The Macedonian Uprising in Kresna 1878
Table of Contents
- 1 The Struggle Of The Macedonian People In The Pirin Region Of Macedonia
- 2 Armed Struggles Against the Ottoman Forces before the Uprising
- 3 Rebellious Movements in Northeast and Eastern Macedonia in 1878
- 4 The Preparations for Organizing the Rebellion in Macedonia
- 5 The Resistance In Bulgaria Against The Decisions Of The Congress Of Berlin
- 6 The Outbreak And Development Of The Kresna Uprising
- 7 The Program Aims Of The Uprising
- 8 The Organization Of The Uprising And The Clash With The Representatives Of The Beneficience Committee
- 9 The Uprising Spreads to Razlog
- 10 The Events in Kresna after the Expulsion of Berovski
- 11 The Second Period Of The Kresna Uprising
- 12 Reasons For The Suppression Of The Kresna Uprising And Their Consequences
- 13 Reflections on the Uprising in Other Parts of Macedonia and among the Macedonian Emigrants
- 14 Summary From The Prescripts Of The Macedonian Rebel Committee, 1878
On the 17th of October, 1878 Macedonian rebels attacked the Turkish garrison of 119 soldiers in the village of Kresna. The voivode, Stoyan Karastoilov from the village of Starchishta-Nevrokop region (today’s Gotsé Delchev), and Dimitar Pop Georgiev from Berovo led the Macedonians through a nineteen-hour battle, winning, in the end, total victory. What remained of the Turkish army was taken prisoner. That was the beginning of the Macedonian uprising in 1878, known in history as the Kresna Uprising.
The “Macedonian Uprising,” as the rebels themselves labeled their action, occurred toward the end of the
In essence, the Eastern Crisis was the escalating of national revolutionary movements appearing in the late 70s of the 19th century. In Bosnia-Hercegovina it was the Bosnia-Hercegovinian Uprising of 1875; in Bulgaria, “The April Uprising” of 1876; and in Macedonia, the much smaller Razlovtsi Uprising, also in 1876. The struggle of the Balkan peoples for freedom from centuries of Ottoman domination was reflected in the Ottoman Empire’s strained international relations: the Serbo-Turkish conflict of 1876; and the Russo-Turkish wars of 1877 through 1878. The latter conflict was resolved, for the time being, by the signing of the San Stefano Peace Treaty on March 3, 1878. With Turkey defeated and weakened by internal strife, the Russian Czar was able to dictate the terms of the treaty. In an attempt to secure enduring access to the Aegean Sea, he created the new Bulgarian state on the Balkans. However, when the Western powers convened for the Congress of Berlin in July, 1878, the Russian hopes for creating a Greater Bulgaria on the Balkans were stymied.
In either case, the Macedonian people were treated as objects. Their efforts for national liberation did not even come into consideration by the great powers. The war experiences of other peoples taught the lesson that without one’s own efforts, without one’s own self-sacrifice, freedom could not be gained. Freedom is not something given; it must be fought for. Thus, wide-spread revolutionary movements developed throughout Macedonia before and after the Congress of Berlin. Such conditions spawned the “Macedonian Uprising” in Kresna. The aim of the rebels was to incite all of Macedonia. They fought against the decision of the Congress of Berlin which had simply reinstated the Ottoman reign. However, the Macedonian rebels did not fight for a return to the terms of the San Stefano Treaty, but rather for the liberation of Macedonia, for the creation of a Macedonian state, against Bulgarian designs on Macedonia.
The goals of the Kresna Uprising were: eradication of the feudal system; equal rights for all citizens before the law of the liberated Macedonian state, regardless of nationality and religious belief; cooperation and mutual assistance with the neighboring states of Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece; and mutual cooperation with the Albanian revolutionary movement.
Motivated by egoism, the Greater Bulgarian bourgeoisie applied fierce pressure to the Macedonian rebels, aiming to subjugate the Kresna Uprising. The epilogue was the unnecessary killing of the Uprising’s most revered, most valiant man, voivode Stoyan Karastoilov. He had refused to submit to the tyranny of a foreign power. His death was a grievous loss to the Macedonians. It was political murder used as a means of punishing the recalcitrant, as a method of imposing foreign domination.
The Struggle Of The Macedonian People In The Pirin Region Of Macedonia
Kresna is a small village in the Pirin region of Macedonia. It rests inclined on the slopes of the gorge bearing the same name, just where the Struma River runs through the gorge and out to the Sandanski-Petrich plain.
On the 17th of October, 1878, Macedonian rebels attacked a Turkish garrison quartered in the village inns and proclaimed the beginning of the uprising. It was the beginning of the struggle for liberation from the Ottoman Empire’s domination and oppression, from Turkish feudalism, for the creation of their own Macedonian state, for Macedonian freedom. After that attack, the village name was ascribed to the uprising, a name that will forever hold significance in Macedonian history: “The Kresna Uprising.” This name has stuck despite the fact that the rebels themselves christened it the “Macedonian Uprising.”
It can be said that the Kresna Uprising represents a fractured moment in the history of the Macedonian people. Fractured in the sense that those who were fighting for cultural and educational emancipation, for the Macedonian national identity, joined forces with the haiduks who had theretofore marauded sporadically and impulsively. It also represents a stage, rich with experience, in the development toward an all-inclusive and systematically led national revolutionary organization which would raise the consciousness of the masses and would teach the necessity of material and moral sacrifice in order to secure individual freedom.
Despite the fact that it coincided with activities foreign to the aspirations of the Macedonian people and to the rebels themselves, the Kresna Uprising was by no means an anomaly. It represented aspirations for freedom and independence from every kind of domination, whether it be the Ottoman Empire or the Bulgarian bourgeoisie (a threat that would develop during the course of the struggles). Neither was it an act motivated by a lust for power. It was a natural expression of all of Macedonia, especially of the region in which the uprising .occurred, a natural expression that led them during the initial period of the struggle.
The Kresna Uprising erupted in the eastern part of Macedonia, administratively known as the Ser sanjak (a subdivision of a Turkish province). This area possessed a rich cultural and educational tradition. During Turkish domination, the educational activities were never extinguished. And through these centuries of darkness, the monasteries were preserved.
An appreciable growth in the economy of this area of Macedonia toward the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries enabled narrow contacts with Central Europe. This opened new opportunities for advancement in education. New ideas were especially well-received in the mountainous areas of the region. In 1810, the first school was opened in the village of Godlevo-Razlog district. In the plains region further south, Macedonian farmers found themselves not only beset by economic woes but also inundated by Greek religious and educational propaganda which sought to deny all that was Macedonian…. However, things began to change in 1860.
In 1860, resistance against Greek religious and educational predominance began to appear throughout all of Macedonia. With the creation of independent Macedonian religious and educational organizations in mind, the struggle was directed against the Greek bishops, and against the predominance, and further efforts to intrude the Greek language in education. It was, however, also a struggle against the economic positions of the Greek bourgeoisie in Macedonia and against their denationalization policy whose aim was to realize the idea of a Greater Greece on the Balkans. This was the beginning of the organized struggle in this part of Macedonia against the efforts of Constantinopole and the Greek Patriarchy.
The struggle against the Constantinopole Patriarchy in Macedonia was arduous and exhausting. It demanded from its participants, and especially from its leaders, perseverance and readiness for self-sacrifice. Dimitar Pop Georgiev not only led the Kresna Uprising, but also initiated the expulsion proceedings against the Greek bishop of Berovo. The following excerpts from Georgiev’s writings recall his participation in the struggle against Greek religious propaganda and the dangers he risked as a result:
“In 1874, after the shameful expulsion of the Greek bishop, Yerotey Kamboshiyac (born in Strumitsa), from the village of Berovo, the religious question in the Maleshevo region changed its character. The relations with the Turkish governmental officials became so strained that it was impossible to convince them that they might provoke political confrontations. On the Friday after Easter, the holiday of St. Mary Balakliya, ten to fifteen thousand people came to the village of Berovo. The majority of them wanted to take the bishop from the protective hands of the government. They feared neither the mudir (the Turkish ruler of the district) nor the zaptii (guards). The people took their weapons and beat them, forcing them to obey the will of the people. In order to spare the bishop’s life, the government officials, rendered impotent, unwillingly yielded to the demands of the people. The people’s will could not be bent. To mollify the people, the bishop was shamefully expelled by the government not only from Berovo, but from the district as well. He was not even allowed to spend the night in the district. When he said good-bye to Maleshovo forever, to our minds, he got just what he deserved. But I, as a representative of the district with regard to religious questions and vekii (authorized liaison between the Macedonians and the Turks) for all governmental affairs, had to deprive Diar Bekir (a fortress) of my presence. Of course, it was necessary for me to give up willingly all my rights as a citizen and leave Maleshevo so that I wouldn’t fall captive of the Turkish government. I was able to escape through Kyustendil, then to Pazardzhik, and from there by train to Constantinopole.
“As for the consequences of the past on the religious questions, I won’t indulge in an argument here. That would lead me away from the fascinating and sometimes scandalous events of my narrative. But just in passing, I’ll mention that after my escape to Constantinopole, the Turkish authorities reacted brutally: fleecing, beating, imprisoning, and generally visiting tribulation on the people of Maleshevo.”
The struggle in eastern Macedonia against the Greek Patriarchate began to spread among all the people, and make itself felt in other regions as well. All Balkan peoples who found themselves under Ottoman authority, especially the Bulgarians, were taking part. With time, the more the struggle developed, the more severe and exhausting it became, and the more the participants – the Macedonians and the Bulgarians – aided one another. Of course, the measure of assistance provided depended upon the level of economic development. At that time, the Bulgarian people had a more highly developed bourgeoisie class and, accordingly, greater facility for aiding the struggle of the Macedonian people against Greek expansion.
However, corresponding to the help of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie with the escalation of Macedonia’s anti-Patriarchate movement was the escalation of their aspirations for Macedonia. The Bulgarian bourgeoisie stepped up their efforts to impose their language in the education of Macedonians and thereby spread the national name.
Although anti-Patriarchate sentiment was prevalent in Bulgaria and Macedonia, the leadership was centered in Constantinopole in the hands of a wealthy group of Bulgarians. As the struggle gained momentum, the more blatant were the efforts of this group to consolidate their leadership, and the more open were the efforts to make the struggle exclusively Bulgarian in character. Thus, even at the outset, the co-operative Macedonian and Bulgarian struggle against Greek propaganda made manifest two aims: to eradicate the Greek influence in Bulgaria and in Macedonia; and to impose an enduring Bulgarian influence in Macedonia by subjugating the religious and educational institutions that had just been liberated from Patriarchate dependence.
In other words, even in the incipient stages of the struggle, the class and national ambitions of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie were vigorously present. And the presence was felt in issues regarding language, education, and the independence of national churches. However, contradictions appeared between the two bourgeoisies, contradictions which would acquire an enduring character through the course of historical development. The resistance in Macedonia gained strength against the imposition of the new foreign cultural predominance, and against the exploitation of the Macedonian people.
The earliest information regarding the dissatisfaction with and resistance to the Bulgarian language as used in Macedonian education dates back to 1848. It came from the pen of Nikola Pop Philipov (born in Bansko), a teacher in the Ser sanjak in eastern Macedonia.
With time, the efforts to curb Macedonian religious and educational autonomy grew coarser and more intense. And the Macedonian resistance grew more decisive.
In this, the eastern region of Macedonia, the clash with Greater Bulgarian ambitions was sharply expressed in 1872 when, despite the support of all the church school parishes for Priest Hariton’s election to the newly established diocese of Nevrokop-Drama, Melnik Eparchy, the Exharchy denied his ordination. Moreover, to reduce his influence in Macedonia as deputy to the Exharch, he was sent far away from this district to Berkovitsa, Bulgaria.
However, such suppression of the will of the people served only to kindle an open revolt in the area. The following year the people seceded from the Bulgarian Exharchy and joined the Catholic church.
The well-known Bulgarian sociologist, Petko R. Slaveikov, was sent personally to Macedonia to determine the reasons for Macedonian dissatisfaction with the Greater Bulgarian propaganda and to ascertain the depth and width of that dissatisfaction. He concluded this sentiment was the continuation of disenchantment with the intrusion of the Bulgarian language, a sentiment that was present even before the establishment of the Bulgarian Exharchy. Among other reasons cited, Slaveikov said that the dissatisfaction was a result of “envy because of the predominance of Bulgarian speech in literature.” In one of his letters addressed to the Bulgarian Exharchate, he wrote:
“This dissatisfaction turned into disbelief in the church leaders and created the thought for the emphasizing of the local Macedonian speech as a literary Bulgarian language and the formation of the Macedonian-Bulgarian hierarchy… The thought of separatism appeared in small secret circle in Constantinopole. Those who asked for the archimandrite Hariton’s ordination as bishop were members of this circle.
Speaking about the dimensions of that movement Slaveikov points out that it was an expression of the widely held notion to create a unified church in Macedonia to which Hariton would be appointed as bishop of Ser and Melnik.
In a word, the eruption of the Kresna Uprising in eastern Macedonia, that is in the area of what is known today as Pirin Macedonia, appears as a logical consequence of a complex set of cultural and educational conditions. The struggle for religious and educational independence from the authority of the Greek-Constantinopole Patriarchate, and from the predominant imposition of Bulgarian religious and educational propaganda (up until the appearance of the revolutionary movements on the Balkans in 1875 – 78, and the Russo-Turkish Wars) was an expression and function of the national movement of the Macedonian people whose basic aims at that time were cultural self-reliance, independence, and individualization.
It should be pointed out that the cultural self-reliance in Macedonia in general, and in the Ser region especially, was far from being ingenuous. To assert themselves, the Macedonian people had to overcome the resistance of the Turkish governmental authorities, the severe pressure of the Phanariotic propaganda which battled for predominance, and at the same time to pose their own cultural and political identity vis-à-vis that of Greater Bulgaria.
However, as the struggle developed, it nurtured the revolutionary instinct and knowledge of the masses. They began to recognize the need for widening and deepening the struggle by the use of means beyond weapons and national sentiment. All of this was of great importance for the Kresna Uprising. For it was here, in this part of Macedonia where the aspirations for self-reliance and independence were clearly expressed, thus providing not only a developmental step but direction as well.
Armed Struggles Against the Ottoman Forces before the Uprising
From the middle of the 19th century, another movement developed parallel to the religious and educational struggle against the economic and cultural domination of the Constantinopole Patriarchy in Macedonia. Although spontaneous and transient in character up until 1876, the haiduk movement developed as resistance against the Turkish tyranny and exploitation of the Macedonians.
This sort of resistance in Macedonia was not something new. It existed throughout the entire Turkish reign over the Balkans. However, what distinguished the haiduk movement from the earlier, similar activities was its transformation into a component of national renaissance. Although at the outset the religious and educational struggle and the haiduk movement had absolutely no common bond, during their development, these two expressions of Macedonian resistance began to converge. They became two separate phenomena with the same goal: the national liberation of the Macedonian people.
From the middle of the 19th century on, the chief cause of the haiduk movements was rooted in the political and economic decline of the Ottoman Empire. After 1856, Turkey stepped up its exploitation and taxation of the working masses. This in combination with the introduction of products from western Europe caused the collapse village economies, and the local craftsmen were left without markets for their wares.
The first haiduks in eastern Macedonia appeared prior to the Crimean War. They were small bands of men. One man in particular, Ilyo Voivode (Ilyo Markov), gained a reputation as a haiduk leader. He became a haiduk in 1849. With his deeds of bravery and audacity, he soon became a legend. The glory of Ilyo sprang from his meting out justice on various thieves. He became so well-known and his reputation so exaggerated by the people of this part of Macedonia, that the Russian Consul, Nayden Gerov, in Plovdiv, accepting the legend of Ilyo for fact, proposed to make use of him as a means for inciting rebellion. The Consul reckoned that in the event of a successful uprising, the rebellion would spread throughout Macedonia, Thrace and Bulgaria.
Around the year 1862, more extensive preparations for an uprising had already been made in western Macedonia. Here, Spiro Dzherov Makedonski tried to organize an uprising in Bitola in which, according to some unconfirmed reports, about 83 villages from Bitola, Lerin, Ohrid, and Resen were involved. However, the uprising was aborted by treachery. Spiro Makedonski, the initiator of the uprising, fell into the hands of the authorities.
The haiduk movement, of course, was not characterized by a systematic approach. Their activities would flair up like an explosion and then die down to smouldering embers, only to ignite once again. The well-known collector of Macedonian folk songs, Stefan Verkovich, mentions the haiduk movement in the Pirin region of Macedonia in one of his letters dated May 15, 1873: “For more than thirteen years, haiduk bands have not disturbed the Pirin and Maleshevo Mountains… However, yesterday I found out from a reliable source that since the Day of St. George, two larger bands have been active in that area. Each of them has twenty members and they have already marauded savagely in the Melnik and Maleshevo regions; they tried to convince me that the haiduks have not yet attacked good people, only tax collectors, usurers, vineyard guards and chiflik (feudal estate) custodians. The reason being that they, as Turks, torture the poor in a hundred different ways. If that is true, then these bands will be the avengers for the unprecedented injustices perpetrated against the Christian population, and not simply outlaws and criminals.”
At about the same time (1873), in another report from the Voden region, the merchant, Hadzhi Tasho, said that people were preparing for an uprising in that area of Macedonia. With a sum of 200 lira, a group of fifteen people were buying gun powder and arms and were storing the goods in secret places.
To be sure, all the data regarding the resistance in Macedonia at that time by no means indicates a massive movement. The event is important though insofar as it appeared in a period of general turmoil, while subjugated nations throughout the Balkans were chafing under the Turkish reign.
And the general resistance did not pass simply as unrest without corollary reaction elsewhere. What happened in Bosnia during the Bosnian Uprising, what happened in Bulgaria during the “April Uprising,” indeed what was happening throughout the Balkans had no choice but to find an outlet in Macedonia. It was this climate that gave birth to the Razlovtsi Uprising; the first shot was fired .on May 8, 1876.
As is known, Dimitar Pop Georgiev Berovski was not only the spirit and spark of the Razlovtsi Uprising, but one of the most important people in the Kresna Uprising as well. He was born in 1840 in Berovo; his father was the priest, Georgi Dimitriev. He finished primary school in Berovo and in 1858 he enrolled at the Theological Seminary in Odessa. However, because of his rebellious nature, he was expelled from the Seminary. Then he went on to Belgrade where he joined the Serbian army. After he served his time in the army, he returned to Berovo and became one of the main leaders of the resistance against the Greek bishop from Strumitsa. The bishop was expelled from Berovo in 1874.
Because of his activities, Berovski was forced to leave his native town and escape to Constantinopole. There, however, he found himself dogged constantly by the Turkish police, so he moved to Salonika. In reference to this part of his life, Berovski wrote: “Once again I escaped the pursuit of the Constantinopole police. Then I left secretly for Salonika.
