Bulgarian Campaign Committees in Macedonia 1941
The Bulgarian population in Macedonia accepted with satisfaction the defeat of Versailles Yugoslavia in 1941. In the dissolution of Yugoslavia those people saw the end of their 23-year long slavery. No wonder that the Bulgarians from Macedonia, mobilized in the Yugoslav army, refused to fight, laid down arms and surrendered to the Germans. The situation was similar to World War I when the Bulgarians from Macedonia, forcefully mobilized in the Serbian army, surrendered en masse to the Austro-Hungarian army.
The hostilities against Yugoslavia began on April 6th, 1941. The last advance of the German troops in Macedonia created possibilities for overthrowing the odious Serbian and Greek rule in the district. But the lack of Bulgarian troops and official Bulgarian authorities created certain political vacuum, in which the so-called campaign committees were established.
The idea for creating such committees did not emerge at once. It arose in talks between some representatives of the former Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (united). There were the historical figures Pavel Shatev, Alexo Martoulkov, Hristo Ampov, Stephan Stephanov and Vassil Hadzhikimov. The outbreak of World War II on September 1st, 1939 made the whole Bulgarian society, and particularly the fugitives from Macedonia, seek more actively ways for liberating Macedonia.
In the course of the talks it became clear that the problem of organizing the Bulgarian population in Macedonia could be settled by two active figures - Stephan Yanakiev Stephanov and Vassil Hristov Hadzhikimov. They had both suffered and would suffer again for the liberation of their native territories. Like many other Bulgarians from Macedonia, they would be imprisoned after the war. Hadzhikimov stayed in prison for more than 11 years. Stephan Stephanov perished in an attempt to escape from prison. They elaborated the following plan: first, if the conditions imposed Bulgaria not to participate in the war for liberation of Macedonia, they would struggle for autonomy of that region; second, if there were plebiscite for joining any of the neighboring countries, they would urge the people to take part in campaigns, demonstrations, petitions for accession to Bulgaria.
According to Stephanov and Hadzhikimov those political goals could be achieved only by following two basic missions: destroying the Serbian and Greek authorities in Macedonia, and uniting the people in an organization.
Versailles Yugoslavia was destroyed in a short time. Negotiations were conducted for accessing part of Macedonia "to Bulgaria. Having in mind the changes in the political situation, Stephanov and Hadzhikimov decided that their mission was to form a Central Committee with a network of committees in the towns and villages." Such an organization could assist the Bulgarian authorities, which were to be established there and probably would not be familiar with the local conditions.
The atmosphere in Macedonia at that time was favourable for creating an organization of the kind Stephanov and Hadzhikimov had in mind. The Bulgarian troops were expected with impatience. In that situation local authorities were created in some places in Macedonia spontaneously, long before any instructions were given. The historical moment always called for the right personalities. The arrival of Stephanov and Hadzhikimov appeared to be just the spark, which inflamed the hearts of the people for patriotic deeds. In Skopje they found their old friends - the lawyer Blagoy Popankav and the merchant Ilia Atanassov. The latter informed them that a session with representatives of different organizations would be held. The purpose of that session, where a German representative was invited, was to create an independent Republic of Macedonia. Of course they had in mind some kind of a Bulgarian Macedonian Republic. But assuming that such a republic would be under German protectorate, which was not desirable, Stephanov and Hadzhikimov rejected that idea.
On April 13th, 194L a session was held in Stephanov's house in Skopje. According to the minutes No. 1 a Central Committee of the Macedonian Bulgarian Committees was founded. Its official name was Bulgarian Central Campaign Committee (BCCC) for Macedonia. The committees that were to be formed in different places throughout Macedonia were called Local Bulgarian Campaign Committees. The BCCC consisted of 32 people. It chose an Executive Committee with the following members, President Stephan Stephanov, Deputy President Spiro Kitinchev, Secretary Vassil Hadzhikimov, Cashier Kroum Organdzhiev and Advisors Blagoy Popankov, Ivan Piperkov, Dr. Alexander Georgiev and Ilia Atanassov.
