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Loyal Unto Death

Trust and Terror in Revolutionary Macedonia

Keith Brown

Publication Year: 2013

The underground Macedonian Revolutionary Organization recruited and mobilized over 20,000 supporters to take up arms against the Ottoman Empire between 1893 and 1903. Challenging conventional wisdom about the role of ethnic and national identity in Balkan history, Keith Brown focuses on social and cultural mechanisms of loyalty to describe the circuits of trust and terror—webs of secret communications and bonds of solidarity—that linked migrant workers, remote villagers, and their leaders in common cause. Loyalties were covertly created and maintained through acts of oath-taking, record-keeping, arms-trading, and in the use and management of deadly violence.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: New Anthropologies of Europe


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

This book is based on the Evans-Pritchard lectures I delivered at All Souls College, Oxford, in fall 2004, with the title “The Structure of Loyalty in Revolutionary Macedonia.” I owe that opportunity, at least in part, to the two mentors who wrote my letters of recommendation: the late Peter Loizos, to whom this book is dedicated, and Jane Cowan. ...

Note on Transliteration and Pronunciation

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pp. xv-xvi

Note on Sources

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pp. xvii-xviii

Chronology of Key Orienting Dates

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pp. xix-xx

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Introduction: The Archival Imagination at Work

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pp. 1-13

The body count just kept climbing. On New Year’s Eve 1902, the British consulgeneral in Salonika, the largest city in Ottoman Turkey’s restive European provinces, filed his latest update on violence in the troubled region around the region’s second city, Monastir. Forty-three people were reported killed in the six-month period from April to October 1902—one every four days. ...

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1. Terminal Loyalties and Unruly Archives: On Thinking Past the Nation

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pp. 14-40

“Why not Macedonia for Macedonians, as well as Bulgaria for Bulgarians and Servia for Servians?” (Gladstone 1897). This simple-seeming question, first posed by a former British prime minister with considerable knowledge of the Balkans, still remains controversial today. ...

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2. The Horizons of the "Peasant": Circuits of Labor and Insurgency

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pp. 41-69

In the mid-nineteenth century, Karl Marx famously explained the inaction of France’s peasants to act in their own interests by referring to the nation as “formed by simple addition of homologous magnitudes, much as potatoes in a sack form a sack of potatoes” (Marx 1963: 124). ...

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3. The Oath and the Curse: Subversions of Christianity

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pp. 70-97

Between 1893 and 1903, the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization grew from a committee of six young men dedicated to an autonomous Macedonia to a virtual state within a state that mobilized and armed twenty thousand supporters in an anti-imperial uprising. In that process, traditions and practices of short- and longer-range mobility were one vector by which the organization’s network grew. ...

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4. The Archive and the Account Book: Inscriptions of Terror

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pp. 98-118

Whether simply borrowed from neighboring anti-Ottoman movements, inherited from revolutionary precedents, or developed organically along with other institutions typical of secret societies, the MRO oath expressed powerful sentiments and constituted a community. ...

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5. The Četa and the Jatak: Inversions of Tradition, Conversions of Capital

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pp. 119-143

Between 1893 and 1903, the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization introduced a new lexicon of loyalty, obedience, and terror into Macedonia through a set of interlocking practices and categories of commitment. The oath created a sense of horizontal comradeship among those who took the same oath, knowing that others had taken it before and others would take it later. ...

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6. Guns for Sale: Feud, Trade, and Solidarity in the Arming of the MRO

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pp. 144-169

In the first two decades of its existence, the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization posed challenges to both the irredentist nationalism of Bulgaria and the status quo of Christian subjection to the Ottoman state, in which the Greek Orthodox Church served as willing handmaiden. ...

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Conclusion: The Archival Imagination and the Teleo-Logic of Nation

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pp. 170-184

This book is conceived as an attempt, through the practice of historical ethnography, to respond to the challenge set by Herbert Butterfield’s epigraph. It represents the product of an extended attempt to interpolate and imagine—in the spirit expressed by Butterfield’s contemporary R. G. Collingwood—the world of Ottoman Europe at the start of the twentieth century (Collingwood 1946: 240–46). ...

Appendix 1. Documents of the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization

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pp. 185-188

Appendix 2. Biographies from the Ilinden Dossier

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pp. 189-216


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pp. 217-220


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pp. 221-232


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pp. 233-254


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pp. 255-258

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About the Author

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pp. 282-282

Keith Brown is Professor (Research) at Brown University’s Watson Institute. He is author of The Past in Question: Modern Macedonia and the Uncertainties of Nation and editor of Transacting Transition: The Micropolitics of Democracy Assistance in the Former Yugoslavia.

E-ISBN-13: 9780253008473
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253008350

Page Count: 282
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: New Anthropologies of Europe
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OCLC Number: 840267123
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Loyal Unto Death

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Macedonia -- History -- 1878-1912.
  • Macedonia -- History -- Autonomy and independence movements.
  • Vnatrešna makedonska revolucionerna organizacija -- History.
  • Revolutionaries -- Macedonia -- History.
  • Macedonia -- Politics and government -- 19th century.
  • Macedonia -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Nationalism -- Macedonia -- History.
  • Trust -- Political aspects -- Macedonia -- History.
  • Political violence -- Macedonia -- History.
  • Political culture -- Macedonia -- History.
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