Freedom or Death. The Life of Gotsé Delchev

Mercia MacDermott

 

CHAPTER XX

Yo no quiero la patria dividida,

Ni por siete cuchillos desangrada,

Yo no quiero la pa tria dividida,

Cambemos todos en la terra mia.

 

(I do not want my country divided,

Nor seven knives to leave it bloodied,

I do not want my country divided,

There's room for all of us, here in my land.)

    Pablo Neruda

 

By late February or early March 1902, Gotsé was back in the Hotel Battenberg, in room No 9 - the nearest thing which he had to a permanent home.

 

One of his first tasks on resuming his duties as one of the Organization's Representatives Abroad, [1] was to determine how the ransom money was to be spent. For this purpose, a commission was set up, consisting of himself, Nikola Maleshevsky, Tushé Deliivanov and Dimitŭr Stefanov. [2] Part of the money was sent to the interior to be distributed among the regions, while most of it was spent in the Principality. [3] Sadly enough, a very large proportion of the money had to be spent not on 'something big', but on the struggle against the Supremists, which was escalating in an alarming manner.

 

In Gotsé's absence, relations between the two committees had continued to deteriorate. When the Supreme Committee's agents in Kyustendil (Sofroni Stoyanov) and Dupnitsa (Todor Saev) failed to gain control of the Organization's channels in order to facilitate the passage of their cheti, they began to harry the Organization's couriers and other workers - some were disarmed and handed over to the Bulgarian police, while others were beaten up. When the Supreme Committee refused either to rebuke or remove Saev, the Dupnitsa Macedonian Society broke off relations with the Supreme Committee, which retaliated by expelling it.

 

During the autumn of 1901, there was much discussion between the Supreme Committee and Tushé Deliivanov and Dimitŭr Stefanov, the Organization's Representatives Abroad; each side made various demands of the other, but no agreement could be reached on anything except the provision of funds by the Supreme Committee to support the Representatives Abroad and to finance a newspaper for distribution in the interior. The area of agreement was too limited to provide a basis for proper co-operation, and it left unsettled all the prickly problems of control and leadership.

 

On December 14, Tushé Deliivanov and Dimitŭr Stefanov sent a circular letter to all the Macedonian Societies in the country, informing them that the Internal Organization was breaking off all relations with the Supreme Committee. The latter replied with a circular of its

 

 

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own, stating that its quarrel was only with Tushé Deliivanov and Dimitŭr Stefanov, whom it regarded as the representatives not of the Organization, but of a 'third organization', led by former representatives abroad. Its relations with the Internal Organization, as such, would remain unchanged. This was clearly yet another attempt to discredit or by-pass those who stood in the way of their plans for a rising in the autumn of 1902, and, indeed, towards the end of 1901 and the beginning of 1902, more and more Supremist cheti, some of them led by reserve officers, began to cross into Macedonia, agitating for an early rising, and inciting the population to ignore their local leaders.

 

Previously, the Supreme Committee's main criticism of the Organization had been that the school-masters who led it lacked the military training necessary for an uprising and should therefore give way to the officers. No tl that the real reason for the Organization's reluctance to proclaim an early rising was that it did not seriously intend to have a rising at all, and that its leaders were simply living on the backs of the peasants. They exploited the fact that the Organization had difficulties in supplying arms to its members [*] and had to ask new recruits for money immediately after their 'baptism', and they told the population that the Bulgarian Prince was ready to support a rising in the summer, that arms would be supplied free of charge from the Principality and that Russia would also come to their aid. All that was necessary was for the people to sign a letter recognizing the Supreme Committee. Where the peasants hesitated or refused, the Supremist cheti tried to obtain signatures by force.

 

The Organization resisted the Supremist offensive by disarming and turning back intruding cheti, and, wherever possible, by initiating discussions on aims and tactics. Gotsé himself had encountered a Supremist cheta, led by Sofroni Stoyanov, in Maleshevia on his way back to Sofia, and, after much talking and explaining, he had managed to convince Stoyanov that he ought to return to the Principality. Yane Sandansky also tried to reason with Supremist cheti, and persistently invited them to public debates on questions of tactics in the presence of local villagers, but his offers were not accepted. One officer truculently replied; 'Who do you think you are? I am the delegate of the Supreme Committee, and the population doesn't have

 

 

*. In the Gorna Dzhumaya district, for example, much of the money collected for guns had to be used for supporting Yané's cheta and its captives during their protracted journeying,  and thus there was a delay in the supply of weapons. In their propaganda among the peasants, who were unaware of  the situation, the Supremists put the worst possible construction on this temporary diversion of funds.

 

 

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to know what we are doing.' [4] Chernopeev managed to convene such a meeting between two opposing cheti and the villagers of Leshko, but the results were disappointing: each side stuck to its own point of view. [5] Such meetings and discussions were, alas, exceptional. Most of the time, the cheti stalked each other, and occasionally they even clashed with fatal casualties on both sides.

