Albert Sonnichsen's 1920 Excerpt on Macedonia's Division and Sandanski

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  • vicsinad
    Senior Member
    • May 2011
    • 2337

    Albert Sonnichsen's 1920 Excerpt on Macedonia's Division and Sandanski

    This is a pretty good read. Itwas written several years after Sonnichsen's immersion in Macedonia during the IMRO days. He seems to have completely separated the Macedonian identity and cause from the Bulgarian agenda by the time this was written. This excerpt is from:

    The Book of History: The Cause of the War, The Events of 1914-1915. (Volume 16
    Edited by Holland Thompson, Published by the Groiler Society 1920.


    It was at about this time, in the middle '90's, that the Balkan Problem began to shift its center—down into Macedonia. The Macedonians themselves were beginning to show an annoying interest in their own fate, and this at once raised the question of the ultimate disposal of Macedonia. Some Macedonian teachers, educated in the free schools of Bulgaria, where an increasing number of Macedonians came to study, had been agitating a primitive sort of Socialism among the peasants, and began to form local organizations in the villages.

    At first these secret societies seemed to have no other object than to discuss politics, but very quickly they changed their character. Growing in number and membership, they federated, and so evolved the Central Revolutionary Committee of Macedonia and Adrianople. The Committee, by which name the whole organization became known, though its members eventually numbered over a million, became one of the most peculiar political institutions of times. It was, in fact, nothing more or less than a secret, underground Soviet Government, established to maintain some sort of law and order under Turkish anarchy. In spite of its name it was not revolutionary. Its youthful leaders did not aspire to national independence, but they stood for an autonomous Macedonia (and Adrianople), in which all races and both sexes should have equal suffrage. On this political program they rested. Macedonia was an agricultural country, with not a dozen factories throughout its length and breadth, and there was no need to enunciate an economic policy.


    The political ideals of the Macedonian Committee were heretical enough to the neighboring Balkan states. The Greek Church, with its intricate spy system, was the first to discover the Committee. It began immediately, with the assistance of the Greek Government, to organize bands in Greece, and these crossed the frontier and began terrorizing the Macedonian peasantry, to frighten them back into the fold, for the young Macedonians who joined the Committee simultaneously left the Patriarch's Church. The Committee responded by organizing bands of its own, which fought the Greek bands, and so general attention was attracted to the issue over which they fought.

    Prince Ferdinand [of Bulgaria] was no less worried than the Greek Church over the appearance of the Committee. An autonomous Macedonia under Turkish suzerainty did not correspond to his imperialistic plans for a revived Greater Bulgaria, of which he should be Czar. His bands, which he sent across the frontier into Macedonia, did not at first resort to open warfare against the peasants; they merely attempted to "awaken the national spirit." But the day came when the Macedonian bands fought the Bulgar filibusters as fiercely as they fought the alien Greeks, though the two sides were of the same Slavic blood. Finally Serbia, whose contention it was that Macedonia was and should be Serbian, joined the attack against the Committee, and the latter found itself hard pressed, fighting defensively against Greeks, Serbs, Bulgars, and Turks.


    In the Bulgarian Government's Macedonian policy, guided absolutely by Ferdinand, as was the whole of Bulgaria's foreign policy, that ruler showed the craftiness which is his chief characteristic. The campaign of violence and terrorism which he allowed his bands to conduct across the frontier was kept secret as long as possible in Bulgaria, but as there were near a hundred thousand Macedonians in Bulgaria, many of whom had risen high in the professions, in business circles and even in government service, the Committee not only found the means by which to make the truth known in Bulgaria, but to rouse strong public opinion against Ferdinand's policy. That prince of diplomats then made other plans. First of all, he corrupted a young Macedonian officer in his own Army, Boris Sarafov, and had him join the Committee as a native Macedonian. Sarafov 's personality gained strong support for him in Macedonia, and then he began his intrigues, creating a party within the organization in favor of annexation to Bulgaria. He was able to create some dissension within the ranks of the Committee itself. Those who followed Balkan events in the newspapers during the first three or four years of the century will remember how frequently Boris Sarafov was featured in the American press as the "revolutionary leader of Macedonia" against the Turks. For Prince Ferdinand was also a clever press agent.


    Hoping to create a crisis, of which he could take advantage, and believing that Sarafov had accomplished more than he really had, Ferdinand at tempted to precipitate a popular revolution in Macedonia against Turkey in the summer of 1903. He sent one of his own generals, Tsontchev, across the frontier, supported by several regiments of Bulgarian soldiers, all in the uniforms of Macedonian comitajees, and called on the peasantry to rally against the Turks. But the peasants did not rally. They remained passive, at the command of the Committee, while the Turks quickly drove Tsontchev's filibusters back across the frontier. In the following year the Committee, being forced to an issue by Bulgarian intrigues, precipitated a popular uprising against the Turks in the Monastir district. This time the peasants responded, there was heavy fighting, and the insurgents at one time gained full possession of the important town of Krushevo.

