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Vol 2, No 20
22 May 2000
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Fumbling over the Facts
Židas Daskalovski

This article is written in response to Sam Vaknin's Macedonia for the Macedonians, part of the Union of Death debate series

Sam Vaknin has written a highly provocative account of the infamous Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO). Through heavy usage of citations from books of various authors Vaknin has portrayed a rather moot picture of this organization and the development of Macedonian nationalism in general.

Firstly Vaknin implies that Voivoda Đorgija Pulevski's 1878 poem "Macedonian Fairy" represents the birth of Macedonian national identity, and a cultural sense at that. Pulevski, in fact, represents a continuation in the development of Macedonian identity and nationalism.

Even though in the first half of the nineteenth century Macedonian national leaders, such as Joakim Krčovski, Kiril Pejčinović, Jordan Hađikonstantinov Đinot, and the Miladinov brothers, developed Slavic-Bulgarian, or just Bulgarian feelings, in the 1860s, and especially beginning with the 1870s they begun increasingly changing their course of action. By undertaking a more independent course of action, from the 1870s on the Macedonian national "awakeners," such as Pulevski, Kuzman Šapkarev and Dimitrar Popgeorgiev Berovski, constructed their identity not only in co-relation to but also in opposition to, Bulgarian identity.

In the 1870s, the Macedonians who had begun their struggle against the propaganda of the neighbouring states did not have a completely defined national agenda. Among those who fought the influence of the Bulgarian Exarchate and the growing Greek and Serbian penetration of Macedonia, such as Šapkarev and Berovski, there was no clear idea of which direction the movement should go.[1]

As a matter of fact, these Macedonian leaders were not united in their perception of the situation in Macedonia. Although acknowledging the difference between them and the Bulgarians proper, some, like Dame Gruev or Hristo Matov for example, still felt part of the larger Bulgarian culture, and still others, like Pulevski, Krste Misirkov or Teodosij Gologanov, felt that it was time to part ways. The latter became the most potent Makedonisti, fighters for a development of a separate Macedonian identity and culture.[2]

For example, these Macedonians often wrote against the Exarchate's usage of literary Bulgarian in the Macedonian religious ceremonies and schools.[3] In different ways they also resisted the Greek and Serbian penetration in Macedonia. The protests went so far that in parts of Southern Macedonia in 1871 Macedonian church communities tried to reach an agreement with the Uniate (Greek Orthodox) Church

Resistance and revolt

Vaknin also claims that Banica was a "Bulgarian village." Banica, like many other villages in Northern Greece or Aegean Macedonia, was populated by Macedonians. To label the village Bulgarian implies that Macedonians were Bulgarians, a highly disputable statement.

Contrary to what Vaknin states, the Illinden uprising was planned before the death of Delčev. In fact, the decision was made at the Salonica Congress held in January 1903. The decision of the Congress was later confirmed by the IMRO regional assembly in Smilevo (in the Bitola region).

Furthermore, IMRO's uprising was not an affair which was supported by the Vrhovists. As a matter of fact, the Vrhovists' much-awaited help in the form of an intervention of the regular Bulgarian army never occurred and the revolt was crushed by the Ottomans, as Vaknin states, although he cites the number of soldiers as 2000, whereas the actual figure was higher.

"The original 'Macedonian Revolutionary Organization' (MRO) was established in Sofia." says Vaknin. In reality there was no original MRO established in Sofia. What the author probably meant was the establishment of the "Vrhovist" organization. The clandestine IMRO was juxtaposed by the formation of the V'rhovnija Makedonsko Komitet (Supreme Macedonian Committee, or VMK for short) in Sofia in August, 1895.

The original name of the organization was 'B'lgarski Makedono-Odrinski Revoljucionni Komiteti', (Bulgarian Macedono-Adrianopolitan Revolutionary Committee, BMOROK). It later became to be known as the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO) so as to be distinguishable from the "Vrhovists" organization.

However, more than all this fumbling, Vaknin makes points about IMRO that are perhaps not too relevant to the history of Macedonia and leaves out others which are relevant. Many of Vaknin's points, for which he can provide suitable quotations, are perfectly valid on their own but fail to add up to a complete and accurate picture. As a historian, I find Vaknin's article leaves me with a thirst for a view of IMRO which takes into account the whole story and doesn't just present a partial view.

Židas Daskalovski, 22 May 2000

The Union of Death:

This article is part of the Union of Death debate

Moving on:


1. Ristovski, p 176 and p 180

2. See Marco Dogo, Lingua e Nazionalita in Macedonia: Vicende e Pensieri di Profeti Disarmati, 1902-1903, (Milano:Jaca, 1985), translated by Lape Alenka Jazikot i Nacionalnosta vo Makedonija: Doživuvanjata i Razmisluvanjata na Nevooruženite Proroci 1902-1903, (Skopje: Makedonska Kniga, 1990), pp 217-218

3. Popovski Vlado, Makedonskoto Nacionalno-Osloboditelno Dviženje do TMRO: Socijalno Političko Dviženje, (Skopje: Makedonska Kniga, 1989), p 19, cf 39


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