Terrorists And Freedom Fighters
Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
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I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. VIII. IX. X. Terrorists and Freedom Fighters Macedonia to the Macedonians The Black Hand The Insurgents and the Swastika KLA – The Army of Liberation Appendix: Pathological Narcissism, Group Behaviour and Terrorism Appendix: The Crescent and the Cross Appendix – Terrorism as a Psychodynamic Phenomenon The Author About "After the Rain"
Terrorists and Freedom Fighters
"'Unbounded' morality ultimately becomes counterproductive even in terms of the same moral principles being sought. The law of diminishing returns applies to morality." Thomas Sowell There's a story about Robespierre that has the preeminent rabble-rouser of the French Revolution leaping up from his chair as soon as he saw a mob assembling outside. "I must see which way the crowd is headed," he is reputed to have said: "For I am their leader." http://www.salon.com/tech/books/1999/11/04/new_optimi sm/ People who exercise violence in the pursuit of what they hold to be just causes are alternately known as "terrorists" or "freedom fighters". They all share a few common characteristics: 1. A hard core of idealists adopt a cause (in most cases, the freedom of a group of people). They base their claims on history - real or hastily concocted, on a common heritage, on a language shared by the members of the group and, most important, on hate and contempt directed at an "enemy". The latter is, almost invariably, the physical or cultural occupier of space the idealists claim as their own.
2. The loyalties and alliances of these people shift effortlessly as ever escalating means justify an ever shrinking cause. The initial burst of grandiosity inherent in every such undertaking gives way to cynical and bitter pragmatism as both enemy and people tire of the conflict. 3. An inevitable result of the realpolitik of terrorism is the collaboration with the less savoury elements of society. Relegated to the fringes by the inexorable march of common sense, the freedom fighters naturally gravitate towards like minded non-conformists and outcasts. The organization is criminalized. Drug dealing, bank robbing and other manner of organized and contumacious criminality become integral extensions of the struggle. A criminal corporatism emerges, structured but volatile and given to internecine donnybrooks. 4. Very often an un-holy co-dependence develops between the organization and its prey. It is the interest of the freedom fighters to have a contemptible and tyrannical regime as their opponent. If not prone to suppression and convulsive massacres by nature - acts of terror will deliberately provoke even the most benign rule to abhorrent ebullition.
5. The terrorist organization will tend to emulate the very characteristics of its enemy it fulminates against the most. Thus, all such groups are rebarbatively authoritarian, execrably violent, devoid of human empathy or emotions, suppressive, ostentatious, trenchant and often murderous. 6. It is often the freedom fighters who compromise their freedom and the freedom of their people in the most egregious manner. This is usually done either by collaborating with the derided enemy against another, competing set of freedom fighters - or by inviting a foreign power to arbiter. Thus, they often catalyse the replacement of one regime of oppressive horror with another, more terrible and entrenched. 7. Most freedom fighters are assimilated and digested by the very establishment they fought against or as the founders of new, privileged nomenklaturas. It is then that their true nature is exposed, mired in gulosity and superciliousness as they become. Inveterate violators of basic human rights, they often transform into the very demons they helped to exorcise. Most freedom fighters are disgruntled members of the middle classes or the intelligentsia. They bring to their affairs the merciless ruthlessness of sheltered lives. Mistaking compassion for weakness, they show none as they unscrupulously pursue their self-aggrandizement, the ego trip of sending others to their death.
They are the stuff martyrs are made of. Borne on the crests of circumstantial waves, they lever their unbalanced personalities and project them to great effect. They are the footnotes of history that assume the role of text. And they rarely enjoy the unmitigated support of the very people they proffer to liberate. Even the most harangued and subjugated people find it hard to follow or accept the vicissitudinal behaviour of their self-appointed liberators, their shifting friendships and enmities and their pasilaly of violence. In this series of articles, I will attempt to study four such groups which operated in the tortured region of the Balkans. I will start with the IMRO (VMRO) in Macedonia and Bulgaria, proceed to Serbia and its union with death ("Union or Death", aka the Black Hand), study the Ustasha in detail and end with the current mutation of Balkan spasms, the KLA (UCK).
