MPO IN THE UNITED STATES, CANADA AND AUSTRALIA
Dr Trendafil Mitev
 

Other activities

Just before the beginning of World War II the Information Bureaus headquarters moved from New York to St. Louis, and it was renamed to Press Bureau. Then it was headed by Hristo Atanasov, who was its leader until his death in 1984. Due to this institutions propaganda needs, Atanasov wrote a number of serious research papers. They established his name, as MPOs most prominent scientist and journalist in the 50s and 60s of the 20th century [66]. As early as the 1930s the Information Bureau turned into MPOs official voice (something like the emigrants Foreign Office). It greatly contributed to the worldwide dispersion of historical truths on the Macedonian issue.

In the second half of the 1920s MPOs local organizations started establishing womens, youth and childrens organizations [67]. They had the purpose of mobilizing as many emigrants as possible. They employed different forms of work, taking into account age and gender specificity. Through these additional activities MPO made an attempt to become a popular patriotic organization. By the middle of the 30s the task was almost achieved. Evidence of this was the fact that when MPOs yearly congresses were opened, about 5,000 people came to the opening festivities. This was a good occasion for amassing experience on how to work with people, and it facilitated MPO by allowing the organization to mobilize people for Macedonias needs and interests.

In mid 30s MPO defined its official position in relation to the rest of the emigrant liberation movement organizations of Bulgarians. After the dramatic events in VMRO (the conflict between Mihaylovists and Protogerovists) in the late 20s for three years MPO remained its neutral positions. However, in 1930 the organizations Central Committee concluded that VMRO (I. Mihaylov) was the most serious warrior in the liberation movement of enslaved Bulgarians. This thesis was entirely shared by legal emigrant organizations of Macedonian Bulgarians working in Bulgaria [68]. Therefore, MPOs Central Committee started acquainting its members and interested parties in the USA and Canada at regular intervals with the revolutionaries activities. On the pages of Macedonian Tribune they published hundreds of articles glorifying and reminding of the revolutionaries who had died fighting with the Serbian army in Vardar Macedonia [69]. MPO condemned traitors activities within the liberation movement and exposed spies and betrayers [70]. Yet, MPO was one of the legal emigrant organizations that did not approve of the fratricide struggles in the national liberation movement in the late 20s and early 30s [71]. The organizations Central Committee declared repeatedly that such struggles would lead to the movements weakening and would create possibilities for twisted representation of its aims in world public opinion. Therefore MPO asked for tolerance and understanding. It suggested that a common Principal governing body could be formed to unite all organizations related to Bulgarian national liberation movement in Macedonia, and in this way all efforts would be turned against the common enemies, the conquerors [72]. Macedonian Tribune congratulated all acts of good will and tolerance exercised by different wings in the revolutionary movement.

With regard to Bulgarian emigrant associations existing in the States, Canada and Australia, MPO thought that they did not have a good understanding of the interest of Macedonians under bondage. The organization believed that the national issue was not the most important issue for the other organizations. Therefore MPO tried not to allow interference of other factors in its activities. With regard to the Bulgarian-Macedonian National Union (BMNU), MPO was consistent in its uncompromising criticism [73]. MPO believed that the main dividing line between the two organizations was BMNUs thesis, under the influence of the Moscow Communist International, of the existence of a separate Macedonian nation, as well as in BMNUs belief in the possibility to solve simultaneously the national and the social issues in Macedonia. As a legal organization propagating the national liberation cause, MPO did not share the opinion that there was a possibility on the Balkans to solve simultaneously national-liberation and social-class problems of Bulgarians in Macedonia. MPO believed that in order to create conditions for uniting all forces in the struggle, first the national liberation issue had to be settled. After that liberated Bulgarians in Macedonia could decide by themselves in what way to organize life in their country. Therefore, until BMNU dissolved in the late 40s, MPO declined all attempts of united actions or coalition with BMNU. It also criticized its leaders ideas, including the ones of Smile Voydanov and Georgi Pirinsky [74]. As a whole, until the beginning of World War II MPO did not discuss the question of private property in a future free Macedonia.

