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





When the Hürriyet made it possible for Yané to come out of the shadows and to work in the open, he chose Melnik as his permanent home. Here, he was in the centre of the district, within easy reach of its villages and constantly in touch with all that was going on. He would tour the Serres Region, and, when telegraphic communications proved inadequate for his purpose, he would travel to Salonika or Constantinople for consultations or discussions. Melnik was a pleasant place to live—southern and sunbaked, and yet cooled by breezes which blew along the courses of its two rivers, bringing the freshness of the upland forests and pastures down to the golden, sandy canyons. Melnik had little room for gardens, but fig-trees thrived wherever they could find a foothold, the balconies of the white houses were crowded with geraniums redder than the red-tiled roofs and brighter than the crimson wine, and, in late spring, more nightingales than were ever heard in the fountain-courts beside the Bosphorus sang day and night in the thickets around the town. To see the whole of his district at a glance, Yané had only to take the path that climbed the cliffs to the south of the town. Here, on the wooded heights, were the ruins of mediaeval churches and fortress walls, from whence, centuries before, the sentinels of Despot Slav had gazed forth, keeping watch on all the points of the compass, northwards towards the snowy summits of Pirin, southwards to Alibotush, Belasitsa and the road to the sea, westwards to Ograzhden, and eastwards to Orelyak, the peak which stands above Nevrokop like an eagle with outspread wings.


In Melnik, Yané lived in a house belonging to Georgi Kotsev. It was not a typical Melnik house, but had been built shortly before the Hürriyet, with a shop on the ground floor, where Bulgarians could purchase goods after the Organization had introduced its economic boycott against the Greeks. Now that he had a permanent home, Yané invited his sister, Sofia, to leave Vlahi, where she had continued to live after the Organization had executed her husband, and to join him in Melnik. She agreed to do so, for both of them were alone in the world, and such an arrangement was obviously to their mutual happiness and advantage. Yané adored Sofia; he never used her name, but always called her ‘Sister’, and his eyes would shine with tenderness when he looked at her, or joked with her. Paraskeva Potskova, who came to know both of them very well, [1]



1. After Yané’s death, Sofia stood godmother to all the subsequent Potskov children.





commented: ‘I have never seen such love between a brother and a sister.’ The two of them were very much alike: their eyes and mouths were similar, and their characters had much in common. Both were cheerful, buoyant souls, who laughed from their hearts and were able to impart their courage and optimism to others. Yet, in relation to their own feelings and experiences, both were extremely reserved, and would let no one penetrate into the private world of their emotions and their sufferings.


Close as they were, there was one matter on which brother and sister could not see eye to eye. Yané hated to see Sofia wearing her widow’s black kerchief—perhaps because he found it an unpleasant reminder of former things—and he would often pull it off, and start winding her plaits into a stylish bun. ‘That’s how I like to see you,’ he would say, ‘I’ll buy you combs and pins, and you’ll go about like that.’ But she would always reply: ‘Let me be, Yané, my body is blackened (i.e. by poverty, hardship, etc.—M.M.) and I will not go about without a black kerchief.’


During the holidays, Yané and Sofia would be joined by their nephew, Ivan, (Vanché), for whom Yané had arranged a scholarship at the Lycée in Constantinople, a Turkish school, where the teaching was mainly in French. Ivan and Yané did not get on very well together, mainly, it seems, because Yané was too strict for the young man’s taste. He did not give lectures or make scenes over his nephew’s conduct, but would choose a moment when he could lay down the law tersely and apparently a propos of nothing. Once, for example, Yané noticed that Ivan was flirting with a Greek girl in Melnik. He waited until Ivan was massaging him to treat a chill, and then while he was bending over and their eyes could not meet, Yané simply said: ‘Until you have finished school, absolutely no marriage.’ Ivan understood what he was driving at, and although he made no answer, he stopped flirting with the girl. On another occasion, Yané noticed that Ivan was playing backgammon with Petŭr Govedarov, and, again, he waited until Ivan was rubbing him, and said: ‘If you want to go on the spree, I’ll give you a lira or two, but you are not to gamble.’ Later on, Ivan wanted to study in Brussels, and initially Yané was quite willing to agree, but, to Ivan’s intense disappointment, Chudomir talked him out of the idea by saying that Ivan would get into bad habits abroad. Alarmed by this prospect, Yané withdrew his support for the plan, and, as a result, Ivan was angry with him for a very long time, until finally Buynov smoothed things out between them. [2] When Yané’s constraint and displeasure became too irksome, Ivan would leave Melnik for Vranya, where he would stay with the Potskovs, for weeks on end, if necessary.


One of Yané’s main concerns in the summer of 1909, after his return from Constantinople, was the setting up of the People’s Federative Party. The Foundation Congress took place in Salonika from August 3-10, in the



Paraskeva Potskova adored both the godparents of her children; for her they remained ‘the most respected, most loved and the best of people".


2. See Yurdan Anastasov, Spomen za Yané Sandansky, p. 483.





Splendid Palace Hotel, overlooking the sea. Such was the public interest in the Congress that the guests (some two hundred) outnumbered the thirty-three delegates from fifteen districts. One of these delegates— F. Bayraktarov—from Skopje—was a Turk. The Congress was opened by Hristo Yankov, as the representative of the Salonika Organization of the Party, and he was accompanied on the platform by Dimitŭr Vlahov, one of the Bulgarian deputies to the Turkish Parliament. Two reports were presented to the Congress, one, by Yankov, on the state of the local Party branches and the building of the Party, and the other, by Angel Tomov, on the ideological basis of the Party newspaper Narodna Volya. The Congress discussed and adopted a Declaration, Programme and Rules for the new Party, and elected a Central Buro consisting of Dimitŭr Vlahov, Anastas Matliev and Hristo Yankov (all resident in Salonika), and six counsellors: Yané, Buynov, Chernopeev, Dobri Daskalov (Tikvesh), Dimitŭr Koshtanov (Gorna Dzhumaya) and Yurdan Shurkov (Veles). The Party decided to name itself the People’s Federative Party (Bulgarian Section), since it was hoped that other nationalities would adopt its programme and form their own sections within the Party, but, in fact, this never happened.


The Declaration reflected the ideals, and optimism, of those Bulgarian Socialists who were the driving force behind the new Party, and who, despite the setbacks and disappointments of the past year, still retained their faith in the possibility of so transforming the Ottoman Empire that it would form the nucleus of a future federation of free nations. By now, the outlook was far less encouraging than it had been when Yané had signed the Manifesto to All the Nationalities in the Empire in the name of the Left, and he himself no longer spoke so demonstratively of a common ‘Fatherland’ and ‘fellow citizens’, as he had done in the early days of the ‘Millenium’. Nevertheless, no one among the delegates was yet prepared to abandon the dream simply because its realization was becoming less easy, any more than the Socialists were prepared to abandon their beliefs, simply because their revolution was not just around the corner. The Declaration was, therefore, a statement of intent, a kind of credo which defiantly expressed the ideals and maximum aspirations of the Left.


The Declaration of the Party begins with the following words: ‘The interests of all national minorities in the Ottoman Empire coincide with those of the working masses of the people, with the interests of the revolution and the common interests of the State. The rapid development of the productive forces and the promotion of means of livelihood—this is the supreme need of the State. This need can be satisfied only by the further triumph of the revolution, which requires that the working population be relieved of onerous chiflik conditions and tax burdens, that local occuptions be stimulated and encouraged, and, most important, that the political conditions necessary for the economic progress of the country be created: the assurance of internal order and security by guaranteeing the





full and free development and participation of the national minorities, and by the complete triumph of people’s power, which will make the interests of the working people the chief factor in the life of society and the State.’ The Declaration criticizes both the Party of Union and Progress and the Constitutional Clubs on the grounds that they represent the interests of ‘nationally-divisive, partisan, exploiting elements’, and are basically conservative forces having nothing in common with ‘the genuine triumph of people’s power and the revolution’. The Union and Progress organization, for example, is described as serving the interests of the Turkish bureaucracy and intelligentsia, of the big landowners and of the developing Turkish big bourgeoisie, whose present interests demand the retention of their own privileged position at the expense of the people, or of similar sections of other nationalities. The Constitutional Clubs are said to represent the interests of ‘privileged clerical and secular bureaucrats’ and of a rising bourgeoisie which seeks to grab markets and power for itself at the expense of other national bourgeoisies, and therefore they try to ‘organize under their own banner—the banner of a separate national struggle—all the forces of their own nation, and, as far as they are able, they disunite, and make use of, the revolutionary forces of the working masses of the entire people.’


In contrast, the People’s Federative Party set itself the following basic aims: ‘the organization of the working people, in the name of their immediate and long-term interests, against monarchism, nationalism, and parasitic and exploiting classes, against the present constitutional reaction, supported both by the Union and Progress Organization itself and by the separatism of the Constitutional Nationalist Clubs; and the raising of a common Ottoman democratic banner against the banner of national separatism.’ The Declaration states that since the interests of the Bulgarian population coincide with those of all working people, the Party programme has been formulated in such a manner as to consist of demands both applicable and acceptable to all nationalities. ‘While the parties which struggle for national hegemony organize themselves under the banner of national separatism, and endeavour to rally all elements of their own nation against the other nations, the People’s Federative Party bases its organization on internationalism. Its ultimate demands on the national question are none other than the common ultimate demands of democracy: the guaranteeing of the fullest self-expression for every nation in the local community, in the sandjak, the vilayet and the province.’ In spite of the existence of common interests, the Party considered that, in view of the problems posed by differences in language, culture, etc., it should organize itself on a federative basis, with a General Central Buro and Treasury above the national sections. Since the interests both of the Ottoman Empire and the neighbouring states were menaced by the imperialist ambitions of the various Great Powers, the Party also raised the slogan of an Eastern Federation, which would be in a position





to resist such inroads on their independence. The Declaration ends with the following statement: ‘The People’s Federative Party, which raises a new banner, which is formed in the name of a new political and social outlook, and which has a revolutionary mission in society, can organize itself and grow only in the process of uncompromising struggle with conservative and reactionary social forces and influences.’


