Macedonia: What Went Wrong in the Last 200 Years - Part V - The Young Turk Uprising and the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913
Macedonia: What Went Wrong in the Last 200 Years
Part V - The Young Turk Uprising and the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913
by Risto Stefov email@example.com
click here for a printable version
In the previous article (part IV) I covered the 1903 Ilinden uprising aftermath and the interference IMRO received from Greece and Bulgaria.
In this article (part V) I will cover the Young Turk uprising and finish with the Balkan wars of 1912-1913.
The Murszteg Reform Program was the last hope for the Super Powers to salvage the Ottoman Empire in Macedonia. While the Murszteg Reform Program proved fruitless for the Macedonians, it raised hopes for Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia.
Item 3 of the Murszteg Reform Program, which stated “as soon as the rebellion is put down, the Super Powers would demand an administrative reorganization of the Macedonian territory based on nationalities”, caught the eye of the Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian protagonists.
It was well known that there were no Greek, Bulgarian or Serbian nationalities living in Macedonia but that did not stop the new Balkan States from inventing some. The wheels of the protagonists were turning when they attempted to kill two birds with one stone by cleverly substituting “nationality” for “religious affiliation”. By the end of the 19th century, the Christian Millet of Ottoman Macedonia was already divided into two millets (the Greek Patriarchist Millet and the Bulgarian Exarchist Millet). First, since there was no Macedonian Millet there was no “governing body” to represent a Macedonian religious denomination. Second, since all Christians in Macedonia already belonged to one millet or another, it was easy to make “nationality” claims on behalf of “religious affiliation”. In modern terms, all Macedonians that belonged to the Patriarchist fold were considered to be Greek by nationality. Similarly, all those Macedonians that belonged to the Exarchist fold were considered to be Bulgarian by nationality. By introducing Serbian Churches and Schools, Serbia later used similar tactics to claim the existence of a Serbian nationality inside Macedonia.
All Macedonians that belonged to the Patriarchist church were given Greek or “Hellenized” names. Similarly, all Macedonians that belonged to the Exarchist church were given Bulgarian names. In many instances brothers born from the same mother and father were given different last names because they happened to go to different churches. Their choice of church had nothing to do with loyalty to one faction or the other, but rather with the church’s location relative to home. Each brother attended the church nearest to his house as he had always done for many years before. The sad part was that now with every spoonful of religion came a dose of venomous propaganda. Brother was pitted against brother, one fighting for “Hellenism” and the other for “Bulgarism”.
At the beginning of the Ilinden rebellion most Macedonian villages belonged to the Exarchate Church. With increased Greek activities through Karavangelis and others like him however, the tide was turning. The Greek success was mainly due to the Turkish-Greek alliance and the Turkish militia’s assistance. The Macedonian people were frightened to a point where they were willing to do anything to escape further punishment.
The alliance, which gave the Greeks the upper hand, did not go unnoticed by the Bulgarians. British fears of a Turkish-Bulgarian war were alleviated when Bulgaria on April 8th, 1904 signed a peace agreement with Turkey. Bulgaria promised to reduce subversive actions in Macedonia in exchange for Turkish promises to implement the Murzsteg Reform Program and to extend it to the Endrene (Macedonian Dardanelles) region. Russia was not too happy about the agreement especially since Bulgaria herself was beginning to make moves towards Endrene. Being of strategic importance, Russia was hoping to eventually annex Endrene for herself.
The prospect of declining Bulgarian intrusions inside Macedonia was welcome news for Karavangelis. The Greeks could now import fighters from Crete to fight the Macedonian Cheti side by side with their Turkish allies, without Bulgarian interference. Unfortunately, while they reduced military intrusions, the Bulgarians stepped up Exarchist activities creating stiff competition for the Greeks. The clergy on both sides were going after the same flock as both sides appointed themselves protectors and guardians of the people. In the eyes of the world, they became ambassadors of the Christian flock in Macedonia. This competition to attract parishioners created friction between the opposing factions. Friction turned to violence in villages where both groups existed and fought for control over the village church. The Turks were indifferent to the squabbling due to its religious nature, and remained neutral in church disputes. When fights erupted, the Turks padlocked the Church so neither group could use it. As competition for control of the village churches intensified so did brigand warfare.