“In and around Salonika I was able to live without the Turkish authorities knowing of my whereabouts for half a year. Here I had a chance to get detailed information about the Hercegovina uprising. The opportunity allowed me to follow all the movements of the Turkish army on land and at sea – when they arrived by train via Mitrovitsa on their way to Bosnia-Hercegovina. The largest movements of armies toward Bosnia-Hercegovina was around the end of 1875 and the beginning of 1876.
“The news about the Hercegovina uprising, the movement of Turkish troops, and my situation became equally unbearable. My impatience grew from day to day. I decided to organize an uprising in Macedonia in December of 1875, hoping to provide relief to the Hercegovina uprising by detaining part of the Turkish armies.. .”
Berovski intended to expand the uprising beyond the borders of his home district, Malesh, and to incite the neighboring districts of Strumitsa, Petrich, and Melnik. However, intentions are one thing, and possibilities are quite another. Despite arduous efforts, the organized uprising was limited to Razlovtsi and nearby villages. Quick and forceful action by the Turkish army prevented the uprising from spreading. Thus, the uprising was suppressed. Only Berovski’s detachment was left to reconnoiter in the mountains around Melnik, Petrich and Osogovo. But thanks to the support of the people, the detachment was able to allude capture and sustain themselves on the open terrain for an entire year. Later, after the Russo-Turkish war broke out, they guarded the people against the plunder of the retreating Turkish armies.
The uprising was doomed from the outset. Their resources consisted of that which was donated by two escaped villagers. They were inspirited by the romantic fervor of a young group. Their efforts lacked definition, concrete planning and perspective. They placed tremendous stock in the vain promises of support from the Serbian army. Pressure and intimidation were used on villagers who weren’t ready to respond to the call of rebellion. And they found themselves totally isolated from other parts of Macedonia. However, as it was, the action provided not only an introduction to the later national revolutionary struggles of the Macedonian people, but above all, the precious experience of militancy which Berovski and his detachment would rely on for the Kresna Uprising of 1878.
Rebellious Movements in Northeast and Eastern Macedonia in 1878
The Razlovtsi Uprising of 1876 forced the Turkish authorities to undertake energetic measures, primarily intimidation and terrorism, to eradicate the revolutionary movements at their roots. Those especially victimized were the more progressive people, the craftsmen and merchants.
This policy wreaked extensive damage on the economic activity of the country, and conditions grew even worse during the two wars: the Serbo-Turkish war of 1876, and the Russo-Turkish war of 1876 -78. Great masses of Turkish refugees flooded Macedonia, arriving from areas that had been the sites of battles and from territory lost by the Turks. The general contempt of these refugees for the …[…]…[Ethnic Macedonian] population combined with the Turkish authorities efforts to resettle them in Macedonia made the situation almost intolerable. Wherever there was rule, it was arbitrary, and wherever there wasn’t, there was anarchy. During and after the wars the Turkish army marched back and forth across the Balkans, either heading for a front or retreating from one, and they plundered heedlessly in both directions. The Kumanovo and Kriva Palanka regions suffered most, especially from the Turkish irregular army, the bashibazouks. Of course, other regions of Macedonia were harassed as well: by July, 1878, twelve villages in the Bitola district were burned to the ground.
An impassioned description of prevailing conditions in Macedonia during the l870s was penned in a complaint lodged with the English Consul in Salonika:
“The news of His Excellency’s arrival in Dzhumaya gave hope to us Macedonians, the citizens of the Maleshevo district. We have suffered incessantly up till now. The Turkish tyranny and the causes for our suffering are well known to the educated and the humanitarian of Europe; and through our cables of 1874 addressed to the British emissary in Constantinopole, the beneficent England is most acutely aware of our plight.
“The constant killings, arrests, unjust taxation, denigration of our religious beliefs, the raping of our women, daughters and sisters are all habits of pleasure for the Turks. We cannot confide this secret and pain except in the English Consul in Salonika. Your humanitarian advice gave us our last hope and encouraged us to address You with our numerous petitions of protest. But in lieu of satisfactory results, we received reprisals deserved of the ignoble. So, on May 8, 1876, before the eyes of the world, we were compelled to protest with weapons in our hands. If we could attract the attention of the Turkish government, it might ask itself, what evil has made us so desperate, what would force us to bring our last drop of blood to the alter of Europe? The Turkish government, however, did not respond as we had hoped.”
The conditions of pressure and arbitrary rule created an atmosphere of insecurity in Macedonia. That, of course, fed the resistance and led to the strengthening of the haiduk movement in the country. The wars against Turkey also intensified the resistance. Although illusory, the visage of a liberated Macedonia being near at hand generated impatience and the revolutionary mood gained fervor. The presence of Macedonian volunteers in the Serbian army during the Serbo-Turkish war, and in the Russian army during the Russo-Turkish war is an indication of the intensity of the mood – a mood that affected the uplifting of the people’s spirit.
There were 350 to 400 Macedonian volunteers in the ranks of the Serbian army during the Serbo-Turkish conflict; and during the Russo-Turkish war, 400 Macedonians joined the Russian ranks. Volunteers worthy of special mention are Dr. Konstantin Vezenkov an intellectual from Krushevo, and the leaders of the haiduk movement, Ilyo Markov, known as Dedo Ilyo Maleshevski, Dimitar Trifunov, Ivan Robev, and Georgi Puleski. The participation of the well-known Macedonian educator, poet, historian, linguist, and revolutionary, Georgi Puleski, should be especially noted. Wherever there was a battle against Turkish tyranny, Puleski could be found in the front lines, hoping his efforts would help bring closer the day of his country’s liberation.
The great measure of hope for the final liberation from centuries of Turkish rule was supplanted by an equal measure of disappointment when news reached the Macedonians that the signing of a peace treaty had halted the Russian and Serbian armies at Macedonia’s threshold. Defeated expectations were most deeply felt in the northeastern regions of Macedonia where the people had had direct contact with the Russian and Serbian armies. And it was here where the disappointment was transformed into an armed movement aiming to break the grip of Turkish rule. That movement included the entire northeastern area of Macedonia, the Kumanovo and Kriva Palanka regions, and a healthy part of eastern Macedonia, specifically the mountainous territory of the Ser sanjak The initial shock of disappointment rapidly resolved into anger and new hopes: perhaps the conditions set forth by the treaty were only temporary; perhaps, while the Turks were weakened by war, a mere few forces might be able to topple Turkish rule in the area. With such notions in mind, the population began to arm itself. At the same time, spontaneously assembled bands began to appear, moving along the border areas in close proximity to the Serbian army. These bands were composed primarily of Macedonians, volunteers, from the Serbian army. Soon after the 19th of January, 1878, when the Serbian army captured Vranyé, the bands descended from Mount Kozyak into the Pchinya Valley. The retreating Turkish army and the proximity of the Serbian encouraged almost all the villages in the Mount Kozyak, German, and Palanka regions to rise up in revolt.
So began the movement in the Kumanovo and Kriva Palanka regions. At first, the animosity toward the Turkish population that had been seething inside for centuries burst forth with a vengeance. Although the Serbian army was able to restore a measure of order and discipline among the rebellious and avenging peasants, the revolt remained a spontaneous and sporadic movement without much prospect of enduring success. As the date for the Congress of Berlin neared, the Turkish government, acting on the advice of its allies, adopted strict measures to liquidate all unrest within its borders. Of highest priority were the disturbances along the Serbian border, so Turkey deployed appropriate military forces. By the end of May, 1878 after the rebels encountered the Turkish regular army, the rebellion began to disintegrate. The fact that the Turkish authorities did not harshly treat those peasants caught without weapons in their hands attenuated the wrath and aided in quelling disturbances.
The Preparations for Organizing the Rebellion in Macedonia
The light measures required to suppress the rebellious movements in the Kumanovo and Kriva Palanka regions were, in any event, neither a sign of the languishing of the revolutionary mood in Macedonia, nor a decline in the desire for freedom and independence. On the contrary, the situation on the Balkans and especially in Macedonia constantly stoked the atmosphere, keeping warm the struggle for overthrowing Turkish rule. After the wars, the haiduk movement, having now a wealth of experience and tradition, did not fade away, but rather developed and grew.
Despite temporary vacillations after the rebellion in Razlovtsi (1876), the haiduk movement was expanding in the region in which the Kresna Uprising would erupt – in the regions of Pianets, Malesh, Pirin, and further south. Thus, the situation created by the peace treaty between Russia and Turkey helped to bring about the increase in the haiduk movement by the beginning of January, 1878. Taking advantage of the chaos in the country, Ilyo Maleshevski led a group of Macedonian voivodes and about 150 rebels into the Pianets region in northern Macedonia. They captured the town of Tsarevo Selo (today’s Delchevo) and twelve to fourteen villages in the surrounding area. They established their own government. For two months this liberated territory functioned as an independent island between the Russian army in Kyustendil and the Turkish army. But, by the end of March, the Turks marched in and recaptured the area.
In short, the entire mountainous region of this part of Macedonia, the area which was later to the uprising’s battlefield, was a hot bed of unrest.
After the San Stefano Treaty was signed, the number of haiduk bands in Macedonia increased. There was a direct relation between the increase in the number of bands and the Treaty’s stipulation that the Russian army would occupy Macedonia. It was decided that the army would be broken down into detachments or local occupying units and thus take over the country.
Of course, soon after the signing of the agreement, the Russian command in Bu1garia took immediate steps to realize the decrees of the agreement. As Dondukov himself said, the decisions made and the steps taken to implement them could not be hidden from the Macedonians. So, when the decision was rescinded, and Russian soldiers were not sent into Macedonia, the Macedonians were bitterly disappointed. Dashed hopes sent them into collective protests and turmoil. Especially affected were the border areas where the people were in direct contact with the Russian army and were more or less aware of the plan to have Macedonia occupied by Russian armies.
Dissatisfaction was emphatically expressed in the eastern, that is the Pirin, region of Macedonia. The following were the causes: According to the Odrin Peace Treaty, the Russians were allowed to occupy Gorna Dzhumaya in order to establish either their own government or a Serbian government. Without awaiting final approval by the Commission, the Russian army entered the town on the 11th of February and organized its own government immediately. The coming of the Russians to Gorna Dzhumaya caused jubilation among the people. Their woods in the Pirin region of Macedonia had been filled with haiduks for such a long time. Now, some could return to the town. Then, on the 13th of February, the demarcation line was drawn crossing southwest of the town, and the Russians had to withdraw. Now, the haiduk bands that had earlier crisscrossed the Pirin and Malesh regions gathered even greater numbers. Among them was the band of Berovski.
A report by Todor A. Strahinov, one of the participants in the rebellion, best expresses the rapidity with which the number of haiduks grew and some of the reasons people joined the bands. He did not link the joining of the haiduks with external or abstract causes; rather, he considered it a consequence of the Turkish authorities’ treatment of the Macedonian people – the plundering, the torture, the injustice. Moreover, in writing about his own case, two years prior to his joining the haiduks (1876), Strahinov notes that his involvement with the local church activities prompted Turkish authorities to harass him and others who had worked for the church. Two years later, when local Turks robbed and plundered the village church, Strahinov and his friends protested and sought punitive action against the Turks. Instead, Strahinov met with persecution. He was forced to flee into the hills and join one of the haiduk bands.
Strahinov’s experience was typical. Those people who had participated in the religious and educational struggle against the Phanariotic propaganda before the war were now subjected to harassment and assault by the authorities. Rather than endure the persecution, people sought refuge by joining haiduks. And as a result, the number of haiduk bands increased.
Stoyan Karastoilov’s band exemplifies the way in which the haiduks dealt with the sudden influx of members. Karastoilov was from the village of Starchishta – Nevrokop. He was one of the important participants in the Kresna Uprising and one of the leaders of the haiduk movement in the Ser region. Early on, there was only one large band in the Nevrokop, Melnik and Demir Hisar regions, the band of Todor Palaskarya. But by April, 1878, because of the inrush of new haiduks, the band had to be divided into two groups. Stoyan Karastoilov became the leader of the second group. His band consisted only of peasants from the village of Starchishta. He led his band through the entire Ser region, displaying a great aptitude for mobility. He confronted the Turks often. On March 20, 1878, just outside the village of Dolno Brodi, his band had a fierce fight with the Turks. The people from the village came out in support of the haiduks. But when the haiduks retreated into the hills, the Turks intensified their persecution of the villagers. And that, of course, drove a new wave of peasants into the haiduk bands. Strahinov reports that soon Karastoilov’s band grew too large and had to be divided. Kosta Kukoto from the village of Lakos was appointed as the voivode for the new band.
By the end of August, these bands were joined by two others: the band of voivode Kocho Lyutata from the village of Levunovo; and Stoiko’s band from Tsaparevo.
Dondukov reports that before the uprising in the Ser region there were about 12 bands.
While the haiduk movement developed in eastern Macedonia, the Ser sanjak, haiduk movements in other parts of Macedonia were also on the increase. The implementation of decisions reached at the Congress of Berlin were felt throughout Macedonia. But another factor to consider was the flow of Turkish refugees from territory captured by the Serbs and Russians into Macedonia. According to the newspaper, Die Presse, in the Ser sanjak area alone there were 3,000 refugees. They were an incubus for the indigenous population. The local authorities neither wanted to nor were able to limit the influx. Again, according to the newspaper, their presence caused an increase in Christian bands as protest against the Islamic Turks. Three rebel bands appeared in the Bitola sanjak and soon merged to make a single band of about 150 rebels. At the foot of Mount Bigla, between Bitola and the Ohrid and Prespa regions, Stoyan Voivode’s band of 500 rebels was active. Another two bands appeared in Veles. One was led by Ilyo Voivode. It was reported that this band wanted to march to Salonika where Ilyo was a popular leader. The other was led by the priest, Kostadin, and numbered about 200. This latter band consisted primarily of opolchentsi (volunteer soldiers) who had fought in the Russo-Turkish War.
The development of the haiduk movement resulted in Turkish retaliations. In Razlog within a one month period, ten people were killed. In the Melnik region the kajmakam (a representative of the vizier) decimated about twenty villages in the Karshieka region along the right bank of the Struma River. His justification was that he suspected preparations for an uprising. In early June he entered the region with five to six hundred regular soldiers and bashibazouks, and began to lay waste to the villages. People fled toward the borders. The kajmakam then crossed to the Struma’s left bank and attacked the Kresna, Vlahi, and Oshtava villages. When he heard that a band of haiduks was on his trail, he withdrew to Melnik.
The Resistance In Bulgaria Against The Decisions Of The Congress Of Berlin
Soon after the Congress of Berlin decided to retain Turkish rule over Macedonia and to divide the newly created Bulgarian state into two parts, a movement against the enforcement of those decisions began in Bulgaria. The movement consisted of Bulgarians, especially from eastern Rumelia, and of Macedonians who were in Bulgaria at the time. Although efforts were made to portray this movement as the primary movement, as has been shown, this was not the case.
At the outset, it had more a character of official protest: petitions were sent to the Great Powers protesting the decisions of the Congress of Berlin.
Macedonian groups closely connected with the Exarchy were the initiators of the protest. Their main idea was to organize diplomatic missions and send them to the capitals of the various European powers, making known Macedonia’s plight.
In August, 1878, a meeting was convened in Plovdiv in order to develop activities along the lines mentioned above. After examining Macedonia’s situation, among other things they concluded:
1.To send petitions to the European Royal courts seeking support for the improvement of Macedonia’s situation;
2.To send the well-known Croatian humanitarian, Yuriy Shtrosmaer, as an intermediary to request the Russian Emperor to take the Macedonian people as a protectorate.
The possibility of asking Austria to accept the protectorate of Macedonia was considered, but this initiative was immediately dismissed by the representatives of the Russian command in Bulgaria. Nor did they allow the request for a personal address to the Russian monarch. When the Congress of Berlin sealed the fate of Macedonia, when they sanctioned the Sultan’s rule over Macedonia, the Russian representatives in Bulgaria tried to stem any movement in Macedonia so as not to complicate Russia’s international relations, especially in the Balkans. As Dondukov wrote, the Russians advised various Macedonian representatives and delegations to be patient, to guard their people against any foolish moves, to adhere to the legal stipulations, and to indulge neither in unrest nor in violence.
Despite the activity of the above-mentioned groups, some Macedonian representatives and the council of the Russian command in Bulgaria worked side by side in closed-door sessions. Their aim was to create conditions under which armed activities could be organized in Macedonia itself. All indications suggest that renown Macedonians closely linked to the higher echelons of the Bulgarian Exarchy played a leading roles in these activities. Expressing the chauvinistic milieu of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie, the Bulgarian Exarchy supported the notion of inciting disturbances both in Bulgaria and in Macedonia – the parallel activity in the two countries could later be used in a diplomatic tack to advance the Bulgarian thesis that Macedonia is an eastern part of Bulgaria, and not a national entity unto itself.
The notion to organize armed unrest in Macedonia by sending detachments from Bulgaria gradually gained acceptance among the higher echelons of the Exarchy. They decided to form a committee, led by the metropolitan, to coordinate the contrived disturbances. The metropolitan’s chief task was to collect whatever financial resources and weapons necessary.
The nationalistic circles of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie concurred at once with the idea of inciting violence in Macedonia. On August 29, 1878, a meeting of well-known representatives from the Bulgarian bourgeoisie was convened in the town of Trnovo in order to implement the plan. This meeting resulted in the creation of a committee called, Edinstvo (Unity). The basic task of this newly created committee was to establish similar committees throughout Bulgaria, to maintain strict contact With them, and work toward the same end: unity of “all the Bulgarians” and the improvement of their present political situation. For political reasons, these subcommittees were given the name, Blagotvoritelen (Beneficience).
Soon after Edinstvo was formed in Trnovo, steps were taken to spread it to all towns in Bulgaria and to Russia and Rumania as well. People were also sent to Macedonia to personally acquaint themselves with the situation there. Some were also sent to meet with Natanail, the Ohrid Exarchal bishop. He was from the village of Kuchevishte in the Skopje area. He was to be told the aim and the task of Edinstvo. Meanwhile, Natanail was already in the middle of preparations for armed activities in Macedonia. He made his way to Kyustendil to meet with the well-known haiduk leader, Ilyo Markov, known among the people as “Dedo” (Grampa Ilyo), and his rebels. At this meeting it was decided that Natanail should take over leadership of the haiduk bands. At the same time, Natanail was able to establish an Edinstvo headquarters in the Kyustendil area under the leadership of the Bulgarian bishop, Ilarion: one in Dupnitsa (Stanké Dimitrov) and another in Gorna Dzhumaya (Blagoevgrad).
The ex-opolchentsi, volunteers from the Russian army, played a role in the fomentation of the revolutionary mood in Bulgaria. It was reported that there were about 1000 of these men at the beginning of the Russo-Turkish war. After the war they were discharged from the army, and with few exceptions most of them remained in Bulgaria.
At the close of the Congress of Berlin, the ex-opolchentsi were the first to express discontent with the resolutions of the Congress in general, and specifically with maintenance of Turkish rule over Macedonia. They presented first hand accounts of Turkish ferocity in Macedonia, priming the atmosphere for an uprising in Macedonia and winning supporters and followers for the rebellion. They were able to stir public opinion in Bulgaria and to win Bulgarian sympathies for the people of Macedonia.
