On August 2, 1903, the St. Ilija’s Day Uprising — also known as Ilinden — was one of the most important revolts against the late Ottoman Empire. Today, we celebrate the first realization of a Macedonian Republic, and we remember the brave men of Ilinden, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
The Ottoman Empire ruled Macedonia for nearly five centuries. In the 1870s, the Macedonians started a series of armed revolts. A powerful national awakening occurred, and the cornerstone of that awakening was the dream of a free, independent, sovereign Macedonia.
Goce Delcev was a schoolteacher and intellectual, born in Kukush, Aegean Macedonia (today’s Kilkis, northern Greece). He helped to organize the original Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, or IMRO, and is widely accepted as the father of the Republic of Macedonia. Today, he remains a powerful symbol of the Macedonian people’s dedication to freedom, independence, and equality.
Severely outnumbered, the Ilinden revolutionaries managed to defeat the Ottoman forces, and formed the first democratic republic in the history of the Balkans, in Krusevo, Macedonia. However, the victory was short-lived, and the Krusevo Republic would eventually fall.
Only 10 years later, however, with the blessing of the Great Powers, the newly-formed kingdoms of Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia would each take a piece of Macedonian territory in 1913. The word “Macedonia” was literally erased from many maps, and the darkest period in Macedonia’s history began.
The heroic struggle of Ilinden in 1903 would later inspire a second “Ilinden” of ASNOM in World War II, in 1944, and the word “Macedonia” reappeared on the world’s maps. However, ultimately, it would still take 88 years after Ilinden for a fully independent Republic of Macedonia to finally be reborn, on September 8, 1991. On that day, the dream of Macedonian independence was finally attained; a dream that Delcev and the Ilinden revolutionaries died for.
It is now 2012, but the Macedonian Struggle continues. Even today, more than 20 years after independence, there are still hundreds of thousands of Macedonians in Albania, Bulgaria, and Greece who live under state-sponsored oppression, discrimination and assimilation policies.
That is why, every year, on August 2nd, the Macedonians gather together with friends and family on St. Ilija’s Day, to commemorate the anniversary of the Ilinden Uprising, to remember the heroes who died for our homeland, and to keep the fight for human rights and equality alive, for all Macedonians, no matter where they live.
UMD calls upon all Macedonians around the world to never forget the ideals of Ilinden: freedom, independence, and equality. Ilinden teaches us to never surrender, to never give up, and to continue the fight for the rights of our people. Long live Macedonia!
Donate to support UMD’s important work for Macedonia and Macedonian issues by clicking HERE. (Canadians should click http://www.canadahelps.org and search “United Macedonian Diaspora” to donate) – All donations from Canadian and U.S. donors are tax-deductible.