Saturday, October 28, 2006
IMRO and The Macedonian Question
A. Michael Radin - Kultura, Skopje, 1993, 325 pages
In Professors Palmer and King's Yugoslav Communism and the Macedonian Question (1971) the conclusion reached on p. 159.
The treatment of Macedonian history has the same primary goal as the creation of the Macedonian language - to de-Bulgarize the Macedonians and create a separate national consciousnessshould be kept firmly in mind when reading Radin's text. For Radin approaches this task with a single minded purpose - to regurgitate Yugoslav Communist Party dogma on the Macedonian Question. However in an attempt to re-sell essentially worn out "propaganda" Radin explains his particularly novel research approach.
The relevant facts have had to be extracted from accounts often written for other purposes and with other motives in mind [p10]True to this agenda Radin develops his thesis for the pre-medieval existence of a Macedonian nation by a process of preferential selection and gross misrepresentation of the archival evidence. And while Radin includes a seemingly impressive bibliography, it is paradoxical that he lists, yet never examines, works which directly contradict his basic arguments. Not surprising, when we note Radin's repetitious use of the same few Skopje based publications as the supporting evidence. Some are used so often that the reader could be excused for wondering the exact purpose of Radin's text.
One of Radin's main aims is to show that the Macedonian revolutionaries were in fact promoting a nascent socialist class struggle. A difficult task when we consider Palmer and King's much earlier comments on this theme (p. 161)
Reconciling progressive Marxist historiography with Macedonian national history has proved to be especially difficult. The Macedonian revolutionaries were generally not socialists and the Balkan socialists did not recognise the Macedonian nationalityConsequently the achievements and prominence of the few, and in most cases subordinate IMRO members who manifested any "left" or "socialist" inclination are instantly transformed by Radin into the Macedonian Liberation Movement's greatest and most popular heroes.
But Radin does not restrict his goals merely to historic revisionism, he also attempts to develop an anti-Bulgarian sentiment by perpetually characterising Bulgaria and its agents as the principal villains of Macedonia's years of misery. Naturally the Serbians are treated much kinder. Accordingly, by simplistically reducing the "Macedonian Question" to one of heroes and villains amongst the Macedonians themselves, Radin relies on the use of dichotomy as a technique of argument, or more accurately, a substitute for it. This radical simplification of the true issues fosters an antagonistic model, which serves secular interests by resisting consensus and encouraging resentment. For Radin and his colleagues therefore, dichotomy provides the predictable comfort of ingrained hostility so often associated with neonationalistic dogma.
To detail all the misinformation and errors in Radin's text is infeasible, therefore I will restrict my analysis to some of the more blatant examples of misrepresentation.
What proportion of the population was made up by the majority group, the Macedonians? On the basis of an Ottoman census, an 1887 report revealed the following breakdown: Slaves 1,252,385 (almost totally Macedonians) [p20]The reference cited is De Laveleye E. The Balkan Peninsula (1887, p290). However on the very same page De Laveleye states.
According to the best-informed writers - Reclus, Kiepert, Ubicini, Lejean, Crousse - the great majority of the inhabitants of Macedonia are BulgariansI think this is what Radin means when he talks about "extracting" facts.
The Carnegie Commission report of 1913 quoted the Slav population of Aegean Macedonia at a mere 30% [p24]The Carnegie Report never at any stage referred to the "Slavs of Macedonia" as other than Bulgarians. With respect to the census information the same report states on p30
The Bulgarian statistics alone take into account the national consciousness of the people themselves.Radin deliberately introduces the term "Slav" to create an illusion that ambiguity existed as to the identity of the Bulgarian-Macedonians. If so it is only Radin's misconception, and not that of the Carnegie Report which consistently refers only to the "Bulgarians" of Macedonia.
Rather in their expounded views, Macedonia is but "an antiquated geographical expression" - this is the standard phrase adopted - and they point to her "great ethnic diversity" in support of this fallacious argument. However there have been noted dissenters:1. A.J.P Taylor, who proposed that from 1870 onwards, the question of the Slav nationalities in the Balkans was, in reality, a matter concerning only one nation, that being the "Southern Slaves", distinguishable only by their dialects and geographic location. He considered that this theory applied equally to all the Southern Slaves: Serbs, Croats, Slovens, Bosnians, Montenegrins, Macedonians and Bulgarians [p26]Radin however fails to cite any reference for Taylor's assertion. But if we read AJP Taylor's The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918 (Oxford, 1960), specifically p246, he writes the following.