The Outbreak And Development Of The Kresna Uprising
All these elements indicate that the situation in Macedonia, especially in the eastern region, was rife for action. It was simply a matter of concluding discussions and setting to work. All factors were present. Especially the political insofar as the representatives of the European powers had at the Congress of Berlin sanctioned the necessity of an “Organic Constitution” to be formulated in Eastern Rumelia. It was Article 23 of the Berlin Treaty that inspired hope, for it posed the notion of an administrative change in the political regime in Macedonia. Nevertheless, there was unrest everywhere in Turkey: in the Rhodope Mountains, in Bulgaria, and in Prizren (where the Albanian League was active), to name a few. And this was the response to the decisions of the Congress of Berlin.
In September, 1878, enough elements were present to begin organizing military activity in Macedonia. The newly established Beneficience Committees in Bulgaria were especially active in attempting to incite a rebellion. They were able to gather a great number of volunteers to be deployed in Macedonia.
Responding most enthusiastically were those who had volunteered in the Russian army. There was a large concentration of them along the northern border neat Kyustendil and Dzhumaya. Formed into detachments some were ordered to cross the border and to penetrate deep into Macedonia. Kalmikov, a Russian commander; was given one such order, however he was unsuccessful in carrying it out.
At about the same time the Bulgarian bourgeoisie placed the bishop, Natanail, in charge of organizing and leading the armed action in Macedonia. As a Bulgarian appointee, he worked independent of the Macedonian wishes and aspirations for freedom. On the 8 December, 1878, during his intensive preparations, Natanail met in the Rila monastery with the district chief of Kyustendil, Dzhumaya, and Dupnitsa. Dedo Ilyo and Dimitar Pop Georgiev Berovski also attended the meeting.
At the meeting Berovski was assigned to be deputy to Natanail. Berovski was to gather rebels and form them into detachments and also to enlist peasants as border guards at the border zone near Gorna Dzhumaya.
In and around the area of Kyustendil, voivodes acting on their own had unsuccessfully attempted to establish footholds on Turkish terrain. But at the meeting in the Rila monastery, all local detachments that were operating in the interior of the Pirin region of Macedonia were ordered to withdraw to Gorna Dzhumaya. One of the participants of the Kresna Uprising, Todor A. Strahinov, wrote, “Like the voivode, Stoyan, all the other voivodes in the Macedonian mountains, especially in the Pirin region, received the order to retreat to the border and then to ride by horseback to Dzhumaya.” On the road to the border, Todor Palaskarya’s detachment had a vicious clash near an Albanian quarter with the local bashibozouks and Turkish army. That was 13 September, 1878.
Arriving in Gorna Dzhumaya were the following detachments: Todor Palaskarya from the village of Belotintsi in the Nevrokop region; Stoyan Karastoilov from the village of Starchishta from the Nevrokop region; Kosta Kukoto from the village of Lakos in the Ser region; Kocho Lyutata from the village of Levunovo in the Melnik region; and Stoyko Paparevetsot from the village of Paparevo in the Melnik region.
The voivodes of these detachments held an advisory meeting to plan the coordination of the rebellion. Long discussions ensued over which area of Macedonia should be first to rise up in arms. Most Committee members and voivodes alike agreed on the proposal to launch an attack on the Turkish army stationed in the village of Tsarevo (Delchevo). However Stoyan Karastoilov opposed the proposal. He proposed that they attack the Turkish garrison at Kresna. All the other voivodes deferred to Stoyan’s leadership, and they accepted his proposal. Subsequently, Stoyan Karastoilov, well known throughout the region as a just and courageous voivode, was made sole leader.
When the meeting at Gorna Dzhumaya concluded, the detachments gathered in the village of Srbinovo (today’s Brensanovo). Here, a new organization was built for the uprising. Four units were formed, and a leader assigned to each. The leader of the first unit was Stoyan Karastoilov; the voivode, Kosta Kukoto, was placed in command of the second; the leader of the third was Stoyo Torolinko from Karshieka; and leading the fourth was the voivode, Krsto, from St. Vrach (Sandanski).
With the leadership primarily Macedonian, the so-called “Beneficience Committee, Unity,” whose Gorna Dzhumaya branch was established on 3 October, 1878, tried to give the uprising an essentially Macedonian character. The Committee couldn’t act contrary to the will of the people. So, the local leaders would guide them.
Earlier, the command of the uprising had been entrusted to an adventurer, an officer from the Russian army, Adam Ivanovich Kalmikov. When he failed to enter Macedonia through Kyustendil, he Was transferred to the Dzhumaya area for his reward where there was the possibility of his commanding the Macedonian uprising.
Thus all preparations for an armed rebellion in Macedonia were considered complete. The first strike was to be launched against the Turks lodged in inns in the village of Kresna. The uprising began during the early morning hours of 5 October, 1878. The first news from the scene of the attack reported: “Today, before dawn, the battle of the peasants from Kresna, Vlahi, and Oshtava against the Turks began. The Turks were surrounded in the Kresna inns. The battle continues. We have been sent three shipments of bullets, three shipments of kapaklii (rifles), and seven shipments of martinki (rifles). Don’t hesitate a moment. The need for munitions is great.” Kresna, 5. X. 1878; 3.5 AM. The report was signed by D. Pop Georgiev.
According to one eye witness, the attack on the Turkish garrisons at Kresna was described in the following way. First, the Major (Kalmikov – B. N.) came to Srbinovo where all the rebels had gathered. He gathered all the rebels together with the peasants from the surrounding villages. There were about four hundred people. Then, on the evening of the 4th (a Wednesday), they started off toward Kresna where the Turkish guard had been garrisoned in inns. And very early the next morning, they attacked.
After the nineteen-hour battle, the Turkish guard was conquered. A letter announcing the victory was sent from the rebels to the Beneficience Committee in Dzhumaya, to Sofia, to Dupnitsa, to Kyustendil, and to other places. Among other things, it said: “We Macedonians have accomplished our deed. Yesterday we fought for 19 hours against two companies of the Turkish regular army. After the battle, we had suffered one dead and three wounded. The Turks had twelve dead, eleven wounded, and 119 soldiers and two officers captured.”
After the defeat of the Turkish garrison in Kresna, the Turkish army fell into confusion and disorganization, which availed a chance for rapid advancement and the widening of captured rebel territory. The village of Oshtava was taken on the same day. Then followed a violent battle for Vlahi; it later became the seat of the rebel leadership. After Novo Selo was captured on 8 October, a section of the rebels were transferred to the right bank of the Struma River. In short order they captured the villages of Moraska, Breznitsa, Budiltsi, Slivnitsa and Krushitsa.
Immediately after the first victories, the rebel leadership took steps to prepare against the eventual Turkish counterattacks from the rear. In order to secure the flanks, Todor Palaskarya’s detachment was assigned to guard the road to Razlog, and the detachments of the voivodes, Zlatko, Georgi Oko, Ivan Atanasov, Indzheto and Mite Yurukot were stationed on the right bank of the Struma River.
Describing the initial development of the uprising, Prince Dondukov-Korsakov wrote in his report dated 17 November, 1878 to the Commander in Chief of the Russian Army on the Balkans, General Totleban: “On 8 October, the Macedonian rebels took the village of Grnchar, and on the 9th, Breznitsa, pushing back the Turks. Also on the 9th of October, the rebels clashed with the Turkish regular army, consisting of about 200 soldiers, in the village of Moraska. They forced the Turks to retreat and took not only Moraska, but also the surrounding villages of Slivnitsa, Budilnitsa, and Kalimantsi… Within the interior of Macedonia, the rebels took 26 villages. The residents were exultant by the successes and took up arms to join the rebels. Then they seized the line between Novo Selo and Peerin Palanka (presumed to be Petrich -B. N.) on the way to the village of Grnchar.”
The advancement of the rebels from Kresna forced the Turks to withdraw from Karshieka as well. And when those voivodes assigned to guard noticed the retreat of the Turks, they too began to advance. With no resistance they captured the villages of Ribnitsa, Goreme and all other villages up to the villages of Starchevo, Palat, and Yakovo in the Petrich region. The headquarters of the rebellion was compelled to accept the influx of new volunteers. New detachments were formed and their numbers were swelling rapidly. A cavalry was formed under the command of the voivode, Nikolitsa Makedonski, and his lieutenant, Kosta Nikolaev from Tetovo.
The uprising spread well into the Melnik region. The Turks began retreating from some villages, offering no resistance. All Turkish detachments within an eight hour range of the center of the uprising were issued orders to surrender. In the region south of the uprising, near Melnik, rebel detachments appeared. The Turks abandoned Melnik and the surrounding villages and retreated to Petrich and Serez. Meanwhile, the uprising had begun to spread to Malesh as well.
During this initial phase of the uprising, rebel activity spread to three areas in the Ser sanjak district: Dzhumaya (today’s Blagoevgrad area); the Melnik area (today’s Sandanski area); and Mehomiya (today’s Razlog region).
The Turkish army fled the Dzhumaya district, an operative zone during the uprising, because of the presence of the Russian army in Gorna Dzhumaya. The rebel forces were concentrated here. During this period the rebels liberated the Melnik, Petrich, and Pehchevo districts. So, in the Melnik district, which primarily included the plains to the left of the Struma River, the rebels liberated six villages: Senokos, Mechkul, Kresna, Oshtava, Vlahi and Novo Selo. All these villages are located in the slopes of the Pirin Mountains, where the Struma River exits the Kresna Gorge.
The greatest number of villages liberated were along the right side of the Struma River, in the mountainous region of Karshieka. This was primarily the Petrich region. The region is composed of forty-five villages, thirty of which were mentioned as having been liberated by the Macedonian Rebel army, fifteen of which were not mentioned. But because this region was virtually controlled by rebel forces, it is quite logical to assume that the remaining fifteen were liberated as well.
It can be stated with certainty that Berovo, in the Pehchevo region, was liberated.
By the end of November there were a total of 53 liberated areas in which resided 32,000 people.
These rebel victories surprised the Turkish command in Melnik, and the Turks were rendered helpless to oppose them. Consequently, according to Todor Strahinov, the Turkish military command sought a meeting with the rebels in order to reach an agreement, a cease fire, so the issues in dispute could be solved in a peaceful manner. The meeting between the two sides took place on 17 October, 1878, above the Turkish village of Gradeshnitsa. Among other rebel representatives attending the negotiations, there were Kalmikov, the voivode Stoyan, Kosta Kukoto, Anastas Zhostov, Ivan Trendyu, and Kosta Nikolaev. The negotiations failed. According to Strahinov’s letter, the rebels, as should have been expected, demanded that the Turks completely withdraw from the region. The letter from Kalmikov and Berovski to the Dzhumaya Committee stated that the rebels demanded the Turks to surrender. The Turks did not respond to any of the rebels demands and took advantage of the hiatus to call up reinforcements.
During the calm, the Turks decided to liquidate the movement in the Melnik and Berovo areas. In Melnik they imprisoned most of the people important to the rebellion, people who were found in the nearby village of Sushtitsa. The Turkish regular army plundered the village of Orman Chiflik. This stirred local Macedonian detachments into action. They launched an attack on the army and then set fire to the Turkish village of Zevgeli, only a half hour away from Melnik. That in turn provided the Turkish army with sufficient motive to intensify their retaliation. Twelve villages around Melnik and about the same number of villages in the Demir Hisar region were victimized. At the same time the Turks attacked Berovo and the surrounding villages. A major clash occurred in the region of Albanitsa, the area to which the people fled after having withdrawn from Berovo. The local rebels were there too. After two days of battle, the Turks retreated, but about 200 families from this region had to cross into the Melnik terrain.
During the calm between 22 October and 27 October, the Turks were able to marshal a number of forces and arms. On 28 October, they attacked rebel positions. The battle lasted nine hours. The Turkish regular army was joined in the fight by peasants from the Turkish villages of Gradeshnitsa, Belitsa and Ploski. In the struggle for these three villages, the Turks outnumbered the rebels, and the rebels had a difficult time repelling the attack. Panic spread through the rebel ranks, and it was especially pronounced among the volunteers. Disorganized, they abandoned their positions and fled. Thanks to the local rebels, the so-called bandits, the Turks were unable to penetrate the front. Both sides held their positions. However, the rebel cavalry was completely wiped out, and the voivode, Stoyan, narrowly escaped death. Despite the fact that the rebels were able to hold their positions, their ranks were reduced, primarily due to disorganization. There was a genuine danger that if the Turks launched another attack, the rebels would not only be unable to maintain their present positions, but also be unable to defend other places as well. The Turks, on the other hand, were able to bolster their regular forces with reinforcements. The Turks spread news that their regular army had arrived in one section of Karshieka, near the villages of Gyurgyevo and Stinek, causing fear and panic among the residents.
However, after the battle on the 28th of October, the Turkish army was again forced to turn its attention to the unrest incited to its rear. On 1 November, 1878, the Turkish regular army sacked and burned the village of Chereshnitsa, which provoked a fierce reaction. Fleeing from the Turkish army few people were able to save themselves.
By decimating the unrest to the rear, the Turks were able to return to the business of suppressing the rebellion on the left bank of the Struma River. Armed with artillery, they entered the village of Vlahi on the 10th of November. Vlahi had been the rebel headquarters. The rebels were forced to abandon not only Vlahi, but Oshtava as well, and retreat to the village of Senokos. The following day the Turkish army advanced to the Kresna inns where the uprising had begun.
With this victory the Turks regained all the territory on the left side of the Struma River they had lost and pushed the rebels back to their exit points. The final tally was: twelve plundered and burned villages; about 200 homes destroyed; and numerous refugees. Despite this Turkish victory, the rebellion was not yet over.
The Program Aims Of The Uprising
The Kresna Uprising was not the work of a systematically built revolutionary movement led by an appropriate revolutionary organization. Rather it was the result of specific conditions in Macedonia and on the Balkans that followed the end of the Russo-Turkish War, the decisions arising from the Congress of Berlin in July, 1878, the game the Great Powers played, and the Bulgarian bourgeoisie aspirations for a Greater Bulgaria to dominate the Balkans. And the rebellion began without a publicly defined program.
This does not mean though that those who participated in the uprising had no idea what to expect from an uprising, nor what it was intended to bring about.
The basic program aim that the Bulgarian bourgeoisie ascribed to the uprising in Macedonia was defined at the meeting of the Unity Committee in Trnovo. The Bulgarian Patriarch, Kiril, said that it was a struggle against the Berlin Treaty and for “the unity of the Bulgarian people which will organize and support the rebel movements that have appeared in Macedonia.”
At that time, how did the leadership of the Greater Bulgarian bourgeoisie, among whom were Stefan Stambolov, L. Karavelov, Dr. Tsankov, A. Tashikmanov, and the archimandrite Stefan, think of the uprising in Macedonia?
All of the investigations thus far indicate that the tactics dictated by the Sofia based “Unity” Committee, in which the Bulgarian bourgeoisie leadership played a significant role, consisted of “making noise” by leading guerrilla-partisan warfare. An uprising incited in Macedonia, and everywhere if necessary, “will be a decisive attack against the Congress of Berlin.”
Careful analysis of the Unity Committee’s actions in Macedonia solidly confirms such a policy: sending detachments to different sides; the attacks on many places in eastern Macedonia; and the efforts to penetrate central Macedonia, especially along the course of the Vardar River.
However, there exists wide-spread opinion, especially among the diplomatic representatives of the time and made visible by the actions of the military experts, that the Bulgarian bourgeoisie, while preparing to incite a rebellion in Macedonia, had a more ambitious plan in mind, and a precise strategy to accommodate it. And beyond question is the general propagandistic nature of their actions.
The essence of this plan can be seen in the letter from the French ambassador in Constantinople to the minister of foreign affairs. The letter, dated 28 October, 1878, reads as follows:
“The committee of authority in Bulgaria, managed directly from Russia, has at its disposal two sub-committees: one in Kyustendil and the other in Dupnitsa. The former will direct agitation toward the west, toward Kriva Palanka, Kumanovo, and Skopje. The second subcommittee is to spread detachments along two parallel valleys of the Rivers Struma and Mesta, aiming to finish in the Strymonic Gulf of the Aegean Sea.” The settlements would be captured “along the banks of the Vardar, and so too the mountainous regions between the Vardar and Struma Rivers, and the residents, almost exclusively Muslims, will be included and circumscribed.”
It appears, continued the ambassador, that the above mentioned operations and battles are intended to capture the narrow gorge, twenty-five to thirty kilometers from the little town of Demir Hisar. Two roads run through this gorge: from Serez toward Skopje (along the banks of the Strumitsa River); and from Serez toward Dupnitsa (along the Struma River). And if the gorge of the Kriva River, near Kriva Palanka, were in the hands of the rebels, the Turkish troops would be cut off from the Struma Valley.
The Turkish view of the Bulgarian aims for the uprising did not differ greatly from that of the French ambassador. Regardless of the reservations they may have held for the Turkish attitude, it deserves examination.
The French military attaché in Constantinople in a letter dated 29 October, 1878 to the French ministry of war, described the attitude of the Turks: “The aim of the revolutionary committee is not so much to occupy territory as it is to provoke massacres among themselves, which is obviously intended to demonstrate to Europe that it is impossible for them to live together, beside one an other, that the Muslim and the Christian populations are enemies. It is a Way to justify an historical Christian protectorate in the Orient, an excuse for the reestablishment of the Bulgarian Principality within the borders set forth by the San Stefano Treaty. Provocateurs are at this moment assigned to mobilize the rebellion in such a way that they only take two or three strategic gorges in this difficult region in order to prevent, or at least to delay, the action of the Turkish troops, in order to gain the time requisite for organizing the rebel contingents. This accounts for their first effort near Melnik. The aim was to close the gorge between that town and Demir Hisar, for through the gorge pass two roads: from Serez to Skopje, along the banks of the Strumitsa River; and from Serez to Dupnitsa, along the banks of the Struma River. With the capture of this pass, on the one side, and the capture of the gorges of the Kriva River, east of Kumanovo, on the other, the rebels would be far better protected from the energetic action of the Ottoman army…”
Without great effort, it is enough to remind us of the different actions and initiatives that the leadership of the Unity Committee implemented, or gave orders to implement, and thus confirm the attitude of the Greater Bulgarian bourgeoisie and the aims they tried to advance in Macedonia.
For example, in September just before the outset of the uprising, Adam Kalmikov and other volunteers from Vidin were sent to Kyustendil. They tried to enter Macedonia at Devé Bair, but were defeated. They returned to Bulgaria.
On 25 October, 1878, the Sofia Committee sent a letter to the Beneficience Committee in Gorna Dzhumaya. The following is an excerpt from that letter:
“Write to Kalmikov and tell him to take immediate action to raise some noise. It would be extremely advantageous to the effort if he can send one of his detachments to take Razlog; and if he has enough armed forces, send Pop Kostadin into the interior of Macedonia to stir up the population in a few places, to take positions in the mountains and constantly harass the Turkish forces.”