One of the main tasks of BCCC was to announce the following declaration: “Bulgarians, Macedonia is liberated! Macedonia is free forever! The end of slavery had come... The centuries-old oppression in Macedonia - Greek, Serbian and Turkish, spiritual and political, economic and social, in the 20th century is abolished. The great ideal - liberty - for which Macedonia waged century-long struggles with an unprecedented heroism and with a lot of sacrifices, is already reality." Along with that declaration briefly announced the program to the people - accession to Bulgaria. Although the Bulgarian authorities were not yet established, the BCCC announced in the declaration: “Macedonia is free and it is already in the Bulgarian national community."
Bulgarian press was founded in Macedonia. After 24 years, words in Bulgarian appeared in a Bulgarian newspaper. It was called Macedonia and published most of the documents and resolutions of BCCC. Stephan Stephanov was director of the newspaper. Skopje radio station was restored, too.
One of the first problems the BCCC faced was to take the power from the Serbs. A paradox, but the power was still Serbian, the Germans did not abolish the administrative authorities from the beginning. The German commandant in Skopje replied to the delegation of BCCC that he would give the power to the Bulgarians, only if they could give him proofs that the Bulgarians predominated in Skopje. That became a pretext for a special referendum. Only half a day appeared to be enough for BCCC to prepare Bulgarian flags and to hang them in front of all Bulgarian houses. All over the town there were Bulgarian flags although there was no official Bulgarian representative in it. Like any pedantic German, the commandant of Skopje drove along the streets in order to see for himself that the town was a Bulgarian one. Afterwards the administrative rule was given to the Bulgarians. Spiro Kitinchev was appointed the first mayor of the town.
That success showed that to establish Bulgarian rule was not an easy thing, and that a struggle should be waged for it. At the same time, people were convinced that that struggle could be successful only if it was well organized, and if there was unanimity among the supporters of the different tendencies and groups. The struggle for taking the power in Skopje showed that in other Macedonia towns the Serbs probably had strong positions; that was why the immediate formation of local committees was necessary. That was the task of the Organizing Secretary, Vassil Hadzhikimov, the most energetic of the activists. He went round the whole of Macedonia and organized LBCCs in towns and bigger villages.
On April 14th, 1941 Vassil Hadzhikimov arrived in Veles by car. Several people in the town were wounded or killed, the German bombings ruined several houses. Unlike in Skopje, Serbian authorities in Veles were evacuated before the arrival of the Germans. The town hall was in the hands of the Bulgarians. The new mayor - Konstantin Vanev - was elected by the Bulgarians. In the hall of the town cultural centre, in the presence of many townsmen a long discussion took place. The citizens decided to establish a local campaign committee, which should follow the directives of the BCCC for Macedonia's accession to Bulgaria. According to the minutes, the purpose of the committee was to serve as a representative of the town of Veles, to keep contacts with all foreign powers, and to defend the economic, political and cultural interests of the citizens of Veles.
Macedonia newspaper was not late in announcing the event. That was the first LCC and its creation was a historical event. After the World War II the town of Veles was called Tito's Veles, although the Bulgarian national liberation movement in that town had a long history.
The LCC in Veles immediately made steps for investigation and restoration of the graves of the Bulgarian soldiers and officers killed in World War I. The citizens had hidden the crosses from the graves to prevent the Serbs from violating them. So, on May 4, Sunday, the campaign committee organized a memorial service before the mortal remains of the soldiers.
On April 17 Vassil Hadzhikimov arrived in his native town of Shtip. Mere, as elsewhere in Macedonia, the citizens had organized Bulgarian rule immediately after the Serbs had abandoned the town. Well-known to his fellow-citizens, Hadzhikimov called a meeting, where he explained the directives and the positions of the BCCC. The people applauded him. For the 23 years of Serbian oppression the most Bulgarian town in Macedonia was buried under Serbian hatred. In that reminiscence Vassil Hadzhikimov wrote, ,,He, who wants to get an idea of what the Serbian slavery is, must come here and get familiar with something else - the real face of the Bulgarian spirit. The townsmen of Shtip seem to be the toughest Bulgarians. Despite the sufferings and assimilation, they have preserved their language. They have not only preserved the awareness for their national identity, but also of the great role they have played in the past for the liberation of Macedonia”
The next places where Hadzhikimov created campaign committees were Kotchani, Vinitsa, Penchevo, Tsarevo Selo (Delchevo), Berovo, Radovish and Stroumitsa. Up to the arrival of the Bulgarian troops in Macedonia, campaign committees were created in most towns of the region, but they were not united in a network. That did not happen until Vassil Hadzhikimov traveled round the whole region and unified the documentation of those committees.
