Extracts from the memoirs of Hristo Shaldev

2. The Slav Macedonian Student Society in St. Petersburg
 

It is worthwhile to elaborate on a minor incident associated with the Serbian embassy that occurred during ticket-sales for the Macedonian social. Marin Stamov, the future Bishop Makariy of Nevrokop, and I were assigned to sell tickets in a district where the Serbian embassy was located. According we decided to call on the Consul and offer him the opportunity to purchase tickets. The door-man, coming from the Consul's office said that he would receive us and to proceed up the stairs. Stamov however remained in the main waiting-room.

After I had entered his office and explained the purpose of my visit, possibly as a reaction to the recent Russian press descriptions of the "Gorna Dzhumaia Uprising" as an act of oppressed Bulgarians in Macedonia and the preparations for a larger uprising he casually stated "Why haven't you organized the Social jointly with the Serbian students?". I replied that the holding of a music-dance Social was raised in passing at a meeting of the Bulgarian Student Society as a means to help the Macedonian refugees as a result of the fighting in the Dzhumaia and Petrich districts. It never occurred to anyone to ask other student organizations for support. However if the Serbian Student Society undertook a similar venture and requested our assistance we would only be too glad to help. The consul then asked where I came from and I answered "South Macedonia, Salonika district" to which he retorted "Then you should be aware how many Serbian teachers, priests and civilians IMRO has murdered". I informed him I did not know the answer, but I knew that whoever attempted to obstruct IMRO in its liberationist goals, no matter what nationality they were, would be punished according to their degree of guilt. However I reiterated that the Social was a humanitarian undertaking, to mainly help the desperate during the forthcoming winter, and that is why we came to offer tickets. He replied "No Iíll not come to your Social, nor will I buy any tickets". I said goodbye and returned to join my colleague. On the way he jokingly said "It only remains for us to visit the Turkish Embassy and the day will be complete!"

As far as I could ascertain Professor Novakovic is the founder of the theory that the Macedonian Slavs lack a national conciousness and may be moulded into "Greeks", "Serbs" and "Bulgarians" as long as some suitable cultural characteristics exist amongst them. This theory was later adopted by Professors Cvijic and Belic. As a Serbian diplomatic representative in St Petersburg, Novakovic probably also promulgated his theory amongst members of the Slavonic Humanitarian Society and some public figures. I suspect he was implicated in the postponing of our Social from during the Christmas holidays until the 25th of January. Novakovic's ideas and influence can also be credited with the formation at that time of the Slavomacedonian Student Society in St Petersburg, which comprised young Macedonian students educated in Serbia.

* * *


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When in the autumn of 1902 the Vrhovists and in defiance of IMRO, launched the "Gorna Dzhumaia Uprising" which was restricted merely to the Gorna Dzhumaia and Petrich districts, the Russia press unanimously declared it an act of Bulgarian Macedonians against the Turkish rule and their miserable life. The newspapers also noted that the people were preparing for an even larger rebellion in the near future which would include the whole of Macedonia.

Then after celebrations to commemorate the battle of the "Shipka Pass" the two Russian foreign ministers, Counts Lamsdorf and Ignatiev, met in Sofia representatives of the Macedonian immigrants, the Macedonian intelligentsia, social workers and representatives of IMRO who handed each of the two distinguished guests their exhibitions and maps of Macedonia and the Adrianople district. It was then that several students, sons of Serbomans from NW Macedonia, who had completed their primary and secondary education in Serbia and were pursuing their higher education in St Petersburg, inspired by hatred for everything Bulgarian decided to form a Slav-Macedonian Student Society (SMSS). The aim of this society was to promote through conversations with Russian public figures, journalists and Slavophiles that the Macedonian Slavs are not Bulgarian but represent a separate South Slavic people.

I regard the "originator" of this thesis as being Professor Stoyan Novakovic, who as the Kingdom of Serbia's diplomatic representative to St Petersburg publicised this view among the members of the Slavonic Charitable Society. Perhaps that is why this latter society allowed its premises to be used by the small Slavomacedonian group of students to hold meetings along similar lines to those by Serb, Bulgarian and Czech students. This theory of Professor Novakovic was later scientifically presented by Professors Cvijic and Belic to advance Serbian propaganda in NW Macedonia, where it actually succeeded in influencing a certain part of the population within the sub-districts of Porechieto, Gorni and Dolni Polog, Azot and the regions about Kumanovo.

