The Ottoman Empire towards the end of XIX and the beginning of XX century was showing signs of serious decay. The capital of the great imperialistic powers had got the advantage of more dominant situation in the economy of European Turkey. This contributed the dependence of Turkey on the great powers to reach a higher extent and to worsen the situation in the Empire. The Macedonian liberation movement also represented a serious difficulty in the insecure foundations of the Ottoman Empire.
The Ilinden Uprising, with no doubt, represents an event of enormous significance for the more recent history of the Macedonian people, the most important act of the national liberation struggle from the end of XIX and the beginning of this century. It had a great impact on the Balkan and European public.
The vivid interest in Macedonia, about the uprising, about the Republic of Krusevo and the tortured Macedonian people did not stop even after the formal crash of the Uprising. The revolutionary actions and resistance in some regions of Macedonia went on during 1904, too. On the other side, the Turkish authorities were becoming more and more violent undertaking various methods of torture over the unprotected innocent population.
In order to improve the situation in Macedonia, some of the great powers took measures of making some reforms. Most interested in bringing reforms were Austro-Hungary and Russia. That is why their attempts for suitable reforms for Macedonia were expected with interest by the progressive world public, and by the Macedonians, too.
Due to the interest of the great powers, the Balkan and the European public in this part of European Turkey, after the uprising many civil agents, correspondents of more European newspapers, consuls, officers and instructors in the Turkish Army and Gendarmerie used to stay in Macedonia. They were sending their reports to the newspapers or governments regarding the situation in Macedonia after the Ilinden Uprising.
The author of these reports which are the subject of our interest is Karl Ingvar Nandrup,1 who wrote seven reports during his stay in Macedonia, from the beginning of 1903 to December 30, 1904. In fact, this Norwegian officer had been sent to Macedonia under sponsorship of Sweden and Norway, being a union at that time, to work as an inspector in the Turkish Gendarmerie, as a result of the "Padar's Reforms" of February 1903.
The author of this contribution has succeeded in finding two of Nandrup's reports, one from May 16, and the other from December 30, 1904.2 The reports were regularly sent to His Majesty Oscar II, king of the Norwegian-Swedish union. The reports were written in Norwegian.3 Both reports were sent from Skopje.
Nandrup writes that there were twelve massacres and devastations in the region during his one year long stay in Skopje.4 Whenever it happened, the Turkish authorities immediately informed Nandrup, who was supposed to inspect the terrain and see in situ the real situation.
The main commander in chief for the gendarmerie in Macedonia,5 the Italian general De Georgess had a task to make a reorganization of the gendarmerie. Here, a great role was also played by the great powers. Nandrup had a possibility of meeting with De Georgess, when he visited Skopje for an inspection in the Vilayet. The Turks had, says Nandrup, unlimited confidence in him and they considered him "a very close friend" of them. De Georgess expressed his satisfaction with captain Nandrup's work as Turkish Gendarmerie officer.
The first report is much smaller than the second one and it gives less information about the situation in Macedonia and the engagement of Nandrup for solving the problems in Macedonia as well as to help in bringing reforms in Macedonia.
The second reports entitled "Note by the hand of an archivist" in fact represents the last summary report that Nandrup had submitted to Oscar II from his stay in Macedonia. At the beginning of the report Nandrup gives a description of the great power's policy, and especially the policy of Austro-Hungary, together with their plans for the state of Macedonia and the rest of the Turkish territories.
Also, the European press published a report from the civil agents, in which the situation and the progress of the Reforms were depicted as altogether satisfying. This report was evidently written in order to calm down the public sentiment in Europe, which might have been agitated by the daily tales of murder and cruelty in the journals. It depicts how the civil agents have been given the opportunity of intervening in the Turkish administration and exercise considerable control. It says that there have been essential amendments in the administration, in the execution of law and the collection of taxes, and that the reorganization of the gendarme corps makes continuous progress. This, in combination with the presence of the European officers, reads the report, has everywhere given people a feeling of increased security and has very much improved the situation. Further on, at the beginning of the report is said that the Reforms still meet with difficulties.
