National Liberation War of Macedonia - 1943 - Formation of The People's Liberation Army of Macedonia

Formation of The People's Liberation Army of Macedonia

The creation of larger Macedonian military units started immediately after the Prespa conference. The first one to be created was the Mirče Acev Battalion, which was formed on 18 August 1943 on Mount Slavej. On 24 September 1943 on Mount Kožuf the battalion Straso Pindzur was formed, on 30 September the Debar Youth battalion, on 11 November near Bitola the Stiv Naumov battalion, and on 1 December the Kumanovo battalion Orce Nikolov.

On 8 September Italy capitulated. Italian garrisons disarmed by the MNOV included those in Gostivar, Debar, Kicevo and Ljubojno. Some were attacked by units of the MNOV while they were trying to reach the Albanian border and flee Macedonia. The arms and ammunition that were captured gave the opportunity to create new battalions and even brigades. After the disarming of the Italians, a vast territory was liberated which stretched from Gostivar to the north of Struga and Ohrid. The freed territory included the towns Debar and Kicevo.

In the freed territories a provisional people's authority was established, led by the National Liberation Committees. Meetings were being held everywhere propagating the causes of the National Liberation Struggle and the right of Macedonians and other nationalities to self-determination. The first schools in which the Macedonian language was taught were created in this free territory in 1943. The whole population, both male and female, was included in the struggle – the men were mobilized in militias and were given short military training and the women were organized in the AFZ (Anti-fascist Front of the Women). In October 1943 the HQ of the People's Liberation Army of Macedonia issued a manifesto to the Macedonian people and all other nationalities in Macedonia (as stated in the manifesto: Aromanians, Albanians and Turks) to join the fight of the Macedonian National Liberation Army to win freedom and create a free Socialist Republic of Macedonia. The manifesto also called for struggle against the reactionary Serbian, Albanian and Bulgarian elements (Chetniks, Balli Kombëtar and IMRO agents).

During the Summer of 1943, meetings were held between representatives of the National Liberation Front (Greece) and the Albanian resistance. Svetozar Vukmanović-Tempo put forward the idea of a joint Balkan Headquarters to exercise supreme control over the partisan movements in Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Greece. Tempo asked for recognition of the ethnic Macedonian people's right to self-determination, as well as permission for the partisans from Vardar Macedonia to extend their activity among the Slavic-speaking population in Greek Macedonia. As a result the Slavic-Macedonian National Liberation Front (SNOF) was established in 1943 in Greek Macedonia by ethnic Macedonian communists, members of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).

On 11 November 1943 in the village of Slivovo the First Macedonian-Kosovo Brigade was formed out of three Macedonian battalions and one battalion from fascist Italian occupied Kosovo. Regions controlled by the partisans now included Debarca, Mavrovo, and Rostuša, within Italy's occupied territory.

Immediately after the establishment of the free territory in western Vardar Macedonia, the German command made an incursion into the areas held by the provisional authority. The problem for the Germans was the fact that the free territory was cutting off communications between Skopje and northeastern Greece. After assembling two divisions and artillery units, the Macedonian forces started operations to re-capture the territory. The struggle lasted more than two months, with the most important battles being at Buković, Debarca, Kicevo and Slivovo. The town of Kicevo was recaptured by the Germans in the beginning of November, but three days later it once again fell to Macedonian partisan hands, to be later re-captured for the second time by the German troops.

The High Command of the People's Liberation Army of Macedonia together with the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Macedonia decided to take evasive maneuvers in order to avoid total destruction of the Macedonian forces because of the overwhelming number of enemy troops engaged. Only few small units were left behind. After more than two months of constant battles, in December 1943 the Macedonian MNOV together with the CC of the CPM started a massive retreat through Prespa and after a 13 day march entered Greek Macedonia.

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