In vain, said the patriarch Kiril, the headquarters of the uprising were angry with the Dzhumaya Committee (of K. Bosilkov) when it ordered the uprising in Razlog and tried to create unrest in Macedonia as well. That order came from Sofia where it was thought that a guerrilla army, a partisan army, would, according to the conditions, pass from town to town, not the detachments being led by a regular army.
While the rebels were active along the banks of the Struma River, where their successful advances demanded more concern, especially in terms of their constant need for a steady supply of weapons and ammunition, Natanail himself was engaged in efforts to spread the uprising toward northern Macedonia. And after the voivode, Stoyan Karastoilov, was murdered in Kyustendil, he began concentrating men and arms in that area. About 500 people were distributed along the border near Vranye and Kriva Palanka.
Through the course of events, the uprising disintegrated due to the clashes within the rebel ranks and the divisions outside. Then Stambolov, a well-known Bulgarian social worker, and member of the Unity Committee leadership, was given the task to take direct charge over the uprising. His intentions were twofold: to check further disintegration of the rebel forces; and to subjugate the uprising to the Bulgarian bourgeoisie leadership and their interests. He revised the work of some committees and then visited Kyustendil and Gorna Dzhumaya where the rebel detachments were concentrated. On 5 January, 1879, he called a meeting in Gorna Dzhumaya. There he introduced the idea of establishing an organization within Macedonia. This organization would prepare for and then incite another uprising in the spring of 1879.
In a word, the aim of the Greater Bulgarian bourgeoisie was exclusively to subjugate the uprising in Macedonia to their own egoistic and nationalistic aims. Such activity in Macedonia would support their policy of dissatisfaction and consequent struggle against the decisions of the Congress of Berlin. The international political situation at the time dictated the terms of their policy, and it was necessary to urge the Macedonian rebels into action. Before the unrest began in Macedonia, the Bulgarian press had already introduced the name, “The Macedonian Uprising,” which was later used as a convenient tool of the political and propagandistic goals of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie in their struggle against the Berlin Congress treaty. The news was exaggerated, magnified three to four times, in order to create the impression of strength and breadth to the uprising, both inside and outside the country. The seriousness too was exaggerated in order to justify the need of Bulgarian intervention.
The Aims of the Macedonian Rebels – Struggle for Statehood
The “Macedonian Uprising,” as the rebels themselves called it, was not the result of a premeditated program of activity, a program that might have been the product of a single revolutionary organization. At the outset, the Macedonian rebels did not have definitive program aims.
However, that doesn’t mean that they represented some amorphous mass without vision. They shed their blood, they carried the struggle on their shoulders with expectations for better things to come. A program was impossible simply because these same rebel forces had just participated in the struggle against Greek and Bulgarian ecclesiastical and educational propaganda. At the head of the uprising was Dimitar Pop Georgiev who was simultaneously the leader of the people’s struggle for ecclesiastical and educational autonomy. All that was enough. Georgiev merely transferred the goals of the ecclesiastical and educational struggle onto the uprising; but now the means were widened and augmented by unrest, and the struggle was now being conducted with weapons.
What did the Macedonian rebels expect from their own actions when it was decided to take up arms? What were their aims?
According to some sources, meetings were arranged in Sofia in the summer of 1878. There, prominent members of Macedonian political and cultural life decided to organize an uprising in Macedonia. Their basic aim was to oppose the decisions of the Congress of Berlin. The most urgent task of the uprising was to be prevent the implementation of the decision to return the Dzhumaya region to the Turks. The unrest conceived in the Dzhumaya region, and still deeper into Macedonia along the Struma River toward the Petrich and Demir Hisar regions, was intended primarily to at least postpone the withdrawal of the Russian army from Gorna Dzhumaya.
Undoubtedly, the Macedonians discovered that their thinking more or less coincided with that of the Bulgarian Exarchy.
However underdeveloped the rebel goals were at the beginning of the uprising, through the strengthening of the rebel forces during the fight, the rebel government acquired greater definition. Thus the two aims grew dissimilar. For the rebels, the uprising became a means of expressing their desire for a liberated Macedonia, for a new Macedonian state.
The “Prescripts of the Macedonian Rebel Committee” especially demonstrate the distinction.
Ratified by the Macedonian Rebel Committee in 1878, the program aims contained in the Prescripts can be grouped around two basic points: national-political, and social. All aspects of the struggle were included by the national-political aims: the liberation and constitution of the Macedonian state; the establishment of the government in the liberated territory; national and religious tolerance; the relation to the Beneficience Committee; the relation toward the enemies of the Macedonian people; and above all the relations toward the neighboring peoples.
“With the wish to cast off the Turkish bondage from our fatherland, each and every one of us stands ready to sacrifice whatever is necessary. We have rebelled as champions for freedom. By shedding our blood throughout the fields and forests of Macedonia, we serve as the Macedonian army of Alexander the Great. We fight for freedom and our motto is, ‘Freedom or Death!’ ” That is an excerpt from the text of the Prescripts, a document that was used as the rebel Constitution. “We will govern ourselves,” it reads, “and abide by our own rules until we set free the Macedonian fatherland.”
The precise “outcome of the uprising in Macedonia” is yet vague, states Article 1 of the Prescripts, but it is necessary to spread the rebellion throughout Macedonia. “The people from Macedonia itself take part in the uprising, people who feel themselves Macedonians and who have a love of freedom.” (Article 2).
As stated in Article 9, “The aim of the Macedonian uprising is no secret. It is for the liberation of Macedonia,…[…]… the country of the…[…]…enlighteners and educators, St. Cyril and Methodious, the country that has suffered centuries of Turkish enslavement. So, among us there is no place for those who fight for personal gain, there is only a place for those who fight for freedom.”
The Macedonian rebels explain in the Prescripts that the uprising was limited to just one part of the
country rather than the whole because the political conditions in Macedonia, in Turkey, and in Europe prohibited expansion. They decided instead to provoke “scattered uprisings in eastern Macedonia and liberate many villages and inhabited areas with internal forces.”
However, they did not forsake the basic idea that the uprising should spread throughout the entire country. “Before us stands a great task to liberate all of our fatherland, Macedonia,” as it states in Article 125 of the Prescripts. “Now we are conducting partisan warfare against the Turks, but our intention is to send rebel detachments into Macedonia to incite an uprising there as well.”
Stated in the Prescripts, “toward that goal, concrete steps have already been made. Namely, one detachment of 300 rebels led by the voivodes, Karaiskaki, Stefo, Pavle, and Kara Kosta, has been ordered to set off for the Bitola and Mariovo Mountains. And by enlisting local volunteers, they are to establish the basis of the rebel army in this area.”
Article 132 of the Prescripts expresses the character of the uprising. It firmly states that: “Our Macedonian uprising is an internal affair and we are commanding our own forces.”
And finally, in terms of the national-political aims of the rebels, Article 145 clearly indicates how the civil government of the liberated territory will function. “After the liberation of the fatherland, the Central Committee will create a Constitution by which the Macedonian state will be governed: either within the Ottoman Empire as a state with political and cultural autonomy; or, if the Great Powers of Europe permit, outside the Ottoman Empire.”
Headed by Dimitar Pop Georgiev, the rebel leadership had a clear idea of the Macedonian destiny. The leaders having come from the valleys and plains carried deep within themselves the rancor left from centuries of the Turkish feudal system. They knew that without satisfying the social aspirations of the wide peasant masses, those who were to bear the burden of the uprising, they would not be able to activate their forces, to attract them to their own cause.
Although there was no solidly designed program for socio-economic change to guide the people after a victorious uprising, the rebels nevertheless made clear the direction of their aims in the Prescripts. Of paramount importance was to “dissolve the peasant’s feudal ties to the estate.” Second, the land on which the peasant worked should be immediately turned over to the peasant as his own property, but on the condition that the land owner could not work the land with the aid of his family alone. Also taken into account was that those peasants who found themselves without work as a result of the application of the Prescripts would be given land to till, regardless of whether or not the previous owner had cultivated it. Unowned land was to be given to the poor villages. (Articles 152, 153, 154).
Despite the centuries of enslavement, the mistrust and impatience due to the violence of Turkish rule and to the capriciousness of various oppressors, and the licentious banditry in certain areas of Macedonia, the Macedonian rebels did not intend to impose their own domination over those who belonged to the ruling nation nor over the other nationalities residing in Macedonia. They had sympathies for social rights, conscious that the “ruling Turkish nation” did not discriminate among the exploited masses on the Balkans, that the plight of other nationalities was the same as that of the Macedonian peasant. Thus they demanded respect for the integrity of property owned by the peaceful Turkish population, and they interceded on behalf of religious tolerance.
The Prescripts most strictly forbade the plundering of a village or a town after it had been seized. This prohibition extended to Turkish villages as well. “Each rebel will carry food in his own pack, and in the event the supply units fail to arrive and he is without food, he must endure. He who enters into a Turkish house to look for food or anything else will be treated as a looter and will be punished by death.” (Article 48).
That law was in effect during the struggle for liberation. These Prescripts were not intended to be temporary, nor were they motivated by demagogic or tactical reasons. In the section of the Prescripts which regulated the organizational bases for the civilian government in liberated Macedonia, the following was stated with regard to religious tolerance and the security of property of the Turkish population:
“The committees of the local governments will monitor the safety of those Turks who did not interfere with the uprising and who had earned their bread with honest labor. Anyone who inflicts damage to the property of such a Turk will be condemned to the worst punishment, death.” (Article 155).
“It is strictly forbidden to spread hatred based on religion. It is forbidden to make distinctions among the nationalities because all are equal citizens and all are under the protection of the laws of Macedonian civil rule.” (Article 156)
Further on, the Prescripts also strictly forbade the desecration of religious institutions, churches and mosques, or the plundering of such property. Those who disobeyed the law should expect the most severe punishment.
The Orthodox Christians were ordered to respect Muslim customs. It was forbidden to enter a Muslim home, to unveil a Muslim woman, to allow pigs on Muslim property, etc.
The same laws applied to the Muslims with respect to the Christian Orthodox customs, a practice that later continued in the “unliberated” areas.
Stressing the autonomy of the rebel decisions and deeds, and stressing further that they were motivated exclusively by the desire to liberate Macedonia, the Macedonian rebels not only openly stated their intentions, but also took measures to protect against the actions of uninvited foreigners. They were equally vigilant against the infiltration of Turkish spies into the rebel ranks as they were toward the agents of other interested forces. Regarding the latter, the rebel leadership had a precisely worded recommendation to keep an eye on the various volunteers, against their unregulated acceptance into the ranks. In one sense it referred to the Macedonians who wanted to join or aid the uprising; and in another sense it referred the foreign volunteers.
“A great number of Macedonians in Serbia,” states Article 136, “express a wish to join the Macedonian uprising and to attack the Turkish forces from the northern border. However, there are no weapons. If they can find weapons, and if they accept our Constitution with their hearts, we will accept them.”
The regulations for accepting foreigners from “Slav [Macedonic] nations” were different. First, they stated that they would accept as many as can find weapons and can abide by the rebel Constitution. Though, later they stipulated, “However, among them there a number of adventurers who are of no benefit to the uprising. Under no conditions are such people to be accepted.”
In order to protect themselves, they recommended that “the volunteers sent from abroad without a recommendation from the Macedonian rebel headquarters are not to be accepted into the detachments. Find out who sent them and whether or not they are spies.. If it becomes apparent that one is a spy, or a propagandist, or a bandit having come from Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Russia, Bosnia, or wherever, determine who sent him, to what end, what he has done while a member of the rebel forces. He is either to be punished according to the gravity of his deeds, or to be sent back.” (Article 71). “If it is determined that a volunteer already accepted into the ranks of the Macedonian volunteer army is a spy for another country or has worked against the aims and interests of the Macedonian uprising, he is to be punished as an internal according to the laws of the Macedonian Rebel Army.” (Article 72).
All enemies were to be treated equally, without regard to their nationality. “Every Christian, Muslim, Macedonian, Turk, Albanian, Vlach, and anyone else who shows himself against the uprising or the rebels will be prosecuted.. .” (Article 15).
The independence and autonomy of the Macedonian uprising of 1878 is clearly distinguished not only by its political program which expressed the political philosophy of the rebellion’s leadership, but also by the composition and organization of the Macedonian army, by the creation and functioning of the rebel government, as well as by the conceived vision of a civilian administration that was to operate in the liberated areas of Macedonia.
The Prescripts are quite clear as to the composition of the Macedonian army. Aside from the regular rebel forces, “The Macedonian rebel army consists of all Macedonian inhabitants from both liberated and non-liberated areas.” Indeed, everyone in some way was a Macedonian soldier: men and women, the old and the young. All had the duty to aid the uprising as much as they could with what they could. (Article 82).
The Prescripts described the peasant as the basic unit of the army. The peasant’s duty to the liberation of his country was also described: during battle it was each peasant’s duty to join the combat ranks; during periods of calm, he was to return to his own work.
For the functioning of the Macedonian village rebel army, the non-regular units, a system was also prescribed by he Prescripts. Each village was to establish a command headquarters. The able-bodied men of the village were divided into squads and at the head of each squad was a captain.
The captain was a high ranking member of the war organization, occasionally having as many as 100 men under his command. He had an important regular army function: for protection of the liberated areas, the captains were to perform guard duty. A captain stood watch for ten days. Also, a system of rebel committees was established. The tasks were many. They worked secretly along the front lines; they took care of the defense; they prepared food for soldiers, peasants, and villagers; and they also recruited soldiers for the Macedonian army.
The basic idea was to mobilize all forces within Macedonia, both Macedonian and non-Macedonian, to secure their freedom from Turkish enslavement. In order to coordinate these forces, the Prescripts demanded that they submit to the instrument of Unity, “the Macedonian Rebel Committee,” whose authority was to reach out to “every field of Macedonia.” (Article 128) To establish the proper flow of command, from the leadership downward, the Prescripts required that every battle region create a “Macedonian field command which will lead the rebel forces and will maintain contact with the Macedonian Rebel Committee.” (Article 129).
Rebel detachments appeared in various parts of the country – in Kostur, Maleshevo, Prilep and Veles, and in the areas of Dzhumaya and Skopje – and each was invariably under the leadership of the local voivodes. According to the Prescripts, “The Macedonian Rebel Committee [was] central for all of Macedonia,” and all voivodes were ordered to report to them for appropriate directives.
Aside from the strategic issues that concerned the widening and the development of the uprising, a special section of the Prescripts was devoted to questions associated with the constituting and functioning of the civil government – or, as they called it, “civil rule” – in liberated territories. In order to build a government the Prescripts required that each liberated territory introduce “provisional civilian rule” which was intended to guide the social life of the people. (Article 140).
Each inhabited area was to establish joint committees consisting of up to five members. The leadership of these joint committees was subordinate to the Central Committee, consisting of five members. Aside from the Central Committee’s other political functions, it was to “represent the Macedonian rebels to foreign governments and to the people.” (Article 144).
The Prescripts also stipulated measures necessary to maintain peace and order among the citizenry. Police and appropriate judicial organs were assigned primary responsibility. Prior to the existence of written laws, they operated on the basis of traditional rights. Special attention was paid to international relations while introducing peace and order to the liberated territories. Steps were taken to prevent any inequality or discrimination. For example, in settlement where the population was of mixed nationality or faith, participation in governmental organs was based on parity.
Of course, the Prescripts or Constitution as a programmatic political document would not be valid
without its active implementation; nor would the ambitions of the Macedonian rebels, those who fought for their independence, for their freedom, for their own state, be convincing without taking into account external factors which affected the development of the uprising. Of special consequence was their treatment of the Bulgarian Exarchy and of the Beneficience Committee, Unity.
The rebels designated a separate chapter entitled “External tasks of the uprising,” in which were stated their principles for international relations and contacts. In fact, this section of the Prescripts represents a kind of codex used by the rebels during the uprising. Emphasized therein is the freedom and independence of rebel action. It was they themselves who without tutelage organized their international relations in the interest of those Macedonians who rebelled, in the interest of their ambitions for liberation and a new Macedonian state.
In the first paragraph of this section, emphasized is the need to make clear the rebel aspirations to Europe and to the neighboring countries, Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, the Albanian national state, Russia, and even Turkey. The relations toward the Bulgarian Exarchy is given special attention.
Concerning the relations with Europe, the Prescripts state: “The Macedonian uprising is an internal affair, but it won’t succeed unless we convince Europe of our fight for liberation…” (Article 182).
In order to achieve this aim, “the Macedonian Rebel Committee” assigned itself responsibility for all appropriate propaganda activities, e.g., sending memoranda, petitions, requests, and records, in the name of the Macedonian people. By doing so, they would be able to “explain the aims of the uprising, to enable them to understand the reality of our struggle, to make them aware that ours is a fight for liberation and that the aim is not to violate the rights of the other inhabitants in Macedonia.” (Article 184).
The rebel relations with the Bulgarian state rested upon equality and reciprocity. The Prescripts stated:
“The Macedonian Rebel committee will inform the government of the Bulgarian Principality that the Macedonians have no intention of interfering with the Principality.…[…]….” (Article 186) “The Macedonian Rebel Committee will be represented in the Principality by our deputies, and the Principality can send its deputies to the Committee.” (Article 187).
The same principles were adopted with respect to Serbia: “The Macedonian Rebel Committee will acquaint its brother country, the Serbian Principality, with the aims of our uprising and will request brotherly aid for the liberation of Macedonia. If the Prince of the Serbian Principality permits, we will send them our deputies and the Committee will accept theirs.” (Article 191) Later, the Prescripts state that the Committee will seek aid from the Serbian prince in the form of arms and materiel for the uprising. Especially emphasized is the request for the Serbian prince to not “stop our Macedonians in Serbia from taking part in the liberation of their fatherland, Macedonia.” (Article 193).
With respect to Greece, the Rebel Committee requested the Greek government to aid the Macedonian uprising by permitting Macedonian volunteer detachments to be sent from Greece. The Committee emphasized that the Greek government could aid the uprising further if it were to reinforce its military actions against the Turks in Epirus and Thessaly. By having the Turkish forces thus diverted, the uprising would have a better chance to succeed. Of course, “the Macedonian rebels’ attack on the Turks will also aid the liberation of Epirus and Thessaly.” (Article 195, 196).
The Macedonian Rebel Committee showed interest in cooperation with the Albanian revolutionary movement. The Committee set themselves a goal to “call into brotherly understanding the Albanian flag bearers and their people’s leaders to rise up in defense of the freedom of their fatherland, to fight for their freedom, and to join forces with the Macedonian rebels.” (Article 197).
In their relations with Russia, the Committee sought ways of inducing the Czar of Russia to intervene on behalf of the Macedonian people. They were anxious to insure support of the Russian army in Bulgaria. They hoped to send a delegation from the Macedonian Rebel Committee to visit the “Russian governor in the Bulgarian Principality” in order to inform him of the uprising and to ask for “the Russian army to come to the aid of the Macedonian rebels.”
Aside from the precise care with which the Committee sought to establish relations with other states, with other movements, and especially with neighbors, they devoted a special section of the Prescripts to their relations with the Bulgarian Exarchy and with the Beneficience Committee, Unity. Toward the latter, the Committee expressed astonishment, protest, and resistance.
