September 14, 2010
I receive a lot of Facebook messages inviting me to react in favour or against “OMO Ilinden – Pirin”, a separatist organization illegal in Bulgaria. This is what I would like to say on the matter.
I am myself from the Pirin region, I was born in Blagoevgrad. Perhaps I should start by translating some key words.
OMO means “United Macedonian Organization”. Ilinden is the name of the uprising in 1903 which marked the highest point of the struggle for liberation of the Bulgarians in Thrace and Macedonia, by then under Ottoman domination. It was aimed at reuniting these territories with Bulgaria and led by VMORO – “Internal Revolutionary Organization in Macedonia-Odrin”.
One of the leaders of the uprising and the most outstanding personality of those times is Gotse Delchev; unfortunately he was killed before it started. The uprising, badly planned, erupted on August 2 – Ilinden (St Ilia’s Day). Despite an initial success, 26 000 insurgents were soon faced with a 350 000 Turkish army. The uprising was crushed, thousands were killed and other thousands chose the exile into the Principality of Bulgaria. The Sultan made a shrewd offer: to halt the bloodshed if the Great powers press on Bulgaria to stop its aid for the uprising. Russia and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire sent notes to Sofia asking it not to interfere. Despite its failure, the uprising wakened the notion of the Macedonian problem in the European opinion.
After WW 1 Yugoslavia tried without success to assimilate the Macedonians as Serbian. Later in Tito’s Yugoslavia many efforts were made to create a Macedonian nation, with its own language (by introducing Serbian words in the Bulgarian) and history – by adapting episodes of the Bulgarian history to suit the design. By the way, two Serbian professors were the architects of this effort. According to historians from Skopie, the Ilinden uprising did not occur to serve the national reunification with Bulgaria, it was done to achieve autonomy, that is, for a Macedonian statehood… It doesn’t matter that the insurgents, all Bulgarians, fought under the Bulgarian flag.
Perhaps it is also important to remember that under the Communist regime Bulgaria managed to offer some responses to Belgrade despite the hold of Moscow, which was more sympathetic to its Yugoslav friends and openly and generously encouraged the Macedonian nation-building.
“OMO Ilinden-Pirin” is an organization aiming officially at promoting the rights of people in Bulgaria who consider themselves Macedonians. It has been attempting to register as a political party since the early 90’s, succeeding only in 1999, but the next year the Constitutional court has declared the party illegal on the grounds of separatism. Bulgaria considers that “OMO Ilinden-Pirin” in fact undermines the rights and freedoms of other people, by co-opting them as Macedonians. Even if a Macedonian minority would exist in Bulgaria, “OMO Ilinden-Pirin” does not seem interested in promoting their rights, but rather co-opting other people as Macedonians with the objective of separatism.
To add some figures, according to the national census in 2001 the number of people who have determined themselves as Macedonians in Bulgaria is 5071.
On June 25th 2006 in the city of Gotse Delchev in Bulgaria, the Constituent Assembly of the Party of Ethnic Macedonians “OMO Ilinden-Pirin” took place. According to the Bulgarian law, any new party has to submit to the Sofia court a request for registration in a 3-month period, together with the signatures of 5000 people. Stoyko Stoykov was elected Chairman of the party, and among his deputies is Stefan Mitsov, head of the Macedonian cultural and information center under the Macedonian Embassy in Sofia. According to the Bulgarian legislation a party can be formed if at least 500 people participate at its Constituent Assembly. According to the Bulgarian authorities the number of those present was much lower and many were under 18 years of age. Stoykov said that their political objective is the participation in the local elections next fall. The organisers prevented the journalists to attend the meeting, which is illegal.
In the meantime scandals erupted when it became obvious that “OMO Ilinden-Pirin” representatives were trying to buy signatures for amounts ranging between 10 and 50 leva. The Prosecution office in Blagoevgrad was seized by the leader of VMRO Krassimir Karakachanov with precise data for attempts to buy votes in the Roma neighborhood of Blagoevgrad. VMRO is a political party which until recently was represented in Parliament with historic roots dating back to 1893. Karakachanov said that it was no secret that “OMO Ilinden” is an organisation financed by the Macedonian secret services and is at the service of the pro-Serbian leadership in Skopie for undermining the relations between Bulgaria and Macedonia.
I hope this helps.Georgi Gotev