Independent Macedonia (1944)
|Proposed "independent" Macedonia|
|proposed puppet state of
|Political structure||Proposed puppet state|
|Historical era||World War II|
|-||Established||8 September 1944|
|Today part of|| Albania
In September 1944, Nazi Germany briefly sought to establish an "independent" Macedonia, a puppet state in the territory of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia that had been occupied by the Kingdom of Bulgaria following the invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941. When Soviet Union forces approached the borders of Bulgaria near the end of August 1944, Bulgaria declared neutrality and briefly sought to negotiate with the Western Allies. As the Bulgarian government was not impeding the withdrawal of German forces from Bulgaria or Romania, the Soviet Union reacted strongly.[clarification needed] On 2 September a pro-Western government took power in Sofia, only to be replaced a week later by a pro-communist government after a Fatherland Front–led revolt.
The person that the Germans turned to in order to implement this scheme was Ivan Mihailov. Mihailov was a Bulgarophile right-wing politician and former leader of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) that had been engaged in terrorist activity in Yugoslav and Greek Macedonia. Mihailov had become leader of IMRO in 1927 and under his leadership the organisation sought to incorporate Macedonia into Bulgaria.[verification needed] IMRO had joined forces with the Croatian Ustaše in 1929, and the two organisations had planned and executed the assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia in 1934. After the military coup d'état in the same year IMRO was banned by the authorities. Mihailov fled to Turkey and then Italy, where most of the Ustaše were also in exile. After the invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, Mihailov had moved to Zagreb where he had acted as an advisor to Ante Pavelić. In January 1944 he had successfully lobbied the Germans to arm some IMRO supporters and have them placed under Schutzstaffel (SS) command in Greek Macedonia, which had also been annexed by the Bulgarians in 1941.
Mihailov was a proponent of an independent United Macedonian multi–ethnic state, with predominantly Bulgarian population, calling it: "Switzerland of the Balkans". However, the state was not established due to the lack of any military support. Despite this an independent state was declared by Macedonian nationalists on 8 September 1944. Without the means to make the state a reality, this pretence dissolved as soon as the Yugoslav Partisans asserted their control following the withdrawal of German troops from the area by mid-November.
The Kingdom of Bulgaria officially joined the Axis Powers on 1 March 1941 but remained passive during the invasion of Yugoslavia and the majority of the invasion of Greece. The Yugoslav government surrendered on 17 April 1941 and the Greek government surrendered on 30 April 1941. Before the Greek government capitulated, on 20 April, the Bulgarian Army entered Greece and Yugoslavia with the goal of gaining access to the Aegean Sea in Thrace and Eastern Macedonia. The Bulgarians occupied much of what is today the Republic of Macedonia as well as parts of Southern Serbia and Northern Greece. Unlike Germany and Italy, Bulgaria officially annexed the occupied areas, which had long been a target of Bulgarian nationalism on 14 May 1941, and initially Bulgarians were welcomed as liberators. However, the Germans regarded this annexation as inconclusive and imposed limited sovereignty of Bulgaria over the occupied territories.
At that time, among the local population prevailed the pro-Bulgarian feelings and the Macedonian national identity hardly existed. But the Bulgarians soon staffed the new provinces with corrupted officials from Bulgaria proper and began to lose the public confidence. On this basis, the Yugoslav communists, who supported the recognition of a separate Macednian nation, managed to organize an earnest armed resistance against the Bulgarian forces in the Autumn of 1943. Many former IMRO right-wing activists assisted the authorities in fighting Tito's partizans. IMRO was also active in organising pro-Bulgarian militias in Italian and German occupation zones in Greece. Bulgaria looked with anxiety on this activities of Mihailov, because it feared that his plan to form "Independent Macedonia" could succeed. Aiming to put him under control Bulgaria set aside his death sentence and he was proposed to return to the country and to take a leading position in Vardar Macedonia, but Mihailov rejected that proposal. It was apparent that Ivan Mihailov had broader plans, which envisaged the creation of Macedonian state under German control.