“The Holy Bulgarian Exarchy, with His Highness at the head, is carrying out the most extraordinary policy. While purporting to have Macedonia’s best interests at heart, he maintains close and friendly relations with the Turkish government in Constantinople. And Macedonia is still under the direct power of the Turks. Perhaps the Exarchy thinks that by gratifying the Turks, they may be able to win their favor, so that the Exarchy can send religious leaders to Macedonia. And, in turn, these leaders will protect the Macedonian residents from Turkish pressures. It is difficult enough for the Macedonian without having to suffer a policy such as this, for it will tend to divide the people. The Macedonian Committee objects, for the Macedonian needs both hands to fight for his freedom.” (Article 200).
“The Macedonian Rebel Committee calls all clergymen in Macedonia to disregard the Exarchy orders and to join the uprising of the Macedonian people until the liberation is won. Afterwards, ecclesiastical issues in Macedonia can be decided.” (Article 201).
The Macedonian Rebel Committee sought to meet with the Exarch Yosif in Constantinople and to ask him not to interfere with the “Macedonian uprising unless he wants to be included among the ranks of traitors.” (Article 202).
They also decided that the Bishop Miletiy from Sofia had hindered the development of, and indeed inflicted damage on, the Macedonian uprising. Article 204 made clear the rebel demand that he cease.
The Prescripts also stripped the Bulgarian committees and the Unity Committee of all rights to dictate policy to the Macedonians. Emphasized was Macedonians’ right to decide upon their own means and methods for struggling for freedom. “With the bringing forth of these Prescripts, the Macedonian Constitution, we declare that the Sofia Committee will in the future have no authority over the Macedonian uprising.” (Article 205) “All further orders from the Sofia Central Committee are no longer in effect, and the uprising will be led by the Macedonian Rebel Committee from Macedonia.” (Article 206).
Great analytic effort is not required to recognize the difference between the aims of the Macedonian rebels and those of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie as dictated through the Unity Committee and the Exarchy.
As can be seen, the program document of the Macedonian rebels was wrought from experience, bitter disappointments, and moral lessons, experience served up to the Macedonians by the exponents of the Greater Bulgarian bourgeoisie. Indications are that they gained an understanding of the politics during the second phase of the uprising, after the bloody meting out of revenge and the usurping of the authority of the rebel leadership. Consequently, the Macedonian Rebel Committee represented a genuine political philosophy for the rebels, regardless of how many of the Prescripts’ stipulations they were actually able to implement. And it was a political philosophy that diametrically opposed the Greater Bulgarian factor in the rebellion. The Prescripts also illuminate the reasons for the schism between the two that appeared right at the outset of the uprising. As the uprising developed, the more obvious became the fact that the rebels were a tool of Bulgarian policy. Thus the illusions held by the Macedonian rebels about the true intentions of the Bulgarian Committee evaporated. This, in turn, gave rise to the need of a document such as the Prescripts which not only reflected the awareness of their position vis-à-vis Bulgaria, the other Balkan nations. and Europe, but also stood as a testament to their single goal: to liberate Macedonia and establish their own Macedonian state.
The Organization Of The Uprising And The Clash With The Representatives Of The Beneficience Committee
Organization of the rebel forces was introduced before the rebels took action. But immediately after the first reported successes, some changes were made. The Commander in Chief, the Ataman, was a Russian officer, Adam Ivanovich Kalmikov. Also, a rebel headquarters was established. Dimitar Pop Georgiev from Berovo was elected as Commander in Chief of the rebel headquarters. And because of the attitude toward Russia at the time, all, save one, of the detachments organized and subordinated to the rebel headquarters were named after the distinguished Russian leadership in Bulgaria.
The military organization of the rebel forces went through a number of changes. During the uprising, the influx of rebels grew abruptly, and the number of leaders and detachments grew accordingly. At least nine detachments were formed. Later, with the straining of relations among the soldiers and between nations, the rebel command ordered the names of the rebel detachments to be changed. It was the rebels’ rebuke to the Russian policy on the Balkans. And in the end, when the rebel detachments were forced to retreat, each carried
the banner of utter independence from the Beneficience Committee, for the split between the rebels and the Committee was far too wide to be bridged.
Liberated territory posed the problem of establishing a government – how to maintain peace and order, how to prevent plunder and looting, how to deal with enemies and deserters. On 17 October, 1878, the “Office of the Chief of Police” was formed in Kresna. Aside from keeping the peace, the Chief of Police was assigned to recruit rebels from captured territory, gather taxes from those incapable of participating in the rebellion; and send materiel to those in battle.
Another important problem for the successful development of the uprising was how to recruit new forces and, further, how to supply them with food, weapons, and ammunition.
The Beneficience Committees were established with the blessings of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie to generate and supply rebel forces by whatever means necessary. At the outset these committees began gathering volunteers, distributing weapons and pay, and then, when favorable conditions arose, all was sent to do battle against the Turks. The chief source of volunteers was the former Macedonian soldiers who had volunteered in the Russian army. As the rebel struggle continued, these committees gathered volunteers wherever and however they could, and in some areas men were conscripted by force.
All Beneficience Committees worked to gather and send volunteers. Some volunteers were sent to Greece, others to organize other detachments. By the end of 1878, there were a total of 417 volunteers. According to the records of the Beneficience Committee in Sofia, not all of these participated in the Kresna Uprising.
In any event, the largest source of people for the uprising were the areas in which the battles took place. According to Dondukov, there were 1500 rebels throughout Macedonia in 1878. The majority of these men took part in the Kresna Uprising, which indicates that the majority of the participants were from that area.
Despite the fact people readily responded to the call to arms, and the ranks were thus full, supplying them with weapons and ammunition was a difficult problem. The Beneficience Committee, which was in charge of such matters, was chronically unable to supply the need for weapons simply because there was neither the money nor the weaponry to be had. In addition, the Committee’s allocation policy was woeful: late and misdirected. Of course, this affected the development of the uprising and the relations between the rebels and the Committee.
Even in Berovski’s first letter, in which he informed the Committee of the attack on Kresna, there was a demand for ten shipments of guns and ammunition. The appeal for weapons was repeated in almost every letter. Hoping to make the supply of weapons to the rebels more regular, Berovski and Kalmikov proposed that the Committee should appoint one of the two representatives in Srbinovo (Brezhanovo) to take charge of a supply line. But nothing came of the proposal, and the need of weapons grew daily. So, for example, in the letter dated 10 October, aside from the news about another rebel victory, Berovski again pleaded for weapons. He asked that not a minute be wasted. The impulse for rebellion would wane without weapons. He asked for 2000 to 3000 rifles and for 50 shipments of munitions. Berovski expressed surprise over the Committee’s cold blooded treatment of the uprising in Kresna and the useless surplus of weapons sent to Kyustendil.
An insufficient supply of weapons on the one hand, and the constant influx of new rebels, most of them without weapons, on the other, provoked dissatisfaction and unrest among the rebel ranks. Breeding mistrust resulted in conflicts between the Committee and the conflicts revealed the cross-purposes at play.
The first sign of trouble occurred not between the Committee and the rebels but among the rebels themselves: between the foreign volunteers who had pretensions to leadership positions and the experienced voivodes native to the terrain.
All available information indicates that the rift among the rebels, or to be more precise, between the internal and the external members of the rebel leadership, occurred during the attack on the Turkish army in Kresna. Kalmikov was ordered to lead the rebels through the assault on Kresna; thereafter, Berovski was to be head commander. Moreover, it should be noted that the victory was due to the efforts of the peasants from Kresna, Vlahi, and Oshtava.
According to Todor Strahinov, the attack on the Turkish army began under the command of Kalmikov, but because of his ineptitude as a commander, the people shifted their allegiance to Stoyan Karastoilov, an experienced and highly respected voivode. That initiated the schism between the externals, the foreign volunteers, and the internals, those native to the Macedonian soil. Kalmikov, evidently taken by the pompous title of Ataman, refused to relinquish command, thus exacerbating the situation.
The struggle for power was actually set off by the rivalry between two foreign leaders, Kalmikov and Louis Voitkevich. Voitkevich, a Pole, another adventurer, had joined the rebels with his own detachment of volunteers. Voitkevich had arrived in Vlahi from Kyustendil on 18 October, and by 22 October he submitted his resignation.
Unfortunately, this old rivalry between the two, both of whom represented the interests of the Beneficience Committee, did not remain merely a personal affair. Because of Kalmikov’s capriciousness and churlishness, the rebels deserted his detachment. Voitkevich, instead of trying to assuage the rebels, went from man to man trying to persuade each to come under his command.
The situation among the rebels was coming to its flashpoint. There is a chance, Berovski said, that we may have the rebels fighting themselves. On 20 October, the rebel headquarter command tried to put an end to the trouble by constituting two separate command chiefs, a first and a second. Kalmikov was the first commander, Voitkevich the second. Indeed, the rebel forces were reconciled to the idea of making neither subordinate to the other, their authority equal. Of course, as headquarter commander, Berovski reserved his right to “sanction the general command of the uprising and its organization.” However, neither Kalmikov nor Voitkevich accepted the decision, so the rebel headquarter command had no choice to demand their expulsions. At this point, according to Strahinov, the voivodes “lifted Stoyan Karastoilov high up on their shoulders and proclaimed him temporary commander of the uprising.”
Thus the command of the uprising was taken into the hands of those native to the battleground. Voitkevich was tried and found guilty of attempting to obstruct the rebellion. He was ordered to report to the Beneficience Committee in Dzhumaya, and if he refused to leave the territory, he was to be shot.
This incident was not merely the product of petty ambition and a lust for power. The reasons ran deeper and at bottom one finds pure politics. It was the tactics of two distinct aims and purposes for the rebellion that were at war here. Those who were expelled from key positions of the rebel leadership were proponents of a single policy, a single conception of the rebellion. The aims of the Macedonian rebels were foreign to them. Yet it was the Macedonian rebels who had to contend with the disunity, who had to settle accounts if their aims were to be realized.
If the clashes within the rebel ranks were a result of two conflicting policies, two conflicting viewpoints, then it logically follows that soon the protagonists of the two sides would come into conflict: a rift between the internals and the externals.
The first signs of this were expressed in Berovski’s letter of 10 October, 1878 sent to the president of the Dzhumaya Committee. Berovski criticized the Committee’s policy for supplying the rebels in Kresna with arms. He was furious with the “cold blooded treatment” toward the rebels. While in Kresna they were suffering from insufficient weapons, “There are troops in Kyustendil that have yet to serve any purpose at all.”
The Beneficience Committee’s treatment of the uprising as it developed slowly but surely led to the straining of relations. The internals, i.e., the Macedonian rebels, began to jealously guard their leadership positions, and every attempt at interference from the Unity Committee provoked reactions. The Committee piqued the leaders of the uprising by trying to supersede their authority. For example, the Committee sent written compliments to certain voivodes without consulting the rebels themselves.
Venting his anger, Berovski wrote in a letter dated 19 October, 1878: “Voivodes should only be honored by among us.”
Public protest and personal doubt about the Unity Committee’s intentions festered among the rebels. Reflecting on how the rebels had been hampered by these proponents of the Beneficience Committee, Berovski wrote in the letter dated 22 October, 1878 addressed to the Dzhumaya Committee: “And how do such people get involved in such hallowed work, to sully it, to ruin it? We will discuss this incident and the Committee plans. We were not aware of how much of the Committee was among us.
The expulsion of Kalmikov and Voitkevich from the uprising cut off the extended hand of the Bulgarian
bourgeoisie, and control fell into the hands of the internals, the Macedonians themselves. Toying with notions of conquest, the Bulgarian bourgeoisie could not tolerate an in dependent rebel leadership, and repercussions were a certainty. The Beneficience Committee had to take quick action to bring the development of the uprising back under its wing, to retain it as an instrument of Greater Bulgarian policy.
This could not be achieved with Berovski at the head of the rebel leadership. The leaders would have to be people who would fulfill Committee orders without balking.
Thus, one of the first steps taken by the Committee was to seek the removal of Berovski. With the letter of 23 October, Berovski was requested to report to Gorna Dzhumaya. However, fully aware of the reasons for this request, and knowing further that Kalmikov and Voitkevich were in Dzhumaya, Berovski refused to comply. Ten “leaders and detachment leaders” replied in a letter dated 24 October, 1878: “We can understand the need for our chief of headquarters, Berovski, to report to Gorna Dzhumaya. However, Kalmikov and Voitkevich are both in Dzhumaya despite having resigned from the uprising. And until we receive word of their departure from Gorna Dzhumaya, we have just cause for refusing to send Dimitar (Berovski) to Dzhumaya.”
The letter shows clearly that the rebel leadership had not only lost faith in the Committee, but also begun to rally around the leadership of Dimitar Pop Georgiev Berovski. Relations were becoming more and more strained.
The best expression of the feeling among the rebels toward Committee policy was stated in Dimitar Berovski’s letter of 25 October, 1878 to the president of the Dzhumaya Committee, K. P. Bosilkov. He wrote frankly and without equivocation:
“We see that the hope we had is lost. We see that you are only playing with us. Great sums are being spent, but you have directed it to where it is not needed. People with weapons are needed here. You have detained people and supplies for some days, and then you sent them who knows where. What do you expect us to do? I believe it is your duty to assist us with the means for war, and beyond that, you need simply observe. To our minds, the Committee has been derelict in its duties, and I consider it my duty to inform you that if this continues, we will soon be forced to begin our own. But, the responsibility for our blood will be yours. So, we ask you for a positive or negative response. Finally, would you please tell us why you failed to send us arms and ammunition on time? You sent us unarmed men. We have no munitions factory here, we have no supplies to give them. And in Razlog, this is not the time for you to be considering an uprising there. Think seriously; with what forces do you intend to open such a wide front, and how do you intend to supply them? You allowed a few detachments to be taken in Palanka. For God’s sake, think. With the first and last shipment of 60 rifles, how many detachments do you think we can form…?”
Berovski’s conception, indeed the entire rebel leadership’s conception, of the Beneficience Committee’s role in the development of the Macedonian uprising would eventually become embodied in their Constitution. In Article 5 of the Prescripts of the Macedonian Rebel Committee, it states:
“The so-called Beneficience Committees outside of Macedonia are permitted to aid the uprising. However, the main subject and concern of their aid should be: the collection of financial aid, weapons, clothing, and food. And they should stand ready to supply the needs of the uprising when the needs arise.”
And in Article 135 of the Prescripts, it was explicitly recommended to Macedonian patriots abroad who were willing to contribute to the struggle for Macedonian liberation to send their aid directly to the Macedonian Rebel Committee rather than to the Committees in the Bulgarian Principality, as was done in the past.
Berovski’s attitude also demonstrates the vast gap between the two points of view, a gap that precluded any cooperation. And the gap deepened, for the dispute among the leaders was transferred to the rebel ranks. They were divided between the local rebels and the volunteer soldiers. On the 28th of October, when the regular Turkish army broke the cease fire and launched an attack on rebel positions, the volunteers began to desert. Although the Turks outnumbered the rebels, the “internals” left to fight alone were able to repel the Turks and hold their positions. Berovski wrote to the president of the Beneficience Committee in Dzhumaya that “yesterday’s victory is ours, won with the courage of the Macedonian soldiers. The volunteers deserted… Long live the soldiers and their voivodes!”
This did not correspond with the intentions and aims of the Beneficience Committee. Berovski, justly taking a portion of the credit for the victory, could not have accepted his removal from the leadership without risking defeat. Thus, he took most energetic measures to retain his leadership role, even at the cost of losing some captured territory, even at the cost of losing his popularity among the people.
Immediately after receiving the news about Kalmikov’s and Voitkevich’s expulsion from the uprising, the Sofia Committee (which characterized the situation in Macedonia now as “anarchy”) sent the following directive to the Beneficience Committee in Gorna Dzhumaya:
“From your two letters of 25 October as well as from the verbal reports of the Generals Ataman Kalmikov and Peko Pavlovich, we discovered with sadness what disorder has befallen the uprising in Macedonia. Such disorder can only result in unwanted consequences. So, we have decided to arrest the headquarters commander, Dimitar Pop Georgiev, and to appoint a provisional commission consisting of three members… [This commission] will be responsible for the financial, postal, and administrative affairs in newly captured areas. Your committee should submit a list of names to the commission of those who will represent the Central Committee. For the arrest of Dimitar Pop Georgiev, you should abide by the orders issued by the commission. In the future, regarding the activities, your committee will correspond only with the commission and with the committee here in Sofia…” The directive is signed by the president of the Sofia Committee, Miletiy, a Bulgarian bishop.
With this directive, the Sofia Committee suspended both the leadership of the uprising and the leadership of the Dzhumaya Committee and transferred the authority to the Commission. Conferring authority on the Commission was the first step in eliminating the independent character of the uprising. The second step would require the coarse removal of the internal leadership.
Writing about the function of this new Commission, Urumov, one of the members, stated that it should be a kind of provisional government vested with the authority of supreme supervision over the uprising. It should maintain ties with the Sofia Committee, distribute weapons, clothing, money, food, and other materials. Furthermore, it should establish administrative order in the liberated territory: appoint village mayors, town guards, vineyard guards, and other administrative functionaries. However, its chief task was to lead the uprising through the following newly appointed leaders: Commander in Chief, Kalmikov; his adjutant, Peko Pavlovich (Boshkovich) from Montenegro; Panta Srechkovich, an officer from the Serbian army; and Walter Schultz, the military engineer.
The Commission’s first concern was to remove Berovski from the uprising. On 2 November, 1878, he was given twenty-four hours to leave the uprising and appear before the members of the Commission.
In Berovski’s letter of 7 November to the Sofia Committee, he reported, “In order to leave, I had to compromise. And I left the voivode, Stoyan, in charge.” He left for Dzhumaya. “On the evening of the 3rd, I met with the Commission. Kalmikov said that by order of the Committee, I was placed under arrest to separate me from the uprising,” and that he “had been authorized to take command.”
In the presence of the Commission, Berovski was subjected to scurrilous attacks from Kalmikov and Voitkevich. They told him that if he didn’t comply peacefully with the order, he would be bound and gagged.
Whether or not Berovski was actually imprisoned cannot be determined by the information available. However, three days later the Sofia Committee conveyed instructions to have Berovski expelled not only from the uprising, but from Dzhumaya as well.
How was the Sofia Committee’s action accepted by the leadership of the Macedonian uprising? How was it accepted among the rebels?
In his letter of the 7th of November, Berovski condemned Kalmikov’s return as an act whose aim was to “totally destroy the hallowed work of the people.” He blamed the Sofia Committee and said that they were to be responsible for the consequences. “If you have actually gone as far as to punish and destroy the rebellion by expelling me, you will have to answer to God and to the people.”
It appears that after Berovski was removed from the uprising, the Commission carried out their orders covertly to facilitate their tighter involvement with the rebel leadership. One of the participants of the events described the incident which shows the covert nature of their activities. “Ten days later [after the expulsion of Berovski], the same major returned – Adam Kalmikov. He presented a letter to Stoyan. The letter said that Stoyan was to recognize Kalmikov as the new Commander in Chief and that Stoyan was to serve him, for he was a Russian representative. The major pretended that everything was in accord, and he even said that he would lay down his life for Stoyan.”