Being aware of the position of prominent Russian and other Slavists and Historians on the question of the language and ethnicity of the Macedonian Slavs, and as secretary of the Macedonian group in St Petersburg, I did not attach any particular importance to the establishment of the SMSS. This lack of concern was influenced by the very small number of individuals involved and the limited scholastic abilities of the instigators with respect to an understanding of questions of a historic and linguistic nature.

However, I subsequently pressured Milan Stoilov, a first year in the Military Medicine academy, to attend the second meeting of the SMSS and obtain information on both its aims and number of members. He went and was actually


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elected temporary secretary of the meeting. Stoilov reported his findings to a branch meeting of the Organization of Macedonian Societies and left a written report for the archives. His report stated that the second meeting of the SMSS was held on 29th December 1902 and included the following agenda items:

1. Election of a vice-president (G Konstantinovich) and librarian (Rusalenchich) to the Executive committee; both proposed and elected by the meeting.
2. Defining the borders of Macedonia as based on the ethnographic map issued several years previously by the Slavonic Charitable Society.
3. To send a letter of thanks to the Slavonic Charitable Society for allowing its premises to be used for the meeting.
4. To inform by letter the Bulgarian, Serbian and Czech student associations concerning the formation of the SMSS.
5. Each member was to select several characteristic Macedonian words to be forwarded to the secretary of the SMSS, who would enter them in a special note-book comprising four column headings - Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbian and Russian.


This report highlights several salient features. The SMSS was established in St Petersburg in December 1902 and had so few members present at its inaugural meeting that an election of an Executive committee was deferred to the second meeting. Furthermore at that second meeting it was decided to compile in a special note-book specific Macedonian words existing in every speech and ethnic community, which the promoters of the SMSS would use to influence Russian academics and public figures that the language of the Slav Macedonians is closer to Russian than Bulgarian or Serbian.

Although small in number, the members and activities of the SMSS became subject to the private concerns of members of the Macedonian Liberation Society (MLS) because the SMSS represented a new group which directly opposed the national unity of the Macedonian Slavs. The same Slavs who a century before had re-awaken to reject the Phanariot spiritual and Turkish political bondage, relying only on their own efforts and paltry material means to build and support national schools, and to arm for a final struggle against the centuries old political and economic oppression. Furthermore on its inception the SMSS hastened to conspire with the Turkish government, in particular the policies of the chief inspector of Macedonia - Hilmi Pasha - who was quick to support any enterprise which had a divisive potential towards the activities of the Bulgarian Macedonian community represented by IMRO. And later I shall detail how the "creators" of the SMSS led by its president D Chupovski, colluded with the Turkish embassy in St Petersburg to be given the right to travel freely throughout Macedonia as provocateurs, and to also have contacts within Sofia in an attempt to recruit devotees to their idea amongst the Macedonian Brotherhoods.


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However at that time our group was completely preoccupied planning and preparing an important fund-raising Macedonian social - for example tickets, artists, musicians, conducting and drawing two lotteries before the end of May, collecting old items and selling them to pawnbrokers. We also constantly searched for old rifles to forward to IMRO, collected voluntary donations for the same as well as recruiting and training volunteers for the imminent uprising in Macedonia. Naturally under these circumstances the MLS has little time to dwell on the SMSS. However when the Ilinden Uprising commenced and had continued for several months the Russian newspapers, written by the editors and their special correspondents described the rebel activities as the dissatisfaction of Bulgarian Macedonians and Macedonians in general at Turkish rule. Thus these articles effectively countered any activity of the SMSS with respect to their verbal national-separatist preachings.

It was one year later that the true underlying ideology of the SMSS and especially that of its president Dimiter P Chupovski and his 5-6 followers was uncovered. Near the end of February 1904 a student member of the Moscow MLS came to St Petersburg and showed us a letter that Chupovski had sent to Nikola Nichota, a Moscow University student and a Kutsovlach by ethnicity. I made a copy, returned it to the student with strict instructions that it be delivered to the addressee by whatever means were most appropriate. Chupovksi's letter is of interest not only for its contents but also because its style is comparatively correct Bulgarian literary language and not the author's Myak speech. The full text of the letter is reproduced below:

St Petersburg, 17 February 1904
Dear Kolio,

When I found a free minute after receiving your letter (from 15/02/1904) I decided to answer you straight away. Firstly I am glad for your success as regards the scholarship and secondly about your gratefulness to me and your commitment to our common idea. Be assured that on my part for everything that you wrote steps will be taken for your benefit. Your self-realization in the Slav Macedonian nationality (as far as it is sincere) can only bring gladness to me and every sincere patriot and nothing else. I will be very pleased if you successfully fulfil the assigned task concerning the Serbian propaganda in Macedonia and its destructive influence amongst the people.