Macedonia to the Macedonians
"Two hundred and forty five bands were in the mountains. Serbian and Bulgarian comitadjis, Greek andartes, Albanians and Vlachs... all waging a terrorist war" Leon Sciaky in "Farewell to Salonica: Portrait of an Era" "(Goce Delcev died) cloak flung over his left shoulder, his white fez, wrapped in a bluish scarf, pulled down and his gun slung across his left elbow" Mihail Chakov, who was nearby Delcev at the moment of his death, quoted in "Balkan Ghosts" by Robert D. Kaplan "I will try and tell this story coldly, calmly, dispassionately ... one must tone the horrors down, for in their nakedness, they are unprintable..." A.G. Hales reporting about the Illinden Uprising in the London "Daily News" of October 21, 1903
"The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization directs its eyes neither to the West, nor to the East,nor to anywhere else; it relies primarily on its own powers, does not turn into anybody's weapon, and will not allow anybody to use its name and prestige for personal and other purposes. It has demonstrated till now and will prove in the future that it establishes its activities on the interests and works for the ideals of struggling Macedonia and the Bulgarian race." TODOR ALEXANDROV, The Leader of the IMRO from 1911 to 1924 The Treaty of Berlin killed Peter Lazov. A Turkish soldier first gouged his eyes out, some say with a spoon, others insist it was a knife. As the scream-imbued blood trickled down his face, the Turk cut both his ears and the entirety of his nose with his sword. Thus maimed and in debilitating agony, he was left to die for a few days. When he failed to do so, the Turks disembowelled him to death and decapitated the writhing rump. The Ottomans granted independence to Bulgaria in the 1878 Treaty of San Stefano unwillingly, following a terminal defeat at the hands of a wrathful Russian army. The newly re-invented nation incorporated a huge swathe of Macedonia, not including Thessaloniki and the Chalcidice Peninsula. Another treaty followed, in Berlin, restoring the "balance" by returning Macedonia to Turkish rule.
Turkey obligingly accepted a "one country, two systems" approach by agreeing to a Christian administration of the region and by permitting education in foreign languages, by foreign powers in foreign-run and owned schools. Then they set about a typical infandous Ottoman orgy of shredded entrails, gang raped corpses of young girls and maiming and decapitation. The horrors this time transcended anything before. In Ohrid, they buried people in pigsty mud for "not paying taxes". Joined by Turks who escaped the advancing Russian armies in North Bulgaria and by Bosnian Moslems, who fled the pincer movement of the forces of Austro-Hungary, they embarked on the faithful recreation of a Bosch-like hell. Feeble attempts at resistance (really, self defence) - such as the one organized by Natanail, the Bishop of Ohrid - ended in the ever escalating ferocity of the occupiers. A collaboration emerged between the Church and the less than holy members of society. Natanail himself provided "Chetis" (guerilla bands) with weapons and supplies. In October 1878, an uprising took place in Kresna. It was duly suppressed by the Turks, though with some difficulty. It was not the first one, having been preceded by the Razlovci uprising in 1876. But it was more well organized and explicit in its goals. But no one - with the exception of the Turks - was content with the situation and even they were paranoid and anxious. The flip-flop policies of the Great Powers turned Macedonia into the focus of shattered national aspirations grounded in some historical precedent of at least three nations: the Greeks, the Bulgarians, and the Serbs. Each invoked ethnicity and history and all conjured up the apparition of the defunct Treaty of San Stefano. Serbia colluded with the Habsburgs: Bosnia to the latter in return for a free hand in Macedonia to the former.
The wily Austro-Hungarians regarded the Serbs as cannon fodder in the attrition war against the Russians and the Turks. In 1885, Bulgaria was at last united - north and formerly Turk-occupied south - under the Kremlin's pressure. The Turks switched sides and allied with the Serbs against the spectre of a Great Bulgaria. Again, the battleground was Macedonia and its Bulgarian-leaning (and to many, pure Bulgarian) inhabitants. Further confusion awaited. In 1897, following the Crete uprising against the Ottoman rule and in favour of Greek enosis (unification), Turkey (to prevent Bulgaria from joining its Greek enemy) encouraged King Ferdinand to help the Serbs fight the Greeks. Thus, the Balkanian kaleidoscope of loyalties, alliances and everlasting friendship was tilted more savagely than ever before by the paranoia and the whims of nationalism gone berserk. In this world of self reflecting looking glasses, in this bedlam of geopolitics, in this seamless and fluid universe, devoid of any certainty but the certainty of void, an anomie inside an abnormality - a Macedonian self identity, tentative and merely cultural at first, began to emerge. Voivode Gorgija Pulevski published a poem "Macedonian Fairy" in 1878. The Young Macedonian Literary Society was established in 1891 and started publishing "Loza", its journal a year thereafter. Krste Misirkov, Dimitrija Cupovski, the Vardar Society and the Macedonian Club in Belgrade founded the Macedonian Scholarly-Literary Society in 1902 (in Russia). Their "Macedonian National Program" demanded a recognition of a Macedonian nation with its own language and culture. They stopped short of insisting on an independent state, settling instead for an autonomy and an independent church. Misirkov went on to publish his seminal work, "On Macedonian Matters" in 1903 in Sofia.
