigis, wrote a poem urging the Greek bishops—’generals in cassocks’, as he called them—to tell their congregations that no one was to come to Communion unless he had killed ‘at least one Bulgarian bandit’, and that this was to continue until the land was delivered from ‘this bandit tribe’. (The poem was printed in the journal Elinizmos, March 1905.) Another poem by Stratigis is in the form of a conversation between a man and his confessor. The man says that he has killed someone, and is told by the priest that he will be eternally punished by God for the crime. The man then says: ‘But Father, it was a Bulgarian,’ and the priest says: ‘You are absolved, my son, see that you lay low ten more.’ (Quoted by Silyanov, Opus cit., p. 250.)





Unlike the Organization, which was, in theory at least, multinational, and which concerned itself with day-to-day social and economic problems as well as long-term political ones, the Greek bands devoted themselves solely and crudely to the task of establishing Greek hegemony throughout Macedonia and Thrace. While they regarded the Bulgarians as the main obstacle to their plans, they also attacked the Vlahs, [35] and this led to official Romanian reprisals being taken against Greek citizens in Romania, and finally to the suspension of diplomatic relations between Romania and Greece from 1906 to 1911.


In the months immediately following the Rising, the activities of the Greek andartes had the opposite effect to that intended. Many Bulgarian Patriarchist villages were so disgusted by the behaviour of the Greeks that they decided to transfer their allegiance to the Exarchate. Between February and July 16, 1904, seventy-one such villages renounced the Patriarchate, [36] and many more would have followed suit, had not the Organization stepped in to stop the process for practical reasons, since Patriarchist villages were regarded with less suspicion by the Turks, and therefore provided safer refuge for the cheti. Moreover, the transfer of villages from the Patriarchate to the Exarchate was meeting with Turkish opposition as well. In January 1904, Hilmi Pasha had issued an edict obliging all villages to remain under the same ecclesiastical jurisdiction as they had been before the Rising, and where villages renounced the Patriarchate, he forcibly closed the churches and schools, and threatened or arrested priests and other leading members of the community. [37]


One of the first tasks which faced the Organization after the Rising was the liquidation of the spies and traitors who had appeared, as if from nowhere, to bloom and multiply like mildew during the grim months of defeat and ‘pacification’. For the smooth functioning of the Organization, for the maintenance of discipline and for the protection of loyal members, it was essential to punish all such venal persons and to deter all would-be imitators. Particularly energetic action in this direction was taken by Apostol Terziev, voivoda of the Enidzhe-Vardar district, north-west of Salonika. Apostol, whom the peasants called the ‘Sun of Enidzhe-Vardar’, made a point of extracting the maximum propaganda effect from his executions: he would hang evil and undesirable persons on highways, or



35. In 1904, for example, the Greek Patriarch forbade the use of the Vlah language in church; in February 1905 andartes attacked and killed six Vlahs in the village of Negovan; in October 1905, they razed the Vlah village of Avdela to the ground (fortunately, it was almost empty, since the shepherd population was away in its winter quarters in Thrace).


36. A list of the villages can be found in Silyanov, Opus cit., pp. 125-126.


37. Traditionally, the Turks had allowed Christians to settle their own church affairs as they wished, and had even supported the Bulgarians in their struggle for an independent Church, since they regarded disunity among Christians as a factor favourable to Ottoman rule. The Rising had, however, revealed the strength of the organized Bulgarians, and therefore the Turks now openly favoured the Greeks.





just outside villages, where they would be seen, and he would always leave a note explaining why the person had been executed.