Local squabbling never went unnoticed and both Patriarchists and Exarchists sent their hatchet men to eliminate the so-called “troublemakers”. Many priests, teachers, notables and community leaders lost their lives this way.
The Western Powers had little faith in the Turks and their old Ottoman conservative Islamic values but preferred the status quo maintained in Macedonia. There were two factors at play that hindered the Powers from taking action. The first was the lucrative Ottoman import-export markets upon which the Ottoman consumer was dependent for a variety of goods, and a moneymaking venture for the Western Capitalists which they did not want to lose. The second was the power struggle between the Super Powers themselves over Balkan domination. The Powers were locked in a diplomatic embrace where none could freely maneuver without upsetting the others. Each of the Super Powers knew that a sudden or massive shift in any one’s policies would result in an engagement that would involve all of them. No one wanted a “world war” on their hands.
Britain at one point contemplated creating an Autonomous Macedonia but knew that Russia and Austria would be against it. “It was fortunate for Greece at this juncture that Lansdowne’s plans foundered in a sea of European politics and that both Russia and Austria opposed Macedonian autonomy”. (page 152, Dakin, The Greek Struggle in Macedonia 1897-1913). This is an important fact for ALL to know which goes contrary to “Greek propaganda” that no Macedonians existed before 1945. Here is documented proof that a Macedonian nation did exist prior to the 19th century and came very close to achieving independence. The Ilinden rebellion was ALL about Macedonia and about Macedonians asserting their desire to live as equals in the world. The Super Powers, especially Britain and Russia, owe it to the Macedonian people to come clean and put an end to the incessant “Greek propaganda”. It no longer makes any sense to keep the Macedonian people from taking their rightful place in the world. They are certainly not a threat to anyone. Those that committed crimes against the Macedonian people and continue to deny their existence obviously have a problem. But why punish the victims for being victims?
The Western powers were not happy with the way Turkey was dealing with the reforms in Macedonia but at the same time they could not agree among themselves about finding a viable solution. The Ilinden uprising was a wakeup call of how urgently reforms were needed.
“During the later part of the C19th new social forces had emerged within Turkey. Given the conditions of absolutism within the Empire, the emergence of liberalism seemed inevitable. This new creed took the form of political agitation, calling for a broad spectrum of reforms. It was headed by an embryonic Turkish bourgeoisie, and supported by an European-educated intelligentsia”. (page 125, Radin, IMRO and the Macedonian Question).
The Young Turk movement had been active for at least thirty years, ever since Turkish students were allowed to attend European schools on mass. Among other things, the Young Turks were in favour of granting self-government to Macedonia, Thrace and Albania and believed that the Ottoman Empire could be salvaged via reforms. When the 1903 Ilinden rebellion started many of these European educated students had already joined the ranks of the Turkish military as junior officers. The atrocities committed and the methods used in dealing with the rebels during the Ilinden aftermath however, went against these young men’s principles and many deserted the Turkish army. Some joined Albanian roving bands in hopes of eliciting their assistance to form opposition against the Sultan. Some attempted to establish contacts with IMRO in hopes that IMRO too would join them to rise against the Sultan.
By 1905, the Young Turks organized under the banner of “Union and Progress” and established themselves in Solun away from the grasp of the Sultan in Tsari Grad (Constantinople). It was not too long before they gained some measure of control over the local Turkish army, especially in Macedonia. It was not difficult to convince soldiers serving in Macedonia that anything was better than killing and murdering women and children.
After observing the actions of the Young Turks, the IMRO leadership was convinced that it was better to work with them than against them. The Young Turks also offered self-government and significant agrarian reforms, if they gained power, which was attractive to most IMRO leaders. Dame Gruev and Nikola Karev were already dead which left the IMRO helm in the hands of Gjorce Petrov who favoured a policy of urban-led insurrection. Popularity and the strength of the rebellion however, lay in the hands of the legendary Yane Sandanski who was in favour of supporting the Young Turk regime, especially their prospective agrarian reform programs.
The actions of the Young Turks did not go unnoticed by the Sultan who complained to the Super Powers but did not receive an immediate reaction. The coup d’etat did not materialize until “rising star” Enver Beg from Albania was summoned to Tsari Grad to receive a military promotion from the Sultan. Fearing it was an assassination attempt, Enver Beg and his followers fled to the mountains and called for the revolution to begin.
