BULGARIAN CAMPAIGN COMMITEES IN MACEDONIA 1941

Dimiar Minchev

 

 SUMMARY

 

 

The Bulgarian population in Macedonia accepted with satisfaction the defeat of Versailles Yugoslavia in 1941. In the demolition of Yugoslavia those people saw the end of their 23-year long slavery. No wonder then that the Bulgarians from Macedonia, mobilized in the Yugoslav army, refuse to fight, lay down arms, and surrender to the Germans. The situation was similar to WW I, when Bulgarians from Macedonia, mobilized in the Serbian army by force, surrendered en masse to the Austro-Hungarian army.

 

The hostilities against Yugoslavia began on 6th April 1941. The fast advance of the German troops in Macedonia created possibilities for overthrowing the odious Serbian and Greek power in the district. But the lack of Bulgarian troops and official Bulgarian powers caused certain political vacuum, in which the so called campaign committees (CC) arose.

 

The idea for creating such committees did not emerge at once. It arose in conversations among some representatives of the former Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (united). These were the historical figures Pavel Shatev, Alexo Martoulkov, Hristo Ampov, Stephan Stephanov and Vassil Hadjikimov. The outbreak of WW II on 1st September 1939 forced the whole Bulgarian society, and particularly the fugitives from Macedonia, to seek more actively ways for liberating Macedonia.

 

In the course of the talks it became clear that the problem of organizing the Bulgarian population in Macedonia could be solved by two active figures — Stephan Yanakiyev Stephanov and Vassil Hristov Hadjikimov. They had both suffered, and would suffer again for the liberation of their native territories. Like many other Bulgarians from Macedonia, they were to be imprisoned after the war. Hadjikimov stayed in prison for more than 11 years. Stephan Stephanov perished in an attempt to escape from prison. Hadjikimov stayed in prison for more than 11 years. Stephan Stephanov perished in an attempt to escape from prison. They worked down the following plan: first, if the conditions required

 

161

 

 

that Bulgaria should not engage in the war for the liberation of Macedonia, they would struggle for the autonomy of this region; second, if there were a plebiscite for joining any of the neighbouring countries, they would urge the people to take part in campaigns, demonstrations, petitions for joining Bulgaria.

 

According to them these political goals could be achieved only by following two basic missions: destroying the Serbian and Greek authorities in Macedonia, and uniting the people in an organization.

 

The Versaille Yugoslavia was destroyed in a short time. Negotiations were conducted for joining a part of Macedonia to Bulgaria. Having in mind the changes in the political situation, Stephanov and Hadjikimov decided that their mission was to form a Central Committee with a network of committees in the towns and villages. Such an organization would be able to assist the Bulgarian authorities, which were to be established there and which supposedly, would not be familiar with the local conditions.

 

The atmosphere in Macedonia at that time was suitable for creating an organization of the kind that Stephanov and Hadjikimov had mind. The Bulgarian troops were expected with impatience. In that situation local authorities were created in some places in Macedonia even spontaneously, long before any instructions were given. The necessities of the historical moment always call for the right personalities. The arrival of Stephanov and Hadjikimov appeared to be just the spark which enflamed the hearts of the people for patriotic activities. In Skopje they found their old friends — the lawer Blagoy Popankov and the merchant Illiya Attanassov. The latter informed them that a session with representatives of different organizations would be held. The purpose of this session, where a German representative was invited, was to create an independent Republic of Macedonia. Of course they had in mind some kind of a Bulgarian Macedonian Republic. But assuming that such a republic would be under German protectorate, which would not be desirable, Stephanov and Hadjikimov rejected this idea.

 

On 13th April 1941 a session was held in Stephan Stephanov's house in Skopje. According to the № 1 minutes, a „Central Committee of the Macedonian Bulgarian Committees" (CCMBC) was founded. Its official name was: Bulgarian Central Campaign Committee for Macedonia (BCCCM). The Committees that would be formed in the different places throughout Macedonia were called Local Bulgarian Campaign Committees (LBCC).

