Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

V. The Bulgarian movement

3. Formation of the Insurgent Committee. Democratic Attitude. Careful Organisation.
 

But for all these obstacles the Bulgarian movement steadily advanced. The policy of the Exarchist Church was patient and cautious. It aimed at solving the problem not by revolution but by a slow process of education and consolidation. The schools were its most effective machinery. They trained a generation which could not be contented with servitude under an Asiatic tyranny, and the young men who had graduated in the secondary colleges at Monastir, Uskub, and Salonica felt themselves the equals of the Greeks. For Bulgaria (to which Eastern Roumelia was soon added) exercised an irresistible attraction over the imagination of the Macedonian Slavs as they watched first her victory over Servia and then her rapid material progress. There came a time when the younger generation felt that the methods of the priest and the schoolmaster were too slow, that they had achieved as much by peaceful propaganda as they could hope to gain, and that their ultimate liberation could come only from an armed movement which would compel the intervention of Europe. There were precedents enough to support their reasoning. It was in 1893 that a group of influential Macedonian Bulgarians, who held these views, met together in a certain house in Resna, and founded the "Internal Organisation." Two of these men are still the leaders of the movement Damian Groueff, a teacher in Salonica who abandoned an assured career and a comfortable income to become an outlaw and a conspirator, and Christo Tatarcheff, formerly a doctor in Salonica, whose polished manners and knowledge of the world have made him the diplomat of the Committee, delegated to direct its activities in Sofia. It is characteristic of the Bulgarian character that the Committee laid its plans not for an immediate insurrection, which must have failed, but for a long period of organisation and preparation. The aspiration for liberty existed. The tradition of resistance spoke through the ballads that told of the achievements of the Heiducks the robber patriots of the Balkans. The stupidest peasant sighed for a life of quiet and the departure of the Turks. But the means, the courage, the instinct for mutual help, had


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first to be trained. The leaders had to inspire the peasants with the same courage and faith which the schools of the Exarchate had already created in the minds of the educated class. They had to weld the isolated Macedonian villages, which regard the districts beyond their own valley as a foreign land, into a conscious nation. A whole tradition of servitude had first to be combated, and to men who cowered at the sight of a Turk, and submitted without protest to the cudgel and the bastinado, it was necessary to preach the right of revolt and the duty of resistance. "Better an end with horrors than horrors without an end," was the epigram in which Groueff summed up the teaching of the Committee, and it sank deeply into the mind of Macedonia. Funds had to be accumulated for the eventual conflict, leaders chosen, and the young men inured to obedience and to discipline, rifles smuggled into the country, and men trained to use them. Finally, there was opposition to be faced from the hierarchy of the Bulgarian Church, who feared that this dangerous organisation must compromise their slow and legal work, while even within the villages, the wealthier peasants, accustomed to regard themselves as the delegates of the Turkish authorities, were usually timid and sometimes hostile. [1] In this way the movement became democratic as well as revolutionary. The Bulgars are not a speculative race. I have never met even among their leaders the type of thinker and theorist whom one encounters so often among

1. The structure of rural society in the village communities is decidedly plutocratic. Certain powers are vested in a committee of elders (Asas), with a salaried headman (Khodjabashi or Mouktar) at their head. They are in a general way responsible to the Turks for all that happens in the village. Their consent is necessary if the place is to change its "religion" i.e., to become Greek or Bulgarian. They prepare the lists for taxation, and their seals are necessary for passports. Their authority is therefore considerable, and they have it in their power to exercise a good deal of petty oppression and to make their little harvests of corruption. They are not necessarily or usually the natural leaders of a village. There is for the office of elder or headman a property qualification, based on the amount of real estate which each peasant owns, and the asas form accordingly a little coterie of the relatively wealthy and comfortable men in every village, the "haves" whom the Turks thought they could trust to manage the "have-nots."


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Russian exiles perhaps they are hardly as yet at that level of culture. But in a practical and quite clear-sighted way they did become a real people's party. Their decisions are taken by general conferences, which contrive in some mysterious way to meet once or twice a year in the very heart of Macedonia. Their leaders are elected, from the president of the whole organisation down to the chiefs of each village band. They have known how to bend the Bishops to their will, and in the corrupt little world of the village communities, where the wealthier peasants rule with the support of the Turks, they have fostered a very wholesome spirit of criticism and opposition. Year by year the Committee became more and more a genuinely national organisation. It knew how to use enthusiasm and to inspire the young. It had its songs and its heroes. At Uskub the lads in the upper classes of the secondary school have been known to march through the streets of the town under the eyes of the Turks, chanting their ballads of revolt for all to hear. But this reckless spirit of youth and self-sacrifice was guided by older heads. The organisation included the cautious peasant with his habit of compromise and guile, the wealthy merchant of the towns, and the educated professional man, as well as these younger and hotter heads. Discipline and organisation were its chief ends for many a long year of waiting, and patience amid fallacious hopes and alarming persecutions was its typical virtue. Enthusiasm it possessed, like all revolutionary movements, but its passion for method and detail were even more remarkable. It had its correspondents in every centre, its couriers, its treasurers, its experts for explosives, its medical service, its hired agents among the Turks, its archives, and its official records. [2] There is a Macedonian fable which tells how the several races of Turkey came to God for gifts. The Turks came first and

2. See for an embodiment of its spirit the very competent report published in November, 1904, at Sofia in French, La Macédoine et le Vilayet d'Adrinople (1893-1903), a record remarkable for its method, its accuracy, and its modesty. It is, of course, an ex parte statement, but there is so little exaggeration that it forms a valuable historical document.


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received the boon of sovereignty. The Greeks, hearing what had happened, hurried to heaven and complained, "O God ! What is this intrigue of yours against us ? Give us also power." And God answered, "Sovereignty is already allotted. But you shall have the gift of intrigue." Then came the Bulgars with the same petition, "O God ! What is this work of yours ? Give us also power." But God gave them the gift of work.
 

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