A letter from P.R. Slaveykov to the Bulgarian Exarch
With your prayers I safely arrived in Solun on 14th in the evening on the current month, in 11 o’clock in Thursday and I accomplished so far to have meetings with all local and outside people, from whom I could find out what was needed for my mission.
To study a certain issue, like this one here, as any other, first of all we need to study the events that lead to that issue, so, aiming to put you in a position of excellent knowledge of the events that are unfolding here, I will first present in brief the history of everything preceding all this and its consequences today, which are the existing turmoil and movement
It can be seen that even before the question’s solution, after the initial awakening of the population from these lands, owing to the unreasonable preaching of the local narrow and short-sighted patriots, a certain discontentment among the local Bulgarians has been created towards the Bulgarians from the Danube and Ohrid vilayets and a certain envy because of their earlier awakening and the visible predominance of their language in literature.
The one-sided, at first glance, solution to the question in favour of the Danube and Thracian Bulgarians alone further encouraged their discontentment, and by ignoring the circumstances which led to this not entirely satisfactory solution to the question, the said discontentment has easily turned into mistrust towards those working on the question and has given birth among local patriots to the disastrous idea of working independently on the advancement of their own local dialect and what’s more, of their own, individual Macedonian hierarchy — Bulgarian — idea, unfortunately reinforced, as far as I could hear, by the excessive zeal of one of our own bishops, who in his desire to be useful and make use of this, imperceptibly, and perhaps deliberately, encouraged it even more and allowed the emergence and spread of these disastrous ideas side by side with the awakening of the people in these lands. It is Article 10 of the firman that has somewhat hampered the outbreak of a public disruption and has so far suppressed any disturbances.
The slow and obstructed advancing in the implementation of the tenth article of the firman, and lately even the obvious difficulties to implement it at all, and if you add to that the counterproductive rummors about the agreement that is here widespread and probably presented as it suited some local orthodox people, that have worked even before to like prepare the people to the agreement, have left open space to some other restless spirits to start and give birth to some other kind of scandals.
It is clear that it was in a small and secret circle in Constantinople that this broken and now stinking addle egg was initially laid and its nest can be found among that small number of persons who were anxious to promote Father Hariton as a bishop. Desperate to see their candidate a bishop through the mediation of the Exarchate, Father Hariton’s adherents, with his knowledge or perhaps permission — I cannot confirm the latter — started making deals with the discontented in these lands to take another kind of action and demand his appointment by means of a union with the Catholic church; this took place in Constantinople and here, but rather secretly, before Mr Nil was sent here.
The sending of Mr Nil to these lands has put an end to the secret and underground actions of the said partisans, but his senseless denunciation and tactless encouragement have seriously shattered the confidence of the population in the Exarchate and have estranged them from it. In the beginning, too, when he still acted on behalf of the Exarchate, he imprudently greatly undermined its influence, which strengthened even more the rumour spread by Hariton’s adherents concerning the agreement and, as he wanted to become the favourite and beloved of the locals, he presented the Exarchate as indifferent and useless for the deliverance of the Macedonian population from the oppression of Graecism; and later he contributed a great deal more to their alienation from it, when he started claiming that the Macedonian Bulgarians have been betrayed by the Exarch and by the other bishops installed for the recovery of their eparchies; and, of course, the mistrustful will easily believe such rumours.
It is probably difficult to follow and know whether Mr Nil, before his departure, had any arrangements with some of our people there and whether he had special instructions concerning the movement to which he had given rise; but it is no secret that his refusal to obey the Exarchate’s command to return was the result of the instructions of some of our Orthodox bishops there, and unfortunately even now you can feel similar relations; they speak openly about Father Hariton’s agreement with Mr Nil, and that efforts are being made, they say, in favour of his ordination [and appointment], through the union, to the regions of Seres and Melnik, and for that of Mr Nil to the regions of Salonika, Kukuš-Strumica and Voden.
This is how things stood and have been standing in general up to the present day. The particular course of events concerning particular local matters stands like this for the time being. Even though you can say that there is no union in Salonika, or that it has been put on the back-burner in case of necessity, I can also state that if such a demand arises because of the enthusiasm of others after Mr Nil’s return, it can be suppressed if one acts wisely, as matters are in the hands of people on whom we can successfully exert our influence, although you will now see almost everyone inclining towards that spirit, even the Paunčev brothers, who were at first against the movement, but are now thought to be among the proselytes. Only Mr Bubotinov is allegedly Orthodox, and I can assure you of this, for no other reason but sheer interest, and because he is excluded and cast out by the other activists and also by the said community. On the other hand his activities, or intrigues that are like supporting the orthodoxy, since they are so obviously motivated by his own interest, do not have any other effect but to strengthen the movement, and since his consiousness in unclean, he paralizes the honest actions of the orthodox agents that work through him (having noone else to work through). Mr. Bubotinov, trying to show that he is involved and able, and like he is really doing something, dares to do many inappropriate, untimely and arrogant things, that, as I have noticed, are causing more harm and confusion, and he, as I believe, is confusing even the Exarchate with his letters that he sends from here, that should be taken with very little attentention, if they, according to my opinion, deserve attention at all. The situation in Solun in regards to the Union is not dangerous yet; but Solun is still not a Bulgarian city and it does not lead the movement, nor does it have influence to the other places and towns, so it can strengthen or weaken the movement.
Kukuš comes at the head of the movement, supported quite strongly by the as yet sleeping Dojran, and Strumica with Maleševo and Voden participate there openly. Following them there limp the Salonika villages and those around Seres, Melnik and Drama. For the time being, anyone looking around might think that he sees nothing but smoke; but this smoke shows the presence of a fire which is starting to burn, because everyone expects the return of Monsignor Nil with fervent impatience, and there is no doubt that the fire will blaze up.
The letters of M[onsignor] Nil are full of hope and they are delivered everywhere through the agents of the union who maintain contacts with the surrounding places. In his first letter, written after his arrival in Constantinople, he promised to return in 15 days’ time with the Sultan’s decree. In his second letter he said that, as soon as the new Greek Bishop of Salonika, Joachim, departed for Salonika, he, the Monsignor, would be on the same steamship and arrive here. The last letter which has come with today’s mail is even more encouraging. Everything is ready and prepared, he says, and the letters are written and waiting only to be signed; and, they write, they are also asking for money from here for their return; therefore Dimitri Maleševskihas gone this morning to Kukuš to collect the money and send it to them. The leaders of the movement are thrilled. 
After everything that I have seen and learnt, without taking into account unfounded rumours, I can frankly say to you that if M[onsignor] Nil returns here with a firman and remains anywhere in these lands, not only will the Poljanin eparchy accept him, but it will be joined by the Strumica and Voden eparchies and by many of the villages around Salonika, Drama, Seres, etc., and moreover, all other Macedo- nian eparchies will be shaken. You must bear in mind that the first to break up will be the Veles eparchy, from which certain person even now are taking not a small part in the tumult. That eparchy, dissatisfied with its bishop, on the one hand, and, on the other, the inhabitants of Veles driven by their characteristic craving for power and aspirations to control southern Macedonia in religious affairs, are supporting that movement, which will later have clearly very different consequences from those by which they are now enticed, but the important thing is that they, too, now add fuel to the flames. The agitation to expand the eparchy through the union is an open Chimera; yet the imaginative inhabitants of Veles, as good speculators, which is obvious, do not let that speculative undertaking slip out of their hands, and while working on it, they seem to spread even more the disastrous idea of salvation through the union among the oppressed population.
The renewed persecution on the part of Greek prelates has greatly helped the spread of the Uniate infection. As they have no Greek population on which they can rely following the splitting off of the Bulgarians, and as they fear more their being joined to the Exarchate, seeing that in this way they will be left without a flock whatsoever, they may be wrong or right in thinking that they will profit more from the Bulgarians joining the union, because they hope that the majority of the population, held back by fear of an alien faith, will not throw themselves into the arms of the union, and that thus, on the one hand, they will have more adherents and followers and, on the other, all restless minds and more active men and patriots, as it were, will go along with the Uniates and, preoccupied with the debates concerning the organization of the new community, will not disturb the rest of their believers that much; and thirdly, and most importantly, they think that in this way the influence of the Exarchate among the population will be paralysed, this being their prime aim, as all their fears are there. Guided by these considerations, they work on the swifter development of this comedy and therefore, while earlier they were indifferent and even rather lenient, and in the case of H[is] Exc[ellency] Midhat Pasha more cautious in their actions, they are now pressing the population more, using the influence of their agent among the local authorities, K. Logadi, politike meemuru [political agent].
That is, in general, as I was able to understand, the politics of the Greek bishops in the vilayets and the turmoiled eparchies, as I can understand from what I hear from the Bulgarians, from one side, and from what I was able to notice during one unplanned meeting with the envoy of the local metropolitan, the Kozani bishop, and the Sisanian bishop who is also here.
It seems to me that the advocates of the agreement have been guided by similar considerations to a certain extent; they wrongly believe that the union will not take large proportions and that only a small number of people will become separated under the union, and that the rest will remain with the Greeks, considering this advantageous to their plan to paralyse the influence of the Exarchate in these places, to discourage them and compel them to accept agreement to their measure. The truth, however, is that they are not working in this way to anything but the sheer detriment of Orthodoxy, as there is no doubt that if there is still any hope in the preservation of Orthodoxy, this hope is in the joining of the Exarchate; if this hope is frustrated, may everyone working in this spirit know that the incorporation of the Macedonian Bulgarians within the Roman Church will be an accomplished fact, not only partially but entirely, and that they will aim to resurrect the Archbishopric of Ohrid, with which they now entice the inhabitants of Ohrid, saying that they, too, like the inhabitants of Skopje, have apparently accepted the idea and will wait patiently until their hopes in the Exarchate are resurrected; if an amendment is not made to Article 10 — farewell, Macedonia!
The local monsignors work tirelessly and they say that if Mr. Nil does not eventually return soon to Solun, by Easter they will declare monsignor Rafail and they plan to step up themselves too, if things do not go as planned. Poljanians and the people from Maleshevo have already expressed their will to accept them as of now, but the citizens of Kukush are determined to wait until Easter, to avoid any harm to the general movement.
The local Greek silogos has sent everywhere teachers and priests to preach a submission to the new Solun bishop, but in the Solun villages this has an opposite effect. The local prozelites are boasting the they captures letters from the patriarch and from Logadi to the Poljanin bishop claiming that as far as Macedonia is concerned, the decision is already final: it will stay under the authority of the Patriarchate, they only need to destroy the influence of the Exarchate. I saw the letter from Logadi too. The Bulgarian school that was established in Voden is closed again. In Dojran eight people are imprisoned, including the son of Mr. Mihajlovski. In Kukush 32 persons from Bogdanci are imprisoned. In Strumica a certain istilim was carried away by the government, without an interference from either Greeks or Bulgarians, only an official from the local government was going from village to village, and he was asking the villagers who do they want to associate with, and the results are, they say, in favour of the Bulgarians.
Pray for me,
To your beatitude
P. R. Slaveykov
CDIA f. 989, op. 2 a.e. 290, l. 3-4. Original in handwriting.
- The letter is without a place and date. From the text it is obvious that it is written in Solun soon after January 14, but not later than Jan 31 1874
- There was no Ohrid vilayet; this is an error and the reference is clearly to the Adrianople (Odrin) vilayet.
- Judging from the way it is written, it is clear that the word Bulgarian was added later, making this part of the manuscript rather obscure.
- This is a reference to Natanail (Nathaniel) Kučeviški, Metropolitan of Ohrid.
- When it was established the Exarchate was excommunicated by the Patriarchate and it was declared as non-canonic. During the 1872 rummors reached Macedonia that an agreement is in its making so that the Exarchate will leave the Macedonian eparchies to the Patriarchate in exchange for a status of autochephality
- The priest Hariton (Chariton) Angelov Karpuzov (from the village of Libjahovo, Nevrokop region; Boris Sarafov’s grandfather) emerged as one of the chief leaders of the population from the whole of eastern Macedonia. As the president of the Nevrokop Exarchal Community (1871-1873), he was proposed by the people as Metropolitan of Nevrokop, but the Bulgarian Exarchate refused to accept him and he lost even his presidential post. Hariton appeared as one of the most decisive advocates of the union as a means for resolving the ‘Macedonian question’.
- The title Mister and its prefix Mr (Gospodin and G.) are often used with the names of church dignitaries in Slavonic ecclesiastical forms of address (translator’s note).
- The Uniate Bishop Nil (Nilus) Izvorov was a Bulgarian, a former Exarchate prelate, who was used by the Macedonian Uniates as a means for the institution of a Macedonian spiritual-national hierarchy.
- This is a reference to the agreement between the Bulgarian Exarchate and Constantinopolitan Patriarchate concerning the eparchies in Macedonia.
- This is a reference to Natanail (Nathaniel) of Ohrid and Dorotej (Dorotheus) of Skopje.
- Dimitar and Nikola Paunčev from Ohrid were prominent activists in Salonika, and the former was also the president of the Salonika Exarchal Community and belonged to the ‘circle’ of ‘Macedonists’.
- The newly converted.
- Mihail G. Bubotinov (a Bulgarian from Sofia) was the Exarchate representative in Salonika as a teacher; he was also an associate of the Russian Consul General in this city and an outspoken opponent of the Macedonian national movement, and accordingly, of the union.
- Slavejkov’s letters are a confirmation that Dimitar Popgeorgiev Berovski was one of the main leaders of the ‘third’ Uniate movement in Macedonia. At the time he was in Salonika clandestinely, making the preparations for the Razlovci Uprising. On March 24, 1875, he wrote the following to Stefan Verković from Salonika: “I am here, but as our imprisoned men are still not set free, I am compelled to enjoy the general justice in a hidden shelter, i.e. not free. We are not losing hope that things will one day be better for us as well, but now the greatest evil is in Maleševo, which is by no means a result of the Exarchate’s heedlessness and is yet to spread elsewhere.” Due to this situation, he asks Verković “to send the letter under a French inscription ‘To his Grace, Mr Bonetti, Apostolic Missionary of the French Church to Salonika’” (Dokument i za bïlgarskoto vïzraždane ot Arhivata na Stefan I. Verkovič 1860-1893. Sïstavil i podgotvil i za pečat Darina Veleva i n.s. Trifon Vïlov pod redakciòta i s predgovorot čl . kor . Hristo A. Hristov, Sofiò, 1969, 558, dok. º 463).
- Cočo Bi l òrski – I l i ò Paskov, op. cit., 68-70.
- The Young-Turk leader Midhat Pasha was appointed as the Vali of Salonika on November 3, 1873, but he remained in Salonika only until February 11, 1874. During this brief period, he made it clear, with a number of actions, that he was in favour of the equality of the nationalities living in the vilayet, and even supported the restoration of the Archbishopric of Ohrid as the Macedonian church. P.P. Karapetrov, a Bulgarian, offers rather curious testimonies in this regard: “Midhat Pasha tried to persuade some of the more eminent Macedonian Bulgarians that they were not Bulgarians but Macedonians; that they were a people distinct from the Bulgarians, as proven by their language (dialect), which was different from Bulgarian, that it would be good if they dissociated from the Bulgarians in the Danube and Adrianople regions (Moesia and Thrace) and that thus they would also have an independent church with the restoration of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, and other similar things” (P.P. Karapetrovï , Sbirka otï statii, Srõdecï , 1898, 91).
- Cočo Bilòrski – Iliò Paskov, op. cit., 70-71.
- Rafail Dobrev was a Bulgarian, union bishop from 1864 and the leader of the unionite movement in Odrin
- silogos – Greek missionary / teacher
- Cočo Biljarski – Ilija Paskov, "Pisma na Petko Račev Slaveikov po unijata v Makedonija prez 1874 g.“, Vekove, Hoe III, 1, Sofija, 1989, 68.