19 October 1897|
Kamenitsa, Principality of Bulgaria[a]
|Died||9 October 1934
|Organization||Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization|
Vlado Chernozemski (19 October 1897 – 9 October 1934), born Velichko Dimitrov Kerin (Bulgarian: Величко Димитров Керин), was a Bulgarian revolutionary. Also known as "Vlado the Chauffeur" Chernozemski is considered a hero in Bulgaria today, and in his time, in Croatian circles and in Macedonian Bulgarian diaspora. His contribution to the independence of Macedonia has also won him a similar status in some ethnic Macedonian circles today.
Chernozemski began his revolutionary activities in 1922, when he joined the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO). Soon after, he became an assassin for the IMRO. He killed two notable Bulgarian politicians, communist Dimo Hadzhidimov, and IMRO member Naum Tomalevski. Both times he was sentenced to death, but he escaped from his first imprisonment and was released from the second. After his release in 1932, he became an instructor for the Ustaše. He trained a group of Ustaše to assassinate Alexander of Yugoslavia, but eventually killed Alexander himself on 9 October 1934 in Marseille. He was then beaten by French police and spectators, and died the same day.
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Chernozemski was born in the village of Kamenitsa, now part of the town Velingrad. His father, Dimitar Kerin, and his mother, Risa Baltadzieva, were both from Kamenitsa. Chernozemski attended primary school there. As a youngster, he was prone to drinking alcohol, but later he reformed and became a vegetarian. He joined the military in Plovdiv. During World War I, Chernozemski served in the engineer troops. He married in 1919. After the war he worked as a driver and watchmaker. In 1923, his daughter Latinka was born. In 1925, he divorced and remarried. He lived in Sofia until 1932. There are no records of him beyond that year, but he was re-identified in 1934, after his death.
Chetnik of the IMRO
A legend describing Chernozemski as Vlado the Driver (Bulgarian: Владо Шофьора) appeared in Macedonia, since he worked for a company in Dupnitsa as a driver for a short time. In the early 1920s, he moved to Bansko, when the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) was founded by Todor Alexandrov. Chernozemski joined the IMRO in 1922 in the unit Voivode Ivan Barlyo. From 1923 to 1924, he was a member of Trayan Lakavishki's cheta. As a rebel he lived in the towns of Štip, Kočani and Radoviš. Chernozemski also entered the region of Vardar Macedonia with IMRO bands and participated in more than 15 skirmishes with Yugoslav police. He soon became one of the best marksmen in the organization, known for his courage, sangfroid and discipline.
Assassin of the IMRO
In 1925 Ivan Mihailov became the new leader of the IMRO. In this period the organization took actions against the former left-wing activists, assassinating several of them. Mihailov assigned Chernozemski to assassinate MP Dimo Hadzhidimov, a member of the Communist Party of Bulgaria and former IMRO member. Chernozemski was arrested and sentenced to death by hanging for Hadzhidimov's assassination, but his execution was never carried out. In 1925, Chernozemski escaped from a police escort.
In 1927, Chernozemski proposed to the IMRO Central Committee to enter the main conference building of the League of Nations in Paris and detonate grenades attached to his person, in order to attract the attention of the world and generate publicity over the question of the Bulgarians in Macedonia, but his proposal was rejected. In 1929, the leadership of the IMRO called on Ante Pavelić and the Ustaše for cooperation.
In 1930, Chernozemski, following an order by Mihailov, assassinated another member of the IMRO, Naum Tomalevski, and his bodyguard. Tomalevski had been a prominent member of the IMRO. He was Mayor of Kruševo and one of the founders of the Macedonian Scientific Institute. For the second time, Chernozemski was sentenced to death, but he was pardoned in 1932.
Killing of King Alexander
He was then transferred to the Ustaše camp in Janka Puszta in Hungary. The main purpose of this camp was planning for the assassination of King Alexander I. Chernozemski was the instructor of the group that was preparing to assassinate the king. He concluded that members of the group were unprepared psychologically and decided to carry out the assassination himself. On 9 October 1934, he completed the task. As King Alexander's motorcade drove at a few miles per hour down a Marseilles street for an adoring crowd to view, Chernozemski was able to emerge from the crowd, approach the king's car and leap onto its running board while concealing his Mauser C96 automatic pistol in a bouquet of flowers and chanting "Vive le roi" ("long live the king"). He shot Alexander repeatedly, hitting him twice, once in the abdomen and the other along the heart; King Alexander died within minutes. The chauffeur—who tried to push Chernozemski off the car—and Alexander's companion in the car, French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou, were also killed, the latter apparently unintentionally.
After shooting a policeman that tried to seize him and inadvertently killing two bystanders, Chernozemski then futilely attempted to flee the scene but was struck by a slash from an escorting cavalryman's saber, stunning him. He then suffered a non-mortal bullet wound in the head by a rogue police officer, and was savagely beaten by the enraged crowd while the police who, knowing they were helpless to restrain the mob, simply stood back and watched. Chernozemski was then brought in for interrogation. Since the assassin was in critical condition, he was unable to say anything and fatally succumbed to his injuries later that evening, just 10 days before his 37th birthday. The French police were unable to identify him; they could only register his tattoo, a skull with crossbones and a sign reading "V.M.R.O." (Bulgarian initials standing for Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization). He was buried in an unmarked grave in the Marseilles cemeteries with only two detectives and the gravediggers present at the funeral.
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|a.||^ Following the Liberation of Bulgaria in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, Bulgaria re-established self-rule. Subject to the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Bulgaria was denied outright independence but achieved suzerain status as the Principality of Bulgaria, a vassal of the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria achieved full independence in 1908 before becoming a kingdom.|