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0 Dame Gruev - the Founder of IMRO

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Dame Gruev - the Founder of IMRO

Dame Gruev's Early Years

Damian (Dame) Gruev was born in 1871 in the village of Smilevo, district of Monastir (Bitola), the southwestern part of Macedonia. He received his elementary education in his native village, Smilevo, and later studied in Ressen, Monastir, Salonica, and the University of Sofia, Bulgaria. While still in the Gymnazium of Salonica, Gruev felt the unbearable Turkish oppression and maltreatment of his fellow-countrymen-the Macedonians.

Soon after he graduated from the Gymnazium he went to Sofia and there, in 1889-1890, entered the University of Sofia to specialize in history. Here Gruev found the opportunity to study the history of the Bulgarians and particularly the methods and deeds of the Bulgarian revolutionists-Rakovsky, Karavelov, Levsky, Botev, and others-who had been greatly responsible for the freedom of Bulgaria. Gruev now anticipated the idea of following the examples of the Bulgarian revolutionists and he soon endeavored to form a similar organization in Macedonia for the deliverance of the Bulgarians that were still held in bondage by the Sultan.

He left the University and went to Macedonia to apply himself to the organization of the Macedonian people. In order to carry on his scheme of work more successfully and to avert the suspicion of the Turkish authorities he decided to become a school teacher. The first two years after his return to Macedonia he taught school, first in his native village of Smilevo, and later in the town of Prilep. The two years of teaching served him, also, as orientation for the work of the great conspiracy in Macedonia, against the corrupt and rapacious regime of Sultan Abdul Hamid.
Later, Gruev established himself in Salonica and here laid the foundation of the IMRO (The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization). With the cooperation of Dr.Christo Tatarchev, Peter Pop Arsov, and others he formulated the Constitution and By-laws of the IMRO. It was to be a secret organization under the direction of a Central Committee, with local branches of revolutionary committees throughout the Province of Macedonia and the Vilayet of Adrianople. These regions were to be divided into revolutionary districts or rayons. In accordance with the provision of the Constitution, the first Central Revolutionary Committee was organized in the summer of 1894, under the chairmanship of Dr. Christo Tatatrchev.

Dame Gruev - the Apostle

From 1894 to 1900, Gruev was an untiring apostle-a new Levsky-enlightening and recruiting adherents to the revolutionary movement. In the summer of 1894, he organized in the town of Negotin the first local revolutionary organization, and soon after, with the cooperation of Pere Toshev, he organized the first district committee in the city of Shtip. Gruev also visited the cities of Ressen, Ochrid, and Struga, and found the field quite favorable for the acceptance of his revolutionary ideas. In the city of Shtip, however, the conditions were even more favorable and here he remained as a teacher during the academic year 1894-1895. In the fall of the same year Gotze Delchev, who independently conceived the same desire as Gruev-that of organizing the Macedonian people into a secret revolutionary organization, arrived in Shtip in order to lay the foundation of a revolutionary movement for the express purpose of emancipation of Macedonia. Here Gruev and Delchev met for the first time. Soon after their acquaintance they found the similarity of their common mission, and as a result of this they became intimate friends. Delchev, with his gentle character, sincerity, and honesty, made an excellent impression upon Gruev. However, Delchev accepted the plan of the work which had been outlined already by the Central Committee of Salonica. After this, both Gruev and Delchev worked together in Shtip and environs.

The growth of the IMRO was phenomenal, particularly after Gruev settled in Salonica during the years 1895-1897, in the quality of an Exarchist school inspector. Gruev now became the soul and body of the Central revolutionary committee. Under the direction of the latter they began to issue a secret revolutionary paper, introduced ciphers (secret writing), used pseudonyms or a nom de plume, established channels for secret communication among the various local committees and also abroad-Bulgaria. A representative of the Central Revolutionary Committee was to be sent to Sofia to take charge of purchasing and dispatching, through secret channels, the necessary war provisions for the IMRO.

