Freedom or Death. The Life of Gotsé Delchev

Mercia MacDermott



Even brothers quarrel, but still they remain


    Bulgarian saying


Roses bear thorns, and thorns - roses.

    (Saying collected by the Brothers Miladinov)


During 1898 the Supreme Committee had been, in the main, inactive, both in Sofia and in the provinces, and, although relations between Stanishev and the two representatives of the Organization were reasonably civil - both had attended a meeting of the Supreme Committee in February 1898 - Gotsé and Gyorché were far from satisfied with the feeble character of the Supremist leadership.


The Internal Organization needed the material and moral support which could be provided by a strong emigré committee, drawing on the resources of those Bulgarians who were already free. As Gyorché put it: 'Even if the emigrés had not created their organization, headed by the Supreme Committee, we would have created it. We could not do without Bulgaria.' [1] The original policy of the Central Committee, by which the representatives abroad were simply to obtain and transport supplies, but not to get involved in emigré politics, was superceded by instructions to come to terms with the Supreme Committee and unite in raising funds. Gyorché responded by approaching not the leaders of the Supreme Committee, whom he regarded as a lost cause, but the officers with whom he had developed cordial relations. He was on particularly good terms with Boris Sarafov, whom he considered to be a most responsive and disinterested supporter of the struggle for liberation. Gotsé, on the other hand, was somewhat allergic to military men, as a result of his experiences at the Military School, and, although he kept company with a number of officers, there was no great intimacy in their relations.


Gyorché's cultivation of the officers led to a decision to establish secret officers' Brotherhoods which would collect money and supplies, and the idea was taken up with much enthusiasm in garrisons throughout the Principality. One of the officers drawn into the work of the Brotherhoods was Ivan Tsonchev, a colonel enjoying considerable prestige in the Army. A few officers, notably Bozukov, expressed grave doubts about the advisability of letting him into the secret, since they believed him to have links with the Palace, and expressed the fear that he might be joining the movement with ulterior motives. Colonel Tsonchev's conduct, however, soon dispelled all doubts. He gave a large personal donation to the Organization and also supplied materials for the Sablyar 'factory', which was then still in operation. What really won the hearts of the Internal Organization, however,





was his decision to visit Macedonia secretly in 1897, using a foreign passport, in order to meet the leaders of the Central Committee in Salonika. At a time when most people in the Principality, including the Macedonian emigres, did not take the Internal Organization seriously, Colonel Tsonchev's interest made a most favourable impression upon the Central Committee, and he was very warmly received. [2]


The Bulgarian Government reacted in a hostile fashion to the officers' Brotherhoods, the existence of which, though secret, had come to its attention. Several officers suspected of being members were posted to other towns, among them Colonel Tsonchev, who was transfered from Sofia to Vidin in the furthest corner of north-west Bulgaria, so that he would have less contact with Gyorché, whom Prime Minister Stoïlov and Ivanov, his Minister for War, regarded as a thoroughly dangerous person. [*] These measures, however, had little effect, and the officers' Brotherhoods continued to grow and flourish.


In January 1899, the Government of Stoïlov fell, and was replaced by a coalition government in which the leading role was played by the Liberal Party of Vasil Radoslavov, who took the key Ministry of the Interior under the premiership first of Dimitŭr Grekov (1899) and then of Todor Ivanchov (1899-1901). It was hardly a change for the better, however, for Radoslavov's Party was riddled with careerists and swindlers, hungry for power and wealth, unscrupulous in their misappropriation of State funds, [**] and perfectly prepared to resort to violence and falsification during elections. Gotsé described the Liberals as being liberal 'only in lies', and wryly remarked that they had replaced the Byzantine policies of the Conservatives with the tactics of a whore, which they were applying with 'great skill'. [3] Yet, although the new Government displayed even less honesty and fewer principles than the previous one, the fall of Stoïlov created a situation that was, at least temporarily, favourable for the Organization, since it took the heat out of certain factional intrigues and vendettas, including those directed against the Supreme Committee. Radoslavov himself was personally connected with many of the leaders of the Supreme Committee, and encouraged the movement for the liberation of Macedonia and the Adrianople region.


Gyorché's travels about the Principality in connection with the officers' Brotherhoods and other conspiratorial business had convinced him that the Supreme Committee and its branches were as good as dead. What little activity was being undertaken - meetings, demonstrations, the collection of membership dues, etc. - was without effect as far as the Organization was concerned. Since the latter needed the



*. It was in connection with the formation of the officers' Brotherhoods that Stoïlov considered arresting Gotsé and Gyorché. See p. 171.