Independent of the covert activities and the naive open-mindedness of the rebel leadership, Kalmikov’s return was met with discontent and resistance from the ranks.
“One of the voivodes,” wrote Strahinov in his memoirs, “advised Stoyan twice to drive Kalmikov out. The kindhearted Stoyan believed that like himself, everyone else would accept Kalmikov without vindictiveness.”
Stoyan’s agreement to accept Kalmikov provoked trouble in the rebel ranks. Many voivodes, expecting the worst, abandoned their positions in the uprising.
“That’s why,” wrote Strahinov, “the voivodes Kapcho, Stefo, Pop Bufski, and others left Vlahi. They passed through Struma and went to the villages of Troskovo, Padezh, Leshko, and other places. Georgi Saatchiyata and the temporary headquarters commander, Mite Popov, submitted their resignations. They had discovered other great men: Petar Pavlovitch, a Montenegrin, Dimitri Nemets, Pando Velkovich, and others. These were close friends of the major, and they passed themselves off as close friends of Stoyan.” Strahinov finished his description of these dramatic events by listing all the ways in which the leadership of the Macedonian uprising was liquidated.
The Bulgarian Committee’s reckless behavior wreaked tragic consequences on the development of the uprising as well as on the destiny of some of its leaders, as was the case with the voivode, Stoyan Karastoilov.
With Kalmikov again imposing himself at the head of the uprising, the Sofia Committee provided itself a vehicle for the further intrusion of their own Greater Bulgarian policies.
The Uprising Spreads to Razlog
After Berovski’s expulsion from the uprising and after the resignation of some voivodes, the Beneficience Committee was once again at the heart of the leadership of the uprising. The affect was felt immediately throughout the area. With the advent of commissars on the field, Voitkevich was also reinstated. The two sites of battle were entrusted to the two adventurers: Voitkevich was put in charge of Razlog; and Kalmikov was in charge of Kresna.
The Committee was now able to implement its policy, to organize and attack as many places as possible. Their earlier intentions to send one detachment to Razlog was now put into effect.
Preparations for the attack on Razlog were entrusted to Bratan Marinof, a Bulgarian from Teteven. On the 5th of November he called the local voivodes from Razlog together for a meeting. Two detachments were created. One was under the triumvirate leadership of Marinov, Srechkovich, and the local voivode, Todor Palaskarya. Palaskarya had been assigned to defend the left flank of the uprising in Kresna. Now, he was ordered to attack all of Bansko. Leading the other detachment was Shteryu Vlavot. He was in charge of the areas of Gorno Draglishta and Dolno Draglishta. The ultimate aim of this action was to capture the administrative center of the plains region of Pirin, the city of Mehomiya (Razlog).
The attack on Bansko began on 8 November, 1878. Massive numbers of peasants participated in the twelve-hour battle, Bansko Was liberated.
This victory and the holding in check of an attack from a division of the Turkish regular army raised the morale among the people. But the exaltation did not last long. In the battle with the local Turkish forces at Razlog, the leader of the rebel actions, Bratan Marinov, was wounded. Leaderless and lacking a sufficient supply of weapons, fear and unrest spread among the rebels.
On 11 November, Voitkevich arrived in Bansko. The uprising in Razlog was under his command. It was hoped that he would be able to restore the declining order and discipline. But that did not come to pass. Voitkevich not only failed to establish order and discipline, but his imprudent actions incited the rebels to revolt against him. In an attempt to calm the situation, he began preparing to attack Mehomiya. But neither did the planned attack occur. In order to avoid another battle and to allow time for reinforcements to arrive, the local Turks sent negotiators to Bansko ostensibly to talk peace. During the discussions, in which the rebels sought the surrender of Mehomiya, all initiative for the attack was killed.
While the detachment in Bansko was inactive, the detachment under the command of Shteryu was filling with new volunteers from the peasantry. They were coming en masse to join. On 13 November they launched an attack on the village of Banya which is on the road between Nevrokop and Mehomiya.
The Turks, entrenched behind wide village walls, were able to repel the attack. Poorly armed – some bearing only axes, pitchforks, and sticks – the peasants were unable to rout out the Turks. However, they did hold back an attack of Turks and a group of bashibozouks who had come to the aid of those besieged. The following day the rebels from Bansko received a cherrywood cannon, but that was still not enough. Their efforts were in vain. The rebels though contributed to their own demise, for there was no cooperation between the two groups: while Shteryu launched his attack, Voitkevich and his troops were idle in Bansko.
Meanwhile, the voivode Tashko Bayrakov and his detachment captured the village of Dobrinishté. The village was liberated. But the rebels could not celebrate their victory for long. On the following day, 14 November, 1878, the Turkish army from Nevrokop arrived to aid the Turkish garrison in Razlog. Tashko Bayrakov’s detachment did all it could to prevent the passage of the Turkish army through the gorge of the Dobrinishka River, but the Turks overwhelmed them. That was the beginning of the end of the action in Razlog. The rebels retreated to their own villages. Panic flooded the Dobrinishka Valley. The peasants quickly fled the village for fear of Turkish reprisals. The rebels took no defensive measures whatever; they left the village to defend itself. On 17 November, when the Turkish army entered the village, it was empty.
The village that had welcomed the rebels with open arms, that had flocked to join the ranks, had been deceived and abandoned. That ended the aborted siege of Razlog, an effort that began without plan, without order, and without coordination. The result of the Razlog uprising was: five plundered villages (Banya, Gorno Draglishta, Dolno Draglishta, Nidobrdsko, and Bansko); about 120 dead; and many thousands of refugees.
The Events in Kresna after the Expulsion of Berovski
After Berovski was expelled from the uprising, the Sofia Committee, with the aid of the three members of the Commission and the reinstatement of Kalmikov, was able to wrest control from the hands of the rebels. Yet they were unable to raise the morale; neither were they able to resolve the conflicts between the volunteers from abroad and the native rebels. Although the voivode Stoyan accepted the orders issued from the Committee, he exercised an independent mind in carrying them out. He was labeled the “most independent Macedonian leader and the hero of the rebellion.”
Especially hot was the rift among the rebels themselves, between the volunteers and the internals. Some refused to submit to the new rebel leadership. Heady from having confronted and defeated the Turks in the village of Gradeshnitsa on 28 October, they now began to take independent action, attacking Turkish positions on their own.
The ranks were disintegrating. During a consultation in Vlahi, each detachment was given specific orders. Kalmikov, as head commander, decided to inspect the forces, to see how well the orders were being carried out. What he found was shocking. Where 60 men had been assigned to guard a position, there were only 10. At other positions, instead of the 300 who had been assigned, he found between 50 and 60 men. And in the most important position, one that safeguarded communications between Serez and Dzhumaya, out of the 140 assigned, he found only 60.
Disintegration reached the command. In Vlahi where the rebel headquarters were still located, Kalmikov and his friends began drinking heavily. The efforts of the commissars to return them to their senses sparked a quarrel, and had it not been for the voivode Stoyan’s intervention, the quarrel would have become a blood bath. The hatred smouldering in the hearts of the two camps thus became apparent, and each hour it threatened to come to a bloody end.
The Turks undertook sweeping measures to suppress the uprising throughout the entire area. Weakened, poorly armed, internally divided, disappointed and embittered, the rebels were ill prepared to confront the Turkish army. The only attempt to put up some form of resistance was the voivode, Stoyan, and his rebels. But he was unsuccessful. Under pressure of the Turkish army, he was forced to retreat to the village of Srbinovo in the Demir Kapia Mountains.
Having had to retreat to the border area and then forbidden to retaliate for tactical reasons, the rebels were furious. They were without food. They were stranded. They made their impatience and anger manifest, which especially sharpened the conflict between the voivode, Stoyan Karastoilov, and the commissars. Kalmikov, unable to forget his earlier humiliation, insisted on settling the matter himself.
Base intrigues and rumors began to spread about the voivode. Their single purpose was to discredit Stoyan among the rebels so that it would be easier for them to accept the idea of his execution. It was a successful campaign. On the night of 25 November, Stoyan and his friend were killed.
Describing this vicious incident, Todor Strahinov, who himself was considered dangerous as a collaborator of Stoyan’s, said that this killing was premeditated treachery carried out in ambush. According to Strahinov, the incident developed in the following way. Mechkul returned to Oshtava from a nearby village on the 25th of November. At night they were unexpectedly held in their rooms under guard, The voivode, Stoyan. and another friend were murdered as they slept. Just prior to the murder, two rebel guards were wounded.
In order to justify Stoyan’s murder as a bona fide punitive measure meted out for breaking rebel laws, a charge was fabricated ex post facto. Judgement was handed down from a fictitious “Court Martial” which was supposedly held on 24 November, 1878 in the village of Oshtava. Presiding over the affair was the “Provisional Head Administration of Macedonia.” They had sentenced Stoyan to death. The document bearing the bogus decision was signed by “the Ataman of the Macedonian Rebels, Adam I. Kalmikov” and six of his confederates, none of whom were Macedonian.
Today, historians do no equivocate: the charge against Stoyan Karastoilov was fabricated to justify his murder.
The murder of Stoyan Karastoilov was in no small way motivated by personal revenge. Buried deep under political camouflage, it was an act of revenge perpetrated against the most genuine of Macedonian rebel leaders, a man who maintained his faith in the idea that the Macedonian rebels themselves could lead their own struggle for liberation.
Kalmikov’s last obstacle to full control had been removed. However, the rebels began to battle among themselves. Fearing further reprisals, Stoyan’s friends and allies attacked the Commission headquarters. Then, before anyone could counter attack, they stealthily ran by night to Dzhumaya. But even in Dzhumaya they were unsafe, so they stole off to Sofia.
Stoyan’s murder also set off a great wave of dissatisfaction in Bulgaria, for he had been an extremely popular rebel against Turkish domination.
Irreparable clashes occurred between the remaining rebel leaders and the Beneficience Committee, the latter’s authority now having all but dissipated. Stoyan’s death brought to an end the first period of the Kresna Uprising.
The Second Period Of The Kresna Uprising
After the bloodshed, the Sofia Committee had to replace all of its people in the uprising. The commissars, the War Council members, and Kalmikov were dismissed and replaced. Now in charge of the rebel leadership was the Ohrid bishop, Natanail.
A familiar tolerance for the “internals” allowed Stoyan’s allies and friends to give Stoyan a formal burial on 8 November. The military command exonerated Stoyan. Also, Berovski was released and returned to the battlefield.
After his arrest, Berovski’s first communique to the Gorna Dzhumaya Committee was dated 12 November, 1878. He wrote a letter to the Committee president requesting to be briefed on the development of the uprising since his absence. He said that he stood against evil and that he would work to rectify the errors of the past. He reiterated emphatically that he disapproved of accepting foreigners into the rebel ranks from the Sofia Committee and that the Committee was making a comedy of the work of the people. Three days later, on 15 November, Berovski. again wrote from Kyustendil. It is apparent from the letter that he planned to return to the uprising, and he requested munitions sent to Karshieka.
Under what conditions was Berovski allowed to return to the uprising?
In the letter dated 23 January, 1879, written from the prison in Gorna Dzhumaya to the Ohrid bishop, Natanail, Berovski mentioned his return to the rebel ranks:
“After the murder of the voivode, Stoyan, I was in Dzhumaya. The rebels in Karshieka asked the Dzhumaya Beneficience Committee to send them a leader. Then the Committee sent me to Karshieka….”
Undoubtedly, given the circumstances that followed Stoyan Karastoilov’s murder, the only person capable of consolidating the rebel ranks was Dimitar Pop Georgiev Berovski.
On 1 December, 1878, Berovski had already reached the village of Sushitsa, in the area of Karshieka. Primarily because of the bad winter, the Turks had not recaptured this area.
Upon his arrival in Sushitsa, Berovski eagerly set about rejuvenating and firming up the rebel ranks. His basic task was to organize the defense of Karshieka. First he asked the Dzhumaya Committee to supply him with an adequate amount of arms and ammunition. Then he called all able bodied men of the region to arms. They joined without hesitation. Then he brought all of Stoyan’s people together to meet with the voivodes, Kosta and Anastas Zhostov. He enlisted their participation in the uprising.
Laconically, Berovski described the reorganization of the uprising and the establishment of rule in liberated territory. The latter was something no one had yet tried.
The following notes are excerpted from Berovski’s personal diary which he began keeping on 26 November, 1878.
“on 26 November I left Dzhumaya for Karshieka with Pahomiya.
“On 8 December. I left Moravitsi for Goreme. I reprimanded Pahomiya. He was telling the common people that they were free to do whatever they pleased and that they could even fraternize with the Turks without suffering any consequences. He assailed me before the peasants, saying that I was malicious, that my activities will ruin the village, that they should heed neither my counsel nor my instructions. He gave them cause for disobedience and debauchery. I sent him back to Dzhumaya.
“9 December – I left for Tsaparevo. There I met with Zlatko and other rebels.
“10 December – I sent a letter with a boy to Razlog, Dobrilaki, Kolibite, and Nikudin for horses that we need for bringing weapons from Dzhumaya.
“12 December – I went to Sedelets.
“13 December – From Sedelets I sent 18 horses for weapons and I left for Igralishta.
“14 December. In Igralishta I gathered some people; I signed the Constitution of Management in Karshieka; the people chose Zlatko for captain. I noted who had weapons, what kind of weapons. I appointed officers.
“16 December. In Nikudin I appointed an officers council. I asked who had what kind of weapons and who was able to bear arms.
“17 December. I left for Dobrilaki.
“18 December. In Dobrilaki I appointed an officers council for Dobrilaki and for Razdol. I noted who had what kind of weapons and who could bear arms.
“19 December. I left for Tsaparevo.
“20 December. In Tsaparevo I appointed an officers council for Tsaparevo and for Krushitsa. I noted who had what kind of weapons and who could bear arms.
“23 December. In Sedelets I appointed officers. I noted who had what weapons and who could bear arms. I had to beat one man for disobedience in the village, and from another three I took one white medzhidia [a Turkish silver coin] each.
“26 December. In Igralishta I gathered under one command the enlisted soldiers from Igralishta, from Maalata and from Sedelets. I beat eight peasants for disobedience. All of them gathered in the village.
“28 December. In Tsaparevo I beat a peasant from Krstil because he spoke out against the order.
“1 January, 1879. I visited the soldiers in Dobrilaki.
“6 January. In Tsaparevo I gave two guards from Tetovo passes so they could get through the rebel lines to reach the Dzhumaya district.
“22 January. To the Ohrid metropolitan, what are the reasons and explanation for my arrest.”
Although Berovski wrote very little about his own activities, his diary shows enough to see the steps he took to organize the rebel ranks in Karshieka and to establish a government out of the uprising. It clearly indicates the passion with Which Berovski set himself to the task of implementing the rules of the Constitution. Indeed, he was especially busy with the building of a revolutionary government in the liberated territory – a civil government, as it is called in the Prescripts. There was no liberated village in the Karshieka area that he didn’t visit. He set up supervisorial councils everywhere he went. In the town records of Igrachishta, there is a document dated 14 December, 1878. It is an outline to “establish the system for the rebel leaders in the village of Karshieka for the Melnik district.”
However, all of Berovski’s activity, unflagging though it was, could not bear fruit. In the letter he wrote while in jail to Natanail, he made mention of his efforts – again with sparse words. “When I went to Karshieka, I worked to the limits of my strength. I gathered all those who had escaped from the Kresna battle. From their huts, I brought them: some came willingly, some by force. With village permission I appointed three officers per village. These officers chose Zlatko from Palat for the captain of all of Karshieka. He was to be judge. And it was up to him to ratify the constitutional document by which this country should be ruled. In accordance with this constitution, I accompanied the captain to all villages. We noted those who were capable of using weapons as well as what weapons they had. And to those without weapons, we distributed 72 rifles. In three places we appointed more than 100 men as regular soldiers. They were to be ready at a moment’s notice. This system was to the benefit of all. The guards had already had two changes in ten days.”
From his return to the uprising until his second arrest and second expulsion, Berovski obviously worked hard to implement the Prescripts. In a democratic way he tried to build a village government from the bottom up, from peasant to captain, a revolutionary government that would rule the liberated territory.
At the same time Berovski established the basis for the first Macedonian rebel army. It was a firm attempt to make secure the rewards gained by rebellion. It also embodied the ideas of autonomy and independence of the Macedonian uprising vis-à-vis foreign intentions to control Macedonia.
Berovski’s activities won him the confidence of the peasants. He was able to increase participation and preparation not only in the liberated territory, but also in the periphery of the uprising, especially in the Petrich district.
The people in this area lived in constant fear of Turkish retaliation, something perhaps only the winter prevented. However, once Berovski began to organize the people, their fear diminished. In a response directed to the Turkish commander, on 11 December, 1878 the people publicly declared they would not bow into submission even though they had yet to be liberated. And on 13 December, they fought and defeated a Turkish regiment of 400 soldiers on the Lebnitsa River near the village of Gyurgyevo.
Berovski’s efforts to organize also inspired greater cooperation and discipline among the rebels in the Karshieka region. There was a new influx of peasants into the ranks. People appeared with and without weapons.
According to a letter from Berovski dated 29 December, 1878, the rebel ranks accepted 550 new volunteers, 208 bearing only Crimean War rifles, 343 utterly without weapons. With the vast numbers of rebels native to the area, Berovski felt that they could begin accepting without fear volunteers sent from abroad. So, he accepted the Montenegrin, Andreya Nikolov, with 50 men; and he said that he would accept others only on the condition that they be ready to carry out their orders.
Indications are that a strong, peasant-based national movement was now taking shape, with its heart in Karshieka. However, just when Berovski’s effort was about to bear fruit, he was arrested and imprisoned in Dzhumaya. And all traces of his work disappeared.
Why was Berovski put in jail when he had gone to Karshieka at the request of the Dzhumaya Beneficience Committee?
Indeed, Berovski went to Karshieka by consent of the Dzhumaya Committee, but he went without their faith. The Dzhumaya Committee openly expressed distrust in Berovski. Knowing Berovski’s past attitude toward foreign volunteers among the rebel ranks, the Montenegrin, Andreya, and his detachment were ordered back to Sofia for fear of more trouble within the leadership of the uprising.
Simply, Berovski had begun assembling a provisional government, a government based on Prescripts that specifically nullified the Committee’s authority over Macedonian affairs, save the Committee’s material contributions. Those Prescripts made clear the Macedonian goals of autonomy and independence, of the freedom for independent actions and relations. There is no doubt that Berovski was imprisoned by order of the Central Committee of Unity. In his letter to Natanail, Berovski expresses his feeling about his arrest:
“The most faithful, the most honest, the most self-sacrificing in the people’s movement is now in prison – his reward for his rectitude and heroism. I don’t know the reasons for my arrest, Your Highness. From Your regards though I conclude that there is spiritual compassion for the first co-worker, as one has compassion for the first child. But is this the deed of the people?! …
“I am a victim that has been forgotten, and no one should mourn my passing. Even if I were to have perished in Karshieka, Melnik, as Stoyan did in Kresna, Oshtava, that would have meant nothing…”
Berovski though was lucky for simply having been thrown in jail.
