Спомени. II. Освободителна борба 1924 - 1934 г.
THE MEMOIRS OF IVAN MIHAILOFF
The present book is the third volume of Mihailoffs memoirs. The first one was published in 1958 under the title of Spomeni-I, Mladini (Memoirs-I, Early Life), while the second volume Spomeni-II (1919-1924), appeared in 1965. The contents of the three volumes can be briefly summarized as follows :
In the first book, «Early Life», the author describes the events occurring during the period of 1900-1912, when the IMRO (International Macedonian Revolutionary Organization) was for him a mysterious phenomenon. From the brief descriptions of incidents and persons in his native city, one gets the impression that the people there were organizing in mass, mainly the Bulgarians ; their common thrilling hope to attain their liberation from the Turkish yoke ; their readiness to give sacrifices, suggesting a messianic faith in victory.
Then the author describes his life in Bulgaria not only as an emigrant in 1907, but also as a student in the pro-gymnazia. There he joined his father who had managed to elude the Turkish police and escape to Bulgaria as a result of a revolutionary outrage.
In 1908, however, the Young Turks deposed Sultan Abdul Hamid and proclaimed a constitutional government. As a consequence, a great number of the emigrants left Bulgaria and returned to Macedonia. The IMROs illegal armed units had also descended from the hiding places in the mountains. Christians and Moslems were celebrating throughout Macedonia. But these festivities were soon darkened. The new Turkish regime had launched a policy of disarming the Bulgarian population, accompanied with frightful abuses and beatings. The IMRO again appeared on the scene and swearing the people to carry on the revolutionary struggle ; as a result a series of outrages occurred in the country.
After the defeat of the Turkish army, the author vividly describes not only the arrival of the Bulgarian troops in Salonika in 1912, but also the cooling off of relations between Bulgarians and Greeks. A gloomy frame of mind began to overcome the Bulgarian population, not only because in the largest part of Macedonia there was established Serbian and Greek rule, but also because it was accompanied with violence and persecution of everything that was Bulgarian, while the Bulgarian army was in Thrace engaged in battle against the Turks.
In 1915 Serbia was defeated and the arrival of the Bulgarian army was immensely acclaimed by the population. In 1918, however, the Serbian authority was restored. The author again took refuge in Bulgaria where he came in contact with his fellow-citizen, Todor Alexandroff, a well-known IMRO leader since the Turkish regime in the country.
The second volume of Mihailoffs memoirs deals with the renewal of the IMROs fight against the new Serbian and Greek regimes in Macedonia from 1919 to 1924. It describes the following topics :
1. The authors participation in organizing the Bulgarian students and young people from Macedonia living in Sofia.
2. The organization of the Macedonian (Bulgarian) emigration in Bulgaria. The appearance among the emigration there of an opposition leaning on the support of Stamboliskis Bulgarian regime or the Bulgarian Communist Party.
3. A brief reference is given to the attempt made in 1919 for granting of autonomy to Macedonia after the first World War.
This attempt for autonomy of Macedonia, supported by the United States, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan was frustrated only by the French diplomacy. The author quotes statements given by the British Labor Party, as well as those of influential statesmen and politicians, in favor of an independent Macedonian state. He also quotes Winston Churchill, Lloyd George, and other prominent persons in favor of the Bulgarian population in Macedonia.
4. Follows description of the oppressive regimes established by Serbia (Yugoslavia) and Greece in parts of Macedonia which they occupy. In order to compare this situation with that of the Turkish regime prior to 1912, the author gives factual information about the first Serbian-Greek regime which lasted only three years, 1912 tot 1915. And in support of his discussion, the author quotes data from the well-known Report of the Carnegie International Commission To Inquire on the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars (Published in Washington, D.C., 1914), and also from other sources. The impossibility to carry on a legal civic fight for elementary human rights, the IMRO was compelled then, as it was after 1919, to again resort to arms. The Bulgarian and Romanian population in the country is forcibly subjected to denationalization by the Serbian and Greek so-called Christian authorities.