**. In 1903 Todor Ivanchov himself was convicted of embezzlement.





support of a legal body in Bulgaria, Gyorché decided that it was necessary to re-vitalize the Supreme Committee by bringing new people into the leadership and by putting it on a new, revolutionary basis, so that it could revolutionize Bulgarian society and truly serve the Cause in Macedonia.


Having reached this conclusion, Gyorché began to look around for a suitable person to lead the Supreme Committee. Boris Saratov and Bozukov were eager candidates, but Gyorché was, at tirst, unwilling to consider them, since he was hoping to find a person of greater social consequence, and, moreover, he wanted to use the officers for more practical purposes. He visited people in many different towns, sounding them out and testing their characters, but everywhere without success: either the candidates proved unsuitable, or else they refused. One of those whom he most insistently canvassed was Dimitŭr Blagoev, the Socialist leader, who was then living in Plovdiv, but he, too, refused.


Finally, having no other alternative, Gyorché turned to his officer friends. They wanted him to assume the chairmanship, but this was not in line with his plans, so he refused. At that time, Gotsé and Gyorché would have been prepared to accept Colonel Tsonchev as chairman, but he was unwilling to resign his commission until the rising was about to begin; so it was agreed that, until then, Sarafov should be chairman. [4] Gyorché regarded him as "more constant' than Bozukov, who was the only other possible candidate under the circumstances. [5]


The term 'more constant' was a very relative one when applied to a character as colourful and mercurial as Lieutenant Boris Sarafov. Looking at him, it was hard to believe his statement that his father had originally sent him to the Military School because of his weak physique, in the hope that it would strengthen him. [6] He was strikingly handsome, irresistibly attractive to women, a born showman, with a wildly fertile imagination, a love of limelight, enormous energy and a zest for good living. He had the knack of raising money from all kinds of improbable and far-flung sources, but, being extravagant by nature, he spent it as fast as he found it, and could seldom account for how he had spent it. Distance was no object to him; he was always ready at a moment's notice to pack his bag and set out for St Petersburg, Vienna, Paris, Geneva, Constantinople, or anywhere else where he could contact important personages or lay his hands on money. In 1896, for example, he managed to wheedle some money out of the Ministry for War, by offering to collect information about the position in Macedonia, and he travelled to Mount Athos, on a Russian passport, hoping to obtain large donations from the monks of the Hilendar Monastery. He drew a blank with the monks, but when the King of





Serbia arrived on a visit to the Holy Mountain, Saratov's imagination began to run riot over the possibilities of kidnapping the King for a vast ransom! Being alone, Sarafov was forced to abandon the tempting idea, and, utterly penniless, he left Mount Athos for Salonika. Here the leaders of the newly-formed Central Committee, not without a trace of humour, installed him in a hotel - as a Russian actor! Sarafov played his role well, and soon made friends with the members of an Italian theatrical troupe who were lodged in the same hotel. 'We understood each other as colleagues," he commented, and, while the Italians were in Salonika, he ate and drank and visited the theatre free of charge as their guest. With his mind still running on large ransoms, Sarafov suggested to the Central Committee that they kidnap him as a 'Russian subject', in order to obtain money from the Russian consul! The Central Committee declined his offer on the grounds that they had no cheti to carry out the kidnapping. In all probability, they regarded the idea as too fantastic and too naive.


One of Saratov's more successful ventures, however, was the occasion in 1902, when he obtained 50,000 francs from a rich Englishman in Geneva, by attaching himself to his daughter, an old maid, who, as Sarafov put it, 'greatly sympathized with our cause.' [7] Saratov's inventiveness, as well as his lack of scruples, can be seen in his attempt to raise a loan for the movement from a London bank, during which he offered as security the right to exploit Lake Ohrid! [8] Another of his more fantastic plans involved seeking royal patronage for the Cause. Having decided that Prince Joseph Batternberg was the most suitable patron, Sarafov dashed off to St Petersburg where the Prince was currently on a visit. By the time he arrived, however, Prince Joseph had already left for Italy, and Sarafov had to content himself with a discussion with Count Ignatiev, who strongly advised him to keep the peace. Sarafov also went to the United States consulate in St Petersburg, and offered to collect a group of Bulgarian volunteers to fight the Spaniards in the War of 1898, when Cuba declared her independence. The price of this aid was to be material and financial support for the struggle in Macedonia. The U.S. consul declined the offer, saying that they had sufficient volunteers.


Sarafov was such a complete contrast to the sober-minded, puritanical teachers who led the Internal Organization, that it is not suprising that they chose him as their candidate for the chairmanship of the Supreme Committee only after all else had failed. Nevertheless, in spite of his flamboyance, Sarafov had, over a long period of time, proved himself both willing and able to work energetically in all kinds of ways for the Cause, and Gyorché, no doubt, hoped to exploit his undeniable virtues, while controlling the less desirable manifestations of his zeal.