 

In the frontier areas most affected, Yané, Chernopeev, Krŭstyu Asenov, Sava Mihailov, Dyado Ilya Kŭrchovaliya, Hristo Kuslev, Ivan Gŭrcheto, and other leading members of the Organization did their best to undo Supremist propaganda. 'Our plan,' Yané recalled, 'was to explain to the people the aim of the Organization and why it was making preparations, and to explain that it was not true that the Organization was not thinking of a rising, but that it did not want one when the Supremists did. We explained how the Supremists differed from us. We said that they were the people of the Court and that they wanted to get hold of the Organization in order to play with the Cause. Through the rising that they were propagating, we said, they want first to disorganize us, and secondly, as officers, having said that they will proclaim a rising, they want to do so at all costs. We offered as an example the fact that the rising in 1895 was to the advantage only of the Prince, i.e. he received recognition. We said that, as we saw it, a rising could take place only if everybody was ready. All this had to be organized and when it was clear that we were sufficiently strong, a decision for a rising could be taken. But they, the Supremists go about things differently - they say: you rise and Russia will come from there and Bulgaria will come from here. And you, when you see you have been deceived, will soon give in.' [6]

 

As time went by, the civil war became ever messier and more shameful. There were murders, mutual betrayals, attempts at poisoning the other side's cheti, and other regrettable occurrences. Yané mentions that Sarakinov incited the peasants in the Melnik area to kill him, telling them that Yané was carrying £400 of Miss Stone's ransom. [7] A little later, cheti led by Yané and Sarakinov fought each other for two hours, while Turks watched from the sidelines. [8]

 

One of the reasons for the bitterness and the dirty character of the conflict was the fact that, in their eagerness to provoke an early rising, the Supremists were not over-particular whom they recruited, and they accepted those whom the Organization had rejected or expelled - incorrigible haramii, former local leaders who had embezzled committee funds, and other assorted persons who had fallen foul of the Organization in various ways and were thirsting to get their own back.

 

By the middle of 1902, in spite of the efforts of the Internal Organization, the Supreme Committee had managed to gain control of

 

 

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most of the villages in Maleshevia and in the areas around Gorna Dzhumaya and Petrich, and was planning to provoke a rising within the next few months.

 

Gyorché Petrov, who had quarrelled with the other two Representatives Abroad, had temporarily withdrawn from the leadership following his release from internment and was living in Tŭrnovo. Thus, on his return from Macedonia, Gotsé was obliged to lead the struggle against the Supreme Committee in Sofia. It was now even more of a nightmare to him than it had been before, and often he would become nervy, 'ready to spit at his comrades, at his enemies and at the whole world.' [9]

 

'The struggle with the Supreme Committee was for Gotsé nothing more nor less than endless agony. This struggle did not keep him engrossed to the point of self-oblivion, as did the work in Turkey. Gotsé remained untouched by the malice which engulfed the two opposing sides. In an intimate circle, he would often heave a painful sigh: "Poor Macedonia! Her heroes have almost forgotten the common enemy in their eagerness to devour each other; we are obliged to quarrel with the Supremists, but it could all be done in a slightly less repulsive way." ' [10]

 

The dangerous behaviour of the Supreme Committee had indeed forced the Organization into open struggle with them, and on March 5, 1902, the Organization's Representatives Abroad sent a letter in the name of the Central Committee to all the Macedonian Societies informing them of the position, in the hope that healthy opinion in the movement would reject the policy of the Supreme Committee and put a stop to it. The letter, marked 'secret' and signed by Dimitŭr Stefanov and Tushé Deliivanov, begins by saying that it must be assumed that public opinion in the Principality has been misled, since this can be the only explanation for a legal organization like the Supreme Committee behaving in the way it does. It explains that for several months the Supreme Committee has been sending cheti into Macedonia to dictate 'an act of madness: to convince us and the population that there will be a rising, and that this committee will provide guns for the purpose.' The dangers inherent in this 'act of madness' are set out: the outside world will regard the rising as Bulgarian inspired; instead of relying on himself, the 'slave in Macedonia' will imagine that he can be liberated by a war between Bulgaria and Turkey; and, finally, believing that he is in a stronger position than he actually is, he will embark upon an untimely and ill-prepared rising which can lead only to fresh massacres like those of 1876 - to things 'fatal for the peoples, and useful only to weakened Sultans, princes and governments.' The letter describes how well-known brigands are being recruited for the Supremist cheti, how members of the Organ-

 

 

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ization are being harrassed by the authorities on the frontier, how teachers and local leaders are being killed, and it draws the conclusion that the Court was planning to exploit the situation in Macedonia for its own ends, as it did 'in the ill-fated year of 1895.'

 

'This being so, the Organization will fight back:

 

'And today we are fighting.

 

'These are fearful words, but only they can describe the situation. We fought the Greeks, we fought the Serbs - not from Bulgarian fanaticism, but in order to preserve the spiritual unity and revolutionary integrity of our enslaved community.

 

'And now when we are faced with the dilemma whether to become a soulless toy, a base toy in the hands of the Court, or whether to defend with our breasts the independence of our cause - then we accept the fearful task of fighting you as well.

 

'The future will judge us.

 

'We address these lines to you in the hope that public opinion in Bulgaria has been misled and needs to be enlightened, so that it can be judged by the future for its madness.

 

'We, Macedonian slaves, are fighting against our lack of rights in Turkey as part of this State, and not as agents of Bulgaria. And, if our free brothers do not want to put themselves in our shoes and do not want to help us, then let them at least not hinder us, let them not compromise our cause, let them not vilify the lever of freedom, let them not kick the cultural cause of the Macedonian Bulgarians.' [11]

 

The letter provoked much criticism of the Supreme Committee among members of the Macedonian Societies, but the Committee blandly assured the Societies that the accusations contained in the letter were groundless and that it stood by the 'sacred principle' of the independence of the Internal Organization. Many remained unconvinced by these assurances, and soon everybody who took any interest in movement was embroiled in the controversy. The Socialists [12] and those sections of the intelligentsia which were under their influence were particularly critical of the conduct of the Supreme Committee.