At the same time the Albanian population in Kosovo also founded committees. Their aim was to prepare that region, as well as some towns in Western Macedonia, for annexation by the Albanians. That was why in the towns of Tetovo, Gostivar, Debur, Strouga and Ohrid, Bulgarian and Albanian committees were created and the struggle between them began.
At the time of Hadzhikimov's visit in Gostivar, that town was full of German, Albanian, Bulgarian and Italian flags. Bulgarian and Albanian committees were struggling between each other. On April 23 a meeting was held, where the Bulgarian committee was transformed as a Local Bulgarian Campaign Committee. The Albanian Committee in Debur was most active. It organized demonstrations and meetings on the occasion of the liberation. There were slogans for unification with Albania, The Albanian committee there was in connection with the one in Prizren, and the behavior of the Italians and Albanians expressed self-confidence. That was why there were neither Bulgarian meetings, nor shouts “Hurrah”. A secret conference in a house of a Bulgarian teacher on April 24 was everything that could be done. Hadzhikimov was not content, as that committee could function only illegally. The purpose of the campaign committees were not illegal activities, but the mobilization of the whole nation.
The Italian occupational authorities disapproved the activities of Vassil Hadzhikimov. They arrested him for several hours. So he did not succeed in organizing campaign committees in Strouga and Ohrid. However, such committees were founded and were among the most active ones in Macedonia.
In one of the biggest towns of Macedonia - Bitolia, the Bulgarian population had to wage a struggle to seize the town hall from the Serbian administration. In fact, the struggle was not against the Serbian administration; the problem was to obtain proofs about the ethnic nature of the town, which the population had to present before the German authorities. The citizens of Bitolia had organized a committee before the arrival of Hadzhikimov. Same was the case in other towns in Macedonia, That showed that the organization of Bulgarian campaign committees in Macedonia in 1941 were a spontaneous deed of the Bulgarian nation for its self-determination, and not an initiative of several hot-hearted patriots. The fact that the Bitolia committee was not called a ,,Campaign Committee" was of not great significance.
Bulgarian women from Macedonia had always had a strong national consciousness and had always played an important role in the revolutionary struggles. In those critical days they were loyal to the tradition. On April 30, in the hall of the musical school in Skopje, a women's campaign committee was organized. Its president became Maria Ivanova Shaleva.
At that time a Bulgarian club functioned in Aegean Macedonia. Vassil Hadzhikimov visited several towns in that region, including Salonica. He organized campaign committees in some towns only, such as Vodena and Lerin.
So the whole Vardar and part of Aegean Macedonia were covered with campaign committees. Nobody could give an account for the exact social characteristics and power of that movement - the Bulgarian campaign committees. At the head were the intellectuals, followed by the merchants, industrialists, craftsmen, agrarians. So, in the process of organizing the campaign committees in 1941 the basic part of the population participated actively. That testified to their democratic character.
The formation of campaign committees should not be regarded as an isolated effort of a small group of intellectuals. All Bulgarians in Vardar Macedonia were involved in that patriotic deed during the crucial 1941. That was a process of the whole nation's self-determination and an expression of the will of the people to join Bulgaria after being liberated from Serbian rule. Without underestimating the work of the organizers, it should be emphasized that their success was due to the fact that all Bulgarians in Macedonia were ready to work for that cause; they were only waiting for a signal. In many places Vassil Hadzhikimov found organized committees, so that his problem was only to standardize the documents, titles and directives of the work to be done by the committee. There were several places where Vassil Hadzhikimov did not have the possibility to go. Nevertheless, the population of those towns formed committees.
The main task of the campaign committees was to abolish the Serbian rule and to establish a Bulgarian one. At the time of lack of power in Vardar Macedonia, before the establishment of the official rule of the Bulgarian state, the rule of the people took care of everything which concerned the population: food supplies, public order, relations with the German and Italian authorities, setting free the captives - Bulgarians from Macedonia, who were soldiers in the Yugoslav army, preparing the population to welcome the Bulgarian troops, organization of industrial and agricultural activities, education and culture, etc.