Historically a Macedonian is simply a Bulgarian who was put back under Turkish rule in 1878.This represents a somewhat irreconcilable difference in opinion from the same author.
2. Villari and Dakin, who believed that the Macedonians were an ethnically and linguistically independent strain mediating both Serbs and Bulgars [p26]However in L Villari's Races, Religions, and Propagandas (In: The Balkan Question, L Villari [ed], New York, 1905) he writes on p. 135 & 150.
There are in Macedonia four Christian communities - Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, and Rumans or Kutzo-Vlachs ... To claim that the Bulgaro-Macedonians are really Serbs is somewhat far-fetched, and hardly any of them have been won over to the Servian propaganda.
Yet, as stated earlier, the existence of distinct ethnic minorities in Macedonia has never been denied by Macedonians. Indeed, an English journalist touring Macedonia prior to the Balkan Wars, remarked that, when asking several Macedonians at random what nationality they considered themselves to be, he received several different answers! [p27]From the same reference - JF Fraser Pictures from the Balkans (1906) - Radin prefers to ignore Fraser's unequivocal statement on the nationality of Macedonians - pg 5.
But who are the Macedonians? ..... You will not, however, find a single Christian Macedonian who is not a Servian, a Bulgarian, a Greek, or a Roumanian.
IMRO - The Pre-Ilinden Decade [p57-93]There are a number of critical facts and issues Radin chose to ignore in his treatise on the formation and character of IMRO. This is not unexpected since the preponderance of evidence reveals IMRO as an essentially Bulgarian organization formed to liberate the Bulgarians of Macedonia from the cruelties of the Ottoman Empire and to also minimise the influence of the increasing Serbian propaganda. Testimony to support this viewpoint is ubiquitous. For instance, Hristo Tatarchev, the first president of IMRO, reiterates all these very same facts in his personal memoirs. But even more meaningful is that in 1897 Gotse Delchev and Giorche Petrov wrote the statutes for the Organization which they named the Bulgarian-Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization, and in which they restricted membership to "any Bulgarian, irrespective of sex" in DM Perry The Politics of Terror, Durham, 1988, p. 65.
Correspondingly, Yane Sandanski, the peasant ceta general, was by far the most popular man in Macedonia. The Left thus rallied behind this figure.. .. at which Vlahov, leader of the centrist faction, was surprisingly preferred to Yane Sandanski as President [p127-8]Contrary to Radin's claim, Sandanski was not "the most popular man in Macedonia". In fact Sandanski and his followers had been expelled from IMRO and only had support in the Seres and Drama regions. The main reason relates to the murder in 1907 by Panitza, acting on Sandanski's orders, of Boris Sarafov and Ivan Garvanov, both members of IMRO's Central Committee. The Young-Turks quickly realized the divisive advantage in favouring Sandanski's "outlawed" IMRO faction, and numerous historic photographs clearly show Sandanski posing with and being honoured by the highest officials of the Young-Turks regime. In a speech before the Ottoman Parliament the Deputy Habib-Bey stated (19 Jan 1909).
One faction (in IMRO) seeks many conditions from the Young-Turks Committee, while the other strives to become Ottoman. This latter is the faction of Sandanski. This faction is fully Ottoman and will remain committed. Let their publications be distributed and their wishes met so that they might bring all Bulgarians closer to usFor their alignment with the Young-Turks Sandanski and Panitza received many special privileges denied the general population. Sandanski and the PFP had little or no support from the Bulgarian-Macedonians. Consider the following written by well-known author and statesman Charles Roden Buxton (Turkey in Revolution, London, 1909, p252-3), who visited Macedonia and the Turkish regimes on many official occasions.
Why are there only four Macedonian Bulgars in the Parliament?" he asked suddenly, with an indignant flash in his eyes. "And one or two of those are Sandansky's men, who threw themselves into the arms of the Committee at the start. They would never have been put up by their own fellow-countrymen, and don't represent themIn Jan 1910, the Central Committee of the PFP, on Vlahov's instigation, expelled Sandanski, on the grounds he and his supporters were working contrary to PFP ideology and seeking rapprochement with the "Bulgarian Constitutional Clubs". This "Bulgaro" tendency of Sandanski is hardly unusual given he was originally a member of the armed "Vrhovist" bands who crossed into Macedonia in 1895 (DM Perry, op cit, p. 223) and about who Radin scornfully writes were forcibly disbanded, their remnants returning to a life of brigandage [p67] Radin's whitewashing of Sandanski is further compromised when we review Sandanski's feelings for the Exarchate (Bulgarian Orthodox Church), expressed at a Congress of the Federalists held on 8 Aug 1909 and recorded in Alexo Martukov's Memoirs (Skopje, 1954). In particular on p186-187 we read Yane Sandanski sharply stated that no encroachments should be made upon this national institution and that, if one day, the Exarchate were threatened, he was ready to take up arms again and go into the Pirin Mountains to fight in its defence.
