On July 20, 1903, according to the Julian calendar, the largest uprising against the Ottoman occupiers broke out in Macedonia – the Ilinden uprising. According to today’s (Gregorian) calendar this is August 2nd, in the Orthodox calendar it is also the day of Saint Elijah, or Ilija in Macedonian = Ilinden!
With the Ilinden uprising they wanted to finally free themselves from the braces of the Turks, but they also wanted to send a signal to the Western powers and draw attention to the “Macedonian tragedy”. It was hoped that the Western powers would intervene, but unfortunately the outcry of the Macedonians was not heard. The uprising ended more or less in a bloody fiasco …
The Macedonian insurgents, also known as “Komiti” (Komitadji, engl.), were poorly armed and outnumbered: the estimated 26,000 Macedonian insurgents were met by the Ottoman occupiers with an army of 350,000 well-trained soldiers. An unspecified number of militants, mostly of Albanian descent, also stood by the Ottomans as irregular troops.
The hoped-for intervention by Russia and the other Western powers failed to materialize because Austria-Hungary was not interested in strengthening Russian influence in the Balkans.
In view of these hopeless circumstances, the initial successes of the Macedonian freedom fighters were more than remarkable: they gained the upper hand in several villages, in Kruševo, west of Prilep, they were even able to proclaim the “Republic of Kruševo” under the presidency of school teacher Nikola Karev – the first republic on the Balkans.
What is often kept secret in international historiography: The “Constituent Parliamentary Assembly” of the Kruševo republic also included the Aromanians (in the diction at the time “Vlachs”), the Christian Albanians and the “Graecomanians” (Greek Orthodox Slavs, Albanians or Vlachs who culturally defined themselves as Greeks) represented the city. When the Balkans was ruled by monarchies, the Macedonians formed the first republic in the Balkans, with a multi-ethnic parliament.
The republic of Kruševo only lasted 10 days, that is how long the city could be kept free from the Ottomans before the uprising was brutally suppressed. Around 1,000 insurgents fell in battle or were executed. Others committed suicide to avoid falling into the hands of the enemy.
The heroism of these brave and popular characters also whets the appetite, so Macedonia is subject to reprisals even today. Bulgaria not only claims the Ilinden uprising as a legacy of Bulgarian history, but also the fighters and heads of the uprising themselves. Sofia claims that the main protagonists in the struggle for Macedonia’s freedom are “all Bulgarians”.
Ilinden uprising was a purely national Macedonian movement
We want to counter this absurd assertion with an article from the New York Times newspaper of 1903. When the Americans were informed about the Macedonians’ struggle for freedom.
The reporter of the NY Times questioned the Bulgarian Prime Minister Petroff, so we read in the passage of the article:
Regarding the reports that Bulgaria was responsible for the outbreak, he pointed out that the centre of the disturbed area at present was nearly two hundert miles from the Bulgarian frontier and was separated from it by country largely inhabited by Turks. Consequently, he said, it was foolish to say that the movment was aided by bands from Bulgaria, and that it was equally unreasonable to suggest that the arms of the insurgents came from Bulgaria. as a matter of fact, he said, the guns used by the insurrectionists were all of French manifacture, and that most of them had been bought from Turkish officers and men who, receiving no pay, had restored to the sale of their guns and ammunition to obtain money.
The insurrection, he said, was entirely a national Macedonian movment organized by the Macedonian Internal Committee, which in itself was proof…
Source used: NY Times August 16, 1903, PDF – LINK