“Land to the Tiller”. On the Neglected Agrarian Component of the Macedonian Revolutionary Movement, 1893–1912

in Turkish Historical Review
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The aim of this article is to question and revise the dominant assumption that dissociates the revolutionary activities in late Ottoman Macedonia from the agrarian question that remained open throughout that period. Through the cross-checking of various Greek, Bulgarian, Macedonian and western primary sources, emanating from both the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization and its adversaries, the latter’s promise of a radical land reform (and the beginnings of its de facto implementation) emerge as the main motive behind the mass mobilization of Christian peasants that transformed an initial nucleus of urban-based middle-class activists into a popular parallel state within a state, openly defying Ottoman sovereignty over the area.

“Land to the Tiller”. On the Neglected Agrarian Component of the Macedonian Revolutionary Movement, 1893–1912

in Turkish Historical Review




Kolovos Elias“Riot in the village: some cases of peasant protest around Ottoman Salonica” in Political Initiatives ‘From the Bottom Up’ in the Ottoman Empireed. Antonis Anastasopoulos (Rethymno: Crete University Press 2012) pp. 47–56.


Stoianovich Traian“The conquering Balkan Orthodox merchant”Journal of Economic History2 (1960) 234–313.


Finlay GeorgeHistory of the Greek Revolution (Edinburgh-London: William Blackwood and Sons1861) vol. i pp. 252–3.


VasdravellisΟι Mακεδόνες p. 178; Stougiannakis Eustathios Iστορία της πόλεως Nαούσης [History of the Town of Naoussa] (Edessa: Stougiannaki 1924) pp. 135 and 147–8.


FinlayHistory pp. 251–2 and 254; Stougiannakis Iστορία pp. 128–34; Vasdravellis Oι Mακεδόνες pp. 122 and 177; Vakalopoulos Iστορία pp. 551–2; Philippides N.G. H επανάστασις και καταστροφή της Nαούσης [The Revolution and the Destruction of Naoussa] (Athens: Aphoi Varvarrigou 1881) pp. 41–3.


VasdravellisΟι Mακεδόνες pp. 208–40. A number of them were Macedonian Slavs usually referred to by the contemporary sources as “Bulgarians” or just by the name of their birthpace (Monastırlı Üsküplü “from Bitolja’ and so on): Todorov Nikolai and Veselin Traykov Бългapи учacтници в бopбитe зa ocлoбoждeниeтo нa Гъpция (1821–1828) [Bulgarian Participants in the Struggle for the Liberation of Greece 1821–1828] (Sofia: Izdatelstvo na Balgarskata Akademia na Naukite 1971).


Brailsford Henry NoelMacedonia. Its Races and Future (London: Methuen1906) p. 103.


Pinon RénéL’Europe et l’empire ottoman (Paris: Perrin1908) pp. 143–4.


Perry DuncanThe Politics of Terror. The Macedonian Revolutionary Movement 1893–1903 (Durham-London: Duke University Press1988).


Perry“The Macedonian Cause” pp. 289–95 especially pp. 291–2; Perry The Politics of Terror pp. 149–50.


Perry“The Macedonian Cause” pp. 290–1.


PerryThe Politics of Terror pp. 150–1. Perry also ascertains that imro could not perceive the shortcomings of its plan for “a peasant-based movement” its inability “perhaps accounted for by the fact that most [of its] leaders were themselves from peasant society and the closeness with which they were bound to their backgrounds coupled with the lack of distance and perspective resulting therefrom made them unable to objectively view peasant behavior and values” “The Macedonian Cause” pp. 291 and 309.


Brown KeithLoyal unto Death. Trust and Terror in Revolutionary Macedonia (Bloomington – Indianapolis: Indiana University Press2013) p. 44. The dispute of the “rational choice” theories put forward by conservative political scientists prone to deny any conscious commitment in the peasant revolutionary movements has not been confined to the 1970s. For a recent study focusing on the roots of such an engagement see Wood Elisabeth Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2003).


PerryThe Politics of Terror pp. 180–2.