Yané, too, began the task of cleaning up his district. One of the most pressing cases was that of Mihal—or Myal, as he was called in the local dialect of his native village, Kapatovo. This Mihal was an adventurer in the haramiya mould, a bold and colourful man with a dubious past and the murder of other haramii to his credit. At one time, he had been in the cheta of Dyado Iliya, and he had then worked with a Turkish posse searching for rebels. He was considered by many to be the right hand of the Melnik kaimakam, and when he wanted to join Yané’s cheta in the autumn of 1903, there was no doubt in the minds of Yané’s closest companions that Mihal had been sent by the Turks and ought to be killed as soon as possible before he could do any more damage. ‘If you don’t take his head, he’ll take yours,’ they told him. Yet Yané had hesitated. ‘I shall kill him,’ he would often say of some traitor or enemy, ‘but I shall first endeavour to reform him, to divert him from the course upon which he has embarked, because people who expose themselves to such risks are people with strong characters and firm wills, and if you can suggest to them and convince them that the cause for which we are working is holy, they will be useful to it. But then, if I see that he’s no good, I’ll finally tell them to shoot him, but at least I shall have satisfied my conscience that I have done everything possible to divert him from the evil course upon which he has embarked.’ [38]


And so, Mihal had been accepted into the cheta and, together with his son and brother-in-law, had been sent with a group of chetnitsi under Georgi Spanchovsky to tour the villages around Melnik to see what had happened there after the Rising. One night in November 1903, when the cheta was sleeping near the village of Kalimantsi, Mihal and his relatives had killed three of their comrades, including Spanchovsky, and, having cut off their heads, they had taken them to the kaimakam of Melnik. Mihal had told him proudly that since he had not been able to take the head of the bear (Sandansky), he had brought the heads of wolf-cubs instead. The kaimakam had rewarded him suitably—with a silver sword and a monthly salary—but had warned him: ‘Mihal, these heads will probably cost you yours.’


And the Turk was right. Mihal spent the winter well enough: protected by the Turks, he busied himself stealing cattle, extorting money, denouncing people as suppliers of food to outlaws, and then sharing the bribes which the wretched people paid to escape arrest. In the spring, however, the cheti returned, and this time there could be no question of mercy. Yané had indeed satisfied his conscience that Mihal was beyond reform, and the deaths of the three men, for which he himself had been indirectly responsible, must have weighed heavily upon it.



38. Memoirs of Dimitŭr Arnaudov, pp. 6-7.





First he set ambushes, but Mihal wisely did not stir abroad, and the chetnitsi began to fall ill from prolonged sitting around in damp woods and fields. Then Yané made a direct attack on Mihal’s home, but the building was very solid, and Mihal and his relatives fired back at the cheta from all four sides until the noise brought the Turks, and Yané was forced to withdraw. Finally Yané decided that the only way to get him was to kill him in the village church, where he sang every Sunday, and where he would not expect to be attacked. On September 14, 1904, two of Yané’s men—Petér Govedarcheto and Georgi Moadzhira—duly went to the church during a service, and Georgi shot Mihal dead in full view of the congregation. Later, Mihal’s brother-in-law and several other members of the family were also killed, as accessories to his many misdeeds.


During the killing and for some time after it, Yané was in the nearby village of Hotovo, with only two men. The village was searched by the Turks, who arrested a number of people, but they did not find Yané. When the peasants who had been ordered to lead the troops from house to house deliberately missed out the one where Yané was hiding, the Turks did not react in any way, although, in all probability, they had noticed the omission and understood its significance. [39] Few Turks had any real desire to clash with armed chetnitsi, and it was not unusual for such search parties to exercise discretion in the course of their duty. [40]


Yané also dealt—though in a less spectacular manner—with a number of other persons who had made themselves dangerous or obnoxious to the Organization. One case deserves special mention, because, like the case of Mihal, it shows Yané as a man who resorted to the final sanction of execution only when no other road was open to him. It concerned two devoted members of the Organization—Angel Belovsky, from the village of Belyovo, and Dralcho, from Goleshevo—who were captured by the Turks in the troubles of 1903. After being terribly tortured, the two began to give information, and were taken round the villages by the Turks to point out leading members of the Organization. Everywhere the people were outraged by their behaviour and were calling them spies. Yané, however, looked at the matter somewhat differently. He took the view that the villagers themselves were partly to balme and should have killed the two men when they started to give information, instead of demanding their



39. Accounts of the killing of Mihal can be found in Revolyutsionen list, No. 4, 7.X.1904; Dimitŭr Arnaudov’s memoirs, p. 7; and in the memoirs of Georgi Kotsev, pp. 113-116. There is a slight discrepancy between the last two accounts over exactly which of Mihal’s relatives were involved: his brother-in-law or his brother. Kotsev’s account, which is more detailed, says that it was his brother-in-law.


