FOR FREEDOM AND PERFECTION. The Life of Yané Sandansky
Mercia MacDermott





And suddenly there was light. . .


A great explosion of light shattered the darkness of the Turkish Empire, revealing, cleansing and igniting. Everywhere particles of light penetrated men’s souls and lodged there, producing an extraordinary effect of mass lucidity. It was as though an evil spell had been broken, and those who for centuries had resembled beasts, lived like beasts and treated one another like beasts, had now resumed their human shape and reason. Everywhere, Turks and Bulgarians fell into each other’s arms, weeping for joy. Everywhere they celebrated together, danced together, drank together, and walked together. Islamic hodjas and Christian priests paraded through the streets, sitting side by side in horse-drawn carriages. Age-old feuds were ended and mortal wrongs forgiven, as the Young Turks demonstratively visited the Armenian cemeteries to kiss the graves of the victims of Muslim massacres, [1] and the Armenians, for their part, held memorial services for the souls of the Muslims who had died in the struggle for liberty. [2] The censorship and spying ceased; the prisons were emptied, all controls vanished; everyone became an orator and spoke his mind in public to his heart’s content. Even the downtrodden Turkish women spontaneously flung back their veils, displaying their beauty to all who cared to gaze upon it.


Never in the history of representative government has the proclamation of so meagre a constitution provoked so cataclysmic a response. Few of the Sultan’s motley, ill-matched subjects can have had the slightest idea of what the Constitution actually entailed, but their psychological state was such that they mistook a candle for the sun, and greeted the Constitution as the miraculous fulfilment of all their hopes and aspirations, as a panacea for all their ills. Thus, when they talked of the wonder which had come to pass, Christians and Muslims alike gave it the Turkish name of a thing which, within the confines of the Ottoman Empire, had been as rare and fabulous as the mythical phoenix, or the Living Water of the folktales.


They called it simply ‘Freedom’—Hürriyet.



1. Daily News, 12.VIII.1908. The graves in question were those of Armenians massacred by the Turks in 1895-6.


2. Daily News, 14.VIII.1908. The service was held in the biggest Armenian church in the Pera district of Constantinople on 13.VIII.1908. The congregation was half-Christian and half-Turkish.





And truly, during those first fantastic days of the Hürriyet, it seemed as though a phoenix had indeed risen from the ashes, as though Living Water had indeed been sprinkled on the diseased, decaying body of the Turkish Empire. Only in myths and fairy tales has an entire realm been so swiftly and totally transformed, and Bulgarian families christened their new-born daughters Nadezhda (Hope), as Macedonia—that ‘sullen, bloodstained land’, [3] the Balkan Apple of Discord, the Powder-keg of Europe— suddenly assumed her other image: the land of joy and brotherhood which hitherto had existed only in the dreams of those who fought for her freedom. And for Yané, who had long been waiting for just such a turn of events, there began what must have been the most satisfying and creative period of his hard and turbulent life.


The news of the Hürriyet reached him while he was preparing to go to Kovachevitsa, and it was arranged that he would meet the representatives of the Young Turks in the village of Gaitaninovo, in the house of the Mavrodiev family. Gaitaninovo was a purely Bulgarian village, with an excellent school, where, to the rage and despair of the Greek Metropolitan Bishop of Nevrokop, Bulgarian was the sole medium of instruction. Since the soil was poor and unsuitable for agriculture, most of the inhabitants earned their living by working iron and making the gaitan (woollen braid for the decoration of national costumes) from which the village took its name. The Mavrodievs were an energetic, public-spirited family, who had contributed much to the economic and cultural life of the village. It was Hadzhi Kostadin Mavrodiev who had been the prime mover behind the building of a fine church (completed in 1839) and of the school (opened in 1858), the compilation of a set of rules for the conduct of village affairs, the construction of a local aqueduct, and other beneficial innovations. His eldest son, Dimitŭr, while completing his education in Sofia, had seen Levsky’s body hanging on the gallows and had, there and then, taken a solemn vow to fight for freedom as Levsky had done. He became a teacher, but in 1884 he was denounced to the Turks as a rebel by chauvinistic Greeks, and he was sent to Diarbekir, whence he returned in 1888. Forbidden by the Turkish authorities to teach, he settled in Nevrokop, where he opened various establishments, including an inn, a tavern, a grocer’s and a bookshop. He joined the Organization soon after its inception, and once Gotsé Delchev himself slept in his inn. Many of the clients who crowded his shops were, in fact, revolutionaries transacting secret business. In 1897, Dimitŭr Mavrodiev was again threatened with arrest, but, warned by friendly Turks, he was able to escape to the Principality, where he settled in Sofia. His wife and family, however, remained in Gaitaninovo, and were on hand to help with the preparations to receive Yané and the Young Turks.



3. The phrase is one used by the Correspondent of the Manchester Guardian, 12.VIII.1908.





Curiously enough, the Mavrodievs were related to Boris Sarafov, whose family also had its roots in Gaitaninovo, although he himself was born in the neighbouring village of Libyahovo, where his father, Petŭr  Sarafov, was then working as a teacher. Hadzhi Kostadin’s wife, Yaninka, was Petŭr Sarafov’s sister, so that Dimitŭr Mavrodiev and his siblings were first cousins to the murdered Boris. This in no way seems to have prejudiced them against Yané and Panitsa, who, for their part, seem to have had no hesitation in sleeping under the Mavrodievs’ roof, less than nine months after Boris’s death. On the contrary, the whole family appear to have been firm supporters of the Serchani in the struggle against Supremism in all its forms. According to family sources, [4] it was Georgi Mavrodiev, son of Dimitŭr’s younger brother, Kocho, who, apprised by two chetnitsi of the murder of Petŭr Milev in Kovachevitsa, went to Lovcha to inform the Regional Committee, which he knew was in session there. Both Yané and Panitsa, together with their cheti, are said to have accompanied Georgi to Gaitaninovo, in order to mobilize the militia both there and in the surrounding villages for the punitive action against Milev’s murderers.


