Freedom or Death. The Life of Gotsé Delchev

Mercia MacDermott



When misfortune appears on the stage, it isn't content to

act at one end, in one spot, but wants to

take over the widest possible space.

    Gotsé Delchev


Fire and gunpowder should be

kept apart.

    (Proverb from Prilep)


Only a spirit as bright as Gotsé's could feel much optimism in a yeai as sombre and disturbing as 1902. In addition to the damage caused by Tsonchev's political incendiarism, the Organisation had lost several of its finest members in battle with the Turks.


In February 1902, Kuzo Stefov, who was responsible for the northeastern part of the Kastoria district, died in Shesteovo, a village which, according to the local comrades, he visited more frequently than was strictly necessary from a political point of view, because he was madly in love with the flaxen-haired school-mistress. On this occasion, as he left her house after midnight, one of his companions was killed and he was mortally wounded. The other five members of his cheta escaped, but he himself crept back into the village to die in the arms of his beloved. Following his trail, the Turks besieged her house, and, when they finally broke in, they found the lovers lying together in a pool of blood: Kuzo had killed his fiancee before committing suicide. Silyanov commented: 'I mourn the victims of duty and love, and have not the heart to condemn Stefov as the others did. I would not have condemned him even if the people of Shesteovo had suffered because of the battle that had taken place in the village. His love for the dead girl had not diverted him from the path of struggle: it had merely inspired him and given him wings. Pierced by an enemy bullet, he kept his last minutes for himself and his beloved. And he knew how to die beautifully.' [1]


In March 1902, the Prilep cheta, under Metodi Patchev, was betrayed by the village mayor of Kadino-selo and was besieged in a tower by over five hundred Turkish soldiers. The seven chetnitsi fought back for twenty-two hours until all their ammunition was exhausted. Then, rather than be taken alive, all seven committed suicide with their last bullets.


Kitsé - Marko's fearless, light-hearted Kitsé - was the next to fall, trying to ambush and kill an Albanian overseer from the village of Pŭtelé, who had greatly tormented the peasants and threatened the Organization. That was in May, and in June Marko himself perished in the same village at the end of a chain of disasters. It began when lists of the armed members of the Organization in TUrsie' fell into Turkish hands and Marko hastened to the village to take prevent-ative measures. There he met Chekalarov and Pando Klyashev, with





whom he was to discuss how to get rid of Koté, that eternal public nuisance, who had now entered into dubious contact with the Greek Bishop of Kastoria. When Turkish troops searching for arms discovered the cheta's hiding place a battle [*] ensued, in which the chetnitsi killed some ten Turks before escaping from the village without losing a single man. On the face of it, the battle had been a notable victory, but, afterwards, the real trouble began when more Turks were sent to the village to search for arms. A hundred and twenty peasants were arrested and tortured, and eventually most of the arms hidden in the village were found. Marko took the affair very hard. He had been particularly proud of this high mountain village where the whole population belonged to the Organization and where chetnitsi could walk the streets in broad daylight without fear of betrayal. According to Pando Klyashev, Marko regarded the affair 'as a personal disgrace; he was overcome with melancholy and despair; he became a changed man, and was planning to take revenge, to burn Turkish villages, to attack Lerin, ready to die, provided he could wipe away this stain upon his district.' [2]


Worse was to come: from Tŭrsié, the Turks set out for Pŭtelé, but the peasants there took fright and handed over their arms without even being tortured. On hearing the shameful news, Marko mobilized the militia from several villages, and set out for Pŭtelé with about seventy men to punish those who had so pusillanimously given up their guns, and to deter others from similar abject betrayal. Intent on taking the heads of the chief offenders and on burning their houses, he paid little attention to warnings that large Turkish forces were approaching, called by peasants who feared the wrath of the Organization. The village was already surrounded when the loyal peasants managed to persuade Marko to withdraw his men before it was too late. 'Broken-hearted and crushed', Marko at last led them to the edge of the village, and, in spite of a barrage of fire from thousands of guns, all managed to slip away under cover of darkness - all, that is, except two: Marko himself lay dead against a wall with a bullet in his breast, while Dine Abduramana had deliberately returned to barricade himself inside a house for reasons known only to himself. For four days, shooting calmly and accurately from the window, Dine defied the troops who surrounded him, not daring to come too close. Finally, having killed his own wife, sister, uncle and daughter, he rushed out of the house with a naked knife and flung himself upon the enemy, fighting to the end. [3]


After so many grevious losses and so much unpleasantness, the news that the imprisoned members of the Central Committee had



*. This was Marko's first battle with the Turks during his two years service as the Lerin district voivoda.





been amnestied and were on their way home came as a deus ex machina, offering comfort and support when they were most needed. Gotsé and Gyorché were jubilant. Now at last there would again be strong leadership in Salonika and welcome reinforcements in the struggle against the Supreme Committee. Or so they fondly thought...


