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1 Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization

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Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization

(A short history)


of the Secret Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization

Chapter I. - Goal

Art. 1. The Secret Macedonian-Adrianople organization has the goal of uniting all the disgruntled elements in Macedonia and the Adrianople region, regardless of their nationality, to win, through a revolution, a full political autonomy for these two regions.

Art. 2. To achieve this goal the organization fights to throw over the chauvinist propagandas and nationalist quarrels that are splintering and discouraging the Macedonian and Adrianople populations in his struggle against the common enemy; acts to bring in a revolutionary spirit and consciousness among the population, and uses all the means and efforts for the forthcoming and timely armament of the population with all that is needed for a general and universal uprising.


Chapter II. - Structure and Organization

Art. 3. The Secret Macedonon-Adrianoplitan revolutionary organization consists of local revolutionary organizations (bands) consisting of the members of local towns or villages.
Art. 4. A member of SMARO can be any Macedonian, or Adrianoplitan...
Excerpt from the statute of IMARO, 1906 (in Bulgarian)


of Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organisation

(amended at the general congress in 1906)

Chapter I. - Goal

Art. 1. - The goal of the Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization is to unite any and all dissatisfied elements in Macedonia and the Adrianople Vilyaet without regard to their nationality so that political autonomy can be gained for these two regions.
Art. 2. The Organization opposes any other country's intensions to divide and conquer these two regions.

Chapter II. - Means

Art. 3. To achieve this goal, the Organization aims to abolish chauvinist propaganda and nationalistic disputes, which split and weaken...The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (in Bulgarian: Vâtrešna Makedonska Revolyucionna Organizaciya, Вътрешна македонска революционна организация, ВМРО, in Macedonian: Vnatrešna Makedonska Revolucionerna Organizaciya, Внатрешна Македонска Револуционерна Организација, ВМРО), commonly known in English as IMRO, was the name of a revolutionary political organization in the Macedonia and Thrace regions of the Ottoman Empire, as well as in Bulgaria, and after 1913 in the Macedonian regions of Greece and Yugoslavia. The organization has changed its name on several occasions (see below). In the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria, several right-wing parties carrying the prefix "VMRO" were established in the 1990s.

IMARO in the Ottoman era

Origins and goals

The organization was founded in 1893 in Ottoman Thessaloniki by a group of Bulgarian exarchist revolutionaries from Macedonia led by Hristo Tatarchev, Dame Gruev, Petar Pop-Arsov, Andon Dimitrov, Hristo Batandzhiev and Ivan Hadzhinikolov. Its first name after Hristo Tatarchev's "Memoirs" was Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (MRO). Ivan Hadzhinikolov in his memoirs underlines the five basic principles of the MRO's foundation:

The revolutionary organization should be established within Macedonia and should act there, so that the Greeks and Serbs couldn't label it as a tool of the Bulgarian government.
Its founders should be locals and living in Macedonia.
The political motto of the organization should be the autonomy of Macedonia.
The organization should be secret and independent, without any links with the governments of the liberated neighborly states...
From the Macedonian emigration in Bulgaria and the Bulgarian society, only moral and material help for the struggle of the Macedonian revolutionaries should be required.[1]

Hristo Tatarchev according to Dr. Hristo Tatarchev:

"... We talked a long time about the goal of this organization and at last we fixed it on autonomy of Macedonia with the priority of the Bulgarian element. We couldn't accept the position for "direct joining to Bulgaria" because we saw that it would meet big difficulties by reason of confrontation of the Great powers and the aspirations of the neighbouring small countries and Turkey. It passed through our thoughts that one autonomous Macedonia could easier unite with Bulgaria subsequently and if the worst comes to the worst, that it could play a role as a unificating link of a federation of Balkan people. The region of Adrianople, as far as I remember, didn't take part in our program, and I think the idea to add it to the autonomous Macedonia came later..."(2)
In Dame Gruev's memoirs, the MRO's goals are stated as follows:

