History of Macedonia

The Macedonian Patriotic Organization in the United States, Canada and Australia 

Dr. Trendafil Mitev 

Bulgarian emigrants moved to North America in the last decades of the 19th century. By the end of World War II their number amounted to about 100,0001. The largest Bulgarian colonies were established in the east and northeast states of the United States and Southern Canada – mainly in New York, Toronto, Chicago, Indianapolis, Akron, Fort Wayne, Lorain, Youngstown, St. Louis, Stilton Gerry, Madison, Granite City, Springfield, Lackawanna, and in South Australia. For a century the Bulgarians managed to stabilize their economic positions and form different political, educational and cultural organizations, which played an important role for the immigration’s establishment in the New World. They also had an impact upon the progress in cultural relations between the Bulgarian nation and the American, Canadian and Australian peoples. The following survey has the purpose of clarifying the issues on the formation, major stages and aims in the activities of one of the most interesting and active emigrant organizations – the Macedonian Patriotic Organization in the United States, Canada and Australia (MPO)**. It incorporated mainly Bulgarians from Macedonia who had moved to the States, Canada and Australia2. The Macedonian Patriotic Organization categorical protect the historical truth of Macedonia’s Bulgarian ethnic character. It fought for its freedom by exposing the false ideas of “Macedonianism”, which aimed to “prove” the existence of a separate “Macedonian nation” on the basis of anti-Bulgarian feelings. The Bulgarian emigration’s activities in the United States and Canada were related to opposing the Berlin Treaty and they started just before the Ilinden uprising. In 1899, Macedonian-Bulgarian associations were formed in the States3. Their initiators were Marco Kaludov, Spas Shumkov and Hristo Nedyalkov. On the pages of the “Borba”4 (“Fight”) newspaper, in many articles published in different daily newspapers in English, on meetings, the Bulgarians in North America declared themselves in support of the uprising in Macedonia. They insisted that the Great Powers should cooperate for settling the Macedonian issue by forcing the Sultan to make Macedonia autonomous5. After the Young Turks’ revolution in 1908 Captain A. Bozukov initiated the foundation of Bulgarian Constitutional Clubs in the USA6. Their activities were also related to the autonomy cause in case reforms were held in Ottoman Empire. During the Balkan wars in 1912-1913 the emigrants in the USA and Canada sent financial support7 and soldiers to the Balkan front8. They made great efforts to introduce influential people in North America to the essence of the Bulgarian national issue9. After Bulgaria’s first national catastrophe in 1913 the first Bulgarian emigrant congress was held in the New World on the initiative of Zheko Banev, Marco Kaludov and Archimandrite Teofilact in Chicago. The Macedonian-Bulgarian People’s Union10 was founded on the congress. It included Macedonian-Bulgarian organizations from the towns of Gerry, Stilton, Chicago, Granite City, Cincinnati, Hampton and Dayton11. When World War I was over, a “Bulgarian National Congress”12 was held again in Chicago from 1 to 6 December 1918. After a thorough discussion of the national issue, the delegates voted for a long resolution which was sent to the Paris Peace Conference and to the governments of the Great Powers. In this document the Bulgarians insisted that the Macedonian issue would be settled by uniting their divided country. In case this was proved impossible, the emigrants insisted that Macedonia would become a free and independent state13. This step was viewed as a clever move, in order to avoid forceful assimilation of Bulgarians who have remained under foreign power. The peace treaty in 1919, imposed by the countries that won the war, divided the Bulgarian nation again14. Thousands of Bulgarians from Vardar and Aegean Macedonia left their homes and moved to free Bulgaria15. The complex economic and political situation in the Balkans right after the war, as well as the tendencies for economic prosperity of Bulgarian emigrants in North America caused a new burst of growth in emigration processes for Macedonian Bulgarians on their way to the States, Canada and Australia. For about five years these three countries took the first places, after Bulgaria, in their numbers of Bulgarian emigrants. North America became a region of active propaganda related to the new complexities in the Macedonian issues. The first important issue the emigrants strove to settle completely after the war was the question of how Bulgarians in North America should support the national liberation movement in Macedonia. Between 1920 and 1922 an ardent discussion* took place on the pages of the weekly Bulgarian newspaper “Glas” in Granite City, Illinois. Besides prominent emigrant political figures, famous public figures from liberated Bulgaria also participated in the discussion. People and organizations sent to the editors of “Naroden Glas” their profound analyses and opinions on the perspectives of Macedonian organizations in North America. Some of them were the Executive Committee of Macedonian Brothers in Sofia, Ivan Karandjulov, Dr Peter Vichev*, Dr Teodor Teodorov, Dr Josef Mutafov**, Stoyan Mihaylovsky, Hristo Nizimov, as well as many others. All of them emphasized that with the emergence of large numbers of Bulgarian emigrants in the USA and Canada, new possibilities were being opened to the mobilization of influential factors in world politics in support of the Bulgarian cause16. Great attention was paid to the fact that the US President Woodrow Wilson had made an attempt to protect Bulgaria during the Paris peace conference by insisting that at least Aegean Thrace17 should be left to Bulgaria. This, as well as the lack of special interests of the USA in the Balkans after the war, formed the opinion that the emigrants should mobilize public opinion in the two most powerful countries in the Western Hemisphere. Then, in the future Bulgaria could expect that the States and Canada would interfere decisively in favor of Bulgarians when the Macedonian issue was discussed again. All participants in the discussion suggested that Bulgarian emigrants in North America should unite in a single legal patriotic organization, which should clarify historical truths about the Macedonian issue and protect it from intentional falsifications. At the same time emigrants in free Bulgaria had managed to overcome their desperate feelings after World War I18. The Bulgarian national liberation movement in Vardar and Aegean Macedonia19 became more active. In this situation of the beginning of 1922 the Bulgarian emigrants in North America clarified their specific aims to fulfill in the common fight for rejecting the unjust peace treaty after the War. The evolution in ideas finally resulted in the foundation of a Macedonian Patriotic Organization. Its activities enriched the historical tradition of the Macedonian liberation movement, which Bulgarians in North America had created for the last decades. The formation of a Macedonian Patriotic Organization began with the foundation