For similar reasons MPO was not interested in any activities of the Bulgarian Socialist Workers Union in America (BSWUA) [75]. An additional reason for this lack of interest was the too abstract set of concepts within BSWUA in relation to the possibilities for social change in the future [76]. Deeply influenced by Daniel de Lions trade union aberration and the Socialist Workers Party in America, BSWUAs ideas were based exclusively upon social-class structure in the States. Their application in the entirely different circumstances on the Balkans was simply impossible, especially in Macedonias regions under foreign government. MPOs positions toward the Bulgarian Protestant Mission in America were no different. The only emigrant organization in which MPO was really interested in the period between the two World Wars were the Bulgarian Orthodox Parishes in the States and Canada [77].

These Bulgarian emigrant clerical organizations were established in the early 20th century in North America. In the mid 30s in the USA and Canada already seven active Bulgarian Orthodox churches existed and operated, together with the relevant parishes in their regions. The orthodox clerical organizations were actually the most popular emigrant associations founded by Bulgarians in North America. In the 30s MPOs Central Committee established close relations with the Bulgarian Orthodox Missions leader Krustyo Genov. The Missions chief office was first in Stilton [78], but then it moved to Indianapolis. Good relations between the two institutions allowed the parishes to grow and strengthen, and the Bulgarian Orthodox churches in America, under the spiritual and canonical leadership of the Holy Synod in Sofia, became cultural centers with great importance for the dispersion of Bulgarian culture in the New World.

MPO had contacts with emigrant organizations of the other Slavonic peoples in America as well. It was mainly interested in those, which were related to the destiny of peoples under bondage in the Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian Kingdom, and in Greece. All Greek and Serbian emigrant organizations working on the territory of the USA, Canada and Australia were its objects of criticism, independently of their political orientation. MPO was right to judge that they attempted to create better international conditions for the realization of assimilation policies in Vardar and Aegean Macedonia [79]. Together with emigrant organizations of peoples under foreign government in Yugoslavia and Greece, MPO sought ways of cooperation and coordination of efforts in order to expose the aims of nationalist governments in Belgrade and Athens. At the end of World War II MPO became closely related to the Croatian Patriotic Organization in the USA [80]. Slovenians, Montenegrins and Albanians did not support influential emigrant organizations with national liberation aims until the 1950s. In spite of this MPOs Central Committee used all opportunities to encourage representatives of these ethnic groups in the New World.

With regard to political parties activities and struggles, MPO did not engage itself with an open public position. Its ideas in this sphere of politics were based on the belief that MPO did not attempt to solve internal political problems of the nations of the United States, Canada and Australia. Therefore MPO allowed its members as citizens of these three countries to vote for candidates they personally preferred. As a whole, MPO did not participate openly during elections as an organization in support of any candidate in presidential elections. According to indirect data, until the end of World War II most of the organizations members supported the Democratic Party in the USA, while in the second half of the century certain parts of the organization were in support of the Republicans.

During its 80 years of existence MPO was not in close relations with organizations of America and Australias colored populations. One of the reasons was that it wanted to stay away from issues of secondary importance. On the other hand, MPO did not want to enable possible impediments on its way to national liberation. By turning its members full attention to a clear strategic goal, MPO became one of the most important and interesting legal national-liberation organizations in the USA, Canada and Australia, following the completion of its aims in an uncompromising way. In this relation MPO has no analogue in North America.

From the late 20s to 1934 MPO managed to develop and establish a manifold cultural cycle of life for Bulgarian immigrants in the USA, Canada and Australia. This issue was often discussed on congresses each September. The presence of a strict organization structure and constant economic prosperity of the emigrant community played a positive role. As a result of this in the late 20s in the USA, Canada and Australia a yearly Bulgarian cultural cycle came into existence. It diversified and enriched cultural life in the biggest cities of the New World [81].

Each year from November to March a central event in the cycle were performances of amateur art groups. Local patriotic organizations formed mixed and childrens choirs, dance groups, literary circles, drama groups and music teams for folk and jazz music. At least once a month they had performances and arranged evening meetings or dance parties [82].

The May propaganda week (later developed into the whole month of May used for propaganda) was a time for lectures and discussions on political, scientific, moral and cultural topics [83]. The emigrants celebrated with special attention and love the greatest cultural holiday for Bulgarian emigrants May 24, the Day of Slavonic Writing [84]. The annual picnic arranged by MPO in Ohio on July 4, the US national holiday, turned into the most popular Bulgarian gathering in the New World [85]. Thousands of people came from all centers of immigration, especially from the States and Canada. Therefore it was also used for the emigrants patriotic education. Enthusiastic speeches were given in defense of enslaved Bulgarians. Prominent public figures and scientists from the USA were invited to these meetings to speak on different topics. Bulgarian folk chain dances were the longest ones in the States, and the best folk orchestra played on these gatherings.