The Programme of P.F.P. (Bulgarian Section)—whose first article reads: ‘Supreme power belongs to the people’—closely corresponds to the already familiar platform of the Left vis-à-vis elections, taxation, agrarian reform (now without confiscation of land), etc., but it goes into greater detail than previous statements on local self-government, both in administrative matters and in the exploitation of local natural resources, and it includes some additional proposals. For example, freedom to strike has been added to the other freedoms, such as freedom of conscience, speech, etc. This addition was necessitated by the recent introduction of anti-strike and anti-union legislation. [3] A large section of the Programme is devoted to economic questions, and the proposals include the following: the election of commissions to investigate complaints of improperly appropriated land, with a view to its restoration to its rightful owners; the furnishing of landless peasants with land sufficient to support a family, taken from landowners at property-tax value, and paid for, interest-free, over twenty years; state insurance against damage to crops by hail, drought and other natural disasters; travelling teacher-specialists to popularize technical education, and the introduction of free trade between the Balkan states and Turkey. The Programme calls for free, universal, compulsory primary education lasting six years; primary and secondary education is to be conducted in the pupils’ mother tongue, but the official language (i.e. Turkish) should be taught in secondary schools; each nationality should have its own schools, which would be controlled by councils elected regionally by the nationality in question, and the State Budget for Education should be divided proportionally among the different nationalities. The section on National Health calls for ‘the opening of hospitals in all district centres, and the opening of specialist departments in the regional centres; the placing of all mineral springs under the supervision of the health authorities; an increase in the number of doctors and medical auxiliaries, so that there should be one doctor with the necessary number of auxiliaries per 20,000 inhabitants, with a practice not more than 20 kilometres in radius; school doctors to improve hygiene in schools and the teaching of this subject in schools.’ The section on law includes a call for the abolition of the death penalty; for Justices of the Peace to be elected, and for the provision of free legal aid for the poor. Several articles of the Programme make proposals for labour legislation; hours of work should be reduced, and greatly so in unhealthy and dangerous



3. See Aliev, Opus cit., pp. 169-170.





industries; there should be a ban on night work and overtime for women and children, no children under 15 should work, and young people between 15 and 18 should have a 6-hour working day; workers should be insured against accidents, illness, etc., at the expense of the State and the master.


The Party Rules offer membership to any Bulgarian who is an Ottoman citizen and over the age of 20, providing he is recommended by two people who are already members. Non-Bulgarians will also be accepted as members until such time as there is a separate section of the Party for the given nationality. Members are expected to be active in propagating the Party’s principles, in winning new members and in circulating the Party’s newspaper and other publications. An interesting detail reflecting the traditional Serres ‘Kulturträger’ policy is that every Party branch is assumed to have a library and to require a librarian as well as a Secretary and a Treasurer.


The Congress also passed a number of resolutions. The first of these dealt in detail with the plight of the chiflik peasants, who, in the words of the resolution, ‘are not only deprived of the right of ownership over the land which they work, land soaked with the blood and sweat of their grandfathers and forefathers, but are also subjected to a regime of unparalleled exploitation and maltreatment, unhindered by any law and recalling the harshest regimes of mediaeval slavery.’ Living in houses which, from the point of view of amenities, ‘cannot be distinguished from the stables and hen-houses of the beys’, these peasants still suffered from all the injustices and indignities that they suffered at the hands of the landowners and their agents before the Hürriyet: forced labour, extortion, excessive taxation, etc. The resolution enumerated the worst evils and made proposals for their elimination. Another resolution dealt with the problem of Turkish refugees from former parts of the Empire. In many districts, these had been settled on land taken from the Bulgarian population. The Congress demanded that such land be returned to its original owners, and that no more be given to new refugees.


A third resolution dealt with the question of schools, and of Bulgarian schools in particular. The question was an extremely important one, since schools were traditionally one of the main channels for nationalist propaganda of various kinds. The Congress called for a complete separation of education from all religious organizations, since, in the opinion of the delegates, the clergy served ‘not the cause of progress and culture, but that of ignorance and darkness’. In the case of the Bulgarian schools, this meant ending the Exarchate’s role in the management and financing of the schools, in the appointment of teachers, inspectors, etc., and the Congress proposed that a national assembly, consisting of three delegates for each district, directly elected by all Bulgarian Ottoman citizens over the age of 20, should meet to work out new rules for the management of schools and to elect a secular council, with a two-year mandate, which





would give overall leadership to Bulgarian education within the Ottoman Empire. ‘Centralism and bureaucracy’ in the sphere of education were to be abolished, and the rural and urban Bulgarian communities, together with school governors, were to be given wide freedom in running their own local school affairs.


A curious feature of the period around the Congress were the persistent rumours, fed to the Bulgarian Press by the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, that Yané was thinking of leaving the P.F.P. to join the Constitutional Clubs, or that he was actively working for a merger between the two organizations. Shortly before the Congress opened, Yané publically denied that he had accepted the Programme of the Constitutional Clubs, and that the Congress would discuss a merger. He said, however, that he was not against a merger, providing that the differences of principle between the two parties could be resolved. [4] Other rumours quoted him as saying that he was the boss of the P.F.P. in Macedonia, and, in this connection, the Congress had asked him for an explanation. According to Dnevnik, ‘Sandansky stated categorically, amid applause from the delegates, that he was in no way a boss, and that he knew nothing about the rumours. He was in favour of a central management body for the Party, but not of a boss as well. Sandansky subsequently declared that he worked as a true democrat, and that he worked as an ordinary member of the Party, in as far as he understood the principles of the Party. The rumours were malicious.’ [5] The rumours, however, continued to circulate even after the Congress, and Yané issued a fresh denial through the columns of Narodna Volya, [6] specifically referring to a report in Radev’s paper Vercbema Poshta that he was about to leave the P.F.P. for the Constitutional Clubs.


The ultimate source of these rumours can only be surmised, but undoubtedly they were intended to discredit Yané in the eyes of his own comrades and to disunite the Left. Misinformation about the Left was also evidently being fed to foreign representatives, since, in a letter to Sir Edward Grey, H.E. Satow (the British acting consul-general in Salonika) reported that Yané could neither read nor write! [7] Not all Bulgarian newspapers were guilty of rumour-mongering of this kind. The Conservative opposition paper Mir took the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency to task for daily peddling what it described as ‘some or other crude lie, intrigue or insinuation’. Mir also criticized the Bulgarian Government for slandering and persecuting the Left, and expressed its approval for the newly-published Programme of the P.F.P.: ‘The programme is of a character which could satisfy the most freedom-loving persons among us, without



4. Dnevnik, 7.VIII.1909.


5. Ibid., 11.VIII.1909.


6. Narodna Volya, 29.VIII.1909.


7. Public Record Office, London. Foreign Office 371.606, pp. 266-267. Letter dated August 30, 1909.





wounding the feelings of any conscientious and sensible Bulgarian. We would like all Bulgarians to be "people-without-a-fatherland" and "traitors" of this kind.’ [8]


Rumours were not the only weapons used against Yané during that summer of 1909. The reports which Karayovov regularly sent to Dobrovich, head of the Tsar’s secret Cabinet, reveal that both the Court and the leadership of the Constitutional Clubs were still actively trying to bring about Yané’s death. In a report, [9] dated May 4, 1909, and written on the headed note-paper of the Clubs, Karayovov informed Dobrovich that an unnamed former chetnik had arrived in Salonika the previous week, sent by Petko Penchev, and bearing a letter of recommendation to Karayovov and Rumenov. Another chetnik was expected shortly, and the two ‘were charged with the task of following and. . . Sandansky.’ It is not hard to imagine the verb so delicately replaced with dots. The report goes on to explain that ‘the people who have to assist here before and after the job find the plan misbegotten’, firstly, because the chetnik, who is ‘known to them, does not inspire confidence in success, since he has twice deserted from the cheti and surrendered his gun himself,’ and secondly because he has constantly been haunting the Club, and has been seen with people who, ‘for the police, have to stand aside from the job, even if they are directly assisting it. For these reasons, the people here refuse to do the job with the said chetnik’. Nevertheless, Karayovov goes on to say that thought has been given to ‘the job’, and that they have in mind suitable ‘active people’.