When Matov and Dr Tatarchev arrived in Sofia in the autumn of 1902, Gyorché greeted them enthusiastically, hoping that it would no longer be necessary to rely so heavily on Stanishev's committee in the struggle against Tsonchev. Stanishev and his comrades he regarded as sincere friends, but he felt that they were not sufficiently tough and unyielding for the task in hand, and the same went for Dimitŭr Stefanov and Tushé Deliivanov. In Gyorché's view, this softness in the leadership, coupled with Garvanov's unsuitability for the post of chairman, had gravely weakened the Organization and thus strengthened the position of the Tsonchevists. [4] He even disapproved of Gotsé's close co-operation with Stanishev, believing that this could be a slippery slope towards the loss of the Organization's separate identity. 'I maintained the position of exclusivism - we must always stand here as a pure nucleus and not amalgamate.' [5]


While Gyorché specifically excludes Gotsé (and Damé) from the charges of opportunism which he brought against a number of other leaders - 'Delchev was not like that ... he had a very strongly developed moral sense which directed him towards the correct path' [6] - he was aware that Gotsé's good nature and gullibility could be exploited by people less principled than himself.


Matov and Tatarchev appeared in Sofia as the representatives of the Central Committee [7], contemptuous of Garvanov and ready to resume the leading role which they had played before their arrest, 'as though they had slept for a while' [8] and nothing had happened in the meantime. In fact, a great deal had happened, and, like Rip Van Winkle, they were out of touch with the situation that confronted them upon their awakening, and they failed to appreciate the qualitative difference between the Supreme Committee of Sarafov and that of Tsonchev. In a situation which demanded decisive action, they favoured a policy of conciliation, of closer contact with official circles, and of attracting the less extreme elements in the Supreme Committee by a show of moderation, imagining that they could thus achieve the dual aim of wakening the Supreme Committee and strengthening the Internal Organization. Branding Gotsé and Gyorché as 'hard-liners', they put themselves forward as reasonable, authoritative persons and set out on a course of breaking down the Organization's isolation in Sofia by means which Gotsé and Gyorché considered opportunist and dangerous. Opportunism was something which the Organization had from the start steadfastly rejected: 'We





were always in straitened circumstances, and sometimes we couldn't see any way out, but we wouldn't have dreamed of finding money by opportunist actions; we would sooner have seized it by force.' [9]


Appalled by the extent and the ugly character of the rift between the two organizations, Matov and Dr Tatarchev declared themselves to be in favour of an immediate rapprochement with the Supremists, even on the basis of agreeing to fan the ashes of the recent abortive 'risings', so as to spread the conflagration into other areas. [10] During November they attempted to achieve agreement between the Supreme Committee and the Internal Organization through the good offices of a peace-making commission. Gyorché was not brought into this work, and the two former Representatives Abroad, Dimitŭr Stefanov and Tushé Deliivanov, likewise took no part in the negotiations. The aims was to call an extraordinary congress of the two Supreme Committees - Tsonchev's and Stanishev's - and set up a single committee which would include members from both Committees and from the Internal Organization. Various combinations were proposed, but no agreement could be reached, since, although the Mihailovsky-Tsonchev committee was prepared to accept Tatarchev, Matov, Peré or Gotsé, it refused to recognize the other committee by accepting Stanishev. When deadlock had been reached, the question was passed to the local societies, which were asked to express an opinion and to insist on the calling of a Congress before the end of the year. For its part, the Mihailovsky-Tsonchev committee issued a secret circular expressing opposition both to having any truck with Stanishev and to the calling of any congress.


Discussion in the societies was inconclusive. Some wanted a congress, while others were in favour of unity around the Mihailovsky-Tsonchev committee without any preliminary congress. The real issues were not always clear to society members, so that there was some support for pressing ahead with new risings, as well as some opposition to Stanishev, precisely because of his condemnation of the recent risings.


Tsonchev for his part encouraged by the Prince and General Paprikov, his Minister for War, went quietly ahead with his plans for an even bigger rising in the spring. Early in December 1902, Tsonchev sent a confidential letter to certain officers, asking them to be ready to resign their commissions in time to take part in a rising planned for April or May 1903, and requesting an answer by February 15. [11] At the end of December, a conference of societies loyal to Tsonchev gave his Supreme Committee carte blanche to act.


