The organized Macedonian national liberation movement emerged by the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, as a consequence of the political, national, economic and cultural oppression of the Macedonian nation, imposed by the social, economic, administrative and legislative crisis of the Turkish empire, and by other foreign states propaganda interfering in Macedonia.
The Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (MRO), became the newly established leader of the Macedonian national liberation and social revolution movement, struggling for national independence and social justice.
Those were the turbulent times that created Goce Delchev, the extraordinary visionary and the ideological leader who organized and mobilized the movement.
His brief but brilliant career had been entirely dedicated to the cause of his nation.
Goce Delchev, the son of the Macedonian patriots Nikola and Sultana Delchevi, was bom on February 4th, 1872, in Kukush, a town 35 km north of Salonika.
The intellectual development of Goce Delchev was influenced by several formative stages. He completed his elementary education in Kukush, expanded his knowledge through the high school in Salonika, with emphasis on science, literature and social studies, further developing his interest in several scientific disciplines at the Salonika Military Academy. He acquired an impressive amount of information on the Macedonian national affairs within the period. His active role in the political clubs of Salonika and Sofia, and his close contacts with the other ones, especially with the socialist and the “Lozari” clubs from Sofia, greatly contributed to the formation of his revolutionary profile.
Goce Delchev’s involvement in the MRO determined the most significant course in the history of the Macedonian national liberation movement. The years between 1894 and 1903 represent the final and most efficient revolutionary sequence of his short life. They comprise of Delchev’s public education career as a scholar in Novo Selo (near Shtip) and Bansko (1894-1896), and of his ultimate engagement with the revolutionary cause, pursuing the preparations for the armed uprising of the Macedonian people.
A decisive meeting of historic importance took place in Shtip, in early November 1894, between Goce Delchev and Dame Gruev, the founder of MRO. By that time, Dame had already witnessed the major impact of Goce upon the mobilized expansion of the movement, its organized network throughout Macedonia, and its animation of the remote rural areas of the entire Macedonian land. The ideal concept of Delchev saw the liberation of Macedonia as an exclusively domestic affair relying on an internally organized uprising, to which any other adverse opinion would be either a self-deceptive or a deceiving one.
The initial significant mission of Goce Delchev into the interior of the Macedonian land was recorded in April of 1895. He accomplished the establishment of local branches of the organization that spread the spirit of freedom widely among the population of the country. Goce’s conviction was that the liberation objectives required a further awakening of the national sentiments for patriotic sacrifice, energized by a powerful motivation.
Goce was able to recognize and interpret the fatal danger descending upon Macedonia and coming from the Balkan monarchies and their unscrupulous aspirations for the Macedonian partition, openly promoted by their subversive propaganda. The most aggressive Bulgarian propaganda and its crucial instrument, the destructive fraction called “Vrhovism”, became the target of Goce’s severe opposition. Continuing his enormous influence, Delchev exercised an updated revision of the revolutionary districts in Macedonia in 1895, by strengthening the borderline ones, by providing adequate contacts for a reliable network, and by appointing branch leadership of the organization. Meanwhile, Goce continued maintaining his conviction that the revolutionary war was to be fought solely by Macedonian forces, that the purity of the liberation movement and of the Organization in particular, was the precondition for the proper outcome, and that Macedonia was to be protected from falling under any foreign domination of, or division between, the neighboring Balkan states. At the First Congress of MRO, in April of 1896, an updated organizational redistricting was introduced, MRO was renamed TMORO (Secret Macedonian Odrin Revolutionary Organization), its new Constitution and Charter adopted (drawn up by Goce Delchev and Gjorche Petrov), and an expatriate branch of TMORO established in Sofia. Goce and Gjorche became the first representatives of its expatriate branch, and assumed all the responsibilities regarding material supplies for the organization, including weapons, ammunition, revolutionary literature, and other publications.