On July 9, 1909, Karayovov wrote the following report to Dobrovich, this time on the headed paper of ‘Agence Commerciale de Bulgarie’: ‘In one of my last letters to you, I explained the opinions of the people here on the question of Sandansky, and asked you to give me time. Now I can inform you that the idea adopted is already nearing realization. Sandansky is in Constantinople: there he is being shadowed by a double network of people, who have no contact with each other. It is possible that before this letter reaches you we shall have news of a job completed.’ [10]


The ‘double network’ came nowhere near completing ‘the job’, but, immediately after the Congress of the P.F.P., yet another attempt was made on Yané’s life. On August 14 (old style), he and Stoyu Hadzhiev had supper at the Vardar Restaurant in Salonika, a favourite haunt of the Left, and then set out for their rooms in the Hotel Kolombo. At various times during the evening, both in the streets and in the restaurant, they had been conscious of being watched and followed, and, when they reached a point near the Ottoman Bank, several shots were fired at them from behind. Yané was hit under the left shoulder blade, and the bullet passed close to his heart without, in fact, doing any serious damage, while



8. Mir, 15.VIII.1909.


9. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1588, pp. 17-19.


10. Ibid., p. 41.





Stoyu was hit in the thigh. They took a cab to the pharmacy of Dr Tenchev, who had given Yané first aid after the previous attempt on his life and who once again extracted the bullets. Later they both went to the Italian Hospital for proper treatment. Yané and Stoyu were able to identify two of their assailants, Alexander Vasilev and Yordan Velchev, who were both arrested by the Turkish police, and, in January 1910, both were sentenced to life imprisonment. Little information is available about Vasilev, but Velchev appears to have been a dubious character, to say the least. Bulgarian consular and police reports reveal that he was a former medical auxilliary, who, on joining the Army, had embarked upon ‘an extremely debauched and prodigal life’, and had been dismissed from the Service for ‘immoral behaviour’. He had then gone to Skopje, where he had embraced Islam—a step which he evidently regretted, since he had recently presented himself at the Bulgarian Consulate in Salonika, asking to be repatriated, and had been staying in an inn, waiting for his family to send him money. [11]


Velchev, the penniless philanderer, kicking his heels in Salonika, was well cut out to play the role of a hired assassin. As for the question of who hired him, the Left Wing press cast the blame on the Right Wing of the Organization and on the Bulgarian authorities. Hints of royal involvement were made by Left and opposition newspapers in Sofia, as Chaprashikov hastened to inform Ferdinand in a letter in which he also reported that Petko Penchev had announced his withdrawal from Macedonian affairs for the time being and his intention of completing his law studies in Belgium. [12] The retiring Penchev, however, was not accused of the new attempt on Yané’s life and both Kambana [13] and Narodna Volya [14] named Nikola Naumov, the representative of the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency in Salonika, and Mihail Chakov, [15] as the organizers of the plot.


Among the Sofia newspapers expressing indignation at the attack on Yané and Stoyu was Dnevnik, which came out with a leading article entitled Enough Blood! Dnevnik itself was not uninfluenced by the slanders against Yané, since it stated that he had spent his whole life as a haramiya and had no education whatsoever! Nevertheless, it declared that there was no justification for the attack and stated: ‘The authors of this business



11. TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 326, pp. 10-11, 21-25.


12. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1436, pp. 13-16. Report from Chaprashikov to Ferdinand, dated 23.VIII.1909.


13. Kambana, 17.VIII.1909.


14. Narodna Volya, 22.VIII.1909.


15. Mihail Chakov—a veteran member of the Organization—denied being in any way involved (see Dnevnik, 18.VIII.1909). He had been arrested on May 9th, 1909 in his native town Gyumendzhe on suspicion of having been involved in the first attempt on Yané’s life, but had escaped to Bulgaria. However, according to Tané Nikolov, at the time of the previous attempt on Yané’s life, Chakov had foiled a plot to murder him in hospital by informing him of Tané’s plan.





committed a crime against Bulgarian interests and can expect protection from no one.’ [16] Ivan Kolarov, the correspondent of Dnevnik, who interviewed Yané shortly before the attack and visited him in hospital afterwards, prefaced his interview by saying that Yané was generally regarded as a ‘monster’ and that, ‘influenced by the prejudice of his enemies, we also have said, as once the crowds said to Pilate about Christ: Crucify him, crucify him!’ The allusion reveals the journalist’s change of attitude after actually having met the ‘monster’, and his article is objective and even sympathetic. He says, for example, that, at the P.F.P. Congress, Yané expressed ‘wise thoughts, clothed in the logic of practical experience’. [17]


Yané and Stoyu were able to leave hospital on August 21 (old style), completely recovered from their wounds. A week later, an attempt was made on the life of another left-winger, Gerasim Ognyanov, who had been one of the Strumitsa delegates at the Bansko Congress and had also attended the Congress of the P.F.P. Again the shooting occurred near the Hotel Kolombo. Still the Left took no vengeance. Indeed, earlier in the summer, in an interview printed in the Turkish newspaper Ittihad, Yané had spoken out against shooting vendettas, saying: ‘The time for bullets is passed. In a constitutional era there is no need to settle scores with bullets. If I wanted to take my revenge in that manner, I could kill twenty or thirty people.’ [18]


Questioned by Ivan Kolarov of Dnevnik, Yané had denied wanting to kill Tsar Ferdinand: ‘I have risked my head here. I am not afraid of Ferdinand. But I don’t need his life. Never, absolutely never, have I thought of killing him. He is not the evil in Bulgaria. We condemn official Bulgarian policy, which is against the interests of the people. No one desires the physical murder of Ferdinand. We want to kill him morally, and he will see after a time that Bulgarian policy has been mistaken over things in Macedonia.’ [19]


An interesting detail of the interview is Kolarov’s impression of Yané: ‘His thoughts are calm, but his body, weakened by the struggles, betrays a nervousness which may be due to rheumatism.’ [20] Since then, another bullet had added its legacy of pain and weariness. Others in his place might have been tempted to go abroad, to join the Constitutional Clubs, to accept a cushy sinecure. In all probability, Yané never even considered these possibilities, except in derision or jest. Misled by hostile sources, The Times [21] might compare him to Alcibiades, but the comparison was superficial and inept. Yané was no weather-cock politician, but a man wedded to an ideal, a man too proud to buy his life at the price of self-



16. Dnevnik, 18.VIII.1909.     17. Ibid.


18. TDIA, f. 176, op. 2, a.e. 451.


19. Dnevnik, 18.VIII.1909.     20. Ibid.


21. The Times, 18.VIII.1909.





humiliation. He knew that whatever he did, there would be no forgiveness, and that they would kill him in the end. He preferred to die on his feet. And in the meantime, someone had to help the weak, someone had to stand up for the oppressed chiflik peasants. . .


It is symptomatic of Karayovov’s ‘patriotism’ that, in his letters to the Tsar’s Secret Cabinet, the chiflik peasants figure only in as far as Yané’s agitation on their behalf led him into conflict with the Young Turks, and therefore might possibly undermine his position. [22] In one very revealing report, Karayovov describes a meeting between himself, Rumenov, and a Turkish representative named Asim Bey, who advised the Clubs to follow Yané’s example and to reach an agreement to work with him. Karayovov writes: ‘We objected that if no such agreement had been reached, the reason lay in Yané’s demands, formulated last year, and in his methods of struggle, namely 1) forcible expropriation of big landowners’ property in favour of the peasants, 2) the separation of the Church from the State and the repudiation of Islam as the ruling religion, and 3) revilement of Bulgaria. The first two points undermine the Turkish State as it was created and as it is today.’ [23] Such a statement comes strangely from one who constantly refers to Yané as a ‘pomak’, i.e. a Muslim convert. But then, Karayovov was a master of hypocrisy. The Second Congress of the Constitutional Clubs passed a resolution condemning the attempt on Yané’s life, after Karayovov had done the same in an eloquent speech which, no doubt, made a deep impression on all those delegates who were unaware that their Chairman had spent the summer trying to do precisely what he now so piously condemned. [24]


An accusation that has often been levelled at Yané by his enemies is that he was in the pay of the Turks, the implication being that he was a foreign agent and a traitor to Bulgaria. Those who make such accusations ignore the obvious difference between receiving money from the Turks before the Hürriyet, when the Bulgarian population was engaged in an underground struggle against the Sultan’s government, and after the Hürriyet, when, for a short period at any rate, Bulgarians and Turks worked together as citizens of a common revolutionary state. Even in this new situation, Yané was chary of accepting money from the Turks, except for certain specified purposes, because he had his reservations about the new regime, and because he valued his independence. Chernopeev, on the other hand, had no such doubts, and appears to have accepted funds to finance Edinstvo, [25] while Yané passed over to him money offered by the Turks to the Serres comrades. [26] The evidence for payments of Turkish



22. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1588, pp. 14-15.     23. Ibid., p. 47.


