Dr Trendafil Mitev

Initial period

The Bulgarian emigration’s activities in the United States and Canada were related to opposing the Berlin Treaty and they started just before the Ilinden uprising. In 1899, Macedonian-Bulgarian associations were formed in the States [3]. Their initiators were Marco Kaludov, Spas Shumkov and Hristo Nedyalkov. On the pages of the “Borba” [4] (“Struggle”) newspaper, in many articles published in different daily newspapers in English, on meetings, the Bulgarians in North America declared themselves in support of the uprising in Macedonia. They insisted that the Great Powers should cooperate for settling the Macedonian issue by forcing the Sultan to make Macedonia autonomous [5]. After the Young Turks’ revolution in 1908 Captain A. Bozukov initiated the foundation of Bulgarian Constitutional Clubs in the USA [6]. Their activities were also related to the autonomy cause in case reforms were held in Ottoman Empire.

During the Balkan wars in 1912-1913 the emigrants in the USA and Canada sent financial support [7] and soldiers to the Balkan front [8]. They made great efforts to introduce influential people in North America to the essence of the Bulgarian national issue [9]. After Bulgaria’s first national catastrophe in 1913 the first Bulgarian emigrant congress was held in the New World on the initiative of Zheko Banev, Marco Kaludov and Archimandrite Teofilact in Chicago. The Macedonian-Bulgarian People’s Union [10] was founded on the congress. It included Macedonian-Bulgarian organizations from the towns of Gerry, Stilton, Chicago, Granite City, Cincinnati, Hampton and Dayton [11].

When World War I was over, a “Bulgarian National Congress” [12] was held again in Chicago from 1 to 6 December 1918. After a thorough discussion of the national issue, the delegates voted for a long resolution which was sent to the Paris Peace Conference and to the governments of the Great Powers. In this document the Bulgarians insisted that the Macedonian issue would be settled by uniting their divided country. In case this was proved impossible, the emigrants insisted that Macedonia would become a free and independent state [13]. This step was viewed as a clever move, in order to avoid forceful assimilation of Bulgarians who have remained under foreign power.

The peace treaty in 1919, imposed by the countries that won the war, divided the Bulgarian nation again [14]. Thousands of Bulgarians from Vardar and Aegean Macedonia left their homes and moved to free Bulgaria [15]. The complex economic and political situation in the Balkans right after the war, as well as the tendencies for economic prosperity of Bulgarian emigrants in North America caused a new burst of growth in emigration processes for Macedonian Bulgarians on their way to the States, Canada and Australia. For about five years these three countries took the first places, after Bulgaria, in their numbers of Bulgarian emigrants. North America became a region of active propaganda related to the new complexities in the Macedonian issues.

The first important issue the emigrants strove to settle completely after the war was the question of how Bulgarians in North America should support the national liberation movement in Macedonia. Between 1920 and 1922 an ardent discussion [*] took place on the pages of the weekly Bulgarian newspaper “Glas” in Granite City, Illinois. Besides prominent emigrant political figures, famous public figures from liberated Bulgaria also participated in the discussion. People and organizations sent to the editors of “Naroden Glas” their profound analyses and opinions on the perspectives of Macedonian organizations in North America. Some of them were the Executive Committee of Macedonian Brothers in Sofia, Ivan Karandjulov, Dr Peter Vichev [*], Dr Teodor Teodorov, Dr Josef Mutafov [**], Stoyan Mihaylovsky, Hristo Nizimov, as well as many others. All of them emphasized that with the emergence of large numbers of Bulgarian emigrants in the USA and Canada, new possibilities were being opened to the mobilization of influential factors in world politics in support of the Bulgarian cause [16].

Great attention was paid to the fact that the US President Woodrow Wilson had made an attempt to protect Bulgaria during the Paris peace conference by insisting that at least Aegean Thrace [17] should be left to Bulgaria. This, as well as the lack of special interests of the USA in the Balkans after the war, formed the opinion that the emigrants should mobilize public opinion in the two most powerful countries in the Western Hemisphere. Then, in the future Bulgaria could expect that the States and Canada would interfere decisively in favor of Bulgarians when the Macedonian issue was discussed again. All participants in the discussion suggested that Bulgarian emigrants in North America should unite in a single legal patriotic organization, which should clarify historical truths about the Macedonian issue and protect it from intentional falsifications.

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2 Altunkov, N. The Bulgarian-Americans, Paloalto, California, 1949, 69-70.

3 Македонски алманах – 1940, Индианополис, САЩ, с. 222

4 Борба, бр. 11,4 юли 1902.

5 Юбилеен сборник на в. Народен глас /1907-1918/, Гранит сити, 1918, с. 46.

6 Македонски алманах – 1940, с. 222.

7 $7000 are sent in Sofia on initiative of “Naroden Glas” newspaper.

8 Granite City Press Record, okt. 4, 1912.

9 Ibidem, may 11, 1917.

10 Македонски алманах – 1940, с. 222.

11 By - Laws of “ Banitsa Benevolent Society “Hope”, Toronto, Canada.

12 Records of The First Bulgarian congres in America, 1918, USA, p. 1 – 85.

13 Народен глас, N 57 – 74, 12 март – 5 април 1918.

14 Христов, Х. България, Балканите и мирът 1919, С., 1984, с. 220

15 Палешутски, К. Македонската емиграция в България по време на Парижката конференция през 1919 г. – Ист. Пр. 1969, бр. 5, с. 52 и сл.

* The debate was initiated by the Executive Committee of Macedonian Brothers in Sofia in October 1920 г.

* Chairman of the Dobroudja organization in Bulgaria.

** Chairman of the Thracian Supreme Executive Committee.

16 Д–р Петър Вичев пише: “Тракия, Македония и Добруджа са под чуждо непоносимо иго. Повелителният дълг на всеки българин, където и да се намира той, е да застане в организационните редове на българската емиграция и да помогне с каквото може, за да блесне пред света истината за нашите болни народни въпроси”, в. Народен глас, бр. 174, 23 юли 1921 г.

17 По–подробно вж. Пантев, А., П. Петков, САЩ и България по време на Първата световна война, С., 1983, с. 104 и сл.