Giving a description of the desperate situation in Macedonia, the solution of the Macedonian question and the realization of the Murzsteg program Karl Ingvar Nandrup underlines: "I am sorry to say that we who are in close touch with the events are unable to see the slightest sign of an amelioration;
on the contrary, I must assert that the actual state is worse than it has been. In my opinion, the report of the civil agents aims to deceive Europe and cover the deplorable failure of the Murzsteg program and the pitiable comedy played by the Powers on the Balkan Peninsula."
Further on an example of the looseness of the report is given. It is said that most of the fugitives have returned, and that the burned villages have been rebuilt. In 1903, according to statistical specifications, 198 Christian villages were destroyed, 12,241 houses burnt, 70,000 people were driven out of their homes, 30,000 fled, and 1500 were thrown into prison. Only 6,000, or 20%, are thought to have returned, but they are in lack of food and homes. The money allowed by the Turkish Government has barely been sufficient to feed the famine-stricken during the winter. It has not been enough for rebuilding their houses. But, in reality, nothing has changed. Robbers rambled over the country, there were murders and assaults even during the day, against which the Turkish authorities were doing nothing. The situation of the justice went on as bad as is could be, and the peasants were suffering under an unfair system of taxation. Those who were in position to see those things close said that the civil agents were placed in a helpless and awkward situation.
Nandrup underlines that the civil agents mention three things which impede the Reforms: the resistance of the Turkish authorities, the poor economy, and the revolutionary propaganda and the hostilities between the Christian groups.6
Among the questions induced in the report are the finances. The financial state was worse than ever, although the military forces were reduced to a small part of what they used to be. Reasonable calculations, according to Nandrup, tell that the budget of the three provinces ought to have given a surplus of at least 15 million francs a year. The officers in the army and the public functionaries did not receive their salaries regularly. All these things make Nandrup doubt that the Powers can expect the things could go better.
Also, the state of the public security at that time was worse than it was before Nandrup's arrival.
Nandrup has also described the Bulgarian and Greek propaganda at that time in Macedonia. According to him there were several causes of the deplorable fight amongst the Christians in Macedonia. First, the Bulgarian committees were trying to bulgarize the country, and they were doing it at any cost. In addition, the attitude of the Slavic population7 towards the Greek has for long time been rather inflamed, and not without reason. The Greeks were making attempts to "hellenize" Macedonia. When this effort came to nothing, the Greeks completely subjected themselves to the Turks and offered to help them against their Christian brothers. This caused a great deal of distrustfulness among both Christians and Turks.
Taking into consideration the desperate situation in Macedonia, Karl Ingvar Nandrup was convinced that it was not only the politicians that acted weakly. He noticed the lack of energy with the officers, whom the Powers have delegated to the posts in order to lead the reorganization of the gendarme corps.
There are a lot of other events depicted by Nandrup occurring in Macedonia immediately after the Ilinden Uprising. This is quite understandable as the Swedish and Norwegian United Kingdom had not got any plans for its presence on this Balkan space, where, during those hard times for the Macedonians, the interests of the great powers, Turkey, as well as the neighboring Balkan states intercrossed. He succeeded in informing the public in Sweden and Norway about those hard times from the history of this small country where the Sultan tyranny was trying to brake the nerves of the already awoken Macedonian being.
So, at the end of the summary report once again he will be very sorry he could not help innocent people from this distant country: "When you have abandoned a position in your own country, hoping to be able to use your capacity in helping a suffering people, and you see yourself reduced to playing the part of a fool in a pitiable comedy, then you cannot feel at ease, and I am longing for the day when I can return home".
1 Norwegian captain in service of the Turkish Gendarmerie.
2 The report of December 30, 1904 in fact represents a summary report of his stay in Macedonia.
3 The manuscripts have been translated into English by Prof. Dr Orjan Lindberger, the Learned Secretary of The Swedish Royal Academy of History, Literature, Language and Antiquities from Stockholm.
He stayed in Skopje from Christmas 1903 to Christmas 1904.
5 He was very popular with the Turkish authorities. The Reforms in Macedonia did not come true.
6 Here the author has the Macedonians in mind.