Vlado Chernozemski

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Vlado Chernozemski
Владо Черноземски
Vlado Chernozemski Kamenitsa IMRO.jpg
Born (1897-10-19)19 October 1897
Kamenitsa, Principality of Bulgaria[a]
Died 9 October 1934(1934-10-09) (aged 36)
Marseille, France
Nationality Bulgarian
Occupation Assassin, revolutionary
Years active 1922–1934
Organization Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization
Known for

Assassination of:

Vlado Chernozemski (Bulgarian: Владо Черноземски) (19 October 1897 – 9 October 1934), born Velichko Dimitrov Kerin (Bulgarian: Величко Димитров Керин), was a Bulgarian[1] revolutionary. Also known as "Vlado the Chauffeur", Chernozemski is considered a hero in Bulgaria today,[2] and in his time, in Croatian circles and in the Macedonian Bulgarian diaspora.[3] His contribution to the independence of Macedonia has also won him a similar status in some ethnic Macedonian circles today.[4][5][6]

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.


Velichko Dimitrov Kerin was born in the village of Kamenitsa, now part of the town Velingrad.[7] His father, Dimitar Kerin, and his mother, Risa Baltadzieva, were both from Kamenitsa.[8] 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.

Revolutionary activity[edit]


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. Chernozemski also entered the region of Vardar Macedonia with IMRO bands and participated in more than 15 skirmishes with Yugoslav police.[9] He soon became one of the best marksmen in the organization,[9] known for his courage, sangfroid and discipline.

Assassin of the IMRO[edit]

Unit of Voivode Trajan Lakashki c. 1920; second from the left is Vlado Chernozemski

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.[9] 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. For the second time, Chernozemski was sentenced to death, but he was pardoned in 1932.

Killing of King Alexander[edit]

Newsreel showing the murder of King Alexander of Yugoslavia and French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou in Marseilles
Winnipeg Free Press front page on 15 October 1934, mentioning assassination of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia

After his release from the prison, Chernozemski disappeared. He moved to Italy, where he became an instructor for the Ustaše in a camp in Borgotaro.[10]

He was then transferred to the Ustaše camp in Janka Puszta, near Nagykanizsa 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(source?) and decided to carry out the assassination himself. On 9 October 1934, he completed the task.[11] 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 in 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 shot, the latter apparently unintentionally. The chauffeur died almost immediately, with his foot pressed on the brake of the car, providing the opportunity for a photographer outside the car to photograph most of the grisly affair. Barthou might have survived, but did not, apparently because of inadequate medical attention.

After shooting a policeman who 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 sabre, stunning him. He then received a non-mortal bullet wound in the head from a rogue police officer, and was savagely beaten by the enraged crowd while the police 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 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.

For murdering King Alexander I, Chernozemski was posthumously declared the most dangerous terrorist in Europe.[12][13]



  1. ^
  2. ^ Izvestia na Natsionalnia istoricheski muzeĭ, Tomove 16–19, Natsionalen istoricheski muzeĭ, Izdatelstvo Nauka i izkustvo, 2006, str. 129.
  3. ^ Crown of Thorns: The Reign of King Boris III of Bulgaria, 1918-1943, Stephane Groueff, Rowman & Littlefield, 1998, ISBN 1568331142, p. 224.
  4. ^ Утрински весник, 02.03.2007, Виктор Цветаноски, Черноземски го уби кралот, но и многу Македонци.
  5. ^ Виолета Ачкоска и Никола Жежов, "Предавствата и атентатите во македонската историја". Издателство Макавеј, Скопје, 2003, стр. 221.
  6. ^ Весник Глобус, 16.10.2012, Коj не го затвора досието на Владо Чернозамски? Льубомир Костовски.
  7. ^ Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Macedonia, Dimitar Bechev, Scarecrow Press, 2009, ISBN 0810862956, p.40.
  8. ^ Атентатът в Марсилия, Владо Черноземски. Живот, отдаден на Македония, Митре Стаменов (Издание на ВМРО-СМД, София, 1993), стр. 41.
  9. ^ a b c Билярски, Цочо (2006). Иван Михайлов в обектива на полиция, дипломация, разузнаване и преса (in Bulgarian). Издателство Св. Климент Охридски. p. 198. ISBN 978-954-9384-07-9. 
  10. ^ Марков, Георги (1994). Камбаните бият сами: Насилие и политика в България 1919-1947 (in Bulgarian). Георги Победоносец. p. 108. 
  11. ^ Rothschild, Joseph (1959). The Communist Party of Bulgaria; Origins and Development, 1883-1936. Columbia University Press. pp. 277–278. 
  12. ^ Гаджев, Иван (2003). История на българската емиграция в Северна Америка: поглед отвърте (in Bulgarian). Илия Т. Гаджев. p. 259. 
  13. ^ България 20-ти век (in Bulgarian). Илия Т. Гаджев. 2000. p. 1127. 

External links[edit]


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.