V. The Bulgarian movement
15. Note. The Rival Committees
(See p. 120.)
To avoid complications I have written of the Committee as though it were a single organisation. The differences among its rival sections absorb much attention in Sofia, but in Macedonia they are little felt, and they scarcely concern the outside world. The so-called "Central" Committee has virtually no footing in Macedonia, and its feuds with the main body have little effect beyond the Bulgarian frontier. This "Centralist" party is rather a Bulgarian than a Macedonian organisation. Its leader is General Tzoncheff, a retired soldier with a gallant record, whose political talents are not, I think, as conspicuous as his military qualities. He is an intimate of Prince Ferdinand, and this fact is enough to discredit him in the eyes of the Macedonians, who are convinced, I know not with what justice, that the Prince cares very much more for his dynastic interests than for the liberties of Macedonia. General Tzoncheffs lieutenant, Colonel Yankoff, is simply a brave guerilla chief. M. Michailofsky, a poet and a Professor of History, who is the nominal head of this party, is not a Macedonian, and impressed me as an eloquent dreamer.
Rather more important is the tendency directed by M. Saráfoff. He was originally a member of the Tzoncheff-Michailofsky section, but he has broken with his former allies, and now belongs to the Internal Organisation, in which he may be said to lead the left wing. His influence makes for rash decisions and violent methods. He stands, indeed, to the main body of the revolutionary party much as the less intellectual anarchists used to stand towards the orthodox Socialists in the days of the "International." When they are for regular warfare he is for dynamite. When they believe in a truce he is apt to kick over the traces. But his importance is very much exaggerated in Europe. He is certainly a picturesque personality, young, magnetic, and adventurous. A whole cyclus of legends has gathered about him. His name is a terror to the Turks, who see him in hiding behind every rock, and catch him perpetually in the weirdest disguises. He has the valuable gift of being everywhere at once. I never understood how this was managed, until I read in a London paper that he had purchased a motor-car, in which he dashes over the frontier and makes his raids into Turkey. To a man who can drive a motor-car over the Rilo mountains and along Turkish roads no miracle is impossible.
M. Saráfoff understands the uses of advertisement, and his fame is dear to the sensational journalist. But in Macedonia he is merely the rather irresponsible ally of much stronger men. The real brain of the revolt is Damian Groueff, the President of the Internal Organisation, whose name, I suppose, is quite unknown beyond the Balkans. He thinks in years, while M. Saráfoff sees no further than tomorrow's newspaper, and spends his winters among the Macedonian villages, while the heroes of the movement are posing in Paris and London. It is a pity that M. Saráfoff has captivated the journalistic imagination, for he represents everything that is bloody and unscrupulous in the war of liberation. But, indeed, the school of thought which one encounters among the conspirators who take their ease in Sofia is not representative of the real Macedonians. I once met a Balkan Tartarin, who edits a paper in Sofia — why was not Tartarin a journalist? — who assured me that the Committee was about to poison the water-supply of various European capitals with the bacillus of the plague. I ought to have laughed, but politeness restrained me, and I protested instead. Tartarin looked surprised, and then remarked, "Mais vous êtes un homme civilisé." The genuine Macedonian is too anxious to be civilised to make a speech like that, and too much in earnest to play with schemes that may amuse the secure leisure of the parasites of the movement.
Of recents developments it is difficult to write with confidence at a distance. I suspect that the tendency to internal schism among the Bulgarian organisations has become more marked than it was. My impression is that the Centralists are somewhat stronger than they were, and more bent than ever on separate action, while M. Saráfoff is less closely identified with the Interior Organisation and more nearly the chief of a distinct third party. There was some fighting in Macedonia during the summer of 1905 among the bands of these rival societies.
As these pages are passing through the press, the news arrives that
the two rival committees have been reconciled, and have amalgamated under
the joint leadership of M. Groueff and General Tzoncheff.
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