"...We grouped together and jointly worked out a statute. It was based on the same principles: demand for the implementation of the Berlin Treaty. The statute was worked out after the model of the Bulgarian revolutionary organisation before the Liberation. Our motto was "Implementaton of the resolutions of the Berlin Treaty". We established a "Central Committee" with branches, membership fees , etc. Swearing in for each member was also envisaged. In the regulations there was nothing concerning the Serbian propaganda but we intended to counteract it by enlightening the people..." [3]

Based on circumstanital evidence[4], it has been conjectured by Bulgarian[5][6][7] and accepted by Western historians[8][9] that in 1896 or 1897 this first and probably "unofficial" name was changed to Bulgarian Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Committees (BMARC); and the organisation existed under this name until 1902 when it changed it to Secret Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (SMARO).

While some Macedonian historians[10][11] acknowledge the existence of the name "ВMARC" in the very early period of the Organisation, in the Republic of Macedonia it is generally assumed that in the 1896 - 1902 period the name of the organization was "SMARO". B

oth sides lack conclusive documentary evidence, as neither of these names appears in the IMRO documents but is known from undated printed or handwritten statutes. However, Macedonian historians point to the fact that a copy of the "SMARO" statute is kept in London under the year of 1898.[12] It is not disputed that the organization changed its name to Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (IMARO) in 1905 and it is under this name referred to in Bulgarian historiography.[13] After disbanding itself during the Bulgarian occupation of Macedonia (1915-1918), the organization was revived in 1920 under the name Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), under which it is generally known today.

The stated goal of the original Committee was to unite all elements dissatisfied with the Ottoman oppression in Macedonia and the Adrianople Vilayet, eventually obtaining political autonomy for the two regions. In this task the organisation hoped to enlist the support of the local Vlachs, Greeks and even Turks. Efforts were concentrated on moral propaganda and the prospect of rebellion and terrorist actions seemed distant. The organization developed quickly: only in a matter of a few years, the Committee had managed to establish a wide network of local organisations across Macedonia and the Adrianople Vilayet. These usually centered around the schools of the Bulgarian Exarchate and had as leaders local or Bulgarian-born teachers.[14]

Although IMRO was predominantly ethnic Bulgarian since its establishment, it favoured the idea of an autonomous Macedonia and preferred to disassociate itself from official Bulgarian policy and was not under Bulgarian control. Its founding leaders believed that an autonomous movement was more likely to find favour with the Great Powers than one which was a tool of the Bulgarian government. [15] In the words of British contemporary observer Henry Brailsford:

When, in addition to these advantages, the Bulgarophil Macedonians started their marvellously-organised revolutionary committee in 1893, the Servian cause received its death-blow. By way of emphasising her antagonism to Bulgaria, official Servia now adopted an openly Turcophil policy, and nothing could be more fatal to the prospects of any Christian race in Turkey. The Macedonian peasantry will bestow their allegiance only on a propaganda which promises them some speedy prospect of release from the Ottoman yoke. Finally, there is this great difference between the rival propagandas, that while the Bulgarians are working for the autonomy of Macedonia, the Servians and the Greeks aim only at its annexation to their own country. The result is that their activities seem to be for the profit of their own land, whereas the Bulgarians are undoubtedly creating a spirit of local Macedonian patriotism. The Servian movement is a purely official agitation, guided and financed in Belgrade; whereas, despite the sympathy of Sofia, the Bulgarian Revolutionary Committee is a genuine Macedonian organisation.[16]

What is more, some of its younger leaders esposed radical socialist and anarchist ideas and saw their goal as the establishment of a new form of government rather than unification with Bulgaria. Eventually these considerations led the organisation to change its statute and accept as members not only Bulgarians but all Macedonians and Odrinians regardless of ethnicity or creed. In reality, however, besides some Vlach members, its membership remained overwhelmingly Bulgarian Exarchist.[17]

A convoy of captured Bulgarian IMRO activists.In regards to the socialist and cosmoplitan ideas within the revolutionary movement, the American Albert Sonnichsen says:

I think that was the force of the abstract thought, that they kept in their mind, a thought which was far from chauvinism, because freedom for them stood highly than the rule of the Bulgarian, for them it was one perfect system equally applicable to Bulgarians, Greeks and Turks, a kind of heaven to which the whole world should aim. [18]

It is claimed by contemporary Bulgarian historians that the right wing supporters within the IMRO were probably much more likely to see unification with Bulgaria as a natural final outcome of Macedonian autonomy. Among other documents, they cite as an expression of this understanding the official letter that Dame Gruev and Boris Sarafov, leaders of the headquarters of the Second Macedonian-Adrianople revolutionary district during Ilinden uprising, wrote to the Bulgarian government:

The general staff considers for its duty to pay attention of the honoured Bulgarian government to the catastrophic consequences for Bulgarian nation, in case the government doesn't fulfill its duty toward its homogeneous brothers here in an impressible and energetic way, imposed by the circumstances and the danger, which threaten Bulgarian fatherland today.[19]

During the First World War in Macedonia (1915-1918) the organization supported Bulgarian army and joined to Bulgarian war-time authorities when they took control over Vardar Macedonia temporarily until the end of war. In this period the autonomism as political tactics was abandoned from all internal VMORO streams and all of them shared annexationist positions, supporting eventual incorporation of Macedonia in Bulgaria.[20]

The initial period of idealism for IMRO ended, however, with the Vinitsa Affair and the discovery by the Ottoman police of a secret depot of ammunition near the Bulgarian border in 1897. The wide-scale repressions against the activists of the Committee led to its transformation into a militant guerilla organization, which engaged into attacks against Ottoman officials and punitive actions against suspected traitors. The guerilla groups of IMRO, known as "chetas" (чети) later (after 1903) also waged a war against the pro-Serbian and pro-Greek armed groups during the Greek Struggle for Macedonia.

Rebels in the rising of 1903

IMRO's leadership of the revolutionary movement was challenged by two other factions: the Supreme Macedono-Adrianopolitan Committee in Sofia (Vurhoven мakedono-оdrinski komitet- Върховен македоно-одрински комитет) and a smaller group of Bulgarian conservatives in Salonica. The latter was incorporated in IMRO by 1902 but its members were to exert a significant influence on the organization. They were to push for the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising and later became the core of IMRO right-wing faction. The former organisation became known earlier than IMRO, after the 1895 raids into Turkish territory it organised from Bulgaria. Its founders were Macedonian immigrants in Bulgaria as well as Bulgarian army officers. They became known as the "supremists" or "externals" since they were based outside of Macedonia. The supremists resorted to terrorism against the Ottomans in the hope of provoking a war and thus Bulgarian annexation of Macedonia. For a time in the late 1890s IMRO leaders managed to gain control of the Supreme Committee but it soon split into two factions: one loyal to the IMRO and one led by some officers close to the Bulgarian prince. The second one staged an ill-fated uprising in Eastern Macedonia in 1902, where they were opposed militarily by local IMRO bands led by Yane Sandanski and Hristo Chernopeev, who were later to become the leaders of the IMRO left wing. [21]

In 1903 the undisputed leader of the organization, Gotse Delchev, was killed in a skirmish with Turkish forces. Although Delchev had opposed the ideas for an uprising as premature, he finally had no choice but agree to that course of action but at least managed to delay its start from may to August. After his death in 1903 IMRO organised the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising against the Ottomans in Macedonia and the Adrianople Vilayet, which after the initial successes including the forming of the Krushevo Republic, was crushed with much loss of life.