Although what Gyorché and the officers were planning amounted to a take-over of the Supreme Committee, they intended to effect the change without any upset or appearance of a coup d'etat. Gyorché's friends scattered into the provinces to canvass for the programme and nominations put forward by the Organization and the officers. So successful were they, both before and at the Congress held in May 1899 and attended by forty-two delegates [9] from thirty-four Macedonian societies, that they had no difficulty in getting Sarafov and their other candidates elected without opposition. The prospect of a more active Supreme Committee and of closer co-operation between it and the Internal Organization evoked general satisfaction among delegates and Macedonian societies alike.


At first everything went extremely well, and all was sweetness and light. Gotsé and Gyorché were brought onto the Committee and set their signatures to the minutes. The officers seemed to work well under their guidance, and Sarafov himself used to say: 'We are the signboard and Gyorché is the Committee.' [10] The Congress was followed by a great revival of activity in the provinces. Gyorché toured the Principality on behalf of the Supreme Committee, revitalizing its local societies and collecting funds; new and younger men came into the local leadership; progress was made in floating a loan, and comparatively large sums of money were raised - some by rather dubious terroristic means, since the new Government was inclined to turn a blind eye to such things. [11]


The Supreme Committee provided considerable financial help for the buying of arms, the organization of cheti and the living expenses of revolutionaries in Sofia, and in Plovdiv a workshop was set up to make knapsacks, ammunition belts and other items needed by the chetnitsi. The Supreme Committee also used its influence to persuade the Exarch to appoint the Organization's nominees as teachers in Macedonia and the Adrianople area, and did much to stop the passage of robber bands by securing the co-operation of the frontier officials and by getting the police to intern known haramii.


Steps were also taken to resolve the conflict between the Internal Organization and the Revolutionary Brotherhood. The problems created by the existence of the two organizations had been discussed at the Congress, and a resolution had been passed calling on them to unite. Thus, with new people in the Government and on the Supreme Committee, the Brotherhood now found itself under pressure from all sides. In Constantinople, Garvanov received scant encouragement even from the Exarch, who told him that the Central Committee had the support of the Government and the Prince; in Sofia, the ex-Minister of War, Racho Petrov, strongly advised him to come to terms with the Internal Organization.





In September 1899, Sarafov sent an emissary, Lieutenant Ivan Kamburov, from Elena in northern Bulgaria, to mediate between the Central Committee and the Brotherhood in Salonika.* The Central Committee refused to consider a merger, since it regarded the Brotherhood not as a revolutionary organization, but as a small group of no real importance. It insisted that the Brotherhood be dissolved altogether, after which its members could join the Organization as individuals in the usual way, by taking the oath. In the end, the Brotherhood accepted the Organization's conditions, and an agreement was signed by Dr Tatarchev and Ivan Garvanov.


The agreement represented a total capitulation on the part of the Revolutionary Brotherhood, but, as Garvanov commented, even the 'crooked course' [12] of the Organization was better than disunity, and, moreover, the former members of the Brotherhood still cherished hopes that the Supreme Committee might yet succeed in gaining the ascendancy.


Thus, for a few brief months, the lines of demarcation between the Supreme Committee and the Internal Organization faded into insignificance, and their members worked together as members of one body. Unfortunately, the honeymoon was short-lived. Indeed, it could not be otherwise, for, as Gyorché later discovered, the officers had been double-crossing the Organization from the word 'go'. Even while the Sarafov Committee was being formed, some twenty officers, including Sarafov and Tsonchev, had been meeting without the participation or knowledge of the Organization's representatives, and had been discussing how they could take over the Organization from inside, and raise the standard of revolt at the earliest possible moment. They had even drawn up plans for the rising itself: Macedonia was to be divided into fourteen zones, each of which would be under the command of an officer, while Tsonchev was to prepare a volunteer force of Bulgarian reservists. Thus, the rising would be a repetition of the events of 1895, but with internal support.