The rebellion first materialized in the larger cities in the form of demonstrations. On June 22nd, 1908, Solun alone drew over 20,000 protesters. By July 3rd, the Young Turk officers took control over most of the Sultan’s forces and by July 22nd all of Macedonia was free.
True to their word, the Young Turks released all political prisoners and began to work on reforms. Their first act was to send the Sultan an ultimatum to re-instate the 1876 Constitution. Being in no position to resist, Sultan Abdul Hamid II reluctantly obliged. As soon as the constitution was re-instated, amnesty was proclaimed for all those under arms including the Cheti and all foreign bands. The Macedonians, Serbians and Bulgarians took advantage of the amnesty and came down from the mountains and surrendered their arms. The Greeks who had the most to lose were at first hesitant but warmed up to the idea. They had dreams that they might re-claim their former glory in the Phanar.
As it turned out however, the Young Turks were very suspicious of the Greeks and watched them with caution. The Greek dream to rule from the Phanar did not materialize.
In time, by deactivating and expelling armed bands, the Young Turk regime brought some stability to Macedonia.
The Young Turk regime, headquartered in Solun, survived unobstructed for over six months. Then, with support from Yane Sandanki’s Cheta, the Young Turks attacked and successfully took Tsari Grad. Unfortunately, by now it was becoming evident that the Young Turk regime was too dependent on the Turkish establishment and bureaucracy for its survival. As a result, it had to subordinate most of its reform programs to safeguard its own power. In actual fact after all this time in power, the Young Turk regime did very little to alleviate the social and economic problems in the Macedonian villages.
To prompt the Young Turks to deliver on their promises, Sandanski had a plan of his own. He proposed that in exchange for IMRO’s help, the Young Turks were required to redistribute much needed land in favour of the poor (landless) Macedonians. Additionally, to ensure the land reforms were put in place according to agreements, Sandanski requested that he personally be given the task of organizing a peasant militia to supervise the implementation. Unfortunately, while Sandaski’s proposals were widely accepted by the Macedonian peasants, they attracted negative attention abroad. The first to complain were the Greeks as follows; “The consequences of Sandanski’s plan, as unfortunately confirmed by events, would be terrible (for us). Unless something else, like a war, or an agreement between the European Powers, settles the Macedonian question in our favour, it is my opinion that there can be no doubt that settlement of the agrarian question would create possibilities for the final settlement of the Macedonian question...”. (page 127, Radin, IMRO and the Macedonian Question).
Sandanski’s move for cooperation with the Young Turks was a radical departure from IMRO’s policies (seizure of power by revolutionary means). To take advantage of the new situation and stay on course, IMRO created an offshoot branch dubbed the “National (or Peoples’) Federative Party”(NFP). The NFP was officially launched in early 1909 and worked with (pressured) the Young Turk regime to develop a quasi-parliamentary system and to preserve the national and territorial integrity of Macedonia within an Ottoman Federation.
By the time the NFP was organized and ready to deal with the issues at hand, the Young Turk regime was losing momentum and stagnating. By now it was obvious to IMRO that without “grass roots” support from the Turkish establishment, the regime was fighting a losing battle. Its rise to power resulted from a coup and the regime itself was no more than a “dictatorship”.
The Young Turk regime was a “Western backed idea”, an “alternate solution” to a problem with no end. The majority of IMRO leaders could no longer agree to provide continued support and were contemplating breaking off relations with the Young Turks. To make matters worse, a class struggle (socialism) was brewing in Europe causing unrest between the rich and the poor and dividing people along class lines. The so-called “religious wars” between the Patriarchists and Exarchists were also having their effects, further dividing IMRO and the Macedonian people.
By 1910, armed propaganda in Macedonia was replaced by Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian “Political Clubs” which continually worked against NFP agendas and the NFP leaders.