It would be a hard task to make a clear difference between the activities of the campaign committees up to the arrival of the Bulgarian troops in the region, and after it. BCCC was created on April 13 and only a week later, on April 19 the Bulgarian army entered the region. Some LCCs were organized even after April 19. Some of them were in the Bulgarian zone, others in the Italian and in the German ones. At the same time the arrival of the Bulgarian troops did not mean that Bulgarian administrative authorities were automatically organized. It took a long time for that.
In any case, undoubtedly of most important significance was the fact that in a powerless state the people succeeded in setting a rule and in declaring accession to Bulgaria. So that the mission of the campaign committees could be divided into revolutionary, organizational economic and administrative. The revolutionary mission consisted in destroying the remnants of the administrative authorities of the former Versailles Yugoslavia. Closely connected with the revolutionary one was the organizational mission. It included the organizing of LCCs, which had the right and the task to ensure the life and to provide food for population. The campaign committees were also responsible for the cultural, educational, economic and political needs and rights of the population.
In a short time all the administrative Serbian functionaries as well as those working, in the economic, cultural and other spheres were dismissed. Thanks to the activities of the campaign committees soon the factories and enterprises resumed operation. That seemed to be of a vital importance to the workers, who had only their salaries to live with. Only in Skopje several days appeared to be enough for ensuring job for 3000 people.
An important part of the activities of the campaign committees was the organization of guard in front of shops, stores, etc. Guards were also put in front of buildings of historical, ethnographic and cultural significance for Macedonia - museums, libraries, etc. A special department at the BCCC was created with the purpose to protect the property of the schools and the administrative buildings connected with the educational system, cabinets, libraries, etc.
Essential was the restoration of the community culture centers. Their significance for the education of the nation during the Revival period and later on was well known. The Serbs never had a similar cultural institution so their hatred towards those centers was understandable. They simply destroyed them. The campaign committees restored them in a short time with the help of the Bulgarian authorities. On June 9 in Prilep Nadezhda (Expectation) Bulgarian community culture centre was restored, on July 16 - the one in Koumanovo, called Ekaterina Simidchieva, etc.
A teachers' committee was formed, too, as a department at the BCCC. Its most important task was to inform the administrative authorities about the problems connected with the Bulgarian education in liberated Macedonia. BCCC had ordered to all LCCs to invite all Bulgarian teachers from the primary and secondary schools in Macedonia and together with the former Exarchate teachers to form educational committees in every place. Through Macedonia newspaper BCCC appealed to the LCCs to establish contacts with the administrative authorities and to undertake all possible measures to preserve from plunder and annihilation their property - buildings, furniture, libraries, collections, cabinets, etc. BCCC assigned to the teachers' committees the task to organize courses for studying Bulgarian literary language. In the very first days the volunteers in those courses in Skopje outnumbered 800 people.
Of great importance was the preserving of the public order. The activists of the campaign committees did not allow personal revenge over the former rulers. Having in mind that the character of the Serbian regime was forcible one, the acts of revenge could be logical. In many places the population had isolated the Serbian families in camps, although most of them were innocent. The notorious villains Vassilie Trbich, Mihail Kalamatiev, Kirkovich, Grigor Tsiklev and many others had escaped immediately after sensing the activation of the Bulgarian population. That was why BCCC ordered all the Serbs and Montenegrins to be freed from the camps and prisons immediately. They were proposed to return to their native places in Serbia and Montenegro.
A heavy situation occurred in Prilep. The Serbian authorities had settled Serbs and Montenegrins in Pclagonia on the most fertile lands, which were taken by force from the Bulgarians. The population gathered in a camp all the colonized Serbs. According to Vassil Hadzhikimov, “If I had not come in time, about midnight, the camp where the colonists were gathered would have looked like a butchery."