of local groups in large immigrant centers first in the States and Canada. On November 6, 1921 the Bulgarian colony members in Stilton, Pennsylvania summoned a meeting and founded the “Prilep”20 Macedonian Brotherhood. Thirty people enlisted in the organization. On November 20 they elected the first leaders of the organization. They had the purpose of “contacting by letters all Macedonian patriotic organizations in America, as well as the Executive Committee of Macedonian Brotherhoods in Bulgaria21, in order to prepare and organize a common congress of emigrants in North America.” On November 21 in Fort Wayne, Indiana the first Macedonian political organization called “Kostur”22 was founded. At the end of 1921 the Macedonian-Bulgarian Brotherhood “Prilep” was founded in Youngstown, Ohio23. Its members also tried to look for possibilities of common collective activities in the future. On March 1, 1922 in Dayton, Ohio a Macedonian organization called “Pirin” was founded. The first meeting was held in Dimo Ivanov Tsalibanov’s house of the village of Zelenitche in Macedonia. Peter Dosev24 was the organization’s leader. On April 22 1922 on the initiative of Kosta Popov another Macedonian patriotic organization was founded in Ducaine, Pennsylvania, by the name of “Nezavisimost” (“Independence”). It included Bulgarians from the towns of Mickysport, Rankin, Homestead, Courtsville, Brownsville, Vilmerding, Claerton and some others25. In the first half of 1922 the Lereen Brotherhood in Indianapolis, Indiana developed into a local patriotic organization26. In May and June 1922 another local patriotic organization was founded, this time in Detroit, Michigan, by the name of “Tatkovina” (“Home Country”). Members in the temporary committee for preparing and summoning a common congress were Andrey Kostov, Atanas Filipov, Hristo Spirov, Simo Balkov, Tom Panas, Lambro Nikolov and Lazar Kochev. There were 250 Bulgarian immigrants present at the organization’s first meeting. Fifty of them enlisted as members27. Patriotic organizations were formed for Macedonian Bulgarians in New York (“Ilinden”) and in Lensing, Michigan28 (“Balkansky Kray”). In the second half of 1922 the temporary governing bodies of local patriotic organizations agreed to hold a common congress and form a single union. A group led by Lazar Kiselinchev took the task of composing a project for an organization chart29. The document was ready in the middle of September. Now it was possible to hold the First Congress of the Macedonian Patriotic Organization. It started on October 1 1922 in Fort Wayne, Indiana30. Delegates were sent from the local patriotic organizations in New York, Detroit, Stilton, Ducaine, Youngstown, Indianapolis, Gerry and Lensing31. The groups in Springfield and Cincinnati congratulated the congress by telegraph and made an appeal for unity of all national organizations of Macedonian Bulgarians in America32. Atanas Stefanov, a chairman of the “Kostur” Brotherhood in Fort Wayne33, was the first to address the First Congress of the Macedonian Patriotic Organization. In his speech he described the tragic fate of their enslaved brothers in Vardar and Aegean Macedonia. He called for the unification of all Macedonian emigrants into a powerful Bulgarian patriotic organization and proposed that the Permanent Board of the Congress be elected. The congressmen elected Mihail Nikolov to be the Chairman of the first congress, and Kosta Popov34 became his deputy. On October 2, 1922 the delegates reported of the local patriotic organizations’ positions. The were unanimous about the fact that Bulgarian immigrants in North America could not stay far from the struggles in enslaved Macedonia to reject the hard clauses of the peace treaty in 1919. All delegates who spoke at the congress emphasized their Bulgarian origin and national identity. When the issue of MPO’s aims was discussed, most of the delegates spoke in favor of the idea of creating a free and independent Macedonia. They thought that this strategic aim would neutralize opposition on the side of Athens and Belgrade and would do away with the Great Powers’ motives that were afraid of the creation of a powerful state on the Balkan Peninsula35. If they had their own independent state, the Bulgarians in Macedonia would be saved from forceful denationalization and assimilation. If the future presented a good chance, liberated Macedonia would become a building element in the creation of a Balkan Confederation. The delegates believed that within such a confederation the national unity of the Bulgarian people would be achieved36. On October 3 and 4 the congress discussed and voted the organization chart of the Macedonian Patriotic Organization. The delegates elected the first group to become the organization’s Central Committee. Atanas Stefanov of Fort Wayne became the Chairman, Trayan Nikolov became a Deputy Chairman, Mihail Nikolov of Fort Wayne was the Central Committee’s temporary secretary. Atanas Lebamov was chosen for the job of the organization’s cashier, and Pavel Angelov of Chicago became a counselor. Members of the Central Committee’s Controlling Commission were Peter Dosev, Milan Nedev and Stefan Lazarov37. On October 4, 1922 the Congress was closed in the afternoon. The essence and characteristic features of the new patriotic emigrant organization of Macedonian Bulgarians in the USA and Canada are exposed in the clearest way in the Chart of Macedonian Patriotic Organizations in the USA and Canada38. The first chapter defines MPO’s aims – to organize and educate the emigrants in civil values, and to prepare them for fighting in favor of Macedonian liberation and establishment into “a state unit in order to guarantee constitutional, ethnic, religious, cultural and political rights and freedoms of all of its citizens.”39 Article 4 in the Chart defines the organization’s major means of fight and tactics. “In order to achieve the above-mentioned aims, the organization employs the following means: it founds local organizations in the USA, Canada and elsewhere. It publishes newspapers, books and brochures to proclaim the truth of the just Macedonian cause, and it informs public world opinion of the just ways of settling the Macedonian issue. It presents the Macedonian cause to people, legislative bodies, international institutions and associations through memorandums, petitions, expositions, protests, resolutions, etc. It enters agreements with Macedonian legal organizations all over the world, if they have the same aims. It enters agreements with organizations of oppressed peoples of the Balkan Peninsula in order to wage a common war against the abolishment of oppression and possibly to establish a Balkan federation or confederation, in which the whole of Macedonia will be an equal participant. It organizes congresses, meetings, lectures and discussions in order to make the organization’s aims popular. It organizes activities of cultural, religious, social and charity character40. Articles 5-13 clarify the Macedonian Patriotic Organization’s structure and principles of work in local patriotic organizations. The organization’s highest body is the Congress, who is summoned each year41. If necessary, the chart allows for an extraordinary congress to be held. The delegates