In August 1944, the Soviet Army was approaching the Balkans. On the other hand, at the same tine, the Yugoslav Partisans, who "articulated the slogan of Macedonian unification", increased their activities in Macedonia. As result, the Anti-Fascist Assembly for the People's Liberation of Macedonia declared the foundation of an independent Macedonia on 2 August 1944. The state was proclaimed in the Bulgarian occupation zone of Yugoslavia. On 23 August, Romania left the Axis Powers, declared war on Germany, and allowed Soviet forces to cross its territory to reach Bulgaria. At that time, Bulgaria made a drive to find separate peace, repudiating any alliance with Nazi Germany, and declared neutrality on 26 August. However, its secret negotiations with the Allies in Cairo, to allow it to retain the annexed areas in Greece and Yugoslavia failed, because Bulgaria was "not in a position to argue".
Proposed state 
As the Partisans moved into western Macedonia, then under German control, as part of an Albanian puppet-state, the Nazis sent a plenipotentiary to meet with Ivan Mihailov, the leader of the IMRO at that time. Mihailov was in Zagreb serving as an adviser to Ante Pavelić where he was pushing for the formation of volunteer units to operate in what is now the Greek province of Macedonia under Schutzstaffel (SS) command. He, as the most of the right wing followers of the former IMRO, were pro-Bulgarian orientated, and did not support the existence of Communist Yugoslavia. The Germans were becoming increasingly overwhelmed and, in a last-ditch effort, tried to establish an Macedonian puppet-state. That was the only alternative, instead to leave it to Bulgaria, which was switching the sides. At the evening on 3 September, Mihailov was sent to Sofia, to negotiate here with the Bulgarian authorities and his comrades. When on 5 September, the Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria Mihailov was transported urgently from Sofia to Skopje.
Contacts were established here with another IMRO leader, Hristo Tatarchev who was offered the position of president of the proposed state. Negotiations were also held with the Macedonian Partisans, mediated by the Bulgarian minister of Internal Affairs Alexandar Stanishev. In spite of all of this, Mihailov's arrival came too late and all negotiations failed. On the next day, 6 September, Mihailov declined the plan for inability to gain support. The failure led to ordering German withdrawal from Greece the same day, when Mihailov and his wife were also evacuated from Skopje. Bulgaria immediately ordered its troops to prepare for withdrawal from former Yugoslavia and on 8 September, the Bulgarians changed sides and joined the Soviet Union. This turn of the events, put the Bulgarian 5th. Army stationed in Macedonia, in a difficult situation, surrounded by German divisions, but it fought its way back to the old borders of Bulgaria.
Nevertheless, the same day 8 September, right-wing IMRO nationalists declared independence; however, the self-proclaimed state was left "virtually defenseless" following the withdrawal of German troops.
The German command in Skopje did not support the "independent" Macedonian state as their forces withdrew from the region. In the chaos, it tried only to use the new-formed "Macedonian committees" as local police services. Their members were people as Vasil Hadzhikimov, Stefan Stefanov and Spiro Kitinchev, vormer activists of IMRO, Macedonian Youth Secret Revolutionary Organization, Bulgarian Action Committees etc. In between, in the early October 1944, three Bulgarian armies under the leadership of the new Bulgarian pro-Soviet government, together with the Red Army reentered occupied Yugoslavia. The Bulgarian forces entered Yugoslavia on the basis of an agreement between Josip Broz Tito and the Bulgarian partisan leader Dobri Terpeshev signed on 5 October in Craiova, Romania with the mediation of the USSR.
Despite some difficulties in cooperation between the two forces, the Bulgarians worked in conjunction with the Yugoslav Partisans in Macedonia, and managed to delay the German withdrawal through the region by ten to twelve days. By mid-November all German formations had withdrawn to the west and north and the Partisans had established military and administrative control of the region. However, under the political pressure of the Partisans, after the liberation of Vardar Macedonia, the Second and Fourth Bulgarian armies were forced to retreat back to the old borders of Bulgaria at the end of November. Subsequently, to wipe out the remaining Bulgarophile sentiments, the new Communist authorities persecuted the right-wing nationalists with the charges of "great-Bulgarian chauvinism". The next task was also to break up all the pro-Bulgarian organisations that opposed the idea of Yugoslavia. So even left-wing politician were imprisoned and accused of being pro-Bulganan oriented. Seeing that he had little support, Mihailov went into hiding, first moving from Croatia to Austria and eventually to Spain and finally to Italy where remained until he died in 1990.