What were the relations between the German military authorities and the campaign committees? Some Bulgarian newspapers of that time contained announcements of propagandist nature that the administrative bodies in the Mairies had been appointed by the German authorities. That was not true: they were appointed by the campaign committees. Of course the German authorities allowed the population to freely express their Bulgarian nationality and were tolerant towards the campaign committees. The Germans regarded them as representatives of the population and as intermediaries between them and the population. So they accepted them, but they did not create them. At the same time it should be noted that the German military authorities allowed Albanian campaign committees to be formed, which appealed for unification with Albania and for ,,Great Albania" under Italian protectorate. That deteriorated the relations between Italy and Bulgaria. Thus Germany worked for its hegemony over the Balkans. So, whatever the confederations were, it looked like the German army gave the Macedonian population the possibility and the right to freely express its nationality. Thus the Bulgarians, outnumbering the other nationalities, gained the possibility to overthrow the Serbian administrative authorities and to establish their own ones, corresponding to their national character.
That was why the first issue of Macedonia newspaper published a BCCC's telegram to Hitler. It said that in World War I, Macedonia was liberated with the combined heroic efforts of the German and Bulgarian troops. But after the war, according to the decisions in Versailles, Macedonia was once again left under foreign rule. The telegram also said that all Macedonians (having in mind the Bulgarians from Macedonia) blessed the Germans and wished them further victories. A similar telegram was sent to Goering, too, and a similar reply was received. Those relations were in conformity with the events of March 1941. The demonstrations in the Macedonian towns against the Axis were feeble. That also explains why the guerilla movement there was weaker in comparison with the other regions of Yugoslavia. In the German troops the Bulgarians from Macedonia saw their liberators.
From the very beginning of its existence BCCC established friendly relations .with Croatia's government. One of its first tasks was to send a telegram to Dr. Ante Pavelich. The telegram contained greetings for the struggle of Croatia people for independence, waged under the leadership of Ante Pavelich. Gratitude was expressed to him, as well as to the whole Croatian nation for their help in liberating Bulgarians from Macedonia. It was well known that during the 1927 process in Skopje the Zagreb lawyer Ante Pavelich was the only one to defend the accused students - Bulgarians from Macedonia.
The campaign committees prepared the population for welcoming the Bulgarian troops, which were allowed to enter the region on April 19, 1941. Everywhere the troops were heartily welcomed. The population went out in the streets and squares, carried flowers and sang Bulgarian songs. The establishing of the Bulgarian administrative authorities was an official act. The German authorities gave over
the administrative rule of the towns in the presence of the population organized by the campaign committees. The German flag was taken down and the Bulgarian one was risen.
The Bulgarian Tsar Boris III visited the liberated territories. First he visited the town of Shtip, the strongest Bulgarian stronghold, and then Stroumitsa, Gyumurdzhina, Dedeagach, Xanti, Kavala and Drama. Two districts were formed in Vardar Macedonia - Skopje and Bitola, while in Western Thrace and Eastern Macedonia there was one district – Xanti. Pirot, Tsaribrod and Bossilegrad became part of Sofia district. Governor of Bitola district was Todor Pavlov, and in Skopje - Anton Kozarov.
The Bulgarian rule was established, but still many missions were to be fulfilled by the campaign committees - providing food for the people, reviving the production and the market, functioning of the administrative boards and schools - all that had to be organized at the activists of the campaign committees. Great quantities of food were sent from Bulgaria by request of the BCCC. Only in June a hundred railway wagons with food came from Bulgaria to Skopje. The participants in the struggle against the Turks, the Greeks and Serbs were allowed pensions. Arable lands, that were taken from the Bulgarians and given to the Serbian colonists, were given back to their owners.
BCCC insisted on increasing the educational work in Vardar Macedonia, they insisted on establishing another faculty in Skopje -an agricultural one, which was necessary for Macedonia, having in mind the agricultural character of the region. The activists of the campaign committees promoted the contacts between students from Bulgaria and Macedonia.
One of the main missions, which the BCCC started to fulfill was to help for setting free Bulgarians from Macedonia who were captured by the German troops as soldiers in the Yugoslav army, as well as all political prisoners from the prisons in Versailles Yugoslavia. That of course was a task for the whole Bulgarian society and mainly of the General Staff. For that purpose a special service for prisoners of war was created. The Ministry of War contacted the German and Italian High Commands and insisted the problem with the Bulgarian prisoners of war to be solved. The campaign committees prepared lists of the prisoners, which were sent to the Ministry of War. The latter sent detailed information to the BCCC: up to the end of May 1941 were freed as follows: from Slivnitsa camp - 3101 men, from Vidin camp - 120, from Petrich camp - 487, from Nikopoll camp - 2361 and from Rousse camp - 812 men: totally, up to the end of May, 10 475 men were freed and sent to their native places.