Yané was thus somewhere near Gaitaninovo when the Hürriyet burst upon an astonished world. He and Panitsa returned openly to Gaitaninovo with their men—spick and span, and in holiday mood—and they went to the Mavrodiev house to await the Young Turk representatives, who were to come from Nevrokop. Thick goats’-hair rugs were spread on the wide wooden veranda, so that the chetmtsi could lie down and rest awhile. For the women of the house, however, there could be no sleep: vast quantities of food had to be prepared, the house had to be set in order to receive guests, and, most important of all, a green silk banner had to be embroidered in scarlet thread with the words ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ in the three main languages of Macedonia—Bulgarian, Turkish and Greek. This urgent task was entrusted to Dimitŭr Mavrodiev’s daughter, Stoyanka, [5] who sat up all night in order to have it ready in time.


When the Turks, led by a lawyer named Selim Bey, and heralded by the sound of drums and zurli, [6] duly arrived in the vicinity of Gaitaninovo, the Bulgarian revolutionaries, led by Yané, and accompanied by the entire village, went out to meet them, while the church bells pealed out a thunderous welcome. The two groups embraced each other like long-lost brothers, and, fusing into one great company, as though the five hundred years of cruelty and hatred had never been, they returned to the village for celebrations which lasted well into the night, as well as for serious dis-



4. Various members of the Mavrodiev family have recorded their memoirs, and the material was made available to me by Zlatka Georgieva Angelova, granddaughter of Dimitŭr Mavrodiev, who lives in the Pavlovo district of Sofia. Most of the information about the family is taken from this material.


5. Stoyanka was the first woman to become a teacher in Gaitaninovo (1901). She was also active in her support of the cheti, for whom she would prepare food and clean clothes.


6. A traditional wood-wind instrument, resembling a cone-shaped recorder.





cussions on all matters within the competence of those present. Some things, naturally, had to be left for the Young Turk Committee in Salonika to decide. [7] The Mavrodiev house was crammed with people of all nationalities, many of whom had travelled from the surrounding villages, and, to feed them all, four oxen and seven calves were slaughtered, and a whole cask of wine was broached. The chetnitsi came to the aid of the overworked women, and, girding themselves with aprons, served food and bread to the numerous guests, including the Turks. ‘We ate like one great family and felt like brothers,’ Georgi Mavrodiev’s wife, Ivanka, later told her daughter, Elena. [8]


At the end of the meal, when everything had been cleared away, a table, covered with a beautiful red cloth, was placed on the veranda in full view of the assembled multitude. Yané took his place at one end of the table, and Selim Bey at the other, and everyone stood in silent rapture while the Turk read out a document, [9] which appeared to grant equal rights to all. It was a very emotional moment. Many were weeping for joy that they were ‘no longer slaves but equal citizens’. [10] After the reading, Selim set his signature upon the document on behalf of the Turkish side, and Yané signed for the Bulgarians. The two men then embraced and kissed each other, and everyone else followed suit, and shouted ‘Hurrah!’


Selim Bey, who had known Dimitŭr Mavrodiev from the latter’s days in Nevrokop, turned to his daughter Stoyanka and told her to be sure to write to her father in Sofia, so that he, too, might rejoice. To Dimitŭr’s wife, Maria, Selim said: ‘Rejoice, madam, that your house has for the first time been consecrated with freedom.’


Yané and Selim spent the night in the Mavrodiev house, and next day the celebrations continued. One and all went with the banner and with songs and music to the Mechite—the village square, where there was a huge sycamore and a fountain, and here they all danced the horo together, hand in hand, or with arms flung across each other’s shoulders. Yané led the swaying, swinging line of dancers, and even the Turks joined in. Then, around noon, the great company set out for Nevrokop. Along the way, the whole population of the villages through which they passed came out to watch and many joined the triumphant procession.


In spite of the mood of exultation, nobody was quite sure of what sort of reception they would receive. It was perfectly possible that they would encounter resistance on the part of reactionary forces opposed to



7. Dimitŭr Arnaudov. Opus cit., p. 23. Arnaudov mentions that the Turkish representatives also included Dr Ahmet Bey and Dzhalyal Efendi.


8. Elena Mavrodieva-Bikova, who lives in the Krasno Selo district of Sofia, recorded the memoirs of her mother, Ivanka Mavrodieva, wife of Georgi Mavrodiev, and made them available to the author.


9. It is not clear from the memoirs exactly what the document was. All those present, however, regarded it as symbolizing the Hürriyet.


10. From the memoirs of Ivanka Mavrodieva.





the Young Turk Movement. Apart from its timing—no one had imagined that it would happen so soon—the Hürriyet had come as no surprise to the Organization, since its members had previously had several secret meetings with progressive Turks, [11] but, even so, the Bulgarians were fully prepared for blood to flow in the streets of Nevrokop. [12] It was, after all, a revolution, and the old order was unlikely to relinquish power without a struggle.


In fact, to everyone’s surprise, events in Nevrokop repeated the pattern set in Gaitaninovo. Nothing happened to darken the brilliant dawn of Freedom: not a hostile shot was fired, not a drop of blood was spilt. When the Young Turks and their Bulgarian allies reached a point not far from Nevrokop, they found that the whole population, including the Kaimakam, the local army officers and the police, as well as the ordinary Bulgarians and Turks, had come out to meet them. As one eye-witness put it, ‘only the dogs had remained in Nevrokop’. [13] When the waiting townsfolk caught sight of the revolutionaries—Yané and Panitsa riding with Selim Bey and the other Turks, the chetnitsi dressed in their neat uniforms, carrying Manlicher rifles, and singing as they came—excitement rose to fever pitch, and the air rang with cheers and shouts of ‘Justice, equality! Long live the Fatherland! Long live equality!’


