Young Turks, Makedonomachoi and Comitadjis

The successful Turkish military coup of 1908, which implemented the 1876 Constitution, is known to us as the Young Turk Revolution. It epitomised a new generation of Turkish modernisers. European-educated and anti-authoritarian, who had united their powers in the Committee for Union and Progress. The activities of the Young Turks were not unknown in Macedonia.

Their rise changed everything. One section of the Christian population, hoping for change, believed their pronouncements of equality and fraternity, although not yet aware of the ethnic dimension of the movement. Despite their misgivings, the diplomatic authorities and the Committees, Greek and Bulgarian, had to suspend their military actions and attempt to exploit the new freedoms for their own benefit.

By the end of July 1908, on the encouragement of the Greek consular authorities 26 bands of andartes, led not by army officers but by chieftains, had appeared in various towns. The Bulgarians and the Serbs did the same. Along with the andartes, army deserters of all origins mainly Albanian, were amnestied.

When they made their appearance, the bands were received by the civilians of the towns and villages in a way never before seen. The many photographs of the Turks and Greeks, of brigands and maltreaters, in brotherly poses were made into postcards and multiplied, further publishing the social achievement of the Young Turks. The tragic irony is that it is from the enthusiasm and these great expectations that the harsh nationalist policies of the Turkish state arose, making the relationships between the Turkish and the Balkan states explosive, finally leading to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.