 

162

 

 

The BCCCM consisted of 32 persons. It chose an executive Committee: President Stephan Stephanov, Deputy (Vice-President) Spiro Kitinchev, Secretary Vassil Hadjikimov, cashier KroumOrgandjiev and advisors Blagoy Popankov, Ivan Piperkov, Dr. Alexander Gueorgiev and Illiya Attanassov.

 

One of the main tasks of the BCCCM was to publish a declaration: BULGARIANS, Macedonia is liberated! Macedonia is liberated for ever. The end of the slavery has come. . . The centuriesold slavery in Macedonia — Greek, Serbian and Turkish, mental and political, economic and social as well, in the 20th century, is abolished. The great ideal —liberty — for which Macedonia waged century-long struggles with an unprecedented heroism and with a lot of sacrifices, is already a reality." Along with this, the declaration briefly declared the program before the people: unification with Bulgaria. Although the Bulgarian powers were not established yet, the BCCCM announced in the declaration: „Macedonia is free and is already in the Bulgarian national unity”.

 

Bulgarian press was founded in Macedonia too. After 24 years Bulgarian words begin to appear in a Bulgarian newspaper. It was called „Macedonia" and published most of the documents and the decisions of the BCCCM. Stephan Stephanov was the director of the newspaper. Radiostation Skopje was restored, too.

 

One of the first problems the BCCCM faced with, was to take the power away from the Serbs. Paradoxically, the power was still Serbian — the Germans did not abolish the administrative authorities from the beginning. The German commandant in Skopje answered the delegation of the BCCCM that he would give the power to the Bulgarians, if only they could give him proofs that the Bulgarians predominated in Skopje. This became a pretext for a special referendum. Only half a day appeared to be enough for the BCCCM to prepare Bulgarian flags and to hang them outside all Bulgarian houses. All over the city there were Bulgarian flags although there was no official Bulgarian representative in it. Like any pedantic German, the commandant of Skopje drove along the streets in order to see for himself that the city was a Bulgarian one. Afterwards the administrative power of the city was given to the Bulgarians. Spiro Kitinchev was appointed the first mayor of the city.

 

This success showed that to establish Bulgarian rule was not an easy thing, and that a struggle should be waged for it. At the same time, people got convinced that this struggle could be successful only it was well organized, and if there was unanimity among

 

163

 

 

the supporters of the different tendencies and groups. The struggle for overtaking the power in Skopje showed that in other Macedonia towns the Serbs might also have strong positions; that is why the immediate formation of local committees was necessary. This was the task of the organizing secretary — Vassil Hadjikimov — the most energetic of the workers. He traversed the whole Macedonia and organized LBCCs in towns and bigger villages.

 

On 14th April 1941 Vassil Hadjikimov arrived in Veles by car. Several persons in the town were wounded or murdered, several houses were ruined by the German bombings. Unlike in Skopje, Serbian powers in Veles had been evacuated before the arrival of the Germans. The town-hall was in the hands of the Bulgarians. The new mayor — Konstantin Vanev — was elected by the Bulgarians. In the hall of the town's cultural house, in the presence of many townsmen a long discussion took place. The townsmen decided to create a local CC, which would have to follow the directives of the BCCCM for Macedonia's unification with Bulgaria. According to the protocol, the purposes of the committee were: to serve as a representative of the town of Veles, to keep contacts with all the foreign powers, and to defend the townsmen's economic, political and cultural interests.

 

The newspaper „ Macedonia" was not late in announcing the event. This was the first LCC and its creation was also a historical event. After WW 2 the town of Veles was called Titov Veles, although the Bulgarian national liberation movement in this town had long history.

