FOR FREEDOM AND PERFECTION. The Life of Yané Sandansky
Mercia MacDermott





To the astonishment of many, the ‘millennium’ proved more durable than the ‘crowded hours’ predicted by the correspondent of the Manchester Guardian. The days and the weeks went by, and still there was no sign of the Hürriyet running out of steam. A spirit of concord, optimism and tolerance continued to prevail, for the people of all nationalities had had more than their fill of violence, fear and secrecy, and they were still enchanted by their newly-found freedom of speech, by the absence of spies, by the novelty of it all. All kinds of unheard-of things continued to happen. Telephones were introduced into Constantionple. The public were allowed to watch the Sultan’s selamlik—a weekly procession from the Yildiz Palace to the mosque where he worshipped. Muslim women were taking their first steps towards emancipation by appearing on the streets less closely veiled, and, in Salonika, with totally uncovered faces. A girls’ school was opened at Kandilli on the Bosphorus, and the Sultan even received some European ladies. The weak, hitherto unorganized Turkish proletariat began to stir, and the workers in several industries came out on strike for higher wages and shorter hours. Having won, on average, thirty-percent increases, they proceeded to form the first trade unions in the Ottoman Empire. [1] New, revolutionary Turkish plays, which previously would have been banned by the censor, were performed to enthusiastic audiences. One such play, entitled How It Came About, contained complimentary references to the cheti who had fought for liberty, and ended with the marriage of the Turkish hero to a Greek girl, who changed her name from Victoria to Hope. Their love affair was said to be the ‘symbol of the union of all the Ottoman people’! Charles Roden



1. During August and September 1908, there were some thirty strikes in Salonika, Constantinople, Smyrna, Bursa, Trapezond, and other towns. The most important strike was that of the railway-workers. In Constantinople those on strike included the railmen, tobacco-workers, stevedores, bakers, printers and glassworkers. The strike movement was strongest in Salonika, where the proletariat numbered some 30,000, and there were strikes by railway and tobacco workers, salesmen in trading firms, brick-makers, tanners, employees in the sugar industry, etc. The first unions to be formed were those of the compositors, port-workers, tram and railway workers. The organized workers’ movements were strongest in Macedonia, where unions were formed in Salonika, Skopje, Bitolya, Series, Drama, Kavalla, Kumanovo, Shtip, etc. See: V.I. Shpilkova, Mladoturetskaya Revolyutsia 19O8-1909, Moscow 1977, pp. 159-161.





Buxton, [2] who watched a performance of the play, mentions that it was attended not only by Enver Bey, but also by various Ottoman princes, who had been closely confined from infancy, according to the traditional practice, and who were now also enjoying a little freedom.


Yet, in the midst of all these miracles of reconciliation and emancipation, there were certain ‘elements of hate’ which remained immune to the magic of the Hürriyet. The strife between the warring factions of the Organization continued unabated, while the Bulgarian Government’s antipathy towards the Serchani was increased rather than diminished by the unexpected turn of events. Shortly before the Hürriyet, the Bulgarian Government had undertaken a massive campaign aimed at preventing Yané from entering—or leaving—the Principality. In an article, dated June 11, 1908, and headed Terror in Dupnitsa, Kambama reported Government efforts to root out Yané’s supporters in the frontier area: the District police chief, all police officers and about thirty constables had been dismissed; the heads of all telegraph offices in Dupnitsa, Kocherinovo, Kyustendil and Bosilegrad had been transferred, and about a hundred people had been arrested. More sackings were expected, and a prominent citizen of Dupnitsa, Krum Chaprashikov, had resigned from the ruling Democratic Party as a sign of protest. On June 21, 1908, Kambana printed a letter complaining of Government interference in the affairs of the Rila Monastery: the elected abbot had been replaced, and soldiers commanded by Lt Nastev had surrounded the Monastery and were preventing worshippers and tourists from entering.


The full portent of these measures is made clear in a confidential report sent to Prince Ferdinand by his private secretary Stefan Chaprashikov, in which he describes the recent visit of Takev, the Minister of the Interior, to the Rila frontier zone:


‘According to Mr Takev, the chief aim of the administration in those parts is to guard the frontier hermetically, so to speak, from the possible entry into Bulgaria of the bandit Sandansky—the Bane of Bulgaria, as the Minister calls him—and utterly to destroy all his nests and concealers along the frontier. To achieve this aim, Mr Takev has transferred and replaced all, absolutely all, the Government employees in the above places, whether in the administration, the schools, finance, or in the posts and telegraphs. Those employees who were formerly there he has scattered throughout northern Bulgaria, and, in their place, he has appointed ones from northern or southern Bulgaria. Thus, all the policemen in Dupnitsa and the village of Rila are now people from Poibrene, in the Panagyurishté district, and other neighbouring villages. Similarly with the police-officers. The district chief of Police in Dupnitsa is an extremely resolute, energetic and skilful person, who will fulfil without hesitation or pause the task entrusted to him by the Minister—namely, the annihilation of Sandansky.



2. Charles Roden Buxton, Turkey in Revolution, pp. 75-84.





Mr Takev has given strict, categorical orders and instructions in this vein to all centres—in the towns, villages and remote frontier posts—and has warned his organs that, for the slightest dereliction, they will not only be dismissed, but also handed over to the courts.


‘Along these lines, the Minister requested the Holy Synod, while he was still in the Monastery, to remove from the Rila Cloister the monks Parteni and Ignati, two inveterate supporters of Sandansky. The Holy Synod refused, but Mr Takev will take other measures against them to have them removed. Mr Takev closed the most important nest of the Pirin cut-throat-bandit—the tavern at the Rila Monastery—by withdrawing, through the Ministry of Finances, the licence of its landlord, Ivan Katsarov, whom he obliged to sell his goods and leave the Monastery within ten days.’ [3]


Seldom have such drastic measures been taken by a peace-time government against one single individual. They seemed to bear out the truth of one of Yané’s favourite sayings: ‘All the dogs which bark at me go mad.’


Yané himself—unlike the uprooted civil servants—was little inconvenienced by the Minister’s campaign against him. The advent of the Hürriyet meant that it was no longer necessary for him to steal across the border into the Principality: no guns were needed, literature could be freely imported, and he was able to work openly, both in Salonika and in his own Pirin ‘kingdom’. The new situation was in no way to the liking of the Bulgarian Government. The fact that Yané had suddenly become an important factor in Turkey, feted and fussed over by all, was in itself enough to drive Ferdinand’s ministers into a frenzy, but, in addition, considerations far greater than the fate of the ‘Pirin cut-throat-bandit’ were now involved.


Yané’s reference in the Manifesto to ‘criminal agitation’ on the part of the ‘official powers’ in Bulgaria was not an expression of spite or prejudice, but a very real warning, based on an accurate forecast of the attitude which those ‘official powers’ would take—in private, if not in public—towards the revolution in Turkey. The Young Turks’ victory had been warmly welcomed almost everywhere in Europe, except in Austro-Hungary and Germany, whose plans to extend their political and economic influence eastwards had led them to support the old order in Turkey. [4] Chauvinist circles in the small Balkan states were likewise disappointed by the changes. The Young Turk victory had deprived the governing Bulgarian bourgeoisie of any excuse for the future war against Turkey which was central to its plans, but public opinion in the Bulgarian Principality was undoubtedly on the side of the Young Turks. Both the Narrow Socialists and the Agrarians in their respective organs—Rabotnichesky Vestnik and Zemedelsko Zname—gave an enthusiastic welcome



3. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1201. (The Archive of His Majesty the Tsar), pp. 238-239. Report dated 8.VIII.1908.