It was a scathing critique of the numbing and off-handed mind games Macedonia was subjected to by the Big Powers. Misirkov believed in culture as an identity preserving force. And the purveyors and conveyors of culture were the teachers. "So the teacher in Yugoslavia is often a hero and fanatic as well as a servant of the mind; but as they walked along the Belgrade streets it could easily be seen that none of them had quite enough to eat or warm enough clothing or handsome lodgings or all the books they needed" - wrote Dame Rebecca West in her eternal "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon" in 1940. Goce Delcev (Gotse Deltchev) was a teacher. He was born in 1872 in Kukush (the Bulgarian name of the town), north of Thessaloniki (Salonica, Solun, Saloniki). There is no doubt about his cultural background (as opposed to his convictions later in life) - it was Bulgarian to the core. He studied at a Bulgarian gymnasium in Saloniki. He furthered his education at a military academy in Sofia. He was a schoolteacher and a guerilla fighter and in both capacities he operated in the areas that are today NorthCentral Greece, Southwestern Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia. He felt equally comfortable in all three regions. He was shot to death by the Turks in Banitsa, then a Bulgarian village, today, a Greek one. It was in a spring day in May 1903. The death of this sad but steely eyed, heavily moustached youth was sufficient to ignite the Illinden uprising three months later. It erupted on the feast of Saint Illiya (Sveti Ilija). Peasants sold their sacrificial bulls - the fruits of months of labour - and bought guns with the proceeds.
It started rather innocuously in the hotbed of ethnic unrest, Western Macedonia - telegraph wires were cut, some tax registers incinerated. The IMRO collaborated in this with the pro-Bulgarian organization Vzhovits. In Krusevo (Krushevo) a republic was proclaimed, replete with "Rules of the Macedonian Uprising Committee" (aka the "Constitution of the Uprising"). This document dealt with the liberation of Macedonia and the establishment of a Macedonian State. A special chapter was dedicated to foreign affairs and neighbourly relationships. It was all heart-achingly naive and it lasted 10 bloody days. Crushed by 2000 trained soldiers and horse bound artillery, the outnumbered 1200 rebels surrendered. Forty of them kissed each other goodbye and blew their brains out. The usual raping and blood thick massacres ensued. According to Turkish records, these illplanned and irresponsible moments of glory and freedom cost the lives of 4,694 civilians, 994 "terrorists". The rape of 3,000 women was not documented. In Northwestern Macedonia, an adolescent girl was raped by 50 soldiers and murdered afterwards. In another village, they cut a girl's arm to secure her bracelets. The more one is exposed to these atrocities, the more one is prone to subscribe to the view that the Ottoman Empire - its halting and half hearted efforts at reform notwithstanding - was the single most important agent of retardation and putrid stagnation in its colonies, a stifling influence of traumatic proportions, the cause of mass mental sickness amongst its subjects. As is usually the case in the bloodied geopolitical sandbox known as the Balkans, an international peacekeeping force intervened. Yet it was - again, habitually - too late, too little.
What made Delcev, rather his death, the trigger of such an outpouring of emotions was the IMRO (VMRO in Macedonian and in Bulgarian). The Illinden uprising was the funeral of a man who was a hope. It was the ululating grieving of a collective deprived of vengeance or recourse. It was a spasmodic breath taken in the most suffocating of environments. This is not to say that IMRO was monolithic or that Delcev was an Apostle (as some of his hagiographers would have him). It was not and he was far from it. But he and his two comrades, Jane (Yane) Sandanski and Damyan (Dame) Gruev had a vision. They had a dream. The IMRO is the story of a dream turned nightmare, of the absolute corruption of absolute power and of the dangers of inviting the fox to fight the wolf. The original "Macedonian Revolutionary Organization" (MRO) was established in Sofia. The distinction between being a Macedonian and being a Macedonian-Bulgarian was not sharp, to use a polite understatement. The Bulgarians "proper" regarded the Macedonians as second class, primitive and uncultured Bulgarian relatives who inhabit a part of Bulgaria to the east. The Macedonians themselves were divided. Some wished to be incorporated in Bulgaria, the civilized and advanced society and culture. Others wanted an independent state - though they, too, believed that the salvation of such an entity - both demographic and financial - lies abroad, with the diaspora and benevolent foreign powers. A third group (and Delcev was, for a time, among them) wanted a federation of all states Balkan with an equal standing for a Macedonian polity (autonomy).
The original MRO opted for the Bulgarian option and restricted its aims to the liberation and immediate annexation of what they solemnly considered to be a Turkish-occupied Bulgarian territory. To distinguish themselves from this MRO, the 6 founders of the Macedonian version - all members of the intelligentsia added the word "Internal" to their name. Thus, they became, in November 1893, IMRO. A measure of the disputatiousness of all matters Balkanian can be found in the widely and wildly differing versions about the circumstances of the establishment of IMRO. Some say it was established in Thessaloniki (this is the official version, thus supporting its "Macedonian"ness). Others - like Robert Kaplan - say it was in Stip (Shtip) and the Encyclopaedia Britannica claims it was in ... Resen (Resana). Let it be clear: this author harbours no sympathy towards the Ottoman Empire. The IMRO was fighting for lofty ideals (Balkanian federation) and worthy goals (liberation from asphyxiating Turkish rule). But to many outside observers (with the exception of journalists like John Sonixen or John smith), the IMRO was indistinguishable in its methods of operation from the general landscape of mayhem, crime, disintegration of the social fabric, collapse of authority, social anomie, terror and banditry. From Steven Sowards' "Twenty Five Lectures on Modern Balkan History, The Balkans in an Age of Nationalism", 1996 available HERE: http://www.lib.msu.edu/sowards/balkan/lect11.htm