While Russia was having mixed feelings about the Young Turk regime, the European powers, especially Britain who through intrigue created the regime, were relieved to be rid of the old reform programs. Britain approved of the cooperation between NFP and the Young Turks which caused further fracturing between the NFP (who wanted to create an autonomous Macedonia inside an Ottoman Federation), and “grass roots” IMRO (who wanted independence by armed rebellion). Unfortunately, the Young Turk regime with all its promises did not meet expectations and reverted to the old Turkish way of rule. To stave off coup attempts by extremist factions, the Young Turk regime resorted to dictatorial rule in place of fostering liberal programs. This clampdown manifested itself in a number of repressive laws in Macedonia including the laws on strikes, political associations and armed bands. This policy reversal again destabilized Macedonian society by bringing back the old oppressive political climate. The NFP and all other political, cultural and professional organizations were effectively banned, forcing IMRO to go underground. The Macedonian people in the meantime were thrown back into anarchy and things went downhill from there on.
The Young Turk regime predicted its own demise and to save itself, between 1910 and 1911, it re-settled almost a quarter of a million Turks in Macedonia as it hoped to maintain control of Macedonia if it was ejected from Tsari Grad. Faced with several fronts however, including the Albanian revolution in 1909-1912, the Italian-Turkish war in Libya in 1911, domestic opposition, the resurgence of armed bands, and finally the Sultan’s new loyal army. The Young Turk regime could no longer maintain a hold on power and on July 13, 1912, capitulated to the Sultan.
In the meantime the Super Powers were locked in a struggle of their own where none could maneuver without upsetting the delicate balance of the status quo. While the Super Powers were held in balance by their own political vices, the new Balkan nations were flexing their economic and military muscles. Alliances like the Serbian-Bulgarian league against Greek-Turkish collusion or the Greek-Rumanian league against Bulgarian aims at Macedonia came and went. On the surface it seemed that everything was normal but deep inside a rift was starting to develop.
The rift became apparent when Russian-Austrian relations began to seriously cool. Dividing lines were drawn as Russia began to warm up to Britain and France while Austria began to warm up to Germany. Italy remained neutral for a while and took a few shots at Turkey but was prohibited (by the other powers) from attacking the centers of Turkish power. (It was through these campaigns that Italy occupied the Dodecanese).
Even though Italy was restrained from further campaigns, it weakened Turkey enough for the three new Balkan States to consider campaigns of their own.
Italy’s actions were also a sign of things to come and created an atmosphere of urgency for the new states to expedite their own plans for territorial annexation.
Everyone wanted a piece of Macedonia but no one alone dared stick out his neck to get it. The three wolves of the Balkans with Russian help, realized that each alone could not accomplish what the three could do together. They swallowed their pride, put their differences aside and by the end of 1911 they started negotiations.
As a way of preventing Austrian aspirations in the Balkans, Russia invited the idea of a Serbian-Bulgarian league. Russia had hopes that jointly Serbia and Bulgaria would be able to withstand Austrian advances in Macedonia without her involvement. After getting them to agree to talk, Serbia and Bulgaria listed their terms but could not reach an agreement. Autonomy for Macedonia was one major issue of contention that they could not agree upon. While Sofia supported the idea of autonomy Belgrade opposed it. Finally, for the sake of expediting the negotiations, all parties agreed that the “autonomy question” would be left separate and would be dealt with after the annexation of Macedonia.
Russia made it clear to both parties that they couldn’t invade Macedonia without Russia’s permission and only if Turkey became a threat to the Christian population. In the meantime, Serbia was encouraged to take steps to annex Albania and Kosovo.
A draft Serbian-Bulgarian agreement was reached and signed on March 13th, 1912. Included in the agreement was a crude delineation of prospective boundaries and suggestions that the final boundaries might be settled by force of arms. The Russians also insisted that Tsar Nikolas II would arbitrate any disputes regarding the exact territorial limits.
Even before the Serbian-Bulgarian agreement was finalized, Greece was already having discussions with Bulgaria about negotiating a Greek-Bulgarian agreement. The Greek-Bulgarian negotiations, like the Serbian-Bulgarian negotiations, were conducted in secret known only to the Greek King, Prime Minister Venizelos and their negotiator “The Times” correspondent J. D. Bourchier, an old friend of Venizelos. Like the Serbs, the Greeks had always opposed the idea of Macedonian autonomy but the Bulgarians were unwilling to proceed until Greece agreed to the autonomy. The Greek-Bulgarian treaty was signed on May 30th 1912, both parties promising not to attack one another and to come to each other’s defense should Turkey attack them.