4. The German Social-Democrats, however, gave their support to the Young Turks.





to the new regime, while the conservative opposition newspaper Mir also advocated a policy of close understanding and co-operation with Turkey. The Government press, however, together with that of the Right Wing of the Organization, greeted the change with initial silence and reserve, which later developed into more or less open hostility. The true nature of the Bulgarian Government’s attitude was eloquently revealed in the reports sent by the Foreign Minister, General Paprikov, to Prince Ferdinand, who was then staying on one of his estates in Hungary. One such report included the following passage: ‘While not undertaking any action which might indicate that we are preparing to interfere in the internal affairs of Turkey, we must constantly be on the alert and ready to act decisively, as soon as the moment arrives. The normal development of matters in Turkey is not in our interests. The establishment and consolidation of the constitutional regime in Turkey is not in our interests. We cannot and should not hamper it directly. Here the Macedonians and Young Turks will help us.’ [5]


That the leaders of the Right Wing of the Organization were willing to assist the Bulgarian Government in its policy is obvious from the report sent to the Foreign Ministry by the Commercial Consul in Salonika, with whom they were in constant touch. For example, after a meeting with Petko Penchev and Pavel Hristov, the Consul communicated to Paprikov the following request for instructions: ‘We very much want to know, they ask, whether the Prince’s Government sincerely approves of the recent events in Turkey. . . whether it desires the triumph of the Young Turk Party in Turkey, given that the national rights of the Bulgarian population in the vilayets are guaranteed, or whether, on the other hand, it would regard with satisfaction the failure of what has hitherto been achieved and the discrediting of the new-born constitutional regime. . . If we receive speedy instructions from Sofia regarding these matters, we are ready to comply with them, if not completely, than at least as far as we are able.’ [6]


Because the Young Turks regarded the Right Wing as ‘agents of the Bulgarian Prince, and tireless fighters for the annexation of Macedonia by Bulgaria’—and, indeed, Petko Penchev declared at the time that ‘we have been, and will continue to be, Bulgarian nationalists’—the Right Wing deemed it politic to attempt a reconciliation with Yané, who was in good odour with the Young Turks. They proposed to make certain conditions, and, if Yané accepted them, he would be ‘forgiven’ and allowed back into the Organization. If not, they would try to persuade the Young Turks not to enter into negotiations with him as a person ‘expelled’ from the Organization. [7] Naturally, in his position of strength, and deeply



5. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1216, pp. 92-94. Report dated 25.VIII.1908. Quoted by Tushé Vlahov in Kriza v bŭlgaro-turskite otnoshenia 1895-1908, p. 161.


6. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1256, pp. 16-17. Quoted by Vlahov, Opus cit., p. 160.


7. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1256, pp. 15-17. See also TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 293, pp. 22-23. Report dated 17.VII.1908.





convinced that the Serchani, and not the Right Wing, represented the true Organization, Yané was totally unimpressed by offers of ‘forgiveness’, and attempts to prevent him from negotiating with the Young Turks.


No documents have yet come to light to show what direct instructions the Bulgarian Government sent in answer to the Right Wing’s plea. Efforts were, however, made on the part of the Government to undermine the positions of the Left by the speedy dispatch to Macedonia of ‘Macedonian intellectuals’—professors, lawyers, teachers, doctors, craftsmen, etc.—who were not Socialists or extremists in any way, and whose task would be ‘in concert with the Internal Organization (by which was meant the Right Wing—M.M.) to create in Macedonia a strong constitutional party, to unite in one whole the Macedonian Bulgarian population, to attempt to take the Serres and Strumitsa Regions out of the hands of Sandansky, and to strengthen still further the nationalist mood which prevails there.’ Lists had been drawn up of suitable candidates for the job, but the Minister complains that half of them did not want to go because ‘they are better off in Bulgaria’. [8] According to reports sent to the Prince by Stefan Chaprashikov, 500,000 leva had been allocated for the sending of people ‘to work in Macedonia in line with our state policy’. [9] Like Paprikov, Chaprashikov complains of the reluctance of suitable persons to go to Macedonia. Yané is said to have called thirty or forty Socialists from Bulgaria, who will take up posts in Macedonia, ‘while the people of the Internal Organization (i.e. the Right Wing—M.M.) continue to saunter about the streets and cafés in Sofia’. [10]


Among those who did return were the renegade Serchani Chavdara and Zapryanov, who, according to a report sent by the Serres Commercial Consul to General Paprikov, arrived in Serres on August 10, 1908 and set off for Drama with a teacher named Karadzhov, who was a relative by marriage of Father Madzharov, Chairman of the Bulgarian community in Serres. Their intention was to take over Panitsa’s area, and take vengeance for Daev’s death. [11] Another two opponents of the Serchani, Petŭr Mŭlchankov and Stoyan Filipov, were busy inciting the population of the Nevrokop area against Yané. According to the Consul, ‘the final liberation of the population in those parts would only be a matter of days, were it not for serious obstacles of a dual nature’. These, he wrote, were the Young Turks’ support for Yané, and the lack of backing and encouragement for ‘persons who work for the triumph of the good cause". In connection with this, the Consul mentions the refusal of the Exarch to appoint Filipov as a teacher in Macedonia, and, after referring to the high



8. See reports from Paprikov to Ferdinand, dated July 25 and August 6, 1908. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1216, pp. 98, 109-110. Quoted Vlahov, Opus cit., pp. 162-3.


9. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1201, p. 214 (report dated 10.VIII.1908) and pp. 222-223 (report dated 23.VIII.1908).


10. Ibid., pp. 227-228 (report dated 28.VIII.1908).


11. TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 303, p. 82.





hopes which Paprikov had of Filipov and Mŭlchankov, he complains that ‘the agitators of the Internal Organization who are trying to break the power of Sandansky’s assistants in the Serres and Drama districts do not always possess the necessary moral authority, intellectual qualities, firmness and constancy which are essential for this difficult task’. [12]


Another of those sent to combat the influence of the Left was Simeon Radev, whose newspaper, Vercherna Poshta, had long been most vociferous in its attacks on the Serchani. Radev was dispatched by the National-Liberal leader, Nikola Genadiev, who reported to Prince Ferdinand as follows: ‘The revolution in Turkey is creating a new situation in which new methods of action must be adopted. First and foremost, it is necessary to have accurate information and to take measures, on the one hand, against the traitors and people-without-a-fatherland around Sandansky and, on the other, to protect the Internal Organization from aberrations. For this purpose, I sent Mr Simeon Radev to Salonika, since he knows Turkish and is best equipped both to investigate the situation and to exert a beneficial influence on the Macedonian activists. Mr Radev is a convinced patriot and serves the ideas which guide your Royal Highness with the same enthusiasm as we do, and that is why I deprived myself of his services here. . . If I may be allowed most humbly to express an opinion, I would mention that people like Mr Radev, well grounded in Bulgarian politics and free from dangerous Utopias, can be very useful to the national cause. This is why I trust that the initiative taken by the two of us will not meet with the disapproval of the Sovereign.’ [13]


Simeon Radev was soon sending back reports of his observations and activities in Salonika, and, in particular, of his efforts to discredit Yané in the eyes of one and all, including the Young Turks.