    Finally numbers told, and the insurrection was suppressed, in the customary manner—with massacre and fire. Hardly a village in the vilayet or district of Monastir escaped destruction. Nor was the chief object of the Committee attained. It had hoped to bring about European intervention, but the Powers remained passive, except for instituting certain "reforms," chief of which was forcing Turkey to put her Macedonian gendarmerie under French, Italian, English and Russian officers.


    Meanwhile Sarafov's intrigues continued, until finally he was assassinated in the streets of Sofia at the direct instigation of the Committee's chief leader in the field, Yani Sandanski. At the same time that Sarafov was slain, Sandanski sent a note to Prince Ferdinand, in which he told that monarch that if he continued his interference in Macedonian affairs, he would share the fate of his creature, Sarafov. The Committee was now at the height of its power. Serbian and Greek interference still remained confined to the forays of armed bands, and these the Committee's forces were well able to resist, for they had the backing of the whole population, as the Vlachs and a large proportion of the Turkish population stood solidly with the Slavs, who, naturally, formed a majority. For some years the Committee's leaders had been in close touch with the foremost spirits of the Young Turkey Party, drawn together by their common aim, which was a constitutional Turkey, with local autonomy for the Christian vilayets.

    In 1908 the Young Turks surprised all Europe by precipitating a military mutiny in Monastir, which quickly spread to a general revolution, resulting in the proclamation of a constitution by the Sultan. In this successful movement all the progressive elements of Macedonia combined. The soldiers of Mahmud Shevket Pasha, military leader of the Young Turk Army, marched side by side with the comitajees under Sandanski. When the Sultan, Abdul Hamid, some weeks later attempted a counter-revolution, and the Young Turks marched on Constantinople to drive Abdul Hamid from his throne, at the head of the whole army marched a hundred Macedonian comitajees, Sandanski leading them. To him was given the honor of breaking in the gates of the capital.

    Meanwhile the Balkan states were making their preparations. This time they must combine and bury their rivalries. Afterward the spoils could be divided. There yet remained, however, the potential power of the Macedonian people themselves; the Committee. It would not do to invade Turkish territory without a moral pretext. There could be only one pretext of that nature, and that was to rescue the Christian people of Turkey from Turkish tyranny. This needed the acquiescence of the Christian people mostly concerned. They were represented by the Committee. So the Balkan governments, through Bulgaria, approached Sandanski and made him a proposal. While official documents recording this conference have not yet been published, Sandanski was apparently promised that if he would co-operate with the Balkan Allies in their invasion of Turkey, Macedonia would be created an independent state. The actual treaty drawn up by the Allies themselves would seem to indicate that they had no intention of keeping this promise, and that the spoils were to be divided. Mention was made of a "free Macedonia," but was immediately followed by the modification, "should this prove impossible," preceding a detailed statement of how the spoils should be divided. That Russia, rather than Austria, was behind this movement was indicated by the clause providing for Bulgarian assistance to Serbia in case of interference from Austria, while Russia was to be arbitrator in case of disagreements.


    On September 30, 1912, little Montenegro rather hastily precipitated the conflict, but the other Allies threw their armies into the invasion of Turkey with tremendous energy and with a military efficiency which astonished all of Europe, and even surprised the Balkan Allies. Sandanski, at the head of his irregulars, protected the right wing of the Bulgarian army in Thrace and quickly overran and conquered the Razlog district. By the following Spring the Turks had been driven down to the gates of Constantinople and were suing for peace. Austria had undoubtedly been taken by surprise by the First Balkan War. To have interfered while the campaign was in progress was hardly possible; public opinion nowhere in Europe would have countenanced such interference in favor of Turkey, for the whole world looked upon the war as one for freedom for peoples long oppressed by an alien race. But when peace negotiations were begun, Austria had her opportunity. Behind her stood the German Empire. For by this time the Empire had already perfected her plans for a great Middle European empire.


    First of all, Austria insisted on an independent Albania and was supported by Italy and the German Empire. This closed Serbia's longed-for opening to the Adriatic, and likewise Montenegro's hope for a seaport. Undoubtedly Ferdinand and Austria were intriguing together during the peace negotiations, which took place in London, for when Serbia resisted Austrian demands, Bulgaria did not back her up as she should have done. Thereupon Serbia contended that, having been compelled to relinquish her conquests over toward the Adriatic Coast, she must be compensated in Macedonia, the larger part of which was to fall to Bulgaria according to the agreement made before the war. Greece, too, was cheated of her ambitions in Albania by Austria's action, for she had counted on expansion in that direction. The controversy thus raised might have been settled peacefully by the Balkan states, but for two obstacles. One of these was the desire of Austria and Germany to create violent dissension between the two Slavic states, Bulgaria and Serbia. A strong Balkan Confederation would block further expansion to the south and east.