The “Balkan League of Nations” was spawned in June 1912 and shortly after Turkey was given a signed ultimatum bearing the League’s signature, which in short, read “deliver the promised reforms in Macedonia or prepare to be invaded”.
There was much intrigue, agreements, counter agreements and secret deals between the League of Nations (Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia) but from the outset each was determined to exploit any situation that developed, purely for its own gain. “The League of Nations in fact was simply a device for synchronizing a military effort upon the part of the four powers (Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro) who had come to realize that the simplest way to settle the Turkish question, before it was too late and while circumstances were favourable, was to attack Turkey simultaneously and present the European powers with a fait accompli”. (page 440, Dakin, The Greek Struggle in Macedonia 1897-1913). All that remained now was to provoke Turkey into committing an offence against the Christian population and the invasion would become a reality.
Using proven techniques of terrorism to prepare the battleground, Vrhovists, masquerading as IMRO agents, conducted many raids inside Macedonia murdering, raping and plundering villages in hopes that the Macedonian bands would be blamed. When the Turks investigated the disturbances, both Patriarchist and Exarchist authorities corroborated their stories and pinned these acts on the Macedonians.
As expected, the Turks responded swiftly and dealt with the situation in the usual manner. Unfortunately for the Turks, their actions were welcome news to the League’s spies who dispatched them to the European press.
The Turks, in the eyes of the world, committed atrocities against the Christians in Macedonia and something had to be done. It was now up to the Super Powers to decide the course of action.
Along with documents of Turkish atrocities, the foreign press was also receiving well-camouflaged League propaganda. The League had commenced extensive propaganda campaigns against the Turks, detailing every Turkish act for European consumption.
A war was imminent but according to the League’s propaganda, it was a necessary war to “liberate” the enslaved Christians from Turkish oppression. The League, through extensive media campaigns, called on all Christians in Macedonia to join the League and oust the oppressive Turk.
Here is what Yane Sandanski had to say; “We ought to work on the awakening of the consciousness of the Macedonian masses that they are an independent nation...because those who seek to ‘liberate them’... will actually be coming to enslave them...” (page 134, Radin, IMRO and the Macedonian Question).
As I mentioned earlier, the Western Powers had not exhausted the full potential of the Ottoman markets and were unwilling to let the Ottoman regime in Macedonia collapse. At the same time Britain, France, Italy and Russia were greatly concerned about the aggressive attitudes of Germany outside of the Balkans. More importantly, they were concerned with the Turkish regime’s leaning towards a Turkish-German alliance.
When Russia proposed the idea of a “Balkan League of Nations” it was welcome news for Britain, France and Italy. The League was viewed as an anti-German front, a way of ejecting the Ottoman regime from Europe and at the same time, safeguarding (British, French and Italian) interests and expansionary ambitions. The not so obvious Russian motive for sponsoring the League, was to guarantee its own influence in the Balkans perhaps through Serbia, or Bulgaria or both.
On October 18th, 1912 Montenegro declared war on Turkey with the League following suit. The battles that ensued were fought almost entirely on Macedonian soil, once again causing the Macedonians to suffer from someone else’s war.
Russia, the architect of the Balkan League was against a war in 1912 and so were France and Britain. A war at this point might throw off the delicate diplomatic balance and escalate into a “world war”. Russia feared that the half-millennium old Ottoman Empire might not be as easy a target as the League had estimated. Britain and France feared a backlash from Germany and Austria now that Turkey was warming up to them as a prospective ally. To stop the League’s aggressive actions, both Britain and France threatened them with economic sanctions but that was not enough to suppress the appetites of the three hungry Balkan wolves.
The League’s plan was to surround the Turkish army in Macedonia and force it out to Tsari Grad. To everyone’s surprise however, the League won a crushing and unexpected victory in just six weeks. Five Ottoman divisions were surrounded and defeated in two battles in Bitola and Kumanovo. With the exception of Sandanski and a force of 400 Macedonians who fought back and liberated Melnik and Nevrokop, the League received no opposition from the Macedonians. In fact the enthusiasm created by the “liberators” not only helped the League fight harder but also encouraged thousands of Macedonians to enlist in the League’s armies. “A Macedonian Militia force of 14,000 fought under the Bulgarian command in the East. The ‘Volunteer regiment’, directed by IMRO veterans, consisted of a thousand Macedonians, Turks and Albanians. In the Serbian and Greek armies, Macedonian detachments such as the ‘National Guard’ and the ‘Holy Band’, were given the task of encircling the Turks to fight their retreat.” (page 143, Radin, IMRO and the Macedonian Question). Even Chakalarov, the protector of the Lerin and Kostur regions, joined the fight to help the League get rid of the Turks. The League’s victories and intense propaganda were so convincing that the entire Macedonian nation welcomed the “liberators” with open arms.
