Macedonia during the Othoman occupation (1870-1902)

The formation of the Greek kingdom in 1827 was the beginning of the end for the occupation of European lands by the Othoman empire.

The Bulgarian and Serbian nationalism have reached a climax, with the dream of their own "Big National Idea":

  • The renaissance of the state of Stephan Doussan (1331-1355), for the Serbs
  • The renaissance of the state of Hegemon Symeon (893-927) and Tsar Samuel (976-1014), for the Bulgarians.

The basic aim of those ideas for Macedonia was either to be annexed to future Serbia, or, to future Bulgaria

The same thing was happenning with the Greek populations that were dreaming the renaissance of the Byzantine empire, and that had fought against the Othoman empire in the Greek Revolution (1821-1828), but had not been liberated yet.

Also Austria and Russia wanted to gain access to the Aegean Sea through the port of Thessalokini and they would use any method to succeed in it. The statement of the Russian Tsar Nikolaos in 1854, while addressing to the British Ambassador of Petroupolis, Hamilton Seymour is quite characteristic:

    "A strong Greek kingdom or Greek nation is against the interests of Russia's southern gates"
    New York Tribune, 5/4/1854 and "Eastern Question", London 1897

In 1870 the Bulgaric Exarchate was founded with a Sultan's Decree, and in 1872 the scism of the Bulgaric Exarchate occured. On 21/2/1878 (3/3/1878), Russia obliged the Othoman empire with the signing of the Saint Stefan treaty. Tsar Nikolaos had given his ambassador in Constantinople, Ignatiev, the order:

    "Not a span of earth to Greece"

According to the treaty, the Othoman empire recognized the independance of a Bulgarian state (Hegemony) that lied from Danube river to the Aegean Sea and from the Black Sea to Thessaloniki (without Thessaloniki, Chalkidiki, Kozani, Servia). That treaty gave Russia the access to the Aegean Sea that she was after and satisfied the Bulgarians' nationalism. The Greek populations immediatelly opposed to that treaty. They sent memos protesting to the Great Forces. The Greeks of Scopje sent a memo with 14,000 signatures. Also a spontaneous revolution started in Olympos mountain, but wasn't successful. On 1/7/1878 (13/7/1878) the Great Forces interfered and cancelled the Saint Stefan treaty, with the Treaty of Berlin.

On September 1885 Bulgaria annexed the area of Eastern Romelia (NE of Macedonia) with 200,000 Greeks, violating in that way the Treaty of Berlin.

The Bulgarians, with the support of Russia, the discreet British coverage and the favorable for them Othoman neutrality, proceeded in their plans for systematic religious and national propaganda in Macedonia. They aimed first in the increase of the number of members of the Bulgarian Exarchate, and then at their proselytism. They offered scolarships for studies in Sofia, in order to affect young people. Also, since 1885 Bulgaric invasions in Eastern Macedonia were reported.

In 1893 the Bulgarians organized the "Secret Macedon-Andrianopolitical Revolutionary Organization" that was renamed into "Internal Macedon-Andrianoupolitical Revolutionary Organization", mostly known as IMRO. Their basic "request" was "Macedonia for the Macedonians", in their attempt to organize all the nations of Macedonia in a multi-national fight for the autonomy of Macedonia, which they later planned to annex to Bulgaria. IMRO proceeded with its aims with the use of force and intimidation. Known members of IMRO were Poptraecov, Pavel Christov.

At the same time (1895), in Bulgaria the "Supreme committee" (Verchoven Komitet) was formed, and it promoted the direct annexation of Macedonia to Bulgaria. In 1895 it sent armed forces (komitadji) in Northern and Central Macedonia. There were also some inner-bulgaric (between Verchovists and IMROs) fights reported.

The Serbs, on their side, proceeded in 1886 with the formation of the "Association of Saint Sabbas", in order to promote the Serbian education, and also aims in Macedonia. That organization had limited capabilities and acted only in Northern Macedonia.

In 1894 C.Pallis, P.Melas, G.Souliotis, and other Greek sublieutenants formed the "Ethniki Etairia" aiming to generally promote the liberation of the occupied Greek lands. 2 years later they sent in Macedonia, armed forces to support and colligate the Greeks of Macedonia. Ethniki Eteria was dispersed in 1897.

Updated 4 January 1999