 

By now, the opponents of the Supreme Committee had their own newspaper in the Principality - Delo (Cause), edited by the poet Peyo Yavorov, [13] who wryly commented that 'it gave its readers thirty articles on the Committee's infringements of the directive, and barely three, for the sake of variety, against Turkey...' [14] Other newspapers which gave space to criticism of the Supreme Committeee were Izgrev (Sunrise), edited by Ivan Kepov in Kyustendil, and Pravo (Right), edited by Nikola Naumov in Sofia. The Supreme Committee, being on very unsure theoretical ground, did not go very deeply into matters of principle, but relied more on the kind of smear campaign which it

 

 

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had employed against Sarafov, branding members of the Internal Organization as 'mafiosi', 'scoundrels', 'pedagogues', etc. The strength of the Supreme Committee lay not in its theory, but in the reputation of Stoyan Mihailovsky as a writer and philosopher, in the social position of General Tsonchev and his brother officers, in their influence with the Court and Government circles - which, in Silyanov's opinion, was more presumed than real - and in their relative newness to the job, i.e. public judgment was being reserved until they had had time to prove themselves.

 

At Easter 1902, Gotsé went to Plovdiv, where a 'congress of the Adrianople vilayet' was being held in a house belonging to Mihail Gerdzhikov's father.

 

Since Gotsé's brief tour of the Thracian committees, the situation in the area had been far from satisfactory. Quarrels had flared up among the organizers, and matters were particularly confused in the Ahichelebi district (Smolyan), which, by agreement with the Internal Organization, was being administered by Saratov's Committee as an experiment. Here mutual suspicion and rivalry had even led to murders within the movement, and the current organizer, Konstantin Antonov (usually known as Vŭlcho) - though otherwise intelligent, brave and altruistic - was inclined to be overstrict and to make excessive use of terror, which roused the Turks and provoked violent reprisals, thus threatening the existence of the Organization not only in the Ahichelebi area, but throughout Thrace.

 

In the summer of 1901, the Adrianople region had been shaken by the destruction of a cheta led by Svetoslav (Slavi) Merdzhanov and Peter Sokolov. Both belonged to an ultra-left group [*] of self-sacrificing, idealistic young people on the fringe of the Organization, who, strongly influenced by Italian and Russian revolutionaries, had veered towards anarchism and favoured grandiose, terroristic activity directed against enterprises financed by European capital.

 

In 1899 Merdzhanov, Sokolov and their friend Mandzhukov, (the anarchist, Petŭr Mandzhukov), approached Sarafov, who was then Chairman of the Supreme Committee, and asked him for funds to finance large-scale terrorist activities in the main towns of European Turkey. He promised to provide money, and the three left for Constantinople, where, after much discussion, they decided to assassinate the Sultan. This proved quite impossible, since Abdul Hamid seldom ventured outside the Yildiz Palace, which was a fortress in itself, and, when he did, his route was never known in advance and the public was

 

 

*. Such terrorist groups existed in Plovdiv (founded 1898), Salonika, Kyustendil and Geneva. Mihail Gerdzhikov had been in the Plovdiv group before going to study in Geneva. Hristo Botev's daughter, Ivanka, was a member of the Geneva group.

 

 

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kept at a great distance. Merdzhanov then suggested that they blow up the Ottoman Bank, which, despite its name, was entirely financed by French and British capital. In directing their attacks against European property, the conspirators were guided by their conviction that the European powers would never bestir themselves on the question of reforms until their own interests were threatened. Having decided upon their plan, the young men rented premises opposite the Bank, disguised it as a store for printing materials, and began to dig a tunnel which would enable them to place explosives against the foundations of the Bank.

 

Quite early on, they decided that the effect of the explosion would be greater if there were parallel actions in other towns, and they consulted with Yordan Popyordanov - generally known as Ortsé - a member of a small terrorist group in Salonika, who agreed to blow up the Salonika branch of the Ottoman Bank, and who enlisted the aid of a number of close friends from his native Veles. The Salonika terrorists were very young men, mostly from Veles, who, as pupils in the High School, had been distinguished by their inseparability and extreme individualism. Through their contact with Mandzhukov they had been influenced by anarchist ideas, especially those relating to methods of struggle, and they held themselves aloof from the Organization, which, in their opinion, had itself become a kind of 'Establishment'. One of the youngest members, Pavel Shatev, who was then still a pupil at the Salonika High School, resented the leading role of teachers in the Organization's local committees and expressed the view that 'in its composition, its location, its hierarchy and bureaucracy, the Central Committee was practically indistinguishable from the Exarchate as a spiritual centre.' [16]

 

The Salonika group called itself the Gemidzhii - the Sailors - because 'they had taken leave of a life from which they expected nothing good, and had set sail on the worldly sea with the aim of either succeeding or finally beaching their gemiya - their ship - on the sand, i.e. having failed.' [17] They, too, rented premises near the Ottoman Bank, and began to tunnel, while running a barber's shop as a screen. Pavel Shatev, who had just left school, was sent to help the tunnellers in Constantinople, who had encountered rock and were making slow progress. Working in shifts lasting several days to avoid unnecesary comings and goings, Merdzhanov and Sokolov alternated with Shatev and Mandzhukov.

 

By September 1900 both tunnels were more or less ready, but the whole scheme foundered on the difficulties of obtaining sufficient quantities of dynamite. An Armenian revolutionary agreed to smuggle some into Constantinople from the Caucasus, but the consignment fell into Turkish hands and he was arrested. The four Bulgarians were

 

 

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also arrested on suspicion, but since the tunnels had not then been discovered, they were released.