24. Dnevnik, 23.VIII.1909.


25. TDIA, f. 3, op. 8, a.e. 1308, p. 12. Report by Karayovov to Dobrovich, dated 22.X.1908.


26. Ibid., p. 1. Report by Rumenov to Dobrovich, dated 22.X.1908.





funds to the Bulgarian Left is vague and consists mainly of hearsay relaid by commercial consuls. [27] There is, however, documentary evidence to show that, from the spring of 1909 both Yané and Chernopeev were refusing to accept money from the Turkish Government. On May 13, 1909, Hilmi Pasha sent a telegram to the Chief Inspector in Salonika, saying: ‘We have been informed that Sandansky and Chernopeev have not been paid their salary for March and April. Do the necessary to pay them from the Extraordinary Credit of the Chief Inspectorate.’ On May 14 1909, the Inspectorate sent the following reply; ‘The salaries of Sandansky and Chernopeev for March and April have not been paid because they have not been asked for. Instructions have been given for them to be paid from the Extraordinary Credit of the Chief Inspectorate.’ [28] A month later, an announcement in Narodna Volya stated that Yané and Chernopeev had declined to accept the money, because it did not figure in the Budget, and they did not know why it was being offered to them. [29]


After the dethronement of Abdul Hamid, the Young Turks had, at last, taken power into their own hands, and had entered the Government. Hilmi Pasha was once again Grand Vizir; the victor, Mahmud Shevket, became Minister for War; Tallat became Minister of the Interior, and Young Turks were placed in other Ministries. The Bulgarian contribution towards the crushing of the counter-revolution was recognized by the appointment of P.F.P. supporters to a number of posts in local government, including two kaimakams (Melnik and Zuhna), several myudyurs (Gorno Brodi, Novo Selo near Strumitsa, Gyumendzhe, Poroi, Kresna, Goreme, Zelenikovo and Sasa), and two members of courts (Kukush and Bitolya). A Montenegrin named Yovo Ivanovich, said to be a former Bulgarian chetnik and now ‘one of Sandansky’s men’, was appointed inspector of Bulgarian and Serbian schools in the Bitolya vilayet. [30] Parliament resumed its sittings in May 1909, and embarked upon a spate of legislation, including moderate amendments to the Constitution, which gave more power to Parliament and less to the Sultan. Some of the legislation, such as the abolition of slavery, was undoubtedly excellent, although most of the laws pertaining to the development of the country were never implemented, owing to lack of funds. Other laws, however, were in practice oppressive. The laws against ‘vagrancy and suspicious persons’, for example, were used against former chetnitsi and voivodi of the



27. TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 303, p. 146. Report of Serres consul to Paprikov, 19.XI.1908.


28. Dokumenti iz Turski dŭrzhavni arhivi. IV.1942, p. 284 (edited by Dorev).


29. Narodna Volya, 13.VI.1909.


30. See TDIA, f. 176, op. 2, a.e. 482. Reports of Bulgarian consuls in Salonika, Bitolya and Skopje to Paprikov.





Organization, and the rural unemployed who came to seek work in the towns. Laws were also passed forbidding associations formed on a class or national basis, and this badly affected the working class and its fledgling trade-unions, as well as the national minorities. Indeed, the Constitutional Clubs were closed down in the autumn of 1909 by virtue of this law. Their newspaper Otechestvo was stopped and taken to court over an article critical of the Turks and entitled Wolfish Behaviour in the Government. [31] Most of the legislation was, in fact, aimed at dampening down class struggles and mass revolutionary movements, at confining the Hürriyet within its existing limits, at consolidating the position of the Turkish bourgeoisie, and at the ‘Ottomanization’ of the national minorities, i.e. maintaining the ruling position of the Turkish element within a centralized state. All this became apparent only gradually, for the Young Turks continued to woo the other nationalities to a certain extent, while consolidating their own power.


Another factor which contributed to the generally unsatisfactory state of affairs was the weakness of those progressive forces which might have taken the revolution beyond the modest limits set by the Young Turks. Even among the supporters of the Left, even within the P.F.P., unity was sadly lacking. The first to break away was Chernopeev, who, at the end of 1909, decided once more to become ‘clandestine’ and go underground, even although he was advised against such action by the Bulgarian Consul in Salonika, to whom he confided his plans. [32] For some time before the dissolution of the Constitutional Clubs, and even before their Second Congress in August 1909, there had been a tendency—even an agreed policy—for right-wing members of the Organization to withdraw from Club activity and to concentrate their attentions once more on the underground Organization. Much of the money originally promised by the Bulgarian Government to the Clubs was gradually channelled towards the Organization, and was used for the maintenance of former chetnitsi and voivodi (not, of course, from the Serres Region!). The dissolution of the Constitutional Clubs was, in fact, not unwelcome to the Right Wing, for it was seen as proof of Constitutional Turkey’s failure to provide conditions for legal political life, and as a justification for a return to the traditional tactics of sending cheti, undertaking terrorist actions, etc. Ironically, enough, it was Chernopeev, who had placed the greatest hopes in the Young Turk regime, who was the first of the left-wingers to despair of it—Chernopeev, transparently honest and idealistic, but over-easily influenced by enthusiasms and disappointments, Chernopeev, the aspen-tree with a stout trunk and leaves that quivered in every breeze. Even before Chernopeev’s return to the ‘underground’ had been confirmed, the P.F.P. issued a statement saying that, in a situation in which legal activity



31. Narodna Volya, 25.XII.1909 and 23.I.1910; TDIA, f. 176, op. 2, a.e. 764, pp. 1-4.


32. TDIA, f. 172, op. 2, a.e. 456, pp. 60-61. Report dated 15.XII.1909.





was still possible, clandestine struggle was ‘injurious to the interests both of the Party and the whole Bulgarian population’, and that members who contravened Party principles and discipline by engaging in clandestine activity, would be considered as having ‘expelled themselves’ from the Party. [33]


A far worse blow against the unity of the Left was dealt by the Salonika group, whose leading representatives had, for reasons of convenience, been entrusted with the day-to-day leadership of the Party. Here the main problem was one of jealousy and overweening ambition on the part of Dimitŭr Vlahov, who had given up his teaching post to run the Party, and who felt overshadowed by Yané. It irked Vlahov when journalists asked Yané, and not him, for interviews; when outsiders referred to the P.F.P. as the ‘Sandanist Party’; when Yané used his charisma and influence to extract from the authorities promises or concessions which no one else could. In short, as long as Yané was a member of the Party, Vlahov could never satisfy his desire to be its undisputed leader. It is not even beyond the bounds of possibility that the malicious rumours about Yané’s wish to be the Party Boss, or, alternatively, his intention of leaving the Party for the Clubs, were originally started by Vlahov. At the end of September 1909, Vlahov increased his grip on the Party by becoming co-editor of Narodna Volya, and, in January 1910, under his influence, the Party’s Council, meeting in Yané’s absence, expelled him from the Party, allegedly for working against it. [34] Vlahov followed up his ‘victory’ by printing article after article against Yané, filling columns of Narodna Volya with allegations and abuse, which became more violent and extravagant as he began to discover that he had bitten off more than he could chew. Epithets such as ‘bashi-bozouk’ and ‘Persian khan’ were bandied about; Yané’s statements were said to be ‘fetvas’; the Serres districts were referred to as ‘khanates’.


The expulsion of Yané from the P.F.P. created a sensation, for, as the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency representative, Naumov, said, Yané was ‘one of the founders of this party and the only really influential personality in it. Together with Sandansky, all his Serres comrades, who, in fact, constitute the strength and power of the Federative Party, have also withdrawn from it.’ [35]


The crisis in the P.F.P. produced new speculations in the correspondence between the Bulgarian Government and its Consul in Salonika as to whether a rapprochement could be achieved between the Serchani and the membership of the Clubs. This question had been raised a few weeks earlier, following a decision by the former Buro of the Clubs that, in view of the Turkish authorities’ negative attitude towards them, Karayovov, Rumenov and Anastas Hristov should withdraw from Salonika, and that no new



33. Narodna Volya, 9.I.1910.


34. Ibid., 23.I.1910.     35. Ibid., 30.I.1910.





organization be formed in place of the closed Clubs. The correspondence between Paprikov and the Consul, Shopov, indicates that both favour a reconciliation between Left and Right, and Shopov even suggests that the programme of the P.F.P., ‘which in itself is very good’, could serve as a basis for a merger, and that a reconciliation might be followed by an amnesty for the outlawed Serchani [36] something which was also favoured by the Exarch. [37] After Yané’s expulsion, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, in a letter signed by Lyapchev, raises the question as to whether such a rapprochement would strengthen Yané’s position or not. [38] Shopov’s opinion was that the national interests would best be served by uniting the various factions, and that Yané would lose rather than gain if this were achieved. The problem was that no headway could be made owing to the absence from Macedonia of the Clubs’ leaders—Karayovov, Rumenov and Hristov, whose trips to Nice, Switzerland, Vienna, etc., were causing adverse comment in the Bulgarian community. Shopov recommends that they return to Macedonia, where, he asserts, they could easily find posts and be useful. [39]


Had Vlahov’s accusations against Yané been based upon something more substantial than jealousy and ambition, and had Yané really been so high-handed as was alleged, one would have expected more people to take advantage of the situation and to abandon him. This did not happen: the Serres group remained as loyal as ever, and Chudomir, who had temporarily been attracted to the Strumichani, now returned to Yané’s side. During February 1910, they held discussions in Salonika and in Drama, and then issued An Appeal to Comrades and Sympathizers in the People’s Federative Party, which was signed in alphabetical order by Dimitŭr Arnaudov, Buynov, Chudomir Kantardzhiev, Dimitŭr Mirazchiev, Panitsa, Georgi Penkov, Yané, Skrizhovsky, Taskata Sersky, Dr Hristo Tenchev, K. Tenchov and Stoyu Hadzhiev. It is a typical Serres document, in which an analysis of the general political situation takes precedence over all else, and in which personal recriminations are reduced to a dignified minimum. It begins with an expression of regret that the liberal and democratic forces in Turkey have managed to achieve so little, that so many problems connected with national minorities, chiflik peasants, the national economy, etc. remain unsolved, and it goes on to state that ‘a recognition of our duties as citizens and the tasks laid upon us by the present difficult times demand not empty office-holding, but deeds. Nothing whatsoever can be won without struggle. This is why the timely co-ordination of progressive social forces is imperative. Not without regret, however, we are obliged to admit that not even the People’s Federative Party as a whole is taking



