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National Romanticism: The Formation of National Movements

Balazs Trencsenyi
Michal Kopecek

Chapter V. National Heroism: Revolution and Counter-Revolution

Two Macedonian manifestos

Traduction de Nikola Iordanovski

Texte intégral


1Title: Манифест на Главниот штаб нa мaкeдoнcкaтa вojскa (Manifesto of the headquarters of the Macedonian army), announced on Mount Pirin, 29 June 1880

2Originally published: At the time this manifesto was distributed throughout Macedonia as a type-written text; at least in such form it is to be found in the secret archive of Patriarch Cyril of Bulgaria in the Dragalevo monastery, volume 23, p. 101–103, under the title: ‘Bulgaro-Macedonian League.’

3Language: Bulgarian

4Slavko Dimevski, Vlado Popovski, Svetomir Škarić, Mihajlo Apostolski, eds., Maкeдoнcкaтa Лигa и Уcтaвoт зa држaвнo уpeдувaњe нa Maкeдoниja oд 1880 (Skopje: Mиcлa, 1985), pp. 326–328.


5Title: Manifesto of the Temporary Government of Macedonia, 18/30 April 1881 (the source publication used does not contain the original French text)

6Author of the text: It is not clear who was the actual author of the text; the manifesto is signed by the president of the temporary government, a certain Vasilos Simos, and the secretary Nikolaos Trajkos.

7Originally published: The Manifesto was attached to a letter sent to the Russian diplomatic representative in Constantinople, General N. P. Ignatieff; it is now in the Central State Archive in Moscow (CGAOR, Moskva, f. 730, op. 1, No 79, l. 1).

8Language: French

9Дoкумeнти зa бopбaтa нa мaкeдoнcкиoт нapoд зa caмocтojнocт и нaциoнaлнa дpжaвa, vol. 1, (Skopje: Унивepзитeт Kиpил и Meтoдиj, 1981), pp. 267–268; also in Slavko Dimevski, Vlado Popovski, SvetomirŠkarić, Mihajlo Apostolski, eds., Maкeдoнcкaтa Лигa и Уcтaвoт зa држaвнo уpeдувaњe нa Maкeдoниja oд 1880 (Skopje: Mиcлa, 1985), pp. 356–357. In both editions the texts are translated into Macedonian.

About the author

10Vasil Diamandiev [1839, Ohrid – 1912, Sofia]: politician. Finished primary school in Ohrid. At the age of sixteen he started teaching in his native town (1855– 57). He worked as a teacher in several places in Macedonia until 1867, when, accused of being a Russian agent (he had studied in Moscow and Kiev between 1858 and 1861) he was imprisoned by the Ottoman authorities. Afterwards he moved to Russia and lived in Bessarabia. During the Eastern Crisis (1875–1878) he was very active in promoting the cause of the liberation of the Balkan peoples. After the end of the Russo-Turkish war (1877–78) he moved to the newly created Bulgaria. He continued to send petitions and memoranda proposing solutions to the Macedonian question. In the summer of 1880 he participated in the formation of the ‘Macedonian League’ in Ruse (Bulgaria) and became its president. After its hasty dissolution he continued to work in different Macedonian émigré associations and committees until the end of his life in 1912. Vasil Diamandiev does not belong to the first rate historical figures in terms of canonization. Although he is the most probable author of the Manifesto, it is the text that has been emphasized, and the organization behind it: ‘The Macedonian League.’


11In the nineteenth century the peoples in the Balkans realized that the situation within the Ottoman Empire would change substantially only after active intervention by the Great Powers. The international crisis connected with the Eastern Question brought hopes that the Russian armies after another victorious campaign would convince the sultan to grant autonomy to its Christian subjects—the first step towards full independence. The established pattern of (Christian) uprisings and (Turkish) retaliatory massacres leading to different forms of outside pressure, a probable war and an even more probable conference (or congress), always depended on many unpredictable factors in the mechanism of European decision-making. The dream of an eventually favorable geo-strategic decision by the cabinets of the Great Powers (the Russians being considered to be the most promising), was shared by virtually everybody in the Balkan region, from illiterate peasants through priests and traders to the various types of revolutionaries both at home and in émigré circles.