are elected by local patriotic organizations. This is done according to the following principle – one representative for twenty-five members. Representatives of local organizations present to the delegates authorized written letters of attorney. An organization of more than 50 members can authorize three delegates only. The Congress evaluates the Central Committee’s work during the past mandate, it draws general aims for the future work and elects a Central Committee of the Macedonian Patriotic Organization. At the basis of MPO are the local patriotic organizations. In order to form such an organization, five members at least are necessary. The Central Committee recognizes each new organization at the Congress. Only one local Macedonian Patriotic Organization can exist in one town or city, in order to avoid doubled activities and confrontation. An organization’s member can be anyone older that 18, born in Macedonia, or whose parents are Macedonian, and he should “accept and support the aims and the chart, and obliges himself to follow all its instructions.”42 Youth and women sections were created as an addition to the local patriotic organizations. MPO’s work between the congresses is governed and executed by the Central Committee. A member of the Central Committee can be anyone who has been MPO’s constant member for at least five years, and “has fruitfully served the Macedonian cause of freedom and independence”43. The Central Committee oversees the fulfillment of tasks related to the organization’s final purpose. It presents MPO to all organizations and people that are factors in Macedonia’s liberation movement, it keeps MPO’s records and reports of its work on all five-year congresses. The Controlling commission checks the Central Committee’s work at least twice a year and it also reports to the Congress44. MPO finances its activities by a collecting a membership fee (50 cents for men and 25 cents for women). Fees are collected each month. Each organization is obliged to send also half of the income from evening meetings, friendly gatherings, festive dinners, picnics, etc., as well as finances from gifts on different occasions. According to the chart, the Central Committee may also ask for voluntary charity gifts. MPO’s funds are deposited with a trustworthy bank under the Central Committee’s name. Necessary funds are drawn by at least two members of the Central Committee, one of which should be the Committee’s cashier45. The last chapter of MPO’s chart, “General Arrangements”, clarifies some untypical cases related to the organizations’ activities – the organization’s stamp is described, the Central Committee’s headquarters are defined. There are also clarifications on how to finalize the work of a local patriotic organization that has dissolved. Article 28 emphasizes that if the organization reaches its final purpose, Macedonia’s liberation, this will not bring the organization’s end. This would only change its aim according to the congress’s decisions. Records, flags and other historical objects of value kept by MPO would be handed in to the first National Parliament of liberated Macedonia46. Extremely important is the “note” to Article 28, saying “The use of concepts of “Macedonians” and “Macedonian emigrants” in this chart are equally valid for all ethnic groups in Macedonia – Bulgarians, Rumanians, Turks, Albanians, etc, and in this case they have geographic, rather than ethnographic, significance47. This part of the chart makes it impossible to equate MPO’s ideas to Yovan Zviich’s “Macedonian theory”, whose greatest opponent in North America is precisely MPO. During the whole period between the two World Wars the Organization was established and acted as an independent legal emigrant structure of Macedonian Bulgarians48, devoted to the struggle to eliminate negative consequences of the peace treaty in the end of World War I. MPO’s activities have gone through four stages until nowadays. The first one encompasses the organization’s development from its foundation to 1925. During this period the first congress was prepared and held. The Central Committee’s first members started fulfilling their tasks. A tradition was established and every year, on the first weekend in September, a congress was held, yet no official reports were prepared and presented by the Central Committee*. MPO’s chart was applied as a basis for its work. First the Chart was copied by hand for the use of local organizations. MPO’s Third congress was extremely important. It was held in Fort Wayne in 1924. Yordan Chkatrov, from the Macedonian National Committee in Bulgaria was present as a guest at the congress. He was elected MPO’s secretary49 and for three years he worked actively to arouse the organization. Under his leadership MPO’s Central Committee established its permanent headquarters in Indianapolis. Permanent relations were established also between the Central Committee and local organizations. Local executive bodies started following zealously decisions taken by congresses and the Central Committee. The organization’s life was in full compliance with the chart’s requirements. The third congress elected Pandil Shanev to be the Central Committee’s Chairman and Tashe Popchev became the cashier50. They remained in these offices without interruption until the beginning of World War II. The Macedonian Patriotic Organization opposed the attempts of some emigrant organizations in the USA and Canada to impose changes in the organization’s strategy and tactics51. As a whole, up to 1925 MPO managed to establish itself and started an active, independent life as an organization. The organization had favorable opportunities to start a political attack on the Macedonian issue. The second stage in MPO’s development involves the period between 1925 and 1934. In 1925, in order to summarize the organization’s work each year, the Central Committee introduced the practice of preparing a written report to be discussed by the delegates at the congress. In this way a tradition was established to make a thorough analysis of achievements and mistakes, as well as of perspectives of Bulgarian national liberation movement in Macedonia. In 1927 the Central Committee started publishing the reports on brochures. They are kept in the Central Committee’s records and those of the local patriotic organizations, and serve as a means of reference. At the end of 1926 the Central Committee bought for 15,000 US dollars the printing press of an already non-existing newspaper issued in New York in the Russian language52. The Cyrillic-printing font allowed MPO to publish its editions in Bulgarian. They supplied also three sizes of English letters to print titles and texts in English as well. It was decided at the organization’s fourth congress that MPO’s newspaper would be called “Macedonska Tribuna” (“Macedonian Tribune”). The newspaper’s first issue appeared on February 10, 192753. In this way, one of the most interesting political newspapers in the Bulgarian language appeared in North America. “Macedonian Tribune” ‘s first editor was Boris Zografov. In 1927 he lived in Sofia. MPO’s Central Committee sent him an official invitation and asked him to come to the States and become the newspaper’s editor54. Boris Zografov remained at