I cannot accept the contention that in Moscow there is no basis for the SMSS idea to develop. I think it is inertia, mainly because you as a student of only two months could not meet or become acquainted with all circles amongst whom our idea could evolve. Also because you had associated with Serbs, Bulgarians and Macedonians who are fanatical with their own ideas and Russians who have become accustom to viewing a Macedonian as a Serb or a Bulgar and not as a representative of a different tribe. However when you begin to move within the Russian Slavophile community and cultivate in them the notion that the Slavs of Macedonia are



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not the same as Serbs and Bulgars but a separate tribe representing something different from them both, then the people and many representatives of its intelligentsia will come to recognize themselves as sons of a Slav Macedonian tribe which has closer links to the Russians than to the Serbs and Bulgars. Then we may be assured that many Russian activists will change their first impressions to support a Slav Macedonian identity. The same strategy should be used to influence the Macedonian, but do not reveal this idea to everyone. Initially raise it as an obscure concept and then let develop under its own momentum.

As regards myself, as you say they both (Bulgars and Serbs) have a bad opinion about me but it does not concern me as they detest the idea and its adherents. And tell me who likes me here from the mentioned idiots.

You ask about my visit to the Turkish embassy. We had an audience with the first secretary, who is also an adviser to the Consul, and expressed our views regarding Macedonia - that we want to be delivered from the mercy of the Serbs, Greeks and Bulgars and to live in peace under the protection of the PadiShah. He thanked us for such consideration and recognition for the Turkish Empire ideas. He also advised us to describe in detail our aims regarding the Macedonian Slavs - in a written submission as a petition or memorandum to be presented before the Sultan. We decided to follow that course, but because of the unexpected news from the Far East we postponed in time so that the Bulgarians and Serbs did not find out and rebel against us.

At the last meeting I read a composition on "About the centuries-old identity of the Macedonians" and on Sunday will read Filcho (now he is not Nikolich but Nikolovski), under the title "What reasons have the Russians and travellers or ethnographers in general to confuse the Macedonian Slavs with the Serbs and Bulgars". He became friendly with me and now regularly attends our meetings. The same also applies for Mr Jolevski.

Today I received a letter from Marko, his address is - 33 Liulin Planina, Sofia, c|- Mrs Donka Stanisheva. See that you become acquainted with Nikola N Durnovo, a Serbo Grecophile and Bulgarophobe. I think he lives in Moscow and agrees with our idea. You only have to tell him that in Macedonia there are no Serbs or Bulgars. Give him the encouragement that the pure, real Slav Macedonians thank him for his impartiality.

D Chupovski


On the last page of the copy (p8) dated 10/06/1904 I scribbled the following

To Filip Nikolich from the village of Bukovo (Bitolia district) the Turkish Embassy has issued a travel document for unrestricted travel throughout Macedonia.


And later under this note the reply to my question to Chupovski on what he wanted at the Turkish Embassy and why he slandered me, he answered

I do not want you to think that I spied on you for the Turkish ambassador. I like idealistic people, I respect them and I would not allow such a thing to occur.


However he could not readily conceal his inner emotions, expressed by his paled face.


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Dimiter Chupovski is originator of the SMSS in St Petersburg, its president and the main exponent of the theory on Slavomacedonism by Professors Cvijic and Belic. Chupovski was born in the Kichevo district, son of a Serboman family of the Myak tribe. He had his primary education within his native village, and his secondary schooling in Serbia from where he left for advanced studies in St Petersburg. There he was awarded a scholarship in the St Petersburg Theological Academy about a year before I arrived. He lived with the academics and not in the dormitory (Schilseburg No. 4) specifically reserved for the South Slav students. Amongst the latter was Peter Rosich, the future Debar-Kichevo Bishop Varnava and later patriarch of the Serbian church, who in many arguments about Macedonia categorically insisted its people were Serbian. Chupovski was of medium build with a thin gaunt face which resembled that of a Tatar. He had a thin short moustache, a short thin dual beard and a characteristic "sly" smile. He kept his distance from both us and the Serbs and led a somewhat isolated existence. His academic prowess was only average but he was a hard and diabolic man. The Serbian propaganda had instilled in him hatred for everything Bulgarian. He maintained a totally biased knowledge of history and ethnography although he expressed himself in essentially correct literary Bulgarian. Concerning the nationality of the Macedonian Slavs he flatly declared that foreign propaganda had made them into "Bulgars", "Serbs" and "Greeks" - whereas they are Slav Macedonians with their own identity and language.