12The uprising in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1875 followed by the war that Serbia and Montenegro waged on Turkey (together with the bloody events in Bulgaria) provoked a series of diplomatic crises, culminating in a major international crisis which led to another Russo-Turkish war (1877–1878). During this resurgence of the Eastern Question, the first outburst since the Crimean war, the Russian army chose the shortest way to Constantinople—by following the west coast of the Black Sea—through Romania, across the Danube and then through the Bulgarian vilayets of the Ottoman Empire. In spite of putting up a staunch resistance, the Turks were almost totally expelled from the Balkans and had to sign a Russian-dictated preliminary peace treaty known as the San Stefano agreement (3 March 1878). Almost the whole geographic territory of Macedonia was to be included in the projected autonomous Bulgarian state under Russian tutelage, making this by far the biggest state in Southeast Europe. However, such radical changes to the Balkan political geography had first to be addressed by a European congress, since the San Stefano agreement manifestly ignored and endangered the interests of other countries (mainly Austria-Hungary and Great Britain). As far as Macedonia’s population was concerned, the most important decision of the ensuing Berlin Congress (June 1878) was the return of this province to Ottoman rule, with a vague promise—the famous ‘article 23’—of reforms in the direction of semi-autonomy. Although Macedonia had not been in the path of the Russian armies, their presence in neighboring Bulgaria heated political feelings in Macedonian towns and villages, producing turmoil amongst the ethnically and religiously mixed population. It was precisely this ethno-cultural mix that produced the various kinds of ‘revolutionary’ responses to the crisis of the moment. The main question was in whose name to demand autonomy for Macedonia, since the population consisting of Slavs, Greeks, Albanians, Turks, Vlachs and Jews (in contested proportions) had no homogenous political vision or aspirations. The Slavic Macedonian majority itself suffered divisions in loyalty between the Patriarchate in Constantinople with its Greek cultural values and the Exarchate, seen as the pillar of Bulgaro-Slavic resistance against the traditional Greek cultural (and economic) domination. All these dilemmas are reflected in the documents issued by two political-military bodies of the time—the ‘Macedonian League’ and the ‘Temporary Government—Unity.’

13The ‘Macedonian League,’ founded in 1880 in Bulgaria, demonstrated from the very start the ambiguity of its identity-platform. A number of guerrilla leaders (vojvodas), many of them veterans of what could at best be termed ‘non-revolutionary banditry,’ willingly participated in every anti-Turkish war and uprising in the region but lacked the ‘intellectual capital’ necessary for establishing wider contacts, lobbying and formulating an authentic political program. On the other hand, the Macedonian emigrant intelligentsia, very often existentially and spiritually connected with the Bulgarian ecclesiastic and educational institutions, insisted on investing the Macedonian political project with a Bulgarian substance. In turn, the vojvodas tended to think that this would damage the Macedonian cause both internationally and internally. As a result of these disagreements the name of the league changed many times: the Bulgaro-Macedonian, the Macedono-Bulgarian, and, finally, the Macedonian League. In some ways this reflects a conflict between archaic local patriotism and one of its derivatives—modern nationalism. Such referential divisions (Macedonian/Bulgarian/Greek…) within the definition of Macedonian identity persisted long enough to be called paradigmatic. The present ‘Manifesto,’ one of the several documents issued by the Macedonian League (including a draft constitution for a projected Macedonian state) seems to indicate the dominant position of the vojvodas in the political leadership of the League.

14The ‘Temporary Government—Unity,’ established at the same time as the League but in a different part of Macedonia (the southwestern areas close to the Greek border), had similar national and political visions as the ‘Macedonian League.’ This temporary government was elected by a secret ‘National Assembly’ held in May 1880 close to Lake Ostrovo (Vegorida). The frequent references in the Manifesto to the glory of ancient Macedonia and Alexander the Great, as well as the biographies of certain of its founders (Leonidas Vulgaris, for instance) reveal Hellenic influence, both official and unofficial. The most interesting aspect is the composition of the delegates who participated in this convention, representing almost all the religious and cultural identities in Macedonia: there were Albanians, Turks, Greeks, and Vlachs as well as Slavic adherents of all political orientations, that is, Serbian, Bulgarian and Greek.

15Not much was known about this ‘National Assembly’ and its temporary government, and unflattering rumors circulated about its members, depicting them as being either Greek or Russian agents. However, their Manifesto bears specific identity-building accents with strong appeals to unity (addressed to all peoples of Macedonia), so different from the other programs of internal exclusion reducing Macedonia to the field of various irredentisms. It is worth mentioning that in June 1880 the representatives of the Temporary Government met with the leadership of the Macedonian League and decided to cooperate for the common cause. However, both of these committees, in spite of threats of an armed uprising, would be remembered by history only through the legacy of the documents they issued.

16Bulgaria and Greece sought to avoid getting into trouble with their powerful Ottoman neighbor. Without their logistic help the revolutionary committees, situated in marginal areas, found that their armed forces quickly dissolved when discovered by Turkish units. Nevertheless, both the ‘League’ and the ‘Unity’ government won a respectable position within the historiographic discourse on nation-building in the Republic of Macedonia. They are considered as precursors of the very idea of an autonomous Macedonian state. Their programmatic documents are considered to be the first step in the evolution of a separate Macedonian political thinking based on civic patriotism, and not on the ideals and practices characterizing a nation-state project. Appearing in the 1980s, these documents were immediately appropriated by the national canon-builders; their civic component being considered rather as a step in the evolution of the national idea than having any intrinsic value.


Manifesto of the headquarters of the Macedonian army, announced on Mount Pirin, 29 June 1880

18Macedonian Brothers,

19For five hundred years dark and black clouds have covered the whole Macedonian people and their country. We, the wretched slaves of the Ottomans, can no longer endure all the gruesome terrible screaming of our raped mothers and sisters, of children torn away from the bosoms of their mothers. The knife has reached the bone! Nobody listens to our screams any more. Christian Europe handed over our suffering people to the arbitrariness of Turkish religious fanaticism. The last hope, centered on article 23 of the Berlin agreement, collapsed. There is nothing else left except to take up the arms with the slogan ‘Death or freedom for Macedonia.’

