The "Macedonian Question"

I. An expose' of the question and the position of Skopje

After the end of World War I, in 1918, the Yugoslav peoples were united into a single state named "Kingdom of Serbs, Croates and Slovenes" and in 1931 this name was changed to "Kingdom of Yugoslavia." It should be noted that the creation of this state, which had no ethnic honogeneity, and its later support was mainly the work of France and French foreign policy: France, by supporting the establishment of a powerful allied state that would uphold its policy in this sensitive area, initially intended to create a barrier against the expansion of Austria and later to ward off German influence and penetration6.

At the end of World War II, whithin the framework of the reoganization of the state of Yugoslavia into a Federal People's Republic, six people's republics were established (Jan. 31, 1946), renamed later to socialist republics: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia7.

In actual fact this division caused substantial damage to Serbia: while Slovenia and Croatia retained their unity, Serbia was devided into three socialist republics and in this way was considerably diminished8. It is most probable that this was Croatia's response to the leading position which Serbia had held in the past9, especially during the inter-war period10 - a position based on historical tradition and on the struggles of the Serbian people.

With the establishment of the autonomous republic of Macedonia, which covers 10.5 % of the total area of Yugoslavia and has a population of 2,000,000 today, the Yugoslav government had two objectives: a) The reinforcement of Southern Yugoslavia, to succeed in effectively removing any Bulgarian influence or aspiration for this region - because undoubtedly the Bulgarian presence in that area was quite strong and pro-Bulgarian tendencies were powerful11. b) The making of Macedonia as a whole - that is, not only the Yugoslav part of it - a connecting link in establishing a Federation of the Balkan peoples. The latter had also been the aim of the Bulgarians during the inter-war period. It is important to note that Hristo Tatarchev, President of the Central Committee of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), writes in his memoirs (Sophia, 1928): "We thought that later an autonomous Macedonia should be able to be joined more easily to Bulgaria, or, if this was unrealizable, it should be able to become the uniting link in a federation of Balkan Peoples"12. After World War II, Stalin tried to create a Federation of Balkan States and, by including Greece among them, to secure access to the Aegean Sea - a Federation over which the Soviet Union would have had complete control. Since Macedonia was the bone of contention and the cause of friction between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, he tried (through the Stalin-Tito-Dimitrov plan) to use Macedonia as a connecting link by detaching it from both countries which claimed it. But after the split between Tito and the Soviet Union (1948), the Yugoslav leader adopted the plan of Stalin for his own benefit, removing Bulgaria of course.

Yugoslav "Macedonia", formed in 1946, consisted of the area previously called "Southern Serbia" or Vardaska Banovina"13. Since 1946 the Yugoslavs call it "Vardar Macedonia" (Vardarska Makedonia), referring to Greek Macedonia as "Aegean Macedonia" (Egeiska Makedonia) and to a small Bulgarian part as "Pirin Macedonia" (Pirinska Makedonia).

They wanted to give a separate political and national existence to this newly-established socialist republic. As we know, the main characteristics of a nation are unity of country (with the meaning of common fatherland) and of political organisation, language, religion and heritage, which are joined by a common past, common consciousness - characteristics which alone are not enough or indeed necessary but which in combination create the separate identity of a nation. They tried to give these characteristics to the new "republic of Macedonia". They wanted, in other words, to fabricate a nation. The means that they used were the following14:

1.Separate state organization: All the local state organizations which were created, with Skopje as the centre, within the framework of the federal government of Yugoslavia, were called "Macedonian": "Macedonian government", "Macedonian Parliament", etc. Thus this term acquired a new political and state dimension, which in the course of time became established.

2. Separate language: The Yugoslav Constitution recognized a local dialect as the official language; it was called "Macedonian" and was considered equal to the Serbo-Croatian and the Slovenian languages14a. This "Macedonian" dialect, which until then had only been considered a dialect of the Bulgarian language, "was purged" of lingustic elements which might create disputes in the future, became the official language of the reagion, and has been taught in schools ever since. Thus the children started using it and became accustomed to it, whichever language or dialect they used at home. In this way the new postwar generation of the region acquired a new linguistic instrument which was imposed "from above", by state will and for political reasons.