In retrospect, Gyorché spoke of the pretentiousness of the officers, and commented: 'I made a mistake right at the start, when I supported the officers, because I hadn't understood their peculiar class mentality, which makes them incapable of doing anything without allowing their class inclinations to intrude... they were convinced that they alone could best liberate Macedonia, and their class ambition as officers to achieve this was a contributing factor.' [13]


A typical manifestation of this military arrogance was Saratov's remark, made at an official meeting of the Supreme Committee, in





the presence of Gotsé and Gyorché, that any lieutenant could be a minister. Gyorché asked Tsonchev whether he shared this view, but, being more cunning than Saratov, Tsonchev gave no definite reply. [14]


It was, perhaps, perfectly natural for officers to look with scorn upon the efforts of peasants led by teachers, and to believe in all sincerity that, if Macedonia and the Adrianople region were to be liberated in the foreseeable furture, the initiative must be taken by competent military men, who would sweep the teachers aside and get things 'properly' organized for speedy results. Their whole background and training predisposed them towards such a view, and most of them were unable to accept or even appreciate the basic thesis of the Internal Organization. It must be stressed, however, that the conflict between the two groups was never a conflict over the national character or ultimate future of Macedonia, but over the strategy and tactics of achieving an aim that they held in common.


In August 1899, for example, Ivan Hadzhinikolov had an interview with Luka Vŭzharov, who was the secretary of Radoslavov, leader of the ruling Liberal Party, in which he tried to impress upon the Government that far from being a manifestation of separatism, autonomy was the best means of preserving the Bulgarian character of the area: 'Union with the whole of Macedonia is impossible, because parts of it are claimed by the Greeks and Serbs. A union of the whole of Macedonia with Bulgaria can come about only through a victorious war with Turkey in which the latter is supported by Greece and Serbia. If, however, the Greeks and Serbs fight side by side with Bulgaria against Turkey, they will want sections of Macedonia, they will favour the dismemberment of Macedonia. And we want to preserve Macedonia whole within her geographical boundaries, something which can be achieved through the autonomy which we favour. A Macedonia thus freed will be like a second Bulgaria, although un-united with the mother-country. From autonomy, Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people can only gain. After the winning of autonomy for Macedonia, action can be taken to achieve federation with Bulgaria, in the first instance, and later the federation of all Balkan states as well.' [15]


Although the true intentions of the officers were not immediately apparent to the two representatives of the Internal Organization, they were disturbed quite early on by certain aspects of the Committee's conduct. Originally it had been agreed that the young men who came to Sofia from Macedonia to be given military training should be supported by the Supreme Committee, but should remain under the jurisdiction of the Internal Organization. With Gotsé's help, the Supreme Committee had set up a kind of training school, where several officers, including Sarakinov, Captain Venedikov and Lt. Dŭrvingov, acted as instructors. Gotsé wanted to find some house





where the young men could live more economically, under hostel conditions, but Saratov began to pay them princely salaries, totally out of keeping with the Spartan traditions of the Organization. This led to the moral corruption of some of them, and, instead of competing with each other as to who could best endure hunger and privation in the name of the Cause, as they had formerly done, they began to grow discontented and envy those who were receiving larger grants. Eventually, Sarafov set up his own 'barracks', where, dazzled by over-generous pay and Saratov's picturesque charm, many young men succumbed to Supremist influence. Not all, by any means, fell victim to temptation: Hristo Chernopeev and Mihail Popeto were so disgusted by the Supreme Committee's offer to give them money to buy fine clothes and other luxuries, that they stormed out of their first meeting with the officers, took their guns and went straight to Macedonia, where they became voivodi of Marko's mould.


The unnecessarily generous 'pocket money' and the demoralizing effect which it had on some of the young men gave rise to the first serious differences of opinion between Saratov's committee and the representatives of the Internal Organization. Initially, however, neither Gotsé nor Gyorché appreciated the full significance of what was happening. Unaware of the secret meetings between the officers, they regarded the whole thing as a piece of characteristically extravagant folly on Saratov's part, and did not suspect that their young men were being deliberately seduced.


As usual, Gyorché had to do most of the remonstrating and bore the brunt of the unpleasantness. Gotsé had been so upset and nauseated by Saratov's conduct that he had left Sofia, without even saying goodbye to him, and had fled back to Macedonia in order to soothe his nerves.


There Gotsé was in many ways a different person to what he was in Sofia. In the free atmosphere of the forests and mountains, surrounded by simple people, as straightforward and single-minded as himself, he seemed to expand and blossom. In Sofia, to the casual observer, he hardly merited a second glance. Always busy, always intent on something, he was utterly careless of his appearance, and would be content to clothe himself with any ill-fitting, worn-out garments that came his way - 'a hat taken from God knows what rubbish dump, a short overcoat, already unfit even for the flea-market and trousers which had by chance survived and been offered to six paupers and been six times rejected with contempt.' [16] Those who did not know him might be pardoned for seeing in him only a down-and-out-teacher, living on charity, and for failing to recognize the winged apostle of Macedonia's freedom.