40. Georgi Kotsev also relates the case of a Turkish search party in Debrené not really wanting to know where the komiti were hiding. The Turks were being led round the village by the mayor and the priest, and when the latter told the officer that, if he loved his wife and children, he must not try to go where he was not led, the officer replied: ‘Papaz efendi, isn’t that why I have taken you? To lead me where I ought to go?’ (See Kotsev, p. 130.)





deaths when it was too late. He understood that the wretched men were neither spies, nor traitors in the true sense of the word, but honest men who had gone to pieces as ‘affair’ followed ‘affair’, and who had simply not been able to endure the inhuman tortures to which they had been subjected. Ever thrifty, both with money and with men, Yané was loth to lose potential workers for the Cause, and, though he insisted that the District Committee sentence them to death, he obtained the right to delay execution of the sentence until he had tried to reform them. He then called them to him, and both came at the first summons, made a full confession and declared themselves willing to accept whatever punishment was meted out to them. Yané told them that he proposed to give them a number of tasks which they must perform well in order to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of the people, who regarded them as spies. The two men fulfilled the tasks with admirable precision, but, unfortunately, public opinion remained the same—the people would not forgive them, and Yané was forced, against his will, to carry out the sentence. [41]


The Organization’s purges aroused horror and indignation in the French colonel charged with reforming the gendarmerie in the Serres District. New to the whole situation, he regarded the executions as ‘common crimes’ and not as ‘political punishments’, and, approached for protection by people who had received warnings from the Organization, he raised the matter with the Myuteserif of Serres. The latter, however, merely shrugged his shoulders and said that he could do nothing about it, thus arousing the Colonel’s indignation still further. In reply to the Colonel’s public criticism of the Organization, Yané sent him an ‘Open Letter’, which began thus:


‘The recent series of killings undertaken by the Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization in the Melnik District has given rise to interpretations and accusations of a kind completely at variance with the motives behind them. This has obliged us to write the present open letter and to shed more necessary light.


‘We are being accused. But who are our accusers? They are all those who wield force and power; those who, in order to consolidate their power and to keep it in their own hands, commit the greatest acts of lawlessness and arbitrary rule; those who require the spy services of those killed in order to annihilate us—the fighters against this tyrannical power, against this arbitrary rule; those who wish to see the population in darkness and ignorance, so as to keep it for ever without rights and without justice, eternally fettered with their despotic chains. They are those who, hand in glove with this tyranny,



41. See TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 20, p. 4.





sheltered and protected by it, commit the greatest robberies, and suck the people’s blood to the last drop. They are those who are contented and happy under this appalling bloody regime, and who stifle the people; those who do not know the meaning of want, oppression, arbitrary rule, torture, and the desecration of all that Man holds sacred. These are our accusers. They are isolated individuals, an insignificant drop in the boundless ocean of the people. And the people? They do not accuse us: these killings neither shock nor revolt them, because they see them as their own doing. Yes, these killings are not our doing, but the people’s. It is the people who are the judges; they pronounce the sentences, and we merely carry them out.’


Yané went on to explain that the executions were neither unjust nor unwarranted: all those killed were guilty of betrayal or collaboration with the Turkish authorities. He flatly rejected accusations that the executions had anything in common with the murders committed by haramii in the course of robberies (‘the Organization has never besmirched itself with such shameful deeds’), or that the killings were in any way motivated by chauvinism, since most of those executed were, in fact, Bulgarians, and he defended the right of the Organization to ignore the law of the land and to punish as it saw fit:


‘A revolutionary organization, like ours, which, in the name of the whole people, struggles against the existing order, cannot and is not obliged to take account of any laws, of any existing order of things. It is outside the law, outside the state: it is a state within a state; it has its own laws, its own justice, and all those who stand in its way and who oppose its aims, are its enemies, and it will judge and punish them according to the scales of this—its own justice.’