The First Balkan War .... was almost entirely fought on Macedonian soil. .... The Serbian army, which achieved the most outstanding successes of the war [p141-2]The misrepresentation of fact is astounding. I would refer the reader, amongst many other texts, to G Young's Nationalism and War in the Near East (London, 1915) for a realistic resume; note Young's comment on p. 210.
When the Bulgars had driven the Turkish forces in Thrace behind the defences of Constantinople, they had accomplished the primary purpose of the coalition, that is to say, the forcible expulsion of the Ottoman Empire from Eastern Europe. The operations against the Turkish corps in Macedonia and Albania were comparatively insignificant.
In 1923 he (Stambulisky) was deposed by a military coup d'etat sponsored by the bourgeoisie, and ruthlessly murdered by Vrhovist IMRO agents who assisted the coup. Thereafter, the latter were given free rein to conduct a campaign of terror against Macedonians throughout the three regions of Macedonia [p177]First, although IMRO supported the 1923 coup d'etat, it took no official part in it. Stamboliskii's signing of the "Nish Agreement" with Belgrade, which sought the liquidation of IMRO, the assassination of regional IMRO leaders by government agents and the closing of printing presses, however certainly raised hostility between IMRO and the Agrarians. Radin might have mentioned that in 1923, and after the coup d'etat, the Bulgarian Communist Party published literature praising Todor Alexandroff and IMRO, describing it as
the locomotive for the movement of the Balkan people at the ignition of the Balkan revolutionsee D Dobrinov IMRO and the 1923 Uprising Macedonian Review 1991 Vol 24 No.3 p. 61-69.
The emergence of the Macedonians as a separate slav people is a perfectly normal historic process, which is keeping with the process by which the Bulgarian, Croatian and Serbian peoples emerged from the Southern Slav group [p221]Because of his book On Macedonian Matters (Sofia, 1903), supporting Macedonism, Missirkov is perpetually quoted by all modern Skopje propagandists, and Radin is no exception. However in truth Missirkov's 1903 views had negligible popular support, and his book was read by only a handful of people. Missirkov subsequently repudiated all his own claims in On Macedonian Matters, and spent his final years as a History Professor in Sofia. He freely acknowledged his father, grandfather and great grandfather were all Bulgarians and in many articles & letters unequivocally affirmed his Bulgarian nationality.
Thus, the task of representing genuine Macedonian interest fell upon the small Macedonian community in St Petersburg. This body was an affiliate of IMRO .... Its most outspoken advocate was Dimitar Chupovski, who journeyed to Macedonia in 1913 ... Chupovksi was arrested by the Greeks and exiled [p144]Actually, he was "exiled" by the Macedonian people! Dimitar Chupovski was born in the Kichevo district, and of the "Myak" tribe. He help found the "Slav-Macedonian Student Society" in St Petersburg (circa 1902), and considered himself an ethnic Slav Macedonian. His supporters almost exclusively came from NW Macedonia within the sub-districts of Porochieto, Gorni and Dolni Polog, Azot and the regions about Kumanovo, and had usually completed their secondary education in Serbia. Within this NW area the Slav-Macedonian theory of the Serbian Stoyan Novakovich, later developed by his colleagues Cvijich and Belich had succeeded in influencing part of the population.
Michael Radin's IMRO and The Macedonian Question is certain to be lauded by adherents of Macedonism and is guaranteed to reinforce their beliefs in the inerrancy of this thesis. However as a State sponsored publication of the Republic of Macedonia, and supposedly in the post-communist totalitarian era, it sends a clear signal that the old "nomenclatura" and its anti-Bulgarian policies persist. We can only hope that things may change in the near future and we'll have much more objective texts that give due credit to the enormous sacrifice and tribulations of ALL the past Macedonian revolutionaries and people.