‘My greatest efforts hitherto,’ he wrote in a letter dated August 28, 1908, ‘have been to render Sandansky powerless.’ [14]


Genadiev passed Radev’s reports on to the Prince, in whose private archive they are preserved. One of the reports reads thus: ‘Sandansky’s people present me here as a person sent by the Prince with a mission. Enver-Bey asked me the other evening: "Is it true that Prince Ferdinand is something like Abdul Hamid?" and he awaited my answer with great curiosity. I replied: "Prince Ferdinand is a very wise man, who has performed great services to Bulgaria." He did not say anything, but he did not like it.’ [15]


Among Radev’s suggestions for dealing with Yané was that the Bulgarian Government should ask for the extradition of those involved in the murder of Garvanov and Sarafov: ‘I know very well that the Turks will not grant



12. Report of the Bulgarian Commercial Consul in Series to Paprikov, dated 28.VIII. 1908. TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 303, pp. 99-100.


13. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1213, p. 41. Report dated 11.VIII.1908.


14. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1213, p. 85b.


15. Ibid., p. 85v.





it, but it will have the following results: in the first place we will have the precedent of constitutional Turkey having refused to hand over criminals, and then, after such a move on the part of Bulgaria, the Young Turks will be embarrassed by Sandansky and will surely stop protecting him so openly.’ [16] He also suggested that, should the Turks refuse to extradite Yané, Bulgaria could approach the International Court at The Hague. [17]


Panitsa and Stoyu Hadzhiev were also favourite targets for calumny. The reports of the Bulgarian Commercial Consul in Serres to Paprikov, for example, are full of serious allegations against both of them, [18] and Simeon Radev was not slow to add his voice to the chorus which was calling them ‘mad dogs’, ‘Sandanist satraps’, ‘bandits’, ‘wild beasts’ and so forth. Things reached a climax when three people were killed by Panitsa’s men in the village of Skrizhovo during August 1908, and several others fled to Salonika with horrific tales of terror in the Drama District. In order to establish the truth, Kambama sent a special correspondent, T. Belchev, to investigate the accusations against Panitsa, which included forcible collection of taxes, agitation against the Exarchate, Socialist propaganda, persecution of all who criticized him, the exclusion of agitators from other factions, the banning of Bulgarian newspapers, and death sentences on those who had fled. In addition, the correspondent was to investigate the attitude of the population towards Panitsa and the reasons for the killings in Skrizhovo. Belchev’s findings were reported in a series of ten detailed articles, which were published in Kambana during September 1908. [19] Belchev found all the accusations unfounded, with the exception of the refusal to admit agitators from other factions, but, in his opinion, after the publication of the Serchani’s Programme, such agitators—namely, Chavdara, Zankov and Zapryanov—could not come with anything new, but only for personal power struggles with the existing leadership. Moreover, he found that Chavdara was not liked in the area, for a number of reasons, and that the other two, while possessing certain positive qualities, were said to drink too much. Panitsa, on the other hand, appeared to be universally loved and respected as a completely altruistic and honest voivoda, who travelled alone, or with two companions at the most, and was therefore incapable of terrorizing an armed population. Belchev’s most important discovery was that the man who had made most of the accusations against Panitsa—a teacher who was a former member of the District Committee—had embezzled Organization money, including funds set aside to help members imprisoned in Salonika. For these and



16. Ibid., p. 91.


17. Ibid., p. 91a.


18. TDIA, f. 332, op. 1, a.e. 25, pp. 164-178; f. 334. op. 1, a.e. 303, pp. 90, 104-5, 124, 125, 153; f. 332. op. 1, a.e. 28, p. 53.


19. Kambana, No 321, 11.IX; No 322, 12.IX; No 323, 13.IX; No 325, 16.IX; No 326, 17.IX; No 328, 19.IX; No 330, 21.IX; No 332, 23.IX; No 335, 26.IX; No 336, 27.IX.1908.





other crimes, including fornication and betrayal, he had been sentenced to death by the District Committee before the Young Turk Revolution, but he had managed to hide and had escaped to Salonika, where, in concert with similar fugitives, he had sought to conceal his own crimes by accusing honest men. One of those who was actually killed in Skrizhovo was a man who had also been sentenced to death by the District Committee for various crimes, including taking bribes from the Greeks to betray the local cheta to the Turks. The other dead were two brothers who had agitated against the Organization. Panitsa had not really intended that they should be killed, but the local people had wanted to get rid of them, and when they pressed Panitsa for his agreement, he had told them to deal with the matter as they thought fit.


Belchev found no evidence of agitation against the Exarchate, or against Bulgaria. On the contrary, he found that the people loved Bulgaria, which had given them so many voivodi (including Panitsa). They did not, however, consider reunification with the Principality to be an absolute necessity, but would be satisfied with good conditions, and their own schools and churches, within the Turkish Empire. Belchev found that, while Panitsa and his comrades spoke against the Bulgarian Government, they always made a distinction between it and the Bulgarian people, who helped them in their fight for freedom. Bulgarian newspapers, including Simeon Radev’s Vecherna Poshta, were received in the villages, but in one place, Kobalishte, the people had refused to accept Vecherna Poshta and Nezavisimost on the grounds that, ‘they wrote many untruths about their affairs’. [20] Socialism as such was not being preached, and many of the peasants whom Belchev questioned did not even know what the word meant. Panitsa frankly admitted that he himself was a Socialist by persuasion, but ‘not of the type who thinks that he must everywhere and always propagate his Socialist views. I realized that if a man wants to be useful and dedicated to his cause here, then, for the time being, he cannot undertake any Socialist activity. In order to fight for freedom with success, we here have always understood that we must work as nationalists, and, as Bulgarians, we must organize and raise the Bulgarian element—the most suitable for organization and struggle. But, at the same time, we have not been chauvinists. We have striven to smooth out national enmities and to win other nationalities for the Organization. But it has all been in vain. Here, too, the Greeks are incorrigible chauvinists and fight, not for freedom, but against us. I have spoken against the beys, the owners of chifliks, and the big chorbadzhii, who live on the backs of the people and are the



20. Kambana, No 326, 17.IX.1908. An example of the kind of reporting to which the peasants objected is the account—a whole column in length—of how Panitsa and his wife were captured by peasants near the village of Zilyahovo, lynched, chopped in pieces, and buried. (See Vecherna Poshta, 1.XII.1908.) At the time Panitsa was alive, well and in one piece, in Salonika, and he was much chaffed about the report by his colleagues on the newspaper Edinstvo (see Edinstvo, No 19, 10.XII.1908).





enemies of freedom. That’s the Socialism which I have been propagating.’ [21]


One of the main tasks which Belchev had set himself was to establish the attitude of the population towards the Organization, especially in the new situation created by the Young Turk Revolution. The ordinary people whom he met were unanimous in their conviction that the Organization must continue to exist. What little ‘opposition’ he encountered in the District came mainly from the richer elements. Belchev noted that the Organization in the Drama District was still collecting ‘taxes’ for its funds, but not everywhere, not regularly, and not from the very poor. Even before Belchev had left for the Drama District, Kambana had reported an incident involving an Armenian cheese merchant, who came to the Hotel Angleterre to complain to Yané about the 100 liri which he paid annually to the Organization. The merchant said that cheese production had fallen, and that, in view of the new regime, he did not want to pay. Yané replied: ‘The Organization will exist until the Constitution is fully in force. The Organization has its own statues and it will not deviate from them. You will pay the tax according to the rules. If the tax has been fixed higher than it should be in view of the amount of milk used for the cheese, make an application for the injustice to be corrected.’ [22]