36. TDIA, f. 176, op. 2, a.e. 456, pp. 63-72. Letters dated 17.XII, 18.XII, 22.XII, 26.XII.1909 and 4.I.1910.


37. TDIA, f. 176, op. 2, a.e. 456, p. 6.


38. TDIA, f. 172, op. 2, a.e.764, p. 3. Letter dated 12.II.1910.


39. Ibid., pp. 1-2, 4-5. Letters dated 6.II.1910 and 15.II.1910.





its appropriate and worthy place in the process of social struggles. At a time when its democratic principles urgently require to be popularized and to penetrate the consciousness of the mass of the people, personal passions have taken the upper hand over reason and duty. The misunderstandings which have arisen within it hinder its development and consolidation. A party with only a form and no content, a party without any direct action, without any political activity, cannot be a viable party. In an efficient, active party, the only permissible and inescapable friction is that involving ideas, but the right to violate the individual’s freedom of thought cannot be established. It was an imperative duty, moreover, to investigate objectively the reasons for the breach of party unity. Holding this view, we cannot but reject the resolution passed by the Central Buro, with the participation of only one counsellor, regarding the Party member Yané Sandansky. But we are not responsible for the introduction of a personal element into the quarrel thus created, and we are not going to enter into polemics on this basis.’


The signatories to the Appeal proposed that an Extraordinary Party Congress be called to discuss a whole range of current political questions, including problems involving the settlement of Turkish refugees; chiflik peasants; schools and churches; an amnesty for political offenders, and a moratorium on the payment of a levy in lieu of military service, as well as internal Party matters. They suggested that the Congress be held in Salonika during the Easter holidays, and that, in the meantime, a temporary commission consisting of K. Tenchov, Buynov and Mirazchiev, would sit in Salonika to receive and discuss further suggestions about time, place, agenda, etc. [40]


Soon after the Appeal was published, the local Salonika Buro of the P.F.P., consisting, in the words of the Bulgarian Consul, of Vlahov’s supporters, voted against the calling of an Extraordinary Congress and criticized the Appeal, ‘The partisans of Vlahov,’ the Consul reported, ‘are firmly convinced that Sandansky and his friends will not succeed in winning over the majority of the Party organization; but, in Bulgarian circles in Salonika, people are mostly of the opinion that Sandansky will reach his goal in view of the loyalty and constant energetic agitation of his friends in the various kaazi of the Serres and Drama sandjaks.’ [41]


At the end of March, 1910, Yané gave an interview to the correspondent of Kambana, in which he answered a number of questions connected with his expulsion from the P.F.P. and. other matters. He said that he did not consider himself expelled, because Vlahov and his supporters had acted contrary to Party rules, and he gave his own explanation of the crisis within the Party. The veteran members of the Organization, he said, were



40. A copy of the Appeal is in the archive of the Chudomir Kantardzhiev in the Blagoevgrad Museum.


41. TDIA, f. 176, op. 2, a.e. 764, pp. 8-9. Report from Shopov to Paprikov, dated 6.III.1910.





not schooled in theories, and they based their actions on what they had absorbed from practical work, from life itself, and this differentiated them from those who worked according to ‘theories which they have memorized’. The sudden increase in political activity after the Hürriyet left the Organization in need of more educated people, and it was natural for it to turn to the Socialists for assistance. Unfortunately, as Yané pointed out, ‘when these otherwise good elements entered the sphere of legal politics, they proved ill-fitted for today’s political activity. They displayed a great deal of sectarianism and dogmatism. The problems of national culture were alien to them, and, as for social and economic demands—in this respect they came out with Utopian maxims. In other words, they gave the movement a colour which was definitely alien to the social elements of which it is composed. This situation produced differences of principle as regards actions, but not aims. I know that Social-Democracy in Macedonia is capable of developing into a strong movement, and, in as far as present conditions make it viable, we will be in constant contact with it. For this reason, we are not in favour of wholly rejecting this group, which incidentally, is at present only academic. . .’


Questioned about rumours current in the Sofia press that he was about to be amnestied, Yané replied: ‘In view of the growing anxiety which the sluggishness of the Young Turks over reform is causing me, an amnesty is of no interest to me. I have neither wanted one nor asked for one. Still less do I want one from the present Government, which engineered the two attempts on my life. But, if one were given, I would accept it as a moral satisfaction, as an official recognition of my activity, which I consider to be in the very best interests of our national aims. . . I ask for no mercies and I make no compromises.’


In spite of Turkish sluggishness, Yané was optimistic about the future, towards which he looked with ‘heightened faith’. He regarded the Young Turks’ drive towards centralism as conditioned by outside provocation, and he still believed in the possibility of a Balkan Federation, although it would have to be worked for, and, in this respect, he looked to the democratic forces in Bulgaria for support: ‘Owing to the fact that the Bulgarian element in Macedonia is the most numerous, Bulgaria had assumed a special traditional, historical right to armed intervention and uproar. It is the supreme duty of Bulgarian democracy to paralyze all harmful aspirations which create anarchy and catastrophes without our being able to achieve our ultimate common aims. We will thus constantly be cooperating with it in the name of common Bulgarian aims, and, on the road towards them, all sabre-rattling is today a betrayal of the Bulgarian cause. [42]


As the opening of the Congress approached, Vlahov’s attacks on Yané became increasingly scurrilous and widened their scope to include other Serchani who had not previously been accused of anything. Narodna



42. Kambana, 2.IV.1910.





Volya printed a parody Congress agenda, making fun of the serious topics to be discussed, and describing the imaginary arrival of the ‘Boss’ on Rosinante. [43]


In spite of Vlahov’s fireworks, the Congress met from April 23-27, 1910, and the delegates refused to allow the internal squabbles to distract them from the major problems which affected the lives of the whole population. The Turkish Government came in for severe criticism over its failure to carry out land-reform, its slowness in adopting an amnesty for political offences committed before July 1908, and its attempts to increase the Muslim element in Macedonia by settling Turkish refugees at the expense of the Bulgarian population. Resolutions were passed demanding that the Government provide money for the purchase of all chiflik land and its distribution to landless chiflik peasants; that the Government put an end to the refugee problem, and that tax-arrears owed by poor peasants and townsfolk in lieu of military service be cancelled. The Congress also discussed the problems of disputed churches and schools in towns and villages where part of the population recognized the Greek Patriarch and part the Bulgarian Exarch. Various solutions, such as ownership by the majority, sharing on a turn-and-turn-about basis, etc., were discussed, and finally the Congress elected a commission, consisting of Chudomir and Stoyu Hadzhiev, to work out a resolution. Buynov and Yané were entrusted with drafting a resolution on the Party’s attitude towards education and the Exarchate. [44]


Vlahov and his supporters had boycotted the Congress, and when the crisis within the Party was discussed by the delegates, some—including Chudomir—were in favour of inviting the absent members of the Central Buro to attend, while others recommended that they should be ‘summoned’ to explain their behaviour. The majority of the delegates, however, voted against any such invitation or ‘summons’. [45] After discussing the situation, the Congress held that the Buro was responsible for the unsatisfactory state of affairs within the Party, and that Yané’s expulsion was wrong. It sacked the old Central Buro, and elected a new one consisting of Dr Hristo Tenchev, Dimitŭr Mirazchiev, Chudomir Kantardzhiev, Alexander Buynov and Taskata Sersky. The new Buro was to elect an editorial committee for a new paper to be called Nezavisimost (Independence), and to work out a policy on education. [46]


Vlahov and his friends had seriously overestimated the strength of their position and the support which the Salonika group could give them. Vlahov’s attacks on Dimo Hadzhidimov, the most outstanding Marxist among the Federalists, and on Glavinov’s newspaper Rabotnicheska hkra, which he called ‘a dirty little rag’, cost him the support of most



43. Narodna Volya, 17.IV.1910.


44. Kambana, 1.V.1910.     45. Ibid., 29.IV.1910.     46. Ibid., 4.V.1910.





of the Socialists around him. On June 5, 1910, in what was to be its last number, Narodna Volya announced that the P.F.P. (i.e. Vlahov’s supporters) would hold its Second Congress on August 1. The paper then folded up, since it was entirely financed by the Serchani, who naturally withdrew their support.


Nezavisimost never appeared, but the P.F.P. continued its activity under its new Buro as long as conditions permitted it to work legally.