Every year on August 2 they made an official commemoration of the Ilinden Uprising in 1903. Macedonian Tribune published hundreds of articles on the topic [*]: there were lengthy, first-page articles on the uprisings role in the national liberation movement, and there were memories of participants in these events, who had later emigrated to the USA and Canada. This is the only source of information on many episodes of heroic struggle in Macedonia in 1903.

The end of the annual cultural cycle each year was the preparation and realization of MPOs annual congress. As a tradition, it was held on the first weekend of September. First a public manifestation [86] was usually carried out in the town where the congress would be held. Many Macedonian Bulgarians took part in the manifestation dressed up in colorful folk costumes. Often a band of Bulgarian folk music led the manifestation. It played revolutionary hymns and songs from Macedonia. As a rule, during the congress meetings the local MPO offered literary and music performances [87]. Cultural festivities organized by MPO during the congresses became the most popular public performances of Bulgarian emigrants in American and Canadian cultural life. They attracted the attention of Americans and Canadians to the destiny and culture of Macedonian Bulgarians, and they established MPOs authority.

In the late 20s MPO started the formation and establishment of libraries as part of local patriotic organizations. They also became an important element within the common cultural cycle and life rhythm among the emigrants. The bookshop that was a part of the editors office in Macedonian Tribune supplied books. By the middle of the 30s MPO had already established 12 local libraries in different towns in the USA and Canada. The total number of books in the Bulgarian language amounted to more than 3,000 volumes. All issues of the Macedonian Scientific Institute in Sofia were kept there, as well as memories of participants in revolutionary struggle, literary works in Bulgarian, and all published issues of MPOs Central Committee. In this way by World War II MPOs local libraries had turned into an important means of educational work among the emigrants, and a way to preserve its Bulgarian ethnic identity.

Under MPOs leadership Bulgarian national schools [88] were created in five of the Bulgarian Orthodox churches in North America. All teachers in these schools were Bulgarians. They were either specially employed persons, or their functions were performed by the local Bulgarian priest (and sometimes by his wife as well). Textbooks were supplied from Bulgaria until 1956. They were identical to those used in Bulgarian schools [89]. However, after Marxist and Leninist methods were applied in Bulgaria in the 60s, MPO decided to write its own First reader for its schools. These were also published in the Bulgarian language, with the only difference being the lack of Marxist and Leninist context. Lessons in the Bulgarian emigrant schools were held in the childrens free time, when they were not at their American or Canadian school. The central place in the curriculum was taken by lessons in writing and reading in the Bulgarian language, as well as by Bulgarian history, literature, geography and folk art. The aim of Bulgarian emigrant schools was to enrich the childrens knowledge and preserve the spiritual bond with Bulgarians from their mother country [90]. In this way it became possible to keep the new generations interest in national liberation movement in Macedonia. The schools played a significant role in the preservation of Bulgarian cultural traditions within the emigrants family and social life. It also allowed the emigrants to take part in American, Canadian and Australian cultural life as a whole. Thanks to MPOs efforts Bulgarians were integrated within the structures of the new nations until the end of World War II as an element of high culture, with clear and original spiritual understanding that has enriched the civilizations values across the Atlantic.

MPOs success by mid 30s established the organizations authority. There were many examples of respect shown by prominent public figures in the areas of public life, science and administration in the States, Canada and Australia [91]. Truths of the fate of enslaved parts of Macedonia became known in the New World as never before. Results from MPOs activities proved the need for such an organization for progress in national liberation propaganda. Therefore MPO continued to be active on the political scene also in the second half of the 30s.