this office until MPO’s ninth congress in Youngstown in 1930. At the congress Lyuben Dimitrov was chosen to be the newspaper’s editor. He also lived in Sofia at the time. In 1931 Dimitrov arrived in the States in order to the take the office and the responsibility for the newspaper until his death in 196455. “Macedonian Tribune” was read in the States, Canada, Australia, Bulgaria, Vardar and Aegean Macedonia, as well as in many European countries. By the beginning of World War II it had already become the most popular emigrant newspaper in the world, issued in the Bulgarian language56. In 1934 the editors introduced the practice of publishing a patriotic page in English. It was written for the emigrants’ children. Being born in North America, some of them were more fluent in English, than in Bulgarian. The English page also allowed for the dispersal of the truth about Macedonian Bulgarians’ tragic destiny to reach a wider circle of English-speaking readers57. In this way, on the pages of this newspaper, the emigration started a fight against enemies of the national liberation movement in Macedonian Bulgarians. This made governments in Belgrade and Athens to ban the newspaper in 1928 by official decrees. Bulgarians in Vardar and Aegean Macedonia who were found reading the newspaper were given heavy sentences58. During the second period in MPO’s development the Central Committee organized the printing and distribution of political papers, documents of congresses and the Central Committee’s decisions, and even books in the Bulgarian language*. It is hard to find out the exact number of publications that MPO issued by the beginning of World War II, because not all editions have been preserved. The number of editions amounts to about 50 ones. They played a positive role in popularizing and advancing the arguments of MPO’s activities as a whole, as well as in the internal establishment of the organization’s ideas. However, until the end of World War II publications were not among MPO’s main tasks. There were several reasons for that fact. First, the emigrants in free Bulgaria founded a Macedonian Scientific Institute in Sofia. Among its members and contributors were some of the famous Bulgarians historians, ethnographers, linguists, diplomats and former revolutionaries. This center issued some of the most serious publications on the Macedonian issue between the two World Wars. MPO used in its propaganda work some of these materials and researches also, as well as publications of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, which were sent to the USA and Canada, and then they were quickly distributed59 Second, by the end of the 1930s there had not emerged any professional historians and philologists among Bulgarian emigrants in North America. MPO experienced the need for well-prepared authors of books and articles. The only prominent emigrant figures in the humanities during this period were Stoyan Hristov and Hristo Atanasov60. Third, there were difficulties in finding a publisher for specialized scientific papers in the USA related to regional political problems as the Macedonian issue. At the time of the Great Depression in 1929 as a result of a bank failure61 MPO lost a big sum of money. This was an additional circumstance to complicate the organization’s publishing. However, thanks to the organization, the issues of the Macedonian Scientific Institute in Sofia, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and the Sofia University reached some of the greatest academic and scientific centers and city libraries in North America. As a result of a decision taken at MPO’s fifth congress, an Information Bureau of the organization62 was opened in New York. In spite of the fact that it was closed for a short time and reopened again in the 30s because of financial difficulties, as a whole the Bureau played a significant role for the Macedonian Bulgarian cause and its popularization in the English-speaking countries. The first associates in this auxiliary structure of MPO’s Central Committee were Lazar Kiselinchev and Hristo Nizamov, and in the second half of the 30s Hristo Atanasov headed the Information Bureau. The Bureau’s major task was defined by the organization’s congress: to follow articles in the English-speaking press and answer all tendentious and misrepresenting ones63. The Bureau followed with great attention all printed materials of the Greek and Serbian immigration in the USA and Canada, and they revealed the truth about all of their anti-Bulgarian falsifications. The Information Bureau’s representatives often met prominent American and Canadian journalists, scientists and political figures, in order to offer them materials to print, or simply to acquaint them with recent developments in the quickly changing Macedonian issue. Members of the bureau visited scientific conferences and academic colloquiums in the USA64, where they gave lectures and reports, and acquainted the listeners with the situation in Macedonia, with MPO’s tactics and with the claims of Bulgarians under bondage65. Just before the beginning of World War II the Information Bureau’s headquarters moved from New York to St. Louis, and it was renamed to Press Bureau. Then it was headed by Hristo Atanasov, who was its leader until his death in 1984. Due to this institution’s propaganda needs, Atanasov wrote a number of serious research papers. They established his name, as MPO’s most prominent scientist and journalist in the 50s and 60s of the 20th century66. As early as the 1930s the Information Bureau turned into MPO’s official voice (something like the emigrants’ “Foreign Office”). It greatly contributed to the worldwide dispersion of historical truths on the Macedonian issue. In the second half of the 1920s MPO’s local organizations started establishing women’s, youth and children’s organizations67. They had the purpose of mobilizing as many emigrants as possible. They employed different forms of work, taking into account age and gender specificity. Through these additional activities MPO made an attempt to become a popular patriotic organization. By the middle of the 30s the task was almost achieved. Evidence of this was the fact that when MPO’s yearly congresses were opened, about 5,000 people came to the opening festivities. This was a good occasion for amassing experience on how to work with people, and it facilitated MPO by allowing the organization to mobilize people for Macedonia’s needs and interests. In mid 30s MPO defined its official position in relation to the rest of the emigrant liberation movement organizations of Bulgarians. After the dramatic events in VMRO (the conflict between “Mihaylovists” and “Protogerovists”) in the late 20s for three years MPO remained its neutral positions. However, in 1930 the organization’s Central Committee concluded that VMRO (I. Mihaylov) was the most serious “warrior” in the liberation movement of enslaved Bulgarians. This thesis was entirely shared by legal emigrant organizations of Macedonian Bulgarians working in Bulgaria68. Therefore, MPO’s Central Committee started acquainting its members and interested parties in the USA and Canada at regular intervals with the revolutionaries’ activities. On the pages of “Macedonian Tribune” they published