Several episodes of the revolutionary fight are described. Of the most significant incidents, the author alludes to and gives precise information about the sensational resistance of thousands of Bulgarian recruits who had been brought to Kraguyevets, a city in the heart of Serbia, where they refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Serbian king ; their refusal gave rise to an affray between the young Bulgarian soldiers and the Serbian officers, while the gathered crowd of people and the Serbian priests fled in panic.
The author gives further details about the slaughter by Greek officers of harmless Bulgarian peasants in the village of Terlis, in order to spread terror and force the Bulgarian population to leave its century-old homes and flee to Bulgaria. For this cruelty, Greece has been found guilty by an investigating commission of the League of Nations. Examples of such mass slaughters of Bulgarians by the Serbian authorities are also cited. The names of 2,528 innocent Bulgarians, Turks, and Albanians killed by the Serbian authorities and other numerous cases of violence are detailed.
5. Follows a characterization of the great organizer and fighter for a free and independent Macedonia, Todor Alexandroff, who, after 1919, for the third time had reconstituted the IMRO against foreign oppression.
6. Then the author gives information about different situations concerning the Macedonian fight for freedom ; makes reference to the comments and the admission of Serbian and Greek newspapers about their respective bad regimes in Macedonia ; describes the situation of other nationalities in Macedonia ; he points out the position of Yugoslavia, Romania, and Greece defending the treaties of peace concluded in Paris ; calls attention to the failure of these countries to put in force the provisions of the peace treaties for the protection of minority rights, and comments of the European and American press in favor of Macedonia, and so on.
7. A number of pages of this book are devoted to the fight which the Macedonian liberation movement had to carry on with Alexander Stamboliskis Bulgarian government.
The author describes the confusion which had occurred in Bulgaria as a result of her defeat in the first World War ; the obstacles created by Stamboliskis regime against the Macedonian liberation movement ; the resulting bloody conflicts in the country ; the occupation of the city of Kustendil by armed IMRO units coming from Macedonia in 1922, because of the reign of terror and even crime committed by official authorities ; the city of Nevrokop was also occupied by IMROs militia ;
a bomb was released against members of Stamboliskis cabinet who were attending the performance in the National Theater in Sofia.
The authorities had dissolved all legal organizations of the Macedonian emigration in Bulgaria which numbered at that time nearly 650,000 people. The government organized special armed bands and dispatched them into Macedonia to find and kill Todor Alexandroff, but they were repulsed by IMROs militia.
In its fight against the Macedonian liberation movement, the Bulgarian authorities engaged in their service Todor Panitza, who was not only condemned to death by the IMRO, but also was sentenced by the same authorities for his unlawful enriching during the war. The armed bands sent into Macedonia under Panitzas command were decimated by the IMRO.
8. The coup detat of June 9, 1923, performed by the army in Bulgaria, overthrew Stamboliski from power. The author gives information on IMROs attitude during this revolt ; he emphatically states that Alexander Stamboliski was not killed by any order of the IMRO.
9. Follow a number of pages evaluating the Macedonian liberation movement for its conflict with Stamboliskis administration. The author cites from the British Encyclopedia according to which Stamboliskis government had used semi-Bolshevist methods. Mentioned are also confessions of prominent leaders of the Peasants Party who readily admit that Stamboliskis government had failed to define itself whether it represented a lawful or revolutionary administration.
10. In regards to the Macedonian liberation movement there were obstacles created not only by Bulgarian official factors, but also by Bolshevist intrigues, a detailed explanation is given by IMROs Central Committee and signed by Todor Alexandroff and Alexander Protogeroff.
11. A number of appendices are also added to this volume. There is also a list not only of noted revolutionary workers, but also a list of names of Macedonians in the United States and Canada who have donated for the publication not only of this book but also of the above mentioned first volume. The book contains also the portraits of several illegal fighters ; among them is the photograph of Vlado Tchernozemski surrounded by his comrades of illegal fighters ; he was the man who, ten years later, in 1934, killed King Alexander of Yugoslavia in Marseilles, France. A photograph of Todor Alexandroff is also reproduced.