The third stage in MPOs active life encompasses the period between 1934 and 1945. In this period all initiated forms of work were established in practice. Besides, under the major influence of quickly changing political situations in Europe and the world, MPO was forced to make some temporary corrections in its line of behavior after the War. The amazing economic progress that started in the States with the end of the Great Depression in 1934 offered favorable economic perspectives for the Bulgarian immigration. Most of the Macedonian Bulgarian immigrants in the New World had jobs and god economic conditions for their families. As they did not anymore care for their daily bread in the situation of economic prosperity, this could supply enough funds for MPOs Central Committee. Local organizations gave an annual amount of more than 15,000 US dollars to the Central Committee, and this was a significant sum of money for that time. In 1940 MPOs Central Committee managed to establish again a constant financial fund of 15,000 US dollars. It was placed with a bank with a good interest as a reserve. The total value of MPOs immovable property (the buildings of the so-called popular homes, the organizations clubs, libraries, schools etc) just before World War II amounted to about 200,000 US dollars [92]. The local patriotic organizations often held actions to collect gifts from members. They also gave additional funds to Macedonian Tribune and for other activities. MPOs financial stability influenced the quality of the organizations propaganda material publishing. In 1939 the Central Committee started financing the writing of a special English page in each issue of the newspaper. In 1940 the popular Macedonian Almanac was published in 276 pages of A4 size, with many documents and pictures. In this way more possibilities were used for the popularization of truth about Macedonia among wider circles of American and Canadian society.

When Fascists came to power in Germany, the revisionist tendency to liquidate the Treaties of 1919 appeared as a possible alternative in world politics. As an answer to the new tendencies Bulgarians in Vardar and Aegean Macedonians were subject to greater terror with the aim of not letting them speak again for freedom and democracy. The Constitutional Blocks attempt in Bulgaria to impose the democratic alternative as a good perspective in the countrys development failed. On May 19, 1934 representatives of pro-fascist organizations Military League and the Zveno political circle executed a military coup detat [93]. Political freedoms in Bulgaria were trampled. The militaries denounced the countrys constitution, dissolved all legal political organizations and banned their newspapers. A totalitarian dictatorship was established in the country in the pro-fascist vein.

The new circumstances became the reason for certain changes in the national liberation organizations of Macedonian Bulgarians in Bulgaria. VMRO had to dissolve. Legal emigrant organizations were also banned and could not continue their activities. The attempt to change them with copies of the organizations was unsuccessful. The emigrant organizations leaders and supporters had to wait for better days in order to renew their struggles [94]. In this situation in the late 30s MPO in the States, Canada and Australia remained the only legal emigrant organization of Macedonian Bulgarians that continued to work legally. In fact, it was the only representative of enslaved Bulgarians until and during World War II. All this forced MPOs Central Committee to define and reshape its political line of behavior.

It is a fact that problems within emigrant structures of Macedonian Bulgarians in free Bulgaria had no influence upon MPOs activities and they did not weaken it in any way. In the beginning of World War II MPOs local members increased in numbers. In 1938 MPO had 38 local patriotic organizations in some of the biggest cities in the States and Canada [95]. MPO was the only emigrant organization of Bulgarians that had its influence and relations on three continents.

Although it remained alone, MPO did not change its political strategy. The fact that the Macedonian issue was not settled yet preserved the old aims and demands struggle for Macedonias liberation. MPO did not also change its thesis on the predominant Bulgarian ethnic character in this Balkan province, in spite of the escalating anti-Bulgarian assimilation policy of chauvinist governments in neighboring countries. In the late 30s MPOs Central Committee made changes mainly in its strategy. For the first time in its history the organization pointed its attack against authoritarian governments in Bulgaria after the military coup detat [96]. Two major accusations were turned against these governments that their policy created difficulties in legal emigrant organizations activities of Macedonian Bulgarians on the territory of free Bulgaria, and that the course of good relations with Yugoslavia demobilized and confused the local population.

MPO realized that restrictions on the part of the authoritarian regime after May 1934 were hard to follow also for the free part of Bulgarians. Therefore the organization expressed many times its solidarity with the fighting democratic opposition. They publicly rebuked Kimon Georgiev, Georgi Kyoseivanov, and rarely King Boris III. In brochures, resolutions of protest and personal letters to people of authority in Sofia MPO insisted that the replacement parties and organizations would be dissolved. They also asked for amnesty for persecuted leaders and members of former revolutionary structures. MPOs opinion was that Bulgaria should carry out active political measures in defense of unrecognized rights of enslaved Bulgarians [97]. In this way MPO contributed to exposing the evils of pro-fascist forces in Bulgaria before democratic public opinion in America, Europe and Australia.