As the two processions came face to face and merged into one, Yané and the Kaimakam embraced, sealing the great reconciliation with kisses, while the multinational crowd roared its approval: ‘Long live Freedom!’


At this unique moment, it was Yané who was the centre of attention: Yané—the terrible ‘Sandan-Pasha’, who for nine years had ridden roughshod over the Sultan’s laws and made fools of the Sultan’s soldiers and police; Yané—the people’s ‘Tsar of Pirin’, the youthful ‘Old Man’, who for nine years had been the protector and mentor of the Bulgarian raya, the faithful guardian of the sacred fire of freedom, which now blazed throughout the land.


And the waiting crowds were not disappointed by what they saw. There are heroes who lack heroic proportions, and there are great men who look surprisingly ‘ordinary’, but Yané was not one of these. Above average in height and of corresponding build, with his fine black beard and his veritable eagle’s eyes, whose penetrating glance put everyone in his place, Yané was always an impressive figure, even when he was not armed and in uniform. He had about him the easy grace and the air of relaxed self-confidence which are often characteristic of men who are



11. Dimitŭr Arnaudov. Opus cit., p. 23. See also Pirinsko Delo, 23.IV.1953, article by Dime Yankov. Reshid Pasha, Mutasarrif of the Series Sanjak before the Hürriyet, and later Vali of Adrianople, told Yankov that before the Hürriyet he had met Yané several times.


12. Dimitŭr Arnaudov. Opus cit., p. 21.


13. Oral memoirs of Atanas Penkov Ivanov, born in Obidim, 1891, recorded by Ana Raikova in Gotsé Delchev (Nevrokop), 6.VII.1975.





big and strong and who therefore feel no need to assert themselves unnecessarily. No one looking at him could doubt that this was indeed Sandan-Pasha, Tsar of Pirin.


And it was he and his chetnitsi who stole the show as they entered Nevrokop, singing the well-known Bulgarian Socialist Song of Labour, every verse of which ends with the words ‘Long live, long live Labour! ‘. [14]


When they reached the Konak, the seat of Turkish local government, Yané went onto the balcony and spoke to the crowds which packed the square below. According to eye-witnesses, he made a major speech, speaking for about an hour, [15] in the course of which he discussed the past, present and future struggles of the Organization, [16] and spoke with unconcealed emotion of the ending of the five centuries of tyranny exercised by ‘the Sultan and his blood-thirsty minions’, and of the people’s newly-found happiness under the banner of freedom, equality and brotherhood. He concluded thus:


‘Today, all of us—Turks, Bulgarians, Greeks, Albanians, Jews and others —we have all sworn that we will work for our dear Fatherland and will be inseparable, and we will all sacrifice ourselves for it, and, if necessary, we will even shed our blood. Enlightenment is the surest guarantee of the wellbeing of a country; therefore, open schools! And enlighten yourselves! And we will demand from the Sultan that which is necessary for the amelioration of the state of the population, and, if he gives us no satisfaction, we will demand it with force, and will shout with one voice: ‘Down with the Sultan! Down with the Sultan! Down with the Sultan!’ [17]


Yané then snatched the cap from his balding head, and said: ‘I swear before you all that I will not cease to fight until we have buried the criminal power of the sultans. My hand shall not rest until we have forced the sultans and the tsars to plough the soil.’ [18]


Yané’s speech, and especially his vow, made a deep impression on his listeners, who warmly applauded his words. Then, arm in arm with the Kaimakam, Yané went to the school, where a banquet was given in his honour, attended by the leading citizens of Nevrokop, both Turks and Bulgarians. Here, toasts were drunk to brotherly relations between all



14. The words were written by Dimitŭr Blagoev’s comrade-in-arms Georgi Kirkov, and were published for the first time in the Red People’s Calendar of 1898. The music to which it is usually sung was composed in 1900 by Georgi Goranov, a Socialist from Kyustendil, where it was first sung.


15. Memoirs of Atanas Penkov Ivanov.


16. Dimitŭr Arnaudov, Opus cit., p. 23.


17. This part of Yané’s speech is quoted from a hand-written leaflet, bearing the seal of the Razlog Committee for Union and Progress, and a price, i.e. the leaflet was one of many copies made for sale. The leaflet was found among the papers of Lazar Kolchagov of Bansko, and was published by Ivan Diviziev in Istoricheski Pregled, 1964, Book 4 (Nov Dokument za Yané Sandansky).


18. References to Yané’s vow can be found in several eye-witness accounts including the memoirs of Atanas Penkov Ivanov, and Dimitŭr Arnaudov, Opus cit., p. 21. The version here is from Filyanov, Opus cit., p. 23.





citizens, regardless of race and religion. Those who were not invited for lack of space stood outside, crowding round the windows, trying to hear what was being said.


On the following day, accompanied by the Kaimakam of Nevrokop, Yané, Panitsa and their men set out for Drama, where they were to take the train for Salonika. On the way, they spent one night in the village of Prosechen and went on to Kalopot, where a mass open-air feast was held, and singing and dancing continued through the night. Next day, the whole population of Kalopot, including the children, accompanied Yané to Karlŭkovo, where the population, which was half Bulgarian and half Turkish, came out to meet them with bagpipes and daireta (a kind of tambourine). Again, everyone sat down to a mass picnic, with hot food served from huge cauldrons. Turks and Bulgarians embraced, and the whole day was spent in dancing and general rejoicing. [19] Afterwards, hundreds of exultant people went with Yané, Panitsa and the Young Turks all the way to the station at Drama.