20With uneasiness in our heart we decide for this step knowing that the struggle will be hard and bloody, but we are forced to take into our hands the destiny of our fatherland. We believe no more in promises when the blood of the victims calls us to vengeance.


22The hour to fight against our ancient enslaver is approaching. Prepare for it as faithful sons of suffering Macedonia. Forget mutual disagreements, for we are all its sons regardless of faith and nationality. We are first and foremost Macedonians. Do not believe our neighbors who have slipped amongst us like snakes and cheat us for their own interests. Join together under the Macedonian flag and raise it high, high in the struggle for freedom and independence. Only joined together can we keep for ourselves our beloved fatherland Macedonia and obtain our full autonomy.

23Courageous Macedonian sons,

24Our neighbors long to grab Macedonia for themselves, to tear it apart. Let us come together under our flag and remain only Macedonians, for only united as brothers can we free ourselves from despair under Turkish rule and remain ourselves on our land. Close your ranks and await the call for our general Macedonian uprising. With gun on shoulder and sword in hand, join our Macedonian army in the fight against the savage merciless pagans. Chase away all those who have joined with foreign interests and preach that “the sword does not cut the humble head.” Respond: gun on gun, knife on knife!

25We are not anymore prepared to accept other people creating our destiny, to stand before their doors and expect mercy from cruel hearts. Today we have our Macedonian army in our mountains, which might not yet be numerous, but with God’s help and yours will become strong. It will fight for liberation and win a good outcome for our beautiful fatherland.

26We ask you, brother Macedonians, not to take this manifesto as a mere appeal, but to prepare for our general Macedonian uprising against our eternal tyrants. We hope that all true Macedonians will hear our call to bloody struggle. So we finish our appeal with our slogan:

27‘Death or liberty! Long live free Macedonia.’

28Headquarters of the Macedonian Army within the Macedonian League.

29President: V. Diamandiev

30Main voivode: Iljo Maleshevski; Kocho voivode, village of Lakossa, Serres district; Kosta voivode from Levunovo village, Melnik; Angel voivode from Kumanich village, Nevrokop; Miledidzhik voivode from Karluhovo village, Zahna district; Stoyan voivode from Djegurovo, Melnik; Georgi voivode from Karchevo village, Demir-Hisar district; Todor voivode from Starchishta village, Nevrokop area.

31Mount Pirin, 29 June 1880

Manifesto of the Temporary Government of Macedonia, 23 March 1881


33Once upon a time our dear fatherland Macedonia was one of the most glorious countries. And the Macedonian people, by building on the foundations of their military skills, with their victorious phalanxes and the wisdom of Aristotle civilized humanity and Asia. But our fatherland, once so glorious, is today at the threshold of annihilation because of our mistakes and because we have forgotten our origins. Alien and dubious peoples want to take possession of our country and destroy our nation that, shining with such a light, cannot and will not ever fall. Macedonia has become like a widow, tragically deserted by her sons. She no longer holds the flag once carried in triumph by the victorious Macedonian armies. She is today nothing more than a geographic notion. There are efforts to cover her tokens of victory with the dust of oblivion. Conspirators roaming through our country have given her deadly poisons and have dug a grave for her. These plotters are the gravediggers of the great and glorious fatherland; these are the same prisons who seek to dismember her or allow the entry of the victorious Austro-Hungarian troops. By replacing one yoke with another the regeneration of Macedonia will become impossible and our nationality will disappear. The moment is critical for Macedonia: it is about her life or death.

34True Macedonians, loyal children of the fatherland!

35Will you tolerate the fall of our dear country? Look at her, bound in slavery and covered by wounds made by the surrounding peoples. Look at her and behold the heavy chains put by the sultan. Powerless and weeping, our beloved Macedonia, our dear fatherland addresses you. “You my loyal children; you that are my inheritors after Aristotle and Alexander the Great; you in whose veins Macedonian blood runs, do not leave me dying, but help me. What a sorrowful sight would it be for you, true Macedonians, if you become eyewitnesses of my funeral. No, here are my terrible bloody wounds, here are my heavy chains: break them, heal my wounds; make sure that on the flag I raise will be written: Macedonia one and united! Do so boldly, chase from your country those murderers who carry the flag of discord and introduce passions of separation and divide you, my children, into countless nationalities; gathering around the flag of Macedonia, as your only national sign, raise it high up, make this glorious flag ready and then write unanimously:

36Long live the Macedonian people, long live Macedonia!

37The voice of our country does exist, freedom does exist—that cherished legacy of the peoples. To proclaim these words means to call the noble hearts to rush up and fight in order to help you, obtaining that sacred freedom absent from our dear fatherland for so many centuries.

38Macedonians, remember our origin and do not give it up!

39Kiustendil, 11/23 March 1881

40Dospat, 18/30 April 1881

41President Vasil Chomo (Simon)

42Secretary Nikola Trajkov

© Central European University Press, 2007

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