Devastated villages after the Ilinden insurrection

(After Ilinden)

The failure of the 1903 insurrection resulted in the eventual split of the IMRO into a left-wing (federalist) faction in the Seres and Strumica districs and a right-wing faction (centralists) in the Salonica, Bitola, and Skopje districts. The left-wing faction opposed Bulgarian nationalism and advocated the creation of a Balkan Federation with equality for all subjects and nationalities. The Supreme Committee was disbanded in 1905 but the centralist faction of the IMRO drifted more and more towards Bulgarian nationalism as its regions became increasingly exposed to the incursions of Serb and Greek armed bands, which started infiltrating Macedonia after 1903. The years 1905-1907 saw lots of violent fighting between VMORO and Turkish forces as well as between VMORO and Greek and Serb detachments. Meanwhile the split between the two factions became final when in 1907 Todor Panitza killed the right-wing activists Boris Sarafov and Ivan Garvanov.[22]

After the "Young Turk" revolution of 1908 both factions laid down their arms and joined the legal struggle. The federalist wing welcomed in the revolution of 1908 and later joined mainstream political life as the People's Federative Party (Bulgarian section). Some of its leaders like Sandanski and Chernopeev participated in the march on Istanbul to depose the counter-revolutionaries. The former centralists formed the Bulgarian Constitutional Clubs and like the PFP participated in Ottoman elections. Soon, however, the Young Turk regime turned increasingly nationalist and sought to suppress the national aspirations of the variopus minorities in Macedonia and Thrace. This prompted most right-wing and some left-wing VMORO leaders to resume the armed fight in 1909.[23] In 1911 a new Central Committee of VMORO was formed consisting of Todor Alexandrov, Hristo Chernopeev and Petar Chaulev. Its aim was to restore unity to the Organisation and direct the new armed struggle against the Turks more efficiently. After Chernopeev was killed in action in 1915 as a Bulgarian officer in World War I, he was replaced by the former supremist leader General Alexander Protogerov.

The partition of Macedonia and Adrianople Thrace in 1913

During the Balkan Wars former VMORO leaders of both the left and the right joined the Macedono-Odrinian Volunteers and fought with the Bulgarian Army. Others like Sandanski with their bands assisted the Bulgarian army with its advance and still others penetrated as far as the region of Kostur in Southwestern Macedonia.[24] In the Second Balkan War VMORO bands fought the Greeks and Serbs behind the front lines but were subsequently routed and driven out. Notably, Petar Chaulev was one of the leaders of the Ohrid Uprising in 1913 organised jointly by VMORO and the Albanians of Western Macedonia.

The result of the Balkan Wars was that the Macedonian region and Adrianople Thrace was partitioned between Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and the Ottoman Empire (the new state of Yugoslavia was created as after 1918 and started its existence as Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians "SHS"), with Bulgaria getting the smallest share. In 1913 the whole Bulgarian population from the Ottoman part of Adrianople Thrace was forcibly expelled to Bulgaria[25]. VMORO, now led by Todor Aleksandrov, maintained its existence in Bulgaria, where it played a role in politics by playing upon Bulgarian irredentism and urging a renewed war to liberate Macedonia. This was one factor in Bulgaria allying itself with Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I. VMORO organised the Valandovo action of 1915, which was an attack on a large Serbian force. Bulgarian army, supported by the organization's forces, was successful in the first stages of this conflict, managed to drive out the Serbian forces from Vardar Macedonia and came into positions on the line of the pre-war Greek-Serbian border, which was stabilized as a firm front until end of 1918.

IMRO in the interwar period

The post-war Treaty of Neuilly again denied Bulgaria what it felt was its share of Macedonia, and IMRO began sending armed bands called cheti into Greek and Yugoslav Macedonia to assassinate officials and stir up the spirit of the oppressed population. In 1923 IMRO agents assassinated Bulgarian Prime Minister Aleksandar Stamboliyski, who favoured a detente with Greece and Yugoslavia, so that Bulgaria could concentrate on its internal problems.

IMRO had de facto full control of Pirin Macedonia (the Petrich District of the time) and acted as a "state within a state", which it used as a base for hit and run attacks against Yugoslavia with the unofficial support of the right-wing Bulgarian government and later Fascist Italy. Because of this, contemporary observers described the Yugoslav-Bulgarian frontier as the most fortified in Europe.