The train bearing the revolutionary leaders to Salonika stopped for a time in Serres, where celebrations had already been in progress for several days. There had been processions with music; the Mutassarif, Reshid Pasha, had addressed the crowds, exhorting everyone to be ‘brothers’; the Greek Bishop and the Chairman of the Bulgarian community had publicly embraced and kissed in order to assure the crowds that, in the new situation, the hatred between Greeks and Bulgarians was already a thing of the past; the reading of the telegram announcing the restoration of the Constitution had been followed by a twenty-one gun salute and more processions with music; all the prisoners in the Serres gaol—both political and criminal—had been released; the Turkish officers had paid courtesy calls to the Bulgarian and Greek consulates, to the Greek Bishop and to the Chairman of the Bulgarian community, and a great banquet for all notables, including the representatives of foreign missions, had been



19. See Memoirs of Fidana Petrova, daughter of Petko Dimkov of Kalopot, kept in the Reading Room Club in the town of Gotsé Delchev (Nevrokop) archive number D 2.A19.


The fraternization in Karlŭkovo had interesting pre-history. In 1906 Panitsa’s cheta, hard pressed by Turkish troops, came upon some Turkish peasants from Karlŭkovo, who were mowing in the Bozdag Mountains. The cheta inspected the mowers’ revolvers, but gave them back, and explained that the Organization fought only against bad Turks and landowners who exploited everybody. The Turks offered the chetnitsi bread, but although they were very hungry, they declined. Next day the Turkish soldiers who were in pursuit of the cheta arrived on the meadows, took the mowers’ bread and revolvers, and beat them into the bargain. The lesson was not lost on the Turkish peasants. On their return to Karlŭkovo, they went to the local leaders of the Organization, told them about their experiences with Panitsa and the soldiers, and asked if they could join the Organization. See Yurdan Anastasov, Spomen za Yané Sandansky, p. 202.





held in the town garden. [20]


With characteristic contempt for luxury and privilege, Yané chose to travel in a second-class compartment, together with Panitsa and the Kaimakam of Nevrokop, while the chetnitsi, some twenty-five in all, were in another second-class carriage. Yané and Panitsa were already in civilian dress, but wore red and white rosettes, red sashes, and inscribed arm-hands. The chetnitsi, however, were still in their summer uniforms and still carried their guns. They, too, had sashes and arm-bands, and waved banners, one of which carried the words ‘Freedom or Death’, and the other—’Libery, Equality, Fraternity’ in Greek, Turkish and Bulgarian.


The party was met at Series Station by the officers of the local garrison, the Mutasarrif [21] with his whole staff, and many other Turks. As the train arrived, Yané leaned out of the window and shouted: ‘Dear brothers! The unification of the peoples is death to the tsars! Down with tyranny! Long live Freedom!’ The crowds responded with shouts of ‘Long live the people! Long alive Freedom!’ Panitsa, too, addressed the crowds, and then both of them briefly left the train to embrace the Mutasarrif and the more prominent members of the reception committee. The Bulgarian revolutionaries were offered cigarettes and glasses of sherbet before they continued their journey, and, as the train drew out of the station, the chetnitsi began to sing Sharing, Hristo Botev’s empassioned song of indestructible, militant brotherhood. [22]


They arrived in Salonika later the same day (July 15, old style) to yet another rapturous welcome. This time the reception committee was headed by the Young Turk leader, Enver Bey himself. A band was playing, and there were many delegations from many national communities, including Bulgarians, Greeks, Turks and Albanians. The Serchani were installed in the Hotel Angelterre, where, prior to the Revolution, the bedrooms had been adorned with notices, in Turkish, Greek and French, which stated: ‘Political discussions and playing musical instruments are forbidden, also all noisy conversations.’ [23]



20. See reports of the Bulgarian Commerical Consul in Series. TDIA, f. 332, op. 1, a.e. 25, pp. 11-12 (11.VII.1980); p. 13 (12.VII.1908), pp. 19-20 (15.VII.1980). All dates in Bulgarian consular reports, newspapers, etc., are old style, i.e. 13 days behind the western calendar.


21. In a report dated 22.VII.1908 to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, the Bulgarian Commercial Consul in Series describes the return of the Mutasarrif’s wife to the town. She was welcomed by the officers with a special speech of greeting. The daughter of Dzhevlet Pasha, she, too, was a progressively minded woman, educated in Constantinople, a poetess and writer of short stories, founder of the first Turkish women’s society in Salonika, and a campaigner for more modern attitudes. Since the Hürriyet, the Consul notes, Turkish women, dressed in ‘reformed’ clothes and almost unveiled, have been going out for walks with their husbands, something that was hitherto unknown. TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 303, p. 59.


22. See report of Bulgarian Commercial Consul in Serres, dated 16.VII.1908, TDIA, f.332, op. 1, a.e. 25.


23. Frederick Moore, The Balkan Trail, p. 82.





Soon after their arrival, Enver Bey and Yané went out onto a balcony to address a crowd several thousand strong, which had gathered in front of the hotel. In the course of his speech, Yané denounced tyrants all over the world, and, in particular, the Sultan and his camarilla, whom he castigated for bringing misery and ruin to all who dwelt within the Turkish Empire. Among the worst consequences of the Sultan’s misrule, Yané named the national animosities—’the revolting mutual self-destruction’—deliberately encouraged by the regime on the principle of ‘Divide and Rule’, and interference on the part of the Great Powers, who were exploiting Turkey’s difficulties in order to extort concessions for themselves, thus further depressing local trade and industry, and forcing people to emigrate in search of freedom and a livelihood. Speaking of the historic significance of the Hürriyet, Yané referred to July 10 [24] as the day on which the people demonstrated that they were capable of ordering their own affairs, without European tutelage, and of working together for the common good, enhancing thereby the prospects for peace in the Balkans. He concluded his speech by saying:


‘But we are not stopping here! Here we are only beginning; we have started a common, united struggle, and we will not furl the banner of revolution until we see on what democratic foundations this freedom will be built. For we are convinced that only wide freedom, only the fullest democratization of the institutions of the country can bring prosperity to the people, and, sooner or later, cut the ground from under national strife and propaganda. Wide freedom of the kind which will ensure the cultural and economic advance of the country will make even those Balkan states which broke away earlier return to their former place. 