hundreds of articles glorifying and reminding of the revolutionaries who had died fighting with the Serbian army in Vardar Macedonia69. MPO condemned traitors’ activities within the liberation movement and exposed spies and betrayers70. Yet, MPO was one of the legal emigrant organizations that did not approve of the fratricide struggles in the national liberation movement in the late 20s and early 30s71. The organization’s Central Committee declared repeatedly that such struggles would lead to the movement’s weakening and would create possibilities for twisted representation of its aims in world public opinion. Therefore MPO asked for tolerance and understanding. It suggested that a common “Principal governing body” could be formed to unite all organizations related to Bulgarian national liberation movement in Macedonia, and in this way all efforts would be turned against the common enemies, the conquerors72. “Macedonian Tribune” congratulated all acts of good will and tolerance exercised by different wings in the revolutionary movement. With regard to Bulgarian emigrant associations existing in the States, Canada and Australia, MPO thought that they did not have a good understanding of the interest of Macedonians under bondage. The organization believed that the national issue was not the most important issue for the other organizations. Therefore MPO tried not to allow interference of other factors in its activities. With regard to the Bulgarian-Macedonian National Union (BMNU), MPO was consistent in its uncompromising criticism73. MPO believed that the main dividing line between the two organizations was BMNU’s thesis, under the influence of the Moscow Communist International, of the existence of a separate “Macedonian nation”, as well as in BMNU’s belief in the possibility to solve simultaneously the national and the social issues in Macedonia. As a legal organization propagating the national liberation cause, MPO did not share the opinion that there was a possibility on the Balkans to solve simultaneously national-liberation and social-class problems of Bulgarians in Macedonia. MPO believed that in order to create conditions for uniting all forces in the struggle, first the national liberation issue had to be settled. After that liberated Bulgarians in Macedonia could decide by themselves in what way to organize life in their country. Therefore, until BMNU dissolved in the late 40s, MPO declined all attempts of united actions or coalition with BMNU. It also criticized its leader’s ideas, including the ones of Smile Voydanov and Georgi Pirinsky74. As a whole, until the beginning of World War II MPO did not discuss the question of private property in a future free Macedonia. For similar reasons MPO was not interested in any activities of the Bulgarian Socialist Workers’ Union in America (BSWUA)75. An additional reason for this lack of interest was the too abstract set of concepts within BSWUA in relation to the possibilities for social change in the future76. Deeply influenced by Daniel de Lion’s trade union aberration and the Socialist Workers’ Party in America, BSWUA’s ideas were based exclusively upon social-class structure in the States. Their application in the entirely different circumstances on the Balkans was simply impossible, especially in Macedonia’s regions under foreign government. MPO’s positions toward the Bulgarian Protestant Mission in America were no different. The only emigrant organization in which MPO was really interested in the period between the two World Wars were the Bulgarian Orthodox Parishes in the States and Canada76. These Bulgarian emigrant clerical organizations were established in the early 20th century in North America. In the mid 30s in the USA and Canada already seven active Bulgarian Orthodox churches existed and operated, together with the relevant parishes in their regions. The orthodox clerical organizations were actually the most popular emigrant associations founded by Bulgarians in North America. In the 30s MPO’s Central Committee established close relations with the Bulgarian Orthodox Mission’s leader Krustyo Genov. The Mission’s chief office was first in Stilton78, but then it moved to Indianapolis. Good relations between the two institutions allowed the parishes to grow and strengthen, and the Bulgarian Orthodox churches in America, under the spiritual and canonical leadership of the Holy Synod in Sofia, became cultural centers with great importance for the dispersion of Bulgarian culture in the New World. MPO had contacts with emigrant organizations of the other Slavonic peoples in America as well. It was mainly interested in those, which were related to the destiny of peoples under bondage in the Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian Kingdom, and in Greece. All Greek and Serbian emigrant organizations working on the territory of the USA, Canada and Australia were its objects of criticism, independently of their political orientation. MPO was right to judge that they attempted to create better international conditions for the realization of assimilation policies in Vardar and Aegean Macedonia79. Together with emigrant organizations of peoples under foreign government in Yugoslavia and Greece, MPO sought ways of cooperation and coordination of efforts in order to expose the aims of nationalist governments in Belgrade and Athens. At the end of World War II MPO became closely related to the Croatian Patriotic Organization in the USA80. Slovenians, Montenegrins and Albanians did not support influential emigrant organizations with national liberation aims until the 1950s. In spite of this MPO’s Central Committee used all opportunities to encourage representatives of these ethnic groups in the New World. With regard to political parties’ activities and struggles, MPO did not engage itself with an open public position. Its ideas in this sphere of politics were based on the belief that MPO did not attempt to solve internal political problems of the nations of the United States, Canada and Australia. Therefore MPO allowed its members as citizens of these three countries to vote for candidates they personally preferred. As a whole, MPO did not participate openly during elections as an organization in support of any candidate in presidential elections. According to indirect data, until the end of World War II most of the organization’s members supported the Democratic Party in the USA, while in the second half of the century certain parts of the organization were in support of the Republicans. During its 80 years of existence MPO was not in close relations with organizations of America and Australia’s colored populations. One of the reasons was that it wanted to stay away from issues of secondary importance. On the other hand, MPO did not want to enable possible impediments on its way to national liberation. By turning its members’ full attention to a clear strategic goal, MPO became one of the most important and interesting legal national-liberation organizations in the USA, Canada and Australia, following the completion of its aims in an uncompromising way. In this relation MPO has no analogue in North America. From the late 20s to 1934 MPO managed to develop and establish a manifold cultural cycle of life for