 

The LCC in Veles immediately took actions for investigation and restoration of the graves of Bulgarian soldiers and officers killed in WW 1. The townsmen had hidden the crosses from the graves, because the Serbs would violate them. So, on 4th May — Sunday, the CC organized a memorial service before the mortal remains.

 

On 17th April Vasil Hadjikimov arrived in his native town of Shtip. Here, as in many places in Macedonia, the citizens had organized Bulgarian power immediately after the Serbs had abandoned the town. Well-known to his fellow-citizens, Hadjikimov called a meeting, where he explained the directives and the positions of the BCCC. The people applauded him. In course of the 23 years of Serbian slavery the best Bulgarian town in Macedonia was burried under the Serbian hatred. In his reminicsences Vasil Hadjikimov wrote: „He, who wants to get an idea of what the Serbian slavery is, must come here and get familiar with something else:

 

164

 

 

the real face of the Bulgarian spirit. The townsmen of Shtip seem to be the toughest Bulgarians. Despite sufferings and assimilations that took place, they have preserved their language. They have not only kept the awareness of their national identity, but also of the great role they had played in the past for the liberation of Macedonia."

 

The next places where Hadjikimov created CCs were Kochani, Vinitsa, Pehchevo, Tsarevo Selo (Delchevo), Berovo, Radovish, and Stroumitsa. Up to the arrival of the Bulgarian troops in Macedonia, CCs were created in most of towns of the region. But they were not united in a net. This did not happen until Vasil Hadjikimov passed through the whole region and unified the documentation and the opinions for the work of those committees.

 

At the same time the Albanian population in Kosovo also created committees. Its aim was to prepare this region, as well as some towns in Western Macedonia, for annexation by Albania. That is why in the towns of Tetovo, Gostivar, Debar, Strouga and Ohrid, Bulgarian and Albanian committees were created, and the struggles between them began. The Islam pushed the Albanians against their interests: the region of Tetovo was economically connected with Macedonia, while its western area was surrounded by high mountains.

 

At the time of Hadjikimov's visit in Gostivar, this town was full of German, Albanian, Bulgarian and Italian flags. Bulgarian and Albanian committees were struggling between themselves. On 23rd April a meeting was held, where the Bulgarian committee was reorganized as a Local Bulgarian Campaign Committee. The Albanian Committee in Debar was most active. It organized demonstrations and meetings on the occasion of the liberation. There were slogans for unification with Albania. The Albanian committee here was in connection with the one in Prizren, so that the behavior of the Italians and of the Albanians expressed self-confidence. That is why here there were neither Bulgarian meetings, nor shouts „hurray". A secret conference in a house of a Bulgarian teacher on 24th April was everything that could be done. Hadjikimov was not content that committee could function only illegally. The purpose of the CC was not illegal activities, but the mobilization of the whole nation.

 

The Italian occupational powers did not approve the activities of Vasil Hadjikimov. They arrested him for several hours. So he did not succeed in organizing CCs in Strouga and Ohrid. However, such committees arose and were among the most active ones in Macedonia.

 

165

 

 

In one of the biggest towns of Macedonia — Bitola, the Bulgarian population has had to wage a struggle to seize the town-hall from the Serbian administration. In fact, the struggle was not against the Serbian administration, but a problem of obtaining proofs about the ethnical picture of the town, which the population had to present before the German powers. The Bitola townsmen had organized a committee before the arrival of Hadjikimov. Such was the case with other towns in Macedonia, too. This shows that the organizations of Bulgarian CCs in Macedonia in 1941 was a spontaneous activity of the Bulgarian nation for its self-determination, and not the initiative of several hot-hearted patriots. The fact that the Bitola committee was not called a „Campaign Committee" was of no great significance.

 

Bulgarian women from Macedonia have always possessed a strong national consciousness and have always played an important part in the revolutionary struggles. In those critical days they were loyal to the tradition: on 30th April, in the hall of the musical school in Skopje, a women's CC was organized. Its president became Maria Ivanova Shaleva.

