A photograph of Mara Buneva
Kalkandelen, Kosovo Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
(today Tetovo, Republic of Macedonia)
January 13, 1928|
Skoplje, Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes
(today Skopje, Republic of Macedonia)
Mara Buneva (Bulgarian and Macedonian: Мара Бунева; 1902 – January 13, 1928) was a Macedonian Bulgarian revolutionary, member of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. She is famous for the assassination of Serbian official Velimir Prelić after which she committed suicide. Today Buneva is considered as a heroine in Bulgaria, while in the Republic of Macedonia she is regarded as a controversial Bulgarophile.
Buneva was born in 1902 in Tetovo, then in the Kosovo Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire. Between 1915 and 1918 when Vardar Macedonia was under Bulgarian military administration, Buneva studied at the Skopje's Girls' High School. Her father Nikola Bunev was a mayor of Tetovo then, but in 1919 after the Serbian annexation of the area, she moved to Bulgaria. Buneva studied there in the Sofia University, and married a Bulgarian officer. In 1926 she divorced, and under the influence of her brother Boris, also a Bulgarian officer, Buneva joined the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO). Later on direct order by the leader of the IMRO, Ivan Mihaylov, she was trained in Sofia for fulfilling of a future terrorist actions. In 1927 she went back to Yugoslavia and opened a shop in Skopje with a conspiratorial mission. There she managed to acquaint herself with Velimir Prelić, the legal adviser of the Serbian governor of the Skopje district. Prelić had been known for ordering arrests and tortures of young local students, members of Macedonian Youth Secret Revolutionary Organization, who openly opposed the Serbian rule. The organization was discovered by the authorities in May 1927 and its leaders were arrested. On a trial in Skopje against 20 of them, most were sentenced in December to long-term imprisonment. As result IMRO ordered the execution of Prelić. At the appointed time on January 13, 1928, Buneva intercepted him on his way to lunch and shot the official after which she shot herself. On the next day, the Serbian police buried Buneva's body at an unknown place. Prelić also died in hospital a few days later and was buried in Skopje. Her act was part of a violent resistance movement against Serbian policies of forced assimilation of the Macedonian Bulgarians.
Legacy and controversy
Her act echoed as in Bulgaria and Europe, as well as among the Macedono-Bulgarian emigration in America. The first Macedonian Patriotic Organization ladies auxiliary branch was created in Toronto in 1928 and named after Mara Buneva. In Bulgaria she was celebrated also as a martyr for the freedom of Macedonia. During the Second World War Bulgaria annexed Vardar Macedonia again and on the place of the death of Mara Buneva a commemoration plate was mounted. However, later it was obliterated from the new communist authorities. They were successful in removing all pro-Bulgarian sentiments in the region, creating a distinct Macedonian identity, associated with Yugoslavia. In the new Socialist Republic of Macedonia the Bulgarophobia increased almost to the level of state ideology. Fear of the Bulgarian threat was fuelled additionally after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and especially by the annual commemorations dedicated to Buneva in Skopje. Since the beginning of the 2000s, almost every year on the day of her death, Bulgarians in the Republic of Macedonia and VMRO-BND activists, have begun to mount in Skopje a new commemoration plate. However, it does not survive for more than a few days, repeatedly destroyed by local ultra-nationalists. While Bulgarians praise her as a freedom fighter, Macedonians consider her a terrorist. Owing to her pro-Bulgarian sentiments, she has been never feted in the Republic of Macedonia. In January 2007 the story ended with clashes in Skopje, after that some Macedonian journalists mused, whether it is still a sin to commemorate anti-Serb fighters. Nevertheless, a wax figure of Buneva was set up in the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle opened in 2011 in Skopje. Ljubčo Georgievski, former Macedonian Premier, claims to be against Buneva means, not to have adequate knowledge of the history, and to defend the Serbian chauvinism. According to Bulgarian officials, the repetitive incidents in Skopje are part of an ongoing anti-Bulgarian campaign there.
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