Open main menu

Baroque Macedonia and the Macedonian Revolts/Chapter 2 : Early life of a rebellion leader

Chapter 2Edit

Early life of a rebellion leader


It was winter the month of December, 1685 the Wallachian countryside was covered with thick snow, Karposh was outside cutting firewood preparing for the cold winter months ahead. A snow leopard was howling in the distance, the time was approximately 6:00 pm the winter sun had already descended into the mountainous region of the town. Karposh was living in Wallachia and working as a miner. The mining industry was booming in Wallachia. Karposh would go to work with his neighbor and work at a Tin mine located 20 kilometres from the small town of Craiova. The tin mine was in the Oltenia region of Wallachia. Back in 1417 Wallachia accepted the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire, and by the early 1680's the Ottoman Empire increasingly relied heavily on Wallachia and Moldavia for the supply and maintenance of it's military equipment and a military force was established. The local Wallachian army however soon disappeared, due to the increased costs and the more efficient mercenary troops that replaced the local army had a better chance at maintaining order for a reduced salary. Karposh was born in the village of Vojnica Ottoman Macedonia, the village of Vojnica was part of the Caska Municipality, it was a very small village with a population of roughly 340 people, most of them of Macedonian origin but there were also Aromanian locals living in Vojnica.

At an early age Karposh's father was executed by the Ottoman authorities for planning a rebellion and providing the Macedonian revolutionary groups with ammunition and guns. The Ottoman authorities were always out on patrols looking for suspicious activities especially from the young Macedonian communities. What Karposh wanted to do later in life was to go back to Ottoman Macedonia and join a revolutionary army, one that was known to him. After gaining experience working as a mining labourer in Wallachia, Karposh began to feel like he wanted to do more with his life. Because of the repetitive work Karposh felt that it was time to change his whole life around.

Mining work was a very difficult occupation, most of the time Karposh spent many hours underground away from the fresh air and environment. Sometimes while digging the soil fell on Karposh's head and also in his eyes. His supervisor gave Karposh a helmet. After a day's work Karposh would sometimes go for a long walk on the grassy hills just a few metres from the cottage. This was to clear his head and to breathe some clean air. Karposh lived in a village one that was scattered miles away from any town. In order for Karposh to visit a doctor he would need to travel 20 kilometres to reach the closest town. While staying at the cottage in Wallachia, Karposh had to feed a number of cows, the cows were very stubborn and required a cattle dog to chase them so they do not wander off out of the fenced perimeter of his landlord's property. Some of the cows were white and some were brown, their fur and milk was important to their landlord. Karposh sometimes helped his landlord with the milking of the cows. Milking was a time-consuming activity and required to start at 5:00 am, early morning. Karposh was also required to help his landlord to gather the cows into the barn.

On December 1686, he moved back to Ottoman Macedonia and was happy with how much money he had saved while living in Wallachia. During Karposh's time in Ottoman Macedonia he witnessed a situation with the community in the town. The people of the town where Karposh lived drastically converted their religion, to follow the Ottoman Turkish religion of Islam. This, at the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century, led to mass conversions to Islam in the Tikvesh, Kichevo and Debar regions as well as in Razlog and Bregalnica.[1] The Macedonians always spoke a Slavic dialect regardless whether they were under Ottoman occupation, however some of them or most of them also knew Ottoman Turkish as their main language. Most Macedonians lived next to other Macedonians, it was very rare for a Macedonian family to be living in a city that was over populated with Turkish communities. Slavic-speakers of Ottoman Macedonia predominating in the rural parts of the country, laboured in Turkish chifliks in the plains or inhabited free mountainous villages and worked as itinerant specialized craftsmen. Macedonians were also seen working as merchant men or women having their own shops or stores. It was also common for Macedonians to work as farmers, many worked on apple, orange, grapes, or tobacco fields, some would also work as agronomists or greenhouse technicians.

Karposh had many reasons for going to Wallachia, one reason was to gain a steady income and to save money. The other reason was to live a stress free life away from Ottoman Macedonia. Karposh was back in Ottoman Macedonia now and decided to join a revolutionary group. In preparing for an uncertain future ahead he purchased a rifle and a sword and began training extensively. His combat skills had increased overnight and he would also visit certain schools in a number of towns and managed to organize the collecting of money. Which will later be used to purchase ammunition and guns. He decided that in order to start an uprising or a revolt, he would need the assistance of many men, an uprising was a very crucial and important situation one that required the right time, and the right people.

In the beginning it was very difficult to find men who were good with guns, all types of guns or even swords. Men that were not afraid of being injured or killed in the struggle for freedom. He managed to sign up at least 10 men from the town of Dospat which was very interesting to him. He later travelled to the town of Kratovo and signed up a total of 15 men. He was aware that in the Macedonian forests located in the north-eastern region there was a cottage where a man produced gunpowder, and ammunition. Karposh would visit this man and asked him if he could sell him ammunition at a reduced price, and the man agreed. Karposh continued to look for men within Ottoman Macedonia, and eventually signed up a total of 112 men, most of them being Macedonian, who were very young and able to shoot with 100% accuracy.

 
A Macedonian voivoda, wearing a black rounded hat.


The most vulnerable people during the Ottoman-Macedonian wars were the peasants, in order to prevent further torture and exploitation, they hid their grain and refused to plough their land or more appropriately their landlords farms. To protect their villages from the Ottoman bashi-bazouks they joined revolutionary groups. Bands of peasant deserters took to brigandage and some of them were offered commander roles or positions. Contemporaries and historians have often referred to some or all of these various forces as " voivoda or voivode ".

So with a total of 137 men Karposh had decided that now is the time to start an uprising. Most of the revolutionaries were very young and most of them were from Ottoman Macedonia. According to historical sources Karposh had signed up approximately 200 revolutionaries, most of them being from cities like : Uskub, Kumanovo, Kratovo, Kriva Palanka and so on. But there were also rebels from the region of Demir Hisar, from cities like : Monastir (Bitola), Ohrid, Resen, and so on. One evening Karposh was alone at his home in Vojnica and was thinking to himself, what is most necessary in starting an uprising and he thought that there are three things that are fundamentally necessary in starting a successful uprising and these were the following factors : 1) Money, 2) Men and 3) Courage. Of those three factors money was the most important one. Without money you could not buy any guns, ammunition, or gunpowder. Another less important factor was also horses, some of Karposh's men had no horses and this was very common among the young revolutionaries who did not own a horse or a donkey. Karposh was interested in forming cavalry units or groups as these types were very effective in circling or surrounding the enemies.

  1. Macedonians in the World, Author : Slave Katin, 2018 p.48