 

Merdzhanov and Sokolov, who were deported to the Principality, went to Sofia and began to think up new ideas, one of which was to hold up the Orient Express on Turkish territory near Adrianople, and to gain possession of the mail in order to finance future actions. In pursuit of this plan, they went to the Adrianople area in July 1901, with a cheta consisting of ten men, equipped with the help of Pavel Genadiev, the Supreme Committee's representative in Plovdiv - against the advice of the Internal Organization, which feared that there might be adverse consequences. The cheta managed to place a large quantity of dynamite on the railway line, but something went wrong, and the train passed undamaged. After this failure, they kidnapped the son of a rich Turkish landowner, but they were soon discovered and surrounded by large Turkish forces sent by Arif Pasha, vali of Adrianople. In a battle which lasted several hours, most of the chetnitsi were killed or seriously wounded. Sokolov was among the dead, and Merdzhanov was captured alive, together with a Bulgarian from Lozengrad, and two Armenians. The heads of the dead chetnitsi were cut off and given to the prisoners to carry, and, by a tragic coincidence, Merdzhanov was forced to carry the bloody head of his inseparable friend, Sokolov. The captives were taken to Adrianople, where, in November 1901, all four were publicly hanged, after Merdzhanov had addressed the crowd from the scaffold, explaining that he was not a criminal but a revolutionary, and that he was not alone.

 

The sincerity and patriotism of Merdzhanov and his comrades were beyond dispute, and their heroism aroused general admiration among the people, who began to weave legends around them. At the same time, the local leaders of the Organization condemned the senselessness of their sacrifice, and expressed deep regret that brave and intelligent men who could have contributed so much to the Cause should have thrown away their lives in this manner. [18]

 

In the meantime, some progress had been made in ironing out the problems which had hindered the work in the Adrianople vilayet, and the meeting held in Plovdiv at Easter 1902 improved the situation still further. In all, there were fifteen or sixteen delegates: the Central Committee was represented by Gotsé, Dimitŭr Stefanov, Tushé Deliivanov, and Mihail Gerdzhikov. Vŭlcho Antonov, though invited, did not attend.

 

The proceedings lasted three days and centred around two reports - one by Gotsé on organizational questions, and the other by Gerdzhikov on how to conduct propaganda among the people. The discussions were stormy - at one time daggers were literally drawn [19] - but in the end, general agreement was reached, and a number of administrative

 

 

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decisions were taken. Mihail Gerdzhikov was appointed 'inspector' of the area east of the Maritsa, and Gotsé agreed to meet Antonov in an attempt to win him wholly for the policies and methods of the Organization. If this proved possible, Antonov was to be appointed inspector of the western half of Thrace; if not, he was to be severely dealt with. The meeting took place in the village of Progled, and, as a result of Gotsé's efforts, Antonov acknowledged his mistakes and promised that, in future, he would be loyal to the Organization. He was, therefore, appointed inspector of western Thrace. In due course, both inspectors departed for their areas with small cheti, and did excellent work in strengthening and expanding the local committees.

 

During the spring of 1902, on Gotsé's initiative, certain amendments were made to the Statute and Rules of the Organization in order to bring them into line with the changing situation on the basis of Gotsé's own experience and observations during his extensive travels. The most striking change was in the name of the Organization, which now became the Secret Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization, and in the clauses dealing with the composition of its membership. No longer was special stress laid on the Bulgarian character of the Organization. The first clause reads 'The aim of the SMARO is to unite in one whole all discontented elements in Macedonia and the Adrianople area, irrespective of nationality, to win full political autonomy for these two provinces through revolution.' The second clause calls for the 'elimination of chauvinist propaganda and national dissentions which divide and weaken the population of Macedonia and the Adrianople area in its struggle against the common foe.' Membership is to be open to 'every Macedonian and Adrian-opolitan who has not compromised himself by dishonesty and lack of will' (Article 4).

 

These changes reflected the recent efforts made to bring all nationalities, including Greeks and Turks, into the struggle. At the Plovdiv Congress, Gotsé had spoken about his successes in recruiting Turks and the need to make allies of the poorer Turks who also suffered from feudal exploitation, but, according to Alexander Popov (secretary of the Mustafapasha committee, 1900-1902), most of the delegates were unable to overcome their inborn prejudices and displayed little enthusiasm in this direction. [20] Gerdzhikov was among those who had already accepted the multinational line, and, earlier in the year, as voivoda of a cheta, he had successfully organized the Graecomane village of Muen, near Gevgeli. The priest and the teacher - both of them Greeks - had attended the meetings held by the cheta, and the teacher had joined the Organization with the blessing of the priest. [21] Yané Sandansky, too, was strongly internationalist in his outlook and had made a point of recruiting the semi-nomad Vlah shepherds, who

 

 

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spent the summer with their flocks in Pirin. [22]

 

The process of democratization and decentralization which had taken place is also reflected in the amended Statute, which states that the village committees are to be elected locally, and that the district committees are to be set up by the leaders of the district centres, and that only the regional committees are to be appointed directly by the Central Committee (Statute of SMARO, Article 8). Previously, all local committees were appointed from above. Now their composition was to be decided locally and merely ratified from above. Greater rights and responsibilities were given to the district committees, which were now allowed to take part in the election of the Central Committee (Statute of SMARO, Article 9), and in deciding the date of the rising and the plans for its conduct (Rules of SMARO, Article 2, point 5). Previously only the regional committees had enjoyed these rights.

 

The mass character of the Organization had rendered obsolete and impracticable the old rule about members knowing only members of their own group, and it was dropped from the new Rules. So was all mention of the desirability of a priest administering the oath - presumably because of the Organization's desire to recruit people of different nationalities and religions.

 

The establishment of the 'cheta institution' is reflected in the article which states that 'every district revolutionary area shall have its own cheta, the task of which is defined in a special rule book' (Statute of SMARO, Article 11). This rule book, the salient points of which are outlined in Chapter XIV, was printed at the same time as-the revised Statue and Rules of the Secret Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization, i.e. spring 1902, and represents the accumulated and sifted experience of several years of practical activity.

