Yane Sandanski

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Yane Ivanov Sandanski
Yane Sandanski2.png
Born May 18, 1872
Vlahi, Ottoman Empire (present-day Bulgaria)
Died April 22, 1915(1915-04-22) (aged 42)
Popovi livadi location, Bulgaria
Other names Jane Sandanski
Organization Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO)
Religion Bulgarian Orthodox christian (assumed)
Statute of People Federative Party (Bulgarian section), written in the Bulgarian language: "...a member of the party can be any Bulgarian, Ottoman citizen twenty years of age or older..."[1]
Yané Sandansky as a conscript in the Bulgarian Army

Yane Ivanov Sandanski or Jane Ivanov Sandanski (Bulgarian: Яне Сандански, Macedonian: Јане Сандански) (May 18, 1872 – April 22, 1915), was a revolutionary recognised as a national hero in Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia. He was among the leaders of the Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (IMARO) in the Serres region and head of the extreme leftist wing of the organization.


Sandanski was born in the village of Vlahi near Kresna in Ottoman Empire on May 28, 1872.[2] His father Ivan participated as a standard-bearer in the Kresna-Razlog Uprising. After the crush of the uprising, in 1879 his family moved to Dupnitsa, Bulgaria, where Sandanski received his elementary education.

Yane Sandanski as collaborationist, posing in front of Ottoman flag with Young Turks activist Nurredin Beg.

Yane Sandanski was involved in the Revolutionary Movement in Macedonia and Thrace and became one of its leaders. Since the start of his revolutionary activity, he gained popularity because he protected the local population of the region of Macedonia from the tyranny of the Ottomans, organizing courts and taught self-defence. Sandanski fought mainly in the Pirin region, and that is why the people gave him the nickname "PirinTsar" (Pirinski Tsar). He was one from the organizers of the Miss Stone Affair - America's first modern hostage crisis. On September 3, 1901, a Protestant missionary named Ellen Stone set out on horseback across the mountainous hinterlands of Macedonia and was ambushed by a band of armed revolutionaries. Sandanski was also active in the anti-Ottoman Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising. The Militias active in the region of Serres, led by Yane Sandanski and an insurgent detachment of the Macedonian Supreme Committee, held down a large Turkish force. These actions began on the day of the Feast of the Cross and did not involve the local population as much as in other regions, but were well to the east of Monastir and to the west of Thrace.

Since 1908 until the Balkan Wars he supported the movement of the Young Turks. After the Young Turk Revolution during the Second Constitutional Era Sandanski was also founder and leader of one of the left political parties in Ottoman Macedonia – Peoples' Federative Party (Bulgarian Section), whose headquarters was in Solun. The Kjustendil congress of Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMARO) in 1908 led to a disintegration of the organization – Yane Sandanski and Hristo Chernopeev contacted the Young Turks and started legal operation. After the disintegration of IMARO, the two first tried to set up the Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (MORO). Later, the congress for MORO's official inauguration failed. Sandanski and Chernopeev abandoned the idea of MORO, and they started to work towards a creation of the Peoples' Federative Party. In 1909 the group around Sandanski and Chernopeev participated in the rally of the Young Turks to Istanbul that led to the deposition of sultan Abdul Hamid II from the throne. Sandanski dreamed about the creation of a Balkan Federative Republic according to the plans of the Balkan Socialist Federation and Macedonia as a part of that Federation.[3] He demanded that the IMARO should embrace all nationalities in the region, not only Bulgarians.[4]

In this way it would be possible to create a healthy system aimed at the organisation of a mass uprising.[5] Later Sandanski and his faction actively supported the Bulgarian army in the Balkan wars of 1912–1913, initially with the idea, that their duty is to fight for autonomous Macedonia,[6] but later fighting for Bulgaria.[7] Οbserving the atrocity of Serbs over the local population, former IMORO members began restoration of the organizational network. In the same peiod a group around Petar Chaulev began negotiations with the Albanian revolutionaries. The temporary Albanian government proposed to them a common revolt to be organized and risen. The negotiations from the part of the Organization had to be carried by Petar Chaulev. The Bulgarian government believed however, that it would not come to a new war with Serbia, so it did not attend the negotiations. However later, in June 1913 the Bulgarian government sent in Tirana Yane Sandanski for new negotiations. He gave an interview for the newspaper "Seculo", where he said that he came to agreement with the Albanians and that from the Bulgarian side there would be organized bands and assaults. So he helped the preparation of the Ohrid-Debar Uprising, organised jointly by IMORO and the Albanians of Western Macedonia.[8] After the wars, Pirin Macedonia was ceded to Bulgaria and he resettled again in the Kingdom.