 

At that time a Bulgarian club functioned in Aegean Macedonia. Vasil Hadjikimov visited some towns in Aegean Macedonia, including Salonica. He organized CCs only in some towns, such as Vodena and Lerin.

 

In this way the whole Vardar and a part of Aegean Macedonia were covered with CCs. Nobody could account for the exact social characteristics and the power of this movement — the Bulgarian CCs. At the head was the intelligentsia, followed by merchants, industrials, handicraftsmen, agrarians. So, in the process of organizing the CCs in 1941 the basic part of the population was participating actively. This testifies to their democratic character.

 

The creation of the CCs should not be regarded as the isolated efforts of a small number of intellectuals. All Bulgarian in Vardar Macedonia were involved in this patriotic deed during the critical times of 1941. This was a process of whole nation's self-determination, an expression of the will of the people to join Bulgarian after being liberated from the Serbian rule. Without any underestimation of the work of the organizers, it must be emphasized that their success was due to the fact that all the Bulgarians in Macedonia were ready to work for that cause; they were only waiting for the signal. In many places Vasil Hadjikimov found organized committees, so that his problem was to only standardize the documents, titles and the directives of the work to be done by the committees. There were several places where Vasil

 

166

 

 

Hadjikimov did not have the possibility to go. The population of these places formed committees nevertheless.

 

The main task of the CCs was to abolish the Serbian rule and to establish a Bulgarian one. At a time when no power existed in Vardar Macedonia, before the establishment of the official power of the Bulgarian state, this rule of the people took care of everything which concerned the population: food supply, order, relations with the German and Italian powers; liberation of captives — Bulgarians from Macedonia, who had been soldiers in the Yugoslav army; preparation of the population to welcome the Bulgarian troops; organization of industrial and agricultural activities; education and culture, etc.

 

It would be an unpleasant task to make a clear difference between the activities of the CCs up to the arrival of the Bulgarian troops in the region, and after it. BCCC was created on the 13th April, and only a week later —on 19th April, the Bulgarian troops entered the region. Certain LCCs were organized even after 19th April. Some of them were in the Bulgarian zone, others in the Italian and in the German ones. At the same time the arrival of the Bulgarian troops did not mean that Bulgarian administrative powers were organized automatically. The latter were being organized throughout a longer period of time.

 

In any case, undoubtedly of most important significance is the fact that in a powerless state the people succeeded in organizing a power and in declaring unification with Bulgaria. So that the mission, which the CCs were fulfilling could be divided into: revolutionary, organizational, economic and protocol. The revolutionary mission consisted in destroying the remnants of the administrative power of the former Versaille Yugoslavia. Closely connected with the revolutionary one was the organizational mission. It consisted in organizing LCCs, which had the right and the task to provide for the life and the food for the population. The CCs were also responsible for the cultural, educational, economic and political needs and rights of the population.

 

In a short time all the administrative Serbian functionaries, as well as those working in the economic, cultural and other spheres were dismissed. Thanks to the activities of the CCs soon the factories and enterprizes began to function. This seemed to be of a vital importance for the workers, who have only their salaries to live on. Only in Skopje several days appeared to be enough for ensuring job for 3000 persons.

 

An important part of the activities of the CCs was the organization of the guard in front of shops, stores, etc, Guards were also

 

167

 

 

put in front of buildings of historical, ethnographical and cultural significance for Macedonia — museums, libraries, etc. A special department in the BCCC was created with the purpose to protect the property of the schools and the administrative buildings connected with the educational system, cabinets, libraries, etc.

 

Of great importance was the restoration of the reading-clubs. Their significance for the education of the nation during the Revival period and later on is well-known. The Serbs never had at their disposal a similar cultural institution; so their hatred towards these clubs is understandable. They simply destroyed them. In a short time, with the help of the Bulgarian powers the CCs restored them. On 9th June in Prilep the Bulgarian reading-club „Nadezhda" (hope) was restored, on 16th July — the one in Koumanovo called „Ekaterina Simidchieva", etc.