 

Another very important difference between the old Statute and the new was the stress which the latter laid upon the necessity of arming the people as soon as possible for a general uprising (Statute of SMARO, Article 2). Previously the main burden of buying arms had fallen on the Central Committee (Rules of BMARC, Article 45). Now the local committees were to share this responsibility as far as large-scale supplies were concerned, while every individual member was to concern himself with small-scale retail purchases (Rules of SMARO, Article 43). [23]

 

These changes were dictated by Gotsé's realization that the rising could not long be delayed. The pressure was building up within and without: on the one hand, the degree of organization had reached a point at which the people were already straining at the leash, while, on the other, the Supreme Committee was determined to light the

 

 

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fuse whether or not the people were properly armed. It was therefore imperative that they be armed as quickly and as effectively as possible.

 

During the early summer, the Supreme Committee's intentions became even clearer, and, in an attempt to avert disaster, the Organization issued two printed circular letters, [24] the first addressed to all revolutionary committees in Macedonia and the Adrianople area, and the second to the committees in the frontier districts most affected by Supremist intervention. The first, written by Yavorov in language worthy of one of Bulgaria's greatest poets, begs the people to have patience and to wait a little longer, since, contrary to what the Supremists assert, no outside force could or would help them in the event of a rising:

 

'We must rely ONLY UPON OURSELVES, ONLY UPON OUR OWN BREASTS AND MUSCLES, only upon our own will and strength.

 

'Let us be, however, a granite force against which the rotten ship of the Turkish state can smash itself to pieces, let us be a destructive element which can sweep away the bloated edifice of this bloody empire; we, two or more million Christian slaves in Macedonia and the Adrianople area must embody the entire firmness of granite proudly thrust forward, and the irresistible sweep of the space-embracing hurricane. So that we may be that granite, so that we may be that hurricane, we, the plundered and the ruined, the dishonoured and the despised, the tortured and the exterminated, we must be a living indivisible body, with one head thinking ever in one and the same way, with two hands doing ever one and the same thing - head and hands, whose eternally steadfast power shall be directed to one and the same fixed aim.'

 

The circular reminds its readers of the sorry end of the Kresna Rising, undertaken without prior consultation with neighbouring areas, without proper consideration of their readiness, and it describes the insidious activities of the Supremist cheti:

 

'We have learnt things which give us cause to suspect that these wreckers are hell-bent on raping our motherland and on forcing her to abort and bear a good-for-nothing ruptured bastard.'

 

In equally vivid imagery, Yavorov describes the terrible consequences of an early rising, and calls on the people not to accept the Supremists, not to give them any support and not to allow them to endanger the Cause. The circular ends with the following dire warning: 'The Organization is sufficiently vigilant and sufficiently strong sooner or later to disembowel each traitor, to wind his intestines around his dirty neck and to strangle him with them!' [25]

 

The second circular letter, written by Gyorché Petrov and addressed

 

 

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to the committees in the districts of Maleshevia, Petrich and Gorna Dzhumaya, is couched in no less powerful language, but in a very different style. While Yavorov is concerned with general principles and is addressing the Organization as a whole, Gyorché is trying to make those committees actually co-operating with the Supremist cheti realize the folly of their actions before it is too late. Here we can see the brilliant debater - eloquent, logical, uncompromising, and yet always intent on convincing rather than on crushing his opponent. Gyorché was never a man to mince words, and with simple, straightforward language he lists the crimes committed by the Supremist cheti, and lays the blame on the local committees for their lack of opposition.

 

'Do you understand the significance of all that is being done in your area, whether by those bandits or by you yourselves? Have you ever considered what the result may be for you personally and for the whole cause of liberation in our long-suffering country? Have you perceived the enormity of the crimes which are being committed around you? Of course not, because if you had understood, considered and grasped all this, you would long ago have been shocked and disgusted not only at the bandits and their associates but also at yourselves.'

 

Assuming that it is lack of understanding rather than evil intent which has led the frontier committees to tolerate the Supremists, Gyorché carefully explains the situation, basing all his arguments on what the people actually know. He compares the character and behaviour of the leaders of the Organization who travel among them, working and fighting for them, with those of the haramiya voivodi of the Supremist cheti; he recalls the fiasco of 1895 and points out that the activities of the Supremist cheti have brought more Turkish soldiers into the area, with all the attendant trials and sufferings; and he draws their attention to the fact that the whole Organization is suffering because the Supremists are blocking its supply routes through the frontier area. Then he warns them that if they allow the Supremists to tempt them into a hasty rising, they will rise alone, because the other revolutionary districts will not move; the Turks will concentrate upon their area, and the Supremist cheti will melt away and hide, leaving the population to its fate. Then Turkish retaliation will spread far and wide and the whole country will become 'a human slaughterhouse'. And for all this, he tells them, they will be to blame, because, without their connivance, the Supremists can do nothing. Yet still he appeals to their consciences and good sense: 'The crimes which we have listed above, and especially the last (the ruin of the whole country and the failure of the Cause - M.M.), are so serious that we still do not believe that they are characteristic of you. No matter how glaring

 

 

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your guilt may be, we still cannot believe that it is deliberate. You, too, are the sons of Macedonia, just the same as we are...'

 

Gyorché urges them not to believe the Supremist talk of freedom without sacrifice and guns without money; not to accept Supremist agents, and not to succumb to calls for an immediate rising, 'because what they seek is not your deliverance, but your ruin and the ruin of the whole people... Pull yourselves together quickly before it is too late.' [26]

 

The next major event of the year was the Tenth Congress of the Macedonian Societies, which opened in the hall of the Slavyanska Beseda on July 28, 1902 and ended in a split between those societies which supported Tsonchev and those which did not. It began with a lengthy scrutiny of credentials, since the Supreme Committee, determined to secure a majority for its policies, had invited only those societies which had been loyal to it during the previous year, and some delegates were not admitted. The Congress discussed but reached no conclusions on the old problem of Sarafov's accounts. The main topic was the relations between the two organizations, and the underlying theme of the Committee's report was that the Internal Organization was incapable of arming the people or of making proper technical preparations for the revolution. The Representatives Abroad were again attacked as 'a third organization' and a stumbling-block to normal relations between the Supreme Committee and the interior.