If it had been only a question of Bulgaria and Turkey, if the struggle for Macedonia had been waged in a diplomatic vacuum, then even Gotsé might have given his blessing to Tsonchev. But Gotsé knew





that there was no such vacuum, and that in the eyes of the Great Powers they were all mere insects to be brushed aside or crushed in the pursuit of global strategies. More than once, Gotsé had been asked by his own devoted followers to explain the Organization's insistance on autonomy. Kotsé Tsipushev recalls how, when he and some friends asked Gotsé why they were fighting for the autonomy of Macedonia and Thrace instead of their liberation and reunification with the motherland, he replied: 'Comrades, can't you see that we are now the slaves not of the Turkish state, which is in the process of disintegration, but of the Great Powers in Europe, before whom Turkey signed her total capitulation in Berlin. That is why we have to struggle for the autonomy of Macedonia and Thrace, in order to preserve them in their entirety, as a stage towards their reunification with our common Bulgarian fatherland...' [12]


This dependence upon the Great Powers was recognised by all concerned, and those who were pressing for an uprising in the spring were arguing that the international situation was favourable for such an undertaking. The abortive risings during the autumn had indeed produced a sympathetic reaction in the foreign press, especially in France, Russia and Great Britain [13], and there had been calls for action ranging from reforms to the granting of autonomy. The risings also produced a considerable stir in diplomatic circles, where the main ostensible aim was the avoidance of further disturbances and the maintenance of the status quo, although, simultaneously and in secret, there was a good deal of private fishing in troubled waters. Russia was deeply engaged with Japan in the Far East and, for the time being, was clearly unwilling to become embroiled in the Balkans as well. Yet certain pointers - such as the speech of Count Ignatiev on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the battle of the Shipka Pass, and the Russian Tsar's gift of 10,000 roubles for the relief of refugees from Macedonia - gave grounds for hope that Russia would yet resurrect the principles of San Stefano, and would, in fact, stand by Bulgaria in the event of a rising in Macedonia during the following spring or summer. Officially, Austro-Hungary had an understanding with Russia that neither would disturb the Balkans status quo, but, in reality, Austria had her eyes on an outlet to the Aegean, and was busy setting one Balkan State against another, and showing sympathy to the population of Macedonia, in the hope of profiting from any further conflicts. Italy - Austro-Hungary's ally in the Triple Alliance, and, at the same time her rival for influence in the Balkans — played a very minor role in Macedonian affairs, while France, with her extensive investments in Turkey and her hopes of further concessions, followed the lead of her ally, Russia, and wished to avoid trouble in south-east Europe.





Germany was now playing the role that Britain had once played - that of preserving the integrity of Turkey as an aid to her own expansion into Asia, while Britain, now possessed of sufficient alternative bases in the Eastern Mediterranean, was able to preserve her influence in the Balkans by means of different policies, such as proposing more radical reforms in Macedonia. Thus, when the air was humming with new talk of reforms, including an Anglo-French idea for the appointment of a Christian governor-general in Macedonia, Germany urged Turkey to cut the ground from under the reformers' feet by producing proposals of her own. Abdul Hamid was quick to appreciate the advantages of such a move, and, acting with astonishing alacrity, he announced a somewhat puny programme [14] of reforms on November 18, 1902, and, barely a week later, he appointed Hilmi Pasha to supervise its implementation. In practice, Hilmi's appointment and arrival in Salonika marked the beginning and the end of the reforms, which, as usual, disappeared into the archives. But Russia, who resented losing the initiative in Balkan affairs, hastily sent her Foreign Minister, Count Lamsdorf, on a tour of Sofia, Belgrade and Vienna, as a result of which a new set of reforms was prepared and presented to Turkey by Austria and Russia on February 8, 1903. Abdul Hamid accepted the proposals without a murmur, partly because Germany advised acceptance, lest the more radical reforms mooted by Britain and France became the alternative, and partly because the reforms themselves were innocuous [15] from the Turkish point of view. In any case, the project had no 'teeth', and, as in the original Turkish proposals, the only guarantee that any action would be taken was the appointment of an inspector nominated by the Sultan, i.e. Hilmi Pasha.