 

A teachers' committee was formed too, as a department of the BCCC. Its most important task was to inform the administrative authorities about the problems connected with the Bulgarian education in the liberated Macedonia. The BCCC ordered to all the LCCs to invite all the Bulgarian teachers from the primary and secondary schools in Macedonia and together with the former Exarchate teachers to form educational committees in every place. Through the newspaper „Macedonia" the BCCC appealed to the LCCs to make contacts with the administrative powers and to undertake all the possible measures to preserve from plunder and anihilation their property — buildings, furniture, libraries, collections, cabinets, etc. BCCC assigned to the teachers' committees the task to organize courses for studying the literary Bulgarian language. In the very first days the volunteers in these courses in Skopje outnumbered 800.

 

Of great importance was the preserving of the public order. The functionaries of the CCs did not allow personal revenge over the enslavers. Having in mind that the character of the Serbian regime was a forcible one, acts of revenge would have been logical. In many places the population had isolated the Serbian families in camps, although most of them were innocent. The notorious villains Vasilie Trbich, Mihail Kalamatiev, Kirkovitch, Grigor Tsiklev and many others had escaped immediately after sensing the activisation of the Bulgarian population. That is why the BCCC ordered that all the Serbs and Montenegrins should be freed from the camps and prisons immediately. They were proposed to go back to their native places in Serbia and Montenegro.

 

A heavy situation happened in Prilep. The Serbian powers had

 

168

 

 

colonized Serbs and Montenegrins in Pelagonia on the most fertile land, which was taken by force from the Bulgarians. Now the population has gathered in a camp all the colonized Serbs. According to Vassil Hadjikimov: „If I had not come on time, about midnight, the camp where the colonists were gathered would have looked like butchery."

 

What were the relations between the German military powers and the CCs? Some Bulgarian newspapers of that time contained announcements of a propaganda nature that the administrative bodies in the Mairies had been appointed by the German powers. That was not true: they were appointed by the CCs. Of course the German powers allowed the population to freely express their Bulgarian nationality and were tolerant towards the CCs. The Germans accepted them as representatives of the population and as an intermediary between them and the population. So, they accepted them, but they did not create them. At the same time it must be noted that the German military powers allowed Albanian CCs to be formed, which appealed for unification with Albania and for „Great Albania" under Italian protectorate. This deteriorated the relations between Italia and Bulgaria. Thus Germany worked for its own hegemony over the Balkans. So, whatever the considerations were, it looked like the German army gave the Macedonian population the possibility and the right to freely express its nationality. Thus the Bulgarians, outnumbering the other nationalities, gained the possibility to overthrow the Serbian administrative powers and to establish their own ones, corresponding to their national character.

 

That is why the very first number of the newspaper „Macedonia" published a BCCC's telegram to Hitler. It said that in WW I Macedonia had been liberated with the combined heroic efforts of the German and Bulgarian troops. But after the war, according to the decisions in Versaille, Macedonia was left in slavery once again. The telegram also said that all the Macedonians (having in mind the Bulgarians from Macedonia) blessed the Germans and wished them further victories. A similar telegram was sent to Goering too, and a similar answer was received. Those relations were in conformity with the events of March 1941. The demonstrations in Macedonian towns against the Axes were feeble. This also explains why the partisan movement here was weaker in comparison with the other regions of Yugoslavia. In the face of the German troops of that time the Bulgarians from Macedonia saw their liberators.

 

From the very beginning of its existence the BCCC established

 

169

 

 

friendly relations with Croatia's government. One of its first tasks was to send a telegram to Dr. Ante Pavelich. The telegram contained greetings for the struggle of Croatia's people for independence, waged under the leadership of Ante Pavelich. Gratitude was expressed towards him, as well as to the whole Croatia's nation for their help in the liberation of the Bulgarians from Macedonia. It is well-known that during the 1927 process in Skopje the Zagreb lawer Ante Pavelich was the only one to defend the accused students — Bulgarians from Macedonia.