Once across the border, however, dressed in rebel costume, with a





white Albanian fez, bound with a dark scarf, turban-fashion, with a red cummerbund full of knives and revolvers, a Turkish jacket with wide ornamental sleeves, and a shepherd's cloak and a carbine on his shoulder, he looked, according to eye-witnesses, like a 'demigod' [17] or a 'haidut deity'. [18]


In Macedonia, his eyes were brighter, his face more radiant and his manner more exultant and assured. There and only there, could he feel completely happy and fulfilled, and it was this sense of total satisfaction that wrought the transformation in him. At no point in his adult life had the pursuit of personal happiness entered into his calculations, and griefs and difficulties that were purely personal made little impression upon him. Where the Organization was concerned, however, he felt each failure and success with such intense emotion that it visibly seemed to affect every cell in his body. When he could spend every moment of every hour forwarding the cause of freedom, he thrived and shone. When his own people stood in his way or threatened what he had achieved, he fretted and wore his nerves to shreds. Thus, while most Macedonians arrived in the Principality feeling thankful that they had escaped from Ottoman oppression, Gotsé would take the road in the opposite direction, elated by the thought that he had escaped from the vexations of trying to co-operate with the officers.


The establishment of the cheti had provided him with a perfect environment in which he moved like a fish in bright water, like a swift in the summer sky. Everything in the cheti suited his personality and inclinations - the comradeship of honest men ready to live and die for an ideal, the freedom of movement and action, the constant contact with the awakened people, and the daily sense of progress and achievement. The ever-present danger from the Turks caused the cheti little anxiety, for they travelled by their own secret paths, forewarned of ambushes and raids by their own intelligence network, bypassing the official guardians of the law, and ruling their own land with a secret power that was at one and the same time absolute and wholly based upon popular consent.


Even in Macedonia, of course, not everything was smooth and pleasant. Every flock has its black sheep, and the Organization was no exception. From time to time, unrepentant haramii would upset the discipline of the movement with their irresponsible behaviour, and traitors would imperil its security, but such people were few, compared with the loyal majority, and Gotsé would judge them with calm magnanimity, lecturing them about their conduct and telling them to 'Go and sin no more'.


When Gotsé left Sofia in the summer of 1899, irate and thoroughly ruffled by his clashes with the officers, a measure of trouble followed





him to Macedonia. His large cheta consisted of some thirty or forty men, including Kocho Mustruka - a veteran voivoda and recidivist-haramiya, who kept promising to reform - and Lieutenant Anton Bozukov, who had expressed a desire to accompany him and whom he had accepted in order to avoid open conflict with the Supreme Committee. The cheta travelled in the direction of Salonika, without any particular aim, other than that of contacting and encouraging the local committees, but they had not gone very far before Mustruka's lower instincts got the better of him, and he departed with a handful of men to kidnap the abbot of a monastery near Serres, from whom he collected a ransom of several hundred liri - which he kept.


About the same time, relations between Gotsé and Bozukov began to deteriorate. Bozukov had, in fact, joined the cheta in order to extend the Supreme Committee's influence into Macedonia itself, but when he saw the immense authority which Gotsé enjoyed among the peasants, he did not dare compete with him. This failure hurt his self-esteem. He tried to get his own back by sowing discord within the cheta, and, finally, he announced that he wanted to continue by himself. Gotsé replied that he could do as he liked, and they parted company. A few chetnitsi from the Principality chose to go with Bozukov, while the rest remained with Gotsé. The latter reported their disagreements to the Central Committee, and chivalrously asked them to give Bozukov safe-conduct through the Organization's territory. This they did, but Bozukov soon found that, although he could travel where he would, by courtesy of the Organization, nobody would listen to him. Humiliated and disappointed, he attempted to kidnap a rich Turk from Doiran, but failed, and he returned to Sofia deeply critical of the Organization's workers, who, in his opinion, had failed to receive him with the honour and respect due to an officer, and breathing fire and slaughter against Gotsé, whom he regarded as primarily responsible for his discomfiture.


Left with a dozen or so men, Gotsé swung eastwards towards Drama, and, for a month and a half, the cheta stalked a rich Turk from the village of Radolivos, but failed to capture him. Gotsé did not want to return without money, so he switched his attention to a wealthy Greek in the village of Shilinos. This Greek was a publican and money-lender named Dimitraki, and, in a daring raid on his shop, Gotsé snatched him from under the noses of half-a-dozen Turkish policemen, who were accompanying a tax-collector, and carried him away into the Bozdag mountains. A ransom note was sent to his brother, but various hitches occurred, and for several weeks Gotsé was forced to move his prisoner from place to place in order to avoid discovery. He finally installed him in a big cave, known as Kapé, in the Alibotush mountains to the south of Pirin, while he and a few of





his men set out to hold up the Turkish mail on the road between Nevrokop and Serres. This they were unable to do, because the guards outnumbered them more than ten to one, and even the fearless Gotsé would not risk such odds. [19]