 

Gotsé was invited to report on the activity of the Internal Organization, but he sent a letter declining on the grounds that 'the meeting in the Slavyanska Beseda', as he called it, was not a full congress. He was willing and eager to report to a meeting of delegates from all Macedonian societies, but had no desire to 'report to those whose activities cause the Internal Organization more trouble than the Turkish authorities.' [27] Since Gotsé refused to enter the hall until the composition of the meeting was augmented, he gave his letter to Nikola Naumov, one of the supporters of the Internal Organization whose credentials had been accepted. [28] When Naumov read out the address - 'To the meeting in the Slavyanska Beseda' - the delegates took offense and refused to hear the letter. Gotsé therefore did not appear at the Congress at all. Instead, Dimitŭr Stefanov spoke, accusing the Supreme Committee of ignoring the May Agreement and the directive of the previous Congress. Similar accusations were made by other delegates, and attempts were made to pass a motion of censure.

 

The opposition was, however, numerically weak, since most of it had been excluded, and the Committee was able to secure approval for its report. At this point, the opposition, led by Hristo Stanishev, left the Congress in a body, and held a new Congress of its own in the Ddlbok Zimnik Restaurant. [29] This second Congress passed a resolu-

 

 

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tion declaring the meeting in the Slavyanska Beseda unconstitutional and criticizing the activity of the Tsonchev Committee, in particular, the sending of cheti. It also directed the future Committee [30] to send an appeal to the Internal Organization and to the Bulgarian people 'to explain the disastrous path taken by the Tsonchev-Mihailovsky Committee, to expose all the mistakes and crimes committed by the said Committee, and to invite the Macedonian-Adrianople Societies to refuse to support a committee of this kind, which, through its activities, has inflicted much damage on the cause of liberation.' [31]

 

Meanwhile, the Tsonchevist rump in the Slavyanska Beseda had unanimously re-elected the old committee, with Mihailovsky as its figure-head Chairman and the General as its Vice-Chairman.

 

After the Congress, both committees began to campaign against each other in the Press, and each sought to win control of as many Macedonian Societies as possible, while Tsonchev went blithely ahead with his main task - the preparation of an early uprising.

 

The first attempt at forcing an uprising was made not in the frontier area where Supremist influence was strong, but in the distant Kastoria district, where Colonel Anastas Yankov appeared with a strong cheta in the second half of August 1902.

 

The situation was very dangerous, because the local people were eager for action and, not being au fait with the high level quarrels between the Central and Supreme Committees, they were amazed by the Central Committee's instructions that the cheta be disarmed. 'How can a Bulgarian colonel - and a local man at that [32] - wish us ill? How can we greet him as an enemy?' Such was the general reaction. At first, even the district voivodi, Pando Klyashev and Vasil Cheka-larov, were inclined to regard Yankov, with his professional military know-how, as an acquisition rather than a threat, and they entered into negotiations with him.

 

The first disenchantment came when they learnt that the Colonel had simultaneously approached the haramiya Koté, who had been outlawed by the Organization and was under sentence of death for his crimes. In further discussions, they learnt to their horror that Yankov had come to proclaim a rising in six days' time, on September 7, 1902. He brushed their objections aside with easy promises of massive aid from Russia [*] and the Principality, assuring them that the people need hold out only for a matter of days before this help arrived. It was his assertions that the neighbouring Lerin district was ready to rise - which the voivodi knew to be untrue - that finally convinced them that he was trying to stampede the population into an ill-prepared adventure.

 

 

*. A number of the Russian veterans were then in the Principality for the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the Battle of the Shipka Pass.

 

 

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The voivodi played for time, saying that, since this was the first they had heard of the plan for an immediate revolt, they wished to consult the Regional Committee in Bitolya. [*] Should the Committee confirm Yankov's words, they would at once support him, but in the meantime, they asked him not to reveal his plans to anyone. He agreed, but, in spite of this, he soon began talking to the peasants, calling the village leaders together without the consent of the Organization and generally going ahead with his plan for a rising on September 7. As a signal for the rising, he intended to set fire to Lerin. Fortunately, this did not come to pass: the Turks, apprised of Yankov's presence by the Greek bishop, brought up cavalry from Bitolya, while the Bitolya Regional Committee warned Yankov that it would hold him responsible for any disasters brought upon the population and the Organization by over-hasty actions on his part. Yankov's own explanation for the absence of any fire was that 'vagabonds' had stolen his cans of petrol! Thus Lerin remained whole and the fateful day passed uneventfully.

 

In October 1902, after much temporizing, many changes of plan and some minor escapades, Yankov left the Kastoria district and crossed into Greece, having utterly failed in his mission. His failure was due partly to the skill, patience and good-sense displayed by Klyashev and Chekalarov in their handling of the emergency, and partly due to his own garrulousness and lack of tact, which soon turned the people against him. He made little secret of his suspicion and hostility towards the Organization, and was not over-careful about who heard him calling its members 'vagabonds', 'scoundrels' and other epithets popular in Supremist circles. His slanderous references to Gotsé particularly antagonized the local chetnitsi, as did his dealings with Kote'. [33]

 

Although the danger had been averted in the Kastoria region, the Organization was not able to prevent the Supremists from provoking scattered risings in the Gorna Dzhumaya area, one of the frontier districts largely under their control. Here the population was relatively well-armed and well-prepared - which made it all the harder to dissuade them from rising prematurely, but, in spite of this, the Organization's cheti, led by Yané Sandansky, Chernopeev, Krŭstyu Asenov, Slavcho Kovachev and others, did everything possible to counter Supremist agitation among the peasants, and to drive out or destroy intruding cheti. Their efforts did have a certain dampening effect, but, nevertheless, on September 23, 1902, a Supremist cheta killed three Turks in the village of Zheleznitsa (on the right bank of

 

 

*. After a few days, the Committee replied, as they knew it would, that nothing was prepared and advised the voivodi to use peaceful means to deflect Yankov from his purpose.