Bulgarian immigrants in the USA, Canada and Australia. This issue was often discussed on congresses each September. The presence of a strict organization structure and constant economic prosperity of the emigrant community played a positive role. As a result of this in the late 20s in the USA, Canada and Australia a yearly “Bulgarian cultural cycle” came into existence. It diversified and enriched cultural life in the biggest cities of the New World81. Each year from November to March a central event in the cycle were performances of amateur art groups. Local patriotic organizations formed mixed and children’s choirs, dance groups, literary circles, drama groups and music teams for folk and jazz music. At least once a month they had performances and arranged evening meetings or dance parties82. The May propaganda week (later developed into the whole month of May used for propaganda) was a time for lectures and discussions on political, scientific, moral and cultural topics83. The emigrants celebrated with special attention and love the greatest cultural holiday for Bulgarian emigrants – May 24, the Day of Slavonic Writing84. The annual picnic arranged by MPO in Ohio on July 4, the US national holiday, turned into the most popular Bulgarian gathering in the New World85. Thousands of people came from all centers of immigration, especially from the States and Canada. Therefore it was also used for the emigrants’ patriotic education. Enthusiastic speeches were given in defense of enslaved Bulgarians. Prominent public figures and scientists from the USA were invited to these meetings to speak on different topics. Bulgarian folk chain dances were the longest ones in the States, and the best folk orchestra played on these gatherings. Every year on August 2 they made an official commemoration of the Ilinden Uprising in 1903. “Macedonian Tribune” published hundreds of articles on the topic*: there were lengthy, first-page articles on the uprising’s role in the national liberation movement, and there were memories of participants in these events, who had later emigrated to the USA and Canada. This is the only source of information on many episodes of heroic struggle in Macedonia in 1903. The end of the annual cultural cycle each year was the preparation and realization of MPO’s annual congress. As a tradition, it was held on the first weekend of September. First a public manifestation86 was usually carried out in the town where the congress would be held. Many Macedonian Bulgarians took part in the manifestation dressed up in colorful folk costumes. Often a band of Bulgarian folk music led the manifestation. It played revolutionary hymns and songs from Macedonia. As a rule, during the congress meetings the local MPO offered literary and music performances87. Cultural festivities organized by MPO during the congresses became the most popular public performances of Bulgarian emigrants in American and Canadian cultural life. They attracted the attention of Americans and Canadians to the destiny and culture of Macedonian Bulgarians, and they established MPO’s authority. In the late 20s MPO started the formation and establishment of libraries as part of local patriotic organizations. They also became an important element within the common cultural cycle and life rhythm among the emigrants. The bookshop that was a part of the editors’ office in “Macedonian Tribune” supplied books. By the middle of the 30s MPO had already established 12 local libraries in different towns in the USA and Canada. The total number of books in the Bulgarian language amounted to more than 3,000 volumes. All issues of the Macedonian Scientific Institute in Sofia were kept there, as well as memories of participants in revolutionary struggle, literary works in Bulgarian, and all published issues of MPO’s Central Committee. In this way by World War II MPO’s local libraries had turned into an important means of educational work among the emigrants, and a way to preserve its Bulgarian ethnic identity. Under MPO’s leadership Bulgarian national schools88 were created in five of the Bulgarian Orthodox churches in North America. All teachers in these schools were Bulgarians. They were either specially employed persons, or their functions were performed by the local Bulgarian priest (and sometimes by his wife as well). Textbooks were supplied from Bulgaria until 1956. They were identical to those used in Bulgarian schools89. However, after Marxist and Leninist methods were applied in Bulgaria in the 60s, MPO decided to write its own “First reader” for its schools. These were also published in the Bulgarian language, with the only difference being the lack of Marxist and Leninist context. Lessons in the Bulgarian emigrant schools were held in the children’s free time, when they were not at their American or Canadian school. The central place in the curriculum was taken by lessons in writing and reading in the Bulgarian language, as well as by Bulgarian history, literature, geography and folk art. The aim of Bulgarian emigrant schools was to enrich the children’s knowledge and preserve the spiritual bond with Bulgarians from their mother country90. In this way it became possible to keep the new generations’ interest in national liberation movement in Macedonia. The schools played a significant role in the preservation of Bulgarian cultural traditions within the emigrants’ family and social life. It also allowed the emigrants to take part in American, Canadian and Australian cultural life as a whole. Thanks to MPO’s efforts Bulgarians were integrated within the structures of the new nations until the end of World War II as an element of high culture, with clear and original spiritual understanding that has enriched the civilization’s values across the Atlantic. MPO’s success by mid 30s established the organization’s authority. There were many examples of respect shown by prominent public figures in the areas of public life, science and administration in the States, Canada and Australia91. Truths of the destiny of enslaved parts of Macedonia became known in the New World as never before. Results from MPO’s activities proved the need for such an organization for progress in national liberation propaganda. Therefore MPO continued to be active on the political scene also in the second half of the 30s. The third stage in MPO’s active life encompasses the period between 1934 and 1945. In this period all initiated forms of work were established in practice. Besides, under the major influence of quickly changing political situations in Europe and the world, MPO was forced to make some temporary corrections in its line of behavior after the War. The amazing economic progress that started in the States with the end of the Great Depression in 1934 offered favorable economic perspectives for the Bulgarian immigration. Most of the Macedonian Bulgarian immigrants in the New World had jobs and god economic conditions for their families. As they did not anymore care for their daily bread in the situation of economic prosperity, this could supply enough funds for MPO’s Central Committee. Local organizations gave an annual amount of more than 15,000 US dollars to the Central Committee, and this was a significant sum of money for that time. In 1940 MPO’s