Socio-economic structure in Vardar Macedonia (1941 – 1944)


Macedonian Review
, Issue 44/2 (2021). Siya Nikiforova. Building the socio-economic structure of the Bulgarian interim government in Vardar Macedonia (1941 – 1944)... 27 - 42

In mid-April 1941, in pursuit of Aufmarsch 25, hastily ordered by Adolf Hitler following the anti-German military coup in Belgrade in March of that year, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was destroyed by advancing German, Hungarian and Italian troops. In the newly created Skopje and Bitola districts2 included in the territorial-administrative structure of the Bulgarian Tsardom, Bulgarian military authorities were established, after which police bodies entered in a few days, followed by other administrative institutions. 

Bulgarian military and civilian representatives were welcomed in the area with joyful enthusiasm, because most people thought that this was the last step that would allow them to call themselves Bulgarians freely and feel that way in their homeland3. Indeed, in Vardar Macedonia, in terms of the demographic picture, the authorities did not have the big problem they faced in the Aegean, and could almost freely invest state resources in socio-economic terms more than in striving to restore the Bulgarian image of the region as in the regions of Xanthi, Gyumyurjin (Komotini) or Dedeagac (Alexandroupoli)4. 

At the very beginning, the local government in Vardar Macedonia found itself in the hands of the German military services and the Bulgarian action committees set up by the population immediately after the retreat of the Yugoslav authorities5. 

A special department at the Ministry of Interior and Public Health (MIPH) in Skopje launched a procedure to evict Serbian officials and gendarmes, as well as freelancers of Serbian origin. In order to take the post of Skopje regional director, the governor of the Burgas region Anton Kozarov was seconded, and in 1942 he was replaced by Dimitar Raev, until then also regional director in Old Bulgaria6. Bitola region was headed successively by five directors – Todor Pavlov, Hristo Gutsov, Anton Kozarov, Hristo Miladinov and Sotir Nanev. These were the people who for the next three years worked for the integration of a large part of Vardar Macedonia to the old territories of the country in a single wartime socio-economic structure. 

And until the war ended, almost everyone in Macedonia remained hoping that the temporary Bulgarian government would be replaced by a permanent one. Therefore, from then on, the government committed itself, especially financially, to filling the huge gaps left after the Serbian rule in 1913 – 1941. Systematic organizational and practical work began, sometimes hindered by the course of the war. The agricultural sector, which was central to Balkan society, was a priority. Agricultural services were constructed in the Skopje and Bitola Regional Agricultural Directorates, headed by Ferdinand Bachev and St. Pushkarov, сhief Inspectors at the Ministry of Agriculture and State Property (MASP)7 . 

The government headquarters stressed that “when sending officials to the new lands ... special emphasis should be placed on personal behaviour and the attitude of employees towards the population”8 . 

The Bulgarian rulers realized that the officials seconded to responsible positions must have sufficient class and professional prestige, but much more important at that time was the attitude towards ordinary citizens in the recaptured territories.In addition to the Regional Directorates, MASP organized 18 regions and district agronomies, 20 orchard and vineyard nurseries, a horse farm and cattle depot in Skopje, an experimental cattle station in Ovche Pole, agricultural schools in Kumanovo and Preshevo9 .

 After May 1941, heads of regional and district agronomies and 30 specialists began to arrive from the interior of the country10. Gradually, the seconded district agronomists were replaced by local ones, which marked a certain tendency in Vardar Macedonia for the state services to be headed by representatives of the local population. Macedonian Bulgarians headed nurseries, state farms, veterinary services, and the lower units in the hierarchy were occupied entirely by them11.

 In connection with the work on measuring properties and application of the consolidation, the Land Directorate in Skopje and the cadastre maintenance services in Bitola, Prilep, Ohrid and Strumica were opened. By order of Minister Slavcho Zagorov of June 7, 1941, 54 local geometers with secondary education were appointed12. After passing the necessary specialization in the interior of the country, they returned and put into practice the experience gained during their training course. In total, during the period BGN 29,934,673,094 were spent in the form of personal and material expenses for the staff of state institutions, of which 80% was paid to local citizens13. 

The Bulgarian government created preconditions for solving the problems related to agricultural production, sanitary-veterinary work and forestry. It planned the construction of experimental, research, production and control institutes, stations, laboratories, fields and agricultural plots. The Agricultural Research Institute in Skopje and the Tobacco Institute in Prilep, the Regional Veterinary and Bacteriological Institute for Parasitic Diseases and the Institute for Afforestation and Reinforcement Studies and Experiments in Skopje were opened. All institutes and stations drew funds to work from the state budget and funds from the Bulgarian Agricultural Cooperative Bank (BACB). In November 1941, the district agricultural director Esyu Bonev reported that the Directorate of Agriculture, Livestock and Agricultural Education had spent thousands of levs on advances to the district agronomists and nurseries in the Skopje region, for the Agricultural Institute and schools14...

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