The third volume, which is the present one, covers the period of 1924 to 1934 and deals with the following topics :
1. That the Slavic population in Macedonia is Bulgarian. To substantuate this truth, the author quotes from the works of leading foreign Balkan authorities well familiar with this period of Macedonias liberation struggle.
The Serbian and the Greek authorities, to justify their conquest, were spreading propaganda declaring that the population in Macedonia is either Serbian or Greek. IMROs fight was justified even if it was only safeguarding the local population from the menace of denationlization, more particularly the Bulgarians and the Romanians.
2. Detailed information is given concerning the murder of Todor Alexandroff, committed on August 31, 1924, as a result of a Communist and Bulgarian chauvinist conspiracy. The documents contained in this book indicate that the biggest blame for the commission of this crime was on Alexander Protogeroff, a member of the Central Committee of the IMRO.
The author gives detailed information on how the IMRO, even the entire Macedonian liberation movement, was saved after Todor Alexandroffs murder. He also quotes a number of comments on the personality and work of Todor Alexandroff.
3. The author describes IMROs punishment of some Macedonian traitors who
had sold themselves either to the Bolshevik game or that of the Serbian police ; found guilty and executed were : in Milan, Italy, Peter Chaouleff ; in Bitola, Macedonia, the Serbian agent Spass Hadji Popovich ; in Shtip, Macedonia, the renegade Stoyan Misheff ; in the district of Maleshevsko, Macedonia, the renegade Elia Pandurski ; in Vienna, Austria, Todor Panitza who was simultaneously an agent of the Bolsheviks, the Serbian and the Greek authorities. He was shot and mortally killed, while attending the performance of Ibsens «Peer Gynt» at the Burgtheater, by Mentcha Karnicheva who later married Ivan Mihailoff. Mentchas personal recollections are also incorporated in this volume. As a result of the incident at the Burgtheater, the foreign press turned its attention to the Macedonian question. Excerpts from the court proceedings during Mentchas trial in Vienna are also contained in this book.
4. Yugoslavia, or rather Belgrade, had no intention of allowing in the country either a legal fight or the application of the treaty provisions for the protection of the national minorities. The only means left for safeguarding against the spiritual, physical, and historical existence of the people was that of the resort to arms.
In the center of Skopie, in broad daylight, Mara Buneva, a well-educated and patriotic young lady, shot and killed Velimir Prelich, the legal counselor of the Serbian governor of Skopie district ; she committed suicide on the spot. Prelich had distinguished himself for atrociously torturing the arrested Bulgarian students, who were secretly organized to resist the Serbian policy of denationalization.
In the city of Shtip, the Serbian General Kovachevich was shot and killed. As a result of this case, much fuss was raised by the Serbian press. Even for several days afterward the world-wide press had commented about this event.
In Belgrade, in his office at the ministry of interior, Jika Lazich, the chief of police, was shot and wounded. The assailant was Ivan Momchiloff whom Lazich had sent to kill Ivan Mihailoff. Momchiloff succeeded in convincing his Belgrade friends that he really had carried out the order ; the Serbian high authorities thus entrusted Momchiloff with greater confidence which gave him an opportunity to punish the head of the Serbian police. Immediately after his attempt to liquidate Lazich, Momchiloff committed suicide, but his victim somehow recovered. This event created a great impression throughout the country.
Reference is also made to series of attempts on trains in Serbia, and even in Belgrade. The IMRO had transferred the fight to the oppressors fatherland itself.
5. The author gives a detailed information about the situation of the so-called «Western Outskirts», that is, the Bulgarian districts of Tsaribrod and Bosilegrad, which Yugoslavia had annexed after the first World War. Because of Belgrades policy to «Serbianize» the Bulgarian population, there, too, an anti-Serbian revolutionary fight had started.
6. Details are also given about series of skirmishes between IMROs armed units and Serbian gendarms and regular troops ; also series of court trials usually of innocent people which the oppressors had accused of complicity with the revolutionary organization — IMRO. Comments of the foreign press on these skirmishes are also quoted.
