Ottomans Put Down Revolt in Bulgaria, Massacre Civilians

The Bulgarians began an uprising against the Ottomans. The Ottomans responded by sending in a large force that brutally put down the revolt. They made little distinction between rebels and civilians, killing a large number of civilians..

Under the terms of the Congress of Berlin o 1878, large parts of Bulgaria remained under the Ottoman Empire. On August 2, 1903, in Macedonia and Thrace, Bulgarians began a revolt against the Ottomans demanding independence. The revolution became known as the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising. The rebellion soon covered most of Bulgaria and Macedonia that was under Ottoman rule. Initially, the rebels were victorious. However, the Ottomans sent in 200,00 troops from their regular army. The estimated 25,000 rebels were no match for 300,000 soldiers that the ottomans brought to suppress the revolt.

Those troops did not particularly differentiate between rebels and civilians. There were extensive spread reports of massacres of civilians taking place.

The Times of London published the following account of the village of Smilievo in Macedonia:

The villages suddenly found themselves surrounded, and all who tried to break the cordon were killed. The survivors were brought down to the village to watch it being looted and burnt. When only three houses remained standing, all the women were collected together and order to enter them, but thinking they were going to be burnt alive, most began to run, and in the stampede, many were killed.

As this junction, Turkish Bey from a neighboring village appeared with his followers and seemed to have taken pity, for after some parlaying about 60 of the women and 35 children were marched off by him to his own village and there fed. The next morning they were allowed to go to Monastir. On the following day, many more refugees appeared about 200 families all together. Very many are, however, known to have been killed and more are missing. Every family has its own story to tell of murder, mutilation, and outrage, and tells it in such a way to defy misbelief.

As the story spread, there were mass meetings, in Britain, France, and the United States denouncing the Ottoman actions. Some of the cries included stopping the Muslims from killing Christians. The Western countries felt that it was up to Austria and Russia who bordered the area and had more influence to intervene. The foreign minister of the Austrian Empire and Russia met and jointly decided to press the Ottomans.

On October 24, 1903, Austria and Russia sent a set of demands known as the Murzset Progamme. It demanded that the Ottomans institute reforms in Macedonia, changes that would be supervised by the Great Powers. After a series of diplomatic exchanges between Austrian and the Ottomans, the Austrians issued a blunt warning- Turkey(The Ottomans) “must change if the wished to live.” The warning went on to say that if the Turks did not implement the reforms, the Austrian would do it. The Turks folded and asked that an Italian be appointed to reform the Macedonian police as a first step.