The letter concluded thus:


‘We are being accused of cruelty, ferocity and ruthlessness. Yes, we are cruel, we are fierce and ruthless, but only towards spies, towards the enemies of the Cause of Liberation. There is no mercy and forgiveness for such people: for them there is only one punishment, only one reward—"Death". Death to the spies, death to the traitors, death to all who stand in the way of the Cause!


From the Organization of the

Serres Revolutionary Region.’ [42]


22.VI. 1904


42. Both the Colonel’s press statement and Yané’s Open Letter were printed in the Organization’s newspaper Revolyutsionen list, which was published in Sofia. The





This outspoken letter should be regarded as a completely sincere statement on the part of Yané. It contains neither denials, nor excuses, only a protest against the Colonel’s lack of perception, and a vehement assertion of the Organization’s right—accorded by popular assent—to dispense justice in a land where the official authorities were in the service of tyranny and injustice. Yané never made excuses: he did what he did, and stood by it, out of a deep conviction that he was right. His attitudes and actions can be fully understood only when it is borne in mind that he was first and foremost an incorrigible idealist possessed by a vision, and, if he was sometimes naive, and often harsh or unreasonably obstinate, he was never unprincipled or false.


Yané’s characteristic idealism—this time without a trace of ferocity—is manifest in a remarkable letter to the Greek inhabitants of Melnik, written on the same day as the letter to the French Colonel. Melnik is one of the most extraordinary of all Bulgarian towns. It stands in a narrow canyon, through which the Rozhen River flows to meet the Melnik River. On either side, eroding sandstone cliffs and ‘pyramids’ rise hundreds of feet above the roof-tops, and between them there is so little room that the houses have no gardens and courtyards, and, from a distance, they appear to be piled one on top of another. Mushroom-like in construction, they have a high, almost windowless ground floor, made of hewn stones, above which the white-washed upper storey projects over the cobbled street, or even over the river, supported by wooden beams. Tall, white, finger-shaped chimneys soar above the red-tiled roofs, emulating the slender poplar trees that, here and there, find room to grow between the houses. Once every house had vast cellars containing countless barrels of the famous Melnik wine, as smooth as velvet and as thick as blood; so thick, indeed, that, according to some, it could be carried in a kerchief! Almost black in hue, it was prized as far afield as Vienna, Venice, Budapest and distant towns in France and Spain. Wine was the chief wealth of the town, and all the surrounding land that could support crops was given over to vines, which flourished in the light sandy soil under the sun that was rarely hidden. The wine left the town in skins and barrels on the backs



Colonel’s statement appeared in No. 1, 12.VIII.1904, and Yané’s answer in No. 2, 30.VIII.1904. If the Colonel failed to see things from the Organization’s point of view, H.N. Brailsford, who was also in Macedonia during the aftermath of the rising, showed greater understanding: ‘If one shrinks from the despotism which the committee exerts, this is also true, that the people themselves control it, and the people themselves submit to a sacrifice which is necessary if they are to achieve their end by conspiracy and rebellion. In making a temporary sacrifice of their liberty, they are giving up what they do not possess—and giving it up in the hope of winning it. Lastly, if the recklessness with which the committee destroys life and risks it seems shocking, let us remember that life has no worth or price in Macedonia. We in Europe talk of life as though it had an absolute value. In fact, its value is relative to the degree of security which a given society affords. It would be interesting to inquire what premium an English insurance company would ask upon the life of the average Macedonian villager.’ (Brailsford, Opus cit., p. 170.)





of animals, since carts could not negotiate its constricted thoroughfares, and, indeed, in some of the alley-ways it was not even possible for two donkeys to pass each other. Only one road led into the town, and there were few places where man or beast could traverse the crumbling cliffs.