Count Lamsdorf had arrived in Sofia on December 13, 1902, with the aim of discouraging any precipitate action in Macedonia, and of discovering what minimum reforms were required to prevent or, at any rate, postpone an uprising. He dined at the Palace, and afterwards he was treated to the spectacle of a torch-light procession by several thousand refugees from Macedonia hoping for Russian support. The Count had indeed brought support, but only in the form of the Tsar's contribution to the refugee relief fund. Otherwise, his message to the Bulgarian Government, as well as to Matov and Tatarchev, [16] with whom he had an interview, was 'patience and prudence.' The Government, at least, took his words to heart, and before the Russo-Austrian reforms - or, as the Macedonians scornfully called them, the 'watchman reforms' - were actually presented to the Sultan it suppressed the two Supreme Committees in response to Russian pressure. On January 31, 1903, a decree was published outlawing all Macedonian committees and societies as a danger to public order and





internal security, and, on the following day, the members of both Supreme Committees were arrested and interned. For good measure, Gyorché Petrov was also interned in Kazanlŭk for two months, although the other representatives of the Internal Organization were left at large.


On the face of it, the banning of the emigré Macedonian organizations and the internment of General Tsonchev in the provincial town of Dryanovo, seemed a heavy blow to the ambitions of Prince Ferdinand, but, in fact, this was not the case. Tsonchev had already served his purpose, and sufficient members of the Internal Organization had beeen infected with his madness to make his services superfluous. It was true that Russia had categorically stated that not one iota of Russian help would be forthcoming if any attempt was made to change the existing order in the Balkan Peninsula by revolutionary means, and that the Bulgarian Government had meekly submitted to Russian advice. But Ferdinand was not thinking in terms of Russian aid. He was a Coburg, and, as such, his sympathies lay with Germany and Austria. A rising in defiance of Russia's wishes, and at a time when Russia was engaged elsewhere, offered an excellent opening for increased German influence in the Balkans. Moreover, such a rising, doomed to failure from the start, would weaken the power of the Internal Organization and its intractable leaders, who had so long been a thorn in the royal flesh. Tsonchev had to be sacrificed, but what did that matter when Garvanov was doing such a splendid job in Salonika?


On December 24, 1902, Garvanov had dispatched a circular letter in the name of the Central Committee to all the regions and to the Organization's Representatives Abroad announcing that a congress would be held at the beginning of January to consider whether a rising should be proclaimed that very spring. The letter came like a bombshell to the majority of the comrades in Sofia, with the exception of Matov and Tatarchev, who had known all along about Garva-ov's intentions, but had kept their knowledge to themselves. [17] A series of meetings were held, attended at various times and in varying combinations by Matov, Tatarchev, Gyorché, Gotsé, Peré, Boris Sarafov, Slavcho Kovachev, Toma Davidov, Hristo Silyanov, Mihail Gerdzhikov, Vŭlcho Antonov, Sava Mihailov, Ivan Hadzinikolov, Nikola Naumov, Kiril Pŭrlichev, Dimitŭr Stefanov and others, [18] to discuss the pros and cons of an early rising.


For hours on end, over and over again, the terrible question was debated, and, in the course of these agonising debates, the rift in the once monolithic ranks of the Internal Organization became distressingly apparent. Those who were now pressing for an early uprising included not only men influenced by the Supremists, but also men





whose loyalty to the Organization was beyond any shadow of doubt. Silyanov, for example, had come to Sofia mandated by Pando Klyashev and Vasil Chekalarov to press for a rising within the year, on the grounds that conditions in the Kastoria district of the Bitolya region had been rapidly deteriorating since Colonel Yankov's adventure: Turkish troops were billetted in the villages; there were nightly searches for arms; the cheti had suspended their activities and were wintering in scattered lairs in the mountains; the population was at the end of its tether and was sustained only by the hope that a rising would soon put an end to its sufferings. [19]


The same basic argument — that in the Bitolya region, especially, conditions had become unbearable and that the people could no longer be restrained - was the main thesis in the Central Committee's letter. A deathly silence accompanied the reading of this letter; there was no cheering, and, although the eyes of some flashed fire, it was the fire of anger, not of joy, 'as though it were a question not of the long-awaited, sacred act that would bring freedom, but of a premeditated crime against Macedonia.' [20] Silyanov himself, while believing that a rising was inevitable, contemplated the prospect without enthusiasm: 'I wanted it, too, but without a trace of elation and without any illusions about a brilliant outcome - I wanted it as the only way out of a fatal concatenation of events. I was deeply convinced that if this year, too, were allowed to go by, both the idea and the possibility of a rising in the Bitolya region would be irrevocably compromised: it was difficult to make up the loss of arms, the patience of the population was on the point of exhaustion, and the nerves of the local leaders, who were bearing the brunt of the situation, were strained to breaking point.' [21]


As soon as the letter had been read out, Matov and Tatarchev took the floor to speak in favour of a rising, and were supported by the overwhelming majority of those present. One after another, speakers reiterated and paraphrased the arguments of the Central Committee: the people were ready, the leaders impatient and the situation tense beyond endurance; 'affairs' and searches were becoming so frequent that the Organization was now being disarmed rather than armed, and further delay would merely be counter-productive; increased diplomatic activity around the question of reforms made the international situation favourable, and, in spite of public statements to the contrary, Russian and Bulgarian help would surely be forthcoming; after the Supremist-inspired risings the Organization would risk being thought incompetent and unrevolutionary if it did not itself produce a rising.


Gotsé and Gyorché were the only people present categorically to reject all suggestions that an early rising was either desirable or inevi-





table. Peré, whom they had earlier called to Sofia to strengthen the group in view of the equivocal behaviour of Matov and Tatarchev, declined to express an opinion on the grounds that he had only recently returned from prison and was not sufficiently au fait with the situation, [22] so the task of turning the tide fell upon Gotsé and Gyorché alone.


Gotsé was a natural spell-binder, but a poor debater, especially when so much was at stake. He communicated with others by pouring his molten soul into those of his hearers, burning, illuminating, igniting. But this time, his own soul was in such a threshing, bleeding turmoil of agony, that this process of infusion became impossible. Gotsé, for whom physical pain, danger, disappointments and hardship were minor irritations to be accepted and ignored like so many mosquito bites, simply could not function normally in an atmosphere so lacking in concord and mutual understanding. According to Gyorché, he 'became heated, broke into a sweat and began to bluster', [23] and consequently he failed to convince his audience. Nothing that he had ever suffered in his life before could compare with the horror of the situation in which he now found himself. All the distasteful wrangling with the Supremists paled into insignificance beside this frightful confrontation with his own people. Watching him, Gyorché commented: 'His nerves were too weak to withstand mental torture, and his eyes - too soft to impose his will upon a meeting of comrades who did not agree with him.' [24]


Gyorché himself then took the floor, and, in a speech lasting six hours, made a brilliant exposition of the case against proclaiming a rising. One by one, he examined the arguments used by the Central Committee and demolished them with such skill and logic that it was hard for anyone to gainsay him. He argued, for example, that the loss of arms to the Turks did not constitute grounds for a rising: a district that was truly prepared for a rising would under no circumstances surrender its arms, whereas the very fact that some villages had done so proved that they were not yet ready. Even those who, like Silyanov, were convinced that the situation demanded a rising, were impressed by his smooth, attractive delivery and by the way in which he marshalled his arguments so as to leave no opening for opposition. [25] Matov, too, was no mean master of dialectics, as his writings clearly show, but Gyorché had the edge on him, and, in the end, the majority declared themselves to be against any early rising. Only Matov, Tatarchev, Ivan Hadzhinikolov, and one or two others continued to be in favour. When Matov and Gyorché were asked by the meeting to draft a letter to the Central Committee informing them of the vote, Gyorché suggested that both should prepare separate drafts, and it was Gyorché's letter, couched in plainer and firmer terms, that was





finally sent to Salonika in the name of the Sofia group.


But the members of the Central Committee had not waited to hear the opinions of the Sofia group. In fact, it was not their opinion that they wanted but their consent to a policy already agreed upon. On January 2, 1903, the advertised congress had opened in the physics laboratory of the Salonika High School under the chairmanship of Garvanov. From first to last, it had all the signs of being a piece of gerrymandering on the part of those bent on steamrollering all opposition to the idea of an early rising. Pando Klyashev described the Salonika Congress as 'neither a regional nor a general Macedonian congress, as it should have been, but a congress of a few urban leaders and teachers with poor first-hand knowledge of the state of affairs.' [26] According to the Rules [27] of the Organization, the date of the rising was to be determined by the Central Committee with the consent of the regional and district committees. In fact, the Congress was attended by only seventeen people [28] of such a kind that the representation was uneven and incomplete. The town of Kukush, for example, was represented by one delegate, and so was the entire Bitolya region with its many districts. Slaveiko Arsov, voivoda of the Resen district of the Bitolya region, complained that neither he personally nor the other members of the Organization in the district were consulted in any way. They were not even aware that a congress was being held, but thought that it was merely a routine meeting. [29] The Serres and Adrianople regions also had only one delegate each. None of the voivodi were present. Neither were any of the creators of the Organization, such as Dame, Gotsé, Tatarchev, Hadzhinikolov, Gyorché, Peré, etc. It was true that some of these absences could easily be explained - Dame, for example, was still in exile, while Gotsé, though invited, had preferred not to go. [30] Yet the fact remained that while the seventeen who attended may all have been 'worthy workers for the people's cause', the great names of the Organization were conspicuously absent. Garvanov evidently felt some lack of ease on this score, for the protocol of the Congress mentions that representatives from Shtip and Tikvesh had been invited but had been prevented from attending, and that the Central Committee had not been able to summon representatives from the other districts because of the great vigilance of the police and the possible danger of discovery. This is as may be, yet when all is said and done, the indecently short notice given, the lack of preliminary discussion at local level, the unconstitutional composition of the Congress, and the absence of any real attempt to obtain broader representation, all add up to give an impression not of genuine difficulty or concern for security, but of a desire on the part of the organizers to exclude all opposition


The manner in which the Congress was conducted does nothing to





dispel suspicion about the motives of the organizers. Of the reports made concerning the preparedness of the various districts for a rising, only that of Lozanchev, the Bitolya delegate, was positive. [31] All the other delegates reported that their supply of arms was inadequate. It may well be asked how, if this was the case, the Congress came to vote unanimously for an uprising. The main factor appears to have been the fear that if the Organization continued to hold back, the Supremists would unilaterally initiate new uprisings, leading to the devastation and demoralization of still more districts. Garvanov encouraged this fear by producing for inspection Supremist leaflets which urged the people to prepare for a rising in the spring. He also disposed of the main argument against a rising - the lack of arms - by assuring Congress that large supplies of arms would be forthcoming and that the Principality would help.


'There was no opposition', Lazar Dimitrov wrote in his memoirs, i was the only opposition and that's why the Congress went on for two days. [32] I was against, first, because our area - Serres - was not prepared for a rising, and I knew that the others were not prepared either, and, secondly, because I considered the time to be unfavourable, after Lamsdorf had explicitly spoken against the rising. Apart from this, I already knew the opinion of Sandansky, Delchev and others who were against. It was Garvanov, first and foremost, who took issue with me: the French Ambassador in Constantinople was alleged to have said that if there was a rising in Macedonia, wider rights would surely be accorded to the population, and, apparently, if we maintained the rising for two weeks, Bulgaria would declare war... Finally, the decision was taken, and I, too, was forced to sign the protocol in which the reasons which necessitated a rising were set forth.' [33]


Dimitŭr Ganchev, the delegate from Skopje, who had come to the Congress mandated to press for a postponement of one year at least, signed 'because the others signed, too.' [34]


Thus, hastily and unconstitutionally, the fatal decision was taken.


Soon afterwards, Garvanov and Velko Dumev, the delegate from Adrianople, set out for Sofia in order to deal with the opposition there and, above all, to force Gotsé and Gyorché into submission. Even with the unanimously endorsed Protocol in their pockets, the disapproval of Gotsé, especially, who enjoyed such universal prestige throughout Macedonia, was a serious stumbling-block to their plans.


Their arrival was the signal for a new series of discussions. Those who supported the Central Committee attempted without success to wean Gotsé and Peré from Gyorché's influence, and to break up their triumvirate. [35] Gyorché, on his own evidence, did not meet Garvanov and Dumev at all, neither did he subsequently enter into discussions





with their adherents, because he felt that they were not being honest with him and were deliberately keeping him in the dark. Peré still refused to commit himself publicly, while Gotsé remained steadfast in his opposition to the rising, although, being, as Gyorché put it, 'soft', [36] he was still willing to talk things over and be conciliatory. In fact, in spite of all the comings and goings, none of the three seriously believed that things would actually be taken as far as the kind of mass rising that the Central Committee was advocating. Somewhere along the line commonsense must prevail, and the three planned to return to Macedonia in order to exercise more influence on opinion within the Organization.


They did, however, recognise that the Supremist 'risings' had indeed created a new situation, and that the growing tension in Macedonia had made it impossible to continue working in the old way. They had therefore proposed changes in tactics which they hoped would engage the attention of Europe, without risking the holocaust of an inadequately prepared uprising, the political outcome of which was uncertain. One of these proposals was the brain-child of Gyorché Petrov, who had expounded it in his original six-hour speech. Gyorché considered that the cheti, which had hitherto concentrated on agitational work, avoiding as far as possible all clashes with the Turks, should now go over to the offensive and undertake partisan actions, so as to harrass the Turks and keep Macedonia in the news. He pointed out that, at present, the cheti were skilled mainly in defensive and evasive tactics, while the townsfolk, absorbed in internal administration and in keeping the Organization secret, knew little of guns and fighting. A transition from passive to active work would, he maintained, have the dual result of redressing these defects and of creating a state of 'permanent rising', which could, if necessary, be sustained for years on end and would be more effective and less costly in lives and property than a conventional, once-and-for-all rising. [37]