*  *  *


One of Yané’s main fields of activity during the period of constitutional rule was the development of education in the Melnik District, and it was here that he achieved his greatest practical successes. Enlightenment was a cause that had always lain close to his heart, and it was also at the very core of Serres thinking. Considerable effort had gone into the creation of libraries. In each district of the Serres Region, the Organization spent between one and two hundred Turkish liri annually on the purchase of revolutionary books, and these district libraries were divided up into local ones which circulated in the villages. In addition, each village had its own budget for educational literature. [47] Leaders of the Organization who visited Bulgaria would make it their business to order more books, and thus literature of all kinds circulated in the villages. The Melnik District library, for example, included Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Marx’s Capital, Engels’ The Erfurt Programme, Gorki’s Lower Depths, Chernishevsky’s What’s to Be Done, Marxist literature translated by Georgi Bakalov, works by Pushkin and Turgenev, and much else besides. The Demir Hisar District library included Hugo’s Notre Damé de Paris, and works by Pushkin and Tolstoy. [48] The Organization’s libraries also contained scientific and children’s books. Before the Hürriyet, however, in spite of bold resolutions, relatively little progress had been made with schools, owing to lack of money, the oppressive character of the regime, etc. The case of the village of Lyubovishte [49] vividly illustrates the parlous state of education in the Melnik District prior to the Hürriyet. Lyubovishte was one of the villages owned by the Rozhen Monastery, which was then inhabited by Greek monks. These would not allow the Bulgarians to have their own Exarchate school, and they put pressure on the Turks to withhold permission for the building of a school. Nevertheless, in 1902, a school of sorts was opened secretly in a barn, with a teacher who had himself been at school for only four years and was paid a correspondingly low salary of 4 liri a year, plus food. In the following year, a ‘school building’, four by three metres, was constructed from wattle and boards, and later the premises



47. Memoirs of Dimitŭr Arnaudov, written in Vienna, 1927. TPA. 226.I.102, p. 29.


48. Hristo Tasev, Prosvetnoto delo v Melnishkiya kray prez XIX i nachaloto na XX vek. (Thesis, 1980), pp. 253-254.


49. ODA, Blagoevgrad, f. 1017, op. 1, a.e. 1, p. 1. (School Chronicle.)





were extended. It was not until after the Hürriyet that a proper school was built on Yané’s initiative.


Yané himself would do what he could, where and when he could, to remedy the lack of schools and teachers. Hristo Velev, of Kashina, remembers how, when he was tending pigs, Yané approached him and asked him whether he could read and write. When Velev replied that he could not, Yané took a pencil and paper out of his bag, and wrote out Botev’s song He is alive! He then read it to Velev and made him repeat the words until he knew it by heart, and finally he gave him the written form, saying that he must learn to read and write, so that he could pass the paper on to others. [50]


The Hürriyet made everything much easier, and, on Yané’s initiative, schools were opened for the first time in a number of chiflik villages, such as Dolene, Sugarevo, Kŭrlanovo, Rozhen, Dolno Spanchevo, Lilyanovo, Dŭrzhanovo, and Deré Muslim, and, in other villages, new school buildings were erected, so that the total number of schools in the Melnik District for which Yané could claim personal credit was in the region of twenty. Lilyanovo had no school at all before 1906, when one was opened in a private house. In 1909, a proper school building was constructed on Yané’s orders. [51] Dyado Lazar, of Lilyanovo, has described how the first school was built in his village: ‘During the Hürriyet, Sandansky came to Lilyanovo. He collected the notables from the neighbouring village of Stozha as well, to decide where and how a school could be built for the two villages. It was decided that the school should be by the church. "The school is for all," said Yané, "that is why everyone must take part in its construction." The inhabitants of the two villages were divided into three categories, according to their means. Each had to pay between one and three liri. After a few days, the Turks came and set aside the finest pines in Bukin Preslap (a place in Pirin) for the beams. Every ten or fifteen days, Yané would go round the observe the progress of the building of the schools in our village and in the villages of Debrené, the Tsalims, Polenitsa, and Sveti Vrach, which were being constructed simultaneously.’ [52]


In Polenitsa, which was then a mainly Turkish village with a few Bulgarian inhabitants, Yané had found that a church was being built. He persuaded the villagers that they must build a school first, and the church was abandoned in favour of the school. [53] One of the bigger schools which Yané caused to be built was in the village of Kalimantsi during 1910-1911. This school is still in use today and bears the name ‘Yané



50. Pirinsko delo, 18.VII.1968. Article by Kostadin Dinchev.


51. ODA, Blagoevgrad, f. 1114, op. 1, a.e. 15, p. 4 (School Chronicle).


52. Hristo Tasev, Opus cit., p. 276.


53. ODA, Blagoevgrad, f. 1114, op. 1, a.e. 3, p. 2. The school was started but the building was interrupted by the Balkan Wars and the Great War, and the school finally opened in 1920. It is still standing today.





Sandansky’. [54] In Dolno Spanchevo, Yané encountered some opposition which he swept aside with the ruthlessness that it deserved. School records reflecting the event have been preserved: ‘The school was opened for the first time after the Hürriyet in 1908 on the initiative of Yané Sandansky. He assembled the villagers in the church and spoke to them about the benefits of a school, and advised them to set about opening one. They rented the house of Risia Dinkova and appointed Georgi Panov from Dolni Orman as teacher. They contracted to pay him eight liri annually from the village and to feed him in turn. The Exarchate also gave something. About twenty pupils were assembled. . . In 1910-1911 for the first time they made a new school in their village, again on the initiative of Yané Sandansky. It was arranged that everyone should pay a levy of two or three liri, according to his means. Many ignorant Bulgarians did not want to pay the tax. Then Yané Sandansky forced the Turkish authorities to arrest them and take them to Melnik until they agreed to pay what was pledged.’ [55]


In Gorna Sushitsa, where the inhabitants were very poor indeed, and where, with the best will in the world, local resources were inadequate, Yané went about things in a different way. He collected the peasants together and drew up a plan for the building of the school, according to which, some contributed money and others labour, and, in addition, money was collected from neighbouring villages where there were people both public-spirited and with means. The old church, which was very dilapidated, was demolished, and the school was started in its place, since Yané had decided that the proper place for the church was not in the centre of the village, but on the outskirts. Master-builders were brought from Libyahovo, and the villagers took it in turns to feed them. The opening ceremony was an occasion for great rejoicing, and, according to custom, many presents were given to the builders. [56] In Sugarevo, again on Yané’s initiative, a modest school—the first in the village—was built with local voluntary labour and money from the Organization during 1909. [57]


Yané was not satisfied merely with trying to provide elementary education for all children; he also did his best to ensure that talented pupils continued their education in better schools, first in Melnik, and then in Salonika, Constantinople, etc. He gave orders to village mayors to keep an eye open for such children, whose parents would pay according to their means, and scholarships were arranged for orphans and really poor children. In the period 1908-1912, Yané made himself personally responsible for the education of more than sixty needy children, including orphans whose fathers had been killed in the service of the Organization. He gave considerable thought to the requirements of individual children and of



54. ODA, Blagoevgrad, f. 1114, op. 1, a.e. 24, p. 2.


55. Hristo Tasev, Opus cit., pp. 276-277.     56. Ibid., p. 278.     57. Ibid., p. 277.





the places from which they came. For example, he sent Grigor Popanev, of Oshtava, to study viticulture in the Turkish Agricultural School in Serres, because the boy lived in a vinegrowing area. Sometimes he would go to great trouble to help some particular child. There was, for example, the case of Nikola Iliev Ivanov, from the village of Kovachevo, who was so crippled that he could not walk upright. In 1909, on Yané’s advice, his father tried to enroll him in the Melnik school, but the headmaster refused to accept him, saying that the regulations laid down by the Exarchate, which governed Bulgarian education in Macedonia, did not permit him to admit handicapped children. The boy’s father complained to Yané, who immediately went to see the headmaster. He pointed out that it was precisely boys of this kind who needed an education, since they could not plough and dig, and he insisted that the Exarchate’s regulations be ignored and that the boy be accepted into the school and accommodated in its hostel at the lowest tariff—only one lira (the richest children paid eight liri). Somewhat later, in 1911, Yané visited the school, with an inspector, to see how Nikola was getting on. The boy was doing well in his lessons, and, in Yané’s presence, gave good answers to questions on history and arithmetic. This time, seeing how the boy suffered from his handicap, Yané decided to send him to the Bulgarian hospital in Constantinople, and he made all the arrangements, including the provision of someone to accompany him on the journey and someone to meet him at the station. During the next six months, the boy had two operations, after which he was able to walk upright. Yané then enrolled him in a school for tax-collectors, so that he might have a profession without much physical exertion. [58] In the same year, 1911, Yané brought new life to a woman from Vranya, Katerina Vangelova Bodurcheva, who had five daughters and was very poor indeed. Katerina had been suffering from eczema for a number of years; her whole body was covered with sores and pus, and although she was only forty, she was so worn with disease that she walked with a stick. According to Georgi Kotsev, the villagers had even wanted to poison her for fear of contagion, and had asked Yané’s permission, which he indignantly refused. [59] Paraskeva Potskova recalled how, when Yané was at their house during August 1911, Katerina came and begged to be allowed to tell ‘Dyado Yané’ of her woes. He at once received her, and when he had heard her out, he sent her off to hospital in Constantinople. She returned a month later, completely cured, and lived another thirty-five years, never ceasing to bless Yané’s name.


Yané was able to do much for Bulgarian education within his Region because he used his personal prestige and connections with Young Turk leaders to obtain money from the State for this purpose. All Turkish



58. Memoirs of Georgi Kotsev, OIM Blagoevgrad, No. 1680, p. 76. See also Hristo Tasev, Prosvetnata deinost na Yané Sandansky, 1972. Published by the Regional Historical Museum, Blagoevgrad.