The moment the three wolves evicted the Turkish army from Macedonia, they quickly worked out a partitioning strategy along the following lines;
Serbia was to receive the northwestern portion of Macedonia, which included Skopje, Bitola, south to the west of Lerin, east to Gevgelija and west to the Albanian Mountains.
Bulgaria was to receive all of Thrace, west to Gevgelija, south to the Aegean Sea and east from Solun.
Greece was to receive north to Lerin, west to the Albanian Mountains, all of Epirus and east to Solun. “To ensure their hegemony and quell any dissent, the occupying forces set up the apparatus of government and, by legislative decrees, extended their own constitutions to these new bodies, from which Macedonians were absent. Indeed, in many provincial centres, such as Gevgelija, a double or triple condominium was established, much to the detriment of the Macedonian citizens” (page 143, Radin, IMRO and the Macedonian Question).
In view of the Macedonian contribution to the League’s success in evicting the Turks, in December 12th, 1912, Sandanski called for Macedonian autonomy. The League’s occupying armies however, refused to budge and initiated a violent assimilation program. The Macedonian fighters that fought side by side with the League’s armies found themselves policed by a joint League command ensuring that no resistance or independent action would arise. The League also pursued Sandanski and his men but Sandanski resisted and stayed active in the Pirin Region until his assassination in 1915 by Bulgarian agents.
The changing conditions inside Macedonia forced the IMRO leadership to seek refuge in foreign cities away from home. Some of the more prominent leaders moved to St. Petersburg and joined the Macedonian community living there. This small group of Macedonians consistently lobbied for Macedonian Statehood and in the war’s aftermath, acted as a government in exile. The most outspoken advocate of the Macedonian leaders was Dimitar Chupovski who published the “Macedonian Voice” and continuously protested to the Super Powers against Macedonia’s partition. In June 1913 he wrote; “The division of Macedonia among the brother nations is the most unjust act in the history of these nations – it is trampling on the rights of man, and a disgrace for the entire Slav race.”. (page 145, Radin, IMRO and the Macedonian Question). In total, eleven issues of “Macedonian Voice” were published and distributed all over Europe.
“A great terror reigns in Macedonia now. The ‘freedom’ of the allies has no frontiers, no-one from Macedonia has the right to travel outside, to protest or complain before the European states. Whoever disturbs this order is either killed or imprisoned. The allies surround Macedonia with a Chinese Wall...” (page 145, Radin, IMRO and the Macedonian Question).
The Macedonian people must not stand idly by and accept the unworthy fate of being divided so that others may profit from it. “In the name of the Macedonian people, we demand that Macedonia remain a single, indivisible, independent Balkan state within its geographical, ethnographic, historical, economic and cultural frontiers...Macedonia represents a unified body both from the historical and natural viewpoints, and cannot voluntarily end its many centuries of existence by agreeing to be broken up...Can we allow a people to be, at one and the same time, Bulgarian, Serb and Greek? Is it not simpler to assume that the nationality attributed to us is dictated by the big power politics of the interested parties who wish to take over Macedonia?”. (page 145, Radin, IMRO and the Macedonian Question).
By November it was becoming apparent that Turkey was running out of options and on November 12th, 1912, called on the Super Powers to bring about an armistice. To deal with the situations, a peace conference was scheduled for December 16th, 1912, to take place in London. Having some time to adjust to the new situation, the Super Powers, for the first time, opted from the usual “status quo” recommendations and considered making concessions to the victors. Austria however, was not too happy at the prospect of a “large Serbia” let alone allowing Serbia access to the Adriatic Sea. Austria was eyeing the Adriatic region as a prospective sphere of influence for herself. Being unable to make concessions by herself however, Austria did the next best thing and agreed with Britain to the idea of “creating” a new State (Albania). Another reason why Austria did not want Serbia to have access to the Adriatic Sea was because a “Serbian port might become a Russian port”.