In 1923 and 1924 during the apogee of interwar military activity according to IMRO statistics in the region of Yugoslav (Vardar) Macedonia operated 53 chetas (armed bands), 36 of which penetrated from Bulgaria, 12 were local and 5 entered from Albania. The aggregate membership of the bands was 3245 komitas (guerilla rebels) led by 79 voivodas (commanders), 54 subcommanders, 41 secretaries and 193 couriers. 119 fights and 73 terroristic acts were documented. Serbian casualties were 304 army and gendarmery officers, soldiers and paramilitary fighters, more than 1300 were wounded. IMRO lost 68 voivodas and komitas, hundreds were wounded. In the region of Greek (Aegean) Macedonia 24 chetas and 10 local reconnaissance detachments were active. The aggregate membership of the bands was 380 komitas led by 18 voivodas, 22 subcommanders, 11 secretaries and 25 couriers. 42 battles and 27 terrorist acts were performed. Greek casualties were 83 army officers, soldiers and paramilitary fighters, over 230 were wounded. IMRO lost 22 voivodas and komitas, 48 were wounded. Thousands local Macedonians were repressed by the Yugoslav and Greek authorities on suspicions of contacts with the revolutionary movement.[26] The population in Pirin Macedonia was organized in a mass people's home guard. This militia was the only force, which resisted to the Greek army when general Pangalos launched a military campaign against Petrich District in 1925, speculatively called the War of the Stray Dog. In 1934 the Bulgarian army confiscated 10,938 rifles, 637 pistols, 47 machine-guns, 7 mortars and 701,388 cartridges only in the Petrich and Kyustendil Districts.[27]

In 1924 VMRO entered negotiations with the Comintern about collaboration between the communists and the Macedonian movement and the creation of a united Macedonian movement. The idea for a new unified organization was supported by the Soviet Union, which saw a chance for using this well developed revolutionary movement to spread revolution in the Balkans and destabilize the Balkan monarchies. Alexandrov defended VMRO's independence and refused to concede on practically all points requested by the Communists. No agreement was reached besides a paper "Manifesto" (the so-called May Manifesto of 6 May 1924), in which the objectives of the unified Macedonian liberation movement were presented: independence and unification of partitioned Macedonia, fighting all the neighbouring Balkan monarchies, forming a Balkan Federation and cooperation with the Soviet Union.[28]

Failing to secure Alexandrov's cooperation, the Comintern decided to discredit him and published the contents of the Manifesto on 28 July 1924 in the "Balkan Federation" newspaper. VMRO's leaders Todor Aleksandrov and Aleksandar Protogerov promptly denied through the Bulgarian press that they've ever signed any agreements, claiming that the May Manifesto was a communist forgery.[29]

Shortly after, Todor Alexandrov was assassinated in unclear circumstances and IMRO came under the leadership of Ivan Mihailov, who became a powerful figure in Bulgarian politics. While VMRO's leadership was quick to ascribe Alexandrov's murder to the communists and even quicker to organise a revenge action against the immediate perpetrators, there is some doubt that Mihailov himself might have been responsible for the murder. Some Bulgarian and Macedonian historians like Zoran Todorovski speculate that it might have been the circle around Mihailov who organised the assassination on inspiration by the Bulgarian government, which was afraid on united VMRO-Communist action against it. However, neither version is corroborated by conclisive historical evidence. The result of the murder was further strife within the organisation and several high-profile murders including that of Petar Chaulev (who led the Ohrid uprising in 1913 against the Serbian occupation) in Milan and ultimately Protogetov himself.[30]

Ivan Mihailov.In this interwar period VMRO led by Aleksandrov and later by Mihailov took actions against the former left-wing assassinating several former members of VMORO's Sandanist wing, who meanwhile had gravitated towards the Bulgarian Communist Party. Gjorche Petrov was killed in Sofia in 1922, Todor Panitsa (who previously killed the right-wing oriented Boris Sarafov and Ivan Garvanov) was assassinated in Vienna in 1924 by Mihailov's future wife Mencha Karnichiu. Dimo Hadjidimov, Georgi Skrizhovski, Alexander Bujnov, Chudomir Kantardjiev and many others were killed in the events on 1925.

Meanwhile, the left-wing later did form the new organisation based on the principles previously presented in the May Manifesto. The new organisation which was an opponent to Mihailov's VMRO was called IMRO (United), was founded in 1925 in Vienna. However, it did not have real popular support and remained based abroad with no revolutionary activities in Macedonia. It remained active until 1936 and was funded by and closely linked to the Comintern and the Balkan Communist Federation.[31]

Mihailov's group of young IMRO cadres soon got into conflict with the older guard of the organisation. The latter were in favour of the old tactic of incursions by armed bands, whereas the former favoured more flexible tactics with smaller terrorist groups carrying selective assassinations. The conflict grew into a leadership struggle and Mihailov soon in turn ordered the assassination in 1928 of a rival leader, General Aleksandar Protogerov, which sparked a fratricidal war between "Mihailovists" and "Protogerovists". The less numerous Protogerovists soon became allied with Yugoslavia and certain Bulgarian military circles with fascist leanings and who favoured rapprochement with Yugoslavia.

The policy of assassionations was effective in making Serbian rule in Vardar Macedonia feel insecure but in turn provoked brutal reprisals on the local peasant population. Having lost a lot of popular support in Vardar Macedonia due to his policies, Mihailov favoured the "internationalization" of the Macedonian question.

Assassination of Yugoslavian king Alexander.He established close links with the Croatian Ustashe and Italy. Numerous assassinations were carried out by IMRO agents in many countries, the majority in Yugoslavia. The most spectacular of these was the assassination of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia and the French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou in Marseille in 1934 in collaboration with the Croatian Ustaše. The killing was carried out by the VMRO terrorist Vlado Chernozemski and happened after the suppression of IMRO following the 19 May 1934 military coup in Bulgaria.

IMRO's constant fratricidal killings and assassinations abroad provoked some within Bulgarian military after the coup of 19 May 1934 to take control and break the power of the organization, which had come to be seen as a gangster organization inside Bulgaria and a band of assassins outside it. In 1934 Mihailov was forced to escape to Turkey. He ordered to his supporters not to resist to the Bulgarian army and to accept the disarmament peacefully, thus avoiding fratricides, destabilization of Bulgaria, civil war or external invasion.[32] Many inhabitants of Pirin Macedonia met this disbandment with satisfaction because it was perceived as relief from an unlawful and quite often brutal parallel authority. IMRO kept its organization alive in exile in various countries, but ceased to be an active force in Macedonian politics except for brief moments during Word War II.

The Second World War period

As the Bulgarian army entered Macedonia in 1941, it was greeted by most of the population as liberators and former VMRO members were active in organising Bulgarian Action Committees charged with taking over the local authorities. Some former VMRO (United) members such as Metodi Shatorov, who were members of the Yugoslav Communist Party, also refused to define the Bulgarian forces as occupiers[33] (contrary to instructions from Belgrade) and called for the incorporation of the local Macedonian Communist organisations within the Bulgarian Communist Party. This policy changed towards 1943 with the arrival of the Montenegrin Svetozar Vukmanovich Tempo, who began in earnest to organise armed resistance to the Bulgarian occupation. Many former VMRO members assisted the authorities in fighting Tempo's partizans.

VMRO was also active in organising the resistance of the Bulgarian population in Aegean Macedonia against Greek nationalist and communist bands. With the help of Mihailov and Macedonian emigres in Sofia, several pro-German armed detachments were organised in the Kostur, Lerin and Voden districs of Greek Macedonia in 1943-44. These were led by Bulgarian officers originally from Aegean Macedonia - Andon Kalchev and Georgi Dimchev.[34]

On the 2nd of August 1944 (what in the Republic of Macedonia is referred to as the Second Ilinden) in the St. Prohor Pchinski monastery at the Antifascist assembly of the national liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM) with Panko Brashnarov (the former IMRO revolutionary from the Ilinden period and the IMRO United) as a first speaker, the modern Macedonian state was officially proclaimed, as a federal state within Tito's Yugoslavia, receiving recognition from the Allies.

