From the archive a newspaper report from the Washington Times of April 26, 1903 – a few months before the well-known Macedonian Ilinden uprising against the Ottoman occupiers on August 2nd, showing some details abot the Bulgarian population back than.
Abdul Hamid alone wants reforms in the Balkans, is the title of the story where we read that half of the Bulgarian population are Macedonians. Among other things, we read as subtitles:
- The Turkish sultan is willing to make concessions as long as they do not affect his sovereignty
- The Bulgarian and Macedonian insurgents seek ultimate independence.
As the author of the article stated at the beginning, he spent three weeks getting sources and information first hand. “From the highest authorities in Constantinople, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Serbia, including those authorized to express the views of Turkey, Russia, Great Britain and the other great powers, as well as from leaders of the insurgents themselves,” writes H.R. Chamberlain, the Washington Times correspondent in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Quite a few international press services had branch offices and correspondents stationed there.
Chamberlain described the turmoils in Macedonia, as well as the pursuit for freedom. In part, it also includes Albania, as the Albanians also rebelled against the Ottomans.
However, a short passage from the article attracted a lot of attention in Macedonia. In the section “To Crush Rebellion” Chamberlain described that uprisings in Macedonia arouse great sympathy in neighboring Bulgaria. Chamberlain justifies this with the fact that “Almost half of the Bulgarian population are Macedonians, by birth or by origin“.
Chamberlain, then the Washington Times correspondent in Sofia, wrote in the article on Sunday April 26, 1903 on page 3:
“It is true that this country (Bulgaria) strongly sympathizes with the Macedonian movement. Almost half of the population are Macedonians by birth or origin“.
And he goes on by explaining the geopolitical dilemma at the time: “The Russian influence in control of the government however is marvelously skillful and there has been no sign as yet of any general public movement in opposition to the correct attitude which Russia has so sternly prescribed.“
Also of interest is the author’s execution of what the rebels are striving for. As he emphasizes, they want independence for Macedonia, but what the “liberated country” should look like then surprises even him:
“They aspire for nothing short of independence, although they usually veil their ambition under the the term autonomy. It is the conviction of almost every competent observer that independent Macedonia would mean nothing short of of the blackest anarchy throughout the the land.
Perhaps I should explain that the insurrectionists have a larger scheme, which was explained to me the other day by their chief leader with an enthusiasm which was almost fanatical.
He desired, he said, to form a Balkan Balkan, or a South Slav federation consisting of Bulgaria, Servia, Albania, Macedonia and Roumania. The object of this federation would be to prevent both Pan-Russian and Pan-Germanic expansion and he desired to secure the active support of Great Britain and France. It would be useless to point out to him the absurd impracticability of his scheme in the present Situation.” wrote the Washington Times correspondent.
Source: Abdul Hamid Alone Desires Reforms in Balkan States – Washington Times 04/26/1903. Photo: symbol image showing Macedonians in Bulgaria.