Sandanski, Dimo Hadzhidimov, Todor Panitsa and other Federalists with Young Turks


The Macedonian liberation movement consisted of three major factions. Led by his excessive ambitions, Sandanski came into conflict with the majority — the Centralists in IMARO and the Varhovists. Although initially a member of the Bulgarian nationalistic Varhovists band, later Yane Sandanski and his Serres group (the Federalists) proclaimed a fight for an autonomous Macedonia which was to be included in a Balkan Socialist Federation. In this manner, the policy of Sofia was completely identified to the adversary character of Athens and Belgrade.[9][10] The activists of Serres nonetheless stipulated that the Macedonian Question could not be resolved if it is formulated as a part of a Bulgarian national question. However the idea of Macedonian autonomy was strictly political and did not imply a secession from Bulgarian ethnicity.[11][12][13] On the other hand, the bigger fraction (the Centralists), as well as that of the other revolutionary organization - Macedonian Supreme Committee - Varhovists, (most of which followers joined the "Centralists", after its dissolution in 1903) aimed also at autonomy. But they did not expected inclusion in a Balkan Socialist Federation and had not so extreme policy by their relation to Sofia. These political differences led to sharp conflict between them.

Arguably Sandanski's greatest sin in the context of the whole movement were the assassinations of the vojvod Michail Daev and later of Ivan Garvanov and Boris Sarafov, both members of the IMARO's Central Committee. He came to regret these and other murders later.[14] Because of that he was even sentenced to death by the Centralists. The Bulgarian authorities investigated the assassinations and suspected Sandanski was the main force behind them. On the other hand he was amnestied by the Bulgarian Parliament after the support he gave to the Bulgarian Army during the Balkan wars.

The manifesto proclaimed by Yane Sandanski at the beginning of the Young Turk Revolution

There was, a long history of friction between the Bulgarian Exarchate and the Organization, since those more closely connected with the Exarchate were moderates rather than revolutionaries. Thus the two bodies had never been able to see eye to eye on a number of important issues touching the population in Thrace and Macedonia. In his regular reports to the Exarch, the Bulgarian bishop in Melnik usually referred to Yane as the wild beast and deliberately spelt his name without capital letters. Despite extreme leftist he also had ever rejected the Bulgarian Exarchate as an institution, or denied that it had a role to play in the life of the Macedonian Bulgarians.[15] Sandanski also collaborated later with the Young Turks, opposing other factions of IMARO, which fought against the Ottoman authorities in this period.

The assassination attempt of Tane Nikolov against Sandanski in Thessaloniki, as seen by the American daily The Gazette (Cedar Rapids) on August 30, 1909.

During the first days of Young Turk Revolution, the collaboration of the Macedonian leftists with the Ottoman activists was stated in a special Manifesto to all the nationalities of the Empire.[16] The loyalty to the Empire declared by Sandanski deliberately blurred the distinction between Macedonian and Ottoman political agenda. This ideological transition was quite smooth as long as the rhetoric of Macedonian autonomist supra-nationalism was already quite close to the Ottomanist idea of the so-called unity of the elements.[17] During the honeymoon of Serres revolutionaries and Ottoman authorities, it was the internationalist ideas of Bulgarian socialist activists that left their stamp on Sandanski's agenda: what was seen as national interests had to be subdued to the pan-Ottoman ones in order to achieve a supra-national union of all the nationalities within a reformed Empire. After Bulgaria lost the Balkan Wars and as result most of Macedonia was ceded to Greece and Serbia, Sandanski attempted to organize the assassination of Bulgarian Tsar Ferdinand I, but it failed.

