World War 2 Period
By way of comparison, the Bulgarian occupation of Vardar Macedonia in April 1941 was hailed as liberation by the inhabitants from Serbian oppression. As during WW1 many collaborated with the Bulgarians, including the remnants of the IMRO, even though many, including Mihailov ultimately favored autonomy. By the end of the war however the IMRO was rendered a mere historical curiosity.
Pro Bulgarian sympathies were strong within the local Vardar communist organization, the Macedonian Provincial Committee (MPC), which was considered part of the Yugoslav Communist Party. One of the few Skopjean leaders who did endorse resistance, Lazar Kolishevski was taking orders directly from Tito. The communist MPC lead by the Bulgarophile Methodie Shatorov refused to join the CPY in partisan warfare against the Bulgarians and Germans, and instead took its orders directly from Sofia party headquarters. In fact until 1943, there was no sign of Slav Macedonian resistance to Bulgarian occupation, neither by the IMRO nor by the communists even though many grew resentful of the overbearing Bulgarian presence. According to the book “Tito” by Yugoslavian Vladimir Dedijer, (p.173) he recalls Tito’s frustration at the Skopjean communists by a letter he wrote to the Macedonian Central Committee where he chides them because: “The Macedonian Committee has failed to organize partisan detachments, it has failed to organize any actions or sabotages (against the Bulgarians), it has failed to act according to the request of the Comintern, but on the contrary it has deliberately sabotaged these actions and run off to Sofia in order to escape our control.”
Run off to Sofia indeed just like the IMRO before them.
Being merely opportunists and followers, they waited until it appeared the axis would lose, before resisting occupation, and then only under orders from Tito’s CPY. Even after the German attack on the USSR, the Slav “Macedonian” communists only engaged in passive resistance like boycotts, so beholden were they to Bulgaria. After severe condemnation of their inaction by Moscow they reverted back to their interwar position of a “Free Soviet Macedonia”. They are again attempting to walk the thin grey line between Bulgarian annexation and autonomy.
Throughout the duration of the war a political and ideological battle was fought between the pro Bulgarian Slav Macedonian communists and the CPY over the fate of the Slav Macedonians. The only type of Macedonian independence activity came from Mihailov’s IMRO who played a mostly subservient role to the Bulgarians. According to some analysts, had Mihailov been active the IMRO would have posed a serious threat to Tito’s activities. This fact is admitted by one of Tito’s operatives in the region Dobrivoje Radoslajevic in 1942: “The IMRO poses the chief danger in the struggle for the Macedonian people.” The IMRO, as usual never looses the chance to support Bulgaria.
In February 1943 Tito deployed his political troublemaker, Svetozar Vukmanovic Tempo to the region in order to counter the IMRO and organize the local communist partisans. There he helped form the Macedonian Communist Party (MCP) which was to organize resistance in the name of the CPY and support Macedonia as part of a Yugoslav federation. In contrast, the IMRO acknowledged that an independent Macedonia would be Bulgarian in culture, since they recognized the fact that the slavs were Bulgarian more than anything else. The CPY’s long term strategy was to politically control the dissatisfied elements and ally them to the Yugoslav partisan movement. As more of the population became disenchanted with the excesses of Bulgarian occupation, and the inaction of either the IMRO or CPB to offer a viable alternative it slowly gave its support to Tito’s partisan movement. It is ironic that the “founders” of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia saw the IMRO as the greatest threat to Macedonia since it had been so historically linked to Bulgarian nationalism in Macedonia and that it was necessary for the ”Macedonians” to reject it as being chauvinist. The main weapon that was gradually adopted by the CPY to create party loyalty in the region was its recognition of the Slavs as neither Bulgarian nor Serbian but “Macedonian”. This legitimized its incorporation to a federal Yugoslavia of various nationalities as opposed to being an independent Bulgarian dominated state or a part of Bulgaria. The gradual acceptance of this new nationality weaned them from their natural pro Bulgarian tendencies, and alleviated fears of being reincorporated to Serbia after the war. The first step was to win the allegiance of the communists to the Yugoslav side.
The Yugoslavs took the initiative and began organizing Slav resistance groups against the Bulgarians. On August 2, 1943 under the supervision of Tempo, the MCP met near Lake Prespa and officially formed the Macedonian National Liberation Front from members hand picked by the CPY. Its declaration mentioned that the “Macedonians” were ready for “independence” but only within Yugoslavia and that they had “…all the conditions for realizing their age old dream, unification.” Slowly the hollow Bulgarian dream of conquering Macedonia became Yugoslavian. Finally on November 29, came the infamous resolution on the future Yugoslav federation at the second Anti Fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ) at Jajce, Bosnia. It partly stated that “Yugoslavia is being built up on a federal principle which will ensure full equality for the nations of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Hercegovina.”