This attempt to deny Serbia access to the Adriatic not only left Serbia landlocked but upset Russia causing her to break relations with Austria. Italy too was affected by this diplomatic power play which pushed her to improve her relations with Austria.
This, as it turned out was the crucial historic moment that gave birth to the “Triple Alliance” (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy) and the “Triple Entente” (Britain, France and Russia), a division that would have future consequences.
As a result of this sudden change of events, Austria began to amass troops along the Serbian border. At the same time, fearing German intervention, Russia ordered a halt to Bulgarian and Serbian advances towards Tsari Grad.
To fully curb Serbian and Russian expansionism, France, Britain and Italy voted to grant the newly created Albanian State, full independence. This did not only save Albania from partitioning by the Greeks and Serbians, it also made her a Super Power protectorate, which Albanians enjoy to this day.
I want to emphasize that by 1912, it was well known that a Macedonian Nation with a Macedonian consciousness existed and demonstrated its desire for independence. These actions were well documented and familiar to the Super Powers, yet even after pleading their case, the Macedonians were NOT ALLOWED to attend the London Peace Conference of December 16th, 1912. Numerous petitions were made by IMRO affiliates from St. Petersburg, all ignored. Also, Chupovski’s memo, to the British delegation, was not tabled. Here is what Chupovski (in part) had to say; “In the name of natural law, of history, of practical expediency, for the Macedonian people, we ask that Macedonia’s right to self-determination be admitted, and that Macedonia be constituted within its ethnic, geographical and cultural borders as a self-governing state with a government responsible to a national assembly.” (page 147, Radin, IMRO and the Macedonian Question).
The London Conference adjourned on August 11, 1913 officially declaring an end to the First Balkan War. In spite of all the wheeling and dealing that went on during the conference the resolutions left all parties dissatisfied. Serbia was dissatisfied with losing the Albanian territory. Serbia appealed to Bulgaria to grant her access to the Aegean Sea via Solun and the Vardar valley, but her appeals fell on deaf ears.
Greece also was not happy with Bulgaria’s invasion and annexation of Endrene (Macedonian Dardanelles). So to balance her share Greece wanted Serres, Drama and Kavala as compensation. That too fell on Bulgarian deaf ears.
Bulgaria, frustrated with not achieving her “San Stefano Dream” (fiction), was bitter about Russia deserting her during the London Conference negotiations.
Seeing that Bulgaria was not going to budge and the fact that neither Greece nor Serbia alone could take on Bulgaria, should a conflict arise, Greece and Serbia concluded a secret pact of their own to jointly act against Bulgaria. In short, the objective was to take territory from Bulgaria west of the Vardar River, divide it and have a common frontier.
After stumbling upon this Greek-Serbian pact, despite Russian attempts to appease her by offering her Solun, Bulgaria remained bitter and in a moment of weakness, was lured away by Austria. By going over to Austria, Bulgaria in effect broke off all relations with the Balkan League.
The Bulgarian shift in loyalties disappointed Russia who made it clear to Bulgaria that it could no longer expect any help.
In what was to be termed the “Second Balkan War”, the Bulgarian army, unprovoked, attacked its former allies on June 30th, 1913, again on Macedonian soil. Preferring the element of surprise, Bulgaria turned on her former allies and renewed the conflict, officially turning the Macedonian mission from “liberation” to “occupation”. There were two things that Bulgaria didn’t count on, Romanian involvement and Austrian treachery. The bloody fight was short lived as Rumania, Montenegro and Turkey joined Greece and Serbia and dealt Bulgaria a catastrophic blow. The promised Austrian support did not materialize as the risks for Austrian involvement outweighed any benefits. The real surprise however, was Rumania’s break with neutrality. Up to now Rumania had remained neutral and refused to get involved. No one, not even Bulgaria anticipated this attack from the north. On the other hand however, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Rumania to regain lost territory.
Even Turkey was able to re-gain some of what she recently lost to Bulgaria. Being involved in too many fronts at the same time Bulgaria was unable to repel Turkey and prevent her from taking back the Endrene region.
The biggest winners however, were Greece and Serbia, both of whom got exactly what they wanted, virtually unabated.