A second proposal, complementary to the first, was that the Organization should undertake an intensive programme of terrorist actions directed against the Turkish administration and enterprises owned by foreign capital, i.e. railways, banks, etc. The main support for this idea came from Mihail Gerdzhikov, Vŭlcho Antonov and Gotsé himself. Gerdzhikov had been an advocate of terrorism ever since his student days in Geneva, before he had joined the Organization. Antonov was also a terrorist of long standing, and was in favour not merely of blowing up Turkish and foreign property, but also of 'punishing' General Tsonchev. The latter suggestion was, however, not accepted by the majority.


For Gotsé, terrorism was a new departure, and, at first sight, a





surprising development in one so sensitive to horrors. Gyorché, who did not approve of the idea, put Gotsé's sudden enthusiasm for bombing down to 'his despair over the future of the Organization', [38] and almost certainly this was correct. Aghast at the lemming like rush of his comrades towards what he believed to be an abyss of fire and blood, Gotsé was frantically searching for some means to halt, or, at least, delay them. He knew that in order to achieve a postponement of the rising, he had to offer an alternative that would be both spectacular and substantial. The dynamiting of railways and bridges, combined with Gyorché's proposals for partisan warfare on the part of the cheti, seemed to be the answer, precisely because - destructive and horrible though explosives were - the destruction and the horror that they would cause, used in the way that Gotsé intended to use them, was nothing when compared with the mass destruction and horror that would result from an ill-timed rising.


Once Gotsé had been attracted by the idea of terrorism, he embraced it with his usual, whole-hearted enthusiasm, and asked Gerdzhikov to write a pamphlet on the subject, to be used in the training of terrorist groups in Macedonia. Gerdzhikov was too busy to do so, but he offered him a translation of a speech by a French terrorist, which Gotsé arranged to have published at the Organization's expense.


Gotsé and Gerdzhikov managed to steer the others round to their point of view. 'With his influence and personal charm, he (Gotsé - M.M.) immediately created a strongly favourable mood in this direction,' Gyorché commented, 'so strong that Matov, Tatarchev and Co., even if they were against, could not oppose him and had to cooperate.' [39] When the meeting asked Gotsé and Gerdzhikov whether they themselves were prepared to undertake such terrorist actions, they both replied that they were ready to leave at once.


Since Gyorché's idea also received general acceptance, a compromise was reached and unity regained on the basis of postponing the rising in favour of partisan and terrorist actions. In fact, very little had changed, and most of them knew it. [40]


Gotsé did not wait to hear the end of the discussions. He loathed such discussions, and he was both totally disillusioned with Matov and Tatarchev [41] and sadly disappointed in Garvanov and the Central Committee. The atmosphere in Sofia was suffocating him, and he felt an irresistable urge to escape to Macedonia, to the peace and freedom of her forests and mountains. There, he would seek consolation and understanding in the company of Yané Sandansky, with whom he had always seen eye to eye in matters of ideology. [42] There he would halt not merely the movements of trains, but also the Organization's stampede to self-destruction.


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1. Silyanov. Pisma... p. 203.


2. See the memoirs of Pando Klyashev, Materiali... Vol. II, p. 77.


3. Silyanov. Pisma... pp. 237-239.


4. Materiali... Vol. VIII, p. 143.


5. Ibid, p. 145.


6. Ibid, p. 138.


7. In fact they had no written mandate to act as such. See Materiali... Vol VIII, p. 147.


8. The words are Gyorché's. See Materiali... Vol VIII p. 142.


9. Ibid, p. 138.


10. Yavorov. p. 211.


11. NBKM BIA f. 224 a.e. 26, Sheet 110. See also Pandev: Org: Nats: Osv. Dv. pp 406-407.


12. Kotsé Tsipushev, 19 Godini v srŭbskite zatvori. Sofia 1943. pp. 32-33. The author was born in Radovish in 1877, studied at the Salonika High School, and entered Sofia University in 1899 to study chemistry. He went to Geneva in 1900, where he completed his studies in 1902, and returned to Macedonia to work as a teacher and revolutionary organizer. In the course of his work he came to know most of the leaders of the Internal Organization well.


13. In Britain, one of the chief supporters of the Macedonian population was John MacDonald of the Daily News, who assumed the mantle of MacGahan, famous for his reports of the Turkish atrocities during the rising of 1876.