The Centralists organised several unsuccessful assassination attempts against Sandanski. They came closest to achieving their goal in Thessaloniki, where Tane Nikolov managed to kill two other Federalists and heavily wounded Sandanski. Eventually, Sandanski was killed near the Rozhen Monastery on April 22, 1915, while travelling from Melnik to Nevrokop, by local IMARO activists.[18]


In the Republic of Macedonia Sandanski is considered a national hero and one of the most prominent revolutionary figures of the 20th century. However some Macedonian mainstream specialists on the history of local revolutionary movement, like Academician Ivan Katardžiev and PhD. Zoran Todorovski, argue that the political separatism of Sandanski represented a form of early Macedonian nationalism,[19] asserting later that at that time it was only a political phenomenon, without ethnic character. Both define all Macedonian revolutionaries from that period as "Bulgarians" and Todorovski asserts that Sandanski considered himself as Bulgarian too.[20] In Bulgaria the communist regime appreciated Sandanski because of his socialist ideas and honoured him by renaming the town Sveti Vrach to Sandanski, in 1949. In the years after the Fall of Communism some right-wing Bulgarian historians have been keen to discredit his reputation.[21] Sandanski Point on the E coast of Ioannes Paulus II Peninsula, Livingston Island, Antarctica bears his name as well.

Sandanski (left) with IMARO members supporting Bulgarian troops during Balkan Wars.