Delchev’s correspondence with the TMORO members covers extensive data on supplies, transport and storage of weapons and ammunition in Macedonia. Delchev initiated the idea for an independent production of weapons, which resulted in the bomb manufacturing in the Osogovo Mountains. The plant played a significant role in furthering the self-confidence and self-reliance within the revolutionary movement.
The inclusion of the rural areas into the organizational districts contributed to the expansion of the organization and the increase in its membership, while providing the essential prerequisites for the formation of the military power of the organization, at the same time having Goce Delchev as its military advisor (inspector). Delchev’s work-style defied the discrepancy between words and deeds. It was the nature of this attitude that defined him as the majestic revolutionary organizer and ideologist of the national liberation movement.
The justifiable conspiracy period of TMORO was ended by the Vinica Affair of November 1897, when domestic and world opinion was exposed to the facts of TMORO’s existence and extent.
That was the time of Delchev’s campaign trips across Macedonia, inducing optimism, bright visions and firm confidence in the successful goals of the Macedonian national idea.
The unity of the organization was increasingly challenged by the adverse infiltration of the Vrhovism fraction into the revolutionary districts of TMORO, followed by frequent subversions. These developments led to the subsequently reorganized structure of some revolutionary districts, implemented by Delchev during 1900-1902.
The primary question regarding the timing of the uprising in Macedonia implicated an apparent discordance among the representatives, at the Sofia Conference in 1903.
Goce Delchev and his followers kept warning that a premature uprising could be the ultimate crime a leader can inflict upon a nation and its history. The prevention of such a misleading initiative was the main objective of Goce’s permanent mobility on the Macedonian territory.
On his way to the Congress of the revolutionary district of Ser (nowadays under Greece), that was to be held at Lovchan Grove of Ali Botush, Delchev stopped by the village of Banica. There, on the 4th of May 1903 Goce Delchev encountered his lethal opposition – betrayed and surrounded, he was killed in heroic defense. His tragic death cancelled many far-reaching visions this revolutionary giant identified with, during that period of the Macedonian history.
The death of this apostle of the Macedonian national liberation struggle was a powerful news-maker for the Turkish government telegram networks, for the diplomatic corps reports in Turkey, and for the European press agencies. Delchev was only 31 when he left the Macedonian historic scene as the most dynamic personality of the Macedonian revolutionary and national liberation movement.
The international, cosmopolitan views of Delchev that elevated him far ahead of his time, could be summarized in his proverbial sentence: “I understand the world solely as a field for cultural competition among nations”.
Although Goce Delchev strongly resisted the premature uprising, its date was nevertheless determined at the Smilevo Congress. The uprising was to begin on August 2, 1903, the orthodox Christian holiday of St. Elijah. The entire Macedonian territory got involved in the armed uprising, within which the most intense confrontations took place in the liberation of Neveska, of Klisura and of Krushevo, where the Krushevo Republic was proclaimed by its president, Nikola Karev.
The Ilinden traditions found their expression during the National Liberation War (NOV) in Macedonia. Their climax occurred at the Second Ilinden, when the First Assembly of ASNOM took place on August 2, 1944.
After a mutual agreement between the government of the former federal republic of Macedonia and the Association of the Macedonian Fraternities in Bulgaria, the remains of Goce Delchev were transferred to the People’s Republic of Macedonia, on October 10, 1946. The following day, they were solemnly embedded into a marble sarcophagus, displayed in the front yard of the “Sv. Spas” (“Holy Savior”) church in Skopje.
Goce Delchev’s life epitomizes the virtuous heroism of the proud Macedonian nation. The Macedonian people have been paying an extraordinary tribute and respect to Goce Delchev, expressing them by annual meetings and anniversaries, numerous scientific, folk and popular culture events, and other manifestations of admiration for his history-making personality, for his outstanding efforts.
Delchev’s ideals are incorporated in the history of the Macedonian collective conscience perpetuated through the new generations of today. St. Elijah holidays of 1903 and 1944, as well as the 1991 break away of Macedonia from the Yugoslav federation, represent only a partial fulfillment of Goce’s long awaited dream for a free and independent state of Macedonia.