 

 

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the Struma, near Simitli) which led to a battle with Turkish troops and the burning of the village. Chemopeev and his men watched the proceedings from high ground through binoculars, and later they did what they could to quieten the peasants and to prevent other villages from joining in. Battles between peasants and Supremists, on the one hand, and Turkish troops, on the other, also took place in the villages of Sŭrbinovo and Gradevo.

 

Fresh fighting broke out in the Gorna Dzhumaya district during the last two weeks of October, and, this time, General Tsonchev himself took part and was slightly wounded.

 

In Maleshevia, a rising was planned for September 30; as in Zheleznitsa, a number of Turks were to be killed and then the people would be obliged to rise up and defend themselves with whatever they had to hand - scythes, axes, and so forth. By chance, Chernopeev and Krŭstyu Asenov captured a Supremist chetnik bearing a letter with instructions, and, thus informed, they were able to trick the Supremist voivoda, Vase Pehlivana, into meeting them, and when he refused to change his plans, they attacked and wounded him. This effectively thwarted Supremist plans in Maleshevia, and Chernopeev and Asenov were able to clear the area not only of Pehlivana's men, but of other hostile cheti as well.

 

In the Melnik and Petrich areas there were also clashes between peasants and Turkish troops. Throughout the affected areas, between September 23 and November 1 1902, there were at least nineteen separate battles, in which a total of over 2,500 peasants and nearly 14,00 troops took part. Ninety-five of the rebels were killed. [34] This, however, was only the beginning. As Silyanov commented: 'The struggle was comparatively short, but the sufferings - very prolonged.' [35] The fighting was followed by fires, torture, desecration, rape and plunder, and more than two thousand refugees left their homes and fled to the Principality. Those who remained in Macedonia either hid in the mountains, despite the onset of winter, or suffered the retaliatory billeting of Turkish troops upon their villages.

 

The 'rising' created a great sensation in the Bulgarian Press, and the Tsonchevist Supreme Committee did everything - through public meetings and newspaper supplements - to publicize the events at home and abroad and to demand support for 'the risen slave'. The Stanishev Committee, on the other hand, following the line of the Internal Organization, at first denied that there had been any rising. This created considerable confusion and the local societies began demanding clearer information. The Stanishev Committee then replied that Colonel Yankov had attempted a rising in the Kastoria and Lerin areas, but had been thwarted in his design by the local population, and that, while Lt. Colonel Nikolov had proclaimed a

 

 

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rising in the Petrich and Gorna Dzhumaya districts and his cheti had been bravely supported by the people, the local leaders had advised them not to rise because they were insufficiently armed and because the autumn was not a suitable season for a rising. Moreover, 'leading Internal figures foresee that this premature rising can only result in the ruin of the above-mentioned frontier districts and in the provocation of some affair or other to the detriment of the revolutionary cause.' [36]

 

This time the horrors and the floods of refugees did not upset Gotsé as badly as those which followed the Vinitsa Affair. He had foreseen the danger and, having done everything possible to avert it, he was not tortured by feelings of personal guilt. By ignoring the Organization's repeated warnings and appeals, the people had brought disaster upon themselves. Yet, though his head censured, his heart, as always, forgave.

 

'If refugees arrive in your town,' he wrote to Nikola Maleshevsky, 'do what you can to alleviate their plight, in spite of the fact that these people so lightly betrayed the Internal Organization. It's not their fault, as we know, that the Supremists were not very particular about the means they used to lead them astray.' [37]

 

To Ivan Belezhkov, the Organization's frontier agent in Lŭdzhené (Velingrad), Gotsé wrote: 'You complain that there isn't anybody to look after the refugees there. If no one else takes the initiative, you take it, and form refugee relief committees with some of the local people, and get these committees to approach the Slav Charitable Society for funds. You'll get nowhere with silence and inaction. The charities here don't even know that there are refugees there - and even we don't know. Get two or three people to send telegrams to the newspapers and the societies about the plight of the refugees. Don't let the people in Yakoruda spend Internal Committee money. That is permissable only as a last resort, and then only when aid cannot be sought elsewhere. In my opinion, we shouldn't let them even as a last resort, because it will set a bad precedent, and they must be helped indirectly. [38]

 

In the end, optimism triumphed over Gotsé's other conflicting emotions, and he consoled himself with the thought that the disaster would bring people to their senses: 'Every cloud has a silver lining: the Gorna Dzhumaya and Petrich districts will save the rest of Macedonia.' [39]

 

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NOTES

 

1. In September 1901, Garvanov had appointed Tushe Deliivanov and Dimitur Stefanov to act as the Organization Representatives Abroad, in the absence of Gotsé and Gyorché, who had been interned in Tŭrnovo, following his release from prison. Stefanov was a former director of the Bitolya High School.

 

2. See Gyorché's memoirs. Materiali... Vol VIII, p. 136.

 

3. While Yané gave £2 apiece to his chetnitsi, none of the three voivodi would take so much as a penny for himself or his family. Chernopeev, who, three years before, had left a wife and four small children without support in Northern Bulgaria, refused outright: „We didn't drag women over the mountains in order to feed our children.” So that he would not go home empty-handed, his comrades collected 60 leva among themselves to buy a bag of flour. Gotsé eventually took the law into his own hands and sent £5 each to Chernopeev's wife and Sandansky's father without the voivodi's knowledge or consent. When Krŭstyu Asenov left £3000 of the money with his sister for safe keeping, he himself was so penniless that he had to ask his mother for 10-15 leva in order to continue his journey. Such was the morality of the Organization.