59. Georgi Kotsev, Opus cit., p. 76.





subjects, including the national minorities, paid an educational tax, which, until Yané tackled the Young Turks on the subject, was used exclusively for the support of Turkish schools. The Melnik District, for example, paid 70,000 grosh (i.e. 700 liri) annually, but not a penny of this money went to the Bulgarian schools. The Exarchate gave the diocese a subsidy of only 100 liri a year, and the rest of the money for education had to be found by the village communities, which were very poor, and the result was that they could not offer sufficiently high salaries to attract well-qualified teachers, and had to make do with teachers who would work for a subsistance salary of 8-10 liri. Yané argued that, since the Bulgarians paid taxes, they were entitled as citizens, to a share of the benefits and he arranged with the Turks that a number of Bulgarian teachers should be paid by the State at an annual rate of up to 30 liri. These teachers came to be known in Bulgarian as mearif teachers (a corruption of the Turkish-Arabic word maarif meaning ‘education’, ‘branches of science’). Yané’s opponents totally misrepresented this policy of his, and accused him of wanting to turn the Bulgarians into Turks and of undermining Bulgarian education in Macedonia. Nothing was further from the truth. The only ‘Turkish’ element was that some of the money contributed by the Bulgarian population in taxes was returned to them by the State. The Turks had no part in the running of schools where the staff included mearif teachers, and the syllabus in such schools was exactly the same as in all other Bulgarian schools. All the mearif teachers were Bulgarians, and Yané, and the P.F.P., made it a condition that they received their salaries through the local Bulgarian communities, which appointed, transferred and dismissed them, in the same way as they dealt with non-mearif teachers. Bulgarian education in the Melnik district and elsewhere was, in fact, improved by the mearif system while it lasted, because the relatively high salaries meant that more highly-qualified staff could be obtained.


Unfortunately, the mearif system did not work entirely smoothly, for, although Yané and the P.F.P. regarded it as a civil right of Bulgarians within the Empire, the Turks regarded it mainly as a means for their ‘Ottomanization’. Thus, when they saw that ‘Turkish’ money was being used exclusively for the strengthening of the Bulgarian element, without any appreciable ‘Ottomanization’, they did not always pay the salaries as agreed, and Yané was obliged to make further visits to Young Turk leaders in Constantinople and elsewhere in order to argue his case. [60] Eventually the system petered out and was abandoned, precisely because the Turks were bent on ‘Ottomanization’ and the Serchani would not countenance it. After this, education had to be financed as before, solely by the local Bulgarian communities, with some help from the Exarchate, which continued to exercise overall management.



60. See TDIA, f. 246, op. 1, a.e. 389, p. 151; f. 246, op. 1, a.e. 370, p. 129. Reports to the Exarch on education in the Melnik district, 1909.





During this period, Yané began to take a more active interest in the Exarchate and its local organs. There was no Bulgarian bishop in Melnik, and the affairs of the diocese were conducted by a representative of the Exarch, who acted as chairman of the diocesan council. Immediately after the Hürriyet, this post was held by Ikonom Shkutov, whose relations with Yané were far from cordial. In his regular reports to the Exarch, Shkutov usually referred to Yané as ‘the wild beast’ and deliberately spelt his name without capital letters! There was, of course, a long history of friction between the Exarchate and the Organization, since those more closely connected with the Exarchate were moderates rather than revolutionaries, and thus the two bodies had never been able to see eye to eye on a number of important issues touching the Bulgarian population in Thrace and Macedonia. In the case of the Serchani, this friction was more pronounced, because, after the Hürriyet, it was the Exarch’s closest adherents’who formed the backbone of the Constitutional Clubs, and because the Serchani, and the P.F.P. as a whole, were in favour of secularizing education and making it the responsibility of the local lay communities.


In his reports [61] to the Exarch, Shkutov complains that Yané and his comrades were trying to by-pass him, that they were encouraging priests and teachers not to obey him or refer educational and religious matters to him, and that they were propagating Socialism and atheism. He even goes so far as to allege that they had sentenced him to death, because ‘I am preserving the religion of our forefathers with my opposition to Socialist and atheistic edicts’. [62] Since no attempts were made on Shkutov’s life, this allegation was clearly unfounded. Shkutov also complains about a ‘Socialistic and godless act’, in which Yané’s people are stated to have dragged a priest from the altar in the village of Ploski. [63] This heinous act appears in a somewhat different light when one considers a second letter to the Exarch, this time signed by ten villagers and bearing the mayor’s seal, in which the signatories complain, among other things, that the priest behaves badly in church, refuses to christen babies, or else prevaricates, and visits the local Turks more than the local Christians. [64] Shkutov also alleges that Yané was the man behind a declaration sent by a number of priests in the Melnik area to the Exarch complaining of poverty and asking for larger stipends. According to Shkutov, Yané egged the priests on to write the declaration in order to discredit the Exarchate if their request for a pay-rise was turned down! [65]


In fact, Yané’s attitude towards the Exarchate was considerably more positive than Shkutov imagined. Neither Yané, nor, indeed the Organiza-



61. TDIA, f. 246, op. 1, a.e. 389, p. 124 (letter dated 5.I.1909), pp. 127-128 (letter dated 12.I.1909) and p. 147 (letter dated 2.III.1909).


62. Ibid., p. 127.     63. Ibid., p. 120 (letter dated 10.I.1909).


64. Ibid., p. 130 (letter dated 27.I.1909).


65. Ibid., pp. 148-149 (Declaration dated 11.XII.1908).





tion, had ever rejected the Exarchate as an institution, or denied that it had a role to play in the life of the Macedonian Bulgarians. When, at the P.F.P. Congress, some more extreme left-winger began to attack the Exarchate during a debate on education, Yané, who was chairing the session, rose to his feet and said: ‘Leave the Exarchate alone! The situation in Turkey is still fluid.’ There was a great commotion, and Yané adjourned the session. During the interval, he went over to the delegate who had attacked the Exarchate and said: ‘You know nothing! If it should so happen that the Bulgarians in Macedonia don’t get what they want, I shall defend the Exarchate with a weapon in my hand.’ [66]


When Shkutov was succeeded by a priest named Savva Popov, the Serchani decided to work through the Exarchate for its reform into a more up-to-date and efficient institution. Yané offered himself as a candidate for the diocesan council and was elected in April 1910. Like his predecessor, Savva Popov was adversely inclined towards Yané, but the language of his reports to the Exarchate was much less violent, apart from an occasional reference to the ‘Tsar of Pirin’—an epithet then used almost exclusively, with a pejorative nuance, by Yané’s opponents. Savva Popov noted wryly that, whereas during the previous nine months Yané had come to church only once, and then only when the congregation was already leaving, on the eve of the poll he had attended the whole service, and then had invited both Savva Popov and the bishop’s suffragan to his home! Popov expressed the hope that, under the new diocesan council, ‘church and school affairs in the diocese will be given a boost, if Sandansky, as a councillor engaged in the work itself, gives up his previous activity of undermining the work of the Holy Exarchate’. [67]


Once he was on the diocesan council, Yané set to work to try and reform the Exarchate and to make it a more efficient instrument for the development of Bulgarian education. He won the support of the other members of the council, including two priests, for the following resolution: ‘Having in mind that the Exarchate’s Statute, democratic as it is at basis, is not sufficiently full and has long been obsolete, and does not correspond to the spirit of the new era, or to its required needs, thus forcing the Holy Exarchate to do various things which are unjust and wrong, and which hinder the development of our national cause and undermine the prestige of the institution in the eyes of the people, we urgently request that, as soon as possible, steps be taken to call a national assembly which will reform this national institution and place it on a proper level, by amending or expanding its existing basic law (the Statute of the Exarchate) and creating a new Statute and Rules for the management of the various departments of this establishment: however, until this assembly is convened, we declare that we will obey all orders and circulars in as far as



66. Dnevnik, 11.VIII.1909. The debate in question took place on 7.VIII.1909.


67. TDIA, f. 246, op. 1, a.e. 446, p. 132-133 (letter dated 16.IV.1910).





they correspond to the spirit of the Exarchate’s Statute.’ [68]


Savva Popov, however, as chairman of the council, refused to put the resolution to the vote and walked out of the meeting. He later explained his action in a letter to the Exarch. [69] According to Popov, the calling of the assembly and what was to be done until it was convened were two separate issues and should be discussed as such. He considered that if they ignored certain circulars and orders because they felt that they did not correspond to the spirit of the Statute, they were being previous and were anticipating the decisions of the assembly. Yané’s view, according to Popov, was that the Exarchal Council included people who were not lawfully elected, and that since such people could make mistakes, the councillors wished to conform only with instructions which were not arbitrary. Both sides sent the Exarch telegrams and long letters with their versions of the quarrel. Since Yané had managed to carry the rest of the diocesan council with him, Savva Popov found himself in a minority of one, and ruefully informed the Exarch that Yané had in no way changed and that he was still trying to undermine the work of the Holy Exarchate!