3. Independent Church: Despite the fact that communist ideology does not accept religion, religious sentiment was deeply rooted in the inhabitants of the region and the Church was closely related to their historical traditions. It is for this reason that the "Autocephalous Macedonian Church" was founded in 1964, after communist party intervention, with Ochrid as its seat, despite the strong reactions of the Serbian Patriarchate. This emancipation was a blatant violation of the canon law of the Orthodox Church and was effected in order to reinforce the autonomy of "Macedonia" vis-a-vis Serbia - as autonomy which was expressed by the slogan "One State, one Church, one Nation"15.

4. Separate nationality: In order that their political existence could be consolidated and their general political aims strengthened, it was essential that the population of the region became consious of Macedonia as a separate nation. For this reason they attempted to create and propagate a "Macedonian" national cosniousness amongst the inhabitants of Southern Yugoslavia. In this endeavour it was essential to project a separate historical past, to "fabricate" a "Macedonian" history. Historians were mobilized and an "Institute of National History" was founded in Skopje. It was instantly staffed by many scholars who started conducting extensive research in libraries and archives, gathering a huge amount of material 16 and publishing books, reviews and journals17 at an impressive rate. By means of their studies and publications they attemped to reconstruct and re-interpret historical data in order to fulfil their objectives.

Their first aim was to cut off every link between the so-called "Macedonians" and the Bulgarians, as a well as the Serbs, and to convince the people that they belonged to a separate Slavic nation, the "Macedonian" one. Therefore the history of the region, as well as the language, had to be "purged" of all Bulgarian and Serbian elements. All Bulgarian and Serbian historical data connected to that region - historical events, people, activities and intellectual work - were renamed "Macedonian"18, so that they could be incorporated into the new "Macedonian" history which was then being written, or, if they did not fit into the new historical frame work and guidelines, they were denounced as hostile19.

The second aim was to eliminate Greek character of Macedonia and Macedonian history; and this would be achieved by minimizing the Greek presence in this region and misinterpreting or falsifying their role, specifically the cultural and intellectual contribution of Hellenism, the orthodox Greek clergy and Greek schools.

The third aim was to search for, fabricate and project the historical development of the so-called "Macedonian people", so as to prove the separate national identity of the "Macedonians", as well as their cohesion and continuity from ancient times until today. It should be noted that this attempt was the reverse of normal methods: that is, they studied modern history first and turned to the study of Antiquity later20.

The fourth aim was to create a Great Idea21, which would bring awareness to the masses. So the historians of Skopje started declaring that Macedonia, as a whole, was a Slavic country both in its historical tradition and its ethnic composition. For this reason, it had to be united and form a unified state. After World War II, only the Yugoslavian part was re-established nationally within the framework of the Yugoslav Federation. The other two parts, Aegean Macedonia and Pirin Macedonia would have to be restored, i.e., to be united with Yugoslav Macedonia22.

At this point there was a deliberate distortion not only of historical events but also of contenporary numerical data and statistics referring to the composition of the population of Greek Macedonia23.

The historical contrivance which the historians of Skopje fabricated and put forward is roughly as follows:

As the appearance and settlement of Slavs in the region took place during the Middle Ages, the Slavs of Skopje could not present ancient parchments confirming their presence in the area. On the other hand, the history of Ancient Macedonia and the work of Alexander the Great presented a major obstacle to their propaganda, because both were universally known and had made a great impression24. It was essential for them to cast doubt on the greek character of Anceint Macedonia. So, they declared that the Ancient Macedonians were not Greeks but an Illyrian tribe. Their kings were not Greeks but mere "Philhellenes". The ruling class was hellenized in the course of time, but the people remained "Macedonian", that is, Illyrian, not Greek. Alexander was not Greek, he did not disseminate Greek culture, but "the name of Macedonia". During the period of his successors, the hellenization of the region started gradually, especially in the upper class, because many Greeks had been slaves and mercenary soldiers25.