The General Military Archives of Bulgaria keep a great number of applications for freeing captives - Bulgarians from Macedonia, former soldiers in the Yugoslav army. Here is an example. The father of the well known general from the Yugoslav army - Mihailo Apostolski - Mite Apostolov Matevski from Shtip, said in his application that his son Mihail Mitev, a major on active service in Yugoslav army, was captured by the Germans during the war and at that moment was in a camp near Milan, Italy. Matovski asked his son who “is a Bulgarian, born from Bulgarian parents in Shtip" to be freed. “I allow myself to add that I am one of the honest Bulgarians in Shtip, I have worked for Bulgaria and for the Bulgarian idea, and during the World War 1 I was volunteer in the Bulgarian army, I was wounded at the Albanian border by a bullet and as a result I am handicapped." And he explained that his son had begun his service in the Yugoslav army not because of love to that state, “but being from a poor family, he needed to find there temporary subsistence, with the hope that our country will be one day part of the Motherland, and he would be able to serve to our dear Bulgarian Tsar and state." On the application there was a resolution: ”Rome. To be freed!"
In the course of those activities the representatives of the campaign committees provided the possibility soldiers from other nationalities to be freed from German camps. Even some Serbian soldiers were freed, with the lie .that they were Bulgarians. There were Serbian officers who did not want to be freed on the basis of such a lie, so they declared themselves true Serbians, and did not want to change their nationality, not even informally. But what was most interesting - nobody declared himself a Macedonian.
One of the most important missions, which the campaign committees fulfilled, was to organize the celebration of Bulgarian public holidays in liberated Macedonia. Of course the administrative authorities organized celebrations, but having in mind that the members of the campaign committees participated actively in them, they also took part in their organization. The celebration of 24th May in Skopje was most important. Many guests from Sofia had arrived: a great number of members of Yunak (Hero) organization, the President of the Macedonian Scientific Institute in Sofia, Professor Nikola Stoyanov, was among the guests, too. They were welcomed by a brass band, the latter being trained with the initiative of the BCCC in playing Bulgarian marches. The Mayor Blagoy Popankov read a salutatory address on behalf of the citizens of Skopje. All the people were happy, some of them cried with joy. Brothers, sisters, relatives were together after a long separation. A little later about 100 representatives of the Macedonian-Adrianople's legionaries arrived in Skopje. The member of the National Assembly, Andro Loulchev, led them. At the railway station they were welcomed by the members of the local organization of the former volunteers - about 200 men headed by Pane Shosholchev and the secretary Hristo Gligorov. Simultaneously with the welcoming of the guests, representatives of the Bulgarians from Macedonia were sent to Sofia. A great number of children - students from Skopje, Veles, Prilep, Bitola, Ohrid, Kroushevo, Negotin, Kavadartsi and Gevgely were going to Sofia to take part in the celebrations there. There was a meeting at the railway station. The governor of the district Anton Kozarov and the Deputy President of the Macedonian Women's Union Ekaterina Voinova read salutary addresses. In order to participate in the celebrations of 24 May in Skopje the veteran of the revolutionary struggles Lazar Tomov, President of the Ilinden Organization in Bulgaria had arrived. He carried with him the flag of Vardarski Yunak Association, which he had taken to Sofia after the catastrophe in 1918.
demonstration was an impressive one. It remained in the consciousness
people the impression that the years of the oppression had already
history, and that Bulgarian society was unanimous before the ideal for
liberation and accession of the enslaved territories. In a similar
celebrations in honor of 24 May were organized in all towns and
* * *
On July 7 1941 the district governor Anton Kozarov issued an Order No. 248, which dismissed the BCCC.
The energy of Stephanov and Hadzhikimov was not crashed. They started organizing the so-called popular banks, whose mission was to help the small producers. Despite the heavy economic situation in Macedonia at the time, their work in that direction was useful. The only change was that Hadzhikimov was the director and Stephanov was his deputy. In a short while banks were founded in all major towns in Macedonia. That activity was also a successful one. And it was the most important proof that those two men were not a couple of adventurers, assisted by the case and the situation, but that both of them were Bulgarian patriots who gave much of their energy in the name of the whole nation's benefit.