This collection of ‘taxes’ was also a subject for criticism and complaint in the consuls’ reports. Logically there could be no possible objection to the ‘taxes’: the Bulgarian Establishment disliked the Young Turks and prayed for their downfall, and therefore any practices which strengthened the independent power of the Bulgarian population in Macedonia should have found favour in its sight. The snag was that the collection of the ‘taxes’ also strengthened Yané’s power and independence, and was therefore unacceptable to the Establishment, regardless of what benefits his leadership might bring to the population. The Serres Programme, for example, with its explicit demands for a truly democratic Parliament, land reform, labour legislation, universal free primary education in the pupils’ mother tongue, etc., was greeted by the Bulgarian Foreign Minister, not with praise and admiration, but with wrath and derision. In a letter to his Commercial Consul in Salonika, dated August 8,1908, General Paprikov wrote of the Serchani: ‘I avoid describing this group and its activity, not only because it is well known to all, but because it is beneath all description. Nevertheless, for the common good, we have to make political use of the whole senseless and pernicious activity of this group.’ Although the Serchani were trying to gain the confidence of the Young Turks, Paprikov considered that ‘their principles and doctrines, and the manner in which they propagate them, are not only impracticable in any country whatsoever, least of all Turkey, but are also totally at variance with the aims pursued by the Young Turks themselves. Above all, Sandansky and his



21. Kambana, No 325, 16.IX.1908.


22. Kambana, No 279, 30.VII.1908.





group are possessed by some kind of Socialist chauvinism. Their political creed is totally incompatible with the needs and conditions of any normal administration, let alone in Turkey at the present time.’ [23] Paprikov’s verdict was that nobody could work with Yané, and that instead of waiting for the Young Turks to find this out for themselves, the Bulgarian authorities should try and convince them of this immediately.


A few days later, the Minister wrote to the Commercial Consul in Salonika: ‘As for Sandansky’s activity, you must make it your task to stress, at every available opportunity, and more widely among the population, how pernicious this activity of his is, not only for Bulgaria, but for Macedonia itself, for which it heralds new disasters.’ [24]


Throughout these attacks on Yané and his group there runs, like a red thread, the accusation that they were Socialists and therefore dangerous to established society and an affront to common sense. That they supported the Young Turk Revolution, which had temporarily spiked the guns of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie—that was bad enough, but their intention of taking the revolution even further rendered them totally insupportable. The interests of the bourgeoisie were already seriously threatened in the Principality by the proliferation of strikes and the growing influence of Socialist ideas, and it was unthinkable that a man like Yané, with radical economic policies and pronounced republican views, could be allowed to control whole areas which the bourgeoisie hoped to exploit.


The Serres Programme was, in fact, very similar to minimum demands outlined by Dimitŭr Blagoev in his brochure The Revolution in Turkey and Social-Democracy. Blagoev had the full measure of the Young Turks as a social and political force, but, like Lenin, [25] he regarded their ‘half-victory’ as a step forwards: ‘In reality, this coup does not yet represent the revolution itself; it is merely the beginning of the revolution; it has opened up the way for the revolution in Turkey.’ [26] In Blagoev’s opinion, Social-Democrat groups in Macedonia and the Adrianople Region should now press for the following: the right to free self-determination for the nationalities in the Turkish Empire, and a federation of the united nations into a Balkan state; general, direct, equal and secret voting rights in all elected bodies—the Imperial Parliament, national people’s assemblies,



23. TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 293, pp. 120-121.


24. Ibid., p. 138.


25. Lenin wrote: ‘It is true that this victory is a half-victory, or even the smaller part of a victory, since the Turkish Nikolai II got off cheaply for the time being, with a promise to restore the celebrated Turkish constitution, but such half-victories in revolutions, such forced, rash concessions by the old order, are the surest guarantee of new, even more decisive, even sharper changes of fortune in civil war, involving broader masses of the people.’ See: Lenin, Goryachiy material v mirovoy politike (Inflammable material in world politics), Proletariy, July 23/August 5, 1908. Also, Collected Works (Russian edition), vol. 17, p. 177.


26. Unsigned article by Blagoev in Novo Vreme, Book 8-9, 1908. See also Blagoev, Sucbineniya, vol. 13, p. 68.





regional and local councils; the abolition of the Senate; full self-government in the regions and localities; full and free combination rights for the workers; full freedom of conscience and conviction, of speech, the press and assembly; labour legislation which will give wide protection to the interests of the working class, and especially to female and child labour in the factories, mines, workshops, chifliks, etc.; secular education in the schools and instruction in the language intelligible to each nationality; a people’s militia instead of a standing army; the abolition of all taxes in kind, and all indirect taxes and levies, and the introduction of a progressive tax on income and property. [27]


Yané’s assertion that the freedom granted to the peoples of the Turkish Empire should be so large and attractive that the other Balkan states would be induced to re-enter the Empire was also an idea shared by Dimitŭr Blagoev. While rejecting the Young Turks’ ideal of ‘ottomanizing’ the non-Turkish inhabitants as being more conducive to the break-up of the Empire than to its preservation, since the Turks were a minority in comparison with the other nationalities, Blagoev did not rule out the possibility of Turkey becoming a really strong, multinational state that could resist the inroads of European capital and colonialism, and play a progressive rule in the world: ‘However, Turkey can become such a state only when it transforms itself into a democratic state, based on the principle of the federation of the nations composing it, on the basis of the right to free determination for each of them within the state. Only this kind of Ottoman Empire is possible. Only this kind of Empire is also capable of acting as a magnet for those small Balkan states whose existence outside it will become impossible and senseless.’ [28] Whether Turkey could or could not be transformed, now that the door was open, depended on ‘those revolutionary forces whose hands the proclamation of the Constitution untied,’ and, in particular, on the development and rise of the proletariat. ‘Social-Democracy in Bulgaria,’ Blagoev declared, ‘has every interest in seeing that the revolution in Turkey develops to the desired end, and is not defeated by reaction. . . It goes without saying that our point of view cannot be shared by our bourgeois and petty-bourgeois patriots. For them, the revolution in Turkey is an extremely unpleasant surprise. It appears to have put paid to that dirty exploitation of the sufferings of "our brothers beyond Rila and the Rhodopes" and of "sacred national ideals" which for so many years our patriots have practised for personal and coterie-partisan aims, and as a justification for their reactionary policy, their attacks on the rights and freedoms of the working class and their witch-hunts against "social evil", against the conscious and organized Bulgarian proletariat—against Social-Democracy.’ [29]



