Ivan Mihailov

Ivan Mihailov

Infobox revolution biography
name = Ivan Mihailov
lived = 1895–1990
dateofbirth = birth date|1896|8|26|mf=y
placeofbirth = Novo Selo, Ottoman Empire
(now Republic of Macedonia)
dateofdeath = death date and age|1990|9|5|1896|8|26
placeofdeath = flagicon|Italy Rome, Italy

caption = Leader of IMRO
alternate name = RadkoAside from his birth name, he is also known as Vancho or Vanche Mihailov and Radko.]
movement = Macedonian Liberation Movement
organizations = IMRO
religion = Eastern Orthodox christian
footnotes =

Ivan Mihailov Gavrilov ( _bg. Иван Михайлов, _mk. Иван Михајлов)He is credited in English language sources as "Mihailov", while the Bulgarian and Macedonian transliteration schemes would render it "Mihaylov" and "Mihajlov", respectively.] (August 26, 1896, Novo Selo, present-day Republic of Macedonia – September 5, 1990, Rome, Italy) was a revolutionary in Ottoman and interwar Macedonia, leader of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) after 1924.He is considered Bulgarian in Bulgaria and a bulgarophile Macedonian in Republic of Macedonia.


Early years

Ivan Mihailov was born on August 26, 1896, in the village of Novo Selo near the city of Štip in the Ottoman Empire, in what is now the Republic of Macedonia. Mihailov studied at the Bulgarian Men's High School in Thessaloniki up until the Second Balkan War when the school was closed by the new Greek administration, he later continued his studies at a Serbian school in Skopje. He was offered a scholarship by the Serbian Ministry of Education to pursue a degree at a European university but declined, later enlisting in the Bulgarian army, which had by that time occupied a significant portion of the region. After the end of World War I, Mihailov emigrated to Bulgaria, settling in Sofia. Here he began studying law at the Sofia University, at which time he was contacted by IMRO activists and offered to work as a personal secretary for IMRO's leader at that time, Todor Aleksandrov.

Leader of the IMRO

On August 31 1924, Todor Aleksandrov was assassinated in unclear circumstances and IMRO soon came under the control of Mihailov, who had become a powerful figure in Bulgarian politics. IMRO's leadership was quick to blame Aleksandrov's murder on communists, while many postulate that Mihailov may have actually been responsible for the murder. These events created friction between factions within the organization and led to several high-profile murders, including that of Petar Chaulev (who led the Ohrid uprising in 1913) in Milan and eventually that of Aleksandar Protogerov. During the interwar period IMRO, led by Mihailov, took action against several former members of IMRO's Sandanist (left-wing) faction. Gjorche Petrov was killed in Sofia in 1922, Todor Panitsa (who had previously killed the right-wing Boris Sarafov and Ivan Garvanov) was assassinated in Vienna in 1924 by Mihailov's future wife Mencha Karnichiu. Dimo Hadjidimov, Georgi Skrizhovski, Aleksandar Bujnov, Chudomir Kantardjiev and many others were killed in a series of consecutive murders all taking place in 1925. The election of Mihailov as leader of IMRO marks a period of intensification of the armed struggle of the organization in Aegean, and especially in Vardar Macedonia. A total of 63 terrorist acts and attacks on bridges, warehouses, Serbian police stations and military targets were undertaken between 1922 and 1930, the number of assassinated Serbian officials and collaborators numbered in the thousands.