They returned empty-handed to the cave to wait for Dimitraki's ransom. The Greek's brother paid a preliminary instalment of 180 ducats to Georgi Radev and Atanas Teshovaliyata, and on their way back from the village of Skrizhevo, where the money had been handed over, they called at Radev's home in Gorno Brodi. His wife begged him to give her some money, but although Radev was carrying a comparatively large sum, his sense of responsibility to the Organization would not allow him to give her even the paltry five grosh that she needed. He told her that he had no money, and when they reached the cheta, he handed over the 180 ducats intact. Gotsé learnt of the incident from Atanas Teshovaliyata, and questioned Radev at some length about the state of his family. When he discovered that they were living in abject poverty, he immediately sent a courier to give eight of the ducats to Radev's wife.


The rest of the ransom was never paid, for, once again, Gotsé's humanity let him down, and Dimitraki, who was not kept bound, took advantage of his guard's lack of vigilance and escaped. Gotsé reacted to the disaster philosophically. By now, he knew his limitations: he could organize committees and cheti; he could make bombs and smuggle guns; he could face Turkish bayonets and bullets without missing a heart-beat, but he could not argue with members of the Supreme Committee, and he could not torment a fellow human being, even to the mild extent of keeping him bound.


On his own territory, confident of his power and authority, and calm in spirit, Gotsé was ready to exercise considerable generosity and forgiveness, but once he was back in Sofia, the iron entered into his soul, and he was unwilling even to speak to Bozukov, [*] or call on the Supreme Committee. The latter took offence because they had expected Gotsé to report to them on his activities in Macedonia, and when Gotsé heard this, he flew into a rage and refused to have anything more to do with them. It was with the greatest of difficulty that Gyorché persuaded him to change his mind, by telling him that if he, Gotsé, ceased to attend the meetings of the Supreme Committee, he, Gyorché, would have to do the same, and that, in his opinion, even although they had every reason to suspect that the officers were intent on winning hegemony, the time was not opportune for a breach between the two organizations. Reluctantly, Gotsé agreed, and resumed his contact with the officers.



*. Later in 1900, Bozukov went to the Transvaal as a volunteer to help the Boers against the British.





When dealing with a man as volatile as Sarafov, it was not always easy to determine which of his actions were the result of exuberant folly and which were induced by more sinister motives. He was, for example, completely taken in by a Turkish spy, named Fitovsky, who approached him in Rusé and offered to help him obtain arms from Romania. Without consulting anybody, Sarafov not only paid the man a deposit, but also gave him certain information about the movement which Fitovsky immediately passed on to the Turkish Government, and, in next to no time, the Bulgarian Government received an official Turkish Note protesting about things that Sarafov had confidentially discussed with Fitovsky. At the same time, a Bulgarian student named Todorov, who was living in Buchurest, introduced himself to Sarafov as a patriot from Macedonia, and again Sarafov took the man at face value and gave him the names of other sympathizers in Buchurest, so that he could form a committee there. On his return to Sofia, Sarafov decided that Fitovsky would have to be killed, and because, at that time, the Supreme Committee had no 'terrorists' at its command, he sent two or three of the Organization's 'lads', without waiting to ask the permission of either Gotsé or Gyorché, under whose jurisdiction they came. The lads' murdered Fitovsky in February 1900, but were arrested after Todorov, to whom Sarafov had unwisely given them a letter of introduction, had betrayed them to the police, and the newspapers made a real sensation out of the whole affair. Gotsé and Gyorché had a row with Sarafov over this unauthorized use of Organization men, not only because it was a matter of principle, but also because one of the arrested men was an expert in bomb-making whom the Organization could ill-afford to lose. Sarafov, however, continued to use internal men for his own purposes, on the grounds that he was paying them.


Another reef upon which the marriage of the two groups was threatening to founder was the system of mutual correspondence. It had originally been agreed that Gyorché should conduct all correspondence with the Central Committee, while the Supreme Committee's secretary, Kovachev, dealt with correspondence within the Principality. Soon, however, it became clear that the Supreme Committee was angling to get control over all correspondence, as a first step towards rendering superfluous the Organization's two representatives, whose intransigence over certain issues was a barrier to Supremist ambitions and a thorn in the flesh of the officers. Gyorché kept the comrades in Salonika fully informed of what was going on in Sofia and of his doubts and suspicions about Saratov's true intentions. The Central Committee took the view that the question of correspondence was not sufficiently important to warrant risking an estrangement with Sofia at a time when the Organization was





benefitting both financially and otherwise from the association. Gotsé was then out of Sofia, and Gyorché, being in a minority of one, was forced to compromise and agreed to allow Kovachev to send reports to the Central Committee, providing that he, Gyorché, countersigned them. It was not long, however, before Kovachev started sending letters without Gyorché's signature, and even without his knowledge.