27. Blagoev, Revolyutsia v Turtsia i Sotsialdemokratsia, Sŭchineniya, vol. 13, pp. 61-62.


28. Blagoev, Revolyutsiata v Turtsia, Sŭchineniya, vol. 13, pp. 77-78.


29. Ibid., p. 78.





The Bulgarian Government’s thinly veiled hostility towards the events in Turkey was also the subject of an article in the Serchani’s organ Konstitutsionna Zarya: ‘No one should find it strange that we concern ourselves first and foremost with the conduct of the Bulgarian Government and the Bulgarian State, when, around us, there are tens of other governments and states which pursue one or other policy as regards our affairs. We are Bulgarians first and foremost and we represent the interests mainly of the Bulgarian population in Macedonia and the Adrianople Region, with whose support our Organization has hitherto lived and struggled. As such, it is very natural that we should hope for and expect most support from those external factors which are closest to us in sentiment, in origin and national ties.’ These factors, according to the paper, are the Bulgarians living outside the Turkish Empire, and, in particular, those in the neighbouring Principality. The paper points out that the new situation benefits both the Bulgarians within the Turkish Empire and those in the Principality—the former because they are now free of the yoke of absolutism, and the latter because they need no longer bear the financial burden of preparations for a war with Turkey. For the last thirty years, Bulgarian statesmen have been saying that Bulgaria’s sole wish is to see the Bulgarians in Macedonia and the Adrianople Region accorded basic human rights and freedoms, and the conditions necessary for peaceful cultural and economic advance. Why then, the paper asks, is the Government acting with reserve towards the recent major events in Turkey? Was it aware whom it was harming by its negative attitude? ‘Well then, let us tell you from here: you are hindering, not the Turkish rulers, not the Turkish state, you are hindering, not the Greeks, nor the Serbs, but only the Macedonian Bulgarians. Do you understand what this means? This means that your conduct, apart from being powerless to shake or frighten, may well prove a godsend to many internal and external enemies of the Bulgarian people.’ [30]


Articles such as this give the lie to accusations that the Serchani were ‘people-without-a-fatherland’, people who had rejected their Bulgarian roots. Yané was Bulgarian to the core; he spoke no other language, and he had never been to a land uninhabited by Bulgarians. Salonika, with its cosmopolitan population, which included tens of thousands of Bulgarians, was the furthest that he had ever been ‘abroad’. He relaxed by singing Bulgarian songs and dancing Bulgarian folk dances. He had the instinctive love for Russia the Liberator and the Russian people which is part of Bulgarian patriotism, and he had that enthusiasm for books and education which is also characteristic of the Bulgarian. Few, if any, of the Organization’s leaders—from its inception to its dissolution—did more to popularize Bulgarian books and to improve Bulgarian education than Yané Sandansky. His democratic outlook, his republicanism, and his internationalism were



30. Konstitutsionna Zarya, No. 6, 5.IX.1908.





also traditional Bulgarian traits. He was being totally Bulgarian when he set the interests of the peasants above the ambitions of a foreign prince, when he insisted that freedom meant land, literacy, hygiene and health, as well as elections and a different flag—more Bulgarian, even, than the ‘patriots’ who called him a national turncoat, and more zealous a defender of the people’s interests. He supported the Young Turks precisely because he believed that by so doing—given the complicated state of Balkan politics—he could best help to preserve the unity and national identity of the Bulgarian population in Macedonia.


Quite early on, after the restoration of the Constitution, Right Wing leaders had put forward the idea of forming a legal Bulgarian political party, and, at a meeting held in the Salonika Girls’ High School, on July 27/August 9, 1908, a decision was taken to set up a so-called Constitutional Club. [31] Similar clubs were founded in towns, and even in larger villages, throughout Macedonia, most of them growing out of the ad-hoc commissions of leading citizens set up immediately after the proclamation of the Hürriyet to organize celebrations, liaise with the Young Turks, etc. Although the Clubs were not explicitly right wing and their membership was very varied, they were, in fact, dominated by the Right Wing of the Organization and by the richer and more conservative sections of the population, including persons who had taken no part whatsoever in the revolutionary struggle to liberate Macedonia. Panitsa and other Sandanitsi had attended the foundation meeting of the Salonika Constitutional Club, but had left before the election of officers, when they saw how the wind was blowing. The Statute of the Salonika Constitutional Club contained four main aims: to educate the Bulgarian population in the spirit of the immediate goal of provincial self-government (a euphonism for autonomy, designed to allay Turkish fears of annexation by Bulgaria), to develop Bulgarian culture, to maintain brotherly friendship with the other nationalities in the state, and to struggle in co-operation with them for the prosperity and greatness of the Ottoman Empire, and to give attention to the economic development of the country. [32]


In September 1908, the Clubs held a congress in Salonika, and formed themselves into a Union of Bulgarian Constitutional Clubs, with Toma Karayovov, a former member of the Supreme Committee, as its Chairman. The Union’s programme contained many detailed regulations governing membership and administration, but on social and economic questions it was both brief and vague. There was concern for the religious and educational rights of the Bulgarian population, but the problems of the peasants were brushed aside with nothing more than a call for ‘the return of lands in an easy and just manner", without any indication of how this



31. The fullest study of the history and activities of the Constitutional Clubs is Georgi Pŭrvanov’s Diploma Thesis Sŭzdavane i deinost na Bŭlgarskite konstitutsionni klubove. 1908-1909 (Faculty of History, Sofia University, 1982).


32. TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 293, pp. 98-99.





was to be achieved.


Among the reasons given for the setting up of the Constitutional Clubs was the view that the Organization had outlived its usefulness, and that both factions could unite in the Clubs. The rank-and-file members of the clubs were certainly in favour of rapprochement and joint work, just as, in an earlier period, the rank-and-file members of the Macedonian Societies in the Principality had wanted nothing better than a state of concord and co-operation between the Supreme Committee and the Organization. However, the leaders of the Constitutional Clubs, Karayovov, Petko Penchev and Vladimir Rumenov, acting in concert with the Bulgarian Government and the Court, had secretly set themselves two main tasks: to compromise the Young Turks and to get rid of Yané.


The Left, for its part, was of the opinion that it was the Constitutional Clubs, and not the Organization, which were superfluous, and that the Organization, far from having outlived its usefulness, was still the best instrument for ensuring real freedom for the Bulgarian population in Macedonia. [33] Konstitutsionna Zarya regarded the Clubs’ overtures for unity with some scepticism, pointing out that those who were calling for unity between the factions included people who had never taken part in the Organization and who were, in fact, hoping to use the Organization for their own purposes. The paper said that it was not individuals, but differences of policy, which divided the Organization, and that these differences were still the same as before. [34]


Shortly after the foundation of the Salonika Constitutional Club, and before the publication of the Left’s programme, the Right Wing of the Organization had published their own draft programme, which was supposed to serve as a basis for an agreement between both factions as to the Organization’s future activity. Described by the Salonika Commercial Consul in a report to Paprikov as ‘moderate requests in line with the spirit of our national tasks’, the Right Wing’s proposals were very limited in scope and contained little or nothing in the way of an economic policy. The main points of the plan, as reported by the Commercial Consul were: the formation of Macedonia (within her natural frontiers) into a province headed by a governor-general, with a directors’ council and a local provincial assembly, which would be allowed to pass local laws, control local administration and prepare a budget; the conclusive reform of the gendarmerie, assisted by a local militia; and the creation of new administrative divisions based on the principle that the population of the administrative units within each province should be as ethnically homogeneous as possible. According to the Consul, Yané rejected the draft as ‘ultra-nationalistic, local and anti-constitutional’. [35] What Yané had in mind when he used these words can be deduced from an article in



33. Konstitutsionna Zarya, No. 4, 29.VIII.1908.


34. Ibid., No..7, 8.IX.1908.


35. TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 293, pp. 103-106. Report dated 7.VIII.1908.





Konstitutsionna Zarya, in which the Left find fault with the programme because its demands apply only to the Bulgarian population in Macedonia and not to the rest of the Empire: ‘We think, and we are deeply convinced, that with a purely Macedonian position which, from the start, cuts us off from all the other nationalities who, tomorrow, will be at our side in the struggle for self-government, we will be going precisely against the interests of the Bulgarian people.’ [36]


Yet, in spite of all the problems and differences, there continued to exist a certain willingness on both sides to negotiate and to seek a basis for reconciliation between the two wings of the Organization. Once again, the idea of a general congress was mooted, and finally its date was fixed for September 25, before the elections for the new Parliament.