And again, in towards August-September 1944, Bulgaria faced a new catastrophe. In Macedonia, there was an interregnum again. The lime that needed persons like Stephanov and Hadzhikimov had come again. Several thousands of Albanian nationalists, with Albanian flags in their hands approached Skopje, aiming to occupy and hold the town until the treaties for the possible new borders were signed. Vassil Hadzhikimov immediately summoned all active citizens in the Chamber of Industry and explained the new situation and the new dangers for the Bulgarian population. He promised them that he would not hurry to run to Bulgaria and hide himself from the Serbians, but would stay with the population and help it. He created a Central Committee of the National Militia of Macedonia. On the head of the Committee was the Secretary Vassil Hadzhikimov; members were Dr. Nikola Andonov and Stephan Stephanov - responsible for the relations with German authorities, and Mihail Domazetov - responsible for the relations with the Bulgarian military and civil authorities.
Thus, raising the slogan “For self-dependent Macedonia”, Hadzhikimov gave the citizens armament from the warehouse of the Regional Police Directorate.
The German authorities appeared to be against such a committee and its activity. That was why, on September 10 a new one was founded and replaced the former. It was called Local Committee for Skopje and the neighborhood. The Germans tended to limit the functions of the Committee so that it could not be turned eventually into a government of an independent Macedonia. The activity of the local committee was easier for control. The members of the Committee were Dr. Kosta Chohadzhich, President, Vassil Hadzhikimov, Secretary, responsible for the administration and for the radio broadcasts, members were Nikola Pavlov and Reshid Dzhavid - responsible for the finance, Georgi Kisselinov, Feta Raouf and Georgi Poptrayanov - for the education, Stephan Stephanov and Emin Yashar - for the national militia and Dr. Alexander Georgiev - for the sanitation.
A proclamation written by V. Hadzhikimov for the population of Skopje and the neighborhood was published in Macedonia newspaper, which was resumed as a continuation of the tradition of Macedonia newspaper of the 1941. It was announced that the Committee was formed with the purpose of preserving the public order and security in Skopje and the region. With the same reason the national militia was organized - to gather and arm the Bulgarians for preserving the peace and the order. It was said that organization was not a political one, but a means for ensuring the national security.
obvious, the Committee could be regarded as a continuation of the
activity of 1941. The newspaper was called Macedonia as it was called
years earlier. The same was the title of the editorial. At that time
Stephanov used to write it under the heading ”Our World". In September
1944 it was again S. Stephanov who titled it in the same way. Having in
the new conditions, connected with the coming end of the war, the
the slogan for “independent or autonomous Macedonia".
* * *
Tito's Yugoslavia did not forgive the freethinking and patriotism: they
allow anybody in Macedonia to call himself “a Bulgarian”. In February
trial was held. Chairman of Skopje Regional Court was Panta Marina and
were Dimitur Toplichanets and Filimena Mihailova. The court sentenced
Hadzhikimov to death, and Stephan Stephanov - to 16 years in
prison. They were
guilty for organizing the BCCC. Very soon the Martial Supreme
Hadzhikimov's punishment with 20 years in prison. After 11 years and 3
Hadzhikimov was freed. He lived in Sofia till an old age and died on
20, 1992 in his native town Shtip. Stephanov's fate is unknown.
* * *
The lack of any interference on the part of any organized political authorities at the time when the campaign committees were organized, outlined the contours of a large white field over which the Bulgarians from Macedonia wrote with capital letters their will to be accessed to Bulgaria. They dreamt of the sate for which since 1878, rivers of blood were shed. The campaign committees were an organization open to everybody, no matter his beliefs. The most important conclusion, which could be made about the campaign committees is that they were the only sign after the catastrophes the beginning of the century, that history gave the opportunity to the Bulgarians from Macedonia for self-determination without any pressure. Bulgarians from Macedonia - representatives of all professions -workers, farmers, village people, townsmen, merchants, intellectuals, members of all parties, availed of their historical chance. On that referendum they gave their vote for Bulgaria.
time, it should be taken into consideration that organization was not a
and isolated form of self-determination of the Bulgarians from
Macedonia. It is
only a link in the chain of national liberation struggles that followed