 

The CCs prepare the population for welcoming the Bulgarian troops, which were allowed to enter the region on 19th April 1941. Everywhere the troops were heartily welcomed. The population went out in the streets and squares, carried flowers and sang Bulgarian songs. The establishing of the Bulgarian administrative authorities was an official act. The German powers gave over the administrative power of the towns in the presence of the population organized by the CCs. The German flag was taken down and the Bulgarian one was raised.

 

The Bulgarian Tsar Boris III visited the liberated territories. He visited first the town of Shtip — this strongest Bulgarian fortress, and then — Stroumitsa, Gumurdjina, Dedeagach, Ksanti, Kavala, and Drama. Two districts were formed in Vardar Macedonia — Skopje and Bitola, while in Western Thrace and Eastern Macedonia there was one district — the Ksanti. Pirot, Tsaribrod and Bosilegrad entered the Sofia district. The governor of the Bitola district was Todor Pavlov, and in Skopje — Anton Kozarov.

 

Bulgarian power was established, but still many missions were to be fulfilled by the CCs, providing food for the people, reviving of the production and the market, functioning of the administrative boards and schools — all that had to be organized by the functionaries of the CCs. Great quantities of food were sent from Bulgaria on the request of the BCCC. Only in June a hundred railway carts with food came from Bulgaria to Skopje. The participants in the struggles against the Turks, the Greeks and Serbs were given pensions. Arable lands, which were taken from the Bulgarians and given to the Serbian colonists, were given back to their owners.

 

The BCCC insisted on increasing the educational work in Vardar Macedonia; they insisted on establishing one more faculty in Skopje — an agricultural one, which war necessary for Macedonia, having in mind the agricultural character of the region. The functionaries of the CCs prompted the contacts between students from Bulgaria and Macedonia.

 

170

 

 

One of the main missions, which the BCCC started to fulfil was to help free the Bulgarians from Macedonia who were captured in the German army as soldiers in the Yugoslav army; as well as all the political prisoners from the prisons in Versaille Yugoslavia, This of course was a task for the whole Bulgarian society, and mainly for the General Staff. For this purpose a special service for prisoners of war was created. The Ministry of War contacted the German and Italian High Commandings and insisted to solve the problem with the Bulgarian prisoners of war. The CCs prepared lists of the prisoners, which were sent to the Ministry of War. The latter sent detailed information to the BCCC: Up to the end of May 1941 were treed as follows: from the Slivnitsa camp — 3101 men, from the Vidin camp — 120, from the Petrich camp — 487, from the Nikopoll camp — 2361, and from the Rousse camp— 812 men; totally, up to the end of May, 10 475 men were freed and sent to their native places.

 

The Central Military Archives of Bulgaria keep a great number of applications for freeing of captives — Bulgarians from Macedonia, former soldiers in the Yugoslav army. Here is only an example. The father of the well-known general from the Yugoslav army — Mihailo Apostolski — Mite Apostolov Matevski from Shtip, said in his application that his son Mihail Mitev — a major on active service in the Yugoslav army, had been captured by the Germans during the war, and at that moment was in the camp near Milano, Italy. Matovski asked that his son who „is a Bulgarian, born from Bulgarian parents in Shtip", be freed. „I allow myself to add that I am one of the honest Bulgarians in Shtip, I have worked for Bulgaria and for the Bulgarian idea, and during the World War I was a volunteer in the Bulgarian army, I was wounded at the Albanian border by a bullet, and as a result I became an invalid." And he explained that his son had begun his service in the Yugoslav army not because of any love towards this state, „but being from a poor family, he needed to find there temporary subsistence, with the hope that our country will be one day a part from the Motherland, and he would be able to serve to our dear Bulgarian Tsar and State." On the application there was a resolution: „Rome! To be freed!"