After the declaration of war by Bulgaria on Germany, in September 1944 Mihailov arrived in German occupied Skopje, where the Germans hoped that he could form an Independent Macedonian state with their support. Seeing that the war is lost to Germany and to avoid further bloodshed, he refused. Mihailov eventually ended up in Rome where he published numerous articles, books and pamphlets on the Macedonian Question.[35]

Post-war period

Members of the IMRO (United) participated in the forming of Republic of Macedonia as a federal state of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and some of the leading members entered the government: Dimitar Vlahov, Panko Brashnarov, Pavel Shatev (the latter was the last surviving member of "Gemidzhii" or "Varkarides" in Greek, the group that executed the Thessaloniki bombings of 1903). However, they were quickly ousted by cadres loyal to the Yugoslav Communist Party in Belgrade, who had has pro-Serbian leanings before the war. [36] According to Macedonian historian Ivan Katardjiev (quoted here) such Macedonian activists came from IMRO (United) and the Bulgarian Communist Party never managed to get rid of their pro-Bulgarian bias and on many issues opposed the Serbian-educated leaders, who held most of the political power. Shatev went as far as to send a petition to the Bulgarian legation in Belgrade protesting the anti-Bulgarian policies of the Yugoslav leadeship and the Serbianisation of the Bulgarian language.[37]

From the start, the Yugoslav authorities organised frequent purges and trials of Macedonian communists and non-party people charged with autonomist deviation. Many of the left-wing IMRO government officials, including Pavel Shatev and Panko Brashnarov, were purged from their positions too, then isolated, arrested, imprisoned or executed by the Yugoslav federal authorities on various (in many cases fabricated) charges including: pro-Bulgarian leanings, demands for greater or complete independence of Yugoslav Macedonia, collaboration with the Cominform after the Tito-Stalin split in 1948, forming of conspirative political groups or organisations, demands for greater democracy, etc. One of the victims of these campaigns was Metodija Andonov-Chento, a wartime partisan leader and president of ASNOM, who was convinced of having worked for a "completely independent Macedonia" as an IMRO member. A survivor among the communists associated with the idea of Macedonian autonomy was Dimitar Vlahov, who was used "solely for window dressing".[38]

On the other hand, former Mihailovists were also persecuted by the Belgrade-controlled authorities on accusations of collaboration with the Bulgarian occupation, Bulgarian nationalism, anti-communist and anti-Yugoslav activities, etc. Notable victims included Spiro Kitinchev, mayor of Skopje, Ilija Kocarev, mayor of Ohrid and Georgi Karev, the mayor of Krushevo during the Bulgarian occupation and brother of Ilinden revolutionary Nikola Karev. [39] Another IMRO activist, Sterio Guli, son of Pitu Guli, reportedly shot himself upon the arrival of Tito's partisans in Krushevo in despair over what he saw as a second period of Serbian dominance in Macedonia.

IMRO's supporters in Bulgarian Pirin Macedonia fared no better. With the help of some former Protogerovists, their main activists were hunted by the Communist police and many of them killed or imprisoned. Because some IMRO supporters openly opposed the then official policy of Communist Bulgaria to promote Macedonian ethnic consciousness in Pirin Macedonia they were repressed or exiled to the interior of Bulgaria.

Despite the fact that Yugoslav Macedonian historical scholarship reluctantly acknowledged the Bulgarian ethnic self-identification of the Ilinden VMORO leaders, they were adopted in the national pantheon of Yugoslav Macedonia as ethnic Macedonians. Official Yugoslav historiography asserted a continuity between the Ilinden of 1903 and the Ilinden of ASNOM in 1944 ignoring the fact that the first one included the uprising in the Adrianople region as well. The names of the IMRO revolutionaries Gotse Delchev, Pitu Guli, Dame Gruev and Yane Sandanski were included in the lyrics of the anthem of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia Denes nad Makedonija ("Today over Macedonia").


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