In the Middle Ages the Slavs settled in Macedonia where, according to Skopje, they exterminated a large number of the indigenous population and assimilated the rest. Thus, within a few years Macedonia became Slavic. Because these indigenous populations were Illyrian and not Greek, the Slavs who settled in Macedonia were united with that non-Greek element and thus acquired ancient roots, irrespective of any Greek presence. In this way, Skopje claims for itself not only the history but also the achievements of the civilization connected to this region.

At the same time, the historians of Skopje minimised the Bulgarian presence claiming that the expansion of the First Bulgarian state into Macedonian territory was temporary and superficial; thus this Bulgarian expansion could not have been bulgarized the "Macedonians" who remained a separate slavic tribe. A characteristic case is the one of Samuel who, by means of revolution, succeeded in setting up an independent state with, initially, its centre as the inaccessible region of NW Macedonia; he was declared "Tsar of the Bulgars" (977-1014) and turned out to be a dangerous adversary of Byzantium and its emperor Basil II Bulgarictinous ("Bulgar Slayer"). According ot the historians of Skopje, Samuel's State was "Macedonian", since the Slav-Macedonians were the dominant national element, and not related to the Bulgarians. They also assert that Samuel, the son of a Byzantine official, was a "Macedonian" since he was the leader of a "Macedonian" state 26. Nevertheless, as the Bulgarians rightly note, Basil II was given the epithet Bulgaroctonus ("Bulgar Slayer") and not Macedonoctonus ("Macedonian Slayer")27.

The historians of Skopje also claim that Constantine-Cyril and Methodius, the two Apostles of the Slavs, were "Macedonians" and therefore Slavs since they were born in Thessaloniki, where at the time "the indigenous population was Slavic and everybody spoke a purely Slavic language"28. For this reason the two brothers based their alphabet on the "Slavo-Macedonian" or "proto-Macedonian" language. Consequently, modern Yugoslav-Macedonians are direct descendants of these "Proto-Macedonians" who disseminated the alphabet and culture throughout the Slavic world29. It should be noted that the terms "Slav-Macedonians" and "Proto-Macedonians" are an invention of Skopje and are not attested to in any source of that time, nor have they been suggested by other writers.

As for the works of art, architecture and painting which were created in this region, they are presented as works of a separate "Macedonian" art30, in spite of the fact that their style is distinctly Byzantine. This "Macedonian" art should not be confused with the so-called "Macedonian School", which they also misinterpreted and appropriated.

They claim that at the time of the Turkish domination, the historical memory of the "Slav-Macedonians" was wiped out, along with their national conscience; this was due to political and social reasons and particularly Ottoman empire policy - which classified its subjects on the basis of religion and not national origins - and also because of the priveleges of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the assimilative power of the Greek clergy. Since most priveleges, were in the hands of the Greeks, many "Slav-Macedonians" felt constrained to present themselves as Greeks. During the period of the struggle for independence and national rehabilitation, the "Slav-Macedonians" fought alongside the Greeks. Furthermore, they do not hesitate to claim for themselves famous heroes such as Markos Botsaris, whom they present as "Macedonian" changing his name to Marko Botsvarot of Prilet31!!

According to the historians of Skopje the national awakening of the "Macedonian people" started in the first decades of the 19th c. and culminated at the end of the century in the establishment of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) in 1893 (which in reality was a bulgarian organisation) and in the armed struggle at the beginning of the 20th c. At that time the Slav-Macedonians were engaged in fights "on several fronts", not only against Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs and their respective neighbouring states, but also against the Ottoman empire and its social system. This struggle was aimed at the creation of an independent Macedonian state, but was uncussessful then. Only in 1944 was part of Macedonia liberated, becoming an autonomous republic within the framework of the Yugoslav Federation32.

This outlines the scheme which the historians of Skopje put forward. I have considered it essential to hightlight it so that the distortion of History, tha falsification and fabrication of historical data should become obvious.


Cover Page - Preface - Introduction - I. The question and the position of Skopje -
II. Sources and findings of research: 1. Antiquity - 2. Middle Ages - 3. Turkish Domination
Notes: 1-5 - 6-32 - 33-38 - 39-58 - 59-73 - 74-95 --- Maps: 1 - 2 - 3