The Macedonians fared worst in the conflict mainly due to their own enthusiasm. One faction misinterpreted Macedonian assistance to another, as disloyalty. As frontlines shifted positions, Macedonian citizens were exposed to the various factions. Those Macedonians that assisted one faction were butchered by another faction for showing sympathy to the enemy. “The Carnegie Relief Commission, dispatched to the Balkans in late 1913, reported the incredible story of human suffering. In Macedonia alone, 160 villages were razed leaving 16,000 homeless, several thousand civilians murdered, and over 100,000 forced to emigrate as refugees.” (page 149, Radin, IMRO and the Macedonian Question). This genocidal tragedy was committed in a relatively short time and by those who marched in and were welcomed as “liberators”. Worst and most unexpected was that “Christians” committed this genocide against “Christians” reminiscent of the 1204 tragedy committed by the Western Crusaders.
After a great deal of jockeying for position, deliberating and negotiating, the warring factions agreed to an armistice and peace between Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia was negotiated in August, 1913 in Bucharest. The map of Macedonia was again redrafted without Macedonian participation. The new boundaries ignored previously agreed upon considerations such as lines of “nationalities” (not that any existed), the Macedonian people’s democratic desires, etc., as the Bucharest delegates imposed their artificial sovereignty upon the Macedonian people. With the exception of one minor change in 1920 in Albania’s favour, these dividing lines have remained in place to this day. 50% of the total Macedonian territory went to Greece, 40% to Serbia and 10% to Bulgaria. August 10th, 1913 became the darkest day in Macedonian history.
Not since Roman times has Macedonia been partitioned in a way where three brothers were forced to assume three different (imposed) identities, forced to speak three different foreign languages in their own homes and treated as strangers in their own lands. The future will show that where half a millennium of Turkish suppression and a century of forced Hellenization/ Bulgarization couldn’t erode Macedonian consciousness, Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian aggression, in less than a decade, will. The once proud Macedonian nation that long ago conquered the world, bridged the gap between East and West, introduced Christianity to Europe, safeguarded all ancient knowledge and protected the West from Eastern Invaders has now been beaten and reduced to a shadow of its former self. The force of this latest intrusion transformed the Macedonian Nation into a shy creature seeking homes in foreign lands and hiding in the twilight while its enemies dance on the heads of its dead and to the world, proclaimed them as their own. It was not enough that they consumed the Macedonian lands, these new depraved creatures spawned by Western greed, have consumed all Macedonian treasures such as history, culture, religion, literature, folklore, ancient knowledge stolen from Holy Mountain (Athos), etc., and regurgitated them as their own. Without hesitation, they would lie to the world, even to their own people about “their true identities” and blame their ills on the innocent. Their propaganda will turn “lies to truths” and “truths to lies” until all people are poisoned with hatred, an artificially created hatred, which will haunt Macedonians for all time and render them mute. Silence will fill the air and children will not dare cry, for if they utter anything Macedonian a terrible curse will befall them which can only be partially lifted if they leave their lands or submit to the will of their new masters. The proud name “Macedonia” which echoed through the centuries and outlasted time itself, will become a “dirty word” never to be spoken. The Macedonian language, the mother of all Slav languages, the “Voice of Eastern Christianity” will be “muted” to be spoken only in the shadows, in fear that “enemy ears” may be lurking. In time it will become known as “our language” spoken by “our people” a mute language spoken by a nameless nation. In time the Macedonian nation, the Macedonian people and the Macedonian language will become “an anomaly” in its ancestral land.
This is the fate that awaits the Macedonian people in the 20th century all with the blessings of the Super Powers (Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy).
To be continued in Part VI.
You can contact the author via his e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. A. Michael Radin. IMRO and the Macedonian Question, Kultura
2. The University of Cyril and Methodius, DOCUMENTS of the Struggle of the Macedonian People for Independence and a Nation-State Volumes I & II
3. The Wold Book Encyclopedia
4. Vasil Bogov, Macedonian Revelation, Historical Documents rock and shatter Modern Political Ideology
5. H. N. Brailsford, Macedonia Its Races and their Future, Arno Press, New York 1971
6. Douglas Dakin, M.A., Ph.D., The Greek Struggle in Macedonia 1897 – 1913, Institute for Balkan Studies, Salonika 1966