Chupovksi completed his studies one year before me and disappeared and I had no knowledge of his whereabouts. The society he established in St Petersburg represented only a small group of 5-6 individuals, former Serbian students divested of any ethnic sense. Faced with the fact that Russian journalists and academics highlighted the Bulgarian nature of the Macedonian Liberation Movement and above all the power of IMRO, this group proceeded to preach an opposing view that the Slavs of Macedonia have for centuries their own identity and language. And in their zeal to promote this cause this small group of "intellectuals", led by their inspired leader, dedicated themselves to directly serve the Turkish Embassy in St Petersburg (see D Chupovski letter). Chupovski and his fellow members of the SMSS presented themselves to the first secretary of the Turkish Embassy, declared their allegiance to the PadiShah, and asked for deliverance from the Bulgars, Greeks and Serbs.

Our colleagues in Kiev had warned us that two Macedonians with Turkish passports, who they considered as Turkish spies, regularly commuted between Odessa and St Petersburg, stopping in Kiev and Moscow and always asking for assistance from the local Slavonic Charitable Organizations. However we knew that those two individuals were non-student members of the SMSS in St Petersburg. One was called Trayko and the other was the brother of Chupovski who I had seen


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several times as a guest at meetings of the organizations of Bulgarian students. From Chupovski's letter we knew that he had had correspondence with a Marko living in Sofia as well as Donka Stanisheva. As a reward for the SMSS's service to the Turkish Embassy, we are aware that Filip Nikolich from Bukovo had received a passport to travel throughout Macedonia.

All this information prompted the MLS to prepare a detailed report on the St Petersburg SMSS's activities for IMRO's Central Committee, and requested any necessary action, if required, to be taken. The report was sent to Salonika and a copy to the Exarchate for information. Unfortunately the carbon copy was not preserved in the MLS archives. As far as I may recall within it was detailed - the formation of the SMSS, its aims and composition, the connections with the Turkish Embassy, the sending of their followers into Macedonia to promulgate the notion of Slavomacedonism, their decision to print 1500 primers in the local dialect with which to teach the children of the 34 villages working for the establishment of an independent Macedonian Church and the willingness to work for the protection of the Turkish Empire. We received a reply from Salonika that we should collect information about the SMSS individuals travelling to Macedonia - names, places of birth and to intercept their letters and be wary they do not do the same to us. In their letter, our Salonika brothers amongst other things state the following "It appears your Slavomacedonians are real Turkish spies"

The members of the SMSS, or more specifically its president D Chupovski, had described me to the secretary of the Turkish Embassy in such a manner that when in September 1905 I arrived in Istanbul to secure a teaching position in Macedonia I was arrested and after questioning by the head sergeant sent onto Salonika. There I was kept more than two weeks before being sent to my native village, Gumendje, without any rights to travel to any of the neighbouring villages or towns. These ordeals refute Chupovski's claim to me that he was not a "spy". The situation was now such that my return to my Fatherland meant that contact with my colleagues in St Petersburg was no longer possible.

Surveillance of the SMSS's activities however continued by my colleagues in St Petersburg and predominantly by the Central Bureau of the Federated MLSs in Russia. That bureau under its administrative powers not only could view the actions of the Slavomacedonians but also could influence Russian Slavists, historians and journalists to write about the ethnic picture of Macedonia and the national belonging of the Macedonian Slavs, to discuss the introduction of the Mürzteg reform proposed by the foreign ministers of Russia and Austria-Hungary which represent financial, judicial and administrative changes within the geographic borders of Macedonia. In the introduction of such reforms I could foresee changes


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as a result of the Ilinden Uprising leading to self-government of this enslaved and predominantly Bulgarian territory and a the resolution of the Bulgarian question.

Unfortunately subsequent historic events favoured the enemies of Macedonia. Ten years later Macedonia was partitioned and the largest parts were added to the territories of Serbia and Greece. The Yugoslav and Greek politicians and statesmen did not abandon their imperialistic policies during the two world wars. The Greeks by nature of the Greco-Bulgarian Agreement for the exchange of minorities succeeded in expelling the greater part of the Bulgarian population from Aegean Macedonia. The Yugoslavian politicians willingly enlisted the support of the Slavomacedonists to help their chauvinistic policy in the Balkans and the denationalization of the enslaved Bulgarian population in Vardar Macedonia.
 

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