‘Down with tyranny!

‘Long live the Fatherland!

‘Long live the people!

‘Long live the revolution!

‘Long live freedom!’ [25]


In those early, ecstatic days of the Hürriyet, there was nothing strange in Yané’s speaking to the jubilant multinational crowds about their common Fatherland. The mood of the people was such that the distant ideal of Balkan unity within a ‘Great Eastern Federative Republic’ appeared to have become a more immediate, practical proposition. But even so, its achievement would not be easy, and, in all his speeches, even the most euphoric, Yané stressed the need for further action and constant vigilance. On the following day, July 16 old style, at an open-air rally, Yané again



24. Yané dates the revolution, not from the proclamation of the Constitution on July 11/24, but from the victory of the Young Turks in Macedonia, i.e. July 10/23.


25. Kambana, No. 278, 29.VII.1908.





attacked the Sultan’s Government, and declared: ‘Until we see freedom ensured, we will not lay down our arms. Be united and ready, because anything can happen.’ [26]


It was not long before Yané and Panitsa were joined by the other leading Serchani. Pavel Deliradev and Dimitŭr Ikonomov arrived on July 16/29, and they were followed by Taskata Sersky, Skrizhovsky, Buynov, Chudomir, Stoyu Hadzhiev, Chernopeev, Petŭr Kitanov, Krum Chaprashikov, Stoyno Stoynov and Dimo Hadzhidimov. It was not only the Serchani who were gathering in Salonika. Right Wing leaders, such as Petko Penchev and Hristo Matov, also put in an appearance, as did Apostol Voivoda, the ‘Sun of Enidzhe Vardar’; even the Greek andartes were represented, and all were courteously received by the Young Turks, who acted as hosts in what was then a predominantly Jewish city. [27] But, as the Times correspondent noticed: ‘There is a most marked distinction between the enthusiastic welcome accorded to the Bulgar voivodes and the reception of the Cretan and Athenian bands. The latter have been shipped home with much courtesy, but little regret, and the Young Turks distinguish between those who fought for their own homesteads against the tyranny of the old regime and the political assassins who were imported from abroad.’ [28]


In Salonika, as in Nevrokop, it was Yané who was the unofficial guest of honour, the man whom everybody wanted to see. The Turks were absolutely fascinated by him—this legendary enemy and disturber of the Sultan’s peace, who was so whole-heartedly sincere in his support for the Hürriyet. Every day Turkish lawyers, officers, civil servants, and beys crowded the Hotel Angleterre, and quietly waited their turn to meet Yané. [29] Even one of the best-kept secrets of the Miss Stone Affair was revealed at a banquet in honour of the Serchani, given by a group of Turkish officers. One of the hosts—a colonel—explained that he had been in command of the soldiers who had convoyed the ransom money to Bansko, where Yané had apparently refused to accept it, so that the sealed chests had been taken to Drama, where it was discovered that the gold had miraculously turned into lead! Amid general laughter, Yané explained how the substitution had taken place. [30]



26. Ibid., No. 270, 21.VII.1908.


27. The Jews of Salonika were descendants of those expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella, and they continued to speak a form of mediaeval Spanish. The richer Jews had a virtual monopoly of commerce, shipping, etc., in Salonika, while their poorer brethren acted as boatmen and porters on the quay, and likewise tolerated no competition from other races. See Brailsford, Macedonia—its races and their future, p. 83.


28. The Times, 19.VII.1908.


29. Report of the Bulgarian Commercial Consul in Salonika, TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 293, pp. 25 and 43.


30. Deliradev, Yané Sandansky, p. 18.





Yané was also much sought after by journalists, and the Turkish newspaper Yeni Asir (New Century) carried material about him almost daily, all of it complimentary. On July 18/31, for example, Yeni Asir described Yané as ‘a highly educated man, worthy to be elected as a people’s representative’, and it praised his common-sense, eloquence and modesty. [31] A few days later, in an interview given to the same paper, Yané said that he had been expecting action on the part of the Young Turks, but had not believed that it would all happen so soon. He expressed his delight at the recent events, which he hoped would bring happiness and prosperity to the whole Empire. In answering questions dealing with future attitudes and developments, Yané repeatedly stressed the need for the newly-proclaimed freedom and equal rights to be properly and permanently implemented throughout the Empire. If this were done—Yané assured his Turkish readers—the regime could count on the support, not only of himself, but also of the whole Bulgarian population, and, in addition, many outstanding problems would be solved: outside interference would cease, the other Balkan states would seek Turkey’s friendship, and the Macedonian question, together with the warring factions of the Organization, would be eradicated. As was to be expected in an interview given to a Turkish paper by a leading representative of the Bulgarian community, Yané assigned especial importance to the fact that the different nationalities inhabiting the Turkish Empire had found it possible to make friends with each other. Describing this as a source of ‘colossal strength’, he expressed the hope that they would continue to co-operate and maintain their unity in the name of their common freedom and happiness. [32]


Soon after Pavel Deliradev arrived in Salonika, he and other Leftists already in the city suggested that they issue a manifesto addressed to the population as a whole, and that it be signed, not in the name of the Organization, but by Yané himself, as the ‘most popular person in all circles of the Macedonian population’. [33] At first, Yané laughingly demurred, saying ‘you mean like Prince Ferdinand to his dear and beloved people’, [34] but eventually he was persuaded to issue the following Manifesto in his own name:


‘Manifesto to all the Nationalities in the Empire.