Central Committee managed to establish again a constant financial fund of 15,000 US dollars. It was placed with a bank with a good interest as a reserve. The total value of MPO’s immovable property (the buildings of the so-called “popular homes”, the organization’s clubs, libraries, schools etc) just before World War II amounted to about 200,000 US dollars92. The local patriotic organizations often held actions to collect gifts from members. They also gave additional funds to “Macedonian Tribune” and for other activities. MPO’s financial stability influenced the quality of the organization’s propaganda material publishing. In 1939 the Central Committee started financing the writing of a special “English page” in each issue of the newspaper. In 1940 the popular “Macedonian Almanac” was published in 276 pages of A4 size, with many documents and pictures. In this way more possibilities were used for the popularization of truth about Macedonia among wider circles of American and Canadian society. When Fascists came to power in Germany, the revisionist tendency to liquidate the Treaties of 1919 appeared as a possible alternative in world politics. As an answer to the new tendencies Bulgarians in Vardar and Aegean Macedonians were subject to greater terror with the aim of not letting them speak again for freedom and democracy. The Constitutional Block’s attempt in Bulgaria to impose the democratic alternative as a good perspective in the country’s development failed. On May 19, 1934 representatives of pro-fascist organizations – Military League and the “Zveno” political circle – executed a military coup d’etat93. Political freedoms in Bulgaria were trampled. The militaries denounced the country’s constitution, dissolved all legal political organizations and banned their newspapers. A totalitarian dictatorship was established in the country in the pro-fascist vein. The new circumstances became the reason for certain changes in the national liberation organizations of Macedonian Bulgarians in Bulgaria. VMRO had to dissolve. Legal emigrant organizations were also banned and could not continue their activities. The attempt to change them with “copies” of the organizations was unsuccessful. The emigrant organizations’ leaders and supporters had to wait for better days in order to renew their struggles94. In this situation in the late 30s MPO in the States, Canada and Australia remained the only legal emigrant organization of Macedonian Bulgarians that continued to work legally. In fact, it was the only representative of enslaved Bulgarians until and during World War II. All this forced MPO’s Central Committee to define and reshape its political line of behavior. It is a fact that problems within emigrant structures of Macedonian Bulgarians in free Bulgaria had no influence upon MPO’s activities and they did not weaken it in any way. In the beginning of World War II MPO’s local members increased in numbers. In 1938 MPO had 38 local patriotic organizations in some of the biggest cities in the States and Canada95. MPO was the only emigrant organization of Bulgarians that had its influence and relations on three continents. Although it remained alone, MPO did not change its political strategy. The fact that the Macedonian issue was not settled yet preserved the old aims and demands – struggle for Macedonia’s liberation. MPO did not also change its thesis on the predominant Bulgarian ethnic character in this Balkan province, in spite of the escalating anti-Bulgarian assimilation policy of chauvinist governments in neighboring countries. In the late 30s MPO’s Central Committee made changes mainly in its strategy. For the first time in its history the organization pointed its attack against authoritarian governments in Bulgaria after the military coup d’etat96. Two major accusations were turned against these governments – that their policy created difficulties in legal emigrant organizations’ activities of Macedonian Bulgarians on the territory of free Bulgaria, and that the course of good relations with Yugoslavia demobilized and confused the local population. MPO realized that restrictions on the part of the authoritarian regime after May 1934 were hard to follow also for the free part of Bulgarians. Therefore the organization expressed many times its solidarity with the fighting democratic opposition. They publicly rebuked Kimon Georgiev, Georgi Kyoseivanov, and rarely King Boris III. In brochures, resolutions of protest and personal letters to people of authority in Sofia MPO insisted that the replacement parties and organizations would be dissolved. They also asked for amnesty for persecuted leaders and members of former revolutionary structures. MPO’s opinion was that Bulgaria should carry out active political measures in defense of unrecognized rights of enslaved Bulgarians97. In this way MPO contributed to exposing the evils of pro-fascist forces in Bulgaria before democratic public opinion in America, Europe and Australia. This strategy was active from 1934 to the end of 1940. After World War II began, MPO gradually left elements of confrontation with the government in Sofia. In the spring of 1941 the emigrant organization congratulated Bulgaria’s efforts to free Macedonia, and made known the constructive state policy of Bulgarian administration in Vardar until 1944. However, we must emphasize the fact that in the period of MPO’s greatest opposition against new ideas for Bulgaria’s policy on the Balkans it preserved the opinion that the major responsibility for the Bulgarians’ intolerable destiny in Vardar and Aegean Macedonia (until April 1941) did not lie with Bulgaria. It lied with the countries that became the authors of the unjust peace treaties and their warrantees in Macedonia, the governments in Athens and Belgrade. The government in Sofia was mainly accused of carrying out an inconstant and ineffective policy, especially for the protection of Bulgarians’ interests in Macedonia. This detail in the Central Committee’s evaluation must be emphasized because under its influence some changes were made in the existing strategy, followed by MPO’s Central Committee in relation to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in the New World. By taking into account the unquestionable progress of Bulgarian emigrant community across the Atlantic, in 1937 the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod decided to place the Bulgarian national clerical structure in the New World higher in hierarchy. In compliance with the Exarchate Chart, an agreement was reached with the American government that Bulgarian Orthodox parishes are united into an independent Bulgarian Orthodox Bishopric. Bishop Andrey Velichky stood at the head of the new bishopric. The formation of the first Bulgarian Orthodox Bishopric in America was a positive step toward the establishing of order in the emigrants’ spiritual life according to the clerical chart and requirements of traditions and canons of faith. The authority of East Orthodox religion became greater. There were more possibilities to establish active relations between Bulgarian emigrants and the rest of the colorful religious communities in America. Bulgarian interests in the USA and Canada required all emigrant organizations’ cooperation