This strategy was active from 1934 to the end of 1940. After World War II began, MPO gradually left elements of confrontation with the government in Sofia. In the spring of 1941 the emigrant organization congratulated Bulgarias efforts to free Macedonia, and made known the constructive state policy of Bulgarian administration in Vardar until 1944. However, we must emphasize the fact that in the period of MPOs greatest opposition against new ideas for Bulgarias policy on the Balkans it preserved the opinion that the major responsibility for the Bulgarians intolerable destiny in Vardar and Aegean Macedonia (until April 1941) did not lie with Bulgaria. It lied with the countries that became the authors of the unjust peace treaties and their warrantees in Macedonia, the governments in Athens and Belgrade. The government in Sofia was mainly accused of carrying out an inconstant and ineffective policy, especially for the protection of Bulgarians interests in Macedonia.

This detail in the Central Committees evaluation must be emphasized because under its influence some changes were made in the existing strategy, followed by MPOs Central Committee in relation to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in the New World.

By taking into account the unquestionable progress of Bulgarian emigrant community across the Atlantic, in 1937 the Bulgarian Orthodox Churchs Holy Synod decided to place the Bulgarian national clerical structure in the New World higher in hierarchy. In compliance with the Exarchate Chart, an agreement was reached with the American government that Bulgarian Orthodox parishes are united into an independent Bulgarian Orthodox Bishopric. Bishop Andrey Velichky stood at the head of the new bishopric.

The formation of the first Bulgarian Orthodox Bishopric in America was a positive step toward the establishing of order in the emigrants spiritual life according to the clerical chart and requirements of traditions and canons of faith. The authority of East Orthodox religion became greater. There were more possibilities to establish active relations between Bulgarian emigrants and the rest of the colorful religious communities in America. Bulgarian interests in the USA and Canada required all emigrant organizations cooperation for the progress in authority of the new spiritual leader. Under the influence of the governments policy of close relations with Yugoslavia MPOs Central Committee made the choice to confront the Bishop [98]. They attempted to put pressure upon Sofias government, in order to suggest corrections in its policy concerning legal organizations of Macedonian Bulgarians in the kingdom. In this case however MPOs Central Committee overvalued its influence upon the Bulgarian governments behavior. The conflict with Bishop Andrey had no influence upon Bulgarian-American political relations. The Central Committees inability to make him leave his office, the support the bishop received from parts of the emigration, and especially the important changes in Macedonia after April 1941 made the conflict pointless. In 1942 MPO finally put an end to the conflict. The central place on its propaganda and political activity was taken again by the major issue to clear the essence of the positive state policy realized by the Bulgarian administration in Vardar Macedonia during the second Bulgarian rule there until September 1944 [99].

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66 Ibidem.

67 1940, . 273, 276, 277: , . 181, 44 1930.

68 , . , . 11 .

69 , . 162, 13 1930.

70 , .199, 4 . 1930.

71 . . 77, 26 1928.

72 1928 . , , , , . . , , , 1928.

73 , . 160, 26 . 27 1930.

74 , . 160, 26 . 1930.

75 , . 160,26 . 1930.

76 1940, . 283.

77 , . , , , 1938.

78 , . 638, 11 1939.

79 , . 164, 27 1930.

80 , . 117, 26 ; . 184, 14 . 1930.

81 , . 184, 14 . 1930.

82 1940, . 225.

83 1930 1931, . 25.

84 Mitev, Tr. The role of the MPO in Confronting the Holiday of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in North America Macedonian Tribune, vol. 63, 3046.

85 , . 690, 4 1940.

* Each year on 2 August Makedonska Tribuna newspaper issues a special copy, dedicated to the anniversary of the rebellion.

86 1940, . 239, 267.

87 , 240 241.

88 1940, . 238, 251.

89 , . . . 1855, 22 . 1906 . / , , , 1917/

90 , . 5, 10 1927.

91 1940, . 225, 228.

92 1939 1940, , 1940, . 17.

93 , . , . ., 1970, . 39 .

94 , . . 189 .

95 1939 1940, . 10 .

96 , . , . 240 .

97 , . 386, 12 ; . 388, 26 1934.

98 , . . , . 591, 16 1938.

99 , . , . 348 .