See also 
- Macedonian Question
- Military history of Bulgaria during World War II
- National Liberation War of Macedonia
- Tomasevich (2001), pp. 166–167
- Tomasevich (2001), p. 167
- Tomasevich (2001), p. 159
- Fischer (2007), p. 127
- Bulgaria During the Second World War, Marshall Lee Miller, Stanford University Press, 1975, ISBN 0804708703, p. 128.
- Poulton (2003), p. 119
- Balkan Studies: Biannual Publication of the Institute for Balkan Studies, Hidryma Meletōn Chersonēsou tou Haimou (Thessalonikē, Greece), the Institute, 1994, p. 83.
- Zielonka, Jan; Pravda, Alex (2001). Democratic consolidation in Eastern Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 422. ISBN 978-0-19-924409-6. "Unlike the Slovene and Croatian identities, which existed independently for a long period before the emergence of SFRY, Macedonian identity and language were themselves a product federal Yugoslavia, and took shape only after 1944. Again unlike Slovenia and Croatia, the very existence of a separate Macedonian identity was questioned—albeit to a different degree—by both the governments and the public of all the neighboring nations (Greece being the most intransigent)"
- Kaufman, Stuart J. (2001). Modern hatreds: the symbolic politics of ethnic war. New York: Cornell University Press. p. 193. ISBN 0-8014-8736-6. "The key fact about Macedonian nationalism is that it is new: in the early twentieth century, Macedonian villagers defined their identity religiously—they were either "Bulgarian," "Serbian," or "Greek" depending on the affiliation of the village priest. While Bulgarian was most common affiliation then, mistreatment by occupying Bulgarian troops during WWII cured most Macedonians from their pro-Bulgarian sympathies, leaving them embaracing the new Macedonian identity promoted by the Tito regime after the war."
- "At the end of the WWI there were very fiew historians or ethnographers, who claimed that a separate Macedonian nation existed.... Of those Slavs who had developed some sence of national identity, the majority probably considered themselves to be Bulgarians, although they were aware of differences between themselves and the inhabiatants of Bulgaria.... The question as of whether a Macedonian nation actually existed in the 1940s when a Communist Yugoslavia decided to recognize one is difficult to answer. Some observers argue that even at this time it was doubtful whether the Slavs from Macedonia considered themselves to be a nationality separate from the Bulgarians.The Macedonian conflict: ethnic nationalism in a transnational world, Loring M. Danforth, Princeton University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-691-04356-6, pp. 65-66.
- "Most of the Slavophone inhabitants in all parts of divided Macedonia, perhaps a million and a half in all – had a Bulgarian national consciousness at the beginning of the Occupation; and most Bulgarians, whether they supported the Communists, VMRO, or the collaborating government, assumed that all Macedonia would fall to Bulgaria after the WWII. Tito was determined that this should not happen. The first Congress of AVNOJ in November 1942 had paranteed equal rights to all the 'peoples of Yugoslavia', and specified the Macedonians among them...The Communist Party of Macedonia, which had passed through a troubled time, first under a pro-Bulgarian leadership and then under pro-Yugoslav Macedonians, was taken in hand early in 1943 by Tempo, who formed a new Central Committee and informed it that it was now an integral part of the Yugoslav CP. "The struggle for Greece, 1941-1949, Christopher Montague Woodhouse, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2002, ISBN 1-85065-492-1, p. 67.
- "Despite the slight change of the younger generation in the 1930s, reflected in the slogan "Macedonia for the Macedonians", anti-Serbian and pro-Bulgarian sentiment still prevailed. Even "Macedonia for the Macedonians" signalled in many ways an acceptance of the state of Yugoslavia and an attempt to gain autonomy within it. The collapse of Yugoslavia changed all this. There is a litle doubt that the initial reaction among large sections of the population of Vardar Macedonia who had suffered so much under the Serbian repression was to greet the Bulgarians as liberators." Who are the Macedonians? Hugh Poulton,Hurst & Co. Publishers, 1995, ISBN 1-85065-238-4, ISBN 978-1-85065-238-0, p. 101.
- Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Macedonia, Dimitar Bechev, Scarecrow Press, 2009, ISBN 0810855658, p. 240.
- Danforth (1995), p. 73
- Ramet 2008, p. 154.
- Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Macedonia, Dimitar Bechev, Scarecrow Press, 2009, ISBN 0810855658,p. 240.
- Ramet 2008, p. 139–140.