 

In the course of these activities the representatives of the CCs gave the possibility to soldiers from other nationalities to be freed from German capms. Even some Serbian soldiers were freed, with the lie that they were Bulgarians. There were Serbian officers who were not willing to be freed on such a lie, so they declared themselves true Serbians and did not want to change their

 

171

 

 

nationality, not even formally. But what was most interesting — there was nobody declaring himself a Macedonian.

 

One of the most important missions which the CCs fulfilled was to organize the celebration of Bulgarian public holidays in liberated Macedonia. Of course celebrations were organized by the administrative authorities, but having in mind that the members of the CCs participated actively in them, they also took part in their organization. The celebration of 24th May in Skopje was most important. Many guests from Sofia had arrived: a great number of members of the organization „Yunak"; the President of the Macedonian Scientific Institute in Sofia, Professor Nikola Stoyanov, was among the guests, too. The guests were welcomed by a brass band, the latter being trained with the initiative of the BCCC in playing Bulgarian marches. The Mayor Blagoy Popankov read a salutatory address on behalf of the citizens of Skopje. All the people were happy, some of them were crying with joy. Brothers, sisters, relatives reunited with each other after a long separation. A little later about 100 representatives of the Macedono-Adrianople legionaries arrived in Skopje. They were led by the member of the National Assembly, Andro Loulchev. At the railway station they were welcomed by the members of the local organization of the former volunteers — about 200 men headed by Pane Shosholchev and the secretary Hristo Gligorov. Simultaneously with the welcoming of the guests, representatives of the Bulgarians from Macedonia were sent to Sofia. A great number of children — students from Skopje, Veles, Prilep, Bitola, Ohrid, Kroushevo, Negotin, Kavadartsi and Guevgueli were going to Sofia to take part in the celebration in Sofia. There was a meeting at the railway station. Salutatory addresses were presented by the governor of the district Anton Kozarov and the Deputy-President of the Macedonian Women's Union, Ekaterina Voinova. In order to participate in the celebrations of 24th May in Skopje, the veteran of the revolutionary struggles Lazar Tomov — President of the Ilinden organization in Bulgaria had arrived. He carried with him the flag of the association „Vordarski Yunak", which he had taken to Sofia after the catastrophe in 1918.

 

The demonstration was an impressive one. It left in the consciousness of the people the impression that the years of the slavery had already passed in history, and that Bulgarian society was unanimous before the ideal for liberation and unification of the enslaved territories. In a similar manner, celebrations in honour of 24th May were also organized in all towns and villages in Macedonia.

 

172

 

 

*  *  *

 

On 7th July 1941 the district governor Anton Kozarov issued on order № 248, through which the activities of BCCC were dismissed.

 

The energy of Stephanov and Hadjikimov was not crashed. They started organizing the so called popular banks, whose mission was to help the small producers. Despite the heavy economic situation in Macedonia at that time, their work in this direction was useful. The only change this time was that Hadjikimov was the director, and Stephanov was the deputy. In a short while a bank was built in all major towns of Macedonia. This activity was also a successful one. And it is the most important proof that it was not up to a couple of adventurers, assisted by the case and the situation, but that both of them were Bulgarian patriots who had given much of their energy in the name of a whole nation's benefit.

 

And again — towards August-September 1944, Bulgaria was facing a new catastrophe. In Macedonia, there was an interregnum again. The time that needed Stephanov and Hadjikimov had come again. Several thousands of Albanian nationalists, with Albanian flags in their hands were approaching Skopje, aiming to occupy and hold the town until the treaties for the possible new borders were signed. Vasil Hadjikimov immediately summoned all the active citizens in the Chamber of Industry and explained the new situation and the new dangers for the Bulgarian population to them. He promised them that he would not hurry to run to Bulgaria and hide himself from the Serbians, but would stay with the population and help it. He created a „Central Committee of the National Militia of Macedonia." On the head of the Committee was the secretary — Vasil Hadjikimov; membetrs — Dr. Nikola Andonov and Stephan Stephanov — responsible for the relations with the German authorities, and Mihail Domazetov — responsible for the relations with the Bulgarian military and civil powers.

