Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future
H. Brailsford

V. The Bulgarian movement

4. The Committee in Bulgaria
 

While the Committee was a secret society within the borders of Macedonia, in free Bulgaria it established itself openly as a political organisation. There is in Bulgaria an immense population of Macedonian origin which has taken root in the principality. It numbers perhaps as many as two hundred thousand persons, and it forms half the population of Sofia. These Macedonian emigrants are naturally the elect of their race, the men whose enterprise and education made life under Turkish conditions intolerable to them. Some fled at various epochs to escape persecution in Turkey, others who had come to Bulgaria for education, found that there was no career open to them in their native places, others again are migratory labourers who discovered that they could make a better income in Bulgaria than at home. In addition to this permanent Macedonian colony in Bulgaria, there are the wandering immigrants, carpenters, masons, and harvesters, who come to spend a few months or a few years in quest of work and wages. The Committee naturally made the most of the opportunities which it possessed in Bulgaria. It found Macedonians in every service and profession officers, priests, journalists, diplomatists, teachers, and even university professors. It formed branches of its organisation among them. It made the Macedonian question the chief political issue in Bulgaria. It has its newspapers, its deputies in the chambers, and there have even been ministers of Macedonian origin. It holds mass meetings openly and presses its claims at every election. These Macedonians, mainly men of comparative wealth, were all expected to contribute to its funds, and when money enough could not be obtained by voluntary subscription, it did not shrink from menace and violence.


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It armed its active partisans, and drilled them openly. In the mountainous country on the Bulgarian side of the Macedonian frontier it formed its stores of ammunition, and massed the bands which were destined to invade Turkey from time to time, either to conduct its propaganda or to wage a guerilla warfare against the Turks. It became an exceedingly dangerous State within the State, and more than once came near involving Bulgaria in war with her neighbours. But on the whole public opinion in Bulgaria, which could not be indifferent to the fate of Bulgarians over the border, was with it. Successive Governments differed in their attitude, but those which had the will to suppress it dared take no effective measures, while those which heartily sympathised were restrained by fear of the diplomatic consequences. Its leaders were occasionally placed under temporary arrest, its bands were sometimes harassed and attacked as they crossed the frontier, its organisation was even proscribed and dissolved. But against its determination, its numbers, and the approval of popular sentiment no Bulgarian Government could really destroy it. When Sarafoff was condemned to death by the Roumanian courts for organising a series of inexcusable murders in Roumanian territory, he enjoyed immunity in Bulgaria itself. When the Turks actually presented an ultimatum to the Bulgarian Government after the dynamite outrages at Salonica, the Committee, though somewhat restricted in its movements and frowned upon in official circles, none the less survived. It could not indeed be otherwise. Every man of middle age in Bulgaria remembers what it means to live under the Turkish yoke. The Macedonians are their kinsmen and their neighbours, and if they should wish to shut their eyes and repress their sympathies they are constantly met by the sight of the broken refugees of Turkish oppression, who crowd over the frontier in times of crisis and tell their tale of suffering in the common tongue. The ties of blood are no weaker in Bulgaria than elsewhere. There are differences of opinion in Bulgaria as to the best means of helping Macedonia. The parties which still draw their political inspiration from the late M. Stambuloff,


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fearing that any catastrophe in the Balkans must give Russia an opportunity to interfere with no disinterested motive, urge patience and an understanding with Turkey. They make their appeal to Western Europe and renounce the idea of an active Bulgarian intervention. But in times of stress the natural instinct of the average man in Bulgaria calls loudly for war. I have never met a Bulgarian who professed to believe that Bulgaria could vanquish Turkey, but in the army the opinion that the early stages of a campaign would be favourable is very general, and it is assumed that before Turkey could recover from her first reverses the Great Powers would step in. Apart from these calculations, the feeling that Bulgaria has endured enough, spent enough, submitted too long to this nightmare at her gates is very common even among the pacific mercantile class. War, if it brought any permanent solution, would be a relief, whatever it might cost for the moment in blood and treasure. In this state of mind the Macedonian Committee [1] possesses a powerful ally.

Important as the activities of the Macedonian Committee have been and may again be in Bulgaria, they have never gone so far as to compromise the genuine Macedonian character of the movement. It had its origin not in Sofia, but in the little country town of Resna. It is led not by Bulgarians but by Macedonians. The Bulgarian Government is naturally able to influence its policy it must take account of all the diplomatic factors in its problem but as much could be said of the European Powers whose attitude it watches closely. It has never, I think, surrendered its independence to any external pressure. Indeed, there is a strong current of opinion among the leaders of the Macedonian movement which tends to be critical of, and occasionally almost hostile to, Bulgaria. The younger generation of educated Macedonian Bulgars is profoundly distrustful of Russia, whose ambition it dreads more than the decaying power of Turkey. These men can never feel quite sure of Bulgaria, where sentiment and intrigue and the proximity of the Black Sea fleet make Russian influence

1. See note at end of chapter.


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powerful. It is true that the Stambulofist parties in Bulgaria are at heart anti-Russian, but they can rarely afford in office to give rein to the principles which they profess in opposition."No Government in Bulgaria is anti-Russian," as a Russian diplomatist once remarked to me. "There are only degrees of Russophilism." The Macedonians, on the other hand, have their outlook on the Aegean, and they are not at all anxious to link their fortunes with those of a principality whose ports lie exposed to the Russian navy.
 

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