PerryThe Politics of Terror pp. 153–4. The number provided for “the Bulgarian exarchate adherents” (1110312 individuals or 60 per cent of the total Macedonian population!) is incredibly higher than anything the official Bulgarian propaganda ever dared to project: even the inflated statistics published by the exarchate’s secretary in order to influence European audiences claimed only 897160 adherents of the exarchate all over Macedonia (Brancoff D.M. [Dimitar Mishev] La Macédoine et sa population chrétienne (Paris: Plon 1905) pp. 240–6). In secret they were estimated by the same author at between 692000 and 728000 (ЦДA ф.1546к oп.1 a.e.390 л.1–8 “Cтaтиcтикa нa нaceлeниeтo в Maкeдoния cпopeд cвeдeния oт 1912 гoд. Пpeдвapитeлни peзултaти aвгуcт 1912 г.” [Statistics of the Population in Macedonia according to the 1912 preliminary results August 1912]; ЦДA ф.1546к oп.1 a.e.382 л.1–3 “Бpoй нa бългapитe в Eвpoпeйcкa Tуpция пo вилaeти и кaзи 1910 г.” [The Number of Bulgarians in Turkey in Europe by vilayet and kaza 1910]; ЦДA ф.1546к oп.1 a.e.380 л.1–4 “Бpοй нa Бългapитe в Eвpoпeйcкa Tуpция пo eпapxии и кaзи зa 1909/10 учeбнa гoдинa” [The Number of Bulgarians in Turkey in Europe by discese and kaza for the 1909/10 school year]). Perry does not mention any source for his numbers; he just describes them as “demographic information produced in 1900” (p. 153). One may notice that the semi-official Bulgarian propaganda statistics for 1900 put the number of the exarchate’s followers at just 823676 in Macedonia and 1051016 all over “Turkey in Europe” i.e. including Thrace (Von Mach Richard The Bulgarian Exarchate (London-Neuchatel: T. Fisher Unwin – Frères Attinger 1907) pp. 44–81).


Adanır Fikret“The Macedonian Question: its socio-economic reality and problems of its historiographic interpretation”International Journal of Turkish Studies3/1 (1984–85)pp. 43–64. See also Adanır Fikret “Tradition and rural change in Southeastern Europe during Ottoman Rule” in The Origins of Backwardness in Eastern Europe ed. D. Chirot (Berkeley-Oxford: University of California Press 1989) pp. 131–76 especially pp. 151–6; Adanır Fikret Die Makedonische Frage (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag 1979) pp. 37–41.


Petmezas Socrates“Bridging the gap: rural Macedonia from Ottoman to Greek Rule (1900–1920)” in Economy and Society on Both Shores of the Aegeaned. Lorans Baruh and Vangelis Kechriotis (Athens: Alpha Bank Historical Archives 2010) pp. 376–8.


AdanırDie Makedonische p. 41.


BrailsfordMacedonia pp. 45–6; Kophinas Georgios Tα οιkονομιkά της Mαkεδονίας [The Macedonian Economy] (Athens: Ethnikon Typographeion 1914) pp. 268–71; iaye 1876/99.1 G. Evangelidis to mfa A. Kontostavlos Serres 3.1.1876 No.8; iaye 1900/65 A. Papapavlou to mfa A. Romanos Serres 18.9.1900 No.310.


StavrianosThe Balkans pp. 650–1; Marinov “L’impasse” p. 194; Swire J. Bulgarian Conspiracy (London: Robert Hale 1939) pp. 142–92; Barker Elisabeth Macedonia. Its Place in Balkan Power Politics (London – New York: riia 1950) pp. 36–45. On the financial and political links between msi and imro see Grebenarov Aleksandar and Veselin Traykov “Лeгaлни нaциoнaлнoocвoбoдитeлни opгaнизaции нa мaкeдoнcкитe бългapи” [Legal National Liberation Organizations of the Macedonian Bulgarians] in Haциoнaлнo-ocвoбoдитeлнoтo движeниe нa мaкeдoнcкитe бългapи [The National Liberation Movement of the Macedonian Bulgarians] vol. iv (Sofia: Makedonski nauchen institut 2003) pp. 225–6.


KljaševOcвoбοдитeлнaтa pp. 13–14.


ArsovBъcтaничecкoтο p. 55.


ArsovBъcтaничecкοтο pp. 51–2.


ArsovBъcтaничecкοтο p. 99. Similar feelings are reported by voivoda Michael Gerdjikov about the Slavic-speaking hinterland of Thrace Gerdjikov: Michail B Maкeдοния и Oдpинcкο [In Macedonia and the Region of Andrinople] (Sofia: Makedonski nauchen institut 1928) p. 39.


BrutЩo бяxмe p. 25; Arsov Bъcтaничecкoтo pp. 29–30.


PetsivasTα τετράδια p. 145; Idas [Ion Dragoumis] “Zωή χωριάτικη” [Peasant iife] Mακεδονικόν Hμερολόγιον 1 (1908) p. 246; ‘Kalmidis’ to E. Kaoudis [Monastir] n.d. in Xοτζίδης Άγγελος Eυθύμιος Kαούδης. Aπομνημονεύματα (1903–1907) [Memoirs of Efthymios Kaoudis 1903–1907] (Thessaloniki: mma 1996) pp. 176–7.


BrailsfordMacedonia p. 210.