 

So, raising the slogan „For self-dependant Macedonia", Hadjikimov gave the citizens armament from the depot of the Regional Police Directorate.

 

The German powers appeared to be against such a committee and its activities. That is why, on 10th September a new one was found to replace the former. It was called „A Local Committee for Skopje and the neighbourhood". The Germans tended to diminish the functions of the Committee in order that the latter

 

173

 

 

should not be turned eventually into a government of the self-independent Macedonia. The activity of the Local Committee was easier to be controlled. The members of the Committee were Dr. Kosta Chohadjich — President; Vasil Hadjikimov — secretary, responsible for the administration and for the radio; members — Nikola Pavlov and Reshid Djavid — responsible for the finances, Georgi Kiselinov, Feta Raouf and Georgi Poptrayanov — for the education, Stephan Stephanov and Emin Yashar — for the National Militia, and Dr. Alexander Georgiev — for the sanitation.

 

A proclamation written by V. Hadjikimov towards the population of Skopje and the neighbourhood was published in the „Macedonia" newspaper, which began to be edited again, as a continuation of the tradition of the CCs „Macedonia" newspaper of 1941. It was announced that the Committee was formed with the purpose of preserving the order and the security in Skopje and the neighbourhood. With the same reason the national militia was organized — to gather and arm the Bulgarians for preserving the peace and the order. It was said that this organization is not a political one, but a means for guaranteeing the national security.

 

As it could be observed, the Committee could be seen like some kind of continuation of the BCCC's activities of 1941. The newspaper was called „Macedonia"— as it had been called three years earlier. The same was the title of the editorial. At the time Stephan Stephanov used to write it under the heading „Our Word". In September 1944 it was again St. Stephanov who titled it in the same way. Having in mind the new conditions, it once again rose the slogan for „self-dependent, or autonomous Macedonia".

 

*  *  *

 

The courts in Tito's Yugoslavia did not forgive the freethinking and patriotism; they did not allow anybody in Macedonia to call himself „a Bulgarian". In February 1946 a trial was held. The president of the Skopje regional court was Panta Marina, and the members were Dimitr Toplichanets and Philimena Mihailova. This court sentenced. V. Hadjikimov to death, and St. Stephanov — to 16 years of prison. They were guilty for organizing the BCCC. Very soon the Supreme Court Martial replaced Hadjikimov's punishment with 20 years of prison. After 11 years and 3 months Hadjikimov s was freed. He lived in Sofia till an old age and died on 20th December 1992 in his native town of Shtip. Stephanov's fate is unknown.

 

174

 

 

*  *  *

 

The lack of any interference on the part of any organized political powers at the time when the CCs were organized, outlines the contours of a large white field over which the Bulgarians from Macedonia wrote with capital letters their will to be incorporated within Bulgaria. They had a dream for the state for which, since 1878, rivers of blood had been shed. The CCs were an organization which could be joined by everybody, no matter what his convictions were. The most important conclusion, which could be made about the CC is that it was in only that single case after the catastrophes at the beginning of the century, that history gave the opportunity to the Bulgarians from Macedonia to make their self-determination without any pressure. Bulgarians from Macedonia — representatives of all professions — workers, farmers, village people, townsmen, handicraftsmen, merchants, intelligentsia, members of all parties, availed of their historical chance. On this referendum they gave their vote for Bulgaria.

 

At the same time, it must be taken under consideration that this organization is not a single and isolated form of a self-determination of the Bulgarians from Macedonia. It is only a link in the whole chain of the National liberation struggles after the Berlin Treaty.

 

[Previous]

[Back to Index]