  1. ^ The statute was first published in the "Narodna volja" newspaper: "Народна воля" бр. 1, 1909
  2. ^ Mercia MacDermott. For Freedom and Perfection. The Life of Yane Sandansky, 1988, Published by Journeyman, London, ISBN 1-85172-014-6, ISBN 978-1-85172-014-9, OCLC 16465550, pg. 1.
  3. ^ On no account must the population be deceived into hoping for outside help. It must rely on its own forces, and the Organization’s centre of gravity must be shifted from the cheti to the mass of the people, with the cheti acting chiefly as instructors and inspectors. All those who are ‘discontented with the existing regime’ must be brought into the Organization, and this must be understood as meaning not only Bulgarians, but all the nationalities inhabiting the Organization’s territory. Balkan Federation is indicated as an ultimate solution of the national problem, as ‘the sole way for the salvation of all’. See: Pavel Deliradev, Razvitieto na federativnata ideya, Makedonska misal, Book 5-6, 1946, pp. 203-208; also "For freedom and perfection. The Life of Yané Sandansky", Mercia MacDermott, Journeyman, London, 1988, pp. 152-153.
  4. ^ Today, all of us, Turks, Bulgarians, Greeks, Albanians, Jews and others, we have all sworn that we will work for our dear Fatherland and will be inseparable, and we will all sacrifice ourselves for it, and, if necessary, we will even shed our blood." - This part of Yané's speech held in the town of Nevrokop during the Young Turk Revolution is quoted from a hand-written leaflet, bearing the seal of the Razlog Committee for Union and Progress, and a price, i.e. the leaflet was one of many copies made for sale. The leaflet was found among the papers of Lazar Kolchagov of Bansko, and was published by Ivan Diviziev in Istoricheski Pregled, 1964, Book 4 (Nov Dokument za Yané Sandansky).
  5. ^ "Long ago you are regarding our Macedonian-Adrianopole question only as Bulgarian question. The struggle we are on, you consider as the struggle for triumph of the Bulgarian nationality over the others which are living with us. Let forget henceforth who is Bulgarian, who is Greek, who is Serbian, who is Vlah, but remember who is underprivileged slave." - A letter to the Greek citizens of Melnik, (Революционен лист (Revolutionary Sheet), № 3, 17.09.1904)
  6. ^ Ј. Богатинов - "Спомени", бр.11 од в. "Доброволец", 1945 г.
  7. ^ The Russian journalist Viktorov-Toparov, who met Yané in May 1913, wrote: At the beginning of 1913, when the Serbian and Greek occupation regime forced the Macedonian Bulgarians once again to consider the fate of their country, serious doubts had assailed Sandanski. And I shall always remember that evening in 1913 when Sandansky came to me to confide his doubts and vacillations: "There, look this always happens when someone is freed by force of arms! How fine it would have been if Macedonia could have freed herself! But now it's happened, our duty is to fight alongside Bulgaria, and for Bulgaria" - Sŭvremena Misŭl, 15.V.1915, pp. 24-25.
  9. ^ The Balkan Wars in the Eyes of the Warring Parties: Perceptions and Interpretations, Igor Despot, iUniverse, 2012, ISBN 1475947054, p. 22.
  10. ^ Entangled Histories of the Balkans: Volume One, Roumen Daskalov, Tchavdar Marinov, BRILL, 2013, ISBN 900425076X, pp. 302-303.
  11. ^ The Macedoine, "The National Question in Yugoslavia. Origins, History, Politics", by Ivo Banac, Cornell University Press, 1984.
  12. ^ "The Bulgarians of the principality – if there be still some who dream of the Bulgaria of San Stefano, have no reason to object to the separatism of the Macedonian population. Irrespective of the harm that the dream of the Bulgaria of San Stefano might bring both now and in the future, irrespective of all the opportunities that political separatism can bring, there is one essential and important consequence of this doctrine, that is, the preservation of the Bulgarian tribe – whole, undivided, and bound by their spiritual culture, though separated politically. Without this politically separatism, the spiritual integrity of the Bulgarian tribe seems impossible. It is in the interest of the Bulgarian principality not only to support this idea but to continue to work for its realization." - Pravo was a Sofia newspaper close to the BMORK - the article appeared on June 7, 1902 (O.S.), Ibid., pp. 424 – 425.
  13. ^ ...This idea, (of autonomous Macedonia) nevertheless, remained a Bulgarian idea until it disappeared even among the Bulgarians. Neither the Greeks, nor the Turks, nor any other nationality in Macedonia accepted that slogan... The idea of autonomous Macedonia developed most significantly after the creation of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, which was Bulgarian in respect of its members... Dimo Hadjidimov, "Back to the Autonomy", Sofia, 1919.[2]
  14. ^ "We are all Bulgarians, Taso (i.e. Atanas), but we are killing ourselves for nothing. It is hard for me..." (The words are quoted in the memoirs of his adherent Atanas Yanev and published in "Eho" newspaper, 26.05.1972)
  15. ^ When, at the People Federative Party Congress, some more extreme left-winger began to attack the Exarchate during a debate on education, Yané, who was chairing the session, rose to his feet and said: ‘Leave the Exarchate alone! The situation in Turkey is still fluid.’ There was a great commotion, and Yané adjourned the session. During the interval, he went over to the delegate who had attacked the Exarchate and said: ‘You know nothing! If it should so happen that the Bulgarians in Macedonia don’t get what they want, I shall defend the Exarchate with a weapon in my hand.(Dnevnik, 11.VIII.1909. The debate in question took place on 7.VIII.1909.)
  16. ^ Sandanski called his compatriots to discard the propaganda of official Bulgaria in order to live together in a peaceful way with the Turkish people.(Adanır, Ibid., 258.)
  17. ^ Andonov-Poljanski et al., Ibid., 543-546
  18. ^ The fifty biggest assaults in Bulgarian history, Blagov, Krum 50-те най-големи атентата в българската история. Крум Благов. Издателство Репортер. 21.09.2000. ISBN 954-8102-44-7
  19. ^ Ivan Katardžiev, Makedonija sto godini po Ilindenskoto vostanie, Skopje: Kultura, 2003, 54-69
  20. ^ Зоран Тодоровски, Уште робуваме на старите поделби. Разговор со приредувачот на Зборникот документи за Тодор Александров, весник Трибуна од 27.06.2005 г.
  21. ^ Bulgaria, Jonathan Bousfield, Rough Guides, Dan Richardson, Richard Watkins, Edition: 4, Rough Guides, 2002, ISBN 1-85828-882-7, p. 160.

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