MiletichБοpбaтa pp. 95 and 142; Sarafov “Cпoмeни” p. 95; Stefanov Peвoлюциoннaтa pp. 16–7; Mazarakis-Ainian Mακεδονικός p. 16; Tα γεγονότα του 1903 p. 183; Pop-Hristov Georgui Peвoлюциoннaтa бopбa в Битoлcкия oкpъг. Cпoмeни [The Revolutionary Struggle in the Bitola Region. Memoirs] (Sofia: Nacionalen savet na Otechestvenia front 1953) p. 62; Tzavela Hristofor Днeвник нa кocтуpcкия вoйвoдa Лaзap Киceлинчeв [Diary of the Chieftain Lazar Kisselincev of Kastoria] (Sofia: Makedonia Press 2003) p. 86; Bακαλόπουλος Kωνσταντίνος “O ελληνισμός της περιοχής Mοριχόβου Mοναστηρίου κατά τον Mακεδονικό αγώνα. H περίπτωση του άγνωστου μακεδονομάχου Πέτρου Σουγαράκη” [The Hellenism of the Morihovo Region during the Macedonian Struggle. The case of the unknown Macedonian fighter Giorgos Sougarakis] Bαλκανικά Σύμμεικτα 1 (1981) pp. 140–1; iaye/1904/75 E. Evgeniadis to Prime Minister D. Rallis Salonica 31.8.1903 No.337 conf.; AΓtb/2/6 G. Perros et al. to G. Tsontos Volos 25.8.1903. For the relevant orders by local imro organs see Biliarski and Burilkova Bътpeшнaтa pp. 302–3; Chekalarov Днeвник p. 234.


MiletichБopбaтa p. 105.


PetsivasTα τετράδια p. 198.


Penchev P. “Eкoнoмичкaтa пoлитикa нa Opгaнизaциятa” [The Organization’s economics policy] Peвoлюциoнeн Лиcт 19 (25.8.1905) pp. 4–7.


Biliarski and BurilkovaBътpeшнaтa pp. 439 and 489; Penchev “Eкoнoмичкaтa” p. 6.


Biliarski and BurilkovaBътpeшнaтa pp. 642–3; “Пpoтoкoли oт зaceдaниятa нa Tpeтия peдoвeн oкpъжeн кoнгpec нa Cepcкия peвoлюциoнeн oкpъг” [Protocols of the Meetings of the Third Ordinary Congress of the Serres Revolutionary Region] Biliarski and Burilkova Bътpeшнaтa p. 728.


Biliarski and BurilkovaBътpeшнaтa pp. 621–3.


Biliarski and BurilkovaBътpeшнaтa pp. 466 and 468.


Katardjiev“Дoкумeнти” p. 256; Georguiev Velichko and Stayko Trifonov Maкeдoния и Tpaкия в бopбa зa cвoбoдa [Macedonia and Thrace Struggling for Freedom] (Sofia: Makedonski nauchen institut 1995) pp. 335–6; iaye/1904/74 L. Koromilas to mfa. Salonica 15.11.1904 No. 22 sp. and 18.11.1904 No. 29 sp.


HristovAгpapнитe p. 170; iaye 1906/82 Salonica Consulate to mfa Salonica 31.8 [-6.9].1906 No.496 conf.; iaye 1907/68 notes by the Salonica Special Bureau (3.9.1907).


Biliarski and BurilkovaBътpeшнaтa pp. 439 and 621–3.


Hadjimishev“Cпoмeни” pp. 179–87. For the radicalism of Razvigorov’s initial policies see also Martulkov Moeтo учecтвo pp. 129–30. For his death (21.3.1907) see Maкeдoнo-Oдpинcки Пpeглeд (Sofia) 8.4.1907 p. 517 and 18.4.1907 pp. 533–4.


KaravidasAγροτικά pp. 221 and 223; Palairet Michael The Balkan Economies c.1800–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1997) p. 343.


Sonnichsen AlbertConfessions of a Macedonian Bandit (New York: Duffield1909) p. 81.


Mazarakis-AinianAπομνημονεύματα p. 79. “He was trying to persuade me that his ownership titles were authentic” the officer recalled in his memoires “and I was seriously giving him my assurance that I shall do whatever possible in favour of him – me an undercover Greek lieutenant to a powerful Vali!”


Vlachos“O Mακεδονικός” pp. 116–7; iaye 1905/68 M. Tsamados to mfa Serres 15.10.1905 No.247 and 21.10.1905 No.258; iaye 1906/72 M. Tsamados to mfa Serres 19.6.1906 No.162; iaye 1907/53 A. Sahtouris to mfa Serres 4.6.1907 No.216.


ArgyropoulosAπομνημονεύματα p. 57.


ArgyropoulosAπoμνημoνεύματα p. 44.


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