The Supremists also attempted to gain control of the Organization's frontier posts, by demanding that here, too, correspondence be conducted by the secretary of the Supreme Committee's local society, instead of by the Organization's agent. Again Gyorché was forced to agree in the face of Supremist threats to stop the flow of arms to the interior. Some of the agents, such as Nikola Zografov, were in time completely won over by the Supremists. Others, like Nikola Maleshevsky, agreed to the new arrangement for tactical reasons, but remained true to the Organization.


Quite early on, following another line of attack, the Supreme Committee had asked for two officers to be co-opted onto the Central Committee, and suggested that some fifteen or sixteen officers should go into the interior as a body and should take over the leadership of the regions. Again the Organization found itself in a cleft stick. An outright refusal to accept officers on the Central Committee would have caused an immediate rift between Sofia and Salonika, so the Central Committee again agreed to a compromise: the officers could have one representative approved by Gotsé and Gyorché. By mutual consent, they chose Captain Dimitŭr Venedikov, whom Gyorché describes as being 'more moderate' and 'more sensible'. So sensible was he that, when he realized what his role would be, and how he would find himself between the upper and the nether mill-stones, he refused to go, and the question of military representation on the Central Committee was temporarily dropped. So was the idea of sending a number of officers into Macedonia. Gotsé and Gyorché were prepared to accept individual officers, who could be absorbed into the Organization and promoted according to their merits and abilities, like the rest of the internal workers, but they would not under any circumstances accept a compact body of officers, whose appearance would almost certainly create an upheaval and might lead to premature adventures. The officers had previously decided which of them should go into Macedonia, but none of them actually went, because, from their point of view, there was no advantage in going on the terms offered by the Organization, and, as yet, they did not feel sufficiently sure of themselves to defy the Organization.


Thus the first year of Saratov's chairmanship passed in a series of complicated manoeuvres, in the course of which the two organizations





sometimes co-operated admirably against the common enemy, and sometimes fenced with each other in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion. The Internal Organization feared that the officers were bent on forcing the pace of events in Macedonia with their money, arms and military expertise, without waiting for the whole people to be revolutionized, while the Supreme Committee felt that the Internal Organization was moving too slowly, and regarded its representatives abroad as awkward troublemakers, standing in the way of speedy, decisive action. Gyorché they criticized as being too doctrinaire, and Gotsé - as being too ambitious, since they interpreted his stubbornness over who was allowed to do what, in their own, officers' way; namely, as a desire on the part of Gotsé to be commander-in-chief of the rising.


Yet, in spite of the secret suspicions and the periodic clashes, the overall picture was a positive one. The Macedonian Societies in the Principality were both increasing in number and becoming more active. In several towns, including Shumen, Rusé and Varna, officers formed 'rifle clubs', the true purpose of which was to train emigrés who wanted to join the cheti. Large sums of money were being collected, thousands of rifles and revolvers were being purchased and sent to Macedonia and the Adrianople region, and Gotsé's organizational trips to the interior were also financed by the Supreme Committee. Sarafov, with his love of the grandiose and his tendency to 'think big', also started to popularize the Cause - and himself - abroad, by providing funds for a newspaper called L'Effort, which appeared in Paris, under the editorship of Simeon Radev.


At a meeting of the Supreme Committee held on May 1 1900 and attended by both Gotsé and Gyorché, a protocol was drawn up setting out the agreements reached after lengthy discussions on the subject of officers in the interior, correspondence, etc. At this stage, it had been agreed to ask the Central Committee to accept two officers, after which the Supreme Committee would become a 'branch' of the Central Committee, [*] which would have the decisive voice in deciding all matters affecting the Cause. All persons entering Macedonia and the Adrianople region were to come under the jurisdiction of the Internal Organization, and there was to be no private correspondence on public matters between people in the Principality and the interior, i.e. all correspondence was to go through the Central and Supreme Committees. Thus, the representatives of the two organizations succeeded in papering over the cracks and in prolonging their uneasy



*. Gyorché was not in favour of a merger between the two organizations, and wanted the Supreme Committee to remain a separate body with the primary role in providing aid, both financial and material for the Internal Organization. The officers' long term aid was a merger with themselves in charge.





co-operation, which was not without its moments of bliss and brotherhood.