The conduct of these elections and various other aspects of Young Turk policy were, from the beginning, severely criticized by the Serchani. Indeed, they were far more frequent and open in their criticism than were their right-wing compatriots in the Constitutional Clubs. This apparent paradox is easily explained: while the Right Wing desired the downfall of the Young Turks, and were simply waiting for them to make a sufficient mess of things to warrant a return to the old tactics of disorders and intervention, the Serchani wanted to take the revolution further, and therefore boldly spoke out against everything which threatened progress and aided reaction. One of the main causes for complaint was the Election Law, which—unchanged since 1876—limited the franchise to men with property, thus depriving, not only women, but also landless peasants and wage-labourers of the right to vote. ‘It is the duty of all revolutionaries and revolutionary organizations to be aware of the danger which threatens them, to insist on the amendment of the "Election Law", which has been dug out of the archives.’ [37] Why should only men vote? asks Konstitutsionna Zarya. Why should there be one deputy to every 50,000 men, when the law applies to women and children as well? Why take the vote from those who have tried to work the natural resources of the country and have gone bankrupt in the process?


Yané himself, who never minced his words, did not hesitate to voice his own dissatisfaction, in the presence of Young Turks, at a meeting in Demir Hisar. He, together with Panitsa, Taskata Sersky, Kazepov and Dimo Hadzhidimov, arrived in the town on September 4 (old style), and stayed for a couple of days, in the course of which Hadzhidimov, Yané and a member of the local Young Turk Committee addressed an open-air meeting of some 1,200 people (Greeks, Turks, and Bulgarians) in front of the Young Turks’ club. Konstitutsionna Zarya described Yané’s speech as ‘a sharp criticism of the unsatisfactory character of the situation, determined by a Constitution lightly granted 32 years ago,



36. Konstitutsionna Zarya, No. 7, 8.IX.1908.


37. Konstitutsionna Zarya, No. 2, 22.VIII.1908.





and soon to be brazenly trampled under foot, a constitution which gives rights and privileges only to the reactionary strata of the people of the Turkish Empire. The broad masses of the people—peasants, craftsmen, workers and intellectuals—who offered up the most precious tribute before the altar of the freedom of our fatherland—have been cynically deceived. Those factors who are concerned about the integrity of Turkey must get it into their heads that the pacification of Turkey is possible only with the active participation of all nations and social strata, with the real democratization of all institutions and the abolition of all vestiges of privileges, property of the previous regime and inheritance, in the proposed constitution. Today’s freedom is false—in as much as it gives rights only to the reactionary strata, which will take the opportunity to use this fictitious freedom for oppressing and impoverishing the poor peasant population. The revolutionary organizations which guide the destinies of the peoples of the Turkish Empire and cherish its integrity, must realize that the avoidance of future cataclysms is possible only if equal and extensive political rights are given to the citizens, and if there are radical economic reforms which will satisfy the propertyless peasant population— the main revolutionary element in the struggles of the past and of the present.


‘He (Yané—M.M.) stressed the difficulties inherent in this path in view of the influx of paid agents from interested states, and the efforts of internal reaction to undermine the present situation and the future struggles, by taking the opportunity of sowing disunity in the ranks of the organized population. He called on the population to demonstrate against such agitation, and he concluded with an appeal to the people to rally around their organizations for concerted action, which he saw as the sole guarantee for the success of all future struggles.’ [38] Stormy applause greeted Yané’s speech, and the Young Turk who followed him had to admit that all had not yet been done and that much was unsatisfactory. Even so, his main message was to impress upon his audience the need to preserve peace within the Empire and to send good men to Parliament.


In fact, as far as the Young Turks were concerned, the granting of the Constitution meant that their aim had been achieved. They did not take over the government of the country, or even enter the Cabinet, preferring to stand aside, observing and controlling, and enjoying power without responsibility. They forced the Sultan to dismiss his spies and certain more hated representatives of the old regime, and to reduce the size of his palace staff and entourage. Further economies were made by overhauling the administrative organs in order to cut out unnecessary expenditure, but no fundamental changes, such as the abolition of the monarchy, self-determination for national minorities, or land reform, were either undertaken or even envisaged. Having, as they thought, render-



38. Konstitutsionna Zarya, No. 9, 14.IX.1908.





ed the Sultan harmless, the Young Turks allowed him to remain on the throne, and when the Cabinet of Kyuchyuk Said-Pasha resigned on August 5 (new style), the new Grand Vizir was not a Young Turk, but Kyamil-Pasha, a veteran politician of the old regime, who had already held the post more than once.


With so little change at the top, it is not surprising that, at local level, once the first delirium of freedom had passed, things began to revert to their former pattern, and the Bulgarian press in Salonika carried angry reports of arbitrary actions on the part of local Turkish governors. In Melnik, for example, the Turkish authorities took exception to the action of the Melnik District Committee of the Organization in holding a public meeting in the town to discuss the political situation and make recommendations for the attention of the future Parliament. They also objected to the convening of a District Congress in the village of Gorna Sushitsa on August 27 (old style) for the purpose of electing delegates for the forthcoming General Congress of the Organization. What rankled with the Turkish authorities was that the Bulgarians had not sought their permission before holding the meetings in question, and they decided to make trouble, using as an excuse the discovery that members of the Organization’s militia were still meeting to train. Threats were made that villages where the militia was found training would be burnt. At first, two members of the local Young Turk Committee seemed inclined to support the Organization against the deputy-Kaimakam, and promised a meeting at which matters were to be ironed out. This did not materialize, and, after abortive talks with the Demir Hisar Kaimakam, troops were brought into Melnik, attempts were made to convice the Organization’s District Committee that Yané himself had ordered an end to militia training, when he had done nothing of the kind, and a smear campaign was conducted against the Organization, accusing it of conspiring to burn chifliks, attack towns and so forth. In all this uproar, the representatives of the Young Turks played a very questionable role, acting in concert with the Government against the Organization. Finally, on September 6, Yané himself arrived in Melnik, together with Dimo Hadzhidimov, and the newly-appointed Kaimakam of Melnik, who had travelled with them. The Bulgarian leaders were met outside the town by a large group of teachers and peasants on horseback, who gave them a rapturous welcome. [39] Yané at once attempted to deal with the ugly situation which had developed in Melnik and which was threatening the whole spirit of the Hitrriyet. He had several rather stormy and unsatisfactory meetings with the local Young Turks, in the course of which he indignantly repudiated the accusations against the Organization, and offered to suspend the training of the Bulgarian militia, if, indeed, it was upsetting other nations



39. Letters from Dimo Hadzhidimov to his wife. TPA, f. 151, op. 1, a.e. 412, p. 25 (letter dated 5.IX.1908) and p. 26 (letter dated 7.IX.1908).