Dear Fellow-citizens of the Fatherland,


The long-awaited ray of freedom has dawned. Our tormented Fatherland is reborn. Shameful absolutism is in its death-throes. The whole people, in the person of all its component nations, has risen



31. The article is quoted in a Bulgarian translation by the Bulgarian Commercial Consul in Salonika, TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 293, p. 27.


32. Yeni Asir, 18.VII.1908 (old style). From the Bulgarian translation in a report by the Bulgarian Commercial Consul in Salonika, TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 293, pp. 44-45.


33. Deliradev, Yané Sandansky, p. 30.


34. Ibid.





against it. The revolutionary call of the fraternal Young Turk Revolutionary Organization has found a joyous response in the souls of a much tormented people. And the slave-people have become the masters. And their sacred verdict is:

Death to absolutism!

Death to the oppressors!


Dear Fellow-citizens of the Fatherland,

Great is the present moment. In it will be decided the great question: will our people live or not? Who will win depends entirely on you, on your will and your readiness to die for freedom. And surely you citizens who have already tasted the sweet fruits of freedom will not hesitate to carry out your sentence and bury criminal absolutism?


Turkish fellow-citizens of our Fatherland,

You form the great majority of the people, but, because of that, you have suffered most of all from the evils of our common foes. In your own Turkish kingdom, you were slaves no less than your Christian fellow-citizens. Now you understand who are your brothers and who your enemies. You were the first to enter the battle for freedom and equality. We are all with you. Your cry, "The peoples are brothers and should live like brothers"—warmed the hearts of the Christian population and helped them to decide the difficult question: along which road can one go to freedom? And so, long live the struggle undertaken against tyranny that the whole people may begin to live anew!


Dear Christian fellow-citizens of our Fatherland,

And you, too, have been no less misled, and have believed that your miseries were caused by the tyranny of the whole Turkish people. And now this misconception has vanished. Now you have held out a brotherly hand, and only through this union will you win the freedom which till now you have so earnestly desired and so dearly purchased. Make fast this union. Let us bury, together with absolutism, the self-destructive national conflicts which it created.


Fellow-countrymen, [35]

You who have made so many precious sacrifices before the altar of freedom, you may heave a joyous sigh. Now you are not alone—this is why your struggle is becoming easier and more hopeful. With the joint forces of all nationalities we shall win our full freedom. Do not fall victim to criminal agitation which the official powers in Bulgaria may carry out against our united struggle with the Turkish people and its intelligentsia, which strives for freedom.


Dear fellow-citizens of our Fatherland,

The die is already cast. There is no going back, and, indeed, which of you would want to go back once more into the stinking atmosphere



35. This section is addressed to the Bulgarian population of the Turkish Empire.





of injustice and perversion that prevailed under the previous regime? Let us all give our word that we prefer death for sacred freedom to the loathsome yoke of a slave’s life.


Alertness, self-sacrifice and constant preparedness for struggle—this is what must inspire us at this great moment.


Death to tyranny—long live the people!

Long live freedom!

Long live the solidarity of the peoples!

Long live the great people’s struggle!

Long live the people!




Salonika, July 18, 1908 [36]


Foreign correspondents who arrived post-haste to chronicle the amazing events in Salonika were completely swept off their feet by what they saw. The Manchester Guardian reported that the expression most frequently heard in Salonika was ‘I cannot believe my own eyes or ears’. [37] The paper’s correspondent travelled with returning Young Turk exiles, and noted the smiling officials and customs officers on the frontier, as well as excursion trains, decorated with flowers and streamers, carrying joyous crowds throughout Macedonia. [38]


‘When I reached Salonika and had taken breath, I telegraphed home that the millennium had arrived. I said also that it was impossible to describe it; nevertheless, I suppose one must try. For the memory will pass, since the millennium is not made of years but of crowded hours, and our old human hungers and angers will quickly overlay it, but even if the shadows of the ancient prisonhouse should again begin to close— and may God avert it!—around the Turkish Constitution and the Macedonian peasant, the recollection of the dazzling light of liberty will remain. For—let there be no mistake about it—at the present moment there is only one country in the world where the liberty of all without the licence of any is an understood and accomplished fact, and that country is, of all others, Turkey.’ [39]


The Daily News correspondent expressed similar sentiments: ‘The prisons are empty but there is no crime. The scenes are indescribable, and the millennium has already lasted ten days.’ [40] The order and tranquility which followed the lifting of all constraint on the population made a tremendous impression upon all who witnessed it: ‘It is the most formidable and yet the most well-disposed and the most perfectly behaved



36. Yané uses the old calendar, and the date was really July 31, 1908. The text is taken from Deliradev, Opus, cit., pp. 30-32.