for the progress in authority of the new spiritual leader. Under the influence of the government’s policy of close relations with Yugoslavia MPO’s Central Committee made the choice to confront the Bishop98. They attempted to put pressure upon Sofia’s government, in order to suggest corrections in its policy concerning legal organizations of Macedonian Bulgarians in the kingdom. In this case however MPO’s Central Committee overvalued its influence upon the Bulgarian government’s behavior. The conflict with Bishop Andrey had no influence upon Bulgarian-American political relations. The Central Committee’s inability to make him leave his office, the support the bishop received from parts of the emigration, and especially the important changes in Macedonia after April 1941 made the conflict pointless. In 1942 MPO finally put an end to the conflict. The central place on its propaganda and political activity was taken again by the major issue – to clear the essence of the positive state policy realized by the Bulgarian administration in Vardar Macedonia during the second Bulgarian rule there until September 194499. After World War II the fourth period in MPO’s development began. Dramatic political changes took place on the Balkans. With the active help of the Red Army in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia social life was reshaped according to the Soviet model. In the late 40s totalitarian political regime was active in these two Balkan countries under the leadership of the communist parties. Under the pressure of Stalin and the Yugoslavian Communist Party, the Bulgarian Communist party made fatal mistakes in this period concerning the national issue. The reinstated VMRO was destroyed again, and its leaders were murdered. In Vardar Macedonia a “new Macedonian nation” was established on anti-Bulgarian basis. The “new nation” received its newly invented “Macedonian language”, newly fabricated “Macedonian history” and so on. In Pirin Macedonia there was a census done by force, and the population was forced by repression to enter they national identity as a foreign (Macedonian) minority in Bulgaria. This unprecedented policy of surrender provoked greatly the Macedonian Bulgarian emigrants in the New World. MPO’s Central Committee led the emigrants in a new struggle – this time with the aim of exposing mistakes and crimes done by the communist regimes concerning the Bulgarian national issue. In the new situation in Southeast Europe after 1944 an important change was first registered in Ivan Mihaylov’s political behavior. He settled in Italy. Keeping in mind the actual circumstances in the Balkans, VMRO’s leader finally left his strategy of revolutionary struggle. Gradually Ivan Mihaylov was established as a legal political figure and author of the ideology of the Bulgarian national liberation movement in Macedonia. This fact allowed for a close political alliance between Ivan Mihaylov and MPO in the States, Canada and Australia in the late 40s. Mihaylov became the emigrants’ ideological leader, and MPO provided people and funds for common political struggle. In this way a new democratic patriotic front was formed, and it set the aim of protecting everything Bulgarian on the Balkans. For four decades its representatives have rejected the existence of a “new Macedonian nation”. They have proved that the so-called “Macedonian language” is a Serbian variant of Bulgarian literary language. They have fought against falsifications of the past done in Skopje and Belgrade by the official historians. Until the 1960s the course of surrender followed by the Bulgarian Communist party had been subjected to violent criticism. They have exercised great political activities with the aim to support and attract to MPO those of the VMRO members that were persecuted by the authorities in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. With the help of UN and other humanitarian organizations human rights of Bulgarians repressed by Tito in Yugoslavia were protected. In order to prove the objective basis of Bulgarian emigrant movement and historical heritage, Ivan Mihaylov started writing his memories from the 50s to the 70s, which MPO’s Central Committee published in four large volumes. These works provide serious proof of Bulgarian national interests from the 50s to the 70s. The greatest contribution for the preservation of MPO’s high international authority as fighting for justice and freedom in the second half of the 20th century belongs to MPO’s active members100. They are people like Peter Atsev, Lyuben Dimitrov, Hristo Nizamov, Ivan lebamov, Georgi Lebamov, Boris Chalev, Chris Ivanov (USA), and Blazhe Markov, Georgi Mladenov, the priest Mihaylov, Pando Mladenov (Canada). The change in the Bulgarian government’s policy in the 60s concerning the Macedonian issue influenced also MPO’s behavior. Starting in the 70s, members of its Central Committee visited Bulgaria. The emigrants’ publications made use of the achievements of Bulgarian historical science researching in an objective way important aspects of the Macedonian issue. 

In the 80s the patriotic emigrants across the Atlantic and the patriotic circles in Sofia started acting again as two independent yet similar in aims factors working in the same direction, protecting the truth of the Bulgarian population’s destiny in Vardar and Aegean Macedonia. The struggle was intensified greatly with the reappearance of VMRO and the Macedonian Scientific Institute in Sofia. These two factors in Bulgarian democratic public life again became, as until 1944, active and natural partners of the Macedonian Patriotic Organization in their efforts to settle justly the Macedonian issues. After Yugoslavia was dissolved, MPO, the scientific and public front in Sofia and the Bulgarian democratic governments provided similar help for the stabilization of the newly founded Republic of Macedonia with Skopje as its capital. 

The information exposed above provides the reasons for a conclusion that MPO is the direct heir and chief follower of the work started by the first Bulgarian patriotic emigrant organizations in the New World in relation to the struggles to unite the broken and dispersed Bulgarian people. The different phases that the Macedonian issue went through have put a pressure upon MPO to develop and enrich its ways and means to achieve its aims. Firmly based upon VMRO’s rich experience and traditions, MPO has further developed into one of the most interesting and original Bulgarian national-liberation organizations. It has worked legally for more than 70 years in the New World. As a result of this, MPO has contributed greatly toward the worldwide knowledge of historical truth related to the injustice done to Macedonian Bulgarians at the Paris Peace Conference. Its unprejudiced and consistent ways of following its political aims from democratic positions are some of the greatest achievements in the national liberation movement of Macedonian Bulgarians as a whole. Researching MPO’s experience can be very helpful for the further establishment of useful relations between all good-willed factors in politics, desiring to support the Republic of Macedonia as a factor for agreement and cooperation of Bulgarians all over the world.

[Back to Main Page]