Saturday, October 28, 2006
The British Foreign Office and Macedonian National Identity, 1918-1941
A Rossos - Slavic Review 1994; 53: 369-94
It is ironic that the article preceding Rossos's , discusses the post-1940 USSR strategy in Moldavia aimed at denationalization of the Moldavians with respect to their Romanian history and culture and its present day consequences. Unlike their Moldavian counterparts however, today's Macedonian intelligentsia seemingly remain faithful to the Yugoslavian communist party's original "nation-building" policy commenced in the former Socialist Federal Republic of Macedonia.
To convince us Rossos seeks not only to impose his own definition of what constitutes nationalism, but to also cite "Macedonian" historians or his own work as the primary reference sources. On the issue of ethnicity and nationalism the views by academics experienced in this complex subject, like Connor , would seem more reasonable, however Rossos would find little solace with Connor's conclusions concerning the "Macedonian Nation". As to the impartiality of Macedonian historians, I have yet to note the objectivity which might prompt revision of Palmer and King's  original finding that the sole aim of Macedonian historiography is - "to de-Bulgarize the Macedonians and create a separate national consciousness". Especially when Rossos lapses openly into subjective revisionism - "By 'Bulgars' Lambros meant Macedonians". Contrast Macartney's comment on this very same incident - "Practically all of these undoubtedly feel themselves Bulgarian" .
Rossos presumes that the selected document excerpts he cites, summarising the personal, and often anecdotal, ideas of various British FO officials, and his interpretation of the same, confirm 'ipso facto' the "Slav Macedonians as a distinct nationality". But the British FO never advocated the latter, it is merely Rossos's own extension. Moreover the idea that Macedonians "do not identify themselves as Bulgars" is incompatible with the objective historic record, when we examine their role in the Bulgarian renaissance, the formation of the Bulgarian Uniate and Orthodox Churches and establishment of the Liberation movements. Even Rossos's main reference supports this fact - a FO document from Sir Rumbold to Lord Salisbury (Feb 1898) states "and the Bulgarians, being the majority in Macedonia" .
Rossos's view is untenable because he fails to account for, or rationalise the plethora of evidence which directly refutes it. For example he stresses that the British, in 1912, estimated 1,150,000 Macedonian Slavs as the largest "ethnic" group in Macedonia; but two years later in 1914, the Carnegie International Commission, not afflicted by the FO's geopolitical agenda, reported 1,181,000 Bulgarians in, and referred only to the Bulgarians of Macedonia . Even the 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (p218-9) states that the majority of Macedonia's population were Bulgarian. And how does he explain the opinions of the long-standing Balkan Committee , comprising leading and influential Britishers, or the views of American Protestant missionaries , all of whom claimed the inhabitants of Southern Serbia were Bulgarians? There are numerous similar accounts.
During the interwar period Rossos neglects to mention groups like the Macedonian Youth Secret Revolutionary Organisation (1921-22), formed in Vardar and Aegean Macedonia to preserve the people's Bulgarian national consciousness . Following Serbia's discovery of the MYSRO in 1928 she closed down the education system throughout Vardar Macedonia - a tantamount admission that her de-Bulgarization policy had failed. It was this same dedication to the Bulgarian cause that allowed the local population to organise and establish true national rule throughout Vardar in 1941, well before arrival of the Bulgarian National Army. And when the BNA, with countless enlisted Macedonians, entered the towns and cities of Vardar the population gave them a tumultuous welcome. I suggest Rossos talk to the Macedonians who were present or view the original film footage. Moreover the Macedonian Communist Party hailed the so-called "fascist" BNA as an army of "liberation", not occupation, disregarding all Tito's orders to fight the 'invaders' and publicly denouncing him as a traitor to the Macedonian people .
Rossos presents and argues for the "Macedonist" paradigm. Unfortunately his logic is flawed because it is based on those same general principles of democratic centralism so characteristic of totalitarian communist societies and previously well described for this subject by Palmer and King.
Rossos A. The British Foreign Office and Macedonian National Identity, 1918-1941. Slavic Review 1994;53:369-94.
(a) Connor W. From Tribe to Nation. History European Ideas 1991;13:5-18 (b) Connor W. "The National Question in Marxist-Leninist Theory and Strategy". Princeton Univ Press, Princeton, NJ, 1986
Palmer Jr SE, King RR. "Yugoslav Communism and the Macedonian Question". The Shoe String Press, Hamden, CT, 1971, p. 159.
Macartney CA. "National States and National Minorities". Oxford Univ Press, London, 1934, p. 530.
Gooch GP, Temperley H (eds). "British Documents on the Origins of the War 1898-1914". HM Stationery Office, London, Vol I, 1927, p. 296.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars". Publication No. 4, Washington, DC, 1914.
Sir Edward Boyle. The London Balkan Committee on the Balkan Problems. In "The Case for an Autonomous Macedonia", C Anastanoff (ed), Pearlstone Printing Co, St Louis, Mo, 1945, p51-3
Hall WW. "Puritans in the Balkans: The American Board Mission in Bulgaria 1878-1918: A Study in Purpose and Procedure". Kultura, Sofia, 1938, p253
Gotsev DG. "Youth National-Liberation Organizations of the Macedonian Bulgarians (1919-1941)". Bulgarian Academy of Science, Sofia, 1988
Clissold S (ed). "Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union 1939-1973". Oxford Univ Press, London, 1975 p153-6.