7. A special section of the book deals with series of problems in connection with the Macedonian liberation movement. For example :
a) The author quotes the opinions of European and American newspapers, of noted statesmen and politicians, who are justifying the revolutionary struggle in Macedonia ;
b) An example is given on the «qualities of the Serbian propaganda» ;
c) It briefly points out the attitude of some of the Great Powers toward the Macedonian question during the period considered by this book ;
d) Brief reference is made of IMROs political stand, its declarations in congresses, statements made by its leaders, and articles published in its official organ on topics such as :
1) IMROs legal activities ;
2) The rapprochement between Croatian leaders and those of the Macedonian movement;
3) In Bulgaria Ivan Mihailoff was sued in court and acquitted ;
4) Fear from IMROs actions are overcoming the Serbian state officials ;
5) The Bulgarian free public opinion and the Macedonian question ;
6) Serbian attempts to murder members of IMROs Central Committee ;
7) The congress of IMRO, and so on.
* * *
The three volumes of Ivan Mihailoffs memoirs published so far deal, to a great extent, with the history of the Macedonian liberation movement after the Turkish regime of the country. And for the period of Turkeys domination of Macedonia, there is a history written by Hristo Silianoff, who had himself participated in the then revolutionary fight.
It is needless to state here that, under the Turkish regime the various nationalities in Macedonia were not deprived of their national character. They had and enjoyed their own schools and churches with their own teachers and priests, and also their own national cultural associations and publications. But with the arrival of the Serbian and Greek authorities in the country, they closed the schools and churches of the Bulgarian and Romanian population ; the publication of their books and newspapers were suspended ; even the names of the people were changed to Serbian or Greek terminations. And not in vain did the oppressed population begin to recall with deep regret the more or less benevolent Turkish regime from the very moment of the arrival of the Serbian and Greek army in Macedonia.
* * *
Ivan Mihailoff, the author of this book, was born in Novo-Selo, near the city of Shtip in central Macedonia, now under Yugoslav rule. He completed the Bulgarian pro-Gymnazia school in Shtip. Studied one year in the Turkish school in his native town, and later attended for three years the Bulgarian Real Gymnazia in Salonika. After this city fell under Greek rule, he was compelled to enroll in the Serbian Gymnazia in Skopie from which he graduated.
After 1919, he studied law at the University of Sofia, but soon he devoted his time and energy to work in the Macedonian liberation movement ; and since the end of the first World War to the present he is always among its workers. He was president of the Macedonian students society at the University of Sofia. After 1921, when the Bulgarian government launched a policy against the Macedonian movement, Mihailoff went underground in Bulgaria. At the beginning of 1925, he was elected as a member of the Central Committee of the IMRO ; after this he was twice re-elected as a member of IMROs Central Committee.
Besides the three volumes of his memoirs already published, and the fourth still in manuscript form, Mihailoff has written and published the following works : Macedonia : A Switzerland of the Balkans (1953) ; Stalin and the Macedonian Question (1948) ; Po Trnlivia Pat Na Makedonskoto Osvoboditelno Delo, 1939 (By the Thorny Road of the Macedonian Liberation Work) ; The IMRO ; The Coup d'Etat of the 19th of May, 1934 and Macedonian Movement. Some of these works have been translated into English.
In addition to this he has written a number of brochures, one of which, «Macedonias Rise for Freedom in 1903», is translated into English. Mihailoff has also written hundreds of articles published in the Bulgarian or foreign languages ; most of them under an assumed name.
Ivan Mihailoff does not necessarily master any foreign language, but he speaks fluently enough five or six languages in addition to his mother tongue. If he had not devoted himself to his basic duty in working for the liberation of his fatherland, he would have preferred to devote his time in the pursuits of his favorite subjects : history, law, and literature.
He has never deviated from his political conviction that Macedonia, which is now divided, must be united as an independent state so that its inhabitants may live in freedom ; and also to put an end to the existing discord among the Balkan states. A united and free Macedonian state patterned after that of Switzerland, would serve as a bridge for an eventual Balkan rapprochement.
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