and was the reason for the presence of troops in the town. He then said: ‘Come, let us investigate the whole business, and I am ready to answer with my head if you can establish that we have ordered people not to pay taxes, to attack the towns, and to loot and burn the chifliks, but, if the contrary proves true, will you agree to spit publicly on the slanderers in the street and drive them ignominiously out of the town?’ He received no answer, because, in fact, the slanderers in question were before him. After this, the Young Turks appear to have approached Yané’s comrades from Strumitsa and Salonika, [40] requesting them to come to Melnik and mediate, but this idea was soon abandoned. The Turks then did something which nearly wrecked the whole conception of the Hürriyet in the Melnik district: during the night, the house where Yané was staying was surrounded by troops and gendarmes, and, in the morning, he was taken under guard to the telegraph office. Here he received an invitation from the Young Turk Committee to return to Salonika immediately in order to discuss things. Yané, however, was not to be duped or intimidated. Once again, he repudiated the accusations against the Organization, and told the Salonika Committee by telegraph that the truth could be established only in Melnik, and that, instead of his going to Salonika, a member of the Committee should come to Melnik. He then stated categorically that, if they did not immediately restore his freedom as a citizen of constitutional country, and if they made so bold as to drag him around under guard, he washed his hands of the consequences. Fortunately for all concerned, Yané’s resolute behaviour brought the Salonika Committee to its senses, and it beat a hasty retreat. Yané left the telegraph office a free man, and the Melnik Turks drew in their horns. But the damage had been done. As he departed, Yané remarked bitterly: ‘You and your leaders in Salonika have chilled our hearts, you have chilled the hearts of our whole population. From now on, we are brothers in word, until you give firm proof that we can be such both in deed and in our hearts.’ [41]


Yané did not, however, allow his ‘chilled’ heart to overrule his intellect and reason. Whatever its faults and shortcomings, the Young Turk regime still offered the best prospects for the future of the Bulgarian population in Macedonia. The alternative was a return to the old regime and the solution of the Macedonian problem through war, which could never be a



40. Konstitutsionna Zarya states: ‘The Salonika Committee sent telegraphic requests to certain gentlemen—till yesterday our comrades in the Organization, whose names we shall not mention for the time being, who have reached the ‘conviction’ that the Organization is useless under the new regime—to come to Melnik and mediate in the smoothing out of the conflict, or in other words, to try and convince the Serres revolutionaries of the uselessness of the Organization.’ At the time the Strumitsa and Salonika leaders, such as Chernopeev and Deliradev, were in favour of working closely with the Young Turk Committee for the extension of the constitutional regime, and of suspending the Organization in their areas.


41. Konstitutsionna Zarya, No. 11, 22.IX.1908.





satisfactory solution, since Bulgaria was not, and would never be, strong enough to impose her will on all her neighbours. War would inevitably give the Greeks and Serbs the right, backed by international treaty, to do what their armed cheti had, until recently, been trying to do. Of this Yané was absolutely convinced.


No, the Young Turk regime must be made to work; the Bulgarian population of Macedonia must remain whole, and must be united within itself. The forthcoming General Congress was of vital importance: three of the six regions had already subscribed to the Left’s programme; a very similar programme had been adopted by the Adrianople Region at an Extraordinary Congress held at the end of August 1908; [42] and certain leaders in the Skopje Region also inclined towards the Left. Thus, the Right Wing was likely to find itself in the minority, and there was a real possibility of the Left’s programme becoming the official policy of the Organization, and of the development of a concerted campaign for social and economic reform which the Young Turks would find hard to resist.


Yet, once again, the opening of the General Congress was sabotaged by the Right Wing in a shockingly dramatic manner. Yané had returned to Salonika from Melnik on September 23, and on September 24 (old style)— the day before the Congress was scheduled to begin its work—he went to the cafe of the Boshnyak Han, with two former chetnitsi, Mitso Vransky and Tancho Atanasov. While they were there, Dimitŭr Zapryanov, one of the renegade Serchani, came over to Yané’s table, and began a provocative conversation. Suddenly, Tané Nikolov, a Sarafist sympathizer, who had been drinking coffee at a nearby table, pulled out a revolver and shot Yané in the back. The bullet passed under his right shoulder-blade, touched his lung and came out a little below the collar-bone, temporarily paralyzing his right arm, so that he could not fire back. He managed, however, to get out into the street, and a second bullet fired at him missed. His two companions were not so lucky. Several shots had been fired at them by Zapryanov, who then fled, pursued by the two chetnitsi, who fell dead in their tracks a few yards from the cafe. Yané managed to make his way to the pharmacy of Dr Tenchev, who gave him first aid, before he was taken to the Italian Hospital in the fashionable Pirgi district of Salonika for proper treatment. The wound proved to be relatively light; no complications set in, and Yané was able to leave hospital after two or three weeks.


The Congress, however, had been well and truly wrecked. There was no doubt whatsoever that the assassination attempt was the work of the Right Wing leaders, acting on behalf of the Bulgarian Court, for the main participants admitted as much. Tané Nikolov admitted receiving the revolver from Petko Penchev, [43] who, on a number of occasions, before various



42. See Konstitutsionna Zarya, 3.X.1908.


43. See Memoirs of Tané Nikolov, recorded by Ivan Harizanov, TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 23, pp. 62-64.





witnesses, [44] told the story of how he had been received more than once by Prince Ferdinand, how they had discussed the menace posed by Yané, how the Prince had told the Prime Minister, Malinov, to give Penchev whatever he needed, and how he had received large sums for the removal of Yané and for the Constitutional Clubs. The importance which Ferdinand attached to the removal of Yané is reflected in a telegram, dated 25.IX.1908, and sent to the Prince by his private secretary, Stefan Chaprashikov: ‘I have this moment learnt, but cannot check, that Sandansky was today seriously wounded in Salonika by the voivoda Tané Nikolov of the Internal Organization. At long last!’ [45]


Had Yané really been killed, Ferdinand’s cup of joy would indeed, have brimmed over, for, shortly before the shooting in the Boshnyak Han, he had been proclaimed Tsar, in the historic mediaeval church of the Forty Martyrs in Tŭrnovo, on September 22, 1908, when Bulgaria, taking advantage of the turmoil in Turkey, had unilaterally declared her independence. The ending of the vassalage imposed upon Bulgaria by the Treaty of Berlin was greeted with joy by the whole Bulgarian people; and, in itself, it was obviously a step that was both progressive and long overdue. The timing and manner of the declaration were, however, calculated to damage the prestige of the Young Turks and to destabilize them at a time when reaction in Turkey had been scotched but by no means killed. Indirectly, it was also a challenge to Serbia, since Austro-Hungary’s annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the following day was seen by the Serbs as the second step in a co-ordinated plan discussed and agreed during the summer which Ferdinand had spent on his estates in Hungary. Although Bulgaria had long acted as though she were a sovereign state, so that the declaration of independence was largely a formality, Ferdinand undoubtedly regarded his transformation from a vassal prince into an independent tsar as a major step along the road to Byzantium and the slab of imperial porphyry. Among the obstacles which now stood between him and the realization of his ambitions was the republican ‘Tsar of Pirin’, who was not only undermining Bulgaria’s foreign policy, but also, according to dispatches of the royal advisers, constantly prowling in the vicinity of the royal residences and conspiring against the Sovereign’s life. [46] Ferdinand, who had long suffered from an obsessive fear of being assassinated, believed all these unconfirmed rumours of sightings and conspiracies, and,



44. These include Ivan Harizanov (see TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 27, pp. 10-19), Blazhé Vidov, Tushé Chopov and Ivan Sandansky, Yané’s nephew. (See Memoirs of Blazhé Vidov, TPA Memoirs 299).


45. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1335, p. 49.


46. The royal archives abound in reports of sensational plots, etc.—all said to be from well-informed sources, but, in fact, without foundation. It is clear that Ferdinand’s ministers, advisers, etc., wished him to believe that Yané was determined to kill him, and were exploiting Ferdinand’s fear of assassination. There is no evidence that Yané ever contemplated killing Ferdinand, as opposed to kidnapping him, until 1914. Even then, Yané gave up the idea because he could not secure the backing of





trembling in his shoes, turned to Yané’s enemies, with requests to rid him of the troublesome spectre that haunted him day and night.


After the attempt on Yané’s life, Penchev, Nikolov, Zapryanov and Zankov—(the latter had also been a party to the plot, but, like Penchev, had not been in the café at the time)—all left Salonika in a hurry for the Principality. Somewhere near Gevgeli, Tané, Zapryanov and Zankov met up with each other and, furious that Yané had survived, they discussed how they could kill him in the hospital. According to Tané Nikolov, Mihail Chakov learned of their plans and warned Yané, who was given a Turkish guard to protect him. [47] Karayovov, the Chairman of the Constitutional Clubs, continued the campaign against Yané, and, in a letter to Dobrovich, the head of Ferdinand’s secret cabinet, he suggested that, since Yané and his friends often visited a Bulgarian captain, Alexander Angelov, on his ship when it brought flour from Varna to Salonika, it might be possible to kidnap Yané and bring him to Bulgaria for trial: ‘Is it possible to make use of the freedom with which they visit our ship to send them gratis to our lawcourts? There is no other way of ridding us of certain fears for you there and of extinguishing the pomak [48] party which is now being organized here.’ [49]


Fears were expressed in some quarters that the attempt on Yané’s life might lead to a bloody vendetta, and Chernopeev’s newspaper Edinstvo pleaded with the Serchani not to take vengeance: ‘Leave the stinking reptiles to suffocate in their own stench. Don’t waste your bullets and



any of the major parties which was essential if Bulgaria’s political course was to be changed.


47. TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 23, pp. 63-64.


48. Pomak was the name given to those Bulgarians who embraced Islam during the Turkish occupation, and the term ‘pomak party’ is a snide reference to the Left groupings around Edinstvo and Konstitutsionna Zarya, which in 1909 united to form the People’s Federative Party in opposition to the Constitutional Clubs.


49. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1308, p. 21, report dated 20.X.1908. Additional information about Captain Angelov can be found in Stoyan Rostov’s book Pod Roden Flag, 1967. In one of the many alarmist reports sent to Prince Ferdinand was the following, sent to him while he was in the Palace of Evksinograd, near Varna, by Dobrovich: ‘We have information that several Sandanisti have sailed from Salonika for Burgas on the steam-ship Bŭlgaria. We have made all necessary arrangements for their capture even before the ship docks in Burgas, and also for the arrest of Angelov, the captain of the ship, who is a blatant Sandanist. For this purpose, special police and one of Lyapov’s people who knows all Sandansky’s cut-throats have left here for Burgas. Orders have been given for not only the Bulgaria, but all other ships arriving at Varna or Burgas from Constantinople to be searched and kept under observation.’ Ferdinand replied, in a mixture of French and Bulgarian: ‘Am horribly shocked by the new attempts on my life. I don’t know where to go. It is a disgrace to the whole Bulgarian nation to tolerate with culpable indifference this from a murderer like Sandansky. Speak to the ministers. Stop. I cannot return to Sofia if this continues.’ See TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1197, p. 178 (telegram dated 21.XI.1908) and p. 182 (telegram dated 22.XI.1908).





energy.’ [50] In fact, Yané took no action against either Tané Nikolov or those who stood behind him, but Zapryanov was killed not long afterwards in Kyustendil. Some ten months later, when questioned by a journalist from the Turkish newspaper Ittihad, Yané said that it was possible that his comrades had killed Zapryanov because of Mitso, but, if so, it had been contrary to his wishes. [51] Mitso’s son, Stoyan, tells a different story. In his memoirs, he describes how, a day or two after his father’s murder, Petŭr Govedarov brought him to Salonika, where he visited Yané in hospital, and heard him tell Govedarov to send a note to Tasko Stoilov in Kocherinovo, one of the Organization’s frontier posts, informing him of Mitso’s death and instructing him to have ‘that monster" Zapryanov killed. If this is true, then it appears that, while Yané found the strength to resist the temptation to take personal revenge on Tané Nikolov, he may have felt compelled to avenge his two companions— Mitso, whose death left not only Stoyan, but also four other children without a father, and Tancho, the boy from Rozhen, who had carried the red flag up into Pirin, and who had died without even attaining his majority. As in the case of the chetnitsi killed by Mihal from Kapatovo, Yané himself was partly to blame for their deaths: the ever-vigilant Mitso had felt uneasy about the arrival of Zapryanov from Sofia and the presence of Tané in the Boshnak Han, but Yané had brushed his warnings aside and had forbidden him to take pre-emptive action. The wound inflicted by Tané Nikolov would heal, but there was no cure for those inflicted by Zapryanov, and Yané’s heart would always ache for Mitso and Tancho. What little he could do he did, and, seeing that Stoyan looked ill, he sent him to a doctor, and made arrangements for him to have new clothes and to be enrolled in a school. [52]


Another appeal for an end to bloodshed within the Organization—directed more towards the Right then the Serchani—came from the Progressive-Liberal paper, Bŭlgaria. By no stretch of the imagination could Bŭlgaria be considered a left-wing publication, yet its editors had clearly been impressed by the Serres programme. In an article entitled Enough Blood! the paper states that, in the past, the enemies of the Serchani have done their best to make them out to be ‘a ferocious sect, which has nothing to do with things Bulgarian, and which is not even inspired by any kind of social ideal’. These accusations, says Bŭlgaria, are not borne out by the activities of the Serchani. On the contrary, ‘these activities demonstrate the reverse, namely that, by preserving the security and integrity of the Bulgarian element within its region, which is also inhabited by Graecomanes, the Serres Organization has continued its Bulgarian work after the constitutional revolution as well, by drafting a programme with



50. Edinstvo, 11.X.1908.


51. See TDIA, f. 176, op. 2, a.e. 451.


52. Memoirs of Stoyan Mitsov Samardzhiev, kept in the Regional Archives, Blagoevgrad.





which, on an equal footing with other activities of the Internal Organization, they, in fact, stand on Bulgarian ground. And this proves that "the Tsar of Pirin", who, with this nickname and with all the other epithets, was presented as a man sans foi ni loi, is not merely capable of professing political principles and of embracing and fighting for social ideals, but, in addition, feels, thinks and acts like a Bulgarian.’ In the paper’s opinion, ‘it is a delusion to think, and unpatriotic to preach and to agitate that Sandansky and his supporters are enemies of all things Bulgarian. On the contrary—the creators of an iron organization in their area, these people have demonstrated that they have political culture and can be reliable workers for national aims.’ Bŭlgaria also considered that, in view of the heritage of the past, it was important that there should be Bulgarians who were able to win the confidence of the Young Turks and improve relations between the two peoples, and that, in this respect, the Serchani deserved the gratitude of all. [53]



53. See Bŭlgaria, 27.IX.1908.


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