IMRO had "de facto" control of Pirin Macedonia and acted as a "state within a state", which it used as a base for hit and run attacks against Yugoslavia with the unofficial support of axis Bulgaria and later Fascist Italy, also establishing close links with the Croatian Ustaše movement. Numerous assassinations were carried out by IMRO agents in many countries, the majority of which occurred in Yugoslavia. The most spectacular of these was the assassination of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia and the French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou in Marseilles in 1934, in collaboration with Ante Pavelić. IMRO's constant fratricidal killings and assassinations abroad provoked some within Bulgarian military after the Bulgarian coup d'état of 1934 to take control and attempt to crush the organization. In 1934, Mihailov fled to Turkey and ordered his supporters not to resist the Bulgarian army and to accept the disarmament peacefully, potentially avoiding a civil war or foreign invasion. Many inhabitants of Pirin Macedonia met this disbandment with satisfaction because it was perceived as relief from an unlawful and quite often brutal parallel authority. Mihailov had nine life-sentences and three death-sentences in Bulgaria. Although IMRO's main goal had always been the creation of an independent Macedonian state, some previous Bulgarian governments tolerated it as its goal was the liberation of Macedonia from Greek and Yugoslav occupation which they considered rightfully Bulgarian land. As a result of this, IMRO had built an extensive network in Pirin Macedonia and Bulgaria proper, which was used to provide financing for the organization and an operational base from which the offensives into Yugoslavia and Greece were conducted. While in exile, IMRO was kept alive by members in various countries worldwide, but ceased to be an active force in Macedonia except for brief moments during the Second World War.

1934 - 1944

After 1934, Mihailov lived in Turkey, Poland and Hungary and finally settled in the Croatian capital Zagreb, which at that time was part of the Independent State of Croatia, a fascist puppet-state. In 1941 during the World War II the most of Vardar Macedonia and a half of Aegean Macedonia, were annexed by Bulgaria and along with various other regions became Greater Bulgaria. Mihailov refused to return to Bulgarian-occupied part of Macedonia and remained in Croatia until the end of the war. With his help in 1943 some armed detachments - Uhrana, which included pro-Bulgarian Slav-speakers in Italian and German occupied Greek Macedonia were organised. It was apparent that Mihailov had broader plans which envisaged the creation of a Macedonian state under a German control. It was also anticipated that the IMRO volunteers would form the core of the armed forces of a future Independent Macedonia in addition to providing administration and education in the Florina, Kastoria and Edessa districts. In August 1943, Ivan Mihailov left Zagreb for Germany where he was to visit the main headquarters of Hitler and the headquarters of the Sicherheitsdienst, where he spoke to Hitler and Himmler and other top German leaders. From the scant available German information, it is apparent that Mihailov received consent to create three battalions consisting of volunteers armed with German weapons and munitions. Moreover, these battalions were to be under the operative command and disposal of Reichsfuhrer of SS Heinrich Himmler. Additionally, in Sofia talks were held between high-ranking functionaries of the SS and the IMRO CentralCommittee members. Despite the confidential character of the negotiations between Mihailov and the Sicherheitsdienst, the Bulgarian government obtained certain information about them. [IMRO Militia And Volunteer Battalions of Southwestern Macedonia, 1943-1944. By Vic Nicholas [http://www.makedonskatribuna.com/IMRO.doc] ] In the summer of 1944, Uhrana constituted some 12,000 fighters and volunteers from Bulgaria charged with protection of the local population. During 1944, whole Slavophone villages were armed by the German authorities and developed into the most formidable enemy of ELAS. In September 1944 the Fatherland Front in Sofia made a coup d'état and deposed the pro-German government. After the declaration of war by Bulgaria on Nazi Germany, the Bulgarian troops in Macedonia surrounded by German forces, fought their way back to the old borders of Bulgaria. At this time Ivan Mihailov arrived in German occupied Skopje, where the Germans hoped that he could form a Macedonian puppet-state with their support. Seeing that the war is lost to Germany and to avoid further bloodshed, he refused.

During the Cold War

In 1944, he was forced to flee again, this time to Italy. The Bulgarian communist leader Georgi Dimitrov ordered an assassination of Mihailov. The new regimes in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Greece have persecuted his followers as fascists and traitors. After World War II] the ruling Bulgarian Communists declared the population in Bulgarian Macedonia as ethnic Macedonian and teachers were brought in from Yugoslavia to teach the locals in the new Macedonian language. The organizations of the IMRO in Bulgaria were completely destructed. Former IMRO members were hunted by the communist Militsiya and many of them imprisoned, repressed, exiled or killed. On the other hand, former "Mihailovists" were also persecuted by the Belgrade-controlled authorities on accusations of collaboration with the Bulgarian occupation, Bulgarian nationalism, anti-communist and anti-Yugoslav activities, etc. Josip Broz Tito and Georgi Dimitrov worked about the project to merge the two Balkan countries Bulgaria and Yugoslavia into a Balkan Federative Republic according to the projects of Balkan Communist Federation. These policies were reversed after the Tito-Stalin split in June 1948, when Bulgaria, being subordinated to the interests of the Soviet Union took a stance against Yugoslavia. After the Second World War many former "Ohranists" were convictеd of a military crimes as collaborationists. Also after the Greek Civil War many from these people were expelled from Greece and tortured as Bulgarians. [Във и извън Македония. Спомени на Пандо Младенов стр. 97 - 100. [http://www.makedonskatribuna.com/memoirsPM.pdf] ]

Gradually Ivan Mihailov was established as a legal political figure and author of the ideology of the Bulgarian national liberation movement in Macedonia. This fact allowed for a close political alliance between Ivan Mihailov and Macedonian Patriotic Organization in the USA, Canada and Australia in the late 1940s. Mihailov became the emigrants’ ideological leader, and MPO provided people and funds for common political struggle. With the help ofthe United Nations and other humanitarian organizations human rights of Bulgarians repressed by Tito in Yugoslavia were protected. In order to prove the objective basis of Bulgarian emigrant movement and historical heritage, Ivan Mihailov started writing his memories from the 1950s to the 1970s, which MPO’s Central Committee published in four large volumes. These works provide serious proof of Bulgarian national interests from the 50s to the 70s. [The Macedonian Patriotic Organization in the United States, Canada and Australia. Dr. Trendafil Mitev [http://www.macedoniainfo.com/MacPatrOrg_6.htm] ] After the change of the Bulgarian policy toward the Macedonian Question in the late 1950s, the activity of Mihailov was forgotten, even in the 1970s and 1980s the Committee for State Security has supported his pro-Bulgarian political business incognito. [Красимир Каракачанов, Божидар Димитров и Костадин Чакъров в разговор за Ванчо Михайлов пред Георги Коритаров [http://focus-news.net/?id=f6180] ] However in September 1989, Boris Vishinsky, a Skopje journalist, asked for an interview with the leader of the Macedonian liberation movement. He expressed his hope for such an interview to the Radio Vatican circles, which contacted Anton Popov, a journalist in the same radio. Popov was one of the persons abroad Ivan Mihailov trusted most. Radko, sensing the closing end of Yugoslavia, consented on such an interview, but he preferred to answer the questions in written form. It was a real shock for many in Bulgaria when in 1990 at the end of the cold war, the popular TV anchor Kevork Kevorkyan contacted the notorious, considered to be far ago died, leader of the IMRO Ivan Mihailov, and made a long interview with him, who the official propaganda years after years was blaming as "enemy of the people". This was his last interview. Mihailov died in Rome on September 5, 1990.


Although the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) was no longer active, Mihailov remained the leader of the Macedonian Liberation Movement and was supported by the Macedonian Patriotic Organization of US and Canada, of Fort Wayne, Indiana. He wrote four books of memoirs and regularly wrote articles for The "Macedonian Tribune", the oldest continuously published Macedonian émigré newspaper. Until the end of his life Mihailov continued his interest in the fate of the Macedonians (whom he considered ethnically Bulgarian) and was committed to autonomous or independent Macedonian state.

In Bulgaria Mihailov is regarded as an important revolutionary from the third generation of freedom fighters who continued the struggle for political autonomy or independence in the Bulgarian populated parts of Macedonia after the partition of the most of the region of Macedonia between Serbia and Greece after the First World War. His memory is honoured and his name is taken from streets and schools in whole Bulgaria. In the Republic of Macedonia, Ivan Mihailov has been regarded as traitor of the Macedonian people. The Constitutional court of the Republic of Macedonia banned a pro-Bulgarian organization bearing the name of Ivan Mihailov as separatist. [Уставeн суд на Република Македонија. У.Број: 168/2000-0-0. Дата на донесување: 03/21/2001. [] ]

Mihailov's view about the Macedonian Question

There are different political opinions about Mihailov's activity in Bulgaria, but the scholars agreed that he was a defender of the statement about the strong Bulgarian character of the Slav-speaking population in region of Macedonia] . [Билярски, Цочо. Един живот, посветен на България и на революцията, In: Михайлов, Иван. Избрани произведения, София 1993, с. 5-25] He was a follower of the idea about an independent United Macedonian multiethnic state with prevailing ethnic Bulgarian element, something as "Switzerland on the Balkans". [The last interview with the leader of IMRO, Ivan Michailov in 1989 - newspaper 'Democratsia', Sofia, January 8, 2001, pp. 10-11 [http://www.macedoniainfo.com/Independent_Macedonia.htm] ] According to his personal secretary Vida Boeva he was constantly canvassing by means of petitions, letters of protest, memoirs addressed to the UN etc. By the name of Macedonian Patriotic Organisation emphasizing that the Macedonian Republic was a colony of Serbia, under other name, as a Macedonian nation. He declared also that Macedonia is Bulgarian and the Slavs in Macedonia are Bulgarian. All these people that had the power in Macedonia were "serbophils" or "grecophils". He believed that the Macedonians are part of the Bulgarian nation and the founders of IMRO were people who accepted the San Stefano Bulgaria. [Focus magazine n 531; September 2, 2005 Exclusive from Rome. Vida Boeva a personal secretary of the last leader of IMRO. The West was backing Vancho Mihaylov. [http://www.macedonobulgarianreview.com/VIDA_BOEVA_BROJ_26.htm] ] The Bulgariannes of Mihailov is recognized by several Macedonian historians like academician Ivan Katardzhiev, [http://www.manu.edu.mk/departments.htm director of the Historical Sciences section] in the Department of Social Sciences in the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts and the director of the Macedonian State archive Ph. D. Zoran Todorovski. According to Katardjev the policy of Mihailov for establishment of an independent Macedonian state meant a Macedonian state of the Bulgarians in Macedonia. That denotes a second Bulgarian state, but not a national ethnic Macedonian state. [Beсник "Вест", Година:1 Број:215 Сабота 3/24/2001 [http://www.vest.com.mk/default.asp?id=3372&idg=1&idb=215&rubrika=Revija] ] Katardjev stated Michaylov's view about the term "Macedonian" was, that this is a generalizing, regional term, including different ethnoses as Bulgarians, Aromanians, Albanians but not ethnic Macedonians. [Иван КАТАРЏИЕВ, aкадемик, ВЕРУВАМ ВО НАЦИОНАЛНИОТ ИМУНИТЕТ НА МАКЕДОНЕЦОТ. Forum Publishing. [http://www.forum.com.mk/Arhiva/Forum37/megaintervju/megaintervju.htm] ] Katardjiev defines all Macedonian revolutionaries from the period before 1930-ies as "Bulgarians" and asserts that separatism of some Macedonian revolutionaries toward official Bulgarian policy was only a political phenomenon without an ethnic character. Todorovski asserts that "All of them declared themselves as Bulgarians...." [ [ Tribune. Издание: 2007/118, освежено: 05.11.2007. Уште робуваме на старите поделби. Разговор со приредувачот на Зборникот документи за Тодор Александров, д-р Зоран Тодоровски. 27.06.2005] ] .


External links

* [http://www.jasenovac.info/cd/biblioteka/pavelicpapers/pavelic/ap0038.html "The Conspirator Rediscovered"] , Interview with Ivan Mihailov in "Storia Illustrata", by Antonio Pitamitz. pp. 46-51. Translated by Cali Ruchala.
* Ivan Mihailov, [http://www.promacedonia.com/im2/index.html "Unpublished Memoirs, Diaries and Materials"] bg icon
* Ivan Mihailov, [http://www.promacedonia.com/im/imih_ind.htm "Quo Vadis, Bulgaria?"] bg icon
* Ivan MIhailov, [http://www.promacedonia.com/im_statii/index.html Articles] bg icon
* [http://www.kroraina.com/knigi/statii/im_biogr.htm Ivan MIhailov's biography] bg icon

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