In Yané’s day, the population of several thousand was mainly Greek and Bulgarian, with a few hundred Turks and Gypsies, and a handful of Vlahs. There had been Greeks in Melnik for centuries, and, according to local tradition, these Greeks were the descendants of prominent families whom Tsar Kaloyan had sent into exile there. Greek cultural influence was strong in Melnik, for it was the seat of a Metropolitan bishop, and there were several Greek schools in the town. The first modern Bulgarian school had been opened there in 1873, but the first teacher—Ivan Kozarev, a cousin of Hristo Botev—had been chased out of town by the Greeks. In 1880, it reopened with Boris Saratov’s father, Petŭr Sarafov, as headmaster.


The influence of the distant places where the wine was sold came back along the trade routes so that, in spite of Melnik’s inaccessibility, the richer families, especially the Greek ones, were acquainted with the modes and manners of the outside world. Western goods, and even fashion magazines, found their way into Melnik homes, and the music of the waltz and the quadrille floated incongruously from high windows, echoing in the cobbled streets and dying away among the sentinel pyramids of sand.


Nothing could be in greater contrast to the chauvinistic vituperations of the andartes than Yané’s appeal for reconciliation and common endeavour:



For a long time now you Greeks have been accustomed to look upon our Macedonian-Adrianople question as a purely Bulgarian question. You consider the struggle which we are waging not as a struggle to win a life of freedom, but as a struggle for the triumph of the Bulgarian nation over the others who live alongside us, our efforts do not move you; our victims, the victims of tyranny, do not fill your souls with indignation against the tyrant. In everything you perceive chauvinistic aspirations on our part, some kind of underhand intent on the part of Bulgaria. For you, the struggle which we wage with the so-called Supremists, those tools of the Bulgarian Government, appear to count for nothing; you want to see in it only a concealing, a masking of our real intent. You all but greet with laughter our assurances that we are sincere, that we want to cleanse the Cause of all national weeds and to wage a common joint struggle against tyranny. And it is not only you who are to blame for this gross mistrust; the past, full of mutual enmities and persecutions, is also to blame; official Bulgaria and official Greece, too, are to blame, for they deliberately strive to perpetuate these enmities





and mutual persecution. Between us, there has always yawned a deep abyss of national antagonism; we have always tried to hinder each other, to do each other harm; we have always regarded each other as the greatest of enemies, and have been ready, at the slightest excuse, to attack each other ferociously. Our losses and our misfortunes were your joys, your satisfaction; and, conversely, yours were ours. And these enmities were handed down from generation to generation, from century to century, growing and gathering strength.’


Yané goes on to stress the fact that mutual hostility between the various nationalities in Macedonia benefits no one but the Sultan’s government, which pursues a deliberate policy of divide and rule. He assures the Greeks that the Organization is independent, non-aligned and based on internationalism, and that its intention is not to impose Bulgarian hegemony, but to win true freedom for all who inhabit Macedonia. His appeal ends with the following words:


‘Come and forget our common murky past; put away this stupid chauvinism; believe us! Come, and let us together sow the seed of revolution, let us awake the spirits of those who sleep—come! Henceforth let there be neither Bulgarian, nor Greek, nor Serb, nor Vlah, but only a deprived slave; the tyranny is common, let the struggle also be common; come and embrace our Cause and devote yourselves to it; preach it among your fellow countrymen, offer up your resources and your strength before the altar of our common freedom, become the-champions and apostles of our common work. We await you with open arms.