Berovski was prepared to meet the same destiny that met the voivode Stoyan, as can be seen from the above excerpt as well as from the letter to Berovski from his brother, Kostadin Pop Georgiev. The following was written while Berovski was still in the field.
“I came to Dzhumaya because of the voices that had spread to Kyustendil. I can hear them here. I’ve heard stories that people have been assigned to kill both you and me. So, as soon as you receive my letter, waste no time: come to Dzhumaya. The Ohrid bishop Natanail is here. He wants you to come so that you and he can reach an understanding. It is imperative that you believe what I’m writing to you.”
There is no question: Berovski was expelled from the uprising because the representatives of the Bulgarian Committee Unity would not tolerate any independent rebel action.
The Bulgarian Beneficience Committee effectively strangled all independence of the Macedonian rebels and of the rebel leadership. Among the rebels and leaders the disaffection was profound. Resistance to Committee authority transformed into fear, resignation, and finally abandonment. The ranks disintegrated. The mood and condition of the uprising is expressed in the letter dated 8 January, 1879 from the well-known Macedonian linguist, historian, sociologist, and revolutionary, Georgi Pulevski, to one of his friends in Serbia, Despot Badzhovitch, also a Macedonian sociologist.
“My good friend, Despot:
“I received a letter from your brother, Kuzman, a month ago. I wrote back telling him to come here and to gather as many men as he could for a larger detachment. At the time I wrote to him, I believed we had been left alone to be for Macedonia. Not only I, but we all believed. And we were prepared to die: freedom or death, there was no third choice. But it’s not like that. The wolf thinks one way, and the sheep another.
“A few days ago the bishop, Natanail, gave me your letter. I read it. You wrote, Despot, that you wanted to volunteer, and you promised in addition 1000 to 2000 volunteers. That’s good, very good. But I will tell you not to come here, for there is something bad here. Here the Bulgarians are playing with us. Their water turns the water mill of Natanail. He is Macedonian but he turns toward Bulgaria.
“Let me tell you, our detachments have waited here for so long to fight the Turks, to secure our freedom, but they don’t let us go. They set a fire. But now they want more ado in front of Europe. My soldiers are slowly deserting, and I have no reason to wait.
“If you indeed have 1000 to 2000 volunteers, ask to help the Serbian government. I think they are more humane. Then I will come with my detachments, and other detachments will follow, and all of us, together, will hit the Turks from the north.
“Don’t give my letter to anyone, for it may fall into Natanail’s hands.
“Let me know what you do, and give me enough time for proper action.
“8 January, 1879”
This letter clearly reveals the policies of the Bulgarian Beneficience Committee during the Kresna Uprising in Macedonia.
Even though Berovski’s second expulsion from the uprising led to the disintegration of the organization that he painstakingly strove to create, it didn’t necessarily bring on the automatic failure of the liberated territories. While they were not attacked, they remained in the hands of the rebels. At the beginning of February, 1879, the commander of the Turkish army in Petrich demanded that the people surrender peacefully or prepare to fight. The peasants immediately informed the officers in charge in Gorna Dzhumaya and requested aid.
The rebels did not respond to the Turkish orders. So, the Turkish armed forces invaded Karshieka and recaptured the entire Dzhumaya district which, according to the decision of the Congress of Berlin, had been returned to Turkey.
As early as the 20th of February, the Turkish regular army, consisting of about 800 soldiers, penetrated Karshieka and recaptured all of Igralishta and Tsaparevo. The uprising was left paralyzed. Natanail, now the leader of the uprising, considered all possible means for holding Karshieka in rebel hands, for the political pressure from Bulgaria demanded it of him.
At that time in Bulgaria the constitutional assembly was in session. The liberal, nationalistic circles of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie used it as a platform to assail the decision of the Congress of Berlin that nullified the San Stefano Treaty. The Kresna Uprising and general unrest in Macedonia were cited as evidence of the people’s dissatisfaction with the decision of the Congress. In order to keep the trouble stirred up in Macedonia and thus add mettle to the Bulgarian point of view, Natanail himself went to the Karshieka battlefield to instill confidence in the rebels and tighten up the ranks. He also got in contact with the Russian General Chernyeev, well-known for his valor during the Serbo-Turkish conflict of 1876. Then he transferred the volunteer detachments stationed in Kyustendil to Karshieka. These detachments, commanded by the Slovenian, Hubmaer, had been used as diversions near Kriva Palanka. These efforts did succeed in slowing the advancement of the Turkish army. However, as has been said, these efforts were political as well as military, calculated not only to impede the Turks but also to persuade the Great Powers of Europe to amend their decisions of the Congress of Berlin. By the end of April, the Turks had vanquished the rebels from Karshieka and thus renewed their dominion over this part of Macedonia.
This meant the end of the rebel movement in the Ser sanjak and in the Pirin region of Macedonia. In the area around Demir Kapia though the remains of volunteer detachments continued to maraud. But the Kresna Uprising ceased to be.
Reasons For The Suppression Of The Kresna Uprising And Their Consequences
The Kresna Uprising and the general seething in this parts of the Turkish state were the result of great revolutionary movements on the Balkans and especially of the wars of that period: the Serbo-Turkish War and the Russo-Turkish War, and later the war among the Great Powers of Europe. The efforts of the Great Powers in Europe to ameliorate the international tensions had the opposite effect on the movements of those people enslaved by Turkey.
On the Balkans there were two powerful factors at work: the Bulgarian bourgeoisie that contributed much to bring the uprising to life and contributed equally to suffocate it; and the aims of Russian policy.
What emerged from the Congress of Berlin affected Bulgaria like a cold shower. The San Stefano Treaty, illusory though it was, made Bulgaria a vast state on the Balkans, and the Congress of Berlin popped the illusion, divided the Greater Bulgarian state in two, and tossed the Bulgarian borders again into the embrace of the Sultan. Hoping to attenuate somehow the decision to separate eastern Rumelia from the Bulgarian Principality and proclaiming it an autonomous region, the Bulgarians initiated war.
This reaction determined the reaction in Macedonia. The organ conceived to execute the policy aims of a Greater Bulgaria was Unity Committee, formed on 29 August, 1878 in the Bulgarian city of Trnovo. As far as the Macedonians were concerned, the operation of the Committee went through two phases: first, dedicated support to the liberation on Macedonia; and second, exploitation of the Macedonian anger and unrest for the purpose of fulfilling the goals of their own policies.
According to the words of Prince Dondukov, the Bulgarian bourgeoisie did all it could to keep things stirred up in Macedonia. Toward that aim, they enlisted the services of adventurers: the demobilized armies of Kalmikov (bearing the flag of the Don army), and Voitkevtich.
However, the Bulgarian bourgeoisie weren’t satisfied with the mere consolidation and provocation of internal forces in Macedonia. They wanted to impose their own leadership, thereby placing their own egoistic aims above political necessity. This task was entrusted to the Sofia Committee, which proclaimed itself “Central.” Through it were funneled the means from all the committees in Bulgaria, by it were determined and directed the tactics and activities of the uprising, and from it came the orders to eliminate any sort of independent action by the Macedonian rebels.
When the Beneficience Committee found that the rebels were acting contrary to the interests of Bulgarian policy, it sought to destroy the internal forces and eliminate the native leaders. Having lost all faith in the rebel forces, the Committee transferred the leadership of the uprising to Kyustendil villages. Natanail was named the new leader, and his adjutant, the Slovenian, Miroslav Hubmaer, was installed as the commander of headquarters.
But by that time, the beginning of 1879, the fate of the uprising had already been decided. Nevertheless, the support of the unrest in Macedonia continued as before, for it was now being emphasized by the Bulgarian bourgeoisie for purely propagandistic purposes. For at that time the constitutional assembly of Bulgaria was convened in Trnovo. There the basic laws of the new Principality were to be ratified.
According to putative thought, this assembly was actually formed to protest the Congress of Berlin, with an ear to the arguments from the Kresna Uprising. On the 24th and 25th of January, 1879, a meeting attended by Macedonians from throughout Macedonia was held in Kyustendil. Authorized representatives were chosen there: two Bulgarians from Trnovo, members of the Trnovo Beneficience Committee; and one Macedonian from Veles. Their task was to advance the interests of Macedonia before the constitutional assembly and before the public. These representatives developed a massive propaganda campaign for the joining of Macedonia with Bulgaria, and they instructed Natanail to send te1egrams from Kyustendil to inform the assembly of their aims.
The also sent communiqués to the Great Powers in Europe in the name of the Macedonian people.
The extent to which the Bulgarian bourgeoisie were interested in the liberation of the Macedonian people is demonstrated by their relations with the native leadership of the uprising, Stoyan Karastoilov and Dimitar Pop Georgiev Berovski. Refusing to be harnessed to the cart of Bulgarian interests, these two leaders were cruelly expelled from the uprising by order of the Sofia Committee. This, of course, devastated the integrity of the movement. And in the spring of 1879, when it became clear that the Great Powers were going to follow through and implement their decisions, the Beneficience Committee took steps, at the behest of ruling circles, to disband volunteer detachments. First, toward the end of April, 1879, the detachments were transferred to various parts of Macedonia, weakening the defenses. Then, on the 25th of May, after the Prince of Bulgaria had been chosen and the international tensions had relaxed somewhat in Europe, the remaining volunteer detachments were relieved of duty and sent home.
Another factor that influenced the appearance and then the disappearance of the uprising was the knot of interests the Great Powers had tied around the Balkans. The ropes of policy were extended chiefly by the Russians and the English.
Immediately after the Congress of Berlin, in the eastern Rhodope Mountain region, the Turks revolted against the Congress’s decisions under the leadership of an Englishman, Sinclair. The Turks had just lost territory in two wars, one with the Russians, and one with the Serbs, and the Congress of Berlin did not plan on returning all of it to Turkish rule. The Turkish revolt, conceived and directed by British diplomacy, was calculated to counteract Russian support of rebel movements in Bulgaria. These rebel movements were, of course, also in protest to the Congress of Berlin resolutions. In response to this Anglo-Turkish move, the Russians stepped up their support of the rebel movements in the Rhodope Mountains. The seed for rebellion had been planted by the Turks; the international situation gave it birth.
To what extent the Russian Balkan policy influenced the outbreak of rebel movements in eastern Macedonia is the subject for another study. However, there is no doubt that the general proximity of the Russian army and specifically the capture of Gorna Dzhumaya by Russian detachments whipped up the rebellious activities of the enslaved Macedonian people. And when the Russians, having vested interests in the existence of a Greater Bulgarian state as provided by the San Stefano Treaty, began morally and materially aiding the rebel movements via the Russian high command in Bulgaria, the uprising in Macedonia was a virtual certainty. In the minds of the Macedonian rebels was the illusion that the Russians and the Russian army would come to their aid at a moment’s notice.
Indeed, in the fall of 1878, the Russian military chiefs from Kyustendil, Dupnitsa, and Gorna Dzhumaya met at the Rila Monastery. It was at this meeting they discussed and decided to rise up and fight.
The link between the Russian army and the Macedonian rebel movements is amply documented.
Especially rich sources are the English and French diplomatic correspondences and documents of that time.
Despite the link between the Russians and the Macedonians, we shouldn’t conclude that it was official Russian policy. In fact, official Russian policy was just the reverse. Bound by agreement with the other Great Powers to keep hands off the Balkans, the unauthorized Russian military support of the Macedonians complicated international and Balkan problems. Thus, when the uprising broke out, diplomatic representatives in Constantinople and St. Petersburg were furious and condemned not only the Russian army, but Prince Dondukov as well. However, it wasn’t until a few months later that the Russians finally ceased giving aid to the Bulgarian Beneficience Committee. Among those involved in the uprising, this created the impression of a two-faced Russian policy and a general mood of ambivalence. In the first half of 1879, the Russians put an end to that. They brought their armed forces in line with official policy and cut off all further aid to the Beneficience Committee. Then, they demanded that Bulgaria respect the decision of the Congress of Berlin and cease provoking disturbances in Macedonia. One month later, Natanail sent all the volunteer detachments home.
There were also other external factors involved in the suppression of the uprising. It erupted just after the Russo-Turkish War and the Congress of Berlin, before the alterations made by the Great Powers in the Balkans could take full effect. So, in diplomatic circles and especially in the European press, the uprising was received as a potential spark for the greater conflagration. The press of those countries concerned circulated the most sensationalistic reports about the breadth, strength, and aims of the uprising. England was especially alarmed. They saw the Russian hand in the Balkan pot, stirring up trouble, seeking to destroy the work of the Congress of Berlin, and securing for themselves an outlet to the Mediterranean Sea.
Acting to protect its vital imperialistic interests in this corner of the world, England actively aided the Turks to hasten the liquidation of the Kresna Uprising and to prevent its spreading to other parts of Macedonia.
There were also internal causes that in no small way accounted for the collapse of the uprising.
In the first place, the Kresna Uprising and the general rebellious movements in Macedonia during that time, as has been emphasized, were not the result of systematic revolutionary activity, rather a spontaneous reaction.
The social conditions in Macedonia had not yet developed to the point at which a rebel leader, a subjective factor, could lead a mature revolutionary movement. That would come twenty years later. Then, the peasantry were not ready to bear the burden of a sustained and exhausting revolution. They had the resources to supply an uprising at Kresna, but not enough to supply an entire nation.
The level of a revolutionary consciousness and therefore the level of discipline played a significant role. Incidents of disobedience were not rare. Individual voivodes, who were haiduk leaders before the uprising, occasionally initiated action simply for the sake of personal gain. This caused even greater instability among the rebels who had already drawn lines between the internals and the externals.
The rebel leadership tried to unify all rebel forces in Macedonia by bringing forth their Prescripts. It was hoped that this document would block interference from the Beneficience Committee and provide the rebels with a single leadership. But it failed. Consequently, the uprising in eastern Macedonia was isolated from other parts of Macedonia. There were experienced soldiers from all over Macedonia, yet there weren’t enough.
Reflections on the Uprising in Other Parts of Macedonia and among the Macedonian Emigrants
The consequences of the uprising’s disintegration were not all negative. Indeed, the people in the region of the uprising suffered greatly. Scores of villages were set afire. About 25,000 people were forced to abandon the family hearth and escape through the border into Bulgaria. There was devastation, hunger, and misery accompanied by the incessant terror of the Turks. Nevertheless, the Macedonian uprising of 1878 left a great legacy.
During the course of the conflict, there was a great response from the whole country. Members of the Russian diplomatic service often made mention of the fighting spirit that swept through all of Macedonia during that time. They cited the swelling of the number of detachments, the frequent acts of valor in the field, and the immediate support of the peasantry. In November, 1878, for example, the people rushed to the aid of two unarmed detachments, one consisting of 70 men, the other 110. Not only did the ex-volunteers from the Serbian and Russian armies join the rebels, but also people from the country, people who abandoned their work and their place and risked their lives to support the rebels all along the Struma River. And indeed throughout the country there were eruptions of greater or lesser magnitude.
The French too noted the mood of the country. Just after the Kresna Uprising, while the rebels were enjoying their greatest victories, the military attaché of the French government in Constantinople, De Torse, emphasized the number of Macedonian detachments that existed. In a letter dated 9 November, 1878, De Torse noted that the number of detachments are growing, that they are self-supporting, that they have the means for further activity, and that they are “in a position to play a definite political role.” He divided the forces that existed into four groups:
– 1st group in the east, in the Malesh and Melnik territory;
– 2nd group in the north in the region of the Kozyak Mountains among the towns of Vranye, Skopje, and Kyustendil;
– 3rd group in the west, in the Karadak and Verechka Mountains, among Bitola, Korcha, Kostur, and Lerin;
– 4th group to the southwest, near the Olympus massif and the surrounding region, among Kochani, Ber, Katerini, and Voden.
The rebel activity began in the southwestern region of Macedonian before the attack on Kresna was reinforced during the Kresna Uprising, and continued after the battles along the Struma River. This occurred in the Karshieka and Malesh regions. Voivodes who took part in the Kresna Uprising, such as the priest, Kostadin Bufski, also took part in the action to the southwest.
In April, 1880, as a result of the struggles that developed to the southwest, Kostadin’s detachments and the detachments of the renown revolutionary, Leonidas Vulgaris, met in Ostrovsko. They considered Macedonia’s situation with respect to the decisions of the Congress of Berlin and also concluded that Macedonia’s future lay in the creation of an independent Macedonian state. Following in the path of the familiar program aims of the “Provisional Law” set down after the Kresna Uprising, the two revolutionaries discussed making the policies concrete. As a result, from 21 May to 2 June, 1880, a national assembly was held in Germen, a town that is today in Aegean Macedonia. They drew up a Declaration:
1. First, the Sublime Porte is to be informed by the head governor (the vali) of Macedonia that the just demands of the Macedonian people should be executed quickly through the application of Article 23 of the Berlin Treaty;
2. This decision is to be hand carried to the Consulate representatives of the Great Powers, the signatories of the Berlin Treaty, and will be accompanied by a petition to the Great Powers to support Article 23 of the Berlin Treaty before the Sublime Porte;
In the event the Sublime Porte refuses to act, the Provisional Government of Macedonia will call the Macedonian people to arms with the slogan: “Macedonia to the Macedonians, to raise up ancient Macedonia.”
From its ranks the National Assembly chose a provisional government of Macedonia, “Unity,” in which were represented all the nationalities residing in Macedonia.
Vasil Simon was chosen to be president of the government.
As can be seen, the Kresna Uprising set in motion the mechanisms by which the Macedonian people could and would unify against Turkish enslavement.
The response to the Kresna Uprising was especially fervent among the Macedonian workers living abroad in Serbia and in Rumania. Capturing the gist of the passion are two letters: one dated 7 November, 1878 from the district officer in Vranye to the president of the Serbian government, Jovan Ristich; and the other from the Badzhovich brothers, Kuzman and Despot, to the bishop Natanail. The following is an excerpt from the letter to Ristich:
“The uprising in Macedonia created a great impression on the people from Old Serbia (Macedonia) who find themselves in Vranye. The Serbs in Turkey are also aware. They come up to me quite often asking me what to do, whether or not they should join the rebels who joined the Russo-Bulgarian committees.”
Ristich’s response advised them not to join. Trying to persuade the Macedonians in Serbia to avoid the conflict, he wrote that the uprising appeared to be failing and that increased participation would result in more unnecessary bloodshed and destruction.
The following is an excerpt from Kuzman Badzhovich’s letter to the bishop Natanail, dated 26 November, 1878.
“When I heard that you had begun the God sanctified work to save the people, I immediately left my service and set myself to the work of the people. I sent out letters to all liberated areas of Serbia and I received immediate word by telegraph. I was told in what town to gather and where to send money.
“But when I heard the second embittered and poisoned voices, I stood paralyzed. Then I, in the presence of my company, said through tears, ‘0 God’s will! You still haven’t broken the chains of five centuries that have shackled our people! Do the Macedonian people still bear the curse of Adam?’ All that comforts me now, Inspired Priest, is that God is good and that He will one day show us mercy.
