The Macedonian people yearned for their own national identity toward the end of the 19th and the early 20th and as a result of this desire for national autonomy the Macedonian national liberation movement emerged. This was a direct result of the political, national, economic and cultural oppression of the Macedonian people. The Turkish occupation had lasted for over 500 years leading to social, economic, administrative and legislative crisis in Macedonia, and by the interference of other foreign states in Macedonian affairs..
The Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (MRO), was formed and quickly became the established leader of the Macedonian national liberation and social revolution movement, struggling for national independence and social justice. Goce Delchev, was an extraordinary visionary and ideological leader who organized and mobilized the MRO. Delcev had a brief but brilliant career and was completely dedicated to the cause of Macedonian nationhood.
Goce Delchev, was born to Macedonian parents, Nikola and Sultana Delchevi on February 4th, 1872, in Kukush, a town 35 km north of Salonika. He completed his primary education in Kukush, expanded his education by completing his secondary education in Salonika, with emphasis on science, literature and social studies. Delchev furthered in education in the sciences at the Salonika Military Academy. He read widely on Macedonian national affairs whilst attending the Academy. He took an active role in politics, and joined political clubs in Salonika and Sofia, and had close contacts with others, especially with the socialist and the "Lozari" clubs in Sofia. Membership of these political organisations contributed to the formation of his revolutionary ideals.
Goce Delchev's membership in the MRO was the most significant change in the course of in the history of the Macedonian national liberation movement. While Delcev's involvement with the MRO was short, the years between 1894 and 1903 represent the efficient revolutionary sequence of the MRO, and was directly attributed to the influence of Delcev. They comprise of Delchev's public education career as a scholar in Novo Selo (near Shtip) and Bansko (1894-1896), and of his involvement with revolutionary ideals, making preparations and seeking support for the armed uprising from the Macedonian people.
After taking the oath of memebership of the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, a meeting of significant and historical importance took place in Stip, in November 1894, between Delchev and Dame Gruev, the founder of MRO. Gruev had already realised the major impact that Delcev had had upon the expansion of the MRO, and its organized network throughout Macedonia. Delchev believed that the liberation of Macedonia was an exclusively domestic affair, based on an internally organized uprising. Delchev's first venture into the interior of the Macedonian land was in April, 1895. He oversaw the establishment of local branches of the MRO. These branches were responsible for the spirit of freedom widely among the population of the country.
Delcev was able to recognize the influence of other Balkan monarchies, and in particular Bulgaria (which continues in part today) and their aspirations for the Macedonian state. The most aggressive of this Bulgarian propaganda, was a destructive fraction called "Vrhovism", became the target of Delcev's most fervent opposition. Delchev continued to attend district meetings all over Macedonia and put into place a revision of the revolutionary districts in Macedonia in 1895, by strengthening the weaker districts, by providing contacts for a reliable network, and by the appointing of strong district leadership of the MRO. Delcev continued his belief that any revolution could only be fought by Macedonian forces to protect Macedonia from falling under any foreign control of neighbouring Balkan states, in particular Bulgaria.
At the First Congress of MRO, in April of 1896, an revised restructure of the districts was introduced, and MRO was renamed TMORO (Secret Macedonian Odrin Revolutionary Organization), a new Constitution and Charter was adopted (which was drawn up by Goce Delchev and Gjorche Petrov), and an expatriate branch of TMORO was established in Sofia. Delcev and Petrov became the first representatives of the expatriate branch, and assumed total responsibilty in respect of material supplies, including weapons, ammunition, revolutionary literature, and other publications. Delchev's correspondence with the TMORO members covers extensive data on supplies, transport and storage of weapons and ammunition in Macedonia. Delchev beleived in the independent production of weapons, which resulted in the construction of a bomb manufacturing plant in the Osogovo Mountains.
The inclusion of the rural areas into the TMORO resulted in the expansion of the organization and the obvious increase in its membership, while setting the foundation for the military power of the organization. Goce Delchev was appointed as its military advisor. The clandestine character of the TMORO ended as a result of the Vinica Affair in November 1897, when domestic and world opinion was exposed to the TMORO's existence and extent. The unity of the TMORO was subject to the adverse infiltration of the Vrhovism fraction into the TMORO, followed by frequent subversions. These subversions led to the reorganized structure of some districts, and this was implemented by Delchev during 1900-1902.
When was the uprising in Macedonia to take place? Delchev and his followers believed that a premature uprising could fail and he regarding this as the ultimate crime a leader can inflict upon a nation and its history. On his way to the Congress in Ser (now in Greece), held at Lovchan Grove of Ali Botush, Delchev stopped at the village of Banica on the 4th of May 1903. Goce Delchev found himself betrayed and surrounded, and he was shot dead. His tragic death cancelled many of his visions that he had planned for that period of the Macedonian history. The death of Delchev made headline news in Turkey and Bulgaria. Delchev was only 31 when he died and was the most dynamic personality of the Macedonian revolutionary and national liberation movement.
Delcev will be remembered for his famous quote:"I understand the world solely as a field for cultural competition among nations".
Even though Delchev strongly resisted the premature uprising, its date of the uprising was determined at the Smilevo Congress. The uprising was to start on August 2, 1903, the orthodox Christian holiday of St. Elijah (Ilinden). This uprising would hence be known as the Iliden Uprising (Ilindensko Vostanie) and involved the entire Macedonian people, and the most intense actions took place in the liberation of Neveska, Klisura and Krushevo, where the Krushevo Republic was proclaimed by its president, Nikola Karev.
The Ilinden traditions re-emerged during the National Liberation War (NOV) in Macedonia. Their climax occurred at the Second Ilinden, when the First Assembly of ASNOM took place on August 2, 1944.
The remains of Goce Delchev were returned to Macedonia on the 10 October 1946 after an agreement was reached between the government of Macedonia and the Association of the Macedonian Fraternities in Bulgaria. The following day, they were solemnly embedded into a marble tomb in grounds of the Holy Saviour Church (Sv. Spas) in Skopje.
Goce Delchev's effort epitomises the character of the proud Macedonian nation. The Macedonian people consider Delcev a national hero, in admiration of his history-making personality, tenacity, and his unserving belief in Macedonian national autonomy. Delcev's aspirations for an autonomous state became reality in 1991 when Macedonia broke away from the Yugoslav Federation. It is interesting to note that the 1991 Macedonian break-away from the Yugoslav Federation was achieved without armed uprising or bloodshed. Other former Yugoslav Federation members have not fared so well, and have all endured some degree of armed conflict to achieve their independence.