37. Manchester Guardian, 29.VII.1908.


38. Ibid., 12.VIII.1908.     39. Ibid.


40. The Daily News, 6.VII.1908.





crowd imaginable. The walls of Salonika contain at this moment all the elements of hate and cruelty which had made Macedonia a hell on earth for all its inhabitants. These people, who come linked arm-in-arm, laughing together, drinking endless coffees together, dancing together, have schemed and plotted against each other’s lives for years past; they have burned each other’s villages and flocks and granaries; they have killed each other and each other’s women and children with every refinement of cruelty; the problem of their reconciliation has baffled all the Cabinets of Europe. A fortnight ago, no one in Macedonia would have dreamt this thing were possible. Can these wild elements, these incompatible racial ambitions be controlled and satisfied by the single expedient of a freely elected Parliament?’ Yet, in spite of all his doubts and incredulity, the correspondent concluded: ‘He would be a poor creature, indeed, who could witness this Salonika pageant unmoved.’ [41]


No one can have been more moved by ‘this Salonika pageant’ than the Serchani. It must all have seemed like a dream, like the denouement of a fairy-tale. Here they were—outlaws, who had lived like wolves, with a price on their heads, hiding by day and travelling by night to secret destinations—here they were, strolling in the sunshine by the sparkling, blue Aegean, taking boat trips, making republican speeches without let or hindrance, talking brotherhood with Turkish officers, and drawing up plans for a glorious, multinational future, in a town en fête, where the entire population had given itself over to fraternization and rejoicing. No wonder when, soon after their arrival in Salonika, some chetnitsi had anxiously asked Yané whether they should continue to carry their weapons, he had replied, almost bursting with laughter: ‘Well, I ask you— consider for yourselves whether it is proper for great big strapping chaps like us to go around armed with guns and bombs among women and children. It’s a disgrace. Carry your revolvers, if you want, but keep them hidden.’ [42]


Yet, although the public euphoria showed no signs of abating, Yané and his comrades were fully aware of the fragility and impermanance of the new-born Hürriyet. If it was to survive beyond its present idyllic infancy, and develop into something lasting and truly significant, enormous changes would have to be made in every corner of the Turkish Empire, in every sphere of public and private life. As Yané had said in an interview, ‘The liberty accorded to us should be so large that it will induce the Balkan States to re-enter the Turkish domain.’ [43] It was by no means sure that the Young Turks had either the will or the ability to undertake so vast a programme of reforms. Certainly, as long as the Sultanate and Caliphate were allowed to survive, and as long as the vast majority of the Muslim



41. The Times, 10.VIII.1908.


42. Deliradev, Opus cit., pp. 29-30.


43. Daily News, 5.VIII.1908.





population in Anatolia were allowed to remain in their existing state of backwardness and ignorance, the danger of reaction was very great indeed. Thus, the Serchani saw the current situation merely as a ‘transitional period, the prelude to the real revolution’. [44] They followed up their Manifesto with a draft programme of political and economic demands which they considered should form the basis of the Organization’s future policy. The draft Programme was published in the name of three Regional Committees—Serres, Strumitsa and Salonika—and was circulated by the latter to all the Organization’s Districts, together with an invitation to attend a General Congress. The Preamble of the Programme recommends that Macedonia and the Adrianople Region should not attempt to break away from the Turkish Empire, but should seek a peaceful solution within it. The first point stressed the need for the abolition of all relics of absolutism, and the introduction of government based on the sovereignty of the people. This required the democratization of the whole Ottoman Empire, the introduction of a constitutional parliamentary regime, with a single-chamber assembly, representative of the people and having full powers; all ministers to be answerable to this assembly. Other political points included: self-government for the provinces, regions and local communities in all domestic matters, with foreign policy, the Army, finances, customs and excise, posts, telegraphs and railways left in the hands of the central authorities; the election of all legislative and administrative bodies on the basis of universal, equal suffrage, with direct elections by secret ballot, and proportional representation; complete freedom of "conscience, speech, the Press, assembly, combination, etc.; the inviolability of the person, the home and correspondence; all social groups and strata to be guaranteed full opportunity for defending their material and spiritual interests; the abolition of national, class and sectional privileges, and the recognition that all nationalities and religions are equal; the right of all nationalities to self-determination and freedom to organize; the separation of the Church from the State; the introduction of universal, compulsory and free primary education, with instruction in the pupils’ mother tongue; provincial education budgets to be allocated to the various nationalities in proportion to their size; the replacement of the regular army with a people’s armed militia; general military service for all citizens capable of bearing arms; the militia to serve on a territorial basis only, and to be called to the colours only in the event of the freedom and integrity of the State being threatened; a full amnesty for all guilty of political offences, and its ratification by the first session of the new Parliament. The economic demands included the abolition of all rights and duties which place the peasantry in a state of serfdom; the confiscation of lands belonging to the Sultan and pious foundations, and the compulsory



44. These words are from a report from the Bulgarian Commercial Consul in Serres, summarizing an account of the Left Wing position as described to him by Minkov, one of Taskata’s chetnitsi. TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 303, pp. 55-56.





expropriation by the State of chifiik lands, for transfer to village communes (i.e. local councils) and to landless peasants; legislation to protect hired labour; the abolition of direct and indirect taxes, in favour of a single progressive tax on income and inheritance; and no taxation of incomes below the level necessary for subsistance.


The implementation of the points relating to self-government for the provinces and self-determination for the various nationalities would, in fact, be tantamount to the achievement of the Organization’s traditional aim of political autonomy for Macedonia and the Adrianople Region, while the proposed social, economic and other reforms would eliminate the main sources for grievance on the part of the Bulgarian population, i.e. the absence of reasonable personal security, the lack of land, and the unjust discriminatory system of taxation. Moreover, if these things could be accomplished within the framework of equally far-reaching reforms throughout the Turkish Empke, the Bulgarian community would be less liable to suffer from Greek and Serbian interference than under any other arrangement currently possible.


