The "Macedonian Question"

The evidence of the sources and the findings of historical research: 3. Turkish Domination

The historians of Skopje commit a grave historical error, as I have already noted, when they present the ethnic composition and the demographic situation of Macedonia as being static and unchanging. This becomes even more evident at the time of the Turkish domination, which lasted almost 500 years, during which major reclassifications and population74 movements took place. I will refer to them very briefly.

Immediately after the conquest of Macedonia, towards the end of the 14th c. A.D., Turkish groups, mainly great landowners, farmers and stock-breeders, settled in Macedonia, where they were attracted by the fertile plains75.

At the same time, however, we observe a flight of Greek inhabitants from Macedonia, in two directions. The first wave moved towards the Greek regions which were still free or under Frankish domination, towards Italy and generally to the West. Among them, were many eponymous Macedonian scholars, such as Theodoros Gazis, Andronikos Kallistos, and others, who worked towards the dissemination of Greek literature76. A second wave headed for the mountainous and secluded parts of the interior, where, far from the control of the conqueror, they would be able to survive. This second wave was larger and more important; thus it caused real uprooting of Christian populations. That is why, according to Ottoman documents, the Muslim population outnumbers the Christian in many towns during the first centuries of the Turkish domination. These Greek fugitives inhabited certain villages in Western Macedonia and Chalkidike, where large wooded areas, far from arterial roads, offered a natural refuge. This flight to the interior of the country was of enormous ethnic importance, because it prevented migration, ensured the purity of the Greek people and favoured the growth of the Greek population during the first and most difficult centuries of slavery. Certain of the villages, which were inhabited at the time, such as Siatista, Naousa and Kozani, succeeded in developing into important centres77.

However, from the end of the 16th c. a reverse movement started - a phenomenon which appeared in other regions og Greece as well, for example in Epirus78 - and which lasted throughout the 17th c. Thus, we have a migration of Greek populations from their remote havens towards several old or new centres of trade79. This migration was parallel to the development of trade, the decline of the Ottoman empire and the general development of Hellenism.

In the 17th c. the general economic and cultural prosperity brought about a second migration of Greeks, this time northwards. Many Macedonians settled in Serbia, Bulgaria and in the Danubian Principalities, as well as in Austria and Hungary, where they formed powerful and flourishing Greek communities and greatly contributed to the development of commerce and the bourgeois class. Especially in the Balkans, the Greeks formed an "inter-Balkan bourgeois class"80, which contributed not only to the economic development of these areas, but also to the dissemination of Greek culture81. Due to these movements the role of the Macedonians of the diaspora was significant: Almost one and a half million Greeks from Macedonia emigrated to the northern Balkan peninsula and to Central Europe. This number alone is sufficient to refute the assertation of Skopje that the population of Macedonia was not Greek. In their new country these emigrant Macedonians became upholders of Greek cultural heritage; simultaneously, through their own economic development, they contributed substantially to the progress of their homeland from which they had never been cut off82.

While many Greeks headed northwards in search of better living conditions, Slavs of the Balkans, mainly Bulgarians, went in the opposite direction southwards. The natural routes of this migration were the valley of Strymon and Nestos rivers and the narrow passes through the mountains. These Slavs were initially seasonal workers, craftsmen and farmers, who were attracted by the potential for economic development and the comparatively better living conditions in the Greek regions, where they finally settled83. This stream of Slavs increased in the 19th c., after the Greek War of Independence of 1821, because the Ottoman empire, in its effort to prevent Macedonia and the other still enslaved Greek regions from uniting with the free Greek State, favoured and, in some cases, incited the settlement of Slav populations, so as to alter the ethnic composition, that is, the Greek character of Macedonia. These Slavs were, as we have already mentioned, mainly Bulgarians who were gradually mixed with the small number of Serbs84. According to the Serbian historical geographer J. Cvijic85, this mixture created an "amorphous mass" which retained few traces of Serbian traditions, and generally lacked a national consciousness: J. Cvijic states this at a time of intense nationalism (1907, 1918). However, this "amorphous mass" had begun acquiring Bulgarian consciousness by the end of the Turkish domination. For this reason, when the population exchanges took place, they declared that they were Bulgarians and preferred to be united with the defeated Bulgaria and not with the then victorious and developing Yugoslavia86. It is noteworthy that according to the Treaty of Neuilly (November 14/27, 1919) 92,000 Bulgarians emigrated emigrated from Greece (Macedonia and Thrace) to Bulgaria (in addition to some thousands who left Macedonia during the period 1912-1918), while 50,000 Greeks came from Bulgaria to Greece87.

From the above, it becomes obvious that during the Turkish domination great mobility and demographic realignment took place. The demographic situation was not stable and immutable during this long period of slavery. The example of Monastir (Bitola) is characteristic; up to the mid-17th c. this town was inhabited by Bulgarians. However, during the 18th c., and especially after the destruction of Moschopolis (1769), many Greeks took refuge there. This influx of Greek populations, mainly from the area of Florina, continued until much later as the Bulgarian population gradually declined the ethnic composition of the town was radically altered. Monastir became a Greek centre, whose brilliance spread to the surrounding towns and villages, where there were Greek communitied (as in Megarovo, Tirnovo, Kroussovo and elsewhere)88.

Apart from the Greeks and the Turks who inhabited Macedonia, of course there were also Slav or Slav-speaking populations, Vlachs, that is Vlach-speaking Greeks, and Jews. These Slavic populations spoke a dialect which resulted from the mixture of Slav settlers in different areas and had many elements in common with the two Slavic languages Serbian and Bulgarian, Bulgarian being the most prevalent. It should also be noted, however, that many of these Slav-speaking inhabitants undoubtedly had Greek consciousness; they fought for the freedom of Greece and participated with the Greeks in the Macedonian struggle89.