 

4. Yané's memoirs. Materiali... Vol VII, p. 28.

 

5. Chernopeev's memoirs. Materiali... Vol VII, p. 61.

 

6. Yané's memoirs. Materiali... Vol VII, p. 24-25.

 

7. Ibid. p. 31

 

8. Ibid.

 

9. Yavorov, Opus cit. p. 210.

 

10. Yavorov, Ibid.

 

11. See NBKM BIA f 224 a.e. 81, sheet 1009. Quoted by Pandev: Org.Nats. Osv. Dv. pp. 379-381.

 

12. Dimo Hadzhidimov, for example, delivered a report entitled - 'Macedonia and the Teacher' at a teachers' conference in Pleven in April 1902. On the basis of this report, the meeting passed a resolution criticizing the policy of the Bulgarian Government and the activities of the Supreme Committee.

 

13. Peyo Yavorov was born in Chirpan (Central Bulgaria) in 1877. He went to school in Plovdiv and then started work as a telegraphist. While still in his teens, he became a Socialist and was active in the movement until 1898. He later became an enthusiastic supporter of the Internal Organization and a close friend of Gotsé's. His biography of Gotsé (1904) was the first one to appear.

 

Yavorov is considered to be one of Bulgaria's classic poets. His early poetry was written under the influence of the Socialists and of the Russian and Bulgarian realist writers, and his favourite theme was the suffering of the peasants. One of his most famous poems is about Armenians fleeing from Turkish massacres and oppression. After 1903, he withdrew completely from political activity, and became pessimistic in outlook, although he continued to write poetry of outstanding beauty. His private life became very complicated and he committed suicide in 1914.

 

14. Hristo Silyanov. Osv. borbi... p. 156.

 

15. Mandzhukov was a relative of Bishop Natanail.

 

16. Pavel Shatev. V Makedonia pod Robstvo. Sofia 1968. p. 67.

 

17. Ibid., p. 84.

 

18. See Danailov and Noikov, Opus cit, p. 200

 

19. Materiali... Vol IX, p. 37.

 

20. Prinosi... Book VIII, p. 53-54. See Danailov and Noikov, Opus cit., pp. 165-166.

 

21. Gerdzhikov's memoirs. Materiali... Vol IX , p. 21.

 

22. Yané's Memoirs. Materiali... Vol VII, p. 30.

 

23. All the documents mentioned, i.e. the Statute and Rules of both the BMARC and

 

 

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the SMARO, and the Rules for the Cheti were published by Dr Konstantin Pandev in Izvestiya na Instituta Istoriya (Sofia), Vol 21, 1970, pp 245-275.

 

24. The circulars were written at the request of Garvanov and the other members of the Central Committee. Garvanov was at that time still firmly opposed to Tsonchev's plans. The picture on the first page of the second circular is identical with that on the cover of the SMARO documents, indicating that they were printed in the same place, at about the same time. The circulars are dated June 1902.

 

25. NBKM BIA, 305 a.e. 260. sheet 50.

 

26. NBKM BIA, 305 a.e. 260. sheets 48-49. In his memoirs (Materiali... Vol VIII p. 141), Gyorché says that the circular was sent in his name and that of Gotsé. About the same time, Gyorché wrote a pamphlet entitled The Cause of Macedonian Liberation on Bulgarian Soil, which was published in the newspaper Pravo (July 7 1902, No. 20 & 21/28 & 29). The pamphlet analyzes the aims and activity of the Supreme Committee from its inception up to the Sarafov/Tsonchev period.

 

27. Gotsé Delchev. Pisma... pp. 290-291.

 

28. Among the others were Nikola Gabrovsky, Boris Sarafov, T. Karayovov, Vladimir Kovachev, Georgi Petrov and Peyo Yavorov.

 

29. Forty-one delegates remained in Slavyanska Beseda. The number of delegates who walked out is given differently in different documents and varies from 12 (in the minutes of the Congress) to 21 (in the minutes of the second Congress). The second Congress was attended by delegates from 31 town and 16 village societies.

 

30. The new Committee, elected on the following day, was headed by Hristo Stanishev, and included Peyo Yavorov, T. Karayovov and Georgi Petrov.

 

31. NBKM BIA f. 224 a.e. 10, sheet 118. See also Pandev: Org. Nats. Osv. Dv. p. 397.

 

32. Colonel Yankov was from Zagorichané, near Kastoria.

 

33. For accounts of the Yankov 'affair', see Silyanov, Osv. borbi... pp. 165-176. Silyanov was with Klyashev and Chekalarov at the time.

 

34. See also the memoirs of Pando Klyashev, Materiali... Vol II, pp 83-103.

 

34. See Memoara na Vŭtreshnata organizatsia 1904. This document gives the fullest statistical material available, but Silyanov, who quotes it, considers that even so it is not complete, since certain actions of which he has personal knowledge are omitted.

 

35. Silyanov. Osv. borbi... p. 179.

 

36. NBKM BIA f. 224 a.e. 27 Sheet 97. Reply to the Macedonian-Adrianople Society in St Petersburg. A letter similar in content was sent to the Sliven Society. See Ibid, Sheet 86.

 

37. Gotsé Delchev. Pisma... p. 219. Letter to Nikola Maleshevsky, dated 3.X. 1902.

 

38. Ibid., p. 236. Letter to Ivan Belezhkov, dated 28. XI. 1902.

 

39. Yavorov, p. 210.