President Stevo Pendarovski, today on the occasion of 2 August, Ilinden – Republic Day, was the patron of the celebration of the state holiday in Pelince.
President Pendarovski laid flowers in front of the Memorial Centre of ASNOM in Pelince, delivered addressing remarks and visited the memorial chamber within the Memorial Centre.
The Military Orchestra of the Army of the Republic of North Macedonia performed as part of the programme.
Below is the full text of President Pendarovski’s speech.
Dear fellow citizens,
Today, on the day of Ilinden, not far from here, at the monastery of St. Prohor Pcinski, we will pay our respects by laying flowers before the memorial plaque commemorating the historic first state-creation session of ASNOM.
Historical records bear witness to the solemnly adorned monastery chamber, with portraits of Tito, Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Goce Delchev, that were displayed in the presence of numerous delegates. One powerful slogan prominently displayed in the hall proclaimed: “Glory to Goce Delchev, the champion of the Macedonian People’s Liberation Struggle.” During the session’s inauguration, the venerable Ilinden figure Panko Brashnarov, in his speech, solely mentioned one person—Goce Delchev. The ASNOM Manifesto addressed the Macedonian people and spoke of a struggle “imbued with the spirit of Delchev,” concluding with a resolute call: “Raise the flag of Goce Delchev even higher! Prepare yourselves for the final blows of the fascist occupier! Prepare yourselves for the liberation of Macedonia!”
Despite a brief life of just 31 years, and a revolutionary activity spanning less than a decade, he managed to ignite the people’s spirit with the belief that their liberation could be achieved solely through their own strength and a meticulously planned uprising. Delchev skillfully merged the two paramount aspirations of every new generation: political freedom and social justice.
Delchev’s legacy unequivocally belongs to the people who will honor his covenant—a liberated Macedonian state. Therefore, Delchev stood as a symbolic witness during the state-creating ASNOM, where delegates envisioned the liberated Macedonian state with his image ever-present before their eyes.
Three quarters majority of ASNOM’s delegates were under the age of 40. Nearly half of the delegates were under the age of 30. The average age of the attendees in the solemn monastery hall was precisely 31 years, mirroring the span of Delchev’s own life. At the onset of the National Liberation Fight in 1941, our national heroes had a mere average age of 21, Hence, veteran Brashnarov addressed the “young Macedonian army,” and the ASNOM Manifesto devoted an entire chapter to the youth, emphasizing that the struggle would give rise to a “more youthful future,” entrusting the young generation with the implementation of ASNOM’s decisions and the noble task of building a liberated Macedonia.
The link between youth and militancy was eloquently captured by the esteemed Macedonian poet, Aco Shopov, who, reflecting on his own experience of joining the NLS at the age of 20, said, “the struggle … was the sole chance to discover purpose in life, the only path to retain youthfulness, or rather to impart youthfulness to the young.”
Truly, fueled by their progressive republican and democratic ideals, it was the youth who served as the true driving force behind both Ilindens. Our national heroes, at the beginning of the NLS in 1941, had an average age of only 21. Indeed, driven by progressive republican and democratic ideals, the youth were the real drivers of both Ilindens. The young first rose up in the fight against fascism and became the most combative core of the People’s Liberation Army. Krste Misirkov, at the age of 29, published the study “On Macedonian Matters”. Kocho Racin wrote “White Dawns” at the age of 31. Young girls Rosa Plaveva and Nakie Bayram in 1908 organized the first demonstrations for women’s equality. The ASNOM itself was, above all, an assembly of the youth. In the true sense of the word, today we have a free Macedonian state thanks to the young anti-fascist generation.
Dear fellow citizens,
All this confirms that young people are crucial for any social transformation, from popular uprisings and revolutions, to policy making and implementation of reforms. In almost every endeavor in our country, from the struggle for human rights, through solidarity to the vulnerable, to environmental activism, young people are involved. But for their critical voice to lead to social change, young people must also be a critical mass in society. Today, young people are an endangered minority. The share of young people in the total population fell from 28% in 1970 to only 16% in 2021. Unfortunately, we have already reached the demographic projections of the United Nations for 2030.
At the current pace of emigration, there is a real danger that we will reach the critical demographic point of no return very soon. If we do not immediately stand in the way of this dangerous trend and it is not slowed down with dedicated policies and a concrete, in practice implemented strategy for youth, we are to expect a much worse future than the one we are currently anticipating.
We all know the reason for this exodus. Successful young people who go abroad first feel alienated in their own country. Since independence, instead of active partners in the transformation of society, young people have been marginalized and reduced to passive recipients of policies. Youth energy is often misused for narrowly partisan purposes and interests. It is no coincidence that every second young person does not believe that their vote in an election will bring real change. Fewer and fewer young people believe that they can advance their careers and contribute to the common good and the public interest with their personal efforts, because the party booklet, kinship ties or ethnicity are often more important than knowledge and quality.
This opens a wide door to corruption, and every corrupt transaction of money and power establishes double standards, nullifies equality before the law, destroys trust in institutions and, finally, renders the state worthless. As the biggest generator of injustice and inequality, corruption is one of the main reasons for the mass exodus of young people. Emigration is nothing more than the final protest of the younger generations.
Dear fellow citizens,
From ASNOM until today, the same truth is confirmed: it is difficult to reach a free state, but it is even more difficult to build and maintain a free and just society. While the former is the work of one generation, the latter becomes the responsibility of all succeeding generations. True freedom depends on the rule of law and social justice, on an order in which the rights of the one will not be at the expense of the rights of the other.
That is why we need European reforms. The fastest and safest way to fundamental reforms, without bureaucratic improvisation and partisan and business machinations, are the membership negotiations with the European Union. European integration is an indispensable catalyst for a profound transformation of every social sphere. Integration will help us build a functioning legal state with an independent and efficient judicial system as a prerequisite for economic growth and sustainable development. Negotiations will help us make corruption less socially acceptable, and replace a culture of impunity with a culture of responsibility and personal, moral integrity.
In doing so, it should be clear to us that a good alternative to European reforms does not exist! External obstacles must not be an alibi for slowing down reforms. On the contrary, we must mobilize every segment of society in the eradication of corruption, nepotism and crime. More importantly, it is the European reforms that will help us achieve our vital national interest, which is to motivate young people to stay in the country and to participate in the construction of a European Macedonia.
Therefore, without delay, we need to overcome differences, rally around the immediate start of negotiations, otherwise we will lose the vital part of society. What will our lives be reduced to without the beauty, idealism, spontaneity and energy of the young? How will social mobilization be achieved around important issues without the enthusiasm, courage and activism of young people? Who will speak out against social injustice? Who will drive the digital transformation? Who will take part in the “cultural competition between nations”?
Dear fellow citizens,
Delchev was right to oppose a hasty uprising that would lead to mass bloodshed. He advocated not only for the freedom of the Macedonian land, but also for the freedom of the Macedonian people, because he did not want a country without a people. If, because of a premature uprising, the young Ilinden generation was almost decimated, today, due to delayed European reforms, there is a danger that our young generation will leave.
Therefore, today, on the day of Ilinden, remembering the three Macedonian republics – the Krusevo republic of 1903, the ASNOM republic of 1944 and the independent republic of 1991, we should be aware that it is up to us whether the fourth Macedonian republic will be European or emigrant.
For centuries and centuries to celebrate, happy Ilinden to all Macedonians and Macedonian citizens!