The existence of other ethnic elements is also natural in a remote area such as Macedonia at a time when there were neither ethnic borders, not ethnic clashes. On the contrary, their common resistance against the conqueror as well as their common religion and faith united Greeks and Slavs. Thus, despite the existence of other ethnic groups the Greek population was the dominant element in Macedonia and a separate Macedonian (Slav) nationality never existed90. Such a nationality is beyond historical reality. This is confirmed by the following facts: 1) Travellers who visited Macedonia during the Turkish domination referred to the inhabitants as Greeks, Jews, Bulgarians or Serbs and never as a separate nation, Macedonian91. 2) The whole culture and artistic production of the area was purely Greek and greatly influenced SE Europe during the years of the Turkish domination. The brilliance of this civilization would not have been possible, of course, without the existence of a powerful Greek element, which upheld this intellectual tradition. The power and activities of the Church alone - which were undoubtedly great - would not have been sufficient to explain this brilliance, unless they had been supported by a powerful and large Greek population. 3) The role and the activities of the Macedonians of the diaspora are indisputable evidence of their Greek origin. The communities, which they formed in the Balkans and in Eastern Europe, were centres of Greek culture. Since that time the presence and activities of the Greeks have been preserved in the place-names of Austria and Hungary up to the present day. 4) The historical folksong, a product of spontaneous popular creativity, also confirms that the Macedonian land was Greek and its inhabitants Greeks92. 5) The argument by the historians of Skopje that, for various historical reasons, the Slav "Macedonians" lost their ethnic consciousness as well as their historical memory during the Turkish domination, cannot be seriously upheld: Peoples do not lose their historical memory. Under the same circumstances, the Serbes retained both their historical memory and their ethnic consciousness, because they constituted a separate nationality with historical traditions an a historical past. For the same reasons, the Bulgarians, despite their intellectual silence in the first centuries of slavery and the total lack of Bulgarian schools, did not lose their national identity.

Moreover, the Macedonians, in their struggle for freedom, fought hard and made great sacrifices so as to be united with the free Greek State93. At no time did they want to be united with a Slav state, i.e. Serbia, which had also won its freedom after a hard struggle. The various claims which were expressed by the revolutionary Committees at the end of the 19th c., were propagated by foreign centres and did not express the will of the majority of the inhabitants of Macedonia.

In addition, during the Macedonian Struggle (1904-1908) the participation of the indigenous population was widespread; not only teachers, clergy and intellectual leaders generally, but also merchants, craftsmen and farmers contributed substantially and supported the armed fight. The struggle of the Greek armed forces would have been impossible without this participation by the people94.

To sum up, we see that although Slavic populations settled on Greek territory during the Middle Ages and the period of Turkish occupation they were not able to break the historical continuity of Hellenism. The early Slavs who settled in Greece, mainly during the 7th century, were finally assimilated by the indigenous population and most of them were hellinised. And during the period of Turkish occupation (mainly the 17th century) the Greeks remained the predominant national and cultural element despite the settlement of Serbs and mostly Bulgarians on Macedonian land. Moreover it must be emphasized that during the same period the Greeks created significant colonies in neighbouring Balkan countries. As already stated, this mixing of national elements in the Balkans was due to lack of national borders during the Turkish occupation.

However, apart from the historical dimension of the problem and indisputable historical evidence of Hellenism, in this area, it is essential in order to confront the propaganda of Skopje properly, to take into account the current national composition of both Greek Macedonia and the Republic of Skopje. Such an examination totally confirms the Greek position as to the Greek status of Macedonian, because whatever mixing of national elements existed until World War I this was reduced to a minimum by the exchange of populations.

In fact, with this exchange of populations (the withdrawal of Bulgarians and the return of Greeks from Bulgaria under the Treaty of Neuilly 1919, the withdrawal of Turks and the settlement of more than 600,000 Greeks from Asia Minor under the Treaty of Lausanne 1923) the Greek element in Macedonia was significantly strengthened while at the same time the foreign national element was decisively reduced. The great predominance of Hellenism over a greatly reduced Slavic population can be ascertained from statistics published by the League of Nations in 1926. Greeks numbered 1,341,000 (88.8%), Bulgarians 77,000 (5.1%), various other nationalities (mainly Jews) 91,000 (6.0%) and Turks 2,000 (0.1%)95. As foreign specialist researchers96 also confirm, Greece - and of course Macedonia too - has today the greatest national homogeneity in the Balkans. In constrast, in the Republic of Skopje there is no national homogeneity. More than 600,000 Albanians (who, indeed, have recently founded an "autonomous democracy" with the name "Illyrida"), 150,000 Turks and 100,000 Gypsies, as well as Greeks and Greek-Vlachs and, of course, Bulgarians and Serbs live there ,even though the regime has tried, directly or indirectly, to compel nationals particularly of Greek, Serb or Bulgarian origin to declare themselves "Macedonian" and not to refer to their real national origin if they want troublefree lives and careers for themselves and their children. Of course, a very small percentage of Serbs, Bulgarians and even Greeks appear in their censuses to make their falsification of this statistical data appear genuine.

It is therefore clear that the appropriation of the name Macedonia by Skopje, on which they have based all their propaganda and even their national existence, does not even correspond to their own false national identity since their artificially created state does not have any national homogeneity. This appropriation of the name goes against every principle of justice and conceals other expediencies which directly insult Hellenism as shows the unchanging nature of their continuous propaganda97.


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