After a year or so of joint work, however, Savva Popov was obliged to acknowledge Yané’s merits in a report to the Exarch: ‘It must be admitted that a great part of the credit for the increase in the number of children in the Melnik school hostel, and for the building of ten new schools in his district, belongs to the former voivoda of this district, Yané Sandansky, at present a diocesan councillor, whom the population treats with honour and respect, and to the business commission of the hostel, which has faultlessly carried out its duties in relation to the acceptance of boarders.’ [70] The provision of a sufficiently large hostel in Melnik to accommodate



68. Ibid., pp. 140-143 (Letter to the Exarch, dated 3.VII.1910, signed by Yané and six other councillors).


69. Ibid., p. 144 (letter dated 27.VI.1910).


70. TDIA, f. 246, op. 1, a.e. 441, p. 125. Report dated 19.VIII.1911. An eloquent testimony to the ‘honour and respect’ in which Yané was held by the population is a letter found recently during restoration work on the Kotsev house in Melnik. The writers of the letter, who are clearly peasants with little education, address Yané as ‘Mr Grandfather Yané’, and appeal to him ‘as a father’ to come and mediate in a dispute over the ownership of a house. See Pirinsko Delo, 7.X. 1980, Dokument za deloto na Yané Sandansky, by Tsvetana Komitova. Further proof of his popularity is furnished by a letter, dated 28.II.1910 and sent to him by the parish council of Belitsa: ‘Empowered by the whole popualtion, I have the honour to invite you to be good enough to visit our village B. We look forward to your corning. Chairman: V. Poptomov.’ Yané did, in fact, visit Belitsa. Georgi Klyasov, then a child of 6 or 7, recalls the great impression that Yané made upon the local children as he rode through the village on a ‘red horse’ with a ‘white star’ on its forehead. Thereafter, when the children played with hobby-horses, each insisted that his horse was like Yané’s! (Oral memoirs of Georgi Klyasov). Yané also appears to have met local Turkish officers outside Belitsa, where they had a shooting competition, engaged in wrestling, danced the horo, and sang songs, while the people of Belitsa looked on. (Memoirs of Zahari Iliev Koshov, kept in the museum in Belitsa.)





pupils from distant villages had been a great problem for a number of years. Immediately after the Hürriyet, attempts had been made to get additional accommodation, but the empty houses in Melnik belonged to Greeks who refused to rent them for the use of a Bulgarian school. The Young Turk Committee could not, or would not, help, and finally Yané persuaded a Greek friend to give his café to be used as a hostel during the school year of 1908-1909. [71] The café was, however, far from the school, and inconvenient, and during the following years other temporary accommodation had to be found until the problem was satisfactorily settled.


After serving his two-year term of office, Yané was re-elected to the diocesan council in May 1912. By now, other leading Serchani—Georgi Kazepov, Georgi Potskov and Georgi Kotsev—had joined Yané as lay members of the council. On being re-elected, Yané attempted to resign, saying that he could not watch decisions not being put into practice and that he would not be able to attend meetings regularly. His resignation was not, however, accepted. Indeed, he was also elected, together with Georgi Potskov, to represent the diocese at an assembly in Salonika connected with the earlier proposal that a national assembly be called with a view to reforming the Exarchate. The Minutes of the meeting read as follows: ‘After the great and urgent need for the calling of a national assembly in Constantinople had been stressed, and after discussion, it was decided that the diocesan electors of the Melnik Diocese fully associate themselves with the decision on this question taken by their colleagues of the Salonika Diocese and published in Pravo, No. 416, 7.IV.1912. Yané Sandansky and Georgi Potskov were elected delegates to the assembly in Salonika by secret ballot. They are to be paid two liri each for travelling and daily expenses from the diocesan chest.’ [72]


Unfortunately, no copy of the issue of Pravo containing the decision referred to has survived, but the wording of the Minutes invites the assumption that the original Melnik proposal had been taken up by the Salonika Diocesan Council, and that some kind of joint preliminary assembly was to be held in Salonika.


While setting up schools for others, Yané did not neglect his own education, and he devoted much of his free time to reading. He was in contact with Georgi Bakalov, the Socialist publicist and literary critic, who ran a publishing house known as Znanie (Knowledge). In a postcard written from Melnik in March 1912, Yané asked Bakalov to send him a book by the Russian Professor Nikolai Ivanovich Kareev (a historian and publicist, who specialized in agrarian relations), and also the latest publications in Nova Biblioteka (New Library)—a series of books which Bakalov published during 1911-1914. Yané complained that he had only received



71. TDIA, f. 246, op. 1, a.e. 461, pp. 19-20.


72. TDIA, f. 246, op. 1, a.e. 496, pp. 119-120.





the first forty titles! [73]


If education of all kinds was the central pivot of Yané’s activity in Melnik during the constitutional years, it was still only one of many interests. Part of his energy went into the development of the Marikostinovo mineral baths, which have both hot springs and curative mud, efficacious in the treatment of a whole range of complaints, including rheumatic and arthritic conditions. The baths belonged to the Turkish Ministry of Education and were conceded to Yané for a period of fifteen years, on condition that he built a small hotel for the convenience of visitors. This he did in 1910, and his nephew, Ivan, acted as manager. During the summer holidays, the accounts were kept by a local school boy, Bozhin Yakimov, for whom Yané had obtained grants to study in Melnik, and then in Serres. [74]


One of Yané’s most interesting enterprises—at first sight untypical but, in fact, completely in character—was the building of a church for the villagers of Rozhen, not far from Melnik. Centuries before, the land tilled by the Bulgarian peasants of Rozhen and the neighbouring villagers of Kashina, Kŭrlanovo and Lyubovishte had become the property of the Iviron Monastery on Mount Athos. The Rozhen Monastery—with its fine church, containing a superbly carved ikonostasis and a ‘wonder-working’ ikon of the Mother of God—though originally Bulgarian, was likewise attached to the Iviron Monastery and was inhabited by Greek monks who cruelly exploited the local peasants. Shortly before the Hürriyet, the local Greeks, infuriated by the support given to the Bulgarian cheti by the villagers, had started a campaign to force the peasants to accept the authority of the Greek Patriarch. In August 1908, a French citizen, who was, in fact, a Greek from Crete, took over the economic side of the monastery’s affairs, and introduced even harsher conditions: Exarchate priests and teachers were forbidden to enter the villages, the annual sum paid by the peasants to the monastery was doubled, and those who did not pay were not allowed to graze animals or cut wood on monastery property, and, in some cases, their land was taken from them and given to Turks from neighbouring villages. [75] Memoir material—somewhat contradictory in dates and detail, though not in essence—bears witness to a lengthy history of extremely strained relations between the monks of Rozhen and the peasants, supported by the Organization. There were protest meetings, violence on both sides, and even bloodshed, including the murder of an obnoxious abbot.


After the Hürriyet, Yané started a law-suit in the Turkish courts over the ownership of the Rozhen Monastery, its church and the surrounding



73. See Pirinsko Delo, 31.V.1961. Article by Mitso Stoyanov. The postcard is in the State Literary Archive in Moscow.


74. Oral memoirs of Bozhin Yakimov told to the author.


75. TDIA, f. 246, op. 1, a.e. 389, pp. 135-138. Report of Shkutov to the Exarch, January 1909.





pastures, forests and arable land, and obtained a decision which was largely in the peasants’ favour: only the church and 500 decares of land were left in the hands of the monks. [76] In 1921 the monastery and the church were finally awarded to Bulgaria by the International Court in The Hague. In the meantime, the peasants had land but no church, so, during his discussions with the Young Turks on church questions, after the march on Constantinople, Yané obtained from the Turkish Government 2,000 liri, with which he built a modest church for the people of Rozhen. Unlike the builders in the Vlahi folksong, Yané not only kept within his budget, but even managed with less money than he had. Thus, when the church was finished, five hundred of the two-thousand liri were unspent and were entrusted to the care of Savva Popov. [77]


The church was not yet finished when the Greeks finally left the Melnik district and the villagers were able to use the beautiful monastery church, but Yané continued to build. Dimitŭr Arnaudov asked him: ‘Well, Yané, now that the villagers have got a church ten times better than the new one which you’re making, why don’t you convert it to some other purpose for them, instead of finishing it?’ Yané answered: ‘If I knew that I would live another twenty years, I would give up now, because in that period I would create a new generation which would look at things rather differently, but now, when I die, the Holy Synod may send some slightly more clever monk. I can’t leave the villagers to worship in the monastery church, since that might lead once again, through the naivety of some, to the villagers succumbing to the old economic slavery, but, this way, since they have a separate church, they will stand a little further away from the monks, and will not be bullied by them, through need of their church. [78]


It is true that Yané’s church cannot compare in size or splendour with that of the monastery, yet few churches so eloquently express the personality of their builders. Simple and unadorned, Yané’s church stands like a shepherd on a high green meadow amid the sandy cliffs of south Pirin. No walls, fences or monastic cells encircle it, and there is nothing to interrupt the view of the distant horizons, nothing to limit its contact with nature and the real world. It was built, not to the greater glory of God, but in order to save the peasants from the economic consequences of their naivety and superstition, and to protect them from oppression, even when their Starika was no longer alive to champion them. Yané dedicated the church to Cyril and Methodius, the creators of Bulgarian written culture, and among the holy images on the ikonostasis, there are



76. Arnaudov, Opus cit., p. 24.


77. After Yané’s death, the Strumitsa Diocesan Clerical Council, meeting under the chairmanship of Neofit, Metropolitan Bishop of Skopje, took a decision to ask Popov to hand the money over to Bishop Neofit. A hundred liri were to be given to the fund ‘Yané Sandansky’, and the rest was to be put in the bank in the name of the Rozhen church wardens and the interest was to be used for charity. ODA Blagoevgrad, f. 48K, op. 2, a.e. 34.


78. Arnaudov, Opus cit., p. 24-25.





two which are deeply personal and significant. One is a somewhat un-canonical representation of St Sophia—a graceful tribute to his beloved sister. The other portrays a uniquely original saint, invented by Yané for the edification of the villagers and named Sveti Svobodolyubets— St Freedom-lover.



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