‘Come! United we shall all the sooner break our common servile bonds.’ [43]


The response to this appeal was sadly meagre. The Greek minority in Macedonia was mainly urban and did not share the economic problems of the Bulgarian peasants. Most of its members were merchants and clergy, who made a comfortable enough living even under the Sultan, and who were so consumed by hatred of everything Bulgarian that they preferred the status quo to changes which would give free rein to the Bulgarian majority. Of the Melnik Greeks, only one responded to the Organization’s appeal to ‘come’. He was Manolis Kordopoulos, a rich bachelor, who owned extensive vineyards and a great house in Melnik, which he had inherited from his maternal grandfather—a Greek wine-merchant from Asia Minor, named Kalabak. [44] Manolis Kordopoulos



43. Revolyutsionen list. No. 3, 17.IX.1904.


44. Pirinsko delo, 19.X.1957 and 19.XI.1958. Articles by Evgenia Nestorova.





became Yané’s trusted friend, and would open the doors of his great house to offer hospitality and sanctuary to him and his chetnitsi.


Undeterred by his failure to win the co-operation of the sophisticated Greeks of Melnik—or, perhaps, on the other hand, encouraged by his success with Kordopoulos—Yané also began working on Turks, but in a more individual way, taking advantage of the fact that many Turkish soldiers were fed up with being in the army. After a battle in Pirin, three Turkish soldiers from Asia Minor were taken prisoner by the militia from Debrené and Sugarevo, who took them bound to Yané. The latter immediately gave orders for them to be unbound, sat them down and addressed them very politely, telling them not to be afraid, since they were among comrades, not enemies. He then told them about the aims of the Organization, explaining that it was not against the Turkish people, but only against the Sultan, and he kept them with the cheta for several days in order to make a deeper impression upon them. After that, at their own request, he sent them to the Principality, having given them new civilian clothes and a lira apiece to tide them over until they found work. [45] Later, Yané went further, and began to encourage Turkish soldiers to desert. This began after the Vranya militia had caught four soldiers from Asia Minor, of whom one—Barhanedin—was more intelligent than the usual run of Turkish soldiers. Yané talked to them at some length and learnt that many Turkish soldiers had a mind to desert, but were afraid to do so because they had been told horror stories about what the cheti would do to them if they were caught. Yané told them that he was prepared to help any deserter to go to the Principality, and he and Barhanedin prepared letters, signed by the four Turks, for about forty of their friends in various units, telling them that what they had heard about the cheti was not true, and that, if they wanted to desert, they should appear in certain villages where they would be well received and sent wherever they liked. They were, however, to bring their arms, for which they would be paid. Yané also sent letters to the Regional Committee, giving orders for the proper reception of Turkish deserters. In this way, he hoped both to demoralize the army and to build a bridge to the future when Turks and Bulgarians would work together for a more just society. In fact, a number of Turks did take advantage of the offer, and came with their arms, and were duly sent to Nikola Maleshevsky in Dupnitsa for resettlement.


On another occasion, Yané and his cheta were going towards Vranya when they encountered two Turkish civilians. The Turks immediately realized that they had come upon komiti, and were convinced that their last hour had come. Yané, however, explained that they were fighting against the beys and the bad government of the Sultan. They were not



45. Memoirs of Dimitŭr Arnaudov, p. 7. Arnaudov gives the date as 1904, but it is not clear which battle he has in mind. The battles near Sugarevo took place in the Spring of 1905.





bandits, he told them, otherwise they would have killed them, whereas they were going to let them return to their homes. At this, some of the chetnitsi objected that the Turks would betray them, but Yané took the view they would not, and in fact, they did not. [46]


In the first few months after his return to Macedonia, Yané gave considerable attention to economic questions. The peasants’ main grievances were connected with the tithes which now swallowed up an eighth of their produce, instead of the lawful tenth. They also suffered from lack of land. The Organization therefore revived and extended its policy of boycotts intended to make the Turkish feudal system unworkable and thus to force the beys to sell their estates to the peasants.


On July 4, 1904, Yané signed an order [47] issued by the Serres Regional Committee, forbidding Christians to become tax-farmers for the collection of tithes, or to act as agents for Turkish tax-farmers, on pain of severe punishment. Led by the Organization, the peasants thought up all kinds of ways of cheating the tax-farmers, so that in the following year, 1905, few people wanted the job because it was no longer profitable. The Organization then directed the mayors of the villages to buy the tax-rights in the name of the whole village, so that no Turkish officials need come from outside.