It was about this time that the Organization and the Supreme Committee planned several joint attempts at kidnapping, none of which were successful. In May 1900, on Gotsé's suggestion, plans were made to snatch the son of Ivan Evstatiev Geshov, a leading politician and banker. Gotsé himself undertook to organize the actual kidnapping, while Saratov was to rent a house as a hide-out, and Davidov - another member of the Supreme Committee - was to buy a carriage and find a reliable driver. Gyorché's part in the plot was to think up some fool-proof way of collecting the ransom, set at a million and a half gold leva. They also considered kidnapping the son of a rich man named Tŭpchileshtov, but could reach no conclusion as to how the ransom should be handed over, and, in the meantime, Geshov's son thwarted their plans by departing for Paris.


The failure of the kidnapping attempts in no way disrupted the good relations between the unsuccessful organizers, and the Seventh Congress of the Macedonian Societies, which opened in Sofia at the end of July 1900, met in an atmosphere of friendship and co-operation. It should be borne in mind that the Supreme Committee and its Societies were not homogeneous in composition or outlook, and by no means all the local members thought in the same way as the officers. Those who took part in the Committee's activities may be divided into four categories. The first category, which included such people as Nikolaev, Tsonchev and Lyapchev, can be regarded as tools of the Prince and bourgeoisie. The second group was composed of honest patriots, some of whom accepted the idea of autonomy, and others of whom believed that Macedonia could be freed more quickly through the active assistance of the Bulgarian Government. In this second category we may include Traiko Kitanchev, Hristo Stanishev, and Toma Davidov. The third category consisted of men like Sarafov, with a taste for adventure and a highly developed sense of vanity and ambition, while the fourth and largest category comprised the vast majority of emigrants from Macedonia and Thrace, who, innocent of all ulterior motives and mostly unaware of what was really going on in Sofia, followed their leaders in the hope that they were thus hastening the liberation of their homeland. [20]


An eloquent testimony to the good work done since the Sixth Congress was provided by the number of delegates attending, ninety-one in all, from sixty-six urban and rural societies, and the delegates heard with the deepest satisfaction that the Committee's increased activity over the past year had resulted in an unprecedentedly high income of over 450,000 leva.


For the first time both Gotsé and Gyorché attended the Congress,





and their appearance drew applause from the delegates. The annual report of the Supreme Committee has been prepared by Gyorché and, indeed, he read it to the Congress, after Sarafov had attempted to do so, but had apparently found Gyorché's writing illegible. Of the Old Guard, Andrei Lyapchev was still in favour of the original tactics of diplomatic action, rather than revolution, but the tide was running against him, and, realizing this, he took refuge in silence. The majority of delegates had already accepted the idea that revolution, not evolution, was the only road, and they adopted a new constitution and set of rules, again drafted by Gyorché and reflecting the new line.


On his own admission, Gyorché was in the Seventh Heaven. [21] All the indications were that, in spite of the many difficulties and disagreements, the energies and resources of the emigrés could and would be canalized into directions approved by the Internal Organzation.


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1. Materiali... Vol VIII, p. 97


2. See Materiali... Vol VIII, p. 74-75.


3. Letter to Nikola Zografov. March 23 1899. Gotsé Delchev, Pisma... p. 100-101.


4. Saratov's memoirs: Materiali... Vol V, p. 40, and Gyorché's memoirs: Materiali. Vol. VIII, p. 92.


5. Materiali... Vol VIII, p. 94.


6. Materiali... Vol V, p. 35.


7. Materiali... Vol V, p. 71.


8. Memoirs of Mihail Gerdzhikov. Materiali... Vol IX, p. 87.


9. Among the delegates was Dimitŭr Blagoev, who was mandated by the Macedonian committee in Plovdiv. He adressed the Congress, and, speaking of the special place which the Balkan Peninsula occupied in the policies of the Great Powers, advocated the eventual creation of a 'United States' of Balkan Republics.


10. Materiali... Vol V, p. 94.


11. Gyorché says that no specific desicion was taken about using terror to raise money in the Principality itself. It began in the form of individual initiatives on the part of enthusiasts, but eventually became routine and developed into a social menace. See Materiali... Vol VIII, p. 95.


12. Materiali... Vol V, p. 125.


13. Materiali... Vol VIII, p. 99.


14. Ibid., p. 99-100.


15. See the memoirs of Ivan Hadzhinikolov. Ilystratsia Ilinden 1936. Book 9. p. 7.


16. Yavorov, p. 210.


17. Silyanov, Pisma... p. 57.


18. Yavorov, p. 68.


19. Yavorov, p. 190-191.


20. See Dino Kyosev. Gotsé Delchev. 1967, p. 96-98.


21. Materiali... Vol VIII, p. 96. Most of the othe information about the relation between the Supreme Committee and the Intenal Organization is also taken from Gyorché's memoirs in Materiali, Vol VIII.