This was the first formal recognition of Macedonia as a separate republic which implied, according to communist theory that it was a separate nation like Serbia, Croatia etc… By the stroke of a pen the Bulgarians there were re baptized as “Macedonian” One of these new “Macedonians” was former Bulgarian communist Dimitar Vlahov who is now an AVNOJ vice president.
Although the plan was endorsed by Moscow, the Bulgarians immediately objected while the CPB issued a rebuttal: “Macedonia is an apple of discord. Rivers of blood have been shed for it. It is the cradle of the Bulgarian renaissance. After the establishment of the Bulgarian State the fate of Macedonia was always near to the heart of the Bulgarian people. To avoid new historical mistakes and to give Macedonia lasting pacification the Fatherland Front (communist party) proclaims the watchword “Macedonia for the Macedonians”, neither a change in the present cleavage of Macedonia by its enemies, nor its full annexation to any one of the Balkan states.”
We can see the Bulgarian communists are referring to their old slogan for autonomy. This is the same as the position taken theoretically by Ivan Mihailov and the IMRO at the same time, but they were even more passive and ineffectual than the CPB. An interesting note is that the Skopjeans blindly use the slogan “Macedonia for the Macedonians” even though many deny linkage to Bulgaria or the “chauvinist” Mihailov, stemming from decades of Yugoslav brainwashing.
The Skopje republic was officially proclaimed on August 2, 1944 (Ilinden) by the Anti Fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM), which itself was a creation of the CPY. Its president was the infamous Bulgarian communist and United IMRO founder Dimitar Vlahov. In its declaration, the ASNOM again openly declares as a goal the unification of the Macedonia. As part of the Skopjean “declaration of independence”, its central committee of the communist party issued the statement: “Macedonian People: In your three year popular liberation struggle you achieved your unity and you established your own army and set the foundations of the federative Macedonian state. With the participation of the entire Macedonian people against the fascist occupiers in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Greece you will achieve the union of all parts of Macedonia which the Balkan imperialists seized in 1913 and 1918. As for the demand for the complete unification of the Macedonian people, there are today on your side all the other peoples of Yugoslavia, the Anti fascist People’s Liberation Council of Yugoslavia and the heroic People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia.”
All of this political fantasy is still repeated verbatim 60 years later by the Skopjeans although any reference to the now non existent Yugoslav Liberation Army is carefully omitted. The new regime is clearly catering to the supporters of the CPB’s pre war position as a means of gaining popular support. The difference being that this new Macedonia would be part of Yugoslavia and not independent, and that its inhabitants were now ethnic Macedonians. These new ethnic “Macedonians” were now somehow anti IMRO. In the years after the war numerous individuals were sentenced for subversion including ASNOM president Methodie Antonovcento who was accused of secretly supporting the IMRO by the Skopje government. Clearly the Skopje regime was concerned of a revolt by its Bulgarian population. Even by 1949 it was reported in Nova Makedonjia that there were 134 terrorist organizations in the republic and can also be inferred that they were Bulgarian in sympathy. Perhaps the Skopjeans now will claim that by this the “Macedonians consciousness” was somehow being oppressed by Belgrade, but on the other hand it was the Belgrade regime which gave them political organization, a new identity and military and political support to harass its neighbors.
Further moral justification was given to the formation of a Macedonian republic by Tito’s mouthpiece, Yugoslavian Jew Mosha Pijade. Writing for the journal Nova Jugoslavia in May 1944 he states: “The establishment of the modern history of Macedonian people means the resurrected right of the Macedonian people to direct their own destiny themselves. They took up arms, formed their own national partisan units and under the leadership of marshal Tito took an active role in the liberation war…” A liar by nature, Pijade is clearly giving the Skopjeans too much credit. The vast majority of them supported Bulgaria or the CPB. He further patronizes their so called heroes to win their favor: “Faithful to the traditions of their revolutionary national fighters and teachers, Goce Delchev, Damian Gruev, it has unfurled the banner of the struggle for its national freedom…” As if they would have approved of Macedonia under Yugoslav control. He further quotes the Bulgarophile “historian” H.N. Brailsford as stating on London radio that Macedonia as part of Yugoslavia is the best assurance of peace in the area. (Yugoslav Communism & the Macedonian Question, p.109). Apparently current events had gotten the better of Mr. Brailsford and could no longer support his former pro Bulgarian, IMRO position.
By the end of the Second World War the Tito’s criminal CPY became one of the strongest communist parties in Europe exploiting the support of the opportunist “democratic allies” (They always had the option of supporting the various non communist resistance groups). They wasted no time in expanding their power and become the next Balkan bully. To do this they exploited both Bulgaria’s discredited government and communist party and Greek civil unrest.