    The second obstacle to peace was Sandanski and his Macedonian associates. What promises Austria made Ferdinand in case he should fight Serbia can only be surmised. Bulgaria had been heavily engaged fighting the Turks in Adrianople. While she had been held up here on the main battle ground, Serbia and Greece had quickly overrun Macedonia. So that these two powers, though they had been less heavily engaged on the actual firing line, held most territory. And this territory was Macedonia.


    During this period of occupancy the Serbians and Greeks had both initiated a vigorous policy of "nationalization." Any manifestation on the part of the inhabitants in favor of national independence was energetically suppressed. Thousands of men were imprisoned, still more were simply shipped out of the country. Over a hundred thousand such refugees arrived in Bulgaria. To have this situation made permanent was a bitter thought to Sandanski and his people. Rather would they chance another war, with annexation to Bulgaria as a result. Behind Sandanski stood the influential Macedonians in Bulgaria, many of whom held high rank in the Government and in the army commands. One of these was Ghenadiev, former Minister of Agriculture, later one of the leaders of the opposition to Ferdinand's pro-German policy, for which he suffered imprisonment during the period of the war.

    It is said that Sandanski himself precipitated the actual fighting of the second Balkan War. He and his comitajees crossed the frontier and attacked the Serbian garrisons. Rumania joined Greece and Serbia against Bulgaria, beat her, and the victors dictated the terms at Bucharest. Practically all of Macedonia was divided among Greece and Serbia. And not only Ferdinand, but his people and the Macedonian people, were bitter. Later, this bitterness of feeling was to have a very deciding influence when Ferdinand played his game of intrigue in favor of Berlin. The Bulgarians were probably most bitter over the loss of Dobrudja to Rumania. Rumania had done none of the fighting, and the population of the Dobrudja was largely Bulgarian.

    Austria was undoubtedly disappointed at one result of the Second Balkan War: the enlargement of Serbia. Serbia, on the other hand, was intoxicated with the glory of her success, and dreamed of greater annexations to come. Both Serbia and Greece began a vigorous campaign in their respective slices of Macedonia. Whoever was known to have been in any way connected with the former Macedonian Committee was sent out of the country, and his lands and house were given over to colonists from Serbia or Greece. Most of these expatriated Macedonians found refuge in Bulgaria, where they intensified the deep hatred that had now sprung up between Bulgarians and the Serbs and Greeks.
  • vicsinad
    Senior Member
    • May 2011
    • 2337

    Here is another excerpt of an article by Stephen Bonsal from 1912 (Colliers Magazine, Volume 50) that talks more about Macedonia's division Sandanski, as well as how the Macedonians were the ones who aided the Russians in freeing Bulgaria from the Turks, and that is why the Macedonians were relying so much on the Bulgarians to free Macedonia from the Turks.

    THE Balkan allies, even before the great powers are taken into council, seem to fight shy of the details of the Macedonian question. The division of Macedonia, that salad of odds and ends of races and mosaic of religious creeds, is not worked out in detail, and apparently that considerable party of Macedonian Slavs under Sandansky and the late Boris Sarafoff, the kidnapper of Miss Stone, who have strenuously opposed the annexation of their tormented country to Bulgaria for some years past, are not given any consideration whatever in the settlement. Probably the movement for the independence of Macedonia, with which they are identified, will now disappear, although it may not do so.

    Doubtless this party of malcontents were merely the result of, and their outbreaks were provoked by, some of the many self-seeking moves which Bulgaria has made in the Macedonian question during the last decade. In this connection it is a fact which should not be forgotten, and which certainly loses nothing from its frequent telling to the shepherd revolutionists on the bare hills above the Vardar, that Macedonian volunteers under Major Panitza were much more helpful to Russia in the great war which she waged for the emancipation of the Bulgarian provinces than w:ere the Bulgarians themselves. Indeed, all Macedonians hold, whatever their views on the final solution of the question may be, that in this way a debt of gratitude was incurred by the Bulgarians which should have been frankly recognized and liberally requited at the first opportunity. However, it is probable that the magnificent triumph of the Bulgarian arms to-day will be accepted as a perfect justification of King Ferdinand's somewhat tortuous policy in the recent past, and that there will be no effective opposition to the extension of Bulgarian rule over Macedonia.


    • Selanec
      Junior Member
      • Jun 2019
      • 30

      Has anyone read Albert Sonikson's book - "Confessions of a Macedonian Bandit (1909)"?

      I became interested in this journalist having seen this map which indicates he went past my grandmother's village: