ORIM. What inumerable legends surround it! "Organisation of bandits," say the Serbs.
"Union for a sacred aim of liberation of a people atrociously oppressed," say the Macedonians.
"The heroic personification of a greater idea," wrote Stjepan Radic on 19th June, 1928, the eve of his assassination at Belgrade.
What is this ORIM- this Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation?
Let us go back forty years.
In 1893 Serbia and Bulgaria were still very small. The Red Sultan pressed his yoke upon the lands of Macedonia which extend from Orchrida in Albania to Adrianople in Thrace; from Mount Char, which is south of Nisch, to Salonika at the mouth of the Vardar.
Three Macedonians, the oldest of whom was not thirty years of age: Dane Groueff, a teacher, Dr. Tatcheff, a young doctor and a professor, Pere Tocheff, gathered one winter evening at the village of Ressene, near Bitolj, to decide that the hour had come to put an end to it. Macedonia had suffered enough. If she were organised, if she were armed, if she had chieftains, the Turks would be thrown out.
Alone, these three were going to organise her and arm her. They swore on sacred ikons to consecrate their lives to their task.
Their programme, from which the ORIM has not deviated one iota in forty years, was: Prepare the Macedonian populations for armed combat against the oppressor; obtain security for the people and guarantees of order and justice in the administration.
Less than three months afterwards hundreds of Macedonians, young and old, had taken the oath of the ORIM. Rich and poor, great poets such as Christo Matoff, university men like Gouchtanoff, doctors of law like Todor Saeff, professors of science, merchants, bankers, officials, doctors, celebrated officers like Boris Draganoff, and also obscure peasants, poor mountain shepherds, artisans and village teachers, all had taken the oath which bound them for ever to uncessant propaganda, to supreme devotion, without pity for traitors, without excuse for the cowardly.
They were subjected to an iron discipline. Courage, integrity, purity of morals defense of the oppressed and the weak, total abnegation- they must always set the example! Any failure on the part of members of the ORIM punished as mercilessly as she strikes the enemies of the country.
Soon they were a thousand, ten thousand, twenty thousand- all Macedonia!
Any Macedonian, whatever his official nationality, whether Bulgarian, Roumanian or Alabanian, provided he were Christian and morally above reproach, could be a member of the organisation. It was sub-divided into groups of ten members, each one of whom obeyed a chief or voivode elected by secret vote. All the groups of a locality constituted the local organisation, directed by an elected committee. The local committee was subordinate to a central committee, which was placed under the absolute authority of the chief, chosen from among its members to be the supreme voivide of the ORIM.
Immediately the ORIM set to work. In the solitudes of the mountains old soldiers trained volunteers. Soon the first shots echoed in the defiles, the first fires were lighted, the first bombs exploded in the garrisons, the stations and the official buildings. The Venitza affair in 1896; Valandovo in 1897; Enidje-Vardar in 1990; devastation and terror sown in Salonika the following year, then at Seres, then at Skoplje, then at Veles. They fought every day, everywhere, from one end to the other of Macedonia.
The Macedonian falcon was soaring!
On 2nd August, 1903, fires lighted on the mountain peaks from Kostom to Orchrida, signalled the 30,000 volunteers of the ORIM that the hour had sounded to chase the Turks. All Macedonia rose en bloc.
The struggle was fearful; and when at last the ORIM, outnumbered, crushed, had to admit defeat, the slaughter was unimaginable. Seven thousand heads fell, 5,000 prisoners were implaed, hanged, or burned alive; 3,000 children were mutilated or eviscerated, all the women and young girls in the regions of the insurrection were violated.
But Europe was affected. The Great Powers demanded autonomy for the martyrised provinces and liberty, thanks to the ORIM, began to dawn over Macedonia.
But the long-awaited sun did not appear. The Young Turks had just replaced Abdul-Hamid. Hardly installed in power, they tried to settle for good their accounts with Macedonia. The massacre recommenced. The resistance of the ORIM recommenced also. Four years of struggle followed, without mercy on one side or the other; ambushes, terrorist attacks, mass executions and insurrections without cease. Conquered in their turn by the Balkan allies, the Turks left in 1912. The volunteers of the ORIM had their large part in the victory. They had guided, informed, supported the Serbo-Bulgarian armies. They had fallen by thousands on the battlefield. They had been sacrificed in vain.
Macedonia, abandoned by the Turks, was dismembered by the conquerors who had turned against their Bulgarian ally after the Ottoman defeat. The Great War ended the disaster. The heart of Macedonia, Chtip, Skoplje, Bitolj, Veles, Ochrida, Guevgueli, became Serb. The rest, Xanthi, Seres, Salonika, Florina was Greek. A little corner was left to Bulgaria.
And while 500,000 Macedonians, an entire people, fled the domination of the Greeks and the Serbs, still more merciless even than that of the Turks, the ORIM resumed the struggle, but this time against Belgrade and Athens.
To the hangings of prisoners, the massacres of suspects, to the fearful persecutions of the people, they replied with the execution of hangmen and judges; rendering violence for violence, they matched the administrative terror by guerilla warfare, and by their infernal machines.
In the last fourteen years, hundreds of Serbs stations, trains, gendarmeries, public buildings, warehouses, and muniton depots have been burnt or dynamited in annexed Macedonia. The ORIM has not disarmed.
Installed in Bulgaria, where it can count on the absolute support of all Macedonian exiles, the ORIM negotiates with the enemies of Yugoslavia, concludes allinces with the revolutionary organisations of Croatia and of Slovenia, perfects her means of action, and awaits patiently the hour of the great interior crisis of Yugoslavia which, by war or revolution, will permit the liberation of Macedonia.
She has her representatives in all the great European capitals, her diplomatic delegates, and her secret codes.
Her chief is Ivan Mikhailoff, whom the bullet of a traitor eight years ago made the successor of the great Todor Alexandroff. He is the adversary Belgrade dreads most. By the sharpness of his political sense, by his inflexible will, by the devoted fanaticism which he inspires, he has made of the ORIM, as for all men of Macedonian blood, the very incarnation of his country.
A legend persistently broadcast by the Pan-Serb propagandists declares that Ivan Mikhailoff ("Vrantche" as his faithfuls call him) lives surrounded by armed guards, never sleeps twice under the same roof, never shows himself in public for fear of the reprisals of those whose parents or friends he has assassinated. Thsi legend I heard defended at Sofia even, at the Union Club, and in diplomatic circles by men from whom one had the right to expect authentic information.