On August 1st, Yané signed a second order, [48] making it a punishable offence for Christians to take employment with Turks as servants, labourers, business partners, etc., and, conversely, for Christians to employ Turks as such. Christians were also forbidden to become civil servants without the permission of the Organization, to consort with Turks, and to rent Turkish land, other than on a share-cropping basis, giving the Turks the smallest possible share, so that the beys would get fed up and want to sell out. At such sales, richer Christians were forbidden to buy up the land, so that the peasants themselves could buy the land which they worked. No Christians were to resort to Turkish courts; if the villagers themselves could not sort out their quarrels, they were to call in the cheta.


Most Turkish land-owners lived in towns and left the management of their estates and the collection of rent, etc., to agents, who, anxious to receive food and presents from the population, would pretend not to notice when produce and livestock mysteriously disappeared, and, as a result, some beys received so little of the harvest that they preferred to cut their losses and sell their estates. Thus, the Organization succeeded in carrying out some redivision of the land, but it was hampered by lack of funds and credit institutions. Those most in need of land had no money to buy, and, even when school and church funds were used to finance the



46. TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 20. From the Chapter ‘Was Yané Cruel?’ of Ivan Harizanov’s unfinished biography of him.


47. Revolyutsionen list, No. 3, 17.IX.1904.


48. Kotsev, Opus cit., p. 126.





purchase of chiflik land, such funds fell below the amount required.


In the years that followed, the leaders of the Serres Region concentrated on achieving improvements in the day-to-day life of the population, and bided their time, waiting for the proper moment to seize political power.


Among the many letters which Yané wrote or caused to be written during this period of resuscitation was one to his parents in Dupnitsa:


‘My dear Parents,

I underwent much heart-searching before deciding to write you this letter, not because I don’t want you always to know where and how I’m living and what state I’m in. No, such a thought is far from me, for I well understand your parental love, but I simply did not want to break open, even for a little while, the wounds in your hearts, which have, perhaps, healed, since I am certain that when you begin to read it, the tears will immediately begin to roll down your old faces. But you, my beloved parents, must console yourselves with this thought alone, that it is precisely here, in this unhappy country, that my deep-seated conviction that I must always help the weak finds wide scope for work. Moreover, I am of late encouraged in this by my father’s words, "Son, once one has started something, one must go through with it to the end." These parental words, albeit said with a sigh, nevertheless renew my strength and energy, and I feel as though I were now for the first time throwing myself into this wandering life, accompanied by so many miseries and hardships, which I have been leading for four years on end. Father, I have just one thing to ask of you, something which I beg you to do for me, and it is that our comrades Stoiko Hadzhiev, whom you know well, and Georgi Skrizhovsky will come to see you, and may ask you for a hundred leva in silver, so I’m asking you to get a loan from someone or other for a month or two, and we’ll pay you back the money as soon as they get here. Ask Chaprashikov, or someone else, only be sure to do it, for it could be that it won’t be enough, but since I know your weight and credit, I can’t ask you for more. I’m sure you will make an effort to get this, just so that the work won’t go awry, and we, for our part, will never forget to return the favour. They will come to ask you for this money only when our representatives in Sofia, or Maleshevsky in Dupnitsa, don’t give them any to help them out.


Greet the bride and the children and all relations and friends who haven’t yet forgotten us.


Your son, Yanéto.’ [49]





49. OIM Blagoevgrad, No. 532.





In this uninhibited letter, Yané drops the reserve which he displayed a few months earlier when dictating his memoirs to Professor Miletich, and reveals a part of his soul. Here, he speaks openly of the forces which drove him: his ‘deep-seated conviction’ that he ‘must always help the weak’, and his belief that ‘once one has started something, one must go through with it to the end.’


Back in the ‘unhappy country’, after the catastrophe, Yané set to work with a will to ‘help the weak’, ignoring the ‘miseries and hardships’, and pursuing his dream in a nightmare situation.



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