14. The main points were: increased powers for the valis; Christian participation in the gendarmerie; an independent legal system; the establishment of schools in villages with more than fifty houses, and unspecified measures to curb malpractices in the collection of taxes.


15. The main points were: the reorganization of the police and the gendarmerie with foreign help; the creation of a separate budget controlled by the Ottoman Bank for the three vilayets comprising Macedonia; the appointment of Christian pŭdari (village watchmen) in Christian areas, and the appointment of a general inspector of reforms.


16. Matov and Tatarchev also had meetings with Danev, the Bulgarian Prime Minister, and Tatarchev had one with Prince Ferdinand. See Gyorché's memoirs, Materiali... Vol VIII, pp 147-148. Gyorché was against all such meetings. Lamsdorf also met Stanishev and other eminent Macedonian émigrés, but he did not meet anyone from the Mihailovsky-Tsonchev committee.


17. See Gyorché Petrov's memoirs. Materiali... Vol VIII, pp. 151-153.


18. Ibid, p. 154. Also Silyanov. Osv. borbi... p. 202.


19. Silyanov, Osv. borbi, p. 203.


20. Ibid, p. 202


21. Ibid., p. 202-203.


22. Materiali... Vol VIII. p 154. According to Gyorché, Pere's 'intimate opinion was against the rising.'


23. Ibid., p. 155.


24. Gotsé Delchev vo spomenite... p. 277.





25. Silyanov, Osv. borbi... pp 203-205. Silyanov was, nevertheless, not completely convinced by Gyorché's arguments and felt that, in spite of the apparent unanswerability of these arguments, he had underestimated the preparedness of the Bitolya region, and that, having lived so long in Sofia, he did not fully appreciate the situation in the interior.


26. Pando Klyashev's memoirs. Materiali... Vol II, p. 107.


27. Article 2 of the Rules of the Secret Macedonian-Adrianople Organization.


28. Those present were: three members of the Central Committee (Garvanov, Spas Martinov and Dimitŭr Mirchev), two men described in the Congress protocol as 'worthy workers for the people's cause, recently released' (Hristo Kotsev and Todor Lazarov) and twelve district representatives: Nikola Petrov (Constantinople), Velko Dumev (Adrianople region), Lazar Dimitrov (Serres), Hristo Vlahov (Kukush), Ivan Sapunarov (Salonika), Nikola Hŭrlev (Gevgeli) Dimitŭr Zaneshev (Voden), Dimitŭr Ganchev (Skopje), Ivan Ingilizov (Strumitsa), Anastas Lozanchev (Bitolya), Georgi Varnaliev (Radovish) and Todor Peikov (Veles).


29. Memoirs of Slaveiko Arsov. Materiali... Vol I, p. 61.


30. Gotsé told Mihail Gerdzhikov that he had received an invitation, but did not want to go. Materiali... Vol IX, p. 47.


31. Lozanchev argued that further delay would result in new arms searches and arrests, thus depriving the area of both arms and men; that the people were ready and that if nothing happened, they would lose hope and emigrate to Constantinople and America in search of work. See Memoirs of Hristo Kotsev: Pred Praga na 1903, Sbornik Ilinden. 1921. p. 45.


32. The actual discussions took place on January 2 and 3, and the Protocol was accepted and signed in a session lasting only an hour and a half on January 4, 1903.


33. Memoirs of Lazar Dimitrov. Materiali... Vol IV, p. 108-109. Lazar Dimitrov says that at the time it was suggested that the rising be proclaimed in the latter part of August, after the harvest had finished in the Principality and after the troops had been issued with overcoats for the winter.


34. Memoirs of Nikola Pushkarev. Materiali... Vol VII, p. 185.


35. Memoirs of Gyorché Petrov. Materiali... Vol VII, p. 161.


36. Ibid.


37. For Gyorché's own exposition of this theory, see Materiali... Vol VIII, p. 161-163.


38. Ibid., p. 166.


39. Materiali... Vol. VIII. p 166.


40. Boris Saravov writes that Matov and his supporters were quite happy to accept the new formulation because they regarded 'partisan action' as a rising under another name. See Materiali... Vol V, p. 76.


41. On leaving he begged Gyorché to keep Peré in Sofia to try and prevent Matov and Tatarchev from going too far, and he warned Matov and Tatarchev that he would accept as valid only those decisions which had the concurrence of Peré and Gyorché.


42. Memoirs of Gyorché Petrov. Gotsé Delchev vo spomenité... p. 277.