Gruev’s roaming from village to village , and from one city to another, resulted in a systematic revolutionary organization throughout the Province of Macedonia and the Vilayet of Adrianople. Unfortunately, for purely political reasons and in order to safeguard itself from complications, the Exarchy decided to dismiss Gruev in 1898. Soon after his dismissal Gruev moved to Monastir and there, with the cooperation of Slaveico Arsov, Paskov, and others, he began to issue another paper, secretly, of course. Sunday schools were begun, money was collected through a special "revolutionary tax", and a quantity of war materials was purchased . Gruev was again appointed to the teaching staff now in the city of Monastir, and as such, he also assumed the management of the revolutionary movement in the Vilayet of Monastir, while the active persons at the Committee in Salonica were Dr.Christo Tatarchev, Pere Toshev, and Christo Matov.

The result of Gruev’s activities in the Monastir district was felt by the Turkish authorities. The numerous chetas (bands) which infested the mountains began to terrorize the tyrannical Turkish malefactors. Gruev, being suspected as a major factor in fostering this movement, was , as a consequence, arrested on August 6, 1900. He was held in the Monastir jail until May 1902. However, this confinement did not check his revolutionary work. By means of secret writings, ciphers, etc., he was in constant touch with the various local revolutionary committees, and from the prison he was able to direct the affairs of the revolutionary district of Monastir.

Dame Gruev and the Ilinden Uprising

In the latter part of May, 1902, Gruev was condemned to banishment in the prison of Podroum-Kale in Asia Minor. There he found Christo Matov and Dr.Christo Tatarchev, both sentenced to exile in January 1901. Gruev and his comrades were kept in Podroum-Kale for ten months. Although he was away from Macedonia itself, Gruev managed to keep himself informed as to the development and affairs of the IMRO. He kept up a steady correspondence, ciphers also, with Salonica, Monastir, and Sofia. On Easter of 1903, at the instance of a general amnesty, he was released. Gruev hastened to Salonica and there he found the that the Central Committee, which was in charge of the IMRO, had already resolved to declare a general insurrection which was to take place during 1903.Although Gruev was not in accord with the Central Committee’s decision, primarily because of the IMRO’s lack of preparedness, since it was too late to oppose or to follow any other method, he gave in to the decision of the central Committee.

He left Salonica and went to Smilevo where the insurrectionary Congress was to be held. The purpose of this Congress was to set the date for the declaration of the general insurrection and to outline the methods and tactics in its prosecution. Here Gruev met Boris Sarafov, who had just arrived from Bulgaria. Gruev was elected as chairman of this Congress, and the latter decided that the day of the declaration of the insurrection was to be August 2, 1903. Gruev, Sarafov, and Alexander Lozantchev were elected by the Congress as the three members of the General Staff, and empowered to direct the insurrectionary forces in the Vilayet of Monastir.

Dame Gruev's Heroic Death

Gruev lived to see the frightful flight of the Turkish asker (troops) from his native village-Smilevo. He was engaged, during the course of the insurrection, in numerous skirmishes with the Turkish army and gallantly defended the temporarily freed Smilevo. But with the arrival in Macedonia of over 300,000 Asatics, any progress of the insurrection was made impossible and in a period of six weeks it was completely crushed. Gruev put himself to task now to tour the various revolutionary districts, disarm the insurgents, and store up the war materials for future use. The years 1903-1904 were the most disastrous for the Macedonian people. But Gruev and his fellow-workers kept up the spirit of the peasants and continued the work of organization and preparation for another opportune time to strike once more. "For great affiars,"said Gruev, "are necessary great forces. Liberty is a great thing: it requires great sacrifices." Gruev was an untiring worker. He rebuilt the temporarily wrecked organization, made it more systematic and far more powerful. But unfortunately, on his way through the village of Rousinovo (Maleshevsko district), Gruev and his cheta (band) were betrayed to the Turks. In a violent and heroic struggle with numerous Turkish troops he fell dead, on December 23, 1906.

When the Turkish Central authorities heard that among the killed was Gruev himself, they immediately telegraphed to the local Turkish governor to uncover the burried bodies and take a photograph of Gruev. The augurs of the autocratic bureaucracy of Constantinople wanted to convince themselves of the fact that the great giaur-the disturber of the empire, Gruev-was really dead. Thus ended the epic life of the great Macedonian apostle-Damian Gruev

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