“The Macedonians have tasted freedom, so each has decided to die for virtue and freedom rather than endure slavery and Asian tyranny.
“From God and from the people, our task, sainted Priest, is: 1) love; 2) accord; 3) unity.
“Please send me word of the events as soon as possible and in greater detail. You will see the … Macedonian son.”
Dated 5 February, 1879, Despot Badzhovich’s letter to Natanail perhaps better characterizes the mood among the Macedonian emigrants in Serbia. The following is an excerpt from that letter:
“I am myself a volunteer and have commanded volunteers for two years through more than fifty of the fiercest battles. I am decorated with gold and silver and with the “Takovo Cross.” I cannot wait to hurl myself into another bloody battle with the Turks. So, Sir, if you are certain that we can move further south into Macedonia, please let me know. I can bring 1000 to 2000 volunteers, and I can unite my detachments with yours. United, I can serve under your command. And, if God permits, we can head toward Prilep, Ohrid, Bitola, and beyond. Above all, my brother, tell me frankly your intentions. Will you move into Macedonia or Thrace? If it be Macedonia as a Macedonian I will come. Should it be elsewhere, I won’t come.
“As for the Pchinya region, without a doubt, I would not only be able to lead 1000 to 2000 volunteers, but also be able to call to arms all those from Babina, Polyana, Radovnitsa Stoyovtsi, Germen, Tsrven Grad, and a hundred other villages in the Pchinya region. I know the people from these villages. I could gather 10,000 to 20,000 rebels and we could clean Pchinya of Turks and capture Kozyak. Of that you can be sure. We could take the entire region, and perhaps Kumanovo. But, Sir, in order to achieve that, you would have to provide weapons and ammunition for all those I could gather. Otherwise, it would be impossible. In other words, you supply the guns, I’ll supply the people. I can provide for them while in Serbia. But outside of Serbia, we cannot be identified with Serbian interests, and I cannot appeal to the Serbs for aid.”
Macedonian emigrants in Rumania were also anxious for the uprising. Dated 26 January, 1879, a detailed letter from the Macedonian workers abroad to Natanail included a contribution of 2100 francs from their meager earnings. The following is an excerpt from that letter:
“… Today we see that we remain the last of the Slav peoples to be liberated. We see that we have been excluded from the Congress of Berlin… So now there is nothing left for us Macedonians but to rise up in arms against the enemy and to shed our blood for our liberation. Let Europe and the rest of the world see that we are able to administer our own affairs and that we are worthy of the freedom we seek. Indeed, now with weapons in our hands we must openly declare: freedom or death.”
To a great extent, the Kresna Uprising was a protest against the decision of the Congress of Berlin to return Macedonia to Turkish rule. But it was not a reaction provoked by the wish to join another foreign country, to join Bulgaria.
The strife of that time was a movement that emerged from deep within the people. It was supported by and based on the previous struggles of the Macedonian people, struggles for cultural, educational, and ecclesiastical emancipation, for national identity. It was a struggle for independence not only from the Constantinople Patriarchy, but also from the efforts of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie to appropriate the Macedonian movement as a means to achieve a Greater Bulgarian state on the Balkans.
The Kresna Uprising was also a manifestation of an antifeudalism movement. It represented the Macedonian peasants’ struggle to destroy the feudal system of the Ottoman Empire. It was an attempt to change he economic relations, to transfer the ownership of the land into the hands of those who work the land.
The origins of the Kresna Uprising are to be found in the Macedonian haiduk movement whose activity had been on the rise since the early part of the 19th century. So the movement evolved from unbridled, fragmented activity toward a reasoned revolutionary act.
The Kresna Uprising was also a continuation of the uprising in Razlog in 1876. That too was an expression of the great national revolutionary movements on the Balkans.
Judging by its political and social program, judging by the breadth and mass of the movement, regardless of the strength of the cohesion among the rebels, the Kresna Uprising above all represents a high point in the development of the struggle of the Macedonian people for cultural, political, and social emancipation. It is one of the key events that laid the foundation for the Macedonian revolutionary movement and for the armed struggle for the Macedonian people. And it fixed the idea of Macedonian origins and independence.
Summary From The Prescripts Of The Macedonian Rebel Committee, 1878
The Prescripts of the Macedonian Rebel Committee were formulated, it is believed, at the beginning of the second phase of the Macedonian uprising in Kresna. The commander of headquarters, Dimitar Pop Georgiev, was again among the rebel ranks when the capital document was drawn up. They proclaimed the social, national, and philosophical aims of the uprising. They were the logical expression of the theretofore subjugated Macedonian nation, a declaration of cultural and educational emancipation, of individualization, of independence, and of cooperation with other Balkan peoples,…[…]…They represented the expectations of the harvest of war, and they envisaged the open spaces to come. The ultimate aim was to create in independent Macedonian state in which social rights would be respected, and all residents would be equal before the law regardless of faith and nationality. In their international relations, they sought enduring equality, peace, and loving cooperation. The framers of the Prescripts expected, and rightly so, that the creation of a Macedonian state would be a positive factor toward eliminating the rivalry among the Balkan states, toward cooperation on the Balkans, toward equality and mutual respect.
A transcription of the Prescripts was kept in the private library of the late Bulgarian Patriarch, Kiril. Archive Department. Volume 2341 AE 50; L 30-60, Sofia.
The Patriarch, Kiril, himself brought the transcriptions to Sofia. The Prescripts have yet to be published in Bulgaria. They contain 211 Articles.
We will introduce the reader to the Prescripts with a summary of the most important sections.
With the wish to cast off the Turkish bondage from our fatherland, each and every one of us stands ready to sacrifice whatever is necessary. We have rebelled as champions of freedom. By shedding our blood throughout the fields and forests of Macedonia, we serve as the Macedonian army of Alexander the Great. We fight for freedom and our motto is: “Freedom or Death!”
The Aims of the Macedonian Uprising
Article 2: The people from Macedonia itself take part in the uprising, people who feel themselves Macedonians and who have a love of freedom.
Article 3: All residents of Macedonia, regardless of nationality or faith, can take part in the uprising – but they must love freedom.
Article 4: All those from countries, neighboring and distant, who want the best for Macedonia can take part in the Macedonian uprising. But they must honestly commit themselves to the freedom of Macedonia, and they must submit to the authority of the Macedonian Rebel Committee.
Article 7: For the indolent, the thieves, and the ignorant, there is no place among the Macedonian rebels, as there is no place for mercenaries who are as savage as the Turkish bashibozouks and who appear out of the great unrest among the people. Such volunteers are unnecessary to the task at hand. It would be better that they go back from where they came.
Article 9: The aim of the Macedonian uprising is no secret. It is for the liberation of Macedonia, the country of the…[…]…enlighteners and educators, St. Cyril and Methodius, the country that has suffered centuries of Turkish enslavement. So, among us there is no place for those who fight for personal gain, there are places only for those who fight for freedom.
Martial Rights of the Macedonian Army
Article 11: Every volunteer, rebel, and haiduk from all nations, Christian and otherwise, will be accepted into the uprising. But first he must swear an oath of honesty and faith to the Rebel Head Command. Then he will be signed into the numbers of the rebels.
Article 12: Any rebel who refuses to submit to command or acts for himself in the name of the Rebel Leadership will be prosecuted in the name of the Rebel Command and will be executed.
Article 15: Any Christian, Muslim, Macedonian, Turk, Albanian, Vlach, or anyone else who acts contrary to the uprising and/or the Rebels will be prosecuted and punished.
Article 22: All peasants who can bear arms will take part, according to need, as soldiers of the Macedonian Army during battle; when peace returns, they will return to their work.
Article 24: In every village a village commission will be created consisting of three members. Its task will be to arm every able-bodied peasant, to know the whereabouts of every resident, and to call them to arms for the Macedonian army in time of need. The commission will not accept bribes to release anyone from his duty. Anyone caught offering or accepting bribes will be executed.
Article 32: According to this Constitution, the officers are to select a captain to be judge for many villages. The officers will draw up a document, as a Constitution, to determine who will govern the area.
Article 32: According to this Constitution, the officers as a regular army, always prepared, for this order appears to be fair to all.
Article 36: On every high place there is to be stationed a guard to watch over the village: two changes every ten days. Land owners are not to be exempt from guard duty, for it has been observed that they tend to shirk their duty to the fatherland and, still worse, spread rumors that excite the residents.
Article 48: When our Macedonian Rebel Army liberates a village or town, plunder is forbidden, even if the town is Turkish. Each rebel will carry food in his own pack, and in the event the supply units fail to arrive and he is without food, he must endure. He who enters into a Turkish house to look for food or anything else will be treated as a looter and will be punished by death.
Article 58: All peasants who give food and other supplies to the Macedonian volunteer army should demand an official receipt, for they will be reimbursed after the liberation.
Article 69: Do not send foreign volunteers to the Macedonian uprising without permission from Rebel Headquarters. We have people and fighters, but we don’t have weapons.
Article 70: The volunteers sent from abroad without a note of verification from the Macedonian Rebel Headquarters are not to be accepted by the hundreds into the detachments. Determine who has been sent as a spy, and send the spies back.
Article 71: If it becomes apparent that one is a spy, or a propagandist, or a bandit having come from Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Russia, Bosnia, or wherever, determine who sent him, to what end, and what he has done while a member of the rebel forces. He is either to be punished according to the gravity of his deeds, or to be sent back.
Article 72: If it is determined that a volunteer already accepted into the ranks of the Macedonian volunteer army is a spy for another country or has worked against the aims and interests of the Macedonian uprising. He is to be punished as an internal, according to the laws of the Macedonian Rebel Army.
Article 82: Aside from the regular army forces, the Macedonian Rebel Army consists of all Macedonian inhabitants from both liberated and non-liberated areas. And each is in some way a Macedonian soldier, man or woman, young or old, and each is obliged to aid the uprising in whatever way he can.
Article 86: The Rebel Committee will make a list of all peasants who are involved in the ranks of the Macedonian Rebel Army.
Article 102: No one but the Macedonian Rebel Headquarters is to negotiate with the enemy for the surrender of the Macedonian army or liberated territory. Should anyone bring such a decision, the army is not to honor the order. The person or persons bringing such a decision are to be sentenced to death, and the execution is to be carried out publicly before the village.
Article 125: From what we have seen, it is impossible to bring all of Macedonia into the uprising. So we have decided to incite local uprisings in the eastern region and to liberate villages and towns with internal forces. However, we are faced with the much larger task of liberating all of Macedonia. Now we are conducting partisan warfare against the Turks, but our intention is to send rebel detachments into Macedonia to incite an uprising there as well. Our first detachment will leave for Bitola to initiate activity there. The detachment, consisting of 300 rebels, is led by the voivodes, Karaiskaki, Stevo, Pavlé, and Kara Kosta. That detachment will act on its own authority in carrying out its orders. With couriers it will inform the Macedonian Rebel Headquarters and will seek whatever council necessary.
Article 126: When the first detachment reaches the Mariovo Mountains, it is recommended that the voivodes accept local residents into their ranks. That will constitute the rebel army in that area.
Article 128: The authority of the Macedonian Rebel Committee will extend to all fields of Macedonia. In compliance to the authority, all areas will rise up and rebel.
Article 129: In each area of the rebellion, a regional Macedonian Rebel Committee will be established to lead the rebel forces and to maintain communication by courier service with the Macedonian Rebel Committee.
Article 130: Because rebel detachments under the leadership of local voivodes have appeared in Kostur, Maleshevo, in the Prilep and Veles areas, in the Dzhumaya region, in Skopje, and in other areas throughout the fatherland, the Macedonian Rebel Committee, as a central command for all of Macedonia, recommends all voivodes to report their assessments of the situation to Headquarters for the benefit of the general uprising.
Article 132: Our Macedonian uprising is an internal affair, and we are commanding our own forces. Our neighbor, the Bulgarian Principality, is not demonstrating a brotherly acceptance. They are sending our messangers back without weapons. We are left without enough, and we cannot aid our own brother Macedonians in Macedonia. Thus, we are compelled to advise them about supplying weapons and about patronage.
Article 136: A great number of Macedonians in Serbia express a wish to join the Macedonian uprising and attack the Turkish forces from the northern border. However, there are no weapons. If they can find weapons, and if they accept our Constitution with their hearts, we will accept them.
Article 139: By consent of this general assembly, composed of representatives from all committees throughout Macedonia, this document will now stand as the Rebel and Civil Constitution by which we will be governed and which will be enforced until the liberation.
Article 140: Provisional civil rule is to be introduced in the liberated areas. It will govern the social life of the residents. It will be established by the first people selected by those to be governed.
Article 141: A central political body will be in charge of civil rule. This political body will be the Central Committee and it will consist of five members.
Article 142: Each inhabited area is to have a joint committee subordinate to the Central Committee. This joint committee will consist of up to five members as determined by the Central Committee.
Article 144: The Central and provisional (joint) committees are not to interfere with the military affairs of the uprising. The Central Committee is responsible for representing the Macedonian uprising to the ruling officers and to the people. The local committees are to govern the people with secular rule.
Article 145: After the liberation of the fatherland, the Central Committee will create a Constitution by which the Macedonian state will be governed: either within the Ottoman Empire as a state with political and cultural autonomy; or, if the Great Powers of Europe permit, outside the Ottoman Empire.
Article 151: Most strictly forbidden is the feudal system of owning serfs tied to the land. Those who worked the land are now the owners of that land which the land lord and his family cannot work alone.
Article 156: It is strictly forbidden to spread hatred based on religion. It is forbidden to make distinctions among the nationalities because all are equal citizens and all are under the protection of the laws of Macedonian civil rule.
Article 162: It is most strictly forbidden for any reason to denegrate a church or mosque, or to plunder sacred Muslim property.
Article 163: For denegrating a church or mosque, the punishment is death; for the plunder of sacred Muslim property, the punishment is double compensation and a beating.
Article 168: Every captain will choose three judges to temporarily replace the Turkish courts in civil affairs. In each village there will be a justice of the peace chosen from the officers of the village to settle the lesser matters among the peasants.
Article 178: In the Turkish villages, the village police will be composed of Turks; and in the Christian villages, it will be composed of Christians. If the village is of mixed nationalities or faiths, there will be one police chief from each nationality or faith.
External Responsibilities of the Uprising
Article 182: The Macedonian uprising is an internal affair, but it won’t succeed unless we convince Europe of our fight for liberation. The uprising will be represented outside Macedonia to the European states by the Macedonian Rebel Committee and the people appointed by the Committee.
Article 183: With minutes of its meetings and other material, the Macedonian Rebel Committee will seek, in the name of the Macedonian rebel, to convince Europe that the uprising in Macedonia is born of necessity and is to the benefit of all.
Article 184: European states already speak of the uprising as having import beyond the interests of our people. The responsibility of the Macedonian Rebel Committee is to explain the aims of the uprising, to capture the truth. Our struggle is for the liberation of the Macedonians, not to advance the causes of other nationalities residing in Macedonia.
Article 186: The Macedonian Rebel Committee will inform the government of the Bulgarian Principality that the Macedonians have no intention of interfering with the Principality,…[..].
Article 187: The Macedonian Rebel Committee will be represented in the Principality by our deputies, and the Principality can send its deputies to the Committee.
Article 190: All Beneficience Committees will submit memoranda regarding district work and affairs to the European states so that they will recognize the legitimacy of the Macedonian uprising. The memoranda will include a statement of belief in the righteousnes and benefit of our sacred deed. We do not despair. Rather we continue energetically and tirelessly toward the achievement of our goal: the liberation of the Macedonians from Turkish enslavement. Our struggle is made necessary for the Turkish government refuses to honor Article 23 of the Berlin Treaty.
Article 191: The Macedonian Rebel Committee will acquaint its brother country, the Serbian Principality, with the aims of our uprising and will request brotherly aid for the liberation of Macedonia. If the Prince of the Serbian Principality permits, we will send them our deputies and the Committee will accept theirs.
Article 192: The Committee will request of His Highness, the Serbian Prince, aid in the form of weapons and materiel to bring our Macedonian uprising to a successful close.
Article 193: The Committee will humbly request the Serbian Prince not to impede our Macedonians in Serbia from taking part in the liberation of their fatherland, to give them arms, and to convey them without interference to the border.
Article 195: The Macedonian Rebel Committee will request that the Greek government aid the Macedonian uprising and that they will permit Macedonian volunteer detachments to be sent from Greece.
Article 196: The Greek government could aid the uprising considerably if they were to reinforce their actions against the Turks in Epirus and Thessaly, to attract a portion of the Turkish army toward themselves. The Macedonian rebels’ attack on the Turks will also aid the liberation of Epirus and Thessaly.
Article 197: The Macedonian Rebel Committee will call into brotherly understanding the Albanian flag bearers and their people’s leaders to rise up in defense of the freedom of their fatherland, to fight for their freedom, and to join forces with the Macedonian rebels.
Article 200: The Holy Bulgarian Exarchy, with His Highness at the head, is carrying out the most extraordinary policy. While purporting to have Macedonia’s best interests at heart, he maintains close and friendly relations with the Turkish government in Constantinople. And Macedonia is still under the direct power of the Turks. Perhaps the Exarchy thinks that by gratifying the Turks, they may be able to win their favor so that the Exarchy can send religious leaders to Macedonia. And in turn these leaders will protect the Macedonian residents from Turkish pressures. It is difficult enough for the Macedonian without having to suffer a policy such as this that will tend to divide the people. The Macedonian Committee objects, for the Macedonian needs both hands to fight for his freedom.
Article 201: The Macedonian Rebel Committee calls all clergymen in Macedonia to disregard the Exarchy orders and to join the uprising of the Macedonian people until the liberation is won. Afterwards, ecclesiastical issues in Macedonia can be decided.
Article 202: The Macedonian Rebel Committee will send a delegation to His Highness, the Exarch Josif I, in Constantinople in order to request that he will not interfere in the Macedonian uprising – unless he wants to be included among the ranks of the traitors.
Article 204: The Macedonian Rebel Committee will humbly request His Eminence, G. Sofiski Miletiy, who has inflicted extensive damage on the work of the Macedonian uprising, to bring a halt to his efforts. Should he refuse, he will not be protected by the Prescripts.
Article 205: With the introduction of these Prescripts, our Constitution, into binding law, we hereby declare that the Sofia Committee will in the future have no authority over the Macedonian uprising.
Article 206: All further orders from the Sofia Central Committee are no longer in effect, and the uprising will be led by the Macedonian Rebel Committee from Macedonia.
Article 207: The Macedonian volunteer army will in the future be under the direct command of the Macedonian headquarters of the uprising. The headquarters will order the mobilization of the forces, will supply them with weapons, and will lead this sacred war for Macedonia’s freedom.
Article 208: The Macedonian Rebel Committee orders all Macedonians to abide by and to fulfill all regulations stated in these Prescripts, our Constitution, without hesitation until the liberation of Macedonia and until a peacetime Constitution for an autonomous Macedonia can be formulated.