- Chary (1972), p. 175
- Ramet 2008, p. 155.
- "Conflict and chaos in Eastern Europe", Dennis P. Hupchick, Palgrave Macmillan, 1995, ISBN 0-312-12116-4, pp. 151-152.]
- Македонската кървава Коледа. Създаване и утвърждаване на Вардарска Македония като Република в Югославска Федерация (1943-1946) Автор: Веселин Ангелов, Издател: ИК "Галик ", ISBN 954-8008-77-7, стр. 113 - 115.
- Във и извън Македония - спомени на Пандо Кляшев, стр. 276, Македонска Трибуна.
- The German Defeat in the East, 1944-45, Stackpole Military History, Samuel W. Mitcham, Stackpole Books, 2007, ISBN 0-8117-3371-8, pp. 197-207.
- Das makedonische Jahrhundert: von den Anfängen der nationalrevolutionären Bewegung zum Abkommen von Ohrid 1893-2001, Stefan Troebst, Oldenbourg Verlag, 2007, ISBN 3486580507, S. 234.
- James Minahan. Miniature Empires: A Historical Dictionary of the Newly Independent States (Greenwood Press, 1998), p.178
- Македонизмът и съпротивата на Македония срещу него, Коста Църнушанов, Университетско издателство "Св. Климент Охридски", София, 1992 г. стр. 260-261.
- Dear (2005), p. 134
- Axis Forces in Yugoslavia 1941-45, Nigel Thomas, K. Mikulan, Darko Pavlović, Osprey Publishing, 1995, ISBN 1-85532-473-3, p. 33.
- World War II: The Mediterranean 1940-1945, World War II: Essential Histories, Paul Collier, Robert O'Neill, The Rosen Publishing Group, 2010, ISBN 1-4358-9132-5, p. 77.
- The lessons of Yalta: colloquium on international relations, 1997, Institute for Central European Studies, Pompiliu Teodor, Cluj University Press, 1998, p 151.
- Tomasevich (2001), p. 168
- Contested Ethnic Identity: The Case of Macedonian Immigrants in Toronto, 1900-1996, Chris Kostov , Peter Lang, 2010, ISBN 3034301960, p. 84.
- Utrinski Vesnik: Who was Vancho Mihailov
- Das makedonische Jahrhundert: von den Anfängen der nationalrevolutionären Bewegung zum Abkommen von Ohrid 1893-2001, Stefan Troebst, Oldenbourg Verlag, 2007, ISBN 3486580507, S. 229-237.
- Македонска нацијa, 02 Март 2011 г. Ванчо Михајлов не ја исполнил задачата на Хитлер, Стефан Требст. (Mk.)
- "Führerbefehl!" - Adolf Hitler und die Proklamation eines unabhängigen Makedonien (September 1944). Eine archivalische Miszelle, Troebst, Stefan, Serial Osteuropa 52, 2002, pp. 491–501.
- "Сите българи заедно" - Иван Михайлов и Третият райх. Цочо В. Билярски. (Bg.)
- Chary, Frederick B. (1972). The Bulgarian Jews and the Final Solution, 1940-1944. University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 0-822984-43-1.
- Danforth, Loring M. (1995). The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691043-56-6.
- Dear, Ian C.B. (2005). "World War II". In Dear, Ian C.B.; Foot, Michael R. D. The Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-192806-66-1.
- Fischer, Bernd J. (2007). Balkan Strongmen: Dictators and Authoritian Rulers of Southeast Europe. Purdue University Press. ISBN 978-1-55753-455-2.
- Poulton, Hugh (2003). "Macedonians and Albanians as Yugoslavs". In Đokić, Dejan. Yugoslavism: Histories of a Failed Idea, 1918-1992. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. ISBN 1-850656-63-0.
- Ramet, Sabrina P. (2006). The Three Yugoslavias: State-Building and Legitimation, 1918–2005. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34656-8.
- Todorovski, Zoran (1997). Vnatrešnata makedonska revolucionerna organizacija, 1924–1934 (in Serbo-Croatian). Skopje: Robz.
- Tomasevich, Jozo (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-3615-2.
- IMRO (United). Documents and materials, book I and II, Ivan Katandzhiev, Skopje, 1991, 1992
- History of Bulgaria, Sofia, 1994
- For independent state Croatia: common struggle of the Croats and Macedonians, Wien, 1932