The Programme was accompanied by a Declaration of Preliminary Demands, setting out the conditions under which the Organization was prepared to work legally. These included: the immediate calling of an All-Empire Parliament on the basis of universal, equal suffrage; the revision of the Constitution of 1876 in the spirit of the Programme; a full political amnesty from Parliament; local power to be handed over to committees elected by the people; and the arming of the population against a possible reactionary offensive. The Declaration ends with a statement that the Organization is prepared to support the actions of any other revolutionary organization within the Empire, providing that these actions are directed towards the achievement of these preliminary guarantees, without which, in the opinion of the Organization, the introduction of a constitutional, democratic regime is unthinkable. [45]


Here were all the traditional planks in the Serres platform: multi-nationalism, republicanism (here implicitly, though elsewhere explicitly, stated [46]); the elective principle at all levels; education for all; agrarian reform, and assistance to those most in need.



45. See Kambana, No. 298, 19.VIII.1908, and a report sent by the Bulgarian Commercial Consul in Salonika to the Foreign Ministry in Sofia. TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 293, pp. 107-108. The Consul mentions one or two additional points in the Programme which are not included in the version printed in Kambana. These are: free legal aid for all; local government officials to know the two main languages of their district, and senior civil servants to know at least the three main languages of the country; and the introduction of a social security scheme for clerks, workers, invalids, etc.


46. On his way to Salonika, Taskata Sersky had passed through Serres with his chetnitsi, and, like Yané, had taken the opportunity to make a republican speech. At a celebration meeting held in the courtyard of the church, after a service of thanksgiving at which the names of the Sultan and Bulgarian Royal Family had





A significant point in the Declaration was the proposal that the population be armed against a possible reactionary offensive. Here the Serchani had in mind both a violent reaction on the part of the Young Turks’ opponents, and also the possibility that the Young Turk dawn was a false one. The Preamble to the Declaration also stated that the fact that the Organization was now able to work legally did not mean that it had ‘changed its basic character as an armed fighting force’. On the contrary, it had not laid down its arms and was ‘ready at a moment’s notice to take them up and continue the struggle in appropriate illegal forms’. While sincerely co-operating with the Young Turks, the Serchani never surrendered their independence or their ability to fight for the fulfilment of their programme. They kept their weapons and their organization intact, and continued to collect dues from their membership. When the Young Turks offered Yané money for the establishment of what the Daily News described as ‘a Bulgarian Socialist newspaper’, he declined the offer, saying that he had sufficient funds at his disposal. [47]


The newspaper in question may have been Konstitutsionna Zarya (Constitutional Dawn), which commenced publication on August 17/30, 1908, with Dimo Hadzhidimov and Dimitŭr Mirazchiev as its editors. Dimo Hadzhidimov had arrived in Salonika on July 29/August 11, and was met at the station by Yané and the other Serchani, who took him to the Hotel Angleterre in a procession of landaus. That same evening he wrote to his wife, Alexandra. [48] ‘I am in Salonika, and, what is more, in the Hotel Angleterre with the top komiti. It’s glorious. . .’ Yané, evidently much excited by their reunion, added these words to the letter: ‘This evening Mityu (a diminutive of Dimo—M.M.) arrived in free Salonika. Here everything is merry and smiling. Mityu’s merry and well, too.’ [49]


Konstitutsionna Zarya reflected the views of the Serchani, and its first editorial clearly expresses their attitude towards the Hürriyet, namely, a realization of the limitations of the Young Turks, and a determination to push the revolution a stage further, while co-operating as far as possible with all progressive forces. In this editorial, Dimo Hadzhidimov reminds readers that history has demonstrated the inability of a military caste to pioneer social and political changes in a spirit of freedom and democratic



loyally been mentioned, a teacher had just cautiously concluded his speech with the words ‘Long live His Majesty the Sultan! Long live the people! Long live the Constitution! Long live freedom, brotherhood, equality and justice, and may they ever reign in our land!’ Taskata had then taken the floor, and had said that there would never be freedom as long as the Sultan ruled in Constantinople, and he ended his speech with the words ‘Down with the Sultan! Long live the revolution!’ See: Report of the Serres Bulgarian Commercial Consul to Ivan Geshov, Bulgarian diplomatic representative in Constantinople, TDIA, f. 334, op. 1, a.e. 303, pp. 49-50.


47. Daily News, 19.VIII.1908.


48. In 1905, Dimo Hadzhidimov had married a teacher named Alexandra Stavrikieva, whom he had known since his days in Dupnitsa.


49. TPA, f. 151, op. 1, a.e. 412. Letter dated 29.VII.1908.





rule. ‘That the Young Turk Movement is not a social movement and that the change-over which it has engineered is not a social change-over of the kind which usually occurs when the contradictions between a given political system and the social forces subordinated to it reach their highest degree of tension—of that there can be no question. This movement is above all a political movement, in which the main element, or characteristic tendency, is the patriotic slogan of the Young Turk military and civil party to save its Fatherland from all forms of external dependence and intervention which are dragging the country towards ever more certain and inevitable disaster.’ In the writer’s opinion, the peculiarly bloodless character of the revolution proves that it is not a real social revolution, since such revolutions inevitably engender greater opposition. As a political movement, the Young Turk Movement is ‘a conscious one, with clearly defined tasks; as a social movement, however, it is insufficiently conscious, confused and inexplicit’. In spite of these shortcomings, it is, nevertheless, the duty of the Organization ‘energetically to support the Young Turk Movement, and the liberation movement in general in Turkey, as far as and as long as this movement is engaged in uncompromising struggle with the absolute monarchy; while preserving its full independence in the struggle and the means for this struggle, to extort and impose on the movement all demands and reforms which strengthen and support the future guarantees for a proper constitutional-democratic regime in the spirit of the Organization’s democracy and the Programme’. [50]


Yet, for all the doubts and drawbacks, the Hürriyet was a great beginning, a beginning which cried out for men whose vision and determination matched those of the Serchani.



50. Konstitutsionna Zarya, No. 1, 20.VIII. 1908.


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